More Junkmail from Bob, #189
Viruses and Trojans have gotten a lot more sophisticated now that there is money involved. The good news is that they rarely erase hard drives any more, because they want to use the machines for spamming and phishing.
MySpace is a social networking site. You cannot get social diseases there, but you can go to jail for bad behavior. Or at least 3 years probation and 90 days community service.
Way, way back in October 2005, A guy named Samy was a MySpace user. He had 73 “friends” on MySpace. If you see someone’s profile you like on MySpace, you can click a button to become their friend. If they approve, voila! You’re friends.
Samy wanted more friends. He said, “I need some more friends. I need people to love me.”
In less than 20 hours, over 1,000,000 MySpace users were not only Samy’s friends, but he was their hero. Samy was loved!
Here’s what happened next:
1 hour later, 7:05 pm: A friend tells me that they can’t see their profile. Or anyone else’s profile. Or any bulletin boards. Or any groups. Or their friends requests. Or their friends. Nothing on myspace works. Messages are everywhere stating that myspace is down for maintenance and that the entire myspace crew is there working on it. I ponder whether I should drive over to their office and apologize. Another attempt to free my mind of worry, I go back to watching some episodes of The OC which I downloaded a few days earlier. File sharing rocks.
2.5 hours later, 9:30 pm: I’m told that everything on myspace seems to be working again. My girlfriend’s profile, along with many, many others, still say “samy is my hero”, however the actual self-propagating program is gone. I’m relieved that it’s back up as they can’t claim damages for any downtime past this second if everything is in fact working properly.
10 minutes later, 9:40 pm: I haven’t heard from anyone at myspace or FOX. A few minutes later, my girlfriend calls, I pick up, and she says to me, “you’re my hero”. I don’t actually get it until about three hours later.
Here’s Samy’s story. (Warning: Samy might use some naughty words):
Here’s how he did it:
What now? MySpace has fixed they security flaw. They didn’t even pay Samy for discovering their security holes. In fact, they made Samy pay them. Samy is barred from the internet (for personal use) for a while. But you can buy a “Samy is My Hero” t-shirt:
NASA launched five identical satellites on a single rocket Saturday (Feb 17).
These will orbit the earth for a couple of years looking at solar wind, magnetic fields, and electric fields. The idea is to figure out what causes geomagnetic substorms and how they work. A geomagnetic substorm is what happens when the aurora borealis seems to go crazy, changing position, size, and brightness really fast. It happens during coronal mass ejections (solar flares) and congressional debates (intellectual black holes).
Here’s a coronal mass ejection that the sun ejected January 24. Check out the video.
The five satellites went up on a Delta II launch vehicle. The entire package of 5 satellites and the associated hardware weighs a little less than a ton.
Here are the probes on a vibration tester. It shakes the satellites to see if they break. It’s easier to repair them on earth than in orbit.
The launch was at 6:01 pm EST. By 7:14, five minutes after third stage burnout, the 5 probes had separated from the launch vehicle and were flying around the earth on their own (with a little help from NASA and the onboard thrusters.)
For the first few months, they will orbit the earth single file in an elliptical orbit, collecting data. Then they change. Probe 1 will go into a more elliptical orbit ranging from about 6,300 to 135,000 miles high. That’s about half the distance to the moon. Probe 2 will have a maximum altitude of about 90,000 miles, and the others will be in the neighborhood of 45,000 miles high at their max.
All the probes are identical. Any of them can be selected for any of the 5 orbital positions, so if one has some problems, it can take the easy jobs.
Here’s an animation of the orbits. I’m not sure why it doesn’t show them aligned. Maybe it doesn’t happen until after the end of the movie.
Geostationary satellites orbit the earth at the speed and altitude that results in one orbit per day. The orbit is in the same direction as earth’s rotation, so they remain over the same point on the earth (on the equator). That’s why you don’t normally have to move your satellite dish unless you want to change satellites. Geostationary satellites are in high orbit at a little over 22,000 miles. So I guess the proper term for the Themis orbits are “really high orbit.” At least every four days.
