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Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

OCTOBER 26, 2011


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

Examples of why we love EE

Nata's Corner
Proof that everyone makes mistakes

Tips from the Moderators
Thank you, Hans-Werner

In Brief
Things you might have missed

Who did what through October 22


wellsWells and t-shirts: The wells built as the result of Experts giving the shirts off their backs are the subject of a blog post by Megan Farrell, who was sent by the company to see first hand the results of the EE community's efforts. The photographs Megan posted speak for themselves; as we turn the corner into another holiday season, those of you who contributed to the effort to make the two wells a reality can be proud of the online community at which you spend your time. Thank you all, especially Megan, who coordinated EE's donation with WaterRun, and demazter and alanhardisty, who got the t-shirt donation idea rolling; you have mattered. demazter (Glen Knight) and Megan will be the guests on this week's podcast, hosted by Jenn Prentice and Gary Weyel. It should be a fascinating conversation.

Microsoft MVP: Normally, we send a shout-out to the new Microsoft MVPs only once a year during the summer, when Microsoft announces the bulk of them, but we want to take special notice of two people who recently got some good news from Redmond. mark_wills was informed that his status was renewed for SQL Server; he is our most active Page Editor and unfailingly lets us know whenever he is going to go drive really fast cars at his "farm". In a move that is long overdue, rpggamergirl was named a Most Valuable Professional for Consumer Security; if you haven't read her articles (they're listed in her profile), you've missed some of the best advice on keeping your computer clean anywhere.

showdownExpert Showdown: slightwv and sdstuber are engaged in battle for the ages to see which of them can score more points in the Oracle topic area. The randomly-selected supporter of #TeamSteve or #TeamSean whose entry is selected will get a sleek EE belt buckle suitable for a trip to Las Vegas.

Webinar: Microsoft Access MVP Jim Dettman will be featured in our next webinar, scheduled for Thursday, October 27 at 11 am.

New topic areas: A little issue with scheduling caused us to mention these a couple of weeks early including Social Networking, Facebook, Twitter, Mobile Web and Google Docs. We've also renamed the Open Office topic areas to Libre Office and the Palm OS to WebOS, and have brought back the ACT and SAP topic areas.

Meet-up: Our next meet-up, featuring the unique and entertaining Michael Munger, AKA DrDamnit and EE's content manager, Jenn Prentice, will be at 5 Seasons Brewing in Atlanta, GA on Thursday, October 27 from 4-8 pm. Reserve your spot today; after all, the beer (and food) is on us!

badgeKindle Fire: Winner of our Kindle Fire Giveaway was Clay Tsuhako. We also had a Tweetshirt Tuesday winner last week: Neil MacIver. Speaking of winning, you can pick up a very cool EE V.10 t-shirt and maybe even a year of free Premium Services by signing up to participate in our beta program and helping spread the news about the new site by posting the badge at right on your website or Facebook page.

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!


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jhoekman dropped us a note about a question that he asked concerning parsing URLs in Excel. What makes the solutions stand out is in part that andrewssd3 and EE's resident scholar on Excel formulas, barryhoudini showed up to answer the question in a scant 26 minutes, but also in that barryhoudini took the time to explain his brilliantly elegant formula to his fellow Expert. jhoekman wrote: "This may seem simple to people who know excel, but this is the coolest friggin formula I have ever seen. Sounds like some other Excel Experts were equally impressed."

We were alerted to a post written by Matt Stannard on his personal blog: "This is where Forums really come it to play. With a few carefully worded questions in Experts Exchange (a forum I am a member of) I was able to resolve all of these issues. It's also really good to bounce ideas off other professionals. So, my advice is don't write off the value of older channels. The method of interaction may not be as instantaneous as Twitter and Facebook but the value they add can be just as valuable!" Thank you, Matt; we couldn't have said it better.

stephenlecomptejr was trying to write a script that would change file attributes, and got help from billprew and RobSampson. When he closed the question, he meant to split the points, but had to ask the Mods for help. That prompted responses from both of the Experts; Bill commented, "Great job realizing there was a better way to assign credit and close this question, and following through to re-open and re-assign credit / points. Very much the right approach and I thank you for taking the time to adjust, and recognizing Rob's earlier contribution to the core problem." Rob followed a bit later: "Thanks stephenlecomptejr, it is much appreciated. There aren't too many participants like yourself that give that much thought to all those who contributed, and for those that do, it is refreshing to see that the Experts efforts don't go unnoticed."

