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Originally published Friday, September 6, 2013 at 4:25 PM

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Browsers leave online reader wondering what’s the story

Differences in page caching, “crawler” scans might explain why different browsers deliver new content at different times.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I regularly read stories at a site online. New chapters of stories are introduced weekly, but sometimes on a date in the middle of the week. Recently, a very odd problem has arisen.

Using Google (and Internet Explorer 10), the latest chapter posted is 21 August. Using Bing, the latest chapter is 24 August. And using Firefox, the latest chapters posted are 28 August and 31 August. Can you tell me what’s going on?

— Warren Jackson, Seattle

A: It may be a couple of different things.

First, if it’s what you see when you actually visit the page using different browsers, bear in mind that browsers generally cache pages so that it doesn’t take as long to load the page when you return to it.

But the browser has no way of knowing when the page has been updated, so you may be viewing an “old” page. Manually refreshing the page will reveal whether or not that’s the case.

With respect to search results in Google vs. Bing, search engines send “crawlers,” automated code that scans pages on the Internet for information that goes into the search engine. So the results you get with a search engine would depend on when the search-engine crawler last indexed that page.

Q: I have a Toshiba laptop running 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium. I upgraded to Internet Explorer 10 several months ago. Since then, I’ve had some problems with my Hotmail and Adobe Flash Player.

Whenever I try to view a video using the IE, it says I have to download the Flash Player, even though I checked and it is already enabled in IE. I downloaded the Adobe Flash a few times, and each time it said it was successfully installed. This happens in Facebook or in any video on the Internet.

Also, sometimes when viewing my Hotmail inbox and clicking the “view all” check box, I could not uncheck any individual mail or view any of them. I have to escape and sign in again to Hotmail.

I tried all Microsoft solutions and any Internet solutions I could find — to no avail. This only happens with IE — Firefox Mozilla has no problem at all with any of the above.

— Francisco Santos

A: So why use Internet Explorer? Seriously.

I have three browsers installed on my desktop computer. One will no longer download video files. Another one doesn’t work with the online software used by the school where I teach. The third one really tanks as far as FTP transfers go.

Web browsers, in short, are really pretty complex software packages, and they interact differently with the various applications on your computer and also with the various websites you may visit.

Yes, I’ve seen a lot of discussion about Flash not working with some installations of IE 10, and I’ve seen recommendations ranging from making sure your display adapter is up to date to reinstalling Java and Flash. I’m not aware of any single definitive solution.

So my recommendation for the time being has to be to use a different browser ... or to use multiple browsers.

Sorry I can’t offer a silver bullet.

Q: I have a Seagate external drive for storage of images formatted for both Apple and PC. This hard drive has been used for more than a year on my iMac with no problems until I decided to download some trip photographs directly from our laptop onto the external drive. Now my iMac refuses to recognize the external. Is there a way to make the external compatible with the iMac again?

— Sam Spencer

A: Apparently you have a good deal of company experiencing this problem, but the closest thing I’ve seen to an answer is to clear the partitions and reformat the drive. Of course, you’ll want to move that data to the PC before doing so.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/

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