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Scot’s Newsletter

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January 2005 - Vol. 5, Issue No. 65

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Google: The New Microsoft
  • Customizing Firefox
  • First Look: Microsoft AntiSpyware 1.0 Beta
  • Let’s Fight Sp@m 13: POPFile Update, Spamnix 3.0
  • Call for Contributions
  • Link of the Month: Digital Photography Review
  • Newsletter Schedule
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Your Subscription

    Happy New Year, everyone!

    Google: The New Microsoft
    I'm gettin' old. When I got into this business, Microsoft was the underdog new kid, IBM was the overlord corporate villain, the Internet was called Arpanet, and few had ever heard of it. Lately I've been getting deja vu. Microsoft's moves remind me a lot of IBM's circa the early 1980s. Meanwhile, IBM seems to be a smart, benevolent company. And Google is the shrewd, fair-haired boy about to take over the world. It's not by coincidence, I don't think, that Google's corporate mantra is "Do no evil." I had some recent thoughts about Microsoft, IBM, and Mozilla in my TechWeb Spin column, Microsoft Shows Its IBMness

    But like everyone else I've been just staring at Google for the last six months (or six years) with my jaw slapping against my chest. Where are the smoke and mirrors? This kind of company comes along just once every computer generation (17.6 years, of course). Google is slathered with hype these days, and I don't want to add to the bubbly press party that's gushing over it. But, dang, it's hard not to be a tad awed. Two twenty-something guys whose Stanford University project is now worth roughly the same as Ford and GM combined. They also have probably the most successful IPO of the 21st century, they're personally worth billions, and they have so many new irons in the fire that you know they're just getting started.

    But it's not the money that impresses me. Well, it's not the only thing, anyway. It's the ideas, the ambition, and the cojones. These guys are the new Microsoft. They're going after Microsoft very quietly, very shrewdly. Google Desktop, as humble as it is, is a step squarely into the desktop space. Microsoft is caught because, while it can react ruthlessly to Google's subtle moves, that just makes it appear to be more ruthless. Google is oh-so quiet and unassuming. That's not just guile, it's part of the corporate culture. Microsoft has a right to be "paranoid."

    Yahoo and the rest of the Internet search companies ... who are they again? Yahoo is the only other one that'll survive. Google laid them to waste. And it did so with nothing more than smart technology and the simplest of interfaces. Google search just works. Microsoft has marketing campaigns with the same ideas behind Google's giant, raging whisper campaign. That only happens when your product or service resonates perfectly with what the market wants, like, say, the IBM PC and Microsoft Windows 3.0. The right product at the right time.

    Google has soaked into Internet advertising the way Amazon sucked up Internet retail. This is what Internet companies were supposed to be about. This is the promise Wall Street tried to buy in 1999 and 2000. On the day that AOL bought Time-Warner, most of us knew we had entered an altered universe that couldn't last. But Google is the real deal.

    Knock, knock. Hello corporate America (uh, make that corporations the world over)? This is your wake up call. Barring the worst, the year 2005 is the year when big business can (and I think will) wake up from the bad dream and start investing in growth. Tap your heels three times and repeat after me: "There's no place so lucrative as the Internet. There's no place so lucrative as the Internet. There's no place so lucrative as the Internet."

    Back to the Top


    Customizing Firefox

    An updated version of this story is found here.

       - Firefox Extension Recommendations
       - Firefox Customization Recommendations

    In the last issue of the newsletter, I offered an in-depth review of Mozilla's new Firefox browser. That story was picked up by several TechWeb Pipeline sites, was linked to by Network Computing, and was re-published by InformationWeek online with my permission. The story was also highlighted on Google's Sci/Tech page, and it's been commented on by several Mozilla.org members. One of the things you should know is that this review has become a living document. As I discovered new things about Firefox, or when in a few cases I was shown the error of my ways, I've made changes and corrections to the story on the website version (the last issue of the newsletter). The review you may have read a month ago in your inbox has changed pretty significantly.

