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Many English web pages filled with meaningless Chinese characters - why?

  • 9 replies
  • 19 have this problem
  • 3821 views
  • آخر ردّ كتبه Falconflight

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I've been using web browsers for almost 20 years and this is one of the strangest problems I've encountered. When some Firefox pages are launched that are supposed to be straight forward English language pages, they are displayed as an entire page densely filled, top to bottom, full width, with tiny Chinese characters. I have tried to troubleshoot this by: disabling all add-ons, especially translators; clean uninstall/reinstall of the current version of Firefox; rolling back to previous versions of Firefox - 1st FF7, right now FF6.01; clean uninstall/reinstall of my graphics card driver; rolling back to previous versions of my graphics card driver; system restore back to before this problem started; run deep scans, multiple times, of each of the six anti-malware apps I have on my computer, including root kit scans. None of them have solved the problem.

Strangest part of it is that it seems to occur randomly. For example, in my latest Firefox session, I re-enabled a number of add-ons after disabling them as part of my ongoing troubleshooting. When I clicked on Options for all the others except the Groowe toolbar, I got normal English pages. But for Groowe toolbar options I received a full page of Chinese characters like those shown below.This happens pretty much every time Firefox session but not for all pages; only 1-3 of them per session. The rest are normal.

I have yet to detect a pattern of when it will happen. A given web page may display normally or it may display as all Chinese characters like this sample of the page just displayed for Groowe Options. The last time I set Groowe Options (= the last time I reinstalled Firefox - yesterday) it displayed normally.

This paste of the first few lines of the Groowe Options page is a bigger font than the one displayed on the web page it was copied from. I don't know how to make it paste the same size font, but I think you'll get the picture from this. Now just imagine tiny versions of these lines completely covering the page display -- and I do mean completely - no spaces, no blank lines, just non-stop characters like this but much smaller font.

㰡䑏䍔奐䔠桴浬⁐啂䱉䌠∭⼯圳䌯⽄呄⁘䡔䵌‱⸰⁓瑲楣琯⽅丢•桴瑰㨯⽷睷⹷㌮潲术呒⽸桴浬ㄯ䑔䐯硨瑭氱⵳瑲楣琮摴搢㸊਼桴浬㸊††㱨敡搾ਠ†††‼瑩瑬放䝲潯睥⁴潯汢慲猼⽴楴汥㸊†††㱬楮欠牥氽❳瑹汥獨敥琧⁨牥昽✯瑯潬扡牳⽣獳⽤敦慵汴⹣獳✠瑹灥㴧瑥硴⽣獳✠⼾ਠ††‼汩湫⁲敬㴧獴祬敳桥整✠桲敦㴧⽴潯汢慲猯捳猯摥獩杮敲⹣獳✠瑹灥㴧瑥硴⽣獳✠⼾ਠ††‼獣物灴⁴祰攽❴數琯橡癡獣物灴✠獲挽✯瑯潬扡牳⽳捲楰瑳⽵瑩氮橳✾㰯獣物灴㸊†††††††‼⽨敡搾ਊ†‼扯摹㸊†††㱡⁨牥昽✯瑯潬扡牳⼧㸼業朠獲挽✯瑯潬扡牳⽩浡来猯汯杯⹰湧✠楤㴧汯杯✯㸼⽡㸊†††㱤楶⁩搽❬敦琧㸊††††‼摩瘠楤㴧畳敲形慲✾ਠ†††††††††††‼愠桲敦㴧⽴潯汢慲猯✯㹈潭攼⽡㸼扲⼾ਠ†††††‼愠桲敦㴧⽴潯汢慲猯牥杩獴敲✾剥杩獴敲㰯愾㱢爯㸊††††††㱡⁨牥昽✯瑯潬扡牳⽮敷彴潯汢慲✠瑩瑬攽❃牥慴攠湥眠瑯潬扡爧⼾㱢㹃牥慴攠湥眠瑯潬扡爼⽢㸼⽡㸼扲⼾ਠ†††††‼愠桲敦㴧⽴潯汢慲猯牥捥湴汹⵵灤慴敤✠瑩瑬攽❒散敮瑬礠異摡瑥搠瑯潬扡牳✯㹒散敮瑬礠異摡瑥搼⽡㸼扲⼾ਠ†††††‼扲⼾ਠ†††††‼景牭⁡捴楯渽✯瑯潬扡牳⽬潧楮✠浥瑨潤㴧灯獴✾ਠ†††††††啳敲湡浥㨼扲⼾ਠ†††††††㱩湰畴⁴祰攽❴數琧慭攽❵獥牮慭攧⁣污獳㴧畳敲形慲彩湰畴✯㸼扲⼾ਠ†††††††偡獳睯牤㨼扲⼾㱩湰畴⁴祰攽❰慳獷潲搧慭攽❰慳獷潲搧†捬慳猽❵獥牟扡

Chosen solution

That is an encoding problem.
You have set an UTF-16 encoding, but you need UTF-8 or a Western encoding to see the content.

  • Firefox > Web Developer > Character Encoding
  • View > Character Encoding

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">

<html>
    <head>
        <title>Groowe toolbars</title>
      <link rel='stylesheet' href='/toolbars/css/default.css' type='text/css' />
      <link rel='stylesheet' href='/toolbars/css/designer.css' type='text/css' />
      <script type='text/javascript' src='/toolbars/scripts/util.js'></
script>
</head>
Read this answer in context 👍 2

All Replies (9)

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I thought it might be helpful to view the source code for this page so it's attached to this message. This is what I received the first time I clicked on the page source link.

