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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

JUNE 6, 2012

Featured Content

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

Nata's Corner
Anti-malware software for you

Extra thanks from members

How Wall St. punked itself

In Brief
Things you might have missed

Who did what through June 2

What's New at E-E

mobileMobile: Get a sneak peek at Experts Exchange's rebuilt mobile version that will launch later this month. EE's lead engineer, Michael Spencer, talked about it on last week's podcast.

Lifetime Membership: Earning 5,000,000 points over the course of an EE career is a daunting feat, and if there's anything that suggests you're a lifer, it's that. Experts Exchange has now made it official; when you reach that plateau, you will now receive the Premium Services, on us, for life -- our way of saying "thank you" for the thousands of people you've helped along the way.

Recent updates to EEv10: Experts Exchange has pushed the following updates to the site over the last couple of weeks:

  • The bug that took away awards from Articles has been fixed.
  • Long usernames that messed up the various question lists will now be truncated.
  • Some question lists, such as My Participated, were showing the last modified date rather than the submit date in the list view of the questions. They will now show the submit date again.
  • The abandoned question notification's raw HTML has been fixed. That's one less excuse for not closing your abandoned questions.
  • Community members are no longer required to have a username to view a question -- only to post a comment to one.

Secure Membership: The development folks and the Admins have been kicking around the idea of a "Secure Membership": a special type of account that would allow you to ask questions that didn't get indexed by search engines, specifically for those issues involving sensitive data. (Editor's Note: since shortly after the launch of EEv10, uploaded files are not indexed, so even if you've uploaded your company's health insurance policy roster, at least it's not out there for the rest of the world to see.) Your questions would also only be posted to a select group of Experts, and wouldn't be available to other users. We would like to hear from you about the idea, so please take our quick survey on the matter.

Podcast: We've changed our podcast schedule to be weekly, and that means we hope we'll have a lot more interesting discussions for you. Our two most recent are a conversation with EE's lead engineer, Michael Spencer (noted above), and a conversation about a new app that can help when someone is having a severe asthma attack. You can listen to all of our podcasts on our free iTunes channel or on our Soundcoud channel.

Expert profiles: Our two latest Expert profiles feature veteran chris_bottomley, who talks movingly about his son and their joint interest in EE, and teylyn, whose first year answering questions resulted in a Genius certificate, an invitation to be part of the Topic Advisor group, the Rookie of the Year award and finally, appointment as a Microsoft MVP.

Webinar: If you didn't get a chance to listen to today's webinar from Michael Krout on Windows Server 2008 R2, don't panic; it will be available by the end of the week on Experts Exchange's YouTube channel. If you haven't had a chance to watch the animated short, you should.

User group sponsorship: Over the years, Experts Exchange has sponsored the occasional user group meeting; now, you can get EE to help your user group by first taking a look at the short list of requirements and then filling out the application. EE will come up with up to $300 for your group, and will kick in six-month trial memberships for your group.


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jason1178 went well beyond coreybryant's expectations in a question about social buttons in WordPress: "EE needs a scale of 1-10 for grading, where 10 is the highest. Jason - you would get at least 1,000 on this one! Thanks again!"

rick_norris got the solution to his question about parsing data into a spreadsheet from matthewspatrick quickly enough ("It worked FLAWLESSLY!! Many Many Thanks!! Now, I just want to take the time within the next week or so, and try to really UNDERSTAND what you have written!!"), but was even more pleased when Patrick followed up with an explanation: "You have definitely went ABOVE AND BEYOND what I would have ever expected..... Yes, the commented version will help.... I'm a lot more comfortable in the C# .net world than in VBA. Thanks once again!!"

matthewspatrick showed up again to help Puds32 with a reporting issue in SQL Server: "Thanks Patrick, just embedded it into ui grid and it works perfectly, brilliant! You're a star and this site is just the best!"

sconnell has been asking questions at Experts Exchange for a very long time, and they're almost always interesting. His issues with Word 2010 were no exception, but what makes this question special is the teamwork shown by innocentdevil, teylyn and matthewspatrick: "Thank you all. This is amazing help! I feel guilty getting this help for free (well, at least not paying you folks)." sconnell then asked a separate question about captions for images, answered by finalword and teylyn: "Again! Awesome, first rate answers! You folks saved the day, thank you so much. BTW, my other problem with text box/smart shape spacing was corrected by going to Style Set and choosing Word 2010 (from whatever it was on). Doing so, corrected the text box spacing problem BUT broke everything else (all other styles). Once I recreated all the styles, I now have a much better behaved document."

