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Goshen Public Library and Historical Society

Across the Reference Desk

by Fran O'Gorman

July 21, 1999

As more Internet stations have become available in the library, Internet usage has increased tremendously. Questions related to the Internet have increased as well. Many of these questions are due to problems encountered. But many of these problems are part of the nature of the Internet itself over which the library has no control.

"Server not responding" is an error message people sometimes receive. This simply means that the server that stores the web page you are trying to access is not connected to the Internet. These situations are usually temporary but are indeed annoying. The only advice we give is to try again later, which is what the error message advises. If you get an "unable to locate server" message then the server is not down, but rather doesn't exist by the name you've used. Until you get the right address or URL (uniform resource locator) this problem will persist. Sometimes you get a changed address message which is probably the least annoying of problems because it usually includes the new address and sends you there. "404 file not found" is the error one gets when a page is no longer on the server and has no forwarding address.

Other problems people eventually encounter are when they go beyond browsing the Internet to using email or downloading files. Spamming is the sending of unsolicited email, usually in a broadcast sort of manner. Sometimes it is just an advertisement, but the potential for another, far greater problem i.e. receiving a computer virus or worm on the system comes with this kind of email. A virus or worm is a file or program or set of coded instructions designed to do damage to the recipient's system. The main advice we give is to immediately delete any email received from an unfamiliar source. Also, never open an attachment contained in such an email.

Finally, there is the frustrating phenomenon of not being able to find a web page you know exists. Unfortunately no single search engine is a complete database of all that is available on the World Wide Web. Most search engines depend on the web site being registered by the webmaster or service provider. In some cases this may not occur. Then the process can be frustrating, and in some cases fruitless, and in every case time-consuming.

The bottom line is that problems can and do occur with the Internet that are sometimes beyond the control of the Library. If nothing else, patience is a very necessary part of Internet usage.

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