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Software // Enterprise Applications

Letters To The Editor

Grouping Spam Saves Time
I deal with spam by doing group deletes rather than individual deletes ("A Modest Proposal To Defeat Spam," June 30, p. 70). After I download my latest E-mail, I scroll through my in-box. I can tell from the title of the mail if it's from friends or anyone I do business with. If it's junk, I bypass it without even opening it. If it's anything of value, I open it and do what I need to do. If I want to save it, I move it to a special folder I created just for retained items.

When I've scrolled down to the end, I highlight the entire in-box and do a group delete. I then go to my Delete Folder and do a group delete of its contents.

This process sure saves me a lot of time and distraction.
Steven Kalka
Computer Specialist, New York City Department of Social Services, Management Information Systems Division, East Rockaway, N.Y.

Certified E-Mail
I'm a big fan of using personal certificates for all E-mail operations. Internet service providers could offer two mail services, regular and certified. If you pay for a personal cert from a valid certificate authority, you'd be able to send and receive mail on the certified mail server. The kicker is that the ISP would only allow certified mail to come in, as well as mail from addresses you specify. Any spammers would need a certificate to send mail to you. If you deem the mail unwanted, your filter would notify the spammer to drop your address and remember the serial number of its certificate. Since a spammer would normally only be issued one certificate, this would eliminate any game playing with subject lines, return addresses, etc. Since the cert would provide solid traceability, there's much less chance of receiving explicit spam. Of course, people will argue for their privacy, and that's fine--just let them use the regular mail services and deal with spam the old way.

Now for my other argument: Everyone seems to focus on E-mail as the sole source of spam. Here's a newsflash--popup ads are spam. They waste bandwidth, disk storage, and personal time just like E-mail spam. Bill Gates was quite concerned about spam in his latest speech, but why did he gloss over popup ads? The Internet Explorer product could be patched to have this feature user-selectable, but it's not. Why? Is there some financial gain in this popup feature for Microsoft?
Dave Hirsh
Systems Consultant, Pittsburgh

Filtering Technique Is Successful
Fines and other legal measures like a "clearing house" as the Secret CIO suggested are really a losing battle. You'll never be able to keep up with the spammers, and it will cost money to try.

If people didn't buy things that they learn about through unsolicited E-mail, then the spammers would move on to something more lucrative.

Most of the filtering solutions also require you to play catch-up with the spammers. Pattern-matching, block lists, white lists, black lists ... they all require a lot of upkeep. As soon as you figure out how to block the spammers, they learn and come up with "better" spam that gets through your filters.

The only thing that really works is filtering based upon statistical analysis such as the Naive Bayesian type that's gaining in popularity. Qualcomm is in the process of adding it to Eudora. Apple Computer has had it in the mail client that comes with OS X for quite a while.

I use the mail client from Mozilla. It's available by itself as Thunderbird, or it comes with recent versions of the Mozilla browser.

It learns from me and seems to quickly become almost perfect. Spam is simply not an issue for me anymore. I see maybe one spam slip through per week, and it has been several months since a legitimate E-mail was tagged as spam.

Mozilla is free, so what's to lose?

I've been recommending this type of filter to everyone I know and they've all thanked me.

There's even a plug-in for Outlook that's called SpamBayes, and it's supposed to be excellent, too.
Stuart Krivis
Systems Administrator, APK Net, Cleveland

A Better Method
Using the cost per user as a predictor of spending doesn't address IT spending by companies that are smaller in size but generate high revenue ("User Costs Said To Be Better Predictor Of Tech Spending," June 30, p. 16).

Take, for example, a merger-and-acquisition firm that employs less than 100 people but generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. The cost per user would be misleading unless an industry-specific benchmark is established for that purpose. Cost per revenue is a far better method since it also measures the economic effectiveness of such IT investment.

Dr. Akram Yosri
Professor of IT, New York University

Spam Filter Does Its Job
In the midst of a spam attack that you wouldn't believe, it suddenly stopped as if someone had turned it off ("A Modest Proposal To Defeat Spam," June 30, p. 70). Turns out my ISP, Enet, had installed a spam filter that blocked almost all spam. What it does is the equivalent of ping back to the sending E-mail address. If it doesn't respond, it's considered spam and is blocked. If everyone's ISP did this, the bellyaching would stop.

Ralph Daugherty
Senior Programmer Analyst, Bath & Body Works Limited Technology Services,
Columbus, Ohio

Disturbing Proposal
It's interesting that Sen. Hatch favors destroying computers if file swapping cannot be prevented ("Download Music, Kill Your PC?" June 23, p. 12).

The computer destruction would be done without the person being accused of a crime and without a trial, and the punishment would be carried out by a private entity. It would surely be struck down as unconstitutional, but for a senator to even suggest something like this, is disturbing.

Alan Yuscavage
Help-Desk Technician, Benco Dental
Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

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