More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Important Stuff.


Airplanes are generally required to have an ELT, an emergency location transmitter. These start transmitting a radio signal when the plane crashes or when the pilot accidentally brushes the manual switch. Rescuers can then come save people or embarrass the careless pilot.

Ships and marine boats have similar transmitters, called EPIRBs.

Now there are PLBs, personal locator beacons, for personal use. The FCC authorized PLBs on July 1st of this year. You can carry one in the mountains, for example, and hit the panic button when you're lost and freezing.

A guy named Carl got snowed in, camping in Adirondack Mountains a few days ago. A snowstorm hit, and the river he paddled in on froze. He turned on his PLB, and the army came and picked him up in a Huey helicopter.

When you set one off, it transmits a 406 MHz signal that's picked up by satellite. Your position is known almost instantly to within 2 or 3 miles. There's a low-power 121.5 MHz signal that's transmitted by the PLB at the same time. This is for the local search and rescue people to home in on. Some PLBs include a GPS receiver and transmit the precise location to the satellite.

I may have to get one of these next time the Aircam goes up north. Here it is on a gravel bar north of the Arctic Circle.

More pictures, summer before last:


Walmart has been testing RFID, Radio Frequency ID chips, at their Broken Arrow store. They're going to be using 96-bit codes in their chips, which limits them to numbers between 0 and 79,228,162,514,264,337,593,543,950,336, unless they allow negative numbers, in which case they could use numbers between -39,614,081,257,132,168,796,771,975,168 and
+39,614,081,257,132,168,796,771,975,167, assuming they use two's complement arithmetic. Remember those numbers, they will be on the test.

We don't have to stop with Walmart. You can get your own Speedpass that uses an RFID to pay for gas and McDonalds food, everything you need for traveling the world.

Unfortunately, you have to pay the bill just like credit cards.

You can also put an RFID under your skin, permanently. There's not much use for this at the moment, but the idea has a few people worried about what "they" will do with this technology.,1282,61357,00.html


Want to visit the U.S.? Plan ahead. It may take months to get a Visa. Going home to Russia for the holidays? You might be staying longer than you think. The Department of Homeland Security has cut down on international travel to the U.S. Some say it's increased security, some say it's decreased competence. The people in charge say "we're underfunded and understaffed."

Mashed Peas

There was a pretty good flap over the Mission Accomplished banner that the White House hung behind Bush on an aircraft carrier a few months ago. It wouldn't have mattered much, but Bush said wrongly that the White House didn't do it.

"Media strategists noted afterward that Mr. Sforza and his aides had choreographed every aspect of the event, even down to the members of the Lincoln crew arrayed in coordinated shirt colors over Mr. Bush's right shoulder and the 'Mission Accomplished' banner placed to perfectly capture the president and the celebratory two words in a single shot. The speech was specifically timed for what image makers call 'magic hour light,' which cast a golden glow on Mr. Bush."

I think Bush believed what he said at the time. Maybe he doesn't realize everything that goes on around him when he travels. Most of the news shows only what the White House wants us to see -- the prepared photo opportunities, the planned and rehearsed "accidental" meetings, "typical folks" who are carefully selected supporters, etc. It's easier for the news people to report what's given to them.

Some people in Britain were surprised by the way Bush was handled during his trip there, hidden from protesters and presented to the public only in carefully planned scenarios.

There's an article in an Australian paper about Bush's trip to the country for a pub lunch. The total cost of the lunch in the article, $2.3 million, is a mere $1.7 million U.S. dollars.

It was "billed as a quiet pub lunch in the English countryside: a chance for President George Bush to mix with ordinary folk, sample traditional fish and chips and enjoy a kitchen-table chat at the constituency home of his friend and ally, Tony Blair."

The quiet lunch only took 2 jumbo jets, 6 helicopters, 1 bunch of limousines, 200 U.S. Secret Service agents, and 1300 English police.

In contrast, that afternoon the Queen of England went to Winchester to open a museum. She took the train.

