More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, October 30, 2003
Important Stuff.

Coronal Mass and Other Religious Holidays

A coronal mass ejection is headed this way! According to the news, it could be the largest catastrophe to hit the North American power grid since Y2K. But most of the CME has already passed, with about as much effect as Y2K.

Actually, it's pretty interesting. There was a big explosion in the sun, which is not too unusual considering that the sun is pretty much made up of nuclear explosions of the hydrogen bomb persuasion. But this explosion went past the borders of the sun and launched a bunch of stuff at earth.  Here's what it looked like in the extreme ultraviolet band:


What stuff did it launch? The sun ejected massive amounts of mass from the its corona. That's why they called it a coronal mass ejection (CME). It blew out 100,000,000,000 tons of plasma, give or take a couple of zeros. Most of that won't hit the earth, even though it was aimed in our general direction. At 93,000,000 miles out, the earth is very small speck in the sun's sky.

This was the 3rd largest CME in CME history, i.e., since 1976. There was second blast yesterday afternoon, a bit smaller but also in the top 20.

I went to the Soho site to look for pictures, and I found this webcam:

Then I went to the NASA Soho site (Solar & Heliospheric Observatory) and I ran across an archive from the Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. The pictures it produces are green, maybe to distinguish their source. The Soho spacecraft is in orbit around the sun between the earth and the sun. That way it can see the sun all the time.

I downloaded some images at about 12 minute intervals from October 28, 8:00 UCT to early October 30, and made an animation. You can see the big explosion just after 11:00 on the 28th, followed by the tracers from the CME. Then you can see the second big explosion near the end of the video.

Here's the 1.3 meg version (right click and "save target as" if you want a copy):

Here's the 5.9 meg version. (It looks good at full-screen, but doesn't stream very well. You should download it instead of playing it online.):

We were supposed to see the northern lights even in Oklahoma tonight, but I only saw Mars and some street lights. In case you missed the northern lights too, here are some:

Arctic Melt

Last year, NASA announced that the Arctic Ocean is warming pretty fast -- faster than the rest of the earth. Sea ice has been declining at about 9 percent every 10 years.

They've come out with a new paper supporting Arctic warming. I usually look at the global warming news with a healthy bit of skepticism, but it's hard to argue with facts and satellite images.

Here's the minimum Arctic sea ice from the summer of 1979:


Here it is last summer:


Here's an animation of the sea ice from 1979 to 2003. I was surprised how much it varies from year to year.

A lot of people blame this sort of thing on greenhouse emissions, which I think has to do with bovine flatulence, but it's clear to me that the sun is responsible.

What happens if the Arctic Icecap melts away in 98 years? Not too much, actually. It will change things locally in the Arctic, of course. You'll be able to sail ship across the top of Canada, for example. Arctic animal habits and populations will change, different plants will grow different places, etc. But it won't raise the sea level noticeably, and it will affect the global climate indirectly through changes in ocean currents.

Global warming isn't happening as fast as the Arctic warming. Some places such as the Greenland icecap have gotten cooler in recent years.

There's a big debate going on in the Senate about global warming. This week Senator Inhoff said global warming is a hoax perpetrated by environmental extremists. Hillary Clinton said defeatists like Inhoff are un-American. Inhoff said Razorbacks are pansies. Clinton said she left Arkansas for good and doesn't care.

The Kyoto Protocol, one of the things the Senate is arguing over, exempts China and India from a lot of the regulations. Here's a picture I took about 10 years ago in Dalian, China. It was really smoky, probably from the coal heating.


Anonymous Web Hosting

Need an anonymous web site for your nefarious interests? Now you can get it, for the low, low price of $1500 per month. Some spam scammers are using this to avoid the distractions of irate customers and law enforcement personnel.,1848,60747,00.html

Email Sentence

Be careful whose email you read. A lady named Angel was sentenced to stay home for 60 days after she intercepted emails sent to her husband's ex-wife. She admitted reading 215 emails. I'd guess more than 200 of those were spam, which should have been sufficient punishment in itself.

Open Source in Massachusetts

Eric, the Massachusetts Administration and Finance Secretary, ordered the state's chief technology officer adopt a policy of open-standards and open-source software. That pretty much rules out Microsoft products.

