More Junkmail from Bob!April, 23, 2003
I got a bigger hard drive for my laptop the other day. I copied the files from the old one to the new one, fired up the computer, and got a strange error message: "The Windows license could not be verified."
I didn't think it would be much of a problem. I remember when Microsoft started doing their product key stuff with Windows XP and Office XP, they said that this would happen sometimes when you changed equipment on your computer. All you needed to do was call them and they'd give you the information you needed to get up and running.
So I called Microsoft. After a lot of phone numbers and waiting on hold, I got through to an alleged human. I told her what happened. She said she couldn't help. I paid for Windows XP, it quit working when I changed hard drives, and she couldn't help? She said the only thing I could do was call Microsoft Tech Support, give them a credit card number, and they MIGHT be able to help me.
This got me a little, uh, animated. That would cost more than I paid for Windows in the first place. I said, "You mean that even though I paid for a legal copy of Windows, just because I changed hard drives it won't work unless I pay extortion money to Microsoft?"
I expected her to get at least a little incensed when I used the word "extortion," but she seemed used to it. She just said, "Nope."
So I spent some time reinstalling Windows (I happened to have another copy) and all the applications on the laptop, when Microsoft could have and should have given me the secret code number. It's ironic that when a new computer virus spreads, you hear about the millions of dollars it costs in lost productivity. Microsoft's copy protection scheme probably costs a thousand times more, but everybody puts up with that. We have been assimilated!
It's a lot like AT&T 25 years ago.
If you're planning to fly across the Atlantic faster than the speed of sound, you should join the Air Force, become an astronaut, or buy your Concorde ticket right away. Air France is retiring its Concorde fleet at the end of May, and British Air will follow suit later this year, maybe October.
Researchers seem to be making progress against Alzheimer's disease. They've implanted a shunt in the base of the brain to drain off some cerebrospinal fluid for processing somewhere else in the head. This cuts down on some bad proteins, beta amyloid and tau, that are found in Alzheimer's brains. There has also been a vaccine developed that fights amyloid.
Both of these treatments probably won't be popular any time soon. When you drill a hole in your skull, or even if someone else drills it for you, some fairly major side effects can creep up. The trials on the amyoid vaccine were stopped because it caused too much brain inflammation.
But they are discovering a lot of things about Alzheimer's, and will probably come up with some decent treatments before too long. I hope they hurry. People have claimed I was senile since I was about 12. In a few years they'll claim I have Alzheimer's and then they'll want me to stop doing stupid stuff. That's out of the question.
I sure have been getting a lot of spam recently. Even an email account I haven't used for more than a year is getting 3 times as much spam today as it did six months ago.
What's the best way to receive spam? Put your email address on a web site. Spammers use spiders to search out email addresses on web sites. A Spider is a program that starts at the main web page and searches every link on the page, and every link on those pages, etc., for as deep as you want it to traverse the web tree.
If you have a hotmail account, they may get your email address just by testing all the possible combinations of letters and numbers.
Here's an interesting report on spam and how to get onto the email lists. These people made some new email addresses and tested them to see what resulted in getting spam.
I thought that my senseless Junkmail diatribes would be well received by an organization such as the U.S. Congress, since they excel at senseless diatribes. So I added a bunch of them to the Junklist. I noticed that lots of people in Congress have cancelled their public email addresses and only accept postings to their web sites or snail mail. Those wimps!
I guess they have been paying a little attention, though, because finally there is a reasonable anti-spam bill that has some chance of passing, slowly making its way through the congressional word mill. One problem with this bill is that some spam originates from overseas. Maybe the U.S. will mount some military invasions to resolve those cases.
AOL is suing some spammers for sending its customers over a billion email messages that resulted in over 8 million complaints.
The FTC has filed suit against spammer extraordinaire Brian from Missouri for spoofing return addresses and using deceptive subject lines. The FTC said that Brian has made more than a million dollars in his internet pornography business.
Yet another spam article:
Terrorists are Everywhere!
Mayor Daley of Chicago was confronted (a bunch of times) about his nighttime demolition of Meigs Field, the airport on the Chicago Lakefront. He finally said that he really wasn't concerned about terrorists, but he just wanted to make a park out of the airport. Really! I had a link to the Chicago Sun-Times article, but they pulled it offline. I claim he was searching for mustard gas buried under the runway.
In a situation of similar intelligence and foresight, the Transportation Security Administration told a guy named Ken, who had built a replica of the Wright Flyer, that he couldn't test fly his plane. His test airstrip is just inside the Washington DC Air Defense Identification Zone, and that makes him a terrorist threat. Every plane is required to have a radio and transponder. His plane doesn't even have a battery.
