More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, August 23, 2001
Important Stuff.

Pryor Creek Nature Trail

The Pryor Creek Nature Trail is open for business! Well, it's open for traffic anyway. Foot and bicycle traffic, that is. A few mentally unstable and physically unable people decided to build a trail south of Pryor, Oklahoma three or four months ago. The first stage is pretty much done now, except for a few signs. There are currently about 3 miles of trail, and we hope to continue it on into Pryor.

If you live in, on, or around Pryor you should check it out. If you live in Boatman or Ushuaia or somewhere like that, you should at least visit.

Here's some info:

 and a map:


Free Speech? Cheap speech?

In the United States you are guaranteed the right to free of speech. Unless you offend the wrong people.

Professor Ed works at Princeton University. Last April he was scheduled to present a research paper titled "Reading Between the Lines: Lessons from the SDMI Challenge." Recording Industry threatened to sue him if he explained how he broke their code, even though there was a contest with a $10,000 reward for anybody who could do it. See Junkmail 89.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) said he was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and threatened him with unpleasant legal actions, processes, suits, and other unmentionables if he presented that paper. He knuckled under and cancelled the presentation, maybe because he thought getting his university sued for millions of dollars would not be a career-enhancing move.

A lot of the internet community got behind Ed and his case. The Electronic Frontier Foundation took over some of the legal battles. The RIAA finally said, "Aww... we were just joking. We're really nice people. Ed presented his paper last week.,1283,46097,00.html

In the meantime, Dmitry can't go home. Remember Dmitry? (Junkmail 92) He presented a paper in Las Vegas on how to decode eBooks. He was arrested at the airport on his way home to Moscow. He was finally bailed out of jail, but the U.S. Government won't let him leave Northern California. He was charged with violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Adobe is the company who got bent out of shape over this research paper. Actually, I think this paper is not quite as high-brow as Ed's, but it does qualify as a presentation.,1283,46240,00.html

What would the U.S. do if a U.S. citizen went overseas to present a paper and was held against his will for months? Suppose John Chandler from OSU went to China to present a paper on some kind of numerical stuff, as he's prone to do (the numerical stuff, not China). Suppose they decided his paper violates some unusual Chinese law and they won't let him come home. OK, OK, maybe the Num. Anal. students would be OK with this, but I'll bet a lot of other people would be up in arms over it.

Here's an interesting article about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. They bring up the fact that it's very selectively enforced. It seems like the only way you can get in trouble with the DCMA is to make a big company mad at you.

Helper or Hacker?

In the thriving metropolis of Poteau, Oklahoma, a computer guy named Brian was arrested by the FBI. According to this story, all he did was try to point out a security problem in the Poteau Daily News's web site.

I haven't read anything else about this, so I can't vouch for the details. If it's true, I'd say someone at the FBI really messed up.


Airsnort is not a drug. It's a program.

Wireless networks are getting really popular. You can hook up a computer to a local area network without messing with running cable through the walls -- it's wireless. You might think that people would eavesdrop on your data transmissions, but the network folks thought of that and encrypted it using the 802.11b encryption standard.

The only problem is that the encryption can be easily broken. In a paper presented a few months ago in Toronto, Scott, Itsik, and Adi explained that (and how) the encryption method is "completely insecure." This violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but I think the paper was presented in Toronto so nobody went to jail. These weren't just some hackers -- Cisco System's and the Weizmann Institute's names are on the research paper.

I personally would rather have people point out security problems like this as opposed to the "bury your head in the sand" approach. I think that people will always figure out a security weakness, and if everybody knows about it at the same time it is generally beneficial. I seems to me that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act seems to follow the philosophy that you can and should hide discoverable facts from the masses.

Anyway, back it Airsnort. This is a program that can eavesdrop on your wireless network. Actually, any computer with a compatible wireless adapter can eavesdrop if it's close enough to the wireless network, but the data flying through the air is encrypted. But it's encrypted with the encryption standard 802.11b that is easily broken.

