Degunking Your Email, Spam, and Viruses by Jeff Duntemann
Duntemann is a co-founder of Paraglyph Press, the publisher of this how-to computer book. His previous publications include Degunking Windows (Paraglyph) and Assembly Language Step-by-Step (Wiley), and he has been writing technical books for the geeks and the plebes for many years. I was immediately drawn to the accessible, common language used in the book. Although, I did find it difficult that he tends to use some non-standard terms several times before actually defining them (ie mailbase).
The first six chapters of the book focus on organizational strategies and software to help manage the flow of email to and from the user. Dunteman describes four profiles of an email user: Public Professional, Private Professional, Student Enthusiast, and Casual Communicator. Most of his recommendations for software and organization focused more on the Private Professional or home user, although the organizational tips could be applied to all four profiles.
The next four chapters examine spam prevention and elimination. He discusses ways to avoid becoming a spam magnet in the first place (guard your email address) and options for blocking incoming spam (filters) and some spam control methods that aren’t effective. He is critical of services like SpamCop that offer blackhole filtering because they tend to create more false positives in the attempt to eliminate spam. I have used SpamCop’s web mail service for three years, and only occasionally has this been a problem for me. Compared to the amount of spam I was getting from “free” web mail services, I consider it worth the $30 a year. However, I use it only for my personal email, and in that arena, I lean towards the Student Enthusiast profile. A Public or Private Professional might not be as tolerant to false positives from their spam filters.
The rest of the book defines viruses, Trojan horses, and worms, and how to prevent getting them, as well as what to do if your computer becomes infected. This section is geared more towards home users and small businesses, since most large companies have firewalls and antivirus measures in place. The chapter on worms made me wish that I had read this book before I turned on my new laptop last spring. My previous computer was a Pentium II Linux machine connecting to the web via dialup. As far as I know, it was never infected. Within hours of dialing up on this Athlon XP-M machine, my computer had four or five worms crawling around inside. I quickly obtained an antivirus utility and set up the Windows XP firewall. Duntemann recommends using a two-way firewall, rather than relying on the Windows firewall, which I intend to do as soon as possible.
The last section of the book includes a chapter on spyware and adware, generally referred to as malware. Duntemann recommends two common software programs that scan your computer for malware and eliminates it. He also lays out web surfing strategies that will help prevent malware from being installed on your computer. I took great pleasure in reading the many recommendations to switch from using Internet Explorer to some other browser scattered throughout the book. Duntemann gives more coverage of Mozilla Firefox than other browsers, which is likely to be helpful in increasing the visibility of that robust little open source browser since this book is directed towards the less-than-savvy Internet user.
This book is not for advanced email users and web surfers, and it makes no pretension of being so. However, I was able to glean a few tips and tricks from it, so it may be worthwhile for the geeks to give it a once-over. New email users and those overwhelmed by the size of their inboxes will find this to be a great tool for maximizing the email experience.