April 29, 2003

Spam turns 25.

Brad Templeton, an old school internet guy and chairman of the board of the EFF, writes an excellent essay titled Reflections on the 25th Anniversary of Spam. It covers a brief history of spam, and gives an excellent overview of the current solutions available.

Spam fascinates me because it sits at the intersection of three important rights -- free speech, private property and privacy. It's also the first major internet governance issue (possibly in tandem with DNS) that the members of the internet community have been so deeply concerned with.

The reaction to it has been remarkable. By attacking something we hold dear, and goading us by using our own tools and resources to do it, spam generates emotion far beyond its actual harm, even though that actual harm is quite considerable.

Posted by Eli at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spam Assasin for Windows, for free.

I was reading through some of my regular blogs today about new email clients and stumbled upon this: a Windows compatible version of SpamAssassin called SAproxy.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with SpamAssasin, it's an open source spam killing machine based on a rules engine. It systematically examines each of your emails one by one, running a slew of tests on each. Tests can check for any number of things, such as included phrases like "FREE", "Double Your" or "million dollars" or crazy from email addresses that contain a bunch of random letters and numbers and end in hotmail.com. Each test has an assigned value. The value of each test is added together to get the final spam value. If this value is greater than a certain amount, the message is marked as spam.

I've always wanted to try out SpamAssassin, but installation was far from easy for Windows users. Now it's as easy as double clicking an .exe and making slight changes to your mail accounts in your favorite mail client.

I ran the old version of saproxy for about 3 weeks. Although it suffered from frequent crashes (which may be fixed in the new version that has since been released), it did a decent job of detecting spam. If you use a POP mail client to check your mail and you get a lot of email about refinancing your home, enlarging your penis, or sending money to Nigeria, this is probably a good place to start.

It didn't compare with my current nerdmonkey spam strategy, but explaining that is for another time.

Posted by Eli at 02:52 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Two Conferences in Portland

Two conferences are coming to Portland, Oregon this year:

It might be a hard sell given all of the unemployed programmers in Oregon and the relatively expensive prices for these conferences. Is anyone going?

Posted by Eli at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 16, 2003

Free J2EE class for the unemployed

Sang Shin, a Java Technology Evangelist at Sun, is teaching a free online course for developers called J2EE Programming With Passion. The first class starts today; see info about the first reading assignments online. It sounds like a pretty complete course, including a certificate if you complete all the assignments.

Posted by Eli at 01:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2003

Mock objects

If you've been using Extreme Programming (XP) or test-driven development, you probably know how beneficial it is to have unit tests for most of your code. But often times you run into problems testing a method that relies on an external entity such as an output stream to a network connection. You can still test these methods easily, as the authors of the Pragmatic Programmer point out in this excellent introductory article to Mock Objects. You might also want to check out mockobjects.com for more info.

Posted by Eli at 11:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Safari Tech Books, free.

I found out about a great resource for technical information a while back on the Portland Java User's Group mailing list. If you're in the Portland Oregon metro area and have a library card, you have free access to the Safari Technical Book service. Usually with a subscription you pick a small number of books that you want access to, but with this service the local library picks them. There's over 93 books to choose from, including titles from O'Reilly, Addison Wesley, Sams, Que, and Microsoft Press. Upon my first visit I was disappointed to find a lack of Java titles, but after emailing the person responsible for selecting books, I received immediate response and a great deal more Java books on tap. Check it out: Electronic Science/Technology Databases.

Here's the email that I received back from the request to get more in demand Java books.

Dear Eli,

The Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS)
Safari Tech Books selection committee met yesterday
afternoon to do a quarterly revision of the titles that are
available through our subscription. The committee members
were delighted to receive your suggestions, and I'm pleased
to tell you they have added both the titles you asked for.
As a matter of fact, the entire selection of available
books was changed substantially based on use statistics,
user feedback, and committee members' own professional
judgement. Committee members welcome input from users, and
they have asked me to arrange to include a feedback link on
the website for that purpose. I'm hoping our Automation
Program staff will have that link available in the next
week. Please continue to send us your ideas through that
link so make our service better meet your needs.

Barbara O'Neill

Posted by Eli at 11:05 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack