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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

MARCH 16, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Nata!


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

When To Say No
The customer isn't always right

Nata's Corner
Android, Facebook and cellphone malware

Tip From The Mods
It isn't "Exposure Everywhere"

More News and Notes
Maybe you just need to hold it differently

Who did what through Mar. 12


What's New: As we noted last issue, Experts Exchange recently upgraded its database to the latest version of Oracle. However, in doing so, EE's staff found a bug in the software that had been previously undiscovered. EE's staff has managed to build a workaround while waiting for Oracle to develop a permanent fix, but occasional intermittent periods of downtime could continue to occur. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Tim ChapmanMoving up: champmandew, the 2008 Rookie of the Year who is also a Microsoft MVP, has recently accepted a position with Microsoft. Congratulations!

Taking care of our own: We have always considered one of EE's strengths to be that it is a real community; that not only extends to the membership, but to a large extent the company as well. That was never more evident than last week, when a plea to help Lea Prentice, the wife of BooMod. On behalf of WhackAMod and Netminder, who put the pages together, thank you profoundly for your tremendous support.

Taking care of others: If you are inclined to donate to relief efforts in Japan, do NOT respond to, or follow links from, the emails you're undoubtedly going to receive. Go directly to relief organizations' websites directly.

Social notes: Our warmest congratulations to EE's longtime troubleshooter, our longtime colleague and dear friend, jansuper, who is getting married this weekend.

Kudos: One of EE's strengths is that when an Expert doesn't know the solution to a problem, s/he will usually take the time to try and figure it out. Such was the case when digisel offered a question on a new piece of malware that stumped half a dozen people until DIIRE and younghv finally got it all squared away: "Thank you for your diligence and patience and to everyone else who pitched in. I am sure that everyone has taken something away from this. And the more people who know how to combat this curse from hell then the less money they will make. Once again many thanks."

mtnseeker was looking for something to replace special characters in an XML file and got a solution from aikimark: "That is exactly what I was looking... makes for a very beautiful solution just using straight XSLT." aikimark added, "And I learned about an XSLT feature in the process of finding this 'beautiful solution'."

jnewburn joined EE back in December 2003, and never had a reason to ask a question until a week ago, when he found himself being redirected. younghv stepped him through the process of getting rid of the problem, and noted jnewburn's long tenure without a question, to which he replied: "Yeah, first timer for the question post. I use this site frequently it has a pretty good variety of information. The laptop is used for both home and work and it is connecting through a router for both situations. I downloaded and installed again with the "save as" command and ran the program. Nothing found!! I do appreciate all of your help on this... it's experts like yourself that make this site valuable."

younghv also gave hrolsons some advice on configuring firewalls: "Sweet, that was the easiest project I've ever done. Yes, I just wen into the router, and sure enough, there it is. Thank YOU!!!"

TommySzalapski came up with a simple script that answered kentgorrell's question about creating a rule in Outlook: "Wow Tommy, that is fantastic."

aprillougheed was looking for some Flash templates for one of those projects DrDamnit would probably advise avoiding, and after that perspective was offered by jason1178 and ericpete, she posted the following: "Wow. I most certainly need to hear your words. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your comments are literally life changing... I think I'll print out your comments and re-read them every morning."

ccbon was so impressed with the assistance she got from tonyrumans in her question about network settings that she posted in Community Support: "He solved my problem today, and since I've been using the new, fixed version, I've come to realize just how much misery this solution has saved me. I want to be sure to let him know that his extra attention to my question and his thoughtful and accurate answer really improved my quality of life... Maybe you could just somehow forward this big THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR EXCELLENT HELP to him for me."

The In-Box: Last issue, we invited commentary on the Mac vs PC debate but since we required that language be kept suitable for church, we only had one taker: skirklan, whose email prompted the item in the first place: "Oh, you know me. I LOVE my Mac, I do, I really do." If it makes you feel any better, so does our friend Warren.

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When To Say No

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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.

