December 13, 2006
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About email notifications

One of the good folks in EE's office (the ones who keep the lights on) sent us a note about Robert X. Cringley's column from a couple of weeks ago. Among other things, it says that Earthlink, and by implication all of the other large ISPs, can't handle the email traffic they get, and that as much as 90 per cent of it just plain disappears. We have news for Mr. Cringley -- it happens with smaller ISPs as well; we're still waiting for the newsletter from a month ago to show up in our inbox.

What Mr. Cringley's column suggests is that while we can check to see if the notifications are going out, there's no guarantee that either a) they're getting to your ISP, or b) your ISP is delivering them to your mailbox. We would also be somewhat surprised if the Service Agreement you have with your ISP is any different from Mr. Cringley's. To be blunt, the bigger the company, the more likely it is that you can't complain about the support service because there isn't any.

While we're on the subject, we thought we would pass along this little item from Netman66, a Microsoft MVP who put us through our paces last week trying to resolve his issues receiving notifications. He wrote us: "I did some experimenting with Outlook 2007 and you can have multiple accounts set up to receive into the same session -- to different .pst files too! It's about time! You can configure each account to use their proper mail servers for send/receive. However, you can only have one default SMTP server in the session. So, your primary account will be the default Send from account. You can change this, but all I really want to do is check all my email in one interface. It works well." Thanks for the tip, Paul!

There is one benefit to the disappearing emails, though. While we haven't noticed that much of a decrease, a good 80 per cent of our email every day is junk. Spam is entirely dependent on volume; if there isn't a decent return on investment, then as a medium for promoting sales, it will drop off. Advertisers -- even the scumbags who send out a million emails a day -- are conscious of costs, so if they think they're wasting a ton of bandwidth, maybe they'll stop entirely.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

The Playstation 3 and Edmund Gwenn

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. He also coaches a 7th grade basketball team.

Kris Kringle, played by Edmund Gwenn in the original version of Miracle On 34th Street, had a lot to say about "commercialism" in his role as the genial man hired to be Macy's Santa Claus. The film was released in May, 1947, because 20th Century Fox thought it would bomb as a Christmas movie; one assumes that no one at Fox got the point, since it has been named one of the American Film Institute's top 100 films.

If what Kris saw in post-WWII New York was bad, one wonders what he would have thought about the PlayStation 3 and eBay. We checked about a week ago, and the high price was $2 million, which includes a flight for you and 13 guests on a Gulfstream jet and a few extras. There was one listed at $1 million; you also get stock in a company from a marginally literate software engineer at a "big software company" who wants to start "the next big Web $2.00 company". No, we're not kidding; when he didn't get a lot of takers, he wound up relisting it with a more modest financial goal. Other people will throw in tax advice or a 1969 Camaro SS if you buy all eight (at $45,000, that might not be a bad deal).

There are also some interesting gimmicks. One guy wants $100,000, but will give 95 per cent to his local Salvation Army, leaving him over $4000 in profit. Others just want the money, which is fine -- but nobody we know is going to be bidding more than about $700. We didn't see any sob stories that gave us the same warm fuzzy feeling we get when we watch Natalie Wood run through the house, though.

Not everyone was asking outrageous prices, though -- unless you consider 99 cents outrageous. There was one guy who had a two for one deal that wound up going for $1625; most of the auctions we saw were only slightly above what someone would pay retail.

If you think the $600 that most folks are trying to turn into $3000 or so is a sign of excessive greed, there's the person who is trying to sell PS3INHAND.NET and PS3INSTOCK.NET -- the domain names only -- for $2500 each; both have been relisted at a substantial discount. Considering the investment of about $9 each, one can only assume that the seller is hoping P. T. Barnum's dictum about one being born every minute is applicable during the holidays.

Not-so last minute holiday gifts
Every year, we ask the Page Editors to find us gifts to put on our guide for the holiday season. They never fail us -- surprise us sometimes, but never fail. Below are some of the unique items they've found. And just in case one of those new game players is on your list, here's some friendly advice before you plunk down the credit card.

