A View From The Handbasket

Tuesday, February 21, 2006
If they ban "Eros" I'm in trouble
Posted by neros_fiddle at 3:43 PM
Having toiled in the sysadmin trenches in the past, I'm always amused by stories of ill-considered decisions from management going horribly awry when put into practice. This seems to be just such a tale.

If you use Yahoo! email and happen to be named, say, Callahan, good luck getting your name in your e-mail address. Why? It contains the letters "a-l-l-a-h".

(And if Erik Unt of Tarzana, CA spelled his name a little differently, he'd have problems, too.)

Non-geeks can stop reading now, as a story only a sysadmin can appreciate follows.

Several years ago, the president of my company was irate. A friend of his was trying to send him a New York Times article (or something) and the friend kept getting the message bounced back to him as having violated our profanity filter. (This is sort of thing executives get irate about.)

After turning off the filter to let the offending mail through, we scoured the message and article, and found nothing untoward. We were at a loss to explain the problem.

Then we realized that the article was a Word attachment. The filter wasn't even able to scan it. Instead, the sender's e-mail program encoded the attachment into 7-bit ASCII, which is hardly unusual. What was unusual: right in the middle of the ASCII-encoded file were the characters s, H, i and t. In order.

According to my rudimentary understanding of probability, there's a one in 1,115,664.0625 chance of that happening (assuming case doesn't matter, which it didn't). Of course, you have to combine that with the appoximately one in 100 chance that the recipient was the president. Murphy strikes again.

I don't think we use a profanity filter any more.

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