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10.10.2007
Experts Exchange Community News
What's New at Experts Exchange
Features, Genius, Milestones, Members

New! Corporate Accounts
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Vista's Built-In Diagnostics
LeeTutor on using Vista to fix itself

Questions of Note
Worth taking a look at

Ethics and news forums
What's in a [user]name? Lots.

More News and Notes
In case you hadn't heard

Nata's Corner
Scam, scam, scam, scam

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What's New at Experts Exchange top

Adobe Flex and MS Silverlight Zones Added: Experts Exchange is always adding new Zones to keep pace with your evolving technology needs. Our latest additions to the existing 957 technology Zones are Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight. Members now have specific Zones in which to ask their Flex and Silverlight questions, while Experts have a shot at capturing Top Expert honors in these fresh Zones while the new car smell lasts.

Our thanks go out to SiriusPhil and Octalys for pointing out the need for Flex in their posts to the New Topics Zone. We're giving cmhunty a high five for his email to feedback which spurred the addition of Silverlight. Experts Exchange adds new Zones based on your requests so don't forget to request the Zone you need by speaking up in the New Topics Zone or emailing feedback@experts-exchange.com.

New Geniuses: We messed up last issue; in going through the list of certificate awardees, we completely missed MalicUK, who became the eleventh Genius in the Excel zone. Joining him on the list this week was AndyAinscow, who earned his Genius certificate in Windows MFC Programming, the second in that zone.

Milestones: Many moons ago, not that long after we joined Experts Exchange, it was a big deal when the first member went over the 1,000,000 point mark. Sometime during the past two weeks, EE reached a milestone of sorts: now, 2,000,000 points is not enough to get you into the Hall Of Fame. Forcing the bar up another notch were Chris-Dent, GRayL, and the irrepressible LucF. Other milestones reached recently:

  • Sembee went over 18,000,000 points.
  • angelIII went over 17,000,000 points.
  • zorvek went over 7,000,000 points in the Excel zone.
  • mlmcc has joined the 6,000,000 point club.

Kudos: jambla, who joined EE just a week or so ago, figured out how to ask a question, and was fortunate enough to get angelIII, number two in the Hall of Fame, right off the bat. He solved the problem, and jambla left this note: "Fantastic!!! Thanks so much for your help! This is my first time to this site and I'm very very happy with it!!" Thanks, jambla; we're glad to know it won't be your last time.

PaulHews, who received his Genius certificate last week, celebrated in the best way possible, and one that is typical for him: He gave something back to EE. He has built a little tool that helps you build your own help file. Nice work, Paul!

jsheffer wrote that even the occasional bug doesn't stop him from renewing his Premium Services subscription. "I just wanted to say, Experts Exchange is a great tool. I've been a premium member for about 3 years and have only asked about 20 questions because most of the time I find the answers I need."

Simon336697 had high praise for Adam314, Tintin, bportlock, sirbounty, kiranvj, RobSampson, and MasonWolf.

Inbox: We had an item last issue about MIT controlling 1/256th of the IP addresses available on the Internet. That brought an email from BiggsP, who pointed out that when HP acquired Compaq, which acquired DEC a long time ago, the 15. and 16. A-class subnets -- 32 million addresses -- came under one company's control.

New! Corporate Accounts top

5 Reasons Your Business NEEDS to have an EE Corporate Account | Reason #3 (Or #5 for the 3rd straight newsletter...)

Save time -- helping you work more efficiently. According to a King Research study, 93% of IT professionals who rely on an IT community claim that they do their jobs more efficiently and save time by using the IT community to solve their IT problems. 43% say they save three or more hours every week!

Perfect for businesses with IT departments or software development teams with more than three people, corporate accounts give you all of the benefits of being a member of Experts Exchange along with additional savings, easy to use license management and convenient billing options.

Upgrade today and save over 42% on plans starting at 5 licenses.

Vista's Built-In Diagnostics top

LeeTutor is the Zone Advisor for the Operating Systems zones, and specializes in Windows. In July of this year, he was named a Microsoft MVP. This article is republished from his website.

There are built-in diagnostics in Windows Vista for several common types of problems, including those involving hard disks, memory, and networking. This feature is briefly described on this Microsoft web page: Windows Vista: Features Explained: Built-in Diagnostics.

