Bob's Junkmail (important stuff.)

Bob’s Junkmail 192

Your pleasant respite from Bob’s Junkmail is over!I have been on a boat ride for most of the past three months. We took The Minnow from Key West, through the Panama Canal, up to Los Angeles, and on to Hawaii.


For most of the trip there were two people on the boat, but occasionally four. We were in races from St. Petersburg to Mexico, and from Los Angeles to Hawaii. You can read all about it here:


We were thrown out of the Mexico race because we motored the last 150 miles towing one of the other boats, but we got second place in the Multihull division of the Transpac race. Out of two. Here are some Transpac Photos:


I’ve been out of touch for a while, so I read through some of the most popular stories on digg.com. Microsoft’s Surface, its new computer, was slightly less popular than “Paris Hilton Loses Inheritance.” Maybe I didn’t miss much.

Extra Vigilance

The Transportation Safety Administration has asked general aviation pilots to “exercise extra vigilance.” I suppose this was intended to encourage pilots to catch terrorists, politicians, and other scoundrels, but it would make more sense for general aviation pilots to exercise extra vigilance in avoiding bad weather and maintaining a 1:1 takeoff-to-landing ratio. After all, isn’t that what transportation safety is really about?

Up To As Many As

The Business Software Alliance has promised to pay up to $1 million to anyone who turns in their employer for using unlicensed software. “Up to” is the catch. Techdirt will pay up to $1 million to anyone can offer proof of the BSA awarding anyone $1 million.


I like it!  I’ll pay up to $1 million to the next person who washes my car. The actual amount is at my sole discretion, just like BSA’s terms and conditions.


As a software vendor, I don’t think people should go to jail for copying software. I consider it free advertising. If my software is any good, maybe I can sell them an upgrade. In fact, here you go. Have a free download of Photo Mud. Then buy an upgrade someday so I can pay someone to wash my car.


Way Faster?

From an AP news article:

“Mancuso is testing new equipment this week and even on unfamiliar skis she was way faster than the rest of the field with a time of 1:11.80.”

Newt Gingrich is against bilingual education. I’d settle for any lingual education for AP.



Recording a 20-second video in a movie theater can cost you a year in jail. It’s the law. That seems a little stiff to me.


On the other hand, the MPAA considers itself above pretexting (fraud) laws.



Back in the “good old days,” viruses and trojans were primarily recreational. Someone would write a virus to see how much it would propagate, occasionally deleting data for fun.

Now, there’s money involved. You can take temporary control of a PC and use it to send spam, for example. If you have a collection of these zombies, you can sell spammers access to them.

You can also use trojans collect credit card info and passwords, and then sell the information to financial miscreants.

Here is a good article about how a recent trojan works, with technical details. They are getting pretty advanced. This one manages to hide its registry entries from regedit, and collects data in spite of SSL/TLS encryption.


Who writes these things? People like Joanna Rutkowska, I guess.


In other not-so-legit computer news, some spammers have figured out how to get around the Hotmail and Yahoo barriers, and have created thousands of bogus email accounts. I think that’s kind of funny. I imagine it won’t take long for Yahoo and Hotmail to backtrack and disable the spammer accounts.


The Vassa

The Vassa was a warship built in 1628 in Sweden under King Gustaf Adolf the Great.

They ran a stability test and had 30 sailors run back and forth on the deck. The Vassa almost capsized. When they loaded 64 24lb guns onto the boat and sailed with the gun ports open, the ship did capsize and sink, just minutes into its maiden voyage.

It was raised from the Baltic in the 1950’s, and is now on display in Stockholm. It is amazingly intact, because the deep, cold water kept the worms, bacteria, and other wood rotters from rotting the wood. The ship is surprisingly ornate for a warship.


The Definition of “Unlimited”

Verizon advertised unlimited EVDO wireless data service. Then they defined “unlimited”. It seems odd to me that “unlimited” should have so many limits.

