More Junkmail from Bob!

April 25, 2010
Important Stuff.

Total Information Awareness

Some people in Congress are complaining about the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program. Senator Russ from Wisconsin is supposed to introduce a bill on today that stops the TIA until Congress reviews the data mining issue. I don't think it will pass, but it will attract some publicity.

One thing is pretty funny about the Total Information Awareness program -- their web site. They used to have a pretty comprehensive web site with details on the projects, biographical information on the project leaders, and a cool logo stating "knowledge is power" in Latin. That information has been gradually deleted from the site as public criticism has grown. Just in case you missed it last time I posted the TIA link, here's their logo. It could be a collector's item someday.


More info:

Here's the current site:

Some people are poo-pooing the TIA because Admiral John Poindexter is in charge. He was convicted of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and destruction of evidence in 1990 in the Iran-Contra affair. The conviction was overturned on appeal because he had been granted immunity from prosecution for some of his testimony. Anyway, some people are convinced he may not always be honest and straightforward, and that he shouldn't be in charge of a giant database of personal information. I think if an honest, straightforward person is required for any job in Washington, then we're asking for trouble and the job itself is in desperate need of some controls and safeguards. Oops. Was I being cynical again?

Data Mining the Hard Way

A couple people at MIT have been data mining from used hard drives. They bought 158 used hard drives on eBay and at used computer stores. They found "significant personal information" on 49 of them.

A lot of times you can unerase files, and sometimes you can even recover data from a formatted hard drive. If you have secrets you want rid of, you can use a disk wiper utility like this one:

In my case, I assume that nobody cares about my personal information so I don't worry too much about it. I've been using my credit cards on the internet for years, and the only problem I've had was when a credit card melted in my shorts pocket in the clothes dryer.

Highband Internet

Need internet on a commercial flight? Lufthansa has it. They're conducting a 3 month test of a wireless network hooked to wideband internet on one of their flights.


The Yaha email virus is out and about. I am the proud recipient of over 100 copies of this one in the past 3 weeks. I'm not sure whether it's one really stupid person (like Mike) whose computer keeps sending me the virus over and over, or if a bunch of people have it. Most of the time it comes in without a return address, but it occasional lists someone I don't know in the From box. If I have time, I'll usually add a virus sender to the Junklist. That'll teach 'em!

Microsoft Thievery

Daniel is a 32-year old guy who worked at Microsoft until last month. He had a pretty lucrative deal going. Daniel would order software to be used in his department at Microsoft, take it home, and resell it. Daniel is not one for petty theft, however. He was charged with stealing and reselling about $9,000,000 worth of Microsoft software. It makes me wonder how a Microsoft employee could order internally $9 million worth of software without anybody noticing. Even more strange is the fact that he must have thought nobody would ever catch on. Daniel has to give up his yacht now.

Daniel's personal web site was, but that's redirected to the Red Cross donation page now.

Detainees (This section is optional)

The U.S. has "detained" a few thousand people lately who have connections with terrorists. Most of them are being kept outside the United States. Some of those people are not being treated very nicely. According to the Washington Post, the CIA is involved in some torture interrogations, either directly or indirectly.

Not long ago, I remember reading that in the CIA you had to be careful to follow the rules because nothing remains secret indefinitely. I wonder how long before some of these detainees are freed and go to the press with their stories. I expect there will be a lot of political fallout in a year or three.

A couple of years ago, a general in France named Jacques caught a lot of flack after he confirmed widespread torture in Algiers about 40 years ago. Jacques died last October. I think torture that happened just months ago might be a bigger deal.,11882,820598,00.html

Who is Eula, anyway?

I just now performed a Windows Update on my laptop. Being a rather warped individual, I scanned over the EULA. That's the End User License Agreement. I have the choice of agreeing with it or not. Unless I tell my computer that I agree with this Agreement, it ignores my update request. I think that is rather rude. However, I am happy to agree with most anything when I'm installing software on someone else's computer. Why should I care if Microsoft owns their firstborn child?

