Bob's Junkmail (important stuff.)

Bob’s Junkmail, #190

3D Modeling

Here is a nice image of Korean actress Song Hye Kyo.


Notice I used the term “image” instead of “photo” here. That’s because this is a rendering of a 3D model of the actress. Everything from the skin and hair to the light reflecting off the lips and eyes is computer generated. I cannot tell the 3D model from a real photograph. Are photographs real?


An Indonesian guy named Max Edwin Wahyudi did this using 3D Studio Max and ZBrush. Max wrote, “I did this one as a challenge from my friends, and also because she is my favourite actress.”

Here are some of the intermediate steps:


Sound Barrier


When you fly an airplane really fast, you can go faster than the speed of sound. How fast is sound? It depends. It seems like it should depend on the air pressure or density, but it depends mostly on air temperature, and a little on humidity. Air density and pressure pretty much cancel each other out.

Here is the formula, using Fahrenheit and mph:

Speed of sound = 741.097*sqrt(1+(Temperature-32)/491.67)

Here it is with Centigrade and meters per second.

Speed of sound = 331.3*sqrt(1+(Temperature)/273.15)

These formulas don’t take into account the effect of humidity or wormholes.

The speed of sound is about 768 mph at 70 degrees. At -40C, it’s about 685 mph. At -40F, it’s also 685 mph. In fresh water sound travels about 3210 mph.

Air is a gas. It can be compressed. Water is a liquid. It does not compress much under pressure. When an airplane or a mosquito gets close to the speed of sound, the air around it doesn’t compress very well. That’s because the airplane is pushing on the air so fast, the air doesn’t have time to move aside. It’s a little like running across a swimming pool with cornstarch in it. If you go fast, the water won’t move aside very well, so you don’t sink.


The air doesn’t move aside very well when a plane is at the speed of sound, because it doesn’t compress any faster than the speed of sound. But the energy has to go somewhere. It ends up making an area of high pressure around the airplane, a shock wave. This makes a big noise when the plane flies by. It’s the sonic boom.

Sometimes the shock wave causes the water vapor in the air to condense. It makes a really cool looking cloud around the airplane. This does not happen as the plane goes through the sound barrier, as implied by a lot of photo captions. It sometimes happens when a plane flies at or near the speed of sound. It happens at both slightly slower and slightly faster than the speed of sound.



This cloud happens when the air gets cooler. How, a reasonable person might ask, can the air get cool when a jet blasts by at several hundred miles per hour? It’s the wave. The air is under high pressure, then low pressure, then back to normal. (There might be more than one of these waves.) At high pressure, the air heats up. At low pressure the air cools and loses some moisture. That’s the cloud you see. When it gets back to normal pressure, the moisture “dissolves” back into the air and the cloud disappears.

All this happens really fast, and it makes it look like the cloud is moving along with the plane. These clouds don’t occur every time a plane flies near the speed of sound. They need the proper humidity and air temperature.



The US Army is policing blogs. Some people don’t like this because of privacy, government censorship, and things like that.


I don’t think it’s that big a deal. In fact, I think something like that is necessary. There are some things in Iraq that should not appear on web sites. I wouldn’t even notice most of these things. For example, if a soldier’s personal information is inadvertently put on a public web site, his family could be threatened at home.

If I see a blog with a photo of a camp entrance, I wouldn’t think too much about it. But that is a big security no-no, because attackers can use the photos to devise better attacks. The most common violation is probably documents “for official use only” shown on web sites. I imagine most of these aren’t a big security risk.

There are now orders to prohibit any war photos being uploaded to the web without approval of someone in command. This may be for political as much as military security, after all the prison problems.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the Department of Defense and the Army over AWRAC because they couldn’t get Freedom of Information documents in a timely manner. Maybe they thought this would be possible now that Rumsfeld is gone.


RIAA Owes Attorney Fees

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued a lady from Norman, Oklahoma named Debbie for downloading and sharing music. But Debbie didn’t do it. So they sued Debbie’s daughter Amanda. Amanda didn’t defend herself, so the RIAA won.

