More Junkmail from Bob!Sunday, November 6, 2005
MarsThe Mars Explorer Rovers are still going! They landed on Mars in January 2004, completed their 3-month primary missions, and are now on their third extension. Here are the latest color photos from the Mars Rovers, along with a bunch of other Mars stuff. I improved, or at least changed, the color processing to make it look better. I still need visit Mars to verify the accuracy of these.
The USS MinnowOK, it's not really a USS (United States Ship), but it is The Minnow. That's the new sailboat Mike and I bought. Mike's on the boat in between Spain and the Canary Islands at the moment. Technically, the Canary Islands are Spain. Anyway, here's the web site for The Minnow:
Here's the blog with the latest news, location, dismastings, etc.
We're headed across the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) in 2-3 weeks.
One of the five people on this trip is David Renouf, originally from Australia where he gained considerable sailing experience:
Australian Sailing Experience
We'll have daily updates on the blog. Feel free to leave comments.
Another BlogI was playing around with Google's blog stuff a few weeks ago and made one for me. It's got a lot of pictures and random stuff. It's even less pertinent to earthlings than Junkmail. For example, you can see a whole lot of aerial photos I took during a couple of trips to California. Or you can buy my car.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Edwards Air Force Base with my three toddlers Brian, Steven, and Melinda, my one toddler-in-law Katie. There was a really impressive airshow with lots cool stuff -- a B2, F22, UAVs, a couple of sonic booms, and girls with M16s. Here are a whole lot of pictures:
Google has been exploding. They have more than tripled the number of employees in less than two years, from 1,628 at December 31, 2003 to 4,989 full time employees as of September 30, 2005.
They've more than tripled the amount of cash on hand. After people paid in more than $7 billion in two stock offerings, Google had over $7.6 billion in cash and marketable securities (as of 9/30/05). A year earlier, after their IPO, they had about $1.5 billion in cash. In 9/30/03, they only had a paltry $185 million in cash.
Google's market cap today is about $109 billion. The market cap(italization) is the total value of the all the stock not owned by the company itself. Less than two years after going public, Google is worth 7 times more than General Motors and more than 1/3 as much as Microsoft or General Electric.
This sounds amazingly like Yahoo a few years ago as Yahoo stock hit the 400 mark. (I'm sure you remember December 99's Junkmail where I was poo-pooing Yahoo's stock price.) Google is different, however, in that it has a little more fundamental value.
In December 1999, a year or two after Google was founded, Yahoo's stock price was 200 times its revenue and 2000 times its income. Google's price is 20 times its revenue 77 times its income (9-month data extrapolated to 12). It is still a high-priced stock, but I don't think it comes under the heading of "irrational exuberance."
Yahoo is making decent money now, but not enough to support a stock price even half that of 1999 and 2000.
What is Google doing with all this success? I was worried that they'd get pressured to make money and muck up their search page with a bunch of ads that slow things down. Lucky for me, they've avoided this. They are expanding into other areas. Like space. Outer space, not cyberspace.
Google is building a 1-million square foot research facility at NASA Ames Research Center.
I imagine Google will have some NASA business, but this doesn't mean the research center will be devoted to NASA and space research. In fact, it doesn't even mean it will be 1 million square feet. The NASA press release says "up to" 1 million square feet. Even so, I bet it will be huge.
It's actually a convenient place for Google and a chance for NASA Ames to fill some empty space. The Moffett Field Naval Air Station left there in 1994, leaving behind NASA and a lot of room for growth. The new research center will be only 5 minutes from Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA.
Google is proposing to provide free wireless internet over the entire city of San Francisco.
Google's web site has a lot more on their site that a simple search engine. In addition to the web, you can search images, news, usenet groups, local areas, merchandise, and research papers. You can also find open source software, build a web log (such as http://xpda.blogspot.com or http://hmsminnow.blogspot.com), explore the earth through maps or satellite images, use free email, get photo managing software, chat, and translate web pages to other languages.
Google called their free email service gmail. It competes favorably with hotmail and yahoo mail. In fact, hotmail and yahoo have improved their offerings after Google's competition. Google can't use the name "gmail" in some countries, such as Britain and Germany, because the name is already taken.
Google is planning to hire programmers to work on Open Office, a free competitor to Microsoft Office.
Microsoft does not like this at all. At least Microsoft's chief diplomat Steve Balmer doesn't. He said he was going to kill Google, only in more colorful language. I guess he better hurry, or it will be too late.
I think it would be great for Microsoft to have some competition. It may even inspire them to make products the customers want, rather than products designed to influence customer behavior.
