Los piratas también comen
January 11th 2010

Ya me perdonaréis que escriba dos posts seguidos sobre el mismo tema. Además en castellano, cuando procuro que el lenguaje del blog sea el inglés, simplemente por mayor alcance entre los lectores potenciales. La verdad es que muchos "artículos de opinión" me salen más naturalmente en el idioma de Cervantes, y además en este caso voy a responder a una columna publicada en una revista en castellano.

El caso es que ojeando el suplemento Mujer Hoy del periódico, concretamente el ejemplar de la primera semana de 2010, me encontré con un artículo de Julia Navarro titulado "Los escritores también comen". En él, la señora Navarro hace una apología de la remuneración "justa" de los autores (concretamente escritores), y critica (por supuesto) la distribución de contenidos por medio de redes p2p. Como en el artículo se hacen una serie de argumentaciones falaces, y como los comentarios en la propia página hoymujer.com me parecen un lugar exiguo para comentarlas todas, he decidido hacerlo aquí. Si lo considero apropiado, le haré llegar un link a este post mediante un comentario en hoymujer.com (no es que piense que lo vaya a leer, pero bueno).

La señora Navarro comienza exponiendo su postura:

Perdonen que vuelva sobre el asunto, pero el debate está en la sociedad porque a muchos no les entra en la cabeza que “piratear” el trabajo ajeno debe ser delito y se han puesto de uñas ante la nueva legislación que cortará el acceso a internet a quienes se descarguen contenidos sin previo pago. Y no se me ocurre mejor manera que explicarles cómo se escribe una novela o cómo las escribo yo.

Tras esto, explica en dos párrafos el proceso creativo de un libro, y argumenta que tras cada obra hay un ser humano que ha trabajado para parirla y merece una remuneración.

Empecemos por la propia introducción: la Sra. Navarro confunde las modificaciones legislativas que el PSOE quiere hacer (¿o a hecho ya?) sobre el cierre de páginas web "piratas" por parte de una comisión gubernamental, y no jueces independientes, con la Ley Hadopi de Sarkozy, que versa sobre el corte de la conexión a internet a usuarios "piratas". No la culpo, porque en este circo mediático yo también confundo a veces de qué se está hablando. En todo caso, las críticas a la nueva legislación a la que quiere aludir la señora Navarro no tienen que ver con la "justicia" de cerrar o no páginas web, ni con si queremos "piratear" sin cortapisas, y evitar "previos pagos". A ver si se entera ud., Sra. Navarro, que la ley lo que pretende es obviar las garantías de defensa justa de los acusados. Ya existe una legislación que contempla el cierre de cualquier sitio web que vulnere la ley, mediante decisión judicial (de manera cautelar si hiciera falta, es decir, antes de un juicio), y acompañada de juicio. Pero todos los juicios que en España se han celebrado en este sentido, han sido ganados por la defensa. Es decir, que el juez siempre ha negado la razón a la SGAE y a sus colegas (de ud.) autores acusadores. Lo que pretende la nueva ley es que, dado que un juicio justo no da la razón a quien interesa a la SGAE, digo al gobierno, sea una "comisión" (dependiente de la SGAE, digo, del gobierno) la que decida los cierres, cortocircuitando la via judicial (ya sabe ud., la separación de poderes que dice la Constitución, que es un libro también).

Sigamos por el desarrollo. Argumenta la Sra. Navarro que, dado que escribir ("crear", como dicen los pretenciosos artistas), cuesta un esfuerzo, los artistas merecen una retribución:

Imagino que lo mismo les sucede a quienes escriben una canción, un guión o una serie de televisión. O a quienes ponen voz a esa canción o interpretan un libreto. Ese esfuerzo para crear no es mayor ni menor que ejercer la abogacía o limpiar la vía pública. Cada trabajo tiene detrás a un ser humano que merece recibir una retribución.

Esto, Sra. Navarro, es simple y llanamente falso, y dejar una pluma en manos de alguien que no lo sepa podría ser considerado imprudencia temeraria. Como ud. bien sabe, en un mercado libre capitalista (que es el que me dicen que nos rige en España, y creo que a ud. también), el precio de los bienes no está marcado por lo que cueste el producirlos, sino por lo que el comprador está dispuesto a pagar. Por poner un ejemplo absurdo, a un insomne puede costarle tanto dormir como a ud. escribir un libro, pero ello no significa que el insomne "merezca" una retribución por sus esfuerzos. Es más, y hablando de ejemplos, yo voy a seguir el suyo y le voy a hablar de mi vida como "pirata", que diría ud.