Windows Disk Diagnostics has a new service called Diagnostic Policy Service that uses the S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring Analysis Reporting Technology) to detect potential disk failures and then, after displaying a message that the hard disk is at risk, guides users through the process of backup of data, replacement of the disk, and restoration of the data.

Windows Memory Diagnostics can analyze for failing memory by scheduling a memory test on the next boot, and then provide guided support. You can access the Memory Diagnostics by going to Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> Memory Diagnostic Tool. The tool runs a short series of tests to determine the integrity of the RAM modules on your system. It will either find the memory to be functioning properly or alert you to errors it has found.

Another part of the built-in diagnostics of Vista applies to troubleshooting networks. You can read a brief description on this page: Windows Vista: Features Explained: Network Diagnostics and Troubleshooting.

Unlike in Windows XP, there is a single icon in the Notification Area ("system tray") of the taskbar which summarizes network connectivity of all attached network adaptors. You can view the status of each connected network by hovering the mouse over the icon. The states that this Network System Icon can have are any of these four:

  • No Connectivity (no cable is plugged in, and no connection to a wireless access point has been detected)
  • Limited (a connectivity problem exists)
  • Local Only (the system can communicate with other systems on local and remote subnets but cannot communicate with systems on the Internet)
  • Local and Internet (at least one network adapter is connected to the local network and can reach the Internet.)

If you right click the Network System you get this menu of network-related functions:

  • Connect to a network
  • Turn on activity animation, which causes the Network System Icon to blink when the computer sends or receives packets from the network, indicating network activity
  • Turn off notification of new networks
  • Diagnose and repair
  • Network and Sharing Center

The Windows Network Diagnostics tool in Windows Vista, available from the above menu option of Diagnose and Repair, helps you identify any issues preventing network connectivity and it automatically repairs them if possible, or otherwise gives you steps to take to correct the problem. The Network Diagnostic Framework (NDF) is capable of diagnosing hundreds of different networking issues. If you want to download and read a Word document called VistaNetDiag.doc with probably more details than you would ever want to know about this, go to Network Diagnostics Technologies in Windows Vista.

Questions of Note top

Every week, thousands of questions get asked at Experts Exchange. Most of them are pretty straightforward; someone has a problem, and someone has a solution. But there are always a few that come to the top, for any number of reasons: they are complex situations, or they involve a number of Experts collaborating on a solution, or they contain an interesting and informative discussion. So take a look.

We love a good debate. We love one even more when it carries over several questions that we can refer back to. We love it even more than that when it involves two of our favorite Experts -- TechSoEasy and redseatechnologies, both of whom are Microsoft MVPs and Geniuses at EE -- get into it over whether you should use .local or .somethingelse when setting up an Exchange server.

Copyrights -- and what constitutes the fair use of copyrighted materials -- is an ongoing subject of discussion at Experts Exchange. This question is noteworthy, in part because there are so many different rules, depending on where in the world you live.

Ethics and news forums top

An editor by trade, a writer by avocation and an Expert by happenstance, ericpete puts together the newsletter for Experts Exchange.

We recently participated in a discussion in that oldest of online forums -- a list-serv -- about online forums, and the ethics of posting to them. The situation is this: the Nashua Telegraph runs user forums like a lot of media companies do. A local elected official, who has an anonymous -- meaning that he has an unidentifiable username just like everyone else -- account has created at least three other usernames he uses to comment on the positions taken by other elected officials. (He's not up for re-election this year, but his colleagues are.)

The question, asked by the online managing editor, was whether other news organizations had ever run into the issue and what had they done about it. You'd have thought the price of newsprint had doubled; people came out of the woodwork on this one.

Our take originally was that the guy should be outted. Elected officials don't really have the same expectation of anonymity that others do (we knew a guy who worked in the White House who told us that Vice-President Al Gore used to drop in on the IT department and visit chat rooms, but we don't know if it's actually true), and we're not convinced it's ethical, for a politician, to say something on line that he wouldn't be willing to have attributed to him. It's also definitely unethical to use a variety of usernames to pummel people with whom one disagrees; one of the online journalists called it "sock-puppeting". Most of the other people on the list had much the same reaction.

But the problem for the Telegraph is twofold. First, its terms of service don't prohibit multiple accounts. Second, "outting" the user would, to a certain extent, violate its own privacy policy by revealing how they figured it out -- his own dumb mistake, verified by a check of an email address and IP address. For the curious, he wrote an email to the paper complaining about someone else, and used the wrong username when he did.

