Here’s another popular Internet activity: you can send electronic mail (e-mail). An e-mail message imitates a regular letter or postcard but is transmitted electronically so you don’t have to lick a stamp, don’t have to walk to the mailbox to send it, and don’t have to wait for the letter to be processed by your country’s postal system.
E-mail zips through the Internet at lightning speed, so a letter sent from Japan to the United States takes just minutes (sometimes even seconds) to reach its destination. Unlike regular mail, which the Post Office usually delivers just once a day, e-mail can arrive anytime, day or night. If your friends try to send you e-mail messages while your computer is turned off, your Internet service provider will hold their messages for you until you turn your computer back on and reconnect to the Internet.
Since sending e-mail is so much faster than using the Post Office (which is about as slow as a snail), the Post Office’s mail is nicknamed snail mail. Yes, e-mail travels fast, takes just a few minutes to reach its destination, and is free; snail mail travels slowly, typically takes several days to reach its destination, and costs about 50¢ (for a stamp, an envelope, and paper to write on). So if your friend promises to send you a letter “soon”, ask “Are you going to send it by e-mail or snail mail?”
An “e-mail message” is sometimes called just “an e-mail”. Instead of saying “I sent 3 e-mail messages”, an expert says “I sent 3 e-mails”.
To use e-mail, you need an e-mail program.
The e-mail program is called an e-mail client if it’s on your computer’s hard disk. Here are the most popular e-mail clients:
The e-mail program is called webmail service if it’s on a Website instead of your computer’s hard disk. Here are the most popular webmail services for the general public:
Some ISPs (such as AOL and Comcast) have invented special webmail services for use just by their own customers.
Which is better to use: an e-mail client or a webmail service? An e-mail client has 3 advantages over a webmail service:
But an e-mail client has 2 disadvantages:
The most popular e-mail programs are Outlook Express (an old e-mail client), Windows Mail (a new e-mail client) and Yahoo Mail (a webmail service). This chapter explains how to use Outlook Express 5&5.5&6 and how Windows Mail and Yahoo Mail differ.
E-mail can be simple!
Here’s how to start using e-mail.
Yahoo Mail To use Yahoo Mail (which is a webmail service), use your Web browser (such as Internet Explorer) to go to mail.yahoo.com.
The computer will say “Yahoo Mail”. If you don’t have a Yahoo ID yet, do this:
If you have a Yahoo ID, do this:
Outlook Express To start using Outlook Express, choose one of these methods.…
If versions 5.5&6 say “Internet Connection Wizard”, do this:
Here’s how to set up version 6 to work with Comcast’s webmail service:
You’ll see the Outlook Express window. If it doesn’t consume the whole screen yet, maximize it (by clicking its maximize button, which is next to the X button).
Windows Mail To start using Windows Mail, click Start then “Windows Mail”.
If the computer says “Your Name”, do this:
You’ll see the Windows Mail window. If it doesn’t consume the whole screen yet, maximize it (by clicking its maximize button, which is next to the X button).
Here’s how to handle incoming mail.
At the screen’s left edge, you see “Inbox”.
Now most of the screen is divided into 3 big white windowpanes, which I’ll call “left”, “top”, and “bottom”. You might also see extras:
The top pane shows a list of all e-mail messages that other people have sent you. For each message, the list shows whom the message is from (the sender’s name), the message’s subject (what the message is about), and when the message was received (the date and time). Yahoo Mail makes that pane also show the message’s size (how many kilobytes the message consumes on the disk drives of Yahoo’s computers).
After you’ve used the e-mail program awhile, you’ll probably receive additional messages, from your friends!
Here’s how to deal with a long list of messages:
Look in the top pane, at the list of messages you received. Decide which message you want to read, and click the sender’s name. Then the bottom pane starts showing you the complete message. Read it.
The complete message is probably too long to fit in the bottom pane. To see the rest of the message, press that pane’s scroll-down arrow (the symbol 6 or Ú at the pane’s bottom right corner).