Todo empieza con una crítica, una noticia, un anuncio... Digamos que un amigo me dice que cierta serie de TV es muy buena. La busco en una red p2p, y la encuentro. Mi conexión es muy lenta, así que tengo que ser selectivo con lo que bajo, porque tarda mucho. La pongo a bajar, y tras semanas, la tengo entera. Bien, esto es el primer paso, pero no siempre el último. Hete aquí que me la he bajado en inglés, porque prefiero las versiones originales, y porque hay más gente angloparlante compartiendo ficheros. Mi dominio del inglés es bastante aceptable, pero unos subtítulos vendrían bien. Me pongo a buscar subtítulos (para cada uno de los 25 capítulos de cada una de las 5 o 10 temporadas de la serie), y a seleccionar entre los que encuentro (no todos están igual de bien). Ahora tengo un problema: la sincronización no es perfecta. Los subtítulos salen 2 segundos antes que los actores hablen. Bueno, me hago un programilla que toma un fichero de subtítulos y lo adelanta o atrasa un tiempo arbitrario. Por amor al arte. Cuando lo termino, veo que atrasar 2 segundos los subtítulos no es suficiente, porque además lo que en el subtítulo son 10 segundos, en el vídeo son 10.5 segundos (la velocidad de reproducción no es idéntica). Bueno, modifico mi programa para permitir también "estirar" o "encoger" el subtítulo, y lo uso para adecuar el subtítulo al vídeo. Tras innumerables pruebas, veo que atrasando 2.3 segundos y estirando por un factor 1.0525 los subtítulos, estos encajan. Ya terminé el capítulo 1 de la temporada 1. Cuando pruebo el capítulo 2 veo que esos mismos factores de atraso y estiramiento no me valen. Resulta que para el segundo tengo que adelantarlos 1.1 segundos, y estirarlos un factor 1.063. Y suma y sigue.

Tras sudar un poquito subtitulando 250 capítulos (con un programa que yo mismo programé), pienso que, ya puestos, puedo recodificar el poco optimizado vídeo en DivX a x264, que permite mantener la calidad de imágen con un tamaño menor de fichero. Además, decido cambiar el contenedor de AVI a MKV (Matroska), porque este último permite añadir varias pistas de audio, o varios subtítulos diferentes, todo en un mismo fichero. ¡Incluso el mismo video ocupa hasta un 5% menos en MKV que en AVI, sin variar el codec! Pero recodificar un video no es cosa de 5 minutos. Intel me agradece que me gastara dinerito en un procesador capaz, entre otras cosas, de recodificar video a una velocidad aceptable. La compañía eléctrica me agradece el gasto que mi ordenador hace cuando recodifico esos vídeos durante decenas de horas. Y nadie me agradece el tiempo que he gastado aprendiendo sobre codecs y vídeos y leches, para llegar a la conclusión de que vídeos x264 en contenedores MKV son buena opción.

Tras subtitular y recodificar los vídeos, veo que los nombres de los mismos son desafortunados. Contienen espacios, comas y signos de interrogación o exclamación, cosa desaconsejable en un nombre de fichero. Además no incluyen los nombres de los capítulos, sólo los números. Bueno, pues me hago un viaje a la Wikipedia, y busco los títulos de esos capítulos, y gasto un tiempo renombrando todos los ficheros.

Ahora que tengo los capítulos de esa serie que me gusta en un formato compacto, de buena calidad de imagen pero poco tamaño, con los subtítulos sincronizados y con nombres más cómodos y sensatos, ¿qué hago? Pues decido ser buen vecino, y compartir el resultado de mi trabajo. Lo cuelgo en la red p2p donde lo obtuve en primer lugar, anunciando que es una versión "mejor" (perdón por la soberbia) de la otra (la que yo bajé). Claro que, dado que mi conexión es asimétrica (como todas en España) tardo en subirla más de el doble de lo que tardé en bajarla. Dado que mi conexión es lenta, eso supone semanas o meses. Pero lo hago, por amor al arte.