    If you are a Firefox user, I recommend checking the website version of the review. But even though there are many new details and insights about Firefox in the review, one thing that didn't change was my strongly positive conclusion about the new browser. In fact, I'm an even more confirmed Firefox user today than when I mailed the last issue of the newsletter.

    In this issue I'm offering insights and links to a long list of installable extensions and user-configuration tweaks to Firefox that provide literally dozens of improvements to the program. With this story in hand, you can vastly improved your Firefox installation, quickly and easily, and you'll be doing so with changes I've personally vetted and tested in advance.

    One last point before I get to the good stuff. I'm creating a "living" version of this Customizing Firefox content in a place other than the website version of the newsletter. It makes it easier for me to update it that way. This is the link for that page:

  • Customizing Firefox - The Best of Scot's Newsletter

    Firefox Extension Recommendations
    Last Updated: January 3, 2005
    With so many beneficial Firefox extensions available, I've been working my way through a long list that I found interesting. I've grouped together some of the best ones under descriptive headings.

    WHERE TO GET FIREFOX EXTENSIONS

    xMirror by Kristof Polleunis should be the first Firefox extension you install. There are at least three other extension sites — in addition to the official Mozilla.org Extension site — that host extensions for Firefox and Mozilla. xMirror provides convenient access to the three other extension sites from within the Firefox Extension manager.

    Why are the other extension sites so important? Mozilla.org doesn't list all the available extensions, including some of the best ones out there. In order to get the most out of Firefox, you need to peruse these other sites occasionally. Take a look for yourself:

  • Mozdev.org's Extension Room
  • Texturizer.net's Firefox Help: Extensions
  • The Extensions Mirror

    MUST-HAVE TAB-BROWSING FIREFOX EXTENSIONS

    I have a strong preference for running Firefox in a way that minimizes the number of full program windows that open on my desktop. I would like to be able to track the trail of sites I visit as separate pages. But I want those separate pages to appear as tabs. If you try working this way, I believe that you will find that it is very efficient. Of course, what matters is what works for you. But in my use of Firefox, these tab-browsing-oriented extensions have given the browser a huge boost in productivity.

    SessionSaver by Pike, Rue
    SessionSaver is a highly useful older extension that saves all open browser tabs in the event of a crash. It also lets you save and name sets of tabs, and recall them at will. I recommend the 0.2d2 nightly23 build of SessionSaver. Note: Mozilla.org doesn't list this extension, probably because it has not been updated in quite some time. Nevertheless, I have tested it with Firefox 1.0, and it works fine.

    Tab Clicking Options by Twanno
    Double-clicking any blank area of Firefox's tab bar opens a new tab browser. But by default, double-clicking any existing tab has no effect. Tab Clicking Options let's you configure functionality for keyboard and mouse-click combinations related to Firefox's tabs. For example, you can configure it to close any open tab by double-clicking the tab label. And Ctrl-double-click on any tab might duplicate the tab and its contents. The program is easy to install and configure, and well worth a couple of minutes to get it going.

    miniT(drag+indicator) by Caio Chassot
    Provides for drag-and-drop movement of Firefox browser tabs.

    Undo Close Tab by Dorando
    After you install Undo Close Tab, you'll be able to backtrack from problems like this one: You're in the middle of long forum post. You double-click the tab bar to open a new tab to check a Web page for some fact. But by accident, you click the Close Tab icon on the right side of the tab bar, which closes the tab window containing your unsaved forum post. With Undo Close Tab installed, just right-click the tab bar and choose "Undo Close Tab." Poof, your tab is back! (Also, consider removing the close button from the tab bar.)

    Note: To truly fix all aspects of Firefox's tab-browsing functionality, I also recommend the four customizations under the Tab-Browsing Tweaks heading in Firefox Customization Recommendations section below.

    MUST-HAVE UI-FIXING FIREFOX EXTENSIONS

    Although full-fledged tab-browsing is the functionality that's most lacking in Firefox 1.0, there are other lesser areas that could also use more polish. These extensions fix user-interface (UI) glitches.