But the RIAA didn’t drop their suit against Debbie. They said that Debbie should have known there was copyright violation going on because she heard music coming out of the computer. They also said that Debbie is responsible for any copyright violation that occurs on her internet account.


But Lee disagreed. He’s the judge, so his opinion trumped the RIAA’s.


Lee also said that the RIAA has to pay Debbie’s legal fees. That’s not such a big deal, although it would cost the RIAA a lot of money if this practice spread.

The big deal that threatens the RIAA’s “sue ’em all” strategy is the ruling on secondary infringement. Lee said that the person who licenses the IP address of the computer involved in the dastardly deed of file sharing is not necessarily the one who should be hung. Well, I might have paraphrased that a bit. But he essentially said that the RIAA has to find the person who did the copyright violation, not the IP address’s owner.

I think this is important. There are multiple IP addresses, computers, people, and cats at my house. Actually, the cats live outside, but they use this as their permanent address. Those other people around here sure don’t want to be responsible for my nefarious computing habits. Not only did I download 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I once used a goto statement. Maybe more than once.


The RIAA is instituting a program to get $1000 from anybody they think may be violating music copyrights. This way they don’t have to deal with those bothersome judges and lawsuits. ISP’s are being enlisted to help (and to provide the RIAA information on ISP customers). This letter has gone out to a lot of Internet Service Providers:


When asked about the new policy of threatening customers if they don’t come up with $1000, the RIAA responded, “This is not new. This technique has been in use for years by organizations in New York and New Jersey.”


The Motion Picture Association (MPAA) recently got caught using pirated software. But it’s OK because they said they were only testing it.


DMCA Fair Use

Congress has introduced a bill to make the Digital Millennium Copyright Act more palatable for the common folk. The new law would make it legal to copy copyrighted material for:

  1. The educational library of a university’s media studies department;
  2. Using computer software that requires the original disks or hardware in order to run;
  3. Dongle-protected computer programs, if the dongle no longer functions and a replacement cannot be found;
  4. Protected e-books, in order to use screen-reader software;
  5. Cell phone firmware that ties a phone to a specific wireless network; and
  6. DRM software included on audio CDs, but only when such software creates security vulnerabilities on personal computers.

It would remain illegal for you to make a backup copy of a DVD, for example, by downloading CopyToDVD from


and then adding the DVD Decrypter from


It would also remain illegal for you to download DRM music and decrypt it for use on your MP3 player.


The RIAA opposes this bill, even though there is no way it could cost record producers any money.


It’s a little like the Sierra Club. They oppose the processing of cow manure into fuel for power generation. The process cuts water pollution and air stinkiness, and it can produce quite a bit of electricity. But the Sierra Club is automatically against something that could help large cattle and milk producers, even if it is good for the environment.


Movie Recommendations

Larry King watched a movie and said about it, “I didn’t understand the damn movie at all. I’d have to see it over and over again to figure out what happened.”

They used this in their advertising: “Finally, a Movie Worth Seeing Over and Over Again!”

It really happened!


Desperately Seeking Pamela

Pamela Jones is the editor of the site http://www.groklaw.net. She started a blog before moving to the web site. I’ve linked to the site a time or two in Junkmail about patents or SCO. She writes a lot about SCO suing IBM over Linux, and how stupid it was. Except she uses logic, facts, and things like that rather than the word “stupid.”

Now SCO is trying to subpoena Pamela Jones. Except Pamela Jones isn’t home. She’s “taking off a few days for health reasons.” Some people say she’s a pseudonym used by IBM attorneys. Some people say they know her personally. Now I’m curious — Pamela Jones: Paralegal or Leprechaun?


RFID Powder

RFID’s are now smaller than a grain of salt. Hitachi has some that hold 128-bits of data and are small enough to fit unnoticed on a dollar bill.


Stupid Software Patents

US Representative Howard Berman from California says the U.S. patent system is in bad shape and needs reform. This may be the first time I’ve ever agreed with that guy.


The British have decided that software in itself is not patentable. That used to be the case in the U.S.