Y tras este esfuerzo, que lo es, y tras hacerlo todo por amor al arte, porque la serie me gusta y quiero compartirla, y porque mis buenos sentimientos hacia otros usuarios de p2p me llevan a devolver el bien que ellos me hacen cuando ellos comparten lo que tienen conmigo... tras todo eso, ¿recibo una recompensa? ¿Recibo una "justa retribución"? Pues no, lo único que recibo de gente como ud. es insultos, llamándome "ladrón". Incluso mi gobierno, en vez de loar mi actitud de defensa de la calidad de la cultura (me he esforzado por mejorar la experiencia de quien disfruta de esa serie) de manera desinteresada, me criminaliza. Me amenazan con cortarme la conexión, como en Francia. Me dicen que quiero todo "gratis total". Por favor, reflexione dos veces antes de volver a insultarme.

Como broche final, pasemos a la postdata:

Sólo les pido a los piratas que piensen por un momento en qué sucedería si los demás consideráramos que su “trabajo”, el que hagan, debe de ser gratis total. Seguro que no les gustaría. ¿A qué no? Pues a quienes escriben, cantan, interpretan y crean tampoco nos gusta.

Esta argumentación es trístemente ubícua; la usan mucho. El problema es que es tan torticera que merece no una, sino 3 respuestas:

1) Si por "piratas" se refiere a usuarios de p2p como yo, la redirijo a los párrafos de más arriba y le contesto que mi "trabajo" ya es "gratis total", ¿no lo ve? Mi trabajo como "pirata" consiste en distribuir contenidos y mejorarlos con un esfuerzo que nadie agradece, excepto de la manera que yo más aprecio: haciendo ellos también ese trabajo con otra serie, película o canción, y haciendo que yo lo pueda bajar. Quid pro quo, que diría el Dr. Lecter. Y sí, no solo me gusta, ¡me encanta! Es maravilloso no cobrar por un trabajo, si ello implica que los demás tampoco cobran por el suyo. Crea un ambiente de buen rollo que debería ud. probar alguna vez.

2) Obtener contenidos de redes p2p no es "gratis total". Pagamos unos precios abusivos por las conexiones a internet, que son la vergüenza de Europa en cuanto a velocidad y precio. Pagamos por los equipos informáticos, por los routers y modems de conexión, y por los medios de almacenamiento de lo que bajamos. Todo eso cuesta dinero. Pero es más, ¡incluso nos hacen uds. pagar un canon! Pagamos por un porcentaje extra por impresoras, CDs, DVDs, discos duros, tarjetas de memoria para cámaras... ¡todo! Y lo pagamos todos, "pirateemos" o no. En mi grupo de investigación de la Universidad del País Vasco yo hacía las pequeñas compras, como CDs o DVDs, y aunque este material nunca vió una canción de Bisbal ni un libro de ud., aunque en ellos solo guardabamos información relativa a nuestra labor investigadora, ello no impedía pagar hasta un tercio del precio final en concepto de "canon".

3) Ud. no quiere cobrar por su trabajo. A ud. le lleva meses escribir un libro, pero no quiere cobrar un salario durante esos meses. Quiere cobrarlo de por vida. Y no en concepto de "esfuerzo para escribir" sino en concepto de "derecho para usar". Le voy a poner yo a ud. una situación inversa a la que ud. propone: le pido que piense por un momento que el médico que le salvó a ud. la vida con 15 años al extirparle el apéndice le pide durante el resto de su vida (de ud.) un pago diario por poder seguir respirando. Al fin y al cabo, sin su actuación, ud. estaría muerta. Y al taxista que la llevó a su última entrevista de trabajo, ¿le pagó solo la carrera? ¿O le paga una fracción de su salario todos los meses, porque le debe a él el haber sido contratada? ¿Paga al fontanero que arregló su fregadera por cada día que su cocina no se innunda? ¿O le pagó solo por mano de obra y piezas?

