More Junkmail from Bob!

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Important Stuff.

Tuesday was my dad's birthday. Tuesday in Western Canada, there was an explosion. Coincidence? Maybe. The explosion was about 125 miles north of Juneau and 30 miles southeast of Whitehorse. It was 80,000-85,000 feet high. It had the power of 2 or 3 thousand tons of TNT, about like a small nuclear weapon. What was it? A Russian nuke gone bad? A hostile takeover of Carcross? Some radical who wants to name the Northwest Territory "Bob"?

It was a rock. A big piece of "interplanetary debris" was flying along and the earth moved into its path. (That makes it our fault.) Like most meteors and possibly some Mars landers, the heat and pressure from the atmosphere were too much stress for it. It exploded. They call it an airburst, and this one was a really big one. It left a dust cloud for two hours and caused noctilucent clouds that evening.

Noctilucent clouds are really high clouds (80,000+ feet) that form around dust particles. They show up at night. Since they are so high they reflect the sun's light after dark. Here are some pictures and info on the clouds:

CS Group is one of the biggest software companies in France. Last March they came out with the CS-Cipher Challange. CS has some encryption software and they wanted to prove how good it was, so they offered 10,000 Euros to the first person who could decode this message encrypted with their 56-bit key:

80 f3 f6 43 b8 12 c0 5d
bd 52 3e 14 eb 26 5f c1
a6 fa d7 15 1d 58 dd b2
70 b0 8f 2d bd 67 d5 8a
e0 84 1f 96 5d 95 ae 54
83 36 78 f0 c8 34 e5 10
3f ba 73 ac fe a7 51 49
01 63 56 fd b5 c3 dc 95
9f 73 cc 2c e1 69 6e 97
77 ba 60 85 63 38 39 21
2b 80 49 87 2f 79 0d f2
2f a6 ae f8 87 30 f0 e4
74 5c 1c dc d9 b4 da 51
aa 42 ab 66 20 20 3a ea
78 fa b1 9a 94 71 ca 1c
18 4a 8c ff c4 83 c1 82

The message says, in case you haven't figured it out yet, "CS-Cipher a ete presente en mars 97 a 'Fast Software Encryption' (PARIS). Congratulations to the winner!"

Here are the details on the challenge:

It was cracked Sunday by, a group that has enlisted thousands of computers and their users to help out in stuff like this. They got the 10,000 Euros. It took them a couple of months to crack the code.

You can join them! You can download their client program at It runs in the background and communicates with over the internet. I just tried it and here's what I got:

[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] Automatic processor detection found 1 processor.
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] Automatic processor type detection found
                      an Intel Pentium III processor.
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] RC5: using core #2 (RG class 6).
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] Loaded RC5 4*2^28 packet 80D731B2:60000000 (50.10% done)
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] 6 RC5 packets (20 work units) remain in buff-in.rc5
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] 0 RC5 packets (0 work units) are in buff-out.rc5
[Jan 22 16:20:22 UTC] 1 cruncher has been started.
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] Completed RC5 packet 80D731B2:60000000 (4*2^28 keys)
                      0.00:05:25.30 - [1,647,071.11 keys/sec]
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] Loaded RC5 4*2^28 packet 80D732FC:00000000
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] Summary: 1 RC5 packet (4*2^28 keys)
                      0.00:05:25.30 - [1.64 Mkeys/s]
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] 5 RC5 packets (16 work units) remain in buff-in.rc5
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] Projected ideal time to completion: 0.00:43:28.00
[Jan 22 16:25:47 UTC] 1 RC5 packet (4 work units) is in buff-out.rc5

It's running the RC5-64 project, in which RSA Security has a $10,000 reward for cracking its 64-bit code. It's a lot (256 times) harder than the 56-bit code. has been at it for 821 days. My computer is checking about 1.6 million keys per second. The entire project is doing 107 billion keys per second. They've checked out 17% of the possible keys. At today's rate, they can check every remaining key in about four and a half years, though they'll probably get the right key before then.

Here are some details:

Keep in mind that it's not a good idea to download programs on the internet and run them unless you're sure they're safe or you have a current backup. (I have a current backup.)

Today's picture is a bird dancing in the water:


It was dancing last week at Hilton Head. Today's other picture is a tower on top of Gass Peak, north of Las Vegas:


There was a lunar eclipse Thursday. I took a picture of it but it's really ugly:


I think my digital camera doesn't have enough zoom for it. Here's a slightly better picture taken through Johnny Horne's telescope:

This was the first total lunar eclipse in North America since 1996, but there will be another one July 16th on the west coast.

There's a star in the sky (which is where most stars reside) that's about 40 times bigger than the Sun. This star is spewing gas into space at about 4 million miles per hour. When this stellar wind meets the denser gas surrounding the star you can see the results. It ionizes and starts glowing and reflecting light and probably some other weird things. The result? The Bubble Nebula. Here's a picture of it from the Hubble Space Telescope that NASA released a few days ago.


The Bubble is about 35,000,000,000,000 miles (6 light years) in diameter and 7,100 light years from Arkansas.

Here are the details:

Today's other other pictures are nebulae -- gas clouds -- taken from Hubble:


I've been using AOL for a few years to access the internet when I travel. I picked them because at the time they served more cities with dialup numbers than anyone else. Since then I've been complaining about how AOL is has an inconsistent interface, is extra slow, and has some major program problems. AOL also has arbitrary limits imposed by its programmers. For example, if you send an email to an AOL recipient that has more than one attachment, the attachments won't go through unless you're sending it FROM AOL.

The one thing that really irritates me about AOL is its user interface. It's slow, non-standard, and inconsistent. It is the only commercial software I've seen that does several disk accesses when you change list box selections. That is really hard to do in Windows 95 and 98 with all their buffering. I think AOL has to open and close files each time a key is pressed to accomplish it. That is hideous programming.

Another irritation is the fact that AOL's installation disables your "regular" email and IE or Netscape, if you happen to check the wrong box. I haven't done this recently, but according to CNN you have to uninstall AOL and then reconfigure your email and web browser because AOL wipes out all those settings. The AOL installation also has some bugs so it overwrites some newer DLL's with older ones, causing unrelated applications to stop working. Here's what CNN said:

I've considered sending AOL a list of their program problems, but I figured they're probably too arrogant to look at it, so I won't waste my time. They'll say 20,000,000 people can't be wrong, can they? As one of them, I think so.

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