More Junkmail from Bob!

Friday, February 6, 2004
Important Stuff.

Steep Commission

I was sitting at home, minding my own business today when the phone rang. It just does that sometimes. To get it to quiet down, I answered it. It was someone collecting money for the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police. I think that's a decent organization. Without the police, someone might try to steal something from me.

I asked the guy where he was calling from. Kentucky. I asked if it was snowing. It did yesterday. Where in Kentucky? Providence. I asked who he worked for. It took twice, but he finally said he worked for the Civic Development Group. I thought it was a little funny that someone from Kentucky would be calling for the Oklahoma FOP, but they have telemarketing call centers in a lot of small towns around the country.

I figured that the Civic Development Group took a small cut of the contributions, since if someone in Kentucky was going to volunteer to collect money for an organization, it would probably not be for an Oklahoma organization. I asked him how much of the donations he gets actually goes to the Oklahoma FOP.

He said they get a minimum of 15%.

That's crazy! 85% of the money they raise, they get to keep. The organization they collect for only gets a 15% cut.

After some more discussion about weather and Kentucky, I hunted up Civic Development Group on the internet. They have 22 call centers in Kentucky. They call for organizations all over the country. The FTC investigated them for cheating people.

In New York, there's a list of professional fundraisers with the percent that actually goes to the charities. Civic Development Group raised more than $15 million in New York in 2002, but only 12.7% of that made it to the charities.

Charity Amount Donated Amount going to Charity Percent
Cancer Fund of America  $3,048,639 $324,972 10.7%
Children's Charity Fund  548,457 84,946 15.5%
Disabled Veterans Associations 1,436,785 218,087 15.2%
Fire Victims Charitable Foundation  3,314,735 452,786 13.7%
Fraternal Order of Police Empire State Lodge 5,273,828 594,282 11.3%
Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association    428,621 57,145 13.3%
New York State Association of PBA's 992,993 178,265 17.9%

The average for all professional fundraisers in New York was around 30%, which still seems really low to me. Your donations will likely do several times as much good if you contribute directly to the organization instead of going through a professional fundraiser on the phone.


There is a lot of news about the two spacecraft on Mars. They're both in good shape now. They've been driving around, but only a little so far.

Close to 40 years ago, Mariner IV was launched towards Mars. It made a successful flyby in 1965.

Here's a really good description of the mission by Bill Momsen, a project engineer who worked on Mariner IV. It's worth reading.

Space Shuttle

NASA has a 248-page plan for returning the Space Shuttle to service. It's probably not worth reading, unless you're really, really bored.


Last Junkmail I mentioned, and how Microsoft's lawyers were threatening him over the domain name. They offered him $10 for it, and were very rude. He declined. When the publicity storm hit, the lawyers got really nice. They upped their offer to include some Microsoft products, including a new Xbox. Now THAT's more like it!

Here's Mike Rowe's new site:


Got a wireless hub at home? Is it password protected? If not, I'll assume that you've authorized me to drive by and borrow your bandwidth. Actually, that's not quite legal, but it is common.

People go wardriving -- they drive around finding wifi hot spots, then they get together and map them on the internet. Then anybody can locate a nearby hotspot, drive by, and borrow some internet access. Usually the owner won't even notice. Occasionally the police do notice.,1382,53638,00.html

Here's a wardrive site:

And a recent map of Tulsa hotspots:


Using these networks without permission may be considered bad form. I know of one person who was arrested for accessing someone's residential wireless net from his car parked on a Broken Arrow street.

China Occupational Safety

More than 120,000 people died in work-related accidents from January to November in 2003, according to an article in the China Daily. Another issue of the China Daily said 48,000 died in 5 months. In the U.S. about 5,500 died in 2002. Based on population (about 1,286,975,468 in China and 290,342,554 in the U.S.), the occupational death rate is 4-6 times higher in China. That's actually closer that I had expected.

