I did a system restore to 5:00AM this morning before I began all the Firefox activity, and now all is back to normal.
Am running a new laptop with XP SP2. Been working perfectly for a month. I was getting program exceptions in IE6, so I downloaded and installed Firefox. It worked OK, but I could not remove the annoying Google search bar, so I uninstalled the whole Firefox using their uninstall tool that comes with it. Now, I have remnants in the Firefox directory, it didn't do a clean uninstall. But worse- now when I click on any desktop icon (shortcut), Windows asks me what program to use! It opens a window and I select Internet Explorer and check to always use this option, but it does not "remember", so the next time I click that (or any)shortcut, it asks again.
Any idea what's broken?