Spamming StockI get a lot of spam recommending one stock or another. A couple of times I tried to figure out where the email came from, just out of curiosity. The sender wasn't identified. I would never buy a stock based on spam. In fact, I would avoid buying a stock recommended by spam, if I took the time to read the spam and see what they were pushing.
Apparently there must be some people somewhere out there in the inner solar system who unknowingly assume that some broker or another sent the recommendation, and enough of those must buy that stock at least partly based on the recommendation. If someone didn't buy the stock, they wouldn't waste time spamming it. Speaking of which, WHOEVER IS BUYING THOSE FAKE ROLEX WATCHES, STOP IT!!!!
Joshua Cyr made a web site to track the stocks recommended in spam he's gotten. That was a great idea! He started in May and went through June. The average return is a 52% loss, so far. That's about what I would expect.
Software ControlThe FCC has decided they have the final say over what software you run on your computer. Their policy document says, ""consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement."
I think the FCC was trying to give itself the authority to control Voice over IP software, controversial in itself. They seem to have given themselves the authority to regulate all the software on my computer. Good! Some of the programs I write run amuck.
RIAA and MPAAThe Recording Industry Association of American's lawyers have been generating legal fees again. After being sued by the RIAA, a lady in Oregon named Tanya sued back.
In a popular move, the RIAA is demanding that the US District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan appoint a legal guardian for a 14-year-old girl named Brittany, after their lawsuit against Britanny's mother was dismissed. Brittany was 13 when she downloaded some music.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a page on how not to get sued by the RIAA:
Last week the RIAA sued 745 people for sharing music, bringing the two-year total close to 15,000 sue-ees.
The RIAA and MPAA have proposed a new law that would make it illegal to "make anything capable of digitizing video unless it either has all its outputs approved by the Hollywood studios, or is closed-source, proprietary and tamper-resistant. The idea is to make it impossible to create an MPEG from a video signal unless Hollywood approves it."
Seattle band Harvey Danger released their latest album free over Bittorrent, an internet file sharing system. The music isn't too bad.
Last month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission approved an emergency set of rules to increase prison sentences by about 40 percent for peer-to-peer infringement of copyright works "being prepared for commercial distribution."
An emergency? The MPAA must have some pretty good friends over there.
Didn't Congress pass a law against spamming?
Jim TuckerI ran across this story the other day, and was surprised I had never heard about it. On April 7, 1994, a Fedex employ was about to be fired, so he decided to Hijack a Fedex DC10 and fly it into company headquarters. The crew barely managed to save the plane and their lives, but not without permanent injury. Here's a really good interview and story:
On Thin IceIn November 1999, a crew of National Guard LC-130 from Schenectady, NY landed on the ice in Antarctica. They were delivering fuel and supplies for a research crew. An LC-130 is a ski equipped C-130. The New York Air Guard's 109th Airlift Wing in Schenectady flies seven LC-130s to and from Antarctica to support the NSF and U.S. Antarctic program. They've been flying to Antarctica since 1975.
The particular research on that trip was cut short. The plane "dragged" its landing strip three times, making sure it was safe. I guess if the plane skis along at a good speed, it won't fall into the ice if the ice breaks. They didn't detect any crevasses, so they landed. Then they unloaded and taxied back to takeoff.
On the way back to their airstrip, the LC-130 broke through a snow bridge and fell into a crevasse. Here are some photos from Hermann Engelhardt's site at Cal Tech. In the first, you can see the crevasse running from upper left to lower right.
This is the offending snow bridge:
After some winching, a new engine, and a couple of new propellers, and a lot of work by a lot of people, the plane flew out again. In January.
ImmigrationA Jamaican named Gavin is playing basketball at North Carolina State, where he is a sophomore. Gavin faces deportation because he is an illegal immigrant, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Patenting HumansThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has now issued patents on about 18.5% of the human genome. It looks like we'll soon have to pay royalties just to be human.
(subscription required - Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2005, Page B1)
It's not clear whether these patents apply to Kansans, where there is no evolution.
Safety Doors"Flight attendants trying to save a Cypriot airliner with an unconscious crew on board were locked out of the cockpit -- by the plane -- until it was too late to do anything, according to the Greek assessment of a computer simulation of the flight. More than 100 people died when the Helios Airways Boeing 737 crashed near Athens Aug. 14. The plane had some kind of pressurization problem shortly after takeoff from Cyprus on its way to Athens and the flight crew lapsed into unconsciousness. The plane continued on its programmed route to a holding pattern off the coast of Greece and flew in circles for two hours. Meanwhile, at least two flight attendants had stayed awake using portable oxygen bottles but they couldn't get through the locked, terrorist-proof cockpit door. It was only when one engine failed from fuel starvation that the computer-controlled systems aboard the plane unlocked the door."
