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Letters Without a doubt, spam is one of the most emotive issues we cover. A blight upon us all, and a right pain in the, umm, neck. So when Microsoft said it was going to allow some 'approved' commercial email to get through to its hotmail users, we wondered what it could possibly be thinking. Turns out, you were wondering too. Some of you thought we were a bit gentle with them:

Have you guys gone (micro)soft?

Microsoft, you tell us, are going to stop blocking spam from "well-behaved" email marketing firms as long as they're rich enough to post a twenty grand bond and "follow a strict set of guidelines" that "exceed those defined in the CAN-SPAM Act."

Have you seen these "guidelines?" If so, why the hell didn't your article tell us what they are? Or were you just taking Microsoft's word for it?

Microsoft, you say, "wants to reclaim email marketing from criminal spammers." It sounds to me as though the real story here is that Microsoft has joined the ranks of those who want to redefine spam (which, in case you've forgotten, is any and all unsolicited commercial e-mail) as e-mail from scammers. In other words it's fine to flood Hotmail and MSN users' mailboxes with spam just so long as it comes from "legitimate" companies - in other words Microsoft's corporate friends.

Or perhaps not: "for end users," you claim, "the scheme makes it less likely that messages they have requested from companies they do business with will be blocked (i.e. fewer false positives)."

If Microsoft really *have* decided to back Europe's "opt-in" principle, whereby it's illegal to send commercial e-mails unless (a) you can prove that the recipient has requested them, or (b) you have a prior business relationship with him, then that's real news - and good news as far as it goes (in practice such rules are proving hard to enforce).

But if, as I suspect, this is not the case, then for Heaven's sake recover your trademark realism and stop sounding like a Microsoft press release...

... which causes me to note that your "Biting the hand that feeds IT" trademark has gone missing. Maybe its time that we, your readers, stopped feeding you (by reading your adverts and your shamefully trusting copy) and looked elsewhere for unbiased IT news.

-- Regards Peter Boulding

Erm, "Biting the hand that feeds IT" is still there. Top left of the front page. We checked.

Hi Jon

I think there's a mistake in your article on mail.... you said.... "we fear Hotmail users will likely end up with just as much junk mail as before - except some of it will be certified as safe."

Surely you meant

...end up with twice as much junk mail as before - except 50% will be Microsoft certified direct marketing opportunities"

Alan

It's all in the subtext, Alan.

"Excluding the get-rich-quick scams and penis pills it's not too long before we get into areas of potential dispute."

Is there much room for dispute, unless you're a PR weasel? This proposed mail will be unsolicited by the recipients and it will be sent in bulk; surely it's spam pure and simple.

David Damerell

Nothing pure about spam, David.

Like a deposit will slow spammers down. Considering they can make millions off spam, what is $20,000? Would you miss a quid you spent to get someone's wallet?

Well, Vultures don't carry cash, so its hard to say. But we get what you are driving at.


And if it is not spam clogging your inbox, it is viruses, worms and other nasties. And we're back to Microsoft again. Can anyone say Sasser?

Dear Mr Leyden,

I'd like to comment on the Register article "We've seen worse than Sasser - MS".

Being a linux fan myself, I'd say theres a fair amount of truth in the Microsoft comment that "We've seen worse than Sasser"; they boot worse up every day after all. But that's not the point really. If I go to a doctor with a pain in my back and he tells me to pull myself together because he sees worse than my piffling back problem, I reckon I'm going to find another doctor (if I'm feeling charitable). And if the back problem comes from his mismanagement of my case, well...

Of course, no system can be truly considered perfectly secure, but Windows just don't solve their problems. In particular this one has got the tech world between the rock of potential failure and disaster if they patch and the hard place of potential failure and disaster if they don't. Luverly choice, ain't it?

It also does seem to put paid to (at least some of) the arguments that the user ought to take part responsability for security. Whats a user to do when the choice is "possibly damned if you do, probably damned if you don't". (Not that I believe the user should not be held responsible, but Microsoft certainly make a compelling case for the users innocence).

<aside to Microsft>So, please Microsoft, if you do occassionally glance below from your lofty cloud mansions and happen to read this, don't downplay a bad worm by saying you've seen worse. We all know that's true. Tell us what you're going to do that'll solve the problem without creating a new one with the same or similar effect.</aside to Microsoft>

Kind regards

Josef Moffett

Boundless optimism there.

The defense is to either stick with the appalling W98 (W3.1?!) and defrag twice a day or run off the Knoppix CD? Why does anyone want to run a network anyway? More ways of killing the cat...... DGL.

Why is it always that cat that has to suffer?

"Microsoft UK reports that there have been no major outages for UK businesses"

So the Coastguard doesn't count, then?

I had a go at downloading some Windows updates from a Win2k machine with broadband yesterday and gave up because it was so slow. MS seems to be pretty nonchalent about all this - perhaps it would be a bit less so if a few people had been drowned...

