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Bob's Junkmail (important stuff.)

Bob’s Junkmail, #220


Pure Text

In recent iterations of Microsoft Office, Firefox, and/or Windows, an evil cabal of international conspirators has decided that I am required to include formatting information when I copy and paste from one document or web site to another. This is really dumb. At a minimum there should be a setting for text-only copying.

When I copy something from a web site into Word, it always comes in at an odd size and a font other than Arial 11, which is naturally what the world should use. It’s likely to have some type of formatting that puts it into a text box or some odd object.

The solution used to involve pasting into Notepad++ and copying that text back to word, or, for a single line, the following key sequence: Windows, ctrl-v, ctrl-a, ctrl-x, esc.

I finally found a way to fight these enemies of common sense.  Puretext will let you hit Windows-V to paste plain text into a document. It’s simple, and it works!

http://code.google.com/p/puretext-plus/downloads/list


Wikileaks

It’s been months since the Wikileaks hoopla, when a guy named Bradley from Crescent Oklahoma met fame and misfortune when he gave a couple hundred thousand “cables,” or old-fashioned emails, to Wikileaks. There was a lot of misinformation floating around after that. Here’s a pretty funny story (one of many) about how some things got all mixed up in the press.

http://breakingthecalm.blogspot.com/2010/12/musing-on-m…

From July 2010 to April 2011 Bradley was enjoying a private room (i.e. solitary confinement) in Quantico, Virginia, when 295 legal scholars, philosophers, and other miscreants pressured the government into easing up. Bradley is now in Leavenworth Kansas, courtesy of the U.S. Government, awaiting trial or sentencing or some sort of legal action.

Since 2010, Wikileaks has been leaking some of the quarter million or so State Department cables onto the Internet. Then, Wikileaks had a leak. Someone copied the infamous cables from Wikileaks and put them all out on the internet, and sent them to a couple of newspapers to boot. This latest leak embarrassed or endangered quite a few people, and was widely considered to be bad manners.

http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/WikiLeaks-Blame…

Wikileaks said, “It’s not our fault. The newspapers did it.” The newspapers said, “We thought Wikileaks was an anti-secrecy organization.” The U.S. Government said, “irresponsible, reckless and dangerous,” and “new security measures,” and “internet?”

In case you got fed up with the blizzard of Wikileaks misinformation a while back and didn’t read it (or forgot it), here is the whole story, complete with facts and sans spin:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_diplomatic_c…

You might think the government has given up trying to keep this information covered up, particularly since it’s all over the web, but you would be wrong. A guy named Peter who has worked for the State Department for 23 had a link inhis blog… that went to a 2009 cable about the sale of U.S. military spare parts to Qadaffi. Now Peter is being investigated by the State Department for “disclosing classified information.”

Peter wrote a book We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. The book is is critical of the State Department and U.S. government policy, so this investigation may be partially in retaliation for that. Maybe Peter should carry an umbrella to ward off drone attacks.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/09/gov-employee-f…


Public Collusion

When a company issues stock to the public for the first time in an “initial stock offering” (IPO, or going public), it may raise several million to several billion dollars. But it has to pay 7% to the underwriters. That’s a large fee. It’s also 75% higher than similar fees in Europe. Mark, Tim, and Howard from Oxford say it’s because of collusion among the investment banks (both U.S. and European) doing business in the U.S. They must not realize that the ethics of the bosses at large U.S. investment banks is beyond reproach.

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2011/06/07/the-us…

http://www.afajof.org/afa/forthcoming/7651.pdf


Solar Storms

I read recently that everyone on earth will be grounded because of the coming solar storms. Also, solar storms cause global warming, ice ages, earthquakes, bad breath, locust infestations.

Here’s the truth:

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/06/…

The solar cycle will peak around 2013, and it probably won’t be as bad as normal. Even if it is, it won’t have a significant effect on society as we know it. Worry about getting hit by a lightning or winning the lottery instead. Your phone will still work and your lights will stay on, subject to terrestrial weather and Phoenix electrical workers.


sfc /scannow

Are you missing some Windows 7 files? Probably not, but if you want to make sure, run sfc /scannow from the command line. It is supposed to repair Windows 7 files that are missing or messed up, but it doesn’t solve everything. You can read the results with edit c:\windows\logs\sfcdetails.txt.

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929833


Cell Phone Cancer

Radiation causes cancer by altering chemical bonds in DNA, RNA, and other important stuff in your cells. Cell phones use microwave signals. Microwaves don’t have enough energy to alter molecular bonds. Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for this. The microwaves from cell phones cannot cause cancer. While they can increase the temperature of your head, it is a tiny, tiny amount — much less change than walking indoors or outdoors causes.

