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Firefox - File dialog (Save, Open, Export, etc.) does not appear

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#1
brantb

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Hello,

I have a very strange problem with Firefox which has me totally stumped, and it is driving me nuts.

 

Whenever I try to do ANYTHING in Firefox which requires the use of the Common File Dialog, the file dialog does not show.  The issue is not isolated to saving a file (although, that is where I first noticed it). It is definitely an issue with trying to display the common File dialog itself - be it for saving a file from a link, or File -> Save Page As, or File -> Open File, or Bookmarks -> Show All Bookmarks -> Import and Backup (to/from HTML), Export, etc., etc. No matter what type of file operation it is, the file dialog never appears.

Here are the things I have already tried (not necessarily in this order):

Uninstall/Reinstall Firefox
Run Firefox in Safe Mode
Create a New Firefox Profile
Disable Anti-Virus/Firewall
Reset Firefox

New Firefox Theme (then revert to Default)

Although I am using Firefox v28.0, I also tried regressing to v27.0.1, and still saw the same (mis)behaviour.

I am running Firefox in an admin level (Windows) account in this case - so, there shouldn't be any permission issues there.

As listed above, I have tried shutting down both the desktop firewall software (Agnitum Outpost Pro), and the anti-virus (Avast), and the problem still persists exactly as described. Obviously, I disconnected the system from the 'Net when I did that.  :D

All other software that I have tried on the system interacts with the file dialog just fine ... so, I don't think it is anything central like some corruption associated with the file dialog itself.  It really does seem to be isolated to Firefox.

 

I tried a few malware scans (even though I didn't really think that was it - there were no other systems), and they showed clean.

 

I've tried running Sysinternals ProcMon to get a better look at what is going on, but I haven't been able to hit on just the right combination of filters to reveal the actual problem (without it being buried in way too much "noise" [shrug]).

 

This is a very "interesting" one. I am a database admin by trade, and I was a programmer in a previous life - so, I consider myself to be relatively tech savvy (though I am not arrogant enough to consider myself an expert in everything).  I have never run across anything else quite like this, and I am totally perplexed. Does anyone have any ideas how else I can troubleshoot this - or better yet, fix it? :headscratch:

Brant

PS - This is on a WinXP SP3 system. (Don't laugh - there's a 3rd party software compatibility issue driving that need, for the moment. In the next few months, I should be able to finally upgrade to a newer O/S.)


Edited by brantb, 21 April 2014 - 07:18 PM.

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#2
SpywareDr

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Same problem in Windows Safe mode?


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#3
brantb

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Okay - this is a case of standing too close to the trees, and failing to see the forest [shrug].  I never thought of trying WIndows Safe Mode.  Firefox Safe Mode was an obvious choice, because every other test isolated the problem to Firefox.  Thanks for the nudge.  :D

 

In Windows Safe Mode, the file dialog DOES work.  When I go back into normal mode, it (still) does not.  (Hey, one can dream, right? [grin]  I was slightly hopefully that the appearance of the dialog in Windows Safe Mode may somehow have cleared/reset the problem ... but alas, no such joy.)

 

It will take some pondering to settle on the implications of these results - and what next steps to take, in order to truly isolate the underlying problem.  There's not a whole lot on this system (yet); it is basically just the O/S (with its service pack and patches), the firewall (Outpost Pro), the anti-virus (Avast), Firefox, and Foxit PDF Reader.  Well ... Java, Flash, etc., too.

 

Hmm.  :headscratch:


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#4
SpywareDr

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So we now know it's something running in Normal mode that doesn't in Safe mode.

Might start with disabling all of the 'non-Microsoft' stuff in MSconfig>Startup, reboot and test. If okay, re-enable two or three of the disabled items, reboot and test again. Etc., etc.


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#5
brantb

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Yup - good plan.  I will do that when I get back home tonight.

 

Geez ... I guess it has been too many years since I've had to do this type of system troubleshooting.  I used to think of things like MSConfig right away [shrug].

 

I'll let you know what I find out.


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#6
SpywareDr

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Know what you mean about the forgetting ... comes with old age. ;)


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#7
brantb

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Oops.  Didn't mean to expose myself as an old-timer.  Oh well - maybe the gray hairs give it away, anyway.  :whistling:

 

Very unexpected results from my work with MSConfig.  I disabled all non-MS services and startup items ... and the problem persisted.  Then, I went so far as to use the Diagnostic Mode in MSConfig ... just loading basic devices and services ... and the problem still persisted.  I did not see that coming.

 

Fearing that my previous success with Windows Safe Mode might just have been a fluke, I tried it again (a few times) ... and, thankfully, I can report that those results are at least consistent.  Using Windows Safe Mode always results in the file dialog showing in Firefox ... but nothing that I have tried so far with MSConfig has revealed any clues about the culprit (even as part of a group).