3bis) Si ud. quiere negarse a escribir un libro hasta que alguien le pague 1000 o 2000 euros al mes mientras lo escribe, está en su derecho. Nadie la puede obligar a trabajar "gratis". Lo que ud. no puede hacer es impedir que terceros hagan copias y compartan dicha obra una vez publicada, simplemente porque eso no le reporta a ud. beneficios. Comprenda que el p2p no compite con el creador, sino con el distribuidor. El e-mail ha hecho que Correos tenga mucho menos trabajo. Es más eficiente usar un medio electrónico para hacer llegar un mensaje, que escribirlo en un medio físico y pagar a alguien para que lo transporte. La Wikipedia ha hecho que las ventas de enciclopedias tradicionales bajen. Es mucho más eficiente buscar algo en un medio electrónico que en uno físico. La Wikipedia no cuesta un dineral, no ocupa un espacio vital, y está mucho más actualizada. Al igual que las cartas físicas con el e-mail, es razonable pensar que las copias físicas de obras culturales (CDs, libros) podrían desaparecer (o palidecer) ante la distribución electrónica (p2p). ¿Apoyaría ud. que el gobierno legisle en contra de usar el e-mail, con la excusa de que Correos pierde dinero? ¿O detrás de Correos no hay seres humanos que merecen retribución? Reflexiónelo, por favor.

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Linux e-mail clients rant
June 2nd 2008

I am really disappointed at the MUA offer I am finding for by Debian box. I have tried KMail, Thunderbird, Evolution and Claws Mail, and all of them fail at some point. All four errors are different, and all of them almost total showstoppers.

Note: I access my e-mail through Gmail IMAP. I don't really care if these MUAs are good at POP3 or whatever. I want good IMAP.

KMail 1.9.9

The GUI is nice, has all features I want, everything OK... It's just that browsing the remote folders is hopelessly slow. I can brush my teeth in the time it takes to delete a message, and I don't want to go into what I can do in the time it takes to move a message from one folder to another one.

Apparently this could be fixed in KMail2, which will come with KDE4. The problem is that I want it fixed now.

Thunderbird 2.0.0.14

This one is also very good in general. Actually, its problem is not due to itself. Its probably due to some bad interaction with X.org or something: everything works fine, but starting up and subsequent rendering/deleting of the window itself is really slow. If I minimize and maximize it back, it takes ages to reappear. I have this problem with TB and Firefox (actually Icedove and Iceweasel in Debian), and with no other program.

Evolution 2.22

Again, almost everything is fine. Almost. The single problem is that if the "To" and/or "From" fields in the message list contain non-ASCII characters, they appear garbled. Nowhere else does this happen. Even other fields, such as "Subject" can contain accents or ñ with no problem, as can the text body.

This would be a cosmetic issue I could live with, but there are two problems I can not tolerate: I do not want these errors to appear in the messages I send when replying to garbled messages, and more importantly, I have sometimes had recipient lists containing non-ASCII characters mangled. I don't want to click "Reply all" and end up sending the message to only 3 of the 10 recipients.

This problem will supposedly be fixed in version 2.23.

Claws-mail 3.4.0

Again and again, almost everthing is right. Now messages can contain non-ASCII chars anywhere, browsing folders is fast, manipulating/drawing/erasing the program window is fast... BUT, replying to a message, regardless of the settings one chooses, does not include the original message quoted. This seems a minor error. It isn't.

The thing that bugs me most is that I can not understand how these problems happen with free software packages. If you take KMail, Evolution and Claws, each one has a single error that the other two have already fixed... Couldn't they just copy each other? That is precisely the whole point of free software.

Couldn't KMail browse/scan/manipulate the IMAP folders with the efficient method Evolution and/or Claws use?

Couldn't Evolution display the message fields with the error-free method KMail and Claws use?

Couldn't Claws quote the original message as anyone else in the Universe does?

If only the three errors where not spread among the three MUAs, there would be one that I could use!

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14 Comments »

Application of the week: Evolution
May 20th 2008

Around 1 month ago I said I had made the switch from KMail to Thunderbird for managing e-mail. Well, now I must confess I am making another switch, this time to Evolution, the native e-mail client for GNOME.

The main (sole) reason is that Icedove (Thunderbird) was unreasonably slow lately. Maybe it's a matter of versions (I'm running the latest in Debian Lenny), but it was driving me crazy. And so is Iceweasel (Firefox), but that's another story. Evolution seems to be as fast as KMail to start up/minimize/maximize/quit, and as fast as Icedove to manage the IMAP folders (something KMail was seriously lacking).

