More Junkmail from Bob!

Saturday, January 5, 2002
Important Stuff


Here's a picture of the Lagoon Nebula. It's up in the sky with most other Nebulas. This one is in the Sagittarius constellation.


These were taken with the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Here's the Hubble Space Telescope.

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It's bigger than it looks. Here's a couple of a couple of satellite mechanics working on it in the space shuttle, a little over two years ago.


They launched the shuttle at night for this mission.


This spring the space shuttle Columbia will launch. It's going to take a new camera and new solar arrays to the Hubble. The Camera will be 10 times faster, and the solar arrays are smaller, rigid, and more powerful. The camera will also get rid of the "missing corners" that show up sometimes like in picture of the Lagoon nebula. They're going to do some other stuff too, like add a new power controller and maybe a quart of Pennzoil 10w30.

Columbia has been upgraded to the glass cockpit. 11 flat-panel displays have replaced 32 gauges and instruments, and 4 CRTs. It's come a long way from the when it used magnetic core computer memory.

In a couple of years they plan to add a new camera to Hubble that records a broader spectrum of color. The cameras they have now record black and white images of specified wavelengths. The wavelength ranges are not necessarily in the visible light range. The images can then be combined into color images. This doesn't necessarily look like it would to our eyes, but since we can't see these things with our eyes it doesn't matter. By selecting the right wavelengths, the artificial colors in the images communicate more information than natural colors would.

Here's how the colors of the Lagoon nebula picture were assembled:  "These color-coded images are the combination of individual exposures taken in July and September, 1995 with Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) through three narrow-band filters (red light -- ionized sulphur atoms, blue light -- double ionized oxygen atoms, green light -- ionized hydrogen)."

AOL, w00w00

Early last month, some w00w00 people found a major security problem with AOL's instant messenger. A diabolical madman could send a bunch of garbage text through a game to an unsuspecting, innocent instant messenger user. The resulting memory overflow could then be exploited and the madman could gain control over the innocent's computer. I'm not sure what happens when the innocent sends the garbage text to the madman.

After being ignored by AOL, the w00w00 people published the problem on their web site at Then AOL took the hint and fixed the problem, even though it only affected 100,000,000 users or so.,1282,49442,00.html


I've been sending out Junkmail (a.k.a. for over two years now. Is it spam? I claim not because I'm not trying to sell anything. The official definition of spam (me being the official) is unsolicited commercial bulk email, or email sent to people you don't know in order to make a profit.

Spam can actually be entertaining, if there's not too much of it. If anybody sends me spam with a valid return address I naturally feel obligated to add them to the Junklist. I just erased one that said, "Here is the email you requested." Of course I never requested it. That's an old ploy used in postal junk mail. It's also used by Chrysler. Yesterday evening a young gentlemen named Nick called me to ask me market survey questions about Chrysler minivans. He said I requested that he call me this evening. After providing him with a reasonable amount of heckling and harassment, I got to talking to him. Nick's from Utah, plans to go to the Olympics, and rides a snowboard instead of skis. The snowboarding part earned him some more harassment.

A creative spam I got had the heading at the top, "This is not spam." It also had a removal link at the bottom that went to a non-existing web site. That was pretty good. A few have a paragraph of legalese at the bottom explaining how the email abides by some law or other and is of strong legal, moral, and ethical fiber. I looked the law up once. It didn't exist.

You can gauge the quality of the spam by looking at how contact the company in order to send them money. Most businesses want to make it easy for you to give them money. So if a spam message has a phone number, no web site, no mailing address, and no email address, you can bet that they don't want to be tracked down. Some spammers will offer a web site that has only a sales pitch and a phone number. If the web site doesn't have its own domain, it's probably a free web site and will probably be closed down soon.

I got a message this morning from someone Yahoo has free email addresses, and you can set one up in a matter of minutes. This message wanted me to forward them all my domain names so they can renew them with Verisign/Network Solutions cheaper than I can. The only way to contact these people is through their yahoo email address. Somehow this doesn't seem like a reputable organization.

AOL blocks some spam messages automatically. AOL also blocks some non-spam messages in the process. Last month Harvard University emailed a bunch of acceptance letters to the next crop of students. AOL bounced the emails. In a straightforward explanation, AOL spokesman Nicholas said, "It's hard to say what would have caused the system to filter e-mail from Harvard." Uh, ya think it could be the software?

California's spam law is constitutional, at least for the moment.

It says that it's OK to email spam as long as there's a valid return address and an easy way to ask for no more spam. Otherwise, you turn into a pumpkin.


Cisco announced Long Reach Ethernet (LRE), It's 5-15 Mbps ethernet that will work on a mile-long cable. It will work over cat-1 voice grade lines, lamp cords, and possibly bailing wire. They didn't announce when or how it will be available, but they said it would be cheap.

Billions and Billions

Intel expects to increase the number of transistors in a CPU from 42 million to 1 billion over the next 5 years. It looks like I'll have to start using the words "terahertz", "gigaflops", and "terabytes" before long.


A few times I've seen someone who looked reasonable normal, but was carrying on an animated conversation -- alone. Then I see the cell phone, a small earphone and microphone so you don't have to hold a phone to your ear.

