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4 January 2000

"The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean: false. It's all lies -- but they're entertaining lies, and in the end, isn't that the real truth? The no."
-- Leonard Nimoy introducing the Simpsons episode where Mulder & Scully show up

I'm not at all familiar with the Viridian Movement, so I can't comment on their goals, but here author Bruce Sterling notes a nifty bug in Microsoft Outlook:

  • Note 125: The Viridian Movement Officially Begins []
    ...people unwise enough to use "Microsoft Outlook" cannot read the entire "Manifesto of January 3, 2000." That's because one line of the text happens to begin with the word "begin," followed by two spaces. When Microsoft Outlook sees this, it interprets everything that follows as an attachment.

    I'll bet you didn't know that you could blind Microsoft Outlook readers merely by placing the innocuous term "begin" in a text, thus giving a preferential advantage to readers who spurn Microsoft products. Now you know this. I hope you don't put your newfound powers to any sinister use.

I've seen something similar happen because of other plain-text strings that Outlook 'helpfully' misinterprets (can't recall what it was just now, sorry). Give me Eudora or Pine, or any other sensible mail client!

Along this same line: using HTML in e-mail meant for humans, which some folks keep advocating, is pretty much always a poor choice. It makes so many assumptions about the device and client program that are going to receive the mail, and not only are many folks not using the 'right' e-mail client (even if they're in the same organization!), a lot never will. So, those recipients have to go to great lengths to decode from many lines of HTML what was often just a sentence or two. PITA.

Here's a nice little rule of thumb to remember: everything that handles e-mail handles plain text well, even cell phones, WebTV, and pagers. Except, apparently, Outlook in certain rare cases. On the other hand, a minority of e-mail clients handle HTML well. So, use plain text!

Using HTML in your e-mail is a good way to keep your message from being read and understood; I'm finding that I rarely bother any more to even read messages which obscure their content that way.

Outlook Express for Windows, by the way, defaults to using HTML-formatted e-mail. When I explained it to my folks after helping Dad to fix it, they said "well, why would they do that?" All I can do is shrug.

My guess is, there's a required number of poorly-chosen default settings in every Microsoft program. Lord knows there are plenty in Windows itself.

James "the Amazing"Randi has a website:

Drove home yesterday from a delightful few days in Chicago with geek friends. Didn't realize there was a tornado lurking nearby:

Out of time, more soon, including the overdue color change.

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