Serial ATA Drives

I noticed some strange red cables in with the last two motherboards I bought. I decided to go against my better judgement, and I looked inside the manual. The red cables are for serial ATA (also called SATA) hard drives. Now I just had to figure out what a serial ATA drive is and why I wanted one.

I learned right away that a serial ATA drive, like most new things in the computer business, costs more than a regular IDE hard drive. But over the past month the prices have gotten closer.

After a lot of looking, I finally found some benchmarks on serial ATA drives. It looks like they're slightly faster than IDE drives (parallel ATA), as far as transfer rate. One thing stood out in the tests was the CPU time required for disk I/O. Serial ATA drives require a lot more CPU time than the IDE drives. I'm not sure how significant this is in normal use, but it was the biggest difference in the benchmarks.

I think serial ATA drives will be the successor to IDE drives. The cables are smaller, and the controller hardware is probably cheaper. For now, there's not enough difference in performance to matter much, but it's the computer business, and the serial ATA drives will get faster and cheaper "real soon now.",3973,1330028,00.asp

On other reason to get a serial ATA drive is because it has no master/slave jumper setting. Millions of hard drives have jumpers for the master (primary) or slave (secondary) settings. You don't need to worry about it unless you put two hard drives on a system, since the drives come with the master selection.

It isn't a big deal at all, unless you work for the county of Los Angeles. Here's an email they sent out last week:

Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2003 14:21:16 -0800
From: "Los Angeles County"

The County of Los Angeles actively promotes and is committed to ensure a work environment that is free from any discriminatory influence be it actual or perceived. As such, it is the County's expectation that our manufacturers, suppliers and contractors make a concentrated effort to ensure that any equipment, supplies or services that are provided to County departments do not possess or portray an image that may be construed as offensive or defamatory in nature.

One such recent example included the manufacturer's labeling of equipment where the words "Master/Slave" appeared to identify the primary and secondary sources. Based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County, this is not an acceptable identification label.

We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment or components thereof that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature before such equipment is sold or otherwise provided to any County department.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and assistance.

Joe Sandoval, Division Manager
Purchasing and Contract Services
Internal Services Department
County of Los Angeles

Note: You are receiving this email because you have registered with the County of Los Angeles. If you do not wish to receive future L.A. County Event news, simply click the link below, and update your registration information to remove email notification.

This is real! I guess Joe is going to change the hard drive industry. It could be tough, since MS and SL are usually labeled on the circuit boards.

Another interesting hard drive is a USB external drive. You can get normal-sized (in other words, huge) hard drives that plug into your USB port. These don't cost much more than internal drives.

You an also get mobile drives, like those in laptops, with external USB interfaces. These cost a little more, but they are a lot smaller and they get their power from the USB cable.

I use compact flash cards a lot with digital cameras. If I need to transfer something from one computer to another without a network, I can usually do it with a flash card. I hardly ever use a floppy drive. Since Windows and other operating systems come on CD, and since you can boot from a CD, you don't even need a floppy drive to set up a new computer.

I have an external USB floppy drive that came with a laptop, so I think I'll stop putting floppy drives in my desktop computers. I'll just use the USB floppy drive if I ever need one.

Spamming and Scamming

Last month there was a job fair in Jersey City, put on by the state. One of the exhibitors, ELS Locators, collected applications for jog referrals. The applicants provided name, social security number, bank account information, and credit card numbers, along with $42 each.

But ELS Locators is a non-entity. The people at the state job fair were scammed. I'm not sure if the scammers started using the credit card numbers and other information, but they apparently got away with a lot of them.

Here's an interesting story on a spam scam. A group of people out of Russia sent millions of spam emails, pretending to be Citibank. The purpose was to collect credit information from the spammed scamees.

The word "spam" came from the Monty Python quote, "I don't want any more Spam!"

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

NASA is using a modified Predator UAV to fly through thunderstorms and pick up data. I think that's a pretty good idea.

Here's a picture of the UAV Global Hawk on a demo flight at Nordholz AFB, Germany, on October 21. It's BIG.


The Predator goes about 140 mph and up to 25,000 feet high, and the Global Hawk goes 400 mph and up to 60,000 feet. Both are used mainly for reconnaissance, although the CIA has been known to put hellfire missiles on the Predators.