The orbits are arranged so the satellites hit their high points every four days on an imaginary line between the earth and the sun, over North America. I bet that was not a trivial math problem. They might have had to use a computer.
The satellites will collect data for several hours when they’re aligned. During the 2-year mission, the satellites will occasionally be aligned, collecting data, during a geomagnetic substorm. That’s when we’ll learn a lot.
The Themis satellites collect data using four instrument packages. They rotate at 20 rpm for 360-degree data gathering (and stability). Each satellite has a computer with 256 meg of memory, and can transmit to earth at 1 megabit per second.
Here’s the computer:
The round part is the electrostatic analyzer. It detects thermal electrons and ions in a 180°x5° field of view. It measures the quantity and energy of the particles.
There are two magnetometers (or 4, if you consider the three on the tri-axis instrument):
To complement the satellite data, there are 20 ground-based observatories that have horizon-to-horizon digital cameras in Canada and Alaska. There are 20+ magnetometers scattered around Alaska, Canada, and the northern lower-48 states. Can I say northern lower states?
Here are some details on Themis:
Including the Delta II and the people, the project will cost about $200 million. That seems pretty expensive unless you consider that $10 billion out of $57 billion in Iraq contracts was completely lost or otherwise squandered. The wasted $10 billion would pay for 50 of these missions.
The AP articles say that $10 billion was squandered, but it turns out that about half of that was only “undocumented.” So the missing money might only pay for 25 Themis missions, if all the undocumented $5 billion was spent responsibly. I wonder how you can spend $5 billion and forget to document it.
There’s a web site called http://fixedearth.com. This site uses more text decorations (foreground and background color changes, italics, underscore, text size, etc.) than any site I’ve ever seen. This makes it pretty hard to read, but don’t let it slow you down.
You can find some real scientific gems on this site. The Fixed Earth concept is that the earth does not rotate. It is fixed, and the sun, stars, and galaxies revolve around the earth. This is clearly wrong, as the universe revolves around Saturn.
Of course, the earth’s rotation has been proven by any number of observations. I was really surprised that someone seriously thinks otherwise. The fixed earth site has some things that are so bad they’re funny. Here’s a snippet on geostationary satellites.
Thus, while we take into consideration that an apparently equal gravitational force of some 14.7 lbs psi covers the surface of the Earth, we also know this is not the kind of force that could play a significant role in causing a geostationary satellite to hang motionless in space at an altitude of 22,236 miles. We don’t need any occult/ Kabbalist mathematics to confirm this. We just know it!
They go on to explain that it’s magnetism that holds the satellites in a fixed position above the earth. Apparently this is true even for satellites made of non-ferrous material. There is so much bunk on this site that it’s hard to pick something to criticize.
So why bring it up in the first place? Two reasons. First, until now, I was pretty sure that everything on the internet is true. Now, my image of the internet has been dashed.
Second, an esteemed State Representative from Georgia named Ben sent a memo to an esteemed State Representative from Texas named Warren. The memo explains that evolution comes from the Jewish Kabbalah, some texts from medieval rabbis, and as such it is religious and cannot be taught in public schools.
Warren was nice enough to pass this memo on to all the members of the Texas House of Representatives. Now Warren’s memo is being passed around the internet, and Warren is getting laughed at. Not because he doesn’t believe in evolution, but because that memo is so stupid.
Here’s the memo:
Here are the originals:
I never could find the evidence he talks about in the memo. But anything on the Fixed Earth site is highly suspect.
The Flat Earth Society, on the other hand, is completely different…
Back in the good old days, people would spend all their spare time sitting in front of a television watching educational programming such as “Gilligan’s Island” or “Petticoat Junction.” Now, people do not spend all their time in front of the TV. Now we sit in front of computers. And some of the more adventurous actually leave the house and go somewhere, albeit with a cell phone close at hand.
Some marketeers have learned of this aberrant human behavior, and are taking steps to take money from those of us not watching television. It’s called viral marketing or guerilla marketing.
