More Junkmail from Bob!

Monday, July 17, 2006
Important Stuff.

Big Waves

How big do ocean waves get? Aside from rogue waves sometimes formed by interference or combining waves, regular wind-formed waves can get close to 100 feet high. In February 2000, the Royal Research Ship Discovery measured them, somewhere between Iceland and Britain I think.

Strong westerly winds had blown across the Atlantic for two days. A front followed the waves at about their same speed, building them up over time. Those were the largest waves ever recorded on the open ocean. The significant wave heights (2/3 median) were 18.5 meters, and the maximum waves measured were 29.1 meters. The people on the Discovery enjoyed the big waves for about 12 hours.

Here's the article, published last March:

Human Computer Security

Suppose you are a crook. Or a politician. Or, more likely, both. You need access to a computer file. It's on a computer system you have no access to. It is encrypted with 1024-bit RSA encryption. How do you get it?

You could hack in through the internet, copy the file, and decrypt it. It is highly unlikely this would ever work, however, because the target system has a good firewall and your current PC is not likely to break 1024-bit RSA encryption any time in your lifetime.

Stumped?  All you need is a little human engineering. Since the advent of computer passwords, people have been known to do things like write down passwords on paper and leave them on their desks. But you don't have physical access to the building, so you can't walk in and copy down someone's password.

Here are some possibilities:
  1. Look in the windows for password, data, etc. Maybe you can see someone type a password, or maybe you can see a password and username sticky-noted on a monitor. You might want to use binoculars.

  2. Email phishing trojans to selected employees at your target organization. You can con them into unknowingly installing a key capture program that emails or FTP's the data back to an anonymous web site.

  3. This method is one of the best I've seen. A security company was tasked with breaking into a company's computer network, in order to find the soft spots. They wrote a trojan, put it on 20 USB thumb drives, and scattered them around the company parking lot. Employees picked up 15 of them, put them on their computers, and unknowingly installed trojans. The security company had complete unauthorized access to the computer system in short order.

If, by some odd twist of fate, you happen to be a law-abiding citizen instead of a malicious computerist, maybe you can use this information to deny interlopers access to your computer instead of using it to break in to other systems.

NASA Spending

I think NASA generally tries to spend money on constructive research and projects. However, The U.S. Congress isn't known for such discipline. In fact, Congress has ordered NASA to spend their money on things like a sprawling headquarters building for a non-profit research group in West Virginia (created by U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan), and a website and laboratory for the Gulf of Maine Aquarium. Maybe that's why we don't have a space plane.

Microsoft Genuine Advantage

The Microsoft Genuine Advantage is something you're pressed into installing during a Windows Update. It's not required, but if you don't read the details you'd think it is. The Microsoft Genuine Advantage is some kind of anti-piracy tool that Microsoft is spreading around. Every time you boot your computer, it contacts Microsoft to make sure you're running a legitimate version of Windows.

I had installed it, but I uninstalled it when I figured out it's not required for anything, and can really slow down a computer on dial-up or cell phone access. Ever since Microsoft killed my Office 2000 and Front Page just because I added RAM to my computer, I've tried to avoid any Microsoft software authentication or similar schemes. Office 97 works fine.

I hope I can avoid Vista!


In June two brothers in east London were arrested in a raid involving 250 police officers. They shot one of the brothers, for no apparent reason. The police were looking for a "chemical device." (A battery, maybe?) The didn't find anything illegal. The brothers were interrogated and then released. Then the police apologized, something unheard of in the U.S.

In the U.S., Homeland Security would say something like, "The two were arrested on suspicion of terrorism. We are not at liberty to give the details of an ongoing investigation for reasons of national security." Homeland Security does not make mistakes.

Or Maybe Homeland Security would just squash the whole story.

Last May, the New Jersey attorney general quietly issued subpoenas to five telephone companies to determine whether they violated state consumer protection laws by providing records to the National Security Agency. Last June, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to block those subpoenas. They said that compliance with the subpoenas would "damage national security." Right.

