November 29th, 2004



One of my biggest peeves with PCs has always been installing internal drives. I hate internal drives. I hate jumpers. I hate dipswitches. I hate twisty ribbon cables which aren't instinctive as to how they connect, and which invariably aren't long enough. I hate small, cluttered cases with sharp metal corners. I hate how there's a dearth of places to mount your drives. I hate having to power off my computer to attach hardware, only to find out that something is wrong... and then having to guess whether it is a hardware problem, a cable problem, a jumper problem, a power problem, or any of the other random variables that PCs love to throw at you. Maybe I'm just too old to find the idea of wasting my time due to crappy design an interesting, novel learning experience anymore. (Did I say that my next computer will be a Mac?!)

In comparison, the Mac-blessed have had SCSI for pretty much forever... and now they have Firewire... and USB 2.0 (as opposed to slower PC-standard USB 1.1). If they want something, they plug it in to the outside of their computer, and it pretty much works. If they want to bring their stuff over to another computer, they pick it their drive, bring it over to another computer, and even boot off of it -- no jumpers required -- or they simply network the computers in question together. Note the emphasis on simply.

Somehow, none of this seemed like a particularly useful or important thing over in the PC world, I guess.

So, when I got a chance to get 160 GB of plug-n-play external drive goodness for only about $60 this weekend, I jumped at it. All that space. Music. Video. Even room to automatically download the latest bittorrent offerings. Sexah!

I held off on installation until after the weekend because I had noressa over and thought it would be too painful and time consuming...

Least. Painful. Install. Evar.

Data storage is love.

Make love not spam.

...though I generally dislike screensavers, and consider them an unnecessary burden and potential cause of conflicts on my computer. I like the idea of this one, and I have installed it.

The screensaver uses thousands of computers worldwide to drain the available bandwidth on spam sites, thereby making the use of spam less profitable. Lycos' screen saver "pulls its punches" however, so as to not DDOS the sites in question.

Yes, it's vigilante, and yes, it isn't the ideal solution... however, it's an idea that open source developers are bound to take even further and make significant improvements to, and I tend to believe that encouraging a lot of bright people to think up ways to hurt spammers is noble cause. Expect the inevitable open source solutions to be a whole lot more effective, clever, and generally less throttled than Lycos' attempts. In the meantime, using the screensaver is a little bit of payback and is worth supporting for the time being.

Technically, the software is only supposed to be available to Lycos' European users, but anyone can download and install it. Here are direct links to the software that avoid Lycos' ad pitch.

Direct download for Windows version.
Direct download for MacOS X version.
Direct download for MacOS 9 version.

Expect a fast-paced "running battle" as spammers and Lycos adjust their tactics, and as Open Source developers quickly enter the fray with their own solutions. Should be fun to see what happens. The fallout might be bloody. I guess we'll see...

***Update: Lycos' anti-spam screensaver is programmed in Shockwave Flash, which means that you can run it on a webpage. That means you can open several pages at this link and leave them running all the time, thereby nuking spammers in a quicker, more agressive manner. Excellent! ***