More Junkmail from Bob!

Saturday, October 21, 2006
Important Stuff

New Computing

I have replaced my desktop computer! This one lasted three years. Here's what the new one looks like:

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This Core 2 Duo CPU has about 291 million transistors (fewer than 376 million of the previous Pentium D 9xx series). By comparison, Z80 CPU was released about 1976, the same year that penny was minted. It contained 8,500 transistors.

The CPU has a big fan, but runs quite a bit cooler than my last Pentium CPU.


The gigabyte memory has about 62,000 times more capacity than the popular chips in 1976.


It's All Relative

If you take all the matter in the sun and compress it down to about 1/85,000 of its current diameter, you would come up with a neutron star about 10 miles in diameter. (Actually, you might need a little more than the mass of the sun.) But the process is a little more complex.

First, you'd need a supernova. That's essentially a star that explodes in a big way. Really big. Next, the matter from the supernova collapses into a big ball. Gravity makes this ball smaller, and eventually the neutrons, protons, and electrons re-arrange themselves into a stable isotope of iron, because it can handle the pressure. Up to a point.

Eventually, the protons and electrons give up and turn into neutrons and neutrinos, and the resulting matter collapses into a bunch of neutrons and a few other subatomic particles. I think most of the neutrinos fly away.

This star full of neutrons is called a neutron star. Its density is in the neighborhood of that of an atomic nucleus. The sun is over 800,000 miles in diameter. A neutron star typically has the mass of 1.5 or 2 suns, with a diameter somewhere between 6 and 12 miles. That's really dense!

If the mass of the collapsing matter is less than this, it turns into a white dwarf star. If the white dwarf collects some extra matter and grows to beyond about 1.4 solar masses, it gets really excited and goes supernova. If the collapsing matter is more than about 3 solar masses, it turns into a black hole. I haven't seen either of these things happen, but I'm pretty sure this is true.

A pulsar is a rotating neutron star that sends out pulses of radio signals. They've been observed for almost 40 years.

A team led by a guy from University of Manchester named Michael has been observing a double pulsar system, where two neutron stars are in tight orbit around each other. They orbit once every 2.4 hours and are flying around one another at about 600,000 mph.

Since the neutron stars are so dense, this does strange things to nearby space and time, at least according to a guy named Einstein. Michael and his team have verified this. They have observed that the delay caused by the curvature of space/time near the neutron stars (the Shapiro Delay) is within 0.05% of the predicted numbers.

I don't understand all the details, but I think this is the first time this part of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity has been confirmed by observation. Imagine what Einstein could have done if he'd had a programmable calculator!


It's Election Season. 
There's so much stupidity going on in both parties that I don't know where to start... so I won't!

Guy Goma

Guy Goma, a taxi driver in the U.K., went to the BBC to interview for a job. While he was waiting, someone else was looking for Guy Kewney, an IT specialist who was going to be interviewed live about the conclusion of the Apple Computer vs. Apple Records lawsuit.

Guy Goma ended up on live TV. The taxi driver expressed his legal opinions, thinking it was a really tough job interview. The TV people must have been wondering about their "expert." It's a pretty funny video. Mike and Serge say Guy Goma's a better speaker than I am.

Clicking and Botting

Most web advertising is done on a pay-per-click basis. This means I can put someone else's ad on my web site. Then, whenever someone clicks on their ad, the advertiser pays me a few cents. It seems like a fair and efficient way to pay for advertising.

But suppose I'm not the most ethical webmaster in the world. Maybe I'll click on those ads myself and make a few extra cents. Or a few thousand dollars, if I click a bunch of times. But, believe it or not, someone has already thought of this. So the advertiser only pays for unique viewers. This is generally determined by the IP address of the clicker. So maybe if I have 256 computers on 256 different IP addresses, I might cheat the advertiser out of $10 or so. That's probably not worth the trouble.

But if I have 126,263 computers on unique IP addresses, I could generate some serious illegal income. So I could spam 15,000,000 people, install my trojan on a few dozen thousand PCs, and instruct them to click ads on my web site at random times. This practice does happen, and is known as click fraud.

You can also carry out click fraud with a clickbot. This is a lot easier, but it won't work in some cases. A clickbot sends out fake TCP/IP packets. TCP/IP is the internet network protocol, and a packet is a packet of information going from one computer to another. When I load a web site onto my browser, my computer and the web hosting computer exchange TCP/IP packets to establish proper etiquette amongst computers.

Suppose I have a clickbot that is going to make 10,000,000 "hits" on the website (I don't think this would be profitable because they don't take advertisements.) My clickbot can generate a random IP address to send with an otherwise normal packet to would respond to my fake IP address. Whoever, if anybody, is at that fake IP address will ignore the packet as "internet noise" because it is out of context.

But my clickbot will wait a few milliseconds and send the expected response to the Since it will again appear to come from the fake IP address, will assume it has accomplished a "handshake" and will continue with the communications.

This can go back and forth a few times if necessary. Sometimes the timing will be off, but with some tweaking you can get a pretty high success rate and will really believe it got the message I intended for it from my random IP address.

