More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, July 24, 2001
Important Stuff.

Really Distributed Processing

About a year and a half ago in Junkmail 24 I wrote about, and how they used computers across the internet solve an encryption problem. Actually the problem was in the decryption, but they figured that out.

In a Star Trek Voyager, the Borg was a collection of people or other aliens tied together in what amounted to a loose computer network. Each individual was autonomous, but communicated with the central computer occasionally and sometimes continuously. That's kind of how the PC's worked in this distributed processing problem. Except the PC's didn't explode like the Borg did.

Everybody who helped downloaded a program and ran it. The program did some calculations and occasionally communicated with the host, getting instructions and sending results.

A few days ago Intel lowered their CPU prices (again), up to 37%. With faster, cheaper computers and wider bandwidth the distributed processing projects are getting to be bigger, and more practical in some cases. For example, have you always wanted to do some gene synthesizing but never had the chance? Go to

Want to find some extraterrestrial radio signals? Think maybe the Borg is still around? Go to

This article lists some more distributed processing projects that you, too, can participate in.

Ybor Cam

Tampa, Florida installed some cameras in its Ybor City party district. That's not too unusual, but the software that goes with the cameras is. It scans the faces of pedestrians and matches them up with wanted criminals.

The city council voted 3-3 to get rid of the face-recognition system, but since they already approved it, it's up to the mayor to cancel the contract. Sounds almost like small-town politics.

Here's a giant link to an interesting story about the system.

No criminals have been caught so far with Ybor City's system. There have been a few "hits", but when people checked out the pictures they decided they weren't really matches.

Face recognition and other non-intrusive identification methods are going to become more prevalent and more accurate. I'm guessing that there will be lots of civil liberty type lawsuits over this sort of thing. A former CIA directory (Robert) and a former Microsoft president (Michael) both think it's got enough promise that they joined the board of directors of Advanced Biometrics.

It looks like biometrics is coming to a location near you.

Just 23,000?

Raphael is a 19-year old who lives in Clynderwen, Wales. He likes to break into computer systems on the internet. He was trying to tell some e-commerce companies that their sites had some security holes, but they ignored him. So over 4 weeks in 1999, he took a few of their credit cards and posted them on his web site. About 23,000 credit cards. Including Bill Gates's card. In fact, he was nice enough to use Bill Gates's card to buy some Viagra and send it to him. The FBI eventually caught up with Raphael in Wales.

Judge Gareth thought the Viagra trick was funny, and told Raphael to get some psychiatric help.,1272,45057,00.html

Never Mind

The Defcon conference was last week in Las Vegas. In case you missed it, it's a meeting for computer security types, hackers, and curious people.

I guy named Dmitry came from Russia to give a presentation on his e-Book processor. Here's his presentation:

He also gave away samples of his program. Adobe didn't like it. They said it would be used to steal Adobe's e-Books. Adobe convinced the FBI to arrest Dmitry. After his presentation, the FBI caught up with Dmitry in the Las Vegas airport on his way home. He ended up in a Las Vegas jail cell.

That made a lot of people mad. There was a big backlash against Adobe. There were protests in 10 cities, and about 100 protesters visited Adobe headquarters. That's nothing compared to what the WTO can generate, but it's a lot for Adobe.

So yesterday Adobe said, "Never mind. We were just joking." The precise wording was more eloquent and less clear: "We strongly support federal copyright law and the enforcement of copyright protection of digital content. However, the prosecution of this individual in this particular case is not conducive to the best interests of any of the parties involved or the industry."

As far as I know, Dmitry is still in Jail for violating the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I think that is one messed up law. And Dmitry used to think there was freedom of speech in the United States.,1283,45484,00.html

Here's a slanted version of the story from Russia:

Maybe the FBI thought the guy was part of the Russian Mob? Some of those hackers do need to be thrown in jail.,4586,2784950,00.html

Fill 'er up!

A year ago last March, a Southwest 737 flew into Burbank. It was going a little too fast when it hit the runway, mostly because it was a little too high before it got to the runway. That, together with a tailwind, resulted in another presumably on-time arrival for Southwest:

Nobody was killed, but it must have been pretty close.

This is not quite as bad -- A week ago last Thursday a TWA flight from St. Louis to San Jose had an engine fly apart. It made an emergency landing at Whiteman Air Force Base, where they keep the B2 Bombers.

