Bits & P.C.s: SPAM, Microsoft updates, taxes, and an apology

Bits & P.C.s: SPAM, Microsoft updates, taxes, and an apology

By Richard Heller

I recently received an e-mail from a reader of this paper asking me to help him obtain e-mail addresses so he could send unsolicited e-mails, or SPAM, to other Internet users. I replied that I would be unable to help him and explained that what he was going to do would be a violation of the terms of agreement with his Internet service provider (ISP) and may actually be in violation of state and/or federal laws.

Some ISPs have filed lawsuits against spammers to recover some of the expense incurred with handling the large volume of unsolicited e-mail. I have heard of instances where an ISP has accused someone of spamming when they have done nothing more than e-mail a club newsletter to other members of the club.

Microsoft recently released updated versions of its Windows Media Player and DirectX 9. DirectX is the technology that allows graphics-intensive programs, such as games, to access the advanced features of your video and sound card. By utilizing DirectX, companies can produce games that will run optimized on each computer without the company having to own one of every video and sound card in existence.

Windows Media Player allows you to download video and music from the Internet, transfer your music collection over to the wma compression format, and organize your multi-media files. The new version offers new features, such as improved compression of files (which means they take up less space on your computer) and increased audio quality. Both of these updates are available for free download from the Microsoft Web site.

Wal-Mart, Marshall Fields, Target, Toys R Us and Mervyns have all voluntarily started to charge state sales tax on Internet purchases. The companies are among the first in the nation to collect sales taxes from online shoppers across the country, not just shoppers who live in the states where the companies maintain actual stores or distribution centers.

So far, 38 states have arranged an amnesty deal whereby they agreed to absolve the retailers from any liability for taxes not previously collected on Internet sales.

Last week, I reported a rumor that DirecTV’s satellite Internet service was going to be shut down. This was in error and I would like to correct the story.

Hughes Electronics Corporation is the company that owns DirecTV, the satellite television service. They also own DirecWAY, the satellite Internet service and DirecTV DSL, the DSL Internet service. Their press release from their Web site reads: “El Segundo, Calif., and Cupertino, Calif., December 13, 2002- Hughes Electronics Corporation today announced that its subsidiary, DIRECTV Broadband, Inc., would close its high-speed Internet service business in approximately 90 days and work toward transitioning existing customers to alternative service providers.”

As you can see, this is somewhat confusing. What they have done, or are in the process of doing, is closing down the DSL portion of their business and not the satellite TV or Internet service. I apologize for any confusion that I may have caused.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail:

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