More Junkmail from Bob!

Monday, July 28, 2003
Important Stuff.

Global Positions

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. There are about 24 GPS satellites that orbit the earth every 12 hours. Six orbital planes spaced 60 degrees apart and inclined at about 55 degrees each hold (usually) four satellites. This arrangement makes it possible to "see" 5 to 8 GPS satellites at any given time from any point on earth.

In the last millennium, the accuracy of the GPS signals were intentionally degraded to provide a position accuracy of about 100 meters. Signals providing a position accuracy of about 10 meters were available to military GPS receivers. This was done to prevent "the bad guys" from using GPS signals for missile navigation.

During the Gulf War in 1989, there was a shortage of military GPS receivers. So the U.S. turned off the signal degradation, didn't tell anyone, and used civilian GPS receivers.

On May 2, 2000, in celebration of May Day a day late, the "Selective Availability" of accurate GPS signals was turned off permanently, and we've all been able to use the accurate 10-meter GPS signals ever since.

Now, it seems, 10 meters is not good enough. If you're landing an airplane on a 60-foot wide runway, or driving a boat under a bridge in the fog, 30 feet may be a very important distance. The problem is, GPS data is only that accurate. I think the ionosphere is kind of squirrelly and delays the GPS signals varying amounts. This might also be intentional interference by Martians.

At any rate, some people figured out that they could place a GPS receiver at a known location, measure the difference between the actual location and the location calculated by the GPS receiver, then transmit that error to a nearby GPS receiver. This is called differential GPS. Some of the short-range systems have an accuracy to within a centimeter or so. This is great for moving dirt with a bulldozer (put a receiver on the blade and see where you need to be) or surveying.

The next step in this is the Wide Area Augmentation System. This is similar to the differential GPS, but about 25 ground stations in North America collect GPS error information and it is sent to high-orbit geostationary satellites. Then WAAS GPS receivers receive that information in addition to the regular GPS position information. This gets the horizontal position error down to 1 or 2 meters, acceptable for landing an airplane or driving a boat under a bridge.

Here is a more complete document, but it is from January 2001.

WAAS GPS was designed primarily for aviation, but some of the Garmin handheld GPS receivers are WAAS compatible (the eTrex Vista, Venture, and Legend). I imagine a lot of the other newer GPS receivers are also WAAS compatible.

State of Confusion

In the March 30 Junkmail, I mentioned that Bush might have been stretching the truth a bit in his State of the Union Address.

Bush mentioned in his State of the Union address, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The U.S. turned over the incriminating documents to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who figured out right away that they were fakes, and poor quality fakes.

For example, on one of the documents the signature of Niger President Tandja Mamadou was not even close to authentic, and there was a reference to the 1965 Niger Constitution even though it had been replaced by the 1999 Niger Constitution. Another letter was signed by the foreign minister of Niger. However, the foreign minister who supposedly signed the letter had left his job 10 years earlier, and the letter was on some kind of military letterhead.

The CIA said, "We didn't do it. We make good forgeries." Bush said, "Yeah, maybe those are fake, but we have other evidence we can't disclose." CNN said, "We can't be bothered with this stuff. There's a war on!"

Even though it was reported in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and a lot of other newspapers last March, not too many people seemed to care. Now, all of a sudden, it's a big deal. That means that campaign season is officially open.

CIA Boss George was taking the blame, even though the CIA had told the White House that the forgeries were fake last October. Then White House "official" Stephen took some more blame. Then U.K. government official David committed "apparent" suicide over it. (I think this means he's apparently dead.) All this reinforces the time honored political tradition "the buck stops somewhere else."

When asked about the controversy, a White House spokeshuman said, "We consider the matter closed." In response to questions about renewed violence in Afghanistan, the White House replied, "The matter is closed." The spokeshuman went on to say, "Furthermore, regarding Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Liberia, Bosnia, North Korea, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the matters are closed. We refuse to be dragged into these inane controversies. Instead of looking back, we are moving forward to positive matters of the future. Fundraising for the 2004 presidential campaign, for example."

Can You Spare a Dime?

The U.S. federal government is spending $450,000,000,000 more this year than it's taking in. How can they do that? They borrow money and pay interest on it, just like anybody else. Well, not exactly like anybody else. If I walk into the First Pryority Bank tomorrow and ask for a $450 billion loan, they just might not give me the money. They would probably be unreasonable and ask for things like collateral and ability to pay.

