More Junkmail from Bob!
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Spam, Windows, and Web Beacons
Spam has been growing on my computer recently. Well, it doesn't really grow by itself, but the amount of spam that arrives in my inbox has been on the increase. In the past I've been afraid to use the "remove" procedures in spam, especially in the ones that offer strange drugs and other unusual "medical" services. I figured that would just let them know that there's a real person on the other end of the email and they'd add me to more lists.
About a month ago I made a new email account that I don't use for anything. I started "removing" it along with my regular email address. The good news is that nobody has sent the dummy email address any spam. But I can't tell whether anybody has removed me from any spam lists because I still get a lot of spam.
In the process I noticed some spam creative license in spam that I hadn't seen before, mostly because I had never read any of these important messages. At the bottom of some of the emails, there's a notice saying that I received this message because I asked to be added to the email list. That's wrong, of course, but it's enough to get a lot of people to wonder about it. Then it says I can be removed from the list by clicking on the following link. The link is a fake link and has never been a web site. Most people will just think the site is down and forget about it.
I guess a lot of spammers must ignore the bounced emails. It's probably easier to ignore them than to update their mailing list. Some spammers have legitimate removal procedures and actually use them.
When someone wants to stop getting Junkmail, they can click remove. Then they go into an "exclusion list" so I don't accidentally add them back into the Junklist. If the Junkmail is bounced by an email filter, then I delete the email address in the bounced message. But sometimes a bounced message embeds the offending email address in an attachment, and I'm too lazy to extract those very often. Also, a bounced email address doesn't get added to the exclusion list, so it can be added back into the list later.
So for me, the best way not to get Junkmail is to hit the remove link. Bouncing will get you deleted usually, but not always and it's not permanent. Along the same lines, if your highly valued Junkmail bounces because your email box is full or your mail server is down, you may get deleted. So if you are not reading this Junkmail, check your email box to see if it's full.
Most of the spam I get is in html format. Some of the spam I get has links to the internet. Since I use Outlook, when I open one of these emails it goes to the internet without me even asking for it. For years Microsoft has called this a valuable feature, but I don't like it. It slows things down on my computer. Even worse, when I inadvertently open the spam email it can send my email address or a code representing me to their server. These are called web beacons. This way they know I read their email on how to get rich quick working at home, get a mortgage, or enlarge various and sundry body parts. I don't mind the invasion of privacy as much as I mind the additional spam I get when they find out I was suckered into looking at one.
The next version of Outlook will have an option to disable the "valuable feature" of your email accessing the internet without your knowledge. In order to disable this valuable feature, you'll have to get rid of Windows 98 and Windows ME. It will require Windows XP or Windows 2000.
Microsoft puts things into Windows that they think I need, whether I want them or not. Then they seem to do whatever possible to force me to use the new version. I'm holding out onto Windows 98 as long as I can! Actually, I have XP and 2000 running on some of my other computers, but I prefer Windows 98.
Verizon settled a lawsuit with Alan Ralsky, a big spammer. He agreed not to spam Verizon customers. I guess other big ISP's will be looking for similar settlements now.
Some countries are considering Linux systems as an alternative to Windows XP. Price and a reluctance to rely on Microsoft are the main reasons.
I heard on the radio the other day that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
is spending $100,000,000 to fight AIDS in India. I thought that was a pretty good cause, and wondered what made them decide on India. I wondered if it was because nobody else is spending money to fight AIDS there.
Then today I ran across this article. Microsoft is spending $400,000,000 to fight Linux in India. The pieces of the puzzle fall together...
Speaking of Office 11
Microsoft's Office 11 (or whatever the final name will be) will have speech recognition included. Microsoft is also distributing the .Net Speech Software Developer Kit for developing applications with speech recognition. It's still a beta version, but you can get a CD or download it from Microsoft's MSDN web site.
