No IE for You!
The title of this post was going to be:

If Microsoft Insist On Making It Nigh-on Impossible For Us To Test IE Effectively Then Why Do They Think We Should Bother Supporting It?

But I decided that was a bit too long, so I took inspiration from the soup kitchen chef instead, it’s more to the point.

Anyway the reason I’m back writing about adventures in IE testing land is I have a week of some horrid IE browser testing of my current, JavaScript heavy, project coming up if the first quick check through all versions of IE is anything to go by. Yes I know I should have been testing as I went along, but having to refresh 9 browsers with every change really kills my buzz (especially when 3 of those are IE).

So I did some initial browser testing last week and got zero issues in 6 browsers, but each version of IE threw up massive amounts of JavaScript errors – absolutely all over the place – and we all know how annoying debugging JS is in IE. This combined with my aging (and decidedly creaky) Windows XP Virtual Machine (running in Parallels on a Mac Pro with more than enough grunt to run multiple VM’s all at once) meant that tonight I decided to look for new alternatives (as multiple versions of IE on a single VM have never been great anyway).

So single VM images (as light and quick as possible) was my plan and I started to do some research, and found the following:

So I’m all set right? The steps aren’t that difficult and I choose to try VirtualBox as

  1. I’ve tried VMWare Fusion before and wasn’t that keen.
  2. I know that VMWare won’t run at the same time as parallels. A big minus there.
  3. I’ve wanted to try VirtualBox for a while.

I do a few downloads, the conversion stuff and within the hour I have VirtualBox booting the image. It boots quickly and it’s nippy, I assume they’ve stripped Windows down to the bare bones with just enough to run IE properly - which is what I was going to try and do anyway. Windows says something about having to re-activate so I try, that fails but says I have 3 days so I figure that has to be due to the last step I haven’t completed, which I then do and reboot. Only to get the following:

  1. WGA prompt
  2. Follow instructions
  3. Fail
  4. Repeat steps 1 to 3 a couple more times
  5. Search Google and find out that they’ve gone and restricted it to running in Virtual PC only. Microsoft FAIL. It’s in the EULA so I should have noticed it… Like I’m going to read every EULA put in front of my face.

Peter L who is the “Product Manager, Internet Explorer, Developer Division” has the following month and a half old update:

I've spent some time investigating this issue, and now understand that the VPC images used to work on other hosting environments, but with the latest release, don't any more. We have a better understanding of the issue now, and while we're looking for a solution, we don't have one right now. If you're using the VPC's, and they don't work any more, I encourage you to email me, with your name, how you're using them and the hosting environment that you're using.

I’ll drop him an email but I don’t expect to get a resolution any time soon.

So a couple of hours of work and I’m back to square one, the only positive thing I can take from this is VirtualBox seems quite fast and neither it nor Parallels have complained about the other. So I might try converting my Dev VM’s and setting up a new Multi-IE Windows VM on there.

But the big thing I take from this is that Microsoft don’t want you to play with them if you don’t own a Microsoft football. I quite honestly would be quite happy to do that, to never have to open IE again would suit me fine.

Unfortunately that would also mean commercial suicide for a web developer who works on public facing sites.