On Monday, October 7, 39 passengers refused to get on board a Helios Airways 737 after it had mechanical problems and couldn't take off on the preceding Friday and Sunday. The 39 passengers were flown home on another airline.
High School RadioMaynard High School has had a low-power radio station for the past 31 years. They applied for a power upgrade a few years ago, and now a religious broadcasting company out of California may take their frequency as a result. Some people are upset about this.
New Moonwort!Just what I've been waiting for -- there may be a new species of Moonwort!
Private Plane Access to Washington!Finally, small planes can again fly into Washington, DC. Or can they? All you have to do is follow a few rules, a described in AVWeb:
Under the new GA access rules, the operator of any private aircraft must submit passenger and crew manifests to the TSA 24 hours in advance of landing, and the TSA will conduct background checks on everyone. Only corporate aircraft with professional crews need apply. In addition, the airplane first must land at one of 12 "gateway airports" where the TSA will inspect the plane, passengers and baggage, charging a fee of over $500. And an armed law enforcement officer must be on every flight. "We definitely would like to see the rules made a little more workable," said Dan Hubbard of NBAA. "The whole advantage to business aircraft is time. It's an efficiency aircraft. Once you've made the stop [at a gateway airport], now you're not getting the trip done any faster than if you just flew into Dulles." GA flights at DCA also are limited to a maximum of 48 operations per day. The rules remain prohibitive, and even unworkable for many businesses, NBAA said.
Oh, yeah. There's one less airport you can fly into in DC now.
Traffic Congestion ChargeLondon is charging cars 8 pounds per day to drive in downtown London, a traffic congestion charge. Those cheapskates at the U.S. embassy are refusing to pay!
Space StationRadiation levels drop during solar flares at the International Space Station. I think that's interesting.
There have been people in the Space Station now for five years.
This picture of Mount McKinley was from a distance of 800 miles on the Space Station!
Presidential SealThe President has big problems. The Onion.com has been using the presidential seal without proper prior authorization! It's bound to be a plot by terrorists, democrats, or Harriet Miers.
I notice that the seal is still there, even after all the hoopla.
While on the subject of Presidents, I can't go all the way through a Junkmail without mentioning the Supreme Court. I would much rather have a competent judge that a former state lottery commissioner on the U.S. Supreme Court. Harriet Miers just does not have the experience of Alito. I would hate for Supreme Court justices to become political rewards like Ambassadors and FEMA directors seem to be.
Bush has announced that we should be afraid not only of terrorists, but also of the bird flu. And he can protect us. He has plans for a nationwide travel ban in the case of a bird flu outbreak. I might go to jail if this happens.
It's clear to me that Bush is out to get birds, after a flock attacked the White House last April and forced he and Cheney to take cover in bunkers.
I am very happy that Bush is going to do a lot of medical research on flu vaccines. That should have a lot of valuable spinoffs. I think the U.S. could stand to do a lot more science research.
Pakistan LandslideHere are some before/after satellite images of a landslide on the Neelum River in Pakistan. The photos don't show the devastation of the city, but the amount of earth that moved is incredible.
Light ComputersTwo discoveries could potentially make computers a lot faster. A Stanford team announced new silicon-based microtransmitter that can send optical data at 100 Gbps. This could be used for light-based processors.
An IBM team discovered a way to slow light down by a factor of 300 through a grid of perforated silicon. This will theoretically slow the light down enough so that optical chips can handle it in a microprocessor.
Cell Phone TrackingTwo judges have said the federal government cannot track people by their cell phones without showing probably cause. The government said, "Wanna bet?"
Gas StopA guy named Michael flying a Cessna 210 ran out of fuel about three miles short of the Baton Rouge airport a couple of weeks ago. He landed safely on a busy 4-lane highway, narrowly missing some traffic.
They tried to haul the plane off in a truck, but the landing gear was too wide. So the next day, the police cleared the highway and the plane took off. Almost. On the takeoff roll, Michael hit the driver's side mirror on a parked tractor-trailer. Then he hit an emergency vehicle. That knocked him into some trees where he lost 3 or 4 feet of a wing. Oops.
I think the dumbest thing he did was run out of fuel.
Game PropertyProject Entropia is a multiplayer online game. Like many games, Entropia has an economy. Unlike other games, the Entropia currency is linked to hard currency. Ten Project Entropia dollars are worth one U.S. dollar. The game is free and there is no subscription. Apparently the company makes money selling Entropia currency.
Last year, a player named David bought an island in the Entropia world for over $26,000 U.S.
This year MindArk, the Swedish company that developed Project Entropia, auctioned off a space resort orbiting Calypso. A guy named Jon won the bidding. The price? $100,000 U.S.