U.S. Statistics:

Here's an Op-Ed piece from the China Daily News. It's slanted just a hair against the U.S., and may even bend the facts a little.

Jail the Pilots!

A BWIA airline pilot named Rawle Joseph was detained by the FBI a few weeks ago. Why? Because his name was on the TSA's no-fly list. Apparently the TSA believes that a suicidal hijacker wouldn't be smart enough to travel under an assumed name. The fact that a pilot has no need to hijack a plane, since the pilot is already driving the plane, also eluded the TSA.

Mr. Joseph managed to fly the plane all the way to New York without crashing into any buildings. He's 50 years old, has three children, and has been with BWIA since June of 1980. The FBI accused him of being a terrorist and questioned him for 2.5 hours. He was getting ready to board a flight home at 7:00 the next morning, and the FBI stopped him, wouldn't let him leave, and interrogated him some more.

BWIA captain Anthony Wright, with more than 25 years experience, is also from Trinidad and Tobago. He was also detained in Miami that same week for the same reason: he has a dangerous name. He was interrogated for 12 hours.

The Trinidad and Tobago government was not happy. They said the detention was "unwarranted, unjustified and severely damaging, not only to the pilots' image and reputation, but also to the national airline BWIA."

When the FBI cleared the pilots, they STILL couldn't go home. They had to wait until the TSA had taken their names off the flying blacklist.

It sure makes me feel safe!

The FBI recently questioned a guy named Mike as a terrorist suspect. This would be understandable if they did it because of the name Mike, but they suspected him because he bought some airplane parts.

Space Station Crews

The Crew that was planning to head to the space station in April was dumped because two of them weren't getting along. The crew that was to go in the Fall got moved up to April.

The TSA denied allegations that reason for the change was because one of the original crew was on a terrorism no-fly list.

Spyware, Adware, and Underwear

What is this stuff, anyway? Do you notice strange popups and odd times on your computer? That's probably "adware." Is someone you don't know monitoring your web browsing? That could be "spyware." I won't go into "underwear."

Sometimes I download programs I want to use from Occasionally, when I install one of these programs, it installs the application I want and also some other applications I don't want. For example, Kazaa installs a whole bunch of stuff if you miss the small check box in one of the installation dialogs. And in the later versions it may install the extra software anyway -- I'm not sure because I haven't used it for a while. WinMX is better behaved.

These extra programs that end up on your computer are, for the most part, hidden. They may pop up ads onto your screen, or they may transmit information about you and your computer use to another location.

Usually, when spyware is installed, you're notified in the "I Accept" page of the installation. For example, here's what you agree to when you install Amazon's Alexa Toolbar:




Another way to get spyware is to visit a web site that installs it on your computer. If you ever see a window pop up on a web site that asks if you want to install something, you should read it and make sure what you're installing before you click "yes.",aid,114440,00.asp

How do you know if you have spyware? There's a free scanner on Earthlink's web site, but when I tried it, it showed some false positives.

I tried PestPatrol, and it showed a lot of false positives. AdAware is the best anti-spyware program I've tried. It scans and removes adware and spyware, and it's free.

Some anti-spyware software isn't. One called SpyBan actually loads spyware onto your computer!

The Washington Post is a pretty good newspaper, and you can read it online at

The corporate site for the Washington Post is

Just like everybody else, the domain name has to be registered, paid for, and occasionally renewed. The domain registration expired this week. Some people at the Washington Post couldn't get email, and I think the corporate site went away, although I didn't see it. They got it fixed pretty quick, but I bet somebody got in trouble over it.

SCO and MyDoom

SCO is a Unix company. Linux is an "open-source" form of Unix. In other words, the source code and compiled software is free and open to everybody, with certain restrictions.

SCO claimed that they own part of Linux, although they won't tell which part, and they're suing IBM and everybody else under the sun trying to make some money. Predictably, this has irritated a lot of Linux users.