    DeskCut by Evan Eveland
    Lets you right-click anywhere on an open Web page and choose Create deskCut from the pop-up menu to place a Firefox bookmark on your desktop.

    Resize Search Box by Nathar Leichoz, Awan Afuqya
    Creates a drag-and-drop resizable version of the Google (or other search engine) search box on your Firefox toolbar.

    IE View by Paul Roub
    IE View adds a context-menu item that lets you open in Internet Explorer any Web page currently displayed in Firefox.

    FirefoxView by Alex Sirota
    This unique Firefox extension is sort of the reverse of IE View. It installs in Firefox, and from there, offers the ability install and uninstall a modification to Internet Explorer that lets you right-click any open Web page in IE and choose the option "View this Page in Firefox."

    UserAgent Switcher by Chris Pederick
    The Opera browser has a nice feature that allows it to identify itself to Web servers as a browser other than Opera. Some websites will only display properly to Internet Explorer. UserAgent Switcher adds the same functionality to Firefox.

    Stop-or-Reload Button by Caio Chassot
    Combines the Stop and Reload buttons into a single button/read-out that smartly shows the functionality that's available at any given time (like Apple's Surfari browser).

    Ext2Abc by Eric Hamiter
    Alphabetically sorts the list of extensions shown in the Extension manager window.

    Word Count by Eric Hamiter
    While it might only have strong interest for writers and editors, Word Count emulates Microsoft Word's Word Count feature for use with Web-based content and does its job well. It counts the number of words in a highlighted body of text displayed in Firefox.

    ChromEdit by Chris Neale
    Adds the "Edit User Files" menu item to Firefox's Tools menu. When you open the program, it provides access to the four files Firefox provides for user customizations - user.js, prefs.js, userChrome.css, and userContent.jss.

    MUST-HAVE FIREFOX-EXTENSION APPLETS

    Not every Firefox extension is aimed at fixing something or adding a simple functionality. Some add little programs that do things like play music, create blog posts, or provide FTP client features. Of these sorts of extensions, here are two that I find invaluable.

    Sage RSS/Atom Reader by Peter Andrews
    Very nice light-weight RSS Reader that I find myself using more and more.

    ForecastFox (was WeatherFox) by Richard Klein, Jon Stritar
    ForecastFox is a weather display program powered by Weather.com. It displays current and forecast temperatures at a glance in the Firefox status bar. It's highly configurable and gives you quick access to detailed weather information localized to your zip code.

    TRIED 'EM, LIKE 'EM

    Disable Targets For Downloads by Ben Basson
    DragToTab by Nathar Leichoz, Awan Afuqya
    FireFTP by Mime Cuvalo
    FoxyTunes by Alex Sirota
    Googlebar by The Googlebar Team
    Image Zoom by Jason Adams
    Linkification by John Hansen
    Copy Plain Text by Jeremy Gillick
    McSearchPreview by Carlo Zottmann
    Nuke Anything by Ted Mielczarek
    Web Developer by Chris Pederick
    Tweak Network Settings by Edwin Martin
    Add Bookmark Here by Mark Lindkvist

    SOME EXTENSIONS ON MY TO-TRY LIST

    Always Remember Password by Eric Hamiter
    BugMeNot by Eric Hamiter
    Foxylicious by Dietrich Ayala
    Linky by Henrik Gamal
    SyncMarks by Jason Heddings
    JustBlogIt by Dylan Parker
    Gmail Notifier by Doron Rosenberg
    TinyURLCreator by Jeremy Gillick

    TRIED 'EM, DO NOT LIKE 'EM

    Tab Browser Extension by Shimoda Hiroshi
    Tabbrowser Preferences by Bradley Chapman

    The big argument going on in many Firefox circles is, which tab-browsing extension is better, Tab Browser Extension or Tabbrowser Preferences? A third answer is the right one: Neither. I like a lot of things about Tab Browser Extension (also known as TBE and Tabbrowser Extensions). It's a very rich program with gobs of interesting functionality, but it also has serious issues: It's buggy. The functionality is not well labeled or explained so it's very hard to control (or in other words, it's confusing). And it's so large and ambitious that, according to Mozilla.org, it takes liberties with your Firefox installation. Even TBE's author appears to agree with that last statement. I prefer the single-purpose UI-fixing tab-oriented extensions like SessionSaver, Tab Clicking Options, and miniT.

