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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

FEBRUARY 16, 2011


What's New at Experts Exchange
From the Central Coast and beyond

Truth In Publicity-Seeking
Why the people who hate EE ignore the real world

Nata's Corner
A list of Facebook items, a scary app from Intuit, and Gmail security

Tip From The Mods
Requesting attention

A Decade of Service
EE's 10-year members

More News and Notes
When things get better

Who did what through Feb. 12


What's New: In case you hadn't noticed the little item at the bottom of every page at Experts Exchange, there is a link to a page announcing ExpertBase -- a customized version of Experts Exchange you can use on your own website as the customer support or FAQ system for your company.

Kudos: When ElisysAutomatisering ran into problems using all the normal tools for changing a domain password in SBS, the solution posted by RobWill nailed the answer: "The Youtube solution of RobWill worked for me, GREAT. No additional tooling necessary. THANKX EVERYONE"

It took a bit of time for jason1178 to come up with a solution for morako's question about an XML dataset and Internet Explorer, but it turned out to be worth the effort: "OK pal.. I really want to thank you for taking the time and effort to troubleshoot this with me. I would have never thought Adobe would EFF Up like this and would have not caught this. I had posted the same question before and it was not resolved so I was about to give up. Thank you kindly and I do see why you are ranked as Genius. Extremely helpful, insightful, dedicated individual. jason1178 is a model for all experts to follow as he is relentless in solving a problem even when I almost gave up.. My hat goes off to him."

cekendricks is admittedly new to VBA, so a problem with conditional formatting in Excel had him stumped until he got assistance from matthewspatrick and SiddharthRout: "Thank you so much Sid and Patrick...you quite possibly saved the whole project. I am very appreciative." The same duo collaborated on BEBaldauf's question about getting weekdates in Excel: "Thanks for the solution! Works like a charm! You guys are so awesome... much appreciated! With the adjustment to correct my typo, the solution is perfect... simple, easy to follow... wonderfully fast response by both."

alanhardisty is one of the many Experts who has taken advantage of writing articles that help people solve real problems; one of his more frequently cited is the article on synching mobile phones to Exchange. From mrhazman: "Thanks for the great post. I had my problem fixed and I was up and running in 20 mins after reading this. Well worth the months subscription."

John-Paul75 got some assistance from SiddharthRout and robberbaron in a question regarding getting an application path in Visual Basic: "Thanks for participating to solve this question, Your code is Untested, But i would like to test it on my side. You have totally solved my question, Heartly thanksfull to you, Your code is xactly what I wanted. Thanks everybody for sharing your knowledge and skills."

kyanwan gave Johnny-Appleseed some advice on what to do to stop someone from hacking an online game: "Excellent! Excellent! Excellent! Thank you so much for your help!!!"

Finally, NewToVBA posted a "points-for" question -- which exceeds the points for a question so it wasn't allowed -- for patrickab, with the note: "Hello, this is a note following an already received resultion from "Patrickab". He was kind enough to write code for two problems, where the second was a result of my additional requirements asked AFTER the points had been awarded. Patrick deserves extra points and this is for him. Thank you, Patrick!"

From the Inbox: A newsletter reader for whom we cannot find a member account wrote to Nata:

Maybe you can reach the right people who can fix my pet peeve. As a computer consultant I spend (waste) a lot of time installing pre-packaged software. Time is wasted because I must sit watching the installation chugging away while I wait for it to reach a point where I need to make a decision. I select an option and then wait again.

When I design software I make a flow chart with steps that identifies all the possible paths the program could take. I'm sure the major software houses do the same. Help desk people have decision charts on their computer to guide them in solving callers' problems based upon callers' responses.

Why not have program installations present a decision chart prior to the installation? Not only would it alleviate having to sit through the installation but it would allow pre-searching installation options and understanding the interactions and consequences of each decision before installing. What a time and trouble saver this would be, don't you think? Thank you.

Okay, we'll get right on it.

Certified, customized and cool: If you haven't grabbed one already, be sure to nab your very own certified Expert Badge and show off your skills on your personal blog or website. All the cool kids are doing it!

A Decade Of Service

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Thanks to the following members for their 10 years at Experts Exchange:

November 2000
December 2000
January 2001

Truth In Publicity-Seeking

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An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by some cosmic practical joke, ericpete puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary. -- Brendan Behan (1923-1964)

We had to chuckle a little when we read Jennifer Prentice's blog post on behalf of Experts Exchange on a recent announcement by Yet Another Search Engine Blekko that it was blocking content farms -- and included Experts Exchange as one.

