Q: Like many of your readers, I'm not so good on the computer but get by for the sake of my job. We use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail. The wonderful folks who...

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Q: Like many of your readers, I’m not so good on the computer but get by for the sake of my job. We use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail. The wonderful folks who send me unlimited spam are now using my complete e-mail address to send me junk. Which means I cannot add myself to the “Add Sender to Blocked Senders” list.

Frequently, I copy myself on outgoing e-mails and that would not allow me to receive my own e-mail. So I patiently delete each of these unwanted offers. How do they do this, and besides changing my e-mail address what can I do?

Tim Gray, Everett

A: Ain’t it something? About 90 billion pieces of spam cross the Internet every day, and about 80 percent of that comes from about 200 spammers.

Those spammers get the e-mail addresses from a variety of sources including chat rooms, Web sites, newsgroups, as well as from a variety of viruses that harvest addresses from address books on infected computers.

Most Internet-service providers (ISP) take steps to block spam, so spammers use a variety of methods to hide the origin of their messages. One of the most popular is to use a virus to take over a computer, turning it into a “zombie.”

Spam is sent from the zombie, concealing the real source of the spam. Of course, if your computer is infected with such a zombie, don’t be surprised if you are eventually blocked by your own ISP. And it can be a real pain losing e-mail while you convince your ISP that you were a victim rather than a spammer.

Another technique is to “spoof” the sender’s e-mail address. Spammers will use addresses they have harvested for such spoofing. That’s likely why you’re receiving spam that’s seemingly coming from your own address.

I’m afraid there’s no immediate solution other than the two you mention: You can manually delete those messages, or you can change your e-mail address. But unless you and everyone else who has your e-mail address properly protect a computer, you can expect that spammers will eventually reacquire your address.

The longterm solution is to develop an Internet mail system with more controls on mail transfers. A variety of such solutions have been proposed, but I expect it will be several years before we see such a solution implemented.

Q: I am operating a five-year-old Compaq computer with Windows XP and a similarly aged Hewlett-Packard psc950xi printer. Both have worked very well until recently when this error message continues to pop up when the printer is on: “Unable to start driver for hpoipm07.exe.” Operation of the computer or printer does not seem to be affected, but swatting the pop up is annoying.

Can you help me on this? I tried to get HP’s help, but they wanted $100. Then I sent a free e-mail help request, which was acknowledged. I have been waiting three weeks for the promised help. They must be very busy.

Hilmer Swanson

A: Before spending any money, just go to the HP site and download the most recent drivers for your printer.

Any time you suddenly see error messages referring to a specific device or driver, my recommendation is to see if there’s any updated driver available. If not, then you’d want to contact the device manufacturer.

And if they don’t have a no-cost way for you to troubleshoot such problems, you may want to consider buying someone else’s device.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.