Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact|
All Internet users should be aware that regular email just isn't a very secure
method of sending messages.
In fact, it is the electronic equivalent of a picture-postcard where anyone who
wants to can read what you've written without your knowledge.
Unfortunately, many of us forget this simple caveat and hardly ever consider
the fact that your messages may be read by third parties, or even altered
without your permission or approval.
In the past seven days there have been two stories which must have brought
First-up, free email service YahooMail
was found to be altering the occasional word inside users emails. It would
convert these words to something else with a similar meaning.
The word expression was changed to statement, mocha to
expresso and eval to review.
This was done, according to Yahoo, because these words (and others) could be
part of a cunning script designed to hijack your computer.
Okay, so the motive was reasonable but did this really entitle them to
edit people's email without even any advice that such editing had taken place?
And now NZ's largest ISP, Xtra
is introducing its own "we will edit your email" scheme.
As with YahooMail, the intentions are sound -- they're going
to check each and
every one of the emails you send and receive to make sure that it doesn't contain
a virus. If it does, the file concerned will be deleted and you'll simply
receive a little note advising you of this.
Okay, I'm not going to bitch too much about this -- suffice to say that for
99.9% of users this will be a positive move that will undoubtedly save more
than a few people's backsides.
However, one must wonder whether it's fair to "inflict" this unsolicited
email monitoring and editing on everyone?
There appears to be no way to opt-out of Xtra's anti-virus system and I can
only imagine a small handful of occasions when a user might have legitimate
reason to want to send a copy of a virus, trojan or worm to someone else
(for genuine research perhaps) -- but what's wrong with giving users the
There's also the fact that this type of software often introduces a feeling
of false security amongst the naive. "No need to worry any more, our ISP
blocks all viruses" could become some of the Net's most famous last words.
To their credit, Xtra does make the point that the system is not perfect and
"strongly recommends you install and regularly run up-to-date anti-virus
software installed on your computer"
Personally, I'd actually like the right to receive viruses by email if I
wanted to. I get annoyed when people force their hand-holding, wet-nursing
systems down my throat.
One reason I might not want my emails checked is because I find
that Xtra's seemingly overloaded mailservers sometimes introduce delays of
up to 12 hours as it is. Although XTRA deny that this new anti-virus
processing will slow things down, I'd rather have the option of jumping
I take extraordinary care to ensure that my systems are not infected by
worms, trojans or viruses and Xtra's service becomes just another hurdle
my emails have to jump through. Would it really have hurt to have a little
check-box that says "Check email for viruses?" so that I had control?
An Update on hVCPlus and Sky TV
Just a follow-up on my research into the use of the hVCPlus software package
to decode videocrypt broadcast signals such as those used by Sky TV's UHF
It has been reported to me that one user who has been testing this software
has finally established a configuration that allows viewing with almost total
accuracy of decoding. Apparently last night's movie "Castaway" suffered from
just three scenes where decoding synchronisation was briefly lost -- accounting
for a total of about two minutes in a two hour movie. Not bad at all.
I also spent a few minutes experimenting here and found that the graininess
I referred to before was simply a lack of signal level. With a stronger
signal the output of this software is now "perfect."
Just a reminder that I couldn't possibly endorse the use of this software
to infringe the intellectual property rights of Sky TV and this information
is only provided because so many people have been asking.
I note also that quite a few readers who are Sky Digital users have complained
that the service continues to deteriorate. The latest problem appears to be
a lack of synchronisation between the video and audio parts of the broadcast
which makes many movies look as if they've been dubbed right through.
And I'm still waiting for the hardware for the Kiwi Tivo/ReplayTV box to arrive --
but when it does I'll set up a new page covering this exciting project.
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