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Issue #185: February 6, 2011

Well Geek me right out – it’s February already!  One of only 12 months in the year is gone already, and it was just Christmas a couple days ago (I know, because I’m still trying to get my lights put away!).  Thank-you to all the Geeks and Geek wanna-be’s who attended the Computer Expo last weekend.  I always enjoy my personal appearances, and this was no exception.  See you again next year!  Go Packers!!! 


 Two news items caught my eye this week that I want to share with you.  First, would you believe that the Internet is about to run out of IP addresses?  It’s true.  The last batches of IP version 4 addresses were distributed this past Thursday to regional groups which will in-turn disperse them to local providers.  They are expected to last approximately six to nine months.  So, what happens after that?  Well, don’t worry – a fix has been in the works for a number of years already, and hopefully will be transparent when it comes online.  The new IP version 6 addresses provide, for all practical purposes, an infinite number of addresses.  The problem is integrating new IPv6 addresses with all the existing systems that only support IPv4 addresses (like your home computer).  You can relax though – that’s a problem for the Geek professionals to tackle.  The other item that caught my attention this week was that Microsoft’s Bing search engine was actually caught serving up results from Google’s search engine!  Google cried foul when they conducted a sting operation intended to reveal that Bing is using Google’s search results and claiming them as its own.  Said Director of Bing, Stefan Weitz, “The overarching goal is to do a better job determining the intent of the search so we can provide the most relevant answer to a given query.”  Slick answer, says this Geek, but imagine a kid in school caught copying off his neighbor’s paper, saying “I was just trying to do a better job of understanding the question, so I could provide the best possible answer!” 

Q: Sometimes the computer freezes up when we’re trying to connect to internet. The only way we can get it to move is turn off the modem. I have run AVG virus scan , spybot, adware , all clear there. We are running Windows XP. 

– Sharon S.
Destin, Fla

A: The answer you’re looking for actually lives deep within your computer’s main processor, and involves a type of operation called an interrupt.  Interrupts have the ability to essentially halt the processor, and direct it to wait while something else goes on.  In your case, your network connection is seizing hold of your computer, and waiting for a response from whatever you’re trying to connect to.  Ordinarily, the response arrives immediately, and things move on.  Unfortunately in your case, the response fails to arrive altogether, or it arrives garbled and the computer doesn’t recognize it.  Failing to see what it’s waiting for, and absolutely certain that the response is coming, the computer waits.  And it waits.  And it WAITS.  Now, you didn’t say how long YOU wait before turning off the modem, but I’d lay odds that your computer is far more patient than you are (it will wait days, weeks, even YEARS if you give it the chance).  Once you turn off the modem, the connection with the computer goes dead, and the computer now knows no response is forthcoming, so it releases the interrupt.  There’s nothing you can do to make the interrupt work any differently, but what you can do is figure out the reason why the response for which the computer is waiting never arrives.  I’m going to guess that the problem involves a poorly performing network cable (one that has been previously kinked, is not plugged-in firmly, is damaged, or has dust or corrosion on the contacts), or possibly a mal-configured modem.  It may also be an error on your Internet provider’s end.  You might consider bringing this problem to the attention of their technical support, and seeing what they think.

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