What’s an “Internal Server Error” and How Do I Fix It?

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I’m trying to download software from a specific site. No matter what I try to download, I get this error message:

Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request. Please contact the server administrator webmaster@******.com and inform them of the time the error occurred and anything you might have done that may have caused the error. More information about this error may be available in the server error log.
Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

How is this resolved?

I’m very familiar with this error. I see it all the time when setting up or making changes to websites.

The good news? It’s not your fault.

The bad news? There’s probably nothing you can do.

Read moreWhat’s an “Internal Server Error” and How Do I Fix It?

Why CAPTCHA?

We’ve all seen them, and to one degree or another, been frustrated by them: those distorted characters we’re supposed to be able to recognize, read, and type into a corresponding field on a web page.

That’s a CAPTCHA, which is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It’s even trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

As frustrating as they sometimes are, they exist for a very important reason.

Read moreWhy CAPTCHA?

What Does “There is a problem with this website’s security certificate” Mean, and What Should I Do?

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I have a laptop that consistently has a problem when it accesses a site online. Each and every time I get the same message from the site I am visiting. The message is strange and I have no knowledge of how to correct the implied problem.

The message is: “There is a problem with this website’s security certificate. The security certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid.”

This message appears when I try to access my email account.

The problem is most likely not yours to correct. More often than not, it’s a problem with the website itself.

You still need to be careful, though.

Let’s look at security certificates on https connections: what they mean and what you should do when faced with messages such as this.

Read moreWhat Does “There is a problem with this website’s security certificate” Mean, and What Should I Do?

7 Things Your Sysadmin Probably Won’t Tell You

In addition to being the “Leo” in Ask Leo!, I administer web servers and websites for a few friends and organizations and host email accounts on my own servers for a few others.

What I’ve come to realize over time is that in doing so, these people have placed a tremendous amount of control in my hands – more than you might imagine.

What I’ve also realized is that this isn’t uncommon. In fact, whenever you have someone manage your business’s website, server, or email, be that person a friend or a hired service, you’re probably giving them more access than you realize.

It’s often the right, and even necessary, thing to do.

Your sysadmin might not tell you how much power he or she really has.

I will.

Read more7 Things Your Sysadmin Probably Won’t Tell You

How do I get an older version of a webpage?

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How would I get an earlier version of a webpage? For example: I wanted a certain musical selection and I clicked on the bookmarked entrée. Another version of the song came up – it was nowhere as good as the version that I bookmarked. How would I get that earlier version?

In general, you cannot.

Particularly when it comes to media files (like music or video), if a web page changes its contents, whatever was there before is removed from public access.

However, there are a couple of things to try.

Read moreHow do I get an older version of a webpage?

Why is a website trying to open a file on my machine?

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Recently I was on a web site, clicked on a link and it redirected me to a “file://” URL. The screen showed folders & clickable links to folders and files that aren’t on my machine at all! The question I want to ask is: is this website trying to access my personal files on my computer? Does a “file://” url mean my files somehow became public?

Nope. It’s something much more benign and banal.

The author made a mistake when creating that website.

It’s an easy mistake to make, and somewhat common – particularly with less experienced website creators – so I’ll run down what it is and how they (not you) should fix it.

Read moreWhy is a website trying to open a file on my machine?

How do I get the old msn.com homepage back?

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The msn.com page has changed again and there seems to be no way to revert back to the original. Why does Microsoft impose this on people without giving a choice? Everyone just HATES the new version of msn.com. Is there a way to revert to the page as it was before?

As I update this article for the latest round of changes, I’ll show you what’s happening. I’ll also make some guesses as to why the changes were made, and what your options might be. The answer might very well be “not many”.

Read moreHow do I get the old msn.com homepage back?

What makes a site secure?

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Once, I read that secure websites should begin with https. Well, yours just starts with http. I figure it’s safe but apparently missed the distinction between safe and unsafe computer addresses.

“Secure” has a very specific meaning when it comes to the internet. It’s about technology. And you are correct, askleo.com is not a secure website. It is, however, a safe website.

Let’s review what all that means.

