Anti-spam app hindered by complexity


I generally like applications with an attitude — they understand their mission, and their makeup and design make no bones about the way they intend to accomplish it. I’m not, however, enamored of attitudinal applications that are difficult to configure and confusing to navigate. Regrettably, that pretty well sums up SpamX 3.0.2.

More than any other spam utility I’ve tried, SpamX focuses on combating spammers by offering extensive reporting options. The program can extract what it thinks is the originating address of the spam and report it to the originating ISP’s abuse address. Regrettably, it’s hard to tell how effective this is in either catching existing spam or preventing new spam. When I reported several dozen spam messages, I received at least a dozen confirmation and undeliverable mail messages, which just added to my inbox clutter.

While you’re not absolutely required to have a degree in computer science to use SpamX, it certainly wouldn’t hurt. This Java-based program is configured through a single window that incorporates eight menus (much like Windows applications). Options included in this window, such as Class B Match and Source Consistency, will confuse a lot of people, and the program’s Help menu isn’t very helpful — invoking it takes you to the SpamX Web site, which offers the barest instructions on how to set up the program.

SpamX can allegedly either act as a proxy server or deal with your POP server as an e-mail client would.

Regrettably, the proxy server setup doesn’t work with Apple’s Mail () or Microsoft Entourage 2004. If either of those is your mail client of choice, you’d use SpamX’s scheduling feature to download just your spam, rate it, delete it from the server, and then use your regular e-mail client to retrieve your good e-mail. SpamX doesn’t support IMAP accounts.

SpamX’s mode of operation is something of an intentional mystery. The program’s developer doesn’t wish to reveal how SpamX goes about its business, on the theory that doing so would help spammers defeat the program’s protection. The developer does say that SpamX doesn’t use statistical learning filters and doesn’t include strict blacklists, though it does allow you to block particular addresses (if someone you know is annoying you, for example). And the program will consult real-time black hole lists (collections of IP addresses of known spammers). You can also import and add contacts to a whitelist.

Macworld’s buying advice

While I admire JLS/JLSDevelopment’s desire to pull the plug on spammers via the program’s reporting features, and am impressed by the program’s spam-catching prowess, SpamX 3.0.2 is far more difficult and unpleasant to use than any spam utility should be. A good manual (one that tells you to not bother setting up a proxy for Mail or Entourage, for example) and a decent interface would go a long way towards making SpamX an acceptable option for Mac users.

[Christopher Breen is a senior editor at Macworld.]


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