But the U.S. Government sells bonds and similar "debt instruments." People buy them, and the government pays interest based on the interest of people in buying the bonds, bills, etc.

I think it's generally a bad idea for the government to borrow money like that. $450 billion is the biggest budget deficit ever, beating 1992 record deficit by 55 percent. In fairness, though, the 1992 deficit is probably within half a percentage point of the 2003 deficit based on gross national product.

At any rate, that's a lot of money to pay interest on, and it doesn't include some minor costs like the occupation of Iraq and about $150,000,000,000 in "borrowed" social security taxes that are spent on other things.

Munich, Microsoft, and Linux

In the city of Munich, Germany (or München, Deutschland, if you prefer), there were about 14,000 computers that needed upgrading. Microsoft magnanimously offered to upgrade them for the low, low price of $36,600,000, or about $2,600 per computer.

I guess the Munich people were not impressed, possibly because this is more than new computers cost. They also didn't want to have to rely on Microsoft for future upgrades. Munich was considering Linux, with open source software, instead. This is something of a blasphemy at Microsoft. Since Microsoft has so far been unable to institute the Spanish Inquisition for Software, Microsoft boss and CEO Steve went to Munich to meet with the mayor and settle things once and for all.

Microsoft cut their price to $31.9 million, then to $23.7 million, a 35% drop. They also offered to let Munich go 6 years without an upgrade, rather than the normal 3-4 years. And they offered to sell Munich only copies of Word for some PCs, without forcing them to bundle Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint, and other Office 2002 applications. And they offered millions in training and support, free.

After all that, the Munich City Council picked Linux, for $35.7 million. This is notable, because not too many large organizations use Linux for their desktop applications. If a lot of large organizations go with Linux, then more application development dollars will be spent on Linux, and Linux applications will get better (and maybe even easy to install.)

Maybe Munich selected Linux because the "safest and most reliable operating system in history" allows people to copy and delete your files.,1367,59660,00.html

...and it's got great password security:

At least it didn't stop the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, SCO decided they are entitled to money from just about anybody who has ever bought Linux:,1367,59701,00.html

I'll send them a check right away.

Kazaa Felony

Upload a single music file and you can get 5 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Representatives John and Howard have introduced in the House making it a felony to upload a single file. It probably won't pass, but it makes you wonder what those politicians are thinking. Or maybe who those politicians are taking money from. I wonder how many people go to jail for 5 years for illegal campaign contributions.,1412,59654,00.html

The Recording Industry got permission from a judge not long ago to force ISPs to hand over the names and addresses of a file swapper. Now the RIAA has filed hundreds of subpoenas. Everyone who has ever downloaded a music file will be sent to Guantanamo, Cuba to be held as a musical combatant. All other users of digital computers will be prosecuted in order to make sure none of the guilty go unpunished.,1367,59663,00.html

Some universities are telling the Recording Industry that it's illegal for them to abide by the law passed by RIAA's judge.,1412,59726,00.html

In Spain, an anonymous company is suing 4,000 file-swapping users. They had intended to sue 95,000, but they were very considerate and let 91,000 of them go.,1412,59720,00.html

If swapping music is getting too scary for you, try swapping friends. Friendster is an internet network (if that's not too redundant). You sign up, give your interests, and you can communicate with friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, and so forth. You even get to go past 6 levels.

I tried it, but since I had no friends I could only talk to myself. I was kind of boring. This may explain why I had no friends.,1284,59650,00.html

8,600 Free Books!

Michael Hart, founder of the Gutenburg project, explained that now have more than 8,600 books, etc., available for free downloading, instead of 6,500 titles like I said in the last Junkmail.

Check it out -- you won't even have to fight music lawyers!

Scramjet Engine

Pratt and Whitney makes turbine engines for jets and turboprops, including the PT6 using in the TBM-700 and the PC12. Pratt and Whitney has tested a new engine, the GDE-1. The GDE-1 probably won't be used on a turbo-prop, because it's a jet engine and because it's designed to run at mach 6.5, six and a half times the speed of sound. In fact, the GDE-1 probably won't be used on any airplane. GDE stands for Ground Demonstration Engine.