The other issue media companies run into is one of time/money. Moderating forums takes a lot of one, and can take a lot of the other. Given that the newspaper industry, as a whole, has been suffering declining revenues for at least a decade, most don't want to devote the number of FTEs (full time equivalents, for you non-HR folks) it takes to moderate a site.

The biggest problem the newspapers have, though, is cultural. For hundreds of years, except in extreme circumstances like the American revolution, newspapers required the names of people who wrote letters (even if they were withheld). By including something on a printed page, newspapers became responsible for the content; one always made sure that libelous content never saw the light of day. The online world is different; Steve Yelvington, who built one of the first online newspaper sites back in 1994, wrote an article last winter on the matter:

Requiring real names may (or may not) help by encouraging responsible online behavior but at a cost of silencing important voices and viewpoints. Allowing pseudonyms may encourage participation at a cost (maybe, maybe not) of encouraging misbehavior.

Yelvington doesn't have a universal solution. That's not criticism; it's just a reflection of the problem any forum has.

Two suggestions finally came out of the discussion, neither of which the Telegraph has taken advantage of yet. The first was to throw the issue open to the community, to let the community have its say on what should be done about sock puppets and such. The Telegraph did post a note about some of the information available to it that it could use, but stopped short of saying "we have discovered this guy who is using four accounts." The second was to build a staff of volunteer moderators (a system we're quite fond of, obviously, but also one that works for other papers, like the Muncie Star Press and the Denver Post). Doing that makes the users feel like they have some say in what's acceptable and what isn't, and rules get enforced by the people who actually use the site all the time, who are in touch with what the rest of the community thinks.

And it doesn't cost very much.

Afterthought: We read with great interest an interview with Rob Malda, aka CmdrTaco, one of the founders of SlashDot. Of note: "Slashdot isn't a purely automated system. People are behind it. People who read and care what content hits the site. As a result, we maintain a consistently high level of quality."

Tips From the Moderators top

Sometimes, the best answer to a question is the one provided by someone else: a software manufacturer's knowledge-base, or a piece of coding or application that does exactly what the asker wants, or even just a well-written explanation of the advantages of various ways of doing things. So how should you include that information in your response to a question?

The one thing you should not do is copy and paste the whole article. The chances are pretty good that it is copyrighted material, and even if it is posted on the Internet, using it without permission is not only a violation of the copyright, but it's also just plain rude, especially if you don't give credit to the author. The writer may not ever make a dime off his work, but it's still his, and using it without explicit permission is plagiarism.

We recommend the following:

  1. Paste the URL hyperlink to the page specific to the question.
  2. Write a short summary indicating why that page might solve the problem.
  3. Optionally, if appropriate, copy at most one or two paragraphs, and/or the title.

Here is an example:

How to Instantiate a Fernambulation
http://www.somewebsite.com/Kb12345.html

The article discusses all three types of fernambulation instantiation. If you are targeting the Windows XP platform, be sure to look near the end.

Do's and don'ts:

  • Do not EVER copy and paste an entire document from any website.
  • Rather than quoting extensively from an article, summarize the parts that are relevant to the question.
  • Never post a "bare link" -- always provide some context. Providing the page title will help later EE users find the article in case the URL changes.
More News and Notes top

In case you hadn't heard: Burma makes North Korea and China seem like open and free societies. As is par for the course, the messenger was blamed.

Methinks the Google doth protest too much: Google has been saying for quite a while that they're not building a phone. Yeah, right.

Let's give them something they already have, and maybe they won't notice that we didn't do much for all those years: One way to keep a promise of not raising taxes is to not implement one that has been prohibited by law from being implemented in the first place. Such is the case, in the US anyway, of a tax on the Internet. A moratorium on said tax has been in place for several years, but making it permanent has been slow in coming -- until now, when the year-long election season has begun.

One thing that won't get a lot of discussion, we suspect, is "network neutrality", for a couple of reasons -- although the new terms of service offered by AT&T could change that in a hurry, as would new revelations about the spying the telcos did for the government. First, net neutrality -- the concept that all US-transmitted Internet data is created equally -- isn't a very sexy election issue. Second, most of us aren't likely to be affected much personally by a tiered system of transmission. Our email will still come and go (and be filled with junk), and we'll still be able to download songs and videos (although they might cost a bit more); it's a bit like global warming in that unless it smacks you in the face, you don't think about it. The you-know-what will hit the fan when people like us have our home phones turned off because we start referring to the baseball stadium in San Francisco as MaBell Park.

