Review of Removing the Spam

Removing the Spam: Email Processing and Filtering
Geoff Mulligan

Reviewed by Nick Christenson,

February 13, 2000

Anyone even peripherally involved in the Internet these days has heard of spam, or Unsolicited Bulk Email, and we all know what an enormous problem it has become. Despite, or perhaps because of, the depth of the problem, easy solutions have not been forthcoming. Thus, Geoff Mulligan has written a volume which aims to provide information on how to deal with the spam problem as part of the Addison-Wesley Networking Basics Series.

The book starts with a chapter on basic background information that, appropriately for the series, gets to the point with alacrity. The second chapter dives right into the heart of the matter discussing the anti-spam features of the ubiquitous sendmail Mail Transfer Agent. Most of the information here is available from other sources, notably the cf/README file and Sendmail Installation and Operations Guide that ships with the sendmail source distribution, and the web pages.

The third chapter covers the use of the common procmail program as a Local Delivery Agent to filter spam. I'm not terribly familiar with procmail, but I'm not aware of as much publically available information on procmail as there is with sendmail, and so much of this information was new to me.

The fourth chapter briefly covers mailing lists, with an emphasis on Majordomo and the procmail based SmartList. While some of the information is more generally useful, most of that will be common sense to the experienced mailing list administrator. The information on both of these list managers seems to be a fairly strict subset of the information in Managing Mailing Lists published by O'Reilly and Associates.

Finally, we have a short appendix that catalogs some Internet resources, including Anti-spam web sites, Internet RFCs, software, etc.. These resources are useful for those who don't know about them.

In my opinion, this book would be quite valuable if it weren't for the already published Stopping Spam, which I believe to be an overall better book. I believe Removing the Spam will be most valuable to those who are looking for information beyond that which is already on line on using procmail as a spam stopping tool. Of course, to get all the information in this book, one would have to read much of the sendmail documentation, Stopping Spam, and Managing Mailing Lists, which, combined, weigh in at considerably more than 190 pages, but there's a great deal of additional information in those sources which is valuable. So perhaps if Removing the Spam happens to cover exactly what one needs, it can pay off due to its brevity.

While I generally applaud the Networking Basics Series, I don't think this topic fits very well into that framework. I think the coverage is too brief to be generally useful. Although the book is decent enough, it provides some useful information and is competently written, I think there are better sources for the vast majority of this information, although it's not at all bad for those that only can set aside enough time to study 200 pages worth.


Removing the Spam is a decent book, but I believe the topic deserves more than 190 pages, and most of the information is better covered by other sources. The one significant addition to the literature is in the coverage of using procmail to filter spam. However, if one is looking for a brief book covering spam filtering with sendmail, procmail, Majordomo, and SmartList, this book fits that niche.

Click here to return to the index of reviews.