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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

MAY 22, 2013

Featured Content

What's New at Experts Exchange
From the SLO and beyond

Rod Divilbiss
Remembering one of our own

Rose-colored Googles
Schmidt can't be serious

Nata's Corner
Children and their toys

In Brief
Things you might have missed

Who did what through May 18

What's New at E-E

New Savant: byundt has earned the 13th Savant certificate, in Microsoft Excel. Brad joined Experts Exchange in March 2003, and is a Microsoft MVP and Topic Advisor.

constructionCommunity: Fifteen members of the Experts Exchange staff saw some daylight a couple of weeks ago when they spent an afternoon working on a house for Habitat for Humanity in San Luis Obispo. Rumors that two people (one from Creative and one from Marketing) had to be told which end of the hammer is which are completely untrue.

Guest blogger: teksquisite is back with another warning about security, this time, about how malware is being spread through advertising. Most websites with banner ads get them from a third party service, and the ads are not necessarily vetted as carefully as they might be if it was served by the site itself; teksquisite offers up some advice on what to look out for.

Podcasts: New Experts Exchange CEO Brian Clausen sat down behind the microphone to be grilled by staffers Jenn Prentice and Gary Weyel to talk about Microsoft, driverless cars and, of course, the future of EE on last week's podcast. All of the Experts Exchange podcasts are available on iTunes and SoundCloud, and you can listen to them on the Stitcher app for iOS and Android mobile devices.

New contest: Over the past few issues, we've been putting taglines in our In Brief section that come from either a movie (or, in one case, the Beatles' discography). If you're the first person to correctly identify 1) the source of the taglines and 2) which In Brief item they're related to, we'll send you one of EE's special prize packages. See this blog post for details, and enter here.

DrackulaDrackula updated: It's a data center app that doesn't bite, also known as dRACKula. The app has now been updated to include asset management and device size support, and we're adding more device images every week There's even a free trial, so you have nothing to lose.

BugfinderBugFinder: 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.

Kudos: Scamquist was using matthewspatrick's article on concatenating in Access but was running into a problem after having used the function for some time. He got help from the author himself, who found an error in a query: "Perfect. Thank you so much for your help."

Senior Administrator Netminder got a note from Tony1044, directed to the Moderators, after a series of slightly vexing issues: "Just wanted to thank you again for your help -- I've managed to cross the million point line today and I'm sure I'd have lost heart without your support along the way. Now I haven't ever seen a "thank you" to any moderator in the monthly newsletter but I would sincerely and genuinely ask for my thanks to you to be put there." You're more than welcome, Tony; it's what we do.

Rod Divilbiss

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Rod DivilbissRod Divilbiss, one of Experts Exchange's early Page Editors and Topic Advisors, passed away May 14 after a long battle with cancer. He was 55.

A veteran of the US Air Force, Rod spent 20 years as an officer in the Kansas City, Missouri police force, where he was instrumental in implementing the department's computer systems. He joined Experts Exchange in September, 1999, and quickly established himself as a force in the web development topic areas. After a hiatus of several years, he returned to EE in 2005, and was highly regarded by both his Expert colleagues and the members he helped along the way.

Rod's defining contribution to EE came with the advent of the Articles system; he put together and managed a team of his colleagues to develop a secure log-in system for websites that could be used in sites written in ASP and PHP, and available in several languages. It was the first attempt to show off the best aspect of Experts Exchange -- the collaboration of several knowledgeable members -- in the Articles system. When his illness began to affect his ability to complete the articles, he took them down, but we have republished them to honor his legacy.

Site administrator Jason Levine said of Rod, "Rod was the leader in Misc. Web Development for many, many years. It was only in the last 12 months that Ray_Paseur and COBOLdinosaur and myself passed him and then only because he had mostly stopped participating at EE. He could do it all. I learned a ton from him when I was first starting to try to expand my skills." Moderator Matt Huxtable added, "Very sad and upsetting news on Rod's passing -- he brought such a lot to the site when he was participating."

Rod's final post at EE is perhaps the most telling as to why he will be missed; referring to one of his colleagues, he wrote, "Michel is always the go to man when it comes to JavaScript. Brilliant!"

Services were held Sunday, May 19 in Overland Park; donations may be made to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Thanks, Rod, for everything you've done for us.

A Better Website Login System, the EE Collaborative Login System
The EE Collaborative Login System - Design Considerations

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PicturelamborghiniI want one. It even comes in Giants colors.

I have a new hero (okay, maybe not a hero, but you have to admire his motives). Kevin Williamson, a writer for the National Review, tossed a woman's cellphone across a theater when she kept using it during a live performance of a play.

A few weeks ago, you will remember, the whole Internet (okay, maybe not all of it) was slowed down by a huge DDoS attack directed at Spamhaus, the organization that maintains a list of companies and ISPs that host a lot of spam. Allegedly, the attack was put together by Sven Olaf Kamphuis, the owner of CyberBunker and CB3ROB, two companies owned by Mr Kamphuis that were recently added to Spamhaus' list of bad boys. Well, the authorities in the Netherlands -- his native country -- had him arrested in Spain and sent back home, where the Dutch are keeping him under wraps. Also under wraps: the guys who managed to steal about $45 million from ATMs. You have to read the whole story -- it's fascinating. Meanwhile, in Britain, the LulzSec hackers were sentenced.