Viral marketing is when you try to start a fad by hyping a product on Youtube, social networks, and blogs. Guerilla marketing is unconventional marketing, such as taping computer training brochures to the restroom stalls at Comdex. Some people consider these tactics just a bit on the dishonest side of fair.
Someone uploaded a “failed Gap commercial” to Google Videos. But the TV commercial is a minute and a half long — pretty long for any TV ad that doesn’t promise to make you rich. It’s also just a hair violent for a TV commercial. But it is pretty entertaining.
Here’s a similar “failed commercial” for the Wii. (Warning: it might not be G-rated.) It’s also a minute and a half long.
I would guess that both of these commercials were made for internet consumption and not television.
Some companies pay their employees to write blogs. Some companies pay outside bloggers to write favorably about the company. Microsoft recently gave laptops to some prominent bloggers. Some of them called this a bribe, while others didn’t see any problem with it. Microsoft didn’t offer me a laptop, so I say it was a dastardly plot to take over the world.
You can get a part time job at many companies hyping their products on blogs and discussion groups. It’s generally not required or expected for you to explain you’re being paid for your “opinion.”
http://digg.com is a site where users report and vote on interesting news articles. The most popular articles get millions of referrals from Digg. A PR firm recently paid or offered a lot of money to the top “diggers” to digg the PR firm’s articles.
Since then, I think Digg has stopped posting the top “diggers.”
Some companies create fake blogs, pretending to be a satisfied customer, or trying to generate demand for their products. You might guess that these would be small internet companies you never heard of. You might be wrong. McDonalds, Sony, and Walmart were nominees for the Best Fake Blog of 2006.
Sony won, with alliwantforxmasisapsp. Some gamers noticed that the domain name holder was Sony’s PR firm. Roughly 1.2 seconds later the news had spread at the speed of internet all over the world that the site was fake, and Sony was soundly criticized. Sony took down the site shortly afterward.
Luckily, and purely for historical and not harassment purposes, the site was archived here:
It’s supposedly by some kids wanting Sony PSPs for Christmas, with different tactics they use to get the PSPs.
Now government is getting into the act. The FTC wants to regulate viral marketing to keep the corporate world from taking advantage of me. I think that is very considerate of them.
The Department of Homeland Security is also stopping any marketing that involves the placement of bombs. The new expanded definition of “bomb” includes anything with a blinking light.
A few weeks ago, Peter and Sean put some light boards around Boston, including a stretch of the Charles River. The light boards had cartoon moon men making obscene gestures. Peter and Sean were advertising the Turner Broadcasting TV show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”
The authorities in Boston (who are there to protect me) closed down bridges and a stretch of the Charles River after they mistook the cartoon moon men for bombs. This is a common error in the security business. Peter and Sean were promptly arrested on terrorism charges.
Assistant Attorney General John made the terrifying observation, “If they had been explosive they could have damaged transportation infrastructure in the city.” I might have said the same about pigeons or car tires, but that’s probably why I’m not Assistant Attorney General. Hey! I bet that’s the problem with the Big Dig tunnels — explosive pigeons!
Turner Broadcasting agreed to pay two million dollars because of Boston’s stupidity and hysteria. Half of that money will pay “expenses” incurred, and the other half will go to fund Homeland Security programs in Boston. Boston mayor Menino said, “What can I say? It’s been a long, boring winter. People needed some excitement.”
Cartoon Network’s boss, Jim, is now out of work.
And they were just blinking lights! Bombs do NOT have blinking lights!!! (Except in James Bond movies.)
John Sununu is against the broadcast flag. Good for him!
Here’s the recording industry’s multi-year plan:
1. Promote copy protected online music and videos using DRM (Digital Rights Management).
2. Require CDs, online music, and digitally broadcast music to use copy protection and broadcast flags.
3. Get a law passed making it illegal to copy music files unless the broadcast flag allows you to. A CD’s broadcast flag could, for example, prohibit copying music from a CD to your MP3 player unless you pay extra.
