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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

JULY 20, 2011


What's New at Experts Exchange
From the Central Coast and beyond

Farewell, and Thanks
Looking back, forward and up

Nata's Corner
G+, bullying, PINs and ABZs

Tip From The Moderators
will_see on asking the Mods

The Quarterly Leaders
The top ten for April-June

Did Google goof The Algorithm?

More News and Notes
Oh, Marky, we hardly knew ye

Who did what through July 16


Webinar: DrDamnit, the author of EE's most popular article ever, will be the focal point of the next webinar, scheduled for Thursday, July 21 at 11 am PDT. The webinar is free, so make sure you reserve a spot. Among the items DrD will be discussing are creating predictable cash flow by debugging how you get paid, turning your users and customers into people who idolize and respect you, and finding and keeping good, reliable people who love your business instead of finding excuses not to do work.

Meet-up in Seattle: There is still time to sign up for the EE meet-up in Seattle, Washington on Tuesday, July 26 at Pike Pub and Brewery from 4 pm to 8 pm. Come have free appetizers and beer, on us, with EE employees including Site Director Andy Alsup. Bring your geeky friends along; we want to hear what you have to say. For more information and to RSVP, visit our meet-up page.

EE coffee mug Where in the world: In case you missed it, people have some pretty impressive setups with which to answer questions at Experts Exchange. A host of them have been added to a blog post by people who will be getting their hands on a snazzy new coffee mug and polo shirt. If you missed out, don't worry; there are more contests in the works.

Speaking of mugs: Purchase or upgrade to a Business Account from Experts Exchange between now and July 27, and EE will send you not just one $5 gift card from Starbucks, and not just one very nicely designed EE coffee mug, but one for each new license you get. They're pretty cool mugs (or so we're told -- we're still waiting for ours), and of course, you get all the great help and information you have come to expect from the Number One Technology Site on the web.

Podcast: Jennifer Prentice and Gary Weyel hijacked your humble editor into joining them in the first ever Experts Exchange podcast. We don't know how often they'll turn up, but we can promise the opportunity to meet some of your favorite people on the shows. We also want to give Jenn her props for getting an article she wrote published in the New York Times -- even if they did chop the bottom of it off.

Kudos: Ah, sweet mysteries of life. Or maybe not so sweet if all of your program icons disappear and you don't have TrentonKnew and rpggamergirl around to help you get them back. That's what happened to jwhite273: "Thank you for the help. We're back up and running. Best $10.00 I spend every month."

Six minutes. Not a world record, perhaps, but that's how long it took matthewspatrick to help akbiro separate one column's worth of data into three columns: "How cool are you. This is the greatest service I use... I am almost never disappointed. THANKS"

We love it when a plan comes together. When articles first appeared on EE's pages, it didn't talke long before people realized that it was a lot easier to write an article about a recurring problem and then post the link to the article as the solution; it also didn't take long to realize that anyone could post a link to someone else's article, and the author would be left out in the cold as far as points were concerned, so the "Used In Solution" system was born. Sometimes, it works to an Expert's advantage; younghv ran into a problem a few times, so he wrote an article detailing the variants and how to remove them. That turned out to be exactly what 9ratsystem9 needed: "Thanks younghy. I think I got it. Great solution and thanks for all your help!"

dzash2000 was looking for a way to make some JavaScript code more compact, and mplungjan came to his aid: "Bravo! This is an extremely creative way to handle this task. I'm fascinated by the way you've done this. For me to say I'm impressed would be an understatement. This is MAGIC! Thanks so much for the effort and the excellent result."

Site Administrator modus_operandi sent us a note to send a special shout-out to fomoruto, who joined Experts Exchange in 1998, and who earned his first points exactly 13 years to the day later. That is way cool.

Certified, customized and cool: If you haven't grabbed one already, be sure to nab your very own certified Expert Badge and show off your skills on your personal blog or website. All the cool kids are doing it!

