Bob's Junkmail (important stuff.)

Bob’s Junkmail 191

Bittorrent Video Store

The motion picture industry (MPAA) does a lot of whining and complaining about bittorrent and its users. They say bittorrent users steal movies and music. I would like to point out that it is not stealing if the original owner still has what was supposed to have been stolen. Illicit copying of music and movies may by a violation of copyright laws, but, by definition, it is not thievery.

Now Bittorrent is selling movies. Well, they at least rent movies. You pay $2.99 or so to download a movie, and you can play it on one computer for 24 hours. It’s a little like Pay per View on satellite TV. I tried it out and bought a movie.


If I didn’t like the 24 hour limit, I might use the fair use provision of the copyright law and softwareFairUse4WM… to strip the DRM from the WMV file. Then I would be able to watch the movie later or on my laptop. But the MPAA wouldn’t approve of my behavior if I watched the movie I paid for when or where they didn’t want me to.


It seems that Digital Rights Management is managing to offend more than a few music customers.



A Russian expert named Paul was interviewed on “Dateline NBC” a few weeks ago about the guy in the UK who was murdered with radioactive poison. He said the Putin and the KGB were responsible. About 4 days later, Paul was shot and killed in front of his Maryland home. The FBI said, “Oh, it’s just a coincidence.”


War on Tearer

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was almost blown up by a bag of ladybugs a few weeks ago.


This one was probably not one of the terrorist insects.


Music Editing

Here’s a great video. A guy named Lasse edit some drum beats and piano notes into some pretty entertaining music. Lasse doesn’t know how to play the drums or piano, but he’s pretty good on the computer.



The iTunes end user license agreement (EULA) requires you to agree not to use iTunes for the “development, design, manufacture or production of missiles, or nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.” Darn!


Internet Records

The US Justice Department wants to require all internet service providers to keep records of anyone who uploads photographs or videos to a web site. This will not affect anybody’s privacy. This is only to catch terrorists, child pornographers, and ladybugs.


This would have caused an uproar just a few years ago. But things are different now. If you want to pass a law requiring the federal registration and surveillance of all red angus cattle born on Thursdays, you only have to use the terms “terrorism” and “child pornography” in the same paragraph. The cattle have lost their constipational right of privacy!

AT&T was sued for helping the government spy on Americans. Their defense? It’s too secret to explain in court; therefore they have to be innocent. I think the KGB used this defense in the 1960’s.


The US Patent Office, at the apparent prodding of the recording industry, has announced that file sharing is a threat to the national security of the United States. And I thought the problem was ladybugs. Why is the US Patent Office getting into the national security business, anyway? Aren’t they bungling enough already?



Google has announced a policy of randomizing their search records so the searchers can’t be identified after 18-24 months.


If you’d like to test this policy, just click here:


Some people prefer to do their web surfing anonymously. That’s too slow for me. Here’s how:


But Everybody’s Doing It!

Boston Globe writer Ron was suspended from his job for a couple of months for plagiarism. He copied some sports news from the Tacoma News Tribune.


Ron said, “But everybody’s doing it! That’s how you get into college!” (or something like that).


Censoring Science

There’s a report out on science and censorship. It’s a little biased (or maybe a lot biased) but it has some good points.


WGA Notification

Windows Genuine Advantage is some software that Microsoft uses to patrol Windows users to find illegal copies of Windows. The WGA Notification has stirred up some controversy. Some people don’t like their computer sending data to Microsoft without their knowledge or approval. Of course, most these people had already clicked on the “I Agree” button and agreed that it would be very nice for Microsoft to do this.

Here’s what Microsoft WGA Notification sends:


I don’t think it’s that big a deal, but I don’t like them slowing down my computer. On a dialup, cell phone or satphone it can cause problems, especially if there are 12 other programs checking for updates.


Godaddy.com is a domain registrar, maybe the biggest. They’re cheaper than Network Solutions. A while back I wrote about Godaddy shutting down seclists.org.


Godaddy recently cancelled and sold the domain familyalbums.com because the email address they had for the domain owner didn’t work. The domain had not expired. Godaddy cancelled it anyway because of the bad email address. Then they sold it. Then, when news hit the internet, Godaddy told the original owner he could have the domain back. Then, after things died down a bit, Godaddy said, “Never mind. We sold it and you can’t have it back.”




Car Salesman

Here’s a story of an “extraordinary rendition” customer.