 

Now I'm back to being stumped again.  :confused:

 

Any other ideas about what else I may have forgotten with age???  :laughing:


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#8
SpywareDr

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Hmmm...

 

Sysinternals' Autoruns allows you to visually see what is running at boot and where it is being controlled; also, you have the option to turn it off in the Autoruns console.

 

Another (less advanced) is Glarysoft's Quick Startup.


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#9
brantb

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Right ... Autoruns!  (another gray hair moment)

 

As it turns out, I didn't end up using that (or the other one by Glarysoft - which I didn't ever know about ... so I feel better about that one [grin]).  I took an educated stab in the dark, and uninstalled the firewall software completely.  Behold - my long lost file dialog worked in Firefox!!!  :thumbsup:   I also went on to do a "double-blind" test ... I reinstalled the firewall, and the problem came back.

 

Very interesting stuff.  Even with the firewall "engine" turned off, and even with the underlying firewall service set to Disabled (and verified to be stopped, on a reboot) ... it STILL seems to interfere with Firefox.  I recall having a similar problem with a SQL datastream many years ago (and the {same} firewall vendor did fix it, once we were able to report it to them in a way that they were able to reliably reproduce).

 

I see, now, that there is one (minor) update available for the firewall ... so, I am going to try that, and see what happens.  Nothing that they indicate in their release notes suggests that I should expect much success - but it is a necessary step (and let's face it - the first thing they're going to ask when I report this to them is, "have you tried the latest version?").

 

Once I have all of the test done, I will report back the specifics of the firewall etc., so that others may benefit if they are running a similar environment.


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#10
SpywareDr

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Good detective work. :)

 

And please let us know the outcome ...


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#11
brantb

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Thanks.

 

I tried the latest version - no joy.  I have just finished submitting a support request to the firewall authors.  Might be a day or two before I hear back (we'll see).

 

I promise I will come back and provide a wrap-up.  (If it drags out, I'll post an update now and then, just to keep the thread "alive".)


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#12
brantb

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Hi All,

 

Just an update along the way ...

 

In my case, it was (is) the presence of Agnitum's Outpost Pro firewall - even updating to the latest version did not resolve the issue. Agnitum's Tech Support is certainly taking it seriously. They accepted the validity of the issue right away, and gave me instructions to capture additional troubleshooting info for them. I did that and provided them with the feedback, and they have escalated the issue to a higher tech level for analysis. (They did warn me that it might take up to 10 business days to get further feedback, depending on the level of complexity; so, I am being patient.)

I cannot stress how surprised I am that even disabling the underlying service (i.e via services.msc) does not make the problem go away - the mere presence of Outpost causes the issue. Just as interesting (under those circumstances) is that running in Safe Mode does resolve the issue. I wonder what else, besides the service, doesn't run in Safe Mode ... that would be the key to figuring out which specific Outpost component is causing the problem, I suppose.

 

When Agnitum gets me an explanation (and a fix), I'll be back to wrap up this thread.  :)


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#13
SpywareDr

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Interesting, thanks.


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#14
brantb

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Hi All,

Just another small update ...

I'm still working on the problem.  Agnitum (Outpost) is analyzing things - but meanwhile, I have also discovered that I can eliminate the problem by uninstalling my antivirus (Avast).  In fact, the behaviour is identical with respect to the firewall and the anti-virus.  Namely, disabling the engine (via the respective GUI) does not fix the problem; disabling their underlying service (via services.msc) and rebooting, does not solve the problem.  But, completely uninstalling EITHER the firewall (Outpost) or the anti-virus (Avast) does resolve the issue.

Given that the symptoms are identical for Avast, I have also submitted a support case to them, too.

I will continue to update the thread, periodically, as developments occur.


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#15
brantb

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Hi All,

 

I know it has been a long time ... but, believe it or not, Agnitum (Outpost) Support is still chewing away on this issue.

 

In the meantime, Avast has provided me with a workaround from their end of things.  Namely, renaming the snxhk.dll file ("c:\Program Files\AVAST Software\Avast\snxhk.dll") so that it doesn't try to activate, and then restarting Firefox.  Obviously, there is some kind of interaction between Avast's sandbox (which, I didn't even install/activate) and the Outpost Firewall.  Avast has indicated that they are going to incorporate a more permanent fix for this into their next version - but, I'm not sure exactly when that will be.

 

I wonder how long it will take the two companies to play nicely together again, like they used us [smile/shrug].

 

If/When Agnitum decides to come up with a solution from their side of things, I'll come back and post another update.  At they rate they seem to be (not) moving on this, that could be (quite) a while.


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