Farewell, and Thanks

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Atlantis42 years ago today, we sat in a public lounge at a summer school at UC Santa Cruz, and watched with the wonder of a high school junior at the grainy, black and white television footage of Apollo 11's descent onto the surface of the moon. Since then, we have watched the US space program as it has endured magnificent triumph and unspeakable disaster; we remember where we were, and what we were doing as the Challenger exploded over Florida, the image of the smoke one of the most vivid images we can recall.

Tomorrow, that journey -- the United States' ongoing mission to test the boundaries of space -- will enter a new phase, preceded by a period of time during which the astronauts will be hitchikers to the International Space Station, catching a ride up with whoever happens to be headed in that direction, its luster and glory diminished by the satiated imagination of a public too ready to succumb to the fantastic special effects of the movies, by the ever-increasing pressure on expenditures by governments, and by NASA's own success at sending people into space such that the liftoffs and landings of spacecraft are barely covered by the media. By the time you read this, the shuttle Atlantis will be very nearly home; it will be the end of the final voyage of a fleet of aircraft that has logged millions of miles and has changed in so many ways the way we look at our own world and the heavens we gaze at. From Alan Shepard's six-iron to Tweets from the astronauts, so much of what we take for granted every day would not be a part of our lives had it not been for the dedication, sacrifice and plain old hard work of hundreds of thousands of people -- and eighteen whose contributions we can only acknowledge by looking to the stars.

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray, Dylan Thomas wrote. It is with fierce tears that we say godspeed to those magnificent men and women in their wondrous machines; we will be looking for you on the far side of the moon.

The Quarterly Leaders

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The people who are at the top of the various leaderboards for the second quarter of 20111 are listed below.

Expert of the Quarter
Expert Points
Rookie of the Quarter
Expert Points
Expert Points
The Ally
Expert Points
Expert Points
Expert Topic Area % Points
woolmilkporcIBM AIX Unix73.89%
willmcnFileMaker Pro55.30%
sjef_bosmanLotus Domino49.04%
breadtanDigital Forensics45.47%
scottMS Visio44.04%
sjef_bosmanLotus Notes43.07%
for_yanNew To Java42.71%
deroodeNovell Netware41.15%
TommySzalapskiProgramming Theory39.00%
Gary_The_IT_ProAS-400 Programming38.57%
The Addict
Expert Points
Expert Points
matthewspatrick, leakim9717
jackieman, amitkulshrestha7


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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.

I don't claim to be an expert on most things; there are a few things I know a lot about -- basketball, the news business and one particular website among them -- but the intricacies and nuances of search engine optimization isn't one of them, and that's particularly true when it comes to understanding the whats and whys of Google's tinkering with The Algorithm. Oh, I know that it's supposed to be the Holy Grail of relevant search results -- but I've spent the better part of the last week just trying to track down specific websites, and a lot of the time, it fails miserably.

Some of the failures cannot be attributed to Google; it's not Google's fault if someone who runs a company that does programming or trains people in how to use software doesn't bother to put up a website. (If you're wondering how some of the people who fail to do that achieve some of the elevated status they have in the tech world, your guess is as good as mine -- but that's not the issue here.) But there were enough instances in which an organization just simply could not be found that I started to wonder just what the heck Google thought I was looking for. There were other instances when Google insisted I wasn't looking for what I said I was looking for; I don't know why Google thinks that the name of a company is actually some other name, and gives me the results for that -- but it does, and frankly, it's annoying. I figure if Throckmorton Clapsaddle, the owner of Ramaframitz Design, types the names into a profile three times, then Google should believe me when I'm telling it that I don't want results for Rammerfammit's Designs, even if it's only six miles from here and Mr Clapsaddle's business is somewhere in Eastern Europe.

That matter, along with a couple of columns I came across last week, got me wondering: What if Google has it wrong? Not all wrong, but just often enough that you can't bank on the results you're getting?

To put it in context, the first article I came across was a column by Simon Dumenco in AdAge, a complaint about what is loosely called "aggregating", but in his view is really little more than theft. His target is The Huffington Post, which since Day One has pushed itself to the top of the Google rankings by doing one of two things: a) getting people to write, for little money and with less research, shallow pieces on topics that are "trending" or b) rewriting -- sort of -- the work of other people. Because Google likes current material on trending topics, and because HuffPo had a lot of that, the fact that it really didn't contribute a lot to the overall quality of information and originally created most of it didn't matter; HuffPo was popular, and that made it worth $315 million to AOL.

