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05.23.2007
Experts Exchange Community News
What's New at Experts Exchange
Microsoft MVP, Geniuses, and Milestones

One Man's Junk Is Another's Fool's Gold
Amid the clutter of junk mail, at least there's a laugh

Tips From The Moderators
Please be careful what you post
More News and Notes
Not the brightest bulbs on the tree

Nata's Corner
What do you do if your identity gets stolen

New certificates
The list of new certificate holders, through May 22
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What's New at Experts Exchange

Microsoft MVPs: gregoryyoung, the Zone Advisor for the DotNET technologies, has earned his second go-around in Microsoft's MVP program.

New Genius: puppydogbuddy is the 23rd person to reach the 1,000,000 point level in the Microsoft Access zone.

Milestones: zorvek reached 6,000,000 points overall; virtually all of them are in the Microsoft Excel zone.

One Man's Junk Is Another's Gold... or Dross top

An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by happenstance, ericpete is the person who puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

Vacations, even brief ones, are a wonderful invention, but sometimes what one finds when one returns to the real world -- if that's what one can call being a "work out of the house" kind of person -- one finds that a whole lot of extra work has piled up. That's especially true if one uses email a lot, which I do. Four days, including two weekend days, is just under 3,000 emails, and while most of it is junk, the various peculiarities of spam filters requires that one at least glance through the Deleted folder.

One particular piece of junk caught my eye: an email from a guy in Nigeria who says he has discovered crude oil on the construction site of his factory. I'm not sure, exactly, what he wants me to do -- no doubt it involves sending him money, although he doesn't mention it -- but whatever it is, it has been approved by the government. I thought, at first, it was a press release, because I still manage a website for a small newspaper company -- but since there aren't any oil companies in this part of the world, that didn't make sense.

Then I re-read it (for about the sixteenth time), and found that what has actually been okayed by the Nigerian authorities is the construction of an "online business". But if anyone can figure out what the online business will do, you're doing better than I am. Rather than mess with the possibility that this newsletter will bounce, I have uploaded a text version of the email.

Another interesting piece of email, especially in light of a Times of London article that says one in ten websites are infected with malware, was the one my wife received that suggested one "... may need to update your Firewall security settings as soon as possible ..." and to "... Press here to update your Firewall security settings ..."

A cursory check of the website shows a largely lifted article about sniping on eBay, along with a bunch of links to articles about being successful on eBay, and a long list of topics in which the author of the website is allegedly interested -- firewalls being one of them. There's little doubt in my mind that someone, somewhere, clicked on the link and got their firewall security settings updated -- and another zombie was born. Some people will click on anything.

Finally, one of the newspapers I read almost every day -- or rather, the newsletters and websites the newspapers send out -- had an interesting little item on how politicians want to control the things their supporters say on websites and blogs. Quite a long time ago, one of my colleagues in the newspaper business covered a local board of supervisors, and one of the supervisors complained that he was never quoted. So my colleague started putting what the supervisor said in his stories. About a month later, the supervisor politely asked that it be stopped.

Sooner or later, politicians will learn that trying to control the Internet is like herding great white sharks. They would be a lot better off if they just controlled themselves.

Tips From the Moderators top

Last week was a little more entertaining than normal for the Moderators, as we had to deal with a number of questions and files that caused quite a stir. It seems obvious, but it is always a good idea to check your posts for sensitive and personal information before you click the Submit button.

Most of us use a text editor for any post of more than a few lines; in addition to giving us a chance to make sure all the spelling is correct, it allows us to make sure we have addressed all of the issues in a question, complaint or request. If you're the one posting, though, it will also give you the opportunity to check your code or comment to make sure you're saying exactly what you want to say.

One thing we didn't have to deal with -- thank you, all -- was the posting of a certain set of alphanumeric characters. It looks like the people whose keys were posted are going to take legal action against Digg and others who allowed the posting. While we're quite certain that any number of people have less than kind thoughts about the manners of enforcement taken by the DRM groups, it is gratifying to know that EE's members aren't really interested in making our lives more difficult, and we appreciate it.

We also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone to use the Feedback link at the top of the page if you have a comment or complaint about the site. The good people in the office do monitor the Suggestions, New Topics, and Feedback zones, but using the link helps them set priorities for changes and bug fixes. We will be happy to help you figure out how the site works, but we are not in the office, so sometimes, the best we can do is pass things along.

