Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Meatless Spam..

Microsoft has apparently warned that if spamming is not checked, it may lead to the end of the Internet. According to a report, some 15 billion spam mails are sent out each day. Well, it's a different debate all together that out of 20-odd spam mails that I receive each day, at least 15 come into my hotmail account (a Microsoft enterprise).

Excited by the [unofficial] warning issued by Microsoft, I decided to spend some time on the whole concept of spamming and the hoopla about it. (When I say "spend some time", I, in this Internet age, mean, "a few clicks on Google"). My search returned various results. While some were destructive, most of them (search results) were relevant. Some results were links to tutorials on how to create spam? (that would eventually lead me to, where they even tell you how to pee).

Origin of the word Spam to mean net abuse goes back into the 1980s, though it is believed to have gained popularity only in 1994 when two lawyers from Phoenix posted a message advertising their services in an upcoming U.S. "green card" lottery, it was the first deliberate mass posting to commonly get the name spam. The first email spam, as commonly reported, was an announcement sent to all ARPANET addresses on the west coast about a new DEC-20 machine in 1978.

Wikipedia, amongst its several definitions of spam, quotes the following in one of them, referring to the derivation of the term spam in electronic communication:
"Spam" is a popular Monty Python sketch, first broadcast in 1970. In the sketch, two customers are trying to order a breakfast without SPAM from a menu that includes the processed meat product in every item. The term spam (in electronic communication) is derived from this sketch.
Most of us know what spam means? Most of us receive several spam messages on email everyday. Perpetrators of such spam often harvest addresses of prospective recipients from Usenet postings or from web pages, obtain them from databases, or simply guess them by using common names and domains (wikipedia). According to BusinessWeek, in a single day in May 2003, AOL blocked 2 million spam messages.

To find how so much spam can be sent, I looked it up on They duly returned me the information (enhanced by Google) that I was looking for, in the following order:
  1. "How Spam Works?"
  2. "How Firewalls Works?"
  3. "How Viagra Works?" (Holy Mother of God!)
According to them (the Viagra advocates), spam is very easy to create. Here's an example they quote:

Let's say that you have a recipe from your grandmother for the best blueberry muffins ever created. A friend suggests that you sell the recipe for $5.

You decide that your friend might be on to something, so you send an e-mail to the 100 people in your personal e-mail address book with the subject line, "These Blueberry Muffins Have Been Described as Heaven -- You Can Have the Recipe for $5!" Your e-mail contains a link to your blueberry muffin Web site. As a result of your 100 e-mails, you get two orders and make $10.

"Wow!" you think, "It cost me nothing to send those 100 e-mails, and I made $10. If I sent 1,000 e-mails I could make $100. If I sent a million e-mails I could make $100,000! I wonder where I could get a million e-mail addresses..."

Sounds incredibly easy, doesn't it? Well, now to address the question that how does a spammer get your address? Turns out, there are many professional companies that sell CDs full of valid addresses for a nominal price. Those companies collect their data from newsgroups, chatrooms, and may such forums. Spambotting is another way of piling up email addresses. Spammers can create software programs that spider the web looking for the @ sign that indicates an email address. The most common source, however, is the dictionary search of the email servers. (Such a process is described in the article Hotmail: A Spammer's Paradise?)

Spamming is increasingly becoming unavoidable. Spam filters do their best but still fail at least 15 to 20 times a day. Moreover, there is always a risk of loosing legitimate messages in the process of filtering spam. According to one report, more than 45% of the email traffic classifies as spam.

So, if you are a victim to spam, be a more aware user of the Internet. There are several ways to avoid spam. But, if you are a spammer, remember, if God has an email account, chances are, she is not very happy with you.

(Some backronyms for the word SPAM - Stupid Pointless Annoying Message or Several Posts A Minute. Spam, in most cases, means both of them.)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Small Wonders..