The MyDoom email trojan has been flying around cyberspace in recent weeks, replicating, duplicating, and reproducing at breakneck speeds.

The day before Groundhog's Day, computers hosting the email trojan started bombarding SCO's site. The site was shut down for days, and is still pretty slow.,4149,1486599,00.asp

SCO is offering $250,000 for the hacker. Microsoft is too, after a variant of the trojan came out targeting Microsoft's site. Microsoft withstood the DoS attack with no major problems.,aid,114479,00.asp

Linux users have been poo-pooing the use of an email trojan to attack SCO. I've been a little confused, though. Once the trojan was released, it spread far faster than any other email trojan in quite a while. I realize that all computerists, and especially Linuxoids, are people of strong moral fiber. If that were not the case, I might suspect one or two of them of "accidentally" getting infected with the MyDoom trojan, and "accidentally" forgetting to remove it until after the first of February when the SCO DoS attack occurred. It's a good thing that Linux users are above all that.

I guess it's just a matter of time before a trojan like this is spread by supporters of a social or political cause. For example, I can imagine White House site being shut down by anti-war activists. I think that would be funny, but they would probably call it terrorism and throw people in jail.

Where can you get a trojan? Several web sites offer trojan and virus downloads, including source code. They charge a little bit for this service. I didn't think it would be prudent to give my credit card number to an overseas site that specializes in hacking, so I didn't try it. Here's one of the sites. (Warning: there might be naughty pictures in the banner ads.)

SCO's lawsuits don't seem to be hurting the Linux business, much to Microsoft's distress. Linux server sales were up 50% in last year's 3rd quarter over the previous year. Microsoft has spent more than $12 million on SCO licenses, helping fund their legal crusade.

Nuclear Hacker

Two years ago Joseph, a 16-year-old boy in the U.K. (no relation to the pilot from Trinidad) broke into a computer system on the internet so he could use it to store music and video files. That way he used someone else's hard drive space and bandwidth. This is a fairly common practice, although it's not very legal.

Joseph was a little unlucky. The computer system he selected for his unauthorized use happened to be at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.

Joseph password protected his files and hid them from users of the system. It got to be a popular site for file trading, and eventually the volume of internet traffic slowed down the Fermi Lab network and was noticed by the system administrators.

The Fermi Lab naturally suspected a terrorist attack, as terrorists are everywhere, and they shut the system down for three days. The U.S. Department of Energy "sounded a full-scale alert."

Monday, Joseph was convicted of unauthorized modification of the contents of a computer and sentenced to 200 hours of community service. I think that was probably reasonable. In the U.S. they probably would have had him in jail for months or years.

The Fermi Labs computer people should expect to have their computers hacked if they leave them unsecured. I consider them as much at fault as Joseph, since it's supposed to be a secure facility.

And Then...?

Someone left a note with a bomb threat on an American Eagle flight from New York to Washington. He was taken into custody by the FBI. He wanted to fly to Australia. But I could never find out what happened to the guy after that, or even what his name is. Is he another indefinite "detainee"? Or did they turn him loose because he was a little looney? Is this guy now a "disappeared one?"

Anybody Can-Spam

Congress passed and the President signed an anti-spam law. Judging from my inbox, I don't think it's being enforced. I was even nice enough to forward some of my spam to the Department of Justice, in case they couldn't find any. What's the purpose of passing a law you don't enforce? Oh, yeah. It's election year.,aid,114287,00.asp,1282,62087,00.html

I like this approach to stopping spam: Nail the vendors. They're the ones paying for it.,1377,62177,00.html

50 Most Popular Web Sites for December

Trademarking Searches

Search engines display ads based on the item you search for. If you're an advertiser, you can, for example, buy an ad that pops up only when someone searches for "rooster" or "qikiqtarjuaq" or "playboy." Playboy magazine doesn't like this, because internet porn sites are paying to have their ads come up when someone searches for Playboy. So, in the great American tradition, Playboy is suing.

