Mirror Magazine
5th November 2000
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Trash those spammers

Spam is big business in cyberspace. It has become a solid part of internet with its own politics, and there are legions of anti-spam activists who - sick of having to spend five minutes every time they check mail in trashing irritable and unwanted messages - are fighting back. 
By Uthpala Gunethilake
Now I'm not the savviest of computer users. Driven by necessity, I learnt how to perform the most essential tasks which I shall not name because they might be the tasks which other people call 'elementary'. I hate having to accept the fact that computers are meant to be updated, and that every time I get past one monstrous task, there's one bigger and more nerve racking task waiting around the bend .

So it was particularly disheartening to discover that there is much more to an e-mail account besides receiving and sending mail. Apparently, knowing the basics is just not enough to survive with an e-mail Imageaccount. What do you do with mail which you neither want to receive nor reply to?

I was baffled and annoyed when I received a message from an unknown entity that he (or she) can help reduce my debts and another message from a similar species that he or she knows the fastest way to get an MBA. Now I never had any debts worth getting rid of nor did I ever aspire to get an MBA. I hit the delete button promptly, and with force.

But the unknown entities simply refused to take the hint. Their messages kept coming and before long I discovered that there is an army of unknown entities out there whose sole purpose is to annoy the life out of e-mail users like me. 'Spam' is what their game is called officially, and spam ranges from annoying to offensive to the purely unprintable. 

Spam is big business in cyberspace. It has become a solid part of Internet with its own politics, and there are legions of anti-spam activists who - sick of having to spend five minutes every time they check mail in trashing irritable and unwanted messages - are fighting against well organised armies of spammers. There are many sites and organisations devoted to spamming and anti-spamming, legislations being drafted to control spam and a lawsuit is pending between a spammer and an Internet Service Provider (ISP). What's more, there is even an online archive and gallery of spam begun by a profuse receiver of junkmail, 'in order to save spam and junkmail for future web users'.

Defined as 'unsolicited mail', junkmail is simply unwanted mail that range from chain letters and credit dealings to virus warnings and pornography. At the light end of spam may be one of your own jobless friends, who keeps sending chain letters from an address unknown to you. But on the other hand it may be a spammer from an organised site whose chosen vocation is to plague e-mail users by clogging their inboxes. 

Anti-spam activists argue that spam is ethically wrong, since it intrudes upon privacy, time as well as server and disk storage space and since it is simply a misuse of facilities. "Junkmail is the Internet version of nuisance calls", says Navindri. "Up to a certain point it may be fun, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere. It's pretty annoying when you keep on getting the same message for days on end, and sometimes deleting takes so much time," she adds.

Spammers use a number of ways to pick up your e-mail address and picking it up from chat rooms, bulletin boards or websites you have visited are just a few. There are also a number of ways that you can use to get rid of pursuant spammers. If junkmail becomes a menace, first of all turn to your service provider; many Internet Service Providers have policies against spammers and measures to help users side-step the junk mail problem.

You can easily opt out of mailing lists which these companies provide to other companies. This means (though it doesn't help now) that you could have avoided receiving via e-mail, reams of political manifestos which took ages to download in the last few weeks. Says Sheyenne Algama, Assistant Manager (Direct Sales) of Eureka On-line, "We send product information from certain companies to our customers, but if they don't want to receive them, if they notify us, we stop it."

"Also, if you find that you want to get rid of your online subscriptions to various companies, they usually give the option of withdrawing," adds Sheyenne. 

Free e-mail services like Yahoo and Hotmail also have detailed instructions about what you can do to stop getting bombarded by spam. These include filtering, blocking and complaining to the sender's server, or service provider. Opting out of directories maintained by on-line services is also another measure. 

What this makes clear is that there are many more ways of preventing spam than grinding your teeth and hitting the delete button over and over again. Maybe you will not see a complete end to the menace, but at least you'll have a cleaner inbox than you used to have.
Spam don'ts

1. Never respond to a spam e-mail.- For a spammer, one 'hit' among thousands of mailings is enough to justify the practice.

