InfoWorld Issue 45 (Nov. 17, 2003) Article on Spam

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I fancy myself as somewhat of an avid follower of anti-spam technology. I read all the articles I can find, and as part of my job, I’m obligated to implement the best anti-spam procedures and methods available. Which brings me to the article titled “Spam Shootout – Five anti-spam solutions for enterprise networks face our live spam challenge.”

It reviews 5 products, three of which I have actually tested and two I have never heard of (although that doesn’t say much).

Brightmail has established itself through clever advertising and by commisioning spam reports and tests be done that show how wonderful Brightmail is. For me they are an example of what you can do with an average product and a great PR department. The author of the article claimed a 96% accuracy rating with Brightmail – the best rating he found in his testing. This, to me, is surprising. I have achieved ratings as high as 100.0% with some mailboxes and an overall average of 99.90% across a 500 mailbox system. Anyway, I believe that Brightmail was origianally based on SpamAssassin.

Postini is probably my favorite comercial offering (besides my own, of course). In fact, the Postini web site has some great information and statistics about the state of the Internet (as far as e-mail is concerned). I have even used Postini for a mailbox and had the grand tour by a salesman who was pitching it for use by my company. One of the things I really like about their system is the abiliity to customize the SMTP responses, which allows you to guard against directory harvest attacks.

For some reason the author, a Logan G. Harbaugh, decided to use a version of SpamAssassin that is over a year old! I can’t even conceive why he would do that excepting the fact that he must either have something against SpamAssassin, he is an idiot, or he had someone else who is an idiot write it for him. The war against Spam is an almost real-time one. Usually within a couple of days of a new spamming technique a countermeasure is found and implemented. Realtime Black hole lists are, well, real-time. Vipul’s razor is real-time. Baysian Filters update themselves in real-time. So the reasoning for using a monolithic version of SpamAssassin for a comparison test is about as logical as using a virus scanner with signatures and engine over a year old! It is INSANE!

At the end of the article is a chart comparing different features of different anti-spam packages that I also found perplexing. One of the categories is “Proprietary Methods.” All of tested packages say “yes” except for SpamAssassin (which of course, is opensource). But then there are other categories that I believe are just wrong. For example, my spam filter DOES support person whitelist administration as well as blacklists. It does support signatures (Vipul’s Razor), it does have Bayesian analysis, proprietary methods (which I added myself), automatic updates of filter critera, and end-user access to quarantined e-mail (although I have chosen to not allow it). The last category is “Anti-Virus.” I don’t know why they include this category since this is an article about SPAM not VIRUSES! But, just for fun, I’ll mention that my e-mail system does include anti-virus.

Allright, I have calmed down a bit, but my point is that most of the anti-spam packages out there, commercial and private are based on SpamAssasin. It is sad that people are quick to bad-mouth and disparage their common progenetor.

Internet Mapping Projects

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Mapping the Internet — The Opte Project

The Opte project was created to make a visual representation of a space that is very much one-dimensional, a metaphysical universe. The data represented and collected here serves a multitude of purposes: Modeling the Internet, analyzing wasted IP space, IP space distribution, detecting the result of natural disasters, weather, war, and esthetics/art.

Internet Mapping Project

The Internet Mapping Project was started at Bell Labs in the summer of 1998. It’s long-term goal is to acquire and save Internet topological data over a long period of time. This data has been used in the study of routing problems and changes, DDoS attacks, and graph theory.


Lumeta was the company that created the Internet maps sold by ThinkGeek.

Hot or Not

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There are a lot of different polls out there, some to rate how cute someone is, like Hot or Not, and a whole slew of variations. There is Shag or Bag, How Hot Am I, and Cute Meter. Other variatins for scoring rate someone on how many beers it would take to be attracted to someone. You can even rate poop.

One variation of this is to put up two or three pictures and pick the ugliest one, ensuring that only the hottest survive. Thus the name, The Hottest Survive. This darwinian approach seems to eliminate the ugly and promote the beautiful. It certainly gives an indication what the voting culture believes is beautiful.

But what is beautiful to one person is different to another. In fact, this can be further seen between cultures. Take for example the German version of Hot or Not ( On the American Hot or Not I am usually +/- 0.3 within the average. The Germans consistantly rate their women -3.0 lower than Americans would!

Italians seem to be pretty on-par with Americans where I’m only +/- 0.5 off.

What is so facinating is how easily one becomes drawn into the voting, allowing large amounts of time to pass without realizing it. Especially when the pages load fairly quickly.

What is it about a person’s psyche [I never finished this thought. I wonder what it was.]

Optical Illusions from Akiyoshi Kitaoka

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Mr. Kitaoka creates optical illusions that imply movement. Go on by his web site and check out the”Snakes.”

The Sandwich Project

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What is the best sandwich? Is it something as simple as a bacon sandwich, or do you prefer something more involved?

The sandwich project’s aim is to collect the world’s favourite fillings between two pieces of bread (open top sandwiches are fine as well).

This is the place to compare what you like in a sandwich with the rest of the internet.

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