Finally, after a lot of adverse publicity, the TSA relented and said that Ken can test fly his plane, and that his and another replica will be able to fly at the Kitty Hawk centennial celebrations. I'm not sure whether they have to file a flight plan for a 106-foot flight. They do have to call air traffic controllers before takeoff and after landing. I think that's just a hair on the ridiculous side.
I'm guessing that the TSA is vying for Privacy International's "Stupid Security" awards.
Airport Security is bound to be in the running. A friend of a friend was not allowed to get on an airliner because he had a flashlight. But he was required to carry the flashlight. He was the pilot. It's the law. He was told that his flashlight was too big and could be used as a weapon, since it had three batteries instead of two. So he gave up his flashlight and climbed into the pilot seat, just in front of the fire axe that's inside the cockpit. It's a good thing he couldn't keep his dangerous flashlight.
I assumed that with all the airline passenger restrictions against tweezers and hand grenades and the like, that bags with missing passengers would not be allowed onto airplanes. That's not true. You can check your bags, skip out on the flight, and your bags go on without you. If I was a terrorist, I'd much rather be on the ground than in the plane when my bomb goes off.
Liquor Buyer Scanners
In Pennsylvania, the liquor stores have automatic scanners that check liquor purchasers' ages automatically. And, as a lot of Pennsylvanians didn't realize, they also record who bought what, where, and when. It can be accessed only by police. Some privacy fans don't like this a bit.
Lock 'em Up!
On March 20, a 38-year-old Intel programmer, Mahar "Mike" Hawash, was arrested at gunpoint by the FBI in the Intel parking lot near Portland, Oregon. Mr. Hawash is a U.S. citizen being held in solitary confinement as a material witness. He's allowed one 10-minute phone call and one visit from his family per week.
Nobody outside the government knows why he was arrested or when he'll get out. I guess they forgot about that part in the Constitution (http://xpda.com/constitution.htm) about a speedy and public trial. It seems like there's also something in there about people not being deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. Actually, the law was already in place before the Patriot Act to hold people as material witnesses. I think it wasn't intended for this type thing, however.
Hawash was born in Nablus of the West Bank, and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He received a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas. He helped develop Intel's MMX technology emulator and mpeg decoders. In 1997 he co-authored a book published by Addison-Wesley called "DirectX, RDX, RSX and MMX Technology" (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0201309440). He has a wife and three kids.
A couple of months ago, a hundred or so FBI agents flew into Moscow, Idaho, a well-known hotbed of terrorists. About 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning they arrested a guy named Al-Hussayen in his home. He was eventually charged with visa fraud and making false statements on a government document. He apparently didn't disclose his association with some questionable Islamic groups.
The thing that caught my attention in this story was the FBI saying that on his computer, they "unearthed thousands of photographs, including shots of planes hitting buildings, plane crashes, the Pentagon and the Empire State Building." Sound suspicious? Maybe, but it's not.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of computers in the U.S. with thousands of photographs, including shots of planes hitting buildings, plane crashes, the Pentagon and the Empire State Building. The Associated Press called it "a cache of damning computer evidence."
Most newer computers have thousands of photographs on them in the temporary internet files. If you look at a picture on a web site, it's saved on your hard drive. Windows often uses 3 or 5 percent of your hard driver for these files. That's done so if you go back to that web site, you won't have to download the picture again. 3 and 5 percent were reasonable numbers before 120 gigabyte drives were common. 3 percent of an $80 40 gig drive is 1.2 gigabytes, which is enough to hold tens of thousands of photos.
On Windows 98, these files are in c:\windows\temporary internet files. Windows XP is kind of weird. Under the current user in the Documents and Settings folder, Local settings folder, there is a temporary internet files folder. However, you can't see all the files in it. Try right-clicking on "temporary internet files" (Windows XP only) select "properties," and see how many files and how large the directory is. It doesn't match what you see listed in the directory contents. Part 2: Copy the temporary internet files folder somewhere else and then check the contents. It's different! Someday when I'm really bored maybe I'll figure out what's happening.
At any rate, Windows saves the images you see on the web and in email, without asking, and it can stay on your computer for a long time. If you happened to look at pictures of the World Trade Centers, then you, too could be hoarding evidence proving that you're a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.
The FBI agent who announced this could only be trying to stir up public sentiment against the guy they arrested.
Back to Al-Hussayen. The FBI said he was supporting terrorists because he helped set up web sites advocating violence against the U.S., such as this one:
A judge released him if he agreed to stay home, saying the FBI didn't have enough evidence to hold him until his trial.
But as soon as he was released, or maybe even before, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services put him back in jail where he's supposed to stay until his trial. He's got a wife and kids, and is in the Computer Science PhD program at the University of Idaho. His advisor doesn't think he's a terrorist:
But apparently the governor of Idaho does. Governor Dirk said that Al-Hussayen's arrest vindicated the security measures he implemented in and around the Statehouse. Earlier, Dirk had closed a couple of streets around the State Capitol, among other things, and caught some flak over it.
