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06.06.2007
Experts Exchange Community News
What's New at Experts Exchange
PS, Geniuses, and Milestones

Expert Shirts Resurrected!
Wear your Expert accomplishments with pride!

From the mailbag
Something other than spam

Cancel or Allow THIS...
Adventures in upgrading to Vista

Tips from the Moderators
Creating filters redux
Ignorant doesn't mean stupid
Tapping into the wisdom of the masses

More News and Notes
Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror

Nata's Corner
Score one for the good guys

New certificates
The list of new certificate holders, through June 3
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What's New at Experts Exchange

New Genius: TechSoEasy, the Zone Advisor in the Microsoft zone, earned his second Genius certificate, this one in Windows Server 2003.

Milestones: Some things happen so quickly, you don't even realize it when it's happening. Such was sirbounty's assault on the Hall of Fame standings over the last month or so; his nearly 3,000,000 points in four months put him over the 7,000,000 mark, joining lrmoore, leew, and byundt. Other accomplishments of note:

  • Speaking of lrmoore, it seems like only yesterday that TheLearnedOne had become the first EE member to earn four Genius Certificates. Now, lrmoore has five, adding Enterprise Firewalls and Cisco PIX firewalls to his collection.
  • angelIII earned his second Genius certificate, in Databases.
  • The 6,000,000 point level was reached by rockiroads. What makes the accomplishment particularly noteworthy is that there are 22 other Geniuses in the Access zone, yet 5,000,000 of his points came from there. ozo has also recently reached the mark.
Expert Shirts Resurrected! top

Wear your Expert accomplishments with pride!

Every solution at Experts Exchange is somebody's knowledge expanded, somebody's day made, somebody's life easier, somebody's project completed, or somebody's job saved. Each solution on Experts Exchange not only helps the asker in the short run, but also has the ability to help hundreds of people with similar questions in the future. Only when we understand the power of just one solution can we appreciate what a feat it is that Experts contribute hundreds of solutions to Experts Exchange every single day.

To reward the generosity of these Experts, Experts Exchange has revived the Expert shirt program! From now on, each time an Expert earns a new certification they will also earn an official Experts Exchange certified Expert shirt. All Experts who have earned a certification in the past are eligible to receive one shirt retroactively, representing their highest rank in any one Zone. Eligible Experts will be notified via email.

We're using Royal Blue 100% cotton 6.1 ounce Gildan 2000 shirts, available in S, M, L, XL and XXL. Shirts will be different for each rank in that they feature your earned graphic rank on one sleeve and your certification level on the back. All shirts will have the Experts Exchange "X" logo and our web address on them as well. In order to redeem your shirt, we ask that you take a survey that will provide us information that we will use to improve the site.

If you've submitted your address to Experts Exchange already, the team here at Experts Exchange will enter your information for you. You will receive a confirmation via email with your shirt size and shipping information listed. Please double check this information for accuracy and make any corrections on your shirt page.

If you've never experienced the thrill of reaching your first 50,000 points, stop by the Expert shirt page to see what Zones you are closest to earning 50,000 points in. Also, make sure to create questions filters so that you can spend less time finding questions and more time answering them!

From the Mailbag top

We had an item last week about the legislation winding its way through the US Senate that would make incandescent bulbs illegal over the next ten years, and decried the elimination of the possibility of another century-old lightbulb. We admit that prohibiting the manufacture and sale of incandescent bulbs won't have any effect on the fire station's illumination, and while we are certainly -- given the cost of energy in California -- concerned about the future of energy resouces, it seemed to us like the same kind of legislation that changed the start of daylight savings time -- also billed as an energy saver -- that had virtually no impact.

That prompted StevenCJones to write, "This part, unfortunately, is not a joke. I did some research when I heard the potential ban on light bulbs. In this day and age when I hear the words Ban and Government in the same sentence then usually the outcome is not good. It normally boils down to $$$$ somewhere behind the scenes that you or I do not readily see." He added two enclosures (here and here) which, he said, would "tell another story when you drop the minimalist wording."