There are about 7 billion people on and around earth at the moment. There are about 5 billion cell phones. If cell phones really caused brain cancer, then the statistics would show it. However, brain cancer rates have been declining for the past 20 years. Maybe if they called them something besides cell phones people wouldn’t be afraid of them.

And furthermore, HPV vaccinations do not cause autism, artism, or mental retardation!

Airplanes are inordinately dangerous, too, according to the press. Last April, the plane Michelle Obama was riding on a plane (a cargo 737) got too close to a C-17 cargo plane landing at Andrews Air Force Base. They were not in danger of colliding, but Michele Obama’s plane was too close to land behind the C-17 because of wake turbulence. So the First Lady’s plane did a circle and then landed. This is not unusual. Even I have done it, and I’m here to tell about it.

But the Washington Post said, she “came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet.” When a San Diego paper picked up the story, they quoted the Washington post as saying “A plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama almost collided with a military cargo jet on the runway at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, and had to abort landing.” There are many more similar stories. For the real story, read the bottom two paragraphs of Paul Bertorelli’s blog. Or read the whole thing. It’s pretty good.

http://www.avweb.com/blogs/insider/AVwebInsider_FirstLa…


New Passport Requirements

Last March the State Department issued a request for comments on a proposed passport application questionnaire. It asks, among a lot of other things, for every address you’ve ever lived at, when you lived there, every job you’ve ever held, when you worked, your supervisor’s name and phone number, and even some personal questions. This stirred up a little controversy.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/04/25/state-department-…

I cannot find out what ever happened to the proposed questionnaire. I would guess that they cancelled it and will come out with something similar later under a new name.

Here’s the questionnaire.

ds5513-proposed.pdf

Here’s a site about government infringement on freedom to travel. It might be just a little biased.

http://papersplease.org/


Facebook Shutdown

Want to kill someone’s Facebook page? Just claim copyright violation. They killed ArsTechnica’s a few months ago, no questions asked. Apparently Facebook doesn’t even ask for evidence.

http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/04/facebook-s…


Cyber War

Cyber War is just like WMDs in Iraq.

There are some people who will try to break into any computer on the internet. Many computers on the internet can be broken into, just like many houses. The difference is, your computer can be broken into by someone sitting in Fulton, Missouri or Kathmandu, Nepal or Wuxiang, China.

But that doesn’t make it a war.It means people not using safe computing. It won’t get you a lethal disease, but it will make your computer act funny. And in some cases it can cost you some money.

What is safe computing?

(1) Keep Windows (or your other operating system) updated.
(2) Use antivirus software and keep it updated.
(3) Don’t click on email attachments unless they’re from me.

Presidents Bush and Obama wanted an Internet Kill Switch implemented so they could shut off the internet in the event of an emergency. THAT would be a disaster in itself. Imagine if a couple dozen suicidal idiots decided to crash some airplanes into some buildings. In addition to grounding ALL planes for weeks, they’d shut down the internet just to convince us we need their protection.

If the U.S. has computers that should absolutely never be compromised, they should absolutely not be connected to the internet. It’s that simple.

http://arstechnica.com/security/news/2011/04/are-we-tal…


Today’s Physics Lesson

Antihydrogen has been trapped in a tube for more than 15 minutes.

1104.4982.pdf

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/arxiv/26709/

Supersymmetry probably won’t work out after all.

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/08/lhcb-detect…

Elsewhere in physics, some people at CERN (in Switzerland) blasted some neutrinos at the Gran Sasso lab in Italy. When they measured the neutrino speed, they showed that the neutrinos were going faster than the speed limit, which is the speed of light in a vacuum. So, they said, there must be some mistake.

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/09/neutrino-re…

But the press caught wind of the story and said things like, “Faster than light travel is just around the corner.” I like the press’s version better, other than the fact that they’re wrong.

Neutrinos pass through matter such as dirt and rock with almost no interference. They went right through the ground for somewhere around 500 miles. The Italian Minister of Education and Scientific Research, a lady named Mariastella, thought someone had dug a tunnel for the neutrinos to pass through. That’s an understandable mistake, unless you’re a Minister of Education and Scientific Research.

http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2011/09/something-i…


Facebook Felony

Should it be a felony to put a fake name on Facebook? In accordance with to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1847, it is the Justice Department’s position that a violation of the terms of service of a web site constitutes a federal crime.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903285704…

But Congress is planning to change this. They want to make any violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act a felony. I think that is not very nice.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legis…

Update:  They added an amendment to the bill that says terms of service violations will not be felonies, but everything else will be.

http://judiciary.senate.gov/legislation/upload/JEN11A19…


Employment e-Verification

Republicans used to be the party against unnecessary government regulation. When I voted this week, I had to show identification. They would not accept my Sam’s card. That must be because it expired a few years ago. Last year there was a Republican nationwide program to get this law passed in as many states as possible, because they figured, probably correctly, that more Democratic voters wouldn’t have ID when they came to the polls. I doubt if that had any effect in Oklahoma other than hassling the people who work at the polls.

