© St. Petersburg Times, published September 9, 2002
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I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry at this one. The idea's quite noble: You insert the Habeas Warrant Mark, a small haiku, within your e-mail messages, and they fly through spam filters with ease. Spammers, you see, are not permitted to use the haiku or they're in for a legal spanking. So far so good. Where the teeth fall out of this idea is that spammers are notoriously good at evading detection, thumbing their nose at the law and otherwise covering their tracks. It's a nice try, means well, but is probably toothless.
In my youth, I could name a typeface just by gazing upon as little as one character. The subtle differences between Akzidenz Grotesk, Univers and Frutiger were no match for these well-trained peepers. And then along came the Mac. The high-end typesetting business fell into ruin almost overnight, and I had to wait until somebody invented multimedia before I could start charging outrageous rates again. These days trying to identify fonts from memory works at sluglike speed. I try and divert the conversation by griping about whippersnappers today and how they can't kern a headline to save their lives. But you're in luck if you can't name that font, either. Upload a sample to this site. It does a wonderful job of sleuthing, with the idea, I imagine, that you'll buy said font from it.
Consider the music industry. Is it not less than fragrant? Sure, the technology industry has been dogged with a bad image and, for the most part, a lot of it is just. But until the dawn of Napster (rest in peace), the greed of the music business had been forgotten even by those who bristled at the "home taping is killing music" campaign during the late 1970s. The problem with being a fat cat, of course, is that when you're put on a lifestyle diet you can't abide the meager portions. But I'm going to spoil the ending if I carry on like this. Copy and paste this Web address into your browser and read what Mark Jenkins has to say about history, Bow Wow Wow and Mariah Carey.
PGP, a technology for encrypting e-mail and files, has traditionally been an absolute terror to use. Its command-line roots have kept it away from Joe and Jane Average almost as much as the self-defeating statement, "Oh, I have nothing to hide." But just when corporate parent Network Associates made the software usable by someone with only a passing interest in keeping secrets secret, it pulled the plug on the project. But you can't keep a good idea down for long. PGP Corp. has dislodged itself from the throat of a corporate parent, done the phoenix thing and hauled itself out of the ashes for another crack at protecting your e-mail and lost laptop from mischief.
A Palm organizer is so much more than a portable date and address book. My Handspring, for instance, is chock full of passwords I'm too lazy to remember. I usually enter them via a Mac OS X desktop application. When I sync my PDA most mornings, the encrypted data is transferred over to the Palm. If you're storing your personal information in your Palm's regular notepad, you could be in for a shock if you lose the thing. That data is easily accessible to anybody with a modicum of computer knowledge. This gem of a program costs $30 for both the desktop and the Palm version and is cross-platform so Windows users can be safe, too.