Junk If a message seems to be junk, Windows Mail puts it in the Junk E-mail folder instead of the Inbox.
How to send mail
To write an e-mail message, perform 5 steps.
Step 1: get the window In Outlook Express & Windows Mail, do this:
In Yahoo Mail, do this:
Step 2: choose a recipient To whom do you want to send the message? To send an e-mail message to a person, you must find out that person’s e-mail address. For example, if you want to send an e-mail message to me, you need to know that my e-mail address is “Russ@SecretFun.com”.
For the Internet, each e-mail address contains the symbol “@”, which is pronounced “at”. For example, my Internet address, “Russ@SecretFun.com”, is pronounced “russ at secret fun dot com”.
(To send me e-mail, you can use either my new address, “Russ@SecretFun.com”, or my old address, “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Either way will reach me.)
To find out the e-mail addresses of your friends and other people, ask them (by chatting with them in person or by phoning them or by sending them snail-mail postcards).
If you send e-mail to the following celebrities and nuts, they’ll probably read what you wrote. (But they might not have enough time to write back, and they prefer you use the feedback forms on their Websites instead.)
When you type an e-mail address, you don’t have to capitalize. The computer ignores capitalization.
Never put a blank space in the middle of an e-mail address.
Warning: people often change their e-mail addresses, so don’t be surprised if your message comes back, marked undeliverable.
Type the e-mail address of the person to whom you want to send your message. If you’re a shy beginner who’s nervous about bothering people, try sending an e-mail message to a close friend or me or yourself. Sending an e-mail message to yourself is called “doing a Fats Waller”, since he was the first singer to popularize this song:
If you send an e-mail message to me, I’ll read it (unless my e-mail address has changed) and try to send you a reply, but be patient (since I check my e-mail just a few times per week) and avoid asking for computer advice (since I give advice just by regular phone calls at 603-666-6644, not by e-mail).
At the end of the e-mail address, press the Tab twice, so you’re at the line marked “Subject”.
Step 3: choose a subject Type a phrase summarizing the subject (such as “let’s lunch” or “I’m testing”). At the end of that typing, press the Tab key again.
Step 4: type the message Go ahead: type the message, such as “Let’s have lunch together in Antarctica tomorrow!” or “I’m testing my e-mail system, so please tell me whether you received this test message.” Your message can be as long as you wish — many paragraphs! Type the message as if you were using a word processor. For example, press the Enter key just when you reach the end of a paragraph. (If you’re using Outlook Express, you can maximize the window you’re typing in by clicking the window’s maximize button, which is next to the X button.)
Step 5: send the message When you finish typing the message, click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope).
If the computer says “Display name” (because you’re using Outlook Express 6 and haven’t sent e-mails before), do this:
In Outlook Express & Windows Mail, the window you typed in will close automatically. In Yahoo Mail, this happens instead:
When do messages transmit?
When you try to send or receive a message, when does the transmission actually occur?
Receiving a message from a friend When a friend tries to send you a message, the message goes from your friend’s computer to your friend’s e-mail server (such as Yahoo or your friend’s Internet Service Provider), which passes the message on to your e-mail server. The message is stored on your e-mail server’s hard disk.
Since your e-mail server is always turned on (day and night, 24 hours), it’s always ready to receive messages your friends try to send you, even while your own computer is turned off.
When you try to examine your Inbox, your computer ought to contact your e-mail server and tell the e-mail server to transmit any new messages to your computer; but if your computer is lazy, it might not contact your e-mail server immediately to get the newest messages. Instead, your computer might decide to wait awhile before bothering your e-mail server. For example, your computer might contact your e-mail server just once every 30 minutes to check whether there are any new messages for you; or your computer might not contact your e-mail server until the next time you start running the e-mail program — which might be the next day.
To make your computer communicate with your e-mail server now, so all the messages you’re trying to receive get transmitted to your Inbox now, click Yahoo Mail’s Check Mail button or Outlook Express’s Send/Recv button or Windows Mail’s “Send/Receive”.
