More Junkmail from Bob!
Tuesday, March 25, 2002
Donald Knuth is a computer science guy. He's probably the most famous computer scientist in history, although computer history is not very long. He is extremely smart, too. He got his Ph.D. in math in 1963. In 1968 the first volume of his book "The Art of Computer Programming" was published. You can still buy the book, along with volumes two and three, at Barnes and Noble. Not many books, let alone computer books, have that kind of longevity. He's written a lot of other stuff too, and has done a lot of significant research in computer science.
Last fall Knuth gave a talk at the Technische Universität München (Technical University of Munich, I think). About 350 people were there. He started the talk saying, "In every class that I taught at Stanford, the last day was devoted to 'all questions answered'. The students didn't have to come to class if they didn't want to, but if they did, they could ask any question on any subject except religion or politics or the final exam. I got the idea from Richard Feynman, who did the same thing in his classes at Caltech, and it was always interesting to see what the students really wanted to know. Today I'll answer any question on any subject."
Here's the rest:
Last spring I flew the Aircam...
...into Norfolk, VA. I had been flying up the coast from the south. I got pretty close to Oceana Naval Air Station. I was talking to them on the radio, and they warned me about "traffic at 6:00, 10 miles," 500 feet above me, two F14's. They warned me a few more times. I guess they thought a 60 mph plane might have some altitude deviation tendencies. Finally I heard the engines, looked up, and 2 F14s flew right over my head 500 feet above me. I was at 2500 or 3000 feet, I forgot which. It was pretty exciting.
There were lots of neat boats around Norfolk:
This week Jed Johnson sent some pictures of two F18's from Oceana NAS, taken April '96. Two guys, William and Greg, were out over the Atlantic practice-dogfighting. They got a little too close to each other in a head-on pass. William's tail hit Greg's nose, and a lot of airplane parts ended up in the ocean. They both did an amazing job flying the planes back to the airport and landed safely.
I was updating Windows the other day to patch all the security holes, and I got to this point in the update process.
Even Microsoft admits they can't be trusted.
A few days before that I was copying some files and got this message:
737966 minutes is more than a year. But last year Serge Bigotto got found this one, longer than 6 years!
Chinese Rockets and Space.com
China launched a rocket yesterday. The Shenzhou 3 flight is essentially a "manned" spacecraft without people. China plans to have piloted spacecraft sometime in the next three years.
This website is space.com. Lou Dobbs quit CNN to start the company.
Sally Ride, the first woman in space, took a leave of absence from University of California to work there. Lou Dobbs is back at CNN now, and I think Sally Ride is back teaching physics at UCSD.
Space.com lost over a hundred million dollars, and has gone from 120 employees to about 6.
(I'm not sure about those numbers.) The web site is still pretty good. Six people can maintain a good web site if they work at it.
Spaceref.com is a similar site. They combined with Discovery.com a year and a half ago. I think they're doing pretty good.
Here's a prototype of a new army helicopter by Boeing and Sikorsky.
It flew for the first time in 1996, and is supposed to go into production in about 2007.
If you're writing a book, be careful about the one-sided contracts.
Eric Weisstein had some trouble with his publisher and almost lost his web site http://mathworld.wolfram.com
. After reading this article, it seems like he must have just signed the standard agreement.
Cuban Technology Leap (backwards)
In Cuba, the government has banned PCs.
"The sale of computers, offset printer equipment, mimeographs, photocopiers, and any other mass printing medium, as well as their parts, pieces and accessories, is prohibited to associations, foundations, civic and nonprofit societies, and natural born citizens. In cases where the acquisition of this equipment or parts, pieces and accessories is indispensable, the authorization of the Ministry of Internal Commerce must be solicited."
I guess they can't control internet communication very well. There's a 3 to 10 year jail sentence for violation of the law. That's pretty lenient compared to the life-in-prison penalty they're trying to pass in the U.S. for computer hacking.
In May 1997, an American Airlines Airbus A300 descended from 24,000 feet to 16,000 feet and turned to enter a holding pattern, a racetrack shape. The got too slow and stalled while they were leveling off into the holding pattern. The Airbus ended up banking 56 degrees and with a 13.7 degree angle of attack. Two on the plane got hurt from bouncing around.
In November of last year, and Airbus A300 lost its vertical fin and crashed in New York. It might have hit some wake turbulence.
