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Mail 316 June 28 - July 4, 2004

 

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IF YOU SEND MAIL it may be published; if you want it private SAY SO AT THE TOP of the mail. I try to respect confidences, but there is only me, and this is Chaos Manor. If you want a mail address other than the one from which you sent the mail to appear, PUT THAT AT THE END OF THE LETTER as a signature. In general, put the name you want at the end of the letter: if you put no address there none will be posted, but I do want some kind of name, or explicitly to say (name withheld).

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Monday  June 28, 2004

As usual there was considerable mail over the weekend, and I suggest you start there. In particular there was discussion of Digital Rights Management, and some old business about Starbridge.

=====================

Subject: Seitz on TSA Tribulations

Dear Jerry:
Your tale of time lost from living at the hands of airport martinets reveals a dystopic truth.

The sum of life lost on 9-11 was some 3,000 lives cut short by an average of
4 decades. Yet that 120,000 man-years worth of tragedy pales in comparison to the sum of what tens of millions of passengers have lost from the best years of their lives in the thousand days since post 9-11 regulations descended.

Sentencing travelers to stand in purgatory piecemeal for what adds up to millennia raises a utilitarian question o. Since 9-11, terrorists have succeeded in killing hundreds a year globally. But with 1. 6 passengers a day, American travelers lose 1000 lifetimes a year for each extra hour spent on security .In the dismal calculus of wasted time, TSA is outperforming Al Qaeda.

The tens of thousands of man-years the TSA itself spends performing its rituals of exorcism adds to the magnitude of the farce. Planes are hijacked from the cockpit , and it is akin to folly to make passenger terminals into prison yards instead of sending the armed guards to ride shotgun.

I think I speak without prejudice, as I commenced boycotting civil aviation when the FAA caved in to the UN, and began transgressing smokers civil rights with a zeal worthy of the Jim Crow south. By my reckoning, the exploding sneaker wearing classes would have to treble their efforts to equal the mischief done to foil them.
Best
Russell Seitz
Please consider posting a link to my TCScolumns, including this one , which I think may amuse you: http://www.techcentralstation.com/052804F.html 

======================

More on Digital Rights:

In reply to another letter I said:  So the chap who prints copies of my books and sells them to Walmart is  not a  thief?

From my point of view... (Sorry, I don't want to get into a long debate- I'm sure you are inundated and have heard these arguments everywhere.)

Technically, no, it's something different. In my view, theft is where physical property is taken, so depriving the owner of its enjoyment. Copyright violation damage may be as bad or worse than thievery. One analogy might be sneaking into the cinema without paying? Your example doesn't happen widespread and wholesale in North America (except to Canadian authors) because of the legal enforcement of copyright enforcement issues. If Walmart or any retailer made a habit of disregarding copyright, they have enough money to make it worthwhile to sue them. I have found that large companies like my employer actively forbid software license violations. They have enough money that if sued for a million dollars they would pay up -the same reason why most large companies zealously push anti-harassment policies. A large settlement becomes a career-limiting move for all involved! Joe's corner store probably wouldn't even be able pay the legal fees for filing suit against them - the kamikaze defense.

There are also a degrees of offense. That's why we have involuntary manslaughter and first-degree murder. That's the difference between sharing with your buddies and going into the wholesale business for yourself.

I heard a story of local fellows who made a small bundle selling mail-order porn CDs in the earlier days of the Internet. Seems some of the images were scanned from Playboy, and geographic remoteness and obscurity didn't stop Hugh's lawyers from eventually finding them and making them an offer they couldn't refuse - I'm told the agreement was pretty thick and basically, they reserved the right to come after them if they even thought about further violations against anyone. I gather from what I've read on the net that this particular market is zealously policed by the participants and commercial intellectual property violations are hard to get away with.

Maybe the RIAA should go after minor file sharers in small claims court - the equivalent of speeding tickets, $50 for a $1 song. If this process were practical, people wouldn't so strongly cast the RIAA as the bad guys trying to extort your life savings for a song.. That's the kind of law change they should be pushing. The attitude would be more like "quit whining! Ya tried to do a fast one and got caught! Pay your fine!" There's an interesting herd mentality, when enforcement is so lax that everyone feels immunity by hiding in the herd. As for "sharing with your buddies", we've been doing that since cassette tapes first came out, and it's not going to stop - but your buddies should not include everyone in the first world.