Last month in Beautiful downtown Plymouth, Indiana, guests at the Swan Lake Resort narrowly avoided being blown up by terrorists. The hotel was evacuated and the police were called when a bomb was discovered in the bar. The bomb turned out to be a light on a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign, suction-cupped to a window. Whew!

local article

With terrorist attacks constantly occurring all over the country, the Department of Homeland Security has installed terrorism hotlines to governors in all 50 states. The secret phone numbers are to be used in the event of a national (or state?) emergency.

The funny thing is that some telemarketers have gotten ahold of these secret phone numbers and the secret hotline numbers are now being added to the federal Do Not Call Registry.

Terrorists are everywhere!  In Tallahassee last month, 470 people narrowly escaped being blown up by a jar of Tupelo honey, a package of "Byron's Butt Rub" and an oyster shell.


How do we win the War on Terror? It's easy. We just have to get people to stop being afraid. But that could really ruin some campaign strategies. Terrorism is what the big to-do is really about. Maybe it's just too hard for politicians to say "ism."

Terror:  a state of intense fear.

Terrorism:  the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

These are not the same thing.

New Lunar Crater

In case you missed it, there's a new crater on the moon, in the Sea of Clouds. A meteoroid hit the moon on May 2, making a new crater between 40 and 50 feet in diameter and about 10 feet deep. The meteoroid was probably about 10 inches in diameter and flying along at around 85,000 mph. I'm not sure whether that's faster than the speed of sound.

Is there enough atmospheric matter to propagate weak sound waves on the moon? The moon has "no atmosphere," which means almost none, and there is a little bit of dust flying around.


Last Junkmail I mentioned a pyramid in Bosnia. I was tricked! It's a hoax!

The Minnow

Mike and I have a sailboat ( I sailed it from Key West to Georgia, and Mike took from Georgia to Maryland. The boat has a reverse osmosis desalinization system called a watermaker. That way we can drink seawater.

In five or ten years, they should have new carbon nanotube membranes for reverse osmosis that will make them a lot more efficient, both large scale and small scale systems.

I passed this boat off the coast of Florida. I thought it was a little odd looking

...although not as odd as a sailing catamaran -- here's the Minnow at anchor:

I was curious, so I looked it up on the internet. That is a very good way to learn things, because everything on the internet is true. The boat is the Dolores Chouest, as you can see on the side. If you take a close look at the emblem on the side, you can see that it says Research - Rescue - Recovery, and underneath it says "Mystic - Avalon."

The Dolores Chouest is a "Deep Submergence Elevator Support Ship" for the Navy. It helps in deep water search and rescue, and is used as a submarine test support escorts. Last November the Dolores Chouest helped with ABC's Good Morning America broadcast from U.S. Attack Submarine USS Scranton, handling the live communications between New York and the submarine.

The ship is owned by Edison Chouest Offshore and leased to the Navy. Dolores is Edison Chouest's wife. The boat is operated by a civilian crew of 7 or 8, and has quarters for 30 or 40 more people.

The Mystic and Avalon are Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles. They have a crew of 4, can go down 5,000 feet, and can carry 20 rescuees.

Here is the Mystic DSRV being launched from the Kellie Chouest last December:

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Here's the Mystic being loaded onto a Russian-built AN-124.

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Further along up the coast of Florida, I anchored off Cape Canaveral to see the Space Shuttle launch. I radioed the Coast Guard and asked them if I was OK if I stayed three miles offshore, and they said that would be no problem.

The next morning, the Fourth of July, I woke up to a honking horn. I eventually realized I was on a boat and not in a big city. Then I remembered I was anchored offshore, miles away from anybody. I staggered outside and saw a Coast Guard boat. When I finally woke up enough to operate the radio, they told me I needed to go south a few miles. I asked if I could go north. They said I'd have to go pretty far (past "charlie alpha"). I asked them to wait and tried to figure out whether to go north or south. Then the range control officer said I could go three miles southeast. So I did. They were all very polite and professional. And patient.

