Use caution with 'vacation' messages

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

Q. I would like to have my Yahoo! Mail automatically notify anybody who tries to contact me at home that I’m on vacation next week. How can I do that?

A. Before I explain how that can be accomplished, I would encourage you not to use that type of auto-generated “I’m on vacation” message for several reasons. First, that type of message will be generated in response to any mail you receive, whether from a legitimate advertiser or a spammer, x-rated product or service, or anything else that slithers into your Inbox. Your response will confirm to spammers that your address is valid, which makes your address more valuable to other spammers.

While you're away, you may receive messages that request a response in order to sign up for something or send you more junk. Those are called "opt-in" messages and any response from you -- auto-generated or not -- to an unscrupulous sender may be sufficient to start the ball rolling on something with which you wouldn't want to be associated.

Using an auto-responder message from a home PC also has the potential of creating an endless loop that can swamp your ISP's mail server and, taken to extremes, cause it to terminate your account. For example, let’s say you receive an email advertisement and your auto responder sends your “I’m on vacation” message. Your auto-generated email may trigger an acknowledgment or confirmation from a less-than-sophisticated sender. The acknowledgment sent back to your email address will trigger yet another one of your "I'm on vacation" messages, which may result in yet another auto-generated acknowledgment, and on and on it goes, with two auto-responders firing off messages to each other and flooding your mail provider's system.

If people who try contact you while you're away do not receive a reply, they will conclude that you're away from your computer. Not a big deal. If there are a few significant people in your life who need to know you'll be away, email them directly or give them a call and let them know. From a security standpoint, it’s never a good idea to notify the general public that you’re going to be away.

Having said all that, if you choose to ignore my sage wisdom and advice, to compose a vacation response using Yahoo! Mail, click Options > Mail > Options, then the Vacation Response link in the left frame. Next, select your Start and Stop dates, compose your response message, then click the “Turn Auto-Response On” button.

Q. Is there some way I can delete certain files without having to send them to the Recycle Bin first? Thanks, Mr. M.

A. If you delete a file that you absolutely, positively know you’ll never need again, you can circumvent the Recycle Bin by first clicking to select the file, then holding down the SHIFT key and pressing the DELETE key. Windows will confirm that you want to perform this irreversible, life-altering action. If you agree, the file will be vaporized at that point, without taking up residence in the Recycle Bin.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

Early Office Museum
Computers, faxes, and email are a normal part of any modern office, but here you can turn back the hourglass and learn about life and technology in late 19th and early 20th Century offices.

Museum of Yo-Yo History
As long as we’re visiting museums, let’s not miss the most comprehensive resource of historical memorabilia and information related to the universally popular Yo-Yo. Lots of photographs of vintage Yo-Yi (plural) and historical information about the invention of the Yo-Yo, as well as tips for dedicated collectors.

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