May 17, 2005
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Fine tuning UPS WorldShip shipping speed

turn123 is the Page Editor for Applications, Productivity Applications, CRM and ERP. He loves to tinker with stuff.

One approach to data entry that I personally like is keyboard entry without any use of the mouse as it is possible to get significantly faster at it then you could possibly get using the mouse. When using UPS WorldShip you can set up your own tab order so to only go to the fields that you put data in regularly. You can set the order that you hit each field in, so that you go the fields you use most first then the less used fields in the order you want.

When we started importing data from a text file using the keyed import we discovered that the keyed import appeared to overwrite our tab order. Multiple calls to UPS and a professional coming out to look at our system couldn't figure out why it didn't work but eventually we did figure it out.

If you are using the keyed import a field will have focus when you import the data. If you put in to the top of your tab order then everything works as expected when you hit tab. We feel that the UPS batch import loses some of the usability of the keyed import because of the weird sorting order. Orders are sorted by the order that they are imported in by default and there is no apparent way to change this. There are several situations where a batch import is required where processing while importing just doesn't cut it; an example is posted in, where the person asking the question needs to import from a data source that changes on occasion.

If you have found away to work around this please stop by and share your secret as nobody I've asked yet has a working solution.

Okay, so it's there -- it's just buried.

MHenry is the webmaster and designer for a large computer consulting firm, and is also a consultant on web design and marketing issues.

In case you missed it, in the last newsletter I wrote a rant about the upcoming Macromedia/Adobe merger. In that piece I called Adobe Acrobat a plug-in because you can't create a new PDF in it without scanning or importing.

I was wrong. In a reply to my article one of the Experts in the Acrobat TA -- khkremer - decided to correct my ignorance. He sent me an email with a slightly critical subject line: "Please don't talk about things you don't understand (at least not publicly)." Yeah, imagine reading that subject line during the next 20 or so emails we traded. Not only did he proceed to prove me wrong, he made me look at "Please don't talk about things you don't understand (at least not publicly)" for the next couple of days. Thank goodness I have a good self-image and an overblown ego or I might have taken it personally.

So, what have I learned? First, never criticize another TA's products unless you're willing to wind up with egg on your face and second, you Experts are damn good at what you do.

Ok, now for the disclaimer. The reason I was unaware a new PDF could be created in Acrobat Pro is because it's kind of hidden. You have to enter the JavaScript console (who even knew THAT existed?) and with a slight flick of the wrist, a few goats sacrificed to pagan gods and some incantations in some obscure scripting language (actually, a simple, one-line piece of code) it is, in fact, possible to create a new PDF.

Now why would Adobe have hidden that from its customers? Your guess is as good as mine. Well, maybe not. But my guess is, it smells of money. And if you're curious about how to create a new PDF in Acrobat Pro without scanning or importing, visit the Acrobat TA and post it as a question. My newfound friend would appreciate the easy points. And besides, they get lonely over there in plug-in land.

Taming the Tiger: Installing the new Macintosh OS X

cracky is the Page Editor for all things Macintosh. He recently deployed the new Tiger version of the OS X operating system; this is his report.

There's been a lot of buzz surrounding the release of the latest iteration of Apple's OS X, codenamed Tiger. One gets the feeling that the PR associated with this release (more so than its predecessors) is distinctly geared towards wowing consumers rather than professionals with its features. Having said that, developers too have seen many benefits, but you need to dig a bit deeper to really get an idea of what is new and what's improved.

I am always a little fearful of OS updates, especially when deploying them over a number of machines which serve highly specialised purposes and have been tweaked beyond the reach of the GUI. I think this is still an offshoot of the hell that both Windows 2000 and XP upgrades wreaked on part of my network. If ever there was a time when I considered joining a distant commune and never wanting to see a computer again, those occasions were it. So, it is with extreme caution that I approach every upgrade now. My fears, however, were unwarranted in this case. After backing up every machine to a disk image, I thought I'd dive right in with an upgrade rather than a clean install or an archive and install. I fully expected a few machines to put up a fight and have to clean install anyway. Imagine my surprise when EVERY upgrade worked "out of the box", retaining every setting and tweak from the past without protest. How exciting. Each install took less than 20 minutes and let every user launch straight back to work.