If you want Outlook Express & Windows Mail to check for messages more frequently, do this:
Sending a message to a friend When you tell the computer to send a message to a friend, the computer typically transmits the message immediately to your e-mail server (which passes it on to your friend’s e-mail server).
Here’s a picture of a smiling face:
It’s called a smiley. If you rotate that face 90°, it looks like this:
People writing e-mail messages often type that symbol to mean “I’m smiling; I’m just kidding”.
For example, suppose you want to tell President Bush that you disagree with his speech. If you communicate the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper, you’ll probably begin like this:
But people who communicate by e-mail tend to be more blunt:
The symbol “:-)” means “I’m just kidding”. That symbol’s important. Forgot to include it? Then poor George, worried about getting boiled in oil, might have the Secret Service arrest you for plotting an assassination.
The smiley, “:-)”, has many variations:
Since those symbolic pictures (icons) help you emote, they’re called emoticons (pronounced “ee MOTE ee cons”). Technically, just the first one in that list is called a smiley, but some folks call all emoticons “smileys.”
To understand those American smileys easily, you must turn your head 90°.
Japanese versions The Japanese have invented these straight-on smileys, which don’t require you to turn your head — you can look at them straight-on:
The Japanese call their straight-on smileys “facemarks”, since they’re marks that represent faces simply, without rotation.
Other body parts Analysts of American culture invented these assicons to illustrate slang:
Analysts of the female form have invented these titicons (which are also called boobiecons):
People writing e-mail messages often use these expressions and abbreviations:
Those abbreviations are called acronyms.
What did you send?
To check which messages you sent, click in the left pane at “Sent Items” (or Yahoo Mail’s “Sent”).
You’ll see a list of messages you sent. For each message, the list shows the address you sent it to, the message’s subject, and when you sent it.
When you finish admiring that list, make the screen become normal again by clicking “Inbox” (which is in the left pane).
While you’re reading a message that somebody’s sent you, here’s how to reply.
Click “Reply” (or use this Yahoo Mail shortcut: press the keyboard’s R key). Then type your reply.
While you type, the computer shows a copy of the message you’re replying to. In Outlook Express & Windows Mail, the copy has a vertical bar (“|”) in front of each line.
If you want to abridge that copy (so it doesn’t clutter your screen), use your mouse: drag across the part you want to delete, then press the Delete key.
When you finish typing your reply, click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope). The computer will send your reply, along with your abridged copy of the message you’re replying to.
Delete old messages
The list of received messages — and the list of sent messages — can become long and hard to manage. To reduce the clutter, delete any messages that no longer interest you.
Here’s how to delete a message you received (or a copy of a message you sent): make the message’s name appear in the top pane, then click the name (so it turns blue), then press the Delete key.
That tells the computer you want to delete the message. The computer moves the message into a Deleted Items folder (which Yahoo Mail calls Trash). It resembles the Windows Recycle Bin.
To find out what’s in that folder, click “Deleted Items” (or “Trash”), which is in the left pane. You’ll see what’s in that folder: a list of the messages you said to delete.
Are you sure you want to delete all those messages?
If you change your mind, you can keep one of those messages. For Yahoo Mail, do this:
For Outlook Express & Windows Mail, do this:
When you’re sure you want to eliminate all messages in the Deleted Items folder, do this:
If you’re using Windows Mail, handle the Junk E-mail folder the same way as the Deleted Items folder.
At the bottom of your e-mail message, you can include a few lines that identify who you are. Those lines are called your signature (or sig).
For example, your sig can include your full name, address, and phone number. You can mention your office’s address & phone number, but be cautious about revealing your home address & phone number, since e-mail messages are often peeked at by strangers.
If you’re employed, you might also wish to give your company’s name, your title, and a disclaimer, such as “The opinions I expressed aren’t necessarily my employer’s.” You might also wish to reveal your personality, by including your favorite saying (such as “Be creative” or “May the Lord bless you” or “Turned on by Twinkies”). But keep your sig short: any sig containing more than 7 lines of text is considered an impolite waste of your reader’s time.
