Rails flash notice won't go away in Safari?

I have a Rails 3.2 app that manages students. It has a fairly typical nav bar across the top (Foundation 5) which contains a quick search field. The nav bar is displayed on every page of the site.

If you enter a valid (numeric) student ID into the search field, you simply jump to that student’s page. If you enter text or other non-numeric input, you get a flash error asking for valid input. If you enter an id that’s not found, you get a flash notice saying it wasn’t found. In either of the latter two cases, the controller should just drop you back to whatever page you came from and display the appropriate flash message.

For starters, here’s the search field in the view:

<%= form_tag search_students_path, method: 'get' do %>
<div id="nav-search" class="row collapse">
  <div id="nav-search-field" class="small-21 columns">
    <%= text_field_tag :search, nil, autocomplete: 'off' %>
</div>
  <div id="nav-search-icon" class="small-3 columns">
    <%= submit_tag '&#xf002;'.html_safe, class: 'button fa fa-search spin', name: 'submit' %>
</div>
</div>
<% end %>

And here’s the controller action:

def search
session[:return_to] ||= request.  referer
if params[:search].to_i.zero?
    flash[:error] = %Q[<i class="fa fa-times fa-fw"></i> Please enter a numeric student ID.].    html_safe
redirect_to session.delete(:return_to)
  else
    id = params[:search].to_i.    abs
@student = Student.search(id).    first
if @student
      redirect_to @student
    else
      flash[:caution] = %Q[<i class="fa fa-warning fa-fw"></i> Sorry, we couldn      't find a student with ID #{id}.].html_safe
redirect_to session.delete(:return_to)
end
end
end

Lastly, here’s the code for rendering flash messages in application.html.erb:

<% flash.each do |key, value| %>
<div data-alert class="alert-box cbc-<%= key %>">
<%= value %>
<a href="#" class="close">&times;</a>
  </div>
<% end %>

In Chrome and FireFox this works exactly as expected. The flash appears for one request, then disappears. However, in Safari, once the flash comes up it never goes away for that page. So if you get the error flash on the home page, for example, you can refresh all you want. It stays put. You can go to another page, and then come back, and it’s still there. The same is true for other pages. Once the flash message has appeared on a given page, it doesn’t go away.

Thus my question: how can I get Safari to clear the flash after the first request?

I’m aware of the whole “flash vs. flash.now” issue when rendering pages. But even then, the flash will disappear if you simply refresh. I actually tried flash.now in this case, but then the flash isn’t displayed at all in any browser.

Since this appears to be a browser-specific problem, here are some further stats on my system:

  • Mac OS X 10.9
  • Safari 7.0
  • Rails 3.2.16
    One final observation. After playing around with this issue in Safari, I noticed that if I clicked my bookmark for http://localhost:3000/, that would clear the flash. Of course, all the navigation links in my site layout contain relative paths, whereas the bookmark is calling a full url.

Anyway, hope that made sense. Thanks in advance for your help!

Could this be a caching problem? Does the network inspector show fresh requests being made to your app?

Unrelated, but I think you have an XSS bug - if i link to your search page with the search parameter set to 99999999 then I’m pretty sure that js will get executed (the 99999 is to that to_i returns non zero)

Fred

Hey Fred,

thanks for the reply. I’ve thought about the caching issue, though I’m not sure how to tell if this is in fact the problem. I’m not specifically caching anything in my app, and I’ve cleared out the localhost data for Safari. Also, all other flash notices in the app work fine, only this one sticks.

As I was discussing this issue with another developer, I decided to make a couple of short screen recordings (YouTube) that demonstrate what this looks like in Safari as compared to Chrome and Firefox. If it helps, you might have a look at these. Perhaps you’ll notice something that I’m missing.

  • Flash issue part 1

  • Flash issue part 2
    Here are some gists which provide more code context:

  • students_controller.rb

  • _top-nav.html.erb

  • application.html.erb
    Also, many thanks for the observation about the XSS bug. So far I have not been able to reproduce it though. For example, I entered this: 99999999. The search action did see it as numeric, but it stripped out the javascript and just returned a flash saying that a student with ID 99999999 could not be found. I also tried entering it via the URL, but that just crashed the redirect saying “cannot redirect to nil”. I guess I thought that Rails was sanitizing this somewhere in the background, but maybe not. Any suggestions?