    Tabbrowser Preferences has the opposite problem. It offers few useful features that can't be gained from publicly available Mozilla.org customizations. For older versions of Firefox, Tabbrowser Preferences may have offered more oomph, but for Firefox 1.0, there's not much there, there.

    Firefox Customization Recommendations
    Last Updated: January 3, 2005
    Mozilla browsers offer a much higher degree of user customization than meets the eye in their configuration dialogs. Several of the easiest to implement tweaks for Firefox are found on Mozilla's Firefox Tips & Tricks page. Read the information on the Tips & Tricks page; it tells you how to make these changes. But you'll find that the ChromEdit extension (referenced in the section above), makes Firefox Customizations more convenient. These are the customizations I recommend from Mozilla's Firefox Tips & Tricks page. There may be others there that you'll find more useful than I do.

    TAB-BROWSING TWEAKS

  • Reveal More Tab/Window Options. This modification adds a new Tabbed Browsing setting in the Tools > Options > Advanced dialog that controls website-forced new browser opens. After you make this tweak, close and restart Firefox, open Options > Advanced, put a check in the box beside "Force links that open new windows to open," and make your preferred behavior choice. My choice is "a new tab."

  • Decide Which New Windows to Block. Allows small pop-up windows spawned by JavaScript to open as normal pop-ups instead of as new tabs in Firefox (which sometimes forces your entire browser window to shrink). I strongly recommend adding this customization in conjunction with Reveal More Tab/Windows Options.

  • Disable Other JavaScript Window Features. I highly recommend this option in conjunction with Reveal More Tab/Window Options and Decide Which New Windows to Block. If your goal is like mine — to make 90% of things you click open as a new tab — these first three customizations provide both that functionality and excellent controls for making sure this works properly with most Web content.

  • Remove the Close Button from the Tab Bar. This removes the X (Close) button from the right side of the Firefox tab bar, which can be a good thing. It's more possible than it should be to accidentally lose a tab by clicking this box inadvertently. And with the Tab Clicking Options extension installed, you should configure things so that you can delete any tab just by double-clicking on its tab label. The drawback to the customization that removes the Close button from the tab bar is that it also strips the Close button from Firefox sidebars, something that's not desirable. But like everything else in Firefox, that problem is also fixable.

    Thanks to Scot's Newsletter reader T. Antani for pointing out this thread on the MozillaZine site. There's a post there that offers a variation on the tip for removing the Close button. Add these lines to the userChrome.css file instead:

    /* Remove tabs close button */
    #content .tabs-closebutton {display: none ! important;}

    I've tested this and it works perfectly. It removes the Close button from the tab bar, while leaving it in place on all the sidebar elements.

    PERFORMANCE AND UI TWEAKS

  • Enable Pipelining. While I have not run comparison tests, many Firefox users believe that this Pipelining tweak improves Firefox's page-loading performance. I can tell you that it is not a dramatic enhancement. But it's worth a try. Before you try it, please see this blog post from Mozilla.org's Asa Dotzler and Mozilla's Pipelining FAQ. Thanks to Ed Bott for these links.

  • Speed up Page Rendering. It's not clear to me that this one does anything noticeable. Mozilla's explanation says: "By default, Firefox doesn't try to render a Web page for 250 milliseconds, because it's waiting for data. If you [perform this customization], Firefox immediately tries to render the page, even without complete data. The drawback is [that] on slower machines where doing a "reflow" may actually cause the total page load time to be longer." Another drawback: You may not notice any difference whatsoever.

  • Prevent Sites from Disabling the Context Menu. Some Web sites prevent you from right-clicking the page to show the context menu of options that can be carried out on that page. This tweak, which you add as Firefox Bookmark, prevents that on many sites.