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3 Comments »

Switch from KMail to Thunderbird
April 9th 2008

As I said 2 months ago, I made the switch to IMAP for handling my Gmail e-mail. I have to say that it's a switch that I don't regret at all: it gives me the convenience and comfort I want.

However I have to admit that my long-used and much loved KMail was not up to the task, for some unknown reason. My main gripe with it was that reading, moving and deleting messages took forever, and refreshing folders was a royal pain. I thought it was an unavoidable problem, related to the way IMAP works. However, I decided to give other e-mail clients a chance, and that I did.

I have installed and run Thunderbird (actually, Icedove, the Debian version of TB), and so far it's given me good impressions. All the slowness I suffered with KMail is gone, and I have to say this fact alone is driving me from KM to TB.

As an additional piece of info, here's how to set "plain text" as default for sending messages. Why would you want that? Read these tips. The reason why TB has no obvious button to set "all plain text" or "all HTML" escapes me, but that seems to be the case. However, there is an "advanced" mode of doing it: go to Edit->Preferences->Advanced->Config Editor. From the variable/value list there, you have to set (by double-clicking, for example) "mail.identity.default.compose_html" to "false". I also set "mail.html_compose" to "false", but the important variable seems to be the first of the two. From that point on, all the new messages you compose will be plain text.

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IMAP access to GMAIL with KMail
February 3rd 2008

I recently discovered that Gmail offers IMAP access to the service. I must admit that I have never used IMAP, but it is a very good idea for simplifying the access to one's account from anywhere, and having your e-mail always up to date in any number of computers. You can think of IMAP as all the good things of POP3 (custom UI, great flexibility) and web-mail (central repository of messages) together, without their drawbacks.

Although I think Google is an evil company that wants to take the world over, I have surrendered to their superb e-mail service, Gmail, with its huge inbox and fast and reliable access. I was happy with POP3, go figure with IMAP...

Of course, I have had to configure my e-mail client, KMail, to use IMAP. For that, I have followed the instructions, e.g., in linux.wordpress.org.

First, you have to allow IMAP connection to Gmail. For that, you just need to go to Settings in your Gmail account, then Forwarding and POP/IMAP, and Enable IMAP (I think it's on by default).

Second, create an IMAP account in KMail: Settings -> Configure KMail -> Accounts -> Add -> IMAP. You will be prompted for some info:

  • Account name: anything to let you identify it.
  • Login: your full Gmail address.
  • Host: imap.gmail.com
  • Port: 993

Small trick: the default Trash folder is "Local Folders/trash". If you keep this, when you "delete" a message from the IMAP account, it will be moved to the "General" KMail trash. The problem is that it means moving the message outside the IMAP tree, and I have found that the IMAP mechanism (probably as a security measure) keeps a copy of the message in the original location (i.e., it is actually not erased). To avoid that, you can put something like "Gmail IMAP/[Gmail]/Trash" as Trash folder, and make the deleted message be moved to the Trash inside the IMAP folder. There, it is deleted exactly as if you access your Gmail account from the web and click on "Delete".

Third, in the Security tab of the dialog window we have just filled, choose "Use SSL for secure mail download" in Encryption and "Clear Text" in Authentication method.

That's it, you're done!

So far I have only used IMAP at home (lousy 300 kb connection), and I think it is a bit on the slow side of the scale, but except for that, I am starting to love IMAP.

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SpyPig: another annoyance against your privacy
January 27th 2008

I've read in a post in Genbeta [es], about a "service" for e-mail senders called SpyPig. It basically boils down to sending a notification to the sender of an e-mail, when the recipient opens it. This way, the recipient can not say that she hasn't read it.

I will deal with two issues: moral and technological. Morally, I think this kind of things suck. I have received these e-mails asking for confirmation of having been read, and I never found appealing to answer. But at least you were asked politely. What these pigs SpyPigs do is provide a sneaky way of doing it without the recipient knowing. Would you consider someone doing it on you a friend? Not me.

Now, technologically, the system is more than simple, and anyone with access to a web server could do it. The idea is that the sender writes the e-mail in HTML mode, and inserts a picture (can be a blank image) hosted at some SpyPig server. When the recipient opens the HTML message, the image is loaded from the server, and the logs of the server will reflect when the image was loaded, and hence the e-mail opened. When this happens, the server notifies the sender.

