More Junkmail from Bob!

May 1, 2012
Important Stuff.


The X-37B is the new U.S. unmanned space shuttle operated by the Air Force.


It's a lot smaller than the manned space shuttles. Two X-37B's would fit into the cargo bay of the "regular" space shuttle. They put it inside the nose cone of a rocket for launch.


The X-37B has been launched twice, and has been on its second flight for more than a year.

In January there was a BBC News article claiming the X-37B was spying on China's space lab.

However, the orbits are not right for that.

Current Wind

This map shows the current surface wind -- it's a really effective presentation.

Electronic Funds Transfer

The MPAA and RIAA claim that copying a song is stealing it. I thought this was incorrect, because whoever you copy it from still has it. But some people may have convinced me otherwise. They decided that we should pay the MPAA and RIAA in kind -- just make a digital copy of your cash and send it to them.


I cannot be trusted. I'm going to steal the cash from this web site and send it to REI for a digital backpack.

Today's Question

Suppose I'd like to take a trip to a Alpha Centauri, about 25.8 trillion miles northeast of Birdseye, Indiana. Assume I have controlled fusion reactors (or the current propulsion technology of your choice) and access to all resources found on the Earth.

What is the fastest I can get there, using current technology and/or technology likely to appear in the next 10 years? (My fragile body cannot handle unlimited acceleration, and I'd like to stop there for lunch.)

How much fuel will be required? (Don't forget about food, water, air, and structure to contain the fuel.)

Please email me the answer. I will send a copy of $1,000 by simple mail transfer protocol to the person who provides the best answer.

The Economy

You regularly read in the news that the economy is in decline because of (a) Democrats, (b) Republicans, (c) Evil Bankers, (d) Sunspots, or (e) all of the above. But the U.S. Economy has been growing since the third quarter of 2009.


Color Photos by Alfred T. Palmer

Alfred Palmer took photos for the government from 1941 to 1943. He took some nice color photos during World War II, in the U.S.


Hugo Jaeger was the personal photographer of Adolph Hitler. He took some interesting color photos.

Some Historic Routes of the World

This is interesting -- check out the interactive map.

Microsoft Spam

Last time I updated Windows on my PC, Microsoft tried to install Bing Desktop on my computer. I was offended, insulted, and amused. (Yeah, yeah, I know. You have to be "special" for a Windows update to amuse you.) When I update an operating system I expect just that. I don't expect it to load new, intrusive applications that I didn't ask for and don't want. Microsoft has gone into the spamware business.

Global Fact Change

It's hard to find out what's going on with global warming (or climate change), because people grab false data, denounce good data, and ignore facts in order to support the politics du jour. Even the name is funny. It used to be the more descriptive "global warming," but "climate change" is now in vogue.

In 2006 my baby daughter got a summer job in Glacier Bay National Park. Part of her job was to give presentations on cruise ships that passed through. They were instructed through edicts from Washington to use the term "climate change" instead of "global warming" to explain why the glaciers there are so much smaller today than 50 and 100 years ago.

This was a Bush administration decision. The other day on the radio, I heard someone complaining that Obama has coined and enforced the term "climate change" in order to obscure the fact that they are dealing with global warming. Sometimes you just have to shake your head at those idiots -- on both sides.

Here is a quick review of the "change warming climate global" facts. Of course there might be mistakes, but I am definitely not slanting things to adhere to someone's party line.

How to Beat a Patent Troll

When was threatened by a patent troll, they did not pay. If everybody would do this, there would be far fewer stupid patents.

More exciting patent news:

Anonymous Security

The organization of hackers called Anonymous is not really an organization. It's just a bunch of people who share similar interests and are willing to shut down web sites for various causes. They liken it to the "social disobedience" demonstrations of the 1960's and 1970's. Whether or not that's the case, Anonymous is certainly not a threat to U.S. national security.

Incidentally, the cybercrime wave isn't.

Neither is the cyberwar.

However, I believe Israel is experiencing a cyberskirmish.