4. Get a law passed making it illegal to manufacture music players and recorders, including PCs and MP3 players, that do not adhere to the broadcast flag and copy protection limitations.
Not surprisingly, some music listeners are not too keen on this plan. Steve Jobs stuck his neck out and wrote that he thinks DRM is a bad idea, and music in the internet should be unprotected. For once, I agree with Steve Jobs! Windows Vista supports DRM in a big way. Maybe that’s one reason Jobs is against it.
A few music companies have more or less agreed with Jobs.
This is the first major blow against the DRM / Broadcast Flag trend, except for consumers voting with their dollars buying unprotected music. DRM provider Macrovision and the UK Government have criticized Jobs.
I will buy ordinary unprotected CDs, and I will pay to download MP3s. I will not intentionally buy a copy protected CD or song. If a song is only available for purchase in DRM form, many people will download an illicit MP3 copy rather than pay for the DRM version.
When most new music is copy protected, I’ll be listening to a lot less new music.
There are a lot of people who use bittorrent to download and share illicit music and videos. You can also use bittorrent to share and download legal files, such as linux and open source software, public domain files, and other legal data.
Bittorrent is pretty interesting. There may be 80 people sharing a file. If I want to download that file, I can start taking bits and pieces of the file from all 80 users. In turn, I’ll be sharing the parts of that file that I’ve downloaded with anybody else who asks. It’s a very efficient way to share files across the internet.
Bittorrent has a slightly bad reputation among recording industry lawyers, because there is a lot of music hosted for free download. Some web sites list the files currently available on bittorrent. But since there is no centralized control or library, and since it’s hard to tell what parts of a file you download come from what user, it’s hard (but not impossible) for the record industry to pin someone down to sue.
Just for the fun of it, the MPAA has been uploading fake torrents. I think that’s pretty funny.
Walmart, in the spirit of American capitalism, has put ads on http://thepiratebay.org, a web site that lists files available on bittorrent. I’m guessing that whoever bought those ads didn’t know where they would be displayed.
IBM and Intel have both announced major advances in chip technology, making much denser and more efficient processors possible in the next few years. It’s hard do say exactly how much faster this will make my PC. Well, it’s easy to say, but it’s pretty tough to know.
Google is building a $600 million computer center in North Carolina. The state is offering tax breaks and other incentives. Google required a lot of the state government officials, including legislators, to keep quiet on the deal. They couldn’t even name the company in the state general assembly, when they passed a law eliminating sales tax on electricity and equipment used by internet data centers.
Google still wasn’t happy with the legislative process. North Carolina politicians say Google is a big bully. Google says Microsoft is the bully. I assume it’s all been settled by now.
The headlines said things like “Sharks Attack and Sink Boat.” I thought it sounded far-fetched. I read more. It’s sort of true.
A guy named Roger was out with his crew on his 36-foot shrimp boat, the Christy Nichole, doing whatever shrimp boats do. They were about 100 miles off the west coast of Florida.
Apparently, shrimp boats throw out a lot of edible trash while they’re shrimping. Sharks and birds figure this out, and follow the boats for some free food. Sometimes the big sharks bump the boats. I guess the little fish might bump the boat too, but you wouldn’t notice that.
A big shark they estimated at 14-feet bumped Roger’s shrimp boat and bent the tail shaft. This meant he couldn’t use the motor. It also caused a water leak. Roger called another boat and his crew got off. Roger stayed onboard his boat.
The weather got bad with rain, wind, and 6-8 foot waves. His propeller broke loose and ripped out the back end of the boat. Roger got off the boat, and the Christy Nichole sank.
Cheshire is a small town in western Massachusetts. The volunteer fire department needed a new fire truck. They applied for a grant with the federal government. They got a $665,962 homeland security grant. That is 26 times the annual budget for the volunteer fire department.
Problem solved, right? Wrong. The terms of the grant prohibit them from buying a fire truck with the money. Now they’re trying to figure out how the volunteer fire department in the town of 3,500 people is going to spend over half a million dollars.
