by Lloyd A. de Vries
Vol. 36 - Preventing Internet Gibberish
You get a message from someone in e-mail, or are reading a message in a board somewhere, and suddenly your train of thought is derailed by “* or something equally incomprehensible.
How about this one from the technical specifications for a U.S. stamp? "Plate Numbers: “V” followed by four (4) single digits"
Welcome to the wide world of incompatibility.
Both Microsoft Word and Corel's WordPerfect use special codes for many of the symbols that we take for granted, even something as simple as an apostrophe.
Just as a Michel catalogue doesn't contain Scott catalogue numbers or vice versa, these two heavyweight word processors don't always cooperate.
Other Internet programs add to the problem: They may not recognize Word or WordPerfect's codes, turning a message into near gibberish.
Most of the time, I can figure out what the writer meant, and do a search-and-replace to get rid of each offending code. That first one above was supposed to be a double quote followed by the copyright symbol, I think. I don't have a clue what precedes those four (4) single digits, though.
There's a way to make sure the person receiving your message or file can read it without guessing: Save the file as plain text, a .txt file. That eliminates much of the proprietary code. Microsoft Word even gives you a warning that you're about to lose that coding.
Get rid of all the tabs (paragraph indents), too.
If you're using Word, go to Tools/AutoCorrect and go to both the AutoFormat and AutoFormat As You Type tabs, and uncheck everything. Those "smart quotes" (commonly called "curly quotes") are a particular compatibility problem. Then run search-and-replace (CONTROL-H) for the double quote mark (") and apostrophes ('), replacing them with themselves. Word then will automatically convert its Smart Quotes into straight quotes.
But your text, whether in an e-mail program or a message board, will look more smart after you do this.
The examples I cited above were caused by an incompatibility with a Web-based e-mail program, probably from a file that originated in Microsoft Word. A different Web-based e-mail program (AOL) confirms the first example was indeed meant to be a quote mark followed by the copyright symbol. It also revealed to me that it's "V" (a capital V between two quote marks) that is followed by "four (4) single digits."
The most common eBay spam scam is a pretty good fake. It looks just like a "Question from eBay Member" message at first.
It asks when you're going to pay for that item you won a few weeks ago, or when you're going to ship that item that the sender won. It implies or says outright that you're taking too long, and, by using what appears to be the official eBay "Question" form, it implies that the sender will complain to eBay if you don't click on the reply link RIGHT NOW and respond with a delivery date.
Of course, if you think for a moment, you'll notice that you don't sell eight-track players and you don't buy used chewing gum, or whatever the putative lots are.
A little further investigation � holding your mouse carefully above the reply URL to reveal what it really is, but NOT clicking on it � shows that the link doesn't go to eBay at all, but somewhere else.
Click on it, and instead of explaining why you never bid on used Pepsodent toothpaste tubes, you'll be wondering where your green went, because you've spent it fixing your computer or credit record.
There are something like 9 million ID thefts a year, each costing the victim an average of more than $500.
As with those spurious notifications that your account is about to be closed or suspended or turned into an asparagus stalk, log into eBay and go to the My eBay section. If there's a link for messages near the top, click on it and see if there really are any problems about your account. (If there's no link, you have no messages, and therefore no problems.)
The fake messages are good enough to fool my e-mail program's filter into putting them in my Auctions folder. I just hope they don't make the program's junk filter put real eBay messages into the junk folder.
I got a real Question via eBay the other day. I'd sent the wrong first day covers. The legitimate message didn't look half as good or as neat as the fakes!
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