Two days later a guy threw candy into his propeller and crashed in Michigan. I don't think that was very smart. Nobody was killed, but the two in the plane were injured.

        Desc: 1992 LaPorte MXLII Sport
        Activity: Pleasure Phase: Maneuver
        GA-A/C: General Aviation
        Descr: Aircraft dropping candy to children, engine ingested candy and quit,
                acft nosed over and crashed into a field, Flint, MI.

Microsoft Misc.

The week before last, Microsoft had some problems with its MSN Messenger system. It quit working for a good part of its users. MSN Messenger is a chat system, second in popularity to AOL Instant Messenger. I think some chat addicts got pretty mad at Microsoft when they had to go for days without, cold turkey. I never did see what caused the problem. Maybe it was the operating system?

Meanwhile, Microsoft offered to allow computer resellers to remove Internet Explorer from Windows. This is kind of curious, because a year or two ago Microsoft said in court that Internet Explorer was so intertwined with Windows that this was impossible. Hmm....

Now people are wanting Microsoft to unbundle MSN Messenger and Windows Media Player. The people who want this the most are the people who make AOL Instant Messenger and Real Media Player. I think that must be some kind of coincidence.,1282,45182,00.html

To retaliate against the U.S. Government, Microsoft left a security hole in their Internet Information Server, allowing the Code Red worm to deface web sites with the wording, "Hacked by the Chinese." Every server infected with the Code Red worm was scheduled to flood the site But the Whitehorse changed their IP address to avoid the problem.

In fairness, Microsoft did come out with a patch for it, maybe even before the Code Red worm came out. I think it was this patch, but I'm not sure:

While on the subject of Microsoft, here's an interesting "characteristic" of Internet Explorer 5.5. First, I went to Tools, Internet Options, Advanced, and selected the "Do not search from the address bar" option. I did this because I don't like it to bring up MSN's web page whenever I mistype a URL. Then, when I enter something on the address bar and forget the .com, not only does it bring up MSN anyway, but it unselects my selection! When I go back to the "Do not search from the address bar", it's not selected any more. Microsoft keeps sending me to their stinking web site no matter what I do! I guess that's some kind of negative reinforcement for typing sloppy.

Orbitz in the Southwest is a web site you can go to to get airline fares, reservations, etc. It happens to be owned by American, Delta, United, Continental, and Northwest Airlines. Notice that Southwest Airlines isn't an owner. By coincidence, the fares presented for Southwest Airlines on the site are a little crazy.

"A Southwest itinerary constructed by Orbitz from Albany, N.Y., to Baltimore had a stop in Orlando, Fla. Another itinerary on Orbitz had Southwest flying from Palm Beach, Fla., to Orlando, with stops in two other Florida cities, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale. The carrier offers nonstop service between Palm Beach and Orlando."

So, in the great American Tradition, Southwest sued. They also withheld their scheduling data from Orbitz, since Orbitz won't publish the best fares. If you want Southwest's fares, you'll have to go to


It really gripes me when I go to a web page and it launches a separate instance of my browser, without asking me,  just to show me an ad. Apparently I'm not the only one who feels that way. Some people wrote programs now to disable those popup ads. I downloaded Popupkiller and tried it out.

It works pretty good, except it killed one link I was trying to go to when it wasn't a popup ad. The proper solution would be for Microsoft to allow users to enable or disable popups in Internet Explorer, but I won't hold my breath for that.,1272,45306,00.html

Pictures of Today!

Have you ever wondered what's on top of those giant 1500' tall antennas you see scattered around? I did, so I flew up and took some pictures of one.

        Img_0367.jpg      Img_0368.jpg      Img_0369.jpg

Here is a red flower from Colorado:


These are wet columbines. I think they use them to cut wheat.


Blue flowers, also wet:

        Img_0436.jpg      Img_0438.jpg

I took these last week when I was bicycling over the mountain from Copper Mountain to Breckenridge. I ended up in the Breckenridge ski slopes.

       Img_0441.jpg      Img_0448.jpg      Img_0450.jpg

Then I flew out to California, passing a high-security military airport in Nevada. I think this is where the stealth fighters were based when they were still secret.


Here are some beach pictures from Monterey - Big Sur area.

       Img_0544.jpg    Img_0557.jpg

       Img_0561.jpg    Img_0588.jpg

Sea lions were frolicking:


Pfeiffer Pfalls


And finally, 3 trees:


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