Here's an article on UAVs,1282,61347,00.html

Comdex -- Focused?

What do IBM, Panasonic, Hewlett Packard, eBay, Canon Photo Products, Olympus, Samsung, Cisco, EDS, Fuji, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Imation, Lexar, Maxell, Memorex, Mitsubishi, Mitsumi, Nokia, Philips, Ricoh, TDK, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba have in common? They all dropped out of Comdex this year.

Comdex 2003 has come and gone, with less than half the exhibitors (466) this year than last (1,011). And Comdex was literally giving away space. For example, they gave Palm a free booth just to come. I wrote and asked for the 2003 attendance figures. They won't have those numbers ready until January. That's odd. In previous years they would announce an estimate at the end of the show.

Three years ago, Comdex had 225,000 attendees and more than 1,000,000 square feet of exhibit space. This year there were less than 25% the attendees and 15% of the exhibit space. Next year doesn't look good for Comdex. Key3Media, the latest owners of Comdex, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last summer. They emerged from Chapter 11 as Media Live, and things don't look so good for the phoenix.

Comdex boss Eric said before the show that it's now "focused" on business, and that's why it's smaller. He said you won't see car or camera companies.

That's funny. I saw cars and cameras. One guy had 1000 video cameras from China he was selling for $199 at the show. He had one of the busiest booths there. I was a little confused about the focus on business and professional computing.

"We're calling this year one of the focused global IT business-to-business events," said Eric. "It's a significant repositioning. We will only have products that are relevant to the IT marketplace. You won't see car or camera companies."

The international pavilions dominated the show. Most major computer companies were noticeably absent. Their "significant repositioning" might have gone in the wrong direction, if attendance and exhibitors are any sign.

Why the decline and fall of Comdex? It's not terrorists, who are everywhere, because other trade shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show are still going strong. The internet has some detrimental effect on Comdex, but I'd say that poor management must also be a factor. I'd bet that if Microsoft drops out of Comdex next year, the show will be over for good.

    Comdex 2002 Exhibitor List

Mystery Meson

Just when you thought you had them all figured out, a new sub-atomic particle!


I thought Republicans were supposed to be conservative. Why do they keep spending so much money? The Democrats sure won't stop them. Maybe I'll resurrect the Mugwumps. I'll call it a party for fiscal responsibility and irrational exuberance.

Downloading Zips

I accidentally hit the wrong box once when I was downloading a zip file on this computer. In fact, I accidentally hit two wrong boxes. Then all my zip files would download in the background, and eventually Winzip would come up with the open zip file. This wasn't good because there was no indication the file was downloading, and I would try to download it 8 or 12 more times before I figured out it was already downloading. I'm a very slow learner.

Finally, I found the answer! I had passed right over it. If this happens to you, in Windows Explorer, Tools menu, Folder Options, File Types, select .zip, Advanced, and check "Confirm open after download." Where else could it have been, after all?

The Patriot

The Patriot Act is a law that gave the FBI, CIA, and organizations like that additional powers of investigation. Some people have been getting riled up over the search provisions of the bill.

The FBI used to have to go to a judge, or a near facsimile thereof, and get a search warrant, or a near facsimile thereof, before they could search personal bank records, phone logs, and et ceteras.

With the Patriot Act, that's not necessary. All the FBI needs is a national security letter saying that the records they want are relevant to a terrorism investigation. They don't need probable cause, and they don't have to consult a judge. Where do they get the national security letters? They write them. Who oversees this? Nobody, that I can tell. Not even the congressional oversight committees are informed.

A lot of people consider this an erosion of their rights. Other people say it's well worth it to keep terrorists out of town.

A few people, like some Las Vegas politicians, aren't real happy about the FBI's new powers. The FBI is investigating a strip club owner and some Las Vegas politicians for bribery. The FBI used the powers of the Patriot Act to get the financial records, because strip clubs are a clear threat to national security.

They used Section 314 of the Patriot Act. It's the one that allows federal investigators to get information from financial institutions on people suspected of being terrorists or laundering money.

