"Help! I can't play!"
Oh no! Here's some tips that may get you playing again quickly. If these don't work, below is a more in-depth technical discussion of how Winster works and what sorts of problems you may encounter.
First, close ALL browser windows, open a new one, and try again. This solves many issues.
If that doesn't work, reboot your computer and try again. This solves many more issues.
If you have a cable or DSL modem, turn off your computer. Power down the modem (better known as unplugging it - and be sure you take out the battery if it has one), wait 30 seconds, turn it back on, THEN restart your computer and try again. Or, you can press the 'reset' or 'restart' button on your modem.
You're probably back in action now! But if not, the next steps depend on what you are seeing.
You go to www.winster.com and get either a "page not found" error, or an orange screen saying we are doing maintenance or having technical difficulties.
In this case it's our problem, not yours. Be assured that all sorts of alarms go off in our offices when this happens, and we know about it. We have people on duty 24 hours a day to deal with any unexpected issue or problems, and most likely we'll be back in service shortly. If you want something to do, call a friend and ask them if they can reach our web site. If they say that they can reach our web site, repeat the steps above. If they say they can't, please take a break and try again later!
You can get to winster.com, but it is asking you to register and you already have an account.
This happens if you have accidentally disabled your Flash cookies. These are different
than regular browser cookies. To enable Flash cookies, Go to our home page at Winster.com. RIGHT click on the blue "Play Free Games..." graphic in the center. Click Settings. A small window should pop up with some small icons at the bottom, representing tabs. There should be one with a folder on it. Click this. Now you should see something about "Local Storage", with a slider below it. Move the slider to the right a bit, so that it doesn't say "None" on the right. Click Close, and try again.
Another way to solve this problem is to go directly to our Log In page. To get there, go to winster.com and click on the Log In link at the upper right.
You can get to winster.com, and you can log in, but when you try to get into a game, everything stops when Winnie says she is looking for a seat for you.
This usually means that Flash isn't working correctly on your computer for some reason. See below for how to update your flash player.
Another cause of this is that our Flash game program has gotten corrupted for some reason on your computer. This is stored as a "temporary file" on your computer. The solution is to delete this file, which will automatically force a new copy to be downloaded when you try again.
Deleting this temporary file is a little tricky, but you usually do it through your browser. The instructions for Internet Explorer are as follows. Click Tools on the menu, then "Internet Options" near the bottom. On the General tab, click the "Delete..." button in the Browsing History section. Check the box to delete Temporary Internet Files, and the one for Cookies as well for good measure. Now the tricky part: be SURE that the box at the top, "Preserve Favorites website data" is NOT checked. Otherwise, it won't delete our game file! Then click the "Delete" button at the bottom. This may take a while. Then close ALL browser windows, open a new one, and try playing.
You can log in, and you get into a game room, but no one is there, and it says you have zero spins and/or you can't spin or chat.
This means we were not able to establish a proper connection to your computer on ports 8000-9000 (see details below). This means that something is blocking you from accessing our games. Unfortunately you need to figure out who or what is doing this. Common causes are that you have a firewall or anti-virus software turned on that is configured to block us for some reason. You need to figure out who is ruining your fun and tell it that it is OK for us to make a proper connection to your computer.
You can get into a game, but the pieces on the spinner fly off the wheel and go to the right, arrows and chat are slow to come up, things freeze when ads start up or play, or things are otherwise generally sluggish.
Sorry to say that this means we are simply overloading your computer. There are several things that might help, from quick and easy to hard and expensive:
The Spinner is occasionally spinning longer that it should (double, triple, etc.)
- (Easy, quick.) Find a room with fewer players. The more players spinning in your room, the higher the load on your computer.
- (Easy, quick.) Shut down other programs you are running on your computer, and/or reboot. Note that your anti-virus program may be insisting on inspecting every bit of information we are sending to you, which can really slow things down. But it's risky to turn that off.
- (Easy, expensive.) Eliminate most or all of our ads. This is easy but costs money. You can purchase an "Ad Free Week" in the Winster Gift Shop, or if you have a coupon, you can use it for this. Well worth it. You can purchase a Day Pass, or join as a Club Winster Member.
- (Hard, expensive.) Get more memory for your computer. If you have less than one gigabyte, it's likely that Winster will bog down on your computer.
- (Hard, very expensive.) Time to upgrade - buy a new computer. Before you do this, try borrowing a recently purchased computer or laptop from a friend and see if it works well with Winster at your location. If theirs works well and yours doesn't, that's a pretty good indication that an upgrade may be in order.
When you click the Spin button, we start your spinner going immediately on your computer. Then we send a message to our servers telling us that you are spinning, and we process the spin and return the results of that spin to you. If our response is not received back at your computer in less than about 2 seconds, we keep the spinner going.
There are two main causes of this. The first is a longer than expected delay in the Internet. If we detect that this delay is over about 10 seconds, we put a message warning you of the problem in the Announcements window. Most likely this is due to Internet congestion, and will clear up later.