Over the past few years, we have written a lot about two things: giving the customer what he wants, and not giving the customer what he thinks he wants. One might think that a fine line, often the difference between ultimately long-long lasting success and abysmal failure; there's the Ford F150 -- and there's the Ford Edsel.

Trucks are simple. They have a place for a couple of people to sit, and they have this space in the back to haul stuff. They're obvious; there isn't a lot of doubt what the machine is designed for. Yes, you can certainly pay Ford to add some bells and whistles for you, but ultimately, you're not going to be buying a truck if you have to haul three children, your dry cleaning and some groceries after you have been at the gym. You're going to buy it because you have to haul stuff and don't really care that much about third row seats or drop-down DVD players or leather interiors.

Unfortunately, cars aren't quite as easy to get your head around. For one thing, people have different tastes, and if you're a car company you want to accomodate those tastes to the greatest extent possible so people will buy your cars. That's why Ford has divisions and each division has a bunch of models and each one has a name that has nothing to do with anything related to transporting oneself (along with the kdis, laundry and groceries) from one place to another. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet -- but wouldn't sell anywhere near as well; it's a pretty good bet that no car company will ever name a model after a person anytime in the foreseeable future.

Still, different models do make some sense; the needs and wants of a soccer mom aren't the same as those of your garden variety NBA star. But at their core, their vehicles are still designed to do the same thing, and all things being equal (like that whole money thing), there wouldn't be that much difference between the car any of us drives save the number of passengers it carries.

And that's where the difference in giving people what they want and not giving them what they think they want becomes a lot more clear. We heard not that long ago about how the much-reviled "ribbon" was implemented by Microsoft in its most recent version of Office; to date, we have not talked to a single MVP who likes it, and most are pretty colorful in their descriptions of it. But according to those same MVPs, when they asked the various development teams about it, the dev teams all said that in their market testing, people loved it.

We're going to take a stab at it and guess that Microsoft didn't ask its MVPs what they thought before the idea was cast in stone. That was probably deliberate, albeit a little shortsighted. People get used to using programs in a certain way; there are people out there who use keyboard shortcuts for everything, and can probably get away without ever touching a mouse, and there are people who think that's the dumbest thing they ever heard of. That doesn't matter; the point is that the people who have been using Access to develop for years aren't likely to change to some other platform just because Microsoft moves buttons and creates colorful little icons instead of putting the Save command where it always was. Meanwhile, it attracts a whole new group of potential customers who, according to Microsoft's research, actually like the ribbon. Of course they would; they've never used anything else, so they don't have any old habits to break.

But is it a good long-term strategy to annoy the heck out of your strongest customer base every few years for the sake of coming out with a new product? Probably not. It's one thing if you're building some profoundly new features and systems that will completely change the way people use your product, or if it represents a new way of dealing with a problem (like electric and hybrid automobiles); it's another entirely if you're adding bells and whistles just because you can -- and it's certainly not a good idea to add things that might cause your evangelists -- in Microsoft's case, its MVPs -- to think about looking for another product to use.

Ultimately, for any company, the only real indicator of a product's utility is its bottom line; as the folks from 37signals say, "Bells and whistles wear off, but usefulness never does." That's where the strategy of listening to your customers -- eloquently articulated over a decade ago in The Cluetrain Manifesto -- makes so much sense. If you ask a customer "do you want a DVD player in your minivan to keep the kids occupied on long trips?", then the response is going to probably be "yes". If you say "adding a DVD player to your minivan is going to add $2732 to the retail price; do you want it?" -- then a lot of people are going to say "ummm... I can live without it." That's the difference between "listening" and having a conversation. And it's not about focus groups or surveys; just have your customer service people tell you the things people complain about most.

The other side of the coin is that if you don't pay attention to both the question and the answer, you might just find that your customers will do what they need to do, whether or lot you like it. Messaging software has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn't until someone came up with Twitter that instant conversations with ad hoc groups became a viable standalone product -- despite several companies with the resources (Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL all come to mind) to build such a system. Even though there's not a lot of apparent thought that has gone into "how are we going to make a buck off this" by the Twitter founders, what is obvious is that the system has some value to a lot of people; the question now is more one of when Twitter will come up with a plan rather than whether people will pay (directly or indirectly) for the privilege of using the service.