This is new, because the trademark usage on the search engines is only implied, not explicitly shown. The same thing could (and probably does) happen if Chrysler, for example, pays to have their ads come up when someone searches for a Ford car.

Continental Cancellation

A Continental flight from Washington to Houston was cancelled because by Homeland Security. The passengers were rebooked on other flights. I was a little puzzled about it.

I can understand canceling flights coming into the U.S. from abroad, where the U.S. has no control over security, but in Washington D.C.? Why weren't they able to check out the plane and passengers, and then let it go? After all, there are more than a few security folks in Washington. If the passengers were the threat on this flight, why weren't they a threat when they were booked on other flights to the same destination?

I think the Department of Homeland Security was just trying to one-up the EU, who banned skateboards from planes as "potentially dangerous weapons."

DVD Decoding

Four years ago in Junkmail 25 I wrote about Jon Johansen, a 16-year old boy in Norway who was arrested for writing a DVD decoder. The Norwegian police questioned him for 7 hours, and took his 2 computers and cell phone.

A few weeks ago, an appeals court in Norway upheld Jon's acquittal. Now he's 20 years old. Shortly afterward, the DVD Copy Control Association industry dropped their lawsuit against Jon. They said it had nothing to do with his acquittal, however.,1412,62040,00.html

Today, you can go to and find lots of DVD decoders, players, and rippers:

The recording and film industry has not given up. Friday they raided the offices of Kazaa in Australia:


Last month, a Skywest Airlines Bombardier jet landed at Rapid City. It had quit a bit of ice on it. It landed hard, and hit the left wingtip on the ground.

The plane looks something like this, or at least it did before the landing:


Stupid Patents

It's been literally hours since I've done any serious ranting and raving about stupid patents, so I've been a little restless.

In their infinite brilliance, the U.S. Patent Office has granted a patent to a guy named Frank for "A method for assigning URL's and e-mail addresses to members of a group comprising the steps of: assigning each member of said group a URL of the form 'name.subdomain.domain'; and assigning each member of said group an e-mail address of the form "name@subdomain.domain."

An original invention? Thousands of people have been doing this for years all over the internet! Frank is suing Network Solutions and, the big domain name registrars.

If that's not bad enough, a guy named Sheldon was recently awarded a patent by USPTO for computer solitaire and other computer card games. The earliest date on is patent filings is years after computer multiplayer card games were widely available. Those people at the patent office must award a patent to anything that's written up in a complicated manner.

In 1956, a guy named Jerome filed for a patent for measuring items using a TV camera and videotape. That filing was extended and refiled, according to Jerome's lawyers, until it became a patent on all barcode readers. A lot of people have been paying Jerome's company a lot of money in licensing fees -- more than $1.5 billion in all.

He would generally sue the users instead of the manufacturers, because they were easier targets and less likely to battle it out in court.

Last week, Jerome's patents were finally declared invalid by Judge Phillip in Las Vegas. Jerome died several years ago, but his litigation company lived on. His company, Lemelson Partnership, doesn't actually make anything, as near as I can tell -- they're just in the business of suing people.

Here's the official decision. It's a pretty interesting story.

Lemelson is proud enough of their lawsuits that they list them all on the internet.

Fuss Budget and Visas

It's nice to know that the $180,000,000 indoor rain forest will be built in Coralville, Iowa. $50,000,000 was authorized for the project last week. That's exactly what I was wanting my tax dollars to go for. Senator Grassley of Iowa happens to be the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, but this is just a coincidence.

In the meantime, the Statue of Liberty is closed because the government can't come up with $5 million, one tenth the amount allocated (so far) to the Iowa Indoor Rain Forest. The Department of Homeland Security closed the Statue of Liberty until $5 million worth of renovations could be done to make it safe from terrorists.