Vegetable Oil Power

David from Decatur is 79-years-old. He has a 1986 Volkswagen Golf. David converted the car to run on vegetable oil and a little diesel. People were impressed. Then the government got involved.

Two Illinois Department of Revenue agents came to visit David. They said David owed road taxes on his vegetable oil, was operating as an illegal fuel supplier, and was in big trouble for almost everything except child pornography and terrorism. Now some politicians are coming to David’s rescue.


TIA – Keeps On Running

The Total Information Awareness system was big database system with personal information on people living in the U.S. The government was using this to combat the millions of terrorists operating in the U.S.A. In 2003, Congress outlawed TIA because of privacy concerns.

The Bush administration was undeterred by the minor inconvenience. They brought the program back under at least two other names. Now called ADVISE, the project is once again being investigated by Congress.


I think it won’t be outlawed this time because people are more used to federal eavesdropping, email monitoring, financial transaction monitoring, and things like that. People used to complain that the Patriot Act infringed on personal liberty, privacy, civil rights, and such. Now the FBI doesn’t even stop at the limitations of the Patriot Act.




The new FBI instructions on phone records tell agents there is no need to follow up with national security letters or subpoenas.


Here’s a good article about a National Security Letter from the FBI. If you get one, you can’t talk about it.


Not to be outdone by the FBI, the New York City police did a lot of spying on Americans and Canadians across the continent before the 2004 Republican National Convention. Didn’t Nixon do something like that?


Spamming Stock

A lot of the spam I get now is hyping small-cap stocks. I wrote a little about that last December:


Now the SEC is halting trading on these stocks whenever a blast of spam comes out hyping one. I hope it works.



Microsoft is offering Office Ultimate 2007 software to Australian students for $75, a 97% discount. But Windows Live OneCare was warning people that the educational site was a suspected phishing site, scaring off potential customers. I think that is pretty funny. It’s probably fixed now.


Presidential Mud

What’s wrong with your presidential candidate? You can find out here. They have the dirt on all of them.


Martian Water

It looks like there’s a lot of water on Mars, frozen underneath the south polar region.




Portable Cell Systems

LGS developed a “tactical base station router” that provides cell phone service at local sites anywhere in the world. I assume that there needs to be some wired telephone or satellite communications service in the area also. You essentially take a box to the front lines in Afghanistan or Tanu-Tuva, then people can use their GSM cell phones. It’s only available to the government, which means it costs a whole lot and it doesn’t abide by FCC rules. It’s still pretty cool.


Fat Patents

About three years ago I did some minor ranting and raving about Microsoft’s submarine patent of the File Allocation Table (FAT) system for formatting hard drives and compact flash cards. Microsoft waited until the entire world was using the FAT system before trying to collect royalties on the patent, which, in my opinion, shouldn’t have been awarded for such a simplistic idea.


Someone in Germany finally agrees with me!  Microsoft’s FAT patent was declared invalid because it lacked “inventive activity.”


The U.S. Patent Office is instituting a pilot project to put patent applications online and allow comments from ordinary people. Maybe this will stop some of the ridiculous patents that get by now. Such as the FAT patent.


Check out this patent on a linked list, a technique that has been taught in beginning computer science classes around the world for more than 30 years.


Computer Forensic Institute

The Department of Homeland Security is opening its Computer Forensic Institute in Hoover Alabama to educate law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors (those who still have their jobs) on gathering and using computer evidence to investigate and prosecute. I think this is a good idea. There is an awful lot of computer ignorance in the upper levels (i.e. old people) of the justice business, resulting in occasional stupid decisions. The institute is supposed to open in the middle of 2008.



I guess Halliburton got tired of all the harassment in the US and moved to a more friendly environment – Dubai.     Last month, special inspector general for Iraq found Halliburton overcharged the U.S. government $2.7 billion.     Last year, Halliburton earned $2.3 billion in profit.


Dubai is one of the more progressive countries in the mid-east. However, Dubai has nowhere near 20% of the world’s construction cranes as has been reported in the news lately.



A team of students from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa is working to break the endurance record using a solar powered Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Since the plane will fly at night, it has to have a few batteries. They’ve launched a couple of Sun Sailor prototypes, which flew successfully until they crashed. They plan to break the 17-year record sometime soon.



NASA is using a civilian version of the Predator B to make some long research flights. It’s a little bigger and slightly more expensive than the Sun Sailer. The Ikhana (a Choctaw name, probably something Bill Kendrick came up with) is 36 feet long with a 66-foot wingspan. It can carry 400 lbs of sensors internally and 2000 lbs on its wings.

