November 1, 2006
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Watching each other's backs

Netminder is one of the Site Administrators at Experts Exchange.

At Experts Exchange, we spend quite a bit of our time dealing with the issue of copyrights. It is not just that we get asked a lot about who owns the material posted at EE; we also get asked about the posts people make that include other people's work, and about websites and programs that tacitly (and sometimes actively) encourage the downloading of others' work.

Right off the bat: It is generally a copyright violation to copy entire works (articles or web pages) and reproduce them without attribution or credit. At EE, it is bad manners to do so; a link to the article is preferable, and a short description helps even more. Over the years, we have had email discussions with software companies about their support articles and private individuals about code they have written, and they universally agree: they don't want EE members to post their work. (Speaking of manners, we recently came across a great list of dos and don'ts. It was written for a specific list-serv, but it is still simple, clean, and to the point.)

That has nothing to do with your own work, of course; if you wrote it, then it is yours and you can do what you want with it. By posting it at EE, though, you are essentially telling anyone who uses the material that they can do so without worrying about you coming after them for a royalty check. That is especially true at Experts Exchange; when you registered, you granted EE a license to use your writing any way it sees fit, and that license extends to the other members of EE. You still own the work -- but it's a lot like owning the vacant lot that doesn't have water, sewer and power, where all the kids in town play baseball: it's just not worth the expense of putting up a fence.

But what makes us want to get this out there is an article we saw about the amorality of Web 2.0. The discussion of Wikipedia -- now about to get a competitor -- notwithstanding, we like to think of EE as perhaps the first Web 2.0 site. Much of that is because of the Experts themselves -- those people who show up every day or so to answer questions. They have made EE a generally very reliable source of information; as a group, they are knowledgeable and creative problem-solvers.

But unlike many sites where the content is generated by the users, there is a morality at work -- a self-defined code of ethics that ensures the quality of the answers people get. They protest statements made that are not supported by documentation, analysis and/or testing. Suggestions that are downright dangerous ("just open the back of your monitor...") are reported almost instantly, as are comments that include links to websites that involve illegal downloading of copyrighted works. That makes our work a lot easier.

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An iPod with a virus

ericpete is the editor of the Experts Exchange newsletter. He considers the main benefit to doing that job to be the opportunity to write -- something he has done professionally since he was a young boy.

We were having a conversation with our good friend Gerry the other day about the problems Apple had last week when they shipped out a few iPods that had a Windows virus on them. That got us laughing a bit, until we started considering the possibilities. One of Apple's strengths has always been its David stance as opposed to the Goliath from Redmond -- but that might well be inexorably changing.

One of the reasons Apple has never been a target for the virus-writing crowd is pretty simple: it isn't Microsoft. Even those of us who have only rarely used any other operating system know that Microsoft's products are full of holes, and it's just a numbers game; in any given barrel of apples (pardon the expression) there are going to be a few rotten ones that will spoil that barrel if you're not careful. Given that viruses are by their nature characterized by uncontrolled growth, it only takes a few computers becoming affected to potentially spoil that whole barrel. Apple's relatively small slice of the pie just isn't very attractive; after all, if you're going to be egregiously anti-social, you might as well annoy as many people as possible, right?

We will also recognize that Apple's operating systems are by nature less likely to be susceptible to the damage that can be done. Bill Gates' philosophy has always been that he wants his to be the only system used -- everyone gets a computer, or four or five, and they all run Windows (preferably a registered copy of Vista), and he will sell as many copies as he can, and full speed ahead. Steve Jobs is notoriously tight-fisted about his company; he doesn't let just anyone see the inner workings of his systems and goes into fits if someone talks out of school.

That could change quickly. For one thing, Macs are shipping with Intel processors; we had an item a couple of weeks ago that said that the best PC is a Macintosh running Windows. What's true, though, is that a Mac running Windows is like any other computer that runs Windows -- it is vulnerable, and it is only a matter of time before someone, somewhere, decides it would be a great idea to see if a virus can be made to attack the Mac.

But Gerry is convinced that the cell phone market is a much more likely target for virus writers, and given the capabilities of most phones, we have to concede the point. While the prospect of cell phone viruses will certainly impact the US, it will have a significantly bigger impact on the European and Far Eastern markets, where the investment in landline infrastructure isn't as ubitquitous as it is in the US. US companies have millions of miles of wire -- copper, cable, fiber -- and they'll pretty much do what it takes to keep people using that, including buying up cell phone companies and charging an arm and a leg for cell service. Eventually, they'll see their business model go the way of the newspaper -- why pay for something that gets your fingers dirty when you can get it for free?