There is one thing that's interesting in this EULA, particularly because I was only updating a modem driver. I had to a agree to this: "You may not disclose the results of any benchmark of the .net framework component of the OS components to any third party without Microsoft's prior written approval."

That means if I test to see how fast my .net framework runs, I can't tell you how fast that was. I was a little fuzzy on applicability of this to a modem driver, but since I always follow rules, I agreed.

Surely Microsoft isn't embarrassed about how slow the .net framework is, are they? The next thing you know, they'll throw out the name ".net" altogether. Whoops, I think they already did. Windows .net Server is now Windows Server 2003.

This got me curious, and I decided to read the next EULA, for Windows Media Player 9. It says, "the OS Components may install on your computer technological measures that are designed to prevent unlicensed use, and Microsoft may use this technology to confirm that you have a licensed copy of the OS Software." Sure enough, just after I installed it, Windows Media Player 9 tried to access the internet.

So, the way I interpret this, if Microsoft thinks my Windows isn't a licensed copy, they can shut down my computer whenever they want. The thing I really don't like about it is that it will slow down my computer whenever they decide they need to check and see if my software is legitimate. I put this onto my laptop, which usually uses a slow modem. Microsoft will end up with all my 56K bandwidth if I'm not careful.

Other things in the Windows XP EULA say that I don't mind if Microsoft to modifies the operating system on my computer whenever they think they need to. That means it must be possible for them to alter Windows XP without my knowledge whenever I'm connected to the Internet. I wonder if the FBI uses this feature for their now-legal internet eavesdropping. It should be pretty simple to tap into someone's computer that way. They could record keystrokes while you're offline, then transmit them whenever you connect to the internet. That's one easy way to get passwords and break unbreakable encryption. I think if I was in the spying business I'd use DOS and telnet.

If Microsoft can do this, then the FBI can with Microsoft's assistance. It seems like just a matter of time before details leak out and someone else figures out how to alter any Windows XP system on the internet. I think it would be pretty dumb to leave all Windows computers wide open like this, so maybe I'm missing something here.

Jetcruzer, Mooney, Learn2, and AOL

What does a used airplane company go for?  About $125,000 -- a lot less than one of the finished planes. Except in this case, they never finished a plane. AASI was developing a single engine, rear engine turboprop for the business market. The problem was, the plane was overweight, under speed, out of balance, and too noisy. They gave up on the Jetcruzer and sold the design and parts at auction last month.

Earlier, AASI bought Chapter 11 Mooney, and renamed itself Mooney Aerospace Group. The financials of the company don't look too great, but it's an interesting story.

Speaking of financials, in 1990 ViaGrafix was formed, even before the drug Viagra. In 1995, ViaGrafix and American Small Business Computers (DesignCAD) merged. 1998 ViaGrafix went public. In 1999, Learn2 bought ViaGrafix. In 2000, Mike and I were asked to leave the company. Because we always follow the rules, and because they paid us to, we did. In 2001, Estamps bought Learn2 and later renamed itself LTWC.

This week, LTWC was delisted from Nasdaq. Why? Because they didn't hold an annual meeting, and they owe Nasdaq $4,667. LTWC boss Robert made $910,000 in 2001. Someday I'll have to write a story about these companies. It's pretty interesting. And funny.

AOL boss Steve Case finally got the price of AOL Time Warner to go up. He resigned. The consensus in the news is that AOL was overpriced when they bought Time Warner. Brilliant deduction. They also say that now Time Warner is the primary company and AOL should just be a small division instead of vice versa. I guess some people didn't think much of Steve Case. The day after he announced he was leaving, on the main AOL news site they said, "Case was clearly ineffective."

AOL is expected to take a $10,000,000,000 "writedown" later this month. That means they have $10 billion less than they thought they did, but they didn't actually lose the money. I think those people have potential in the federal government.