In a nutshell, compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, use 75 per cent less energy, and last about six times longer than an incandescent bulb. The EPA also says that by burning mercury bulbs, we'll expose ourselves to less mercury, because the main source of mercury in the air is the emissions of fossil-fuel electrical plants. Given that the bulbs put out the same amount of light, you'll still be able to make the jokes about someone not being the brightest bulb on the tree, too.

Finally, for all of you who don't like comments about politics, please close your eyes. SacCoke (now stop thinking that way -- you should be ashamed of yourselves) sent this in:

Q. How many US Senators does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. They prefer their constituents to be in the dark.

Thanks for the mail, gentlemen; we really do appreciate it.

Cancel or Allow THIS... top

stone5150 is the IT administrator for a non-profit organization in the Midwest, and is the Zone Advisor for the Hardware zones at Experts Exchange. Besides his wife, he has an affection for peanut brittle and cats.

I recently upgraded my laptop from Windows XP Pro to Windows Vista Business and this is my story. Oh yeah, and I am sticking to it. I went into to this with the full knowledge that if you use your computer for anything more than solitaire and surfing the Internet, upgrading is almost always a mess of some sort. There is always a ton of stuff that isn't compatible from one version of an operating system to another and you have to relearn where all the usual control stuff is all over again.

I also know I shouldn't want to change anything since Vista is 100 per cent perfect; Uncle Bill knows best about what I want anyway. If I had my druthers I'd still be using DOS 5.0; it was pretty nice and it worked pretty well. Then along comes Windows which made the pretty interface the way to go. I know it opened up computing to a lot more people, which is a good thing, right? Unfortunately they didn't quite get it right till Windows 3.1, and then they fumbled through to one of the better ones with Windows 98 Second Edition. Then Windows XP, which is now the standard for Windows users. As usual, everyone complained about the Fisher Price like interface at first then learned to accept it. So it should come as no surprise that people are whining about Fisher Price 2.0 in Vista.

As an IT manager, a network consultant and an all around compooter fixer, I figured I will need to know how to work Windows Fisher Price 2.0 eventually. Sooner or later I am going to have to upgrade to it and people will bring me their computers with it installed that they made a mess of. So I took the plunge.

The first thing I became annoyed with was the security advisor thing. I already knew what I wanted Windows Vista to do -- that is, all the stuff that I was already doing on Windows XP -- so the incessant prompts got really annoying and quick.

Would you like to allow yourself to continue to do what you are doing?
[Cancel] [Allow]
Are you REALLY sure you want to do this?
[Continue] [Cancel]
Are you sure you are not a moron?
[Yes] [No]

I really think it was a bit more complicated the way I went about it because I did a roundabout upgrade using PC Mover, usually a great app but going from an OS that is compatible with everything I have to one that makes an old finicky cat seem carefree was a real pain.

Anyway after a few evenings of adding and removing programs, sometimes via the registry and sometimes with downloaded tools I found on the internet, I managed to get it to do what I wanted. All in all I have to say about upgrading to Vista the way I did, if you value your sanity, don't try this at home. (While doing this I thought several times of those silly Apple computer commercials with the guy that does a bad impression of Mr. Smith, the Matrix agent guy, that does the Cancel or Allow thing to the poor fat dorky guy that is supposed to represent Windows. I feel sorry for the Windows guy in those commercials. While I wouldn't mind the money from a commercial, that isn't something I would be proud to have on my resume.)

While those commercials are amusing sometimes, they make me remember when I upgraded from an OS 9 machine to OS X machine for someone. I thought that was supposed to be pretty easy to upgrade a Mac. To hear Mac people talk about it, it is like taking candy from a baby. I guess if the baby in question was Baby Huey, the gigantic infant duckling cartoon character that would apply, I suppose. There is also a quote I heard somewhere about taking candy from a baby: those that say that have never actually tried taking candy from a baby. After a fair amount of hassle, only two of the old applications actually worked on the new machine. The new $2,500 Mac machine ended up costing about $6,000 once all the fancy Adobe artsy stuff had been upgraded to work with OS X.