Spotlight seems to have stolen the, well, spotlight in Apple's push. Indeed it presents features that won't be present in Longhorn for at least another 18 months according to current speculation. As nice as it is, Automator is the winner in my book. It's drag-n-drop batching on steroids, and the creation of workflows takes so little time, you'd almost consider using it even for one-off processes. Common apps like Mail, Safari, Quicktime and iChat have also been endowed with feature bonuses in Tiger. Although they all do things a little "nicer", the one that truly rises to the occasion is Safari. The most noticeable bonus is the incredible speed boost in page rendering. Safari has always been nippy, but now it is downright insanely fast. Barely have you clicked a link or opened a new tab, when there it is: your page is loaded and rendered as it should be with beautifully anti-aliased text.

To avoid the risk of sounding like one of those zealots you all love to hate, I'll admit there were a couple of things that irked me a little after the upgrades. For one, Spotlight starts indexing your drives straight away without asking. Yes folks, that's ALL of your mounted drives, be they the boot drive, iPod, flash or loaded with 260GB of data. The system slows considerably during the indexing process and despite being able to stop it from the Spotlight menu, your mum and dad wouldn't even think to do this and would just be left wondering why their fancy new update is slowing to a crawl. Spotlight should really ask you first and explain that you should probably go and get a cup of tea while it does so.

Dashboard strikes me as a little bit of a waste of time in its current state. I guess once more widgets are released, they might get more useful. Right now, I feel that it's silly to sacrifice even the smallest amount of RAM to have a pretty weather forecast that I could just as easily look up in a web browser. I am prepared to give it a chance, but for now I have tucked them all back in their funky metal drawer. Windows admins might want to take note of reported Active Directory bugs which are rumoured to be ironed out in the 10.4.1 update.

All in all, I found this update did wonders for performance with very few niggles. For the sake of brevity, I'll spare you the nitty gritty of the UNIX core updates, but I will leave the more interested of you with an infinitely more detailed account from ARS Technica. For those keen to find out about the less well documented updates, Daring Fireball has a regularly updated list of differences both good and not-so-good, so make sure you subscribe to the feed.

After reading this, the massive flood of switchers are welcome to ask any questions they may have. We'd be happy to help *wink*.

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On The Origin of Software by Means of Natural Selection
or The Preservation of Favoured Practices in the Struggle for Software Stability (First Edition) - Part One
PaulCaswell, the Page Editor for C Programming, offers his take in a two-part article. The second installment will appear in the May 31 issue.

I would adore the opportunity to witness the state of software some billions of computer-years in the future, as Darwin did with evolution. The chance to see what has happened and pontificate on how it may have got here from there. This isn't what Darwin did. He did something unusual.

I managed to catch a lecture to the Royal Society by Sir Tim Berners-Lee recently. He achieved something of similar stature to Darwin. He changed the current locked-in mindset towards a nirvana-like route to a better world of universal connectivity. From his deep knowledge of the past he surmised that designing a communications system out of totally open components and standards would enable unheard of developments. He didn't invent the Internet, he did something unusual.

Both Sir Charles Darwin and Sir Tim Berners-Lee took the time to look back on what was past and by selecting that which was clearly relevant, along with some amazing insight, discovered a pattern, judged where we are now and, in doing so, changed the future.

Let us start something here! I hope to emulate their achievements collectively, through shared wisdom and experience. I hope to describe where we are now, selecting only the surviving factors, perceive one or more patterns, and make some future predictions that may guide us all on the next step.

The Past

The primordial soup of software was, without doubt, binary logic. It is still with us in everything we do and even permeates the gaps between how some of us think. Will it be a guiding force for the future? Sure, it's predictable and therefore comfortable in the micro sense but it cannot be applied in a reasonable time span to modern systems so where is its value? It has its place at the micro level used by compilers and coders.