Free International Calls

For a little while, you could make free international phone calls if you knew the right buttons to push. All you had to do is callAll Free Calls in Iowa. Some kind of unusual FCC regulation allowed the company All Free Calls to get more in rebates than the international tariff, so they made money and you could get a free phone call.

However, when you get something for nothing, it generally costs someone else. In this case, All Free Calls made money, people got free phone calls, and the long distance companies such as AT&T got to pay the bill. AT&T was not extremely happy with this arrangement, so they had it changed. But not until it was costing AT&T a couple million dollars per month.




A guy named Nicolas managed to gain access to T-Mobile’s server. He read interesting email, grabbed cell phone photos, and was having a grand time until the Secret Service arrested him last October. Maybe that’s because he had a lot of their passwords and other information.

The Secret Service didn’t make a big announcement about this winning the war on tourism. An “anonymous source” said that’s because they’re offering Nicolas a computer security job.


A guy named Shawn at Sandia Labs had the job of “network intrusion detection analyst.” Shawn found a minor security flaw at Sandia. A Chinese group had hacked into the computer network and stolen classified military and other documents.

The security problems weren’t fixed. So Shawn told the FBI and the Army about the problem. Sandia apparently didn’t like that, because they fired Shawn. So Shawn sued Sandia and was awarded $4.3 million.



So the Chinese got secrets from our nuclear research lab, but I have to take my shoes off when I get on an airplane. I think I’ve got it figured out now.

Child Abuse

Once upon a time in 2005, someone (it might have been me) got onto my brother Mike’s computer when he wasn’t around, went to sex.com, and clicked on every link that came up for about 15 seconds. Aside from some pretty sick stuff which wouldn’t come off the screen, one or more of the sites used IE exploits to install some trojans onto his computer. I think Mike has a password on his screen saver now.

Once upon a time in 2004, a substitute teacher named Julie had a similar occurrence in Connecticut. She left the classroom, and when she came back a bunch of kids were clustered around the computer looking at pornographic popups all over the screen. She couldn’t get them off. The school computer person had told her not to turn off the computer, and she apparently was too flustered to turn off the monitor or cover it up. She went to the teacher’s lounge to ask what to do.

Maybe Julie was moderately ignorant, but certainly not criminal.

Or was she? Julie was arrested for “risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child.” Then she was convicted! She was scheduled to be sentenced this week facing up to 40 years in prison. But after the story made the rounds on the internet, the sentencing hearing was postponed. Maybe someone with common sense will take control.






Had Mike and I known they were so strict in Connecticut, we might not have gone swimming on the beach in our underwear (in February).


Google Language Tools

Did you ever wonder what was on Al Jazeera’s Arabic web site? Or maybe you wanted to read a Russian blog? You can do it. At least you can get pretty close.

Google Language Tools can translate most text or web sites from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, or Spanish to English. You can also translate English to other languages.

Here’s how:  Go to http://google.com, then click on “Language Tools” to the right of the search box. There you can enter a URL or text to be translated. After you enter a URL, the web page will come up translated into English. If you click on a link in the translated page, that page will also come up translated. It’s pretty nice.

But it is not perfect. Arabic is readable, but there are slang or dual meanings that seem a little funny. For example, the word for hit seems to be the same word as attack.

Here’s the Arabic Al Jazeera:


Here’s the translated version:


Al Jazeera is even more biased than Fox News.

Microbial Evolution

Need to write a paper on drug-resistant viruses and bacteria? You should know that drug resistance emerges, arises, and spreads. It does not evolve. You should know that microbes experience adaptation, selection, and genetic change. They do not evolve, and the noun form “evolution” is strictly verboten.

Even though the evolution of drug resistance in a bacterial strain over a period of weeks, months, or years in no way contradicts most religions, the word has become tainted.

Of course, there is free speech in this country. You don’t have to follow these guidelines. Unless you want funding for your research.


Mock Theta Functions

Do you know what a mock theta function is? Neither do I. But a mathematician named Ramanujan discovered some important things about them just before he died in 1920.

Nobody has been able to figure out what, until Ken and Kathrin at the University of Wisconsin at Madison “got really lucky” recently. I think it may have been a little bit more than luck.