PeterStone was trying to do some concatenation in Access until aikimark got him to take a step back: "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees and it's reassuring to have an Expert refocus you."

jason09 fought with an old script that merged files for a few hours before looking to EE, and RobSampson came to his assistance: "Outstanding! Thank you very much... You really have just put a big beaming smile on my face, i've been playing around with this for the past couple of hours, your code worked 1st time. Thanks again"


or If you're so rich, why aren't you smart?**

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An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by some cosmic practical joke, ericpete puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange, which gives him the chance to say what he thinks.

facepalmWe wrote, in our last issue, about why we thought Facebook's IPO was going to turn out to be a pig in a poke, and after it was summarily hammered by the market -- and followed with the predictable filing of a lawsuit by people who thought they'd buy something for $38 or so and sell it a few days later for twice that (see: LinkedIn, among others) -- we were initially chuckling at the comeuppance received by some pretty greedy people. (Hats off to our friend Vic, who told us first thing Tuesday morning that he had shorted the stock and made "beer money" by doing so.)

But upon reflection -- and about the fourth review of Facebook's "roadshow presentation" -- we have to admit that we have a newfound respect and admiration for young Mr Zuckerberg, who, we think, has pulled off a practical joke the likes of which his former classmates at the Harvard Lampoon would never have dreamed. He suckered everyone -- and didn't even have to try very hard to do it. All he had to do was tell the truth -- most of it anyway -- and let a lot of people with a lot of money hand it over to him like he was an only child at Christmas who happens to have a dozen childless aunts and uncles.

Mr Zuckerberg's most memorable bits in the roadshow piece are twofold. First, he talks about being a college student building his little website on a rented server that cost him $80 a month, and how, when he needed to rent another server, he went out and hustled a little more advertising. Second, he describes his vision of what Facebook is all about: connecting the world and making it more open. Now, we can argue until you-know-where freezes over about the relative nobility of that goal, but there's no denying that building one site that exists solely to give people a place to share their lives with X thousand of their closest friends is going to be technologically difficult and expensive -- and since Facebook has all these members providing all this data, it's pretty reasonable that being the guy who sells them advertising is the quickest and easiest way to make a few [billion] bucks.

Facebook is also quite famous for two things: its aggressive acquisitiveness (though they are generally thought to buy companies for the purpose of getting the engineering talent and not, necessarily, the products the company produces) and its rather cavalier attitude towards privacy. Indeed, if there's something that could derail Mr Zuckerberg's bullet train, it will be that; all it will take is one episode where the wrong people's private information becomes public (or a successful class action lawsuit), and the wheels could come off -- but that's the hazard of the game.

Mr Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is noted for lots of things, but two stand out. First, there's the hoodie and its symbolism as a disdain for the trappings of extreme financial resources. Neither he nor anyone in his inner circle seems to really give a hoot about the fact that they're all extremely wealthy (and have been for a while); they're all about just building their site. Second, he celebrates the hacker (in the best sense of the term) mentality of Facebook. Someone has an idea, and they crank it out without really thinking too much about whether or not it's going to make money; they just want to see if they can do it.

His ambivalence toward the whole money thing has been evident to anyone paying attention for the last few months. He ducked, for as long as he could, even admitting that Facebook had a target date for its IPO. For one thing, the business is making some money, and he really didn't owe anyone anything (he could probably have come to some kind of repayment agreement with all the people whose venture capital he'd taken), so there was no compelling need to do an IPO except that the number of people who had received stock (or had bought it through capital infusions) was pushing the limit allowed by law. And let's not be coy: if you're building huge data centers all over the world (we've been in Luleå in winter and it gets damn cold there) it goes a lot quicker if you have cash reserves of $16,000,000,000 as opposed to trying to build them with current profits of about 1/16th of that per year.

