More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, July 8, 2004
Important Stuff.


Here is a good picture of the Sahara desert in Libya, taken March 2, 2002, by the NASA Terra satellite. Giant sand dunes have blown around big rock outcroppings. I've left this in high-res so you can zoom in on detail. It's 1.7 meg.


Computer Upgrades

Need a faster computer? Maybe not, unless you play 3D games. The computer bottleneck for most people is communications. People wait on web sites to come up, on email to be delivered, and on network applications to network.

While image and video processing can be CPU intensive, most newer computers are plenty fast for word processing, spreadsheets, email, bookkeeping and accounting, and chess. I've read that "bookkeeping" is the only word in the English language with three double letters in a row, but "bookkeeper" also has three double letters in a row.

Recently when I've upgraded to a new computer, I may have spent more time re-installing software and copying files than I saved by having the faster computer. I've noticed that when I sit down at other people's computers, I don't immediately notice "fast" or "slow" like I used to. Most computers seem fast enough for normal applications.

Want to see where you use your CPU time? After you've been using your computer for a while without rebooting, press Ctrl-Alt-Del and go to the Task Manager. The "CPU Time" column tells how much of the CPU's processing time has been spent on each task. You can add this column (under the View menu) if you don't see it.

Most of the tasks listed are Windows functions, such as svchost.exe. A few of them might be trojans or other malware. You can check google to see what any suspicious ones are. Windows is by far my biggest CPU hog, if you don't count "idle time."

The performance difference between notebook and desktop computers is becoming smaller. I have a 1.6 ghz Centrino notebook that runs some applications faster than my 3.0 ghz desktop Pentium 4. The overall speed difference between the systems is not noticeable. I have a larger screen and hard drives on the desktop, but those are the main differences.

In the past, laptops were generally used as a second computer. But with increased laptop performance, more and more people are giving up the desktop completely in favor of the laptop.

What's the difference between a laptop and a notebook PC? Nothing. Back in the Cretaceous period of computing, laptop computers were a lot bigger than they are today, larger than a notebook or an Edsel.

The first ones as small as a notebook were called notebook computers. Now they're all that small, so you can call them laptop, notebook, or Joe.

What does all this mean? When Intel comes out with a faster CPU, people no longer dump their old computers in favor of the new, faster ones. The laptop market may grow faster than the desktop market.

In response, Intel is concentrating on integrating graphics, video, and other functions into their CPUs. And Microsoft is trying to keep people buying its new software releases.

Yesterday, Microsoft boss Steve sent out a 4900-word memo to his employees telling them they need to do a better job convincing customers that the latest versions of Microsoft products are worth having. He also said they had to cut expenses by a billion dollars. He said the company would see slowing growth.

I did a search to see if I could find a copy of the memo, and I found this:
"Microsoft President Steve Ballmer has asked his employees to 'significantly reduce' expenses and return to the 'cost-conscious culture that marked Microsoft's early years.' The message, which was delivered via a seven-page memo last week, stated that the company was facing economic pressures and would see slowing growth."

This was from December 2000. I guess things were the same then.

I did finally succumb to Windows XP, but I am still using Word 97 for word processing and Outlook 98 for email. Microsoft has not yet convinced me that upgrades for those are worth having.

Speaking of Microsoft, here's an interesting article by one of the people on the Microsoft Money team:

RFID and Counterfeiting

Need to track a car? Put an RFID chip in the license plate:

Need to track airline baggage? Use RFID tags.

Need to track money? Use RFIDs. No, this is not happening soon, but I think there's a fair chance of it in the future. A lot of people will be against it because it would allow the government to track spending, enforce income taxes, and seize drug money. But it may be one solution to combat counterfeiting.

Who can counterfeit the complex, hard-to-counterfeit money produced by the national government? Another national government. North Korea, for example.

North Korea has put millions of dollars in "superdollars," fake $100 bills almost identical to the real currency, into circulation over the past few years. And they didn't even send a thank-you note for the foreign aid.

Purna and James

A 41-year-old Buddhist guy named Purna came to New York from Nepal in 1996 on a tourist visa. Then he decided to stay for a while, working odd jobs at places like a pizzeria and a flower shop.