Now Republicans want more unnecessary government regulation: a mandatory e-verification system for all new employees for all jobs. In other words, when you start work, you have to have your ID checked against a government database to make sure you’re a legal worker. They only have 8 false negatives for every 1000 people, so most of us won’t be hurt by this unless we’re illegal. Those 8 people out of a thousand who are false illegal aliens can get food stamps.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/09/mandato…

It seems as if Republicans have joined the Democrats in abandoning principles in favor of empowering the party and sticking to the “party line” at all costs. But what am I thinking… politicians with principles?

This might explain why, as both parties advocate a reduction in government, there are 230,000 employees in the Department of Homeland Security. There are more than 58,000 in Customs and Border Protection and about the same in the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), with no sign of any reduction in the future. That is a huge number of people.


Art, Lawyers, GEMA, and the Brooklyn Museum

Here’s a funny story of a lady named Nina and some art she did for the Brooklyn Museum. The Brooklyn Museum asked Nina to create a set of 11 iconic Vishnu avatars, kind of like this:

avatar640clear0002.png

They offered her an honorarium, though not a lot of money, but said the images could be under free license such as CC-BY-SA. So Nina made the avatars and sent them to the museum. The museum requested revisions, and she didn’t want to do them. The Museum sent her back a contract that she had never seen that provided for unlimited revisions, implying that she had signed the agreement. It got funny from there. You can read about it here:

http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/05/06/the-avatars-of-vishnu/

You can see Nina talking about Germans taking down her publicly licensed movie here:

http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/07/13/gema-frauds/

You can see Nina bouncing on a ball here:

http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/08/21/bounce-bounce-bounce/

Nina needs a webmeister to move her site. You’ll get paid in pizza. I’m not sure about unlimited revisions.

http://blog.ninapaley.com/2011/08/22/new-webmaster-needed/


Truthiness

Is it OK for the FBI to lie in Federal Court?  The EFF, the Freedom of Information Act, and a U.S. District Court play the major parts in this conjecture:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110506/00174414172/c…

The history of The History Channel defies logic and truth. But why should a documentary on a supposedly authoritative TV channel be accurate? They’re competing with The Attack of the Show (which, in fairness, seems pretty accurate.)

http://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/i-rememb…


Poverty

The poverty rate has gone up in the U.S., but so has the poverty limit. You are poor (financially) if your income is less than three times the food bill for a typical family in the 1960’s. The definition of income is where it gets fuzzy, though. Now you don’t have to include things like rent assistance, earned income credit, and food stamps. Democrats like a high poverty rate to show how much tax money needs to be spread around to lower income levels. Republicans like a high poverty rate when the Democrats are in control because it makes the economy look bad. There really are more poor people in the U.S. now than there were five years ago, but probably a lot less than there were in the 1960s. After all, we’ve had a war on poverty.

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2011/…


Orbit

Here is a good time-lapse video taken from the space station.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/09/…


Pirate Party

The Pirate Party is a political party formed in Sweden in 2006. They organized after some severe raids and penalties on file sharers. They are in favor of copyright and patent reform. I am also in favor of copyright and patent reform. I might be a pirate.

Last week the Pirate Party won 15 seats in the Berlin Parliament, after getting 9 percent of the vote. The win was a big surprise, and the first time the Pirate Party won seats in a state parliament.

http://www.myce.com/news/german-pirate-party-legally-ac…

http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,7870…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/berlin-state-ele…


Atlanta Video

If you’d like to be in a motion picture, visit Atlanta. The police have about 100 video cameras and are planning to “blanket the city” so they can see everything. Almost.

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/atlanta-increases-surve…

Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, who have thousands of video cameras each, consider Atlanta a rank amateur in the video surveillance game.

http://www.govtech.com/policy-management/Study-Surveill…


Disappearing Glaciers

Greenland has an ice sheet, and Greenland has some glaciers. The glaciers are slowly moving rivers of ice, and the ice sheet just sits there. The ice sheet is much larger and thicker than all the glaciers combined.