Airsnort decrypts the data and scans it for passwords. That could be a serious security problem for some networks. I don't think anybody cares enough about what I do to bother eavesdropping on me.,1382,46187,00.html

Car Phones

People say it's distracting to use a cell phone in a car, whether it's a hands-free model or a regular one. I think that's a safe bet. For example, if I'm driving down the road with a large iced tea in one hand and an Arby's roast beef in the other, it's really tough to pick up a cell phone a use it because I have to put the tea between my legs, which makes it hard to turn corners while driving with my knee because the tea tends to tip, which makes me lay down my roast beef sandwich to catch the tea, which later causes me to wonder where my sandwich went, and it goes downhill from there.

The popular argument against cell phones is about concentration. Most people who talk to me on the phone know this isn't an issue with me because I rarely concentrate when talking on the phone enough to piece together a complete sentence. While this is especially true if I'm sitting in front of a computer, it happens in the car also.

The one thing that really distracts me when I'm driving is an audio book. More than once I've been driving down an interstate highway, listening too a good part in an audio book, and wondered when I got off onto this side street and what town the street was in.

Instead of banning cell phones in cars, some people claim it would be safer for drivers everywhere to revoke my license. The state of Virginia may have already done that. I sent them a check for making what I considered a very safe U-turn, and they keep sending me summons's anyway. I hope I have a good internet connection in the Virginia debtors prison.

ASCI White

Once again, there's a new fastest computer in the world. For the low, low price of $110,000,000, Lawrence Livermore National Labs bought a new computer from IBM. It's capable of doing 12,300,000,000,000 floating point operations per second. They're going to use it for nuclear research. I think the programming will be tough, but it would be a fun project.,1282,46105,00.html

Roundup Ready?

Roundup is a popular weed killer that I've been know to feed to poison ivy plants on occasion. As far as I knew it would kill just about anything that's green. But I read last week that some soybeans have been genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup. That way farmers can spray their bean fields and kill everything that's not a soybean. They're called Roundup Ready soybeans, and they were developed by Monsanto. Monsanto also happens to make Roundup.

More than half the soybeans in the U.S. are now Roundup Ready soybeans. Last week a guy from Belgium named Marc and some other people presented a paper showing some stray DNA in the Roundup Ready soybeans. As the paper was presented in Europe, Monsanto was unable to squash this revelation using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. So they said, "Wow. We don't know WHERE that stuff came from."

Actually, the paper has been available online for a while so Monsanto already knew about it. The soybeans are still considered safe, and the misplaced DNA wasn't discovered 5 years ago when the soybeans were developed because the technology to discover it wasn't available then.

Paint the Moon

Get out your laser pointer and shoot the moon! On October 27, Daniel is trying to get millions of people to light up the moon. He thought if enough people point those laser pointers at the moon, maybe they can turn it red for 5 minutes.

Unfortunately, it probably is impossible. The light from a laser pointer diverges a lot. If you shine it on a wall 100 feet away, you'll see that the dot is much larger than it is at 1 foot away. Extrapolate this expansion for 250,000 miles or so, and you can see that it's going to be pretty dim by the time it gets to the moon.

I hope it works anyway!

Stupid Patents

President Bush decided to allow limited government funding for medical research using human stem cells. The University of Wisconsin happens to have a patent that apparently covers all stem cell research. "For a nominal fee" they're willing to license it.

Not to be outdone, Mcafee, the makers of Virus Shield, is in the process of getting patent number 6,266,774 which would essentially give them exclusive rights for online virus protection. The Mcafee boss said other companies could either "work with us, or work around the patent." The patent even covers downloading software to accomplish the same tasks as Mcafee's online updates, which puts most internet users in violation.

Virtual Ads

TV Networks occasionally block out a billboard or other advertisement in a popular event and replace it with one of their advertisers' message, using real-time image processing. For example, the large animated billboard on Times Square may appear on TV to have an advertisement that never really appeared on the billboard.

Now a company called Gator has brought this concept to the Internet. Their software modifies your browser and replaces normal banner ads with their customers' ads, in real time. I don't think this is any big deal, because one ad is as bad as another, but it is an interesting concept.

What? No Boardwalk?

I finally found out why I haven't won a million dollars at McDonalds!

Jerome works for the company that makes the contests for McDonalds. At least he used to work there. He took the winning game pieces and gave them to his friends. His friends and "business associates" won about $13,000,000 in prizes before the FBI arrested 8 people this week. This sounds like something a bunch of kids would try, but all these people are in their 40's and 50's.

Can they be Bought?

