Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Firefox Is Back And I'm Gonna Have A Party!

Some things make me quite cranky and obsessive, indeed. One of those things happened on Monday. Somehow, I lost Firefox. The browser would load and display itself but would not connect to the Internet. Sometimes, like its owner, this computer becomes a little unstable and ... just does unexpected things. I would say I had no idea what caused this malfunction, but I really had about 20.

The first idea on my list was that Comcast might have done something "funny." Its toolbar will only install on IE7, so that's where I started. I switched to IE7 and was again in contact with the world, albeit at what seemed like a snail's pace. OK. I knew the computer could access the web sometimes. My next thought was that I had installed and removed several minor programs, any of which could conceivably have caused a problem. I also had done both a disk defrag and a registry defrag with software which came from a very reputable company, but I had no idea where the little 1's and 0's might have been placed. I did a sys restore to no effect other than moving a few icons on the desktop. I deleted several apps to DOD standards (seven overwrites of the data), but the problem remained. I ran every security program I have (at least 10) from rootkit searches to anti-virus scans to ad removers and spyware scans. I found nothing that I didn't already know was present. Even the low risk items were then quarantined or deleted, however. Still no Firefox.

At that point I decided to be tricky and try something different. I disconnected the cable service and plugged into dial-up. Everything else worked, but still no Firefox. Drat! There went my theories about the cable provider changing something. Somewhere during all this poking of keys and rebooting, I fell asleep. That was just as well, because I probably would have just continued to poke at things until I killed the computer. When I awoke, somewhat refreshed but crabby from a dream I had (which will be my next post,) I went back to work on the problem. I was at the point of downloading Opera or Safari to see if they would work, but I didn't want to do anything traumatic to the HP.

Trying to find Firefox help while using IE7 didn't work so well, and using what help Firefox could provide without being connected to the net was relative useless. It explained clearly what the acronym "URL" stood for and explained what the proxy - client relationship is. That is when I began semi-randomly poking keys and header tools. It is also when I solved the problem. I truly hate to admit how simple the solution was, once I stumbled upon it. It seemed reasonable to use the Firefox "tools" that were available. When I got down the list of options to "options," a screen opened with many, well ... options. I made my way through them until I hit upon "advanced options, network, connection." I proceeded to take the ultimate risk and poked "advanced network connection settings." Nothing blew up and I was given four choices. Although I felt that I was tempting fate to switch from the current setting to "Auto-detect proxy settings for this network," I did it. Firefox came online immediately.

I still have no idea what caused the problem to begin with, but I was absolutely thrilled to have solved the problem all by myself. This elation lasted just long enough for me to figure out that anyone who actually knew what they were doing would likely have tried this as a first or second choice in resolving the situation. I believe it was then that I uncovered another of those inconvenient, but basic truths of life. It is extremely difficult to feel elated and incompetent at the same time.

Peace, Doc

Copyright © 2008, Thomas A. Blood, Ph.D.

Firefox 3, beta 4 is available for free download, but I'm not quite recovered enough from this trauma to install it yet. Another portable version of Firefox 3, beta 4 is available as a free download with the feature of being able to install it on your USB thumb drive and test it without affecting the operation of your current version of Firefox 2, whatever version. That isn't my usual quote, but is likely to prove much more valuable to those who are interested. I might actually attempt that, as it has been downloaded and the installation icon is just sitting there on the desktop mocking me.

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