When I anchored, there were no boats anywhere around me. The Coast Guard was patrolling behind me. Once I heard the Coast Guard or Range Control people ask on the marine radio, "Are you going to let that sailboat stay there?" They did. I was still a few miles away, but I was happy to be that close.

I listened to the marine radio part of the day before the launch. I was impressed with the Coast Guard, and the efficient and courteous way they kept boats out of the off-limits areas. Those guys are good.

I waited around until 2:38 and the shuttle went up. It was really, really impressive. It was bright and loud. There was an interesting contrast between their speed and mine.

Here are some of my shuttle photos.

NASA had a little better view:

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Canceling AOL

I cancelled my AOL account several years ago. I was really mad because they refused to cancel it because I didn't know what credit card I used to pay for the account when I set it up. I had to yell at them a lot and threaten legal action in order to disconnect from AOL.

It may not be that bad any more, but it's still pretty tough to escape from AOL. Here's a funny example:

AOL has lost 4 million subscribers over the past two years. Now they're going to offer free email accounts and try to make money on advertising instead of subscriptions.

An Employee Review by Bill Gates

AT&T policy change

AT&T got tired of being sued, so they changed their privacy policy. Now they own your phone records and they can do whatever they darn well please with them. Incidentally, if you are an AT&T customer, you have already agreed to this policy change.

Windmill Radar

Wind Farms are interfering with military radar.


Business as Usual

Chicago has long been known as nation's premier city as far as political ethics are concerned.

About three years ago the Mayor decided he wanted a park where Meigs Field airport was. So he had it bulldozed. In the middle of the night. With airplanes still on the field.

The FAA fined the city of Chicago $33,000 for violations. So the City of Chicago spent $200,000 on outside lawyers (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP) to fight the fine. So far. Chicago paid another $350,000 to the same lawyers to fight the FAA on whether Chicago illegally used $2.9 million in airport development money to close Meigs Field.

Are they complete idiots, or am I missing something?

How to Swing

A few years ago a patent attorney in Minnesota named Peter filed for a patent in his 5-year-old son's name on how to swing on a swing set. He was awarded the patent.

Safe Lighters

The Transportation Safety Administration has decided that cigarette lighters, which were safe on airplanes and then weren't safe on airplanes, are now safe again on airplanes. Their parent company, Homeland Security, might not agree.


About 250 million years ago most of the animal life on earth became extinct. This was 185 million years before the dinosaurs were wiped out.

Ralph and Laramie from Ohio State University led the team that fond a big crater under the Antarctic Ice Cap. It looks like this is from a meteor impact that caused the big Permian-Triassic extinction 250 million years ago.

Spyware and Trojans

Here's a good article. This material will be covered in the exam.

FBI Push for Internet Wiretapping

The FBI has drafted a law to help it tap the internet. Court orders are not required. Some fun-filled features of the new law:
  1. A requirement for router manufacturers to offer "upgrades" on all routers to support internet wiretapping. The proper term for this is actually downgrade, since it downgrades speed and efficiency.
  2. Expansion of wiretapping requirements to Instant Messages and VoIP.
  3. Elimination of the current legal requirement making public the number of "communications interceptions" per year.
It makes a person feel safe.

Fun with Root Kits

A rootkit is some software that lets programs run on a computer without being detected. It modifies some of the low-level system files. The term originally came from Unix systems, and got famous last year when Sony put a rootkit on computers that played its CDs.

Now rootkits are getting better. There is one called Rustock that is essentially undetectable when it's installed. That's a little irritating. I don't like other people cluttering up my computer.

      Symantec info

The Suncook River

There was some flooding in New Hampshire last May. Some people in Epsom, NH don't like it. Their river moved and they want it back.

