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The problem seems to be with my mandrake 9.0 (connected through a usb speedtouch adsl modem).
I fired the system up this afternoon, did all the usual stuff, started opera, and all I got was the "unable to locate host server" dialogue.
Tried using mozilla, got the same thing.
Checked the connection, and it showed ppp0 up and running.
Tried the mandrake control centre thing, went to connections - was told that it was not connected.
Tried the connect button, just got connection failed.
Tried "the sledgehammer and walnut" technique and re-installed the mandrake.
Tried all of the above (except the opera - i'll have to download that again) and i'm still getting the same - ppp0 shows running in shell but mozilla won't find the "host servers" etc hence back in good old window$$$ too post this.
Not sure what I need to check or do next.
Oh and yes, I have put the microcode back into /usr/share/speedtouch/ as per the mandrake instructions on re-installation.