More Junkmail from Bob!

Saturday, June 3, 2006
Important Stuff.

Amy (Mike's eldest toddler) got married last night! Her husband did too.

Copyrights and Fair Use

I assume that you've been staying awake at night trying to decipher the fair use provisions of the copyright law and their interpretative evolution. Well, here's the current status in a form even I can read -- a comic book. It's by the Duke (no relationship to the guy in Doonesbury) University Law School. You can read it online, too.

Want to sell some candy in a sampler? Hire a lawyer. Elise and her brother Evan started the Chocolate Farm, a candy company, in 1998 when they were 11 and 13. Recently, Whitman's Candy's discovered the Chocolate Farm Sampler on Elise and Evan's web site. Whitman is threatening to sue. Whitman says they own the name "sampler."

ISP Logs

Last April Attorney General Alberto said that Internet Service Providers (i.e. SBC, Earthlink, Upperspace, etc.) should keep records on user activities in case the government wants to see them.

A couple weeks ago, James, Wisconsin Representative and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, proposed that ISPs be required by law to record information about all users' online activities so that police can conduct criminal investigations. Executives and companies that don't comply would be fined and imprisoned for up to one year under the proposed law.

We must not hear about some of this wiretapping/internet tapping stuff going on. The Government uses the "military and state secrets privilege'' to prevent people from talking about it, and to force secret court hearings.

That either means the government is hiding good, valid reasons and privacy policies that should not be disclosed to the general public, or the government is forcing it to be secret because it doesn't have good reasons or privacy policies.

This USA Today article on phone records kept by the NSA raised some eyebrows (and probably the decibel level) in privacy circles:

Here's a pretty funny article about a guy asking AT&T about recording his phone calls. At least I thought it was funny. It has been brought to my attention that not everybody laughs at the things I laugh about. My kids are not normal like I am.

Now the federal government has asked Google, Microsoft, and other major internet companies to keep a record of every web site visited by each of their users for two years.

The government has not made this request of Upperspace because everybody in Mayes County, Oklahoma is a law-abiding citizen.

But why worry? You can always encrypt your data. That is, unless you live in Britain. "The UK Government is preparing to give the police the authority to force organisations and individuals to disclose encryption keys.",39020330,39269746,00.htm


When you delete a file or an email, it may go into the recycle bin or deleted folder. (At least on most computers. I disable the recycle bin on mine because I don't like having to delete things twice.) If you really want rid of it, you can empty your recycle bin or delete email folder, right? Maybe not.

When you delete a file, even from the recycle bin, it's still on the hard drive. It's only marked as deleted. The hard drive space occupied by that file is available, so it may be overwritten when you write another file to the hard drive.

But nefarious snooping organizations and adolescents are well appraised of the fact that erased files can, in many cases, be unerased. You can download restoration.exe from this web site and check out your own hard drive to see what files are lying around that can be unerased:

It's also handy if you accidentally erase a file that you'd like to keep.

Even if your file has been overwritten, it is possible to un-overwrite it and get back at the original data. Everything on your hard drive is written as zeros and ones, just like the RAM in your computer. However, the hard drive saves a zero or one as a tiny magnetic spot on a metal platter. While the circuit in RAM is definitely a zero or one with no middle ground, a magnetic spot may have a little slop to its magnetic charge. A zero might be 0, or 0.001, or even 0.01. A one might be 1, 0.999, or even 0.99.

As it happens, when you overwrite a one with a zero, its value is just a hair higher than zero. And when you overwrite a zero with a one, the result is slightly less than a fully charged one. So with a very accurate hard drive reader it is sometimes possible to read a file that has been overwritten. This is requires special hardware and is pretty expensive, and as such this technique is used primarily by government organizations and divorce lawyers.

What if you want to make sure you file is deleted so that nobody can read it? You could ram a screwdriver through your hard drive. Or you could get a file wiper program that overwrites your files with random or subsequent zeros and ones a bunch of times. Here's one that can wipe all your erased files:

In practice, you're more likely to mess up and erase the wrong thing if you try to keep all your personal stuff on your computer properly wiped. It's a lot easier if you trust people not to snoop.

Here's a pretty good story about some computer forensics cases:

Brazilian Uranium

Brazil is now enriching uranium. They've got two nuclear power plants in operation, a third under construction (completion 7 years away), and the sixth-largest uranium reserves in the world. Brazil will save $11 million per year by processing the uranium rather than sending it to the U.S. and Canada for processing.

Nice Photo Site

MIT Open Courseware

Now you can take free college courses from MIT! There are a couple of catches. You don't get credit, and you don't get an instructor. But you can learn anything from aerodynamics to tennis!

