The Super Bowl people are almost as touchy about people using their name as the Olympic International Committee. So maybe we should call it the Super Bowel to avoid prosecution.
Kamchatka is the eastern peninsula of Russia, complete with four volcanoes erupting at once.
When you want to make a chart look like there’s less difference or change, just use a logarithmic scale. Hide the elephant.
Some people ran some tests on antivirus software, and Microsoft Security Essentials didn’t score very high. I still prefer MSE, though, because it doesn’t seem to slow things down or clutter up my computer as much as the others. And its score was plenty good for me.
No, this is not some sect of eastern religious fanatics. It’s a type of nuclear reactor. Here’s an interesting article:
Last month, the writers of site cnet.com voted for the Best of CES (Consumer Electronics Show), an annual award. The winner was Dish Network’s Hopper, box for your TV that can automatically skip commercials.
But the winner was not the winner. CBS owns cnet.com. The CBS bosses don’t like Hopper because it keeps people from seeing their ads. So the CBS bosses order the cnet bosses to order the cnet workers to revote, and remove Hopper from the competition.
A lot of people, including me, consider this very bad manners. One of the top writers at cnet, Greg Sandoval, resigned, saying he no longer had confidence in his editorial independence.
The CES was more than a little critical of cnet and CBS, and cnet will not be producing the “Best of CES” any more.
CBS and Dish Network are involved in a lawsuit over Hopper, but I suspect that lawsuit will have much less effect on CBS’s business than this fiasco. I read that the CEO of CBS was the one who threw a hissy fit and demand that cnet revote. If so, he should be fired.
Another story under the heading of Journalistic Integrity and the Lack Thereof is about The Atlantic. The Atlantic, a magazine that’s been around since 1857, recently had a piece online (and maybe in print?) about the Church of Scientology. It was very favorable. A lot of people wondered about this.
It turns out that it’s really an ad, or “native ad”, or “advertorial”. It looks like an article, but apparently includes the label “sponsor content” in some inconspicuous location. In other words, the Church of Scientology wrote the article and paid for it to be published in The Atlantic. That seems a little shady to me, and, apparently, the Washington Post.
And, if the Republican and Democratic parties have any say in the matter, we’ll be at war forever. Not a real war, just the “War on Terror” and its affiliated security theater. There’s almost unlimited power available when you can cite “National Security”.
It’s almost as bad as the war on computing.
A guy named Aaron was being prosecuted for copying a bunch of academic papers and making them available on the internet. He committed suicide, and it made the news. He was facing more prison time than most violent criminals.
A guy named Jonathan remixed and uploaded a video to YouTube three years ago. It got more than 3 million views. Now Lionsgate has killed the video, claiming copyright violation. I believe their claim is invalid. I haven’t seen the video and probably wouldn’t watch it, but it bothers me when big companies throw their weight around improperly.
Animals do it better.
John Wiley Publishing won $7,000 apiece from a couple of people who supposedly shared a “… for Dummmies” book online. They sued a whole bunch of people, but two of them ignored the lawsuit and got to pay a default judgment. Who knows whether they really did anything? They were sued on the basis of an IP address.
I guess I’ll stop buying “…for Dummies” books.
When you ask “Google Now” on your Android (a really cool application) “What is a giraffe?”, it answers and then says “he now praises the iPad.” Or at least it did. It may have been fixed by now. Here’s a funny thread on the bug.
Wikipedia is impressively accurate, considering almost anybody can edit or even create articles. “Graffiti” on Wikipedia is quickly recognized and removed. New articles are checked for accuracy by other Wikipedia users and volunteers.
But occasionally a hoax slips by. Such as the Bicholim Conflict of 1640-1641, which took place in Northern India. But it really didn’t. The false entry lasted five years.
The entry on the Bicholim Conflict has been deleted, but the hoax is mentioned in the Wikipedia article “Reliability of Wikipedia“.
A guy named Robert has a software company in New York called Extension Software. They wrote some gambling software used by about 20 online gambling companies, all overseas.
The government charged Robert, his wife, and his brother-in-law with one felony count for promoting gambling in New York. It seems that some people in New York participate in online gambling.
