More Junkmail from Bob, number 25!

Saturday, January 29, 2000
Important Stuff.

I was going to write something about presidential campaign, but I cannot come up with anything nearly as funny as you see daily in the "serious" news.

Remember the midair collision in Florida where the planes locked together and one landed on top of the other?

        Junk19 Midair

On December 22 there was a midair collision in Massachusetts, again involving two planes coming in to land at an uncontrolled airport. Again, the planes locked together. This time, unfortunately, the planes made a slow spiral into the ground, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other.


Remember the vs. controversy from Junkmail 19?

        Junk19 Etoy

Etoy, a group of computer artists and now internet activists, have been protesting and emailing and stirring up trouble ever since the corporation got the domain name turned off. Finally, this week EToys (with an s) has agreed to give back their domain name and pay some legal fees. Here's the latest email I got from (no s). It looks a little bizarre, but I think part of that comes from the translation to English.

        etoy.txt still doesn't work though.


Remember the guys in Norway who broke the DVD encryption?

        Junk13 DeCSS

On Monday, police raided Jon Johansen's home in Larvik, Norway. They took his two computers and his cell phone. They hauled in the 16-year old for almost 7 hours of questioning. He is one of the authors of DeCSS, a program that lets you play DVD movies. I guess the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has some clout with the Norwegian police.

I think that DeCSS would have blown over pretty quick months ago because it's not such a big deal, but people in the MPAA and the DVD organizations were embarrassed because someone broke their code. It made them look stupid because they had been touting the invincible security to their colleagues and their customers. Their jobs were threatened, so they lashed out. Teams lawyers were happy to take their money, and they've filed hundreds of lawsuits.

It seems like every time a lawsuit is filed for someone having DeCSS on the web, it makes enough people mad that DeCSS or its derivative is published on 10 more sites. Other people are collecting names for electronic petitions and doing mass emailings.

I don't like what the MPAA's doing either. Why? First, because I don't like to see the big movie companies bullying little people, such as a 16-year old kid from another country.

Second is the fact that DeCSS is not required to copy movies. Anybody can copy a DVD movie without decoding it. DeCSS is used to PLAY a DVD movie, not copy it. The software is not used for illegal copying.

Since DVD players are readily available on everything except Linux, you really have to wonder what the big deal is. These people cracked the DVD encryption because there were no DVD players available on Linux. The Linux market is too small for anybody to pay the big bucks that are require to license DVD decoding. DeCSS can only help DVD movie sales, not hurt them.

The basis of the MPAA's hundreds of lawsuits is that the intended purpose of DeCSS is to illegally copy DVD movies. This is because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which they're suing under, explicitly permits reverse engineering. I suspect the true reason the MPAA is fighting this so hard is because there's an expensive license for the DVD decoding, and they make a lot money charging for it. Now that people can do it free, they lose money. But this is not illegal -- this is competition.

The MPAA got a New York judge (who could not pronounce Linux and had to have the concept of an internet link explained to him) to shut down a couple of web sites containing DeCSS. This resulted in lots of new web sites with DeCSS, and quite a few web sites devoted to the "cause." For example:

There's a lot of protest over this. In fact, a week ago Friday the defendants in a courtroom in Santa Clara wore T-shirts with the DeCSS source code printed on them. The MPAA tried unsuccessfully to get their shirts entered as evidence! You can get yours here:

I think as far as the internet community goes, the MPAA is doing much more public relations damage than financial good. Someone said it's like the gopher game -- you pound one on the head and 4 more pop up.

Here's an article from the Motley Fool:

...and a little more radical article from the Linux Journal:

What about e-banking? Can you bank safely over the internet? Is security good enough to bet your money on?

Yes, the security is there if you use it. There's a new internet bank called ( that had the security but didn't use it. It seems that once you opened your account it was secure enough, but they didn't check to see who was opening the accounts.

Here is the problem: If I had someone's bank account number and bank routing number, I could open an account in their name, transfer all their money into the new account, and then spend it. This happened a few times before caught on. Oops!

Family news:  Traci, who married Mike last summer (a serious lapse in judgement!), quit her job yesterday. After working at ViaGrafix for 5 years, she suddenly got her pay cut by more than half. Someone in New York made that decision over the objections of Austin, her boss. I think that was not very nice.

More Family News:  Yesterday was Mom & Dad's 50th wedding anniversary!  I told them they deserve each other. Nobody knows exactly where they are... they're just out running around a few states west of here.

The pictures of today are last Saturday's sunset at 20,000'.




Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling are all getting more popular. So is getting buried in an avalanche. Some may say this is a plot by aliens, but I think it might be because more people are playing in the snow. Also, better equipment makes it easier to go farther in the snow.

An avalanche usually happens when snow slides off a steep mountain. How steep? I used to think 45 degrees was generally required, but I was wrong. 30-45 degrees of slope is most common for avalanches.

Avalanches happen when snow starts sliding down the mountain. (Even I could figure that out.) Most dangerous avalanches are slab avalanches. A slab avalanche is when the snow starts sliding down in a big slab. Here's what was left up on the hill after a big slab avalanche:


Here's the avalanche in action, and the cleanup:



A few times I have dug down through some deep snow in the mountains. I was surprised how much difference there is in the snow layers. There are completely different kinds of snow. There are hard packed areas, regular fluffy snow, and snow that's made of granular pellets or crystals. Weather and wind affect all this.

A slab avalanche happens when some more stable snow on top of an unstable layer starts sliding down the mountain. The granular snow makes a very unstable layer. It doesn't stick together, and almost acts like a lubricant. When there's enough weight on top of the unstable layer, and a steep enough slope, it will start sliding. Then it picks up speed, usually much faster than people can ski or snowmobile. So if you intend to outrun an avalanche, go sideways.

The granular layer (called "depth-hoar" or "sugar snow") didn't fall from the sky in that form. It is transformed under pressure and temperature changes. When snow changes from fluffy to granular, it takes up less space. This leaves air pockets beneath the hard packed, stable layers of snow. When you walk or ski across some deep snow and hear it collapsing beneath you with a "whump", this is what it's from. If you hear this, you should hope you're not on a steep slope because it's a sign of serious avalanche danger. If you are on a steep slope, you should get off.

Avalanches are triggered a lot of times by people. When you hear a "whump" of the snow layer, or other weird cracking noises, it can crack the snow layer a lot like ice on a pond. This can be enough for the snow to turn loose and start sliding. A lot of the time, the avalanche you trigger will start above you. This can cause severe mental stress.

80% of avalanches are during or shortly after large snowstorms. This is because of all the additional weight added to the slopes at once.

90% of avalanches are on slopes between 30 and 45 degrees. 98% are on slopes between 25 and 50 degrees. Any steeper and not enough snow sticks to cause an avalanche. Any shallower and the snow's not slippery enough to slide.

More avalanches happen on the leeward slopes of mountains, because the wind deposits snow there. More avalanches are above the timberline because trees help anchor the snow. However, avalanches can travel through trees. In fact, avalanches can wipe out trees. Here's a picture I took near Aspen:


Near Mt. Yale, CO, an avalanche came down from here:


and cleared about a quarter-mile wide swath through the trees here:



Here are some other avalanche pictures:

In the past week, 8 people have been caught in avalanches in Colorado, 3 of them killed. Usually avalanches only bury people playing in the snow, but not always. On Thursday, an avalanche came down from the mountain and hit Cordova, Alaska on Prince William Sound. It killed a lady in her home, wiped out 4 houses, and hit several other buildings.

The other picture of today is snow blowing off a mountain near Quandary Peak, CO last Sunday:


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