Imagine the world of tomorrow (sooner than the typical authorial tomorrow)..
It's Monday morning. You have an alarm set on your cellphone for 6am. The clock strikes six but the phone doesn't beep. Instead, it sends a message to your nervous system that then signals your mind that it's time to wake up. Your brain processes the signal and sends an instruction to your eyes to unshut immediately.
Good Morning, and welcome to the world of mobile technology. In the past 20 years the mobile technology has come a long way. The oldest cellphone owners were only the people who believed in God. To be able to make a call from those handsets one needed 1) faith and 2) big hands. The phones today are a lot slicker, so tiny that their primary selling point, much to dismay of mankind, is almost always their small size.

The recent trend in the models of handsets that are being manufactured and sold is a clear indication of consumer's ulterior need to use the [mobile] technology beyond the simple objective of making a call. With the arrival of 3G options like Bluetooth, Multimedia exchange and GPRS, cellphones are fast becoming the drivers of modern communication where, voice [communication] has taken a back seat to let information travel through other means.

Moreover, the idea of a cellphone as a tool that has it all is already very popular. The most recent handsets are loaded with features that are capable of running and sharing MS applications, PDF documents, music files and much more. The underlying technology, as smart as it can get, can transcode the data that is being shared to suit all devices.

There is [probably] a lot more going on in the labs of mobile technology. The ever evolving cellphone devices are adapting to the change in technology faster than we can imagine. The little devices in our pockets that come across as phones [that listen and allow one to talk] are, much in contrast to their appearances, huge in ideas and their implementation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Outsource my thoughts..

Recently, while reading through a random selection of weblogs, I have come across a common, but, disturbing percpective (amongst many) that abhorrently goggles at the concept of outsourcing. Even more incomprehensible is the fact that the countries (or economies) that willingly host the offshore-model are becoming subject to criticism and, in many cases, hatred. Quoted below is [a part of a] text from an evidently popular American blog that has managed to get at least 15 comments supporting the thought reflected in the post:
"Keep jobs in America, there is no reason for me to be paying for 1st rate tech support from a third world country. I know most people have a story like the one I wrote about so hopefully some people out there can relate.. and I also know that most people probably didn’t get as irritated and pissed as I did but I assure you that I was dealing with an extremely uninformed tech support agent.. so for all the people with similair stories about Indian tech support I hope this give you a chuckle and remember It is not healthy for American’s to have to deal with some third world camel humping indian when they need serious help with their computers."
Clearly, the writer [above], profuse of ignorance and prejudice, finds it almost compelling to shed his beliefs in a fashion that is utterly aimed at manifesting racial superiority. Sadly, the view above, as outrageous as it may read, is held by many, amongst the thinkers of the modern world.

Outsourcing is a business tactic that is prevalent for many years. It is a mutually-beneficial trade agreement between large corporations and developing economies that seek to earn (foreign currency) by offering [comparatively] cheaper skilled labor. Corporations, on the other hand, gain (save cost) by delegating the expensive jobs to intelligent but cheap labor that specialises in those operations. The concept is so simple that its unacceptability to so many people worldwide is anything but apparent. The shift of car [and many other products] manufacturing from America to countries like Japan, China and Korea was not a resultant of some imaginary labor unrest in America, but plainly a business decision to get them manufactured cheaply elsewhere. Don't the consumers want a cheaper product?

The idea of outsourcing, as many of you would agree, has gained publicity only in past few years. The reasons are manifold, including an aware media and the not-so-outperforming-anymore American economy, where corporates are [now] akin to cost and competition. Also, the fact that the theory of outsourcing has been extended to accommodate service outsourcing, has contributed to the much hyped hoopla over the same.

There is, however, a need of [respectable] concern over the whole outsourcing issue. The governments (and also business corporations) of presently insecure nations (job-markets) must begin to understand that the transition of tasks from developed to developing countries must also include creating new alternate opportunities for the people in developed countries. In today's world that [owing to the weight of globalization] has become flat, it is almost obligatory [for employers] to have opportunities for all. Great economies like American, should invest [its resources and people] in digging options in avenues that are still challenging for many developing countries. Only such a process of constant revision of one's skill will lead to a world that is truly global.

