Experts Exchange EE News August 2009

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August 19, 2009 >>

What's New at Experts Exchange
Numbers, MVPs, Geniuses, Milestones

16 Tips to Improve Email Delivery
gr8gonzo on doing it right

Why I LOVE My Mac
Susan Kirkland on why she's NOT a PC

More News and Notes
Oh, yeah? Well, MicroHoo THIS

Nata's Corner
Going back to school (click the button)

New Certificates
New certificate holders, through August 15

What's New at Experts Exchange

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Andy Alsup and Computer101 From the Home Office: Site Administrators Computer101 (left, with Site Director Andrew Alsup) and Netminder, along with the recently promoted WhackAMod were the guests of Experts Exchange last week for discussions about some of the proposed features that are in the works for the site. Among the topics of conversation were:

  • A revised version of the Neglected Questions and Designated Expert systems. Some of the requirements are being revisited with an emphasis on getting more Experts to become involved in more zones, and the bonus points are being reviewed.
  • Some major revisions to the All Topics list and the navigation bar across the top of the pages.
  • Some improvements to the Articles system, specifically the formatting, that can eventually be incorporated into the Question/Solution system.
  • An improved system for reporting bugs and getting them to the right people to get them fixed.
  • Ideas for recognizing and rewarding not only the Experts, but the increasing number of people who voluntarily help manage the site: the Moderators, Zone Advisors, Page Editors and Cleanup Volunteers.
  • The unadvisability of having broccoli for lunch on a hot day. Apparently, you had to be there.

Best line of the conference went to WhackAMod: "Skynet doesn't begin with a DARPA project... it begins in my living room with a Rovio, a Roomba, and a soldering iron."

New Moderators (and a new Zone Advisor): As noted above, WhackAMod has joined the Administrative team, but we are also welcoming a number of new Moderators to Experts Exchange. DeederMod, Modalot, ModEErf, _alias99, SouthMod and sammod are new to the team. Finally, jimpen has joined the Zone Advisor group, helping out in Access. Great to have you all aboard!

Another MVP: Another of Microsoft's Most Valued Professionals to have found his way to our attention is help-info, who -- as might be expected -- received his award in Help Development. Congratulations!

New Geniuses: matthewspatrick has joined only three other Experts Exchange members in the group of people who have six or more Genius certificates; he picked up his sixth in Microsoft Office. Picking up their first Genius certificates were Dhaest in VB.NET and mkline71 in Active Directory. Nice work, folks!


Social Notes: We want to extend our best wishes to the inimitable and eclectic Kari Hoy of EE's customer service department, who was married to Jay Fuller on June 18 in Paso Robles, CA. Our favorite toast: We can't congratulate her because we don't know him, and we can't congratulate him because we do know her. Welcome to the EE family, Jay!

Kudos: mytfein needed some basic information on menu commands in Access, and got assistance from Microsoft MVP DatabaseMX and from Helen_Feddema, who literally wrote the book on Access and joined EE only a couple of months ago. Sarah's comments:

Helen Feddema! what an honor !!!!! wow! pls see below.....
Mx: I would like to congratulate you on your MVP 2009 Access award....
Mx please excuse me for waxing poetic about Helen...
Helen helped me years ago with Access to word automation to generate labels programmatically. I found Helen's website, and contacted her with questions and to my utter delight Helen held my hand while I figured out the technique. I still use the VBA, and all users are impresses as they watch the labels zippily being populated on the Word screen. I always rave that an author took the time out to help me....
Thank you soooo much Helen...

Sometimes, fixing a problem is as simple as taking a step backwards, as TCCWebservices found out when he tried to print white characters on a black background. MASQUERAID suggested using an older driver, and received this praise:

Thank you so very much for the lead to the older driver that solved the problem. I found a free, no-need-to-register-on-the-site download here:
I also have been suggesting that our OIS department join Experts Exchange -- they need help!
I LOVE this site!

TCCWebservices, we'll help you out; have them get ahold of Daniella "at" about a corporate account, and she'll be happy to take care of them. And thanks for the kind words!

Overheard: "Don't be limited by your own limitations." -- Randy Redberg

Fun and games: One of the more entertaining aspects of putting together this newsletter is to read the responses to some of the things we include. Our inclusion of a nice clean joke from angelIII in our last issue prompted this from AnnieMod:

A circus comes to town showing, among other things, an act where a guy displays his tamed cows, able to do a bunch of tricks. After the show a journalist comes by and asks: "How did you do it? The cow is the dumbest of all animals -- nobody ever managed to train them to do anything!"

