More Junkmail from Bob, #195
I’ve updated the family tree. Now it’s got a whole bunch of people, allegedly related, and a few hundred photos, mostly legit. If you are related to me, extremely bored, or somewhat warped, you might like to visit:
There are some interesting stories in there, if you can find them (click on “General Notes.”) Let me know if I need to make any additions, corrections, or deletions. I’ll be glad to add any family photos you have. Any digital format is fine, or I can scan and return paper photos. I’ll also be happy to add any old letters, etc. you might have from these people.
A few years a go I was flying around in the Aircam with my baby daughter. Here she is on a hot summer day in Leadville:
Somewhere about the time we crossed from Colorado to Utah, we also crossed a huge, long cliff, or some giant geological oddity resembling a cliff. We descended and flew along it for a little while. It was really cool.
This week I learned what that is — the Waterpocket Fold. Here’s a photo of the whole thing. The Waterpocket Fold runs for about 100 miles.
The U.K. now has new laws requiring people to give the government encryption keys for any criminal investigation. Actually, the news report said any criminal or terror investigation, but that’s incorrect. Terror is fear. Terrorism is criminal. So they could have just said any criminal investigation which would include terrorism. But that wouldn’t have scared (terrorized?) people as much.
At any rate, if you have some encrypted data in the U.K. and refuse to hand over the key (or unencrypted data) to the police, you can enjoy a 5-year vacation in prison.
It’s not that way in the USA, the land of the free. We just suffocate people into submission on water boards.
Google, AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft were sued because of their ad auction models. The excellent patent owned by Performance Pricing. I think their primary business is suing people, but I’m not sure. This is notable because their patent pertains to “a video game, electronic board game, sports bet, and card game.” Oh yeah. It also applies to “any other activity.” The brilliance of the US Patent and Trademark Office shines again!
The lawsuit was filed in Marshall, Texas. That’s odd. None of the companies involved are located in Marshall. However, a judge that is ridiculously biased in favor of patent suers is located in Marshall.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (whoever that is) is apparently getting a little fed up stupid patent lawsuits. In a recent ruling they said, “The routine addition of modern electronics to an otherwise unpatentable invention typically creates a prima facie case of obviousness.” I wonder if there’s any chance they could get that concept through to the USPTO.
A guy in New Zealand named Peter has acted in small parts in the movie “Lord of the Rings.” He has also succeeded in getting 21 of 26 parts of Amazon’s infamous 1-click patent reviewed by the U.S. patent office. I think he is pushing prior art, saying that the concepts were already in use before the time of the patent application. He isn’t trying to get rich off Amazon. He said he’s doing it because life in New Zealand is a little boring.
There will be years of investigation by the USPTO and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions by Amazon before the final decision is made. Peter’s blog is pretty funny.
“Today I picked up another 13 kg of documents filed by Amazon.com on 28 March in the request for reexamination of their one-click patent that I filed. Added to the 7 kg they filed recently, and my original 5.9 kg filing, this brings the total weight of documents so far to about 26kg (58.5 lb).”
The patent lawsuit business is so popular that big investment companies pay people to sit in on patent hearings. At a decision, they run out of the courtroom and phone the results to the traders before the news hits the wires. The traders can then capitalize on any stock jump (up or down) as a result of a patent decision.
Some people who bought iPhones didn’t want to be locked into cell phone service with AT&T, so they had their phones “unlocked.” This is a software process not endorsed by Apple. In fact, Apple decided to disable any iPhone that had been unlocked. If you had an unlocked iPhone, the next time you updated the operating system the phone would stop working. Apple had warned its customers that the phones would be made “permanently inoperable,” but in fact the phones could be repaired.
The Apple bosses don’t seem to understand that even AT&T doesn’t have coverage all over the U.S. If you want to use an iPhone in AT&T’s “black” areas, you have to use another cellular service provider.