The Recording Industry web site ( has been defaced by hackers 6 times in the past 6 months. For an organization worried about piracy on the internet, they should learn something about computer security.,1282,57048,00.html

GPS Tracker

Do you know where your car is? For $600-$700, you can find out, and access the GPS information real-time on the internet. With some systems, if your car is not where it's supposed to be, you can turn it off by remote control.,1282,56537,00.html

The police are using something like this to setup car thieves.,1282,56536,00.html

Some people are afraid that the government will install something like this in all vehicles, "for our own protection." I doubt if that will go over any time in the near future, but the technology is available.

I read that a ski resort may offer personal GPS trackers next year. At the end of the day you'll be able to see how far you skied, the vertical distance, average speed, etc.

Spam is Healthy?

The volume of spam email continues to grow. Lots of people are complaining, but nobody has been able to stop it yet.,14179,...

I have gotten a hotmail account before, never used it, checked it a few months later, and found it full of spam. I naturally figured Microsoft passed out the email addresses, but I never was sure how or why. It turns out that you can verify an email address with a mail server to see if it's still good. With hotmail, you can do this really fast and lots of times. So email address collectors will test every conceivable email address and keep the good ones. Even if it's only 1 in 1000, if you try a billion names you get a million email addresses.,1377,57132,00.html

There is no Gravity!

It looks like Einstein was right. Gravity is probably a warp in space/time, and it travels at about the speed of light. A guy named Sergei at the U. of Mizzou led a team to measure light when Jupiter passed in front of a quasar. They used bunch of radio telescopes scattered around the Hawaii, the Virgin Islands, the continental U.S., and Germany.

Microsoft and California

The state of California settled its antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, pending somebody's approval. Californians got $1,100,000,000 out of the deal that Oklahomans did not. Except they really didn't get the money. Microsoft agreed to pass out that many dollars worth of Microsoft software to qualified people in California. In addition to increasing market share, I'd guess that Microsoft will eventually make a profit on the deal by selling upgrades. That'll teach Microsoft to mess with California!

$1 per gig

You can now get a 120 gigabyte hard drive for $120 -- 1 dollar per gigabyte. That's about 400,000 times cheaper (per byte) than the first hard drives I bought -- really! It seems like compact flash cards or some type of static memory may eventually replace hard drives. They should be cheaper to manufacture in time. Now you can get a 1 gigabyte compact flash card for less than $500.

Program Cars

Need a fast car? Program a Honda Civic. Here's an interesting article on today's hot rods.

North Korea

I felt the urge to do some ranting and raving over Bush and North Korea. You can skip this section if you want, since you've probably heard more about that lately than you care to. You will not be tested over this material.

A few years ago, the U.S. and Japan agreed to build some nuclear power plants for North Korea. The U.S. agreed to send fuel oil to North Korea until they're done. North Korea agreed not to build any nuclear weapons in the meantime.

Then Bush called North Korea a member of the infamous Axis of Evil. The Axis of Evil speech was written by Mr. Frum, who is, incidentally a Canadian, and who is, coincidentally, no longer working for the White House. I mentioned that in a previous Junkmail. What I didn't mention, because I recently learned it myself, is that Mr. Frum wrote the term "axis of hatred," and another speechwriter changed it before it got to Bush for the State of the Union address last January.

Here's the speech:

A lot of people were surprised about the terminology, especially for North Korea. North Korea hasn't attacked the U.S. for 40 or 50 years, except for the seizure of an occasional boat or airplane. When Reagan the Soviet Union the Evil Empire, diplomats tried to soften the rhetoric to keep things running smooth between countries. When Dubbya used the term "Axis of Evil," it really got North Korea excited. Instead of trying to play it down, the diplomats confirmed it. Here's what our ambassador in Japan said.

Bush has started a new policy, saying that pre-emptive military attacks against countries that support terrorism are going to be happening now. Bush also told Bob Woodward in an interview for the book Bush at War, that Bush "loathes" the North Korean leader. Bush said it may be a religious thing. Bush also said that he's a gut player, he goes with his instinct.

