Experts Exchange EE News Nov 2008

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November 12, 2008 >>

What's New at Experts Exchange
Zone Advisor, Help Page, and Geniuses

Our Readers Respond
Health insurance brought lots of mail

The Best Pitch You Never Created
Persuasion made easy

Barack To The Future
The tech challenges facing the new President

More News and Notes
Walking around in circles

Nata's Corner
Sending the bad guys away for a long time

New Certificates
New certificate holders, through November 9

Tips From The Moderators
What happens when you abandon questions

What's New at Experts Exchange

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New Feature: Experts Exchange has pushed a new "Follow" feature that allows members to keep track of posts by their favorite Experts. To follow a member, just go to that person's profile and click the Follow link. While no notification is sent, you can see both who you are following and who is following you, and you have the option of blocking a member from following you as well. All of that information is shown in your profile. You can check on the recent activity of someone you are following by going to the home page and clicking the My Members button, then selecting the member from the list.

Returning Zone Advisor: After a brief hiatus of a couple of months, kretzschmar has returned to help out in the Delphi programming zones. Welcome back!

New Geniuses: Until a week or so ago, only nine members of Experts Exchange had earned more than two Genius certificates. That changed when matthewspatrick picked up his third, this one in Visual Basic. Also joining the ranks of Genius certificate holders were sciuriware, who became the seventh 1,000,000 point member in Java, and Squinky, who is the sixth member to reach the Genius rank in PHP.


  • TheLearnedOne reached the 4,000,000 point level in VB.NET and the 2,000,000 point level in .NET. What makes the events significant is that only one other member -- lrmoore -- has more than 2,000,000 points in four different zones, and no other member has as many as 4,000,000 points in one of those zones.
  • chapmandew has reached the 2,000,000 point level in two different zones -- SQL Server 2005 and MS SQL Server. Only three other members have accomplished that feat, and he has done it in less than a year.
  • war1 has gone over the 7,000,000 point level in Outlook.
  • DatabaseMX has reached the 4,000,000 point level in Microsoft Access.

Kudos: Experts Exchange members search old questions for solutions all the time, but it's not very often that the solution in an old question gets appreciated. Danielcmorris found the solution to a beeping (no, not bleeping) Dell, and was moved to comment, 18 months after the answer was accepted: "Very nice. I just found the bad memory on mine. Would have taken me ages without this post. Thanks!"

Cleanup Volunteers: Below is a table of the CVs who have helped us close questions recently, with their cumulative total of questions closed along with their production through November 8.

Expert Last 2 Weeks Cumulative
Expert Last 2 Weeks Cumulative

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The Best Pitch You Never Created

As an employee, you are your manager's eyes and ears in the trenches. It's up to you to help identify opportunities to improve your company's operations and report them back to your manager.

We're confident that an Experts Exchange Corporate Account is one of these opportunities worth your manager's time. Corporate Accounts are a cost effective way to get your organization all the technology support it needs, allowing you to save your company time and money.

To help you convince your manger, we've gone ahead and created a list of 5 great reasons why your company needs a Corporate Account. Just provide your manager's email address (which we promise not to retain, resell or abuse) and we'll email him or her a polished pitch that is sure to earn your team a Corporate Account, allowing your team to work smarter and faster.

>> Create Corporate Account
>> Convince Your Manager

Tips From the Moderators

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A lot of what we do involves dealing with questions that have been "abandoned", which is defined as a question that has gone three weeks without a comment.

It is the asker's responsibility to manage his open questions. We get a lot of mail saying "I was waiting for more answers", but the fact is that it's very unlikely that someone will find your question when it has had responses and decide to post one more idea -- or one more comment saying the same things someone else has already said.

There are five ways for you to take care of your open questions:

Accept an Expert's comment as the solution
If an Expert has given you the solution to your question, or has led you to the solution, select this option.
Accept multiple solutions
If several Experts collaborated to provide a solution, use this option and split the points among them.
Accept your own comment as the solution
If you solved your problem with no assistance from any Expert, post your solution and then click the Accept As Solution button in your own comment.
Accept your own comment, and award points to Experts for their assistance
If you answered your own question, but wish to award points to Experts for their attempts to help, use this option.
Delete your question
If you are not getting the kinds of responses that will lead to a solution, you should consider deleting your question and trying again. The Delete Question button is located near the text of your original post.

If the Moderators see a pattern in your profile of asking questions and then abandoning them, they will contact you, and may -- in extreme cases -- take some action with regard to your account, so please -- keep on top of your questions. If you have the time to ask them, and the Experts take the time to answer them, then do the right thing and close them.

The Best Pitch You Never Created

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As an employee, you are your manager's eyes and ears in the trenches. It's up to you to help identify opportunities to improve your company's operations and report them back to your manager.