It’s easy to track your web browsing on the internet. Your IP address is logged almost everywhere you go. Big deal, right? As long as nobody knows it’s YOU behind those four 8-bit numbers. But sometimes they know. When you fill out a form on a page, your information can be saved and associated with your IP address.
Most companies keep this information to themselves. Google probably gets more of this type info than anybody, but it won’t matter much once they own the entire internet.
One company, NebuAd, is offering to buy personal information from Internet Service Providers, and then they’ll sell the personal data and location associated with IP addresses. NebuAd says they’re only doing this with consumer sites, and would never distribute information on who is browsing sensitive sites (health, financial, etc). Unless they can make a profit at it.
In 2002, Unisys was awarded a billion dollar contract with the Department of Homeland Security to manage their computers. It was the job of Unisys to keep teenagers and other terrorists out of DHS networks. In 2006, the contract was extended for another $750 million.
It has been a very successful program. Only 844 security breaches were discovered in 2005 and 2006. And when hackers installed remote access software on 150 computers, it was discovered and removed after only three months of copying and transferring DHS data and documents to Chinese-language web sites.
Homeland Security said of the recent criticism, “This is totally unfair! Our systems are excellent for stalking terrorists as well as former wives and girlfriends.”
Unisys pointed out that not all of the security intrusions were caused by malicious outsiders. The DHS bungled an internal mailing, and when some people hit “reply to all,” it snowballed and generated 2.2 million emails. It shut down some DHS computers and threatened to cause a shortage of bits in the northeastern United States.
DHS spokeshuman Russ explained to the New York Times that the email mess was not the fault of the DHS. Instead, it was “a human error.”
And you still have to take your shoes off in order to get on an airplane.
Have you wanted to sail in a race across the Atlantic without getting wet, or even spending days on a sailboat? The Microtransat Challenge could be just want you’re looking for. All you have to do is build a sailboat that can cross the Atlantic autonomously. That means without human intervention. I am not sure whether intervention by politicians is allowed.
Stem cell transplants are successfully treating lymphoma, leukemia, and disorders of the bone marrow. Even Republicans and other Luddites can be treated with these stem cells, since they come from the blood in umbilical cords.
Microsoft gives away Internet Explorer 7, just as they did versions 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. But Microsoft instituted their copy protection Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) in IE7. It makes a lot of sense to check free software and make sure it has not been pirated.
Since there have been some not-so-trivial problems with WGA, and since Firefox has been gaining market share on IE7 (Firefox 14% , IE6 43%, and IE7 34%), Microsoft has tossed WGA on its latest iteration of IE7.
UC Berkeley has put 300 hours of course lectures on YouTube. Learn something new today!
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a term that refers to any of various schemes used to keep people from copying software or other digital media illegally. I sometimes call it “copy protection,” but that term is no longer acceptable in the upper tiers of society.
Suppose you sell software. Suppose that you want to make sure nobody uses your software who didn’t pay for it. One technique is for your application to send data from your customer’s computer to your computer. You could send the customer’s registration number and some value that uniquely identifies your customer’s computer. Then your computer could reply back with an OK. If your application on your customer’s computer doesn’t get an OK from you every 30 days or so, it would shut down and refuse to run.
This is the way some software runs. So if I buy a copy of Quicktax, for example, it may “call home” and send some data to Intuit. The trick is that Quicktax may also send my data to an advertising company such as DoubleClick. Without even asking or informing me.
Illegal? No, not in the U.S. But it is in Canada. And Canada may put a stop to it, at least north of the border.
Some people still respect the Geneva Convention.
Some money statistics:
So far over $1 trillion has been spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Plus 700 million interest.
Microsoft bought 1.5% or 2% of Facebook for $240 million. Using that valuation for the whole company, each user account is worth about $300.
Oil company PetroChina issued an IPO. The resulting valuation made it the largest company in the world, in terms of market capitalization (over $400 billion). However, the Chinese government still owns 98% of PetroChina, and PetroChina has lower sales and lower profits than Exxon Mobile. Since the IPO, the market cap of PetroChina has gone below that of Exxon because the stock went down.
