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Saturday, 12 July 2008

Kant and the ZoneAlarm Update

On Tuesday despite being able to connect, we discovered we could not download or send email and we could not access the web at all. After doing battle with the automated ISP Help Desk computer that claims to understand english and in fact frequently does not, we heard a recorded message that they were experiencing a high volume of calls and the expected wait time was 60 minutes - argh!

I attempted to get to the bottom of the problem myself wondering if one of the more technologically challenged members of the household had messed with the settings but got nowhere so I braved out the 60 minute wait to the helpdesk.

I barely managed to get out "since Tuesday night I can connect but I can't..." and the technician impatiently cut me off with "do you use ZoneAlarm?"

The technician explained that on Tuesday an auto update was issued that meant ZoneAlarm's firewall was so extremely effective one was not able to send or receive email or access the net at all. The solution was to simply disable ZoneAlarm and keep an eye on their website for a patch or a remedy. He concluded by telling me that their helpdesk had gone nuts as heaps of people use ZoneAlarm and were all hit by the same problem (one wondered why, given the pervasiveness of the problem and the simplicity of the solution, I and everyone else affected, had had to endure the 60+ minute wait of hold music and looped recorded messages about the wait time, surely a "try disabling ZoneAlarm" or similar, put alongside the wait time message would have eased their stress and mine - but what would I know, I am not a technichian).

Anyway, problem solved. We have been happily emailing and surfing again but I write this post because of the email I just received a few minutes ago from ZoneAlarm:


Dear Customer,

Installation of Microsoft Update KB951748 may result in loss of Internet connectivity. Click here for more information on how to resolve this issue. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Thank you,


Hang on a minute, anyone in need of information on how to resolve this issue would need to:

1. Be able to receive the email containing the above message; and,
2. Be able to actually access the web in order for the "click here" instruction to be of any use (the page will not display error message is hardly helpful).
Those of us with the fortitude to withstand 60+ minutes of hold music and recorded messages and who subsequently managed to actually receive the above email discover that when you click on the link provided in the email you get a page with the following information, note the bolded bits, (my emphasis):

Severity: High

Workaround to Sudden Loss of Internet Access Problem

Date Published : 8 July 2008

Date Last Revised : 9 July 2008

Overview : Microsoft Update KB951748 is known to cause loss of internet access for ZoneAlarm users on Windows XP/2000. Windows Vista users are not affected.

Impact : Sudden loss of internet access

Platforms Affected : ZoneAlarm Free, ZoneAlarm Pro, ZoneAlarm AntiVirus, ZoneAlarm Anti-Spyware, and ZoneAlarm Security Suite

Recommended Actions

- Download and install the latest versions which solve the loss of internet access problem here (English only): [Series of download URLs]

- or follow the directions below.
Option 1: [Series of directions to alter internet settings]
Option 2: [Series of directions to uninstall the update]

So, the email and webpage were aimed at customers who faced the problem that they could not receive email and could not access the internet. They were to receive an email, navigate to a webpage and then either download and install something or follow or a set of instructions...

In other words, if you receive the email and can access the help page there is a good chance you don't need either.

Note to ZoneAlarm: read Immanual Kant or Richard Hare.

Prescriptive language such as instructions, commands, imperitives, etc. to be rationally followed need to be able to be willed universally i.e. a person must be able to will the thing without contradicting themselves. Sending somebody an instruction to fix the problem of not being able to have access to instructions to fix the problem is not rational, is arguably self-referentially incoherent and worse of all, is just not very helpful.



  1. I twigged there was only 2 programs in my PC that could be doing it and ZA was one of them, at that moment I decided to dump ZA and just use Windows Firewall. The reason for dumping ZA is simple, it also conflicts with the antivirus software I use and for that reason I had not been able to install any updates to ZA for a long time. The built in firewall in XP is actually quite good and will do nearly everything that ZA does so it isn't totally necessary to use ZA.

  2. For people like me with more than one PC this mail was actually very helpful, my other PC is running Vista.

  3. I never said that the advice was not helpful. I actually did find it helpful once I was back online as I was able to fix the problem instead of just disabling ZA each time I rebooted.

    The problem was more that we have only one computer we use for online stuff and it is running XP Professional and ZA so me being sent an email was kind of not helpful at all. Like Patrick I too identified 2 possible programs that may have been the culprit and ZA was one of them but I was not completely sure what the problem was until I got through to the help desk.


  4. I'm an internet marketer who often has to contend with issues like this. At least the company was trying to communicate the way it could. It also helped me since I could get email via gmail, hotmail etc. at work and research the problem.

    there's also now pre recorded info which I sent my mom to. It basically tells me to shut ZA down then go to their website for instructions. pretty helpful if you ask me.


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