Take Control of
Spam with Apple Mail
Author: Joe Kissell
Publisher: TidBits Electronic Publishing
Version 1.0.1, PDF format, 59 pages
Publication date: May 18, 2004
- What the Book is About
- Apple Mail users frustrated by
the flood of spam can now keep junk mail out of their mailboxes with "Take
Control of Spam with Apple Mail", a new ebook (Electronic Book in PDF format)
written by author Joe Kissell. This ebook goes far beyond Apple Mail's online help
to explain exactly how Mail's Junk Mail filter works, how it interacts with other
Mail features, and how users can optimize it to catch spam more accurately. The ebook
also provides coping strategies for handling fraudulent, malevolent, and malformed
email; reviews software add-ons that improve Mail's spam-catching capabilities; and
explains how to use Mail's rules not just to eliminate spam but also to organize
Apple Mail has the usual personality
of Apple products: Standard-setting and state-of-the-art, but with a couple of maddening
quirks that result from hacking out a new road. These quirks require that you set
it up and maintain it just right, lest spam addresses routinely end up in your non-spam
list, putting spam in your In box instead of blocking it. This ebook confronts the
challenge head-on with a comprehensive presentation of the problem and specific steps
to deal with it - interspersed with disclaimers that "it isn't perfect."
- Target Audience
- Take Control of Spam with Apple
Mail is aimed at Macintosh OS X users who use the integrated email application,
Mail, to handle their email; but any person who uses email will benefit from reading
it. This ebook is aimed at all levels from novice to expert. The book tells us what
we need to know - and more than non-tekkies would prefer to know - with extremely
clear, conversational language.
- What to Expect
- As a non-tekkie myself who sees
his computer mostly as a tool to help do "real work," not as a hobby in
and of itself, I spend as little time as possible pondering its inner workings (regrettably,
sometimes). So I found the book valuable because it goes from the general to the
specific, explaining the problem comprehensively before presenting the solution.
Kissell takes a full chapter to explain what junk mail is, distinguishing fraudulent
email from viruses (a virtual non-problem for Mac users) from the blank page spam.
Then he takes another chapter to explain how junk mail filters work, including Bayesian
and Latent Semantic Analysis (Mail's approach). He discloses nuances such as the
fact that filtering isn't deleting, that you need to occasionally go through the
garbage in your junk mail folder, and that you need to train your Mail program, and
finally the critical role of the Previous Recipients list. Perhaps his most telling
revelation is that "there's a logical flaw in the way Mail implements the Previous
Recipients list that may cause you to inadvertently 'whitelist' spammers, thus allowing
future messages from them into your In box." After the chapter enumerating steps
to work with - and around - Mail's settings and lists, Kissell introduces third-party
anti-spam software that goes beyond Mail.
The only improvement I could envision is to the chapter "Quick Start to Controlling
your Junk Mail," which isn't one, really. The typical quick start section skips
explanations and simply lists steps to undertake specific actions; this one instead
provides links to the relevant chapters, where you get the full treatment. Kissell
should either boil this section down to a true quick start step list, for those who
don't need explanations, or change its title. Other than that, the overall structure
is explicit and straightforward, a must in a how-to book.
Throughout, the author unhesitatingly recommends doing or not doing certain things
and using or not using specific applications while giving the reader the information
to make up his or her own mind. This is a reassuring service to those of us who want
computers to be simple and may be intimidated by the complexity of this problem as
he describes it.
- What gems you will find in this
book will depend on your understanding of email spam, filters and Mail in particular.
Virtually everyone is sure to find something. For me, it had two highlights.
First, Kissell takes us on a tour under the hood of this utility, a fascinating place
I'm not usually inclined to peruse. After installing OS X and Mail, I barely, belatedly
realized it had an anti-spam function when I discovered and played with the Junk/Not
Junk button; but that was about it. I only realized its horsepower after going back
to OS 9 and Outlook Express, which dutifully downloaded the myriad multiple copies
of pornographic garbage that was magically missing from Mail's In box. (Yes, Outlook
Express has a junk mail filter, but it consists of applying the rules we set, not
learning. I didn't mess with that very much either.)
Second, Kissell makes abundantly clear why simply training Mail by categorizing In
box messages isn't nearly enough. Thanks to him, my interaction with Mail has reached
a whole new level: Down in the pits where the trash accumulates, to occasionally
check several folders for valuable messages -- and then refine the rules to keep
Mail from diverting them. It's an ugly job, but you have to do it. One day soon I'll
talk myself down to the final level to tame Mail's biggest flaw: inviting spam in
through the Previous Recipients list.
- Mac Guild Grade
- A (Outstanding)
- Final Words
- If this were a printed book, at
$5 it would be a steal; as an ebook, where the purchaser pays for printing as needed,
it's still a bargain - especially with a button to check for updates that may be
necessitated by future OS X versions. It's so well written you'll be tempted to check
out his other books, including a promised up-coming more general treatment of the
Mail application. Overall this is an excellent book for an effective setup of Mail,
and then for your reference e-library.