Last month a jury awarded the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) $222,000 in a civil suit against a 30-year-old single mother of two named Jammie. Jammie makes about $36,000 per year. She was accused of sharing 24 songs on Kazaa.
What?! Surely there must be more to the story, right? There’s not. Well, she probably had more than 24 songs shared, but she probably didn’t even know she had any songs shared. She’s a typical internet user who has downloaded some music. Being a single mother, a minority, and an environmental worker, she was the ideal poster child for a victim of the big, bad, RIAA.
This is the first case to go to jury trial, out of thousands (26,000, at last count) of RIAA lawsuits against internet users. And a lot more thousands have paid the RIAA $3000-$5000 after receiving a letter demanding payment in order to avoid being sued. You can even pay them off online:
That sounds like illegal extortion! But it’s not. It is legal extortion. The jury award of $222,000 for sharing 24 songs seems ridiculously excessive. It might be, but that’s the law in the United States of America.
The one thing that is questionable in the lawsuit is that the RIAA did not have to show that anybody actually downloaded the files shared by Jammie. The judge decided that it was sufficient to show that the files were on the internet and available to be copied. In other words, Jammie is required to pay $222,000 for copyright violations that may never have occurred. It was good enough for the RIAA to say that, “It could happen.”
That is not specified in the copyright laws, and some courts around the country have decided both ways on this issue. It would probably be a major point in an appeal, but the RIAA will likely settle with Jammie for a low amount and require her to keep quiet about it. That way they can hold this case over the heads of others they are collecting money from. RIAA lawyer Richard Gabriel is already threatening, “This is what can happen if you don’t settle.”
Another issue is using an IP address and a MAC address to identify a person. In many cases this cannot be done very well.
Here is a good rundown of the trial, including the laws involved.
A shorter, more slanted version:
Here’s what Jammie said:
The music that cost Jammie $222,000 would cost $23.76 from iTunes. I don’t intend to buy music from these groups any more. Well, maybe Def Leppard, but certainly not the others: Guns N Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”, “November Rain”; Vanessa Williams “Save the Best for Last”; Janet Jackson “Let’s What Awhile”; Gloria Estefan “Here We Are”, “Coming Out of the Heart”, “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”; Goo Goo Dolls “Iris”, Journey “Faithfully”, “Don’t Stop Believing”; Sara McLachlan “Possession”, “Building a Mystery”; Aerosmith “Cryin'”; Linkin Park “One Step Closer”; Def Leppard “Pour Some Sugar on Me”; Reba McEntire “One Honest Heart”; Bryan Adams “Somebody”; No Doubt “Bathwater”, “Hella Good”, “Different People”; Sheryl Crow “Run Baby Run”; Richard Marx “Now and Forever”; Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills”; Green Day “Basket Case”
Rumor has it that President Bush is next in line to be sued by the RIAA:
This section is optional. This material will not be covered on the exam (except for the songs at the end). Most of this section is just a bit biased against the recording industry.
My Opinion: File sharing is bad, but the behavior of the RIAA and MPAA is worse. It’s gotten to the point that I won’t buy a CD unless I really, really want it, because I don’t like supporting those people. I also think that legal file sharing should not be made illegal.
What about these laws? How can a person have to pay more for sharing music than for armed robbery? The RIAA and MPAA pay off politicians. A spokesman from the Bush Administration named Chris said of the $222,000 verdict against Jammie, “Cases such as this remind us strong enforcement is a significant part of the effort to eliminate piracy.” He also said that the copyright law in the U.S. is effective. Did I mention that Chris came to the U.S. Commerce Department from Time Warner?
In the past ten years, the recording and movie industry have gotten these laws passed: The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act (more P2P penalties), The No Electronic Theft Act (file-swapping criminalized).