 Examples of prohibited uses include, without limitation, the following: (i) continuous uploading, downloading or streaming of audio or video programming or games; (ii) server devices or host computer applications, including, but not limited to, Web camera posts or broadcasts, automatic data feeds, automated machine to machine connections or peer to peer (P2P) file sharing; or (iii) as a substitute or backup for private lines or dedicated data connections. …

A person engaged in prohibited uses, continuously for one hour, could typically use 100 to 200 MBs, or, if engaged in prohibited uses for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, could use more than 5 GBs in a month. …

Anyone using more than 5 GB per line in a given month is presumed to be using the service in a manner prohibited above, and we reserve the right to immediately terminate the service of any such person without notice.”

— Verizon formally redefines “unlimited” in the user agreement for its unlimited EVDO Wireless Data Service



Last April the police arrested guy named Cody for making a bomb threats. They caught him using cell phone records. Unfortunately for Cody, the police didn’t match the records very well. Their time was off by an hour or so. Cody had nothing to do with the bomb threat.

Cody is a 15-year-old high school student who had never even had detention. He spent 12 days in juvenile detention center.

A judge was shown proof that the bomb threat wasn’t made by Cody’s cell phone, and he dropped the charges. But the officials at the juvenile detention center wanted to keep the kid even longer! They said he should undergo psychiatric evaluation because he wouldn’t admit to making the call. They also said, “Legally, we were OK. We didn’t step on this kid’s rights.”



There is a real bomb waiting to go off at Eta Carinae. Actually, Eta Carinae is the bomb. It’s a giant star about 7500 light years northeast of Locust Grove. It will probably blow up sometime in the next thousand years. Luckily, Eta Carinae is not aimed at the earth, else the energy from the explosion could wipe us out.


$7 Million a Month

Ford lost $12.7 billion in 2006. Ford boss Alan made $28 million for working four months. I would have done his job for half that, and I bet I wouldn’t have lost as much money for the company.



Electronic eavesdropping and financial tracking programs to spy on US citizens have been approved by the White House. Of course, they are White House programs.

Luckily, congress will pass a new law allow some wiretapping without a warrant, sometime in the next day or two. I feel safe!


Global Warming

Global Warming is now a national security problem. Why not? Everything else is.


Emergency Evacuation

In April, Hillary Clinton ordered the emergency evacuation of some Americans at the Russian arctic base of Barneo, because the ice was breaking up. I’m not sure what authority she has in this area, but she probably needs a bit more information in her decision-making process. The ice was fine, and they planned to stay and the base a couple more weeks. It was all a false alarm. Hillary said of the fiasco, “Oops.”


Presidential Power

Some people think the White House is getting too much power — more than is allowed under the Constitution. I’m not sure what’s allowed under the Constitution, but I think the government has been doing even more stupid things than usual over the past few years. And Congress helped!





Dutch Crop Circles

These were made by a guy running from the police, not aliens.


Record Opium Crop

Afghanistan’s economy is booming. There is a record opium crop this year in southern Afghanistan.


FEMA Excels Again

Someone at the Federal Emergency Management Authority accidentally sent out real emergency radio and TV broadcasts instead of tests. Either that or it was a failed coup attempt by FEMA. People from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Michigan enjoyed the fake emergency.


Explosive Cars

Last month there was a big to-do over explosive-packed cars loaded with fuel and nails in London.

The cars contained butane, gasoline, and nails. Butane and gasoline are not explosive unless mixed with oxygen. It’s likely that these cars would have made a nice fireball, but they would not explode like dynamite or even gunpowder.

Butane and gasoline (and dust and flour, for that matter) will explode if they are mixed properly with air, confined, and ignited. If they’re not mixed properly, they just burn. Either way, they probably wouldn’t explode fast enough to send nails flying out to kill people.

Gunpowder also burns, but it carries its own oxygen (in potassium nitrate). When it’s confined and ignited, it will explode. But, like gasoline and oxygen, gunpowder is a mixture of different chemicals (potassium nitrate, sulfur, and carbon), rather than a chemical compound (such as trinitrotoluene or ammonium nitrate), and it explodes relatively slowly. Even so, a gunpowder explosion is fast enough to propel nails at lethal speeds.

