July 7, 2006
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Firefox script

We've all run into problems for which there doesn't appear to be any immediate solution, but RQuadling isn't one of those people who let a problem go unsolved, at least until he has a crack at it.

The problem, in this case, is the ubiquitous Your Questions box at the top of the Topic Area pages at Experts Exchange; it shows not only the questions you have asked that are not closed, but also the ones that you have closed, even if they were asked and closed three years ago. He uses Firefox, so he decided to use GreaseMonkey to build a user script to help him out.

The process was not without its fits and starts, but it made at least one Moderator happy to not have to scroll down at least one screen just to see the open questions. The final version is available in Q_21895537.html.

The Art of War

skirklan is one of our newer Page Editors, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have something to say. The following is reprinted, with permission, from her blog; you can bet you'll be hearing more from her.

We are about to lose the only opportunity we may have to free ourselves from long distance bills, even the ones for overseas. I know I would like to call my pal Brian J. Dooley in New Zealand for a chat without imagining my money flying out of my pocket, free to speak until I'm well spoken. I bet you would, too. You've probably heard all about net neutrality; how the IPs want to have a two-tiered service, saying they want to charge more for premium content like movies. Well, that's not what they're really after. If they told you what they really wanted, they would never get it past Congress. Here's the skinny on Net Neutrality from the mouth of a fellow artist.

Strategy is extremely important in business when the playing field is level. Now that almost everybody in the world has a mobile phone, landlines are no longer a major source of revenue; but long distance charges have always been a profit center for the telecommunication industry. Well, they were -- until a large number of long distance customers realized their broadband connections could free them from long distance carriers. With a small interface, you can use your broadband connection the same way you use your telephone. You may have noticed that some IPs have started promoting their own VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) products, even though they charge $39 for the same service Vonage offers for $24.99. If net neutrality isn't maintained, it won't matter. When the IPs can control content speed, that's the end of VoIP and Vonage and Skype. Why? Because VoIP is particularly sensitive to speed variations and calls will be dropped if the signal slows.

Business is the art of extracting money from another man's pocket without resorting to violence. -- Max Amsterdam

Using your broadband connection for telephone service through a provider like Vonage is the greatest thing since sliced bread (sorry, I couldn't resist). It's unlimited nationwide long distance plus 500 minutes of free long distance off continent for $24.99. That's it -- flat fee. So there's no more $350 long distance bill in addition to the usual $50 landline bill. Imagine the loss of revenue to the phone companies. That's why the phone companies and cable companies refer to VoIP providers like Skype and Vonage as parasites and that's what net neutrality is really all about.

Information on the Internet is subject to the same rules and regulations as conversation at a bar. -- George Lundberg

As soon as the push for net neutrality became an issue a few years back, techies like Robert Cringely read between the strategic press release lines. Just like we sit around and talk about the intricacies of font families and conflicts created within certain third party PDF files, the techies talk, too. Here's how Robert explained it: "Here's how they plan to cripple the Vonages and Skype's, according to friends of mine who have spent 20+ years in engineering positions at telephone companies, cable companies and internet service providers. As the phone and cable companies begin offering their own VoIP services in real volume, they plan to "tag" their own VoIP packets so that at least within their own networks, their VoIP service will have COS (Class of Service) assignments with their routers, switches, etc. They also plan on implementing distinct Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANs) for the tagged packets."

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

So, now you know what Net Neutrality is really all about. If you'd like to preserve your freedom of choice and not pay for nationwide long distance now or in the future, it's a good time to email your senator. The House of Representatives has already agreed to let telephone and cable companies kill VoIP; but we still have time to voice our opinions in the Senate. Or, if you enjoy paying by the minute, well, keep quiet. If you don't care, send that long distance money in with a smile every month.

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. -- George Bernard Shaw

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All your everything is belong to us

In our last issue, we made note of the various ways technology can be used to tell governments pretty much anything you do: who you talk to (the telephone companies), where you go (tracking devices built into automobiles and cell phones), and what you do both at work and at home (ISP logs). Okay, maybe we're a little paranoid.

