Monthly Archives: March 2013

Preventing Scam or Fraud Warnings for Email Newsletters

Some email clients like Thunderbird will sometimes show a scam warning message on emails which appear to be normal and not suspicious. The Thunderbird warning is two-part: first an inline message “This message may be a scam, and second a modal dialog which appears when you click on any link in the email. Combined this could be worrisome for users who aren’t sure what the warning means.

I’ve been seeing this more frequently lately with email newsletters. The most common cause is link tracking added by the newsletter delivery vendor (MailChimp, Tinyletter, etc.). The scam warning will come up whenever the displayed text link does not match the embedded hyperlink. It’s mean to detect phishing attacks where the displayed text may say “paypal.com”, but the link actually goes to “evilsite.com”.

For example, this link will cause the warning:

<p>Visit our home page: <a href="http://mailchimp.com/track/xyz...">http://example.com</a></p>

Instead the problem can be avoided by using text instead of a URL for the link:

<p>Visit our <a href="http://mailchimp.com/track/xyz...">home page</a></p>

Here’s an example of Thunderbird complaining about a few links in Scott Hanselman’s Newsletter of Wonderful Things. (By the way I don’t mean to pick on this excellent newsletter, just using it as an example.)

Thunderbird screenshot showing scam warning message

An example of the Email Scam warning message in the Thunderbird email client

To learn more, I recommend these two resources which explain the Thunderbird behavior and how to prevent it for most cases:

Downcast – A Great Podcast App for iPhone

Downcast is an excellent podcast app for iPhones; it’s much better than the Apple Podcast app.

Related: See my list of top technical podcasts I’m currently following.

When I first started listening to podcasts on my first MP3 player (a Creative Zen Touch), the software was very basic. I was tracking my podcast RSS feeds in Bloglines, so I wrote a Bloglines enclosure download script which I would run periodically on my Windows desktop, then use Windows Media Player to bulk copy everything to the Zen Touch.

For today’s iPhone users, there’s no excuse to not have a great podcast player. You’ve got the network connectivity, the audio player, and plenty of storage. Apple’s own Podcast application leaves a lot to be desired. It provides only basic functionality and doesn’t seem to ever be improved upon by Apple. Just check this Google search for Apple Podcast App – the top 5 results tell the story:

Google Search Results

Searching for “Apple Podcast App” shows some unflattering results

Instead, I recommend buying Downcast (US $1.99). I’ve recently switched and have my dozen or so tech podcasts up and running:

Downcast app screenshot

Screenshot of Downcast main screen with several podcasts loaded and ready

What makes Downcast so great? This is my short list of favorite features:

  • Automatic refresh & downloads. Configurable to only download over wi-fi.
  • Skip forward & backward by remote control commands (the “now playing” view), or by shaking the phone.
  • Adjustable playback speed (1.5X, 2X, etc.). I’ve set this to 1.5X for most podcasts and it’s very listenable without making everyone’s voices sound funny.
  • Settings galore. Possibly more than an iPhone aficionado would like to see, but I like the detailed level of control. In addition to global settings, you also have settings for individual podcasts (like the playback speed).
  • Export feeds to OPML. Useful for backing up your current subscription list, and if you want to follow along with an RSS reader.

I have not played with everything yet, including iCloud Sync which is supposed to help when listening over multiple devices.

Finally, I have one feature suggestion: an option to email the “show notes” from each podcast episode you’ve listened to. It could be pretty simple to add, and would really make the whole flow of listening to podcasts much better. I don’t know of any podcast or similar app that does this, so to the maker’s of Downcast, here’s your chance!