High explosives decompose rather than burn. The shock wave from a TNT, dynamite, or ammonium nitrate explosion is a LOT stronger and faster than that of gunpowder. Plastic explosives can explode even faster.

The “explosive-laden cars” in London were more like large Molotov cocktails, much less lethal than the car bombs and IEDs going off daily in Iraq.


Got Vista? Want XP?

Microsoft has made it easier to “downgrade”. Some people have found that not all their software win run properly under Vista and they want their XP back.


The Yes Men vs. Exxon

The Yes Men is a small group who go around embarrassing organizations they don’t like, such as the WTO.


They recently managed to speak at the 2007 Gas and Oil Exposition in Calgary, impersonating representatives from Exxon Mobil and National Petroleum Council. Their speech included Vivoleum, a fictional fuel oil made from dead humans.

They said that “current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta’s oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could ‘keep fuel flowing’ by transforming the billions of people who die into oil.”

The two speakers were escorted off the stage, but a third yes man was left to answer questions about Vivoleum and the Yes Men.



The funny part of this story is that the next day, Exxon managed to get Broadview Networks, the Yes Men’s upstream ISP, to shut down their web site until any mention of Vivoleum and Exxon was removed from the site. I guess Exxon doesn’t agree that parody is included under the first amendment.



ASCAP Royalties

If you intend to play a guitar and sing at a coffee shop or bookstore, you might have to write your own music. ASCAP is suing even small places now.


Box Canyons

A few Junkmails ago I wrote about box canyons in the mountains and in Manhattan. Since then, Cory Lidle’s family has sued Cirrus, the airplane manufacturer, since bad judgement is the fault of the airplane.

Here’s an interesting article about a Canadian C-130 in a box canyon, in Afghanistan a few years ago. They acted soon enough to get out alive.


Armed Robots

There are news stories going around about armed robots, and how inherently unsafe they are. But the armed robots released in Iraq are not autonomous. They are remote controlled. And a slow-moving remote control robot with a gun seems a lot safer to me than a missile with a high-explosive warhead moving hundreds of miles per hour. I would prefer to be a thousand miles from either, however.


Social Security

In most cases, the most vulnerable part of a security system is its people. Need to get into an airport? Don’t hack the computer. Just borrow someone’s badge.

Need to get information from someone’s tax return? Don’t hack the IRS computers. Just ask an IRS agent for the password. In a recent test, this worked 61 out of 102 times. So you might have to ask twice.


I think I’ve mentioned it before, but my favorite method (if I were to try) of getting into a computer network is to litter the parking lot with USB drives, each of which autoloads a keylogger and forwarder. Some of the employees are bound to pick it up and plug it in.

Nice Photos

(They’re not mine)



The Apple iPhone will blend.


Optical Dillusion

Don’t try this if you have epilepsy!


Doctored Photos

Al Qaeda was found to be using doctored photos. Disgusting.






There is an encryption key that can be used to unlock the copy protection on DVDs. So now you can use software to copy your DVD to your computer or other mpeg player. That is, if you don’t mind potentially bending the rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The Advanced Access Content System folks were trying to get every copy of the key (except maybe this one: 45 5F E1 04 22 CA 29 C4 93 3F 95 05 2B 79 2A B2) removed from the internet. Of course, this only caused it to spread like wildfire.



Now it’s even on Wikipedia:


Excellent Cursor


Accurate IP Trace

Any web site can see what town you’re calling from. You can anonomize your IP, but that’s more trouble that it’s worth to me. It also slows things down.


Terrorism Safety


Photos of Today!

The Minnow, from the top:


The reef at San Blas Islands, Panama:


Underwater at the San Blas Islands:


Red Sky at Night:


Artillery Battery, Fort Sherman, Panama:


A bird on a swell from Tropical Storm Barbara:


Kayaking Fun


The Minnow at Guadelupe Island


For more photos of the boat trip:

Key West to Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres through the Panama Canal

Panama to San Diego

Transpac Photos

If you are a real glutton for punishment, you can find even more photos here:



Monday, August 6, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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