Spam Solutions: Good Enough, but Not Perfect

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-11-11 Print this article Print

If you use e-mail regularly, the spam clogging your in-box has no doubt reached the point where you can't continue without doing something about it.

If you use e-mail regularly, the spam clogging your in-box has no doubt reached the point where you cant continue without doing something about it. Fortunately, spam-blocking utilities and services for both individuals and corporations have improved by leaps and bounds over the past year, drastically cutting the amount of spam you receive while reducing the chances that legitimate mail will be blocked.

In this story, our third look at the category in less than a year (see "Slam the Spam," February 25 and "More Ways to Slam the Spam," May 27), we review new personal antispam utilities from McAfee and Symantec (two of the giants of the PC security business), as well as six enterprise-class solutions. All the products filter incoming mail to weed out spam based on algorithms, blacklists, and heuristics worked out by each company.

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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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