I guess the main difference here is that Microsoft doesn't act like it is the computer of the people then charge outrageous prices for Little Tykes looking computers; Microsoft just acts like there are no other computers in the world. I guess they could be like Linux instead, and just act like everyone else is evil then require you to go through 15 hours of hell to install it properly.

Now if someone could come up with a Winuxintosh computer with the best of all three. I heard that Lindows was supposed to be that, but I think the main programmer got kicked out of his parent's basement for smoking pot or something like that.

Imagine, if you can, a secure OS that is compatible with everything, and has great file handling capabilities, installs easily and doesn't look like it was designed by the fine folks at Lil Tykes or Fisher Price. I know I would be first in line for one of those.

Tips From the Moderators top

It turns out that there are still members out there who haven't tried to use Experts Exchange's filters, so here is a short tutorial:

First, click on the tab at the top right that says Experts. You'll find two main boxes, labeled "Expert Tools" and "Questions In Progress." We're only going to talk about the first one, because that's where you make it easy on yourself when it comes to answering questions.

To create a filter, click the button. You'll see what looks to be the same form used to submit an Advanced Search, with good reason; it works like an advanced search that has been saved. It does a couple of other things -- it can send you notifications of new questions, and you can sort it based on date, zone, and points -- but for this description, the comparison is valid. Along the left side of the box, you will see the following criteria you can set for your filters:

Terms:
This is for keywords, like a regular search performed on Experts Exchange or another search engine. You are given selections if you want to search on a member's name, for example.
Query:
You can write your own query, based on the fields the system searches. You might want to read through the search help page before trying this.
Date:
This allows you to restrict the date range. If you only want to see questions asked today, you would use this to do so. We suggest using three (3) Days as a minimum.
Zone:
This is where you would restrict your search to specific Zones. However, you can also use the keywords to do the same thing (to a certain extent). For example, there are always questions about moving data from Excel to Access or some other Office application that might not be asked in the Excel TA. By using the Terms filter, you would find those, where you might not if you used the Zone filter. You can select one, two, or many Zones in your filter, so you can receive a broad array of questions with only one filter.
Points:
If you want to restrict the point value of the questions that you will receive notification for, you would do it in this section. For example, you could setup your filter to only show questions worth 300 points or greater.
Type:
Three choices - Any, Solution, or In Progress. That means Any Question, Any Open Question, or if you wanted to include Solutions (Closed questions).
Display:
The filter can be told to show a list of up to 100 results per page.

As you go through each criteria -- none are required -- you click the Update button. After you have finished with the criteria, set the filter to send you notifications of every question, or an hourly or daily summary, or you can choose no notifications. One distinct advantage to the "Every Question" choice is that the question body is included in the notification, so you can decide, without even visiting the site, whether you are interested in the question or not.

Give the filter a name, and then save it. It will run immediately; you will see the results of your filter right away. There is no limit to the number of filters you can have, and no restriction on how many of those send you what kind of notifications. So if you're one of those people who "just wants to see the new questions in Word", the filter itself is easy:

  1. Select Microsoft Word using the Zone criteria, and click Update
  2. Select In Progress from the Type criteria, and click Update
  3. Select 50 from the Display criteria, and click Update
  4. Name it Open Word Qs, set it to no notifications, and save it.

Then set the Experts tab page -- http://www.experts-exchange.com/experts.jsp -- as your "home" page for EE. Each time you open EE by clicking your browser bookmark, you'll see the open Word questions in front of you. And don't worry about it flooding your inbox; you won't receive notifications on the open questions that already exist -- just the new ones.

Ignorant doesn't mean stupid 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.

