Steve Alexander: Saving the world from spam

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER
  • Star Tribune
  • August 5, 2014 - 5:15 PM

Q: I’ve recently received hundreds of spam (junk e-mail) messages. I use my e-mail program to mark them as spam, then delete them. But I just get more spam in a few hours. What happens when I report these messages as spam, and is it worth doing?

Fred Bornhofen, Gilbertsville, Pa.

A: You’re always going to get some spam, because it’s impossible for any e-mail provider to detect and block all of the junk e-mail that floods the Internet every day. But reporting spam to your e-mail provider can help reduce the volume of junk e-mail.

Why? Your e-mail service provider uses spam reports to improve its blocking software, which searches for key words and other patterns to identify spam. Over time, this can reduce the amount of spam that you and others receive.

In addition, reporting spam can help your e-mail provider identify where much of the spam is coming from on any given day. Typically the source is another legitimate e-mail provider that has been lax in rooting out the spammers who use its system. Your e-mail provider may temporarily block all messages from the offending provider to prompt them to go after the spammers. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary solution because spammers quickly move on to new e-mail addresses in other e-mail systems.

So spam-blocking is an imperfect science. But by reporting spam, you’re helping to improve it.

Q: I do many things using the Microsoft Paint program that is part of Windows. But my eyesight is not what it used to be. Is there a way to change the color of the Paint cursor to make it easier to see?

Stanley Weidenhammer

Reading, Pa.

A: There’s no simple way to create a custom cursor specifically for Microsoft Paint. An alternative approach is to make the existing cursor larger using an accessory program called Magnifier that is included in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. (It’s also in Windows XP, but you shouldn’t be using that anymore because Microsoft has discontinued security updates for it.)

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Magnifier can be found by going to Start, choosing Control Panel from the menu on the right and choosing “Ease of Access Center.” (For Windows 8, see In the resulting menu, click “Start Magnifier.” A magnifying glass icon appears in the toolbar at the bottom of your screen.

Now start Microsoft Paint, and a magnifying glass will appear to be hovering over it. Click the magnifying glass, and on the resulting menu click the “plus” sign. This will make your Paint screen so large that you can’t see the work area, but you can move your cursor to the left and up to get back there. You’ll see that the Paint cursor is now twice as large.

To go back to normal screen size, click the magnifying glass and in the resulting menu click the minus sign. To close the Magnifier program, right-click the toolbar icon and click “close window.”

E-mail tech questions to steve.j.alexander@ or write to Tech Q & A, 425 ­Portland Av. S., ­Minneapolis, MN 55488. Include name, city and telephone number.

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