A couple of months ago John Chandler mentioned Bell Labs doing something similar: "When I went to IBM in May 1957 for a summer job, the people there told me that 'Soon, in just a few years, we'll have voice input. No more using those noisy keypunch machines. One system is called Shoebox and it's been developed at Bell Labs. It runs now, but you have to pronounce your words separately and distinctly. They expect to have this limitation removed within two years.'"
Do you own a copy of Microsoft Word? How about Windows? Are you sure?
Kmart filed for bankruptcy protection not long ago. They lost of a lot of money recently. Some of the money they lost was in their internet venture Bluelight.com. Now they want to sell Bluelight.com because they would rather have $8.4 million dollars than Bluelight.com. This makes me wonder why they put several times that much money into Bluelight.com in the first place, but I won't get into that right now.
Microsoft doesn't want Kmart to sell Bluelight.com. Why? Because the sale includes Microsoft software owned (or licensed, according to Microsoft) by Bluelight.com. Why would they care? If, for example, Bluelight.com has a few thousand copies of Microsoft Office, United Online (the potential purchaser) may sell them at a discount. If these thousands of copies of Microsoft Office sit on the shelf until they're obsolete then customers like you and me will have the privilege of buying a newly made Microsoft Office from Microsoft (albeit indirectly) without the pricing pressure of the thousands of discounted copies lowering the price. Microsoft wins two ways -- they get to sell more copies, and they get to sell them at higher prices.
I'm not sure this is the reason Microsoft has filed an objection with the court to the sale of Bluelight.com, but I'd be willing to bet $0.25.
A long time ago Ronald Reagan decided the U.S. needed space-based defensive weapons. Billions of dollars were spent on the "Strategic Defense Initiative." This sounds like a lot, but I think it's not quite as much as was spent on Y2K or terrorism.
Laser weapons are finally being developed that work, to some extent. Here's an interesting article
on them. You have to register for the LA Times to read it, but it doesn't cost anything. Same for the New York Times articles I occasionally put in here.
Here's a story
about a laser weapon shooting down an artillery shell.
A New Computer
A lot of people ask me what kind of computers I buy. I usually get the parts and put them together. I built one last weekend. Here's what I bought.
|Case MATX 180w P4
|1.44mb Floppy Drive
|120gb ATA/100 7200 rpm
|16x DVD 48x CD
|256mb 266mhz DDR SDRAM
|Motherboard D845GRGL P4
|Pentium 4 2.4 ghz 533fsb 512k
This doesn't include a keyboard (less than $15), a monitor, or a mouse because I already had extras. Computers keep getting cheaper, faster, and smaller. The MATX motherboard and case are smaller than the others. The 180 watt power supply won't handle as many hard drives and stuff, but it's quieter and will do what I need. The newer drives and motherboards don't use as much power. The hard drive is a lot bigger than I need, but I say that just about every time before I fill one up. The motherboard has a LAN, Sound, and Graphics Adapters built-in. I didn't have to add any cards to this system.
When I got it, it took about 15 minutes to put together. It took a while longer to install and update all the software. I put on Windows 98 se, Office 97 with Outlook 98, and a bunch of other programs. The Windows installation was quicker than the Windows Update.
I bought it from Micro X-Press
. I doubt if it's the cheapest, but It's pretty cheap and I've had good luck ordering from them before.
If you stay six months or a year behind the fastest CPU you'll save a lot of money. For example, a 2.4 ghz P4 chip is $219, and a 2.8 ghz chip is $449. Intel is supposed to release a 3 gigahertz Pentium 4 this week.
After I built this system, its speed was amazing. I immediately put it to task performing the most computationally intensive task I do -- booting the system. OK, I realize it's not really computationally intensive. It's just waiting around on inefficiently written hardware checks and even more inefficiently written software initializations. But my new computer will boot in less than a minute!
Windows XP is slower booting than Windows 98 for me, despite Microsoft's claims of faster startups. I guess they were comparing it to Windows 2000 or MVS or something.