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureMy other half, in case you didn't get the memo, is a lot more the geeky type than I am. Still, everyone makes mistakes, right? Last week while we were out of town, he got an email at his GMail account from Redbox saying that he had rented two movies in a town about 240 miles away from where we were, but since the credit card number wasn't his, he didn't think much about it. The next day, he got two more emails from Redbox saying "thanks for returning the two movies you rented," so he kept that email thinking "something's funky here." When we got home, he got another email asking him to verify his email address, and he ignored that one, but when he got another one a couple of days later, he checked the URL and clicked "unsubscribe".

That was his mistake, because almost immediately I and two hundred people listed in his Gmail address book got emails from him that offered them good pricing on a certain prescription drug -- which apparently made for some interesting replies to him. He very quickly changed his password and ran a couple of scans to make sure his computer wasn't infected, but it looks like at least one of Redbox's servers has some malware installed somewhere. The moral of the story: if you know you haven't rented a couple of mediocre movies in a town quite a ways away and your credit card hasn't been charged, just delete the email -- even if it looks like it comes from a legitimate address. Otherwise, your wife might make mention of it in her newsletter column.

Speaking of embarrassing, a trade magazine's site for people who work for the federal government had a piece last week warning people that Facebook's new Timeline feature is going to make it harder for people to bury those embarrassing photos (and everything else) from your past. As with everything else you don't want people to know about, if you'd rather they don't know about it, don't put it on the Internet. As the Wall Street Journal said, "your Wall has ears.". If you want to take a kind of creepy tour through everything that people could find, take a look at Take This Lollipop. If you're not so daring (or don't really want to know), Fast Company had a really good story on the site. In the meantime, I wonder what Randi Zuckerberg will think about Facebook in a couple of years.

If you happen to be one of the exceedingly few people who don't have Flash 10 installed on your computer, you should be a little careful about downloading it from one of the sponsored sites that show up in either a Bing or Yahoo search, because the sponsored (read: "paid") site you're getting Flash from might also install a particularly nasty rootkit. Instead of searching for Flash 10, your best bet is to go to Adobe's website and download it from there.

I'm not really much of a morning person any more, but last week I was up early and happened to catch CBS' Early Show just in time to see a feature on "Etiquette for a digital world" featuring the granddaughter of Emily Post, who wrote newspaper columns on manners back when newspapers were the only way most people got their news. It turns out they have a site that's all about what to do; the day I looked at it, the item shown was about how you should handle an email that clearly wasn't meant for you. My mother-in-law would be particularly happy to see that the recommndation for handwritten thank you notes is still there.

In Brief

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Note to Anonymous: they're paying attention: Not that anyone should be surprised, but documents posted on publicly accessible sites show that the hacking group's list of targets include industrial control systems. Apropos of which, what looks like a new version of Stuxnet (the worm that played havok with Iran's nuclear development plants) has been spotted in the wild.

In requiem: Dennis Ritchie, co-creator of Unix and the C programming language, at age 70; also Gil Hayward, one of the engineers who re-engineered the German cipher machines during World War II, at age 93.

Heads I win, tails you lose: At the beginning of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, the title characters are engaged in what might otherwise be considered an experiment in probability caluculations (read the script -- it's much better than the film). Turns out they may have been right.

If you're easily offended, please skip this item: So it doesn't quite reach the level of a meme yet (it's only been a week), but as of Friday noon, the comeback win of the Texas Rangers over the St. Louis Cardinals in game two of the #worldseries was out-tweeting #rapture by over 4-1 -- but #rapture had much funnier lines (and more spam posts).

Can't win for losing: Heeding the voices of security and privacy folks, Google has changed its search URL to an encrypted one for logged in users. That, of course, ticked off the marketing types (and the people who want to be able to monitor searches, like schools and governments), who want to know what search terms people use. And it should go without saying that Google still knows.