Mr Dumenco goes on to describe HuffPo's defense of its practice of more less ripping everyone off -- a charge he supports with a damning column by no less than Bill Keller, the editor of the New York Times; HuffPo says that because it puts a link to the original material at the end of its version, it is driving traffic to the original site. AdAge's examination of Google's statistics suggest that HuffPo is only succeeding in inhibiting people from reading the original material, but he shouldn't be terribly surprised since nothing else about the operation, especially now that it is owned by AOL, is honest either (remember, this is the company still charging millions of people money for something -- internet access -- that they already have). Mr Keller's description of the AOL purchase -- ostensibly to make AOL more of a first source for material, as opposed to an aggregator -- is sublime: "Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play," he wrote, "is a little like a company's announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter."

Both Mr Dumenco's and Mr Keller's dismay over the relative success HuffPo has in generating traffic is grounded in the fact that HuffPo generated income -- about $35 million last year -- by taking the honest work of others, changing a couple of sentences, and then burying a link at the bottom of the page. As this is written, of the 124 distinct stories and articles on HuffPo's home page, exactly two are written by someone who might be getting the bulk of their income from HuffPo, one of them being Arianna Huffington (despite his status as a "featured columnist", we're pretty sure that Barry Levinson doesn't consider his gig there particularly important since he doesn't link to huffingtonpost.com on his website; he doesn't even mention it in his biography). It is perfectly reasonable that both should be upset, since they're the ones doing the work that HuffPo is "aggregating" and their companies are paying for the services and content they provide with the expectation that people will read it on their sites.

And this is where I'm beginning to wonder about Google. Wasn't the whole point of the "Panda upgrade" back in March to reward original content and drive down the sites with "shallow or low-quality" material? If that's the case, how is it that HuffPo shows up above the fold when one searches for material on the debt ceiling -- above the Wall St. Journal and with three articles before you even see one by either the Times or any local news outlet in Washington DC. Please. You're going to tell me that AOL can provide more concise reporting, better writing and more complete coverage?

Google's mission: Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.

I'm all for it -- as long as Google doesn't penalize people whose business model isn't necessarily about the information, but rather about providing the information. But Google actually seems to be heading in a direction that places a premium on quantity with little regard to quality; it's making a game out of reading the news. That will make the "aggregators" more useful than the original sources like the Times. It will place a premium on the lowest common denominator, because a short story on AOL will count as an article no different from 20,000 words in the New Yorker.

All of which will make a lot of people very happy that they have six bronze badges and a silver... but will hasten the demise of the people who actually go out and find the news and research the information. So we'll get a lot more of those people who insist Paul Revere was warning the British Army, and won't know when. And the dumbing of the world will continue.

Postscript: If there's one aspect of doing normal business at which Google really sucks, it's in the arena of customer service. We're somewhat sympathetic to Google's position: when you're organizing all the information, it's to be expected that there will be some folks who aren't happy with the fact that the results for their site show up 17 pages in, while their competitor's pages are at the top of Page One, and it is perfectly reasonable that Google doesn't want to spend a gazillion dollars on staff to pat those people on the head and say "fix your website". But it is equally true that Google makes it pretty difficult for somewone with a real problem to get it solved.

More News and Notes

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The bigger they are ... We can't imagine there are a lot of people who don't work for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp who really like him or his company very much, but the list did get a little longer this week as both Rebekah Brooks, the head of News of the World and Les Hinton, her predecessor who moved on to become the CEO of Dow Jones, resigned in the wake of a phone hacking scandal that has already caused the arrest of UK prime minister David Cameron's former press aide and has put into jeopardy Murdoch's planned acquisition of BSkyB, the largest pay-TV broadcaster in the UK, not to mention both some careers at Scotland Yard but the tenure of Cameron's government as well. Now we all know why Glen Beck really retired from Fox News, also owned by Murdoch.

