PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2007, 12:00am

Will the new law improve the spam situation?

Martin Oei, an IT expert interviewed for the article on stopping spam ('IT expert calls for more action to stem the flood of junk messages', May 29), says that he spends 'nearly 30 minutes a day' deleting spam messages.

I would like to offer my own experience and highlight a problem with one internet service provider.

I used to find more than 500 spam messages a day in my inbox. Then I found Cloudmark Desktop, a subscription service available from for about HK$30 a month.

Their program installs on your personal computer and catches spam as it arrives. Using the collective input of all Cloudmark subscribers about what is and is not spam, it has proven over 90 per cent effective in separating spam e-mail from good e-mail. And in several years of use I have never had it block a real e-mail.

But because I travel and need to access my e-mail online in internet cafes - where Cloudmark can't reach it - I used to pay Netvigator HK$18 a month for their MailGuard service. Unfortunately, MailGuard never caught more than 70 per cent of spam e-mail, which meant that out of 500 spam, 150 were still getting through.

But then I remembered Google's Gmail, with its own spam filter. Right from the beginning, I found it was catching 93 per cent or more of spam e-mail.

On the road, that means a maximum of 35 junk e-mails a day, instead of 150. And at home, Cloudmark, which can scan my incoming mail as a second line of defence, catches 90 per cent of those 35, leaving me with three or four spam e-mails a day.

So solving the problem has two parts: finding the right software tools and urging ISPs to do better with their spam tools.

Netvigator has never offered a satisfactory reply as to why their fee-based MailGuard is so much less effective than the free Gmail service. Nor have they acknowledged my suggestion that Cloudmark is available for ISP servers. For HK$18 a month from hundreds or thousands of subscribers, they should be able to do better.

Gmail supports e-mail forwarding and no longer requires an invitation to join ( I recommend it as a free component of a total spam solution.

Don Ellis, Clear Water Bay

What do you think of students' English proficiency?

Agnes Chan (June 7) clearly has a better general understanding of the situation than I do.

That is why I am surprised she does not mention what I see as a major problem, possibly the most significant, in the teaching of English in Hong Kong: saving face. Since my son and daughter started school, almost all of the English homework set for them, and almost all of their English exam papers, have contained errors.

We have native English-speaking teachers (NETs) in most, if not all, state schools.

It would seem to me that one of their main tasks should be to correct the errors in English exam papers and teaching materials, but this does not happen, because they are not asked to do so - why?

I am not criticising the ability of Hong Kong-born teachers of English, but I do have a strong message for them: there is no shame in asking NETs for help in the language that they are here to help with, particularly as they - like me - probably do not speak Cantonese as well as you speak English, if at all!

My wife is a teacher. She is Hong Kong-born, has passed the English benchmark test but, occasionally and understandably, can use help in setting exam papers and producing teaching material.

It could be argued that she has an advantage because I have a good knowledge of the English language, but the important point is that she has no hesitation in using it: she asks me. Cantonese teachers of English in schools with NETs have, or should have, the same opportunity. They should be encouraged to use it.

Peter Robertson, Sai Kung

Does the city need a children's commission?

When the Middle Road Children's Playground and Wing On Plaza Garden were closed down to facilitate construction of the KCR Tsim Sha Tsui East station, I asked the KCR and various government departments why no measures were being put into place to mitigate the very negative effect the loss of local facilities would have on both children and the elderly.

I suggested that perhaps a floor of the Middle Road parking facilities be transformed into a temporary playground and that a series of day trips and outings be arranged.

The response was that my ideas were 'too progressive'! It is a very sad reflection on our city that a community with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world would not consider such measures to be essential when recreational facilities were being closed off for many years, especially when the project is a public development.

Mary Melville, Tsim Sha Tsui

What do you think of today's teens?

I feel that many of my fellow teenagers are becoming more lazy and depend too much on family and friends.

Many teenagers do no housework. All they have to do when they come home from school is finish their homework. However, they should be looking after younger brothers and sisters and helping to cook family meals.

In many families the teenager is an only child. This means the teen is often spoiled by his or her parents, becoming over-reliant on them. This is not good, because the teenager does not learn how to deal with any problems that arise.

Young people need to learn how to care for themselves and make their own decisions in life.

It is not good for them to be spoiled in this way, and it is this improved living environment that is making teens lazy. Cathy Wong, Sheung Shui

How can our work-life balance be improved?

It is all good and well talking about having a work-life balance, but I cannot see it taking off in Hong Kong.

Let us not forget that this city became rich through the exploitation of people. The colonial power exploited its subjects and when Hong Kong was a centre of manufacturing, local businessmen exploited mainland immigrants, using them as cheap labour.

Many workers are exploited by their bosses, so they exploit their helpers.

In Europe and the US, most members of the middle class take care of their own household chores and look after their children themselves because they can't afford to hire domestic helpers.

However, members of Hong Kong's middle class take it for granted that they can pay someone a meagre HK$3,400 to do all that, a full six days a week.

We decide that we don't have time for all that housework, we are too tired and there's a mahjong game waiting to be played.

The government is going to increase domestic helpers' wages by HK$80?

The response from the Employers of Domestic Helpers Association is that the employers can't afford that.

It never occurs to them that there is a logic to the phrase: 'If you can't afford it, you can't have it.'

If we can't get our heads around the idea that people do not exist to be exploited, how can we ever begin to even talk about having a work-life balance?

Ho Lai-kit, Mid-Levels

On other matters...

There has been some discussion of late, through these columns, about whether or not students in Hong Kong need to improve their manners.

I do not think it is necessary, at this stage in their lives, to try to force them to improve their manners.

They are young and those of us from an older generation should think back to when we were young.

They are criticised for focusing too much on their appearance and for spending too much time playing computer games.

When I was young, I remember seeing reports in newspapers in which we were criticised for spending too much time on romantic relationships and not enough time on our academic studies.

We should not force young people to change, but just be there for them, offering advice.

Young people are just lacking in experience and they will learn from the mistakes they make.

Derek Chan Kwun-ho, Ho Man Tin



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