There was a minor mistake in this year’s Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World. They made of map of Greenland with the ice sheet, and neglected to put the glaciers on it. Then someone did some ciphering and figured out that 15 percent of Greenland’s ice has melted in the past 12 years. Of course, it hasn’t. That number is about 150 times too high. A lot of the glaciers have receded, maybe more than 15 percent, but that’s nowhere near 15 percent of Greenland’s total ice.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal. People make mistakes all the time, occasionally in Atlases. But since it’s global warming, there was a minor uproar over it. Some people are claiming there’s a conspiracy to brainwash the unwashed with false information, and that the earth is not warming.

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2011/09/atlas…

I will make the prediction here and now that Greenland will cool significantly over the next four months, rather than warming.

Here’s a very interesting note written by a guy named Matthew who, along with some others, discovered a planet made of diamond. It’s required reading:

http://theconversation.edu.au/diamond-planets-climate-c…

Here’s an article about Matthew’s planet:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110825-…


Police Videos

Police can (and should, in my opinion) record video while they work. In some states, Illinois, for example, there are laws against taking videos of police while they work. An Illinois state court has ruled this law unconstitutional.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110919/03455916010/i…

People argued against the ruling, pointing out that it is just one more nail in the coffin of the long tradition of political corruption… in Illinois.

The State of Illinois is appealing the decision. There are other Illinois cases, too:

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/special_s…


Tourism to the U.S.

Suppose you are a Chinese native and would like to take a vacation in the U.S. You need a visa. That’s not unusual. But it’s not free.

In fact, there is a $140 fee just to apply. Next, you need to buy a prepaid phone card that you must use to schedule a visa appointment. After that, there’s a long visa application you fill out online, in English. Then, after waiting somewhere between 2 and 100 days (the U.S. government won’t tell you how long, which makes scheduling your vacation a little difficult), you travel to a U.S. consulate with complete financial, family, and business records. You can expect to wait in line for 2 or 3 hours for a 5-minute interview. Finally, you will learn whether you are entitled to a tourist visa and can visit the United States.

If, on the other hand, you decide to take your vacation in France, it’s easy. France and most other European countries are more than happy to accept your money without the ridiculous visa obstacles of the U.S.

This, along with the world-renown TSA and Customs reception at the U.S., is why the U.S. is losing large numbers of Chinese, Brazilian, and Indian tourists to Europe and other tourist-friendly destinations.

agents-overview.jpg

But it’s not really a problem. The U.S. economy is doing fine without tourists bringing in more money.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/22/opinion/22iht-edshapi…


River Rattlers

I saw a military jet landing at Tulsa not long ago, so I took a picture of it. When I looked at the picture, I was surprised to see an F-18 with red stars on it.

P1320615a.jpg

It turns out that the Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 204 has had a year of “adversary missions.” This means they pretend to be the enemy in training exercises.

http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=57857


The Protect-IP Act

This law is being argued and paid for in the Senate, even as I type:

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110923/03004416062/s…

The movie and recording industry are paying U.S. politicians, through lobbyists and campaign contributions, to pass the Protect-IP act. This law limits and bans several legitimate uses of the internet, and they didn’t even ask for my opinion!

http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/09/technology…

Meanwhile, the Swedish Film Institute, Sweden’s answer to the MPAA, was caught illegally sharing its own movies. Which is not illegal at all, I suppose. But they couldn’t catch them in the act because the IP address could not be matched to a single person. That’s a bit ironic.

https://torrentfreak.com/movie-institute-feels-pain-of-…


Quickie Supercomputer

Need a massively parallel supercomputer? Go to Amazon Web Services and build your own. A pharmaceutical company needed some serious computing power, so they had a 30,000-core cluster assembled. It runs Linux and costs $1,279 per hour, a bargain.

http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/09/30000-core…

But cloud computing is not necessarily the most cost effective way to assemble thousands of processors for massive computations. At the University of Washington, some people made a computer game called Fold-it, where players get points and compete in accomplishing tasks for folding and modeling complex molecules.

“After scientists repeatedly failed to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in the Fold-it players. The scientists challenged the gamers to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks.”

http://scienceblog.com/47894/gamers-succeed-where-scien…

http://fold.it/portal/


iPad

I got an iPad not long ago, mainly for aviation charts and weather. It’s a pain not to be able do some simple things that I’m used to without going to find an app to download. I wanted to save and access the GPS track, since the iPad has a GPS and saves the track. But this requires an external app. So I paid 199¢ to get one.

But the download failed. It failed about 75 times. (I was persistent. I had paid $1.99, after all.) But it never said why it failed.

It said I should download it onto my computer. I thought my iPad was my computer, but it thought my Windows machine was my computer. So I tried to download it on my Windows computer. It said I needed a new version of iTunes before I could use that app. So I tried to figure out how to get a new iTunes onto my iPad.