Then I can do this 9,999,999 more times. But I can't do this all at once. I have to put some random time in between each one so it won't look like it's coming from the same computer. If I'm sophisticated, I can even adjust the routing my packets take to

Since I'm a lazy programmer, I could download a clickbot program or clickbot library from any of several offshore web sites. Most large commercial sites will recognize the signatures of the popular clickbots, so I might have to make some modifications.

As you might suspect, this is against the law. Here's a decent article on IP Spoofing:

Here's another article written from the context of the spoofer:

Click fraud has gotten very common. Some people are worried that it's going to affect the way advertising is done on the internet. It' a little like inflated Nielson ratings.

One guy recently went to jail for clickfrauding his competitor's ads and running up the competitor's advertising costs. I forgot his name, but it seems like he might have been from Indiana or Ohio.

Click fraud is also common in other areas such as blogs and Youtube. If I want my blog to appear popular, I can aim a clickbot at it.

If I put a video on Youtube advertising myself as a computer consultant, nobody would watch it except maybe my Mom. But I could run a clickbot that would put my video into the "most viewed" category almost overnight. Then at least a few people would be suckered into thinking I was important, and some others would watch my video just to see what's causing all the publicity.

Youtube is against this, of course, but they might not do their best to stop it. My clickbot is adding value to their company by artificially inflating their traffic. It might even help them be worth $1.6 billion someday.

It's easy to view a video on Youtube. For example, you could just click here:

But if you want to "rate" the video, you have to logon under your username. It's easy for clickbots to view, but harder for them to rate the videos.

Coincidentally, if you happened go to the most watched videos on Youtube (a month's or all-time), you might notice that most of them have relatively large numbers of ratings, (1 rating per 100-300 views), but some of them have very few ratings (1 rating per 3000-5000 views). The same things applies to comments. It would almost make you think that some of those people are using clickbots...

The diligent Youtube clickbotters do what they can to inflate the ratings and comments, but that usually involves some manual effort. That is, if you can call disassembling information into thousands of zeros and ones, sending it across thousands of miles of copper and glass from one computer to another among millions on the network, then assembling the bits on the other end into meaningful information, "manual." That is one long and convoluted sentence. I wonder if anybody but me will decipher it.

I have a video on Youtube. It has had dozens of views in one month. (Barely). It even has a rating. (One).

Some Japanese broadcasters asked Youtube to remove almost 30,000 copyrighted videos. Youtube complied. After Youtube's sale to Google, some people are expecting a flock of lawsuits and a mass removal of copyrighted videos from Youtube.

Maybe these will be replaced by government information bulletins - the government is now putting anti-drug and other videos on Youtube.

One of the recent Youtube phenomena is Lonelygirl15. It's a 15-year old girl doing a video blog. The traffic numbers are legitimate. The videos are G rated. But it has turned out to be a professionally produced series with an actress, rather than a real 15-year-old girl doing her own video blog. It's still really popular.,39029477,49283663,00.htm

There are 44 videos, generally one or two minutes long. Here's one of the early ones.

I just now noticed that they've got the videos on their own website now:

The videos themselves are not too riveting, but their popularity is sure interesting.

Adobe Security Holes

Adobe Reader has some security flaws that allow people to install and run programs on your computer, such as spambots or clickbots. No problem though -- they say they have the problem well in hand.,1895,2016606,00.asp

Swimming in Detroit

Detroit shut down about one third of its swimming pools and recreation centers. Then the city spent $200,000 on the mayor's swimming pool and some other of his home maintenance.

Torture is Torture


Space Policy

There is now a new National Space Policy, replacing the policy of 1996.

(Plagiarized from

The old policy committed the U.S. to "greater levels of partnership and cooperation" with other nations to ensure the "continued use of outer space for peaceful purposes." The new policy defines "peaceful purposes" as whatever U.S. defense and intelligence-related activities are deemed to be in the national interest. "Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power." The first goal of the 1996 policy was to "Enhance knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the universe." Now the first goal is to "further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives."

In the policy, the U.S. reserves the right to use weapons in space, and promises to deny the rights of its adversaries in space. It's another masterpiece in diplomacy. National Space Policy.pdf

Internet Spies

How do you get your way in the U.S. Government? Use the word "terrorism" or the word "child pornography." This inoculates almost anything against criticism.

There is a big push on for Internet Service Providers to track web browsing and other internet traffic of ALL users and keep the information. This is for child pornography, terrorism, and, I assume, civil suits of every kind.

The U.S. Attorney General was strongly asking for this last month.

The Director of the FBI says he requires records of all internet users.

The federal government wants to know what I do on the internet. If they ask me I'll tell them (except maybe not what I did to Mike's computer.) But I don't think ISPs should be required by the government to spy on their customers. This reminds me of things they told me only happened in places like the USSR.

If you don't want to be tracked, try Torpark. I don't know whether it really works.