A while back the NTSB recommended that "Pilots must be prepared to use full control authority when necessary." The NTSB also mentioned that "full or nearly full rudder deflection in one direction followed by a full or nearly full rudder deflection in the other direction, even at speeds below the design maneuvering speed, can dramatically increase the risk of structural failure of the vertical stabilizer or the rudder." This second part seems to have been omitted from some of the pilot training manuals.
American Airlines went back and inspected their Airbus that had stalled in 1997. The vertical fin showed signs of delamination. It's made of carbon fiber composite or something like that. Beginning April 8, Airbus 300's and 310's will have to have their tails inspected if they've ever been stressed very much.
Stupid Software Patents
British Telecom claims to own all hyperlinks, including this one:
News Corp and Canal
News Corp is one of the top political contributors to Fritz Hollings. Rupert Murdoch owns most or at least a lot of News Corp. News Corp Owns NDS, a London based company. Canal Plus is a big French TV company. You will be tested over this.
The French company, Canal Plus, sued the London company, NDS. Canal Plus said that NDS spent a lot of time and money cracking their pay-TV smart cards, and then posted the cracks on the internet.
In a big surprise, NDS said the lawsuit is outrageous and baseless. Or maybe that wasn't too surprising.
The funny part of this story is that the lawsuit was filed in California. Do imported lawsuits count when they figure the national trade deficit?
Antarctic Ice Shelved
In Antarctica a big piece of ice broke loose and floated away, breaking up into some icebergs. About 1250 square miles of the Larson Ice Shelf, around 650 feet thick, broke up.
The ice shelf was on the Antarctic Peninsula, the part that sticks up toward South America. Here's a picture of the roving ice:
The temperature on the Antarctic Peninsula has risen 2.5 degrees Centigrade in the past 50 years, a lot more than the global warming trend.
Just to keep people confused, the Ross ice streams in Antarctica has been getting thicker recently, and some of Antarctica's deserts have gotten .5 C cooler in the past 15 years. I think the Ross ice streams are glaciers that flow into the Ross Ice Shelf, but I'm not sure.
About 6 years ago another big piece of the Larson Ice Shelf floated away. It was about 800 square miles.
Last week Senator Fritz officially introduced the "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act." In a nutshell, it says that every piece of hardware or software capable of duplicating copyrighted material must include copy protection mechanisms defined by the Federal Communications Commission. (Would that include pencils?)
More specifically, it includes "any hardware or software that reproduces, displays, retrieves or accesses any kind of copyrighted work." That means if I write a program such as Photomud
that saves pictures and doesn't include the recording industry's copy protection scheme, it could cost me a few hundred thousand dollars in fines.
If this bill passes, a lot of people won't be writing free and cheap software you can get today.
I was pretty surprised that anybody would take this bill seriously, but I guess I underestimated the stupidity of the government. Or maybe I underestimated the effect of millions of dollars of campaign contributions.
If the bill-with-too-many-initials-to-remember passes, it will put the U.S. at a technological disadvantage because people won't be able to use new technologies that don't comply with the CBDTPA.
Under this law U.S. companies won't be able to export unrestricted software or hardware (including things like computers, CDs, printers, and fax machines) to other countries. This will give U.S. companies the option of moving production overseas or leaving the international markets.
In addition, U.S. consumers will be unable to legally buy software produced overseas that doesn't contain the recording industry's copy protection. I'm not sure how they intend to block internet downloads. Maybe they'll call it terrorism and have the FBI block overseas internet access. Or they could follow Cuba's lead and outlaw PCs altogether.
In case you haven't noticed, I'm not a big fan of this law. I don't like the movie people or the government telling me what I can and can't have in my computer.
I fact, I even went so far as to email Senator Fritz. I believe when you contact a Senator you should be very courteous and explain the matter in a respectful manner: "The CBDTPA is the stupidest bill to come to Congress in years. If your brain was gasoline it wouldn't power a pissant's motorcycle around the inside of a Cheerio." (I learned that from my uncle Darrell.)
Apparently there are some people who feel even more strongly about this than I do.
Last Junkmail I mentioned how Google uses a number of things to prioritize their searches, such as relevancy, popularity, links to the site, etc. I forgot to mention lawyers.
There is a popular site on the internet called xenu.net. The site is critical of the "Church of Scientology." The Scientology lawyers got ahold of Google and threatened them with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They said the if Google didn't take the site xenu.net off their search engine, then bad things were going to happen.
Here's the letter from Scientology's lawyers to Google:
Here's the letter Google sent to zenu.net when they were removed from Google's search engine.
