February 23, 2019

.comment: The Distribution We Need - page 3

Redmond Issues a Mighty... "Waaahhh!"

  • October 24, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

Among the unfortunate catch phrases of 2001 that we'll remember with some bitterness is "white powder." The U.S. and other countries have fallen into hysteria over everything from household dust on up. And mail. Especially mail.

Just as high-quality humor contains a grain of truth, so does sustainable hysteria, and in this case people have died, and in a pattern that makes things worse, more uncertain.

This has led bulk mailers to say that they will be relying more heavily on the Internet to distribute their advertising. This might be a wonderful thing for ad-poor Internet sites, but it probably means that we'll see a huge increase in the amount of spam we receive. (I've already gotten spam offering to sell Cipro; I'd like to track down the guy responsible, because about a minute later he'd be off combing through his pharmaceutical supply to see if he has anything that would fix a busted nose.)

The question is -- what to do about it? I deal with two ISPs. One, which I will not name, has yet to let a single item of spam find its way to my inbox, which suggests that it can be done. The other, Earthlink, would in my estimation allow absolutely anything through, and my sense is that most other ISPs would, too. I suspect, but do not know, that they actually sell spam rights.

It's possible to filter locally, but building the right rules to do so is a nontrivial task for many. This is another project that distributions ought to underwrite, because by next spring it will be a considerable selling point, too.

If the coming months and years unfold in anything like the way it seems they will, security and protection of data integrity will be the absolute baseline requirement of operating systems. Cookies will fall into further disfavor. Spam will become a potentially crippling annoyance. Producers of operating systems that do not provide these things will be sold only to the clueless, and producers of operating systems that actually want all kinds of personal information from users will join the already long list of those invited to pound sand.

With what we already have, what we have on the immediate horizon, and a few enhancements designed to address the changing nature of computer security, Linux can become the only choice for the serious business or connected desktop user.

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