What next? Wearable computers. The technology is available. Sometime before too long you'll be able to wear a computer with heads-up display glasses, voice recognition, and an imaginary mouse you can use by moving your fingers. Maybe you can even use an imaginary keyboard or a PDA-type alphabet. It's possible. The question is whether people will buy it.,p=Wearem-Wireless

Patent Absurdity

It's been literally days since I've done any serious whining and complaining about stupid software patents. I'd like to remedy that right here and now. Stupid software patents keep on coming. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in its infinite wisdom, has given out a patent for something as simple as an electronic greeting card. This is something that anybody with a little programming knowledge can turn out in less than a day. It's simple, obvious, and not very original.

To further the cause, the USPTO gave an unusually general patent to a Canadian company who is now claiming that the RDF web standard ( is infringing on their monetary liberty.

Here's some more on recent software patents.

Faster Computers for China, et. al.

Dubbya Bush is allowing U.S. companies to export faster computers to Russia, China, India and countries in the Middle East. I'm not sure whether this is good or bad.

Computers with speeds of up to 195,000 MTOPS (millions of theoretical operations per second) can now be exported. That's double what it has been, and about 36 times faster than a 2 ghz P4.

From the Onion News

"National Board Of Steve Jaskoviak Requests $10 Billion Bailout
ROCHESTER, MN-Steve Jaskoviak, president of the National Board of Steve Jaskoviak, lobbied Congress for an unprecedented $10 billion bailout package Monday. "In order to continue providing Americans with a full range of Steve Jaskoviak-related services, it is crucial that I receive this aid," Jaskoviak told Congress. "This relief package will not only will cover my $5,612 Visa debt, but numerous administrative costs, as well."

Ybor Cam

Ybor City is a party area of Tampa, Florida. I mentioned in July ( that they were using a Visionics face-recognition system to identify criminals walking the streets in Ybor City. They stopped using the system in August, after two months of the 12-month trial period. I guess it didn't work so well. It didn't catch any criminals.

Frances from Visionics said, "Maybe there was no criminal present in Ybor City at the time the system was turned on." It kept the polar bears away, too.

Internet Borders

The world wide web is getting political borders. Some countries with restrictive politics filter out all but a few selected sites. Some countries block sites that violate their laws.

For example, try going to and signing up. If you live in the U.S., you'll see, in pretty red letters, "Access Denied.  Please note: access to and any related sites is strictly forbidden under US Federal Law." I think that must be because it's not run by an Indian tribe. If there is are racial equality in the U.S., why are native Americans the only ones allowed to open casinos in most states, and why am I not considered a native when I was born in America? Anyway, France recently required that Yahoo pull all their online auction items that contained Nazi stuff. It's illegal to sell Nazi memorabilia in France. I'm not sure what the final result of that was.

Software is available that will tell a web server where the user is from who is browsing the web. It's correct most of the time, but it's easy to fake out. People will probably be using this more in the future so web sites can target individual countries, and so individual countries can control web content inside their borders.


5513 years ago today, give or take a thousand years, a Sumerian lady named Joe built the world's first wheel. A few thousand years later people started using bicycles. In 1895, shortly after they replaced leather tires with pneumatic rubber tires, the bike business boomed, and about 2,000,000 bikes were sold in the U.S. This business funded bicycle shops in Dayton, Ohio, and led to the development of the airplane.

There is quite a bit of technology in today's bicycles. But not enough to keep me from having a flat tires.

For more Bike info, check out

The Exploratorium web site has lots of neat stuff.


A 6.1 earthquake hit Afghanistan yesterday. Nobody noticed.

Here's an article I ran across that has some real information about terrorists in Afghanistan. That's pretty unusual. (The information, not the terrorists.)


It's fairly easy to tap into internet communications. But if those communications are encrypted, it doesn't too much good. That is, unless the communications can be decrypted in real time. This is not possible using today's encryption standards, is it? It is if you cheat.

A few years ago, IBM gave the U.S. government partial keys to its exported versions of Lotus Notes. This allowed the government to read encrypted Notes messages in real time. Since then they've gone from 64 to 128-bit encryption, and I don't know if IBM is still weakening their encryption for their export versions.

Some people claim that Network Associates modified their Mcafee antivirus software so it won't detect eavesdropping viruses from the FBI. I'm not sure whether this is true. Here's a recent AP article:


How does that affect me? Not much. There's too much data flying around the internet for any government to read, and even if they do read my email they'll just be bored by it. But some privacy buffs are getting pretty excited about it.,2100,48648,00.html

There's another "invasion of privacy" wandering around the internet. The dldr trojan is included at no extra charge with the ClickTillUWin application. Dldr tracks the web sites that you visit and posts them to a web site, which can presumably be read by whoever wrote the trojan.

ClickTillUWin is distributed by Limewire. Greg at Limewire, in the tradition of the computing industry, promptly pointed a finger at Cydoor. Cydoor made up the ClickTillUWin ad package for Limewire. Bob at Cydoor said he "would investigate." That's reassuring!,1848,49430,00.html

My guess is that someone thought they could grab some free marketing data, and it's all pretty harmless. A lot of people I know would argue with me about the harmless part, though.

A Christmas Valentine

Who's afraid of Linux? Microsft? Check out this supposedly legitimate note from Microsoft's VP. It makes Microsoft sound like they might not be such a nice company.


Pictures of Today!

The French Pyrenees, 3 years ago November.

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A Yosemite waterfall, a few years ago.


My eldest toddler demonstrating the proper snowboard landing position, a few days ago.


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Have a good year!