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EENewsletter Header -- Your Technology Problems...SOLVED

DECEMBER 8, 2010


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

Writing Your Own Story
It's not enough to know

More News and Notes
Much ado about what looks like nothing

Nata's Corner
Facebook malware, new phones and Cyber Monday

Tip From The Mods
How to disagree with us

Who did what through December 4


New topic area: Because you asked for it: Android.

New member: alimu and husband Mark welcomed daughter Olivia on November 23, weighing in at 4380g (9lb 10oz) and 56.5 cm (22.25 inches) long. Our warmest congratulations!

Kudos: The problem Gabriel7 had with getting a cell phone to work with Microsoft Exchange is common enough that alanhardisty saw fit back in April to write an article on the subject. It worked; Gabriel7 wrote: "FIrst, the article solved my problem! Second, thanks for your quick response and care for my security! This service is amazing ... and the people behind it is what makes it amazing. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Thank you and thank you!"

alanhardisty popped up in a similar question from dthomas13, with similar results: "Hey Alan, MS refunded our Tech Support Call because they did not really do anything. I gave my boss the command to run right before he got on the phone with them. Thank you once again!... Your Answer just paid for the EE membership!"

pvsbandi was fighting with a common table expression in DB2 until Kdo pointed him in the right direction: "You are a rockstar!!! In the query, i made it sysfun.rand() and ran the whole thing.. and it worked out excellently!!"

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Writing Your Own Story

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

Richard Averitt wrote a nice little piece for BusinessWeek that details how good business starts with your story. It isn't very long, but he doesn't have to be; he lists three tips for being successful at starting and growing a business:

  1. Determining your MIT (most important thing),
  2. Live your story, and
  3. Write the next chapter

It's pretty straightforward stuff, actually, and we've written about it here quite often: you can't expect to be successful as an owner or manager of a business unless you own it -- unless you bring a passion and focus to the mission you've set out for yourself, and you certainly won't have a lot of success getting most other people to help you with that mission. We're not talking about the people who run a company like Kraft or GM, where a percentage point on the sales chart means a billion or so in revenue; those folks are just trying to hang on to what they've got.

We're talking about the people who go to bed thinking about what they can do to create magic, and when they wake up in the middle of the night, it's because there is so much more that needs to be done. Every sentence they utter is their story; every decision they make is based on what Averitt describes as a "clarity of purpose". "Achieving this level of simplicity and clarity," he writes, "is fundamental to success."

But it's not enough to simply be able to write your story down, to turn it into a clean, simple statement of your story; that's just there to keep you focused while everyone around you -- your investors, your employees, your customers and your competitors -- is telling you what you should do next, or how you can do something that's "just like the iPhone but different".

A while back, we saw a old video of Steve Jobs (thanks, Guy!), who had recently been re-installed as the CEO of Apple following his decade-long exile by the board of directors of Apple. It's not so important in terms of what he had to say -- which is interesting enough to warrant an article of its own, actually -- except that it conveys three things: First, that it is unquestionable that Jobs had figured out his company's story even then, and that while there have been some strange chapters to it, the story itself hasn't changed all that much. He is dressed in shorts and a t-shirt on a stage with a table and half a dozen wooden bar stools -- hardly one's vision of the CEO of one of the world's half dozen most recognized brands. The iPod, the Mac and the iPhone are not that much different; they are devices that look simple and are easy to use -- and mask a complexity and texture geared entirely toward keeping the facade of simplicity.

Second, he recognizes that his customers aren't buying his products; they're buying his company and his vision. "What we're about isn't making boxes for people to get their jobs done," Jobs said. "Apple, at the core -- its core value -- is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better." Now, one can argue all day whether the consequences of the personal computer industry (and Apple's role in it) are good, bad or somewhere in between, but there isn't much disagreement that the world is a lot different because of the products Apple has delivered. In the past 13 or so years, the history of Apple is the story of Steve Jobs; given the results of his departure and what happened to the company in the time following his departure, one can only wonder how closely his eventual obituary might foreshadow the company's as well -- at least as an innovator and technological market leader.