Read moreWhat makes a site secure?

Why Am I Getting Empty Form Submissions from My Website?

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Hi Leo. I have an email request form on my website. And every now and then I will get a blank form sent to me or maybe with a few URLs for medications of various sorts in it. I’m also getting returned email and “Out of office” messages. I can see that they’ve been sent from bogus names at my domain. How do I fix this?

The bogus email addresses on your domain are easy. I’ll point you at a previous article of mine: “I Keep Getting Bounced Emails for Addresses On My Domain That Don’t Exist. How Can I Stop This?”. The bottom line is that simply having a domain will cause this to happen. And the only solution that I know of is to only pay attention to the email that is actually sent to valid email addresses on your domain. Ignore all of those others.

The form submission issue is an interesting one, and it’s something that I actually deal with everyday.

Read moreWhy Am I Getting Empty Form Submissions from My Website?

My webmaster left. What do I do?

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My webmaster has gone AWOL and my site is having problems. I don’t know who to talk to or how to retrieve my site’s back up. What can I do?

This was the case for the website for an organization to which I belong. In fact, it happened twice, and we got very lucky each time.

I’ll review what happened to us, how I recovered, and what every website owner should do to prepare for exactly this scenario.

Read moreMy webmaster left. What do I do?

Will adding an “s” to http make my connection secure?

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I’m using a website to confirm a rental and they require some personal information. I’m pretty confident in the company. I noticed the page for this added info was only an http site – no “s.” To see what would happen, I typed an “s” after the http, pressed Enter, and the page flickered like it was reloading, but there it was – same page but now with an https. Did this work? Could it really be that easy to get a secure page? Or did my browser just fool me? I tried an F5 refresh and the https remained. What do you think? Am I safe and secure now?

Adding an s to the http to make it secure is interesting. It’s tempting to see what will happen when you try it. But even when it works, I have some concerns.

Read moreWill adding an “s” to http make my connection secure?

Why Do I Keep Getting Certificate Errors from My School’s Website?

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I’m getting “Internet Explorer blocked this website from displaying content with security certificate errors.” I get this on all of my community college web pages. It pops up every time I go to do something different for school: check my school mail, upload my homework, etc. It’s driving me nuts. I’ve tried changing the date and time and I lowered my security settings to an unhealthy level and nothing is working. Every time I log into the school website, that blasted thing pops up and it doesn’t have any options; just a button that shows content you can click or the “X” button. This happens on every PC in my house: 4 laptops; 2 desktops, all different brands but they all have Windows 8. I’ve clicked the “show content” thinking it would be the end of it, but within a few minutes, it’s back up there again. I’ve tried clicking the “x” button just to close it and then a few minutes, it’s back. I never get the message when I’m at school working on the school computers.

To begin with, there should be a link or an option on that error page that would give you more information about what the error with the security certificate is. Without that, it’s actually very difficult for me to take a guess at exactly what’s happening.

Read moreWhy Do I Keep Getting Certificate Errors from My School’s Website?

How do I secure my website?

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If you have your own website, how do you keep it from being infected with viruses that get passed on to viewers? Two of our sites are just ISP-provided personal web space to which we publish Front Page pages. The other is a hosted site and the pages are just HTML that I edit with FrontPage and upload via FTP.

If you have a static website (meaning it’s just .html) that you’ve uploaded via FrontPage, FTP, or whatnot, the single most important thing to do is choose a good password and keep it secure.

One class of site hacks is simply people getting the password, ftping in, and monkeying about with files on the site.

While that does happen, it’s actually not the most common cause for a good number of site hacks these days.

That gets a little more technical.

Read moreHow do I secure my website?

What Does Error 500 from a Website Mean?

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I’m trying to go to a web page and it says the “remote server returned an error: (500) internal server error” with a bunch of HTML stuff under it. All of the other web pages that I visit work without any problems. It’s only this one and I don’t know what to do. Can you help me?

The 500 error is an error on the server. Something on the remote machine that’s hosting the website broke.

In other words, it’s not your fault. Unfortunately, it’s also not necessarily something that you can fix.