The bottom line of this story is that HTML IS BAD for e-mails. My e-mail readers never allow displaying HTML messages, and show me the source HTML code instead (of course, I can allow HTML, but why would I?). So this SpyPig thing will never work for against me. And this SpyPig story is just one more reason not to allow displaying HTML in the messages you read. Of course, for the e-mails you send, consider sending them in plain text. Your recipients will be a bit happier.

For more tips on what NOT to do on web/e-mail issues, check the e-mail/web tips section in this blog.

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5 Comments »

e-mail howto
November 14th 2007

When we send e-mails (specially mass forwards) we might not be aware that on the other side of the wire there is some person that could be annoyed by some of our acts. We could help others behave nicely with us if we started behaving correctly with others. This post tries to help you with that.

All the following is my opinion, but I'm not asking you to do it because it's my opinion. I think that, besides, it's also sensible. Judge yourself.

Avoid HTML messages at all costs

In fact, only plain text e-mails should ever be sent (and anything else as an attachment). Sophocles, Shakespeare, Cervantes... they all used plain text, and managed to get their message through, didn't they?

The reason to use plain text is dual. Firstly, it merely adds bloat. The e-mail will be unnecessarily fat, without adding the slightest actual content. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, HTML is used in e-mails by spammers and crackers to force the receiver to execute unwanted actions, including: visiting unsolicited web pages, sending private data (as, e.g., the confirmation of the actual existence of the receiver, something very valuable for a spammer), and, if the HTML includes malicious Java, JavaScript or ActiveX code and the receiver is not correctly protected (*cough* Windows users *cough*), anything from crashing the mail client to setting your screen on fire and killing the little puppy you got yesterday.

For the second reason in the previous paragraph, any knowledgeable user will abhor receiving HTML e-mails (I do), and will have it completely deactivated (the mail client will not interpret the HTML code, and will display it literally instead, which is 100% safe, except if ugly symbols hurt your eyeballs). Thus, your pretty HTML message will not be correctly read by the receiver, and will at least charge him with the annoyance of either activating the HTML back, or reading the source code. And in this day and age, even allowing HTML e-mails in a per-sender basis is risky as can be, since anyone can forge anyone else's e-mail address.

So, don't ever send HTML messages, and also deactivate the rendering of HTML messages you receive altogether. The first thing will make your receivers happier, and the second one will keep you safer.

Use care if sending mass forwards

Can you name something more unpleasant than those silly mass forwards of 2MB PowerPoints with "witty" sentences, and almost always ending in "send it to 1000 friends or die a slow and painful death"?

For me, there are two kinds of forwards: the ones I name above, and the ones with funny, interesting and/or useful data. The first one: avoid them like the plague. Don't ever send/answer/forward them. The only use they can have is negative: they clutter the net, they slow down the download of other (possibly important) e-mails for the receiver, they waste bandwidth and connection time for those who have either or both limited, and they don't actually add anything to the life of the receiver, except anger towards a sob who pretends to be her "friend", and then blackmails her to spread the same message or "suffer consequences".

For the (veeery few) contents you want to spread to legitimately help/amuse/enlighten the receivers: choose a suitable format! If the content is a joke or similar, send it in plain text. It works all the same! Don't send a huge PowerPoint just for the sake of it. If the content is a (presumably big) file (a movie file, a presentation that is amusing in itself, an article with images and links...), put it online and send a link instead! Sending just a link is much more comfortable for the receiver, since the size of the e-mail is tiny, and she can choose whether or not to download the file, after all. Not everyone has a personal web page, but at times it proves invaluable... look for online storage solutions, as there are many free ones.

Also take into account that mass forwards can be used by spammers to get a list of valid addresses to bomb with their mails. The more "evil" a spammer, the more friendly she'll pretend to be, to be included in the more people's distribution lists, so that she'll be sent all their mass forwards, along with the addresses of maybe hundreds of victims.

To avoid that, try to send your forwards only to people you actually know, and think are not spammers. Even safer: DO NOT DISCLOSE the addresses of all the receivers of your e-mails to every other receiver. It's easy: with any half-decent e-mail client (KMail, Thunderbird and even Outlook can) you can chose to make any receiver "To:", "CC: or "BCC:" ("Para:", "CC" and "CCO" in the Spanish version of Outlook Express). Send all your forwards with BCC to be on the safe side.

