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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

MARCH 19, 2014

Featured Content

What's New at Experts Exchange
From SLO and beyond

Nata's Corner
Dangerous apps and Facebook

Tip From the Moderators
You're responsible for your questions

Muddling along
Most managers suck at it.

In Brief
Things you might have missed

Who did what through Mar. 15

What's New at E-E

IsabellaNew Member Isabella Reyal Light was born March 9 to Teresa and Steve Light in a bunker somewhere under a mountain; she was 6 lbs, 9 oz. (just under 3 kg), 19 inches (48.26 cm) long and arrived early to the party (like her father) by about four weeks.

Dancing: Cal Poly, the alma mater of any number of Experts Exchange employees, made the NCAA basketball tournament that started Tuesday. Also, one of the school's alumni -- allegedly -- may be worth a fortune in Bitcoins if he really invented them.


  • You now have a URL to your profile that's a lot easier to remember. If you want to see the profile of angelIII, instead of having to find, you can type in Just a warning, though; there are a few members whose usernames are exact duplicates of others -- notably our old friend jkr. For them, you'll need to add the registration date to the end of the username.
  • The bug that removed the "increase points" box from an Asker's comment as been fixed; the box should now be visible.
  • The Top 25 lists now show the same numbers consistently throughout all pages.
  • Some updates to subsections of your profile have been added; see this support article for details.
  • Notifications now include the Display Name as well as the username.
  • The red and green dots in the Top 25 lists have been replaced by red and green arrows.

New Moderator: eenookami has joined the ranks of the Moderators. Welcome aboard!

Bugfinder BugFinder: BugFinder is Experts Exchange's new system that allows you to post your website and have Experts help you find the problems with spelling and grammar, display issues, functionality and security issues, or just get feedback. You assign points based on the nature of the bugs found, and can reward those Experts who help you out the most. Check it out.

Referrals: Experts Exchange's referral program enables you to pick up some extra cash by referring friends, co-workers and that cousin who always wants to you fix his computer for free to Experts Exchange. New Premium Service and Business Account members get a discount, and you can earn up to $50 per account. The caveats: 1) it's for new accounts only; 2) the email address in your profile must match the email address in a PayPal account; and 3) your referred member must use the link created by the system (go to your profile, click Rewards and then Referral) when registering. It works for people who earn Qualified Expert status too. My secret? I had a stamp made of my unique URL and I put that on the back of a business card.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's Picturepassword Someone we know who is still using Windows XP hasn't yet seen the message from Microsoft. You know who you are, and in three weeks, none of your excuses will be worth much.

It doesn't matter whether something is against the law or not. If there's a way to make money at it, you can bet that there will be people who do things they probably shouldn't, like using Facebook to sell guns illegally.

If you're wondering why I'm one of a lot of people who don't download apps for my cell phone, maybe a report issued by Appthority will answer your questions. It turns out that over eighty per cent of all free apps, and ninety per cent of all iOS apps, have at list one behavior the report calls "risky" when it comes to security of your personal information. You can download the report here (it requires registration) or read a summary of it here. I also came across a Microsoft article detailing how to tell if you're in a botnet.

Sophos recently came up with a very short list of ways you can keep from falling victim to those frequent video scams on Facebook:

  • Don't Share or Like anything you haven't watched. You wouldn't recommend a restaurant you haven't eaten at, so why would you tell others to watch a video you haven't seen?
  • Log out of Facebook whenever you can. When you do that, if you click on Like or Share when you don't really want to, you'll get asked to log in again -- and you might think twice about sending the post.
  • Think of your friends, and your mother, and your siblings, and all the people you've added over time. The odds are good that they're going to click on something you like -- and they'll very quickly come to not be so friendly if you send them a link to what turns out to be malware.

And while you're at it, take a look at Friend Inspector. It's a game developed by people at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and the whole point to it is to make you more aware of your privacy settings on Facebook (though it's probably also useful for other social sites). The game can also give you some advice on what changes you might want to make.

Finally, that big breach at Target last year? It most definitely won't be the last. It almost makes me want to start carrying cash and a checkbook again.