Third, Apple and Jobs are constantly writing the next chapter. It isn't hard to make the case that if the iPod didn't change the recording industry, it was certainly a catalyst. Tablet computing was the red-headed stepchild of the industry until a few months back, when Apple introduced the iPad; now everyone is scrambling to catch up. We have seen income tax returns thicker than the latest Mac laptop. Not everything Apple has done has been a success (there will always be the Newton and the Lisa) -- but because Apple stays to its story, it has overcome its mistakes without many ill effects; its market capitalization -- what the stock market thinks it's worth -- makes it more valuable than Oracle, Microsoft, IBM and anyone else. It makes its mistakes, swallows its pride, and drives on.

We're perfectly willing to accept that if you're the general manager of the local outlet of one of those mall gaming stores -- with three competitors within 100 steps of your store -- or the deputy IT manager for accounting operations at the east coast division of an automobile insurance company that it's not so easy to distill your life's work down into one sentence. That's okay; without 46,000 people doing the work, Steve Jobs would be another guy with an idea and not a lot else, but you still owe it to yourself to remember the words of Mr. Buffett (not Warren -- the other one): it's your job.

Tip From the Moderators

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"How to Disagree with a Moderator (and not get suspended)"

One of our most frequent duties as Moderators is to make a decision as to how a question should be closed if the original closing action is disputed by one or more parties. In this, our job is not make sure points are conserved or awarded, but rather if the question has enough of an answer to be saved for all time and eternity or if it should be deleted. We are the first to admit that we are only human and we make mistakes in this process. But there is a right and a wrong way to point that out to us.

Consider the following common scenario. An asker posts a question and one or more Experts post suggestions but the suggestions are speculative at best and do not indicate that a solution is present. It MIGHT be present, but we would need the asker to verify. The asker never returns to the question and eventually it goes to Cleanup and a Cleanup Volunteer (and thanks to those fine folks for their hard work) recommends it be deleted. Predictably, one or all of the participating Experts object to the deletion and removal of their effort with no points awarded.

A Moderator reviews the objections and the reasons given and in this case decides that there is not enough of a solution to warrant keeping the question in the database and starts the deletion process again. Expert A is upset that points are not being awarded in their favor and objects to the closing process again. This is after two other people have already read the question and responses and decided that it doesn't make the grade.

We understand your frustration... really, we do. But there comes a time where you just need to let it go. We've already read your objection the first time and if you didn't make the case in that post, it is unlikely you are going to make a better one the second, third or fourth time. Also, consider that we may have asked for a Zone Advisor to review the question if it outside our area of expertise and we also know through long experience what is a good answer and what isn't. We are not just reading the question and make a snap judgment.

By continuing to beat this dead horse, you are a) using up time and energy that could have been better spent answering a different question and earning points there; and b) not exactly making friends and influencing people. If you cannot make your case in the normal course of the process, it is very unlikely that repeating it over and over again is going to sway our position. Needless to say, getting angry about it and taking it out on anyone will result in an enforced vacation from EE.

So when objecting to the way a question is being closed, make sure you give us your best case for why you deserve the points on your first objection and make sure you keep the tone civil and professional.

Thank you, and happy posting.

More News And Notes

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Much ado about what looks like nothing: We admit it: Since we knew we weren't going to be anywhere near an airport, the mischief-maker in us really wanted to see what happened when everyone opted out of the full-body scanning at airports, just to see how the TSA handled it... although, on second thought, it might have been just as entertaining to have 24,000,000 people insist on going through the 300 full body backscatter scanners that had been deployed. We turned on the 11 o'clock news Wednesday night hoping to see breathless talking heads standing in front of long lines at airport terminals... but it didn't happen.

