Explorer, IIS don't get along

Microsoft's internet Explorer has been much in the news of late. Microsoft doesn't want to distribute it separately from Windows 98. Only two years ago there were as many as 10 Internet browsers available. Now there are just two or three, at a price (zero) that doesn't encourage start-ups. If there's any hope that consumer choice will remain alive in the software industry, it's due to the fact that sometimes Microsoft products don't work well together, even when they have every advantage.

The latest example involves Explorer 4.0x and Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0, which runs on Windows NT. It seems that Explorer 4.0 frequently crashes when you retrieve a Web page containing Java or Active Server Page (ASP) scripts from IIS 4.0.

Microsoft's recommendation? "Use IIS Version 3.0," a company statement reads, or "use Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 3.0 to access an IIS 4.0 computer."

So the solution is to use an older version of one product. Actually, Microsoft does have an IIS patch it's testing internally, so if this problem affects your servers, you may be able to persuade the company's technical support people to share the patch with you. For details, go to http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q183/2/83.asp.

The problem is that IIS doesn't put a correct header in its HTTP output. Microsoft says the crashes happen most often when users access IIS through Microsoft Proxy Server 2.0, but they also occur without a proxy server's being involved. That's why the patch relates to IIS, not Proxy Server 2.0. After the fix has been tested to Microsoft's satisfaction, it should become part of a new service pack.

I'd like to thank Bruce Kratofil and Bruce Brown for calling this to my attention. They have more information on their BugNet sites: http://www.bugnet.com/bugalert.html and http://www.bugnet.com/free1.hmtl.

A somewhat unrelated problem that affects IIS 4.0 and Proxy Server 2.0 is that users of both Version 4.0 and Version 3.0 of Explorer receive "11001 Host Not Found" errors -- even though the host appears to be fine. Microsoft says this occurs because the default Web site in its Microsoft Management Console has an IP address set to the IP address of the site's internal network interface card. One solution is to open your Default Web Site Properties dialog box and switch the IP Address field to "All Unassigned." Details are available at http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q184/0/31.asp.

Finally, I've learned that an obscure Windows NT Registry setting can make Explorer and IIS more stable. Querying a database or retrieving a large ASP file can cause random errors in Explorer 3.0 and IIS 3.0.

The solution Microsoft suggests is simple: change the value of "BufferingOn" in the Registry from 0 to 1. This value is found by running NT's Regedt32.exe and locating Hkey_Local_Machine\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\W3SVC\ASP\Parameters.

The change prevents errors by storing the information for the browser in a buffer. Details are available at http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q164/0/73.asp.

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Brian Livingston

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