OPINION

Tiny changes can have big consequences

Northwest Florida Daily News

Q: For about two weeks, I have had a problem with the e-edition of the Daily News. When I click the e-edition it's a blank page that says to clear my cookies, and that I have re-directed too many times. I can bring it up all day but if I try after 6 p.m. I can't get it. It’s almost like something is being shut down. Calls to the Daily News have not helped. I thought you might possibly help.

— Kathy C., Fort Walton Beach

Jeff Werner

A: I assume you attempted to contact someone in their web support group. I’m not familiar with the way they’re set up, but I doubt they’d be able to help because I very much doubt that this is an issue with the service that they provide.

Before I proceed, let me just give a little disclaimer that I am not, and have never been an employee of the Northwest Florida Daily News. My column is entirely freelance and independent, so I have no issues with giving you the straight-up truth on what I think might be causing your problems.

With that out of the way, let me just say that I don’t really believe that the service is causing your problem. When something like a web service doesn’t provide the expected results, the logical target for blame is the very thing that doesn’t appear to be working.

However, there are an uncountable number of factors that go into the process of creating a display on your monitor, whether it be the Daily News’s e-edition or any other site you might visit.

Content is hosted on a web server somewhere, and these are known to go down occasionally for maintenance or updates. Then there are the various computers and servers that serve as the internet backbone on which your data travels — the so-called “Information Superhighway.” There’s also the equipment of your local Internet Service Provider that provides your home with connectivity.

And then there’s the infrastructure of your home network, which includes your router, possibly one or more switches, plus cables and network interface cards, and finally the end-point device that you’re using to access the content. Whether that end-point is a computer, tablet, phone or something else, in addition to it’s physical and electrical connections, there are also numerous system and software configurations to contend with.

At any point along this highly complex pathway between you and what you’re trying to access, anything that goes awry usually results in a failure of some kind. When you think about it, it’s a wonder that things ever work at all! Yet they do, and it’s a grand testament to the state of modern technology that we can not only connect, but do so reliably, and often at ridiculously fast speeds.

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Until we don’t, as you’re experiencing. I can’t absolutely identify any particular culprit based on the information you provided, but I’m happy to discuss a few details that jumped out at me that you might consider.

First of all, you said that everything worked fine up until about two weeks ago. One has to wonder what changed at that point? I can remember back in a prior work life, being on-call for software support and getting a late night call out of the blue telling me “Your software just broke,” and asking me to fix it.

I can tell you assuredly, software doesn’t “break.” It doesn’t wear out or come loose or anything like that. If it was working and now it’s not, you can be certain that something in the environment in which it’s running has changed. With that in mind, did you recently install new hardware or software? Get a Windows update? A driver update?

The other factors, such as the “after 6 p.m.” issue, the “re-directed too many times” and the directive to clear your cookies, to me all seem to be indicative of the presence of some type of malware on your computer. If that’s the case, that would certainly qualify as the “something changed” that I spoke of above.

You will probably need to go above and beyond a typical virus scanner that you hopefully already have installed. Obviously, they can’t and don’t block everything. As I’ve recently stated in the column, I avoid endorsing products here, but a simple Google search for “Free Antimalware” should yield some excellent results for you. Read a few reviews and pick ones that scored good marks.

To view additional content, comment on articles, or submit a question of your own, visit my website at ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com!)