April 26, 2006
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Freedom of the web

Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press ..." -- U. S. Constitution, Amendment I

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. -- A. J. Leibling

The only thing harder than finding out a secret is keeping one. -- Brenda Johnson, The Closer

There's an entertaining battle shaping up in San Jose, California, where Apple is trying to find out who, in its organization, is spilling the beans on new products. Apple has tried to find out in California courts, but has been unsuccessful, mostly because it issued a bunch of "John Doe" subpoenas before it had actually conducted its own internal investigation; California's press shield law says that Apple would have to prove that it had tried everything in its power to find out before a court can issue a subpoena, and it hadn't done anything.

But the issue in the current federal case is a little different. The question being asked in the case is "Do the people who run websites have the same constitutional protections that the print and broacast media do?" It's the wrong question to be asking, but we fully expect that the courts will come down squarely on the side of the websites. Sorry, Apple, but just like everyone else, you're going to have to find out on your own; the courts aren't likely to find that saying you're going to release a new product is actually the same as industrial espionage or divulging trade secrets.

The reason we say it's the wrong question to be asking is because of what the First Amendment actually does. It says that the government of the US (and by virtue of Amendment X, it applies to the states as well) cannot put any restrictions on what the press can and can't say; its purpose was to avoid a government-controlled media, and to ensure that both the media and the people could disagree with the government without fear of reprisal under any circumstances.

To that end, the courts have held that the people who find out and write about things that make the government look bad also have some implied protection from the government with regard to what they publish; the fact that something might be contrary to government policy or might be embarrassing to a particular officer or branch of government is pretty much irrelevant.

That freedom is actually a fairly narrowly defined one, however. It does not allow for the encitement to riot, or to yell "Fire" in a crowded theater. It doesn't allow a citizen to freely libel or slander someone else. Finally, it doesn't necessarily apply to anyone BUT the government. Newspapers don't publish stories, or retractions to stories because a law or the Constitution says they have to; they publish them because their credibility (and therefore, their ability to sell newspapers and advertising) is at stake.

That also means that if someone feels they have been treated wrongly by the media, their choice is to seek redress in the courts, where the issue becomes one of fact: was the person harmed, and to what extent, by the information which was made generally public? We spent thirty-plus years in the media; we never worried at all about issues of fact -- we had control over what we published -- but we worried a lot about having to defend ourselves in court. The truth is an absolute defense, but lawyers are expensive.

What, then, does this mean for Apple and the people who write about the company? Only that Apple will eventually be told that a) it will have to do its own "investigative reporting", b) that Apple has somehow been actually damaged by the revelations, and c) that there is no reason the courts should compel the website owners to reveal the sources of their information. Most scoops -- trust us on this one -- are revealed because somewhere, there's a snitch, and for all of Apple's crying about trade secrets, the fact that we all hear about what it MIGHT be doing in the next week or two only makes us more interested in what they're actually doing. There's one more offering that Apple might need to hear:

I don't care what they say about me. Just spell my name right. -- P. T. Barnum

Afterthought: While we're on the subject of the Bill of Rights, those of you who are subject to its provisions -- the United States -- might care to consider the implications of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's recent suggestion of a rating system for websites. You might also want to mull over the updated DMCA.

Rube Goldberg revisited

We know who you are, and we know you're laughing uncontrollably at the idea of Microsoft issuing a security update that breaks a lot of other programs -- including a number of its own. For a change, though, we're almost feeling sorry for Microsoft (don't worry -- we'll be over it by next week).

Why? Well, simply put, Microsoft has built the biggest Rube Goldberg "machine" ever imagined -- far more impressive than the one created for Honda. The problem: its operating system has to support so much that there's no way to account for it all.

Think about it. Microsoft is in the worst of all "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations. Redmond has been talking about what it now calls Vista for years, during which time, other companies have come up with better ways of oding things that Microsoft wants to include -- to the extent that in the month or so since Vista was officially released to beta testers, some analysts have said that two-thirds of it will have to be completely rewritten. If that's the case, then the projected public release might well occur in early January 2007, but will be followed by a huge "fix" -- AKA a "service pack" or two -- within a couple of weeks.

Let's say, though, that Microsoft doesn't come up with a new operating system. Let's say, for the sake of conversation, that it decides that instead of coming up with something new, it just "fixes", once and for all, the flaws in Windows XP. That's a monumental task in and of itself, given that there are a good number of people who have nothing better to do but find and build exploits for flaws that exist already.

