Computer Tips and Tricks

Bringing Ustream and back to life

Tried to watch the Make: Live! webcast about the Arduino this evening, but was unable to view the video stream on my computer. All I got was a black screen. Tried viewing the webcast directly from the Ustream site, but still got nothing.

Marching through the standard troubleshooting steps, I removed all script blockers and ad-blockers, and shut down my software firewall. Still nothing.

To verify that I could still view video, I went to the TWiT Live page and confirmed that my computer handled the BitGravity stream without difficulty, but both the Ustream and streams failed to function properly. As a final check, I went to YouTube, where videos displayed without a problem. To see if this problem was limited to my preferred browser, I shut down Firefox and launched Internet Explorer. Same results. So something was acting on a system-wide basis.

After several rounds of searching on Google, I eventually stumbled upon the solution. It seems that you must tell the Flash browser plugin to permit third parties to store information on your system. I’m not happy about allowing Flash cookies, but if you don’t permit this, you won’t be watching Ustream or I haven’t (intentionally) changed these settings in months (maybe years?), so I don’t know why I’m just now having problems. Anyhow, I thought I’d make this post just in case somebody else is experience the same difficulty.

If you are a Firefox user, you might want to install the Better Privacy add-on, just to simplify the process of removing Flash cookies, which are now going to be added to your system every time you view Ustream or videos. Be sure to “protect” the settings.sol folder in Better Privacy, or your settings will be forgotten every time you shut down Firefox.

[Update: After submitting this post, I went back and returned the Flash plugin settings to their original values. After deleting the other Flash cookies and restarting the browser, I had no problem viewing the Ustream and feeds on the TWiT page. Still don’t know exactly what caused the problem, but allowing third-party data storage on a temporary basis seemed to clear the logjam.]

[Update 2: Nope, I had accidentally deleted the settings.sol folder cookie. Once I locked things down solidly, would no longer work. So ignore the prior update… you apparently must allow Flash cookies to watch certain webstreams.]