Smart Surveillance Cameras


Pot Hole

Some people complain about the potholes caused by winter ice. This sinkhole recently sank in Guatemala City:


Sea Gliders

A sea glider is a submarine that operates like a glider aircraft, only slower. And, instead of only gliding downward, a sea glider can glide up or down by changing to positive or negative buoyancy. This takes very little power. An unmanned autonomous sea glider can operate for weeks on battery power.

The Deepglider is a 71″, 138lb sea glider. It has a carbon fiber composite hull and can handle depths up to 9,000 feet. It communicates by satellite and is operated by the University of Washington.


SCO and Microsoft

In past years, SCO, a.k.a. Santa Cruz Operations, sued Sun, IBM, and some other companies. They apparently decided to make a go at the legal business when their software business failed. They didn’t do too well at it.

SCO claimed parts of Linux were stolen from SCO. Their big lawsuit was against IBM. But SCO couldn’t or wouldn’t ever show IBM or the courts which parts of the open-source Linux code belonged to them. SCO was eventually laughed out of court. Well, I was laughing anyway.

Now Microsoft says Linux violates their intellectual property rights. However, Microsoft is using SCO tactics. They claim violations, but they won’t say what they are. Microsoft wants people to pay licenses for copyright and patent infringement that may or may not exist. That way people have to pay licenses, which makes money for Microsoft, instead of re-writing the offending code, which does not make money for Microsoft.

Understandably, Linux users and producers want to see proof. Hence, the “show us the code” movement:


People have asked Steve Ballmer and Microsoft to explain exactly what the intellectual property violations are in Linux by May 1, 2007. Microsoft hasn’t answered.

F4U Corsair

How to fly an F4U Corsair — something everybody should know.


Boston Bombers

A couple of years ago when I was 10 or 12 years old, I remember someone explaining to me in some length why it is a bad idea to come down off a bicycle wheely onto the rubber hose on a traffic counter, over and over, making the counter go up. I don’t really remember the reasoning, just that it would be a good idea not to get caught at it in the future.

There are some police officers in Boston who must have missed out on that lecture. They found a traffic counter and blew it up this week.




I think that’s a pretty cool thing to do to a traffic counter.

Unfortunately, the fun will be over in about 18 months. The war on terrorism will be officially over in October 2008, according to the Washington Post and the Defense Department. Go out and get your traffic counters while you still can!



On September 21, 2001, some people came to a French Algerian pilot’s apartment near London at 3:00 am. His name was Lotfi. They took him out of his house naked and put him in jail for five months. I think they gave him some clothes when he got to jail. I also think if he’d been wearing pajamas he’d have been warmer.

The U.S. wanted to extradite Lotfi for training the pilots who blew up the World Trade Centers. But it turned out he didn’t train them, or even know them. It made good press 10 days after the plane crashes, though.

Now Lotfi wants to be paid some cash for the fiasco. The U.K. said no because he wasn’t charged with any crime. He was only being held for extradition.

The U.S. maintains Lotfi deserves what he got because he was once arrested for theft at a London Airport, and he once had knee surgery, neither of which was reported on his FAA paperwork.





Electricity from Ocean Waves

Scottish engineers are building a wave farm in Portugal. The generators look like the giant metal snakes Clive Cussler wrote about in Skeleton Coast. And I thought he just made that stuff up.


Pictures of Today!

The far side of the moon is not dark, but it has bigger bumps than our side does.


Lake Powell, Utah


Eight of us who didn’t know any better climbed Nippletop Mountain (and a couple of others) in the Adirondacks last weekend. It was cold! But the weather was good.


Here is the Candor Chasma region of Valles Marineris on Mars. These were taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last December 2. They are some of the highest resolution photos taken from Mars orbit.


One theory about the photos is that the white ridges formed as water flowed through underground cracks and bleached and hardened the edges of surrounding rocks. Over millions of years, surface winds eroded the darker rock leaving the raised white ridges.

You can find the 69 megabyte 4049×5809 image here:



Saturday, March 3, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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