Call it hubris, and remember it as you think about building the Next Best Thing Since Sliced Bread.

byundt, one of our Page Editors for the Microsoft Office suite of products, sent us the following when he found out what kind of mess the latest group of patches from Microsoft caused.

Microsoft has been adding to their list of patches, as they have "confirmed" that the problem also affects NVIDIA cards -- and the fix is slightly different for Windows 2000.

Microsoft recently pushed the buggiest security update I can recall. Besides causing program freezes, it also managed to break Internet Explorer's ability to respond to URLs you type in, Office applications' ability to open or save files, and even Windows Explorer's ability to respond to clicking the + sign in a folder hierarchy. You can imagine these symptoms creating a rash of EE questions.

Security update MS06-015 (908531 - http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms06-015.mspx) conflicts with many models of HP scanners, cameras and printers, plus Sunbelt Kerio firewall software and certain NVIDIA video cards. The HP products rely on a software package called Share-to-web, which is where the issues arise. You don't want to uninstall the security update, because it really is a breach in Windows's ability to protect itself against remote code execution.

Microsoft discusses the issue and several registry tweaks in http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=918165. If you have an NVIDIA card, use Sunbelt Kerio personal firewall or if you use Windows 2000, please see the Knowledge Base article referenced above.

For the HP scanners, cameras and printers under Windows XP, Microsoft suggests:
  1. Log on to the computer with an account having administrator privileges
  2. Launch Regedit from the Start ... Run command line
  3. Navigate to
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Cached
    Right-click "Cached", point to New, click "DWORD Value", and then enter:
    {A4DF5659-0801-4A60-9607-1C48695EFDA9} {000214E6-0000-0000-C000-000000000046} 0x401
  4. Set the Data of this value to 1
  5. Close the Registry Editor
  6. Either reboot the computer or use Task Manager to close the Verclsid.exe program
EE member B-M-C came up with the following shortcut (which works for people with HP scanners, cameras or printers and using Windows XP):
  1. Copy the following line to the clipboard (paste it into Notepad to remove line breaks if necessary):
    REG ADD "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Shell Extensions\Cached" /v "{A4DF5659-0801-4A60-9607-1C48695EFDA9} {000214E6-0000-0000-C000-000000000046} 0x401" /t REG_DWORD /d 1
  2. Open the Start ... Run menu item
  3. Paste the instruction from step 1 into the resulting dialog box and hit return
  4. Either reboot the computer or use Task Manager to close the Verclsid.exe program
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First hand report

We get quite a bit of mail, and we usually like to share it when we do. The following comes from BooMod, who clearly has too much time on his hands. Disclaimer: For the purposes of this article, and to avoid creating too much work for BooMod, we will use the acronym TPEDTRWN, which means The Performance-Enhancing Drug That Rhymes With Niagara.

You really have to feel sorry for the people with those legitimate businesses, who are forced to use sneaky tactics in order to get the message to you that you so obviously want to see -- if the end people didn't want to see the ads, then why else would there be a need to circumvent approaches out there?

Like painting every other letter background color, and hiding lines of text in background color... See image here.

So I curiously go to their site, and actually, doesn't look too bad -- looks good, no self-conflicting text anywhere, and they fully say "TPEDTRWN" isn't "TPEDTRWN" -- it's our generic equivalent, because it's the same chemical in a different package... absolutely. Informantion about how it's legal to import only three months' worth of chemicals for personal use by US law now...

The business informantion looks okay too -- if, of course you click on their links, which are only popups of their own display, like their listing in the Better Business Bureau -- a javascript poplet shows the BBB seal and information on their company, except entries, of course. Personally, I have no doubt that they're listed in the BBB somewhere.

After all those reassurances, I might start to relax my judgment a bit, but I find a link to their "license" to resell drugs. This is good -- some support for the idea the drugs are made actually in Canada and then resold. The image of a certificate (kind of like EE's) appears with an absolutely stunning detailed address location in a Toronto suburb, and it's perfectly valid -- I even know for a fact that it is a huge multioffice complex that has a perfect view of an excellent golf course across the street. Certainly, a lot of offices there may only be as big as a filing cabinet and exist only for for paperwork purposes, but there's something about a physical existence for an Internet business. Even if the business is supposed to be from the British Virgin Islands -- that is the nature of international trade, so offices in Toronto to handle the exporting end of things, overseas for the trade of money end... this is a global economy, a global fingerprint left by all companies.

At this point, I'm pretty close to reaching for my Visa card when I hesitate a moment...

My heart sinks when I see that the DRUG RESELLING LICENSE clearly has the official stamp of the State of Ontario, Department of Health... which issued the license to the company... See image here.