A couple of months ago, teksquisite wrote a nice blog post for EE about wireless home routers and some of the possible vulnerabilities they have. If you haven't taken the time to secure your router, you might want to read this checklist of things you should do. It's a little old, but it's still valuable information.

It's going to be interesting to see where this all winds up. I don't look at a lot of things on YouTube, and when I do, I have to admit that most of it won't ever be shown on television anyway. But for a lot of people, the temptation to move away from the cable and satellite companies and to services like Netflix and Hulu is pretty strong, and now that YouTube has gotten into the act for not a lot of money, it may make Senator John McCain's proposal a lot more attractive. Of course, it could also turn out to be a bad deal.

Finally, if you've ever wondered how someone's bright, young child turned out to be the guy who stole all your company's financial data, Tech Republic published a summary of research done into why your kid became a hacker.

Rose-colored Googles

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ericpete is a former newspaper editor, occasional low-level Expert and basketball junkie who has spent over 13 years at Experts Exchange, and has spent much of the last decade editing the EE newsletter.

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds. - John Perry Barlow
The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency. - Eugene McCarthy

We can't figure out whether Google chairman Eric Schmidt is a fraud, thinks everyone else is a complete idiot, or suffers from infinitely advanced naiveté. There's ample evidence for all three.

In April, Mr Schmidt was interviewed by The Guardian, in which he said that "the use of cheap, miniature 'everyman' drones needs to be banned by international treaties before such devices fall into the hands of private users including terrorists." Then last week, Mr Schmidt was in New York talking at an "event" at New York University. During the event, he was quoted as making a couple of interesting comments that don't really hold up under scrutiny.

The first was that the Internet needs a "delete" button. That's not a bad idea, except it flies in the face of everything his company -- the one with the mission of "organizing the world's information" -- does. It's not just that Google keeps everything, as anyone who used to bypass Experts Exchange's old paywall knows, or even that it takes almost a papal decree to get information removed from Google (just a note; the author of that article is apparently a former employee of Google, so she should know).

What is dumbfounding about Mr Schmidt's comment is that he apparently believes that such a tool would work. It's not like he is just a businessman who doesn't know anything about computers; he's been in the computing business long enough to know that even if Google built its own "delete" button, that wouldn't mean that Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook (to name a few) would do the same thing. Google couldn't begin to guarantee that even if the information were deleted from its systems that it would also be deleted from someone else's, especially when that information is routinely being given to [insert government agency here] by Google (and to be fair, most other companies except Twitter) and various ISPs.

We have no objection to someone trying to develop such a button (for all you programmers out there, that's the next big thing), but for someone in Mr Schmidt's position to suggest it as being a project that can be accomplished is sublime. If it's really something that should be done, then Google should be the company doing it.

Mr Schmidt's second noteworthy comment -- that he's not at all worried about "Big Brother" knowing too much about everyone -- causes one wonder about the water supply in the Googleplex. Of course he's not worried; if he wanted to make Google's search results exclude him, he's in a position to have that done. But he really needs to stop making silly statements like this one, because if his company isn't Big Brother, it is certainly complicit in creating an environment in which information about anyone is available to governments at the drop of a hat.

Let's be real. If three months worth of search results at AOL seven years ago could produce enough data to identify a 62-year-old woman in Georgia in about a week, then the combination of significantly more data, better programmers and analysts and considerably more resources suggests that Google -- and on request, any national government -- could identify and track anyone who uses Google's search (which currently has nearly three times as many unique monthly visitors as Bing and Yahoo combined), possibly within minutes.

We don't worry so much about Google, Facebook et al. keeping data and using it to send us advertising because when push comes to shove we don't pay much attention to advertising. We can understand that governments want information so they can attempt to prevent what they consider to be terrorism (something at which they have proven to be only marginally successful). But the prospect of a democratic government acting like East Germany in the 1950s -- with warrantless search, surveilance and seizure, and reading your emails -- thanks, but no thanks. When Thomas Jefferson noted that "information is the currency of government" he wasn't talking about the government secretly collecting information on its citizens (or keeping it from them); he was talking about information on what the government was up to being available to its citizens.

And that leads to the third curious remark made by Mr Schmidt. It is Mr Schmidt's company that is being pummelled by the European Union (at least symbolically, if not to any punitive extent that would inhibit the behavior) for violating people's privacy, with its little cars that drive around taking pictures of everyone's front door. The step from paying people to drive the cars to using self-driving ones is pretty short, and considerably less expensive, given payroll taxes, accounting costs, benefits and reliability (cars don't call in sick). The step from cars to drones with cameras is similarly short, and drones cost less than cars.

Calling us paranoid? The technology exists to read your emails, texts and instant messages -- and companies do. Governments know this -- and know they can get the information if they want it. The technology exists to fly unmanned aircraft around, photographing people who are completely unaware that their moves are being watched by persons unknown, with unknown motives -- and governments are notorious for 1) exempting themselves from the prohibitions that apply to their citizens and 2) protecting big companies that will do their bidding.