Amazon Cloud

Amazon has a cloud. They have somewhere over 100,000 servers they rent out to places like Rubicite Interactive and In addition to file storage, they rent CPU time on virtual servers.

For example, the web site is located in one of Amazon's data centers in Virginia. It runs on a virtual server (an "instance") and has a certain amount of hard drive space allocated. The speed and size can be easily adjusted up or down.

And you can adjust it way up. The pharmaceutical firm Schrödinger recently configured a supercomputer that used 51,132 cores requiring 6,742 instances of Linux. It ran for three hours, completing some cancer research computations, and then they released the machines back into the cloud. It cost less than $15,000.

People who rely on the cloud or other online data storage have recently encountered a new risk. Fire, storm, earthquake, and other disasters are anticipated and normally handled without data loss. The new risk is not so easy to handle -- government seizure. As many legitimate customers of Megaupload have recently learned, your data can go away, by order of the U.S. government, even if you have done nothing wrong.

What is a Predator?

A predator is an animal that kills and eats other animals. Unless you're a 5th grader in Florida, in which case a predator is an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms. That's the official definition on the standard Florida 5th grade test.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, just about every animal and most plants qualify as predators under this definition, including cows, snails, and butterflies.

Second, and even more troubling, was the response of Florida Department of Education. They said the answer would remain as is, because 5th graders are not expected to know the real answer. They admitted it was wrong, but because 5th graders weren't taught the correct answer by the 5th grade, the only way to get this question correct on the test is to pick a completely wrong answer.

I suspect the root of the problem is that someone is afraid it might unsettle the youngsters if you let them know that some animals kill and eat other animals. So, they make up an answer, completely incorrect, that does not mention killing or eating other animals. I'm not sure how they explain where cheeseburgers come from.

You can find a few other examples of fine Florida test standards here:

New York, on the other hand, is a step ahead. They use questions with answers that cannot be determined to be right or wrong. One 8th grade question involves the wisdom of some animals eating a talking pineapple. I did not make that up.

To further improve education in the state, the University of Florida has disbanded its Computer Science department. But they've got a good football program.

The 5th grade predator question reminded me of a publication from Dry Tortugas National Park, titled "The Underground Railroad at Fort Jefferson." I believe it was published in 2005. I happened to remember this publication for a couple of reasons.

First, there was no "underground railroad" at Fort Jefferson. The "underground railroad" was the name they gave groups who would help slaves escape the South during the civil war. At Fort Jefferson, the Underground Railroad brochure gives the story of seven slaves who escaped and were recaptured a few days later, never getting past the Florida Keys. It is an interesting story, but there was no "underground railroad" or any other outside assistance for the escaped slaves.

The other thing about this that stuck in my mind is the terminology used in the brochure. They rarely used the word "slave" or "slaves". Instead, they used "enslaved workers", "enslaved African Americans", and "enslaved peoples". For example, "The workforce at Fort Jefferson reached its highest point in December 1857, with a total of 299 workers, including 58 enslaved peoples." I am not sure what exactly 58 enslaved peoples are, but I would guess they could make it a bit more clear and concise by using "58 slaves".

In other terminology, they never used the term "escaped slaves", although they did use the term "escapee" once. Instead, they used the term "freedom seekers" seven times. However "freedom seeker" could apply to a myriad of situations and people completely unrelated to escape and slavery, from soldiers of the American Revolution to divorce applicants to high school seniors in May.

I assume there must be some political motivation in replacing the traditionally used terminology with something more obtuse, but I could never figure out whether it was conservatives trying to obscure the fact that there was slavery during the Civil War, liberals trying to make the slaves look better by not calling them slaves, or someone trying to soften the language so 5th graders wouldn't realize there ever was such a thing as cruel as slavery. It's a puzzle to me.

Best Buy

A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced that it was closing 50 of its big stores. There were lots of news articles about this. Not one article that I could find bothered to mention how many total stores Best Buy has (a little over 1000). Best Buy also fired its CEO and will be laying off a few hundred additional people.

I wanted to buy something from Best Buy the other day, but I wanted to see if it was in stock in Tulsa. Here's the result of the store locator, possibly the most important item on their site:


I bought from Amazon instead.

