May 2008 Archives

Email Tip #1: How to Find Loneliness

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The lack of spam in my inbox these days is leaving me with a glorious feeling of loneliness. It took some adjustment at first, but I've gotten used to receiving the occasional email from someone that I actually know rather than a steady stream of messages from despondent souls in Nigeria and people who offer solutions to rather personal problems that I wasn't aware that I had.

Here's how I've reached this blissful state of loneliness.

First, I use IMAP to access my email, which is handy because I leave everything on the server and can access my email from multiple computers without worrying about things getting out of sync. As you'll see below, using IMAP offers other benefits in my quest for loneliness.

My first line of spam defense is SpamAssassin, a server-side spam filter provided by my long-time web hosting company. SpamAssassin detects spam and automatically moves the worst offenders to my spam folder. It then sends me a spam summary email once a day listing only the subject lines of the spam messages. I scan the summary messages every few days to make sure no good messages were incorrectly tagged as spam (SpamAssassin rarely does this.) then delete the spam summary messages. The original spam messages stay in the spam folder on the server for a few days and then are automatically deleted.

SpamAssassin is good, but it stills misses some spam. Enter SpamSieve, a client-side Bayesian spam filter that hooks into the Rules in Mail.app and checks for spam as mail arrives to your inbox. You train the software initially by manually marking messages as "Good" or "Spam". Then (very quickly) SpamSieve takes over and begins to automatically move messages to your spam folder. I've found that SpamSieve is very, very smart, rarely failing to catch a spam message, and never erroneously putting good messages in the spam folder.

If I leave SpamSieve running on my iMac at home it merrily does its job all day long so that my mailbox stays clean even when I check my email from my laptop. Even better, the ravishing Mrs. Survance has discovered that SpamSieve does such a good job at home that she rarely sees spam on her beloved iPhone.

I've also configured Mail.app to not display images for HTML-formatted messages. This is helpful on the extremely rare occasion when I have to actually look at a piece of junk email and don't want to see offensive images. This is a minor annoyance when I receive photos via email from family and friends, but Mail.app enables me to display those images with a single mouse click, so it's really not an issue.

One closing note: if you don't understand anything I've said here, get a Gmail, or AOL Mail account. These services are well known for their spam filters.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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