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Issue #174: November 21, 2010

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Happy Thanksgiving Geeks, Geekettes, and Geek wanna-bees!  I realize it’s still a bit early to say that, but by the time my next column publishes, it’ll be too late, and I’ll be wishing you a Merry Christmas instead.  Speaking of, for those of you in the greater Niceville area, the Geek Lights on the Corner begin public shows on Monday, November 29th at 6:00 PM at the corner of Bluewater Blvd and Antiqua Way in Bluewater Bay. Actually, it’s in a couple of other locations as well.  My yard wasn’t big enough to contain the Geek Lights, and they’ve expanded into two other yards in the neighborhood!  Yes, I am actually controlling lights in other people’s yards, and yes, they will still be synchronized with my music.  Come see if you’re able!  It should be a great show this year.  As usual, shows start promptly on the hour and half-hour.  You don’t want to be late, because if you miss the beginning, you miss a lot.

Q: My computer is fairly new – purchased just a year ago.  Until about 4 months ago everything was fine; now when I close IE the following box opens:  “Internet Explorer has stopped working. Windows is checking for a solution.”  After a brief time I get the next box, “Internet Explorer has stopped working.  A problem caused the program to stop working correctly.  Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available.”  I have tried (unsuccessfully) to find any programs that may be running.  There is no problem listed or solution in the Action Center.  What do I do to make this stop?

– Deborah J.
Niceville, Fla

A: Deborah, what you have here is the equivalent of a “Check Engine” light on your car.  It means something is wrong, but Internet Explorer is either unwilling or more likely unable to tell you exactly what.  This kind of problem is usually not caused by the browser itself, but by a browser plug-in or so-called browser helper object (BHO).  I’m not surprised that you looked and didn’t find any programs running.  You won’t see these programs in the taskbar and usually not even in the Task Manager.  They piggyback onto the Internet Explorer process, and are automatically launched with Explorer or as-needed.  Some examples of this kind of software are toolbars, such as the Google Toolbar, the Yahoo! toolbar, or one of dozens more.  There are also programs that help you display certain content within the browser, such as Adobe Flash and Shockwave, Java, and various audio players.  Unfortunately, malware also can take the form of a BHO or add-on, and load itself automatically when you hit an infected web page, often with no indication that this is happening.  To complicate matters, it is also possible to make a change to a browser setting that affects the browser’s ability to operate.

So you can see, it’s just about impossible for me to pin down the exact cause of your “Check Engine” light, particularly without doing an in-depth examination of your computer.  However, you can reset your browser to its out-of-the-box configuration quickly and easily.  This will remove any add-ons, and delete any downloaded temporary files that may be hanging the system.  Perform the following steps:  From within the browser, click on the “Tools” menu and select “Internet Options”.  Click on the “Advanced” tab, and at the bottom of the dialog, you’ll find the magic “Reset…” button.  Be warned that this will remove ALL add-ons, even the ones that aren’t causing any problems and that you might want to keep.  So be prepared to re-load some add-ons after the reset if you find that something no longer works, such as Flash animations.

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