How do the laws get passed? Here’s a good example. In his last election campaign, U.S. Representative Tom from Florida took money from Sony Pictures Entertainment, Time Warner, Universal Music, ViaCom, Fox, and the RIAA. This year, he wants to cut off all federal funding to universities that don’t stop file sharing on their networks. In essence, he wants to close down universities for the recording industry.
Here is NBC Universal’s view on file sharing:
The MPAA wants to “deepen their relationship” with ISPs. That strikes me as hilarious. They use that terminology when they’re asking for ISP’s to spend time and money and to risk legal action, by disclosing their internet customers’ personal information.
President Bush got a mix CD of workout music for Father’s day from his daughters this year. The RIAA considers that illegal. Jennifer, Sony’s chief litigation lawyer, said “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said. There is no word on whether the Japanese intend to attack Pearl Harbor because President Bush stole Sony’s music.
Even worse, Bush has illegal music on his Ipod, according to the RIAA. The Beatles has never been legally sold for the Ipod, but it’s on the President’s.
Other people are guilty of stealing intellectual property. A guy in the U.K. named Patrick has some blogging software called Forest Blog. He lets people use it, on the condition that they don’t change or remove copyright notices and the links to his site.
You may not remove, alter or otherwise disable all or any of the hyperlinks to the Host Forest website (http://www.hostforest.co.uk). All images, links or text must remain unchanged and intact and visible when the pages are viewed unless you first obtain explicit written permission from the copyright holders.
Patrick reported this:
Way back in October last year whilst going through the website referrals list for another of my sites I stumbled across this link. That’s right, my blogging software is being used by the MPAA (Motion picture Association of America); probably one of the most hated organisations known to the internet. Cool, I thought, until I had a look around and saw that all of the back links to my main site had been removed with nary a mention in the source code!
So the MPAA was using Patrick’s Forest Blog, and went so far as to remove his copyright notices and links. They even took out the internal ones in his source code. So Patrick contacted the MPAA. They ignored him. He contacted them again. They ignored him again. Then the story started spreading around the internet. The MPAA responded.
They said it was OK for them to copy his software because
- The blog was never assigned a domain name.
- The blog was never advertised to the public in any way.
- The material on the server was a proof of concept awaiting approval to move into production.
- The blog was only ever used for testing purposes.
- Should we have decided to make the move to production, then we would have paid the 25 Pounds that would have authorized us to run a version of the blog without the logos and links.
The MPAA says they can copy anything they want for “testing purposes” as long as they don’t “move it into production.” Meanwhile, a guy namedScott just got out of jail after five months for copying Star Wars III. That certainly seems equitable.
The press generally goes along with one-sided views of the RIAA and MPAA. Not long ago, “copyrighted content” was reported on Google videos. So? All new content is copyrighted, whether it is owned by you, me, or the man in the moon. I guess it only matters when the content is in the control of the recording industry.
The boss (Scott) of one company (Movielabs) funded by the major studios, said that says that one of the most promising new devices on the horizon is a video jukebox that will let you rip your DVD collection onto a hard drive and then stream your movies to all the devices around your house. This would be a clear violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, according to the recording industry. But that law is for mere mortals, not movie studios.
The recording industry is liable to sue you just for playing your radio too loud at work.
The MPAA has been accused (several times) of harassing their “enemies” by tailing them, hiring illegal hackers, etc. But that’s OK because they’re the good guys.
The RIAA are good guys too. They were picked Worst Company in America in 2007 by Consumerist readers, beating out Halliburton in the final round.
There have been some legal proceedings unfavorable to the RIAA recently, although none are as big as the recent $222,000 verdict.
Here’s some nice music. (Federal copyright law doesn’t cover sound recordings made prior to 1972.)
Glenn Miller never made it back from the war.
Mike sang this song thirty years ago:
The Anarchist Cookbook is a poorly done book that contains a few things about making small bombs, many of which don’t work. The book has been around at least since the 1970’s. But in 2007, a 17-year-old can end up in jail for having a copy.
