More Junkmail from Bob!
Tuesday, December 18, 2001
I decided to stop sending out an html version of Junkmail because I had to keep two address lists, one for AOL people and one for everyone else. I'm too lazy for that. So you can click here to see the web version. It's prettier.
Words and Nibbles
Last Junkmail I implied that 8-bit computers were among the first computers. I've been corrected by a few people who have been around computing longer than I have. The 8-bit computers were there in the beginning of the Mesozoic age of computing, but before microprocessors there were the 30+ bit Paleozoic computers such as the 49-bit Burroughs 5000
and the 36-bit IBM 704
John Chandler was among those who corrected me: "The real early computerists (such as I and the real old-timers I learned from) didn't have bytes. Bytes hadn't been invented yet. We didn't even have nibbles (4 bits each). We only had words, in which we could, if we wished, store characters. Characters were six bits each. No lower-case letters existed. Later on, Og chiseled the first lower-case letters on stone tablets. Actually _that_ was before my time...
"Words consisted of ten decimal digits (I think, on the IBM 650) or 36 bits (IBM 704/7090/7094). On an IBM 1620 or 1401/1410, words were however many decimal digits there were before the next "word mark". You got to set the word marks yourself, giving (slow) arbitrary precision. For real numbers we used fixed point, before that new-fangled floating point arithmetic was invented, keeping track of the decimal points ourselves."
MPAA and Me
I think Senator Fritz
from South Carolina doesn't like my computer. He wants to outlaw it. He wants to outlaw every piece of hardware or software capable of "storing, retrieving, processing, performing, transmitting, receiving or copying information in digital form," unless it has built-in copy protection approved by the U.S. Commerce Department. The penalty for violating this law? Up to $500,000 and 5 years in jail. The big penalties are only for commercial people. I don't think private violators would have to come up with half a million dollars.
The people who wrote this law
are obviously technically challenged. According to the law, every new piece of software, computer, radio-controlled airplane, and garage door opener will have to be certified by the Commerce Department to make sure it has adequate security technologies that will prevent the unauthorized viewing of "Harry Potter."
So suppose I happen write a program. Suppose I want to give away to some unsuspecting Junkmail recipients. Suppose it's called PhotoMud. Suppose you can download it at http://xpda.com/photomud
If his law passes, I would have to waste my time writing some copy protection code and probably paying royalties to some movie people who got a software patent for "U.S. Commerce Department certified security technologies." Actually, I would just forget about the whole thing before I went through that. A lot of other people would too.
Since the law hasn't passed yet, feel free to download that program and try it out. It's a photo editing program. Remember though, if this law passes and you send a copy of the program to your cousin (or even my cousin), you will be guilty of "distributing an interactive digital device that does not include and utilize certified security technologies."
The movie industry is paying lots of politicians lots of money to get this bill passed. I'm hoping the politicians won't be stupid enough to pass it. After all, it has nothing to do with terrorism. Unless you ask the MPAA.
A guy named Chris in Britain has a web site called Corporate Anthems. He collects company theme songs and puts links to them on his web site.
About 3 weeks ago, a guy named Frank from a small company called KPMG wrote Chris a letter. Frank is the Senior Manager of Global Brand and Regulatory Compliance of KPMG. I expected he would want to thank Chris for his support of his company and for the free publicity. Instead, he told Chris that before anybody can put a link to KMPG (that's http://www.kpmg.com
) on a web site, they have to get permission from KPMG's lawyers.
This is really ridiculous. It's crazy to think that every link on the web should require a written agreement between the linker and the linkee. There are literally billions of links on the web. If KMPG wants a private site, they should make it private. The really crazy thing is that KPMG claims to be "e-business savvy" in their international consulting.
Chris replied something to the effect that although that may be KPMG's policy, it does not make it his policy, KPMG doesn't dictate web policy to the world, and he'd be taking no action. (KPMG should realize that it's Microsoft's job to dictate web policy to the world.)
Here's the letter and Chris's response:
As stories tend to do sometimes, this one flew around the world at speeds approaching that of internet, and lots of people started checking out the KPMG theme song. So many people that they overloaded Chris's server and he had to take the songs offline for now.
