FROM THE TUSTIN NEWS, THURSDAY, JULY 4, 2002


THE DOC IS IN...

The Doc gets a big time 'Spamming' 

When we returned from our ten day vacation there were 838 email messages waiting for us. All but a handful were SPAM; unsolicited email messages sent by advertisers.

When we visited Cybercafe's in various cities on our trip we were unable to use the Hotmail web email service to check our home email because there was insufficient space in the Hotmail mailbox to bring down all these messages. We had to wait until we returned home to check our email.

Spam is becoming an increasing problem for Internet users. No-one is quite sure why. It probably is because advertisers know that it is no more costly to send one message than to send one million. This is hard for marketers to resist.

The "Circuits" section of the New York Times, Thursday, June 27, 2002, ran an extensive article on Spam. Their conclusion was that, basically, there is little we as individuals can do to prevent Spam. It's just becoming a fact of life for email users. "The good news is that it could help (us) look younger, feel more virile, become debt free and get a college degree at home."

All kidding aside, there isn't much we can do to limit the Spam we receive. The Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov/spam, receives 40,000 Spam complaints a day but the Commission cannot and does not regulate Spam. There currently are no federal laws against Spam.

I have learned to live with Spam. The other day my morning email contained 61 messages, all but about 5 were Spam. I don't read any of the Spam. I simply hold down my Ctrl key and highlight them and then click on Delete. This takes a few moments but does get rid of the clutter.

Recently I received a Spam message from McAfee, my virus protection company, advertising one of their programs, SpamKiller, which is supposed to help eliminate advertising email. I have downloaded a 30 day free trial and am testing its effectiveness.

SpamKiller works by filtering email as it is received from the server. It uses various filter techniques to spot key words and other Spam identifiers. It also uses our existing email address book to allow messages through from those addresses.

So far my reaction is mixed. SpamKiller does seem to do a good job of separating the Spam from the wanted email, but it still lists all the "Killed" messages that have to be looked at before deleting. If it makes a mistake and kills a wanted message, it uses a complex method to restore the wanted message. Overall, I'm beginning to feel that it might not be worth $29.95 to save me from having to highlight and delete Spam from my regular email Inbox.

I guess this just confirms the New York Times' conclusion that there isn't much we can do about Spam. Advertising mail has left our "snail mail" boxes and now appears on the Internet. This might be the inevitable byproduct of our new, wired world.

By the way, on our vacation we shot nine rolls of conventional film, had them processed at Costco, and already have our prints back. Still no digital camera. More on this continuing saga later!

If you would like to hear more about Spam, or other computer topics, visit 'Coffee and Computers' at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon. Bring your questions or just come in and visit.

In the meantime, keep the neurons happy, synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

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Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: www.arholub.com. This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at: doc@arholub.com.


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