The Northern Spy: a measure of health?
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: a measure of health?

By Rick Sutcliffe

Our persispacious reader may have noticed that this column is a little late. Chalk that up to health issues, including bouts with a rather violent gastroenteritis over Christmas, ongoing sciatica that make standing up and sitting down difficult, and a nasty cold. The joys of getting old. Ah, but what's a little pain? It never hurt anyone. The top line: brevity shall be the order of the month.

Corporate pain seems the lot of once stalwarts Kodak, Sony, and RIM, all of whom have fallen on times that get harder with every passing month. Kodak seems to be unable to sell patents to save the company, and barring some last minute reprieve, appears destined for the bankruptcy courts. Sony, dragged down by the cutthroat TV business, has been unable to make a profit in nearly a decade, and has no immediate prospect of a turnaround. The inevitable reorganization and shrinkage is going to be painful, but the Spy feels that it has to happen in 2012 if it is going to happen at all. The investors must be getting restless.

Restless would be putting it mildly for RIM's shareholders, some of whom think that replacing the twin CEOs will be the salvation of the company. In a word, the Spy says, "Not." RIM has failed to keep up with the times; it's lost too much mindshare to Apple, product delays leave no motive for customer loyalty, and so marketshare is evaporating like snow in the summer sun.

A friend purchased a Blackberry PlayBook as a gift for her husband, because of the steep discount to the original retail price, so the Spy got a look. The device seems well-engineered and solidly built, but we soon discovered that you cannot charge the battery unless within range of a Wi-Fi connection. (There were no instructions included, so no way to tell if this is normal or anomalous behaviour.) Sorry, but this is bizarre. These two functions are unconnected and have no reason to be tied. She decided to take it back--"too complicated," she said.

Inflicting pain and abuse on others in total self-absorbtion, and lacking a scintilla of empathy for those hurt, is the hallmark of the psychopath. What do you call a corporation that does the same?
The Spy doubles as a web host, as the reader no doubt knows. In this capacity, he was suddenly inundated by customer complaints that they were unable to send mail to Hotmail accounts. Connection attempts sent back an error message to the effect that the WebNameHost server was banned by policy from sending to Hotmail. It soon became apparent that this ban extended to accounts with MSN, Yahoo, and Live.com addresses, and there may be others. Hotmail is of course owned by Microsoft, and Yahoo is a close ally. This poses a particular problem with the Spy in his day job, as the student mail for his university is currently handled by Hotmail, though that is apparently about to change.

A note to Hotmail support got back a reply to the effect that such a block could be caused by various mail practices and issues at the server end, and recommended putting SPF records into the domains' MX, checking mail list sign up and opt-out policies, spam detection procedures, blacklists, and looking at the "Sender Score" maintained by Return Path, Inc.

A further query after jumping through the requested hoops and asking for the ban to be lifted, elicited a snarky reply that no more help would be forthcoming, that Hotmail refused to discuss specifics about the ban, and would not reply further. They have maintained this resolve and now do not answer. The Spy notes that in his more than three decades in the industry, he's never encountered such a reply. Perhaps they were hurt by his mild comments that cutting him off for what appear to be trivial reasons looks bad in the light of their own inability or lack of desire to respond to span and abuse complaints concerning mail originating from their customers.

Because of this intransigence and lack of hard information, the details of what follows are somewhat speculative, based on discussions with other webmasters bitten by the same nastiness, online discussions, checking out Return Path, and a detailed examination of server error logs.

Apparently, all four of these services rely on the Sender Score to determine the trustworthiness of a mail server. When it falls below some magic but undisclosed number, said server is cut off from sending to the MS allies. Gmail, another free service, and not without issues of its own, does not use this service and is unaffected. By contrast, most Linux boxes use their own scanning software to make more intelligent and local-condition-driven decisions about spam and blacklisting.

The Sender Score is supposedly based on (i) the percentage of mail accepted, (ii) complaints, (iii) volume from the server (iv) percentage sent to unknown users (i.e. bad addresses) and (v) spam trap hits. The algorithm used to compute the overall score of 81 from this is proprietary. On all these WebNameHost's server scored very well, except volume (62%) and unknown users (52%). Why the volume rating is low is anyone's guess. No more than ten to twenty messages a day went out to all MS allies combined.