Since then, the main xenu.net site has been reinstated in the Google search engine, but most of the other Xenu links have not. I just did a google search for scientology and http://xenu.net
comes up fourth.
I don't know anything about Scientology, except that I started to read one of L. Ron Hubbard's science fiction books once and didn't finish because it was boring. So I went to the Scientology page and took a free personality test. After answering two of the questions, I decided it would be easier to answer with a paradiddle (L R L L R L R R...) for the other 198 questions.
The result of my pseudo-random answers? Most of my personality is in an unacceptable state, and I am in urgent need of attention.
I still don't know whether Scientology is a good or bad organization, but I'd say their testing is not so good and they have too many lawyers. I also prefer Clancy's or Michener's books.
You Might Have Mail
A year ago last January, AOL and Time Warner merged and became AOL Time Warner. The bosses said it would be business as usual. Then the bosses decreed that every one of the 80,000 employees would use AOL email, and only AOL email.
It seems that the Time Warner people did not like using AOL's email system, particularly when it didn't work. The Wall Street Journal said, "The e-mail software frequently crashed, staffers weren't able to send messages with large attachments, they were often kicked offline without warning, and if they tried to send messages to large groups of users they were labeled as spammers and locked out of the system. Sometimes, e-mails were just plain lost in the AOL etherworld and never found. And if there was an out-of-office reply function, most people couldn't find it."
Lots of upper and lower level people complained about losing emails, losing business, offending customers, and even using taxis instead of email to deliver computer files. Being a fine software development organization, the AOL bosses decided to let everybody start using other email software such as Outlook and Notes rather than fix the problems.
So easy to use...
Pony Express vs. Telegraph?
The U.S. Postal Service has had a decline in business lately. They blame lots of things, including terrorists. To get the business back, they're going to raise prices.
Email has replaced just about all the personal letter writing I do. Fedex and UPS have replaced most of my parcel post and express mail shipments. My brother Mike and I have a house in Colorado. Fedex and UPS deliver there, but we cannot get mail delivered there.
I'm not sure what the solution is, but the USPS seems to be headed for trouble. Realistically, they have to raise prices when volume drops because of their fixed costs. That causes more volume drop, and so on. I guess they'll need government subsidies for some time to come.
Battle Creek Spam
What can you do about spam? If you consider this fine piece of work spam, you'll find some instructions at the bottom on how to disable your computer and stop getting this email. In the header of this message, you'll find a legitimate return address with an alleged human on the other end who might read your reply. But this email is not really spam. I'm not trying to sell you anything. I do this just for fun. Yeah, I realize I have a warped mind.
Anyway, there is a lot of offensive bulk mail flying around cyberspace. Hardcore spammers don't use legit return email addresses, and they even go to great lengths to hide where their email comes from.
A mail server can send mail from anywhere to anywhere on the internet. Most mail servers allow mail to be received from anywhere, provided the user has a legitimate id and password. Most mail servers don't require an id or password when mail is sent. They generally give everybody within their local network (IP address range) free access to send email. For example, earthlink will allow me to send email on the earthlink server, but only when I'm dialed into my earthlink account.
Sometimes a dummy that runs a mail server (like me, for example) might not leave the IP restriction enabled on a mail server. If that happens, a nefarious spammer can get onto my unsecure email server and send a couple million emails. This has become one of the more popular ways to send anonymous spam.
Some people got together and decided a good way to stop this would be to check all the mail servers they could find, publish a black list of the unrestricted servers with "open relays", and let all the wholesome spam-hating mail servers refuse mail from all the unsecure open relay servers. When the owner of an unsecure server gets complaints about bouncing emails, he fixes the open relay and gets removed from the black list.
Sometimes when I travel I unlock my server so I can send Junkmail through it from Timbuktu or somewhere. Sometimes I even mess it up through pure incompetency. When I leave it that way for a few days, I get put on the black lists and about 1 in 10 emails I send bounce back with a message calling me a redneck spammer.
It doesn't take much to keep one of these black lists. A guy named Ian Gulliver maintained one of the biggest (judging from the bounces I've gotten) in New York state. His system scans mail servers and does about 10 checks to see if they are secure. If not, they get added to the ORBZ black list.
In Battle Creek Michigan, they use an old version of the Lotus Domino mail server. It has some known bugs. Battle Creek didn't bother to upgrade. It seems that one of these bugs is incompatible with the ORBZ scanning system, because a few days ago their email system went into convulsions when ORBZ was doing its kindly scan.