Structured programming; our second attempt at predictability. It works, with the smaller parts (on a systems scale). Use it to make sure you've freed all allocated memory or closed all opened files but let us keep it in its place! It so regularly bogs you down in deciding where to put the plaster (band-aid) when you have to break the rules. It's a tool like the rest, applicable, but in its place at the coding level.

Objects! A predictability and visualization tool. We can now encode methods and properties of objects and help the object be secret about implementation in the interest of portability. Objects bring visualization, structure, portability, reuse and morphing. OOP currently stands head and shoulders above the rest of the structuring techniques for 'benefit to the future'. A software architect's dream tool while still deeply effective for programmers.

Then there are the design methods. Design by committee, design by massage, design by evolution, design by mantra, top down design, inside-out design, bottom up design, design by slapdash, design by finger-in-the-air, design by financial benefit, design by sales team, some good, some awful. The best architects use their own concoction that is a selection of the best of each that meets the requirements of the current project. Some good tools for the systems architect, some for the programmer, some for the coder, some even for the business.

Documentation; another huge field. There are design methods that formalize the documentation and documentation methods that drive the design. There are coding methods that document themselves and documentation languages that attempt to write the code. There are even languages that provide inheritance facilities to the documentation. Lets face it, documentation is here to stay because however good the code, some dullard will one day need to change it.

When devices became programmable, software turned into an orchestra of independent components with disparate communications protocols and questionable reliability. Each component had as many issues as before but now we have all the protocols to contend with, each of them either unique or a hobble to the harmonious cooperation of the whole. Grid computing is wallowing in a mire of financial design methods.

Patterns are doing for architecture what structure did for coding. This will grow as fast as we can nail down the patterns themselves.

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Nata's Corner: Sobering thoughts

woman in specticalsIt popped up two weeks ago just after my deadline, but the people at Sophos posted an article that says that the Sober-N virus is responsible for 4.5 per cent of the email being sent worldwide. A truly mindboggling number; that means that at least ten of the emails in my inbox each morning were sent by it.

Symantec says that even a week later, the threat is still wild. It comes with the usual attachment, and it looks like an offer for free tickets to the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany.

I know there's a joke in here somewhere: two other viruses were announced by Sophos last week as well. One uses a link that claims that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's email has been hacked; it installs a trojan and password stealer. The other includes a picture of a rare albino gorilla in a zipped file.

Last week, it was the US ISPs that came under the gun; now, the anti-spam group SPEWS has blacklisted Telewest, the provider that operates the popular domain. According to SPEWS, about 17,000 Telewest customers are spamming, but the block affects all 900,000 of blueyonder subscribers.

I'm not sure I like this much. Google released its Web Accelerator in beta form last week, but a quick look at the terms of use say, "If you enter personally identifiable information (such as an email address) onto a form on an unencrypted web page, some sites may send this information through Google. Whenever your computer sends cookies with browsing or prefetching page requests for unencrypted sites, we temporarily cache these cookies in order to improve performance." Knowing that Google keeps cached pages for a long time, just what do they mean by "temporarily"? The company has taken the GWA down as of last Wednesday, saying that it had reached its capacity of users.

I know I don't like this much. The Transportation Safety Administration is now going to start asking for yet more information when you buy an airline ticket. You don't actually have to give it to them, but it does mean they'll be more likely to go through your luggage at the airport.

