Guess What? Fox News is Responsive to the Linux Community.

The Linux community spoke and listened. I received a polite message late today from Mr. Dave Denis the Director, Product Development at Fox News. Mr. Denis stated that Fox News is now aware of the problem with their Video page and is working with Maven Networks to get it fixed. Mr. Denis also stated that most of the Fox News developers use Ubuntu. I only wish they had bought the systems preloaded from my company (one can dream, can one not?). I have asked for permission to include the body of his message in this article but have not yet heard back from Mr. Denis. It is after working hours in New York at this time so I expect I will hear from him tomorrow. Should I get permission to include the body of his message I will update this article and add that.

Of course almost as soon as I posted this I received a reply from Mr. Denis:

Hi Gene – not a problem. … If you want to talk a bit further
tomorrow I’m free in the morning. In the meantime, I believe DOES work in Linux


David Denis
Director, Product Development
FOX News Digital
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

So, here is Mr. Denis original message:

This message is for Gene – hi Gene, I read your blog entry re: and Linux. I just wanted to reach out and let you
know we’re trying to fix the issue at this very moment. We’re
working with our video vendor, Maven Networks to diagnose the
problem. Most of our developers actually run Ubuntu so we’re
definitely focused on correcting it. Thanks,

What I get reading this message from Mr. Denis is that Fox News employees do care about Fox News Online users and are responsive to problems on their web site when they are made aware of them. Although I have not yet spoken with Mr. Denis directly I imagine there will be a rewrite or replacement of the code that does the various tests.

Further the fact that he states “Most of our developers actually run Ubuntu …” shows me that Linux is more main-stream than many would claim. I am quite pleased to read that a major news organization like Fox News is a Linux user. While it is not likely that the Fox News reporters and news desks are using Ubuntu or any other distribution of Linux we all know that the adoption of Linux in server closets and development labs is a foot in the door to corporate desktops. Once on the corporate desktop it is only a matter of time before more people take the penguin home.

I suspect right now Linux is much more prevalent on corporate and home desktops world wide than can ever be shown with “market share” numbers. Since most market share numbers come from product sales and the great majority of Linux distributions are “free” these market share studies will never be accurate in regard to Linux. Any web based market share study using web logs would also be skewed since many Linux users keep their Firefox browsers running with User Agent Switcher on reporting to be a browser from a Microsoft based system. Konqueror and Opera both have the same type of function. Just witness the many comments on and elsewhere that suggest using a fake user agent to fix problems like the one shown recently when viewing the Fox News Video page.

I will follow up in this article with further information regarding Fox News Video and their fix to the Video page so be sure to get the RSS feed for our web log comments if you want to keep up.

Update Tue Apr 29 13:52:21 UTC 2008 I just received this e-mail from Mr. Denis:

Turns out this line was causing the problem:
mp.setParameter(‘checkSystemId’, ‘systemRequirementsHTML’);

in this code block:

<script type="text/javascript"><!--
           function doLoad() {
                     var mp = new MavenPlayer('videolandingpage');
                     mp.setParameter('backgroundColor', '#ffffff');
           function doContextMenu() {
                      return maven.PlayerObjectUtil.doContextMenu();
// --></script>

Developers are working to push the change live shortly.


So, we should be able to see the Fox News Video page without faking the user agent later today. Do not forget to clear your browser cache or force a page reload if you are checking this page.

Update Wed Apr 30 16:07:45 UTC 2008:

I am happy to report that as of this morning Fox News Video and Fox Business Video in Linux are working natively. No User Agent Switcher needed. Thank you Mr. Dave Denis and the Fox News development team. Anyone who does web development can appreciate the effort you took to get this working. To those of you following these articles who wrote to ask for this please take a moment to write a thank you note to the Fox News development team. Write and put Attention: Web Development Team – Thank You in the subject line.

Edit Fri Sep 11 14:53:35 CDT 2009: update our shopping URL.


Published by

Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

24 thoughts on “Guess What? Fox News is Responsive to the Linux Community.”

  1. I spoke with Mr. Denis on the phone this morning about the page. He said they are now aware of the offending code that does an operating system check. As soon as they can determine what to change without making the problem worse the page will be updated. One of their in-house web gurus is looking it over as I type this comment.

  2. Vadi, there is a saying, roughly, “You can catch more flies with honey than you can catch with vinegar”, although there are variations. Which basically means, if you are nice to people you are more likely to get the results you desire. I am a firm believer in that saying.

  3. Pingback: AI NO TENSHi
  4. The problem with the video player wasn’t even Fox News to blame. It’s Maven. If you notice, the video has a new look and feel now versus the old player from Maven.

    The issue isn’t new. This player was actually on (which actually got a makeover last week as well) since its original inception. It gave the same error with an unsupported OS or browser combination, but worked on Linux anyway if you changed your user-agent (trivial in firefox). Of course no one really noticed it until they put it on the main site. 😉

    The issue with the player not supporting Linux is (from my understanding) primarily a support issue with Maven. Honestly, there are so many different variants of Linux out there, that supporting them all would be a nightmare. But because you asked for it, they decided to put it out there anyway. How’s that for listening to your viewers? Pretty darn good if you ask me.