As a side note, Canadian authors suffer from American copies of their books being remaindered into Canada, undercutting local publishers and cutting into their royalties. Canada is a minuscule market for the American publishers and conveniently segregated dumping ground, and we're more likely to buy Canadian authors here than in Arkansas or Alabama. For Canadian publishers, unfortunately, it's their main market. Worse yet, I understand Canadian publishers sell the rights on behalf of the authors, and so are doing it to themselves.

To go back to the "slander vs. assault" analogy -what's the damage if one is wrongfully accused of, say, rape, wife-beating or distributing child porn? Is it worse or better than being punched out at the bar? Probably not as bad as being beaten into a coma. All bad things hurt, some more than others - but people don't commit suicide or lose their job and family from being beat up.

Just out of curiosity, is there really a problem with pirated books outside of the high-priced textbook market? I wouldn't imagine the profit margin makes it worthwhile. Pirate operations occur when the profit margin is extreme, usually because the creation of the intellectual property is the major cost - copies of $150 medical texts for $40, fake Rolexes and Pradas for $20, pirate CD's and DVDs that can sell for 10 times what they cost to press - still offer a substantial discount to the end customer. I would think Walmart would drop their supplier with horror when they find they're liable for copyright violations. After all, by the third or fourth such incident, they probably are vulnerable to class actions, punitive damages, RICO violations, and similar deep deep cesspool contents.

-M.Daniels

Which says in effect that I can make a living by blackmail after I write a book. And hope that I can get WalMart to pay up. Thanks. As to what is imagined, I can only say that I have more than once found pirated editions of books, printed on real paper, imported from Israel and Taiwan, in discount stores like CostCo and Price Club. It certainly takes away from writing time to have to go defend one's copyrights.

==========================

Subject: Backups of Outlook on Laptops

Hi, In your June 20 column, you write that you are going to write about backing up Outlook, and synchronizing it with other machines.

I recently wrote an article about backing up laptops that includes some information about backing up Outlook. You may find it interesting.

http://www.officeprofessor.ca/back-laptop.html 

Robert -- Robert Echlin rechlin [at] magma.CA Personal site: "Some People's Parents" => magma.ca/~rechlin Company site: OfficeProfessor.CA

I find Outback to be the simplest Outlook backup tool.

the following link is to the Scaled Composites webpage, and is a pic of Melivill holding his wings & certificate.

http://www.scaled.com/projects/tierone/
photos/15P/15P-P%20Mike%20with%20Astrouaut%20wings.jpg

Steve

Thanks

Subject: Learning English . . .

I guess this is the irony of democracy? Freedom means with enough lawyers an interest group can get the system to bend to its needs, wants and desires.

Sue

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59178-2004Jun21.html 

Sure. It is one more way that democracies perish, as people finally turn to a strong man who can make things simpler.

==============================

Subject: Fwd: Hilarious debacle at Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand

[Published in Bangkok Post "Postbag" 26 June 2004, available online (free registration required) at < http://www.bangkokpost.com/260604_News/26Jun2004_news31.php >]

Please pass on to anyone who might enjoy a good chuckle.

==============Not allowed to present the facts=================

In this space on June 19 was announced that a panel discussion on the Thai-US FTA negotiations would take place at 8pm on June 23 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.

I was scheduled to speak on "The rule of law in Thailand and the FTA negotiations" and present excerpts from the documents I tabled at the FTA public hearings in March in Washington DC.

Whatever substantive provisions are finally negotiated, enforcement is key to the FTA's success or failure, a point stressed by several of my fellow witnesses in Washington. (I was the only witness from Thailand.)

Four hours before our panel's scheduled appearance, our convenor phoned to tell me apologetically that the FCCT had received phone calls from two official agencies, details of which he could not reveal. Their import was that I must not be permitted to present the materials tabled at the Washington public hearings.

When our panel went on stage without my advertised presence, the FCCT president kindly helped to clarify an awkward situation by confirming receipt of the phone calls, denying any official censorship, and explaining that the FCCT had made an independent decision (which coincided with the official "requests").

His delicate choice of words ("I have received legal advice") signalled to us that the FCCT was under threat of litigation if it facilitated documentation of the condition of the rule of law in Thailand.

Many attended our panel expecting the vigorous discussion promised on this page on June 19. I beg to apologise to them for my absence and to the FCCT and the panel convenor for any inconvenience caused. Those interested in my speaking notes may contact me at <jrace@attglobal.net>.

Old-timers will recall we went through a similar period after the 1976 coup d'etat here. The wonderful people of Thailand recovered from that dark age and I remain hopeful they will eventually recover from this one as well.