Tomorrow I have to double check and confirm that my own "Pharmaceutical Retail License" that I have been issued by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Health isn't a fake image they sent me for my own business..

Tip from the Moderators: Rewriting someone else's comment

One of the things that is guaranteed to drive Experts into a state of near-homicidal fury is posting a comment that is, for all intents and purposes, the same as a comment that was posted a few hours ago. So in a word, "don't." Everyone knows there are usually two or three ways of doing the same thing -- but if your solution is virtually the same as someone else's, please move on to the next question. It's not going to help matters to have your solution accepted if someone else proposed the same solution the day before yesterday.

That doesn't mean you can't add something that improves on something that has already been suggested, but it does mean that it's a good idea -- not to mention polite -- to acknowledge some other Expert's contribution. Experts Exchange is all about collaboration, and it's a significantly better solution that has two or three Experts working together than one that has two or three Experts arguing over who posted an idea first.

That also means that you should always take the time to read all of the responses that have been posted. We know -- the only person whose responses you want to read are those posted by the person who asked the question -- after all, that's the person you're trying to help. But the fact is that there are usually several other people trying to help as well, and repackaging someone else's comment without adding anything new is showing that you're not really paying attention.

Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: So small you can't see them

woman in specticalsAbout the only cause I've ever really taken up has been rebuilding the local animal shelter, but earlier this week, I came across one that I know the editor has been mentioning recently. It's the idea of an open Internet instead of one controlled by the few companies that own the transmission lines.

I saw this story about a group of people who want to "save the Internet". What makes this a little different is that there are a whole bunch of strange bedfellows involved in SaveTheInternet.com -- from the Gun Owners of America to Moveon.org, from CraigsList to the American Library Association -- and several others in between.

What bothers me most about this situation isn't so much that the big broadband providers want to charge other companies for making sure that pages load more quickly. What really bothers me about it is that the big providers are getting Congress to make it official US policy that big companies get breaks that little companies don't. Personally, it makes me want to move to one of those towns that is getting wireless; I may even talk to my ISP at home about our little town. But if you think that the big ISPs aren't capable of some pretty nasty tactics, just remember that AOL allegedly blocked the email of one of its critics.

The good people at Sophos came out with a report that is one of those "good news bad news" kinds of things. The good news: Asia now accounts for more spam than North America. The bad news: China/Hong Kong is still behind the US. Sophos says that because the Chinese are using older versions of Windows, they aren't as well-protected against the viruses that send out spam.

Inside the numbers
ameba, one of EE's prominent Experts, provides us with a list of newly earned Certificates. His list of all of the Certified Experts is located at his site. The list below covers the period from April 10 through April 24.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
csk_73 vinnyd79 matthewspatrick aneeshattingal ptjcb Sirees IT-Schubertz raopsn esw074 Dragonlaird naveenkohli GavinMannion aki4u existenz2 smaccari nabsol mvan01 kristinaw ksharma4 CoolWizz Idle_Mind AGBrown Master Genius Guru Sage Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master Wizard Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master Sage Master Master Guru Master MS Access Visual Basic Visual Basic Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL ASP ASP ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Exchange_Server C# C#
Expert Certified in Topic Area
RobWill mrigank Arthur_Wood Mikal613 carl_tawn bruintje bwalker1 mcsween Tomeeboy PCBONEZ foxben mkishline SidFishes bruintje oBdA keith_alabaster Naser72 MitchV85 gabeso moh10ly Bartender_1 SteveGTR Master Master Guru Master Master Master Guru Master Guru Guru Master Guru Master Wizard Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Windows 2000 Java VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 PHP Hardware Excel ColdFusion ColdFusion Outlook Microsoft Network Microsoft Network Microsoft Network Microsoft Network Databases Operating Systems Operating Systems MFC
Expert Certified in Topic Area
BogoJoker LinuxNubb xDamox clockwatcher PCBONEZ gamebits scrathcyboy wykabryan PWinter gopatinc leclairm pjedmond CarlWarner rindi gheist lherrou cwwkie bglodde ShineOn ahoffmann TechSoEasy Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Genius Master Guru Master Master Master Guru Guru Sage PHP and Databases PHP and Databases Linux Perl Desktops HTML Applications Crystal Reports Crystal Reports Crystal Reports VB DB Linux Net. FoxPro Linux Admin. Unix Photoshop C++ Builder Wireless Groupwise Linux Security SBS Small Bus. Server
2059 experts have 3458 certifications: Genius:90 Sage:160 Wizard:209 Guru:614 Master:2385
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