  • Use Error Pages Instead of Dialog Messages. This is a minor tweak that provides a slightly better user interface when a Web address isn't displayable.

    USING ABOUT:CONFIG

    The biggest bonanza of options is something called "about:config". To access it, type this into Firefox's URL bar and press Enter:

    about:config

    A word of warning. There's a lot going on in about:config, and it would be a mistake to make random changes to this page. Educate yourself first. Mozilla.org offers a help page that explains How To Modify Hidden Preferences Using about:config. Even more importantly, these additional documents explain individual about:config settings:

  • About:config Entries
  • Documented Preferences

    The second one is an older document that's really aimed at earlier Mozilla browsers, but it offers slightly more detailed information. There is not a perfect 100% overlap between previous Mozilla browsers and Firefox on the about:config page. But the majority of the options are the same. One way to handle this is to use the first link as your reference, and use the second link to check for any additional information about a specific setting.

    There's only one about:config-based tweak that I'm currently recommending (although I expect to add others in the near future). This recommendation really only applies to people who have fast Internet connections or those who are Webmasters, news junkies, possibly online gaming, anything where it's mandatory that clicking the Refresh button always shows you the very latest information on that Web page. If that describes the way you need or want to work, you can configure Firefox to work the same way Internet Explorer's check for website updates on "Every visit to the page."

    To make this change, find this entry in about:config:

    browser.cache.check_doc_frequency

    The default setting is represented by the numeral 3, and corresponds to "when appropriate/automatically." To change it, simply double-click the browser.cache.check_doc_frequency entry. A small dialog box will open. Type the numeral 1 to change it to "Each Time" and press OK. Here's a description of the available options for this particular setting:

    0 = Once per session
    1 = Each time
    2 = Never
    3 = When appropriate/automatically

    Some other about: screens that you might want to explore include:

    about:cache
    about:plugins

    There are others too, but several of them aren't very useful. About:config is the one to master.

    Back to the Top


    First Look: Microsoft AntiSpyware 1.0 Beta
    By now you've probably heard that Microsoft intends to jump into both the anti-spyware and antivirus product categories by offering Windows utilities that will reportedly be free for download. Last Friday, Microsoft offered its first version of the anti-spyware program it purchased from Giant Company Software in December. Microsoft AntiSpyware 1.0 Beta. You can download it and try it for yourself from this Microsoft Downloads page. For more on the news about Microsoft AntiSpyware and reactions from companies like Symantec, see TechWeb's Microsoft Jumps into Spyware Space with Beta.

    I spent two hours over the weekend putting Microsoft AntiSpyware through its paces with a test machine that, conveniently, has been cruising the Internet almost daily for six months without spyware protection. I downloaded the latest versions of Ad-Aware SE and Spybot - Search & Destroy, since they're both free and in wide usage. Here are my conclusions.

    Microsoft AntiSpyware offers a real-time monitor, automatic spyware-signature updates, and provides an optional peer-based exploit-detection data-sharing mechanism to help protect against fast-breaking new spyware woes. Microsoft AntiSpyware has an Internet Explorer anti-hijack feature. It can quarantine or delete spyware it disables on your machine. It has the ability to optionally save a Windows restore point. It gives you a way to access to Internet Explorer BHOs (Browser Help Objects), ActiveX apps, startup programs, IE settings, IE toolbars, and other trouble spots that tend to be the areas where spyware latches on. Microsoft AntiSpyware has a rich feature set for a program you can download for free. It also has an absolutely excellent user interface.

    Unlike Ad-Aware, Spybot, and Pest Patrol (the latter wasn't tested for this story), Microsoft AntiSpyware completely ignores "tracking cookies." In its Tracks Eraser, found in the Advanced Tools area, it offers a function that erases all your cookies, but it doesn't display standard advertising cookies on its scan-results screen. Frankly, I find this refreshing. In most cases, so-called tracking cookies, while not exactly beneficial, don't threaten any significant aspect of your privacy. They support Internet advertising, but not in invasive ways. It might be possible for a tracking cookie to be used in conjunction with a truly nasty spyware program, but I suspect Microsoft AntiVirus would be on top of that sort of thing. Deeper testing would be required to be sure.