With respect to our esteemed and delightful colleague, we have an observation for her: You can't fix stupid.

We fully appreciate what the Blekko people want to do: rid the world of electronically disseminated garbage. We'll also be the first to admit -- having read a lot more questions and solutions at Experts Exchange than Ms Prentice has had the opportunity to do -- that not every solution at EE is perfect. We'll even go so far as to admit that the volume of email we receive from and through EE's servers is a lot -- but like everyone else who gets email from EE, we agreed to receive it when we signed up, so it's not unsolicited, and it's almost never commercial in nature -- so by definition, it isn't spam, and a high volume of it doesn't make it any more so. It certainly isn't EE's fault that people forget they've signed up with their email address; as noted, there are some things you can't fix.

The move comes about a week after Google updated its algorithm to remove content scrapers from its search results; doing that, in and of itself, made Blekko's mission a little less relevant, since people won't have a reason to think about switching search engines. (We kind of doubt that Microsoft's copying search results from Google will be any big deal for much the same reason; why would anyone switch from what they're used to in order to get the same results as they'd get from the original source?)

Google's Matt Cutts made a big deal about the algorithm change -- which we appreciate -- but we also know that while others were wringing their hands and bemoaning the state of affairs at Google, EE's BooMod and staffer Matt Stanford were grinding out the links to hundreds of thousands of questions from EE and sending them to Google. Even after Google removed the links to the material from its index, the scrapers just started over by providing alternate URLs for the same content, and taking measures to make the long and slow buerocratic process protect them as long as possible. Knowing that Google employees need to examine site complaints with their own eyes, the site appeared to present error pages and redirections to only them, while the rest of the world (including the Googlebot) had unobstructed access. Because the complaint queue is large and processed slowly, the apparent absence of existing pages could be dismissed easily as "things probably changed since then, nothing here to follow through, time will resolve this on its own".

The site Google finally took down completely was a content farm of the worst order. It produces nothing on its own; it just steals, repackages, and makes money off the advertising on the pages -- in this case, much of it from Google and another company that serves a lot of Microsoft's ads. We're not the least bit sorry their income -- derived from content stolen from EE's members and traffic fraudulently gained -- has taken a hit.

But EE isn't like the other sites that, as Ms Prentice pointed out, are not content farms either. Say what you want about eHow.com's quality, or decry that they pay a relative pittance to the people who write for them; it's still theoretically original material, and that has more value than anything a copy/paste site has. But that's where the similarity ends. Further, that EE produces quality results isn't by virtue of the number of MVPs EE has; a much better statistic to measure by is the amount of repeat business EE gets from members who get problems solved solely by searching EE's PAQ.

Which leads to the next big issue for the people who don't think much of Experts Exchange: that EE has, over the last dozen years or so, been pretty consistently high in Google search results, and that because there are so many EE links, EE must be somehow spamming search engine indexes. But that begs the question: If EE's staff knows it can get solutions about -- say, Excel -- from any of at least a dozen Microsoft MVPs, why would those staffers look anywhere else? Given the limitations imposed by choosing to stay in the happiest place in the US, it makes sense to get assistance from the people who use your site when trying to solve a difficult problem.

And then, of course, there is the "pay wall" -- and that's where almost nobody gets it. Experts Exchange isn't a website; as a company it neither creates nor buys content (unless paying Ms Prentice's salary counts). It's a service -- and like the local plumber or auto repairman or computer tech, it thinks it should be paid for performing the service. Premium Services members pay for a patented, dynamic set of resources through which they can get some normally expensive consulting for a few dollars a month. It's a little bit of a stretch, perhaps, to say that the Experts and the volunteers who help manage the site pay for the privilege -- but there is no question that their efforts make them better employees or consultants or managers or technicians. There is no disputing that the "thank you" from an Asker is as satisfying as a 19-foot jump shot for the win. There is little as gratifying as being respected by peers you may have never met for your accomplishments as a colleague in a topic area like Oracle or Exchange.

