More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, May 08, 2001
Important Stuff.

For the web version, go to
It's prettier.

You Will Be Assimilated.

Once upon a time, a software company named Microsoft was interested in making good software so people would buy it. They did, and they did. Now, since most people (at least most of those with PCs) are using Microsoft software, you might think Microsoft has very little to do other than fight government antitrust suits. The software is improved, but how much more market share can they gain? Not so much, it seems. There are just not that many people left who might be converted from another company's operating system or word processor to Microsoft's. Well, I admit there are millions, but it's a relatively small percentage of the market.

The next few paragraphs are mostly my opinion rather than fact, and often times the two are not synonymous. Because of this, you will not be tested over this material and you may skip to the next section if you want to.

I think Microsoft's development has gone from satisfying user needs for current sales, to manipulating users and other companies. Look at the web browsers. Microsoft started integrating Internet Explorer in Windows about the time the government started threatening them for giving it away. Microsoft eventually made it an integral part of Windows so it is now part of the Windows Explorer, the main file manager of Windows. This is an example of a feature that is inconvenient for me as a user, but Microsoft doesn't mind because I have no practical alternative to Windows.

Microsoft Word is a sophisticated Word Processor, and a good one. However, I prefer to use Word 97 instead of Word 2000. There are several features in Word 2000 that are cumbersome, and they seem to be there to "train" me to use Internet Explorer. Word 2000 automatically assumes that I want to do certain things when I don't.

The same holds true for Excel. For example, if I copy and paste data from my Schwab account on the web into Excel 97, it takes one or two seconds. If I do the same in Excel 2000, I have to sit and wait for 2-3 minutes because Microsoft incorporated parts of Internet Explorer into Excel 2000 and it takes a long time to try to format the data like the original web site. And all I want is the numbers! As far as I know, there is no way around this.

Apparently Microsoft heard that I have not upgraded to Office 2000, so they may take action to prevent this from happening again. Microsoft is considering having a 3-year license for their Office software, which could REQUIRE everybody to upgrade when Microsoft thinks they should.

That's nice. Surely Microsoft could never alienate enough customers to stimulate competition, could they?

Microsoft Office 2000, by default, sends information my computer to Microsoft. It also communicates with Microsoft's servers over the internet on a regular basis, invisibly in the background. Sure, they ask if this is OK during installation, but most people don't read the installation messages. What Microsoft does not address is whether the information they gather over the internet will be used to prosecute end users for having illegal copies of the software.

Microsoft's software license, which appears during installation in a box that nobody reads but everybody checks off as having been read, makes all this data gathering legal, among other things.

Microsoft Passport is a login system used for Hotmail, MSN Messenger, shopping, and a bunch of other big web sites.

In this article they talk about how Microsoft Passport's "Terms of Use" do not authorize anybody in Maryland to use this service because it conflicts with Maryland's UCITA law. They have this quote from Passport's "Terms of Use":

"This agreement is governed by the laws of the State of Washington, U.S.A. You hereby irrevocably consent to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of courts in King County, Washington, U.S.A. in all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Passport Web Site or service. Use of the Passport Web Site and service is unauthorized in any jurisdiction that does not give effect to all provisions of these terms and conditions, including without limitation this paragraph."

I looked it up on the Passport site, but it's not there any more. Apparently Microsoft removed the offending terms from their terms of use. But I DID run across something else that's pretty interesting.

If someone sues Microsoft or even any Microsoft Employee because of something I said on their message board or anything else I did on any of the Passport sites, I agree to pay Microsoft's attorney fees, damages, and who knows what else. That's a pretty big liability you take just for visiting a web site, don't you think? Here it is in the current Passport "Terms of Use":

"You agree to indemnify and hold Microsoft, its parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, officers and employees, harmless from any claim, demand, or damage, including reasonable attorneys' fees, asserted by any third party due to or arising out of your use of or conduct on the Passport Web Site or Passport Service."

And I don't think Microsoft's lawyers are cheap. But I doubt this would be enforced, at least not unless Microsoft donated millions of dollars to politicians...

I would talk (or maybe write) for a while about how Microsoft imposes software standards on other companies that are sometimes bad for the user but always good for Microsoft, but that's pretty boring and I'm getting tired of this subject. Just pretend I had a couple of paragraphs here explaining all that.

That's enough Microsoft bashing for today. Let's start in on Politicians!
Naw.... too easy.