It turns out that the new version of iTunes I needed was the one on my Windows machine, in order to download the app onto my iPad. It never bothered to tell me this, but I deduced it through trial and (mostly) error.

Eventually I got it all going. Apple seems to have made the iPad easy to use by not letting you do or know things that you might occasionally need. Then, today I read this blog that explains everything:

http://commandcenter.blogspot.com/2011/09/we-open-in-we…


Yahoo Mail

Yahoo mail has always been a little flaky for me. Over the past year or two they have started bouncing Junkmails, saying that there have been complaints about my email server. This was odd, because nobody else said I had any complaints, but apparently hundreds of Yahoo email recipients were complaining.

I eventually emailed and called enough people at Yahoo to learn that they send out the email alleging complaints whenever someone’s mail server has a significant increase in activity, regardless of the reason or whether they ever get a complaint.

Since I’m the only user on my mail server, sending out Junkmail to a bunch of people increases its activity very significantly. I finally got tired of Yahoo’s harassment and deleted the offending Yahoo email addresses from the Junkmail list. So if you’ve got a Yahoo email address and you’re not reading this, now you know why.

Yahoo was recently in the news for blocking any incoming or outgoing email that contained “http://OccupyWallSt.org“, without even notifying the sender. That web site is organizing some protests in New York. I think they’re protesting the financial system in general. Maybe they want to change to a loan-free economy, or maybe they just like the party atmosphere of protests.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110920/02444416023/i…

This got even more press when one of the policemen pepper sprayed a couple of ladies, and the police public relations people explained that it was justified and they had no choice. However, a video shows otherwise.

https://occupywallst.org/article/Officer-Bologna/

Videos like this make it harder for police to do their jobs, but they also make it harder for the police and their bosses (in this case) to cover up mistakes.

We always expect police and teachers do fine jobs and never make serious mistakes. Almost all of them do. But with hundreds of thousands of them, together with the fact that every last one of them is a human being, there will be a serious mistake now and then.


OnStar

There is a bit of hoopla in Washington about OnStar “invading privacy.” OnStar is the satellite/cell phone communications service that tracks your car, can tell you where you’re at, and will report any crashes.

The new terms and conditions explain that OnStar reserves the right to disclose your location and history to anybody they want, and to keep tracking you and disclosing this info even after you terminate your OnStar service. Here are some details:

http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=1270

OnStar will be changing that now.


Slinky Waves

You should really know this, if you don’t already. What happens when you drop a slinky?

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/09/…


Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein once wrote a touching love ballad called “Cover of the Rolling Stone.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of368QdosR0)

He also wrote a children’s book called The Giving Tree. Here’s the very condensed version from Wikipedia:

The Giving Tree is a tale about a relationship between a young boy and a tree. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants: branches on which to swing, shade in which to sit, and apples to eat. As the boy grows older he requires more and more of the tree. The tree loves the boy very much and gives him anything he asks for. In the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, the tree lets the boy cut it down so the boy can build a boat in which he can sail. The boy leaves the tree, now a stump.”

Many years later, the boy, now an old man, returns and the tree sadly says, ‘I’m sorry, boy…but I have nothing left to give you.’ But the boy replies, ‘I do not need much now, just a quiet place to sit and rest.’ The tree then says, ‘Well, an old tree stump is a good place for sitting and resting. Come boy, sit down and rest.’ The boy obliges and the tree was very happy.”

You need to know that to get this xkcd comic:

sharing.png

Well, I thought it was funny.


Patent Trolling

Patent trolls are companies that do little or no business other than acquiring patents and suing companies that actually produce something. The companies being sued usually have never heard of the patents involved, and have not copied anybody’s patented work. The patents are typically so broad or obvious that dozens or hundreds of people may have developed the similar products independently.

The companies who get sued often pay the trolls off to avoid expensive lawsuits with uncertain outcomes. The outcomes are uncertain because there is no certainty in patent law, and the patent trolls often file suits in East Texas, where the judges and juries have made an industry out of ridiculous awards in lawsuits that are questionable at best.

A company called SmartMetric was formed in 2002 as a “biometric card” company. SmartMetric apparently never made anything, including money. They show no inventory or equipment in their recent balance sheet, other than about $16,000 in computer equipment that has been fully depreciated. The total shareholder equity is negative $1.6 million.

SmartMetric was issued a patent in 2004 for microchips embedded in bank cards. Never mind that microchips have been embedded in bank cards since the mid 1980’s. SmartMetric has a patent, and to prove it they sued American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. SmartMetric lost the lawsuit.