Best Buy was named "Company of the Year" by Forbes magazine in 2004.

Health News

Last July Forbes had an article titled "5 Foods that Burn Away Fat". Do people really believe that eating food "burns away" fat? That might explain some of these statistics:

Another headline: "Natural obesity cure found". I already know the natural cure. Don't eat so much. It's the law.

In case you've forgotten how that energy stuff works, here's a video from Kevin Ahern's Biochem class at Oregon State that covers some of it. (You'll have to watch a couple of other videos for the Citric Acid Cycle.)

In one video Kevin mentions a compound that does burn fat, more or less (2-4-dinitrophenol). It works by making holes in your inner mitochondrial membranes so your ATP->ADP reactions don't shut down. It's kind of hard on you, however, with about a 10 percent mortality rate and serious long-term side effects for the survivors. They took this off the market a long time ago. Dinitrophenol does work well as an explosive, though, and its ammonia salt is a nice additive for fireworks.

There is actually an all-natural therapy that significantly reduces your risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Regular exercise.

The American Heart Association attributes 250,000 deaths to a lack of exercise. Physical activity, like walking, running or playing tennis, directly and indirectly reduces your risk for developing heart disease, some forms of cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Increasing the amount of exercise you get each day decreases your chances for becoming afflicted with one of these diseases.


Kevin, Director of Undergraduate Research at Oregon State, is a graduate of the real OSU. He's been running a million meters a year at least since 2009, and is shooting for 1,500,000 meters in 2012. That's impressive!

He also has an excellent portfolio of Metabolic Melodies, in case you need to brush up on your biochemistry. To quote Kevin, regarding these musical masterpieces, "I can’t sing worth a crap. I don’t have any musical training whatsoever. And of course, I don’t know how to write a melody. So, I steal everybody else’s melodies."

Here's where to get your own songbook of  Metabolic Melodies, in the unlikely event that you don't already have one.

The Saga of Kim Dotcom

In the mid-90's, Kim Schmitz was a hacker in Germany. He was arrested in 1994 for buying and selling stolen phone calling card numbers. He was released, and arrested again for computer hacking, and released again. In 1998, Kim was convicted of computer fraud, data espionage, and various and sundry other charges. He was released on a suspended sentence because he was under age when he committed the crimes.

Shortly after his arrest, Kim used his "notoriety" to start a computer security company called "Data Connect." He sold the company in 2000, and it went under in 2001. (That sounds vaguely familiar.)

For a few years, Kim hyped his image and embarked on a few flaky ventures. He made a movie (Kimble Goes to Monaco), pretended to be a lot richer than he was, did some insider trading and embezzlement, and made lots of "unsubstantiated claims" such as hacking Osama Bin Laden's bank accounts.

In 2002 Kim was convicted of insider trading (probation), and in 2003 he was convicted of embezzlement (more probation).

Kim moved to Hong Kong and started a hedge fund that supposedly used artificial intelligence to trade securities based on "a complex combination of sophisticated technical analysis, real-time content analysis of news feeds, multi-dimensional statistical analysis and advanced proprietary mathematical techniques." You could invest for $50,000. His hedge fund could not legally trade securities, however. I'm not sure whether it did or if it was just a pyramid scheme.

He also registered a few other new companies in Hong Kong, including one that would later become Megaupload.

By 2005, Kim Schmitz had a rather dubious reputation. So he made some of name changes. One, he changed his own name to Kim Dotcom. He also adopted the name Kim Tim Jim Vestor to get a Finnish passport. He changed the name of one of a company to Megaupload, and registered a company called Vestor Limited as its owner.

Megaupload started making money in the file hosting business. People could upload and download files to and from the Megaupload server. It cost a little money to set up an account for unlimited downloads, but other than that it was a free service.

Some people used Megaupload for personal files, some for their own software and videos, and, not surprising, some people were using Megaupload to upload movies, music, and pornography so everybody could download them free.