I don't know whether Hawash or Al-Hussayen are guilty of anything, but one thing is crystal clear. We should round up every computer programmer in the U.S., in or out of college, and put them in internment camps. The security of the country is at stake! Besides, a few years behind chain-link fences just might cure the digital addiction so common among byte-heads.
By the way, if you'd like to check out the latest version of a program I wrote, you can download Image Voyager here:
The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is now the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
They're doing a fine job now.
A guy named Jake has lived in California for 17 years, since he was 2. He's a legal permanent resident of the U.S. He went to Mexico last month. When he came back, he was arrested by the BCIS, thrown in jail, and told he would be deported to Canada and banned from the U.S. for 5 years. $15,000 later, the government said sorry, it's just a mistake.
Also last month, a Kurdish lady named Katrin was invited to the White House. At the White House told about how she was gassed by Iraqi troops in 1987, and she got to meet President Bush. One week later, one day after the war started, she was notified that she would be deported to Iraq.
She said, "I asked the deportation officer, 'You're going to deport me in this war situation?' And he said, 'No, you should be detained.' I said, 'I met President Bush last week and now I'll be in jail in America?' "
The White House refused to comment. Here's what the Washington Post said:
White House declines to discuss Michael or the deportation action against her. A White House press officer referred inquiries to the National Security Council, which referred inquiries to the State Department, which referred inquiries to the Department of Homeland Security, where Greg Gagne, spokesman for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, uttered this on-the-record comment:
"We don't discuss these things."
"We don't discuss these things."
I thought I was pretty safe from spyware since I use ZoneAlarm. It warns me whenever a new program tries to access the internet. But a new spyware program called ClientMan disables this feature in ZoneAlarm! I think that is very rude.
The Plague from Washington?
Dr. Thomas Butler has been a medical researcher for about 30 years. He's published dozens of papers, and is an expert on yersinia pestis, a bacteria that causes the plague. Last January 11, Dr. Butler noticed that 30 of his 200 vials of plague bacteria were missing. He noted in his lab book that they were missing and may have been stolen.
Three days later he mentioned it to the department head, who got excited and called the campus police. From there up the ladder to Governor Thomas, head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, not to be confused with Dr. Thomas, who lost the bugs. Governor Thomas got really excited, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, "personally ordered his staff to put crisis plans into action."
The next day, 60 FBI agents were searching all over Lubbock for the plague, and Dr. Thomas was in leg irons and handcuffs. He's not suspected of any terrorism. His lawyer said he inadvertently sterilized the 30 vials of plague bacteria. Lawyers always tell the truth, don't they?
The FBI reported that Dr. Thomas had made recent trips to Tanzania, "a suspected haven for terrorists and site of a 1998 U.S. embassy bombing." He went to Tanzania because that's one of the few places around you can find people who have the plague. In fact, he brought some plague bacteria back with him in his suitcase. He also Fedexed some to other people. This was recently made illegal, and the good doctor faces 14 felony charges and up to 74 years in prison, even though the FBI has concluded Dr. Butler had no connection to terrorist activities.
The plague can be cured with antibiotics. In fact, Dr. Butler has been trying to figure out which antibiotic is best to use for treating the plague, streptomycin or gentamicin.
Here's a good article in the Wall Street Journal, but it takes a subscription to read. It's in the April 14 issue.
Maybe medical researchers should join programmers in the internment camps....
What's Another $17,600,000,000?
I thought it was kind of bad when Bush asked for $74.8 billion for the war in Iraq, but was only planning to spend $62 billion or so on military and intelligence for the war. But I should have been happy with that. Congress got ahold of war finance package and added ANOTHER $5 billion!
In addition to the military's $62.4 billion, there's $7,850,000,000 in new foreign aid, $2,230,000,000 to help state and local governments prepare for terrorist attacks, $100,000,000 for smallpox vaccinations, $2,400,000,000 cash grants to airlines, $1,200,000,000 in other benefits to airlines, and my favorite, $61,500,000 for the INTERIM embassy at Baghdad, plus $35,800,000 for miscellaneous diplomatic costs.
It's a good thing they didn't spring for a permanent embassy. That might cause a budget deficit.
52 == 55
CNN has a list of the U.S. military's 55 most-wanted Iraqis...
...but the defense department only has 52 of them in their card deck. I'm confused.
A nice headline:
"Scientists map suspected SARS virus genome" Suspected? Does that mean they picked some virus they sorta thought might be SARS and mapped its genome?
I've been reading a lot about mustard gas and nerve gas. I remember several years ago reading about a guy who made some mustard gas. This was in the book Lucifer's Hammer, and the guy was fighting off some religious cannibals. It seemed like it was pretty easy for him to make, and they made it 85 years ago in World War I, so I figured I'd check out the internet and see if there were any mustard gas recipes posted.