The prosecutors were very accommodating. They offered Robert a deal. If he would put a back door in his gambling software that gave them access to the gambling servers (users, passwords, contact information, etc) then he wouldn’t go to jail. Never mind that that is probably more illegal than the original charges.
Robert refused, so now he is headed to trial. He’s not charged with gambling, or making or taking bets. He’s guilty of programming. Of course, all programmers should go to jail.
I bet he’s glad he didn’t do something really bad like file sharing. A guy from Virginia named Jeremiah was sentenced to 5 years in prison for sharing some movies, music, and games online.
But why is ice slippery?
In case you missed it, another year has passed since the last Junkmail.
On July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch in what is now Death Valley National Park, a temperature of 134 degrees was recorded, the hottest official temperature on record. In preparation of the 100th anniversary of that day, the previous world record in Libya was declared invalid, for legitimate reasons.
Death Valley is now the hottest place in the world.
The Raspberry Pi is a small computer that costs about $35. It’s about 2 inches by 3 inches. It doesn’t come with a keyboard, monitor, or hard drive, but it looks like it would be fun to play with. It’s one of those things I plan to get into “one of these days.”
Patent troll Intellectual Ventures has created thousands of empty companies so they can freely sue and extort money from U.S. businesses without damaging their stellar reputation. Liability protection could also have been a factor.
They may be in trouble, though, when patent and copyright trolling is patented.
Why is everybody patenting everything and suing over it? Two reasons. (1) The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gladly issues patents on simple, non-unique, abstract ideas that don’t even qualify as inventions. (2) If you get lucky in a patent lawsuit, you can make millions and billions of dollars, even with a shaky patent.
For example, Carnegie Mellon University won a $1.2 billion verdict on a patent lawsuit, when the patent is for a simple logic function that has probably been used many times before in various applications:
According to some patent lawyers, if you have a scanner then you owe $1,000 to Project Paperless LLC (if you settle out of court) for violating their patent. The USPTO apparently gave them a patent that covers using a scanner. It won’t fly in court, but there will be a few dummies who pay up, in support of the patent extortion industry.
In unrelated news, the USPTO has awarded Apple a trademark on the layout of its stores. So if you open a store with chairs and counters and displays that happen to be similar to Apple’s layout, you could be in big trouble.
David Axe wrote a graphic novel about “the Lord’s Resistance Army”, a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In support of the First Amendment, the U.S. Government has seized most of his advance payment because it’s a terrorist conspiracy.
I haven’t read the book and probably won’t, but I have to wonder what the real story is here. I don’t believe the government would seize anybody’s book proceeds willy-nilly, even if the book was poorly written and critically disparaged. At the same time, I wonder if the real reason for this seizure is legitimate, legal, or reasonable.
Ted Turner has some land in Montana — about 149,000 acres. Billionaire Stanley Kroenke recently bought a 124,000-acre ranch.
But that’s nothing. A couple of brothers named Dan and Ferris now own 276,000 acres, about 431 square miles or 111,000 hectares, of Montana ranch land.
Dan and Ferris are building a private airport with a 6,000-foot runway so they don’t have the inconvenience of landing their jet in Lewiston and taking a helicopter to the ranch.
Reminiscent of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Department of Justice says the lawsuit against the NSA for warrantless wiretapping should be dismissed because of “state secrets”.
The NSA’s wiretapping of U.S. citizens without warrants began in October 2001 under the Bush Administration. The program has continued into Obama administration, who is now defending the action.
In 2008, Congress granted legal immunity to telecommunications companies that violate their customers’ privacy rights for the U.S. government.
The EFF tried to get people to stop the reauthorization of warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens on international phone calls.
I guess the EFF was trying to protect stateless secrets. It didn’t work. Warrantless wiretapping is legal for five more years.
A Moslem group from the Middle East has been mounting internet DDoS attacks against U.S. banks, in order to convert Christians and Jews to the Islamic religions.
A DDoS attack is a distributed denial of service strategy used to overload a web site and effectively shut it down. If you’d like to mount one of these, get ahold of a botnet (which can be purchased from Russia, Ukraine, or other countries that participate in the free trade of hacking toolkits. You can probably get them to throw in a DDoS toolkit.)