This country has as its founding principle that no government can be trusted; this country's government has also enacted any number of laws to prove that founding principle to be justifiable. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil," Edmund Burke said, "is that good men do nothing." Mr Schmidt is saying a lot of things; but despite his company's well-publicized mantra of not doing evil, one can only conclude that he doesn't know the difference.

In Brief

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Tell me the story about why you're sad. Only 314 shopping days left until Windows XP support stops. Your mileage may vary. In case you're curious, XP accounts for 41.7 per cent of all Windows systems worldwide, barely down from 42.2 per cent in March.

I want to tell you my secret now. In our last issue, we noted that Apple's cash management kept it from having to pay taxes on the billions in cash it holds outside the US (a strategy that made Peter Oppenheimer, Apples chief financial officer, the highest paid CFO anywhere last year). Now, in what can only be described as chutzpah, Apple CEO Tim Cook has a plan to overhaul the US tax code.

I think it just went in and out. The Onion's advice for what to do if your site is hacked. Then, make sure you post how they did it.

We should hang it in the bathroom. Okay, so we're gloating a bit. If you're one of those people who spends all of your non-working hours and half of your working hours looking at Facebook, you'll be glad to know that AT&T is selling the HTC First -- the Facebook phone -- on the McDonald's Value Menu (not really -- but at 99 cents, it could be...), at least until they're all gone.

Some magic's real. The next big IPO, if you want to pay attention to the rumor mill, will be Twitter's, but there are a few hurdles to overcome. First, as recently as 15 months ago, some folks were saying that while revenues were exploding, so were costs, to the tune of the company losing $1.10 for every dollar it took in. Today, though, revenues are about double what they were in 2012 (and maybe more, so breaking into the black may have already happened. Given its historical ambivalence about making money, Twitter may have actually figured it out -- but that begs the question: if you don't need to go public to raise capital, why bother?

I don't like it when people look at me like that! The US Senate once again proved it's the best money can buy, even if it didn't stay bought when it passed its version of the Marketplace Fairness (AKA Internet sales tax) Act of 2013.

Everything will be different in the morning. We weren't going to bring this up (in part because you've probably heard about it), but it just keeps getting better and better. Spelling it out, though, is over the top (there is a decent synopsis, though) for a section called "In Brief", so here's the less-than-flattering review, a television story, Gordon Ramsay's May 10 "Kitchen Nightmares" episode, the waitress' Reddit AMA, the HuffPo article and the Forbes advice on what you should never do on social media. This is a time-sink of the first order that has spawned a petition to the Department of Labor.

How often do you see them? Google is in trouble with the European Union again, this time over patents related to mobile phones.

A lady. She died. For anyone old enough to remember black and white television, Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Hey... you are not a freak. Microsoft says it's sold 100 million licenses for Windows 8 -- but only 900,000 Surfaces. There are only 1.8 million devices running the operating system, and some people think they know why. An upgrade that brings back the Start button is due out later this year.

Did your mom set that up? Time sink of the week (besides Amy's, that is): Today I found out...

Your eyes told me. If you're undecided about getting a new Xbox because of that pesky "always connected" requirement, don't sweat it.

You said the "s" word. Knock yourself out: Go to Google's image search and type the words Atari Breakout into the search field. One hint: don't let your mouse travel vertically.

They scare me too sometimes. Remember about five years ago when Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo for $31 a share, or $44.6 billion in real money, which was about twice what Yahoo was trading for at the time? Fast forward to last week, when Yahoo renewed a deal with Microsoft (struck in 2011) to sell each other's ads that includes a revenue guarantee for Yahoo. Unfortunately, it isn't providing as much revenue for Yahoo as it expected, so CEO Marissa Mayer is looking for a way to get out of the deal and switch to -- big surprise -- Google, her former employer.

How much does a fine frame like that cost, do you think? Your [US] tax dollars at work. Either that, or the sequester wasn't as bad as we thought.

Upset words. France is thinking about taxing Google and Apple, among others, to pay for cultural projects, which won't help its image as being business or tech-friendly -- not that the French care what big American-run tech companies think.

Someone got hurt. Helm's Deep (with orcs, elves and everyone else) in Legos.

I don't wanna be scared anymore. Cool video of the week about an advertisement that looks different for children than it does for adults.

You shouldn't look at people, it makes them feel bad! Funny how that works. Apple and e-book publishers allegedly fix prices, and everyone profits -- including Apple. Apple says "nonsense", but the Department of Justice isn't convinced. In a related matter, authors have put a price on how unhappy they are with Google. Apropos of which, Google's competitors have some unkind words for its proposals to the European Union on antitrust allegations.

De profundis clamo ad te, domine. (AKA Signs of the Apocalypse: Microsoft is building its Pointer Events technology for Google Chrome, even though Google wants Microsoft to take down its YouTube app because there are no ads. Tesla, the electric car manufacturer, made a profit. A bill to reform the DMCA has been introduced. Banned on LinkedIn.com.


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