InBox

Q. Marnie says someone sent her a link to a website that ends in a .swf extension. Each time she clicked on it she got a "page cannot be displayed" message. She emailed it to her husband, who uses Windows ME (she uses XP), and he had no problem opening it. Therefore she's wondering if there are some sites that Windows XP cannot open.

A. It's not that XP won't open it - you need a specific add-on program to run it. I suspect Marnie's husband's machine already had the plug-in installed, which is why it worked. These .swf files are opened using Shockwave Flash from Macromedia. Download Flash Player 7 free from http://sdc.shockwave.com/shockwave/download/download.cgi?. Once installed, the player works as a plug-in to Internet Explorer, allowing you to view the Macromedia content whenever you load a Shockwave-based page.

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Q. Kevin says he finished working on his website last week and when he uploaded it, he was contacted by his hosting provider, who claimed his CGI scripts were not secure. The provider then also demanded a substantial fee to check the scripts for security issues. Kevin wants to know if CGI scripts are not secure, and whether he can be charged for checking his work. Surely, he writes, if the site has any holes it will only be his pages that are at risk.

A. CGI, or common gateway interface, files are a common source of web server security holes. A badly written script can leave the server hosting the page vulnerable to attack or intrusion. For the safety of other websites co-hosted on that server, a provider often demands full examination before posting, which costs them many hours. Most homepage servers have safe scripts available for customer use - use those scripts or pay for the privilege of using your own creations.

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