Then, just fill in the blanks and away you go! The attacks on the banks didn’t have a very big effect. I’d bet the network administrators got a nice blood pressure boost when they first experienced the 50-fold increase in internet traffic, but now the banks have gotten pretty good at re-routing their internet traffic. Now when one of these attacks occurs, most customers don’t even notice a slowdown.
Since these attacks are publicized as a foreign terrorist attack, and Moslem ones at that, they get a lot of undeserved publicity. This, by coincidence, fits right in with Homeland Security’s policy of tighter internet regulation. Of course, the Homeland Security policy has no effect on DDoS attacks — it just appeases Hollywood and the Recording Industry.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly exhibited their unequaled proficiency in technology, despite the fact that their boss does not used the internet.
A few months ago, Homeland Security lied about Russian hackers shutting down a water treatment plant in Illinois. They found a Russian IP address in a log dated 5 months before a pump failed. So they claimed a gang of Russian hackers may have committed internet espionage and shut down the water treatment plant.
Then they testified before Congress and said essentially that yes, the report was false, but it was a success because it raised the public interest. Congress saw no problem with this.
A controller for things like power plants, electrical distribution systems, water plants, nuclear power plants, and such would never be connected to the internet by anybody with half a brain. You can’t hack what you can’t access, and there’s no good reason for control systems like these to be accessible from the internet.
However, just might be possible to hack (or at least interfere with) GPS receivers.
In 2010 a Canadian F-18 crashed practicing for an air show. There were lots of photos of the crash flying around the internet. It turns out the crash was caused by a faulty fuel controller.
Very few people swim in Lake Ellsworth. In fact, nobody does. Or has. Lake Ellsworth is under almost 2 miles of Antarctic ice. The rocks underneath it are warm enough to keep it liquid.
A dozen people from the U.K. are “drilling” down to the lake to see what’s been living there (or once lived there) over the past 500,000 years.
Their drill amounts to a hot water pipe. They are melting a 2-mile-deep hole in the ice. When they get down to Lake Ellsworth, they plan to grab some samples before the hole re-freezes. It should be pretty interesting.
Passwords are getting easier and easier to crack. It’s not because the passwords are changing. It’s because processors are getting faster.
It seems that modern graphics cards used by gamers (in particular their parallel processing GPUs) are well suited for trying a whole bunch of passwords in a dictionary or brute force password crack.
This doesn’t work online, but if you have a public hash of a password, it’s a lot easier to gain access to whatever its protecting than it was 10 or 5 or even 2 years ago.
GPUs are also useful in applications more mundane than gaming and hacking, such as building the most powerful supercomputer in the world. The new “Titan” at Oak Ridge National Labs has about 37,000 CPUs and about 37,000 GPUs.
The U.S. Copyright law has gotten somewhat flaky over the past several years. The RIAA has won awards of hundreds of thousands of dollars from individuals (single mothers, students, etc.) for sharing files on the internet.
There are other problems with U.S. Copyright laws, but I’ll spare you the 13-page rant. You can find details on Wikipedia and via Google.
Hollywood and the Recording industry have been making large campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats, along with their PACS, for a lot of years. The Democratic Party, and the Vice President in particular, are well known for doing whatever these industries ask.
I was surprised when the Republicans came out with a policy statement on the copyright law that was very good, and did not mesh well with the MPAA and RIAA view of the world. They did wait until just after the elections to release this, I assume so it wouldn’t have an adverse effect on campaign fundraising.
It’s highly unusual for me to see something from a political party that I agree with.
The strength of the MPAA and RIAA apparently came into play, however. The excellent policy statement was retracted within 24 hours, and Derek, the primary author, was summarily fired. Maybe if he had paid the RIAA $3,000 he could have kept his job.
Oh well, it reaffirms my previous impressions of politics. And it’s also hilarious. I hope Derek writes a book, makes millions on it, and then puts it into the public domain.
Here’s are a couple of good interview with Derek. He’s actually very knowledgeable and practical about copyrights, patents, and technology issues. It’s no wonder the politicians fired him.
