Spam, spies and file sharing shaped 2003

With 2003 coming to an end I would like to wish everyone very Happy Holidays and happy computing in the coming year.

This last year has been interesting in the world of computing. Probably the hottest topic has been spam, the unsolicited email we all receive. The other day I set a personal record with 213 messages received in my morning download. Of these, probably no more than ten were of interest; the rest were solicitations to buy things, enhance body parts or make investments. Congress is attempting to pass legislation to curb spam and I wish them luck.

Another email I received was a "notice of suspension" from my Internet service provider and a request to immediately go to a web site and give them personal information so that they could "update" my account. Obviously this was a hoax and an invitation from someone to gain information to use to steal my identity. There doesn't seem to be any end to this and we all must remain vigilant.

Spyware was another hot topic. This is the unwanted software that surreptitiously can get downloaded to our computers and then keep track of where and how we use our machines. Luckily there are many programs, some free, to detect and remove these unwanted programs. (Google search for Spybot and Adaware)

On a positive note, this year has seen a resurgence of peer-to-peer copying software for music, video and other files. This is causing a major change in the way music is being marketed. New 99-cent music download web sites are appearing and even these prices are coming down. This is allowing people to download single tracks instead of having to buy a multi-track, expensive cd's. And with more people using high speed Internet connections, there is the promise of downloading video files or even video on demand.

High speed connections also are ramping up the demand for VOIP (voice over Internet protocol). Internet service providers and telephone companies are making devices available that use standard telephones connected to the Internet that offer worldwide connections at fixed rates. This may be the hot 2004 application that will make revolutionary changes in how telephone service is provided.

Many exciting things are happening in the world of computing.

And finally, this has been a good year for 'Coffee and Computers', the Friday morning gathering of those interested in computers and computing. It is free and held at the Tustin Area Senior Center every Friday morning starting at 9 am. There is enough experience in the group to answer most questions about computing, including digital cameras, Internet, spam, software, hardware and almost anything else having to do with computing. Many lively discussions take place and everyone is invited to attend. You do not have to be a resident of Tustin.

Special thanks to Tom Millard and Jack Swisher who pick up the sweets for these meetings and the Senior Center makes coffee available for a modest fee. Regular attendees Bob and Bob are AOL experts, Ted keeps us up to date on cd recording, Lloyd is a well known local film and digital photographer, and Jim and Mike are available to make house calls for the really intractable problems.

On a more serious note, 'Coffee and Computers' seems to fill the very important function to help answer those questions that come up in day-to-day computing. I urge you to attend if you have questions or want to share your expertise.

So, if you would like to hear more about what's new and exciting or other computer topics, visit "Coffee and Computers" at the Tustin Area Senior Center, 200 S. 'C' Street, any Friday morning starting at 9 a.m.

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

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year


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: 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:

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