AOL Not to be Outdone

OK then, how about AOL? I have been known to do some whining and complaining about AOL's software. I won't go over all that again. This week I finally gave in and cancelled my AOL subscription. That'll teach 'em! AOL Chairman Steve Case was so depressed over it that he sold $46,733,639 worth of his AOL stock. I bet that put him in a better mood.

It seems some other people aren't taking it so lightly, however. Some of them are suing AOL for modifying their computers without permission. One suit was given permission to proceed in a California district court last week.

Cyber Wars

The U.S. resumed surveillance flights near China this week. Claiming that unarmed propeller planes are too easy a target, some Chinese computerists are mounting attacks on U.S. Internet sites. It was supposed to peak on May 3, but it kind of fizzled.,1283,43443,00.html

Meanwhile, Russian hackers are attacking everybody including the U.S. Military.

A couple got stung by the FBI. The FBI lured them into the U.S., arrested them, and hacked into their computers in Russia for evidence.

$12 Million the Easy Way

I regularly get letters, fax or email, from people in Nigeria saying they've got several million dollars of government money squirreled away and need a U.S. bank account to transfer it into. They promise me a few million dollars for my trouble. Here is an example:

From: "Amobi Nzelu, Esq." <>
To: <>
Subject: Partnership

I am Barrister Amobi Nzelu, the legal adviser to Mr. Mohammed Abacha, the heir apparent to the estate of the late Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, late General Sani Abacha.

I am contacting you due to the present situation as regard the special panel set up by the new democratic administration (spearheaded by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was jailed by my client's father during his tenure for an attempted coup plot against his administration). An anti-corruption bill was recently passed in the country (apparently targeted on my client's family) to recover all supposed looted money kept by the Abacha's family both abroad and locally. This exercise has been going on for some time since the demise of my client's father.
The government has succeeded so far to recover the sum of $3.2 Billion US Dollars from Swiss Bank account belonging to my client's father. As at six months ago, they recovered $565Million US Dollars and on the 11th of November 2000 another $395 Million US Dollars was recovered owing to the co-
operation of the Swiss government.

These facts you can confirm from the Nigerian Embassy in your country or you can request for newspapers or BBC publications for further proof. I am consulting you on behalf of my client Mr. Mohammed Abacha who demands me to "urgently" look for a foreign partner, who could help us immediately to move a certain amount of money outside Nigeria.

All I want you to do is to receive the said amount in your name and invest it on behalf of my client's family who shall be a partner (under anonymity) in whatever business venture you intend investing. The money in question is about $40 Million United States Dollars, kept in a security vault. All documentation
regarding this are in my possession and a power of attorney to transact this business has been fully given to me by my client. 

In the light of above, I am soliciting your assistance and partnership to move this money out of Nigeria for as both of us can make a lot of profit. After due consultation with my client, a 30% of the whole money will be given to you as commission/compensation for obliging the materials and channel to help us push this money abroad for investment purpose. 

This money was kept and lodged in a security vault in a crate marked antique. For the time being, it is safe and undisclosed. Therefore, contact me immediately, only, if you are able and interested in assisting me. Kindly contact me preferably using my email address at, as soon as possible.

Thanks for your co-operation.

Yours sincerely,

Barrister Amobi Nzelu

There are several ways they can make money on this scam. Once they get your bank account name and number, they can work on getting credit cards in your name, or charging things to your account. They might be able to forge your signature (from your correspondence with them) and transfer money from your account.

Occasionally they'll get someone who's really gullible and talk them into coming to Nigeria to finalize the transaction, where they are promptly kidnapped and held for ransom. At this point, there's not much the U.S. government can do because the people are in Nigeria trying to do something illegal in the first place, although the whole thing is a fabrication. There are several variations on the theme, but they all are scams preying on greed.

For more information see Dilbert.

Pictures of Today

I met this turtle the other day crossing the road. Well, I was driving but he was crossing the road. I think he's been playing in the mud.


The M51 Whirlpool Galaxy:


The Space Shuttle Columbia:


I took some cloud pictures a couple of days ago when a storm came through. The first one shows how there really is a green tint to hail clouds.

        Img_8972.jpg      Img_8973.jpg      Img_8975.jpg

        Img_8977.jpg      Img_8981.jpg

And finally, Name That Animal!  It's real. The answer is coming next week. Unless I forget about it.


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I'm Bob Webster and you can find me at most days.