MIT Open Courseware is available online for a bunch of classes.

Predator Crash

A Predator unmanned aerial vehicle crashed about 3:00 a.m. last April 24, flying along the U.S. - Mexican border. There was a fairly big to-do about it, and some politicians wanted to cut funding for the program. But I never did see what caused the crash until today.

One guy was flying (controlling) the Predator, when his system locked up. He transferred control to another guy. The other guy happened to have his controls set in the fuel-cutoff position when he received control, and the engine died. But this guy didn't realize it. When the Predator refused to obey and maintain altitude, the new controller put it into the autonomous lost-link mode.

But the engine was still dead, so the Predator just circled down until it glided into the ground. It was a $6.8 million error.

      predator article


//  note from 6/4/06
//  This is a fraud. I was suckered!!!

A pyramid has been discovered in Bosnia, near Visoko. It was reported last year, but now the evidence makes it look like it is really a large, man-made pyramid -- Europe's first. They are also investigating a 2.4 mile tunnel and two other pyramid-shaped hills. That would be fun work.

Math Whiz

The Quote of the Day:

"When gas prices go up 5 cents a gallon, that's maybe an extra $10 a week out of consumers' pockets. But when they're going up 15 cents and more, it means $20 extra a week." -- Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst with market research firm NPD Group.

Maybe he didn't do well in elementary math.

TSA Screening

The Transportation Safety Administration may want to screen their screeners a bit better. 25% of them leave the job annually. This year the TSA is offering $500 or $1000 bonuses for not quitting.

Windows Genuine Advantage

The Windows Genuine Advantage is a distinct disadvantage if Microsoft thinks your copy of Windows is pirated. Starting last April 25, the Windows Update installed some software that displays a message periodically telling you that your copy of Windows is illegitimate if that's what they think. It's possible to kill the nag message, but it's not straightforward.

Here are 14 ways you can kill the nag message, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones:

Microsoft also has a Genuine Advantage program for Microsoft Office. But I my Office quit running when I added more memory to my computer and I'm back on Office 97. I hope to stay with it indefinitely.

Microsoft seems to pressure people into buying upgrades with intentional incompatibility rather than better performance. I wonder if many people will refuse to upgrade to Windows Vista, the new version of Windows.

Wireless Ignition

With a laptop, some "specialized software," and 20 minutes, you too can be a car thief! There is software available to crack wireless ignitions now. Some of the more complex designs may take 20 minutes, but that's faster than I could pick a lock.

Capitol Police

When Patrick Kennedy crashed his car into a traffic barrier in Washington DC at 2:45 a.m., appeared drunk, and claimed to be going to a Congressional vote, the U.S. Capitol Police just gave him a ride home.

It's nice to know that they're very understanding. I find comfort knowing if I happen to be driving around Washington DC and crash through a traffic barrier, I'll get a free ride home, too. It's a kinder, gentler sort of thing. But they still give tickets for U-turns.

Volvo Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is a 9-leg round-the-world sailboat race. Seven boats entered. The Open 70 class boats are (I assume) 70 feet long. The masts are over 100 feet above the water. The Spanish boat Movistar set a 24-hour record of 530 miles, a little over 22 knots, on its delivery trip from Australia.

The boats have a keel with a weighted bulb on the end. The keel can be moved side to side up to 40 degrees. They move the keel toward the wind. This keeps the boat from tipping away from the wind so they can use bigger sails.

On May 18, one of the sailors on the boat ABN AMRO TWO, fell overboard and died. This was on leg number 7, between New York to Portsmouth.

Two days later, the Movistar was having problems. It was taking on water around the keel.

The next day, the crew gave up and abandoned the Movistar. The ABN AMRO TWO, carrying the body of their dead crewman, picked them up and took them on to Portsmouth. There was a search for Movistar, worth a few million dollars, but nobody has been able to find it.

Ocean Planet

Bruce Schwab sailed around the world twice. Alone. The second time he was in the Vendee Globe race, the first American to complete the race. It's really interesting to read his news updates.

He's now recruiting sponsors for the Ocean Planet II to compete in the 2008/2009 Vendee Globe.

In January, the Ocean Planet was in Key West after a race. It was tied to a sea wall that was a bit exposed, when a storm came in. It took quite a bit of damage. It's a pretty scary story, particularly since our boat (the Minnow) is in Key West.

We're not on the sea wall. We're safely in a marina. When Hurricane Wilma came though last year, all the boats at the marina survived just fine. Except one. It sank. It was parked where our boat is now. I guess we better head north before the hurricanes come.

I got to see the Ocean Planet and meet Bruce Schwab in Key West.


