Sysmod's PraxIS
Managing reality in Information Systems - Strategies for Success

Systems Modelling Ltd.                  Issue July 2000
http://www.sysmod.com

IN THIS ISSUE

Welcome
How to prevent SPAM
Euro Update
Not So Serious
About This Newsletter

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WELCOME

Welcome to PraxIS! We appreciate any comments, feedback, or ideas for future topics. Please forward this newsletter (in its entirety) to anyone who may find it of interest.

This month we focus on Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE), also known as "spam".  I've been fighting some recently and wanted to pass on some tips. If you'd like me to deal with other email topics such as quotation tips, the expression of emotion and humour, dealing with anger (flaming), viruses and attachments, let me know.

The Euro update gives a couple of key website updates.

And I'm finishing on a lighter note !

Subscribe and UNSubscribe information is at the end.

Patrick O'Beirne, Editor
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How to prevent SPAM

I was concerned recently to find that my popular web site has been crawled by email collection spiders like ExtractorPro and EmailSiphon. So I've added some blocking features and I want to share with you some techniques for reducing spam.

Just to clarify things for m'learned friends, "Spam" is a registered trademark of the Hormel Corporation. The term spam is commonly used on the Internet when referring to unsolicited e-mail. I'll cover this in two sections - what you can do as an email user, and if you maintain web pages or web sites, what to do to reduce the incidence of spam.

What to do as an email user.

The simplest and best advice is really to do nothing, just hit delete. Replying simply confirms to the spammer that your address is valid and may result in your being added to more spam mailing lists. If you want to report to your ISP or postmaster that you received an unwanted or offensive e-mail message, select  the "Show All Headers" option in your e-mail software in order to include the full received headers,  and select all the text before forwarding it. Some spammers just get a temporary account with a big ISP, probably for free, sending thousands of unsolicited commercial emails and don't care if they get thrown of the ISP's service or not.

Unfortunately, most on-line service, bulletin board, usenet newsgroup or mailing lists display your real email address and you may wish to avoid these. An exception is Deja that hides your address. Or you could pen a second e-mail account, one that you can use as an address for newsgroup and listserve publications or for posting on bulletin boards. Combustion Productions (http://www.combustion.ie/) an Irish Web design and hosting firm, offers a "disposable" email address you can use to test mail lists you are not sure about; see. http://www.mailexpire.com/

If you have "unlimited" email addresses, you could assign a unique one to each mail list so you know which one passes on your email addresses to others! (Remember, I guarantee never to pass on your address to anyone.)

Use the filters in your email software to direct incoming mail to different folders depending on the subject and source. For example, I have folders for euro topics, internet marketing, software development libraries, mail lists, and so on. If the subject line contains a dollar sign, it is moved to the "Rubbish" folder which I occasionally scan for real emails and patterns that I can report to ISPs. Email with "Recipient list suppressed"  is suspect as you are on the "Bcc" (Blind Carbon Copy) side of the address. On the other hand, I do that when I want to keep recipients' addresses confidential, so it's not always bad.

You could try disguising your address by spelling it as "myname AT host DOT com". However, it's only a matter of time before the spammers catch up with that one.

There is no need to have your address in your signature file - the recipient already has your "From:" address.

What do to when creating web pages.

I have removed all mailto: links from my web pages, except "webmaster at sysmod dot com". And even that I might make a graphic, so that humans can read it but not robots. I have changed the contact method to a feedback form.

If you are a site administrator:

Take a look at www.sysmod.com/robots.txt to see what user agents I block from my site. If you send a blank email to spamlist(at)us(dot)net you'll receive a blacklist of spammers you can block. If you are a list owner, check out SPAM-L on LISTSERV(at)PEACH(dot)EASE(dot)LSOFT.COM and list-managers(at)greatcircle(dot)com.
The maintainer of the SPAM-L FAQ is http://www.ot.com/~dmuth/spam-l
Here are more useful web sites to learn more about combatting spam:

* CAUCE, the Coalition Against Unsolicited E-mail
        http://www.cauce.org and usenet comp.org.cauce  
        The European site is http://www.euro.cauce.org/

* The abuse.net complaint forwarding service, with links to some other technical anti-spam resources
        http://www.abuse.net

* Even more junk e-mail fighting resources
        http://www.junkemail.org
        http://spam.abuse.net
        http://pages.whowhere.com/internet/nospammers
        http://www.petemoss.com/spam/complaints.html
        http://www.bluemarble.net/~scotty/forgery.html
        http://www.ecofuture.org/ecofuture/jnkmail.html


EURO UPDATE

FEE have just published their guidelines "What would happen to a company on 1st January 2002 that had not converted to the euro?" at http://www.euro.fee.be (The filename is http://www.euro.fee.be/Archive/be/feedoc.pdf ) It lays down all the practical, legal, regulatory, and corporate governance difficulties that could arise. It also recognises that many businesses are leaving it to the last minute and provides detailed instructions of what is the least that needs to be done for the changeover . I'm pleased to have contributed to that part of the document that deals with minimum necessary changes to software systems for "compliance".

AMUE have published "The Euro in your Shop - a Practical Guide " at:
http://www.amue.org/publications/business/smretail/irish/index.html
Unfortunately, there is an error in the triangulation example on page  20 of sr_irish_2.pdf, so let's hope they fix that before it is distributed to millions of retailers.


NOT SO SERIOUS

A use for the old mobile phone

Now that you've upgraded to a WAP phone, what do you do with the old one?  I've found it useful as an answer to a Win98 problem - Windows crashes whenever I switch more than once from the fax software to the email dial-up program. Granted, I get very few faxes these days compared to email, but it still has its place. So to start the PC with no fax software running (and other utilities that are handy but occupy scarce resources), I restart Windows and keep the shift key held down. This is tedious as it takes a couple of minutes for Windows to load. So, I just place the handset upright on the right-hand shift key, and do something else while the PC starts. The weight of the phone is just enough to keep the key down.

I welcome hearing of any tips, tricks, and shortcuts that would be useful to readers.

TGIF

Have you heard of the virus that works on the "honour" system? It's a plain text email that says " This virus works on the honor system.  Please delete all the files on your hard disk, then forward this message to everyone you know.  Thank you for your cooperation." The great thing about it is that anyone who does delete all their files cannot then forward email....

Patrick O'Beirne, 10 July, 2000

Copyright 2000 Systems Modelling Limited, http://www.sysmod.com. Reproduction allowed provided the report is copied in its entirety and with this copyright notice.

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ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER
"Praxis" means model or example, from the Greek verb "to do". The name is chosen to reflect our focus on practical solutions to IS problems, eschewing hype. If you like acronyms, think of it as "Patrick's reports and analysis across Information Systems".

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[ DISCLAIMER ]
This newsletter is prepared in good faith and the information has been taken from observation and other sources believed to be reliable. Systems Modelling Ltd. (SML) does not represent expressly or by implication the accuracy, truthfulness or reliability of any information provided. It is a condition of use that users accept that SML has no liability for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions. The information is not intended to constitute legal or professional advice. You should consult an appropriate professional for advice which is specifically tailored to your particular circumstances.

Copyright SML 2000
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