Read moreWhat Does Error 500 from a Website Mean?

Is There a Way to Determine which Browser Tab is Playing Sound?

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When I load several tabs, I have no audio sounds at all at first. Then, I suddenly get strange music. How can I trace this audio’s source (short of shutting off tabs one at a time to locate it)? I tried using Task Manager, but I find nothing there. Can you throw any light on this dilemma for me?

If you go to a web page and it starts playing audio without you pushing the Play button, that’s auto play1. It plays audio or video automatically, without you requesting it.

In my opinion, this type of auto play is evil. There are so many reasons why it shouldn’t be used, from startling the user to waking up the baby in the next room. It’s simply bad user design and downright rude. Web pages should not make sound until the user requests it. If you’re a website designer and you use auto play sound, stop it.

Unfortunately, if you’re not the web designer, there’s not a lot you can do.

Read moreIs There a Way to Determine which Browser Tab is Playing Sound?

Why Did this Site Go Away? And How Do I Contact the Owner?

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I used to freely access a blog simply by using the web address [redacted]. This web address now takes me to a Google blog site, which does not appear to allow me to access the original website. As the original site was purely cookery based, I don’t understand why this restriction has been imposed.

There are many reasons why a site may suddenly change. Let’s look at why sites disappear and some ways to track down more information.

Read moreWhy Did this Site Go Away? And How Do I Contact the Owner?

How Do I Change My Website to Be an https Secure Site?

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I manage the website for a small non-profit. My HTML skills are just enough to stay ahead of the Executive Director’s requests. They have asked if we can switch to an https secure site – with all pages being HTTPS. How does one do that? The HTML does not seem to change, but there must be something that tells the browsers to switch to encrypted communication.

This isn’t about how your website is designed — as you note, the HTML doesn’t change. It’s about how your site is hosted.

When you use https, the connection requested by your browser is different. Behind the scenes, https is a completely different protocol than http. Your web server needs to understand and support that for your site.

How you make that happen isn’t standard, but it is getting easier.

Read moreHow Do I Change My Website to Be an https Secure Site?

How can I find a good web host?

You’re looking for a place to put your website. Maybe it’s just a single page describing what your business is. Maybe it’s a blog. Maybe you’ve got the next best solution to ecommerce that you’re ready to build out.

There are so many web hosts and hosting alternatives that it’s almost impossible to tell one from the other, much less understand if they’ll be what you need.

There are a number of different types of web hosting and I’ll look at a few of them along with some specific recommendations. Each will have their pros and cons, and each will be suitable for different types of solutions.

Read moreHow can I find a good web host?

How can I automate an SFTP transfer between two servers?

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I’m trying to set up an automated sftp transfer from one Linux box to another. I understand that you have to create a key with ssh-keygen, then put the key file on the other machine. But sftp still prompts me for the password. I read that the users on both machines must be the same… is that correct?

No, not correct.

As it turns out, this is something I do regularly with ssh, as well as both sftp and rsync, as part of my backup and load balancing approaches for Ask Leo! Let me walk you through what I’ve done.

Read moreHow can I automate an SFTP transfer between two servers?

What is Javascript and why do i need it?

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I can’t access my HotMail account and it says on my log on page that i need Javascript to go any further. Just what is Javascript and why do i need it?

Well, the short answer is that Javascript is a programming language, and you need it because HotMail says you do.

I know, that’s not very helpful. Let’s see if I can explain in a little more detail.

Read moreWhat is Javascript and why do i need it?

Why Do some Website Addresses have “www” and some Don’t? And Why Do some Work with or without the “www”?

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Why do some website addresses have “www”, and some don’t? And why do some work with or without the “www”?

Most of the time, it’s an oversight. Occasionally, it’s on purpose, but to be honest, I haven’t run across an “on purpose” in years.

It’s common practice now that “www” is optional; mostly because it’s redundant and URLs are long enough without adding redundant information.

But once upon a time, there was a reason.

Read moreWhy Do some Website Addresses have “www” and some Don’t? And Why Do some Work with or without the “www”?