Gateway Computer Problems,
Service Technicians, and Accessing the Internet
Without a Browser

October, 2009 Update: After an interesting email exchange with Software Engineer/Developer Gavin Landon in 2006,  I got his permission to publish his advice in this article, and I've now updated some of the comments I originally made in my replies to Gavin. 

* * *

Gavin Landon: "I fell across your web page on the Norton problem while doing a Norton search through Google. I'm a software engineer/developer for over 20 years with over 10 years' Internet experience. Now let me give you this one comment: Never buy a Gateway machine.

"They put proprietary hardware and software in your machine so you will always have these kinds of problems. Gateway does this to force you to purchase software from them. If you had asked Gateway what they recommended, they would have sold you their version of SystemWorks. This is Gateway's thought process, even though it's a bad one.

"Norton has been around almost as long as Microsoft, but when it comes to computers, Gateway is a fairly new company, taking the old IBM route of doing things. I would suggest you buy a DELL next time."

Barbara:  My next computer after the Gateway I was discussing in this article was replaced with an eMachine, which I didn't realize was made by Gateway until after I bought it. This computer crashed a year later, and I finally quit Gateway for good. I now love the HP Compaq computer I bought in 2008, and one reason I bought this over a Dell was that it gave me a no-additional-cost option of Windows XP Pro instead of Vista. At that time I was advised by the Tiger Direct salesman to install CA Internet Security as my anti-virus/firewall program.*

In looking back, I'm reminded that what always bothered me most about Gateway's support was that whenever I had a problem and called them for advice--like the time when Internet Explorer began to crash all the time--they always said, "You'll have to reformat and start all over again." The last time I got this advice, the fellow told me he was a 'real pro' and knew what he was talking about. But he was full of beans. This was just Gateway's easy way out of any problem. Actually, as it turned out, all I had to do in this particular instance was delete the Alexa toolbar I had downloaded, which, unbeknownst to me, had dumped about 50 entries in my registry files and screwed up the works. After checking my system with AdAware's spy-removal problem and dumping all the Alexa files, IE began to work properly again, as before."

Gavin: "I reformat my machine once a year. This is usually good practice since, over the year, you will install all kinds of junk that you will not be using the next year. As for your experience with that 'real pro,' any rep on a support call is no real pro, no matter what they think. If they were, they would be building the machine or writing the software, not working support for a quarter of the pay.

"I had a 'real pro' come out to my house one day to install my Cable Modem. He tried telling me I needed their version of Internet Explorer on my machine before I could get on the Internet. He really believed that until I took the notebook away from him, put in the IP Address information myself, and hit Google. They all think they are pros."

Barbara: Gavin really had my interest here, because I had no idea how one could access the Web without a browser by "punching in the IP." He replied:

Gavin: "I can humor you, but I have to warn you, I may start talking Geek. Every machine on the Internet--yours, mine, everyone's--has an IP address associated with it. This is how the FBI knows who sent the virus, no matter how good the bum is that sent it. Attached is data the FBI uses that you never see, but it piggybacks on every email sent on the Internet. The attached info came from your last email to me." (Here, Gavin included the header copy on my e-mail.)

NOTE: To do this, right-click the unopened message in your inbox, and then click "Options" to open the window that includes "Internet Headers." If you simply forward an e-mail message to someone, these headers will be lost, so whenever you are reporting spam to your ISP, or notifying a friend that someone has stolen their e-mail identify, be sure to cut-and-paste the message header from the spam message and send it to your ISP or your friend in the body copy of your e-mail message to them.

Gavin Explains How to Access the Internet Without a Browser

"Assuming you're running Windows, try the following:
     Click START
     Click RUN
Now, depending on your Windows version, Type "cmd," and press ENTER.
ONLY if that doesn't work (and you will know if it doesn't), type "command," and press ENTER. At this time, a black window will appear in front of you. This is called a console window. (It pre-dates back to the 90's and old Win3, which was based on MS-DOS.) Now type, "ipconfig" and press ENTER.

"Now a few things will appear, one being the 'IP Address. Other info is your 'Subnet Mask' and 'Default Gateway.' In Windows, you had to install software that set these IPs for you or you can set up the IP's yourself. These tell Windows to use these IP Addresses to access Networks and the Internet. Some people, like that so-called "pro," think you have to install Internet Explorer for Windows to know how to use my Internet Provider, when actually Internet Explorer doesn't care as long as it can get to the Internet. Windows itself is what connects, not Internet Explorer. When I said, 'I punched in the IPs,' the 'Subnet Mask' and 'Default Gateway' in my Network Settings of Windows is actually what I meant.

"However, re your question about Google. Goggle does have its own set of IPs and, yes, I can access Goggle through them as well. At your console window, type 'ping www.google.com,' press ENTER.

"You will see a few things. . . one being one of the IPs that Google.com uses. Should look something like, '216.239.39.99,' but can vary on every ping, but sometime stays consistent. With this IP you can type in: http://216.239.39.99 as a URL and Google will pop up.

"To exit the console window, type 'Exit' and press ENTER."

________

Gavin Landon is currently the senior software engineer/developer at CashWorksInc.com. He started with a Tandy 1000 in the 80s and played with computers until the early 90s when he found himself caught up in hacking, which taught him a lot about how the Internet works. He started Karland.com in 1997 and IndexOnUs.com in 1999, and has a financial interest in GeeksatWork.com. "I have no college, but I can write software in 14 languages and can pick out a fake geek in seconds," he says. Gavin also writes music and says he is an artist at heart. 

______

* 2011 Update -- A note about CA Internet Security Suite software. I used this program for three years, and although it was annoying with all its bells and whistles and the hoops I had to jump through to register approved sites and so on, nothing ever slipped through to harm my computer. That is until the company let my software expire after I had authorized automatic renewals to a credit card. Late one Friday, I got a pop-up saying my software had expired and I needed to renew it. No message earlier saying there was a problem; no email advising me to renew, just the pop-up after the fact. I immediately went to the site and renewed, but the download link didn't work, and I was advised to seek help in the chat room (something that infuriates me when there is a technical problem). It was late on Friday, and since I could find no way to reach someone by phone, I just threw up my hands and shut off the computer for the weekend. When I booted up on Monday morning, the computer took forever to boot up, and only have the icons and button bar menu came up. NOTHING worked, not even the start button to reboot. I shut off manually, and the same thing happened again. Once more, and I was done.

As it turned out, some kind of Trojan or virus had hit the computer before I was aware I was without protection, and it cost me a bundle to get the machine back in working order. After considerable effort, I finally got a phone number and connected with the company's billing department, which reversed the charge to my credit card with no argument. My computer guy removed this program from my computer and gave me a good package of protection in its place, (especially satisfying since it was free). CA Internet Security's software, which is used by many major corporations,  may be great, but it's expensive at $70+/year now, telephone support is almost impossible to get, and you can't trust their automatic renewal system. 

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