When the Battle Creek people finally figured out what happened, you would think they'd call up Ian and ask him to lay off until they updated their mail server. Ian would have been more than happy to comply. Instead, last Tuesday Ian went to his mailbox and picked up a search warrant from a Michigan Judge that authorized a search and seizure of the ORBZ stuff.
A detective named Robert from Battle Creek said he was hoping to file felony charges of computer intrusion against the person at the Orbz anti-spam service who contacted the Domino server, and caused e-mail to crash for 24 hours. "If we can identify the person responsible, yes, we will prosecute," Robert said.
Since Ian has an aversion to Michigan jails, he has shut down ORBZ permanently. Here's his letter:
"Here's the email that those of you with forward sight have been fearing since the inception of ORBZ.
As of this moment, ORBZ is shutting down. DNS zones are going to stop resolving, the website will disappear and mail will stop working (so further discussion on this list probably won't work -- use NANAE).
I don't want to disappear in silence like ORBS, so I'll try for as much description as possible without compromising my own position.
I received an official court notice this afternoon to turn over all information relation to ORBZ accounts. This came from the 10th Judicial District court of the State of Michigan. It appears that ORBZ may be facing criminal charges for denial of service relating to the Lotus Domino issue.
I was happy to try to weather any civil issues that may have come up, and I was committed to seeing it through. However, the threat of jail time is too much; I don't believe in this fight quite that much.
Thank you all for all your support. I sincerely hope that someone with the goal of carrying on the mission of ORBZ pops up in another country with a less foreboding legal system. Anyone who has copies of the current zones may do with them what they wish.
For those of you stuck without good spam filtering, please consider ORDB and SpamCop; they both provide excellent free solutions."
- Ian Gulliver, ORBZ
If the new anti-hacking law passes, Ian would conceivably face life in prison over this. That's pretty dumb.
Battle Creek has since said, "Yeah, we're stupid. Never mind," and made friends with Ian. However, Ian doesn't want to risk going through this again, so ORBZ is history.
But there's a new anti-spam blacklist called DSBL.
(Coincidentally, dsbl.org has an amazingly similarly IP address to orbz.org.)
It works by letting other people attempt to send email through an open relay. If an email goes to firstname.lastname@example.org, then the server it was sent through gets blacklisted. This is a pretty good idea, with one potential flaw. Suppose I wanted to get Prodigy or Earthlink or someone blacklisted. All I'd have to do is log onto my Prodigy or Earthlink account and send an email to email@example.com. That would put them on the black list until they asked to be removed.
Zero Tolerance or Zero Sense?
Unfortunately, this story about zero tolerance in schools is not unique. Sometimes people should use their brains.
AOL Takes Over Public TV
Louis Rukeyser has been fired from Maryland Public Television's "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser", after 32 years. Maryland Public TV teamed up with Fortune Magazine, which happens to be owned by AOL Time Warner.
Although Wall Street Week has been getting more viewership than its cable competitors, AOL Time Warner said they were replacing Rukeyser this summer to broaden the audience. In the program last week Rukeyser called it an "ambush" and said he half expected to come to work and find his door bolted. As a result, he was fired immediately instead of June.
But Rukeyser said that, as a partner, he has to live up to his contract and work until June.
The Academy Awards happened, with the longest ceremony and the lowest ratings in Academy Awards history. I seem to have missed it.
Pictures of Today!
Fresh from 1994, GEOS 8 water vapor photo of the earth.
Also from 1994, a Nevada Mountain.
And one more from 1994, a piece of ice.
Last week was Spring Break. I decided to do some wide-angle skiing. People kept looking at me for some reason, especially on the black slopes.
Here's Peak 7 at Breckenridge. You can ski down it, but you have to climb to the top. It's steep!
(@) 20002, no rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication and distribution of this fine piece of aspiring prose is fine so long as it's duplicated using hardware and software that does not include copy protection mechanisms defined by the Federal Communications Commission as provided for in the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or the Act for the More General Promulgation of the Laws of the United States.
If you'd like to sign up yourself, friends, neighbors, relatives, or inlaws to receive Junkmail, go to
If you'd like to read old Junkmails, you can find them there also.
If you'd like to stop getting Junkmail, please select one or more of these easy-to-use methods:
1. Get a new email address.
2. Run an old Lotus Domino and request and Orbz check.
3. Email me
with "Kangerlussuaq" as the subject, or
I'm Bob Webster and I reside at firstname.lastname@example.org
. Have a nice day!