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British Expat Newsletter:
15 October 2003

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Spam
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

How much of your inbox is stuff you really wanted to receive? Or, put another way, how much spam do you get? If you’re anything like us, the chances are you get vast quantities of the stuff. There are all kinds of rueful jokes going round about the opportunities missed for vast financial gain, guaranteed weight loss or improved sexual prowess (and you can find some of them in the House of Fun on the forum).

But the reality is that spam costs money, not so much in terms of the bandwidth used but in terms of the measures which recipients have to put in place to block the stuff, the genuine business opportunities which get lost when the filters accidentally screen them out – and the amount of time which people without effective spam filters have to spend getting rid of all the junk.

The House of Commons All-Party Internet Group (with the rather endearing acronym APIG: apig.org.uk) noted in its report on spam – just published – that if just 1% of the over 23 million small businesses in the US sent an unsolicited email to an individual, then that individual would be opting-out of future mailings once every two minutes, 24 hours a day for the next year. Scary. (It’s also rather scary that some of the spammers are actually offering anti-spam protection. Almost a year ago we signed up with a spam filtering company, only to find that a couple of months later they were spamming people on our “approved senders” list; needless to say, we won’t be renewing our subscription.)

Even more worrying, perhaps, is the fact that along with the boring invitations to buy Viagra and lose weight, there are several scams on the go as well. Most of them are pretty obvious – there can’t be anyone who hasn’t been invited to share in the ill-gotten gains of ex-President Mobuto of Zaïre or one of his fellow African ex-rulers (and most of us delete the invitations without a thought, although a surprising number of greedy and gullible people have fallen for them). But rather more insidiously, some scammers are now sending emails purporting to contain security measures from people’s banks, which require the customer to send their bank details (including passwords) to activate them. LloydsTSB and Barclays customers have been targeted recently.

There are various initiatives underway to legislate against spam. The EU have come up with some stringent measures against unsolicited bulk emails and SMS messages, and the Australians appear likely to follow suit. But it’s the US where action is most pressing: and although some states have laws against spam, several don’t. Moves toward a Federal law are being fought vigorously by spamming companies (on the spurious grounds of First Amendment freedom of speech rights), and any law appears likely to be much softer than the EU’s. So, for the time being at least, it looks as if we’ll all just have to grit our teeth and resign ourselves to ploughing through the junk.

On a still technological if almost entirely unrelated note, you’ll no doubt have heard that China has become only the third nation to launch a manned space vehicle. Yang Liwei was blasted into space today at 0900 Beijing time (0100 GMT) and will orbit the Earth 14 times before landing at about 0700 Beijing time on Thursday 16 October (2300 on Wednesday 15 October GMT). He’s told Mission Control he feels good. Other space agencies around the world including NASA and the European Space Agency have praised the mission as an outstanding achievement. Apparently one of China’s longer-term goals may be to land a person on the moon.

Virtual Snacks

Just a couple of suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

The world beard and moustache championships will take place in Nevada on 1 November. Have a look at some of the contestants. Bizarre!
worldbeardchampionships.com

Read how UK businessman, David Taylor, used dog food tins to win a lot (geddit?) of Internet access.
[Obsolete link removed]

The worst jobs in science? From fart sniffer to barnyard masturbator – check these out!
[Obsolete link removed]

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • St Georges flag offense (44)
  • bar (14)
  • Rachel Stevens hairstyle (12)
  • pictures of penises (3)
  • morris dancers sticks (3)
  • 2003 email address of company directors in united kingdom (2)
  • inexpensive things to do (2)
  • communication in olden days (2)
  • i search for birds but not for bees (2)
  • is brendan fraser going bald? (1)

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

Kay
Editor
British Expat Magazine

Quotation

Dear Google

Though hardly strangers to spam (junk email), Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were amused one day to receive an email from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) firm:

“Dear google.com,” it read, “I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

[unattributed – possibly an urban myth]

Joke

True stories (allegedly) from customer support desks:

A customer was asked to send a copy of her defective disks to the technician. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with photocopies of her disks.

A technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn’t read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble-shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labelled the diskettes then rolled them into his typewriter to type the labels.

A customer called to say he couldn’t get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble-shooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the screen and pressing the “send” key.

PG Author: Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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