More News and Notes top

Technology is a terrible thing to waste: If you haven't seen the lightbulb in Livermore, CA, fire station that has been burning non-stop for over a century, you had better make plans, because the US Senate is considering legislation that will dim incandescent lightbulbs over the next ten years. There are innumerable jokes that come to mind; you're quite welcome to send them in. We'll publish the ones that are SFW.

Stop the world -- I want to get off: During a trial of three alleged terrorists, the presiding judge stopped the proceedings to allow that he didn't know what a website is. (Thanks, Susan!)

Happy Birthday, Lotus 1-2-3!

Sites of the Week: No one belongs here more than you. Maybe the author should offer her design services to the judge (thanks, Mark!), a new kind of online ministry, and if you never read the New Yorker, this is a good reason to start. Enough data to fill CDs that would stack a mile high...

Couldn't they just have a war at Second Life?: The government of Estonia, a former member of the Soviet Union that is one of the most heavily computer-dependent countries in the world, is the target of cyber-attacks allegedly conducted by Russia. And speaking of attacks, in Independence Day, the bad guys launch their attack by disabling the world's early warning satellites (not that they would have been much help). Conspiracy buffs should have a great time with the notion that it was an inside job.

Unclear on the concept: A California state senator who voted in favor of fining people who do not use hands-free cell phones while driving (you know who you are) caused a traffic accident (on one of the state's worst stretches of highway) while reaching for her cell phone. The state of Washington mostly gets it.

Another group of people whose reality checks are bouncing: the CEOs of high tech companies, and then there's a website that lists the various people who have become government informants, about which the US Justice department is not amused.

Surprise, surprise: The telcos won an antitrust suit.

Unintended Consequences Department: Last year, we had a recurring item about cities that were planning on building, or actually implementing, municipal WiFi systems in all parts of the world. But there have been more fits than starts in most of the places that have actually built the networks.

Product of the week: Comcast's new modem that delivers 150Mbps.

Business 2.0?: A couple of years ago, SCO made its mark on the business world by suing IBM for allegedly "devaluing" the UNIX operating system by contributing code to the Linux operating system, all the while never saying exactly what code IBM had actually given away. Last year, it was the folks at NTP who realized a profit by getting Blackberry manufacturer RIM to blink first. This year's early leader in the race for the Best Performance By A Business Wanting To Succeed By Suing Someone Else is Media Rights, which has threatened Apple, Microsoft, RealNetworks and Adobe with lawsuits for not buying their products. It's a novel approach: if they don't buy what you're selling, sue them.

I read it on the Internet so it must be true: Apple's stock took a nosedive last week, in part because it spends so much energy (and money) keeping secrets about itself, when the tech blog Engadget ran an item about delays in both the iPhone and the next version of the Mac operating system called Leopard. It turns out that Engadget had been fooled; the "internal memo" that was the basis of the story was a fake. Of course, that's probably of little consequence to Forrest Gump.

Signs of the Apocalypse: A year or so ago, we had a little item that noted that as a way of improving its recruiting efforts, the US military was planning on using MySpace. Now, the Department of Defense is going to start blocking access to MySpace and other similar sites.

Nata's Corner top
Nata's Picture

I've written a lot of things here over the last few years about keeping yourself protected from the various ways that your personal information can get stolen. Some of them, like the laptops and CDs of government agencies and credit companies, you can't prevent. Others, like keeping your own computer safe from viruses and malware, you can.

But one thing I haven't really talked a lot about is what you can do if your identity does get stolen. Usually, what happens is that your credit card starts getting hit with a bunch of charges for things you haven't bought; most credit card companies and banks have policies and procedures for getting your money back. But long term, the biggest problem is that those high balances without payments are reported to the credit reporting companies, and getting that information removed is sometimes as painful as reconstructive foot surgery.

Most states in the US have laws in place that require the credit-reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the Big Three) to "freeze" your credit history, which means that they can't report your history to anyone who asks for it. That means that if someone applies for a big loan in your name, when the bank asks for a credit report, the reporting agency won't give it to them, so the loan won't get made. If nothing else, that minimizes the potential damage that can happen while you are putting your life back together.

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