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Lighten Up 1 February 2002 Edition
Previous Edition

Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
Click To See
It's time again for Aardvark's "Lighten Up" section -- a piece devoted to the crazy, funny and just downright wierd people who put up websites on the Net.

Handspinning Dog Hair
How often have you wondered what could be done with all the excess fluff you've been combing out of your dog?

Hands Free Phone Adapter
Yet more proof that there are still some freebies on the Web. This generic hands-free phone adapter is said to fit all makes and models.

Need Cutting-Edge Copy?
As NZ's longest-running online commentator, I'm looking for extra syndication opportunities for this daily publication -- or I'm happy to write casual or regular material specifically to order for print or Net-based publications. If you're interested, drop me a line

Can Spam Go Legit?
Spam, unsolicited commercial email, junk email -- call it what you like but it's the bane of everyone who has an email address.

Not only is it an irritating waste of time, bandwidth and money, but it's also the cornerstone of many scams and deceptions.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
From Yesterday...
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  • ISP tutorial... - Peter
  • Caller ID... - Michael
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    Of course, depending on who you talk to, spam means different things to different people.

    To you and I it's probably any sales-pitch or chain letter that turns up in our mailbox without our permission.

    To a spammer -- it's anything other than the email they have sent you promoting their new super diet, male member-extender, co-ed dorm covert cameras or whatever.

    Most people now use some form of spam filtering -- either by subscribing to a service or ISP that weeds out much of the garbage, or by setting up their own email client to dump easily recognised junk email.

    Some time ago there was even a move to force spammers to use the abbreviation 'ADVT' in the subject line of their emails -- but of course the few who bothered to follow this suggestion found their messages became even easier to filter out automatically.

    I suspect the very same thing will happen with the latest initiative from groups that would call themselves legitimate email marketers (as opposed to spammers).

    TRUSTe and another group known as ePrivacy are promoting a concept that would see "legitimate" email marketing communications identified by way of a special electronic stamp.

    This endorsement would, according to its proponents, allow email filters to "identify the good (e-mails) so they can be elevated."

    Excuse me for chuckling to myself at this point -- but I know for sure that any unsolicited commercial emails I received with this stamp would be automatically deleted.

    And what's TRUSTe's track record like? Is it perhaps yet another organisation designed to make money by providing endorsements of dubious value?

    These usenet postings 1, 2 seem to indicate that not everyone holds them in high regard and this CNN story suggests that they're not the sharpest knife in the draw either.

    Need more proof that these specially endorsed marketing emails might deserve automatic deletion? Well guess who have already agreed to get behind the programme? Yes -- Microsoft and DoubleClick -- two companies that have already been dragged over the coals for poor privacy practices and bad online marketing tactics.

    So will this attempt to legitimise junk email work?

    Hell no -- those of us who are already sagging under the weight of spam-laden mailboxes will find these easy-to-filter messages easiest to filter out and delete. As a result, those who would send you unsolicited marketing messages using email will find the whole thing counterproductive.

    And, of course, 99% of spammers who really don't give a stuff about the problems, costs and annoyance they create are never going to sign up anyway.

    Much as I hate the idea of legislative control over the Net, I think the only way to deal with spam is to introduce an international treaty that gives the recipients of spam a right to sue and claim massive punitive damages across international borders. This would create a great industry for the small percentage of lawyers who presently specialise in chasing ambulances -- they could take on these cases for a share of the rewards.

    Those spammed might get some money, the lawyers would be kept off the streets, and those who would spam us might think again before they waste our resources.

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    Security Alerts
    Admins asked to check buggy line printer daemons (AAP - 08/11/2001)

    New vulnerability exposes Excel and PowerPoint macros ZDNet - 29/10/2001)

    Microsoft tightens software security (CNet - 16/08/2001t)

    Code Red Worm A 'Runaway Success' (7amNews - 20/07/2001)

    Virus Alerts
    Gigger worm can format Windows PCs (The Reg - 11/01/2002)

    Happy New Year' worm hits Windows (ZDNet - 19/12/2001)

    E-mail worm Gokar spreading (CNet - 13/12/2001)

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    The Day's Top News
    Open in New Window = open in new window
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    Open in New Window Fake web degrees perturb NZ unis
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    Open in New Window FTC To Announce First Ever Crackdown On ‘Spam’
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    Open in New Window Ford loses hyperlinking dispute
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    Open in New Window DVD hacker to keep challenging ruling
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    Open in New Window Spam Gets a Stamp of Approval
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    Open in New Window Out of the box, Linux is 'dreadfully insecure'
    ay Beale, the lead developer of Bastille Linux and an independent security consultant, says it's not the Unix-based systems with interesting stuff on them that get hacked, it's the vulnerable ones...
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    Open in New Window Movie makers back D-VHS format
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