Then again, maybe we should be.

A couple of weeks ago, AT&T revised its privacy policies. It changed the policy with regard to its telephone customers to say that it owns customer records and can do what it wants with them, including turning them over to whoever asks. Its old policy said it would turn over the records only in response to "a subpoena, court order or other legal process". The company also revised its Internet policy.

At about the same time, an article at Salon detailed the experiences of two former AT&T employees working at a facility that has a secret, secure room where a government agency monitored Internet traffic. We'll grant that the article has elements of a Tom Clancy novel, but if only half of it is accurate, it appears as though privacy, at least on the AT&T backbone, has been a fabrication -- or at least a myth -- for some time.

Now, lest anyone accuse us of seeing a huge conspiracy here, let's remember that the AT&T of today is only mostly as pervasive as the pre-breakup AT&T. The company managed to get exactly what it wanted from the House of Representatives; it not only convinced the House that AT&T was right and that the Microsofts, Googles, Yahoos and eBays are wrong, and managed to stop a competing bill in the Senate. It also managed to take a lot of wind out of the cable companies' sails as well; it convinced the FCC that cable providers and small ISPs -- especially wireless providers -- should be made to reconfigure their networks such that they can wiretap their customers as easily as AT&T can. Even better, the government has budgeted up to $500 million in subsidies for the telephone companies -- but not a dime for other broadband providers, including the VoIP companies.

In the meantime, AT&T has been playing a shell game with its customers over "unbundled DSL", and has been setting the stage to hone in on the cable companies' bread and butter: television. In some towns, the battle lines are already being drawn.

We're not going to go all doom and gloom, however, because there is still a lot of shaking out to do. At the top of the list are Google, Microsoft, and even possibly AOL (assuming the latter can get its act together enough to stop losing almost as many customers as it gets). Despite its protestations to the contrary, Google is doing a number of things that look like it wants to be an ISP -- buying up dark fiber lines, building WiFi networks, hosting sites, and offering email addresses, among all of its other projects.

Second, the move towards WiFi by municipalities is only getting stronger; every day, one reads of another city that is building its own WiFi network -- and some are free. Bids were received earlier this week for a plan to cover 1,500 square miles, from South San Francisco to Fremont to Santa Cruz in California -- most of the Bay Area.

Third, there's still some hope that Congress will see the light. A Washington-based group has offered a proposal that is a compromise between the two sides of the "Net Neutrality" issue. While the proposal doesn't address the privacy concerns of big companies whose social conscience is akin to that of a great white shark, having alternatives for consumers tends to prod companies into the way they do business.

"...The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance..." -- John Curran

Tip from the Moderators - Grading

Grading questions is about as touchy a subject as there is among the membership at Experts Exchange, so here's what the Help page has to say:

Although we use an A-D scale here at Experts Exchange, it works differently than, say, school grades. If one or more Experts' proposals are accepted as answers, they should usually be given an A or B grade, since they have taken the time to provide you with a working solution. If a possible solution is incomplete - ask for clarification or details before accepting the answer and grading it. People should not be given lower grades because of incorrect grammar or because you just accepted their answer or comment to close the question. Keep in mind, your question and any follow-up comments should be focused so that there can be a specific answer. The following is a good guideline to follow when grading:

  • A: The Expert(s) either provided you with a thorough answer or they provided you with a link to information that thoroughly answered your question. An "A" can also be given to any answer that you found informative or enlightening beyond the direct question that you asked.
  • B: The Expert(s) provided an acceptable solution, or a link to an acceptable solution, that you were able to use, although you may have needed a bit more information to complete the task.
  • C: Because Experts' reliability are often judged by their grading records, many Experts would like the opportunity to clarify if you have questions about their solutions. If you have given the Expert(s) ample time to respond to your clarification posts and you have responded to each of their posts providing requested information; or if the answers, after clarification, lack finality or do not completely address the issue presented, then a "C" grade is an option. You also have the option here of just asking Community Support to delete the question.

