SpamSieve puts stop to junk e-mail

Plugged In

April 12, 2007|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,McClatchy-Tribune

Once, I used to get a few hundred pieces of spam a day. Now I get around 14,000 - and there's no end in sight.

This has forced me to leave my computer on all the time, because when I used to turn it off at the end of the day, the process of downloading the thousands of e-mails that accrued during the night took nearly an hour. And by the time that hour of downloading finished, so much more spam had been received by the server that another half-hour or so was needed to download that batch of several thousand.

When that finished, more time was needed to retrieve the next batch of spam, and so on. Eventually, I'd catch up with the process of downloading, which took more than two hours, and then I had to sift through them, which took even more time. It was just a mess.

The junk e-mail filters I had in place aren't up to the job when the numbers are so big. I needed some kind of super junk e-mail filter that would somehow know what was bad and good.

They exist - and they all use something called Bayesian filtering.

Bayesian spam filtering is a type of statistical analysis that calculates the probability of an e-mail being spam based on its contents. But the heart of what makes this really work is the person using it. As e-mail comes in, you train the filter by telling it what is and isn't spam. The more you train it, the better its accuracy becomes in identifying junk e-mail.

The one I use on my Macintosh is SpamSieve. It takes about 300 or so e-mails to effectively train the filter, which in my case was a cakewalk. In a few days, the accuracy became so good that SpamSieve's accuracy in detecting spam on my computer is now at 99.8 percent. I have my computer back.

I still have to download everything, so I still have to keep my computer on all the time, but in the morning I see only my real e-mail. It's a thing of beauty.

SpamSieve integrates with all of the popular e-mail programs such as Apple Mail and Entourage. If you decide to change mail clients later, you don't have to retrain SpamSieve; it can apply the same statistics it's accrued to the different e-mail applications. I went from using Apple Mail back to Entourage, and SpamSieve didn't skip a beat. I still had all the filtering in place.

So if spam has you down, try an e-mail filter that uses Bayesian filtering.

On the Mac, SpamSieve is my recommendation, as it offers additional features such as address book integration.

There are several filters that use Bayesian filtering available for Windows and can be found with a simple Google search. But no matter which one you decide to use, you can be sure that your spam problem will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated.

SpamSieve is for Mac OS X, sells for $30 and is available at c-command.com./spamsieve.

Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist and a talk show host.

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