They were finishing repairs and rushing to get the boat ready to leave, so it doesn't look as "neat and tidy" as it does when it's sailing.

He has to be a good guy because he's a wrestler and a bicycler. The Ocean Planet is a lot different from a cruising catamaran. Everything on the boat is functional, from the computer holder at the helm station...


... to the carbon fiber toilet seat. I think I need one of those for home.


The mast is unstayed. That means it doesn't have any guy wires, or stays, holding it up. That seems impossible to me, but I guess it works pretty well because the boat has made it around the world and a lot more. The mast also rotates.

      P1050282.jpg      P1050325.jpg

The mast goes through the deck to the bottom of the boat. Here's a the view from under the deck:


Here it is inside on the bottom of the boat:


Here are some more photos of the Ocean Planet. It's 60 feet long and 81 feet high, launched in 2001. Its draft is 14.5 feet. That's pretty deep!

      LOA: 18.28 m
      Beam: 3.80 m
      Draught: 4.50 m
      Tonnage: 8.6 t
      Upwind sail area: 204 m2
      Downwind sail area: 465 m2

Here are some pictures:

You, too, can sail the Ocean Planet!

Digitally Photographical Bits

Last week Canon announced that they would stop development of their film cameras, following the lead of Nikon and Minolta. Maybe there's something to this digital photography after all. Canon will continue to produce their 35mm SLR and compact film cameras, they just won't be making any new ones.

Some people are buying digital SLR cameras so they can use their compatible lenses from their film SLR cameras. This doesn't always work the way you think. The sensor on a digital camera may be a different size or distance from the lens. Also, it may react to light differently.

I've tried a UV filter on a digital camera, taking photos of clouds, hazes, etc. I could see no difference with or without it. I guess the light sensor in the digital camera is not affected by ultraviolet light enough to matter.

There's a War Going On!

"Two Marines died and 22 were wounded due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 13." This barely made the news. The news reports that 3 people were killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, or 2 by a rocket attack, or something similar, just about every day. We get used to it.

But there is a lot going on in Iraq besides the casualties you read about (not to belittle the casualties: 2,400 dead and 8,000 seriously wounded). There is a war. Same in Afghanistan. Here is what the Air Force did for a few days last month:

There is a lot going on in Iraq, good and bad, that we never read or hear about. There are a lot of places there that aren't safe for reporters, so there are a lot of places that don't get reported on. Kidnapping is becoming an industry in Iraq. The Brookings Institution estimates that in March, 30-40 Iraqis per day were kidnapped in the Baghdad area, compared with two a day in January 2004.

Diebold Voting Machines

Some of the Diebold touchpad voting terminals (the TSx and the TS6) have major security flaws, allowing the voting software to be modified or replaced through a maintenance function.

Security holes are not too unusual for computers and networks. Just ask Microsoft. Diebold's reaction to the security holes was notable, however.

Diebold's response:  "The probability for exploiting this vulnerability to install unauthorized software that could affect an election is considered low."

U.K. Hacker

A 40-year-old guy from the U.K. named Gary accessed 97 U.S. government computers illegally in 2001 and 2002. He said he was looking for proof that the U.S. has been hiding information on UFOs. A couple weeks ago his extradition to the U.S. was approved by a British court. It will be appealed. Gary is afraid he'll end up in Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. says he'll be tried in civilian and not military court.,3800011283,39158809,00.htm

Carrier Landing (almost)


Don't make fun of your high school teacher online, lest you be charged with a crime.

Don't toilet  paper your high school, or you may be arrested and handcuffed by lots of police in cars, and helicopters.

Common sense prevailed in this case and the students had to clean up the mess rather than be charged with terrorism.

Don't even think of planning a food fight, or you may be charged with a crime. A junior at Mountain Ridge High School in Arizona was arrested and put in a juvenile detention facility for planning a food fight. He never got around to throwing the food. Maybe he was just talking big. At any rate, he was charged with "disrupting an educational facility." I'm glad they didn't have that law 100 years ago when I was in high school. But come to think of it, my Dad had some kind of law like that.


The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was caught hiring an illegal hacker to steal e-mail and other files that it could use in a lawsuit against The big problem facing the MPAA is the written contract for $15,000.

MPAA boss Dan said of the fiasco, "We are the MPAA. We have a right to break the law because people steal our movies." OK, OK, that was paraphrased just a bit. We'll, actually, I made up the whole quote. But it does sound good. But I can't outdo the fact that they hired a hacker to do illegal work with a written contract. That's brilliant!

Online Gambling in Washington

Online gambling is now a felony in the state of Washington, with worse penalties than driving while intoxicated. That makes perfect sense.

