Readers' Forum - December 2006

From the December 2006 Actrix Customer Newsletter

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "Forum" in the subject line. I'll try and get an answer to you by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may also turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

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Joan writes: Hi Ed, I would like to know about my email address. For years I have had actrix.gen in it, now I see that everyone has actrix.co, Why is this? I do seem to get the odd occasional email addressed to the latter.

Hi Joan, This is something we haven't been asked for a while, so thanks for bringing it up again, as others might be wondering.

Actrix was New Zealand's first ever commercial Internet Service Provider. We began in 1989. At that time there was a limited number of second level domains (the .co bit) available: .ac denoted academic, .mil denoted the military, .govt denoted government, and .gen (short for general) included just about everything else. There wasn't yet a .co domain.

Now that there is a .co second level domain, Actrix has appropriately included itself there and the two domains are, in effect, interchangeable. Whether your email address appears as @actrix.gen.nz or as @actrix.co.nz makes no difference. Either will work as well as the other at any time, and do exactly the same thing.

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Keith writes: I found your newsletter spam info really interesting but it does not quite explain an apparent spam problem I am having at the moment. Can you help me? I am receiving a lot of error messages for e-mails that have been blocked or failed delivery etc but none of them are mine. They all refer to my web address as the original sender but the e-mail prefix is garbage, for example ddt @ shoez.co.nz or sed @ shoez.co.nz, where ddt or sed is nothing to do with us.

Hi Keith, Thanks for your e-mail. This is something I could have mentioned in my articles, but didn't. Your e-mail is a good opportunity to cover it in the Forum section. Basically, what's happened is that a spammer has found your domain name and is using it to make fake e-mail addresses in the "from" field of the e-mails he is sending.

If he puts ddt@shoes.co.nz in his e-mail program settings as the reply address when he sends out spam, then it will turn up at all his recipients as having come from an e-mail address at your domain. Anyone who replies to it (and there wouldn't be many) or any bounce messages that result because his spam e-mails couldn't be delivered will come back to that address. And every few hours he will change the from address to something different such as sed@shoez.co.nz. This just makes whatever spam he is sending harder to trace.

And he's probably not doing this himself. The spam probably originates from a trojan virus that is on somebody's machine that is programmed to find domains and send spam e-mails from randomly generated and changing e-mail addresses at the domains it finds. Please note that this doesn't mean that you have a virus, but somebody else sure does.

The reason all these bounces come to you is that your e-mail address is the default for your domain. Anything that comes in for @ shoes.co.nz that our servers don't know how to deliver goes to the default or root e-mail address. This is so that you don't lose important e-mail that might be slightly wrongly addressed.

I hope that make some sense.

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Colleen writes: Along with others I am being swamped with spam mail. e.g. I opened 20 email yesterday and only about 6 of them were actually for me. This becomes time consuming as I block the sender as I delete. My question is, though I have used the message rule to block non imaged spam, creating a rule not to download it from the server, it doesn't seem to have made any difference. Any suggestions as to why that might be?

Hi Colleen, That's less than a 75% spam ratio, so you aren't doing too bad, though hopefully by now you'll have noticed that we've been able to make some real strides recently against this festering problem, as we announced last week.

The problem for you here, though, is that spammers rarely send from the same address twice. For this reason blacklisting or blocking with message rules is no longer an effective way of stopping spam. Spammers have been wise to this technique for some time, so they send images with varying names (as you have noted), and they change enough of their sending details regularly enough to make e-mail programs believe that they haven't come from an address that's been blacklisted.

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Regarding our recent articles on spam, Kurt writes the following: Hi Rob, Regarding spam getting through the ISP mail server filters, I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my mail client and it does a great job finding "Junk Mail". All the mail identified as Junk has been 100% accurate and over the last few months as I have highlighted mail as Junk manually, it has learned the rules and added them to the filter so that at the moment it is picking pretty well 100 percent of the Junk mail that is sent to me.

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And we've had a few bits of feedback on last month's article about down-sizing photos:

Owen writes: I enjoy your newsletter with all the interesting info and gossip. With regards to your tips on digital pics there are some things which I find invaluable. Jpegger - this is great for viewing pics and has a great facility for reducing pic size via the save routine: www.vallen.de/freeware/.

Jpegcrops is an excellent cropper where you can crop a series of pics from one directory to another and get the size you require without any fuss: http://ekot.dk/programmer/JPEGCrops/.

Shayde writes: Hi, Ed, Quick note about reducing picture sizes. The best and easiest tool out there especially with the popularity of trademe and posting photo's for auctions is the MS powertoy tool. Check out http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/digitalphotography/learnmore/tips/eschelman2.mspx.  It's a small easy download and I think it beats any other method hands down. Cheers, Shayde.