Maybe they’ll use the money to protect the Cheshire Cheese Monument, a big concrete sculpture of some cheese, from terrorist attack.
In other news, Department of Homeland Security boss Michael says he needs more money because he has had to cut back on grants to firefighters and first responders. Congress agrees. Representative Bennie from Mississippi said, “Millions of lives are at stake and we cannot continue to protect the homeland on the cheap.”
Need an extra $25 million for your summer vacation? All you have to do is build something to remove a billion tons of CO2 from the air, per year.
I’ll even tell you how to do it. First, get a large nuclear power plant. Next, use the electricity for power, and pull CO2 out of the air. The process is already done by a lot of companies, such as Air Products.
Once the CO2 is out of the air, you can either release, or bottle and sell the leftover nitrogen, oxygen, and other gasses.
It can be done, but it would just cost more than $25 million and it would take a lot of electricity.
What do you do with the child abuser is the child? Arrest the child, naturally.
Ever since there have been kids, there have been boys and girls together doing things their parents tell them not to.
Now digital cameras, web cams, and cell phone cameras are everywhere. Kids will (and are) taking pictures of themselves and each other in various states of undress. This is not because today’s kids are bad. It’s because the technology is universally available, and it takes maybe 1 second to take a picture with your cell phone.
Most kids don’t do this. But some of those kids who make that 1-second mistake are going to jail for child abuse and child pornography. I think that’s not quite what Congress had in mind when they wrote those laws.
A Congressman from Texas named Lamar has introduced yet another law that will require ISPs to log their customers’ internet activity in case the government wants it for a police investigation. This will make the internet slower and more expensive.
Then, when the RIAA thinks I might have downloaded an illegal music file, they can subpoena the ISP records and sue me.
If they have the capability to monitor everybody’s internet use, why can’t they government stop spam? They passed a law against it but they won’t enforce it.
In an overt attempt to kill Iran’s nuclear research program, Iran has been flooded with pirated copies of Windows Vista. If that doesn’t do it, nothing will.
By the end of the year, devices to detect nuclear bombs will be installed around New York. This will protect the rest of the country by forcing the nukes to be contained within New York City.
If you need a thermonuclear device for your weekend barbecue, and can no longer count on your New York supplier, here’s how to build one in your garage.
Did you know Google records everything I search for? Since I have a free Google account, I can look back and see when I did a search for “thermonuclear device.” And, anybody else with access to Google records can do the same. I don’t really care, but some privacy fans might not appreciate this feature.
The Princeton University Engineering Anomalies Research Lab has spent the last 25+ years trying to find evidence of ESP. They haven’t found much. I’m not surprised. Now the lab is being closed.
But don’t despair! The research is moving to the International Consciousness Research Laboratories.
Here are some good sculptures from around the world. A few of them might not be G-rated if they were not art. But since it’s art you can look.
The US is planning cyber-attacks. I suppose if I was going to attack another country, I should attack their computers too. I think that would be a fun job. (Computer attacks, that is. Not the bloody kind.)
Walmart launched a big video download site where you can pay to download movies. Displaying amazing technological acumen, Walmart excluded more than 1/3 of their market from the site. It only works with Internet Explorer.
I checked it out. First, it said the site was down for maintenance. Now it says
Our website requires the browser Internet Explorer version 6 or higher. It appears that you are using Firefox, Safari, or another browser that Wal-Mart Video Downloads doesn’t currently support. Click here to get Internet Explorer for free from Microsoft.
I’m not sure about the internet in general, but 63.6% of the xpda.com visitors use Internet Explorer. 28.7% use Firefox, 3.6% use Safari (Mac), and 4.1% use others such as Opera, Mozilla, Camino, and Konqueror. I use Firefox.
Comcast has bandwidth limits on their internet service. If you exceed the limit, you get kicked off their service. However, they won’t tell anybody what that limit is! Apparently, their reasoning is that everybody will be careful not upload and download too much if they’re afraid they’ll get kicked off the internet, saving Comcast money.