Other fun with copyrights:
I would hate to bash copyright law while overlooking stupid patents. It would hardly be Junkmail without it. Copyright is protection against people copying something you’ve written. Patents are protection against people copying something you’ve invented. Both concepts have broadened to the point of absurdity.
For example, both Apple and Google spent more money on patent lawsuits in 2011 than they spent on research and development of new products. In other words, both companies, as innovative as they are, could have done twice the research and development if they had not been forced to waste so much time and money on patent lawsuits.
I’ve ranted so much about stupid patents in the past, I’ll skip the obligatory “stupid patent examples” today. Or maybe not.
Here are some “real” articles about stupid patents, the USPTO’s ineptitude, and the rising popularity of the patent troll industry.
Here’s an example of the U.S. Patent Office going too far. They are now opening patent offices in universities:
It is easy to encrypt data, unless you intend to write the encryption algorithm yourself. It is easy to encrypt data in a database. It is easy to encrypt data in an online database using a public key. If encryption is not already built into the database system, it’s easy to get a plugin that will encrypt the data securely.
So, when a company has financial or personal data in an online database system, it should be encrypted, and almost always is.
However, there is one idiot who’s liable to sue you if you encrypt online data. You can thank the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for that.
When a government has financial or personal data on an online database system, you never know whether they will bother to encrypt it. Especially if that government has the technical prowess of the South Carolina State Government.
Some hackers recently accessed 3.6 million South Carolina tax payer records, including social security numbers. They also accessed the tax returns of a few hundred thousand private businesses. All this isn’t too surprising, considering how easy it is to break into a computer network. It’s not that uncommon.
The funny part is the reaction of South Carolina. The social security numbers were not encrypted. This is stupid. What’s even more stupid is the governor’s statement that most banks don’t encrypt them, it’s too complex to do, and the industry standard is that they are not encrypted. (This is all 100% incorrect.)
I can understand that while the typical state governor may not have the mental capacity of a gnat, the governor should at least have some staffers with rudimentary cognitive awareness. I didn’t even bother to look into how hackers got onto the network. I’m sure it was a sophisticated, coordinated attack such as guessing “password” for the network admin password, or sending a trojan in an email attachment.
In fairness, data encryption is just another hurdle to hackers. It means they have to find the password for the data they’re after. It’s not surefire protection, but it will block the majority of data breaches.
Good encryption is hard enough to crack that some enterprising hackers are using it for extortion. Some hackers encrypted all the patient records of a medical center in Australia, and demanded $4,000 for the password to decrypt them. This technologically advanced office did not have any backups, so they’re using paper records now.
In Sundarbari, Bihar, India, the village council made it illegal for all unmarried females to use cell phones. Any single girl or woman caught on a cell phone will face a fine of about $180, typically a few months’ income. About 8,000 people live in Sundarbari.
The village council is an unelected, informal council that has the power of law over the citizens of the predominantly Moslem village. They understandably said cell phones promote extramarital affairs and unsanctioned marriages, and erode the moral fabric of society.
In unrelated news, the French government is issuing cell phones to all unmarried females.
Soon we should be able to get flexible cell phones.
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is owned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. So is the U.S. Coast Guard. But I won’t go into that today.
FEMA was made famous in 2005 when they bungled things in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. One of my favorites was them buying 145,000 trailers for the low, low price of $2,700,000,000. Then they couldn’t find enough people to fill all the trailers.
Since then, FEMA has auctioned off most of the trailers for just under 12 cents on the dollar. Not bad for government work.
Fast forward a few years to Hurricane Sandy, or whatever its category when it hit New York City. FEMA rented 120 rooms at the Milford Plaza Hotel for some reason unknown to us mortals. The rooms were empty when Wall Street Journal reporters went knocking on doors.
FEMA’s tab at the Milford Plaza was under $1 million, but I understand they rented rooms for cockroaches at other hotels, too. Sure, it can’t come close to the $2.7 billion trailer debacle of Katrina, but Sandy wasn’t even a real hurricane when it hit New York.