Janis Ian and RIAA
Michael Miller sent me these links by singer Janis Ian. She said that downloading music isn't harmful to musicians. The RIAA disagreed with her. It's pretty good:
There is a setting on many cable modems that limit their speed. It seems reasonable to adjust your cable modem to get faster internet service, right? Some people in Toledo did that. But then the Toledo police computer crimes task force and FBI agents seized their computers and charged them with felonies. I guess Tom Daschle considers them hackers who are just like terrorists.
Toledo Blade Story
One of my favorite political responses from the elections was Daschle's. He said that the Democrats' problem was not their viewpoint, but that they didn't communicate the message well enough. Could it be that someone disagreed with the message? Naw.....
In celebrating the election results, Bush canceled the snowmobile ban at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. There will still be some limits. 4-stroke engines will be required, and 80% of the snowmobiles will have to be led by guides. That should make a lot of money for the snowmobile businesses when people have to buy new 4-stroke snowmobiles and hire guides.
Stupid Patent Lawsuits
Last month in Junkmail
I wrote about PanIP and their 50-some stupid patent lawsuits. Incidentally, "stupid patent" is technical legal terminology. PanIP sued a chocolate company in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The chocolate company is fighting back. Chocolate boss Tim said, "This is just wrong. Everyone can see it for what it is - legalized extortion."
Tim set up this web site along with some other PanIP victims.
Support Tim -- buy some Chocolate!
Nam Tai Electronics is a Hong Kong electronics company. A year or two ago some people posted some bad things about the Nam Tai on a message board. 51 people, in fact. Nam Tai sued them all and demanded from AOL to learn some of their real identities. This is so Nam Tai could collect money from them for libel and violations of California's unfair business practice statutes. Courts in Virginia and California have sided with Nam Tai and the AOL users have are going to be exposed, unless it's overturned by a higher court.
The problem is, this seems to have backfired for Nam Tai. Some posters on message boards don't seem to care whether Nam Tai sues them or not. Something about freedom of speech, I think. (Warning -- there may be a naughty word here):
Nam Tai Yahoo Message Board
Here are the details:
AOL said it should not be required to reveal subscriber information because it would "infringe on the well-established First Amendment right to speak anonymously." This week AOL also announced some new software that lets companies eavesdrop on their employees using AOL Instant Messenger. Strange, huh?
Plane Spotting in Greece
I wrote about some plane spotters who were arrested in Greece and charged with spying. Last week their convictions were overturned by a Greek appeals court. They're free!
Ever see an internet hoax? An Urban Legend? Ever wonder whether a forwarded email is real? Check out http://snopes.com
. For example, here's a good explanation of the underwater iceberg picture. I could see the picture wasn't real, but this explains who did it and how.
Senator Wellstone died in a plane crash. At his funeral they had a political rally. His pilot lied about his previous airline experience and felony conviction.
Three's a new phone number out for people who see something unusual at a small airport. It's 866-GA-SECURE. It will start working sometime in December. They don't have a phone number for people who see something unusual at Walmart, so I guess we'll have to use this same number. There are too many letters in that phone "number," by the way, so you have to leave off the last E on some phone systems.
Several people have asked me if there's a problem flying small planes around now, as if I should be considered a terrorist threat. If I were a terrorist, I'd use a truck bomb or a car bomb instead of an airplane. Using a bomb in an SUV or minivan would be easier, cheaper, and more anonymous than an aiplane. It can also carry a heavier load. Why all the security at small airports, then? It couldn't be because it's easier or more politically palatable than tight security on all the roads and highways, could it?
If I decided to launch a terrorist attack against the U.S., I could think of several ways to do it. Airplanes would not be near the top of the list. A couple of years ago it would have been a good idea to use an airliner, but increased airline security has reduced the chances of a successful hijacking. Small planes don't carry enough weight, and it's too hard to get suicidal pilots and airplanes. Well, you might consider some pilots suicidal if you read the "VFR flight into IFR conditions" accidents, but most of those people aren't prone to terrorism.
