Issue #35
18 November 1996
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Edition #35

First up - a thanks to Clear for adding Aardvark to their list of sites. Obviously it was just an oversight rather than an intentional slight :-) No sign of an Aardvark link on the Xtra site though, which leads me to...

Talk has started in the local newsgroups about the prospect of Xtra charging sites to be linked from the Xtra web-pages. Is this reasonable or not?

On the one hand it could be argued that a link is really an advertisement and, given that Xtra are charging (quite signficant amounts) for banner ads and sponsorships, why not charge for links?

Well maybe it's because Xtra's site, despite the addition of some local content, is still primarily a link-site. If the rumours are true, will they charge every site to which they link? If not, what criteria will be used to determine who pays and who doesn't? What happens if most of the sites asked to pay say "No"? What good is a link-site with virtually no links?

Food for thought!

Speaking of Xtra and advertising - I wonder how impressed Ergo Financial Services will have been with their sponsorship of some Xtra pages this week. Clicking on the Ergo banner produced nothing more than a curt "HTTP/1.0 404 Object Not Found". The URL being referenced was so it's hard to see whether the fault was Ergo's or Xtra's. Still, either way it looks like a waste of advertising dollars to me. (By the way, the Ergo site isn't bad - gee, maybe I should charge them for the link :-)

Looks like a dispute is brewing between IHUG and one of their customers who claims that the equipment which IHUG were telehousing was damaged and used for unauthorised purposes.

IHUG deny this and counter-claim that the machine was found to be containing "warez" (commercial software) which was being downloaded by possibly unauthorised people.

The issue, which first raised its head on usenet this week also sees claims of stolen password files and unpaid accounts bandied about. Nothing like washing that dirty laundry on the kerbside eh?

Boy is Xtra having problems. Looks like the mail system is still causing grief for some, usenet postings aren't getting past the armed guards on the doors, the help desk is really just an old Philips cassette player that endlessly repeats "all our operators are busy, please call back later", you can't change your password, you can't see how much you've spent and rumours are that they can't even sign up new customers at present.

Despite the fact that they probably going to drive a number of independent ISPs to the wall with their "below-cost" pricing, I guess we can thank Xtra for one thing - they've certainly grown the size of the market. Before Xtra came along, the Net was still pretty much the domain of the "propellor-head". The (wo)man in the street looked on it as "something you see on TV", a curiosity that they'd probably use eventually. Xtra's arrival put the stamp of credibility on the Net as a viable "consumer product" and because of this a great many new internet users were born.

Net users can thank Xtra for lower prices and smarter service from existing ISPs. Independent ISPs can now thank Xtra for significantly growing the market and now (reportedly) providing them with a steady stream of ex-Xtra customers, and we can all thank them for making the Net a more interesting place to be.

The other day I changed the From: and Reply-To: fields on my newsreader, firstly to a ficticious address, then to one which deletes email as it arrives.


Simple - bloody Unsolicted Commercial Email or UCE as it's becoming known.

It was the arrival of this UCE which finally acted as the trigger for this action.

Over the past three or four months, the level of unsolicited email I, and most other Net users who regularly post to newsgroups, have been receiving has grown significantly. While it could be argued that it only takes a few seconds to delete an UCE from your intray, it has to be realised that what we're seeing now is really just the thin end of the wedge. Unfortunately there are still many MLM merchants, long-distance calling-plan agents and the like that simply haven't yet found out how the Net offers "free marketing to millions". The UCE problem is going to get a lot worse over the coming months, especially with organisations such as CyberTimes gearing up to meet the demand for a service provider that doesn't close down the accounts of those who engage in such practices.

But I digress... so, firstly I started posting usenet messages with a ficticious reply address - and got my fingers rapped for infringing the relevant RFC which states that postings should have a valid reply address (and I agree that although the posters of this junk email seldom use a valid reply address, two wrongs don't make a right).

So then I changed my posting address to, an address I've created especially and which simply diverts all received email into the virtual rubbish-bin. Surprisingly - this too created howls of protest from some quarters!

Why??? It's within the "rules" and I'm not attempting to hide behind a false address - my proper email address is given in the signature attached to the bottom of each posting. What seems to have annoyed some people is that if they want to reply to one of my usenet postings by email, they're going to have to actually spend an extra fifteen seconds and type the To: address in by hand - oh dear, how sad!

These people should be remember that usenet is a system designed for the public exchange of ideas and views. The correct way to respond to a usenet message is to create a follow-up and in a follow-up, the email address of the original poster becomes irrelevant. On those rare occasions when a reader wants to email me about one of my usenet posts, they can always find my email address in my .SIG, and a message warning them not to use REPLY.

Given that most of these mis-marketers who send out the UCE you get in your mailbox tend to gather their lists by building primitive programs to scan the headers of usenet messages, I fully expect that within a very short space of time, many people will opt to have two email addresses - one for important email communications and another which is used for their usenet postings. The latter will invariably become a thick and fast stream of UCE but it's the only way that usenet will continue to be a viable service.

So.. if you're sending me email, don't use the reply function of your news-reader to do so.

Yes, it's true - I'm not above plugging my own ventures here!

Aardvark readers are invited to add 7am news ticker and 7am clock Java applets to their own web pages.

Nothing this week


They say that colour has a lot to do with mood and mental wellbeing. Now is it just me or do you find the colours on this page just a little disturbing - considering what it's offering?

Well... The psychology of the dark side

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The entire contents of this publication are copyright 1996 to Bruce Simpson, all rights reserved. Don't copy it without my permission - just ask, I'm unlikely to refuse any reasonable request.

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