The Case of the Messed Up Fax

We use a web application to create purchase orders. We send purchase orders to our vendors by printing the web page to our fax server. Two days ago we sent out two faxes with large black blotches on the page. There were purchase orders that were sent out before and after these faxes that were fine. Something was different about these purchase orders. We found that we could duplicate the problem on different workstations. When I previewed the fax on my laptop I could see that it was already corrupt. If I printed the web page to the printer or created a PDF it was fine. My boss thought it might have to do with our recent roll-out of the new Windows 7 laptops. So I checked the HTML for odd characters and did not find anything. It was about this time I noticed that the two problem purchase orders were about the same size. One purchase order had 36 line items while the other purchase order had 37 line items. I also found out that I used Firefox or Google Chrome to print the web page, it created the fax correctly. This printing problem was specific to Internet Explorer. The final clue was found when I went to my old laptop and it displayed the faxes correctly. When I checked its page setup I noticed that it was using an A4 paper size rather than the standard Letter size. After a little fiddling with the page settings, I determined that when I changed the bottom margin on my new Windows 7 laptop to 0.5 or 1.0 inch the fax would be created correctly.

My boss remained unconvinced. Why did we not see this problem before? That was a good question. After a little investigating of our fax log I found a corrupted fax over a month ago.  Since this problem is rare and the subsequent faxes went out successfully, they resent the fax manually and did not bother to tell anyone of the problem.

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