Archive for December, 2008

3. In what ways can you ensure that an attachment you send will be easily opened by the receiver?

Due to the various operating systems, platforms and software applications that could potentially be used to open an attachment you have sent, it is necessary to take the following precautions in order to maximise the chances of the recipient being able to open the file/s.

The attachment encoding should be set to MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) which is a default setting in most modern email applications when sending attachments.

The file format being attached is another issue to be considered. Issues can arise when there are differences in the sender and recipient’s:

  • – Computing platform (eg. Windows vs. Mac, Linux vs. Windows)
  • – Software Applications (eg. MS Word vs. OpenOffice)
  • – Character Encoding (Language Differences)

A common non-compatibility example is Microsoft’s OpenXML format, identifiable by the relatively new file extensions (“.docx”, “.xlsx”, “.pptx”). Users of older Microsoft Office applications must update their software to be able to open these newer documents, and in some cases, where a Mac user is concerned (using some versions of Mac OS 10.4 or earlier), the files cannot be opened at all. In this situation, it may be a smart move to convert the document to PDF format prior to sending, since PDF reading applications (most notably Adobe Reader) are commonly pre-installed on modern computers.

The audience (your recipients) must be taken into account when sending attachments. Are they experienced computer users? Are there any cultural differences with regards to the appropriateness of the attachment? Are they likely to have the software required to read the attached file/s? It is a good idea to attach files the recipient is likely to be familiar with as this will most likely improve the chances that they will actually open the file.

4. What sorts of filters or rules do you have set up, and for what purpose?

Since the email account I have set up is specifically for this exercise, I have created a rule as an example, which sorts any incoming mail from the Gmail admin team (basically any sender with a “google.com” domain) into a folder labeled “Gmail Admin Messages”. Of course, as further needs arise I can create more of these rules. I love this feature of Outlook!

Some of the Rule options available in Outlook 2007

Some of the Rule options available in Outlook 2007

5. How have you organised the folder structure of your email and why?

My test email account is very basic – however I have organised one of my other personal email accounts with a folder setup that helps improve my email handling efficiency. As an example, it is setup with folders such as “Travel”, “Receipts”, and several folders related to services I regularly receive email from such as traffic tolls, internet service provider, frequent flyer account, and so on. With these folders I can quickly file away statements and newsletters and know exactly where to find that information should it be required in the future. If I needed to run a search, I could quickly drill down to this folder level, rather than search through the whole account.

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Module 2 – Email Task 2

2. In what cases would you find it useful to use the ‘cc’, ‘bcc’ and ‘reply all’ functions of email?

CC (Carbon Copy):
The ‘cc’ email function is useful when an email being sent to a recipient may also hold some informational value, or interest, though most likely to a lesser extent than that of the main recipient. Including your own email address (whether it be the same as the sending address or otherwise) can be useful as a form of reminder.

BCC (Blind Carbon Copy):
One of the most clever aspects of email is the ‘bcc’ function although it probably isn’t used as commonly as the ‘cc’ function. This ‘blind’ function allows a recipient to be included but without other recipients knowing. There are two situations where this is particularly useful; when sending to a large volume of recipients it is good netiquette to hide everyone’s addresses using this method, and when dealing with sensitive situations where it is a good idea to include a hidden recipient (perhaps a superior staff member or co-worker in a work situation) who is then aware of the situation and how you have handled it.

Reply All:
The ‘reply all’ function is especially useful for when a group email has been sent out but omits an essential detail which must then be sent to all original recipients. This function is also useful if emails are being used to organise a meeting or gathering, since the recipients can reply to all and everyone then knows who will be attending, or not.

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1. What information about a user’s email, the origin of a message, and the path it took, can you glean from an email message?

To most people, an email contains the usual information displayed by your average email application; sender, receiver, subject, message body, and so on, yet each email contains much more data.

Each email message contains metadata known as “headers”, containing information such as the IP addresses involved in the email “transaction”, the type of content included (for example, plain text, multipart or by attachment type) and the original arrival time to name a few.

Tip: Microsoft Outlook 2007 allows you to view the email headers by right-clicking an email in your Inbox and selecting Message Options. By looking at the header data you can gather an idea as to where it originated from.

An example of email headers (addresses censored)

An example of email headers (addresses censored)

Email headers are not immune to hackers. I have had to take precautions when writing code for websites (primarily PHP) to ensure steps are taken to prevent hackers (and botnets) from injecting false headers into email messages. Many website forms actually send the data you submit via email, and if the data is not validated correctly, a window of opportunity presents itself to hackers who can then insert additional headers and/or content. For example, a poorly designed form may have the potential to deliver spam to thousands (or more) of email addresses by a hacker who injects a header containing additional email addresses. I’ve simplified the scenario but it gives you an idea of the vulnerabilities that can be present. An example and detailed explanation of PHP header injection can be found here.

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In order to attempt the email tasks in Module 2, I’ve decided to set up a Gmail account. I have Microsoft Outlook 2007, so rather than use the Gmail web interface I’ve hooked up Gmail to Outlook using the IMAP protocol which keeps everything synchronised nicely.

To do this I found a help article about setting up a Gmail account in Outlook 2007.

GmailMicrosoft Outlook 2007

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Traceroute provides a fascinating insight into the paths which internet page queries take via various paths around the globe.

Interestingly, a recent edition of The Age reported that several underwater telephone and internet cables had been damaged, prompting me to think that this would impact on the traceroute results, especially since one of the cables links 33 countries (The Age, 2008).