We're confident that an Experts Exchange Corporate Account is one of these opportunities worth your manager's time. Corporate Accounts are a cost effective way to get your organization all the technology support it needs, allowing you to save your company time and money.

To help you convince your manger, we've gone ahead and created a list of 5 great reasons why your company needs a Corporate Account. Just provide your manager's email address (which we promise not to retain, resell or abuse) and we'll email him or her a polished pitch that is sure to earn your team a Corporate Account, allowing your team to work smarter and faster.

» Create Corporate Account
» Convince Your Manager

22 new clients whose managers have been convinced:

United States Deptartment of Transportation - Volpe Center
Louisiana Economic Development Center
Wildhorse Resort & Casino
Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency
City of Plymouth
Parente Randolph, LLC
Austin Hardware
Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
Stratos Global
Stellar Industrial Supply

Modern Communications Ltd
Members 1st Federal Credit Union
Oxon Health Informatics Service
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Quiss Technology PLC
Brooklyn Public Library
Oakworks, Inc.
Northeast Florida Telephone Company
BM Products

Corporate accounts

» Create Corporate Account
» Convince Your Manager

Our Readers Respond

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When we put the newsletter together, we never really know what's going to push someone's buttons. Such was the case with skirklan's article a couple of weeks ago about health insurance for self-employed people; since we're self-employed, and since we know a good number of members who work for themselves, we considered her submission worth including.

LSMConsulting was one of the people who wrote in to us directly:

What was the purpose of including the recent unedited article about healthcare? An edited version would have been a great addition to the newsletter, since many of the Experts on EE are freelancers, and skirklan did include some interesting information. However, I fail to see how racism, "rich lobbyist" or comments like "weasel-like backs" have any place in a well-written article in a technically-oriented newsletter. A bit of editing would have made this a good article; as it stands, it sounds like someone who apparently made a bad decision (i.e. leave their corporate job and freelance, with the resultant loss of benefits) had a run of bad luck and wants to blame someone -- anyone -- instead of coming to the realization that perhaps they should have thought through their options before leaving their job, or before deciding to freelance.

I like EE, I truly do, and I like the newsletter for the most part. And there are many places on EE where discourse like this is not only welcomed but encouraged. To my mind, the newsletter wouldn't be one of those places.

Of course, those are just my thoughts on the matter. Hope you have a great and fun day.

We take a kind of "hands off" approach to editing when it comes to the newsletter. We do check links to make sure they're valid, and we try to ensure that spelling is correct, but we hesitate to impose our values on others. For one thing, Experts Exchange has given us a lot of rope when it comes to what we write about (which is one of the reasons we like putting it together); we have a point of view that we express in our own way, and EE has been more than willing to let us hang ourselves on occasion. It seems reasonable that any member who wants to submit something deserves the same consideration.

skirklan also got a few responses at her blog, one of which was simply "I guess society owes you free health care so you can 'freelance' your way through life." She replied:

No, Charles. Civilized society needs to live up to its name, recognize that every human being is a child of God and deserves basic necessities no matter what their shortcomings. We all make our contributions to the world at large; whether freelance, indentured servants or idiot savants of the academic world. Certain economic inequities exist in our current set of values (like, it's not Star Trek yet) and until you can rectify those, everybody deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt and have access to medical care without being judged about how they choose to live or what their particular area of expertise is. I know more than a few fully employed individuals in fields that take years of study and degrees; yet they apprentice without health benefits. Michelangelo was freelance; so was Mozart. Both would be viewed as groveling charity cases in your world view.

Thanks for commenting.

Barack To The Future

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

It should come as no surprise that we love elections. It's not just that, for most of my life, they contributed significantly to the bottom line (political advertising was always paid for in advance); it's that elections are always news. We also know we run the chance of incurring the wrath of all of those people who would rather not read about political stuff, but here's the thing: if you don't think the world of technology is unaffected by the world of politics (and vice versa), then you really do need to get out more.

We're not going to use this space to discuss the merits or social implications of Barack Obama's victory over John McCain. From the perspective of technology, the "whys" of the matter are not relevant; he won, so now we all have to get over it, just like we have had to do every four years for quite a while now. However, there are two aspects to the Obama election that are worth considering: first, the "how" of his candidacy and election; and second, the discussion of how his administration will approach technology -- and how, perhaps, it should approach technology.

Mr Obama is hardly the first candidate to have used the Internet to his advantage. Four years ago, Howard Dean, a former governor, made a serious run at the Democratic nomination by organizing and raising money through the Internet, and by using it as a way of getting his message out to a large number of people. Dean also fell victim to the web's terrible, swift sword when his third place finish in the Iowa primary created a video that wound up circling the globe on YouTube -- and effectively derailing his campaign.