Here's a link to the KPMG song
. It's really lousy music -- no wonder they wanted to keep it hidden.
On the first of this month, Russia launched a Proton rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It carried three satellites for the Glonass system, the Russian military equivalent of the U.S. GPS system. The Glonass system quit working for a while in the 1990s when the satellites passed their 3-year lifespan and quit working. Russia has started replacing them Glonass should be fully operational before long. The Russian missiles and stuff are both Glonass and GPS compatible. The new Glonass satellites last twice as long.
Also on the first of this month, my toddler Brian was driving back to college. He saw a giant meteorite or something flying across the sky. He stopped the car to watch, and a lot of other people on the highway did too. It turned out to be the Proton rocket that had launched the satellites earlier in the day. The satellite launch was successful, and then the rocket came back to earth. It lit up the sky over Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It was so low in Nebraska that people heard sonic booms. I'm not sure whether any of the rocket was found.
Part of the fourth stage burned up over England and France on its third orbit. It weighed about 800 kg. About six hours later the 4200 kg. third stage entered the atmosphere, and it was all downhill from there.
Here's some information on space junk, a.k.a. orbital debris:
Here's a diagram of space junk around the earth:
Here's a picture of some low-orbit space junk. Even though it looks crowded, it's really not. Those are really small pieces flying junk over a really large area.
Once or twice a year, the space shuttle has to alter its orbit to avoid space junk. The space shuttle Endeavor was docked at the Space Station last week. The Endeavor used its rockets to boost the Space Station into an orbit 9 miles higher to avoid the possibility of collision with an old Russian rocket that passed by a few days ago.
Here's last month's issue of Spacewarn -- a list of satellite launches, decays, bright satellites, etc. It's pretty interesting. But they've taken a lot of the information offline now to keep terrorists from hijacking satellites.
A few days ago Russia launched something else -- a new nuclear submarine. Maybe they're getting their military organized again.
From December 8 Pravda:
"New multipurpose nuclear submarine "Gepard" left the main base of the Northern Fleet, Severodvinsk, for running trials. The trials of the "Gepard" submarine of 971 design (classified by NATO as "Akula") officially began December 5, a spokesman for the White Sea RF navy base reported. "Gepard" is meant for delivering blows to groups of ships and waterside objectives. The displacement of the vessel is 12,770 tons, the depth of its settling down is 600 metres. The speed of underwater motion is up to 35 knots. The vessel is armed with 28 cruise missiles PK-55 "Granat", their range is 3,000 km. Besides the submarine is armed with torpedoes and anti-submarine guided missile. The crew of the "Gepard" is 63 men."
Here's a longer Pravda article. You can tell that Pravda is not exactly an unbiased news service.
Just before the submarine launch, Putin "demoted the two top commanders of the Northern Fleet, sacked three high-ranking officers and punished nine others," apparently over the sinking of the submarine Kursk last year.
A prime number is a number that can be evenly divided only by itself and 1. Or by -1 and -itself, I suppose. Maybe I was supposed to stick a "whole number" in that definition somewhere. At any rate, numbers like 3, 7, 67, and 1,299,721 are prime numbers.
Some prime numbers are one less that powers of 2, such as 3, 7, and 31, which are 22
- 1, 23
- 1. If the power of 2 is prime also, it's called a Mersenne prime. Let's take a look at a few:
Is 2047 a prime number? No, it's divisible by 23 and 89. In 1536 Hudalricus Regius figured that out. Most prime numbers are not Mersenne, at least as far as people have figured out so far. Since there seem to be an infinite number of primes and an infinite number of Mersenne primes, that could conceivably change. But it won't.
In 1603, Cataldi
figured out that 2n
-1 was prime for 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, and 37. In 1640 he was proved wrong (by Fermat, who also had a last theorem) about 23 and 27. Euler
proved him wrong about 29 and right about 31 in the early 1700's. Euler was a really smart guy.
In the early 1600's, a monk named Mersenne wrote that 2n
-1 was prime for
n = 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 17, 19, 31, 67, 127, and 257,
and was not prime for any other n's less than 257.
The entire list of 2n
-1 from 1 to 257 had been checked by 1947, and Mersenne was wrong. It should be
n = 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 17, 19, 31, 61, 89, 107 and 127.