Thanks so much for the help!

I can't see exactly how it might cause the problem you are seeing, but
often differences in appearance between browsers is due to html or
javascript errors on the page. In the browser view the page source
and copy/paste the complete page source into the w3c html validator
[1]. That will show you whether there are any errors. Fix them even
if you think that the error should not cause the problem you are
seeing. Use something like firebug to check for javascript errors.

Another thing to do is to compare the logs when running the two
browsers to see if there is any difference.

Colin

[1] http://validator.w3.org/#validate_by_input

Hey Fred,

thanks for the reply. I’ve thought about the caching issue, though I’m not sure how to tell if this is in fact the problem. I’m not specifically caching anything in my app, and I’ve cleared out the localhost data for Safari. Also, all other flash notices in the app work fine, only this one sticks.

Have you looked at whether the search parameters are being included in the links? Although if you’re not going to the search action I would assume that they wouldn’t be used even if they were.

Have you tried inspecting the individual http requests coming back? The Set-Cookie response header should be showing you changes to the session your rails app is making, and obviously the Cookie header on requests contains the current session data (The cookie value has two parts, separated by --. The second part is the signature, and the first part is base64 encoded marshal data so somehting like Marshal.load(Base64.decode64(’…’)) should turn the data back into a ruby object). Does the cookie on the next request contain the set-cookie value from the previous request? (I have in the past seen race conditions with sessions, although only with overlapping http requests)

As I was discussing this issue with another developer, I decided to make a couple of short screen recordings (YouTube) that demonstrate what this looks like in Safari as compared to Chrome and Firefox. If it helps, you might have a look at these. Perhaps you’ll notice something that I’m missing.

Also, many thanks for the observation about the XSS bug. So far I have not been able to reproduce it though. For example, I entered this: 99999999. The search action did see it as numeric, but it stripped out the javascript and just returned a flash saying that a student with ID 99999999 could not be found. I also tried entering it via the URL, but that just crashed the redirect saying “cannot redirect to nil”. I guess I thought that Rails was sanitizing this somewhere in the background, but maybe not. Any suggestions?

My apologies, your code is fine. It’s worth you understanding how the rails sanitization works though

When you do

%Q[<i class="fa fa-warning fa-fw"></i> Sorry, we couldn't find a student with ID #{id}.].html_safe

you are telling rails that everything in that string is safe. So if id contained something untrusted, you’d be in trouble. However, since you called .to_i on that earlier on you’re fine (I’d skipped over that line)

Fred

Hi Colin,

Thanks for the info. Did as you suggested and tested the HTML. There were six errors, all of which were due to the way Foundation uses li tags in the nav bar dropdown menu. As this section is unrelated to the search feature, I removed these tags and revalidated. There was also a warning about the icon I’m using in the search submit button, so I replaced that with the text ‘GO’. With those changes, the document validated. (I was also careful to validate the HTML which includes the flash message.) Unfortunately, these changes did not alter the flash behavior.

Also, I check the dev console in Chrome, and the only problem I could with JavaScript was a warning about a deprecated method in jQuery:

event.returnValue is deprecated. Please use the standard event.preventDefault() instead.

Thanks anyway!

Hey Fred,

Thanks for the response. The search parameters are of course included in the initial GET request, but as best I can tell from the log output they are not included when the user is sent back to the referring page. As to your question about the cookies, I’m not sure. I’ve been using logger.debug to inspect the session, but I may be missing something. Here’s what I’ve got in my search action right now:

def search
session[:return_to] ||= request.  referer
if !params[:search].numeric?
    flash[:error] = %Q[<i class="fa fa-times fa-fw"></i> Please enter a numeric student ID.].
    html_safe
logger.debug("@@@@ flash: #{flash}")
    logger.debug("@@@@ session: #{session}")
    logger.debug("@@@@ request.referer: #{request.referer}")

    redirect_to session.delete(:return_to)
  else
.
.
.

The following two gists contain the log output I’m seeing from Chrome and Safari. Comments are mine.

Josh

Hi all,

Just a heads-up to let you know that I’ve created a test app and pushed it to GitHub. I have successfully reproduced this bug with the test app. Steps to reproduce are in README.md in the repo.

Thanks again for your assistance!

Joshua