That's where Microsoft might have dropped the ball -- and if the tech industry has shown us anything, it's that if you don't have that conversation with your customers, it won't take long before someone else comes along with something that works better. Microsoft should know that as well as anyone; at one time, there was Netscape, and at one time, Microsoft was more dominant in the browser market than Google has ever been in the search market. Now, as it launches Internet Explorer 9 (and please, no snarky comments about cats and nine lives), we have a unique opportunity, because IE9 won't work very well on Windows XP -- meaning Microsoft is saying to a very large segment of its customer base "you can only use this if you give us money and upgrade your OS".

All things considered, there might be an awful lot of people deciding that it isn't worth the hassle -- just like they did with Internet Explorer 6.

More News and Notes

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Maybe you just need to hold it differently: Apple is gonna have some 'splaining to do this week after both the AT&T and Verizon versions of the iPhone fell backwards instead of springing forward for Daylight Savings Time.

Hey, you get what you pay for: It's hard to find anyone who doesn't have a Gmail account, right? We came to the conclusion a long time ago that it was virtually perfect for our Experts Exchange business; notifications of one question with 27 posts are easy to identify, and deleting all of that email using the web (we do have ours set up as a POP3 account too) takes virtually no time. And it's free -- something that was apparently lost to that 0.02 per cent of Gmailers who lost access to their mail a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, people complained anyway.

Belated birthday: Happy birthday, Mr Geisel. Our favorite, a commencement speech delivered in 1977, isn't listed, so in tribute:

My uncle ordered popovers from the restaurant's bill of fare.
And, when they were served, he regarded them with a penetrating stare
Then he spoke great Words of Wisdom as he sat there on that chair:
"To eat these things," said my uncle, "you must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what's solid BUT you must spit out the air!"

And as you partake of the world's bill of fare, that's darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air, And be careful what you swallow.

In requiem: Washington Post reporter and columnist David Broder died last week of complications from diabetes. He was 81.

Why you shouldn't give away a password: The people at Chrysler made the huge mistake of turning their official Twitter account over to a company that was hired to help them with their "social media" initiatives. It backfired. Our buddy Jason sent us a screenshot of someone else who had some problems.

He doesn't mean ME, does he? For those of you who want to learn how to write an email that makes it seem like you're being done a favor when you're really getting fired, take a lesson from the person who writes the layoff notices for AOL's Tim Armstrong.

Predictable: The iPad 2 started shipping last week. Cool. If you bought one a month ago, you can get a benjamin refunded. Cool, as long as it wasn't a Valentine's day gift for someone. The new iPad will probably force Motorola and Verizon to cut the price of the Xoom. Cool, although you have been able to buy iPads at Verizon stores too. As a public service, we provide you a short list and a longer list of all the differences between an iPad and an iPad 2. But what really made people sit up and take notice was the fact that Steve Jobs showed up to make the announcement, and even brought his RDF along (thanks, Bob!). In the "not so cool" department (if you're from Apple): Android is gaining on them -- fast.

IT departments world-wide facing furloughs: Higher than normal temperatures have caused a shortage of (and higher prices for) coffee beans.

Around the world in 347 ways: Google has been trying to negotiate (with the US Department of Justice) the acquisition of ITA Software for quite a while. The stumbling block: Orbitz, quite a few airlines, TripAdvisor, and about 25 other sites use ITA's software, and the ones that don't are screaming bloody murder that the merger will hamper competition -- which is another way of saying that Google does it better than they do, so they need the government to intervene. Well, things just got a little murkier, because two prominent travel search systems that compete with each other and use ITA's software to do it have booked a room together. Were we the cynical types, we would mention that Bing's search experience was pretty weak compared to Kayak's, and that Kayak's lawyers were making unfriendly noises just last summer.