Now, what would I do if I were the supreme boss of North Korea? I would view the U.S. as being led by a religious fanatic who hates me. Bush is planning to attack Iraq, although Iraq had less to do with the attack on the World Trade Center than Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. The U.N. hasn't been able to find any nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons in Iraq, although there are likely to be some chemical weapons hidden somewhere.

Incidentally, I think Weapons of Mass Destruction is a bad term. Nerve gas does not cause nearly as much destruction as a 4,000 lb. bomb. But since it's socially acceptable to be blown to bits but not poisoned, we group chemical weapons into a poorly descriptive term that has an abbreviation that fits neatly into headlines.

Anyway, back to my term as Dearly Beloved Leader of North Korea. If I need to keep the U.S. from attacking my country, I had better do something quick. I would view Bush as a loose cannon, liable to send B2 bombers over my house any day. How can I prevent that? Well, I could dismantle the military and turn over North Korea to the U.S., but I won't do that because I'm a patriotic sort of guy. If I do nothing, I would expect Bush to come after me.

If I were the head of North Korea, I would start building nuclear weapons as fast as I could. I would announce it to the world. I would imply that if I am attacked, Japan is toast. Hey, wait a minute. Isn't that what the guy from North Korea is doing now? I wonder if Dubbya loathes me too.

What should the U.S. do differently? I don't see any good answers to Mid-East terrorism and violence. I think no matter what happens, there are some people who will do what they can to attack the U.S. and Europe. We can reduce the threat, but not stop it. A few people consider it a religious duty to attack the U.S. and Europe, and we're not likely to change their attitude.

But North Korea is different. They want to survive. They can be bought. My recommendation for North Korea is like that for Cuba. We should turn loose the capitalists. We can't convert people away from their own government by telling them their government is bad. But we can change the governments of Cuba and North Korea, or rather, we can let them change themselves.

How? Capitalism. If we open the markets to Cuba and North Korea, over a period of several years the money will become more important to the people inside and outside the government than the ideology. The governments will gradually stop being so isolationist, and they will inevitably start treating their people better. I say, "Turn the tourists loose on 'em!" We can overwhelm them in a sea of commerce.

Bush carries on about how bad he feels for the poor people of North Korea. He's right. North Koreans have had it very hard. There are thousands of political prisoners there in horrid conditions. But Bush doesn't mention the rest of the world. What about thousands kidnapped and killed every year in Columbia? What about hundreds of thousands being killed in Africa? What about mass rapes in Burma? I guess that's not as serious.

The U.S. has a consistent, logical foreign policy. First, we say we won't talk to North Korea until they agree to disarm. Next, we'll talk to them but only in New Mexico, and we won't negotiate. Next, we'll offer fuel oil if they stop their nuclear weapons program. (That seems vaguely familiar.) But we won't agree not to attack North Korea, and we won't even officially recognize that North Korea is a country. No wonder the Dear Boss of North Korea is a little nervous. I'd be building nukes too.

Pictures of Today!

Mount Etna blew its top in Sicily last October. This picture was taken from the space station.


When it snows on an airplane, it adds some weight to the tail.


You can see the distinct line where the snow started in this picture. I thought it was funny because the non-snow area is to the north of the snowy area.


It was snowing on the way up this mountain south of Breckenridge, CO. I didn't make it to the top, but I went farther than you can see in this picture.


Here's a balloon full of people landing outside of Breckenridge.


A creek, north of Copper Mountain.


The back side of Peak 1, near Frisco, Colorado.


In the summer these stumps are a 3-4 feet tall. I guess someone cut these trees for firewood in the winter.



Near Eccles Pass, Colorado.

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A lenticular cloud at sundown.


(~) 2073, no rights reserved for 20 more years despite what the Disney, the Supreme Court, or Congress might tell you. Any unauthorized duplication or distribution of this fine piece of junk for any reason other than fair use standards, is fine with me.

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