Anti-backscatter briefsSay what you want... but as long as the Internet is around to help people to blow off steam, civil disobedience -- unless it involves a big park, t-shirts and handmade signs ripping politicians, and beer -- ain't gonna happen much. However, it will spark good ol' ingenuity and inventiveness... like the radiation blocking briefs ($20, and you might get them by Christmas) at left or the Belly Armor belly band ($59), not to mention a whole new meaning to the word "frisky". Interestingly, it was only after the blogosphere got really noisy that a Lawrence Livermore Labs scientist said he told the department of homeland security four years ago that the scanners could be adjusted to be less revealing and that he had been ignored. You can bet the Mythbusters episode won't be though.

More on the subject of revealing: Secrecy is an amazing thing. It's a heavy burden that inhibits many of the traits we supposedly value (honesty, clarity, appropriate decision-making) while contributing to some of our worst behavior (lies, backstabbing, fraud) that, when removed, generally enables the liberation of having the proverbial cross lifted off one's shoulders -- if for no other reason than you don't have to worry about someone finding out your secrets; even worse, you may find that nobody really cares all that much about the information you were so carefully guarding anyway. So it isn't all that surprising that nobody is threatening to cut off diplomatic relations with, let alone attack, the US because a 23-year-old US Army private from Oklahoma gave 250,000 documents to WikiLeaks, which released them to newspapers around the world last week.

We can't fathom the kerfuffle. For one thing, except for the occasional society news or something like that, is anyone really surprised that the US thinks Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya is "mercurial"? We're more intrigued by his love of flamenco dancing. The leaders of China are obsessed with keeping their citizens reading about them on Google? They should know; they're vain enough to Google themselves. Russia is a "Virtual Mafia State"? Well... I never....

There are a few people who have reason to be embarrassed -- most notably the US governmentS (plural) over the past few years that think they've been fooling everyone (and perhaps Colonel Qaddafi if he shows up doing the flamenco on YouTube); there are going to be some pregnant silences if and when the diplomatic types get invited to embassy cocktail parties. The New York Times could be a bit rankled because Wikileaks snubbed it until CNN and the Wall St. Journal asked for money. PFC Manning, in custody since June, may not be embarrased, but he can't be too thrilled about Presidential candidates calling for his head on a platter, even if there are people (none of whom have offered to take his place in detention) who think he is a hero. [Editor's note: thanks, but we don't need a Holiday Card.]

But the guy who is really feeling the heat is Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (also the target of a hyperbolic death threat -- and it's all his own doing. Never mind the matter of the arrest warrant from Sweden or the most wanted designation by Interpol, or even the idea of being put on the same list as Osama bin Laden (although that could be just political hyperbole). Assange's site, after being warned about the consequences, was hit by a DOS attack that also impacted 500,000 other sites, and then got dumped by Amazon (a move that won't make Joe Lieberman look good), forcing Wikileaks, in a delicious bit of irony, to depend on its Swedish hosting service -- but Wikipedia's cash flow was cut off as well.

We will leave this item with a couple of closing thoughts. First, it's nice that the government is getting a taste of its own medicine. Second, we should remind ourselves that governments are capable of anything -- and if they can do something, it's a good bet they've been doing it for a while. And finally, Mark Twain pointed out that man is the only animal that can blush -- or needs to.

In requiem: Leslie Neislen, whose work will keep people looking at YouTube for years, died at 84; for baseball fans, Ron Santo, the ultimate Chicago Cub.

Why the DMCA is a bad law: If ever one needed a way to determine if a law just plain sucks, then the case of US v. Matthew Crippen is a good one. It's been 12 years since the law was enacted; Crippen's trial, which began November 30, was the first criminal prosecution following his indictment in June 2009 for modifying an XBox. The government's case fell apart almost immediately when two of its four witnesses admitted to have broken the law themselves. The prosecutors dismissed the charges late last week, so despite the best efforts of software companies and the recording and movie industries, no one has ever been criminally prosecuted for violating the DMCA.

