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

Lyn 1.7.2 - Lightweight image browser an...
Lyn is a fast, lightweight image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists, and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it delivers... Read more
Lyn 1.7.2 - Lightweight image browser an...
Lyn is a fast, lightweight image browser and viewer designed for photographers, graphic artists, and Web designers. Featuring an extremely versatile and aesthetically pleasing interface, it delivers... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6.7beta02 - GUI for OpenVP...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
jAlbum Pro 13.4 - Organize your digital...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. You can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly... Read more
calibre 2.65.1 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
jAlbum 13.4 - Create custom photo galler...
With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code! Beginner-friendly, with pro results - Simply drag and drop photos into groups, choose a design... Read more
Backblaze 4.2.0.966 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Backblaze 4.2.0.966 - Online backup serv...
Backblaze is an online backup service designed from the ground-up for the Mac. With unlimited storage available for $5 per month, as well as a free 15-day trial, peace of mind is within reach with... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6.7beta02 - GUI for OpenVP...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
calibre 2.65.1 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more

Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) (Games)
Siralim 2 (RPG / Roguelike) 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Siralim 2 is an old-school monster catching RPG. Summon and customize hundreds of creatures to fight for you as... | Read more »
Clean Text (Productivity)
Clean Text 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Productivity Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars (Games)
Gemini - A Journey of Two Stars 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: *** SPECIAL LAUNCH SALE: $2.99 (25% off) *** "A mesmerizing and unexpectedly emotional journey." -- Los... | Read more »
How to get four NFL superstars for your...
Even though you're probably well on your way to building a top notch squad for the new season in Madden NFL Mobile, let's say you could beef it up by adding Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Von Miller, and Todd Gurley to your roster. That's... | Read more »
Cartoon Network Superstar Soccer: Goal!!...
Cartoon Network Superstar Soccer: Goal!!! – Multiplayer Sports Game Starring Your Favorite Characters 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Become a soccer superstar with your... | Read more »
NFL Huddle: What's new in Topps NFL...
Can you smell that? It's the scent of pigskin in the air, which either means that cliches be damned, pigs are flying in your neck of the woods, or the new NFL season is right around the corner. [Read more] | Read more »
FarmVille: Tropic Escape tips, tricks, a...
Maybe farming is passé in mobile games now. Ah, but farming -- and doing a lot of a other things too -- in an island paradise might be a little different. At least you can work on your tan and sip some pina coladas while tending to your crops. [... | Read more »
Become the King of Avalon in FunPlus’ la...
King Arthur is dead. Considering the legend dates back to the 5th century, it would be surprising if he wasn’t. But in the context of real-time MMO game King of Avalon: Dragon Warfare, Arthur’s death plunges the kingdom into chaos. Evil sorceress... | Read more »
Nightgate (Games)
Nightgate 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: *** Launch Sale: 25% OFF for a limited time! *** In the year 2398, after a great war, a network of intelligent computers known as... | Read more »
3 best fantasy football apps to get you...
Last season didn't go the way you wanted it to in fantasy football. You were super happy following your drafts or auctions, convinced you had outsmarted everyone. You were all set to hustle on the waiver wire, work out some sweet trades, and make... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Back To School with OtterBox Essentials
Back to school means back to an environment that is tough on tech. OtterBox has the back to school essentials you need to keep tech safe from drops, bumps, scratches and hallway havoc. Check out the... Read more
VRS Design Releases New iPhone 7 Plus Case Li...
With a device as large and costly as the iPhone 7 Plus, it is primal instinct to protect it from potential damage. According to a study by SquareTrade in 2012, iPhone damages cost Americans roughly $... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for up to $101 off MSRP
Amazon has 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for up to $101 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (model MJVM2LL/A): $798 $101 off MSRP - 11″ 1.6GHz/256GB... Read more
Apple certified refurbished iPad mini 4s avai...
Apple has certified refurbished iPad mini 4s now available for up to $120 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each iPad, and shipping is free. The following models... Read more
Apple price trackers, updated continuously
Scan our Apple Price Trackers for the latest information on sales, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers. We update the trackers continuously: - 15″... Read more
Global Tablet Shipments Projected to Increase...
Digitimes’ Jim Hsiao reports that global tablet shipments will increase by 16.3 percent sequentially to reach nearly 47 million units in 2016′s third quarter, but that volume will still be down over... Read more
Apple’s 2016 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available start...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2 available starting at $339. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2: $499 - 64GB Wi-Fi iPad... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $961...
Overstock has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $961.63 including free shipping. Their price is $138 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 12-inch Retina MacBooks, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 12″ Retina MacBooks available starting at $929. Apple will include a standard one-year warranty with each MacBook, and shipping is free. The following... Read more

Jobs Board

SW Engineer *Apple* TV - Apple Inc. (United...
The Apple TV team is looking for excellent software engineers with experience in hardware, media management, media playback, content delivery and a passion for Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions Victor,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* /Mac Support Engineer - GFI Digital,...
FI Digital, Inc. is currently seeking candidates for a full time Apple Support Engineer to add to our Maryland Heights, Missouri IT team. Candidates must be dynamic Read more
SW Engineer *Apple* TV - Apple Inc. (United...
The Apple TV team is looking for excellent software engineers with experience in hardware, media management, media playback, content delivery and a passion for Read more
Senior *Apple* Administrator - Pratt Instit...
POSITION SUMMARY: Directs the coordination and standardization of campus-wide Apple systems, including planning, analysis and implementation of Apple -related Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.