Friday, June 27, 2008

Microsoft Front Page mystery: (How easy it is to lock itself out)

I’ve discovered a possible tip for Front Page users.

Let me prefix this by noting that Microsoft has replaced Front Page with Expression Web, which apparently does not require Front Page extensions. I discussed Expression Web on this blog on Aug. 27. The whole subject of Front Page extensions is a bit of a mystery anyway. ISP’s tell you that if you update a Front Page website with FTP, front page extensions can be corrupted, and that sometimes they cannot be re-installed without wiping out the entire website and reloading it.

I’ve noticed that a few other programs, especially Kodak and CVS Photo CD’s, and sometimes AOL Instant Messenger, seem to hang and have to be killed in windows XP. Afterwards, if I go to my site, I notice that the hit counter, which is controlled by a Front Page exe element in a hidden _vti_bin directory, hangs. I find then that I cannot log on to Front Page; the sign in screen simply won’t come up. I call the ISP and even the ISP cannot log on to it. One time the ISP reinstalled the extensions (it was not necessary to wipe out the data) and also told me to run Windows Server repair from my control panel, which I did. The problem did go away.

But what I’ve noticed since then, is that if I’ve used Kodak or CVS photo, AOL IM, or any of other certain programs, sometimes it hangs. It seems that Front Page thinks I am already logged on and effectively locks me out. I find that I can log on to my site from a separate laptop and the Front Page hit count will increment, and suddenly I can log into Front Page again. But what is simpler is to Restart the machine I was working on. The problem goes away.

It’s bizarre, because it appears that an unrelated Windows process looping on my own computer locks up Front Page, and prevents any user on the Internet from seeing the hit count on my website. Even the ISP support department wasn’t aware that this can happen.

I now recall a problem like this in early 1999 with my hppub site and the “one-man” ISP that I had at the time.

Soon, it will be all Expression Web, and these sorts of problems can be history.

Update: Aug. 4

Now, somewhere, I've read that Front Page access to a website (like to Front Page hit counters) will lock up while recent changes to the site (especially hyperlinks) are "propagating" among servers on the Internet, and that the lockout can last a few hours sometimes. I don't know what sense this makes, other than some kind of usage contention.

Update: Aug. 26

FrontPage can also give a "SharePoint" error if the ISP happens to be in the processs of repropagating after a crash (on a Windows Server 2003 environment). If you reindex with PicoSearch or similar product you may have files seem to be missing (they aren't). Typically you have to run a "fixer" script from your control panel and let the problem get resolved in a few hours.

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