Lessons in SEO: A good number of folks are credited with saying that they "don't care what the newspapers say about [them], as long as they spell [their] name right", but Google's search algorithm has even made the part about spelling accurately not all that important, as long as the URLs are accurate. Note: Google has tweaked The Algorithm so sites that get a lot of complaints get pushed down in the rankings. So how are they going to make sure the TSA's site still shows up?

The over/under is February 28: A few years back, we had a contest that involved guessing when the 2,000,000th solution would get answered. We'll see if we can come up with a prize for the person who can guess the date and time, without going past it, of when the world will run out of IPv4 addresses. Watch this space for details. Maybe.

Rule 34: Now we know why AT&T and the NSA hooked up a few years back to route all of the US Internet traffic through a windowless room in San Francisco (okay, so maybe we're kidding). But even if it's true, the folks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee are doing something about the worst side of it: they're using their supercomputer to track down child "abusers".

Signs of the Apocalypse: Basketball stories -- oh, the humanity -- written by computer, an appeal based on the Twitter defense, and the FBI is worried about the Barbie-cam, just in time for Christmas.

Nata's Corner

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Nata One of the reasons I've been moving away from spending time on Facebook: a report that says that one-fifth of Facebook users have been exposed to malware. I'm pretty careful, but I have no doubts that some of the people I know aren't, and they're almost certain to fall for the scam that tries to get you to install software that will tell you who viewed your profile. It's downright silly. If you don't want people you don't know to know anything about you -- then just don't post it. Sheeeesh.

We finally got around to getting a new phone contract (no more AT&T!), and we haven't yet figured out all of the things our new phones can do, but it might not matter a whole lot if the predictions made by New Scientist come true: that the cellular networks in the US and Europe are running out of room for cell calls because of all the other things they can do. We live in kind of a rural area, and one of our gripes about AT&T is that even though we can actually see the tower from our home, there were times when our phones -- which, I know, are made by someone else -- would just drop calls, or one of our two identical phones would show four bars while the other would show one. Our new carrier is a little more honest: they know they don't have service here, but they signed up with a competitor that isn't AT&T to make sure we can get service. But if I'm reading the article correctly, we might be buying one of those boxes that turns our wireless network into a miniature cell tower unless our little town is added to the list pretty soon.

Contigo travel mug After I decided that my one experience with Black Friday was enough, I was a little curious to see what would happen with Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving). As expected, the numbers were up, but not so much so that the people who get the temporary jobs as store clerks during the holidays need to worry about their futures. A good portion of the money was spent on things like e-books and iTunes, and another big chunk was on people buying (?!) Facebook games. A friend of mine bought me a desktop Advent calendar for $3.95, and while it's nice and all that, I still don't know why I need it. It looks like it's going to be a while before magazine subscriptions are going to be available on the iPad though. Oh, and the image at right? It's a Contigo travel mug. They don't spill if they fall over. Best Christmas gift you can get for someone who commutes, about $20 on their website but cheaper at Amazon, and cheaper still at Costco (if you can find them).

And finally, some very good news from the spam front: a Russian living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was arrainged last week and is being held without bail for running a botnet of 500,000 computers that generate about a third of the world's spam. Of course, that won't stop the botnet -- but maybe if he gets convicted, the feds can make him read all of it.


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New Geniuses: It has been a busy few weeks for cyberkiwi, who earned his second and third Genius certificates in the SQL Server 2008 and MS SQL Server TAs. alanhardisty's second Genius certificate is in Small Business Server, the sixth in that TA. Earning their first Genius certificates were carl_tawn in ASP.NET and James0628 in Crystal Reports. Well done!

My First Million: Members who reached the 1,000,000 point level in November include phoffric, johnsone, Gary_The_IT_Pro, rrz@871311, fridom, kode99, awking00 and Awinish.

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