It eventually got to the point that Megaupload would appear on the front page for web search for a particular movie, and people could go download it free. Meanwhile, the owners of some of the movies and music on Megaupload seemed to think they should be paid when people acquired their works of art.

By 2011, Megaupload had made more than $175 million (according to the U.S. Government), Kim Dotcom was married with three children, living in New Zealand, and his 68 percent ownership of Megaupload was finally made public. He lived in a cozy $24 million cottage outside Auckland. The MPAA (movie industry) and RIAA (recording industry) did a lot of complaining about Megaupload.

Megaupload claimed to be a legitimate file storing service, which they were. But a large percentage of their income came from illegitimate file storage.

In response to the accusations of being a rogue pirate site, Megaupload signed several famous recording artists to make a song about Megaupload. P Diddy,, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, The Game, Mary J Blige , Kim Kardashian, Floyd Mayweather, and Jamie Foxx made a song about how great Megaupload is, and it was uploaded to YouTube with their authorized written permission.

Universal Music issued a takedown notice to YouTube, claiming falsely that they owned the copyright to this song. YouTube removed the video. Then Megaupload appealed and got the song re-posted. And then Universal Music issued another false takedown notice and got the song removed. They lied about owning the copyright to the song twice! The song is back online now. YouTube said, "Oops."

Now let's go back in time to 2010. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) was introduced in the U.S. Senate September 2010. The bill was delayed it until after the November elections because of popular opposition to the bill. After the elections, the Senate Judiciary approved the bill. The following week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seized 82 internet domains for "selling counterfeit goods on the internet". Many of the domains were seized for copyright violations, however.

Unfortunately, Homeland Security accidentally seized some innocent domains, shutting down some innocent web sites. The response from the government showed an incredible amount of technological ignorance.

Homeland Security, busy rounding up terrorists in Chicago, apparently did not have the time or manpower to contact the seized sites to explain why their site was down, or to offer them a hearing or appeal. Instead of requiring proof of wrongdoing, Homeland Security just shut down sites that industry organizations told them to.

After this happened, Congress decided it might not be a good time to pass a bill giving the government tighter control over the internet.

This conflict bumbled along, with the movie industry (MPAA, with former Senator Chris Dodd at the helm) and recording industry (RIAA) paying Democrat and Republican Senators and Representatives a lot of money to get them the power of shutting down web sites they suspect of sharing music and movies. (Note that I said "suspect" and not "can prove").

They gave up on COIC, started up with the similar Protect IP act, and change the name yet again to the e-Parasite act. This eventually became the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives in late 2011. In November and December, it looked like the bill might finally pass.

Some people did not like this. There was a huge uprising on the Internet, and thousands upon thousands of actual phone calls to Congress, protesting the bill. Many web sites, such as Wikipedia and Reddit "went black" in a day of protests, and others, such as Google, openly opposed SOPA on their sites. It was the biggest internet protest in the relatively short history of the internet.

A lot of the protest came about because the RIAA and MPAA were the ones who effectively wrote the laws. Even when people were arguing about the issues, it was the RIAA and MPAA who seemed to make the decisions. For example, it was the MPAA who agreed to take DNS filtering out of SOPA, not a congressional committee.

On January 18, 2012, 7 million people signed Google's anti-SOPA petition and 162 million viewed Wikipedia's English-language protest of SOPA.

Congress finally got the message and cancelled the bill. That is, until the new SOPA, or more accurately, the new Protect-IP, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) was introduced.

Then congress made the bill worse, and the House passed it. It's an election year, after all, and those RIAA and MPAA dollars will buy a lot of ads.

One thing about CISPA that people are upset about is a section that says, "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, and other agencies. This means CISPA overrules all other laws -- federal, state, and local -- that deal with wiretaps, educational records, and medical privacy.

Some people are also a little disturbed about ACTA, the treaty that is not a treaty, and TPP, another trade agreement whose terms are secret due to "national security". That's part of today's transparent government.

There were some rather large demonstrations in Europe against ACTA, too.

Back to Kim Dotcom. One day after the SOPA protests, the MPAA and RIAA were particularly riled up because Congress did not stay bought.

