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YouTube – “I’m not talking if you’re not listening!”

I hope that someone reads this and saves themselves the six hours I spent to solve this problem!

One of my clients is a school.  Teachers occasionally use content from YouTube in their class.  It’s normally not an issue.  But I had one teacher contact me and explain that she could not get her “Mr. Magoo’s Don Quixote de la Mancha” to play from YouTube.

I arrived in her classroom and sure enough, she could get the first second of the video, then the screen blackened with old-school “static” on it.  YouTube said that there was some sort of technical problem.  This was weird.

So I checked the normal stuff like is Flash updated, try a different browser, make sure this teacher has permissions in the content filter to watch YouTube videos.  Oh yes, also did a good ol’ reboot for good measure.  All to no avail.

I was honestly stumped, but one cannot just walk away from a problem like this.

I went to an unoccupied computer – a desktop that runs the time clock software for the school.  It received the same indications.  I now suspected it was the content filter somehow interfering with things. 

I remoted into one of their servers because I know they are exempted from the content filter.  Same indications.

By this time, I was really puzzled.  I needed a known quantity in this equation, so I retrieved my laptop, got on their wireless network.  Lo and behold, my laptop could play YouTube videos through their WiFi/content filter/ISP.

It was the end of the day and I had to leave.  But I diligently worked on this problem from home by remoting into their servers and trying all of them.  I remoted into a Windows 7 virtual machine and it didn’t work, either.  At this point I was most frustrated and quit for the day.

Refusing to be bested by YouTube, I returned the next day and spent more time searching forums for possible solutions.  Most of what I found was people having other issues.  Google is only effective if you can enter the correct search criteria.  Then it dawned on me to check for results posted in the last week.

Somewhere in those results I found a forum where people were discussing this problem.  There were many posts, then someone near the end explained how Google updated YouTube to pay attention to whether you have speakers or headphones connected to your computer.  Windows 7 detects whether you have something attached to the computer that can reproduce sound.  If you do not, the speaker in the system tray has a red “x” through it.  If YouTube finds that you’re not listening to their content, they stop playing it!

Eureka!  That was the solution.  My laptop had speakers built-in.  But the timeclock computer did not need speakers, nor did the servers, nor did the Windows 7 virtual machines into which I remoted.  I went back to the teacher’s room and found she had the speaker cord removed from her computer because she plugged them into her phone earlier and forgot to hook the cord back up to her computer.

I plugged in that speaker cord and voila, everything worked.

At least six hours was spent running around in circles to chase this one down.

The remaining posts in that forum said a lot more than I could say.  It’s a really idiotic thing to implement this particular change.  But I cannot force Google to change, so I will do the next best thing and hopefully help save you time and frustration.