Originally published Monday, June 12, 2000
How many times have we said, "if I only
knew then what I know now." Well, if I only knew then what I know
now, I'd never thoughtlessly have divulged my e-mail address to every
online site that innocently requested demographic information. I must now
be on thousands of junk e-mail lists ranging from stocks and financial
solicitations to unspeakable porn offerings.
Beware that anytime you are asked for an e-mail address online, no matter how innocuous it seems, you're setting yourself up for future junk e-mail. Even free sites offering quality information, such as the New York Times, gather demographic information about their online readers which in turn can be sold to junk mail spammers -- the online equivalent of those exasperating telemarketers.
Since you often can't get by these days by without providing an e-mail address while surfing the Net, you can establish a secondary mail account for the express purpose of diverting spam away from your primary mailbox. In this way, you can maintain a "public" mailbox and keep your primary mail account unlisted except to those you truly want to hear from.
Most popular Internet portals such as Yahoo, AltaVista, Snap or Excite all offer free web-based e-mail. A web-based mail service means that your messages are stored at a central, remote location that can be accessed from any computer with Internet connectivity. You must log on to one of these portals with a user name and password to retrieve and manage your messages.
I setup a free Hotmail account through MSN to hopefully curb the flow of junk mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, but soon discovered this web-based mail service had additional benefits that complimented my established InReach mail account. Hotmail supports up to four POP accounts, meaning that I can collect e-mail from my primary mail server anywhere in the world through the Internet, as well as any mail sent to my Hotmail account. This is a great service for people who travel frequently and want to stay connected. It's also a good option for keeping personal e-mail separate from business mail in the workplace.
Many people use web-based mail as their primary mode of electronic mail, since it doesn't require that you own a computer or have an online services provider. You only need access to a computer with an Internet connection, such as through school, work or the library. Web-based mail programs can be configured with folders, address books and most support file attachments. Hotmail even has a web-based personal calendar. Check out Hotmail for yourself at www.hotmail.com.
Another Internet product that's "hot" is web-based file storage services such as Driveway, FreeDrive and Yahoo Briefcase. These free services allow members to upload and store data files as if the Internet were a secondary personal hard drive. They have simplified the FTP process and smoothly integrated file uploading and downloading into a friendly web page interface.
Driveway.com, for example, allows you to create your own folders, upload files and then designate them as shared to specific users allowing others easy access to your files, via the Net.
I've used this service for files that are too large for e-mail attachments or when clients are unsure how to retrieve file attachments from e-mail. I upload data files from my office PC to Driveway, then anyone with permission can retrieve them from the shared folder on the website, completely bypassing the e-mail program. Size limitations for file storage vary depending on the service provider. Visit www.webwizards.net/useful/wbfs.htm for a complete list of web-based file storage services.
Whether it's warding off spam, supplementing your existing mail program or locating additional file storage resources, web-based services can enhance your local resources.
Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.
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