The new silver dollars are gold! Well, the color is gold. The coins are 88.5% copper, 6% zinc, 3.5% manganese and 2% nickel.
There is a giant embassy going up in Iraq — the US Embassy. I bet they’re not short of money on that project.
Io, one of Jupiter’s many moons, is pretty active volcanically. Here’s a nice picture taken almost ten years ago by the spacecraft Galileo. It shows the plume from a volcano shooting 86 miles high.
The volcanoes spew extra high on Io because of less gravity, and because the huge tidal forces generated by Jupiter keep Io’s insides warm and gushy. Gushy is a technical term used by Io’s native geologists. The name Io comes from the Greek god of input/output.
BlueRay HD DVD has officially been cracked.
Inflation in the US is around 2 or 3 percent. Inflation in Zimbabwe is 1,594 percent.
But 1,594 percent is not too bad. Between October 1993 and January 1995, Yugoslavia enjoyed 5,000,000,000,000,000% inflation.
Lee and Terese got tired of people speeding past their home outside of Rome, Georgia. So they spent $1200 and mounted some video cameras and a radar gun. They clocked a police car going 17mph over the speed limit. Instead of the police officer getting speeding ticket, Lee and Terese may be charged with stalking.
A couple of paragliders got too close to a strong thunderstorm in Australia last week. They were sucked into the storm and ended up over 30,000 feet high. One died, and one survived after passing out for a while.
Interested in climbing Colorado Mountains? Here’s a really good site with routes, reports, and photos.
William Jefferson is a US Congressman. When the FBI was investigating to find out whether he took bribes over an African telecom deal, they discovered $90,000 cash in his freezer. The investigation is still underway, despite the fact that House Speaker Nancy and former-Speaker Dennis managed to get the evidence “sealed” so the FBI can’t access it.
Something tells me I would be in jail for tax evasion if the FBI ran across $90,000 hidden in my freezer. Fortunately for me, my freezer broke and I got rid of it, along with all the money I had hidden inside.
In the meantime, William was re-elected. That’s not too surprising since he’s from Louisiana, where political corruption is a tradition. But now, House Speaker Nancy has put William on the Homeland Security Panel. I guess William had some spare time on his hands after he was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee over the bribery scandal.
It’s reassuring to see that things won’t be changing under the Democratic Congress. After all, Nancy has promised to run the most ethical Congress in history.
Among the new ethics reforms is a rule that prohibits Congresswomen (and Congressmen) from flying on private planes — even when they’re the pilot of their own plane. I’m not sure how flying your own plane is unethical compared to hiding $90,000 illegal cash in your freezer. But our congressional leaders are mental giants with capacity for “brilliance” far beyond us mere mortals.
In the past couple of months, after the stiff, new ethics rules were implemented, lobbyists helped pay for “lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).”
Life is tough on capital hill.
An impressive ice storm came through Oklahoma a few weeks ago. Ice storms aren’t unusual, but usually the ice isn’t as thick as it was then. I guess there was just the right combination of cold surface temperature, warmer upper level temperature, and lots of rain.
The electricity (and heat) was out at our house (and most of the town) for a few days. Unfortunately, I was with Mike in Florida on the boat in 70° to 80° sunny weather at the time. I was pretty jealous when I called home and everybody was in the dark without heat.
Part of our yard:
I think just about every big tree in the county has broken limbs now. My dad counted 28 big cracks (tree limbs breaking) in one minute.
This week they’ve been taking truckloads of tree limbs from peoples’ yards and burning them outside of town.
The Antarctic Peninsula, on February 9, 2007. You can see now the clouds came in on the satellite pass in the upper right of the photo.
Mike and I took the Minnow up 6-7 miles into the everglades during the Oklahoma ice storm. The next morning at low tide, there was between one and two feet of water under the boat. That’s not much on a 52-foot boat.
A house on I35:
Kansas snow at sunset:
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