And while we're talking about Google, we can't let it slide by that in addition to the European Union wanting to know a little more about how Google does business, now Texas is entering the fray with inquiries of its own. Since the state's school board has already indicated its ambivalence toward science (Update: the ongoing battle may be moot), Google might have to show them where the ANY key is first.

It should also be noted that Bing and Yahoo (which uses the Microsoft search engine, in case you missed the memo) have changed their policies on trademark searches to be "in line with industry standards" -- meaning that if you can't beat 'em, copy what they're doing and see if you can get away with it. It is also noted that Google's use of its kill switch has some profound implications for the pervasiveness of the company -- and that those who create malware are perfectly capable of creating their own version of the security tool.

The world's next billionaires: It has to be William Lee, a mathematician at the University of Limerick, who has formulated the model for a piece of paper that will enable beer-drinkers to get much more enjoyment out of a can of Guinness.

Signs of the Apocalypse: What do you get when you mix 10,000 red balloons with San Francisco in early March? Bad publicity. Also, in case you hadn't heard, on the Internet, everyone lies, and angry birds found a golden-egg laying goose.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureWe have a young friend who lives up the road from us and he is completely in love with his Android phone -- so much so that he has managed to get his hands on a second one just so he can start playing with it. It's a good thing too, because back around New Year's a trojan out of China (where else?) started making the rounds, and then last week, after Google found out about the "Droid Dream" virus (first reported back in February), it took the extraordinary step of removing it remotely. We told him over the weekend to start learning everything he can about it, because being an expert in de-virusing (I think I just made up a new word) Android phones is going to be big business.

Facebook has rolled out a feature that I think has some promise. Their new comment system, which showed up a couple of weeks ago, posts your comments using your real name -- which is bad news for all of those people who think leaving anonymous, pointless, insulting, and downright inane comments on the websites of companies is somehow a sign of superior wit and creativity. You don't even have to link the comment when you post at Facebook; if the site has the system enabled, the comments are automatically posted to your wall as well, and if someone comments in Facebook about your comment, it gets posted back to the original site as well.

Facebook has also finally shown its hand on how it intends to be profitable: it's going into the movie rental business. What makes this interesting is that if you want to believe that Facebook really has half a billion members, then it immediately shoots to the top of the list as a distribution network; at that size, they're only about 33 times bigger than Netflix. Plus it will give Facebook a lot more information about what kinds of advertising people will see. Then there's also what passes for reality television, too.

Finally, Cisco put out a report a couple of weeks ago that says that spam levels are dropping (even though my inbox might disagree), in favor of attacks using Facebook and Twitter. I've warned people -- it seems like every column -- about being careful with regard to the links you click on, but it's almost to the point where unless you know the person sending a link really well, you might not want to click on them at all -- and that's certainly true of the links that have been shortened. That doesn't mean the email bad guys have gone away; I got one today that said "someone has commented on your status; log in to look" that takes you to a page that looks just like the Facebook login page. That happens a lot; even the Twitter people had it happen to them.

You just can't tell; you have to be extra-careful.


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New Geniuses: One of EE's longest serving members, dbrunton, who joined Experts Exchange not quite twelve years ago, has earned his first Genius certificate, in Windows XP, in the same week that one of EE's more recently added members, SiddharthRout, earned his first in Microsoft Excel. carl_tawn earned his second Genius certificate in C# Programming, while CrisHanna_MVP and pcelba earned their first Genius certificates in Small Business Server and FoxPro respectively. Our warmest congratulations to all.

My first Million: Reaching 1,000,000 points in February were dovidmichel, danaseaman, limjianan, CrisHanna_MVP, Helen_Feddema, SiddharthRout and KenMcF. Outstanding work by all!


  • mlmcc has earned 14,000,000 points in his Experts Exchange career.
  • demazter has earned 7,000,000 points overall.
  • tigermatt has earned 6,000,000 points since joining Experts Exchange.
  • jason1178 reached the 5,000,000 point level overall.
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