Lyle Schofield

News about me. Stuff that matters.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Problem With Spam

I know there is no point to discussing how much I hate getting spam in my mailbox. I think we all hate it, both the electronic version and the physical version. But its interesting to me how spam seems to be getting dumber and dumber. Not counting the rude stuff and the number of people in Africa that need help releasing millions of dollars of money tied up in estate, I'm getting more and more stuff like this:

Thu, 26 Aug 2004 04:05:10 -0500

Dear Sir:

I hope you enjoined the last morfctgage lokhan you got from our company.
We strongly recommend to redy finance at 3.4 % rpvate and decrease your
monthly payment, please check details below and click the necessary
link. xhaorlg borpmkjmg hlwftqjn - hkioedrc wzragotj lfsrsko
Please note since you are our previous client, you are already
apwcproved and it will take less paper work to apply:

Please visit this link to apply online. Please enter your Personal Secure Code 7909
on the secure site.

Thank you.

Personal Broker Group

The latest tricks to throw off spam checkers can be found here. -SPAN- tags insert invisible random letters (tags removed in example), mis-spellings, and poor grammar which is (I think) an attempt to throw off the various spam checkers deployed. This message found its way through our corporate spam filter showing that these tricks current work, although the spam filter gets adjusted frequently as needed.

I found myself wondering how effective these messages are? If I wanted to refinance my home, would I really do it through an anonymous, poorly worded message from overseas?

Obviously, there is a revenue stream for the senders of messages like this. It's been going on for so long that this would have stopped if there wasn't money to be made. So, the problem with spam is that some people actually become customers from these messages. Some minscule fraction of the population is making the rest of us plow through this junk, spend time setting up filters for it, and take up bandwidth we pay for.

At least with the post office you can get a PO box and stop all the junk mail. But there is no centralized way to get rid of its electronic counterparts at this point.

Some things that help:

- Try an Email program with better spam filtering. Thunderbird is a good choice, and reads my corporate Microsoft Exchange server also. There are probably lots of others besides Outlook.

- Plain text works great for Email still. Less bandwidth, and less chances of hidden characters and other HTML dirty tricks.

- Use junk Email accounts for people you don't care about. I have which is my throw-away account. I know there is nothing real coming in here and can usually "select-all-delete".
Just some ideas.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Flaw in Shuttle Identified

ABC posted this Rueters story about NASA coming to conclusions to what caused the Columbia shuttle accident. I'm surprised that this hasn't gotten a bit more media attention, since the accident essentially froze NASA activity for the past year and a half.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Project Looking Glass by Sun Microsystems

While at the VA ITC show this week in Austin I was able to see Project Looking Glass by Sun Microsystems, as they had it up and running in their booth. While Sun's web site contains information and snapshots, they cannot do the product justice. Seeing this user interface creates smiles like the first time you see the Aqua interface in Apple's Mac OS X. Extremely three dimensional with great animation around the minimizing and maximizing of applications. If you get near a real Sun salesperson with this demo you should take a look.

I'll place more notes in my technical journal if I get my hands on Looking Glass.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

MCCF Petition Drive

The Montgomery County Civic Federation's petition drive to remove the 4 at-large seats from the county council has been successful. More than 12,000 signatures have been signed so far and there will probably be more before they are turned in on Monday. The expectation is that this will be attacked by the incumbent at-large council members. The party in control doesn't like it either, since "at-large" seats enhance the power of the majority. The primary argument is that at-large members help make sure legislation reflects all-county interests and not just district interests. But, this is really what the County Executive is about. The population of the county has just gotten so large that at-large seats can't really represent a million constituents, so they really just represent the interests that help them get elected.

The argument against also drifts into concerns about deadlock as the different districts don't agree on things. I believe that compromise around disagreements is what we normally call "politics". We'll survive. At-large structures are an old idea from long ago and is not a part of our state or national legislative bodies, and they seem to muddle through.


This is why you shouldn't feed wild cats! There was only one at one point, and now there are five. Of course, they're so darned cute no one is really upset about the situation. Posted by Hello