Maybe we should all download a copy and forward it to email@example.com.
…and don’t tell anybody about this letter, or else!
There’s a web site on infomercial scams. That’s not too surprising. It is a little entertaining, and it makes you wonder how anybody would ever fall for some of those scams. But one thing that is really funny is the banner ads on the site. They are from infomercial companies! They believe (probably correctly) that you can sucker many people twice.
They may actually build some nuclear power plants again in the U.S. But don’t head to the bomb shelter just yet. It will be several years before any go online.
This article says Defense Secretary Robert Gates is against war with Iran, and Vice President Dick Cheney is for it.
OnStar is offering a remote “slowdown” that will shut down your car when it is stolen. Or when the police are after you. Or when someone figures out how to crack it.
Wasn’t it President Bush who said he’d fire anybody caught leaking information?
In September, Site Intelligence Group, a small private intelligence company, got a copy of Osama Bin Laden’s video before it was released. They gave access to two senior White House officials on the condition that they don’t release it before the al-Queda release. In just a few hours, the tapes were all over Washington and the company’s years-long surveillance operation was destroyed.
Now the Democrats and the Republicans are both for it.
Millions are flooding the Sea of Japan. I wonder if they’re good to eat.
Lotus Symphony is free from IBM. It’s similar to Microsoft Office and Open Office. Lotus 123 and Lotus Symphony and were sold in the mid-1980’s, but I think this is a new software package using an old name.
You can get yours here:
Suppose you’re in England, and need to fly home to the U.S. for an emergency. Under the new TSA rules, you’ll get to wait three days while the TSA decides whether or not you are allowed to fly into, out of, or over the United States. Brilliant.
The tens of thousands of illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border every month will not be affected by the new regulation.
You might wonder who would be prohibited from flying over or under the U.S. The TSA has a No-Fly list of 15,000 or so known terrorists. Terrorists such as Robert Campbell. The fact that Robert Campbell is an airline pilot and former US Navy pilot makes no difference. The TSA says he’s on the No-Fly list, so he’s on it. He may be qualified to fly the airliner, but certainly not to ride in back.
The TSA does a great job adding thousands of names to the No-Fly list. This is just about as effective as forcing me to take my shoes off before I get on an airplane. Any terrorist with half a brain would use an assumed name, making the No-Fly list completely worthless.
The President was in Camp David last month and was attacked by 12 small aircraft. F16-s intercepted four of the planes that could not be contacted by radio. But as usual, the attack was not an attack. The planes strayed into the giant temporary restricted area that surrounds the President wherever he goes. The flight service people did not inform the pilots about the temporary restricted area, so the pilots were not at fault.
The pilots could face criminal charges anyway, under the new laws. But they probably won’t.
I hope the next President doesn’t require such a big restricted area to feel safe.
The Flight Service Station (FSS) system has been privatized recently. They are the people who pilots go to for weather and notices. Lockheed Martin is now in charge.
When I get a weather briefing before I fly, I usually read it on the computer. A few weeks ago I called on the phone for a weather briefing. The guy was nice enough, but he was completely incapable of getting me even the standard information. It was really awful. I didn’t even ask any unusual questions or interrupt — I just asked for a standard briefing. After about 20 minutes on the phone, I gave up and got the weather later using a computer.
I can’t imagine letting someone like that give weather briefings and flight notices to pilots. He just flat didn’t know how to do it. I’m not sure whether it was his fault or someone else’s, but I do know that kind of thing could kill some people. This is one case where privatization has degraded service.
A turboprop Predator-B UAV crashed near Nogales, Arizona last April. The report is out. The operator’s (pilot’s?) computer froze up. In the process of rebooting, he managed to shut off fuel to the UAV’s engine. The plane was “substantially damaged” in the crash.
The U.S. spends billions of dollars (and thousands of lives) rebuilding Iraq. Some of it just flat disappears. In other words, hundreds of millions of dollars are stolen. Billions more are spent on contracts with Iran and China. That seems to me to be very irresponsible money management.