    I have friends who work there, and from what I was told, Fox uses Linux extensively, both in development and for web infrastructure. Most of the developers use Linux, some use mac, and almost none use windows (except when forced to by the IT department). I believe there may be a few windows things left over from times past but that is slowly fading away. Of the three big 24 hour news orgs, only NBC/Universal uses Windows as their main platform on the web side… need I say more?

    By the way, go easy on the web developers. I know a number of them personally and they are just regular guys (and gals). They don’t put content on the website or write news stories, they only make the apps for the newsroom to use.

  5. wordsareweapons11, a web site should not be concerned with the operating system. It does not matter if there are 500+ Linux distributions because a web site that is developed to standards will work in standards compliant browsers. Linux has plenty of standards compliant browsers. Also the video feeds are basically Flash content. Adobe has Flash for Linux and it will work on every modern Linux distribution with Firefox. So, the “supporting them all would be a nightmare” argument is a red herring. People think they have to support 500+ versions of Linux when really all they need to do is develop to standards and stay away from proprietary solutions.

    Don’t know whether to choose GTK+ or some other development toolkit because it may not be supported? That is a NON-issue. I run apps developed for Gnome and apps developed for KDE on Linux in the fluxbox window manager. Both work fine, so just pick one and use it.

    Don’t know whether to choose .deb, .rpm or .tar.gz? Pick one or learn how to package in all three and develop to the current LSB. The top Linux distributions support LSB. Most Linux users will be able to figure out how to install your application if they really need it or want it.

    As for the Fox developer team they have nothing less than my utmost respect. They did an excellent job under public scrutiny from hostile and sympathetic watchers. They get two thumbs up from me.

  6. Sure, I agree that standards are standards. But:

    #1. OS support issues are Maven’s, not Fox’s. Who knows, Maven may have told them, “well, we’re not supporting this thing on Linux. If it breaks you’re on your own!” So what do they do? Tell Maven F-You and that they’re doing it anyway? Or try to reach a compromise that still gets content to the majority of users? If I were in their shoes, I’d do the latter, and I think this is precisely what has been done. But I am guessing it had to do with the blessing of Maven networks themselves, and couldn’t just be done. I don’t really know what went on (I don’t work there) but from my experience at other media companies, that’s precisely what goes on. I’ve even had one vendor tell me that they won’t support a product unless it’s on Red Hat or SuSE.

    #2. Fox also does extensive QA testing and they have Linux (and Windows, Mac and a few mobile devices) machines to do QA testing on, but they don’t have every flavor, every browser and every desktop. So some pages may render differently on some different OSes and browsers (I just upgraded my Ubuntu at home to the KDE4 remix, and some pages DO look a bit different). This has to be taken into account, and I’m positive they won’t want to put up a broken page. It just looks bad. They’d rather just tag it as “unsupported.” I’m pretty sure they don’t test using Damn Small Linux and dillo. 😉

    #3. As for proprietary solutions, I have extensive experience in the Linux space for a variety of companies with big web presences, and I can tell you for a fact that decisions often don’t come from the web development team. They come from upper management, who looks at the bigger picture, and dollars and cents. For example, a lot of vendors simply won’t support an app unless it’s running on Red Hat or Novell (SuSE). Management chooses those apps because of the features, but they are bound by the support contract. The advertisers also want their ads associated with a quality product that looks well. LSB and standards be damned, and I, of course, disagree, but it’s their ball (and their software is non-GPLed). In utopia we’d all love to use GPLed software that’s allowed to run free, but in the real world the bean counters want assurance that they can pick up the phone and call for help from a big company like Red Hat or Novell.

    Some things are just beyond our control. Don’t shoot the messenger. 🙂

  7. wordsareweapons11, I appreciate your participation here. I understand these points you raise and hope others reading do too. What I do not know for certain about what is going on I can reason out based on what I do know.

    I am hoping some upper management and bean counter corporate folk are also reading here and get a clue from our discussion. Hopefully even some from Maven so they can get the message that developing to standards will make their product work across most if not all modern Linux distributions. I do believe in miracles.

    For one thing the “big picture” that includes blocking potential customers is a flawed big picture. As for the Red Hat or Novell issue with corporate support, that is really no big deal to me. Those are distributions targeted at the corporate space after all. I understand that the CIO/CTO want someone at the end of a phone line to call in case of problems. That way they can always CYA and pass the ball when/if foo breaks. I know that in the dog eat dog world of corporate politics messengers are often shot. I also know that if a vendor truly wants to do business with a potential client the client has clout and can insist on certain conditions or no deal. So, based on what I know here I have a general idea of what may have gone on between Fox and Maven. That was never the issue for me as I just wanted the video pages fixed. The politics behind the fix, while perhaps interesting to some, are not my concern.

    Also, I never thought Fox News hated Linux. That was just an attention grabbing headline. It worked.

    In any case, thank you for your comments.

Comments are closed.