Don't click links in emails unless you're really confident that they're genuine. And when in doubt, don't click: copy the link and examine it in a text editor.
For example, today I received an email that looked genuine and kind of inviting. It seems to come from a real person; at least the sender field displays a real-sounding name. And the content of the email makes it sound like something is being offered that I'm supposed to be interested in. Here's a screen capture of the email.
I don't know who this sender is. In itself, that doesn't of course mean that this message is spam or worse, a phishing expedition. After all, I get email from strangers all the time. But it puts me on my guard, just as I'm on my guard when I answer a knock at the door and see someone outside that I don't recognize. What really made me nervous about this message, though, was its content. It doesn't say anything I expect to hear in an email from a stranger.
And what about that link? It must be secure, right? It starts with "https", meaning it's a secure layer. Well, no. It's important to understand that every link has two parts: the wrapper, and the actual link content. The outside or packaging of this link looks good. But that's just packaging. It can lie. What matters is the link that's embedded inside the wrapper. That's invisible. For example, consider this:
It looks like it's going to take you to a page on Apple's website where you can get a free iPhone. But instead it takes you back to this page of the Rucksack blog. Sorry to disappoint you, but at least my example link doesn't download malware to your computer.
What can you do about this? Right-click the suspicious link and select "Copy Link" or "Copy URL". Then paste the clipboard into a text editor and look at it.
When I copied the suspicious link from "Ms Rice" into my text editor, it turned out not to be a Dropbox link at all, but something else. I don't know what: It might be a page that tries to download malware to my computer. It might be a page that tries to steal info from my computer. Or it might simply be a page used to verify my email address: verified email addresses are more valuable to spammers. All I need to know is that I was lied to.
I marked the message as spam in Gmail and moved on.
John Gruber at Daring Fireball links today to this old video introducing HyperCard, featuring Bill Atkinson. If you know your Apple/Mac history at all, you know Atkinson's name. He's one of the Mac Immortals.
I was among the very first HyperCard users in the country and was a member of the original HyperCard Users Group. Did a lot with HyperCard, including a complete first year course in the Latin language. (This was back in my days as a professor.)
When it was clear HyperCard wasn't going to have a future, I committed to FileMaker Pro. That was around 2002. But I still miss HyperCard. It could do things that I still can't do in FileMaker, at least not nearly as easily. I've never quite forgiven Apple for killing HyperCard and don't understand why they did.
My wife got me temporarily hooked on Mad Men. I say "temporarily" because I'm giving up on Don Draper. His wife gave up on him years ago, and I was never as attracted to him as his wife was. Anyway, while watching Mad Men, I caught ads for the new show Halt and Catch Fire, a fictional drama about a computer startup in the early 1980s in Dallas. I didn't get deeply involved with computers until 1985, but I remember those times pretty well. So I was intrigued.
I'm no longer intrigued. The first episode is your typical American television Hollywood crap. Frankly, the show made me angry.
One thing that makes me angry is the absurd Hollywood characterization of the Texas tycoons. I'm pretty sure they have a database that they pull these clichés from, since it's clear no human being with talent got anywhere near this writing. I'm talking about the guy who walks into the eighty-second floor penthouse in his cowboy boots, scratches his crotch, spits on the Persian rug, then yells "Shit, son, if you fuck this up, they ain't never gonna find your body!" And it's not just the characterization of the Texans. The show is one big derivative cliché.
And what's really disappointing is, it doesn't represent the drama and excitement of the computer world at that time well at all. To do this would require a lot more restraint than anybody in Hollywood has ever had. You'd need a writer who's male (because this is a masculine story, in good part) and really smart, and ideally, one who's also a serious fan of Jane Austen. Why the need for restraint? Because the drama here is so cerebral. Halt and Catch Fire gives us the superficial pseudo-drama of people yelling and cursing and throwing the furniture and having room-wrecking sex with perfect strangers: the high-fructose corn syrup sweeteners used in American television's junk-food dramas. But the real drama of that time was largely intellectual. You want to read a good story, really well told, about that era, read Tracy Kidder's classic, The Soul of a New Machine.
I agree with the review of Halt and Catch Fire on Rolling Stone's site today.
'Halt and Catch Fire' Recap: Abort, Retry, Fail?
Except I think the Rolling Stone reviewer is too kind.
William Porter is Rucksack's owner and principal. He's been writing on a range of tech subjects for three decades. Yikes!