Microsoft PatentMicrosoft is famous for receiving stupid software patents, at least in my mind. Eolas and the University of California sued Microsoft for violating another stupid software patent, one that includes all browser plugins. They were awarded $500 million in a preliminary judgement, which doesn't mean much in real dollars.
One thing that is significant is that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Microsoft's appeal last week. This could be costly for people like Macromedia.
SupercomputersIBM has installed new, faster supercomputers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The two computers consume about 10 megawatts of electricity. By comparison, the Pensacola Dam produces a maximum of 120 megawatts.
Microsoft and South KoreaSome people in South Korea are using Microsoft Windows and other Microsoft software. That's true in just about any country. Microsoft is being charged with antitrust laws in South Korea. That's not unusual either.
South Korea is requiring that Microsoft produce a special version of Windows for South Korea, because of antitrust violations. Microsoft is refusing, threatening to stop doing business in South Korea.
This is interesting. Who would lose more? South Korea would, in the short term. But because South Korea is more reliant on computers than Microsoft, it seems if Microsoft does pull out, then South Korea will develop software to replace it, and eventually export the South Korean software and compete. And if South Korea does this, other countries may follow suit.
I expect that Microsoft and South Korea will settle their differences, though. That's what usually seems to happen.
Sony Copy ProtectionSome of the all-powerful record companies have decided it's OK to modify my operating system without my knowledge or permission. SonyBMG and First4Internet have started using copy protection software (or Digital Rights Management, DRM) on their CDs that install "rootkits." When you play their CD on your system, they changes and replace system files, then change the registry to make it work.
This is a very bad idea. First, you should not change peoples' computers without authorization. Second, you should not change the operating system at that level. It may work today, but the next Windows update may kill your computer, requiring a Windows rollback or re-install. Or someone else's unauthorized tinkering may not be compatible with the first, with the same result.
That seems awfully arrogant for them to think they can mess up my computer like that whenever I play one of their CDs. It makes me want to go out and download some music.
Sony said they fixed the problem and have released something to uninstall the rootkits.
It turns out that they were just joking. Their "fix" installs new versions of almost all their original files, and adds some new files to boot.
Too bad computer laws don't apply to companies like Sony.
Macromedia FlashI use Firefox most of the time for web browsing. They probably have a little over 10% of the browser market now. In Firefox, I use AdBlock to block banner ads and other minor irritations. I went to a site the other day that required not only Macromedia Flash, but Flash version 8. So I installed it. Then Flash quit working altogether. That was not such a bad thing.
I read up and found that Flash 8 doesn't work with AdBlock. Later on I ran across a web site that wouldn't work at all without Flash, so I had to hunt up Flash 7.
Here is Flash 7, in case you need to go backwards. It wasn't easy to find. Maybe Eolas will be better when they own Flash.
FlyoverA P-51 Mustang made a low pass over a University of Montana football game in Missoula on October 22. Montana beat Cal Poly 36-27. The flyover was not authorized. The FAA doesn't know who flew over and are asking for witnesses. It was undoubtedly a terrorist.
Pluto MoonsPluto has moons!
Terrorists are Everywhere!Baltimore closed down tunnels last month.
A lady in Davenport Iowa found a bomb in her home. But it turned out to be just a device to scare away underground aliens. Really!
Kentucky is serious about antiterrorism. They are undertaking a program to keep terrorists out of bingo halls and other charitable games. They don't actually care if terrorists go play bingo. They just want to make sure the terrorists don't operate any Bingo games.
The state Office of Charitable Gaming received a $36,300 grant to provide five investigators with laptop computers and access a law-enforcement database.
The border patrol in Detroit stopped some runners after a radiation sensor went off in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel during a marathon. None of the runners was carrying a nuclear weapon.
The FAA caught someone violating the Aircraft Defense Identification Zone around Washington. He was promptly cited. The problem was, he and his plane had never left Arizona.
About a year ago, a lady in Denver didn't want her breasts searched at the airport, so she drove home to San Diego.
A few days ago, a 63-year-old lady named Phyllis was fined $2000 and given one year probation after she grabbed a screeners breasts and said, "How would you like it if I did that to you?" The retired technical-college teacher was convicted in July of assault on a federal employee.
Pictures of Today!Glaciers in Denali National Park, August 8, 2004, by Ikonos satellite:
A long cliff, near Page, Arizona.
A big hole.
A Road Runner, Casa Grande Airport, Arizona
Two F16s came to visit me near (5 miles?) from a restricted area.
Imperial Sand Dunes, California
A Yellow Submarine?
San Andreas Fault
Confused Rocks on the Colorado River
New Mexico Bump
Colorado Cloud Dam
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