Analyzed a WebCT/RealPlayer problem

I spent about 45 minutes examining this problem in the UVM library with student. Apparently the same problem exists there.

The problem videos are all RealPlayer (synonyms RealMedia, Realvideo, RealNetworks) videos. The working videos are all QuickTime videos.

Using the example "Burlington’s Sewage Treament: Part 1" from Lesson 18.2, we discovered the folowing

  • Works just fine using my Macintosh and the Firefox web browser
  • Breaks using Library Dell and either Firefox or Internet Explorer

The failure is a "General Failure in Application RealPlayer"

The failure occurs display a page (or, as WebCT is wont, a page in a browser frame) that contains an statement. In particular, this page

contains an embed statement


The purpose of this is to embed the video in the page, as opposed to opening the video directly in RealPlayer

What *should* happen next is that the full URL of the "video" — derived from the SRC="burl_swr.ram" and the URL of the containing page — gets passed to the RealPlayer plug-in. This URL is

Trouble is — this URL begins with httpS (note the trailing s, for secure) and password protected, and at a non-standard port  (8943). The result is that some versions of the RealPlayer Plug-in can’t seem to get the file, and the application fails.

It should be noted that the above URL is NOT the address of the RealVideo. Rather, it is a "real audio metafile" (hence the .ram suffix). RealPlayer video files in fact use addresses that begin with the letters


rather than

The real audio metafile is an intermediary file that itself has an http address, but contains inside it just one line of text that is the "real" address of the real video. In our example, that is


So that’s the problem. What is the solution?

After working with Russell and starting this note, I realized it would be good to know what version of RealPlayer is installed in the library. On the Windows 2000 computers situated around the reference desk, I have no idea: I tried 4 different computers, and none would even launch RealPlayer.

The latest version of RealPlayer for Windows XP is now version 10.5 "Harmony"

It is quite possible that everything would work fine is all the users who are experiencing troubles update their versions of RealPlayer to the latest and greatest. This, of course, may be asking a lot from people like Russell who use UVM computers (he can’t update them himself!) or people like Janet Schwarz (if she is using RealPlayer Enterprise, as described here

then she is probably locked into whatever her Enterprise gives her). This theory has also not been tested: while I have RealPlayer 10.5 on my Gateway laptop, I do NOT have access to the course, so I cannot test it.

There is a workaround that I puzzled out with Russell, but it is rather circuitous and probably would cause just as many new problems. It goes something like this

1) Click on the video link
2) Try to play the video
3) the error message contains an address beginning with https like the once above. Use the mouse cursor to Highlight it the address and use the righ mouse button to copy it.
4) Open realPlayer from the Windows  Start menu
5) Select the File => Open menu item
6) Paste in the URL copied in step 3
7) The RealPlayer Browser window opens, displays the WebCT login age. Login to WebCT
8) Watch the video (assuming I remembered all the steps correctly from when I did it two hours ago)

The best solution would be to update every video link in every lesson that uses RealPlayer videos: as it turns out, Real Audio Metafiles are ancient history and, as we can see, problematic. Our RealMedia server is smart enough to generate them automatically, give the right URL. So, for example, n the case of lesson 18.2, change the link that reads

    "Burlington’s Sewage Treament: Part 1"



OR, if it is essential to play the video embedded in a page, then in the page

change BOTH the statements to reference as the video source from

    <EMBED SRC="burl_swr.ram" …


    <EMBED SRC="" …

On Jun 12, 2006, at 10:09 PM, Footprints at UVM wrote:

When replying, type your text above this line.
Submitted By: Justin Henry

Entered on 06/12/2006 at 22:09:02 by Justin Henry:
Hi Alan,

One thing we recommend during the troubleshooting process is that the
student try using a different browser than the one they are experiencing
problems in.  For example, if she is using Internet Explorer, try using
Mozilla Firefox instead.

I’ve copied the CTL Doctor Is In program on this, as they may have
additional suggestions.


Alan W. McIntosh wrote:
Justin…just had two emails from student Janet Schwarz.  According to
Janet, videos using Real Player Enterprise Desktop don’t work while
Activex Control does work.  She can’t open videos in 3.3, 6.4, 8.1, 9.2,
9.4, 13.4, 18.2, 19 and 24.

About Wesley Wright

Born on a mountain top near New York City, Craziest state in the land of the pretty. Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree, Killed him a bear when he was only three.
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