The New England Patriots went to court and got the names of 13,000 StubHub customers who have bought or sold tickets to Patriots games. I suppose, in the tradition of the RIAA, they’ll now sue their customers?
You can cheat in online gambling. An employee of AbsolutePoker.com couldn’t convince management that their system could be hacked. So he won between $400,000 and $700,000 to prove his point. He hacked the system so he could see his opponents’ cards. He didn’t withdraw any of the money from his account, though. He said he did it just to show management they had some problems.
Comcast cuts the speed of your connection when you share or upload files. That seems OK to me, as long as they’re up front about it. (They’re not.) What’s bad is that they send false data packets to the computers sending and receiving the file. Each computer gets a false disconnect or stop message supposedly from the other. That probably violates some anti-terrorism law.
A 16-year-old named Michael made a firecracker out of a Sharpie pen. The police and the press called it a bomb, and now Michael faces felony terrorism charges. That is really stupid.
The Marrying Tree used to live outside Enid, Oklahoma. It apparently was downed in a storm last Spring.
A crop duster named Johan in South Africa had engine trouble. He was loaded with fuel and chemicals. So Johan jumped out of the plane when it was just above the ground, and survived with minor injuries. The plane did not survive.
This may come as a surprise, but the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has built some roads they didn’t really need.
Boeing’s new Hale UAV is a high altitude, long endurance UAV. It will be powered by Ford 4-cylinder engines modified to run on hydrogen with multi-stage turbochargers. It should be able to fly for a week at a time, over 65,000 feet high, and carry a 2,000 lb. payload.
The FAA reported a 5% decline in general aviation accidents this year. However, that 5% decline is the difference between actual the number accidents and the number of accidents the FAA projected would occur. They didn’t mention how many accidents there were last year. General aviation fatalities were down about 20%, using real numbers.
The merger negotiations between the Recording Industry and the U.S. Government are nearing completion. Senators Patrick and John have agreed that the government will begin filing the RIAA’s civil suits against people who download music. The last remaining topic to be ironed out is whether the RIAA will manage the executive branch of the government, or merely the legislative and judicial branches.
This makes sense, by government standards.
Terrorists made an attack on Detroit last week, attempting to blow up the city with an alarm clock. Complete devastation of the metropolis was narrowly averted when the alarm clock failed to detonate. Terrorist spokesman Jake explained, “Well, we was gonna use something bigger, but we reckoned Detroit ain’t worth any more than an alarm clock. Besides, most of the town was pretty much already destroyed.”
China launched a spacecraft that is now in orbit around the moon. I hope they build a cheap hotel there that I can visit someday.
Mike and I are thinking about taking the Minnow (http://viaboat.com) from Hawaii to Alaska next year, up the Aleutians and down the coast. With luck, we’ll be added to this web site:
Some people led by Steve Lloyd, co-owner of Title Wave Books in Anchorage, discovered the remains of The Torrent, a ship that wrecked 1868 near Nanwalik (English Bay) in Cook Inlet, Alaska. It is located one bay southwest of Seldovia, south of Homer, in shallow water.
In 2006 they found some copper spikes in the area. Last summer they found most of what remains of the ship, including the anchor, a howitzer barrel, and part of the rudder.
Here’s an account of the wreck by the ship’s surgeon:
Everybody on the Torrent survived the shipwreck. “The Native Alaskans on the Peninsula came to their aid, sharing some of their fish. Then a sister ship showed up, transporting the soldiers and civilians back to the former Russian fort on Kodiak Island. Spending the winter there, the soldiers built a school for local children out of lumber that had been intended for the fort. The next spring, they sailed to the mouth of the Kenai River on a different ship and proceeded to build Fort Kenay (as it was spelled then) in 1869 — this time without any mishaps.” (ADN)
The International Space Station, from the Space Shuttle Endeavor, last August:
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