In October 2001, He was planning to return to Nepal. He took some videos of New York street scenes for his wife and kids back in Nepal. He had no idea that one of the buildings he passed his viewfinder over was the FBI office. The FBI had a pretty good idea, though. They arrested Purna and put him into solitary confinement.

Purna did overstay his tourist visa by a few years, but the penalty for that is deportation, not solitary confinement. James, one of the FBI agents who arrested Purna, tried unsuccessfully to get him released through FBI channels. James finally contacted the Legal Aid Society for a lawyer for Purna. After secret hearings, a bunch of red tape, and other fun and games, Purna was sent home to Nepal after 3 months' solitary confinement.

Crash Faults

Two years ago, a Boeing 757 and a Tupelov 154 crashed over Germany. The planes have TCAS anti-collision systems, which tell the pilots which way to go if there's an impending collision. The TCAS systems worked fine, but the air traffic controllers gave conflicting directions. If the pilots had followed the TCAS directions, there would have been no collision.

Now, some relatives of some of the Russian survivors have filed a lawsuit. Against the Honeywell and some of the other makers of the TCAS systems that worked flawlessly. Why? Honeywell has money. It's nice to see the former Soviet Union embracing the tenets of U.S. capitalism.

In 2000, Missouri governor Mel Carnahan was killed in a plane crash. His family won $4 million in a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the instrument vacuum pumps which, incidentally, did not fail and did not cause the crash. After he died, Carnahan went on to beat John Ashcroft in the 2000 election and unseat him from the U.S. Senate. John Ashcroft then became U.S. Attorney General.

Carnahan's wife said it wasn't about the money. But she wasn't satisfied with $4 million and appealed to get $100 million. She didn't get the $100 million.


Space Ship One is competing for the X-Prize, $10 million.

NASA is planning some similar Centennial Challenges to promote private space research and exploration.

The Clay Mathematics Institute is offering $1 million prizes for each of seven math problems. I mentioned in the last Junkmail that a guy named Louis from Purdue has an unproven proof of the Riemann Hypothesis.

Dr. Grigori Perelman of the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in St. Petersburg put his proof to the Poincaré Conjecture on the internet a little more than a year ago. Nobody has been able to find any problems with this proof, which actually goes farther than the Poincaré Conjecture.

In 1904,

Here's Grigori:

      simons8      simons7-a

Here's Poincaré:


Here's the proof. It doesn't even mention the Poincaré Conjecture, although it solves it. Or at least I read that it solves it. I didn't read through the proof. And if I did, it wouldn't mean much to me. It would probably take a few months of background study before I could understand it very well.

To qualify for the Clay Math Institute's price, you're supposed to publish the solution in a peer-reviewed journal, after which it has to withstand 2 years of scrutiny. Grigori apparently doesn't care about the prize or about getting the proof published in a journal. He's interested in math, not money. But the proof has been undergoing a lot of scrutiny, and is a pretty big deal as far as that kind of math goes. I think the Clay Institute might accidentally modify the rules and award him the money.

Election Year Politics

Foreign lobbyists have to register with the U.S. government. The Justice Department maintains a database with that information, called the Foreign Agent Registration database.

It's an election year. People want to find out which countries are spending how much to lobby U.S. politicians. The Foreign Agent Registration is public information, so that should be no problem. But there's one minor snag.

The Justice Department will not release the information. Why? They said that their database is "so fragile" that if they make a copy of it "could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating." The people at Justice either don't know much about computers, or they think that everybody else is really stupid. Maybe I should call them up and give them my 20-minute lecture on keeping current backups.

Bagle Source Code

The Bagle email worm started spreading about last January. Since then there have been about 25 variants. The most recent versions of the worm have a new twist. The source code (in assembler) of the worm is embedded as an email attachment, complete with comments. This should make it easy for lots of people to modify Bagle.,39020330,39159596,00.htm

Nigerian Email Scammers

Nigeria is famous for scams enlisting people to "help" get millions of dollars in illicit money out of Nigeria for a small 30% or so cut. These fake proposals were sent my mail, then fax, and now by email. Here's one:


the Ministry of Health. l know this proposal will come
to you as a surprise because we have not met before
either physically or through correspondence.
I got your contact from our chamber of commerce here
in Nigeria and have no doubt in your ability to handle
this proposal involving huge sum of money.

was the Royal Head of my community, ELEME (an oil rich
town) in Nigeria. My community produces 5.8% of the
total crude oil production in Nigeria and 0.5% of the
Dollar value of each barrel is paid to my father as
royalty by the Federal Government. My father was also
the Chairman of ELEME Special Oil Trust Fund.
In his position as the Royal head and Chairman of the
Oil Trust Fund, he made some money which he left for
me as the only heir to inherit.The money is Twenty
Five Million Five Hundred Thousand US Dollars($25.5m).
This Money originated from the accumulated royalties
between 1976-1998 .