Muddling along

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ericpete is a former newspaper editor, occasional low-level Expert and basketball junkie who has spent over 14 years at Experts Exchange, and has spent much of the last decade editing the EE newsletter.

Our long-time correspondent Guy sent us a note the other day with a link to a Harvard Business Review article that says that of those of you in management positions, four out of five of you are the wrong person for the job. That makes perfectly good sense to us; bad management is almost assuredly at the root of almost every recurring problem involving every organization any of us come across.

Several years ago, we published some tips for managers (that was then republished on EE) that, to us, seemed pretty self-evident. Okay, so it was a short list of tips and not a rigorous study backed up by tons of data -- but the information cited in the HBR article certainly goes beyond the anecdotal.

The study, performed by Gallup, concludes that "employee engagement" -- or rather, the lack thereof -- is at the root of why so many managers (pardon the expression) suck. HRB summarizes:

Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

But that's not how managers work. Most -- and you can decide for yourself if this isn't true -- motivate by tapping into one of two emotions: greed or fear (if not both). Their assertiveness can be distilled into the concept that they've figured out who to blame. The culture is one of secrecy; you may know your job, but you don't know who is pulling your manager's strings, or how. Your relationship with your boss, ultimately, is that he can fire you -- which certainly keeps you hunkering down and just trying to make it through the week. Politics is at the core of every decision; it's not about who can do the job best, but rather who can provide some protection for the boss in case things go off the rails.

(Just an aside: note that nowhere on the list does have lots of meetings appear.)

It's all well and good to try to tell people -- like you, if you're a manager -- that you should do the five things listed above. The world -- or at least the workplace -- would be a much better place if everyone (heck... if half of everyone) would wake up to the fact that employees aren't mindless drones who "don't understand the challenges". That's BS, and most of them (if they didn't think they'd get fired for it) will tell you that in a heartbeat.

But since most managers are promoted into their positions by other people who are also part of that 82 per cent called out by the HBR, and who are just as fearful for their next paycheck as your boss is, we all know it ain't gonna happen. The guys at the top of the food chain -- often themselves promoted for reasons completely unrelated to their 0-10 ranking with regard to the five qualities listed -- have exactly the same issues each of us do: they like the lifestyle to which they wish to be accustomed.

Successful management is counter-intuitive. Our instinct is to control our situations as much as possible (even when we're at the craps table in Las Vegas); but it turns out that the most successful managers are those who define objectives, put the best people they can find into the roles defined by the objectives, and then do everything they can to be successful, including getting out of the way.

Last week, the New York Knicks hired Phil Jackson, who has won eleven championships as a coach in the NBA, as their new general manager. It's a step up for Mr Jackson, and he was hired by an owner who has demonstrated a disinclination to stay out of the way -- but what's also true is that Mr Jackson has demonstrated an ability to coach teams such that they can consistently be winners or very close; eleven championhips in twenty seasons is remarkable, but throw in the two seasons his teams lost in the finals, and it means that his teams have had a chance to win two-thirds of the time. Only one other coach in the history of the league even comes close.

But the odds are against him -- and not just because he was hired by an owner who is demonstrably a rich kid with a very expensive toy. Mr Jackson's success was in that he convinced his players to not only trust in his system -- the "Triangle" offense that isn't really that sophisticated or complex -- but to trust each other in running the offense. It didn't hurt that the teams he coached had arguably the best player in the league on them, but he still had to get first Michael Jordan and then Kobe Bryant and everyone else on the team to buy into his system and to the belief that doing so would lead to success.

It wasn't the offensive scheme that made the difference. It was the "getting everyone on the same page" part that did.

Whether he can do that from the front office is an entirely different matter. It is his responsibility to find the right players and then to find the right coach -- not an easy task under the best of circumstances, and the Knicks have some serious problems to overcome in that regard, not the least of which are Mr Jackson's trust in his own systems (a bias in the best way to do things); the fact that there are people under contract who will be difficult to move to other teams; and the aforementioned owner with an ego as big as Mr Jackson's, even if the former's isn't justifiable.