And, by coincidence, one day after SOPA was abandoned by Congress, Kim Dotcom's house was raided by New Zealand police for violating U.S. criminal copyright laws and a lot of other stuff. He was held without bail, and all his assets were seized.

A New Zealand court ordered Kim Dotcom released a few weeks later, and gave him and his wife access to living expenses. They were hoping to squeak by on a mere $220,000 (NZ) per month.

In a new and creative method of investigation, the FBI got a search warrant before obtaining conversations of Megaupload employees. Actually, the FBI normally does it this way. We just don't hear about those cases very often.

In response, a loosely knit group of computerists called Anonymous launched a Denial of Service attack and shut down web sites of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, Universal Music, and the MPAA.

Anonymous used a novel method in this attack -- they distributed a link that launched a web-based version of Low Orbit Ion Cannon, a tool for DoS attacks. If you clicked on the link expecting information from Anonymous about the attack, you'd unknowingly (or knowingly) join in the attack.

A lot of politicians want Anonymous members to be severely punished. I expect the MPAA and RIAA to support Iran's handling of wayward web developers:  the death penalty.

And the Megaupload song? It's still up, but it's modified to say, "Megaupload is Dead."

A few days after the raid, Vevo, owned by some of the largest recording companies in the world, showed a pirated feed of an ESPN football game at the Sundance Film Festival. ESPN will not be pursuing legal action. Utah Attorney General Mark was also not prosecuted when he plagiarized some SOPA rhetoric and published it in the Salt Lake Tribune. In fairness, he said he only needed to add some quotes to his opinion piece. I think more than a few students have received F's saying the same thing.

Some people started tracking torrent downloads using a method similar to the one the RIAA and MPAA use to sue file sharers. They found that people in Congress, the RIAA, and Homeland Security have been illegally downloading music and movies. Oops.

Now there is some controversy over what to do the 28 petabytes of data people have uploaded to Megaupload over the years. How much is 28 petabytes? It's the equivalent of 56,000 500-gigabyte hard drives, or 224,000,000,000,000,000 zeros and ones. If each of these bits was a thousandth of a millimeter, they would reach from Locust Grove, Oklahoma all the way to the sun and beyond. That is, if they were all lined up, which is a hard to do with a zero or one.

Some people, especially the ones with legitimate data on Megaupload, have been fruitlessly demanding their files.

Carpathia, who owns the 1103 servers holding the Megaupload data, is complaining that the U.S. government won't pay them to keep the servers, and won't allow them to sell the servers and/or data back to Megaupload.

The government wants the data destroyed. They have copied what they need for prosecution. Of course, the government is not trying to destroy any evidence that makes Megaupload look legitimate. That would be unethical. Nevertheless, a judge refused to allow the data to be wiped.

In a last ditch effort to have the data destroyed, the government announced that the servers "may contain child pornography." The government is expected to label the servers in question "terrorists" if they persist in existing.

The movie and recording industries consider this a victory after the humiliating public smack down of their SOPA law, and are planning to sue other "file locker" sites that allow public uploads. The technically savvy Department of Justice is expected to follow the orders of the MPAA and prosecute more file locker web sites.

One of the new targets of the MPAA and RIAA is the file locker site They blocked all U.S. visitors from their site for a while, but they've since opened back up. The MPAA has sued, even though most of the files on their system are legitimate. could be next.

In the meantime, the U.S. government's case against Kim Dotcom does not appear overly strong.

In order for extradition, they have charge him with racketeering because the copyright charges aren't serious enough. Racketeering is normally used for organized crime ventures such as drugs and gambling. The racketeering charges against Kim Dotcom might not stick.

A judge is a little upset because the government has not served Megaupload with a warrant, possibly because the U.S. government can't serve a company outside U.S. jurisdiction (as opposed to individuals). The rest of the world apparently has not embraced the concept of corporate personhood.

