Wow! This page is a bit Captain Obvious! While we (should) all know this kind of very-basic data-hygine by rote these days, back in the late 90's* when this page was largely written (!) it was all new-frontier stuff!

Yep, my personal web-site has existed, in a form not unlike its present, since before most of the students at the university where I work were born! Now get off my lawn!

How to email Glenn Alexander

Note: this is for the plebians. Students (and staff) where I work should contact me via formal workplace channels for anything work-related. I won't respond to work-related messages on my own private channels. This is for both your protection and mine.

Glenn does not put his email address directly on his home page as he tries to avoid SPAM. But you can still email him. Read on...

What is SPAM?

SPAM is email that you do not want and did not ask for. Formally it is called Unsolicited Bulk Email or UBE. It is sent out by companies trying to sell you things. It wastes your time and your money (it costs you online-time to download SPAM). It is illegal in some countries, if it isn't illegal in yours, lobby your government to make it illegal with stiff penalties. It is also very anti-social.

The term SPAM comes from a humorous TV show of a long time ago (Monty Python's Flying Circus) in which to avoid hearing what people were saying to them, people would shout "Spam spam spam spam." UBE makes it difficult to find the real emails amongst the junk which is a similar effect, hence the name. It has absolutely nothing to do with the packaged meat product also called Spam.

You should never respond to SPAM. It just encourages more SPAM. Often SPAM tries to tell you that you asked for the email to be sent to you. This is a lie. It also usually has a link to click on if you want to be taken off the list and receive no more emails. This is also a lie. NEVER click that link. What happens is that the SPAMer then knows your address is active and you get added to a list that is sold as 'known active addresses' and get even more SPAM. Never click on any link in a SPAM email as these links usually contain hidden codes to identify you to the web site so, again, you can have your name added to the list of known active addresses.

Addendum: 'Remove' links on emails from reputable businesses may actually do as they say. But I generally would trust any such business about as far as I could spit it in disgust, so do my best to stay off their lists in the first place. Haranging me to buy random pointless crap is the best way to get put in my psychological ban-list and cause me to go elsewhere! The chances of you predicting my shopping needs at any level more complex than how long it takes me to run through 3 litres of milk or a loaf of bread, are entirely nil: I don't care how much you were conned into paying for the algorithm. I have my own algrorthims that notify me of the rare occasions some company is selling something I might actually want to buy, and those algorithms work for me, thanks!

So how did they get your address in the first place?

One way is that you may have given it to them. Many 'free' internet sites require you to enter your email address to access them. These sites make money selling these emails to SPAMers.

NEVER give your friends' (or my) email addresses to any site without permission (those send-a-card sites sell SPAMers the addresses as well as sending out the email greeting cards: you didn't honestly think they were doing it out of the goodness of their warm fuzzy soul-less little hearts, did you?!).

Your friends may become less... friendly.

Also, there are computer programs called 'robots' that crawl over the web extracting emails from web pages.

What can you do?

First, don't give your email address to anyone you don't trust. You can open a throw-away account at any number of free-email sites if you need to access sites that require your email address (or reconsider if you really need what the site is offering in the first place!)

Second, don't put your email address anywhere on a web page. If, like me, you want to put your email address on a page, you should hide or obstifucate it in some way: People used to add the characters NOSPAM into their address and rely on humans being smart enough to remove that bit and 'bots to not be. That one was common enough that it was trivial for 'bot operators to do an automated scan-and-remove, so it quickly failed, but if you are a bit more creative you can likely make it not worth the 'bot-operator's trouble. Just make sure humans can still work it out (or just the kinds of humans you care to get emails from!)

Put your email in a graphic image like this: email inside image. Again, no machine can read this (at least not quickly enough to make it worth their while), but a person can read it and type it into their email program.

Sadly, an easy-click link using the mailto: tag so people can just click your name to email you is an open invitation to SPAMers, so people will just have to go back to typing in email addresses manually. Humanity is why humanity can't have nice things!

Most email-providers offer quite effective automatic SPAM filtering these days. Then you don't even have to download the SPAM -- you won't even know it was there!

So feel free to email me at the above address. Unless you are sending SPAM!