Adak Island

Last month Cathy and I dumped our baby daughter Melinda off at Gustavus, Alaska for the summer. Here's what she's been up to:

Then we flew down the Aleutian Islands as far as we could. We got to Adak Island.

That is a pretty weird place. Around 60 people live there now. There used to be over 6000 people there, primarily in the Naval Air Base. Now there are hundreds of fairly new, empty houses.

      P1050973.jpg      P1050961.jpg      P1050962.jpg

There are big buildings, mostly empty. There's even an empty McDonalds.


The Navy pulled out of Adak Island in 1997, followed by a big clean up. The title to most of the land was transferred to the Aleut Corporation, and organization for Aleutian Indians, Eskimos, Native Americans, First Nations, Aleuts, or whatever the proper terminology is today.

We saw a lot of wildlife, and could drive around on a lot of good gravel roads to sightsee. It's an interesting place.

Adak Island, May 10-11, 2006

On approach to Adak Airport
Old McDonalds
Signs from the Adak Naval Air Station


Sea Otters
N51°56.068' W176°35.316'
N51°56.169' W176°35.489'
We were told that the caribou on Adak Island are the largest in Alaska.
N51°57.498' W176°36.664'

N51°57.499' W176°36.664'
N51°57.503' W176°36.664'
There is a geothermal spring here that makes a nice swimming hole.
N51°58.96' W176°37.013'

N51°58.957' W176°37.012'
Rock Ptarmigan
N51°58.918' W176°37.003'

N51°59.056' W176°36.848'
An Old Loran Station
N51°59.056' W176°36.853'
An Old Loran Station
N51°59.056' W176°36.853'

N51°57.169' W176°36.564'

N51°57.096' W176°36.743'

N51°57.095' W176°36.743'

N51°56.754' W176°36.321'

N51°56.754' W176°36.314'
One of the newer bunkers
N51°56.629' W176°35.801'

N51°56.721' W176°35.237'

N51°56.717' W176°35.238'
Harlequin Ducks
N51°56.6' W176°35.258'

N51°56.053' W176°35.314'
Sea Otter
N51°56.023' W176°35.32'

N51°55.667' W176°35.078'
Harlequin Ducks
N51°55.666' W176°35.079'
One of the bunkers. Excellent echo.
N51°51.614' W176°41.276'

N51°51.726' W176°41.751'

N51°51.359' W176°41.089'
The town of Adak
N51°51.125' W176°40.776'
One of the old bunkers
N51°50.252' W176°40.454'
Nice sedimentary patterns, maybe from nearby volcanoes.
N51°50.632' W176°37.77'
Eagle in flight
N51°49.756' W176°37.899'

N51°49.756' W176°37.9'
Rock Ptarmigan
N51°49.795' W176°37.884'
N51°49.971' W176°37.612'

N51°51.402' W176°39.384'

N51°51.783' W176°37.793'
Lots of housing.
N51°52.274' W176°37.861'
Lots of housing.
N51°52.274' W176°37.862'
Lots of housing.
N51°52.445' W176°37.826'
Lots of housing.
N51°52.441' W176°37.927'
A young eagle on the beach.
N51°55.922' W176°33.275'
Eagle on the beach.
N51°55.921' W176°33.266'

N51°55.922' W176°33.263'

N51°55.923' W176°33.262'

N51°55.923' W176°33.262'

N51°55.882' W176°33.181'
These ducks would dive whenever a large breaker came in.
N51°55.853' W176°33.134'

N51°55.845' W176°33.121'
Young Eagles
N51°55.83' W176°33.089'
Young Eagles
N51°55.834' W176°33.038'
Young Eagles
N51°55.83' W176°33.051'

N51°55.836' W176°32.957'

N51°55.835' W176°32.959'

N51°56.033' W176°33.408'

N51°56.034' W176°33.41'
Harbor Seals
N51°56.039' W176°33.418'
N51°55.859' W176°35.317'

N51°55.859' W176°35.317'

N51°54.011' W176°41.324'
The Next Aleutian West, Kanaga Island.
N51°52.319' W176°42.362'
A recent radar or communications station.
N51°52.322' W176°42.361'
A nice rental car.
N51°52.322' W176°42.361'
The town of Adak.
N51°54.129' W176°40.716'

When I flew out to Adak Island, we passed this volcano blowing off steam on Unimak Island:


239 miles farther, we passed Cleveland Volcano on Chuginadak Island. It was hidden in the clouds. 13 days later, Cleveland Volcano erupted. A guy named Jeff took a great photo of the eruption. Jeff was flying overhead in the International Space Station at the time.


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I'm Bob Webster from Saturn. You can find me at
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