    Like every other spyware test I've ever run, the test subjects each found threats the others didn't. I'll spare you the details, but when you strip out the tracking cookies, Ad-Aware didn't find jack, Spybot found the ever-popular DSO Exploit (but since this PC's version of Internet Explorer is completely up to date, it's probably protected from DSO), and Microsoft AntiSpyware found the MySearchBar adware and MySearchBar browser plugin. Of the three, I would have to give a D to Ad-Aware, a C to Spybot, and a B to Microsoft AntiSpyware. All three of these tools should have found MySearchBar, though. Only the new Microsoft utility did.

    In our tests, AntiSpyware's very rapid Quick Scan found the exact same list of problems found by its very slow Deep Scan. Unlike Spybot and Ad-Aware, AntiSpyware's deep scan appears to scan every file on your computer. It takes significantly longer than the other two products — about as long as Pest Patrol's scan took in tests I ran a couple years back. The AntiSpyware scan is configurable, and it operates more like Ad-Aware's scan than SpyBot's. AntiSpyware's results screen also provides a good deal of information, something that's always been a Spybot weakness.

    All in all, I'm impressed with Microsoft AntiSpyware at first look. I intend to use it on a long-term basis, and if it makes sense to, I'll come back and review it in more detail later.

    Lately I've been hearing from a number of people that this spyware package or that spyware package is the only one to use. Which anti-spyware tool do you find to be the most effective? Drop me a line and let me know about it. A URL to the product home page would be a help.

    Back to the Top


    Let’s Fight Sp@m 13: POPFile Update, Spamnix 3.0
    If you're still having issues with spam, and your New Year's Resolution is to finally do something about it, you owe it to yourself to try the free, open-source, proxy-server-based POPFile utility by John Graham-Cumming. I reviewed POPFile favorably last fall. After about 4.5 months of usage and 120,000 messages processed, POPFile is running at 99.22% for me. That's pretty fantastic.

    Interesting statistics: Of those 120,000 messages, 83% were spam. (Note: I have all ISP/server-based spam controls disabled from my various mail hosts.) POPFile has generated 100 false positives (messages incorrectly identified as spam, but less than half of those false positives were messages I cared about. Probably fewer than 20 were mission critical to me. And most of the false positives came in the early going.

    I said this back in October and I'll say it again: POPFile is the most accurate mail-classification tool I've ever tested. It's also the most accurate spam-detection tool I've ever tested. There are other products on the market that use very similar technology, such as SpamBayes, that I have not tested but that I believe are in POPFile's league. Both POPFile and SpamBayes are proxy-server-style products that aren't just anti-spam products; they're both mail classifiers that'll work with most any mail client. And there are others too. I may test these products in the future. In the meantime, I'm interested in hearing from people who use SpamBayes for Windows or other Bayesian solutions for Windows.

    Catching spam isn't the only thing POPFile does well. I have been using it to classify types of mail, and have come to rely on it to do that. It's not just unsolicited messages that POPFile classifies so accurately. This hidden ability, used in conjunction with an email program that has solid rules or filters to route classified mail to a specified folder, can significantly boost your email productivity. I was skeptical of POPFile's ability to do this in a way that I could learn to rely on. I was wrong to skeptical. POPFile is an extremely powerful email-management tool. Advanced email users, in particular, will accrue major benefits from exploring POPFile's full functionality.

    Nothing's changed about the POPFile's downsides for me. I still greatly crave tight integration between anti-spam operation with my email package of choice. In my case, that's still Eudora Email 6.2.x. Bottom line: I want to be able to manually classify mail with a keyboard combination in my email package. In other words, while I'm reading a message that was not tagged as spam, click a button on the message's toolbar, or type something like Ctrl-J, to send it to the spam folder and retrain the mail-classifying engine in one fell swoop. POPFile does have a client-integration tool for Outlook called Outclass. So far as I know, Outlook is the only email program that has a client-integration solution for POPFile.