I finally came to the conclusion that it's probably not possible to make mustard gas in your garage using old refrigerator and a bunsen burner. That's probably a good thing. I did read more than one place that the most difficult part about making mustard gas is not dying from mustard gas poisoning in the process. I guess it would make more sense for terrorists to use something simple like bottles of chlorine to gas people. They're easy to find, and not quite as dangerous.
What should we do to eliminate the mustard gas danger? Attack and disarm! Syria obviously has mustard gas because we didn't find any in Iraq. Where else?
How about Anniston, Alabama; Blue Grass, Kentucky; Aberdeen, Maryland; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Pueblo, Colorado; Tooele, Utah; and Umatilla, Oregon? In my meanderings through the web I ran across these Mustard Gas storage sites on the CDC's web site.
I just looked again on the CDC site, and I found this:
"NOTE: Our information about chemical agents is currently being revised and has been temporarily removed from this site. Please check back later for updated information."
The names of these places seemed familiar to me. Before I fly somewhere, I generally check the "notices to airmen," or notams. Notams contain information like closed runways and temporary restricted areas. I've seen all these places in notams because they all have temporary restricted areas. I had been wondering about this for a long time! It makes a little sense now, even though a light plane probably wouldn't dent a 1-ton mustard gas container.
Johnson Atoll, in the Pacific, is on the list too, but I haven't flown in that area yet.
I heard on the radio this morning that they're starting the chemical neutralization of a few hundred tons of mustard gas at Aberdeen, MD, for the low, low price of $400,000,000. But it's cheaper than a war against Maryland.
Lots of people use voicemail systems. Lots of people don't bother set up new passwords on their voicemail systems -- they just use the default password.
If I use voicemail with the default password, then anybody else who knows the default password, which means anybody on the same voicemail system, can call my number and hear or change my messages. But that's no big deal. I don't listen to my messages very often, and it might be nice for someone else to hear them.
Some people have figured out that they can change the voicemail announcement message to agree to pay for a 3rd party phone call. Then they make overseas calls, and charge them to the phone number with the altered voicemail announcement which says, after a pause, "OK, I'll pay for the call."
AT&T presented a lady in San Francisco with a $12,000 phone bill after someone did this to her. Her normal bill is $35. AT&T is demanding payment, saying that it's her responsibility to secure her voice mail system. I don't think that's very nice.
A lot of popup ads save small text files on your computer called cookies, if you allow it. And Windows allows this unless you tell it otherwise. These can be used to track your web browsing habits, record what online ads you've seen, and so forth. Some people claim this is an invasion of privacy, and Windows and several other products can now block some or all cookies.
I think that Doubleclick.net is the largest purveyor of banner ads and 3rd-party cookies in the world. If not, they are one of the biggest. They've been criticized by privacy advocates for accumulating too much personal information on web surfers.
The Department of Homeland Security has hired a new "privacy czar" so they won't inadvertently infringe on the personal privacy of us serfs. They hired Nuala, the privacy officer from Doubleclick. I think that's funny!
Actually, she may be good at what she does. I would guess that this is just a P.R. position, and she won't have much influence on how investigators investigate.
I'm Not Dead Yet!
To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. CNN gathers information on elder famous folks and prepares their obituaries beforehand so they'll be ready when the time comes.
Other news companies do the same thing, but CNN excelled in this policy when they put their premature obituaries online. CNN memorialized Reagan, Hope, Fidel Castro, Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Gerald Ford and Dick Cheney a bit too soon last week.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/aptech_story.asp?category=1700&slug=CNN Premature Obits
Now You See It...
It's interesting what you read and hear in the news that just goes away after a little while. I read that the U.S. troops found a chemical weapons plant in Iraq. Then they found some barrels of nerve gas. Then they found some ready-to-fire missiles with chemical warheads on mobile launchers in a warehouse. Then they found some underground biological weapons laboratories. Then they found some more nerve gas. All those stories seemed to disappear after a day or two. They were all false alarms. They technically were not false reports, because the wording was littered with words like suspected, alleged, and possible.
Today I saw on CNN's web site that some biotoxins were discovered in a Washington state mail distribution center. A few hours later they weren't biotoxins.
Pictures of Today!
These were taken about 10 days ago in Colorado.
Some big cornices, near Loveland Pass.
An early butterlfy, near Maroon Creek.
Here's where an avalanche came across the road to Maroon Bells.
I walked about 5 miles to get to Maroon Lake. I thought I might sit on a bench there and rest, but decided not to.
Maroon Bells, with snow.
Here's North Maroon Peak.
A wet snow slide on South Maroon Peak.
Here are a couple more slides that were between Frisco and Copper Mountain.
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