Don’t bother putting your e-mail address in your sig, since your e-mail address appears automatically at the top of your message.
Here’s how to put the same sig on all your e-mail messages easily. For Outlook Express & Windows Mail, do this:
For Yahoo Mail, do this:
While you edit a message, edit its sig! Customize its sig to match the rest of the message.
An e-mail message can have a file attached to it.
Send a file attachment
While you’re writing a message, here’s how to insert a file (such as a picture you drew in Paint, or a document composed in WordPad or Microsoft Word).
Click the Attach button, which looks like a paper clip.
Which file do you want to insert? Make its icon appear on the screen. If its icon is not on the screen because the computer is showing a different folder, do this:
When the file’s icon is finally on the screen, double-click that icon.
Above the message you were writing, you should see your file’s name (in the Attach box). Make sure the message and the file’s name are correct.
Then click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope). That makes the computer send the message and attached file.
Receive a file attachment
Here’s what to do if a friend sends you a message that includes an attached file.
Outlook Express & Windows Mail begin like this:
Yahoo Mail begins like this:
If the computer asks “Do you want to open this file?”, click “Open”. (If the computer instead asks “What would you like to do with this file?”, click “Open it” then “OK”.)
The computer will try to show you the pictures and words that are in the attached file, by running the program that created the file. For example, if the file is a picture created by Paint, the computer will try to run Paint; if the file is a document created by Microsoft Word, the computer will try to run Microsoft Word. (If the file was created by software that your computer doesn’t own and your computer doesn’t know how to handle the file, your computer will gripe by saying “Open With”.)
When you finish looking at the pictures and words that are in the attached file, close whatever program created it (such as Paint or Microsoft Word) by clicking that program’s X button. You’ll return to seeing your e-mail program’s screen.
An e-mail message can be sent to many people. Here’s how.…
If you want to send a message to several people, put semicolons between their addresses. For example, if you want to send a message to the President of the United States (whose address is President@WhiteHouse.gov) and also to me (Russ@SecretFun.com), address the mail to:
That little list of addresses is called the mailing list.
The space after the semicolon is optional. If you accidentally type a comma instead of a semicolon, the computer will eventually turn the comma into a semicolon for you.
Here’s how to send a message mainly to the President of the United States but also send me a copy:
Here’s how to send a message mainly to the President of the United States but also send me a copy, and make the copy be secret, so the President of the United States doesn’t know the copy was sent to me:
While you’re reading a message you received, here’s how to send a reply: click either “Reply” or “Reply All”.
If you click “Reply”, your reply will be sent to just the person who sent you the message. (Yahoo Mail permits this shortcut: instead of clicking “Reply”, you can just tap the keyboard’s R key.)
If instead you click the Outlook Express & Windows Mail “Reply All” (or click Yahoo Mail’s Reply button’s down-arrow and then “Reply to All”), your reply will be sent to the person who sent you the message and also to everybody else on that person’s mailing list.
For example, if Bob sends a message addressed to a list of three people (you, Sue, and Jill) and you want to reply, click either “Reply” (which sends your reply just to Bob) or “Reply All” (which sends your reply to Bob and also to the other people on Bob’s mailing list: Sue and Jill).
While you’re reading a message you received, here’s how to send a copy of it to a friend.
Click “Forward”. Type your friend’s e-mail address.
Press the Tab key several times, until you’re in the big white box where you can type a message. Type a comment to your friend, such as “Here’s a joke Mary sent me.” Below your typing, the computer automatically shows a copy of the message you’re forwarding.
Click the Send button (which looks like a flying envelope).
Remember this poem:
For example, suppose you send an e-mail message to Bob. Your message might be read by people other than Bob, for one of these reasons:
According to U.S. law, if you’re an employee who writes an e-mail message by using the company’s computer, the message becomes the company’s property, and your boss is allowed to look at it. Your message has no privacy. Moreover, if your company is sued (by a competitor or customer), United States law can require your company to reveal all e-mail messages about the lawsuit’s topic and about all the people involved in it: the cute joke you wrote can embarrass you when the judge makes you read it to the courtroom.
