Tips & Tweaks: Put Junk E-Mail in Its Place

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I thought it was just me. I've been getting tons of junk e-mail in the last week or so, with similar subject lines:

  • Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender
  • Returned mail: see transcript for details
  • Failure notice
  • DELIVERY FAILURE: This is an automatically...
  • Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

I opened the first few messages only to be greeted by an embedded GIF. I asked a bunch of friends on a private list that I moderate if they were also seeing this stuff. Some weren't, but one guy, Jim H. from Pasadena, was overloaded, too:

"Yes, yes, and yes!," he writes. "About 50 to 75 a day of these types mixed in with the normal dose.... Someone must have launched a script with every domain name they could find. I don't even fight it anymore, I just press the Delete key and keep going."

Then I spotted a blog from Alex at Sunbelt Software. He's also seen a big jump in spam, but he has some numbers to prove it. And a piece in SecurityFocus says that botnets could be behind the surge.

Want more details? Read Robert McMillan's piece about how "Spammers Find Pictures Better Than Words" and go to the Center for Democracy & Technology for a report on how marketers get your e-mail address.

There's more in the news. Go to PCWorld.com to read "Spammers Cashing in on Free Hosting Services," then learn about the latest trend--spear phishing--from NetworkWorld. Our very own Erik Larkin has plenty to say about the problem.

Dig This: I'm sure you liked the last batch of movie bloopers I pointed you to. There are plenty more around and they're plenty entertaining.

Stop Fuming, Start Filtering

I use Eudora, the e-mail program I love to hate, and no, I'm not willing to switch to Microsoft Outlook. (At least not yet. I'll have to see what the Open Source version of Eudora looks like.)

I know what you're thinking: "Dummy, Outlook has Cloudmark, the terrific spam grabber, or IHateSpam."

No argument. But wait, I hear you thinking again: "What about those miraculous programs that filter your messages before they get to your e-mail program, such as MailWasher or MailboxFilter?"

But I'm a step ahead of you now... here are a few downloads from PCWorld.com. They're either free trials or just plain free; it can't hurt to give them a shot:

Quick Aside: Outlook has a decent junk e-mail filter built in, but it's only worth using if you keep it upgraded. You can read about it at Microsoft's Office Online site and download it from Microsoft.

Dig This: You know how software media players can "visualize" your music for you on your computer screen? That's for wimps. Check out this Ruben's Tube video for the real thing.

Dig This, Too: You didn't like the Ruben's Tube? Okay, check out these brilliant pool table tricks or how about an art project involving dominos? [Thanks, Jon B.]

You want more (you're never satisfied, are you)? Here's a video that shows lots (and lots) of coins spilling their way through the house.

More Help

I dug around to find articles and downloads on PCWorld.com. Don't panic. Some of these articles may look ancient (2002 is eons ago), but they're timeless, especially for those of you using older software:

Something Completely Different

I've followed Dilbert since the very start. Years ago, Scott Adams, Dilbert's creator, appeared at the users group I ran.

Until recently, I wasn't aware that almost two years ago he lost his voice to Spasmodic Dysphonia. It's a weird brain disorder that, as Adams says, "shuts down a part of the brain that controls speech."

He's recovered and he tells the story in his blog--it's worth the read. One other note: Adams wrote God's Debris, a 144-page book now available as free PDF download.

I glanced at the first 15 pages and I like his style. I just printed the rest of the book and will read it over the next few days.

And by the way... Adams just released the results of his highly scientific 2006 Weasel Poll.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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