This past week we were asked to make some minor updates to a Flash piece we created about two years ago. We updated the file, pushed it to the site, and then soon thereafter realized that it was completely and utterly broken.

It was difficult to figure out exactly what was going wrong. We were using a set of “components” made by a company that had sold out to a larger company, so it was impossible to get updates. The site was originally created in Flash 7, but we were doing updates in Flash 8. Consequently, the components were vanishing, utterly vanishing from the Flash piece. It wasn’t working.

Confused, we installed the older version of Flash, in an attempt to work in a known good working environment. However, this was not to be. For the older version of Flash would not work – whenever we opened this file, it froze up. We tried installing this older version on two computers, with the same symptoms. We were stymied – a word I’ve wanted to use for some time.

Flash can be really difficult, but this one takes the cake. Unable to work with this file, we decided to just roll back to a known good version and put that on the site. We figured out another way to get it working, and it’s fine now. But it reminded me again how frustrating proprietary technologies like Flash can be. If you have problems like this you have no recourse, and it’s difficult to figure out which piece of the puzzle is at fault. Without a computer configured exactly the way it was two years ago, with the same software and components, we were unable to change this file.

If there was a lesson from this experience, it is to make frequent backups of your work, and keep them safe. If we hadn’t kept a number of previous iterations of this Flash content, we would have been… well, stymied. Don’t let this happen to you. Make frequent backups, and favor open source technologies whenever possible.

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