I occasionally do some ranting and raving about overpaid dotcom executives, but it seems that the dotcoms have nothing on United Airways. United Airlines is planning to buy United Airways. As a result, the three top executives at United Airways will have the option of quitting their jobs and getting $45,000,000. That's combined, not each, but that's still a LOT of money to get for quitting your job. They must be really awful employees if it's worth $45 million for the company to be rid of them.

A Bad Landing is Worth $480,000,000

The NTSB Report:

"August 14, 1989 at Myrtle Grove, FL

"A normal approach was made to runway 36. The flaps were fully extended & full nose up trim was applied per the owner's handbook. The wind was from the east at 3-8 kts. Thick scrub trees bordered the east side of the runway. A three point landing was planned & touchdown occurred on the tail & right main wheel. The right wing came up as the left wheel touched & the pilot initiated a balked landing. He & his wife, also a private pilot, said the nose pitched up abruptly, & a departure stall to the right was encountered. Both believed that the pilot's seat slid rearward. Post impact fire destroyed the seat rails. Exam of the wreckage showed that the front seats appeared to be in the same relative position."

From the Wall Street Journal:

"A Florida jury reached a $480 million verdict against Cessna Aircraft Co. in a lawsuit involving a 12-year-old accident.

"The jury awarded $80 million in compensatory damages and $400 million in punitive damages. Alan Arthur Wolk, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, termed the award the largest in history involving general-aviation aircraft, primarily single-engine planes used by amateur pilots and aviation enthusiasts.

"The award went to the three passengers of a Cessna 185 that crashed shortly after takeoff in a fiery accident near here Aug. 14, 1989. James and Cindy Cassoutt and Judy Kealy will share the award, the lawyer said. Their suit was first filed in 1991. Two of the passengers were severely burned and the third suffered severe internal injuries."

I'm not sure how old the plane was, but the Cessna 185 had not been manufactured for years before the accident.

Don't forget the Chocks!

A couple of weeks ago, a TWA 717 airliner stopped in Springfield Illinois on the way from Nashville to St. Louis because there was bad weather in St. Louis. When it was time for them to leave, there was nobody around to flag them. Part of the flagger's job is to make sure the wheels are clear. When they left their parking place, they hit some wheel chocks with the nose gear. The "spray deflector assembly casting" broke.

As a result, a few minutes later when it was time to land in St. Louis, the nose gear wouldn't come down. They ended up landing at Scott Air Force Base with lots of foam on the runway. Nobody was hurt, but I bet it was an expensive flight for TWA.

Browse a web site, crash your computer?

That's what happens at this site: I was surprised it was possible. This web page keeps opening an instance of the browser every time you enter and exit the web page. I tried it twice and I had to do a hard reset both times. Microsoft should let me disable popup web pages in Internet Explorer, or at least let me say "yea" or "nay" when one wants to appear.

Here's what's in the web site. I don't recommend putting this up on your site or people might get irritated with you.

<title>Browser Crasher</title>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
<meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0">
<!-- start crasher--->
<script language="JavaScript">
function openstuff() {"");
<script language="JavaScript">
<!-- Begin
function leave() {'','','toolbar=no,menubar=no,location=no,height=72,width=360');
// End -->

<!-- --End Crasher--->
<!-- - start refresher----->
<meta http-equiv="Refresh" content="0.01; url=">
<!-- End refresher----->
<body bgcolor="#ffffff" onunload="leave()">
<!-- -start can't leave---->
<!-- -End can't leave--->


Here are some articles I thought were interesting, but I'm getting tired of writing.,1282,46087,00.html,24195,3343347,00.html

Pictures of Today!

Incidentally, if you're interested in a program to view, print, email, or make web pages of pictures on your computer, here's one I wrote:

Here's Phobos, one of Mars's two moons. It orbits Mars every 8 hours at an altitude of 3600 miles, compared to our moon at about 250,000 miles high. The picture was taken in 1978 by Viking 1.


A Bee on Ruby Mountain


A cloud over Princeton


This is a funny looking green plant with pointy leaves.


And finally, a couple of pictures from the Pryor Creek Nature Trail

        Img_1414.jpg      Img_1419.jpg

(~) 2001, No rights reserved. Copying this fine piece of work without express written permission from the copyright holder is OK with me.

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I'm Bob Webster and I can be found at Have a nice day!