They're still called Mersenne numbers, though. These guys were doing lots of large calculations without the aid of computers or calculators. They didn't use calculators because the plastic for the buttons had not been invented yet.
In 1951 there were 12 known Mersenne primes. Then people started using computers. By 1995 there were 33 known Mersenne primes. In 1996 a guy named George
from MIT came up with a project called the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search, or GIMPS for short. He recruited volunteers to use their PCs to do prime number searches in the background. With thousands of computers working in parallel, they could do a lot more computing than would be feasible on a single supercomputer.
In 1996, GIMPS came up with the 35th Mersenne prime. GIMPS was awarded $50,000 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation
when they came up with the first prime number over 1 million digits. There's a $100,000 award waiting on the first person or group who finds the first prime number over 10 million digits. I think the Mersenne primes are easier to verify than arbitrary prime numbers, so the first prime with 10,000,000 digits is liable to be another Mersenne prime.
Since 1996, GIMPS discovered and verified 4 other Mersenne primes, the last one about a month ago. That's really impressive. In case you were wondering, the 39th Mersenne prime number is 213,466,918
- 1. It contains 4,053,946 digits. Check it out. You can even print it if you have a few hundred sheets of paper.
You too can join GIMPS! All you do is download some software and let it run on your computer. It should be pretty interesting for math classes.
(as in 2n-1)
Number of Digits
Noll & Nickel
Nelson & Slowin
Colquitt & Welsh
Slowinski & Gag
Slowinski & Gag
Slowinski & Gag
This sounds almost like McCarthy...
This sounds almost like Nixon...
Business as usual I guess.
Rudy and Badtrans
The Badtrans virus has been making the rounds recently. It was fairly benign, up until the middle of last month. Then it started transmitting information from infected computers. It logged keystrokes and sent them to 17 or 22 or so email addresses. I still does, as far as I know.
A guy named Rudy runs the ISP monkeybrains.net in San Francisco. One of the Badtrans email addresses goes to his ISP. He noticed some huge email volume going to a strange email address. It was the keystroke logs being sent from Badtrans-infected machines.
I read one article that the FBI wanted access to all the data, but I'm not sure whether it's true. Rudy did put the data into a public database so you can search to see if your (or anybody's) email address or password has been sent to him (and 16 or 21 others).
It really surprises me that this virus has gone as far as it has.
Here's the article about the FBI and Rudy. There might be some naughty words in it.
Dmitry Goes Home
Remember Dmitry Sklyarov? (http://xpda.com/junkmail/?issue=95
) He's the Russian who was arrested for giving a public presentation at a conference on how to get around some copy-protection stuff. He violated the digital millennium copyright act.
He can go home now. But he has to call in regularly during his 1-year probation. And he is "prohibited from violating any laws during the year." Aren't we all supposed to be prohibited from that?
Pictures of Today!
Here's a picture of my dad's parents Reo and Ruth, a few years ago. It looks almost like they're in a dust bowl. I'm not sure who's in the back seat.
is a company in Longmont, CO that sells satellite images. Space Imaging in Denver does too. DigitalGlobe has satellites with 61cm resolution, about 2 feet. Anybody can buy a satellite image of almost anywhere in the world. Here are some samples. I resized them so they lost a little resolution. You can go to their web site to see the "real thing."
McMurdo Station, Antarctica:
'tis the season to shop!
Here's a picture of George the Scorpion. I found him last week.
...and 4 NASA airplane pictures. This is the X-45A, an unmanned attack aircraft under development by Boeing. Maybe they'll use more of these than they will the Joint Strike Fighter.
NASA ran a test and found that the plane in back got 12% better fuel economy by flying in the wake vortex of the plane ahead. Maybe those geese know something.
Here's the "lifeboat" for the Space Station that NASA is developing. It comes down into the atmosphere, slows down, and then opens a parachute to land. I think the development is on hold but they're still testing it.
(@) 1916, no rights deserved. Any unauthorized duplication and distribution of this find piece of Junkmail is OK with me, so long as it is in violation the Security Systems Standards and Certification Act of 2002 whenever possible.
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