"Idealism is fine," Mr Buckley said, "but as it approaches reality, the costs become prohibitive." Nothing is free; there's a cost somewhere, and someone pays it. Information, the truism goes, is the new currency and that gives it a value. EE provides a service: it lets people who don't mind paying a little bit of money to get good information get if from people who, for whatever reason, find satisfaction in solving other people's problems. EE has tried putting advertising on the pages sufficient to make up for the occasional user who just wants the same results others pay for; as any big media company will tell you, it's a pyrrhic battle to break even. EE has done the "take a bunch of money, hire a bunch of employees, get nice offices and say 'everything's free'." Sooner or later, the VCs will want their pound of flesh.

And therein lies one of the two significant differences between EE and every other web address out there. It recognizes that not worrying about the specifics of the content, but rather the delivery of it, is its mission; the specifics of the content are left entirely to the people who consume the services in every way. It's the askers and the Experts who do the work, and the best Experts always seem to rise to the top. It's the huge number of people who keep finding their solutions -- whether they visit EE and search from there, or simply click the Google link -- who decide which results at EE move to the top -- because the solutions work.

The other difference? That one's easy. EE is honest about it.

Tip From the Moderators

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ModernMatt spends what little time he isn't moderating as the IT manager of a number of networks.

I hate passwords. No, really, I do. They are the primary barrier preventing an invader snooping on our workplaces, our financial affairs and indeed, our livelihoods, yet dreaming up passwords which are secure and easy to remember is a bit of a black art -- and as if that isn't hard enough, you'll probably be forced to change that password every 42 days. With all that to consider, you may have forgotten one of those "innovative" passwords coined in a moment of inspiration - maybe even the main admin password for your computer or network.

In most cases, there's a tool available to reveal or reset a forgotten Windows, Linux or Mac logon password. However, doing so raises some serious ethical and legal issues. For you and your information security, the Mods are understandably concerned about these tools and their potential applications. We have developed some guidelines for cases of this nature, starting with the obvious: a request must look legitimate. If something smells fishy, stop immediately and let us know.

Second, as a general rule of thumb, a tool which can be used to reveal the actual password is a no-no at EE. Most people use the same password for EVERYTHING, so if you mention a keylogger or brute-force attack (a "cracking" tool), we'll probably stop you -- the malicious uses of this info by an unscrupulous person are just not worth thinking about. Similarly, if a tool can remotely reveal or reset a user's password, it is not acceptable for similar reasons, and you should refrain from recommending it.

There are tools on the market which will "reset" the password to a new or blank value. As long as such a tool requires physical access to the machine, there's nothing to say you cannot put it out there as an option. Just like the locks on your house or car, any security architect will tell you that protecting physical access to a computer or server is the primary line of defence in information security strategy. If someone gets their hands on your machine, they already have your data. A reset disk in these scenarios won't reveal or cause any more damage than if they were to slave the hard disk in another machine.

As a general rule of thumb, always think before answering any EE questions discussing password resets. The Moderators are here to review questions and make a judgment call. If there is ever any doubt in your mind whether a question crosses the line, or if an author doesn't seem to have legitimately forgotten "their" password, stop participating and press "request attention" to ask for Mod assistance. It's better to be safe than sorry, and we are more than happy to take a look!

More News and Notes

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We have some good news, and some bad news: Verizon is now selling the iPhone. That's the good news. The bad news: If you download too many YouTube videos or music from iTunes, Verizon will turn it into an eyyyyyyeeeee ffffffffoooooaaaaaaaaannnnnn. It'll cost about as much as the AT&T version, and apparently might even come with the same connection issues, because both Verizon and AT&T are offering mini-cell towers to their customers, and Ma Bell isn't charging for them. We're sure it'll be great (as long as someone doesn't "help" you jailbreak it), if only because now you can get in on all the apps your friends have been talking about.

And your enemies closer: We have an idea for how to deal with all the government-sanctioned spying and hacking coming out of China. We get Microsoft -- which is eager to sell software there -- to create a version of Windows that is clunky, with apparently-but-not-really stringent anti-cracking systems built into it that in fact gobbles up hard drive space and CPU resources in minutes, and then we make two CDs available in Shanghai. They'll flood their own black market with 300 million copies... Oh... wait... that's Vista. Back to the drawing board. We know, by the way, that the Chinese aren't the only country with hackers, but we don't think money should be a reason for enabling them.

Oh, and there was a game, too: There's a reason we don't make our living in Las Vegas: if you took the Steelers to cover the spread -- they'd have won easily if they'd have avoided turning the ball over -- you lost. On the other hand, there were some pretty solid commercials and the requisite clunkers as well. Our favorites: the Budweiser "Tiny Dancer", the Motorola Zoom, the e*trade tailor and outtakes ads, Eminem's Chrysler ad featuring Detroit, and the GoDaddy ad with Joan Rivers. The scariest: the Chevy Cruze Facebook ad. The downright dumbest: Groupon's stupefying take on Tibet.

