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What Keeps You Up at Night?

What Keeps You Up at Night?
By David Gabel

That's the kind of question that a journalist will ask when he's trying to figure out how a company is doing, how its management sees its place in the market and so forth. If the things that keep the president up at night are the good kinds of things (how will I hire enough people to maintain our growth, for example) you know that's a go-go company.

What keeps me up at night? Not a lot, but there is always the nagging thought that something you read and edited didn't get your attention, so you let something dumb go through.

Does it happen? It sure does. It's always the one thing that you didn't think could get you that will. Suppose you had a headline, for instance, that is supposed to say:

Yankees Win Series in Five

Not much that can go wrong with that, you think. Especially since everyone knows that the Yankees won the series in five games, and everyone knows what the headline is supposed to say.

But when the issue comes out, here's what the headline says:

Yankees Win Serious in Five

What happened? Someone editing the final proof of the item read Series for Serious, and didn't see the error. Think that doesn't happen? Pick up any daily newspaper and really read it, and you'll find lots of similar howlers.

And it can happen here, too. Do you remember reading this?

"When you install Windows 2000, the installation program sets the size of the swap file to 1.5 times more than you have physical memory in your machine. For example, a 250 MB machine would have a default swap file size of 775 MB."

Alert readers know that this paragraph appeared in a tip that we sent out in e-mail on October 17. The tip talked about how to modify the registry so that you clear the swapfile when you exit Windows, thus closing a potential security loophole.

Great tip. Unfortunately, the good idea in the tip was lost, at least for some readers, because of the silly math error in that paragraph above. Anybody who took the time to really READ the tip knew that 1.5 times 250 isn't 775. It's 375.

Wanna check? I'll wait here while you get your calculator.

Or you can check this way. Half of 250 is 125. 250 plus 125 is. . .375.

Oh, good, you're back.

So what happened? We didn't read carefully enough before we published the tip. But several readers wrote in to tell us we goofed: clearly THEY read carefully enough. We wound up with red faces, and we promise that we'll never, NEVER, make a goofy mistake like that again.

Well, at least not until we stop losing sleep at night again.

David Gabel is the executive technology editor at He is responsible for the technical tips for all the portal sites at the company.

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