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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 May 1 through May 15.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
Stephen_Perrett Arji boag2000 Burbble JesterToo davidlars99 bhess1 BillAn1 rafrancisco entrance2002 Jan_Franek mokule OMC2000 SnowFlake davidlars99 _Katka_ aozarov JakobA purplepomegranite gecko_au2003 craylord KaliKoder jatinderalagh Callandor wlennon Guru Master Master Master Master Master Sage Sage Wizard Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Wizard Master Master Master Master Master Master Genius Guru MS Access MS Access MS Access Visual Basic Visual Basic ASP Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL JavaScript JavaScript Delphi Java Java Networking Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP .NET Hardware Hardware
Expert Certified in Topic Area
TheLearnedOne b1xml2 ikm7176 Microtech Chris-Dent ATIG athelu itsmeandnobodyelse b1xml2 imsolost checoo flavo Corey2 PeteLong joedoe58 lazarus98 Promethyl keteracel trailblazzyr55 kkhipple negatyve Billystyx Fatal_Exception luv2smile Kevin3NF Guru Master Sage Guru Master Master Master Sage Guru Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Genius Wizard Guru Master Master C# C# Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Exchange_Server C++ ASP.NET ASP.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET Win Server 2003 Win Server 2003 Win Server 2003 PHP PHP ColdFusion ColdFusion Flash Flash Microsoft Network Microsoft Network Databases
Expert Certified in Topic Area
catchmeifuwant JesterToo kupra1 nagki Nyaema HappyFunBall jaime_olivares metalmickey jkmyoung rossfingal neester richrumble rossfingal JustUNIX sunray_2003 SunBow meverest Gns LeeTutor lherrou Callandor waybadmojo MediaMacros moorhouselondon Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Guru Master Sage Master Guru Master Guru Master Sage Master Databases Databases Mysql Mysql Operating Systems Lotus Notes/Domino Win Prog. XML XML Windows Security CSS Security Security Solaris Miscellaneous Miscellaneous IIS Unix Windows ME Graphics Laptops/Notebooks Email/GroupWare Director WordPerfect Office Suite
1415 experts have 2256 certifications: Genius:39 Sage:109 Wizard:135 Guru:395 Master:1578
Expert success rate
Success rate, as suggested in Q_21365899 "Working - Expert Rating". We took the top 500 Experts, based on their total points, and then created a Percentage that reflects the number of Answers awarded divided by the number of questions commented in, and we've removed the questions a member has asked. We then sorted the top 500 list based on that percentage, and came up with the following. To see the entire list, see ameba's Hall of Fame list.
Expert Percentage
MediaMacros duz rdcpro Dexstar negatyve dfiala13 vascov WATYF vc01778 R_Rajesh Diablo84 harfang drichards ihenry BillAn1 lozloz DanielSKim hernst42 zorvek kandura dakyd RonaldBiemans Justin_W byundt Idle_Mind 82.8 80.1 79.8 79.4 77.2 76.3 75.8 75.8 75.4 74.5 74.4 72.1 71.3 71.1 70.7 70.6 70.4 69.8 69.6 69.4 69.1 68.1 68 67.5 67.3
Expert Percentage
oBdA Colosseo Chris-Dent ldbkutty JFrederick29 esteban_felipe tusharashah stefri amit_g bdreed35 gregoryyoung rllibby vidru andrewst frodoman muzzy2003 thui rafrancisco mvidas S-Twilley TheAvenger JamesDS kingsfan76 danblake seazodiac 67.1 66.9 66.7 66.6 66.2 66.2 66.1 66.1 65.8 65.8 65.6 65.3 65.1 65 64.9 64.8 64.5 64.3 64.2 64.2 64.1 63.6 63.6 63.2 63.1
Expert Percentage
efn sajuks rcmb zzynx Batalf fritz_the_blank SteveGTR jeverist scampgb Ferruccio68 Hilaire ap_sajith peh803 testn pique_tech Timbo87 farsight Zeffer Squinky _nn_ ramazanyich briancassin Dave_Dietz hhammash itsmeandnobodyelse 63 62.7 62.5 62.2 61.9 61.8 61.6 61.6 61.4 61.3 61.1 61.1 61.1 60.9 60.8 60.7 60.6 60.6 60.5 60.4 60.4 60.3 60.2 60.2 60
Expert Percentage
Shauli adathelad Thogek devic jdlambert1 Slick812 AlexFM LSMConsulting Gns shanesuebsahakarn kmslogic Data-Man Desp Sembee lil_puffball rockiroads mmarinov shaneholmes raterus tovvenki x_com objects Salte seanpowell heer2351 59.8 59.7 59.6 59.5 59.4 59.4 59.3 59.2 59.2 59.1 59 58.9 58.9 58.8 58.7 58.6 58.5 58.5 58.4 58.3 58.1 58 57.9 57.8 57.8
Source: EE's Top 500 experts; Formula: "Batting Average" = Participation / AnswersAndAssists, Participation = AnswersAndAssists + Commented - Asked
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