And there's the underlying catch to the HRB analysis. In the education business -- at least in the US -- most teachers are paid according to a salary scale built into a contract negotiated by a bargaining unit that describes pay increases based on term of service, continuing education in their field, and extra duty, with cost of living allowances. A teacher who stays at the same job for his career, without changing employers, will do pretty well by the time s/he retires after thirty or so years of service, all things being equal.

But if they want to make more money, the only way to do that is to go into administration, which pays about forty per cent better. The problem: most teachers take a year's worth of classes in "how to fill out the paperwork" and may get a few years as a dean or assistant -- but their skills in those five bullet points aren't part of the training.

As a result, our best teachers -- those who really do commit to teaching all of their students -- move out of the classroom and into the office, doing jobs they don't want to really do and for which they're not normally well-suited. Programmers become administrators. Cooks become managers. Beat cops become lieutenants. Loan officers become "vice-presidents". And none of them knows the first thing about motivating anyone else, except to do the same things their bosses did when they were climbing the ladder.

The bottom line: being a good manager is all about two things: trusting and respecting your subordinates, and earning their trust and respect. Mr Jackson will get some respect from the players he employs because he's been there and done that -- but that doesn't mean they'll trust him with their future. Because it's a new job, he'll have to earn that all over again.

In Brief

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There goes that contract: Ellen DeGeneres set a record for retweets with an Oscar photograph taken with a Samsung phone (Samsung was a sponsor of the Oscar broadcast). Too bad she normally uses an iPhone. In addition to setting a record, the post broke Twitter.

incorrectUnclear on the concept: A couple of weeks ago in the wake of the Mt. Gox failure, a US Senator announced he wants the US government to "ban" Bitcoin and provoked not only a "well, let's take a look at it" response from other, more stable exchanges (who would rather self-regulate than comply with lots of government regulations), but also a suggestion to ban the US dollar for most of the same reasons. After all, if they're good enough for the Winklevoss twins and Sir Richard Branson, who are we to judge?

Meanwhile, the distinguished gentleman's fellow Senator (from the same state) doesn't like the possibility of a .sucks domain name (see next item).

Fun and games: Think you're smarter than a 12-year-old? See if you can hack Jurassic Park... or ride Marty McFly's no-wheel skateboard. Of course, since they're both from the Internet, they're no more real than the Internet is at age 25. In a related matter, the US Commerce department will be turning over management of IP addresses and domain names next year.

Bracket buster: Before you go making your picks for the NCAA basketball tournament that starts this weekend (we purists don't dignify the NCAA's money-grabbing play-in games), you might want to click the "forgot password" link on Yahoo, because you're not going to be able to sign in using your Google or Facebook IDs.

A thousand words: If you've looked at a blog or news site, you've probably seen an image "borrowed" from Getty Images. Now, you can embed them for free -- no royalty required.

Not throwing chairs, though: The musical chairs that is the change in the CEO's office in Redmond has begun in earnest.

Are you paying attention, Andrew?

When will they ever learn: The man nominated to be the next head of the NSA, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, wants to revive CISPA, the act that caused Internet users and companies to go nuts last year over that pesky Fourth Amendment thingamabob. For all anyone knows, they're already at it.

Wonder what that cost him: Bill Gates is back on top of the world's richest list. And before you start muttering, consider that he's given away about $28 billion of what he once had.

I have some beachfront property in South Dakota to sell, too: Facebook wants to buy a drone manufacturer, all the better to annoy Google's pilots with.

Signs of the Apocalypse: The US government has sued wireless carrier Sprint for overcharging on spying expenses. The Federal Trade Commission is more than halfway there to being one of the first ever government agencies (besides the IRS) to make a profit. xkcd is going retro.


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New Ace:: angelIII has earned his eighth Ace certificate, in MS SQL Server 2008.

New Geniuses: rindi has earned his fifth Genius certificate, in Backup & Restore Software. Earning his third was billprew, in Windows Batch Scripting. ve3ofa picked up his second, in Windows Server 2008. Reaching 1,000,000 points for the first time were craigbeck in Wireless Technologies and robhenson in Microsoft Excel.


  • CEHJ has become the 16th member of EE to reach 14,000,000 points overall.
  • By reaching 5,000,000 points since joining EE, barryhoudini has reduced to four the number of people in the Hall of Fame with under that total.
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