It looks to me like, after the public backlash against SOPA, the political powers-that-be demanded that Megaupload be shutdown to appease the recording and movie industries. It also looks like they didn't quite have a good legal case. Maybe Megaupload and Kim Dotcom should have been stopped from offering music and movies for free download, even through their customers, but this was certainly not the best way to do it. It is apparent from the timing that it was done for political purposes.

The activities and public relations campaign by the RIAA and MPAA have worked so well that more than 5,000 musicians, actors, writers, filmmakers and artists have signed up to be promoted by the Pirate Bay, the world's largest torrent (file sharing) site.

Deep Thoughts

Deep thoughts.

Advanced Interrogation

The FBI is planning some research into "advanced interrogation techniques." I don't think I'll volunteer as a test subject.

Spies and Biometrics

Biometric identification keeps people from using false ID. This applies to everyone, even the CIA. The CIA is having trouble because an agent can usually use only a single identity in a given country, with modern biometric ID such as iris scanners and electronic fingerprint ID in widespread use.

Census Map

This is a good interactive map of the 2010 census. You can zoom in to get detailed info on smaller areas.

Emperor Penguins

People used satellite imaging to count a lot more emperor penguins than were previously known.

Medicaid Hackers

On March 30, some hackers from eastern Europe copied about 3/4 of a million Utah Medicaid records. Only a quarter of a million of these included social security numbers.

Hotel Internet Interception

At some hotels and motels, they are now intercepting your web traffic and inserting their own advertisements into the web sites you visit. At other hotels, they hijack Google search results and display a flaky site full of links instead. I consider both of these habits quite rude. They might be illegal if you didn't agree to allow the hotel to do anything they wanted to your computer when you clicked the "I Accept" button to get onto the internet.

Israeli Opinions

In reading the U.S. news, it's easy to get the impression that everybody in Israel is ultra right wing and wants to run every Palestinian out of the West Bank, Jerusalem, etc. This is definitely not the case. It's interesting to read the opinions and comments in Israeli newspaper sites.

Homeland Security

A few years ago, when I was boarding a flight to Ecuador, a Homeland Security agent asked me how much money I had with me. I said I didn't know, but it was less than $10,000, the limit before you have to declare it. He wanted to know exactly how much, and he ordered me to count my money. So I sat down in the jetway and started digging through my stuff looking for money. His partner was nice enough to send me to a room to the side, although they left the door open so everyone boarding the plane to Quito could eye me counting my money. I was hoping none of the other passengers knew someone in Quito who liked to mug tourists. I was in a bad mood by the time I was done, and I believe they noticed. They got pretty apologetic and the one who didn't tell me to count my money made some lame excuses.

It could have been worse. A family going to Ethiopia had $35,000 seized by Homeland Security because Homeland Security wrote down a passenger's guess and had him sign it as the definite amount. A Texas judge eventually got them their money back and chastised Homeland Security in the decision:  "A gang of armed security officers bullied this family - a family who cooperated with the officers to their detriment. Our homeland will not be secure by these rascals. They played agency games, abused the people they are to serve, and violated their oaths to support the Constitution."

Cure for Cancer

Did you every wonder why there are so many news articles about a great new cure for cancer, yet cancer is never cured? There has been a lot of progress in cancer treatment over the past several years, but nothing compared to the hype in the news. Here are a couple of good articles on the subject.

TSA Laptop Security

Nobody really knows the rules for getting laptops and smaller PC's through airport security.

New York, site of the 2001 plane crashes, enjoys 200 baggage thefts per day at JFK airport.

TSA agents have been arrested for theft at several U.S. airports, and many more have been fired without being charged.

Other TSA agents are into drug smuggling.

The TSA has announced its "Top Catches of 2011". It's odd that there are no terrorists on the list.

Robot Takeover

On April 1, a student group's robot successfully took over Dallas Love Field, to the consternation of the humans in the area. It happened on an appropriate day.

Cows and Aurochs

A recent paper says that modern domestic cattle may have come from a small group of about 80 wild oxen (aurochs) about 10,500 years ago from last Friday, in Iran.