But Pratt and Whitney demonstrated their engine at mach 6.5 in their ground test facilities. I guess that's some kind of wind tunnel. The engine weighs less than 150 lbs. According to Pratt and Whitney, the GDE-1 is the "world's first flight-weight, hydrocarbon-fueled scramjet engine, and used standard JP-7 fuel to both cool engine hardware and fuel the engine's combustor."

The speed of sound is about 761.2 mph or 340.3 meters per second at sea level. These numbers may be more accurate than the speed because the speed of sound depends on air density which depends on temperature and barometric pressure. A hot day has a slower speed of sound if all other conditions are the same. At 60,000 feet, using standard pressure and temperature, the speed of sound is about 660 mph.

I would guess this engine could power an airplane somewhere close to 4000 mph,

TIA Killed Again?

In January I mentioned that Congress banned funding on the Total Information Awareness System, because some people thought the Pentagon was going to spy on them.

So the Pentagon wisely changed the name to the Terrorist Information Awareness System, and everything was OK again.

As hard as this may be to believe, some politicians actually figured out that the Pentagon might be tricking them. Or maybe it was a political aide. At any rate, the Senate voted to cut funding to the TIA once more.


France has outlawed email! At least in government circles. It's been officially renamed "courriel," short for courrier electronique. For some reason, "I'll courriel you" doesn't sound right. Maybe if I figure out the French words for "I" and "You" it will seem more normal.,1284,59674,00.html

The Mountains of Oceania

I was surprised the other day when some people explained to me that Australia is not a continent. It's Oceania, instead, and it includes Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Who cares? Mountain Climbers!

The highest point in Australia is only 7,310 feet high. In Indonesia, Carstensz Pyramid more than twice that height at 16,023 feet. A lot of "seven summit" climbers have climbed both, just to cover the bases.

I started checking on this when I read a news article saying that a plane crashed into the second highest of 3 peaks of Mount Kenya, which is the highest mountain in Europe. Ernest Hemingway would disagree. Kilimanjaro is 19,339 feet high, and Mount Kenya is only 17,057 feet high. Someone should straighten out the Associated Press on this.

The other continental high points are:

29,029 feet, 8,848 meters, Mount Everest, in Nepal and Tibet, Asia
22,840 feet, 6,962 meters, Aconcagua, in Argentina, South America
20,320 feet, 6,195 meters, Mount McKinley (Denali), in Alaska, North America
19,339 feet, 5,963 meters, Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, Africa
18,481 feet, 5,633 meters, Mount Elbrus, in Russia, Europe
16,067 feet, 4,897 meters, Vinson Massif, in Antarctica

Strictly Business

Last May I mentioned that FCC employees received about 2500 "business trips," most paid for by media companies. A few days later, the FCC made a controversial ruling allowing a single company to own TV stations that reach 45% of the people of the U.S. The previous maximum was 35%.

Now the house voted to change the rule. The house didn't vote to change the policy of FCC employees getting free trips from the media companies.

Pictures of Today!

Hit the road!

A Blue Colorado Flower

A Brown California Giraffe

A Red Colorado Mountain

Yellow California Flowers

A Pink California Flower

Utah Sandstone
      dscn0007      dscn0105

Zion National Park
      dscn0013      dscn0119

Los Angeles Harbor. I think this is where "Lewis and Clark by Air" ( came in, but most likely on different cranes.
      dscn0014      dscn0016

California Seashore
      dscn0018      dscn0020      dscn0036
      dscn0053      dscn0264      dscn0305

Birds in the Fog
      dscn0308      dscn0312

A bird that's not too sure about me.

The World Famous Charcoal Kilns, Death Valley, CA

Death Valley

Manly Beacon
      dscn0333      dscn0334

Badlands of Death Valley
      dscn0338      dscn0340      dscn0344

A Rainbow in the Dust

(-) 2004, no rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication and distribution of this Junkmail will result in vigorous and unmitigated apathy.

If you'd like to sign up for Junkmail, go to

You can read and search the Junkmail Archives there too.

If you'd like to stop getting Junkmail, please select any or all of these following easy-to-use options:

1. Get a new email address.
2. Toss your computer.
3. Send me an email with "kangerlussuaq" as the subject.

I'm Bob Webster and I live at Have a good day!