... the more arrogant they are... Canada's biggest cable company, Shaw, doesn't seem to see anything wrong with letting people watch movies on their television sets without capping the customer's traffic but imposing a limit if the same system is used by someone watching the same movie on a computer. Unfortunately for Shaw, Canadian regulars -- who have infinitely more common sense than the US Congress -- do see something wrong with the picture.

... and the dumber they get: (AKA the ANY Key department): In the US, there is this piece of paper in Washington DC called the Bill of Rights; it's a list of amemndments to the Constitution, the document that sets out what the government can and can't do. One of those amendments (the Fourth) protects people from search and seizure of property without warrants, while the Fifth (known as a "due process" amendment) protects people from having to be a witness against himself or have his life, liberty or property taken. So, in context:

  • The Immigration and Customers Enforcement service has seized a Spanish domain, saying that because the domain name was issued by a US registrar it is a license granted by the US.
  • Law enforcement officials want US ISPs to be required to keep user logs for 18 months, but wireless companies -- the big boys, in other words -- would be exempt. Note that the law that would require the storing of logs is named "Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011"; keep that in mind when you read the next item.
  • The White House helped negotiate a deal between ISPs and those lovely parasites people in the recording and movie industry to turn the ISPs into police in copyright enforcement. The catch: the RIAA and MPAA don't have to go to court; they just have to tell the ISP that someone is downloading copyrighted material... they think.

And just to throw some fuel on the fire, the French copyright enforcement agency is buried under 18 million complaints.

Happy birthday, Twitter!

Stop The Presses department: Google+ has reached [eight-digit number] users. That should scare Facebook a lot. Another item that will no doubt have Zuckerberg and Co. shaking their RockStar cans is the news that Google+ is growing faster than Facebook. This just in: MySpace has more members than Google+ too.

As with the GMail invitations a few years ago, it didn't take Google long to loosen the reins. Two weeks ago, we had two people on our list of "people who want to be a part of your whole group of people"; as of a week ago, there were about 500 people, most of whom we don't know, who show up for some reason. Note to Google: Please do something so we can look at more than a dozen or so names at a time. Sheeeesh. Oh... and yes, since Larry wants to be in one of our circles, we added him. Zuckerberg won't even let you see who his friends are, so how is anyone supposed to know if they want to be associated with him? Pssssst He has bigger things to worry about -- like people who run ads on Facebook looking for Google+ friends. Just don't ask Stan.

Fouling off pitches: All the big players in the US internet provider market have caved to the recording and music industry parasites and signed an agreement to send notes home from school to people who the RIAA and MPAA say are illegally sharing files.

Did you say "Oops"? All things considered, we get a little nervous when the words "unusual event" are used to describe a nuclear power plant, especially since at about the same time, a nice little video and a fairly detailed description of how Stuxnet works showed up.

You never know where things will lead: Our old buddy nexusnation, now one of the core developers for WordPress, was understandably a little pleased with his organization when it shipped it's latest version a couple of weeks ago, so he posted to Twitter that "scotch is for shippers", and since your humble editor is known to be an afficianado of single malts (thanks, JP -- you taught me well), he hijacked it as his tag line in instant messengers and such. Unfortunately, some people can't read it very well, so he sent us a link to help repair slippers, not to be confused with people who work on ships.

That's one way to get a lot of buzz: TechCrunch redesigned its logo (and built a content management system in their spare time). Lots of tweets, lots of comments... and it didn't hurt their traffic either. Our take: Tetris is so 1980s.