I doubt that Massachusetts will stop buying Windows and Office, but this is a trend that Microsoft does not like. Microsoft's Bill responded to the shock, "This is nothing that some re-education camps can't fix. They will be assimilated.",1282,60896,00.html

Don't Badmouth TSA

A college student named Nathaniel thought that airport security was lacking. He decided to make an example of the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and brought some box cutters and bleach onto some airliners he was riding on. He left them behind in lavatories and closets. Then he emailed the TSA and told them what he'd done so they could clean up their act.

They did nothing.

Eventually, some maintenance people found the stuff on different places. With outstanding detective skills, the TSA and/or FBI tracked down Nathaniel, who had already explained everything to them weeks before.

The TSA explained, "Well, we get lots of email. Besides, we're underfunded and understaffed."

Instead of TSA people being fired, Nathaniel may be facing jail time. I guess he didn't realize that anti-terrorism efforts are sacred, regardless of their effectiveness, so you'd better not make fun of them.

X10 Exit

Remember the X10 miniature camera popups that used to be everywhere? They apparently ran out of suckers. X10 filed for Chapter 11 last week.


Last week the U.S. Senate approved an anti-spam law 97 to 0. Apparently none of the Senators wanted to be caught voting against that, since the vast majority of the computing public does not appreciate spam.

However, I read that this bill probably won't make it through the House of Representatives to be signed into law. Maybe some spammers are making campaign donations.

Here's an interesting article about how spammers change their spam to get through spam filters, kind of like virus writers change their viruses to elude antivirus software.,1377,60941,00.html


AOL isn't blocking my email any more. I think that is very nice of them. If you're an AOL Junkmail recipient, and not one of the 688,000 who left AOL last quarter, you may be pleased, distressed, or disgusted to find out "You've Got Junkmail!"

Long Distance Telecommuting

With the internet, fast data transfers, and cheap computers, you can work almost anywhere if your job doesn't require face-to-face contact with earthlings. Programming, tech support, and data entry fall into areas that are geographically portable. As a result, there are companies in places with cheap labor offering services for tech support, programming, data entry, and similar jobs.

In India and Russia, the software business is booming. Indian and Russian companies write software for U.S. and European customers at a fraction of the cost to have it done internally.

A few interesting problems have cropped up, though. Here's a story about a lady in Pakistan who threatened to post medical records from the UCSF Medical Center on the internet. She worked transcribing dictated medical notes into written form. She withdrew her threat after she received hundreds of dollars from "another person indirectly caught up in the extortion attempt." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but it sounds like they went ahead and paid her off but wrote a check on someone else's account.

Ocean Census

This is the decade of the aquatic census. In a 10-year project, about 300 people from 53 countries are trying to log all the species of fish in the oceans. They've already found 600 new species of marine life. Here's a newly discovered scorpion fish (Scorpaenopsis Vittapinna, in the Indo-Pacific area):


The Alfred P. Sloan foundation is responsible for this, or at least a good part of it. I had no idea what they did. I'd heard them mentioned on NPR by the guy who talks like a machine with arbitrary pauses, kind of like the Tulsa International ATIS.

Then Alfred P. Sloan foundation gives away $50 million or so in grants every year. That's a lot of money! It looks like most of it goes to pretty good causes, too.

DARPA robot race

Need a quick million dollars? Want to get your hands on some of the U.S. defense budget? All you have to do is win the "autonomous ground vehicle" race, about 200 miles from Barstow, CA to Las Vegas, NV. Make a model / robot car that can travel 200 miles across the desert, faster than anybody else's.

Here are the official rules:

I was pretty irritated at DARPA when they planned their terrorism stock market. I was pleased to learn that they're now doing highly constructive projects like this.

Solar Challenge

If you're too late for the Grand Challenge, get in on next year's Solar Challenge. The Dutch car Nuna II won this year's race a few days ago, with an average speed of 60 mph over the 1,870 mile course across Australia.

Google's Going Public

It is extremely nice for me to be able to use Google and search for just about any information I could imagine. A lot of other people feel the same way. So many that the owners of Google are finally cashing out. Google is planning a public stock offering next Spring. They expect to have a market cap in the $15 to $25 billion range. I guess I could be bought for that amount.