The other cause is that our servers are processing spins too slowly, due to a variety of factors. We monitor this constantly and it does happen occasionally, setting off all sorts of alarms on our side, but mostly we are processing spins faster than a speeding bullet (usually, less than 50 milliseconds, or a twentieth of a second). It is rarely over half a second, even at peak play times.
The spinner goes on and on, then you get a "Communication Interrupted" message.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what it says. Somewhere between you and us, the connection we use to send you information never arrived at your computer. We give up after about thirty seconds, and display this message. When you click "OK", your computer tries to reestablish a new connection, which is usually successful. We then quietly send a notification from your computer to our servers to let us know that this happened, so we can keep track of these occurrences. These are logged on our end, and we periodically analyze this information to look for patterns or problems that we might be able to address.
Ads are covering the player on the right of your screen.
This most likely means you have accidentally set the "Zoom" in your browser to something other than 100%. This is very easy to do by holding down the "Control" key and scrolling your mouse wheel. To fix this, click on "View" on your browser menu, then on "Zoom", and make sure it is set to 100%.
The chat area or spin button is off the bottom of your screen, and you have to scroll up and down to see it.
Try going to 'full screen' mode. On most browsers, try pressing the F11 key at the top of your keyboard. Press it again to get your menus and toolbars back. Or, click "View" on the browser menu and click on "Full Screen".
Every time you log in, you see a big red Spin button covering the screen.
This means we think you are visiting our web site for the first time. It will happen if you either have cookies disabled, or are deleting cookies each day. (We assume if we can't find our cookie that you are new.) To fix this, allow us to keep a persistent cookie on your computer.
It worked yesterday, you haven't changed anything, but it doesn't work today.
Unfortunately, there are so many parts and pieces that can break between us, you, and your computer, that mysterious things can happen. For example, there are many programs on your computer that we rely on, and most of them quietly update themselves when you aren't looking. Sometimes these updates cause problems or are incompatible with other programs on your computer, the Internet, or our servers. We have a running battle to identify and work around such issues as they arise. But most of the time, the guilty party quickly figures out that they broke something, and fixes it just as quickly. So magically, when you try to play on Winster the next day, everything is working again.
Try as we might, sometimes we just can't solve the problem you are having. We love having you play, but alas, sometimes things just don't work out that way.
That covers ninety-nine percent of the issues we see. But if you'd like a deeper understanding, please read on...
How Winster Works
Unlike many other game sites, Winster requires immediate ("real time") interaction
with other players. To accomplish this, we place on your computer ("download") a
special program written in a language called Flash, which communicates with our
computers ("servers") as quickly as possible over the internet. Flash is the same
program that is used for many animated ads, games, and videos, and is already
present on nearly all computers on the internet. Our servers communicate separately
with each player, then pass messages on to the other players - so your computer is
never 'talking' directly to another player's computer.
There are several places where problems and delays can occur.
Problems at Winster
The first is on Winster's own servers. We monitor this constantly, and
regularly upgrade our equipment and services. If a problem is detected, our
engineering staff is paged automatically 24 hours a day to look at the problem
immediately. Despite this, occasional issues do arise. We make changes to the web site
regularly, and certain types of changes require us to interrupt service temporarily,
though most of the time we can do this without interruption. In both of these cases,
you will see a warning message prior to the interruption.
Problems in the Internet
Even if you have a fast internet connection, it usually takes
several hops to get data between your computer and our servers, and there is a
possibility of a delay at any of these intermediate points. There are two different
potential bottlenecks here.
The first is called "bandwidth" - this is the speed of the connection, which
determines how fast information can be moved between you and us. Certain types of
data, mainly pictures, videos, and sound, can be quite large, and without sufficient
bandwidth, they can clog up the connection. By analogy, this is like moving a lot of
cars though a narrow tunnel - it can take a while.
The second is called " "latency" - this is the delay between when information is
sent and when it arrives. By analogy, a red light at an intersection delays all the
traffic, but once it is green, a lot of cars can pass through the intersection
quickly. A good example of latency is when you take two cell phones and call one
from the other. You speak into one, and you hear an 'echo' of your voice in the
other. Even though all the sound gets through, there is a delay in how long it takes
to get there.
You can test your own bandwidth at several sites on the internet, for
How fast is fast enough? A very rough guide is that you are likely to experience
poor performance if your bandwidth is less than 300 Kbps (that's 300,000 bits per
second). Note that most dialup connections are well below this.
We have built a latency test directly into Winster. When you send a
message to us (for instance, when you click the spin button), we make a note of the
time on your computer. When our server responds, it also sends back the length of
time it took to process your message. When this is received on your computer, we
check the time again, and subtract the time we spent processing on our site. The
difference is the amount of time it took in the internet to get the information
round trip between you and us - the latency.