Nicholas Carr, a former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, recently wrote a fascinating article entitled The Ignorance Of Crowds in which he discusses a paper presented by Eric Raymond entitled The Cathedral & The Bazaar, primarily about the development of Linux.

Carr details Raymond's thesis as a distinction between two different models of sophisticated software development: that done by companies with staffs of programmers, separated as a whole group from others in the organization (the Cathedral) and that done by peers, any of whom could contribute as they wanted (the Bazaar).

Carr also examines Raymond's three arguments regarding the advantages of the "Bazaar" methodology, which are a) that debugging is a lot quicker, and more thorough; b) that debugging also requires a lot less coordination; and c) that open source programming is not nearly as democratic as it is frequently made out to be.

The first is actually pretty obvious: a lot of eyes see a lot more bugs -- or even non-bugs that are design flaws -- than few eyes do. Raymond wrote a line that summed it up: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow", which is not quite the same thing as saying that someone can't see the forest for the trees, but is close. In the controlled environment of the programmer's office, or even the company's structure, there is a preconceived view of how the system works, which also defines how that system is constructed, and that, in turn, suggests where any bugs will be. But nature always sides with the hidden flaw; it's a sure bet that despite the best efforts of programmers and in-house testers, users will find a way to break something they never even considered.

The second is much more subtle, because Raymond himself noted that there is a difference between the act of debugging and the act of determining which bugs get fixed (and how they get fixed). In using the history of Linux as his guiding example, he noted that a centralized authority was ultimately responsible for making those decisions -- which is a lot more Cathedral-like than it is Bazaar-like. Carr suggests other issues: that peer production isn't suited to coordination, but rather, works best when tasks are narrowly defined; and that only when the cost of labor is minimized (it is done voluntarily or is subsidized) can the idea of having lots of people work on a system be cost-effective.

The third is probably the most enlightening, in that it reveals that there really isn't that much of a difference between the Cathedral and the Bazaar except in the numbers; Carr suggests that Raymond made a distinction that was too broad. It has certainly been useful for Linux to have, and to take advantage of, a lot of people who contribute, but to say that those people were involved at every level of the process is just not the case. Linus Torvalds has an oligarchy (every organization tends to oligarchy, so that's not surprising), he is rightly at the top of it; he has a number of talented people who help him manage aspects of the project.

Carr also points out that the diversity of the Bazaar -- the very element that makes it a successful methodology for completeness and speed -- is a handicap when it comes to determining appropriateness and management; there are no flea markets that happen without someone deciding who goes where. Those decisions, and the hierarchy created to make those decisions, is best based on merit, not on tenure or volume. That, Carr says, is why Wikipedia has the problems it does.

One element of Open Source that Carr does not examine closely (he does mention it in passing) is the inclusion of customers in an effort to broaden the possibilities. While Carr agrees with Raymond's assessment that great ideas usually just come from what Raymond called "the individual wizard", it is also true that the user base of a system can more readily identify not just the errors in coding, but the errors in design as well. Those who design systems in a Cathedral-like environment are not likely to behave as actual users, even in the testing process; what seems, to them, to be perfectly natural and intuitive may well be completely buried from view to the users.

Users have expectations for behavior of systems. Word processors have had the capacity to indent the first line of a paragraph for so long that the absence of that -- or its burial in some place not terribly obvious to a user -- would cause the user to assume that he had to set a tab and indent himself. So even if the system did have the capacity to format a paragraph, the users wouldn't know where to look for it, and might well find it only by accident at some later date.

That's still bad design; and any system designed without letting users determine by its use or lack thereof the value of an attribute of the system is an appropriate use of the Bazaar. Carr's use of the word "ignorance" in his title is not a putdown; the fact that the crowd doesn't know what the Cathedral intended can tell you much more about whether it did its job, or just did what it thought the crowd actually wanted or needed.

