Junkmail from Bob, number 28!

Sunday, February 20, 2000

Important Stuff.

Remember about a month ago when two planes in Florida had a midair collision and then landed hooked together? Last Saturday in Clearwater Florida, two planes collided and two pilots walked away unhurt. One guy landed and was about 1500 feet down the runway, and another guy landed on top of him. That was very rude, in my opinion. This only counts as half a midair since only one plane was in the air when they collided.

There have been three other light-plane midairs this month, unfortunately with more fatal results. There was one in Van Nuys, one near Chicago, and one at McAlester. That's a lot more than normal.

Tom Landry died last week. He was a World War II pilot and flew a Cessna 210. In his spare time I think he messed around with football some.

Need a new place to live?  Try this:


Max Power Aerospace says they'll deliver and install one of these in 3 months. I'm not sure how much they cost.

On Thursday there was a huge explosion. It was on the sun. It directed billions of tons of plasma toward Earth. It's expected to arrive today! If you happen to be in the far north, look for some good northern lights. (Or southern lights if you're far enough south.) Actually, the plasma will spread out so the Earth will only be hit by part of it, but it will still be a lot.

Here's a picture of the explosion:

        Thursday's Flare

This is called a coronal mass ejection, since there is a mess of mass being ejected from the Sun's corona. (CME for short). This picture is actually of a solar flare. The S-shape happens a lot of the time when there's a coronal mass ejection involved, although a flare can happen without a coronal mass ejection and vice versa.

There are heavy pieces and light pieces of matter in this ejection. The light, energetic particles get here in a few minutes and don't amount to much as long as you're not space walking.

The heavier plasma travels much slower, only a million miles per hour or so. When it gets to earth it interferes with the Earth's normally stable magnetic field. This makes the ionosphere a little unruly and that messes up some low-frequency communication and radar systems. The magnetic variations affect GPS accuracy, but not enough to matter if you're using a civilian GPS.

It won't affect people directly, but it can generate some electricity along very long conductors. How?  A magnet moving across a conductor generates electricity. The earth's magnetic field is usually pretty constant and doesn't move much, but a coronal mass ejection blast can wiggle it the magnetic field around. It's hard to believe, but this can generate enough electricity along long power lines to mess up power transformers.

I don't understand all the details, but I read that it can cause some resonance which causes overheating and voltage fluctuations, and I read that the magnetic field inside the transformer gets distorted and that causes the overheating and voltage fluctuations. Either way, sometimes it's enough to trip a breaker. On March 13, 1989, a big coronal mass ejection triggered a power outage over a good part of Quebec. A coronal mass ejection can also generate some voltage on a long pipeline, but it usually doesn't do more than some electrolytic corrosion.

Here are some pictures of coronal mass ejections taken by the Solar Max satellite. The one in October, 1989 was extra big.

Here are some details on coronal mass ejection's from people who know a lot more than I do about them.

I was wondering if an electromagnetic pulse generate by a nuclear bomb is similar to a CME, so I did a search on EMP. I didn't find anything that I believed -- everything was written by someone who was wanting to persuade someone that EMP's are either terrible or insignificant. But I did find something interesting.

I ran across these documents from Whiteman Airforce Base. They're NATO medical manuals for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare. They present a pretty good outline of what types of weapons there are and their effects. They are unclassified, so it's legal to read them. It's also kind of scary to read them.

     Part I, Explosive Weapons

     Part II, Biological Weapons

     Part III, Chemical Weapons

At Mount Palomar Observatory, CA, Kitt Peak Observatory, AZ, and Keck Observatory, HI, they've discovered a quasar 13 billion light years away, a new record! That also makes it 13 billion years old. The BBC has the details.

A long time ago in the Mesozoic era of computing, Phillipe Kahn started Borland International. Their primary product was a compiler called Turbo Pascal. Since then, they came out with lots of other products, changed their name, had some change in ownership, and Kahn bought a TBM-700.

The new name for Borland is Inprise. Microsoft bought ten percent of Inprise, even though Quattro Pro competes with Excel and Borland C++ competes with Visual C++. That must have been a coincidence.

In the meantime, Corel Corporation has gotten big into the Linux market. They sell Linux and have most of their software available on Linux now. The Linux operating system is one of Windows 98's two biggest competitors.

Now Corel is planning to merge with Inprise in a stock swap that leaves Microsoft with 4 percent ownership of Corel, one of their biggest shareholders. Bill Gates said, "This has nothing to do with assimilation. Besides, I don't even run Microsoft any more!"

This week, Inprise announced it is giving away Borland C++ free! Get yours here:


I think it doesn't support Linux, though.

The picture of today is the Sun during the 1994 eclipse:


This week someone asked me about the ID feature of the Pentium III chips. I didn't answer it very well, I just said that it's not too important.

Each Pentium III CPU has a unique ID number that can be accessed by software. You can disable access to the CPU ID through software. Lots of people were complaining about it infringing on their constitutional right of privacy when Intel came out with it, so Intel fixed their CPU's so the ID is disabled by default even though the word "privacy" is not in the U.S. Constitution.

It's not that big a deal, though, because it's generally possible for you do be identified when you're on the internet through your IP address. If you dial in to the internet, then your ISP most likely logs your User ID and IP address. This information isn't supposed to be made public unless there's a legal reason, such as trying to catch Alan Greenspan slowing the economy with a DoS attack on Yahoo.

If someone is afraid the CPU ID will be used to "stamp" documents with the source computer information, this can be tricked or avoided in software.

So I agree with Intel's view that the CPU ID is not such a big deal. You already have no privacy.

Some other pictures of today are a small jet:


and a big jet:


This was when there still was a USSR (CCCP, in Cyrillic).

I am officially unemployed!  Well, almost -- I will be when my vacation runs out. I was asked to resign from Learn2.com, so I said, "OK."  It might have been partly because of my unswerving corporate professionalism, I'm not sure.

Here's me on the job. Sandusky usually had the air-conditioning turned down to about 38 degrees:


Here's what I'm doing in my spare time now:


The three questions I am getting asked a lot are (1) What are you going to do now? (2) What's going to happen to the company? and (3) Do I need Windows 2000?

The answer to (1) is "Idunno, I guess I'll cut my toenails."

The answer to (2) is harder. Learn2 is making a lot of changes that I don't agree with, so I'm kind of relieved that I'm not responsible for it any more. I think they intend to stay in Pryor. I think the future of the company depends a lot on the internet and sales to corporations. Hopefully they'll increase corporate sales enough to pay for the other parts of the business. I would guess that the training CDs and Videos will be de-emphasized over the next year or so. The company's management seems to be more interested in the stock price than in making money. This is all my opinion and not Learn2's, and it isn't based on any inside knowledge. If you intend to use this information to make money in the stock market, you should assume I'm wrong because that's the way it normally works out.

The answer to (3) is No, not unless you're using Windows NT now. Windows 2000 is an NT upgrade. It isn't as easy to set up and use as Windows 98.

@ 1981. No rights reserved by American Small Business Computers, Cleveland Electronics, Webster Electronics, DesignCAD, Inc.,  Deltasoft, The Data Station, Champion Electronics, or ViaGrafix Corporation. Any unauthorized duplication of this masterpiece is a good thing.

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