Understanding Computers
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  Green Eggs and Spam
With apologies to the late Dr. Suess. The word spam, meaning unsolicited email, comes from Spam, the canned lunch meat. Visit the Spam page of the Hormel website to read their version of how this association came to be. To keep things simple, from this moment forward, whenever I say spam in this article I am referring to unsolicited email, not lunch meat.
Most spam it is so obnoxious and advertises products so useless that one has to wonder why the spammers bother in the first place. At this late stage of my life, I don't have any body parts that I wish to have enhanced, enlarged or erected. If I needed help, I would talk to my doctor, not purchase some possibly poisonous potion from a pill pushing pest. Spammers persist because email advertising costs them nothing. In fact, it costs more to receive spam than it costs to send it. Spammers know that only a tiny fraction of recipients will respond favourably to their ads, but they're not looking for discerning consumers.
How can you stop this electronic pollution from pouring into your inbox? Never agree to accept free information about future offers from a website. The various state laws prohibiting spam have a loophole that permits companies to do legitimate mailings to those who have "opted-in" Some companies sell their email lists to spammers, claiming that the recipients have opted in.
Use the unsubscribe link. The same laws that allow mass mailings also require companies to remove email addresses from their lists if the recipient requests it. Some people think that replying to an email just confirms that it was sent to a valid address. This is faulty logic. The sender already knows that the address is valid because the email wasn't returned as undeliverable.
Use features that come with your email program to reject spam. Called "rules" in Outlook Express and "filters" in Eudora and other applications, these features automatically sort your email according to various criteria including sender, keywords, and subject. You may not be able to stop spam, but you don't have to look at it.
Get a program that blocks spam. Nearly all of them work in one of two ways. One way is to automatically check every email against a huge database of known spammers to see if one of them sent it. The other way employs something called beysian filtering, or fuzzy logic. The program comes with a set of rules for determining what is spam. The user identifies any new spam that arrives and the program "remembers" its characteristics. Beysian filtering also blocks email viruses.
Complain loud and long to your ISP. I can't test anti-spam software at home because my two ISPs block it, free of charge, before it ever gets to me. Ask your ISP why they don't do the same.
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