Calling the Internet a borderless world isn't far from the truth, but try saying that every time you get an e-mail you can't read. You know, one of those buggers that is full of incomprehensible code or one that has a mysterious file attached that refuses to open no matter how hard you click it.

As multimedia becomes more accessible, you're bound to find more gee-whiz doohickies in your mailbox: goofy pictures from an uncle who has discovered photo manipulation, a sound file of a nephew's first words, a risqué joke program from a friend. You'd think people would be satisfied with just keystroke creativity, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Of course, e-mail applications are becoming more adept at decoding all types of e-mail, but there will probably always be new and competing file types, compression methods, encryption schemes and so on. Add to that the different software platforms and you've got some intimidating obstacles to "borderless communication."

But first, for those who've just joined the class, let me skim over a few of the basics. In most e-mail programs, the arrival of an attachment is indicated by a paper-clip icon or something similar on the e-mail. No, these aren't sex toys or prosthetics; they are files that, for whatever reason, can't be transmitted as text within the body of the e-mail. (Then again, attachments essentially are "text," but unless you speak binary, you won't be able to read them in their raw state).