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Spammers Outfox Blocking Command


Question: I'm running Windows 2000 Pro. When I use the Block Sender command, it does not block the sender. Apparently the From designation on the spam message is not where it's actually from, rendering the Block Sender command meaningless.

Is there a way to determine the true From designation and block it?

Answer: The short answer is no. But it's a little more complicated than that.

Spammers usually create a bogus return address, because most Internet service providers don't allow people to send spam. Irate recipients of spam tend to drop electronic bombs on ISPs that send it.

It's possible to look at the e-mail headers and determine the true source of e-mail, regardless of whether the return address has been spoofed or not, but that's not a process that will help you with the Block Sender function.

Q: I own a Compaq Presario 1700 with a DVD player. I'd like to hook it up to my 27-inch TV so I can watch DVDs there instead of on the 15-inch notebook screen. What is the easiest, cheapest way to do this?

A: Just a few months ago we'd have suggested getting a video card with TV output and installing that in your computer at a cost of $75 or less.

But this can be a daunting task for somebody who's never cracked the case on a computer before. Plus, depending on where the computer is, you'll probably have to string cable to the TV set.

These days, however, the easiest and cheapest way to do it is to buy a DVD player. Several models are on the market for well under $100.

Q: I have a friend who has a computer that is 5 or 6 years old. She is concerned that the battery is dying.

Can she prevent this? If her battery dies, is her computer a total loss?

A: If the battery dies, your friend will have a lot of problems. It's best to correct this now.

Although the internal battery can be replaced by a layperson, it's probably best to let a technician handle this chore.

If you want to try this yourself, however, the friendly geeks at Q&A labs will give you an abbreviated how-to.

First, make backups of your data. Then note your computer's settings by writing them down on a piece of paper. You can usually get to the Settings screen by hitting a key when the computer is starting up. Replace the battery, reboot, go back into Settings, make sure the configuration matches your original, and you should be done.

Use extreme caution, however, or you could be left with a dead box.

Q: I have just purchased a new computer with an XP system and I was wondering if it is open to hackers. If so, what can I do to prevent that?

A: Microsoft's new XP system has a number of serious security problems right out of the box, so the first thing you'll need to do is visit the company's Web site and download whatever software "patches" are available to plug the holes.

Like all operating systems, any computer connected to a network is vulnerable to attack. You'll want to set up a firewall, which will block many types of intrusion. And you'll want to make sure you're running some kind of anti-virus software that's updated frequently.

And finally, avoid opening e-mail attachments. It's still the most common way outsiders get access to a computer.


Dave Wilson is The Times' personal technology columnist. Submit questions to Tech Q&A at Please be specific about your computer and operating system and include a daytime phone number.

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