Internet Tools for Expatriates
Free Spam Filtering Service
brightmail.com provides an effective FREE spam filtering service for most POP3 mail accounts.
It doesn't work with web-based email like @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com,
and some corporate
firewalls may be incompatible.
With brightmail, you modify your POP3 host and username, and then when
you check your mail brightmail.com
retrieves it, filters out the spam, and gives only the
"good" mail to your email program. (Interestingly it doesn't take any
longer to check mail this way than the "normal" way.) Caught spam
is saved at brightmail.com. If you want to check your caught spam
to make sure no real mail was wrongly snagged (this has never happened to me),
you can either log into brightmail or it can send you an email
digest. Caught spam is kept for a decent interval (weeks/months) and
To use the service, sign up at http://www.brightmail.com/.
The signup procedure is not TOO obnoxious. If you use a common email
program like Outlook
or Eudora, brightmail.com automatically reconfigures your POP3 host and
username for you. Otherwise, it tells you to how to do it yourself. For
example, for email@example.com the POP3 host
became mail.brightmail.com and the POP3 username became news%bicn.com.
The POP3 password stays the same. You can sign up separately for each email address you
If you are an employee or spouse contemplating expatriation / repatriation,
check out The Centre for Global Assignments at http://www.contactCGA.com. Among
other things they publish several So You're Going Overseas workbooks that are
used by various multinational corporations.
Tropical Fax 1: Free US-Based Fax-to-Email
Faxing to Bangladesh from most places is expensive, and most fax machines
resent 98% humidity. And don't we just love those faded barely readable faxes
from yesteryear? Well, skip all that. Get a free private US-based fax number
I have been using mine for several months and it's a godsend. My North
American office pays about 10 cents a page (for the fax call) to send their
faxes quickly and reliably to my email inbox. I receive them as email
attachments that I can view, save, and print in the free efax viewer.
There is no catch, by the way. This is efax's freebie to publicize their
pay-for enhanced personal and corporate services. All you do is visit http://www.efax.com/
, sign up for your fax number, and download the efax viewer, which is quite
modest in size.
Tropical Fax 2: Email to Fax Service
You can also SEND faxes by email through the Internet ("email to
fax"). At the receiving end the result is the
same, which is that your fax comes out of the fax machine.
Here's why you might
want to do this, and how to get started.
The "why" is less cost and more convenience:
- Email-to-fax is cheaper than fax-to-fax for all international
faxes and some domestic faxes.
- Email-to-fax is more convenient for faxes
prepared on your computer, because you don't have to print a hard copy and then
babysit your fax machine while it tries to send it.
The "how" is to sign up with efax.com or htnet.net [no
longer online]. There are of
course other email-to-fax services but these are the best I've found so far.
Both efax.com and htnet.net rates are very competitive.
Efax.com's system has the advantage of being very slick (thank you alpha geek
Brent Berry for this info). It's integrated with MS-Office such that you can
send faxes right from inside MS-Word (no need to switch over to your email
program). The downside, for those who fax infrequently, is that efax.com posts a
minimum charge to your credit card every month, for as long as you have an
efax.com email-to-fax account, whether you sent any faxes that month or not.
Visit http://www.efax.com/ to sign up.
NB: Call me a nervous puppy, but I still NEVER email-to-fax or
fax-to-email files with my (scanned) signature. Unless PGP or other encryption
is used, every email, including email-to-fax and fax-to-email, crosses the Internet in the
clear and can be eavesdropped "on the fly" during
transmission, OR read later from any uncleared disk cache of computers along
the transmission chain that is hacked into. (No no no … human hackers don't
sit there and numb their brains reading masses of unsorted email hoping to find
something useful. Agent software is used to scan for goodies like credit
card numbers and fax files with signatures.)
How to Bangladesh- Proof Your Computer
Since I'm nerdier than many of you, and because I love you, and I KNOW
some of you are STILL having unprotected computing despite ILOVEYOU, Chernobyl,
and all the other bad things out there, can I just make a couple of motherly-nerdly
suggestions? This is what I am doing to protect myself, in order of priority:
- Get the grounding to earth checked at the power points BEFORE you plug in
any computer equipment.
- Always use a voltage regulator or uninterruptible power supply. In
Bangladesh this is basic. Keep in mind, however, that a voltage
regulator / UPS is designed to protect from "normal" line
noise. If the transformer on the street immediately outside your house
goes (BAM!), your computer is toast, VR/UPS or no .
- Run the highest level and most current virus checker software with
up-to-date virus datafiles. I use McAfee, which I bought and downloaded and
periodically update over the Net from http://www.mcafee.com. I don't think it matters which checker you
use. The point is to have a
virus checker installed; to update the engine and virus data files frequently
(weekly is good); and to keep it configured to
provide the highest level of protection.
- Write-protect the file normal.dot. This protects from MS-Word macro
- Back up key files frequently (at least weekly … a week's work is a
lot to lose). Depending on how motivated, organized, nervous, or
computer-dependent you are, you may want to have additional sets of backups
for everything, or just for critical projects/software, going back
further than one week.
- Make a static back up of your whole hard disk every 3-12 months (or at
critical points like after upgrading your operating system or purchasing and
configuring a new computer). This can be to a second hard disk, Zip drives,
tape backup, or CD writer - yours or borrowed. If your own backup hardware
won't handle a full disk backup, phone a local
computer company to come in and do it for you.