But can he do his times tables up to the fifteens yet?: Carson Page, a third-grade student in Texas, is a beta-tester for Actel.

Drip... drip... drip: Another leak of names, addresses and social security numbers, this time from the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure, is the subject of an internal investigation, although the agency has issued assurances that the data has been mostly recovered. 450,000 people were compromised. Meanwhile, the DHS has found someone to blame for its data breach problems.

Mandatory OS switch delayed: Microsoft is going to continue to allow OEMs to sell Windows XP until the middle of 2008. How nice -- unless you forget to activate it.

The vocational risks of sword swallowing?: Our second favorite annual list of awards was announced last week. Also swallowed: an expensive white elephant, by eBay.

In case you're wondering what to get your editor for Christmas: He wouldn't mind a new cell phone -- as long as he doesn't have to look at context-based advertising during his phone calls -- that's downright creepy. We'll take a pass on Office 2007 until there's a fix for the bug in Excel that is being widely discussed. (Thanks, roos01 and byundt!)

Help wanted: Reviewer: For years, we've seen people disparage one browser or another in questions at EE; there are your Firefox fanatics, we know that MHenry is a fan of Opera and almost nobody likes AOL. But we'd really like to hear someone's take on the Miss America Kid-Safe Web Browser, but please, no references to swimsuit competition searches. Okay, maybe one.

Haven't we had this story before?: There has been at least one fairly well-publicized story about the battery in an iPod catching fire. One thing that didn't get mentioned, though: is Danny Williams going to have to pay iTunes another 99 cents apiece for the songs that were stored on the iPod?

Freebies of the week: SitePoint is offering a free book on Ruby On Rails for the next couple of months (Thanks, Susan!), and for those of you who pay 50 per cent more than the national average for electricity, PG&E is giving away a million CFLs. And an almost freebie is the betavoltaic battery for your laptop that lasts 30 years. (Thanks, Mark!) There's also a beta version of a tool to manage your Outlook mail.

Signs of the Apocalypse: The Feds shut down California, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il is an "expert on the Internet" (maybe he can enlighten Senator Ted Stevens), and the recording industry won -- and their British counterparts upped the ante.

Nata's Corner top
Nata's Picture

It's around the first of the month, and that means it's scam time. The one I've seen something on recently that annoys me the most is the one targeting kids. I don't necessarily blame the kids, even. I recently opened a couple of accounts for my (yes, I know the picture makes me look younger than I really am, but it's the sunglasses that do it) grandchildren, and they have already received offers for getting their own credit cards. The last time I heard, it wasn't legal for someone under 18 to enter into any kind of contract without having their parents sign it -- so maybe the people who stand to lose should be monitoring the use of the cards a little more. Just a thought.

If you've been in any big box store lately, you've seen that even though Halloween is still a few weeks away, they have already started putting out their Christmas merchandise -- so it is officially "that time of year". That means that we can all expect to start getting emails from eBay and PayPal about our accounts, and it also means that they'll all probably be fake. eBay is taking steps to stop it, though; they're going to start supporting DomainKeys Identified Mail, which means that your anti-phishing software will be able to work more effectively. That's what it's going to take to stop the flow of this garbage, I think -- at least until everyone makes it illegal to do, and enforces the law.

There has been a bit of good news on the scamming front: the US postal service and European agencies have been cracking down on what they suspect to be scams that involve sending checks, and even the Chinese have been tossing virus writers in jail, but that doesn't seem to matter much when their victims offer them jobs or when the online jobsites are so susceptible to foul play. If you've ever wondered about the technology behind all the spam we all get, a recent study says that while there are networks of hundreds of machines sending out the spam, there are usually only a few computers doing the actual dirty tricks.

And just in time for those holidays I mentioned... a few weeks ago, we downloaded photographs from a recent vacation onto the computer, and burned CDs that we mailed off to relatives (there were lots of pictures). We could have zipped them and uploaded them, but YouSendIt would have been a lot easier. Just an email with a link, and there you go.

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