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Justify yourself to me.

Go on, do it. I want to hear it.

I'm talking about you people who use Microsoft's Outlook e-mail program. Still.

If you've been on the 'net for at least a year, you've probably gotten a virus in your In box. Maybe you opened it, maybe you didn't. Maybe you've had the shame and embarrassment of having your address book be a point of origin for one of these nasty worms remailing itself to all your friends. Maybe you've had one mailed to you.

In any case, you're likely aware that Outlook is vulnerable simply because it's one of the most widely-used e-mail programs out there, and those who write viruses target it for maximum delivery.

My question to you is this, then: why the heck are you still using it?

Before you get all snippy, I'm not talking about your work machine. I realize offices often force standardization, and they usually standardize on Microsoft.

This isn't even an anti-Microsoft rant, though the glaring security holes that they've left in this program have left it even more vulnerable than it might be.

It's really more about recognizing your place in the global scheme of things, in the big picture, and taking action. It's about "what is my personal responsibility to prevent the spread of these things," "who's my neighbor/friend, and what do I owe him or her," and about "what I can do personally to make things better."

Well, you can stop using that program entirely. There are other excellent e-mail programs out there, and some of them are even free. Ask yourself this: have you even taken the time to look? Did you download any of them to evaluate them? Or did you just take what came pre-installed on your machine, because it was easy, because it was the path of least resistance, and you didn't have to invest any effort? Is it ethical to continue to use a program with such a high risk factor for yourself and others? If you are willing to accept the personal risk of harm to your own property, do you have the right to accept the risk of harm to others, to own that? I don't think so. If you do accept that, and you infect someone else through your own ignorance or negligence . . . well, it sounds harsh, but in truth, it makes you an accessory to a crime. I don't want to hear any whining about how it is the fault of the virus programmer, not yours: if you're not doing everything you can to prevent it from spreading, then you're part of the problem.

If you actually have explored other alternatives and you still like Outlook, have you taken the time to do what you can to safeguard it? Not just anti-virus software, either: that does little good if you get a virus before the software manufacturer has had the chance to update it.

I used to help police a company by serving as a watchdog for some of the crap that users would send around the office. Hoaxes, junk posts, chain letters, you name it. You should've heard some of the comments in the IT department about these folks. But the truth of it was, their ignorance was part of the problem. Try as we might to educate them, they'd still do the same things time after time after time. "Don't do this," we'd say. We'd explain why not, in very simple human terms. No, really: I know how bad geekspeak can get, and I'm sensitive to it. Plain language only, I promise. They'd still do it. And we couldn't take their toy away from them, unfortunately, because they still needed it for business communication. Nice, well-intentioned folks, most of them, but clueless nevertheless.

But I digress.

If you've read this far, and are actually willing to look into other e-mail options, post here and let me know. I'll send you a recommendation.

Thus ends the PSA of the day. ;) It felt good to write it, too. Oh, did it piss you off? Bring it on. Impress me with your mad debate skillz. Explain to me how you can justify potentially or actually infecting your family and friends. Convince me how that's morally acceptable, assuming your morals include some facet of decency. I'll pop the popcorn, 'cause I want to hear this. And if some of you remove me from your Friends list over this . . . well, at least I know you were paying attention.

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pointedview
Dec. 6th, 2001 01:13 pm (UTC)
Whee, a post. :) Nice to hear from you. Oh, just as an FYI on what inspired this, I run a mailing list, and just got a post from a member essentially apologizing to other list members (whose personal e-mail addresses he had) for sending them infected e-mails. Not to toot my own horn, but if I weren't such a vigilant gatekeeper, that virus would've gotten to the list. However, I take plenty of precautions.

Alternatives: Eudora, as a pay solution (well, it's free as the sponsored version, but I don't recommend adware), is rarely targeted. I looked at it when evaluating e-mail programs for myself.

However, I actually decided to go with the feature-rich Calypso. I've been using it for years - I was actually a paid user. The company discontinued support of the product, but that really doesn't matter - it's finished, it doesn't really need any improvements or upgrades. It's that good.

I can also offer you an alternative to Hotmail, with no ads, no promotions tagging the bottom of your e-mail messages, nothing like that. Full POP3 access and web access, and it is free. Free and clean, but I'd rather let you know about it via e-mail - don't want demand for it to outpace supply.

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