"Well, in my previous job I was a system administrator..."

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Tips From the Moderators

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From Jim Dettman, the Page Editor for MS Access:

As you may or may not be aware, the article feature has now gone live on the site. Now you should be able read articles on a range of topics that will help in many ways. But where do those topics come from?


Do you have the desire to write about something you've done with Access? Want to share some tips & tricks? or maybe write a FAQ on a topic that you worked your way through and now want to share what you've learned with others? Then this is for you.

Worried about actually writing the article? Don't be; EE has lined up a range of resources to help potential authors get started. First, there are general comments at the Articles introduction page to get you started, along with some tips on how to approach the article writing process.

Then here in the MS Access Zone (and some others as well), we've formed a group to do a peer review of articles submitted. The review group will go over your article, check for technical accuracy, make comments and suggestions on how your article might be changed to appeal to a wider audience, etc.

Worried about spelling and grammar? Don't be; EE has some resources to help with that as well. And of course there are the Page Editors who are here to help you every step of the way.

So don't wait!

And from the Moderators:

We're seeing a lot of discussions heating up to the point where people are posting things in a fashion they wouldn't normally. So, with an eye toward keeping a level of civility in threads (and keeping people from getting into too much trouble), we're offering up the advice of one of EE's most well-known members: Site Administrator Computer101, who knows a thing or two about flame wars and such.

He was recently asked by a relatively new staff member in the office for the secret to his longevity. He replied that he had one simple rule he followed every time he feels the urge to post something when he is annoyed: Step away from the computer.

You can get your message across without resorting to questioning the intelligence, integrity or parentage of someone, so please, do not compound a bad situation by turning it into a problem.

16 Tips to Improve Email Delivery

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gr8gonzo's article on successfully delivering email to large numbers of people generated a lot of controversy among the Page Editors, some of whom considered it a blueprint for spam -- but if you run a legitimate mailing list, it is a "must read", so much so that it is the first article at EE designated as an Editor's Choice by the Page Editors. For additional information on Articles and making sure your masterpiece is up to EE's publishing standards, check out the Article Guidelines and Article Tips zone.

Many recipients get so much mail that they only read e-mail that:
Criteria #1: Seems to have a legitimate subject and source, and...
Criteria #2: Is convenient (meaning they didn't have to do any extra work to get your message).

It's the marketer's constant battle to meet both of these, and most of the battle is involved in criteria #2 and getting past those sometimes-overzealous spam filters. With so many different types of spam filters, you can improve your chances of reaching your target audience using a variety of different techniques. Here are some tips and tricks I've learned over the years to help navigate legitimate marketing messages past the filters and into the inboxes.

The first step of the battle is always to understand what spam is. Quite simply, spam is any e-mail that is sent to a large group of people without having prior permission. (

Read the full article.

Why I LOVE My Mac

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Susan Kirkland has been one of our favorite writers for a while, not so much because we agree with her all the time, but because she isn't above saying something a little bit over the top. She is a designer, author and blogger.

Susan KirklandOne of my lovers had an issue that made him unable to commit both emotionally and physically to the same woman, something psychiatrists call triangulation. So when I first met him, he seduced me and ravaged me senseless and I loved him for it. As things go, he moved on and so did I. When we met up a few years later, he went completely emotionally needy on me; so it was strictly cerebral the second time our paths crossed. One day at lunch, he leaned over the table and said, "I love talking to you so much ... because I always feel like I've just had sex when we're done." Now, that's love.

My Mac doesn't make me feel sexy or seduced, but it does make me love it every time I sit down to work. It reminds me that PC users have a harder time managing their productivity; because they decided to save a few bucks when they invested in their tools. On average, the price difference is less than 10%, so you save ten cents on the dollar now, but spend more time doing everything PC for the rest of your life. This seems like a good time to remind you that time is the coin of your life.

Don't even start the denials -- it's evident in every single function of the PC. Let's start with booting up; most of you don't turn your Personal Computers off at night because it just takes too long to reboot in the morning. Oh please don't bother using those rigged tests where they take high-end gaming machines and test them against the little iMacs. Let's test the two using the average machines sitting in an office. Yes, we'll have a time-off anytime and the Mac will always win. My Mac works at astonishing speeds due to the latest Intel processors. I hate wasting time; and I would hate it even more when a tool that is supposed to be enabling me to work faster wastes my time by interrupting me with security alerts and sweeps for PC viruses, something that doesn't happen on a Mac.