If I used cars or trucks, my suicide bombers wouldn't have to have any particular skills such as how to fly or talk on the radio. Assuming I already had some idiots who wanted to blow themselves up, the hardest part would be getting the explosives. The next hardest part would be driving to whatever I wanted to blow up.
How could I get tons of explosives into the U.S.? Probably the same way you get tons of cocaine and marijuana into the U.S. -- across the border. I don't know the details of how to smuggle, but a lot of people apparently do, and they could be bought. One scary thought is how easy it would be for the Columbian drug people to smuggle in a large amount of weapons and explosives.
How could I get to the target? It's easy. Pick a target without much security. There are lots of them around, and there will continue to be. Shopping centers, large retail stores, and schools would be easy targets. This type of attack is best prevented at the planning stage rather than the execution stage.
If I had a couple dozen suicide bombers, I could arrange for a new car bomb to go off every few days in different places around the county to make sure it stays in the news for months. I could even throw in some snipers for good measure. It's easy to get a good gun and ammunition in the U.S.
What if I wanted a big attack? Maybe I could hijack a tanker and drive it into New York Harbor or somewhere like that. An LPG tanker would make a big explosion, and a Very Large Crude Carrier would make a big mess. I can't take credit for thinking this up on my own. I read it in the book Joshua's Hammer, by Hagberg. It's an interesting novel written in 2000 about a world terrorist named Osama Bin Laden who, in his final days, mounts an major terrorist attack against the U.S. I thought the book was particularly good at describing the thinking of the terrorists, and unlike many novels, this book doesn't have major logic flaws in the story.
Why am I outlining how to attack the U.S.? Because I think too much security is going into the wrong place. Hopefully someone who helps in the decision making will figure this out. Today it would be relatively easy to mount a terrorist attack, and it wouldn't be prevented by grounding all the planes in the U.S.
Why hasn't another attack happened yet? I would guess there are two main reasons. First, the FBI intelligence must be pretty good, and most infiltrations of people and explosives might be prevented. Second, terrorist resources are probably stretched pretty thin right now, preventing a lot of international travel, smuggling, and weapons and explosives acquisition.
Some California politicians want laws against using cell phones in cars. Governor Gray asked the California Highway Patrol for a report on the number of accidents caused by cell phone users in 2001. He got the report last week. There were 913 highway accidents in California blamed on cell phone use, including three fatal accidents.
Gray sent the report back and is expected to get another one soon that says at least 4,699 accidents in 2001 were caused by cell phone use. My favorite quote: "We're not changing any of our conclusions. It's just adding additional data that might make it clearer for everybody."
Facts is facts, man! If it's 913, it can't be 4699. The Soviet Union had a habit of changing statistics to suit the politicians' whims. The next thing you know our political opinion polls will be unreliable.
Pictures of Today!
Here's the Shoemaker Impact Structure (crater) in western Australia, taken by a Landsat.
"The Shoemaker impact structure lies in the arid, central part of Western Australia near Wiluna. The crater is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) in diameter and contains seasonal lakes that produce salt deposits as they evaporate. It is approximately 1.7 billion years old and is regarded as the oldest known Australian impact structure to date. A dark, crescent-shaped inner ring surrounds the core, which consists of uplifted granitic rocks. The outer ring is composed of Precambrian sedimentary rocks. The crater, formerly known as Teague, was renamed the Shoemaker impact structure in honor of the late geologist Eugene M. Shoemaker, one of the founding fathers of impact research."
A young Locust, a.k.a. Cicada, Hilton Head South Carolina.
A yellow butterfly.
Ocean Birds on a small island off Hilton Head.
Land, Sea, and Air
Sand Fiddlers, Hilton Head
Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico
Cell Tower, Key Largo
This is a strange line in the ocean separating two kinds of water. It's near Gulfport, Mississippi. I took this last week.
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