UPDATE: This article was also published on blogcritics (here). The comments and opinions that were received on blogcritics have been reproduced here. [Friday, 26th August 2005]

Friday, August 12, 2005

From God's Laboratory..

The age of the Earth is estimated to be 4.55 billion years (a figure determined by C.C. Patterson, in 1956, using Uranium-Lead dating on fragments of a meteorite). We are living on a planet that is 233,000 times older than we are (the bones of early humans found in Herto, Ethiopia are believed to be 195,000 years old).

In those 4.549 billion years (the time we took to come into the world), I wonder, if we (assuming we were we) went through many phases of endure-only-to-vanish eras. Imagine, if the [earlier] world (n.) had it all figured out - Newtonian Laws, Theories of Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Elements, Galaxies, Atoms, Electricity, Automobiles, F-16s, Refrigerators, Mobile Phones, I-Pods, Robots, Clones, Beer - only to wake up to [clumsy] God one day, who accidentally pressed the reset button last night.

Many scientists, including the likes of Newton and Einstein, strongly believed in God. In fact, Einstein refused to accept the theories established through Quantum Mechanics only because he couldn't comprehend the thought of God having a different set of rules for the Universe at large and, for the things at small scale. To him that was like God playing dice with the Universe.

Being such believers in God, did they never wonder (do you ever wonder?), if God could one day decide to create the Universe and eventually the Earth, which now is a world full of us, thinking animals (no pun-intended), why could she [God] have not tried this more than once? After all, in a game of dice, one rolls again, if one scores a perfect square. And with a world so amazing, living in the Universe so abstract, God has long scored a perfect square.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Bad-Ad World..

While there are plentiful TV commercials that are literally bad, there are also some [or at least in discussions] that are wickedly bad. Check out this blog entry by David Kiley where he talks about the recent fix that Ford awkwardly finds itself in over a TV campaign idea for their Ford Fusion.

The article also reminds me of this recent posting on TOI about the changing ad-scene in India. It is only engaging to find out that the growing face of India is comprised of a few grown ups too. Way to go!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Are we there yet?

TOI [on 5 August] has a posting titled "India Drowning", with an array of pictures from the recent floods in Maharashtra and other parts of India. This dreadful incident has killed over a thousand people, bringing losses worth more than Rs.10,000 crore ($2000 million) to the Indian Government.

58 years of Independence and we are still struggling with our infrastructure needs. But, I will be an ignoramus, if I fail to note India's accomplishments.

India has an economy ranked as the tenth largest in the world [in terms of currency conversion] and fourth largest [in terms of purchasing power parity]. It recorded one of the fastest annual growth rates of around 8% in 2003, and it has only got better since then. Bangalore, known as the 'Silicon Valley' of India, is a hub to many multinational corporations. It facilitates operations for over 200 global IT firms and is a growing base for Biotechnology. Only 58 years of Independence and we are already [owing to a large population] ranked 120th by the World Bank.
(Note: The statistical content in the above post is cited on Wikipedia)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

FW: You've got Mail

Forwarding mails has become a popular medium to remain in touch with friends. More so, with people that one occasionally thinks of, but not enough to write a mail specially addressed to them.

Apparently, Aishwarya Rai knows this, why else would she put up her application form for a Reliance phone connection on a forward? Obviously to remain in touch with her fans.

Anyway, if she's aware of such an email doing rounds, I'm sure she's denying the credibility of it. (Between, I can't wait for TOI to publish an Alec Smart, referring to Ms. Rai that could go something like this: No phone for me please, I'm too phony!)

I received the above clipping in a forward, and keeping up the spam chain, I forwarded it to other people. I was slenderly amused to receive the following reply from one of the addressees:

"Is this true? Have you tried calling her!!!"