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by Lloyd A. de Vries

Vol. 17 - Tips on Email

Filtered or plain?

Not cigarettes, but e-mail.

If you have an e-mail account, chances are you get plenty of e-mail. Some of it you may want to read and have requested; other items may be junk or worse.

Even among the messages you welcome, there may be some that are a higher priority than others. I subscribe to a few music e-mail lists, for example, but reading about the newly-rediscovered Giacomo Puccini march might take a back door to reading about the newly-discovered Ludwig Staehle first day cover cachet.

Many e-mail programs let you sort, or "filter," your incoming mail. Microsoft Outlook calls it "rules," Eudora calls it "filters," and so on, but the idea is the same. Check your software manual or pull down the Tools menu and see what you find.

I have a music folder in my version of Eudora, which is where the messages about Puccini's "Scossa Elettrica" would end up. Mail about the American Philatelic Society goes to my APS folder, and so on.

That's not all. I have a folder called "Spam," which is where much of the junk mail goes. That one was the hardest to set up, because as soon as I see a pattern, the spammers come up with a new one. I did realize that one of my e-mail addresses was on the junk lists, and any mail coming in for that address goes straight to the Spam folder.

One individual on the Internet used to send me nasty messages every time I post in rec.collecting.stamps.discuss, the Usenet newsgroup, and he gives a phony return address, so I can't even answer him. However, that address is full of "xxx" characters, and I've directed Eudora (my e-mail program) to send those messages straight into the trash.

I don't even know if he's still sending me his nastygrams, come to think of it.

I don't send all junk mail there because occasionally someone sends a real message to that particular "spammed" address. Besides, the other day I saw an interesting offer...

Speaking of e-mail, I know I've said this before, but don't ever, ever open a .exe file attached to your e-mail unless you know the sender and were expecting the file; or you have several hours to kill and enjoy reconstructing your computer.

It's not just .exe files. There are a number of other formats that can expand into a virus. But .exe is short for "execute," either as in executing (performing) a task, or as in executing (killing) your computer. .pif and .scr are almost always trouble, too.

So far, .txt (text) and picture files like .jpg and .gif are safe. Microsoft Word files (.doc) can contain viruses, and watch out: Some files appear to have one type of extension, but are really another.

Many of these viruses spawn and send copies of themselves to every address in the victim's e-mail address book (particularly Microsoft Outlook's address book), so it may appear that you do know the sender.

If you receive a mystery file from a friend that you weren't expecting, send a message back to him or her asking if it was intended. If you don't hear back in a reasonable amount of time, well, he or she may be reconstructing the hard drive.

Studies show that more and more people are accessing the Internet for recreational purposes during work; the Web has replaced Solitaire and Space Invaders as the Time Wasting For Pay pursuit.

This is borne out by my own experiences with the online auctions. If I put up lots on the weekend, most of the instant purchases come on Monday or Tuesday.

You may also be able to check your e-mail from work. America Online, for instance, has aolmail.aol.com; other services may have similar access. (If you do use AOL mail at work, beware: It shouts out the same "You've Got Mail!" greeting as the stand-alone program does. They might as well change it to "You're Wasting Corporate Time!" So turn down your speakers first.)

If your e-mail system doesn't offer a webmail site, you may still be able to pick up your mail on the Web: Go to www.PandaMail.net The site is free, although the owners request donations. However, the site has not been updated in quite awhile; it's probably running on "automatic pilot."

I have not had good luck sending mail from PandaMail, but it does let me read my incoming messages.

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