All right, back to the error logs, where it becomes apparent that one of the Spy's customers has a blog to which a person apparently subscribed with a typo in her address. Comments to the blog were mirrored back to her, and replies also went to the bad address. As soon as these reached a certain percentage of the total volume seen going to the MS allies, the bad reputation threshold was apparently triggered, and the server cut off. Note that the volume and unknown user ratios are apparently relative to other servers, not absolute. The total number of bad messages in question was less than twenty-five.

The bottom line: There is no repairing this reputation without waiting for the total lack of traffic to right the percentages, which apparently takes a month or more. Afterward, say other webmasters, it is even easier to be banned again. In the meantime, the Spy required customers to remove all MS-allied addresses from lists and personal email, check every one of them for validity once the situation does clear, and only then add them back in one at a time.

A very large raspberry to the whole lot of the MS-allied mail gang. This is an exceptionally bad way to make decisions, a worse system for rectifying them, and a truly wretched support backup--in sum, a good (or bad) example of the worst in our current Internet system. This is one reason why MS has such a bad reputation in the industry, and a good motive not to place one's mail business with any of their gang. Run, do not walk, far away from involvement with the whole lot of them.

Should you go to gmail? They, after all, were unaffected. In short, No. Gmail may be more accepting of incoming mail, but is just as liberal with outgoing mail. The Spy had a problem with a notorious email abuser situated with them not long ago. He and others complained, but got neither reply nor action of any kind. The Spy recommends using Linux-based professional mail servers (the kind you pay for) where mail is scanned and scored, the customer can make decisions on what is allowed through, and the server owner will blacklist on request. Not that WebNameHost is trolling for a lot of new customers, but that's how his business is run. The MS allies are giving all mail servers a bad name with their arbitrary and poorly thought out policies.

More than this, the affair illustrates that what ideas MS has come up with in recent years (and there are not many of them) are more likely to be bad ones than good. Yes, the company has money and a captive market. No, it does not have much by way of long term prospects, and those prospects are dimming with the passing years. To repeat a radical suggestion: An Apple licensing scheme could remove MS from the OS business in under three years.

For the New Year the Spy wishes all his individual readers not only physical and spiritual health and prosperity, but also vigorous competition among lots of new ideas and products on the market to keep prices low. Contradictorily, he wishes manufacturers prosperity as well, though he notes that it will only happen if they pay close attention to the markets, the trends, and their customers needs. Those who do will prosper, those who do not will disappear. Look for some high-profile corporate and sovereign successes and failures in 2012. How about that for a prognostication? It can hardly go wrong.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor and chair of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several organizations, including in the corporate sector, and participated in industry standards at the national and international level. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and six novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

Arjay Books: http://www.ArjayBooks.com
The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net
URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:
Booksurge: http://www.booksurge.com
Fictionwise: http://www.fictionwise.com

URLs for items mentioned in this column
Return Path: https://www.senderscore.org/senderscore/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

X Lossless Decoder 20141129a - Encode, t...
X Lossless Decoder (XLD) is a tool for OS X that is able to decode/convert/play various 'lossless' audio files. The supported audio files can be split into some tracks with cue sheet when decoding... Read more
Mariner Write 3.9.4 - Light-weight and s...
Mariner Write is your Mac OS go-to word processing tool! Professional writer, educator or student, Write has all the functionality you need for that important letter, technical paper or research... Read more
Google Chrome 45.0.2454.85 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Apple Pro Video Formats 2.0.2 - Updates...
Apple Pro Video Formats brings updates to Apple's professional-level codes for Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, and Compressor 4. Version 2.0.2: Includes support for the following professional video codecs... Read more
Apple Final Cut Pro X 10.2.2 - Professio...
Apple Final Cut Pro X is a professional video editing solution.Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-... Read more
Apple Compressor 4.2.1 - Adds power and...
Compressor adds power and flexibility to Final Cut Pro X export. Customize output settings, work faster with distributed encoding, and tap into a comprehensive set of delivery features. Powerful... Read more
Apple Motion 5.2.2 - Create and customiz...
Apple Motion is designed for video editors, Motion 5 lets you customize Final Cut Pro titles, transitions, and effects. Or create your own dazzling animations in 2D or 3D space, with real-time... Read more
Posterino 3.2.2 - Create posters, collag...
Posterino offers enhanced customization and flexibility including a variety of new, stylish templates featuring grids of identical or odd-sized image boxes. You can customize the size and shape of... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 10.00b1 - File, p...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
CrossOver 14.1.6 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more

