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How to find sites that change their URLs
technofile  by al fasoldt
Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology 
Simple gray rule


How to find sites that change their URLs 


Bit Player for Nov. 9, 1997

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Murphy would have loved it. As soon as I wrote about a Windows 95 Internet tweak last week, the Web site I mentioned changed its address.

The published address was wrong, both in the newspaper and on the Web. I've fixed the link (see below), but I've also had to spend a few extra hours answering mail from readers who couldn't find the site. One reader even accessed me of being inept. (Late for work, behind in my writing, negligent in my diet, yes—but inept is not a fault I'm guilty of).

The problem is a simple one. I have no control over Web sites. Addresses change all the time. I can only hope that they don't change between the time I write about them and the time you read about them, but last week proved that such things could happen.

The site in question is the home page for EasyMTU. The new address is http://members.tripod.com/~EasyMTU/program.html. Keep in mind that THAT address could change at any time, too.

What can you do if a Web site you're looking for has moved?

First, of course, make sure the site really has moved. If you can't get to a site but the address seems OK, it just may be too busy. Your browser waits a certain amount of time for a response from a site it's trying to log onto, and will report an error if there is no response. This usually means the site is busy.

Next, use AltaVista or another search site to help out. Type in a word or phrase from the name or address of the site that seems to have moved. You'll probably get results that show the old (and wrong) page, but you may find mirror sites that are still running.

If that doesn't work, ask yourself what it is you are looking for. If you are trying to reach a site because it has a file you want to download, you'll probably be able to find the same file on another site. You can use AltaVista to look for the file or you can use one of the specialized file-search programs or a file-search site. (Symantec's Internet FastFind has an excellent file-search program built in, for example.)

I'll be candid and tell you I've had just as much difficulty finding some sites as many of you have. Search engines are wonderful inventions, but some things just don't lend themselves to easy searching.

While writing the companion article this week on MPEG audio, I wasted a lot of time trying to find a program called AMP. Most of the references I tracked down were circular, referring after a long route back to each other instead of to the program I wanted. When I finally found it, the program was uncompiled—still in its code form, in other words (a common practice among Unix programmers). If I had known that from the start, I wouldn't have bothered to search.

Is there a way around this? Not yet. Someday, Web sites will have permanent addresses that follow them around, just like the notion of a lifetime telephone number that stays with you no matter where you are. For now, we'll all have to cope with the moving van, whether real or virtual.


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