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Q & A
The Daily Fight Against Spam

By J. D. BIERSDORFER
Published: March 1, 2007

Q. I made the mistake of filling out a survey online, and ever since I have spent 10 to 15 minutes a day adding addresses to my "block senders" list. Is there any way I can block all of these at once and report them to some entity?

A. Fighting spam can be a daily battle for many people, especially because those who send junk mail are constantly finding new methods of delivering unsolicited messages.

There are several approaches to cleaning up your mailbox, including buying a third-party spam-filter program, which is often included now in many Internet security software suites. Other defenses against in-box invasion include using a mail program with a built-in junk-mail filter or subscribing to a service that culls spam from your legitimate messages.

Using a spam-screening service may require you to get a new e-mail address — or ask your correspondents to verify their identities by quickly filling out an online form before their messages can get through — but this approach can almost eliminate junk mail because any unapproved sender is blocked.

ChoiceMail (www.digiportal.com/choicemail.html) is one company that offers this sort of permission-based e-mail, and there are links and reviews to several similar mail-screening systems at spamlinks.net/filter-cr.htm.

Using a separate spam filter with or within your mail program can trap a lot of unsolicited messages in a Junk Mail box, but may require some fine-tuning on your part as the program learns what you consider spam. These types of spam filters tag suspected junk mail and can usually reroute spam into its own separate mailbox for easy mass deletion.

If you find a piece of legitimate mail has been caught in the spam filter (or a piece of junk has wiggled through), you typically just have to select the message and tag it yourself as wanted or unwanted so the filter remembers what to do the next time it encounters a similar message.

As for reporting spam, the Federal Trade Commission has advice for consumers at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/inbox.htm.

The Hidden Life of Inactive Icons

Q. What is Windows XP doing when it offers to hide my "inactive" icons?

A. In an attempt to tidy up the notification area on the right side of the Taskbar (also known as the system tray), Windows XP tries to tuck any unused program icons out of sight. You can quickly see all your icons by clicking on the arrow on the left side of the notification area.

If you'd rather see what's in the notification area without having to click around, you can change the Taskbar properties. Right-click in the notification area and select Properties from the menu. Click the Taskbar tab, remove the check in the box next to "Hide inactive icons," and then click Apply and O.K.

Burning CDs in iTunes

Q. I can't burn iTunes Store songs to CD, even though Apple says you can — I get error messages or the Burn CD button won't work. How do you make a CD from purchased music?

A. According to Apple, you can burn the same playlist containing tracks purchased from iTunes Store up to seven times to an audio CD. You can't convert your purchases to other audio formats, so you'll probably get an error message if you try to burn a playlist with iTunes Store songs to an MP3 CD instead of a regular audio CD.

The iTunes program lets you record three types of discs: standard audio CD, an MP3 CD and a data CD or DVD. Audio CDs are meant to play in most compact disc players, while the MP3 discs play hours of tunes in the MP3 format but need a compatible player. The data discs you can record with iTunes are meant for file backup and storage.

You choose what type of disc to burn in the iTunes preferences area. For the Windows version, go to the Edit menu to Preferences; click on the Advanced tab and then on the Burning tab to select your disc type. On the Mac version, go to the iTunes menu to Preferences, and then click on Advanced and Burning.

If you want to record a disc containing iTunes Store purchases, make sure you select the Audio CD option. The songs you want to record also need to be part of a playlist within iTunes. (The playlist options are under the program's File menu.) Once you create your playlist, you should be able to click the Burn CD button or choose the "Burn Playlist to Disc" option under the program's File menu. J. D. BIERSDORFER

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