It has a Honeywell turbine engine with a digital electronic controller. Most turboprops flying to day don’t have electronic fuel controllers. I’m jealous.




Petroleum Business Info

This site takes and answers questions on most aspects of the oil business. It’s really interesting.


Caffeine Data

How much do you drink?


Calorie database — how much do you eat?


Consistency in Government

Early last year, the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO fired 32 people because of a $28 million budget shortfall. Two weeks later, the President went to visit the lab. Just before he went, the 32 people were unfired and $5 million was given back to the lab. I guess that made a better audience for his speech.

I’m not sure what happened between now and then (maybe an election?), but the National Renewable Energy Lab is now getting an additional $107 million.


I don’t know whether the lab needs more, less, or any money, but it sure seems like they could do better work and spend money more efficiently if they didn’t constantly hire and fire people because of budget changes.


Got a Current Backup?

I ask people regularly if they have a current backup, usually just before I tear into their computers. My mother is usually a little vague in her answer. A guy in Alaska was probably a little vague in his, just before he wiped out a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of data.

The news reports say it’s $38 million in data, but it will only cost about $200,000 to key in the information from paper records. I bet it costs an additional $50 or so for a bunch of DVDs for backups.


RIAA Extortion

The Recording Industry Association of America used to provide technical data and support for record companies. Now the RIAA is famous for writing letters to people it thinks may be sharing music and demanding thousands of dollars. It reminds me of an extortion racket.

Universities get a lot of these letters, with no-so-polite instructions from the RIAA to forward them to the user of a particular IP address.

The University of Wisconsin, who gets 10-20 of these cash-demanding letters per day, not-so-politely told the RIAA to take a hike.



The Universities of Maine and Nebraska agreed with Wisconsin.



The University of Michigan has developed a quantum processor, more or less.


As a result, it seems to have agreed both to and not to turn over personal student information to the RIAA.


Vista Sales Double

The Microsoft news release printed in most newspapers around the U.S. stated that Windows Vista is selling at more than double the rate of Windows XP. They neglected to mention that today there are almost twice as many PCs being sold, and Microsoft’s sales figures include the backlog of upgrade coupons bundled with XP computers sold since last October. So I guess the market penetration is about the same.

Stolen MD-87

A Russian company called Siviera purchased a 1987 MD-87 jet from a New Jersey guy named Peter. But Peter didn’t get all his money, according to Peter. And Siviera didn’t get all their fuel tanks, according to Siviera. It was a 2-year-long ongoing dispute.


Finally, Siviera took the plane anyway and headed back to Russia. They left Fort Worth for Goose Bay, Canada on the first leg of the trip.


But Peter did not go for that. Siviera got as far as Milwaukee when they were forced down by F-16’s. Antiterrorist officers were “all over the plane” when it landed in Milwaukee. Then the FBI said there was no criminal problem.



There are a lot of holes in this story. Someday I’d like to learn what really happened.

45 Million Credit Cards

I read not long ago about some people who got caught buying a million dollars worth of merchandise using stolen credit cards. I thought that was an awful lot of credit card purchases.


It turns out that they copied about 45 million credit cards numbers from the computers of TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods. TJX said most of the cards were expired or incomplete, but apparently a lot of them were still good. That is a LOT of credit cards!


New Horizons

The New Horizons Spacecraft was launched in January 2006, headed for Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.


The Kuiper Belt is a belt of asteroids orbiting the sun outside the former planet Pluto.


New Horizons was passing Jupiter when it took this photo of a volcanic plume on Jupiter’s moon Io:



Pictures of Today!

A Bridge at Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It looks almost like a hurricane came through there.


The ferry is the current mode of transportation across the bay.


Birds waiting on the ferry:


Some majestic, old houses, sans house.


A travesty!


A flower.


Florida Caverns State Park


A cavern!


Sunset in the Everglades.


A P3 Orion practicing landings at Boca Chica Naval Air Station:


Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas.


Real trees at Fort Jeff.


The majestic frigate birds have wingspans reaching 8 feet. These were at Fort Jefferson.

P1140159.jpg P1140161.jpgP1140163.jpg


A real sailboat.


The birds of Bush Key, Dry Tortugas.



Loggerhead Key, Dry Tortugas. You, too can volunteer for a month of being a lighthouse keeper.


English Sparrow:


Giant Swallowtail (I think). Whatever it was, it was giant.




The End.


Monday, August 6, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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