So be especially careful about writing e-mails that contain sexual references (such as “I love your body, so let’s go out on a date and have sex!”) or anger (such as “The boss is a jerk, a prick, I wish he were dead, I hope somebody kills him!”), since your e-mail might accidentally fall into the hands of the one person to whom you don’t want to show that message. Here’s the most important rule about e-mail messages:
When you tell the computer to send an e-mail message (by clicking the Send button, Reply button, or Reply All), the computer tries to transmit the message immediately. You cannot cancel the transmission easily, since there’s no “Undo button”.
If you try to wreck the transmission (by unplugging your modem or turning off your computer’s power), your computer will detect sabotage and overcome it: the next time you run your e-mail program, the computer will try again to transmit the wrecked message (by using a copy of the message that the computer keeps in your computer’s Outbox folder).
Since e-mail transmissions can’t be easily canceled, remember:
You’ll receive several kinds of e-mail messages. Some of those messages will help you (because they’re written to you by your friends or business acquaintances, or because they’re weekly or daily news bulletins that you requested from companies whose Web sites you visited).
But most of the e-mail messages you receive will be bad
e-mail that’s “a waste of your time to read” or “dangerous”.
10% of all e-mail contains viruses. A virus is a malicious program that tries to wreck your computer and automatically spread itself to other computers. Even if the e-mail claims to come from a friend you know, the e-mail can contain a virus (because your friend doesn’t know it contains a virus, or because the virus lied when it said it was from your friend — the virus could have just stolen your friend’s name and e-mail address).
Many viruses come in e-mail attachments.
The easiest way to avoid viruses is to buy an antivirus program. I explain viruses and antivirus programs on pages 189-199.
Even if you buy an antivirus program, you can’t completely relax, since new viruses keep getting invented. You must keep your antivirus program up-to-date, to make sure it can detect the newest viruses.
Some viruses are so powerful that they destroy antivirus programs. Some viruses even print their own fake messages saying “no virus found”.
You’ll get e-mails promising you’ll get rich quick — if you pay the sender first. If you’re stupid, you’ll pay the sender — then realize you’ve become poorer, not richer, since the sender gives you nothing worthwhile in return.
For example, in what’s called a multilevel marketing (MLM), you’ll be told you can get rich by selling products (such as pills or e-mailed reports) if you buy them first from the seller.
Another false road to riches is the Nigerian scam:
For a different scam, you’ll be told you won $3,000,000 in the Netherlands lottery (though common sense should tell you that you can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter and never even heard of), and you just need to pay a “transfer fee” to get your winnings transferred to you.
The Nigerian scam and the Netherlands-lottery scam are both examples of advance-fee scams, where you’re told you’ll get rich if you pay a fee first.
For more details about scams, go to www.crimes-of-persuasion.com, then click on “Nigerian Scam” (or others).
You’ll receive e-mail offering you something for free (such as a free digital camera, or a free screensaver, or a free pornographic look at nude women, or free access to not-quite-legally downloaded music). You say to yourself, “What can it lose? It’s free!” so you click yes.
That launches a barrage of ads upon you — through Web sites and through e-mails — trying to convince you to buy more. Many of the ads come in the form of adware and spyware. Page 190 explains how to cure them.
Oh yeah, about that “free” digital camera: you discover it’s terrible, and it will be “free” just after you buy lots of other stuff first. Misleading, huh?
Some of the e-mails pretend to be surveys, such as “Who should the next President be?” The survey doesn’t really care about your political opinion: it’s just collecting (harvesting) your e-mail address and other personal data about you, to sell to advertisers.
Most e-mails hawking pornography try to make you to visit a sexy Web site, full of nude women who try to get you to reveal your credit-card number and become a paying member. Other pornographic e-mails try to make you phone a sexy girl whose area code just happens to be in the Caribbean or Asia or Hong Kong or some other island that will give you a huge phone bill, whose profits go to a foreign phone company that secretly gives the scheme’s manager a cut.