That's another way to get a lot of buzz: Raise prices without really raising prices, which is more or less what Netflix did last week when it sent emails to its subscribers saying that the price of the service -- currently about $10 for both streaming and DVD rentals -- will go up to about $16 when Netflix splits the two services into separate products with separate billing. Nobody likes price increases, and anyone with cable television knows they're virtually an "every other month" kind of thing, so when the company realized that the margins on DVD rentals were shrinking and the market for streaming video isn't quite booming, the decision became pretty obvious. Memo to people who are ranting on Twitter about this: a DVR from one of the satellite companies is going to run you about $10 a month -- more than the cost of the DVDs and you can record them for playback later. Redbox is a buck a movie. Streaming is like a cable company's on-demand system without the $70 a month pricetag plus the pay-per-view part. So what if it's 60 per cent? You'll spend more than that -- as Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said -- on a latte. But more to the point, it's still a better deal, given the totality of the service -- than anything else out there. Apropos of something that involves the unproductive use of electronic devices, a map of the US's use of Netflix on our new favorite time sink.

Shall we play a game? It's been a bad couple of weeks for folks who are in charge of military operations in the United States in Europe. First up, the Tuesday after that three-day weekend earlier this month, NATO was hit by a zero day breach. A week later, defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton's network was relieved of 90,000 military email addresses and passwords, about the same time a West Virginia IT company -- whose client list includes the Defense department, the Army and the Navy -- also got hacked. A few days later, the Pentagon admitted that last spring, a foreign government managed to take 24,000 files from a defense industry network. The Booz Allen attack was blamed on Anonymous, which doesn't have nearly the sense of humor LulzSec did; Anonymous said its going to go after big business.

The Taxman Cometh: Amazon, which recently pulled its affiliate program out of California when the state slapped a tax on Internet sales, is fighting back by the tried-and-true method in California: the initiative process. Meanwhile, eight or nine time zones away, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that eBay is responsible for copyright infringement of items sold on its site.

Makes you wonder why someone didn't do this years ago: Hotmail is implementing two new features that won't stop people from doing dumb things like posting their PayPal password to one of those phony "security update" emails sent by spammers, but will make it a little harder for someone to hack an account, and a lot easier to report it when your brother-in-law's account is compromised. The central feature: no more simple passwords -- period.

A little honest graft: We thought we'd seen the end of cramming a few years ago, but it looks like the practice was just on hiatus. Cramming is the practice of phone companies allowing third party bills to be added to the telephone bill, frequently for a service the customer doesn't even know about. Two of the reasons the telephone companies will show up on everyone's hated companies lists is because 1) they let the crammers get away with it and 2) they collect the money for the crammers (it's on your bill, so if you don't pay it, you can lose your phone service). Now there's a third reason: the phone companies are making a lot of money. Check your bills, folks.

Signs of the Apocalypse: Google is changing your brain, and Microsoft is apparently thinking of getting into the social arena. Ooops.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureEveryone -- okay, almost everyone -- I know is jumping on the Google+ bandwagon. Since that's the case, I figure it's time I remind everyone of a few things. It is pretty much given that Google will be a lot more serious about privacy than Facebook has been. Whether you like the interface or not is a matter of personal taste, but if you're going to use Google+, here are some privacy settings for you, and needless to say, if you're using Facebook you'll also have to watch out for fake invitations to Google+. But it's worth taking a look at (if that's your thing), if only for a few little features Google+ has that Facebook doesn't. Oh, and yes, there are what the programming types call known issues, and finally, there's at least one app out there that lets you use both at once.

I had a little item last issue about some guidelines for online behavior that I'm certain some people won't pay any attention to because they're just that way, and now Facebook and Time-Warner are getting together to do something about online bullying. That's more than what California does; it seems to me that if you kick a bully out of school, then s/he will have more opportunity to cause a problem.

I don't know why I'm mentioning this, but this is the only time in any of our lives when we will see a month with five Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in it; it won't happen again for something like 800 years. That doesn't mean I'm going to forward the emails I have gotten on it though. You can just consider this as my contribution to a reduction in the amount of junk email we all get. And while we're kind of on the subject... the Washington Post had a few tips last week for keeping your PIN secret.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that the iPhone and iPad both have security holes, but this one is exploited by a program that bypasses the normal security features built into the devices. The problem is made worse because the only way to fix the security hole is to install the program first -- which means going against Apple's restrictions on where you can get programs. Apple says it's working on a fix. Speaking of which, Infosec Island has the ABZs of Cybersecurity, but they're missing terms for the letters D,H.L,O,P,Q,R,U,V and X. I'm open to suggestion, and I'll see if I can get someone to send out a coffee mug or something for the best terms that fit with the rest of the article.