And this is where the fun starts. In the roadshow video, Facebook CFO David Ebersman says flat out that while it's been very profitable, there is no question that Facebook is going to use the capital it got from the IPO to expand its infrastructure and acquire more talent. In other words, just because Facebook made a net profit of 27 per cent last year doesn't mean it will make the same this year (remember, the boss just shelled out a billion for Instagram -- that's 2010's profit right there). Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg spent a good amount of time talking about the number of users Facebook has, and how often they use Facebook, and threw in a couple of nice stories about a few people who had done well by running ads on Facebook.

But at no time did anyone say anything about two important issues: what Facebook's projections for being able to keep selling at the rate they have been (and at the profit margin they have been), and what kinds of successes the large number of advertisers have had (remember, GM just bailed on Facebook, and it's a good bet that money will wind up going to Google and Microsoft). It's all well and good to sell advertising, but if it doesn't show results, eventually that well will run dry.

That doesn't mean the people who watched the roadshow video didn't hear the Facebook honchos say things that weren't said. The buyers saw all of the banks and brokers telling all of the media how huge the Facebook IPO was going to be, and the Facebook folks didn't have to do a thing; there were so many stories (the Internet has done some remarkably perverse things to the nature of news reporting, but that's another article) about how big it would be that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy to which Mr Zuckerberg and Company contributed almost nothing; in some ways, they did almost everything they could legally do to diffuse the hype.

And nobody paid attention. You can make the case that it was up to Facebook to disclose fully (and you would think, given the Facebook mantra of "open and connected" that indeed, they should have) -- but what's "fully"? Does that include what Mr Zuckerberg ate for lunch the day before the IPO occurred? How about the price he paid for gasoline a week ago Tuesday? Facebook gave out all the information required by law; if investors just bought the hype created, not by Facebook, but by media folks itching for a story and investment banks and brokers staring at a big payday, and fueled it with their own demand for more of the stock, then they really did get what they asked for.

Law schools will be stepping up donation requests.

* Headline, part A courtesy of younghv.
** Headline, part B courtesy of our longtime friend, Ward, said in reference to some elderly women from whom he was attempting to get campaign contributions.

Footnote: if you want to read some really good articles by some very smart people about why Experts Exchange has a pay-for-services system and doesn't much think about advertising, see:
Doc Searls: After Facebook fails
Mark Cuban: Facebook IPO Post Mortem -- Killer -- but not for the reasons you think!
Terry Heaton: Facebook's fail? No, Madison Avenue's!

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureNeat little trick for your Android 4 phone that's documented, but since we're all used to just fiddling with things until they work, I thought I'd pass it along. Instead of switching back and forth between the alpha keyboard and the numbers keyboard to get to common punctuation, just hold the little period key (in the lower right), and the more commonly used keys will appear. Slide, without releasing, to the character you want, and it will appear.

I've written who knows how many warnings to readers about the latest malware, or about some new scam that's making the rounds, but Robin Miller, who used to be the Editor in Chief at the parent company of Slashdot and SourceForge, posted a nice piece last week about why it's so hard to stop malware from spreading. When it gets down to it, it's because people are suckers. Take the online phishing test and see how well your organization does.

If privacy is an issue for you, then you might want to investigate these programs that can help you avoid tracking: Ghostery (a free cookie-blocker); Do Not Track Plus, a free utility that also blocks third-parry trackers like Facebook; Cocoon (we've mentioned it before -- thanks, Bev!), a free plugin that ensures secure and private Internet use (there's also a paid, ad-free version); and DeleteMe (from the same people as Do Not Track Plus), a subscription service that gets you removed from lists like Intelius.com. Finally, Kapersky is coming out with a phishing blocker as part of its new security suite; it will be available in August.

I know the editor has been on a Facebook tear lately, so now seems an appropriate time to mention two items from Sophos about correspondence you might have received. One is an email that looks like something you would get if you were canceling your account; it's really applet running on Facebook that installs malware -- and it's pretty convincing. The other is a Turkish scam that wants to help you remove your Timeline -- but only if you live in Turkey. I don't believe it either.

Finally (okay, two finalies), there's a really great explanation of how a simple bit of social engineering can expose a huge security hole in Gmail, and Sophos has a whitepaper (you have to sign up and you're probably going to give more information than you want to) called the 5 Top Myths of Safe Web Browsing. The page also has unsecure content, so here's the meat and potatoes:

  • A strict browsing policy that only lets users visit trusted sites keeps us safe. There's no such thing as a trusted site.
  • Scanning downloaded files for viruses keeps us secure. Not from drive-by infections.
  • Using a secure browser like Chrome offers better protection. Every browser has exploits.
  • Macs are more secure than PCs. No, they're not.
  • The only way to protect offsite users is with a VPN or cloud service. The best way to protect users is to have web filtering integrated into every machine.

