In Honor of My Close Friend and Mentor, Jay Altman

By Kenny Williams

If you are a regular reader of my column you already know that I like to use the people and situations in my life and how they are intertwined with computers and the Internet as a source for the topics of my columns. For me, this format has provided a cool way to keep a journal while offering my readers a source of answers to computer problems derived from real world situations. A nice side effect of this format is that I am able to mention the names of friends and family in my column while sharing an experience that they either created or were a part of.

One person that has had a recurring role in The WebServer is my close friend and mentor, Jay Altman. Including this week, Jay has given me inspiration for a total of five columns. This gives him the dubious honor of being responsible for presenting the most scenarios to be tackled by me in the WebServer. One might guess that a frequent appearance in my column would correlate to a gross display of computer blunders. The strange fact is that one could not be farther from the truth. As a matter of fact, Jay’s wisdom and ideas are responsible for changing my perspective on life and altering my path to one that leads to great success.

The first column that Jay inspired discussed a situation where his computer’s hard drive was toast because of a virus. In it I discussed how I used the FDISK utility to erase all traces of the virus and reformatted hard drive. In this column I mentioned the website and how helpful it was in this situation. The information I found most helpful was located at

The next column that Jay brought to light concerned the computer desktop and how to create shortcuts to frequently used applications. He and his wife, Diane, had developed a serious addiction to the game free cell. To make their life easier I created a shortcut to the game on their desktop. To do this I right-clicked on the free cell executable and dragged it to the Desktop. When I released it, a pop-up menu appeared and I chose Create Shortcut Here. Instantly, the shortcut appeared on his Desktop. Jay always said to me that there were no short cuts in life. This was one of the rare instances where I was able to prove him wrong. 

Jay was responsible for one of the most important lessons I ever learned concerning email and that is that sarcasm does not translate well in email. This wisdom inspired me to write a column about E-mail Etiquette.  Here are a few of the points that I recommended that readers consider when corresponding via email.

* Never send an e-mail when you are upset or angry. Give yourself some time to chill out and then review the message. Frequently you will find that the situation was not such a big deal after all. Although it may seem very hard to wait to send an emotional message, it is even harder to stop an email once it has been sent.

* Never send abusive, harassing or threatening messages.

* Be cautious when using sarcasm and humor. They do not translate well in email.

* Do not send chain email letters. Specifically, ones that contain a request to forward the information to other people.

* When replying, keep messages brief and to the point and include a meaningful subject line in your message.

Most recently I wrote a column that focused on the glory to be found in a machine shop. I discussed one website dedicated to the subject of machine shops found at http://www.mmsonline and a very cool site located at that is a sort of virtual machine shop where you can send your ideas and they will be created for you. The real reason behind this column was to share my thanks to Jay for giving me the tools, wisdom, and guidance necessary to bring the Multi-Pole to market. When the column was published Jay was in his final stages of cancer.

Jay passed away last week and with his death the world loses a true mechanical genius. He was one of the few people I have ever met that could work entirely from memory and design complex structures in his head. Jay came from a lineage of great minds that included the architect of the Brooklyn Bridge and the architect of the Chicago Loop. One thing that amazed me about Jay was that he was always right when it came to the solution to a problem. So right, in fact, that I eventually announced that I was never again going to try and come up with my own solution. Instead I said that I would always go with Jay’s solution, because he was never wrong. His answer to my idea was ‘don’t do that, it will take all the fun out of things.’  Again he was right.

Through his life, Jay showed me that there is nothing that life can throw you that you cannot survive. Even through the untimely death of his teenage daughter, Leslie, he was able to continue. I once asked him how he lived through the heartbreak of the greatest loss one could ever have and he shared with me something I will never forget. He said, " Actually I did not completely survive. Part of me died with her that day, I had no choice. The part of me that had a choice survived to be the fath"Whenever I am feeling like I am being dealt a bad hand, I think of Jay’s words and find the reasons to continue. He gave me the best education of my life and provided me with a friendship that I will always cherish. In many ways Jay will always be with me and those he loved, I only wish he could find a way to keep sharing the right answers with us.

The WebServer is a weekly computer column with a circulation of over 120,000 readers in three different publications. Look for your weekly dose of WebServer in The Caribbean Connection in Atlanta, Orlando, and Miami and in The Observer News in SouthShore.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, or are in need of computer lessons, feel free to e-mail me at:

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