DaVinci Collection The Da Vinci Kit
From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a facsimile sketchbook containing Da Vinci's handwritten notes, The Last Supper restoration simulator, a replica of Leonardo's flying machine. Perfect for the artsy geek.

About $25. - Details here.

Wine CellarEurocave Quad Comfort 1000 Wine Cellar
Black finish with 12 doors, holds up to 1000 bottles of wine on 12 adjustable and 4 rolling shelves. Temperature and humidity controls. Wine not included, nor is a subscription to the Wine Spectator.

About $11,000. - Details here.

Coffee Maker10-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker
Years ago, we had a cartoon that described this device, except the one in the cartoon included a 40mb hard drive, and cost $19.95 ("what will the Japanese think of next?"). This one grinds, brews, and includes Microsoft's MSN Direct weather information.

About $200. - Details here.

Sony VAIOSony VAIO VGN-AR270 Notebook with Blu-ray
Intel Core 2 Duo processor and NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphics, ATA hard drives, DDR2 memory, 17" widescreen display, Blu-Ray technology, and (don't laugh) it's ready for Windows Vista, but comes with either XP Pro or Media Center Edition. Weighs about 8.4 lbs. depending on configuration.

Starting at $2600 - Details here.

DVD RewinderDVD Rewinder
The exclusive Centriptal Velocity Spindle provides the world's fastest DVD rewind, and since it runs on a single 9 volt battery, it is also completely portable, so it is safe to take through the airport. The distinct color scheme is stylish, and the system includes a DVD cleaner in its own compartment. Works for console games and CDs. Customizable audio notification.

About $17. - Details here.

Custom EarphonesUltimate Ears UE-10 Pro Studio Reference Monitors
Designed for professional applications, but just as well suited for use with an iPod, portable DVD player, or any other portable music device. Variety of colors, and includes personal carrying case.

About $900 - Details here.

These aren't on the market just yet, at least in finished form, but they are probably worth checking out: headphones that use your body as wires, Sun Microsystem's corporate jet, and, of course Windows Vista.
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Zune equals iPod version 0.9

skirklan is a master designer who has a strong attachment to the Macintosh -- which is a good thing since she is one of our Page Editors for the Mac TAs. She writes extensively about design issues on her blog.

Microsoft ZuneOh, beat me about the head and neck with a big stick so I can have portable tunes. I would have more respect for Bill Gates and Microsoft if just once they would come up with an original idea instead of adopting everything Apple. Their latest "Make That Mine" idea is the Zune, a semiconscious parody of the iPod. Remember the PlaysForSure? That was Microsoft's first attempt to assassinate the iPod, taking only a few crumbs from Apple's marketshare before it totally bombed due to a completely tedious interface between player, music retailers and software. Do your own thing, Bill -- it's obvious you can't do what Steve Jobs does (which is innovate) so be a good boy and stick with boring apps for big blue, yeah?
 
Negotiating right up until the launch date, Universal finally pulled from his tight cold grip a one buck deal for each unit sold -- that's one for you and two hundred and fifty for us, thank you very much -- hoping they would take an interest in marketing the player. Did anybody tell the music industry that there would be no Zune if there was no music and that maybe a buck wasn't such a hot deal? Then we have to ask the music labels if the big innovation offered by Zune isn't a bit like cutting off their nose to spite their face. Wireless music sharing is sorta like early Napster, trading between friends, licensing fees cast to the wind. Sorta like the sherrif's department hawking radar detectors, isn't it? It will make an expensive game of musical chairs now that we have three incompatible copy-protected standards: iPod, PlaysForSure and Zune. And of those three standards, which one will you invest in? Oh, yes, and the songs you beam can only be played three times in three days before they expire -- including your own songs you might add if you have a band. You can beam a song to one friend, but it can't be beamed again. Beam me up, Scotty.

