by Bob Ciminel
September 16, 2004
MSN has been my Internet service provider for three years. I switched to MSN after I bought some Microsoft stock. I tend to buy from companies whose stock I own. And MSN was cheap at $5.95 per month. They only gave me five hours of free connect time, but that was okay; I had a T-1 line at work with instant Internet access that could transfer a bazillion bits a second.
In the early 1980's, when I first began using computers, a byte was four bits, or 50 cents. Then inflation raised the byte to eight bits, or one dollar. You've heard the saying, "Two bits, four bits, six bits, and a dollar." By the early 1990's, it took 16 bits to make a byte, and in the mid-1990's, 32 bits to the byte.
I don't see an end to this, and it's starting to worry me. The Fed keeps telling us that inflation is under control, but I keep hearing rumors about 64 bit bytes and, heaven forbid, 128 bit bytes may be just around the corner. That comes out to 16 dollars a byte according to the handy calculator Bill Gates gave me with Windows 95. So don't tell me inflation is under control! And where will it stop, 256 bits a byte, 512, 1,024? There is no limit to how much the computer geeks will squeeze us to get a byte.
Let me give you a bit of advice, dear readers; don't bite into this bit about getting more bits for a byte. Fight the urge. Don't bite off more bits than you can chew. Be a little bit bitter about big bytes. Every bit you save is one more byte for your children.
And don't get me started on memory. I was doing fine with Kay, and then they forced me to go with Meg, but I'm drawing the line at Gig. Hey, I'm not that kind of guy, even if I did spend five years on a submarine.
Look; let's get serious for a minute.
Okay, your minute is up. I want to talk about Spam. No, not that scrumptious canned meat product that 90 percent of Alaskans love and that goes with just about anything edible. I'm talking about electronic spam, the junk mail that fills your in box and makes you think you're really popular because your have so many messages to download. And that's why I dropped Microsoft Network.
My e-mail handle was montour_rr, which stood for the Montour Railroad, a short line that operated near my old stomping grounds south of Pittsburgh. I chose that "handle" because it wasn't a name. I thought it would protect me from spammers. It did. I didn't receive one junk mail message in almost two and a half years. Something changed in early 1999. Somehow, the spammers found out that I was a real person and not a railroad. I didn't tell anyone; did you?
Soon, I began receiving eight to ten messages a day offering links to pornographic Web sites, chat rooms for on-line sex, stock tips, life insurance, and at least a million ways to make a million dollars without doing any work. Now I could handle the stock tips, life insurance, and get-rich-quick schemes. Sure, they were a pain, but at least they were harmless. It was the porno spammers who really upset me.
Just who in the hell do these people they think they are? They aren't allowed to solicit pornography through the U.S. mail or through direct marketing; what gives them the right to stuff my electronic mail box with that filth? People that is an invasion of my privacy! What's to keep a child from clicking on that porno link and entering an electronic cesspool - - a warning that you must be eighteen years old to click the mouse button?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not preaching about restricting what is available on the Internet. If you are an adult, and you want to look at that stuff in the privacy of your home, that's fine by me. I don't know why you would want to, but whatever floats your boat. I just don't want the stuff coming into my house. And if it's on my computer, it's in my house.
I tried to get Microsoft to stop the porno spammers from accessing my mailbox; they told me to use the Block Senders feature in Microsoft Outlook Express. All that does is stick the message in your deleted message folder, and it will stay on your hard drive until you empty the folder. There is another feature called message rules where you can actually delete the message off the server before it's downloaded to your computer. The problem with that feature is you have to enter the sender's address exactly as it is contained in the "From" header. But the spammers are smart people; they make subtle changes in their return addresses or send successive messages with fictitious return addresses to fool the filters. Here is a sample of some of the return addresses in the messages I've received. (The Pentagon can't encrypt their communications as well as these spammers can.)
You will note that I took the liberty of disabling those links just in case some of you are tempted to sample the wares. I haven't visited any of these sites. The first time I got one of these, I followed the link just to see where it went. It was a Web site that specialized in pornographic photos of pre-teens. That's when I realized how sick some people are. But what can we expect with a pervert in the White House?
Well, Bill Gates isn't getting
my $5.95 a month anymore. Let's see, at last count his Microsoft
stock was worth about $76 billion. My $5.95 reduces his net
worth to $75,999,999,994.05. That's only a couple of cans of
Spam, but at least it's a start.