Remember, the Expert helping you today is probably going to be helping you next time you post a question. Give them a fair chance to earn an 'Excellent!' grade and they'll provide you with some amazing support. It's also true that a "C" is the lowest grade you can give, and the Experts know that -- so use it judiciously.

Only the Moderators and Page Editors have the choice to give a D grade.

Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: Your hi-tech new ride

woman in specticalsThanks to 2thman for his note about another free 411 service. He says, "Another free 411 is 1-800-FREE-411 - I don't think you have to listen to an ad." We like free.

I've been writing about MySpace for a while, and everyone knows that while it bothers me a lot that MySpace and other sites like it don't do more to monitor some of their members, it bothers me a lot more that the parents of young people don't pay attention to what their children are doing on the computer. I recently came across a story about a site that lets parents track changes in profiles and see when children are logging in. MySpace may not be out of the woods yet, though, because it looks like Congress has found a new hot button issue for the election season.

I got an email the other day that is a novel twist on the old Nigerian general scam. This one is supposedly from a woman from Flint, Michigan who is living in Ireland who has a grant to do research in West Africa (how convenient is that), but the money is in the form of money orders. She's offering ten per cent for the trouble of depositing them and sending the rest to her via Western Union. The agricultural ministry of Cypress must be happy though, because she includes a link to their website as part of her email to convince you she's legit.

There's a new twist on the email phishing scams out there, too. You get a telephone call from someone purporting to be a bank or eBay, telling you there is a problem with your account. The caller doesn't ask for any information, but tells you to call another number, where a "customer service" person asks you for information to "verify your account." You give it to them, and two days later your credit cards are maxed and your bank account is empty.

And the police in San Jose are looking for someone who picks his victims from Craigslist. With the price of gasoline going up, you can bet there will be copycats too.

Be careful, friends.

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 June 19 through July 3.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
puppydogbuddy Rick_Rickards kelvinsparks clockwatcher cool12399 Sirees vadimrapp1 imrancs rmacfadyen ved17nov CyrexCore2k TimCottee REA_ANDREW bele04 rsivanandan FriarTuk davidis99 phototropic dstanley9 RoninThe Sage Guru Master Master Guru Wizard Guru Guru Master Master Master Guru Master Master Guru Master Master Master Wizard Master MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access Visual Basic Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL ASP ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET Networking Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP C# C#
Expert Certified in Topic Area
amaheshwari ingetic december41991 hoomanv rama_krishna580 vadim63 calinutz PierreC snoyes_jw merwetta1 kamermans suprapto45 UnexplainedWays willcomp nobus TheLearnedOne MohanKNair fanpages gtgloner rajeev_devin Guru Master Master Guru Master Master Guru Guru Sage Master Master Master Master Wizard Wizard Genius Master Genius Master Guru Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Exchange_Server Java Java VB.NET Delphi Delphi PHP PHP PHP Programming Web Development Hardware Hardware .NET Oracle Excel Excel C++
Expert Certified in Topic Area
aseusainc sasapopovic leew Jay_Jay70 mahesh1402 mensuck pjedmond Luxana nedvis roos01 meyersd dovidmichel leonstryker mikeleebrla dragon-it MikeOM_DBA benmcnelly Abs_jaipur Kdo Master Master Wizard Master Wizard Master Guru Master Master Master Wizard Wizard Master Master Master Master Master Master Guru ColdFusion Databases Operating Systems Operating Systems MFC PHP and Databases Linux Linux Linux Applications Storage Storage VB Controls Windows Security Lotus Notes/Domino Unix Prog. Graphics Web Servers IBM UDB
2180 experts have 3671 certifications: Genius:100 Sage:170 Wizard:225 Guru:661 Master:2515
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