... and the real winner was: Adrianna Huffington, who negotiated a deal with AOL boss Tim Armstrong to sell HuffingtonPost.com to the suddenly-cash-rich former-CD-mailer for $315 million (a nice ROI on five years and about $37 mil) and a new job as "editor-in-chief" of AOL's content. We can't wait to see what happens over at TechCrunch, which itself was acquired by AOL last fall in a deal that included a clause that let TechCrunch bloggers pick on AOL if they saw fit. Curiously, though, the move actually makes sense to a lot of people... assuming AOL can sell enough ads to pay for it. Just one question: why isn't TechCrunch on AOL's list of properties?

Time sink of the year: A monster list of lists, followed closely by California's attempts to build a case management system. Perhaps someone needs to sell them on a business account.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Google is not very happy that Microsoft is copying Google's search results. Let's see. Keep a copy of every page on the Internet: check. Make a big huge list of all of those pages, and show them to anyone who asks: check. Keep track of what people search for (and a lot of other information) and show them ads based on that information: check. Make a gazillion dollars: check. While you're at it, figure out a way to take on one of the world's most well-known software companies, and try to convince people (by marketing or by suing) to use your software instead: check. Scream bloody murder when they do the same thing to you? Of course.

In requiem: Kenneth Olsen, co-founder of Digital Equipment Corp., who once said, "The nicest thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." He also made a well-known statement about computers in the home that is generally taken out of context, so we won't perpetuate the mythology of it. He was 84. Also, all of your guitar heroes.

Personally, we think there are some obvious winners: You have to give the city of Austin, Texas, credit for a sense of humor. Its Solid Waste Services department has decided it needs a new name that better reflects all of its various missions, so it went to the best source of ideas it could think of: the Intenet. It ran a poll that was, unfortunately, scheduled to close February 10; the leading candidate name, as of last week, was Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts, with nearly 30,000 votes and 567 comments. Numbers two through five (votes/comments in parentheses) were Department of Neat and Dlean (2,069 / 32), Ministry of Filth (1,361 / 23), Hufflepuff (529 / 16), and Maximum No Filth (528 / 16). Others from the 23 pages of nominees that caught our attention: Texas A&M Dept of Food Services (now with 100% recycled meat), Longhorn, SXSW (South by Solid Waste), GIGO, Fill Up Bins And Recycle, Let's Not Look Like Dallas, WeHaul, Department of Homeland Impurities, and tsiO - The School In Ohio. It being Austin, though, there's little chance they'll follow through.

Nothing like doing a little advance planning: On June 8 -- I think I'm going to spend the day helping my brother celebrate his birthday -- an impressive list of companies like Google, Facebook, Cisco, Microsoft and the W3C will "test" offering their content over IPv6 -- which is a good thing since the Internet ran out of addresses a couple of weeks ago -- kinda. You can test -- kinda -- here. Speaking of tests, the back-of-the-head cam failed.

iTonement? Tad Mosel, whose All the Way Home won the 1961 Pulitzer prize, wrote a little one-act play called Impromptu in which one of the characters notes that "soul-search is the lowest form of entertainment." That was before the Internet, which has long been the semi-anonymous proving ground for revelations unfit for familial consumption, and of course, there is a certain perverse pleasure knowing there's someone out there who has things worse than you do. Still, leave it to the people who know confessions best -- the Catholic church -- to come up with a confession app that even the Vatican can tolerate, if not endorse.

Tell us if this sounds familar: First it was video cassettes. Then high-end graphics cards. Then downloadable videos. Next up: the cloud. There's at least one industry that's always ready to exploit new technology...

And the leak goes on: HBGary Federal, a company that has been working with the FBI in tracking down Anonymous, the dysorganization that has been attacking companies that have cut off funding routes to Wikileaks, took a few minutes after the Super Bowl coin toss to find out that its website had been hacked, its email system compromised and the Twitter accounts of its CEO and other top executives hijacked. In an unrelated item (one hopes), NASDAQ's systems were also hacked.

