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Is there some final handshake that's needed and commonly missing for these server-side scripts?
Plus, I've just tried the Opera configuration that saves space by displaying the status bar only when needed, and then it's over the location bar - so now it's painfully obvious when a download hangs.
However, their sysadmin and I just went over a few things on the phone, and it looks like we got rid of the problem by changing one of the server set-up items under "enable scripts/executables". I'm still quite mystified and not 100% sure we have it even now. But now for the first time, Opera will finish the download.
This site has also been having trouble getting pages fully indexed by Google - something like 80% of their urls are just showing in "we know it's there" mode after 14 months. So I have a sense this is not just an Opera problem but is also affecting Googlebot and most likely other user agents here and there.
However, I only saw the problem with Opera, not IE, FF or Safari. And as I said, I see it on many other sites when I browse, so it's some common configuration thing.
I'm going to get some server logs from them tomorrow and see what story they tell.
I've also learned that neither one is enabled by default. You need to enable the ISAPI.dll and then create a new web service extension that lists one required file - \Windows\System32\inetsrv\gzip.dll - this is apparently the ISAPI that does both gzip and deflate compression.
I think it's worth my probing this direction a bit more, but I realize it may be a red herring. I started with what looked like a browser problem and now I'm deep into the server setup!