    The process and interface for managing and reclassifying specific messages in POPFile is pretty frustrating. POPFile's built-in mail viewer won't even display HTML mail, and there a lot of clicks and waiting involved to see and process a single message. My colleague and friend, Mitch Wagner, who works with me at TechWeb and who is an ardent POPFile supporter, points out something that's very true: POPFile is so accurate that after the first couple of months, you don't have to manually retrain messages very often. I have a hard time abiding a bad interface though. I will actively look to replace any program that annoys me in use. (It's probably worth noting that I've been actively trying to replace Eudora for three years.)

    I mentioned several minor downsides to POPFile in the October review. There's a multi-user version of POPFile due out in the next month or two that could help with one of my issues, the fact that POPFile is a proxy server running on a client machine, something I'd prefer to avoid.

    I chose not to include to describe a small problem with POPFile for Windows in the October review. Since that problem has not been fixed, I'll explain it now. There's an acknowledged bug in the Windows version of POPFile: POPFile's System Tray icon can cause the program to freeze. You'll find a one-paragraph description of this bug under "Known Windows Issues" in the POPFile Release Notes. I've had this problem since the first day I installed POPFile. If your mouse passes over this icon while your email program is sending/receiving email, POPFile freezes. You can exit and restart both your email program and POPFile to back out of the problem (under Windows XP). But it's still annoying. Generally speaking, this only happens to me when I double-click the tray icon to open the POPFile client window. The problem is almost certainly worse for me than most people because every 8 minutes, Eudora checks about a dozen different mail servers, and all those server checks take a couple of minutes to carry out. That means that on my desktop, Eudora is in the state of sending/receiving about 35% of the time. As a result, the likelihood that I unthinkingly go for the POPFile tray icon while Eudora is in the midst of sending/receiving is higher for me. The Release Notes say that the bug may be video driver related, but the video card and drivers have been changed out during the POPFile test period. The new card is from a different video card manufacturer. But that change had no effect on the bug.

    So, for me, POPFile is imperfect overall. But when it comes to trapping spam and cleaning up your inbox, POPFile is virtually perfect. And then you have to factor in the powerful mail-classification features. If I were setting up a comparison review of anti-spam products, and I wanted to rate each product on several criteria (say, factors like ease of use, installation, stability, client integration, support, accuracy, overall value, and so forth), I would give "accuracy" a weighting of something like 60%. And with over 99% accuracy, there's not a lot of room for improvement there.

    Spamnix 3.0
    Eudora users are in the minority among this newsletter's subscribers, so all of you who use Outlook, Outlook Express, Gmail, Lotus Notes, or anything other than Eudora, please skip ahead. Spamnix is an anti-spam utility for Eudora that I've covered in the past.

    Now, for all the Eudora users who are still with me — especially those of you who opted to install Spamnix after reading my earlier Let's Fight Sp@m coverage of Spamnix — there's some news about this product. Program author Barry Jaspan has released an early alpha version of Spamnix 3.0 that dumps the SpamAssassin rules-based email-content-filter technology (which I've been critical of in the past). You might expect that Barry is using Bayesian technology instead, right? Well, Spamnix already had some Bayesian functionality.

    Spamnix 3.0 is instead based on Bill Yerazunis' CRM114. For more on CRM114, see Paul Graham's Bill Yerazunis: Better than Human, which claims that CRM114 has in one instance delivered 98.87% accuracy. An essay written by Paul Graham in August of 2002 called A Plan for Spam almost single-handedly kicked off the Bayesian anti-spam thrust a few years back. Another Graham article is equally seminal, Better Bayesian Filtering. Both of these articles reference CRM114.