Wild blue yonder: The US Air Force has a Web Posting Response Assessment. In a commentary on Twitter and the military, the conclusion that "The dance of caution, uncertainty and unease that surrounds U.S. military use of social media makes any military use of Twitter a remarkable feat" is inescapable; more remarkable is that they got the hang of it a lot more quickly than their civilian counterparts and overseers.

Signs of the Apocalypse: A new iPhone app, Google vs. DHS (maybe), and the new *.meh TLD.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureI'm kind of glad that Facebook has half a billion accounts registered, because it's a pretty good bet that I'm never going to run out of material for my column. If it's not the company doing something that seems like the online equivalent of shooting itself in the foot, it's some member doing something that makes you wonder if maybe those people should go back to using a piece of paper and a pencil.

  • Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has his own Facebook stalker.
  • That woman who shook her baby to death while playing FarmVille got 50 years in prison.
  • Newspapers are giving advice on how to cut back.
  • Michelle Obama won't let her two children, ages 9 and 12, have Facebook accounts. Good.
  • Police are being called to settle fights between ex-spouses.
  • Facebook has come up with yet another way to keep you from doing anything terribly productive on your computer...
  • ... and scammers are coming up with more inventive ways of making money off you. (By the way, if you want a short course in how to get rid of the junk, Sophos has made a video that steps you through everything.)
  • It's only a matter of time before self-help via Facebook books start appearing on Amazon.com.
  • A juror in a California trial was ordered to turn over his Facebook posts to see if they indicate prejudice against the defendants.
  • A middle-school student's Facebook pictures of himself holding a handgun scare a teacher who has a restraining order against the student.
  • Facebook is considering selling $1 billion of employee shares, making the company worth $60 billion. On paper.
  • It's a big deal when Facebook decides to move up the road a bit, out of Santa Clara county and into San Mateo county.

Now this is a little scary, if you ask me. I saw a television commercial for Intuit's relatively new portable credit card processing system, and it shows a lot of people doing things like buying goods at craft fairs and getting their picture taken in the park and having their house painted, and paying for it on the spot with a credit card. But what bothers me is that there are cell phone apps you can download to your phone to use. Now, we travel quite a bit, making a couple of drives across the country every year, and we stop at quite a few places. What Intuit isn't telling you is that it isn't that difficult to get a merchant account from them, and that it's pretty easy to swipe a credit card twice if you happen to be the cashier at some restaurant just off the Interstate -- and as long as you don't rip off too many locals, your chances of getting caught seem kind of slim. Worse, if the images on the site are to be believed, the credit card number is visible, and there are screen shot capture apps. Okay, so call me paranoid, but remember -- it wasn't that long ago that 27,000,000 credit card numbers were stolen from T.J. Maxx.

Speaking of security, for those people who use Gmail, Google has added a layer of security to its login system. If you don't use the webmail or use it on a smartphone (Gmail came with ours, but I don't use it, and the other half probably won't either because the screen makes reading email on it difficult), then you're not really able to take advantage of the feature -- but if you do use Gmail on a mobile device, it's probably a good idea to change your settings.

This item is a special note to bobexpert, who gets the people at EE to change the logo on the website every so often. TechRepublic has a list of geeky dates that should be considered. Not mentioned is October 7, the date Experts Exchange went live back in 1996. And finally, one truly great feel-good story.


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New Geniuses: dariusg has earned his third Genius certificate, this one in Active Directory, which Ray_Paseur's third comes in MySQL Server. jjmck's 1,000,000 points in Exchange Server brings the number of Geniuses in that TA to 24, while spattewar became the 20th Genius in Microsoft Excel. Finally, ksivananth earned his first Genius certificate in Java Programming. Congratulations to all on your success!

My first Million: Reaching 1,000,000 points in January were renazonse, iSiek, TommySzalapski, mas_oz2003, bgoering, neeraj523, EddieShipman, NovaDenizen, epasquier, spattewar and jhyiesla. Enjoy your new EEples!


  • capricorn1 has earned 21,000,000 points overall, third on the all time Hall of Fame list. He has also earned 17,000,000 points in the Microsoft Access topic area and is only the fourth EE member to have at least 2,000,000 points in four different TAs, joining angelIII, lrmoore and TheLearnedOne.
  • In addition to earning his third Genius certificate, Ray_Paseur has reached the 6,000,000 point level in the PHP Scripting topic area.
  • Two-thirds of the Hall of Fame has reached the 5,000,000 point level, as leakim971 became the 67th EE member to reach that milestone.
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