More Junkmail from Bob!

Monday, October 15, 2001
Important Stuff.

Space Imaging

Space Imaging is a company in Denver that sells high quality satellite images. They launched the Ikonos satellite in 1999. With 1-meter resolution, Ikonos produces the highest-resolution commercial satellite photos in the world. That's pretty good resolution. Here's a good picture of a Pacific atoll.

Here are pictures of the World Trade Center before and after the plane crashes.


Here is a huge image of lower Manhattan on September 15, at the full 1-meter resolution of the Ikonos satellite. You might want to right click on it and then download it instead of viewing it with your browser since it's 3.8 megabytes. If you're looking at the thumbnail image, you can right click on it and "save target" to download the big image.


It's hard to believe that these pictures were taken from 423 miles up.

I was looking for some pictures of Afghanistan after the bombing. Then I ran across this article.

A week ago yesterday, the U.S. government spent a few million dollars for exclusive rights to all Space Imaging's Afghanistan imaging. They did this to keep the Afghanistan government from getting this information, and also to get all the information they can about the war zone. They also bought exclusive rights to other companies' satellite images.

Here's the Space Imaging gallery:

Free Flight

After more than a month, today the FAA finally allowed private VFR flights (within some limitations) in Houston, Kansas City, Memphis, New Orleans, and St. Louis. Tomorrow, they open Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Honolulu, Minneapolis and Phoenix. On Wednesday they open up Charlotte, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, and Seattle.

FAA boss Jane said that these airspaces are being opened because nobody cares what happens in those towns, and that the airspace around the civilized 15 major cities will stay closed to private VFR flights for a while. Well, maybe those weren't her exact words.

China has a few new flight restrictions too. People from Afghanistan, Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Sudan, Kuwait, Libya, and Algeria are banned from flying in China -- even as passengers.

People from these 20 countries are not allowed to buy or use airline tickets in China, including Hong Kong. People from those countries who already have tickets can get a refund. I'm not sure how they're supposed to get home.

Cold Mail

I have a hotmail address I haven't used in a long time. But something I signed up for a long time ago uses that hotmail address to send me the password in case I forget it, which I did. So yesterday I needed access to my hotmail account.

Sometime after I originally got my hotmail account, Microsoft bought hotmail. Now, when I went back to access to my account, it didn't work. I was logged in, but when I tried to email myself it said I wasn't valid. I took this as a personal insult, but eventually figured out that it meant I had been gone too long.

I had to go through all kinds of rigmarole to get it reactivated. Finally I successfully completed their web navigation test, only to encounter the "I Agree" terms.

The hotmail "I Agree" terms consist of 27 pages of legal contract plus 11 links to "additional terms" that I didn't bother to look at. I'm guessing that there might be one or two other hotmail users who have neglected to read the full 27 pages plus the 11 links to additional terms.

I had three choices. I could read the terms, some of which I was bound to disagree with, and click "I do not agree." Then I wouldn't be able to read my email and get my long lost password. Or I could read the terms and call Microsoft and ask them to change the terms I felt were unfair. I was pretty sure how far I'd get with that.

So I opted for the third option and clicked "I agree." I was IN! But the Email I was looking for was not there. So I went back to the other site and eventually guessed the old password.

Everything was good until last night when a Microsoft representative knocked on my door to claim my first born son...

Winders for Sale

A guy named Ron had a couple of old copies of Windows 95 that he put on eBay for $5 each. Doesn't seem like a big deal, does it? But Microsoft lawyers said, "Microsoft demands that you cease and desist from distributing unauthorized Microsoft software immediately."

Sure enough, Ron had clicked something when he installed software 5 or 6 years ago that said he wouldn't do that. I doubt if Ron read it, and I'm pretty sure he didn't remember it if he did. How much money will Microsoft spend stopping the $5 sale of its 6-year old software on eBay? Seems like some strong-arm tactics to me.

Last May Microsoft started a program of canceling eBay auctions of used software. It generated a lot of negative feedback.

"I own this software. It is mine to sell."
"Ended my perfectly legit sale."
"I was forced to buy it from Dell, I should be able to sell it."
"I have the right to sell the Windows 98 I BOUGHT.. this is BULL....."
"ended 2 of my legit auctions. won't respond to emails."
"Legit auction canceled."
"MS & Ebay Cancelled my perfectly legit auction."
"copyright violation - on unopened retail box!"

Microsoft has genned up its eBay policing again so people who plan to buy Windows XP won't be selling their old copies of Windows. I don't see how selling used software can hurt Microsoft very much, but I do see how their heavy-handed tactics can cost them some goodwill with the public.


Record Terrorism

I did not realize that downloading a song on Napster or Morpheus was terrorism. I'm not sure who I would terrify if I download a copy of "Talking Fishing Blues," except maybe someone who heard me play it. But the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) apparently considers it terrorism.

The RIAA tried to get onto the anti-terrorist bandwagon by getting an amendment added to the new anti-terrorism law. It would allow them to legally hack into anybody's computer (including mine) as long as they do it with "reasonable intentions" of impeding or preventing electronic piracy. They would be immune from liability for any data loss.

