I don’t get moved to discuss PC hardware much these days -
after all, what is there to say any more? Most boxes just work –
and when it doesn’t, you just throw it away.
The time when a hack could write a whole series (and many did!)
bitching about the outrageous fortune of the RS232 interface have
been replaced by the quiet efficiency of the USB solution. Those
readers who have never had to connect an RS232 serial printer to a
PC without the benefit of knowing the interface data rate and ack/nak
formats, simply haven’t lived, and probably never will. Those of you
who have, will break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it.
The majority of the people I talk to these days simply have no
concept of computing before the hard disk drive and the art of
living with a stack of floppies, and I make these points because at
the time of the aforementioned, there was no light at the end of any
tunnel. USB was barely a twinkle in the eye, and hard drives costs
£1000 for 5Mbyte of storage. These days, when I encounter any sort
of issue with hardware, I just assume that there are now so many
people who are online power users, and who are engaged in the
industry, that any infelicities will be spotted and fixed within
You really have never had it so good, but please don’t lose all
sight of the need to understand the basics of how computers evolved
and work, if you ever need to do any form of diagnosis. Remember
that all medical training starts with the close examination of
deceased bodies, rather than simply reviewing Elle McPherson and her
like. So when turfing out the loft contents, don’t throw out that
decrepit 386 PC, think of it as a valuable training resource in the
same way as a medical student regards a skeleton.
Now, as I eventually arrive at the point of all this, with
hardware pretty much all sorted out, the modern equivalent of
bitching about RS232 (for me) has become bitching about clumsy
aspects of internet, and top of that list for many is the question
of controlling the menace of Spam.
Until there is a law passed that allows us to lynch anyone
suspected of sending spam, I have tried many ways to get rid of
spam, including some tedious-to-set-up scoring systems that scan
each inbound message for the predictable hallmarks of spam, and then
“devise an index of spamness score”. But by far the simplest and
best so far is SpamNet from Cloudmark. It is an add-in to Outlook
that works by checking each inbound message against an online
database. This may sound cumbersome, but it works. The installation
was painless and the integration with outlook belies the work of
genuine craftspeople, not just one of the many shareware chancers
who can get by with a copy of Visual Basic.
This notice on the spamnet website says it all. My only surprise
is that only 25% of the email checked was spam; my quota is more
like 80%, but I have had a number of email addresses and several for
more than 8 years, now.
SpamNet is presently a free download, but I just know that sooner
or later once the community is hooked, some form of charge or
subscription will be applied. When the request turns up, users will
take a brief glance in the spam folder that is installed at the end
of the inbox folder tree, and not many of the 350,000 will begrudge
paying for this service. At $10 a year, that’s pretty much a
guaranteed $3.5m income. Nice one.
I was going to say that my only gripe is that because each
message is checked on the way in, that I cannot process my existing
inbox contents – but then I RTFM and discovered the option to check
existing folders is present on the toolbar button that the programme
installed. Bliss, and the Spamnet stats clocked another 8000
Now, not only is SpamNet a fabulous product, it is also the
epitome of what an internet business should be. Not trying to sell
something where buyer and seller have no certain idea what is being
asked for – or what is being offered (the reason Boo.com failed) –
but this is something that could not exist in the first place
without the internet.