Patrick Marshall answers your personal-technology questions each week.

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Q: When I try to access some websites (in this case, Southwest Airlines), I get this message: “You don’t have permission to access on this server.”

I tried accessing this website with Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer and I get this message with all of them. Any suggestions on how to access this website?

— Jane Condit

A: Is the computer you’re using on a home network or a business network? If the former, has anyone installed any sort of parental software?

Businesses commonly block access to certain types of websites in an effort, often futile, to keep employees focused on their work. And parental software that aims to block access to nefarious sites by children sometimes may also block non-nefarious sites.

Two simple steps will help you narrow down the possibilities. First, try accessing the site while connected to a different network. Secondly, try accessing the site using a different computer. If the problem persists when connected to a different network, it likely stems from software on that computer — a software firewall, a virtual private network or parental software. If the problem goes away — and especially if the other computer has the problem on the first network — the problem is more likely blocking being imposed by a network administrator.


Q: A couple of years ago, I jostled a little thumb drive while it was inserted into my MacBook Air. Evidently, I warped it as it’s no longer accessible. A repair shop wanted to charge me $45 to inspect it to see if it was repairable, but I declined. Is there any point in my keeping it?

— John Medlin

A: The first thing I’d do is try that thumb drive in another computer. If it works, at least you can retrieve any data you want to keep. If it doesn’t work, and if you don’t really need any of the data on the drive, I’d toss it and get another one.


Q: I have an ASUS laptop that is about 5 years old. I regularly download snapshots from email and Facebook to my desktop. About four or five months ago when I attempted to download a picture, I got a message that said: “There are no more files,” and it would not download. It stayed that way for a couple months, then corrected itself. A few weeks ago the problem came back.

When I searched Google for a fix, there was a plethora of them, all sort of ambiguous. One that caught my eye said the cause was one of those “automatic updates” that appear from time to time where it warns you not to turn off your computer, and was specific to ASUS computers. Can you help?

— Greg Hanseroth, Seattle

A: Sounds to me like something is preventing the operating system from properly managing data on the computer’s drive. What’s not clear is whether the problem is a hardware problem or a software problem. You may have a corrupt drive or, yes, a critical system file may have been corrupted during an operating system update. You’ll find detailed instructions for troubleshooting this sort of problem here:


Q: When I get an email from someone that contains pictures, they show just fine. But when I try to forward it, the pictures are not there; only the URL plus a lot of other junk. I’ve tried forwarding it to myself, and it comes without pictures. If I look through all the junk to find the URL, it does in fact open the picture, but in my browser, not in the email. Can you figure out why this happens, and what the fix is?

— Donald Haff

A: There’s a good deal of chatter on Thunderbird forums about users having difficulty displaying images in emails. The best suggestion I could find is to check whether your Thunderbird client is configured to “Use System Proxy Settings.” If so, change it to “No Proxy” and see what happens. Reportedly, an update to at least some Thunderbird clients resulted in that setting being changed.