It's interesting to think about the first people who got the idea of rounding up a bunch wild oxen and keeping them. Today's holsteins and herefords might not have descended from that first group, but whoever did it first deserves a prize.

I tried to find the paper on this, but it's not available free. Even Harvard University is having trouble paying for academic journal subscriptions lately. They are pushing open access for their research.

Previous research on cattle and wild oxen points to at least two "domestication events," so I would guess the conclusions from new research are not certain.

Terrorist Plots

There have been several announcements of the FBI foiling a terrorist plot in the U.S. In almost every case, the FBI agents are the ones who provide the would-be terrorists with fake bombs. Some people say this is entrapment. Some say if the FBI didn't sell fake bombs to these people, they'd buy real bombs from someone else.


Windows 7 has several ways for an application to run at startup -- registry, startup folder, services, scheduled tasks, etc. In some cases it's possible for an application's startup status to be hidden from the control panel or msconfig. Autoruns is a utility that will show every startup on your system. It's interesting.

I used this to kill an attempt to update some Adobe stuff every time my computer booted. It turns out it was not even Adobe's updater -- it was left over from another application I had already uninstalled.

It's a good idea to set a Windows restore point before you kill a startup you're not sure about. I learn from my errors. It only took me 8 or 9 times catch on this time.

New York Times

The New York Times got rid of their CEO by paying her $23.7 million.

The New York Times cut the number of articles you can read free from 20 to 10.

I think I see something wrong with their priorities.

Graphine Anodes

If you use graphine and silicon to make a lithium-ion battery's anode, you can make a better battery and the world will beat a path to your door. If it really works as expected.

Here are some details that I don't fully understand. Open access!

Encyclopedia Britannica

In 1990, about 120,000 copies of Encyclopedia Britannica were sold. Since then, the sales have declined more then 95 percent. Only about 8,000 copies of the 2010 edition have been sold, and it will be the last print edition of the encyclopedia.

The company makes most of its money selling education curriculum products, and a little from subscriptions to its web site. The Wikipedia and the web in general have killed off the paper edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

World Book Encyclopedia is still being printed. The 2012 edition lists for $1,077.

Richard O'Dwyer

Richard O'Dwyer is a student taking computer programming at Sheffield Hallam University in the U.K. In 2007, he made the website . This site had links to some other sites that had pirated TV and Movies available for download. Richard's site did not have any pirated content. This was not illegal in the U.K.

However, the MPAA got the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to seize Richard's web site. Then they got the U.S. Department of Justice to prosecute Richard and demand his extradition to the U.S. for conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright. They did this even though Richard's web site and servers were not located in the U.S.  Each of these charges carries a 5-year prison sentence.

Richard's extradition to the U.S. was approved by the British Home Secretary. That means that there will be a full hearing on the matter, not that he'll be shackled and put on a CIA extraordinary rendition plane tonight.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has gone even farther in promoting tourism from the U.K. In January a couple were visiting Los Angeles, and one of them tweeted "Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America". He was talking about partying. The tweet was not intended for Homeland Security, the U.S. government, or anybody else in the U.S.

When they arrived, the couple enjoyed 12 hours in separate holding cells before they were sent home. Homeland Security reported "Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted he was coming to destroy America." I feel safe!

Homeland Security did not admit to making a mistake.

Scale of the Universe

Use your mouse wheel or the slider bar to zoom in or out. This is very impressive!

How to Catch a Hacker

The story of the FBI catching an Anon from Chicago.

Deporting a Valedictorian

Daniela Pelaez came to the U.S. with her family when she was 4 years old. She is now valedictorian at a high school in Florida. She's also an illegal alien, and an immigration judge ordered her deported by the end of March.

After a student-led protest staged in her honor, Daniela and her sister got a 2-year reprieve. If the people at Homeland Security in charge of her case have half a brain, they'll let her stay. In my opinion.

AT&T and the 95%

AT&T came out with a new policy for its customers with unlimited data plans. They decided to limit the data and not tell anybody what they were doing.

The top 5% of their unlimited data customers had their bandwidth cut back to the point that their data service was effectively unusable. Enough people complained long and loud enough to the point that AT&T finally admitted what they were doing.