More News and Notes top

Millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced: The highlight of the All Things Digital conference in southern California last week was certainly the appearance, on the same stage, at the same time, of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Predictably, not a lot was revealed, but still, it marks the first such occasion in about a decade -- which is forever in the industry. There is a video of the entire conversation at the All Things Digital website; showing a remarkable sense of timing, there was also an article on Walter Mossberg, who organized the conference, in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago.

It was only a matter of time: City officials in Carson, CA, are faced with about $450,000 less than they thought they had because the city treasurer's computer had a keylogger present that allowed hackers to get into the city's bank accounts.

Two? You found two?: We came across this a while back, but neglected to use it: a list of the best and worst laws regulating the Internet.

Anything you can do I can do better: A few months back, a crack for the encryption schemes on HD-DVDs appeared that allowed them to be copied. The "Advanced Access Content System License Administrator", the industry organization which keeps track of the licenses for the technology, responded with a new code, and the hackers broke that, and even posted it on Digg. The AACSLA came up with yet another system, and before the day was over, it was cracked yet again. Perhaps the tag line to this item should have been "when will they ever learn...".

How Could A Smart Guy Like You Be So Dumb Department: It's one thing to be annoyed at someone who is prosecuting you for malpractice. It's another thing to blog about it -- and worse yet to get caught.

Happy Birthday, Sergeant Pepper! Apropos of which, Apple has started selling DRM-free songs from EMI, including some of Paul McCartney's albums. Don't be terribly surprised if the Lonely Hearts Club Band shows up in an iTunes store near you in the fairly near future.

When "no" doesn't mean "no": Over the last couple of years, the idea of creating a new top level domain designation for the ... um... adult entertainment industry ... has come up several times, and has always been shot down by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the outfit created to take the matter off the US Commerce department's hands, usually after pressure has been applied by a wide variety of groups who say that such a designation is either a) tacit approval of the industry, b) bad for kids, or c) unfair to those sites that have spent years and money developing a "brand" -- if that's what you can call it. Well, last week, ICANN did a 180 and approved the new TLD.

Just letting 'em know who's boss: A Symantec update quarantined two system files on Chinese computers, rendering them incapable of being booted up.

All your everything are belong to us: Google rattled a number of cages last week. First, the security software folks should be hunched over in conference rooms over Google's acquisition of Green Border, which creates software that isolates browser sessions from other sessions and the rest of your PC. Then it rolled out Google Gears, which helps you use online applications offline. Finally, the photos associated with the streets and blocks of major cities began showing up on Google Maps.

Signs of the Apocalypse: A new reality show from the Dutch (thanks, Susan!), and another twist on the Nigerian email scam.

Nata's Corner top
Nata's Picture

Forget about the picture Experts Exchange has given for me. I've been around long enough to remember when May 31 was the day we celebrated and honored the fallen veterans of the US armed forces. This year, in addition to saying "thanks, vets", I'm celebrating because the FBI arrested one of the world's biggest spammers.

I know we have had notices about spammers being arrested in the past, but this one was different. For one thing, the spam to my inbox dropped about 40 per cent today; when I logged into my email this morning, the amount had dropped from around 300 emails overnight to about 180. Yes, there's still some spam, but not nearly as bad, and not as constantly. Now, if they'll go after this Robert Allen guy...

The BBC did a little experiment to see where the spam comes from, and the results were a little disturbing. While it is a comfort to know that most reasonably reputable sites aren't giving your email address to every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to pad its mailing list, it is bothersome to find out how many already have.

That means that the only real solution to getting rid of spam is to start completely clean, with a new email address. Unfortunately, you know that sooner or later, one of your cousins -- the one who always forwards the emails that say that Bill Gates is going to give you $100 for forwarding the email -- is going to include you on some Get Rich Quick email, and all your diligence will go straight to... It gets even worse, because some of the bad guys are now impersonating the IRS, so you can't tell the ripoff artists from the ripoffs.

But for now, at least, and for a little while, until someone else takes Soloway's place, the flow has been slowed down a little. Count one for the good guys.

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