Special Agent Jim was asked about the use of the Patriot Act in the strip club investigation. He responded, "It was used appropriately by the FBI and was clearly within the legal parameters of the statute."

I'm always happy to see crooked politicians get nailed, but when they passed the bill they told us that the Patriot Act was going to be used to combat terrorism.

Last week, Congress passed an intelligence spending bill. There was a law attached that expands the FBI's "national security letter" power into getting information from places like libraries, eBay, real estate agents, casinos, and travel agencies. You probably won't hear much about these national security letter subpoenas, because if the FBI comes to you for information based on one, it's illegal for you to tell anybody.,1283,61341,00.html

The Electronic Privacy Information Center and some other people tried to find out the number of times that national security letters have been used. They seem to be a little on the anti-government side of the political spectrum.

They went to court over it, and won. Here's the result:

It's a completely blacked-out list. I think that's pretty funny.

Maybe these powers of investigation aren't necessary when the government can detain people based on suspicion. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez said earlier this month that there are more than 5,000 "suspected terrorists" of various nationalities in custody. That's a lot of people! I'd be surprised if there were anywhere near that many terrorists planning to attack the U.S. However, if I was jailed, interrogated, and tortured for a year or two, when I got out I might be looking for some revenge.

It's OK to jail a few innocent people to make sure we got all the bad guys we can find, isn't it? And if we have to provide probable cause, proof, and all that evidence stuff, aren't a lot of terrorists just going to walk away? Sure, there are Constitutional rights, international law, and the Geneva Convention, but "things are different now."


A few days ago, I claimed that Turkey's $8.5 billion in foreign aid was contingent on them sending troops to Iraq. I was wrong. The U.S. decided that Turkish troops would be unpopular in Iraq, and the U.S. asked Turkey not to send them. Turkey gets to keep the $8.5 billion aid package.

With 30-35 attacks per day in Iraq against the U.S. (according to Lt. Gen. Sanchez a few weeks ago), I was also wondering how many people have been wounded in Iraq. That's not something you hear very much about. The number of killed is in the newspaper like a baseball score, but you rarely see how many are hurt.

I had a hard time finding out! According to the Wall Street Journal (11/3/03), 7,701 people have been evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany since the Iraq war started. But that includes evacuation due to illness and other medical problems.

Finally, I ran across this web site:

Pat, Michael, and Lynn have been tallying numbers from the Defense Department and other sources. It looks pretty accurate, and the site doesn't seem to be politically biased. The answer:  As of November 23, my birthday, 2,424 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq since the war start, 2,076 of which were "hostile." I think hostile means the bad guys did it.

These numbers are pretty close to some UPI numbers from a couple of weeks ago:

      U_S_ casualties from Iraq war top 9,000.htm


The goings-on in Iraq are really strange. The Secretary of Defense says, "We're on track."

The President says the war in Iraq is "going as expected".
(Washington Post, Nov 21, 2003)

The CIA says, "Things will get worse."

A few months ago the Vice-President said the war will take "weeks rather than months."

The President says the world is safer with Saddam Hussein and the Taliban gone.

The Army says Hussein is behind the attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

And finally, Richard Perle, a man of integrity, says the war in Iraq is against international law. (He's the guy who said support for Hussein would fold at the first whiff of gunpowder.),3604,1089042,00.html

It's so confusing!

Pictures of Today!

A couple of mountains:

      img_2507      img_2514

A trail near Independence Pass, Colorado. You can barely see Mike in the shadows.


The Boeing 757 is now out of production. Here's 757 serial number one, a test platform for the F22 project, along with an F22. The 757 is the big one.


An F22 at Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, last month.


A new kind of Jeep, in Bahgdad, a couple of weeks ago:


Aurora Borealis from space:


A freezing B1 at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, last Halloween.


An A-10 Thunderbolt refueling over Iraq last September:


An A-10 firing its cannon into Kirkuk, Iraq:


Here's the 30mm ammunition it was firing. Those are big bullets!


Most of the Air Force pictures came from

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