So SmartMetric not only appealed, but they also filed new, almost identical lawsuits against the same companies. Why not? SmartMetric has nothing to lose but the lawsuits. The company is worthless. But if they win, they could get hundreds of millions of dollars.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110923/17444516081/i…

This is not an isolated case. Some Boston University researchers (James, Jennifer, and Michael) came out with a report that says patent trolls (non-practicing entities) have cost publicly traded defendants $500 billion since 1990. That’s almost as hard on the economy as a war!

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/09/study-p…

Here’s the report:

http://www.bu.edu/law/faculty/scholarship/workingpapers…

Lucky for us, the Patent Reform Act was signed into law on September 16. Not so lucky for us, the honorable members of Congress removed any meaningful reform from the law so as not to adversely affect campaign contributions.

http://www.opencongress.org/articles/view/2373-Patent-R…

Here’s an article about patent trolls in biotech. This costs lives.

http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110928/full/477521a.html

What kind of patents are being issued in these sophisticated times? According to federal law, it has to be something novel and nontrivial. Like making a snowman.

http://www.geek.com/articles/geek-cetera/us-inventor-fi…

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110909/09222615881/n…

Intel is taking a step in the right direction. In their $2.5 awards to research centers at various universities, they require open source on all software and inventions. The universities accepting the awards cannot stake claims to any patents. This is the way it should be, of course. Universities should be about distributing information, not controlling it.

http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2011/09/12/int…


Peacekeepers

In the 1980s, the U.S. deployed about 50 Peacekeeper Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). They built over 100.

Peacekeeper_missile.jpg
Peacekeeper Missile

The Peacekeeper Missile would deliver up to ten 300-kiloton nuclear warheads 6,000 miles with an accuracy of 120 meters. They used inertial guidance rather than GPS.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGM-118_Peacekeeper

In 2005, as part of the Start II Treaty, the U.S. retired the Peacekeeper Missiles. They put the warheads on the older 1970 vintage Minuteman missiles. There are currently 450 Minuteman III missiles in service today. Well, they’re not actually being used today, but they are available for use.

Minuteman_III_in_silo_1989.jpg
Minute Man III

The Peacekeeper rockets are being used to launch satellites instead of nuclear warheads. They’ve been revamped and renamed the Minotaur IV rocket. The first orbital Minotaur IV launch was September 26, 2010, a “Space Based Space Surveillance” satellite used to track other satellites, space junk, and used Dodge Neons in orbit around the earth.

On September 27 of this year at Kodiak Alaska, the Navy launched a Minotaur IV+ rocket and placed a communications satellite into elliptical orbit. It will be used for military communications in Afghanistan.

110927-N-PO203-165.jpg

http://www.adn.com/2011/09/27/2091263/rocket-carrying-m…


Biggest Company in the World

What’s the biggest company in the world? Exxon, by market capitalization (the stock price times the total number of shares in the company). Apple is number 2, Microsoft is number 5, and Google is number 16.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/guides/2011/08/does-this-m…

This week, IBM’s market cap rose higher than Microsoft’s for the first time since 1996.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-09-30/ibm-tops-micro…


U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbying organization that solicits “memberships” from small businesses. However, their lobbying efforts hurt small businesses. A large part of their lobbying efforts seem to be for the benefit of the recording industry and pharmaceutical companies.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110922/12005216053/c…


Patriot Act

The Patriot act was a huge, confusing law passed almost ten years ago. Some people really didn’t like the law because it reduced some basic rights, civil liberties, and that sort of things. But over 10 years most people got used to the idea of the government being able to listen to phone conversations and track people’s locations without search warrants.

Most of the original law was supposed to expire in 2005 and 2010, but as one of the few laws with bipartisan support, it was renewed twice by Congress and signed by Bush and Obama.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13572833

I didn’t like the law in 2001, 2005, 2010, or now. Oddly enough, neither Congress nor the President asked my opinion.

I think the Patriot Act was just one of many overreactions to a couple dozen suicidal idiots who flew some airplanes into some buildings. I feel a long rant coming on, so I’ll cut it short. Here is my opinion:

  • The Iraq War was unnecessary
  • The U.S. should have left Afghanistan in 2002.
  • The majority of the damage resulting from terrorist attacks of 2001 was caused by the overreaction of the U.S. in (1) lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, (2) freedom infringed on in the name of security, and (3) economic loss paying for wars, new security regulations, and government security organizations.

I could write a pages and pages on each of these topics, but I doubt anybody would pay attention. Most people I know disagree with me anyway, and are not likely to change their minds. In fairness, I doubt if I change my mind either. But I will pay attention to other views and think independently.