    The fact that Spamnix 3.0 is in "alpha" means that it's not ready for most people to install. Alpha comes before beta, and most developers use the term alpha to mean that the product is not feature complete and may also be unstable. So, Barry Jaspan still plans quite a bit of development on Spamnix 3.0 before he releases it generally and I'm not aware of any stated release date. There's no link to the 3.0 version on the Spamnix website. However, if you just have to get this thing, you can try signing-up for the Spamnix-Testers List.

    So, that said, I just installed Spamnix 3.0.1 alpha and have so far encountered no stability issues, but I've also had no chance to mess with it and check it out. I'm very interested in CRM114, though. The thing that I'm really happy about it is that it's possible to use POPFile and Spamnix at the same time ... ;-)

    Back to the Top


    Call for Contributions
    It's been six months since I asked for contributions to Scot's Newsletter. If I were smarter, I would have done it last month, but I hate asking people to send me money and just didn't want to do it during the holiday season. Long-time subscribers are probably aware that I put out this call for financial donation three or four times a year. So why am I doing this? Scot's Newsletter isn't an organization. While I'm a publishing professional, the newsletter is a moonlighting endeavor. So I need occasional help covering my costs. For example, I use a professional newsletter distributor (which ensures that none of us get spam as a result of subscribing to this newsletter), I have webhost, I must buy equipment and sometimes software to support reviews, and a long list of other expenses. I donate my time; I don't get paid for the research, writing, and production of the newsletter.

    The newsletter accepts ads, but I don't actively sell them at all. (In fact, I'm a terrible salesman.) There are no paid ads now and haven't been for a while. The website has Google AdSense ads, which bring in a small amount every month. I'm a little long on content and short on revenue, as it were.

    I ask that you take a moment to send what you can afford. I'm especially looking for people who have never contributed to do their part. There are two ways to send me your contribution. You can send it via cash or check through the regular mail. Or you can send it electronically via PayPal:

  • Donate via Conventional Postal Mail
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    Thanks in advance for your help.

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    Link of the Month: Digital Photography Review
    Do you lust after a digital camera your spouse said was too darn expensive for a holiday gift? I do. The particular camera of my affection is the Canon EOS 20D. It's a bit pricey, to be sure. But because I already have Canon lenses for a similar Canon film camera, this one would, uh, sort of save us money. Really. Well, okay, so I guess I could get by on my crummy old SLR. [Editor's Note: Sigh! Read my lips: Saving good; spending bad! —Cyndy]

    Anyway, it's not the camera I was intending to write about. It's the website where I've been learning a lot about it (and its competition): Digital Photography Review. This little British-based site is edited by a small squad of dedicated staffers and frequented by an enthusiastic community. It's well designed and stocked with in-depth reviews packed with insight. I've haunted this place on off-times over the last six weeks or so. If you're interested in digital cams, check it out.

    I also have to credit the winner of last month's Link of the Month, Mike Elgan, editor of Personal Tech Pipeline and Mike's List, for turning me on to DP Review.

    Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows or broadband related website that's a little amazing? Please send me the URL so I can check it out and let everyone know about it.

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    Newsletter Schedule
    The Finnie family missed two weeks at holiday time because the whole household came down with the flu. That's why the newsletter is late this time, and it's also why For Linux Explorers is missing from this edition of the newsletter. (Cyndy got hit the hardest, I'm sorry to say.) Our Linux coverage, by Bruno, will continue in the next issue. [Ed's Note: I'm still coughing! Sympathy gratefully accepted. —Cyndy]

    Scot's Newsletter is a monthly e-magazine. My aim is to deliver each issue of the newsletter on or before the first of each month.

    You can always find out when the next issue of Scot's Newsletter is expected to appear by visiting the Scot's Newsletter home page.

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    The Fine Print
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    Contributions
    To help with the cost of creating and distributing the newsletter, I accept contributions via PayPal and Letter Mail. For more information on donations:

  • Sign-up for PayPal (if you don't already have it)
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    Contact
    Send comments, suggestions, or questions about this newsletter. Don't be bashful about telling me what you like or don't like. Send emails related to editorial content (only) to scot@scotsnewsletter.com.

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