More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, January 31, 2001
Important Stuff.

Protection Exception at Microsoft?

The week before last, Microsoft launched a $200,000,000 ad campaign emphasizing the reliability of its products.

Then last Wednesday Microsoft noticed that their web sites weren't working. It took them 23 hours to get things back to normal. I'm guessing they kept getting put on hold when the called tech support. The crash was attributed to "human error." As opposed to what? Divine intervention? No, I am not referring to Bill Gates when I say "divine intervention.",1282,41412-2,00.html

Here's what Microsoft said about it.

As if this wasn't enough, on both Thursday and Friday Microsoft was hit with Denial of Service attacks, partially shutting them down.

I'm guessing the Microsoft network folks were pretty busy last week. I haven't heard anything about the new ad campaign this week.

Patently Typical

OK, it's been literally days since I've done any serious whining and complaining about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO. This is not to be confused with the UPTO, or Universal Power Take Off.

The Frownie :-( has been trademarked!  In unsurpassed stupidity, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a trademark for this:  :-(, to Despair, Inc.

I thought this was a joke until looked it up. It's true! They really did it.

Albert Firkus, co-editor of IP Monthly, said, "Someone has finally bested patent 5443036 for most ridiculous intellectual property filing in history."  What's that patent 5443036? "Method of exercising a cat." Here's the abstract:

A method for inducing cats to exercise consists of directing a beam of invisible light produced by a hand-held laser apparatus onto the floor or wall or other opaque surface in the vicinity of the cat, then moving the laser so as to cause the bright pattern of light to move in an irregular way fascinating to cats, and to any other animal with a chase instinct.

For the record, I was using a laser pointer with my cats long before this patent was issued. My cats were playing instead of exercising, though, so I probably can't contest the patent.

Elsewhere in the stupid patent arena, CMGI, who is the owner of Altavista this week, said, "we believe that virtually everyone out there who indexes the Web is in violation of at least several of (AltaVista's) key patents." Altavista has 38 patents that include just about everything that has an indexed database, both on the web and off. I'm guessing that if these patents were upheld that every search engine, most web sites, and most database systems would be in violation of their patents. Never mind that these techniques were in use long before the patents were issued. Altavista is a dotcom running out of money and their lawyers figure they better get their share before it's too late.

I feel secure knowing the USPTO is protecting my intellectual property. Yeah, yeah, I realize I don't have much of that intellectual stuff but what little I have is protected, right? I may want to patent a method of climbing onto a bicycle someday.

There was a bill introduced last fall that would put some limits on stupid computer patents, but near as I can tell it was never voted on. It probably won't pass because it limits the income of some lawyers.

DeCSS Again?

Remember DeCSS? It's a program that decodes DVDs. The Motion Picture Association doesn't like it. They keep suing internet service providers to have them remove it from their web sites. The program isn't illegal per se, they just say that it lets people illegally copy their movies. Here's the latest lawsuit.

I think Verio should bring up the point that AOL/Warner Brothers/Time/Life/whoever has had DeCSS on their web server for months:

H-Cards and DirectTV

For a few years people have been selling black market cards for DirectTV satellite dishes. This let you get all the satellite channels free. The H-series cards were sold with satellite receivers from 1996 to 1999, and could be modified to get free satellite TV.

Several months ago, the satellite systems sent a few bytes of data to be stored in the cards. If the data was rejected, the cards quit working. So everybody allowed the few bytes to be stored. Then it happened again. And several more times. People with the pirate cards wondered what was happening, but it didn't seem to hurt anything.

It turns out that they the satellite TV companies were loading a self-destruct program into the pirate cards. A few days ago they launched it and permanently disabled thousands of pirate smart cards. It's really interesting. I bet the DirecTV people are still laughing.

No, I didn't have one of them. I did buy a DirectTV system a few days ago, but it's still in the back of my car.

Pictures of Today!

This is a neat picture of a plane crossing in front of the Sun. It was taken in Paris by Mr. Legault. The plane is not N1421Z.


Here's a beach at Cardiff, Wales. The airport is just to the left. When the wind comes across the cliffs from the ocean, it makes funny crosswinds. Mike managed to splatter the plane down on the runway with no visible damage.


Here is some water coming out of the ground into a river in Iceland. This is a little dark because the sun wasn't up yet. It doesn't come up until after 10:00 this time of year.


A cold kayaking stream, also Iceland:


And Iceland farm:


Clouds and Ocean:


Nuuk, the capital of Greenland:


More Greenland pictures:

       Img_7280.jpg     Img_7496.jpg     Img_7507.jpg

A paraglider over Greenland:


And finally, an interesting view of Lake Erie:


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I'm Bob Webster and I currently reside at G'day!