Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

This city's deputy treasurer leaves a message for support manager pilot fish: She's been trying for days to get an e-mail from someone at a major bank -- with no luck.

Fish asks the usual questions and gets some surprising answers. Yes, the deputy treasurer has received messages from the bank person before; the only difference this time is that there are forms attached.

And yes, the bank person's signature block in the earlier messages came through with no problem. And yes, according to the bank person, the forms were sent in standard Word and Excel format.

"I contact the bank person and explain that we filter incoming GIF images, active HTML scripts and executables," says fish. "She forwards to me the message she tried to send to the deputy treasurer -- with no success."

While fish is waiting for that forwarded message that will never arrive, he sends the bank person a message with a Word and an Excel document attached. It arrives without a problem, and she sends it back to fish without trouble.

But finally fish's quarantine filter notifies him that her message has been captured because of an image-analysis violation.

But when fish releases the message from quarantine and examines it, everything appears normal: several messages back and forth and five attached files.

Then fish notices a bulleted list embedded in the last message -- one with bullets that are strange-looking multicolored plus signs. A quick investigation determines that they're GIF images.

He pastes the funny-looking bullet into a message to the bank person, explaining the problem and suggesting that she either use normal bullets or simply delete them in the future.

"A little later, I get another message in the quarantine from the bank person," says fish. "Releasing it, I find it is a reply to my explanation.

"It thanks me, and says she faxed the forms to the deputy treasurer. Right below is my explanation about the GIF bullets. They're still in the message.

"Faxing: when you just gotta ignore the solution...."

Sharky won't ignore your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at I'll send you a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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