Best regards

-- James


Subject: your article about yahoo messenger was wrong

The radio section offers MUCH more than just two stations you go to the yahoo browser bar and go to yahoo and pull down list from this bar and go to launch and you DESIGN your own radio station with artists that you WANT to hear - you rate songs and it "senses" what you like this feature is the BEST radio for free that I have seen you only pay if you want really high quality cd sound

Bryan

Hmmm. We may have missed that when we checked it out.

But did you realise that you missed a terrific opportunity to turn that into a really good flame. You got the RANDOM capitalisation, but it could have been so much more...


A total change of pace next:

Subject: Ancient British Distributor.....

Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth (late 1930's) my father worked for a large British chain of radio stores called either "Stones" or "John Stones"...selling dodgy batteries and souped up springs for wind up record players...to overclock your Victorola...really.

Lots of Register-like tales - like putting the same batteries into different covers at different prices, nothing's changed :-)

Anyway....not surprisingly I can't find any trace of the company today on the net, but someone at The Register must have an ancient parent who will get all teary eyed at the mention of Stones.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could pass this along to one or two really old technology freaks, maybe someone knows something.

And yes, I really like the Register's irreverent touch on everything - it's where I get a lot of my info and entertainment.

thanx ed

Anyone know about this one? Answers on a postcard to the usual place. Your only incentive is the betterment of mankind.


European bureaucrats' plans for a seamless pan European healthcare system are laudible indeed. But perhaps a little ambitious.

Subject: European healthcare 'online by 2008'...

Lucy

I couldn't help but chuckle to myself when I read this article. Whilst I'm sure the intentions of these politicians are pure, they just can't see very far from those ivory towers...

I have recently worked as a developer at a Health Trust, and have seen first hand the current state of the IT infrastructure and (more importantly) the patient data available to the trusts.

At the particular trust I worked at, the simple task of collecting patient data for an impending appointment turned into a nightmare job for the clerical staff. They would have to collate all the information for a particular patient, and make this available to the Clinicians. This would involve collecting electronic data, as well paper notes held in a warehouse.

Sounds simple...Except that the trust was made up of more than one hospital (which were merged under 1 trust many moons ago under yet another NHS restructuring program), and in many cases each hospital had a different set of records for the same patient.

When the original restructuring was done, there was not time (or, unsurprisingly money) to merge the data correctly, thus the patient would exist on the system multiple times. Even worse, there could potentially be a set of paper records for each electronic entry, and these would need to be retrieved from the warehouse and collated into the correct order before being returned.

This was further complicated by the reluctance of the Trust to rely upon electronic cataloging systems for the warehouse (apparently too much of a clinical risk, we might not be able to find a record... I'm not going to even comment on the possibility of the building burning down!). As such the patient notes were all filed in number order, which results in a HUGE backlog of un-filed records (because naturally there is not enough money to hire enough people to process requests and file returns!!).

As you can imagine, any patient on an un-expected return admission to a hospital after having recently been discharged would result in a very unhappy records clerk wading through knee deep piles of un-filed records...

Even more perplexing are the myriad of additional databases in various depts. Which contain patient data...

The thought of getting all this data in an electronic format available for sharing across an individual trust is mind-boggling enough, without contemplating getting it into a state that it could be shared across the EU!!

Oh, and all of this by 2008... I don't think so ;-)

Gary

You know what, Gary, you have a very good point there.


And we'll leave you with a song.

Dear Sir,

I hope you are the right editor for the silly stuff. Here, once again, is BAA's message to the aero-enthusiast community. Music by Elton John, apologies to Bernie Taupin for the lyrics.

Regards,

Lukin Brewer

GOODBYE PERIMETER ROAD

When are you knuckling down?
When will you lend us a hand?
You should stay on our right side,
You've got to listen to our demands.

You know that you've got no old charter,
There's no right of way for you,
You'll need a passcard if the gate's to open,

This airport wants to stay out of the News.

So goodbye Perimeter Road,
Where the guard-dogs and jet engines howl,
You can't just walk up and plane-spot,
You've got to register now.

Back to our station to sign on the line,
Swear to our I-Spy Club's code,
Oh, we've finally decided we're tightening up,
Out on Perimeter Road.

How do we know who you are?

We're worried you'll shoot down a plane,
It'll take a reference and some verification,
Before you come near here again.

Maybe we've justification,
It's not at all hard to be found,
Tourists don't want to be blown up,
By terrorists shooting at them from the ground.

So goodbye Perimeter Road,
Where the guard-dogs and jet engines howl,
You can't just walk up and plane-spot,
You've got to register now.

Back to our station to sign on the line,
Swear to our I-Spy Club's code,
Oh, we've finally decided we're tightening up,
Out on Perimeter Road.

By the way: that was a one off. Vultures are not especially lyrically minded, so you can take your iambic pentameters and, well, keep 'em to yourselves. Thanks. ®

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