Border Towers

Boeing has won a $2.5 billion contract to build 1800 towers along the Canada-U.S. and the Mexico-U.S. borders over the next four years. The towers will have cameras and heat and motion detectors. It seems like a good idea, but a million dollars per tower seems a little steep.


Newspeople across the country were devastated last month when no terrorists were involved in a downtown electrical fire.

Undeterred, the Security people launched dozens of F16s and hundreds of firefighters responded to a small plane crash in New York. "Dozens of F16s" seems like an unrealistic number, but that's what I heard on the radio.

Yankee baseball pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor crashed into a building in New York. They both died. It started a fire, but that was put out. I don't think anybody else was seriously hurt, but I'm not sure.

They flew up the East River in the narrow VFR Corridor, apparently tried to turn around, but didn't make it. The VFR Corridor is less than a mile wide, with controlled airspace on three sides.

They told controllers they planned to turn around in the corridor. Here's a pretty decent article:

Slate magazine had an article implicating the wing design of the plane that crashed, the SR20. That's really stupid.

I don't even like flying over the Hudson River because it's too confining with lots of traffic. The East River is a whole lot narrower.

The Face of Mars

Van Allen Belt

In January 1958, the satellite Explorer One was launched, the US's first satellite. An experiment package designed by James Van Allen discovered what was later to be known as the Van Allen Radiation Belt, an area around the earth with plasma held by the earth's magnetic field.

Airport Fun

After Hugo from Venezuela called Bush the devil at the UN, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas was detained at JFK airport in New York. That'll teach 'em!

Some things can't be helped. There are now 200,000 names on the "no fly" list, yet not a single terrorist has been apprehended as a result. Maybe those guys figured out they can use a false name, ya think? I seriously doubt if there are anywhere near 200,000 terrorists in the world, even if you count the people trying to throw the U.S. out of Iraq.

Hugo's getting even. The Venezuelan government plans to seize four companies owned in part by Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp., France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA. These companies pump 22 percent of Venezuelan oil. The government takeover would likely cause a $1.6 billion bond default. That's enough money to buy Youtube!   

Fun with ATMs

If you buy an ATM to use with your bank, you might notice that it comes with a standard master password. If you're not too sharp, you might install this ATM at your bank without changing the master password. It happens.

It appears that Triton and a couple other ATM makers have put the standard master password in their service manuals. If someone was slightly less than honest, one might grab this password off the internet and use it to access the local ATM.

If this is your plan, you should hurry. The ATM makers are upgrading "real soon now."


Some people in Kansas discovered a meteorite using ground penetrating radar.

Using a more direct methodology, a guy in Germany discovered a meteorite when it fell through his roof and caught his house on fire.;_ylt=AmZAF3otB2ECp3Yb


About 100 years ago when I was selling 40 megabyte hard drives, I tried to figure how a virus was spreading onto the computers we were building. It turned out that the virus was already on a batch of hard drives we had bought.

Last week I got a new computer. I was thinking about how something like that could never happen today. But I shouldn't underestimate people. Last month Apple sold some iPods infected with the RavMon virus.

Centennial Challenge

Need a quarter million dollars in pocket change? Win a NASA Centennial Challenge!

Bullets in Iraq

How many bullets have been fired in Iraq?

Maher Arar

I wrote about Maher in an earlier Junkmail. Maher is the Canadian guy who was grabbed at a plane change in JFK airport and shipped to Syria for ten months of torture.

The Canadian Government said Maher was innocent and is launching an official protest against the U.S.

Bush responded to the protest, saying "What do you expect? The guy has a funny name!" (Actually, I just made that up.)

This week, Maher either didn't or couldn't (depending on who you ask) fly to the U.S. to accept a Human Rights award from the Institute for Policy Studies because he is on the 200,000-strong no-fly list.

Web Archive

Does it seem to you that has a lot less news and a lot more advertising and fluff articles than it used to? You can compare! Check out the Web Archives!

Today's CNN:

There was actually NEW on CNN's site in 2001!

And I thought it was just me.

Pictures of Today!

Fall has fell, the birds are flying.


Here are some pictures of the submarine USS Honolulu on the surface about 280 miles from the North Pole. Some polar bears got interested in that big fish. In addition to their normal mission, they collected data and water samples for U.S. and Canadian Universities working with the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

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This submarine was in Norfolk, VA in August.


Brian, Katie, Cathy, and I sailed around the Chesapeake Bay for a few days. We saw this ship headed out to sea. It's the USS San Antonio, an "amphibious transport dock," whatever that is.


They do have missiles. Here is a picture of the first one being shot off the new ship, a day or two after we saw it. I didn't take this picture.


These two ships were in Norfolk, the Eisenhower and the Roosevelt:

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These two ships were on Grand Bahama. I would like to know the story behind them.

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Here is our ship, the Minnow.

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A black forest:





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Here's a picture of me in the Bahamas:


Melinda is now a diver!


They have funny fish down there.


One of the locals of Grand Bahama:

A flower on Grand Bahama:


There are ants in that flower!

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(@) 1976, no rights reserved, deserved, or conserved. Copy the heck out of this thing!

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