But positively the most irritating thing about a PC is that when you buy one, you commit to endless extra keystrokes for every single function for the rest of your usage commitment. And then there are those redundant pop-up windows "cancel or allow" and "are you sure you want to do this?". Yes, I'm an adult, think pretty clearly, enough so that I can even drive a car. Yes, I'm pretty sure I want to quit this application, duh. To quit an application on my Mac, I hit control-q and it's off.

And all those IT departments (don't tell me, you work in one!) are absolutely necessary because you have to spend hours configuring PC devices and installing PC software for civilians. My Mac worked right out of the box -- bet you can't do that on a new PC. I plugged it in and started working because the operating system software is made by the same people who make the hardware making it completely compatible, unlike the PC. My Mac also regularly checks for updates to my system software and automatically downloads them with my approval. There's also no fussing with wireless networks. They automatically appear. I suppose you could say IT unemployment would be up if business had not opted to save 10% and relied on Macs instead of PCs.

Let's talk about some of the more subtle differences that rarely get mentioned in the more pedestrian comparisons. Here's two: 1) Font size rendering, and 2) monitor gamma. For website designers on a PC using CSS, you have to solve the font size rendering problem by substituting pixels for points in your CSS files; otherwise, everything comes up 30% smaller on websites. That makes them very hard to read. Since most Mac browsers offer font size adjustments in the menu bar, well, it makes for easy accessibility, a big issue with clients. Changing to pixels instead of points makes everything come up the same.

PC monitors evolved from televisions while Mac monitors were designed for graphics right from the git go, mostly because Steve Jobs hung out in a typography class in college. I think it must have been an attractive woman who kept him lurking around, but he says it was his fascination with letter forms. After using the Mac, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. The gamma difference makes Mac designers have to lighten and wash out their visuals so PC users who visit the site aren't overwhelmed with blocked out graphics and high contrast. This rings true to playing to the lowest common denominator, and that brings down quality for everybody. We're talking a gamma problem in the PC of 2.5 vs the Mac's 1.8. On my Mac, I can adjust the monitor settings so I can preview the effect on actual PC browsers, but a PC user is stuck with the factory defaults and a real life mystery.

Oh, you say, but what about compatibility? If one firm on Wall Street is using Macs, they won't be able to receive data from other firms. Nonsense. Macs can open PC files and coexist on local PC networks. But the PC cannot open files specific to Mac and Windows cannot open files stored on disks that are Mac formatted. And by the way, they had to invent Windows so the average PC user didn't have to learn advanced programming to control their computers. I know this because I took DOS and COBOL programming in high school and there's no comparison between Windows/DOS language and the Apple language inherent in the Mac operating system.

I'll stick with Mac, thank you. The facts make it the smarter thing to do. I haven't seen that guy for 20 years, but I hear his hair has turned completely gray, and no, I do not use hair dye.

More News and Notes

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Editor's notebook: When you get to our age, you stop thinking of things in terms of one day being more special than all the rest of them; a day that your name isn't in the obituaries makes you feel like you're ahead of the curve. However, good weather, better food and great company make for a wonderful birthday. Thanks Randy, Melinda, Anita, Glenn, Jonathan, Mark, Chris, Jason, Jan, Katie, Mary, Jennifer, Brian, Danae, Kari, Stephany, Kathryn and everyone whose names I have inadvertently left off this list; it's not only a true pleasure to be associated with you, but great fun as well.

Oh, yeah? Well, MicroHoo THIS: It's not news that Google has been tinkering with its search algorithm. But it is news that it is making some pretty heavy duty changes to things -- even though it is denying that the changes are related to either Microsoft's Bing or its hookup with Yahoo. A quick test showed two interesting phenomena: first, the Experts Exchange result moved up, from third on the list to second in one test and from sixth to fourth; and second, the number of results dropped from nearly 6 million to under 900,000 in the first test but were identical in the second. In the all-important vanity test, a particular username comes up on the third page of Google results using the existing system, but at the top of the second page using the newer version. If you want to play, visit Google's Sandbox.

Déjà vu (or Heather O'Rourke's second best line): Marc Andreessen, who made a bundle by starting Netscape and selling it to AOL before it was pummeled by Microsoft in the First Browser Wars, is financing a new browser called RockMelt, which appears to be doing with Facebook what Firefox has done with Google. The difference, of course, is that Google is profitable, which makes a positive revenue stream a lot easier for the Mozilla folks to achieve. Memo to our good friend bobexpert, who heads up the department at EE responsible for making sure the pages work in as many browsers as they can: Here's to "standards" that aren't.