Apple iPodWhat's wrong with it besides longevity? You can't use Windows Media Player to load, you have to install a less powerful Windows app especially for Zune, so get ready to learn something new. It comes in black, brown and white (that's colorful) and in an age when thin is in, it's two-tenths of an inch thicker, three-tenths of inch taller and seven-tenths of an ounce heavier. Yes, girls, it makes your butt look bigger. It has a "pretend" iPod scroll wheel -- yes, that's right, just as handy as fake pockets on a jacket -- four buttons hidden under a plastic ring. The touch-sensitive turning wheel on the iPod is much more agile. Oh, and turning on the only innovation it offers, wi-fi, costs you one hour of battery life. The Zune wi-fi will only connect to other Zune users; not even a PC on a wireless network, which begs the question: do you know anyone who owns a Zune that you can call? Yeah, welcome to the socially-extremely-limited. You can't even download podcasts, not that you'd want to on the quaalude-slow Zune store.
 
Don't sweat it, though, it's a short-term arrangement for a product with a short shelf life. The only people saying Zune is cool are paid to say it. Business as usual in PC land. Only those zoned out should Zune in. Anyone with a brain, buy an iPod.

More not-so last minute holiday gifts

Water Powered ClockWater Powered Clock
This clock uses two electrodes, one positively charged, and the other negatively charged, that result in an electrochemical reaction when placed in water. Clock, timer, alarm and thermometer.

About $20. - Details (PDF) here.

ScreensaverMicrosoft BSOD Screensaver
Proof that someone in Redmond has a sense of humor. Runs on NT4, Win2K, WinXP, Server 2003, and even Win9x. And the price? "It's a feature, not a bug." Someone has T-shirts, too, and if you want to see a BSOD fail, type about:mozilla into the IE address bar.

Free - Details here.

Torian InfusionTorian Infusion
Maybe it's just that we're getting old, but this makes sense. Find a WiFi hotspot, and this picks up any of the 10,000 or so Internet FM radio stations. 16 presets, MP3 storage and player, and a time shift recording feature with timer option, in case you want to listen to the Morning Zoo.

About $170. - Details here.

Lexus LS 460L SedanLexus LS 460L Sedan
This is the one that parks itself. Yes, both BMW and Toyota did it before Lexus, but neither is a Lexus. Voice activated navigation system with backup camera, Bluetooth, XM radio. A heated steering wheel!!

Starting at $61,000 - Details here.

Hip flaskI Think I'll Drink Till HE's Cute Hip Flask
Not much more to say about this. Perfect for the female golfer on your list. Stainless steel, 4 inches by 5 inches, holds six ounces, and certainly fits in most laptop cases.

About $28. - Details here.

Power adaptoriGo everywhere 130 notebook power adapter
Powers and charges your notebook plus a phone or MP3 player -- even at the same time. 6.1" x 2.5" x 1.3", 17 oz.

About $150 - Details here.

There are tons of sites out there where you can get things that are just right for the technically savvy. Some of them you know: the eBays, Amazons and TigerDirects of the world. A few others that are among our favorites:
  • ThinkGeek.com. We'll no doubt have some stuff from them.
  • The Register -- "biting the hand that feeds IT" -- has a store now.
  • The Discovery Store has some very cool stuff for kids.
  • Baron Bob is out of stock on the pedestrian turn signals, much to my wife's dismay.
  • Overstock.com has some interesting stuff for your techno household.
  • c|net has its lists broken down by price, and tells you where you can get the items.
  • Microsoft has its own list of toys for Windows XP users.
  • Red Herring published a list of companies holding their IPOs this week. Not for the faint of heart.
  • Engadget has not one, but three different gift guides.
  • The Live Science Store has some fascinating stuff. We would love a CSI lab.
Tip from the Moderators

This week's tip from the Moderators is one in keeping with the holiday season: chill.

There's enough pressure on everyone this time of year, but there is no really good reason to take it out on your fellow members. If you are asking a question, recognize that the Experts are also busy, and will do their best to help you solve your problem. If you're helping someone, take the time to realize that to them, their problem might be the difference between getting a Christmas bonus or a lump of coal and a pink slip.

You don't need to get angry with your fellow Experts either. There are lots of questions, with plenty of points to go around. So relax and take it easy; the world will be a little better place if you do.

Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: Black Friday takes on a new meaning

woman in specticalsI had an item last issue about those gift cards you can buy from almost any retailer nowadays, warning about some of the scams that are being perpetrated around the country. Now the US Secret Service is saying that they are seeing a nationwide problem. Also, I would like to thank donaldmaloney for his comments about Connecticut law regarding Gift Cards. Unfortunately, apparently most states are not so enlightened.