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New Geniuses: garycase became the 18th member of Experts Exchange to earn a Genius certificate in Windows XP; it is the third topic area in which he has reached that milestone. ssaqibh, in earning his first, became the 23rd Genius in Microsoft Excel.Congratulations!


Expert In Topic Area Certificate
Shahan_Developer.NET ProgrammingGuru
Pacman.NET ProgrammingMaster
Mikal613.NET ProgrammingWizard
nmarun.NET ProgrammingWizard
totallytontoActive DirectoryMaster
dgofmanAdobe FlashWizard
CyanBlueAdobe FlexGuru
pravinasarAdobe FlexMaster
johnb6767Anti-Virus AppsMaster
gheistApache Web ServerGuru
jeremycrussellApache Web ServerMaster
strungApple HardwareWizard
theruckBackup / RestoreMaster
SelfGovernBackup / RestoreWizard
cdesignerChat / IMMaster
nobusDisaster RecoveryGuru
jamietonerDisplays / MonitorsGuru
deepdrawIP TelephonyMaster
HappyCactusLinux OS DevMaster
farzanjLinux SecurityMaster
BigRatMath / ScienceGuru
alanhardistyMessage QueueMaster
gtworekMicrosoft IIS Web ServerMaster
hanccockaMicrosoft OSMaster
DatabaseMXMisc DatabasesWizard
dbruntonMisc HardwareSage
DaveBaldwinMisc NetworkingMaster
ZoppoMisc ProgrammingMaster
abbrightMisc SecurityMaster
BillDLMisc SoftwareMaster
rkworldsMisc Web DevMaster
Helen_FeddemaMS ApplicationsMaster
matthewspatrickMS ApplicationsSage
GrahamSkanMS DevelopmentMaster
ssaqibhMS ExcelGenius
bromy2004MS ExcelGuru
Expert In Topic Area Certificate
DatabaseMXMS ExcelMaster
robhensonMS ExcelWizard
wwwallyMS Server AppsMaster
GeorgeGerguesMS SharePointWizard
gdemariaMS SQL ServerMaster
NicoboMS SQL ServerMaster
BitsqueezerMS SQL Server 2005Master
tim_csMS SQL Server 2005Master
dodge20MS SQL Server 2008Master
tim_csMS SQL Server 2008Master
LowfatspreadMS SQL Server 2008Sage
HainKurtMS SQL Server 2008Wizard
matthewspatrickMySQL ServerGuru
ralmadaMySQL ServerGuru
_jesper_Network OperationsMaster
tbsgadiOffice / ProductivityMaster
OP_ZaharinOracle DatabaseWizard
hnasrQuery SyntaxGuru
totallytontoSBS Small Business ServerMaster
sammySeltzerSSRS SQL Reporting SvcMaster
zephyr_hexSSRS SQL Reporting SvcMaster
rbarnhardtStorage MiscMaster
dbruntonStorage MiscWizard
miked2004Stores & CartsMaster
teylynVB ScriptGuru
josikaVB ScriptMaster
LearnctxVB ScriptMaster
GrahamSkanVB ScriptWizard
pari123Visual Basic ClassicMaster
MattiVisual Basic ClassicWizard
aikimarkVisual Basic.NETMaster
harfangVisual Basic.NETMaster
HooKooDooKuVisual Basic.NETMaster
lucky85Visual C#Master
starlite551Visual C#Master
GertoneWeb Languages/StandardsGuru
gheistWeb ServersMaster
mplungjanWeb ServersMaster
marine7275Windows 2003 ServerMaster
andyalderWindows Server 2008Guru
bhanukir7Windows Server 2008Guru
maxloiWindows Server 2008Master
thinkpads_userWindows VistaWizard
garycaseWindows XPGenius
wolfcamelWindows XPMaster
yobriWindows XPMaster
rfc1180Wireless NetworkingMaster