July 2001 Reader Challenge

Well, I'm shocked. Nobody answered Question 1 from the July Reader Challenge correctly. In fact, 90 percent of the entries I received skipped Question 1 entirely. As a result, I chose the winners from the pool of readers who correctly answered Question 2.

Congratulations to our first place winner, Justin Opotzner of Branford, Connecticut. He wins a copy of Admin911: Group Policy by Roger Jennings. He got points for his amusing guess to Question 1, calling it “a feature not a bug” (where have we heard that before?).

Second prize goes to Doug Lippi of Castro Valley, California. He wins a copy of Admin911: Windows 2000 Registry (by me). His stab at answering Question 1 included an explanation that rebooting is a well-known “official” fix for all sorts of problems. He also said he works at an ISP, and the problem posed by Question 2 is not that rare.

Question 1:
Sometimes I open Internet Explorer (IE) and get a message saying I'm not authorized to go to the site configured as my home page. I've never set up any security on IE, and when I get this message I go into the security settings, but I can't find any sites that are forbidden. I close IE and reopen it, but the same thing happens. Finally, I reboot, which cures the problem.

This error occurs if you have two instances of IE running, which happens if you inadvertently (or out of habit) double-click the IE icon in the QuickLaunch toolbar. Icons in the QuickLaunch toolbar work with one mouse-click. After you close IE, check the taskbar, where you'll see another instance of IE. Close the program and start again. Remember to single-click, not double-click.

If you're an administrator or hope to become one, Question 1 is an important lesson about Help desk techniques. I've had users call me about this problem many times, and I've always told them to reboot, which always worked. One day, I was visiting neighbors and one of the family members was working on the computer when this problem came up. I checked the computer and saw two Taskbar instances of IE. It had never occurred to me to ask this question of the people who called for help. I don't think “Did you load the application twice?” is an instinctive support question. However, in the end, there's nothing like being there, and support is more effective if you can see what's happening instead of relying on user explanations. Now when I'm stumped, I ask users to read me the objects on the Taskbar.

Question 2:
Yesterday, I dialed my ISP and collected my email, but I couldn't connect to the Web with IE. Every URL I entered produced an error message saying the server couldn't be found. I know it's unlikely that all my favorite sites went down at the same time, so I reconfigured my Dial Up settings. That didn't help. Rebooting my computer didn't help either. Today, everything works fine, so I assume it just takes a while for my new settings to take effect, but how did the old settings become corrupt?

Nothing's wrong with your settings. Your ISP's servers were up and running, but the connections between your ISP and the rest of the Internet weren't working. Unfortunately, this situation happens more often than it should, but if you experience the problem again, call your ISP technical support number to find out what's going on. The two main causes of this problem are a misconfigured router between your ISP and the Internet backbone, or phone line problems between your ISP and its Internet connection. When you collect email, you connect to the ISP's mail server, which is on-site.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.