There has been a chart flying around the internet showing that the Patriot Act is being used to catch drug users instead of terrorists. It’s partially correct. Delayed notice search warrants allow police to search under a search warrant before they notify the target of the search. These used to be illegal, but under the Patriot Act they were legalized.

92% of the time delayed-notice search warrants were used from 2006-2009, it was for illegal drug cases; 7% of the time was for fraud; less than 1% was for terrorism. Ironically, this is one part of the Patriot Act I think is OK.

http://nymag.com/news/9-11/10th-anniversary/patriot-act/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_PATRIOT_Act

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110922/03520616050/s…

Part of the Patriot Act that I do not like is the part that allows electronic wiretapping without a warrant. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter normally save information on your internet usage and frequently are required to turn it over to the government.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/30/us-internet-s…

Another controversial practice that may have come from the Patriot Act is warrantless GPS tracking. Police can put a GPS tracker on my car without letting me know about it. I think that would be fine, if they’d call me once and a while and let me know where I am.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/05/gps/

Here’s what a GPS tracker from the FBI looks like:

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Tracking-Device-Teardown/5250

Not to be left out, Hollywood and the Recording Industry plan to get their own Patriot Act.

http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110318/02434713536/d…


3.5 Minutes on an Airbus

In 2009 an Air France Airbus 330 crashed on a flight from Brazil to France. Last April they found the flight data recorder using a Remora 6000 ROV.

http://www.bea.aero/fr/enquetes/vol.af.447/remora6000.pdf

Here’s what probably happened in the crash:

The plane flew into some icing and turbulence in or near a thunderstorm. The drain holes of the three pitot tubes (airspeed sensors) got plugged with ice, and the airspeed indication was faulty. This caused the autopilot and autothrottle to turn themselves off.

The pilot pulled the nose up and climbed to the max altitude. The stall warning went off a couple of times when the plane hit some turbulence. The airspeed indication varied from 275 knots to 60 knots to 215 knots. There were incorrect airspeed readings.

The plane ended up at a 16 degrees nose up attitude at 38,000 feet, its max altitude, full throttle, with an angle of attack of 30 to 40 degrees. In other words, the plane was pointing up but was in a stall and was losing altitude. The unusually high angle of attack caused the airspeed system to believe it was getting faulty data, and the stall warning system turned itself off.

At one point the pilot lowered the nose a little. This caused the stall warnings to come on, because the airspeed data started to make sense. So the pilot pulled the nose up again, getting back into the stall, and the stall warning went silent again.

Near the “ground” or ocean, the plane was descending at over 10,000 feet per minute at about 16 degrees nose high attitude and 35-40 degrees angle of attack. The throttles were at idle at the time of the crash.

The pilots were apparently confused with the conflicting data they were getting. Maybe they believed the airspeed rather than the attitude and altitude instruments. Three and a half minutes passed from the autopilot failure until the plane hit the water.

Airbus has had trouble with the pitot tubes icing up in these planes, and was in the process of a non-mandatory replacement.

Here is a lot of information on the crash:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_447


Domain Game

There are a lot of domain names on the web, such as xpda.com,exxon.com, and diplomaframe.com.  The last part of the domain name, called the top level domain, may be .com for the U.S. (or Earth in general), .fr for France, .ru for Russia, or .ws for Western Samoa.

The country of a top level domain controls the domains underneath it, subject to international web rules. The web sites don’t necessarily need to be located or hosted in that country, and the target audience doesn’t can be anywhere. For example, I could register the domain name xpda.ru from a company in Russia, if it was available (it’s not), and host it in Pryor, Oklahoma.

Any country in the world is entitled to a top level domain name, with the possible exception of the United States.

A few years ago some people thought that would be profitable to start selling Western Samoan domain names (.ws) and call them “WebSite” domains. It didn’t catch on as widely as they were hoping. The .tv domain names (controlled by the Tuvalu Islands) have done a little better, sometimes being associated with television.

When you register a domain name in the U.S., it costs a few dollars per year. Millions of domain names have been registered, many of them unused. I believe the same is true for other large countries.

Suppose you want to give out free domain names. You could register a domain in a small country or territory with less than stringent internet laws, such as the Australian territory of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It has the .cc web sites.

If you registered cz.cc, then you could give out domain names that end in cz.co, such as xpda.cz.co. People who do this sort of thing are called third-level domain providers. Since it’s free, it attracts people who need quick domain they may not be using very long, quite possibly including some people with less-than-honorable intentions.

In fact, someone did this with the cz.cc domain. And then, among others, some people with less than honorable intentions got into it. They used it for domains that botnets contact for instructions, and for domains with malicious code. Now the cz.cc domain seems inaccessible.

