More Junkmail from Bob!

Sunday, April 23, 2000

Important Stuff.

"Mafiaboy" Arrested

Last weekend in Montreal, Quebec, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested a 15-year old for the denial of service attack against CNN. DoS attacks in the same week shut down Yahoo, Ebay, and Amazon, but there were no charges filed for them. That's got to be really embarrassing for those companies!

Janet Reno said, "I am so pleased with the important breakthrough we have had in this investigation." She did not say whether she had plans for snatching the 15-year old.

The RCMP said the boy, who went by "Mafiaboy," was not very talented. "It is in our estimation that Mafiaboy wasn't that good," said Sgt. Jean-Pierre Roy. What does that tell us about CNN, Yahoo, Ebay, and Amazon? Well, at least it WAS a DoS attack. Since then, several companies have shouted "DoS" only to find out it they were really shut down by their own technical problems. Even PSINet had one last Wednesday they weren't sure about.

President Bill said of the arrest, "Even though it happened in the South Park movie, we have no intention of invading Canada over this." Later he waffled on the topic, "You know, this IS an election year, so anything could happen. Canada is about the same size as Grenada, isn't it?"

Details on Mafiaboy's arrest.

Bill vs. Penfield

Judge Jackson and the Justice Department are ahead of schedule in meting put punishment for Microsoft. Since the stock market went down, the punishment is expected to be less severe than before. The judge doesn't want too many people to lose money on his decision. Blind justice, right?

Bill Gates said of the impending punishment, "So what? We'll appeal and you can't hurt me!"

Also this week, Microsoft announced that they made $2,390,000,000 from January through March. That's net profit, after taxes. That's only for 3 months. That's a LOT of money! No big deal, though. It's only 23% up from last year's first quarter. Microsoft stock has lost more than 1/4 of its value in the past month, and more than 1/3 since its high last December.

Hmm.... Surely nobody would try to keep the stock price down before punishment is announced, would they?

The picture of today -- Easter Lilies from Colorado:


So what? Don't fruit flies have chromosomes too?

Celera Genomics, the company that finished the human genome except for some minor details like assembling the data (see Junkmail 35), accidentally mixed some fruit fly data in with their human data.

Celera said, "This kind of error is common." That's the kind of company I want developing MY genetic medicine!

Actually, it really was only a mistake in some data they posted, and it doesn't affect the research. But I think it's really funny!  Details.


In Junkmail 33 ( I talked about quantum computers. Since I don't understand them very well, I left a lot of unanswered questions. Here's a much better explanation of quantum computers:


7 years ago Mike was out hunting fossils in South Dakota. Mike Hammer found an exceptionally good fossil of a Thescelosaurus, a dinosaur about the size of a llama. It lived 66 million years ago, I think to the day. When Mike got around to cleaning it, he showed it to Andrew, a fellow fossil hunter who is a medical doctor from Oregon. There was a lump of rust-colored rock in the chest cavity of the dinosaur fossil. Andrew suggested a CAT scan to see if there was a soft-tissue fossil inside.

They found a heart fossil where the heart should be and oriented the way the heart should be. It had 4 chambers and a single aorta, like mammals and birds. This is a first.

Is it proof that dinosaurs were warm-blooded? No, but it is the first evidence found in favor of warm blood, and it's pretty strong evidence. Now that they've found this one, people will know to look for it in other specimens. If they find some more, that will mean that dinosaurs were almost certainly warm blooded. This is not something that happened overnight. People have been going over the data for 7 or 8 months before publishing it in Science Magazine last week.

This is important because warm-blooded dinosaurs could be much more active and would behave differently than cold-blooded dinosaurs. This was probably a parallel evolution, rather than birds and mammals coming from these dinosaurs.

You can pay to see the research article in Science Magazine, or you can read a free article in the LA Times.


RealNetworks produces RealPlayer that plays video over a web site. The web server runs RealServer server software, and the person browsing runs RealPlayer to see the video.

A South American group called Underground Security Systems Research (USSR) came out with a program called RealDie. This program can cause any computer running RealServer to lock up, requiring a reboot. You can get your copy of RealDie here:

It's illegal to use this to shut down a server, and it probably can be traced in many cases. RealNetworks has come out with a fix for RealServer this week. This is the easiest way I've seen for someone to shut down remote servers. The vulnerability only lasted a few days though, since most servers should have been upgraded by now. Here's what RealNetworks has to say about it:

This "South American" company USSR doesn't have an address anywhere on their web site. They also more informal English than most non-English web sites I've seen. I suspect it's a U.S. group who has their web site outside the U.S., or claims to.


In other computer security news, has come out with a Perl that can extract users login name, real name, phone number, and other information from many Internet Service Providers using older versions of SNMP without proper security configurations. Apparently this includes a lot of ISPs. Here's a copy of the script and how it works:

I think it's pretty interesting. I also think it would be pretty dumb to actually use this except on your own system.

Stormy Weather

Thunderstorms are big. It's not unusual for them to be 60,000 feet high or higher. In fact, most days this past week there have been thunderstorms in the central U.S. over 50,000 high. That height indicates a lot of warm air rising fast, and usually indicates a strong or severe thunderstorm.

Here's a good satellite picture of some storms last Wednesday. The one in southwest Kansas produced a tornado:

Here's a good radar link to see the current storms and cloud tops. The directions and speeds indicated usually are not very accurate. You can click on any part of the map to get details.

On May 3 last year, a bunch of tornadoes hit Oklahoma. The worst was in the Oklahoma City area. This was the strongest tornado ever measured. It's probably not the strongest tornado in history, but it's way up there. The wind, probably 200' above ground, was measured at 318 mph. The tornado was on the ground for 14 miles, and was about a mile wide at its widest point. 44 people died and about 500 were injured from this tornado.

Some people from Oklahoma University measured the wind speed using Doppler on Wheels.

A few days later Steven and I flew over the area and took some pictures. It's amazing the way that entire areas of houses were flattened. Not just a few houses, but hundreds. About 1800 houses were destroyed in the Oklahoma City area that night, in addition to lots of other buildings.

Here's a satellite image of that storm developing:


Here's a picture of the storm when it got near Pryor. It wasn't as strong there, but it didn't look very nice:


Here are a lot of missing houses:








Here's part of the 14-mile path:


On April 3 and 4, 1974, there was an even bigger outbreak of tornadoes. Here's a map from that storm:


One mile wide is amazing for a tornado, but on June 9, 1971 in the Texas panhandle there was a tornado that reached a width of 2 miles. I think that's the current record.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is supposed to launch tomorrow. It's instrumentation has been updated -- it's got a "glass cockpit" similar to the one in the Boeing 777. They're supposed to move the International Space Station back out into its proper orbit. The Russians have been more than a year late bringing their equipment up there so some remedial orbit maintenance has to be done.

There are some huge fires burning in Central America. You can see the smoke from a satellite image taken Friday:


Yesterday I went to Maroon Lake, near Aspen Colorado:


I took that picture last October. Here's what it looked like yesterday:




The road was closed, so I bicycled up:




On the way up, I found these two geese getting harassed by a coyote:


I guess the coyote finally scared them off. After I got to the lake, they came flying up:




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