If the latency is more than a few seconds, we display a warning message on your
screen, alerting you to the problem. Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do to
reduce internet latency, since it is outside of our control. Most of the time, long
latency is caused by the last hop - that is between your internet service provider
and you. An analogy is to think of the internet as a connected system of local roads
and national highways. It's much more likely that a local road is blocked than a
national highway, or at least, the highway is going to get faster attention. Winster
is located right near the highway; you may be located at the end of a local road.
Certain types of internet connections, such as satellite and wireless (cell phone
company) connections, are frequently subject to high latency.
As a general guide, if your latency is more than 250ms (250 milliseconds, or one quarter of a
second), you will notice delays when playing at Winster and things will seem to
Just because you can 'see' other web sites or play on other games sites without
problems does not mean that your latency is OK, because most other sites do not
require fast communication between players, or between you and them - a delay of a
few seconds doesn't matter. A good analogy is that it doesn't matter if a TV show
you are watching is delayed 10 seconds, but you wouldn't want to talk on a phone
call where the sound is delayed by 10 seconds in each direction.
Sometimes you can get better service by requesting it from your internet service
provider, or by switching providers. If you'd like to see whether the problem is
affecting a wider region in your area, you can check the Internet Traffic Report:
Problems in your Local Network
Another potential source of problems is your local network. You
may not realize that you have a local network, but even the connection between your
cable or DSL modem and your computer is a simple network. Sometimes, in a misguided
effort to 'help' you, your internet service provider will filter traffic or prevent
you from making certain types of connections to the outside world.
One very common problem (particularly in offices) is that these devices contain
filters ("firewalls") that prevent certain types of traffic from passing through.
Firewalls typically don't like it when sources outside your local network send you
information that you didn't specifically request. Unfortunately, we have to do this
all the time - for instance, when someone offers to trade with you.
Winster's program on your computer communicates with our servers in two ways. The
first is through a standard web-page request (an "http" request). In general, we
use this method whenever you take an action like spin, move a piece, etc. We
acknowledge these requests in the standard way, and most local networks let these
requests pass without objecting.
The other way is through a special connection ("push socket") that we establish with
your computer, and sometimes local networks don't allow such connections. The
symptoms of blocking these connections are that you can log in, but after a few
seconds get a message that says "communication interrupted". Also, when you spin you
will not see the response, you will not see your own chats, and you will not see
other people in your room spinning or chatting.
The technical details are that we need to connect to your computer on ports in the
8000-9000 range - this information may help you or your computer expert to 'open up'
these ports and let us pass.
Problems with your Computer
The last potential area of problems is your computer.
Firewalls and antivirus software:
The most common problem on your computer is that
an aggressive firewall or antivirus program takes a dislike to Winster, usually due
to the way we are communicating with you. Typical symptoms of this problem are that
you get a "communication interrupted" message, or you get stuck loading on a
blue/grey screen, or at a message that we are "looking for a seat", or "loading". To
test this, temporarily turn off any firewalls or antivirus program and see if that
clears up the problem. Then turn it back on, and see if you can tell it that Winster
is OK with you.
A second kind of problem is that you may not have an up to date version of
Flash. It is supposed to upgrade automatically, but this may not always happen
correctly. If you have an older version of Flash, our games may seem sluggish, or
may not load at all. Typical symptoms of this are if you get stuck on a blue/grey
screen, or it stops at a screen saying we are "looking for a seat" or "loading".
If this is happening to you, open a browser window, and go to the following page:
This should tell you if you have Flash properly installed, and which version you
have. To upgrade to the latest verson, please do the following:
1. CLOSE ALL BROWSER WINDOWS, AND EXIT AND CLOSE ALL INSTANT MESSENGER WINDOWS.
2. Open a single browser window, then go to:
3. Check off the "Terms of service" checkbox, then click "Install Now", and follow
the installation instructions below.
You can also access this page directly from the Winster web site at:
4. Please go back to http://www.adobe.com/products/flash/about/
and verify that you
have properly installed the latest version.
Here's another test you can perform that will check both Flash and your bandwidth at
the same time:
Not enough memory or computing power:
It's possible that your computer just doesn't
have the power to run Winster. This will cause lagging, interruptions, odd display
problems, and other issues.
One way to test this is to go into a room with few or no other players. If you can
spin OK, or the problem clears up, it is most likely due to the heavy demands our
program is placing on your computer.
To reduce the problem, you can close other programs that are running, or try turning
your computer off and starting it again ("rebooting").
Another thing to try is to use a different browser. Most people use Internet
Explorer, which comes with Windows, but Firefox seems to run better for a lot of our
players. You can easily download and install Firefox from http://www.firefox.com
Another way to determine whether the problem is with you computer or local network
is to try playing Winster on a different computer at your same location. If this
works correctly, then the problem is specific to your computer. (Some people borrow
a laptop from a friend to try this.)
Or, you can go to another location, such as a friends' house, school or library, and
try playing from there. If that works, the problem is with your location and/or your