Spirit Hunter is an Upcoming Collectible...
Boomlagoon, the team behind hybrid CCG/runner Monsu, has announced their newest project: a collectible card game/action RPG named Spirit Hunter. [Read more] | Read more »
Zen Brush 2 (Entertainment)
Zen Brush 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Entertainment Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Zen Brush 2 is a drawing app focused on the strong yet beautiful feel of the East Asian ink brush. | Read more »
NetNewsWire (News)
NetNewsWire 4.0.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: News Price: $3.99, Version: 4.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Follow the Web NetNewsWire 4, completely written from the ground up for iPhone. NetNewsWire is the best way to keep up with the... | Read more »
Huzzah! Farming Simulator 16 Supports Cl...
As though it weren't difficult enough to resist the siren call of Farming Simulator 16, now it's been updated with cloud saves - so you can jump between devices without missing any of that precious crop-harvesting time. [Read more] | Read more »
Don't Starve: Pocket Edition Finall...
I've made no effort to hide my enjoyment of Don't Starve: Pocket Edition, but I will admit I was a tiny bit disappointed that it was only available for the iPad. Well nuts to that, because Klei Entertainment has made it universal! [Read more] | Read more »
Goat Simulator Wasn't Enough? Then...
If you just didn't get enough goat in Goat Simulator - or if you've been wanting to play a simulated MMO as a microwave - then you're in luck! Goat Simulator MMO Simulator is out now, and it's a game about simulated goats in simulated MMOs. Plus... | Read more »
You Can Play Madfinger Games' Unkil...
Madfinger Games - probably best known for the Dead Trigger series - has officially launched their newest zombie shooter (that isn't called Dead Trigger), named Unkilled. [Read more] | Read more »
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone (Music)
KORG iELECTRIBE for iPhone 1.0.1 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: ** 50% OFF Special Launch Sale - For a Limited Time **The ELECTRIBE reborn in an even smaller form A full-fledged... | Read more »
Toca Life: City Just Got a Bunch of New...
Toca Life: City is Toca Boca's most popular app (number 1 in 47 different countries, apparently), and it's just had an update that adds a bunch of new content. [Read more] | Read more »
My Country 3D is More About Cities than...
My Country 3D is an upcoming city builder from Game Insight that looks pretty decent - although the name seems a tad out of whack for a city builder. Ah well, it is what it is. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

DEVONthink and Co. 40% Off For Students And E...
Students and teachers are either preparing for the new semester or are already back in school. And the better organized they are the easier it is for them to concentrate on what’s really important:... Read more
Labor Day Weekend Sale: MacBook Air for up to...
Best Buy has MacBook Airs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-... Read more
BassJump Subwoofer for MacBook Refreshed...
Twelve South has released a software update for BassJump, their portable subwoofer for Macbook. BassJump 3.0 has a radically redesigned interface, and the software refresh makes the BassJump... Read more
Near-Office Input Functionality Virtually Any...
Today Logitech introduced the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse, giving users the freedom to work on any device, most anywhere. According to... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 4, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
Will You Buy An iPad Pro? – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
It looks like we may not have to wait much longer to see what finally materializes as a new, larger-panel iPad (Pro/Plus?) Usually reliable Apple product prognosticator KGI Securities analyst Ming-... Read more
eFileCabinet Announces SMB Document Managemen...
Electronic document management (EDM) eFileCabinet, Inc., a hosted solutions provider for small to medium businesses, has announced that its SecureDrawer and eFileCabinet Online services will be... Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils American-Made, All...
San Francisco’s WaterField Designs today unveiled their all-leather Cozmo 2.0 — an elegant attach laptop bag with carefully-designed features to suit any business environment. The Cozmo 2.0 is... Read more
Apple’s 2015 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Content Partner Engineer - *Apple* TV - App...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for an experienced engineer with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. The candidate will Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description: Customer Support Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.