To put this into English, it means if they believe that you are copying their music, they can format your hard drive and you can do nothing about it. They don't even need proof or evidence. Luckily, somebody happened to notice that this didn't seem quite right before the amendment was added to the bill, and it looks like there's not much chance of it becoming law.

Undeterred, the RIAA is coming up with another, less severe amendment that they intend to add to the antiterrorism bill. Would somebody please tell the politicians that copying music on the internet is not terrorism?,2100,47552,00.html

Sircam and Magistr

I think I mentioned before in Junkmail that the Sircam email worm doesn't do any damage, it just replicates. It turns out I was wrong. On October 16, and tomorrow too, mostly outside the U.S., some computers with the Sircam worm will have most of their hard drives erased. It might be worth checking out if you've gotten an email that says, "I send you this file in order to have your advice."

A funny thing is that some email servers will bounce this Junkmail because I have that phrase in it. Their virus protection keeps out virus warnings too. So if you're not reading this email, it might be because your email server doesn't like the phrase "I send you this file in order to have your advice."

More specifically, on October 16, 1 in 20 computers that use the d/m/y date format and that were infected with a certain "strain" of the Sircam worm will have all their folders and files deleted from drive c:. I'm not sure whether it will delete hidden, read-only, and system files.

Different "strains" of the worm usually occur when someone takes a good (well-written) virus or worm and adds something to it. This is easier than writing and entire new virus or worm. Occasionally a worm will produce different versions of itself randomly.

1 in 50 Sircam computers will have their hard drives filled by the file c:\recycled\sircam.sys. I'm not sure whether this is all versions of the worm or just some.

Some people think there's a bug in Sircam that prevent its payload from being released.,1282,47582,00.html

It's kind of interesting the way computer viruses and worms mimic live parasites. The email viruses and worms, or at least the "successful" ones, do not immediately destroy their hosts. If they did, they could not reproduce. For example, it would be easy to make Sircam erase the hard drive on every computer it infected. But if it did that, it would destroy its host and could not reproduce. Instead, it only erases a few random hard drives after a waiting period.

Also, the viruses and worms mutate into new strains, sometimes by design and sometimes by programmers. Sometimes the new strains are "resistant" to anti-virus software. There's really no real resistance, just avoidance, because the anti-virus software may not recognize a new version of the virus program.

Another popular email virus is the Magistr virus. My parents were kind enough to send me a copy of it last week. It's pretty surprising how much it does and how it works.

It sends itself out to people in your address book, but the email it sends is different for every person. It grabs documents from files in your documents directory and collects random sections of the files for the email body. The subject is randomly generated also. In addition to the exe, .bat, .pif, or .com attachment containing the virus, it selects 0, 1, or 2 files from your hard drive and sends them as attachments.

After a month, the virus starts messing up your system. The look at the Technical Description in these pages -- it's pretty interesting.

Most viruses and worms today are spread through email, except for the ones that infect web servers. How do you keep from getting an email virus? Do two things:

        1. Keep your email software updated.
        2. Don't click on an executable attachment.

What's an executable attachment? There are lots of them, but the most common are ones with an extension .exe, .bat, .pif, .com, .vb, .vbe, .vbs, .wsc, or .wsf. If you don't recognize an attachment, then don't open it. I will click on links, .jpg, or .bmp file attachments, but that's about all.

If you use Outlook (not Outlook Express), you can install the latest security patch from Microsoft and it will automatically block all executable file attachments so you can't open them even if you want to.

Outlook Express has some security patches available that you should have installed if you haven't already. Some email viruses can be executed without opening an attachment in non-updated versions of Outlook and Outlook Express.

You can upgrade your Outlook Express by clicking on "Windows Update" on your start menu.

This site has links where you can update the various versions of Outlook:

I may have mentioned this about 37 times before, but I'll keep on.

1. Microsoft should have an option in their email software that prevents programs from being executed from within an email.
2. Microsoft should have an option in their email software that prevents emails you open from accessing the internet without your permission.
3. Microsoft should have an option in their browsers that lets you prevent new browser windows from being opened automatically.

Maybe I should call it terrorism and get these added to a new law.

While on the subject of viruses, one person on the Junkmail list has apparently been infected with the Hybris worm for several months now. Every time I send out a Junkmail, I get a copy of this worm as a reply.

War Profiteers, etc.

I couldn't resist. Against my better judgement, wrote some stuff related to the World Trade Center plane crashes and the related questionable politics. But then, "questionable politics" is redundant, isn't it? I put it under a separate link to make it easy to skip in case you're as tired of hearing about this stuff as I am.

Go here for "War Profiteers," "A Princely Sum," "The Sky is Falling," and "Anthrax." This material is optional. You will not be tested over it.

Here's an informative article about Bin Laden's organization. Informative articles on this stuff are pretty sparse lately.

Pictures of Today!

It's possible to see the International Space Station with your naked eye in the evening. It's even possible to see it with glasses. It's looks like a star moving across the sky. I was surprised to see how good you can see it with an 8-inch telescope. Ricardo Borba took this image in his Ottawa back yard using his 8" telescope and a digital video camera. It's impressive. The image on the right is a mock-up, and the one on the left is from his telescope.


Here's a tree on Guadalupe Peak, Texas.


Here are some Alps near Chamonix, France.

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I'm Bob Webster, and I reside at Have a good day!