But Mr Obama -- Al Gore notwithstanding -- is the first to do more than scratch the surface of its potential as a communications medium. His use of email was significantly more effective -- both in its message and in its results -- than was that of his opponents, and that was true from the beginning. He was exceedingly careful about any appearances that might wind up being redistributed through YouTube; his campaign also pushed video when it suited his purposes. Two days after the election, the McCain concession speech -- one of the most gracious and conciliatory we can remember -- had been uploaded about 230 times; Obama's speech from about an hour later: over 4,700 times.

What is of more import will be the new President's course on any number of tech-related issues, in no particular order:

"Net neutrality"
Most of us will never notice it -- at least for the short term -- if Comcast, AT&T, and the other big providers choke off big downloaders. But given the news at least one studio plans to push feature-length films to YouTube, possibly before the new year, the issue could rear its head again sooner rather than later. Can you imagine the howling of a Comcast-enforced intermission in the next Harry Potter film.
Monitoring Internet use without warrants
It's bad enough that companies like Google, Yahoo and AOL keep track of what we search for (or what arrives in our email) so they can show us "appropriate" advertising; if you're going to use a service that doesn't cost you any money, then it's even justifiable, and besides, you have agreed to it. What's not so justifiable is the government doing it to all of us in the name of security. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - B. Franklin
Copyright and patent law
Like the first item on our list, this is all about money (what isn't, right?). The concept is sound: if you create or invent something, you should be compensated by those who would distribute it (and profit from it). Unfortunately, things have gone a little awry. Musicians get a very small piece of the pie for their music; most of it goes to the recording companies and their distribution networks (and the same is true in the movie business). Patents are granted for little more than ideas, for descriptions of how something might work, written so vaguely that the most mere resemblance to something tangible is hauled up as an infringement. Organizations whose employees have never turned a screw or fabricated a device can sue (and possibly win, or at least last longer in a court battle) a manufacturer into near bankruptcy.
For decades, the US economy was tied to real productivity -- the actual, honest-to-gosh invention, design, manufacture and distribution of goods. No offense intended to anyone, but we heard a story last week about a snow globe, manufactured in the Far East, that had a snowman holding a balloon instead of what we can only imagine was supposed to be a baroom -- the traditional device for sweeping snow from sidewalks. The reality is that the US economy has been running on trading dollars -- consumption -- and it's finally catching up, as the productive parts of technology -- obviously a key component of the nation's economy -- are exported to the rest of the world where labor is less expensive.

But this isn't just about the near-hypocrisy of companies like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft doing business in China or the exodus of manufacturing and support jobs from the US to Mexico, India and other nations; it's also about the nearly constant viruses and trojans that impact us all every day.
Universal access and broadband
There is a reason that large swaths of the map don't have cable or ASDL service: it doesn't pay for big companies to provide the infrastructure. There is a reason why most attempts at providing wireless broadband service have failed: cities can't afford the infrastructure. And don't forget that about 25 million people are still paying AOL. Advances in technology like Wi-Max might be the beginnings of the answer, but don't bet on it if you get six or seven government bureaucracies, along with Senate and Congressional committees involved. The FCC did give Obama a little help last week, when it approved for wireless broadband use the frequencies that will become "white space" next year when television signals will be strictly digital in the US.
A lousy job market
Need anyone say more?
Okay, so this is a bit cynical, but the only politicians who aren't running for re-election all the time are either a) restricted by term limits or b) dead. Mr Obama will definitely keep an eye on the polls, especially given the circumstances surrounding the disastrous effect President Bush's job approval ratings had on Mr McCain. His secret is now out in plain view, and there is little doubt that his potential opponents are engaged in planning sessions as you're reading this.

All in all, it will keep Mr Obama busy for quite a while.

More News and Notes

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If you walk around in circles, you'll always wind up right back where you were: Unless, that is, you're Jerry Yang, Yahoo's CEO, in which case you're a fight to the finish optimist who has suffered a couple of survivable setbacks or your Reality Distortion Field needs to head back down Highway 85 for repair. The good news: Yahoo's stock went up to almost $14 a share (as of last Thursday), which was a 20 per cent increase since the previous week. The bad news: that's still less than half of what it was when Yang turned down Microsoft's $33 a share. More bad news: After the US Justice department said it was likely to file an antitrust suit, Yahoo's other friends from the valley, Google, decided that it didn't need the headache and walked away from the advertising deal that would have given Yahoo some much-needed cash flow.

Still to be heard from: Microsoft... but not at $33, and if MS CEO Steve Ballmer has his way, not at all. That news caused Yahoo's stock to drop back down to $11.65.

Our far-flung correspondents: Our good friend and long-time colleague PaulHews sent us the link to a marvelous editorial (free registration required) that is worth passing along. For those of you who don't live out in the country, it isn't what you think.

Another of our colleagues, alimu sent us a link to a link to a job offering she came across, noting that she was "horrified about this mauling of the English language." Scarier is the thought of having to be the communications director for said company.

