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Reader Challenge October 2010

Solve this month's UPDATE challenge, and you might win a prize!


The October 2010 Challenge

Like most industries, the IT industry has a lot of jargon that we're all comfortable using with each other. We have to define and explain our jargon to "outsiders" when we're teaching users or explaining budget requests to the CFO. Some of the jargon isn't technical; instead we put ordinary words together to describe a function. A copy editor once wrote the following note on one of my chapter submissions: "The phrase 'false positive' is a contradiction in terms, please correct your typo."

Can you come up with a short, easy-to-understand description of the phrase "false positive" as it's used in computing?


How to Play

Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by October 26, 2010. You MUST include your full name, street mailing address (no P.O. Boxes), and a telephone number. Without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win, so your answer is eliminated, even if it's correct.

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. I'm a sucker for humor and originality, and a cleverly written correct answer gets an extra chance. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for an email receipt. Look for the solution to this month's problem right here on November 16, 2010.

(Update: here is the answer to this month's challenge: A false positive is a positive result from a test that is incorrect; that is, the test should not have labeled this result as positive. In computing, the phrase is commonly used when viewing results from anti-virus software or spam filters.)

September 2010 Reader Challenge Winner

Congratulations to David Fosbenner of Maybrook, New York, the winner of our September 2010 Reader Challenge. He wins a copy of Windows 7: The Definitive Guide from O'Reilly Media (

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