Ted Stevens, Techno-Guru and U.S. Senator

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially...

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.
U.S. Senator Ted Stevens

I think I'm beginning to understand why there are all those stupid laws are coming out of Washington. Even if his analogy was anywhere near the realm of reality, his reasoning is completely off. The scary part is that this guy is prominent enough to have the largest international airport in Alaska named after him.

Lawyers vs. RIAA

Some people are beating the RIAA in file sharing lawsuits. More probably could. Over 4000 people have knuckled under and paid the $3750 settlement to the RIAA for sharing music. The legal tactics of the RIAA are questionable, but most people don't have the money to fight it in court. Sounds almost like extortion, doesn't it?

We Interrupt this Phone Call...

In 1951, the government instituted the emergency broadcast system to warn Americans of a Soviet nuclear attack. Now FEMA, the world famous bureaucracy, is expanding the emergency broadcast system to include "situations of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other hazards to public safety and well-being." I'm pretty sure that includes malicious Pabst Blue Ribbon signs.

They are also expanding the emergency broadcast system to cell phones and PDA's. I don't mind too much when the government listens to my phone calls, but it's going to far when they want to butt-in and talk.

That seems to me the worst thing that can happen in a real emergency -- shutting down all the cell phone communications and forcing people to listen to a message. After the message, everybody will make a phone call at the same time, overloading the system. But at least they'll know to put powdered milk and tuna fish under the bed.

MySpace, Firefox, and Slashdot

Myspace passed Yahoo, Hotmail, and Google as the most visited site (for the week ended July 8).

Firefox use has increased from 8.7% to 13% of total browser use since April 2005. I like Firefox better than Internet Explorer, and it only costs half as much. I read this on slashdot, which has 65% Firefox traffic. They noted that 18% of those Firefox users need to upgrade.

Pictures of Today!

There are lots.

Birds of the Dry Tortugas...

This is either a pteranodon or a frigate bird. I'm not sure because Serge took these:

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Here are some birds nesting on Bush Key, near Fort Jefferson. I took these pictures from a kayak. If it looks a little wavy, it's because it was!

Frigate Birds:

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Lotsa birds:

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Loggerhead Key:

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Another bird roost:

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This picture isn't that great, but I like it for some reason:


Here are my brother Mike and I with a friendly barracuda.


Mike with a fish he caught. A barracuda bit off must of it just has he was pulling it out of the water. Serge wouldn't swim after that.


Some sea life from Glacier Bay National Park. My baby daughter Melinda took these pictures. You can check out her blog at . It's pretty funny.

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This is the world famous "tall pointy thing" in Washington DC:


Washington Squirrels. They're not all in the Capitol.


Fort Jefferson at Sunset:

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...and the ocean, shortly after Sunset:


The end of the road:


This lenticular cloud formed as the thunderhead was rising through a layer of faster-moving air. Within two minutes, the thunderhead had swallowed the lenticular cloud. The cloud was over 30,000 feet high.

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More Thunderstorms -- South Florida:


South of Florida:

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East of Florida:




Weekend boaters:


Towboat and barge:

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This is me, towing the Minnow.


Saint Simon's Island, Georgia:


Here's an NOAA survey boat. I'm not sure how this works:

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Here is a new bridge across the Turtle River, near Brunswick, GA:

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I took some pictures of that bridge from the Aircam, when they were building it in 2001.

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Saturn and Titan, taken by Cassini.


Titan is the name of my new hard drive. Terabytes used to be Star Trek material, not home computer terminology. (Mine only half a terabyte.)

(~) 1956, no rights preserved. Any illicit copying of this material without prior written permission would be very easy and quite nice. Copy the heck out of it!

The opinions contained herein are not the opinions of anyone else on earth, near as I can tell. But you all will come around eventually. This Junkmail I decided to put the photos at 1600 resolution. Let me know whether you prefer the higher resolution and slower download speed to the 1200 resolution photos.

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Have a nice day!