And speaking of wars won and lost, Toshiba finally officially threw in the towel by announcing that not only will it stop making HD-DVD products, but it will start making Blu-Ray players and recorders.

If you can't beat 'em with ads, give 'em hell: Ever mindful that PCs are susceptible to viruses due to their reliance on Windows programs built on the Microsoft programming languages, Redmond may have finally figured out a way to ensure that Mac fans everywhere have the same opportunities as Windows users to enjoy the adventures that result from having to install antivirus software by incorporating Outlook and Visual Basic into its upcoming edition of Office.

Website of the week: Avoid This Job. No, you can't have mine.

In requiem: Les Paul, whose guitars have inspired an entire segment of wannabe rockstars. Also, the free download of the release candidate for Windows 7 faces termination tomorrow (August 20).

From our far-flung correspondents: People send us all kinds of stuff -- the hazard of them knowing what we do for a living, and knowing that we have cable access -- and fortunately, most of it is more or less safe for work. But last week, it seems like everyone went a little overboard, and in the interest of sharing:

There's stupid, and then there are movie company executives: In what has to be the most grossly self-aggrandizing delusional act of chutzpah of the year, 20th Century Fox is telling distributors -- who pay what the studio wants to charge for DVDs -- that they can't (even though they have bought the DVDs) sell to Redbox, which pays whatever price the distributors charge so it can rent them to customers, the Fox DVDs. It should come as no surprise to the studio's executives (but probably did) that Redbox is suing. Universal Studios did the same thing last year -- and got sued too. Looks to us like a "conspiracy in restraint of trade", not to mention the worst kind of greed; there's only one other industry where even when you sell it, you've still got it -- and you can still find it on Craigslist.

There are other letters we might use to describe this one: Yahoo has spent $80,000 of the money it is saving by not trying to compete against Google and Microsoft to purchase Someone got hosed.

Before, it was just Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay and all those other creepy website folks: Now, the federal government is thinking that the Obama-promised transparency shouldn't be a one-way mirror by proposing to end the ban on the use of tracking cookies by government websites. If this goes through, we're thinking of starting a proxy service just about the time W-2 forms start getting sent out. Then again, maybe we'll just get all our friends to send email.

Signs of the Apocalypse: One of YouTube's highest ranking videos over the last two weeks is an ad for Internet Explorer 8 (which has since been pulled from the IE8 group), though it may show up as Steve Ballmer's reaction to the verdict in the Word patent infringement case. Then there's the ad for MS Office Project 2007 -- Microsoft's version of jumping the shark. Finally, the people who track office productivity reported a sharp increase on August 6.

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureFor a lot of people -- not me, fortunately -- it's the time of year when parents have to start thinking about sending their children back to school. If they're headed off to college, it might be a good idea to make sure the computer they're taking is up to snuff, though I'm not so high on advising the use of Vista. My other half talks about using a manual typewriter during his college days; the EE newsletter had an item a couple of months ago about one college requiring an iPod, and now there's another. I suppose they're cheaper than those PCs with Windows, let alone the Macs.

If your children are a little younger, there's also the matter of keeping track of them, assuming they're the kind who will let you know in the first place. A lot of people are getting their kids cellphones, but be wary of the bills. It's a good idea to make sure any plan includes texting, because it's a sure bet they're going to have friends who text them -- and without it built into your phone plan, it can cost a pile. You should also pay some attention to who they're texting to.

Speaking of costing a pile, you should also keep an eye open for those tempting credit card offers. I've told you about any number of incidents where credit card numbers are stolen, and if your student isn't used to having a debit card, much less a credit card, it's a good idea to tell them that someone, somewhere, is spending real money when they hand it over at the local clothing store.

A friend of ours forwarded to us an email she received from a friend of her son's that included the following: "I sent a package to NIGERIA (I know, ridiculous), but I was receiving paypal e-mails from with the logos and my account information, so I believed it was a true thing. Anyway, long story short... shipped out my laptop worth 2 thousand dollars and spent 114 on shipping to find out I was SCAMMED!" The friend was looking for advice after contacting the local police, the FBI, the Secret Service and anyone else she could find. Now she's looking at having to cancel credit cards, change banks, reset passwords and email addresses and who knows what else, depending on whether she used the laptop on line -- and she's still going to have to worry for the next several years.

Finally, it was Patch Tuesday last week. Microsoft issued 19 patches, most of which were "dire". So I wonder -- why wouldn't a security fix be "dire"? There are also updates out there for the antivirus programs and firewalls -- so don't wait until it's too late.

New Certificates

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