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March 20, 2015

Website Timeout Troubles

Filed under: Main — Tags: , — admin @ 12:01 am

I missed a bill payment. It’s my fault: I tried to log into the utility’s website, but it was unreachable. I figured it was a hiccup and I’d check back later. The problem: The website hasn’t been available for weeks. Is it me?

The silly thing about this problem was that I blamed myself. That’s typically what most computer users do. “It must have been something I did,” they mutter. I muttered.

In this case, I was puzzled why this one website was unreachable. Coincidentally, I was checking out various network commands in a terminal window. So I figured I botched something.

To confirm that things were okay, I tried accessing other websites. Everywhere I went on the Internet seemed to be working. It was just that one website I couldn’t get into. It would timeout.

I phoned the utility, and they said that the website was working just fine. So I figured it was my ISP: I tried accessing the site by using my cell phone, which is on another network. The site came up just fine.

Then I used a proxy server.

A proxy server is a host on the Internet, which you can use to access the Internet. It’s like watching a TV on a television show — a window in a window, as it were. The proxy server accesses websites you can’t normally access, typically because the site or your ISP is blocking access. A proxy server is also a way of anonymizing your Internet access.

In my case, I used the proxy server to determine whether it was my IP address that was being blocked. And it was!

Being a nerd, I wanted to find out why I was being blocked. Eventually, I was able to speak with a network administrator at the utility. He said I wasn’t knowingly being blocked, but he was very curious why I couldn’t access the site.

After a few hours, the network admin phoned me up and confessed that my IP was being blocked: Because my IP address ends in dot-zero, their Cisco router was rejecting it as an illegitimate address. Normally, dot-zero addresses are used for network infrastructure. They don’t make HTTP (web site) requests.

The network admin is going to contact Cisco to see whether anything can be done. According to my nerd friends on Facebook, it should be a relatively easy fix. I’ll keep you apprised as to the solution.

In the meanwhile, keep in mind that all computer goofups are probably not due to things you’ve done. Apparently I have to remind myself of that fact as well.

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