I found this particularly ironic, because I used to stay at the Milford Plaza, along with other diligent ViaGrafix workers, when we exhibited at PC Expo and other now-defunct trade shows. We paid a lot less than half the $295/night government rate.
A guy in Boston named Simon took a cell phone video of some police making an arrest. So the police arrested Simon and charged him with Illegal electronic surveillance. Similar arrests have been made in Massachusetts and around the country.
Simon’s case was tossed out of court in August, 2011, setting some legal precedent. In addition to dismissing the case, the court found the arrest violated the first and fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Some Massachusetts police have not been deterred. They arrested a guy named Irving because a girl in his car took a video of Irving getting a speeding ticket and posted it on Youtube.
In Salt Lake City the police are taking the opposite approach. There is a new policy for police to wear video cameras on glasses, so everything they do will be recorded on video. I hope they can switch them off in the bathroom.
So now, some concerned citizens want to be able to video police, but they don’t want the police to video them. Conversely, some police officers want to video others but don’t want anybody else to video them.
I think that trying to stop everybody from taking videos of everyone else is a little like trying to stop the tide from coming in. Resistance is futile.
The elections have been over for months, and most people have forgotten about them by now. So I would like to bring you some issues I am in favor of, and I believe are important.
The surprising thing is that the Democrat Party is against each one of these. The other surprising thing is that the Republican Party is against each one of these.
Odd, huh? Come to think of it, I don’t know a single person who agrees with me on all these vital issues.
Serious campaign finance reform should be enacted. (Parties are publicly in favor of this, but privately against doing anything that would adversely affect campaign contributions.)
Software patents should be eliminated.
Patents on business processes (i.e. ideas) should be eliminated.
Overly broad, trivial, or non-unique patents should be banned. (This includes the majority of patents issued today, and the majority of the 250,000 patents that cover a smart phone.)
The maximum term for copyrights should be 25 years plus one 25-year renewal.
There should be reasonable penalties for copyright violations. The penalty for internet music file sharing should be comparable to a traffic fine, not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
U.S. citizens should be able to cross the U.S. border without Homeland Security’s authorization.
The U.S. government should not have the authority to take down or censor web sites without notice, as is the current policy of the Department of Homeland Security. A hearing with both parties able to argue should be required.
People on the internet should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and internet eavesdropping by the government should require a warrant.
The prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed.
The DMCA should be nullified (although sites that allow user content to be posted should not be responsible for that content, as is the law now.)
The federal government should raise taxes AND cut spending, as much as the economy can reasonably handle.
U.S. science research should be doubled, at a minimum. It should be done in all areas of science without regard to political topics of the day. Military science research should be funded separately.
The Department of Homeland Security should be split up and significantly cut in funding and size.
The U.S. Coast Guard should not be part of the Department of Homeland Security.
You should not be required to remove your shoes before you get onto an airplane, and it should not cost $100 to keep your shoes on.
Gasoline taxes should be raised.
Ethanol subsidies should be terminated.
Trade negotiations such as SOPA should be public and transparent.
Legal fees should be severely limited in class action lawsuits.
Prescription drug advertising should be curtailed or illegal.
Unnecessary drugs and therapy should not be paid for by the government.
The U.S. government should not prevent U.S. citizens from visiting Cuba or any other country on earth. Or mars.
Several of these are what I consider “internet issues.” The big-time politicians have not quite figured out that there is a significant internet voting block, although the SOPA business about a year ago should have given them a hint.
I don’t put many Youtube videos in Junkmail, but this one is exceptional.
A B-52 and the U.S. aircraft carrier Ranger:
China flew its new fighter not long ago, the J-31. It’s similar to the U.S. F-35, and probably designed for use on aircraft carriers.
In 2011, China test flew its J-20 stealth fighter:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.
– Ogden Nash
Batteries are getting better! My new electric razor lasts longer than my old one, which is nice because it lives in my car. Cameras take more pictures. Laptops compute longer. It’s amazing that tablet computers run at all.
There are more efficient electric motors now, too, making electric radio-controlled airplanes not just feasible, but capable of performance for all kinds of aerobatics, and long enough run times for reasonable flights.
Quadcopters are really cool, combining the batteries, motors, and small computers.