Trim the excess

Whenever you answer to or forward an e-mail, depending on the configuration of your e-mail client it will automatically attach the original message, quoted. Now, if the receiver answers to your answer, she'll quote your text AND your quotation of her original message. Then you answer and... you get the picture: e-mails flying around with hundreds of lines that only add: a) superfluous size excess and b) confusion, since sometimes it is not easy to find exactly the new material (coloring quotations helps, though).

Quoting the e-mail we answer to can be useful, but when answering to an answer, be nice an take the ten seconds you need to properly delete what is not needed.

Also remember that blindly forwarding messages can make you disclose to third parties information that the original sender wanted just you to read. Watch out for that!

Don't overspread e-mail addresses

Don't make spammers' day by providing them with your e-mail, much less with mine!

Spammers are out there, like the truth in The X-Files. They never sleep. They have no mercy. They will relentlessly go on an on, harvesting e-mail addresses to prey upon. You have to understand that the most valuable thing for a spammer is a list of valid e-mail addresses. Valid e-mails are those that will be actually read, or at least received.

The ways in which spammers build their lists include:

* Unprotected addresses publicly amenable on the Web
* Being included in a "mass forward" (see above)
* Random spam

Unprotected public addresses include valid e-mail addresses that appear literally in a web page, or sent to USENET or other discussion forums. For that reason, if you want to protect your address, while still making it possible for others to contact you, don't ever put your address on the web like that:

myname@mydomain.com

Instead, put something like:

myname AT mydomain DOT com

or:

mynameIHATESPAMMERS@mydomain.com

Or any other combination that makes the literal e-mail completely invalid, but a human reader can realize how to handle to get the correct address. You have to understand that the spammers use robots to harvest e-mails from the web, that is, there are computer programs looking for e-mails, not human beings (even stretching the meaning of "human being" to include scum like spammers). An address that needs human "logic" to be read will not be parsed correctly by robots.

In that regard, beware that both "protected" addresses above are far from perfect. It's trivial to write a robot program that translates every "AT" with an "@", and any "DOT" with a ".", and/or eliminates spaces, capital letters or words like "SPAMMER(S)" etc. So be colorful, and think like a robot can't think :^)

A second approach to protecting your e-mail could be to use a specific anti-spam address. There are companies like Bluebottle who provide such a service. As you can see, the e-mail I provide in this Web site belongs to that category, and is a completely free account (they offer further services, that I do not need, for a fee).

These "anti-spam" e-mail accounts basically contact the sender each time they receive an e-mail. Then the sender has to perform some kind of basic action (click a button or similar) to assure that they are valid senders, and if they fail to, the e-mail is filtered. The validation action has the sole actual purpose of making sure that the sender is human. ANY human sender is let through, but the spam robots normally don't have the wit to answer properly when prompted by the Bluebottle server. Yes, this might piss off the legitimate senders, because they are required to click a silly button before their message goes through. However, this is done only once. After the first authentication, all the e-mails coming from that address will be automatically accepted.

Being included in a mass forward is discussed above, and random spam messages are those offering medicines or pornography. If you answer to one of them, you might not get infected with a virus or anything, but the sender might secretly know that you actually exist (because she is notified when you answer or click the link), and remember: valid addresses are what spammers seek.

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5000 spammers stopped by my Bluebottle account
November 10th 2007

My public Bluebottle e-mail account (isilanes@bluebottle.com) has stopped 5k spammers so far (since 05/31/2005).

Every e-mail sent to that e-mail is checked for a human sending it, and senders that correctly identify themselves are permitted through. Any other is filtered out to a "Pending" list. I periodically visit that list, and check the non-spamm ones (a few, if any). The rest is put in to a "Blocked" list, and any further e-mail from these senders is quietly dropped (any time I connect to Bluebottle I see a message saying "213 messages thrashed" or something like this, meaning that since the last visit, these many messages were received (and dropped) from the already Blocked addresses (I guess).

So it is this "Blocked" list that has reached a count of 5004 addresses on it. Obviously, many more spam messages were received (more than one from each address). My first spammer in Bluebottle:

Kendra L. Brown
4chien@abacom.com
05/31/2005

Long time no see, Kendra!

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