A few days ago Kaspersky Labs and Microsoft took over the Kelihos botnet, a big botnet with over 40,000 computers. They directed all its traffic to their own server. This way they can at least control the botnet until the thousands of users with the malware get it removed. They get traffic from 3,000 infected computers every minute. Even so, the Kelihos botnet is about 20 times smaller than the Rustock botnet that was taken down last March.

A lot of the infected computers in the Kelihos botnet were controlled by servers in the cz.cc domain. In fact, more than 250 cz.cc domains were being used to control over 180 different botnets.

http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/09/sinkhole-c…

The cz.cc domain was blocked from Google searches last May. Some people complained about it:

http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters/thread…

Now I can’t get access cz.cc or any of its subdomains at all. But don’t despair. There are other places to get free third-level domain names for your web site, if you’re not particular about your reputation or if you’re into nefarious internet activity. Some of the sites they provide domain names for are probably legitimate, but Google has blocked these domains from its searches in the past:

88n.eu, c0m.li, cc.ai, co.be, co.cc, co.tv, coom.in, cz.cc, dhis.org, dynip.com, gv.vg, minidns.net, mx.am, nl.ai, rr.nu, staticcling.org, uni.cc, xe.cx, and yi.org

Neal Stephenson, Innovation Starvation

Required reading. This will be covered on the exam:

http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/fall2011/innovation-…


Pictures of Today!

(or What I Did on My Summer Vacation)

It’s been a while since the last Junkmail, so there are quite a few pictures. Feel free to skip a few (or all) when you get bored. Nobody will know the difference.

In June, at home, I took this picture of a ladybug larva at home. It’s tiny:
P1170386.jpg

Then Mike & Elizabeth (Webster) and I took the Minnow to Bermuda and Back.

P1180375a.jpg
Bermuda Bird

Then I crossed Kansas and a few other states…

P1200959a.jpg
Scissortails chasing a hawk, Kansas

…and met Josh in Wyoming. It was my 4th (Josh’s 2nd) valiant attempt at Gannett Peak. We made it!

P1210100.jpg
The Top of Gannett Peak!

More pictures from Gannett are here:  http://xpda.com/gannett/gannett-iv/

I headed to Arizona via the scenic route for flight training in Scottsdale

P1210600.jpg
…but I want to go West on I80!

I visited Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona, the largest nuclear power plant in the U.S. They wouldn’t let me in.

P1220178.jpg

We were thoroughly PC-12 flight trained. Then we leased the PC-12 to someone else.

gilaWoodpecker1.jpggilaWoodpecker2.jpg
A mother and father gila woodpecker feeding babies in a Saguaro Cactus, outside Scottsdale, Arizona

P1220265a.jpg
A White-Winged Dove and a Gilded Flicker, Outside Scottsdale, Arizona

P1220421.jpg
A Rooster

After flight training, I went back north to climb King’s Peak, Utah. That’s the 48th state highpoint for me — only Montana and Alaska are left.

P1220593.jpg
King’s Peak, Utah


P1220483.jpg
A bumblebee on a thistle, in Utah

P1220545.jpg
Moonset, in Utah

Then I headed to Colorado, and about 10 of us went backpacking to Snowmass Lake

P1230071.jpg
Alligator, Fruita Colorado

P1230526.jpg
Cathy fishing at Snowmass Lake

P1230726.jpg
Sean and Russell Mountain Climbing

P1240188.jpg
Wildlife, Snowmass Lake

After a quick trip home, I headed back to Colorado.

P1240468.jpg
A hummingbird on a thistle, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

P1240500a.jpg
A hummingbird in a tree, Great Sand Dunes, Colorado

P1240586a.jpg
Night Hawk, St. Jacob’s Well, Kansas

P1240685a.jpg
Road Runner, St. Jacob’s Well, Kansas

P1270071.jpg
Cicada, SW Kansas

P1270360a.jpg
Butterfly, Handies Peak, Colorado

More Handies Peak pictures are here:  http://xpda.com/mountains/handies/

P1270913.jpg
Three Connecticut Hikers on Redcloud Peak

More Redcloud Peak pictures are here:  http://xpda.com/mountains/redcloud/

I took a quick detour to Virginia and stayed on the Minnow in Hurricane Irene. It was windy. Then I headed home…

P1280326.jpg
4000 U.S. Naval Cadets

… and went further west to Seattle. Melinda, Josh, Cathy and I climbed Mount St. Helens.

P1290515.jpg
Three lunatics at the top of Mount St. Helens

Then I came home.

P1320015a.jpg
A Dainty Sulphur Butterfly. It’s tiny.


The End

Monday, October 3, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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