You might receive an e-mail saying that the security department (of your bank, credit-card company, or employer) wants you to reenter your personal information (credit-card number, PIN number, social-security number, mother’s maiden name, etc.) to protect against fraud. At the bottom of the e-mail is a button to click to go to the Web site, where you enter the info.
But that Web site’s a fake: it’s really run by a crook who’s waiting for you to enter your personal info so he can steal your identity and credit-card info and buy things billed to you, then disappear before you realize you’ve been robbed and your credit history has been ruined.
Banks NEVER send e-mails asking you to reenter your account info. Such e-mails are always frauds.
Unsolicited and unwanted e-mail is called junk e-mail. It’s mass-produced and sent to millions of folks all over the world, using a technique called bulk e-mail. Junk e-mail is also called spam (because it spreads all over the Internet, just like Spam luncheon meat spread all over Europe during World War II). The person who sends it is called a spammer and said to be spamming.
In the USA, 90% of all e-mail is spam.
Internet service providers (such as Earthlink and AOL) complain that most of their equipment is now just handling spam. They’ve sued spammers for “trespassing”, and they’ve gotten some laws passed against spam. Remember:
If you’re trying to advertise a business, you’ll be tempted to send bulk e-mail (spam). It costs you nearly nothing, since Internet e-mail is free (unlike traditional mail, which costs 39¢ each, plus the cost of paper, plus the cost of putting labels onto all the envelopes). But since spam is associated with dishonest hucksters, sending spam can do your business’s reputation more harm than good.
To avoid wasting time reading spam, some people (and their employers and Internet providers) use spam filters, which automatically erase spam (or dump it into a “Spam” folder or put the word “SPAM” in the subject line). To decide which e-mails are spam, spam filters use 3 techniques: blacklists (lists of known spammers), whitelists (lists of friends who are not spammers), and Bayesian filters (lists of characteristics of spam).
But spammers evade the filters and get their spam to you anyway, by using these tricks:
Alas, spam filters reject valid mail that just looks like spam.
A hoax is just an e-mail message that contains a scary incorrect rumor and warns you to “pass the message to all your friends”.
The hoax is not a program; it’s just a document. Though it theoretically does “no harm”, actually it’s as harmful as traditional viruses, since it wastes your time, waste your friends’ time, embarrasses you (when you later discover the rumor is a lie and should be retracted), and creates a worldwide clogging of e-mail systems forced to transmit the rumor and retractions to millions of people.
Good Times In May 1994, people began sending each other e-mails spreading a rumor that if you receive a file called “Good Times”, don’t download it, because downloading it will erase your hard disk. The rumor was false: there is no “Good Times” virus.
The person who started the rumor knew it was false and started it as a prank. The rumor traveled fast and clogged e-mail systems all across the country, so the rumor itself became as annoying as a traditional virus.
The rumor gradually got wilder, and said that “Good Times” was an e-mail message, and just reading the message would erase your hard disk.
The rumor eventually became even more bizarre. Here’s an abridgement of the rumor’s current version:
Again, there is no Good Times virus, but the rumor of the virus is itself a kind of virus!
Bad Times In December 1997, inspired by the Good Times virus hoax, Joe Garrick (and later others) published a rumor about a “Bad Times” virus. Here’s the rumor’s newest version (abridged):
E-mail tax In April 1999, a rumor swept across Canada, by e-mail, saying the Canadian government would start charging 5¢ for each e-mail ever sent, to reimburse the Canadian postal service, which was losing money because people were sending e-mails instead of regular letters. The rumor was false, a prank.
The next month, a U.S. variant began, which said “U.S.” instead of “Canada”.
Here’s an abridgement of the rumor. [Brackets show where the Canadian and US versions differ.]
That rumor is entirely fiction. There is no “Bill 602P”, no “Tony Schnell”, no “Richard Stepp”, and no desire by postal authorities or newspapers for a surcharge.