The problem for me is that after the stock offering come the quarterly earnings reports that drive the stock prices. I can foresee that after Google goes public, their site and search engine will get slowed down with ads, and many or most of the searches will be obscured by a huge increase in paid links.

I hope some enterprising group of people realizes this is likely to happen and sees an opening for a new, unadulterated search engine to replace Google when they enter the downhill slide. Don't people realize that my web browsing is more important than making a few billion bucks?!!!

In My Back Yard?

I flew the Aircam to Galena, Alaska the summer before last. There were approximately 8,346,126,274 flies within 100 feet of me the entire time, so I didn't bother to take any photos.

Now, I assume because of all those flies, Toshiba would like to donate a small nuclear power plant to Galena. Toshiba is planning to develop small nuclear plants that use a 6-foot by 30-inch cylinder of Uranium for fuel. It will last for 30 years.

If everything goes smooth, they could have Galena on line by 2010. Why Galena Alaska? Toshiba plans to sell the small power plants to isolated communities where electricity is expensive.

I think I'd like one for my back yard. I could think up lots of experiments to do with my own reactor. I think I'll wait for the price to drop, though. They estimate it will be about $20 million per plant.

RFIDs for School

An RFID as a Radio Frequency ID Chip. They are very small -- some about the size of a pinhead. They can easily fit on ID cards or inventory tags. Since Walmart started using RFIDs, everybody some of the action.

A school in Buffalo, NY is using them to track kids.,1282,60898,00.html

The U.S. Defense Department is using them too. They've just come out with an official RFID policy. For now they'll be used for cargo tracking and inventory.

777 Mid-ground Collision

A few days ago a Boeing 777 was backing out of the gate at San Francisco. At the same time, another Boeing 777 was taxiing by. Apparently, someone goofed. Their right wingtips collided, "substantially damaging" both planes.

Reporter Subpoenas

A guy named Adrian hacked into the New York Times computer system not long ago. The FBI didn't like that. Adrian has hacked several high profile sites in the past, and has worked with the companies to improve their security. The FBI, in their investigation, told 13 reporters that they should expect to have their records subpoenaed in this investigation. Some reporters don't like that because it's too close to a restriction on Freedom of the Press.

In the politech web site, some ponder why the FBI will subpoena news reporters' records on something like hacking, but not in the investigation of the White House leaks of CIA agent identifications.

The reason is obvious. It's the Patriot Act. It's unpatriotic to investigate the White House.

E-voting vs. Higher Education?

Diebold makes electronic security systems. They make money machines. And they make voting machines. I've been reading about the Diebold voting machines recently.

When I went to the main Diebold web site, I noticed the first sign of questionable management: Their stock price is the biggest thing on the Diebold home page.

Last March, someone hacked into Diebold's secure computer and copied about 15,000 internal memos that discuss security flaws in Diebold's e-voting software. Diebold sold the voting machines and software to several states anyway.,1367,60927,00.html

People started posting the memos on the internet, and Diebold lawyers responded by threatening people with torture and punishment under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It eventually blew up into a battle between college students around the country and Diebold lawyers who are striving to keep that stock price up on the corporate web site.

Here's a story with some of the memos. It's on a New Zealand site.

To make matters worse, while the Diebold lawyers were trying to stomp out thousands of copies of their memos full of trade secrets flying around the internet, someone ran across an open ftp site at Sequoia Voting Systems. This site had the software used in the voting machines available for download.

So people started posting the software everywhere, resulting in some humorous lawyer email:

The Sequoia software is compiled code, but Diebold happened to leave their e-voting software source code on an open ftp site last January. But at the time, there wasn't as much interest in making fun of the e-voting companies.,1848,61014,00.html

I think the software in voting machines should be made public. That would make it more secure than anything, because hundreds of people would check it out thoroughly.

Space Shuttle Crash

Here's a map of the debris found after the space shuttle crash:


Pictures of Today!

The Crab Nebula:


The largest satellite in Earth Orbit:


Some Colorado Mountains

      dscn4188      dscn4185      dscn4195

      dscn4216      dscn4219

A Mountain Near Twin Lakes, CO:


Here is a picture of the same mountain from last week's Junkmail. It looks a little different here:


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