Nobody is going to confuse Will.I.Am with Sir Alec Guinness: I can't be the only person in the world who thought that CNN's "holograms" and "Minority Report"-like touch screens were distractions from what otherwise might have been a pretty compelling election story? (Actually, I know I'm not.)Maybe I'm showing my age, but I miss Cronkite. Obama will no doubt be pleased to know he won the XBox vote.

Not everything worked perfectly in the election, either. In several states, voting machines had problems, though there were no reports of hanging chad.

Not quite gone, and definitely not forgotten: One of the newspapers we grew up on was the Christian Science Monitor, which was balanced, well-written, and always timely. Last week, the paper announced it will stop being a daily paper, and will instead publish a weekly magazine, while putting much more emphasis on its digital presence.

Blue sky ain't what it used to be: For as long as I can remember, blue sky was the intangibles -- usually "good will" -- that one paid for when one was buying a business. Not any more; now, it is a tool from Microsoft called Azure that was announced at the company's Professional Developer's Conference a couple of weeks ago, blue sky no doubt being what one sees when one looks through windows. Cute. The problem: I haven't run into a CTO yet who really likes the idea of putting his company's mission-critical data (like financial records, personnel records, and still-on-the-drawing-board corporate plans) out in the "cloud" where someone might be able to get at them -- especially given Microsoft's track record in implementing security that hasn't been an immediate target for hackers.

And if you were wondering about Microsoft's new operating system (which isn't due out for at least a year), Windows 7, there is a pre-beta version floating around on the torrent sites. Please don't be asking for a

The Phone Wars: Alltel Wireless has some pretty funny commercials taking shots at its competitors from Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and Cingular (now AT&T). The gang of four is about to become a gang of three, though, as the Federal Communications Commission has approved a merger between Alltel and Verizon. That makes the search deal between Verizon and Google that much more of a target for Microsoft.

As noted above, though, the recent FCC action to open up "white space" and the tech companies' pressure on the Democrats to back "net neutrality" is going to run into issues at the FCC, because it will mean taking a long, hard look at what the wireless companies do when it comes to bandwidth. There's no doubt the companies will say that's why they want the white space -- but one has to be pretty naive to think they will relax their policies. Then again, the Obama campaign showed that it is anything but naive.

On the hardware side of things, Apple's strong third quarter pushed it past RIM and Motorola on the list of cell phone manufacturers, but RIM just released its new Storm, and the other manufacturers will be coming out with smart phones just in time for the holidays.

This will make bobexpert feel better: Hotmail users are a little hot under the collar because of a site redesign. Go figure...

Signs of the Apocalypse: Chicken Little was right ... or maybe You-Know-Where has frozen over... or the Raiders will make the playoffs... and Jeff Probst, the creator of CBS's Survivor television show, has a pilot featuring terminally ill patients (thanks, Susan!).

Nata's Corner

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Nata's PictureWhen the good guys win and the bad guys lose, it warms my heart just a little. Last week, three of the people who hijacked Citibank ATMs and stole $2 million from customers pleaded guilty to charges related to the thefts. I wonder if President-elect Obama had people like these guys -- all connected to a Russian gang -- in mind when he warned enemies of the US "we will defeat you". Let's hope so.

Speaking of Obama, his victory speech was the bait a spam gang needed to launch a piece of malware that captures keystrokes and sends them to an IP address from the Ukraine. TrendMicro says that the file that gets downloaded is sent out by the same group that sent out emails about various US banks a couple of months back.

I think I have mentioned over the years that we live out in the country, so we don't really worry that much about someone sitting across the street trying to access our wireless router/modem, but we do at least use firewalls and the security features that came with it. It looks like we might need to start thinking of an upgrade, though, because a couple of researchers have figured out a way to crack the WPA protection most wireless routers use.

The good news -- at least this week -- is that the researchers have only been able to see the information being sent from the router to the PC, but not the other way around, so we all have a little bit of time, but it might be a good idea to apply a simple fix.

We don't go to big cities all that often -- the price of gasoline has put a real crimp in our trips to Tadich Grill -- but I'm seriously thinking about getting a new cell phone that has GPS monitoring in it, just so I can find out whether to take the Bay Bridge or head south and take the San Mateo Bridge.

Finally, I had an item a few weeks back about malware called Antivirus 2009 (not to be confused with the Symantec program that has a similar name). The people who are pushing this piece of garbage have now taken to buying advertising on legitimate sites like the Boston Globe. We wrote to them about it, and they said they would take it down, but it was still popping up at the end of last week. If you see something pop up that says that you're infected with a virus, then chances are that whoever it is that put the popup there wants to make sure that when you click the button, they wind up telling you the truth -- by infecting your computer with a virus.

New Certificates

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