Things not to mail Glenn

Please do not mail me multi-megabyte attachments without asking first. My mailbox is limited in capacity and a big email from one person will stop other people sending me emails until I clears it. If the file you want to send is already on the web, send a copy of the URL from the address box of your browser (the bit that starts: https:// ).

I would prefer not to recieve e-cards from web sites. Entering an email into one of those web sites pretty-much guarantees it will end up sold to a spammer, as mentioned above.

Don't bother sending me .exe files at all. I run GNU/Linux and can't run .exe files (well, I could if I really wanted to, but don't consider it worth the trouble of setting up WINE). Most of these 'free-of-charge' programs (not to be confused with "free software" which is a very different thing) are actually trojans installing spy-ware anyway, so even if I could, I wouldn't run them. A trojan is a program that does a second, secret job while it is also doing what you think. They are named after the Trojan Horse, where a seemingly harmless gift was actually a way to get a small army into an enemy's city. A trojan program pretends to be a useful or amusing piece of software so you will let it into your computer. Then it does things you may not like, such as (these are all real examples):

Of course this sort of thing isn't limited to sleazy hacker-stereotypes in dark rooms. Big shiny multinational corporations such as Sony Music, Lenovo Computers and undoubtedly many more are just as happy to damage your property for their own ends. Never forget this!

Scammers calling you on the phone to 'fix your computer' is another popular way for them to get trojans onto your system (they tell you to download a program from a web site that will let them 'diagnose' the 'problem', then they have full remote access to your computer for whatever use they want.

Don't install software unless you are sure you trust the people who wrote it. That's why I use Linux -- I trust the code because thousands of people all over the world check it. Open-source software has been occasionally trojaned, and it was generally spotted in a day or two, compared to months to never for software where the source-code is not publicly viewable. And that is assuming, as mentioned above, the software itself isn't a trojan by design of the actual company selling it to you!

In some parts of the world such as China (where I lived and worked for 6 years in the early 2000s), it is very easy to buy cheap (illegal) copies of commercial software. There is NO GUARANTEE that the person who copied the disks didn't add trojan software to the install (this is quite easy to do). The same applies to so-called 'warez' (software made illegally available on the internet). If you want a safe system, buy the real thing from the real company. If you can't afford it (who can?), use one of the often very good (or sometimes at least tolerable) open-source equivalents. They aren't always up to what you need, but far more often than not will be just fine, and sometimes they better than the commercial version - they are generally written by people who are also actual users of the software, not just coding to a feature-list handed down from a marketing department.

Here's a fun* activity: set yourself up an fresh email address, not in any way associated with your real (or online) identity, put it out on the internet, and do absolutely nothing with it. Monitor it and see all the scams that start rolling in. I have such an account I use for some testing purposes and get about 4 such messages a week without even trying.

According to emails to this account,

* For certain values of 'fun' only.

Other ways to contact Glenn.

Students should use my UOW-staff mail address - I don't check my home email while at work (they pay me to work, not to take private calls/messages!) and won't act on work emails from home (at my pay-grade I get to leave my work at work!).

You can phone me. My work number is in the staff directory and if I am in, I will answer (once I get my USB headset plugged into my computer and have told Cisco that I don't care what's new in their software - who's idea was all that generated-inefeciency!), or you can leave a message for me, which I will very likely get next time I am at my desk: the system is quite good in that regard, at least. If you manage to find my home or mobile number, there is no guarantee I will answer - I only answer my private phone if it is convenient, on the assumption that if the call is important, you will call again later, if you don't call again later, the call wasn't important! My private phone is for my convenience, not yours! Also, 95% of incoming calls are just scam-spam so I have the ringer set low and habitually ignore the thing much of the time anyway, these days!

A third option for contacting me is to go to my office and ask for me at the service counter. Possibly a long-forgotten art, but who knows? It might work!

Note: I only work a 3-day week at present, so if it isn't Monday, Tuesday, or Friday, don't expect to find me at work, or for me to be particularly interested in work-related things. Or checking my work messages. If you see me on-campus on other days, particularly if not in my usual work-logoed shirt... your mind is just playing tricks on you: I am just a figment of your deranged imagination! :-P