Spam; AI; TelstraClear

Top Stories - Will Bill kill spam? - AI caramba! - TelstraClear turns a profit

Top Stories

- Will Bill kill spam?

- AI caramba!

- TelstraClear turns a profit

- It’s all cheese and onions really.

The schoolboy in me refuses to die despite repeated beatings and vicious strangulations, so I can’t help being fascinated by space ships and things, and there so much of it on the Web. If you have a reasonable command of modern-day Norse, I can recommend the site for the Danish Astronautical Society, which is a veritable gold mine of facts and figures.

- Ground control to Major Oerva?

- Will Bill kill spam?

The biggest problem with email is that it’s so easy to forge the sender. There are several ways of doing this, from simple header forgery (changing the sender address for instance) to using misconfigured or compromised Internet connected computers that allow you to pump whatever through them – anonymously.

Spammers were quick to exploit this, causing headaches not just for recipients of junk-email but also for legitimate email senders. The anti-spam song-and-dance is getting more and more complex, with ever increasing amounts of filter rules and DNS black lists to be checked before messages are distributed into Inboxes. The pain of maintaining anti-spam solutions is getting unbearable, and the spam flood shows no sign of drying up.

Things have become so bad that the big industry names are considering the previously unthinkable, which is tinkering with email delivery to remove the anonymity spammers currently enjoy. Microsoft is getting in on the game through “Sender ID”, a combination of its “Caller ID for E-Mail Technology” and Meng Weng Wong’s “Sender Policy Framework” (SPF) that attempts to authenticate the sender of the message before it is received.

The standards body Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is evaluating Microsoft’s solution, and the Redmond software giant is gathering some eighty members of the E-Mail Service Provider Coalition to get Sender ID going. Sender ID could very well take off, as big companies like Symantec, Double-Click and Sendmail have announced they’ll introduce services that’ll support it.

Nevertheless, I remain sceptical about Microsoft’s ability to figure it all out. For instance, the spam filtering on my MSN account only seems to work if I use the whitelist feature (only accept mail from certain addresses) and thus drop mail en masse. MSN is also happily hosting the domains of an “El Gordo” lottery scammer that’s been polluting my inbox for the last month. However, as the scammer is not sending the messages from MSN, and only uses vulnerable PHP scripts on other sites, MSN ignores complaints. Arrgh.

- Microsoft: Sender ID Framework

- Sender Policy Framework

- Computerworld: 86 per cent of spam from the US

- AI caramba!

The busy bees at Auckland University of Technology, AUT, hosted the Eighth Pacific Rim International Conference on Artificial Intelligence at the Sheraton this week. Sponsored by the Asian Office of Aerospace R&D, the USAAF Office of Scientific Research and the University of Auckland, the PRICAI 04 is one of those events that you wouldn’t expect to find in seemingly research-indifferent New Zealand.

Topics discussed included the role of artificial intelligence in bio-medical knowledge discovery and other areas such as Web information retrieval. There were papers presented on subjects such as constrained ant colony optimisation for data clustering and Elman’s recurrent neural networks using resilient back propagation for harmonic detection.

Naturally, such wealth of high-powered science would make anyone feel cognitively challenged, and I am no exception. Should sign up for a constrained ant colony optimisation course to fix it, I suppose.

- Eighth Pacific Rim International Conference on Artificial Intelligence

- TelstraClear turns a profit

Our Second Telco announced that it has finally got into the black after two and a half years of hard slog. For the year ending 30th of June 2004, TelstraClear had revenues of $692 million. Out of this, Rosemary and team wrung some $2.7 million profit.

That’s a pretty penny, but pales in comparison to our First Telco, which is rolling in it to the tune of $754 million this year.

With all the millions of dollar figures bandied about, it’s perhaps useful to gain some sort of perspective by looking at the customer numbers. TelstraClear claims 400,000 customers in New Zealand, and Telecom 3,184,000 according to its Web site. Plugging those figures into Windows calc shows TelstraClear extracted $6.75 in profit per customer, whereas Telecom reaped $236.80904522613065326633165829146.

Are Telecom customers really over thirty-five times as profitable as TelstraClear ones? Probably not, as TelstraClear had to spend big chunks of money to buy itself a toehold in the New Zealand market. Still, it makes you wonder how closely the differential reflects the value of the last mile monopoly.

- NZ Herald: TelstraClear finally posts a profit

- NZ Herald: Telecom profits surge

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