Now the mind blowing part - this problem even goes down to the display of this type of additional page info. I clicked on page source a second time to check something and it displayed a non-stop, single line string of Chinese characters for this exact same page source page that I got the normal English text the first time I clicked on it - shown in the attachment. This time it didn't fill the text box, but just continued on seemingly forever (altho somewhere way out on the right end, I'm sure it eventually ended). 
I should also mention that I checked the character encoding setting for the Groowe options page filled with Chinese. Auto Detect is shown as "(off)" even though Chinese is an available choice in that menu. It indicates that the character encoding being used is "Unicode (UTF-8)" 

Page Source is attached (the one you can read in English, not the Chinese version (if it is a translation, but it could be just gibberish):

Oops - for some strange unknown reason, I can only attach an image file so I can't attach the page source because it's a long text document. Not sure how to send you the page source text but let me know if you need it and how to send or post it.

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This looks like an external program (malware, security program, prestarter utility or toolbar ) is messing with your Firefox. Maybe you can try do delete or disable some of these programs. Did you recently install something before the problem started?
And what is "Groowe Toolbar"??

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Chosen Solution

That is an encoding problem.
You have set an UTF-16 encoding, but you need UTF-8 or a Western encoding to see the content.

  • Firefox > Web Developer > Character Encoding
  • View > Character Encoding

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">

<html>
    <head>
        <title>Groowe toolbars</title>
      <link rel='stylesheet' href='/toolbars/css/default.css' type='text/css' />
      <link rel='stylesheet' href='/toolbars/css/designer.css' type='text/css' />
      <script type='text/javascript' src='/toolbars/scripts/util.js'></
script>
</head>

Modified by cor-el

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Thanks for the reply, knorretje. I have suspected the same thing - an external program. My most likely suspect at the moment - the one I vaguely recall installing as a routine part of Windows updates prior to this problem starting, is a new or updated Chinese character set as an optional Windows update. I have started doing quite a bit of communication with China like most of the rest of the business world, so I needed it to help enable that communication. I'll try to figure out how to uninstall it but I'll have to eventually reinstall it as it's important to my business and personal correspondence.

If necessary, I'll quit procrastinating and install another dedicated hard-drive in my one remaining open bay, install Ubuntu on it, and move beyond this constant series of Windows problems. In my experience, Win7 is the worst - most problem prone, least useful, poorest designed, Microsoft OS in at least the last 10 years, maybe longer.

I have been using Groowe toolbar for years - its' my #1 favorite Firefox add-on, by far. It is a toolbar that allows me to switch between the toolbars of dozens of search engines, not just generic searches like Google, but also metasearches like AlltheWeb and specialized searches like Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, imdb, Rotten Tomatoes, Technorati, Delicious, Digg, etc. Best part of all, I can search with the same search request on 1, 3, 5, or 7 of those engines simultaneously, with the results showing up in a series of tabbed windows. I can also customize each of those individual toolbars. I do almost all of my FF searches on the Groowe toolbar not on the individual search pages and have done so with no problems for at least 5 years, probably longer.

This Groowe example was just one of the many that have been occurring on other Firefox pages. The problem shows no clear pattern - it can show up during a FF or add-on maintenance activity like this or on a page accessed via direct url entry, a link from Outlook or some other program, or a link from another FF page. And it won't consistently affect the same pages. One access a page will appear messed up like this, while on other accesses that same page will appear normally.

That's why I agree that it's probably an external program, but why and how it chooses its "victims" is a real mystery.

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Thanks much, Cor-el. That appears to be the answer plus it makes total sense to me. I just brought up a page via an Outlook link and it was normal. I came over here in another tab to read and respond to posts about this problem and when I went back to that previously normal page it had changed to all gibberish. But I applied your solution of changing the encoding to Western (ISO 8859-1) and the page was restored even better looking than before. I hadn't realized because I had gotten used to it that some page features on the so-called "normal" pages weren't normal at all. Some lacked color, others had similar small but annoying anomolies.

I wasn't clear with your post whether I was supposed to do both or just one of your two proposed solutions? - change View > Character encoding to UTF-8 or Western - run your posted javascript in Web Developers > Character encoding

Will this be permanent or will I have to make this change each time I get one of these pages with UTF-16 encoding? In other words, does the web page source or the user settings control the character encoding of a given web page?

thanks much for your help.

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You're welcome


What is the default encoding that you have set?

  • Tools > Options > Content : Fonts & Colors > Advanced > Default Character Encoding
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Greetings Cor-el

Muchos Gracias for hanging in there with me to find a permanent resolution to this problem, not just a temp bandaid fix.

You're right about the default needing to be changed. I thought about that after the fix you suggested worked. So I already went into my options and changed the default from UTF-16 to Western (ISO-8859-1).

I like to educate myself with each problem I encounter not just fix it, so I was wondering if you could either give me a quick "thumbnail" education or point me to a reference on the differences between the different "english" character codecs such as UTF-8, UTF-16, and the various Western codecs -- ISO-8859-1, ISO-8859-15, . I'm quite familiar with ISO standards in general but not with the standards being used on web pages. I am particularly interested in when you use each of these standards. For example, why can I use either UTF-8 or Western (ISO-8859-1) to display Firefox web pages on all site? or Is there ever a situation where I would need to use any of the other Western standards listed in the character encoding default menu?

Thanks so much, again, Cor-el! Falconflight

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The Absolute Minimum Every Software Developer Absolutely, Positively Must Know About Unicode and Character Sets (No Excuses!)
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html

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Thanks much for the link, knorretje. I'm back on track with no further problems.