You can do a Google search for lots of quadcopter sources.
People are working on electric manned aircraft. The technology isn’t quite good enough for production planes, but they’re making progress.
A few weeks ago, my two brothers Jerry and Mike and I rented a boom lift to demolish a dead tree. (We couldn’t use dynamite because it was too close to a building.) Eventually we beat the tree into submission, using the programming strategy of “divide and conquer”. The tree services don’t have anything to fear from us, at least in the way of competition.
But the interesting part is the lift we rented. It comes on a trailer and rents for $180 per day. It’s battery powered! Not only that, it is built sturdy enough that after we used it, it can be rented again!
I keep thinking of a lot of things these lifts would be good for. Unfortunately, most of them involve jail time.
Part of the technology for these advances came from hybrid cars. I have driven hybrids a few times, and they feel like a “regular” car. But I didn’t try submerging one in salt water.
Tesla has a new electric car, with 416 hp. It goes 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. It beat a BMW M5 in a race to 100 mph.
I think that’s really cool, but it’s not practical for me. Even if it was cheap (which it’s not, at $50,000 to $98,000), it has a range of only 246 miles, and then it takes a while to charge. With a high-powered supercharger (not available anywhere near my house) it takes 45 minutes to an hour to completely recharge. With a 240v outlet, you can charge at 62 miles of range per hour, 3-4 hours for a full charge.
Before long performance will go up and prices will come down. I think electric cars and nuclear power will eventually replace a large part of the coal and gasoline used today. I also think the U.S. should get into the science research of this in a big way.
Tesla got a $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy for the research and development of electric cars. That’s a lot of money to go to one company. But 10 times that much goes for wind power and ethanol, each, annually, and in subsidies rather than loans. Even more than that goes for petroleum subsidies. I think we’d be better off to spend those billions on research instead of production. Science has a lot better return.
Last November, for about 27 minutes, in some parts of the world, Google went offline. When something like this makes news, it makes a statement about how much communications have advanced.
The outage was caused by a mistake at a telecom company in Indonesia, which caused packets of data to wander aimlessly in the ether net.
Did you ever wonder what the inside of a Google datacenter looks like inside?
Here’s the one outside Pryor:
Amazon’s web services went down too, in October. It was for more typical reasons.
Paul Tibbets was the pilot of the Enola Gay when it dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. This interview is really interesting. Some of the things I have read about that mission are completely wrong.
Throw anybody who didn’t predict the earthquake in jail.
Just for fun, a guy named Bogo spent $5 to get one million Facebook data entries, including full name, email, and Facebook profile URL. Then he wrote about it in his blog.
Rather than fix their security, Facebook called up Bogo and told him, “Now we would like you to send us this file, delete it, tell us if you have given a copy of it to someone, give us the website from which you bought it including all transactions with it and the payment system and remove a couple of things from your blog. Oh and by the way, you are not allowed to disclose any part of this conversation; it is a secret that we are even having this conversation”
It is really funny.
Did you ever wonder how those people targeted by drone-launched missiles get targeted?
The U.S. government owes money to some people — about $16 trillion. The government sells treasury securities (bonds, for example), and people buy them. The U.S. government pays interest on the securities. U.S. treasury securities are widely considered the safest investment in the world.
I hear a lot of people complain that the U.S. owes China for most of the national debt. This is completely wrong. As of June 2012, China owned 7.2% of the U.S. national debt. Japan was close behind at 7.1%.
I also hear some occasional whining and complaining about the Federal Reserve buying up U.S. Treasuries in order to keep interest rates low. Yes, they are doing this. But the Fed owns a smaller overall percentage of treasury securities than they did 10 years ago. On the other hand, today the Fed is the proud owner of a whole lot more mortgage-backed securities than it was in 2002.
I have not used Windows 8, and I would prefer not to give up Windows 7 to something more cumbersome. And, I’m convinced it’s more cumbersome to use. It seems that Microsoft has sacrificed some desktop usability to make Windows 8 work well with pads and phones.
Here’s a pretty good discussion on Windows 8, in case you’d like to get some various opinions from mostly knowledgeable people.
A Windows 8 review: