August 21, 2003

Dear Outlook users: Please remove me from your address books

- By Robin 'Roblimo' Miller -
I'm tired of your email viruses. While they don't directly affect my Linux system, the file sizes are huge and slow down my email. And those of you with "a virus has been detected in your email" autoresponder programs are the worst of all. No, I didn't send you a virus. One of your Windows buddies did. You are tying up my bandwidth for no good reason. Stop it!

I have written before about the silliness of using Windows and Outlook or its cut-down cousin Outlook Express on computers attached to the Internet. I don't have anything against people who want to use Windows; it is undisputed fact that there are more games available for Windows than for any other operating system, and there are also many fine applications programs for Windows that have not yet been ported to Linux.

So fine. Use Windows. But please don't connect to the Internet while you have it running, especially if you have that Outlook thing installed, because unless you are willing to constantly update your virus protection, you are the computer equivalent of Typhoid Mary.

Mary Mallon never showed active typhoid fever symptoms. She was an unwitting disease carrier who, through her work as a cook, made other people sick, to the point where some of them died.

When New York health department officials quarantined Mary, she protested that she was being treated unfairly; that she was not a criminal and had done nothing wrong. Eventually she was released, under legal and public pressure, after promising that she would not work as a cook so that she could not spread the disease she had unfortunately contracted.

Except Mary didn't keep her promise. She went back to cooking under a false name, and more people got sick and more died. This time she could not claim she didn't know she was a disease carrier. Indeed, it's possible she was making people sick on purpose as revenge for her period of isolation.

Mary was quarantined again, and remained in medical custody for the rest of her life. Because she had returned to cooking and knowingly made others sick, this time around she got absolutely no public sympathy, and no friendly lawyers argued that she was being held unfairly.

Now about you Windows users...

Perhaps you don't know your computers are sick. Perhaps you don't know you are sending emails with giant file attachments to people who have never done you any harm, and that your computer is putting false "from" addresses on those emails.

The Sobig-F virus Windows people are currently spreading gets both "to" and "from" addresses from address books on the infected computers.

This virus is supposedly the fastest-spreading one ever, but it's a near-certainty that another one will come along at some point that takes over that title. There always seems to be another Windows virus or worm out there, ready to screw things up for all Internet users, even those of us courteous enough not to use Windows.

I am willing to accept the fact that many people feel they must have Windows. All I ask, if you are one of those people, is that you act in a responsible manner and don't connect to the Internet while you use it, and that even if you are compelled by some devil to use Windows while on the Net, you use an email program other than Outlook -- and never, ever open an email attachment no matter how innocent it may appear to be, even if it looks like it came from your best (Windows-using) friend or closest (Windows-using) relative.

Or, failing that basic act of good citizenship, please remove my email address from your hard drive. That will at least keep me from wasting bandwidth downloading your viruses, and save me from those glub-darned autoresponder emails -- which also contain the full attachment -- generated by anti-virus programs that are fooled by fake "from" addresses in virus-induced emails.


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