There's an ironic message there. Since the Statue of Liberty was closed, the U.S. has canceled, delayed, and refused visas to thousands of people wanting to come to the U.S. for education, medical treatment, and vacation, in addition to many who want to move here.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Something seems to have changed.

It's common now for international students, even students who have been in the U.S. since childhood, to leave the country on a visit and not be allowed to return.

Some universities recommend that international students not leave the country during summer or Christmas vacation because they may not be able to return in time for classes.

Crime Rate by State

Where is it safe? In 2002, the states with the highest violent crime rate (per year per 100,000 people) were D.C. (1633), South Carolina (822), Florida (770), Maryland (770), and New Mexico (740). Yeah, I know, the District of Columbia is not a state. Neither is Puerto Rico, but it's included here too.

The safest states, with respect to violent crime, were North Dakota (78), Vermont (107), Maine (108), New Hampshire (161), and South Dakota (177).

Here's the complete data:

Happy New Year!

Here is a really good article -- the dumbest moments for tech companies in 2002.

This story has the dumbest moves in 2002 business, but I'm afraid the business people can't compete with the techs when it comes to stupidity.

Government Peer Review

Some science researchers are a little worried about the Bush administration's plans that could put a political spin on science. They are planning to handpick political palatable peers for peer review. Some are worried that this will bias scientific results in favor of industry, and against things like evolution and stem cell research.,1286,62119,00.html

In similar news, Bush is appointing a panel to decide whether to investigate Bush.


A toilet blew up in the Hanley town centre, Stoke-on-Trent, U.K. Wednesday. Nobody was inside at the time, luckily. Authorities attributed loo's death to natural causes, with a contributing factor of faulty high-power electric cables underneath the high-power toilet.


Thunderbird Crash

Last September, an Air Force Thunderbird F16 crashed at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. The pilot climbed to 1670 feet instead of 2500 feet above the ground before pulling down in a split-S maneuver. He used the wrong airfield altitude in his calculations, maybe the Nellis AFB elevation (1870') instead of Mountain Home AFB (3000'), although that would have put him at 1370 instead of 1670.

He ejected safely 0.8 seconds before the plane hit the ground. Nobody was seriously hurt.

There are pictures and videos of this crash wandering around the internet. Here they are if you haven't seen them.

Picture of the ejection:

      Hi-res (2.8 meg)

Video of the crash (1.4 meg):

Video from inside the cockpit (4.2 meg):

More info:

Pictures of Today!

Key West, Boca Chica, and a few more of the Florida Keys. Key West is on the far left, and the airport with three runways is the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. The thin line connecting the islands is U.S. Highway 1. This is an Aster satellite photo.

      Hi-res (3441x1982)

Jupiter, from 11 million miles away. Io is the moon to the left of Jupiter. This photo was taken by the Cassini spacecraft. Cassini should get to Saturn in July of this year.

      Hi-res (1349x1603)

Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado. This was taken by the Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite.


This satellite image of Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas was taken by Space Imaging's Ikonos satellite in 2002:


Here's the Alcantara Launch Center in northeastern Brazil, two days after a rocket exploded. 21 people were killed when the engine went off prematurely on the launch pad. This was taken by Space Imaging's Ikonos satellite.


Ayres Rock in Australia is more than 1000 feet high (above the ground), and more than a square mile in area.


Fox Glacier, New Zealand, by Ikonos:


Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, NC, is where the Wright brothers first flew. Here it is from the Ikonos satellite...


...and here it is from the Aircam:


Cloudy mountains, east of Grand Junction, CO:

      PICT0970      PICT1000      PICT1007

A mountain that's not so cloudy:


A Siberian tiger, or so he thinks:


Highway 395 and the highest point in Nevada:


Important Notice

(*) 1964, no rights deserved. If you copy this Junkmail without prior written consent, you will not be held liable by me for copyright violation, trademark violation, patent infringement, or inappropriate flatulation.

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I'm Bob Webster and you can usually find me at

Have a nice day!