While we're on the subject of fraud, a lot of the security companies are becoming more concerned about botnets because of the potential to use them to commit click fraud. This particular story is scary, because it says that one in five computers in the US is infected with some kind of botnet virus or trojan.

It's been a little while since we heard much about MySpace, what with the purchase of YouTube, but a new worm uses a malicious QuickTime video to send users to an adult-oriented phishing site. The site also attempts to install the Zango Cash adware. Security companies are saying that the problems of the social networking sites like YouTube and MySpace are only going to get worse. One reason is the exploding market for shared MP3 files. There's a new search toolbar out there, called FastMP3Search, that has been called "the baddest of the bad" because it first disables the Windows Firewall, then downloads several other malware packages, including adware, Trojan horses, and a browser hijacking tool, which then download more malware, and blocks access to security company websites.

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 November 27 through December 11.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
Raynard7
Jillyn_D
imran_fast
Sirees
mcmonap
dduser
Hillwaaa
gauthampj
shijusn
lunchbyte
Edwin_C
kraffay
DreamMaster
Nightman
Freya28
knightrider2k2
David-Howard
natcom
enachemc
rama_krishna580
newyuppie
Hillwaaa
vbturbo
Vaxman2
Nightman
iHadi
wwwally
Wizard
Master
Genius
Sage
Wizard
Guru
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Wizard
Guru
Guru
Master
Guru
Master
Master
Master
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Master
Master
Master
Master
Master
MS Access
MS Access
Microsoft SQL
Microsoft SQL
Microsoft SQL
Microsoft SQL
Microsoft SQL
Microsoft SQL
Visual Basic
Visual Basic
ASP.NET
ASP.NET
ASP.NET
ASP.NET
Networking
Networking
Windows XP
Windows XP
JavaScript
JavaScript
VB.NET
VB.NET
VB.NET
VB.NET
VB.NET
VB.NET
Exchange_Server
Expert Certified in Topic Area
ryangorman
InteraX
RiaanRoux
FernandoSoto
anarki_jimbel
rameedev
Jase-Coder
Dan7el
dragon-it
ryangorman
canali
vsg375
stafi
ADSLMark
pkwan
BogoJoker
BigRat
ciuly
bernani
pgm554
GGuzdziol
NicksonKoh
rorya
p912s
Krompton
Phadke_hemant
arnold
Master
Master
Master
Wizard
Master
Master
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Master
Master
Master
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Sage
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Genius
Master
Master
Master
Master
Exchange_Server
Exchange_Server
Exchange_Server
C#
C#
C#
C#
C#
Win. Server 2003
Win. Server 2003
Win. Server 2003
Win. Server 2003
Win. Server 2003
Java
Java
PHP
Programming
Delphi
Delphi
Hardware
Oracle
Oracle
Excel
Excel
Operating Systems
Operating Systems
Operating Systems
Expert Certified in Topic Area
mcsween
ryancys
dgrafx
ArulPrasad1
KeremE
VoteyDisciple
chigs20
Steggs
garycase
FriarTuk
peter57r
jaggernat
rhickmott
ramrom
RobWill
TimHumphries
mplungjan
nobus
ozo
cpc2004
grblades
imarshad
schwertner
Mikal613
patrickab
Master
Master
Wizard
Master
Master
Master
Master
Wizard
Sage
Master
Sage
Guru
Master
Guru
Sage
Master
Master
Guru
Master
Master
Wizard
Master
Guru
Master
Master
Microsoft Network
Databases
ColdFusion
Flash
Linux
Mysql
Mysql
CSS
Desktops
Desktops
Crystal Reports
JSP
Apache
FoxPro
VPN
Sharepoint
Web Languages
Printers
Languages
AIX IBMs UNIX OS
VoIP/Voice over IP
GSM
Product Info
PDA's All
Lotus Smart Suite
2475 experts have 4221 certifications: Genius: 127 Sage: 184 Wizard: 277 Guru: 751 Master: 2882
Copyright ? 2006. All rights reserved.