Jersey Shore alumni need not apply: We're somewhere in the crowd scenes of the Oakland Colesium in Moneyball. That got us on the mailing lists of everyone who wants extras in northern California -- which isn't really all that often. But it also got us an invitation -- we don't qualify -- to send in an audition tape for a new television show, from the producers of Amazing Race and Survivor, called King of the Nerds. C'mon, Matt -- you know you want to send in a tape.

Why you won't need to get out your checkbook to pay for that IPO stock: Never mind that a lot of people don't have a lot of money in the checkbook in the first place. Another reason can be summed up in one word: GroupOn. C'mon, folks. There are exactly two companies that have sustainable business models based on advertising -- Facebook and Google -- and that's because they control both the buying and selling. If you're going to leap, at least make sure the company has a plan for making a buck or two that isn't a glorified Ponzi scheme.

Lies, damn lies and statistics: Facebook has changed the way it counts people playing games. That's good; honesty is always the best policy. Now let's see how many of the 750 million members are actually using Facebook on a regular basis, and how many are duplicated or forgotten accounts, how many are just sitting there collecting electronic dust and the rest. Of course, some of them aren't; they're suing over privacy complaints and wiretap violations and trademark infringements. There's even a scorecard. Curiously, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff didn't mention lawsuits in his Web 2.0 summit talk -- but give them time.

XaaSperating: Everyone knows what The Cloud is. We think. We know that it's mostly getting CTOs to trust big (or specialized) companies with the hardware, software and security of their organization's data processing systems. What we didn't know was that it would turn acronyms against each other.

Quotes of the Week: In the comments following a jargon-filled article about mining data to better "drive effective user acquisition, engagement, retention, and monetization" (marketing departments around the world just felt their worlds tremble while reading that), the comment from atimoshenko: "If you need my data to understand me better, you're doing it wrong." More to the point, there comes a time when the abdication of critical thinking to the tyrrany of analytics (another word we have come to hate) does one of two things: obscures the real issue, or paralyzes the decision-maker. Remember that when you're trying to figure out whether people want the chocolate ice cream or the vanilla.

And from the late Wolcott Gibbs, whose work at the New Yorker is in a recently released anthology edited by Thomas Vinciguerra, written in 1939: "We are too busy listening to hear anything in particular, too overwhelmed by the parts to see any outline of the whole."

"You're right, dear": If you're in the position of having your enjoyment of that stirring television battle between your alma mater's half-rate football team getting shellacked by some Cheating Big Huge State University With Lots Of Well-Heeled Boosters (you know who they are) interrupted by your bride's desire to visit the local shopping mall for the purpose of "seeing what's on sale", salvation has arrived. Not that you wanted to watch the game, get in nine holes, change the oil, clean the gutters or fix that leaky faucet anyway, right? Your editor will now return to his rightful place sleeping outside with the dog.

Remember MySpace? It was still valuable too when it was sold, depending on how the books were cooked.

Why we know anything labeled "Web 2.0" is deader than WebVan: Because MC Hammer (remember him? the baggy pants? "Can't touch this"?) appeared at the overhyped and underwhelming Web 2.0 summit to announce his "Deep" Relational Search Engine.

Don't ask me; I'm glad I can get my email most of the time: In a pair of essays, Paul Allen (the other half of the duo that started Microsoft) and Ray Kurzwell (who is credited with first describing the concept) argue over whether we're approaching the point at which machines will be smarter than people. You decide (thanks, Todd!)

Signs of the Apocalypse: Our good friend teksquisite, a long-time security and malware consultant, got a bit of a surprise last week when one of the world's more notorious spammers, Adam Guerbuez, added her to his Google+ circles. The Pentagon says it's going to cost them another $1,000,000,000 to figure out how much the Pentagon spends.


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  • capricorn1 has earned over 23,000,000 points in his career at Experts Exchange, second only to angelIII.
  • CodeCruiser reached the 7,000,000 point level in the VB.NET topic area; he is the highest-ranked member of EE in that TA.
  • slightwv has become the 76th member of Experts Exchange to reach 5,000,000 points overall. He is the current leader in points for the Oracle topic area.
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