(That's the REAL issue regarding Net Neutrality, by the way. Monopoly utilities are particularly inventive when it comes to making money in the US. They convince regulators that since they're spending a penny subsidizing the poor that they should be able to charge the rest of us a nickel extra. If we can buy and sell power cheaper than the utility, then the utility convinces the regulators that our customers should pay them for the business they're no longer getting. And they'll buy up a company just so they don't have to compete with it, using the argument that they will be able to provide better pricing. But that's another story.)

Think: most of us have a couple of dozen people in our email address lists -- but cell phones can store hundreds of names and phone numbers. It doesn't really take a lot to gain access to the information behind an account at that point. So a virus that acts like email viruses do -- sends the address book information somewhere -- could make the spam we all get look like a minor nuisance.

Oh, and we did mention money? The cellular companies aren't sitting still; recently Sprint announced it would be spending up to $3 billion over the next couple of years to deploy WiMax technology around the US.

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Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: It's not good for the customer

woman in specticalsThere was a whole lot of hullabaloo last week when Governor Schwarzenegger signed legislation that makes cable contracts with cities and counties in California pretty much a thing of the past. The reason, like everything else, is money. For the most part, cities and counties gave a particular cable company a franchise -- but in exchange for what is essentially a monopoly, the cable companies have had to provide access to schools and such for free.

The legislation changes all that. So I called around locally to see if it was going to make any difference here, and found out that for the most part, the amount of money collected isn't really a lot, so it won't make much difference. I also found out that the schools here don't use cable; they all use the telephone companies, so for us, it will be a blip on the radar screen financially.

But politically, it's a big deal, especially in the large cities. It turns over the administration to the California Public Utilities Commission -- five people who aren't elected. The legislation went through the two houses of the legislature, despite the fact that every county in the state opposed it. And how effective is the PUC at making sure utility rates are held down for the consumer? Californians pay about half again as much for electricity than the national average.

I've written quite a bit about viruses, zombies, and even some about botnets -- but I came across an article at eWeek that is pretty unnerving. Security people who specialize in fighting the botnet battle say that the botnet "herders" are winning the war, and that until everyone starts taking security seriously, it is only going to get worse.

Sorry to ruin your Halloween. Drive safely.

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 October 9 through October 23.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
MNelson831 BPeb EugeneZ MNelson831 Raynard7 SweatCoder GrahamSkan BrianGEFF719 Type25 whityum amit_g ddelhez NetAdmin2436 Sorenson jar3817 sunnycoder d_may DireOrbAnt nschafer Morcalavin jaime_olivares inbarasan Guru Master Genius Guru Master Master Sage Guru Guru Master Genius Master Master Master Master Master Master Wizard Guru Master Guru Master MS Access MS Access Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Visual Basic Visual Basic ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP ASP Networking Networking Networking Windows XP Windows XP JavaScript JavaScript JavaScript C# Exchange_Server
Expert Certified in Topic Area
MNH1966 jaime_olivares LordWabbit oleggold RobWill mcsween SeanUK777 life_j garyrafferty irwinpks modathir ksivananth julianmatz rsdn ivostoykov graye DCreature trailblazzyr55 Jester_48 kamermans RQuadling amit_g Master Master Master Master Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Guru Master Guru Master Sage Wizard Master Wizard Master Exchange_Server VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Win. Server 2003 Java PHP Web Development Oracle .NET Operating Systems ColdFusion ColdFusion Flash PHP and Databases PHP and Databases
Expert Certified in Topic Area
xDamox noci slow1000 giltjr IPKON_Networks Steggs nschafer SysExpert JFrederick29 jaggernat jar3817 harbor235 fcarandangjr noci blin2000 bret vico1 tfewster tfewster lesouef Yurich jaime_olivares Wizard Master Master Master Master Guru Master Wizard Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Guru Master Master Master Sage Master Master Linux Linux Linux Applications Storage CSS HTML Lotus Notes/Domino Firewalls JSP Linux Net. Linux Net. FoxPro Linux Admin. VPN Sybase SBS Small Bus. Server Unix Net. AIX IBMs UNIX OS FileMaker DB Reporting GIS & GPS
2383 experts have 4045 certifications: Genius: 119 Sage: 176 Wizard: 269 Guru: 716 Master: 2765
Copyright ? 2006. All rights reserved.