Pick and Choose Your E-Mail

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-12-12 Print this article Print

ChoiceMail 2.0 spam-blocking software does its job, but not without some complications.

If youre a power e-mail user and want to gain fine-grained control over the mail that enters your in-box, ChoiceMail 2.0 ($39.95 direct) probably has the features you want. But you will need to overcome its complexity and possible awkward moments with some correspondents.

Of the many solutions to the spam problem, ChoiceMail is perhaps the most famous of the challenge/response variety. The products main weapon, a challenge it sends in answer to a message from a non-approved sender, explains that the recipient is using ChoiceMail and provides a link to a Web site that requests the senders name and reason for e-mailing. You receive this information and can approve the sender, just that one message, or neither. Spammers are unlikely to read the challenge message or take the time to respond, so their mail is stopped. (This also blocks nearly all worm messages.) Because spammers typically use fictional addresses, ChoiceMail is smart enough to discard error messages caused by challenges.

Some people find challenge messages disturbing and fail to respond appropriately, so ChoiceMail leaves the option of using the technique up to you. If you opt not to, you can still use ChoiceMail as a holding area for unrecognized e-mail and approve or deny senders without involving them in the process.
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Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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