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Issue #41: May 4, 2008

Q: During the use of my computer, at no specific time or use of a particular program, my screen suddenly goes blank, totally snowy white.  There literally is nothing viewable and everything seems to stop functioning.  The screen is completely white.  When this first started, the only way I could regain the use of the computer was to reboot it.  I sent error reports to Microsoft, HP, AOL and various anti-virus company web-sites (McAfee/Norton), without receiving answers how to correct the issue.  One afternoon when it happened I became so frustrated I just started pressing keys on my keyboard, Esc, F1, F2, scroll lock, delete etc., until suddenly I pressed the Window Key on the bottom left side of my keyboard.  The System Tray appeared and there was a program running called “IE blank page” I right-clicked on it and a menu opened.  I clicked “Close,” the snowy blank page disappeared, and the system returned to the program I had been previously using.  This works every time, but is not the answer on why or how to correct the problem.

– Bryant M.
Fort Walton Beach, FL

A: I can tell you exactly “what” is happening with your computer, but the “why” will require some guesswork.  First, let’s re-create your problem.  Run Internet Explorer.  In the Address Bar, type “About:Blank” (without the quotes).  Now hit the F11 key.  Voila – instant “snowy white” screen (or in my case, blank screen with dust and fingerprints). 

It appears that “something” is launching Internet Explorer on your system, and then making it go full-screen.  The only thing I can think of that would do this is malware, but in this case, it appears to be not-very-well-written malware.  It’s almost surely trying (and failing) to display some web content on your computer.  Less likely, but possible, is that you could be accidentally triggering some key combination that is programmed to launch IE.  There are many utilities available that let you program so-called hot-keys, and some keyboards even have a dedicated row of programmable buttons for putting the system into standby mode, or launching apps such as Media Player or Internet Explorer.

Say what you want aboutVista, but it will actually pop up a dialog telling you that something is trying to launch an application, and asking for your permission to proceed.  Of course, it pops that dialog up all the time, which can get pretty annoying, but it does effectively stop malware from launching programs.  My advice is to keep looking for a malware infection.  When you find it, the problem will go away.  

Don’t forget to join me in Crestview this Tuesday, May 6th at 10:30 AM at the Robert L.F. Sikes Library where I’ll be giving a presentation for the First Tuesday Lecture Series.  The topic is the progression of audio and data storage technologies from the original Edison cylinders to modern MP3 players and flash memory.  For more information, contact Reference Librarian Sandra Dreaden at 850-682-4432.

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