2. Never sign up with sites that promise to remove your name from spam lists.- These sites are of two kinds; sincere and spam address collectors. The first kind of site is ignored or sometimes exploited by spammers, the second is owned by them.

3. Never mail-bomb spam sites or engage in hacking to stop spammers. - This only increases the amount of wasted Internet traffic and makes the Internet even less reliable than it is.


We are very happy with the response we've been getting for our 'Clothes Line', but sometimes there is just not enough room to hang all the items we get during the week. So if you don't see yours this week look out for it in the coming weeks. And meanwhile, please keep writing in about all those annoying, intriguing or uplifting experiences or ideas in not more than 350 words.

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Treat them right

I have been living in this country for almost 14 years. Been living in the same house. Driven in the same old streets of Colombo. Gone to the same old school -Stafford. Not only have I seen the unbelievable but also, the unbearable. It is tragic for me to see the behaviour of Sri Lankan people towards stray animals. I have seen them being kicked, eating plastic bags, breathing in fuel and sleeping in wretched places like the rubbish dumps. I could go on forever covering the cruelty towards them. However, I have to say that each and everyone of us is no more special than them. So many strays die and the very few that do survive, are treated far worse than bad. Why do we think that our concerns are more important? And why can't we learn to accept them living so freely outside? Why do we have to gas them? You people are lean and mean. Just remember, "Treat them the way you want to be treated".


Advancement for development

Have you ever noticed how Sri Lanka is stuck in a time warp? The mainstream fashion trends are from the 80's. The music they show on television is from the 80's and early 90's. People's attitudes are not of the 80's but of the 19th century. Sorry! But I really think this country should move with the times, and get a move on quick! The youth of today need a modern environment to evolve in. An environment with equal rights, freedom of speech, freedom to express their views to grow and live their lives to the fullest. Please Sri Lanka, you don't have to lose your culture and traditions to do so! Look at other modernised Asian countries such as Singapore and Japan. Two highly developed, respected, not to mention advanced countries. They blended their unique cultures well with life in a modern environment. We are not asking for much! Just keep up with the times. Import cool clothes from the States, UK, Europe, and Australia...Get all the latest English movies and TV shows...Play new Music Videos on television instead of those stale 80's ones... we've seen them all a hundred times already. Advance for a better future! This will for sure avoid culture shock to those going abroad.


The most precious honeymoon gift

I met a couple who was on their honeymoon this morning. I felt uneasy and embarrassed in their presence. Much to my chagrin, all I could think of was, " how many times have they done "it" today?" After all, a honeymoon is a trip on which you go, to do what the birds and the bees are supposed to do. But what if you have already done "it" before your honeymoon, with each other or with someone else? Would your honeymoon be just as sweet?I don't think so. We have more freedom today than what my parents had when they went courting. The back of the car, the sitting room sofa, even your own bedroom when no one is at home, a kiss a touch... and then? Should you go all the way? No? Never! A firm line should be drawn when it comes close to actually doing it. "It" - the real thing - should be saved for your honeymoon. For I believe, virginity is the biggest gift a man and a woman could give each other, on their wedding day.


Nothing against women

Every Sunday morning I open my newspapers to find the same thing. Strange and sad as it may be, no change will ever take place, as I have already tried complaining to the authorities in the past. Let me ask you a question? Have you ever taken a look at the covers of the Newspaper Magazines and TV Guides of Colombo's 3 leading English Newspapers? If you have, then I am sure that you have noticed that every time it will bear the picture of a woman. I have nothing against the face of a beautiful woman, but let me tell you,that it is quite prejudiced not to mention boring... just imagine how boring it must be for the female population! Doesn't Sri Lanka have any attractive guys to grace the covers of our Magazines?- who are willing to do the shoot of course...Come on, we live in the new millennium after all! Equal rights and equal opportunity to both of the sexes! I strongly believe that a change is required in this situation. 


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