In Brief

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Happy Birthday, John F. Nash, jr.

Checkmate: Oracle lost; that's really all you need to know. You can ignore the fact that Oracle turned down a settlement offer, and that while it convinced the jury Google had infringed on copyrights, that's not worth much money; the main thing to come out of the trial is that Java's APIs cannot be copyrighted. <off-topic>Good thing the judge didn't drag out the Cheech and Chong test.</off-topic> It's a good bet that Oracle will appeal, which might lead to patent reform and a lot of unhappy trolls. However, it's not likely to stop the EU from going after Google, and there are still issues with privacy as well.

And while we're on the subject of copyrights and patents, someone figured how much it would cost to pre-screen YouTube. We figure if it's that big a deal to the movie and recording companies, let them pay for it.

More pots calling kettles black: Let's see: Google buys Motorola, builds an OS on the back of Java, gets hammered by the EU over privacy issues, and has the temerity to say that Microsoft is a patent troll?

In requiem: Richard Dawson.

Isn't this the toolbar re-invented? Okay, we'll play the game. Yahoo has released Axis -- in typical Yahoo fashion; you go first. Hopefully not related: the final release preview for Windows 8 is available for download. Just remember that Yahoo uses Bing.

Time sink of the week: In California, yesterday was the primary election day, meaning we won't have to see more bad commercials from career politicians who can't get real jobs. Fortunately, we have five months left until the federal election, which is plenty of time to enjoy Politwoops.

Cracked-berry: RIM is sinking faster than [insert big company name here]; it could even be gone by the time you read this.

Number One with a bullet: Chrome.

Beats taking down the CIA's home page: If there was any doubt after his successful run for office four years ago that President Obama is a geek at heart, accelerating cyber attacks on Iran's nuclear development program should dispel them -- using good old fashioned social engineering to get it started. c|net uses words instead of pictures.

Drat. We missed it.

Small bills in a brown paper bag only: Rumored to be on the Zuckerberg shopping list: Nokia (unless Facebook builds its own phone) and Opera. An election. And probably some new servers. For fun: Facebook before the IPO.

Siri-less Blue: IBM has sent Siri to Azkaban.

Oceanfront property in Albuquerque: Apple CEO Tim Cook says they won't have an iPhone with a 4-inch screen, but nobody believes him. No telling what the penalty will be for spilling the beans (about halfway down).

Full employment for lawyers: Google is applying for some interesting top level domain names "related to trademarks", to "improve user experience." See the item above about oceanfront property.

Serendipity: Somehow, these three items all came across our desk last week.

Lawsuit of the week: A guy who wants the word "Google" un-trademarked.

How the ITC stole Christmas: An administrative law judge has recommended a ban on importing Xboxes into the US. And yes, that's a snicker you hear coming from the Googleplex. Instead, maybe someone should read a good book.

And he has 2,104 CDs, too: A young man who was working on a startup found the perfect place to do it.

How to make the Marketing Director cry: Ten apps that enterprises are blacklisting.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook page had some unfortunate ads (he needs to install LilyJade or just start liking different stuff). Mitt Romney's new app has a key word misspelled (thanks, Warren!).


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New Geniuses: Two of our all-time favorite people earned Genius certificates over the past couple of weeks. COBOLdinosaur, who has been roaming around the web development topic areas for twelve years, earned his first Genius certificate in HTML, while Paul Hews, who predates Cd& by a couple of weeks, picked up his second, in Visual Basic.NET. Congratulations, gentlemen; we look forward to many more years of your outstanding contributions to EE.

My First Million: Reaching the 1,000,000 point level in May were SSharma, wdosanjos, amitkulshrestha, d-glitch, dbaduck, Slick812 and chakko. Good work, everyone, and thanks!


  • CodeCruiser is the thirtieth member of Experts Exchange to reach the 10,000,000 point level.
  • slightwv went over the 5,000,000 point barrier in Oracle.
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