TraceRoute to [curtin.edu.au]

Hop  (ms)  (ms)  (ms)     IP Address  Host name
1  11  6  6    -
2  7  6  6
3  7  6  6  ge-2-0-0.mpr2.dfw2.us.above.net
4  12  13  11  so-1-1-0.mpr4.iah1.us.above.net
5  42  42  42  so-1-1-0.mpr4.lax9.us.above.net
6  44  43  42    -
7  193  192  193  so-4-0-0.bb1.b.syd.aarnet.net.au
8  214  223  233  so-2-0-0.bb1.a.mel.aarnet.net.au
9  223  223  222  so-2-0-0.bb1.a.adl.aarnet.net.au
10 25 254  249  so-0-1-0.bb1.a.per.aarnet.net.au
11  250  250  249  gigabitethernet0.er1.curtin.cpe.aarnet.net.au
12  251  250  249  gw1.er1.curtin.cpe.aarnet.net.au
13  Timed out  Timed out  Timed out         -
14  Timed out  Timed out  Timed out         -
15  Timed out  Timed out  Timed out         -
16  256  262  257  -
Trace complete

Result: The traceroute above indicates 16 hops were taken to travel from the http://network-tools.com site to curtin.edu.au

The average time taken was just over 1.7 seconds. The IP address of the hostname is curtin.edu.au is identified as: I used the Ping utility on the http://network-tools.com site to ping the curtin.edu.au address. This took roughly the same time (averaged over 10 pings) of 253.1 ms.

I attempted to traceroute the curtin.edu.au address from my computer but initially received the following problem:


Tracing route to over a maximum of 30 hops
1     2 ms    <1 ms    <1 ms  mygateway1.ar7 []
2    18 ms    17 ms    17 ms  meb4.ba.optusnet.com.au []
3    17 ms    17 ms    18 ms  meb4-unk1-447.gw.optusnet.com.au []
4    19 ms  mygateway1.ar7 []  reports: Destination protocol unreachable.
Trace complete.

It turned out my firewall was preventing a successful traceroute call so after adjusting the firewall settings, a positive traceroute result was achievable.


Tracing route to over a maximum of 30 hops
1    <1 ms    <1 ms    <1 ms  mygateway1.ar7 []
2    18 ms    17 ms    17 ms  meb4.ba.optusnet.com.au []
3    16 ms    17 ms    17 ms  meb4-unk1-447.gw.optusnet.com.au []
4    18 ms    19 ms    19 ms  sun2-ge12-0-0-821.gw.optusnet.com.au []
5    18 ms    19 ms    17 ms  sun5-unk8-1.gw.optusnet.com.au []
6    18 ms    19 ms    19 ms
7   200 ms   202 ms   102 ms
8    64 ms    64 ms    63 ms
9    64 ms    64 ms    64 ms  AARNET.o6ssc76fe.optus.net.au []
10    64 ms    64 ms    64 ms  ge-1-0-3.bb1.a.per.aarnet.net.au []
11    63 ms    64 ms    64 ms  gigabitethernet0.er1.curtin.cpe.aarnet.net.au []
12    68 ms    65 ms    63 ms  gw1.er1.curtin.cpe.aarnet.net.au []
13     *        *        *     Request timed out.
14     *        *        *     Request timed out.
15     *        *        *     Request timed out.
16    65 ms    65 ms    66 ms
Trace complete.

The average time taken was less than a second from my computer to curtin.edu.au. The two traceroute calls made the same number of hops, which I found unusual since I thought being in Australia, my computer would take less hops to reach the curtin.edu.au address.

Next time I can’t reach a site, I’ll be using traceroute and/or ping to check whether it’s down or if it’s just me!


Web partially restored after cable cut, 21 December 2008, viewed 21 December 2008, <http://www.theage.com.au/news/technology/web/web-partially-restored-after-cable-cut/2008/12/21/1229794224240.html>.

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Module 1 – FTP

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is an Internet tool I use daily within my day job. Whilst FTP is a straightforward concept – that is, transferring files to and from a server – it is such a powerful tool that I can only imagine how difficult life would be without it!

I have used FTP clients such as Fetch and Transmit on the Mac platform previously, but my favourite is FireFTP, a Firefox extension that allows you to perform FTP transfers from within the browser. I’ve also written applescripts which upload and download material from FTP sites either automatically or on an ad hoc basis.

For this task I installed the FileZilla client on Windows XP.

The Filezilla Interface

The Filezilla Interface

Task: According to the README file located on the FTP site identified in the task: CAPITALIZATION MATTERS.

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Telnet was not something I was familiar with prior to this task, although it does appear to be something which I may have unknowingly used back in school when computers networks were still relatively raw.

The PuTTY interface
The PuTTY interface

I decided to undertake this task on a PC running Windows XP and found that it took a little bit of effort to locate a Telnet client. It appears that Vista comes with an install link of some sort to get Telnet set up. Using XP however, I found telnet was accessible using a utility called HyperTerminal – already installed, but I wanted to try telnet using a more “user-friendly” interface. I settled with PuTTY a telnet/SSH client. The interface was surprisingly easy to use, considering I was expecting something quite primitive given the simplicity of the PuTTY website.

Telnet was relatively easy to use. I would actually prefer to use this for my local library since their website can be a little problematic in my experience – unfortunately they don’t appear to offer it (perhaps due to the more secure options now available). The ability to email search results was a handy feature although I’m unsure I would use it in a real life scenario, as was the ability to drill down to in depth details of a particular library item.

The Deakin Library Telnet Interface
The Deakin Library Telnet Interface
Search Results for author: Bennahum

The Telnet animation at the address towel.blinkenlights.nl was a clever use of Telnet but in this day of high tech animation it didn’t hold my attention long enough to watch it all the way through. Once upon a time it may have been ground breaking, providing an example of how alternative thinking can cause breakthroughs in technology usage. Innovative thoughts like the blinkenlights example show how not all potential uses for an application are obvious at first look.

A still image from the blinkenlights animation
A still image from the blinkenlights animation

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