In view of the not-so-stellar reputation of wireless companies and their data services, something like this would ordinarily be unremarkable. But the mental giants at AT&T have excelled in stupidity this time.

In the first month, they effectively shut down the top 5% of their unlimited data users. The next month, they do the same. They've shut down 10%. The next month, 15%. And so on. Someone at AT&T lost touch with the fact that a company should please its customers. I vaguely remember a company being broken up in 1984, after its monopolistic practices alienated too many customers.

In 2011, AT&T profits were down almost 75% from 2010 profits. I doubt it all came from this policy, but I suspect most of it came from this mindset.

Homeland Security

At Organ Pipe National Park in Arizona, you can take a van tour to Quitobaquito springs. If you take a mandatory safety briefing and bring along park rangers armed with rifles. The danger?  Drug and people smugglers.

And I still have to take my shoes off before I they'll let me on an airliner. At least until I meet Homeland Security's undisclosed requirements and get an invitation from the airlines. This policy seems really strange. I think it might not be true.

GPS Tracking Warrants

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the FBI must get a search warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device to someone's car. I find that a little disappointing, because I was hoping to find one on my car and play around with it. I suppose the main problem is that I am generally law abiding and almost completely harmless to others (except when driving). At any rate, I'm much less likely to get one of those cool GPS trackers now.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the FBI turned off about 3,000 of their trackers. So now the FBI doesn't know where a few thousand of their suspects are. They also don't know where a few thousand of their GPS trackers are. Maybe I can find one on Craig's List!

Traveling Security

Visiting China or another bastion of technology?  Plan on your computer being compromised. It happens.

Facebook Deletions

Even if you delete a photo from your Facebook account, it may be left on Facebook for years to come.

Getting in Touch with Your CEO

Here is a nice list of CEO of major corporations, along with email addresses. Please do not abuse these people.

There Be Dragons

I knew it. There is a dragon in my garage!

But is practical quantum computing possible? Prove that it's not and win $100,000.

I think we'll have quantum computers sometime in the future, but they won't be capable of doing everything you read about in novels.

UAS's, UAV's, and Drones

Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) are airplanes without humans along with their controllers. They have also been called UAVs, UCAVs, drones, and UFOs. They used the word "unmanned," although I prefer  "Unwomanned Air System."  At the NASA Wallops Flight Facility visitor center in Virginia, they refer to UAVs as "Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles." I think "unoccupied" would be better if you absolutely refuse to use "unmanned" or "unwomanned." Since people rarely live onboard an airplane, almost all of them are uninhabited.

The U.S. Air Force is planning to use Unmanned Air Systems, or drones, a lot in the future. Here's the plan. Annexes 4 and 5 are the interesting parts, if you can wade through the bureaucratese.

      Unmanned Air Systems

There are a lot of UAV operators already authorized in the U.S. The EFF got a list of Certificates of Authorization from the FAA, which are required to fly UAVs (or drones) in the U.S. ... ...

If you include the really small ones, about 1 in 3 U.S. military aircraft are drones (UAVs) today.

Where are the trees?

This map shows the above ground woody biomass of the U.S. lower 48 states.



Design an airplane with OpenVSP, a parametric aircraft geometry tool from NASA. It's a little like ModelCAD, but about 87 times better.

Pictures of Today!

It's been a while since the last Junkmail, so here are a bunch of pictures and a couple of videos to make up for it.

Osprey and a Yellow Tail Snapper

Some birds in the Everglades, last winter
(the video)

A trip to Key West (and back)

Red Winged Blackbirds, in Kansas

Four and Twenty Blackbirds
(the video)

Key West Bees

Oklahoma Bee

Pirate Bug!  You can see how small this is if you compare it to the flower and the bee in the previous picture.

Two Feet

Colored Butterfly

Brown Butterflies

Brown Moth

Green Bug (Caterpillar Hunter)

A Question Mark Butterfly Laying Some Eggs

American Kestrel

A Mosquito and an Onion

A Robber Fly at Lunch

The End