Due to poor banking system in Nigeria and political
instability as a result of past Military rules
(1985-1999) , he deposited this Money in a Strong
Room/"VAULTS" with an open beneficiary in a security
company pending when he would finish arrangement to
transfer it abroad . He was planning this when he died
late last year of Heart

THE PROPOSAL: Just before my father died he called my
attention to the money and charged me to look for a
foreigner who would assist me in the
transfer/investment of the funds abroad. So l would be
very grateful if you could accept to help me achieve
this great objective. I promise to give you 20% of the
total funds transferred to your vital bank account as
compensation for your assistance. Five percent
(5%) would be set aside to take care of all expenses we
may incure during the transaction. To indicate your
interest, contact me urgently and confidentially
for more information and the roles you will play in
this business. All the legal Documents concerning this
Money will be sent to you as soon as we agreed
together. Send your reply through this box please.
May the almighty God bless you.

Yours faithfully

(His email address is in case you're interested.)

A few days ago Nigeria arrested more than 500 people involved in the scams and seized more than $500 million in assets from the scammers. That number sounds a little high to me, but that's what this article says:

Now if the U.S. would just do the same with spammers....


There's a new version of TerraServer, Microsoft's site with aerial photos and USGS maps of most of the U.S. The new version went online last May.

      Here's Yosemite Valley :


Want to see what Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has been doing lately? Here's a great site, complete with great photos:


John Edwards is running for Vice President. He got rich suing doctors, and has gotten most of his campaign contributions from lawyers and the legal profession.

Pentagon Domestic Spying

The Pentagon is asking for authority for military intelligence agents to work undercover inside the U.S. Some people think that's a big problem. I'm not sure how important it is today, but I can see how it could cause problems in the future.,1848,63917,00.html

UAV by U.S. Customs

U.S. Customs is using unmanned Aerial Vehicles to patrol the border. Watch out of you're flying along the border in Southern Arizona!

The UAV flight plans are filed 24 hours in advance and air traffic controllers are aware of their flights. However, general aviation VFR flights that don't talk to controllers are on their own, although Customs said the Collision-avoidance precautions are in place. The UAVs fly between 9,000 and 13,000 feet.

Here's a picture of the Mexican border near Yuma. Mike and I flew there in the AirCam, when we followed the Colorado River.



A few months ago in Junkmail I put in some pictures and a story by a girl who rode a motorcycle in the Chernobyl area. I was suckered! It's a good story, but she apparently only took the standard bus tour and carried her motorcycle helmet with her for the pictures.

Here's the site by Elana of Chernobyl:

Here are a couple of sites explaining that she stretched things a bit:

Here's some information on touring Chernobyl:

...and here's a large panorama photo of Chernobyl:

Pictures of Today!

A standing lenticular cloud, from above.


Colorado plains, near Alamosa.


Here are some pictures from Red Mountain, Chaffee County, Colorado. This is not the Red Mountain that's near Silverton. There is some very acidic water than forms naturally there. That tends to dissolve bad things like heavy metals and makes the water unhealthy to drink.

It doesn't look very appetizing at the source:

      pict5697       pict5701       pict5703

      pict5705       pict5706       pict5712

There is a distinct border between the red part of the mountain and the gray/green part.


One of the ugly looking rocks:

      pict5749       pict5750

      pict5751       pict5752

A "normal" mountain across the creek:


The red mountain.

      pict5759       pict5760

A flower near the acidic creek:


Two coal cars near Pryor:


(~) 1929, no rights conserved. Any unauthorized duplication, replication, distribution, or transmission of this fine collection of bits authorized. Copy the heck out of it!

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Have a nice day!