Jeffrey Race

[FTA refers to Free Trade Agreement]

==============================

Subject: sinus irrigator

Dr. Pournelle:

I have always enjoyed your site but no more than when you offered help for those with sinus problems. I have come to expect gems of wisdom but never did I expect your site would help me with my sinus problems. That irrigator thing is amazing - why the hell my physician never mentioned the device or something comparable rather than the thousands I have spent in allergy shots and prescriptions is a sad reminder of our health care in this country which is managed for profit with little concern for those that can least afford the high priced and increasingly ineffective drugs.

I was even contemplating surgery until I started using this thing but after the first day or two I am cautiously optimistic I may be able to avoid it - at least for now.

If you have the name and phone number for your neighbor who works with this company -pass it along as I am a real fan. It's worked great for me - I have since seen it on other allergy and sinus sites but the $10.00 off from your web site is simply frosting on the cake.

Thanks for letting us know - it is a real service.

Sean

It sure helps me sleep at night.

===========================

S. 2541 is the Republican Senate's request / wish list. It has a laundry list of programs, but this is the relevant language on Prizes. I think your readers would provide welcome & timely comment on whether this is a good start. It is very nuanced legislative language that could have profound implications.

<no attribution>

SEC. 408. CENTENNIAL CHALLENGE PROGRAM. Title III of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (42 U.S.C. 2451 et seq.), as amended by section 407, is amended by adding at the end the following: `SEC. 318. AUTHORITY FOR COMPETITIVE PRIZE AWARD PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE DEVELOPMENT OF ADVANCED SPACE AND AERONAUTICAL TECHNOLOGIES.

`(a) PROGRAM AUTHORIZED- The Administrator may carry out a program, known as the Centennial Challenge Program, to award prizes to stimulate innovation in basic and applied research, technology development, and prototype demonstration that have the potential for application to the performance of the space and aeronautical activities of the Administration.

`(b) PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS-

`(1) COMPETITIVE PROCESS- Recipients of prizes under the program under this section shall be selected through one or more competitions conducted by the Administrator.

`(2) ADVERTISEMENT OF COMPETITIONS- The Administrator shall widely advertise any competitions conducted under the program. `

(c) REGISTRATION; ASSUMPTION OF RISK-

`(1) REGISTRATION- Each potential recipient of a prize in a competition under the program under this section shall register for the competition.

`(2) ASSUMPTION OF RISK- In registering for a competition under paragraph (1), a potential recipient of a prize shall assume any and all risks, and waive claims against the United States Government and its related entities (including contractors and subcontractors at any tier, suppliers, users, customers, cooperating parties, grantees, investigators, and detailees), for any injury, death, damage, or loss of property, revenue, or profits, whether direct, indirect, or consequential, arising from participation in the competition, whether such injury, death, damage, or loss arises through negligence or otherwise, except in the case of willful misconduct. `

(d) BUDGETING AND AWARDING OF FUNDS- `(1) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- Any funds appropriated to carry out this section shall remain available until expended, but for not more than 4 fiscal years. `(2) DEPOSIT AND WITHDRAWAL OF FUNDS- When a prize is offered, the total amount of funding made available for that prize shall be deposited in the Centennial Challenge Trust Fund. If funding expires before a prize is awarded, the Administrator shall deposit additional funds in the account to ensure the availability of funding for all prizes. If a prize competition expires before its goals are met, the Administrator may redesignate those funds for a new challenge, but any redesignated funds will be considered as newly deposited for the purposes of paragraph (3). All cash awards made under this section shall be paid from that account. `(3) OVERALL LIMIT- The Administrator may not deposit more than $25,000,000 annually in the Centennial Challenge Trust Fund. `(4) MAXIMUM PRIZE- No competition under the program may result in the award of more than $1,000,000 in cash prizes without the approval of the Administrator. `(e) RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER AUTHORITY- The Administrator may exercise the authority in this section in conjunction with or in addition to any other authority of the Administrator to acquire, support, or stimulate basic and applied research, technology development, or prototype demonstration projects.'.

COMMENTS VERY MUCH WANTED. My first impression is that it's too complex: state a goal and a prize and get out of the way seems better; but perhaps it must be this way?

And see  below

 

===================

Wouldn't this be an issue of "freedom of cleaning?"

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/story.jsp?story=535331 

--Gary Pavek

Heh.

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday,  June 29, 2004

w

Re: Ashkenazi Intelligence

I don't know enough about genetics to form an opinion on Mr Cochran's thesis, but I would like to make a point in favour of the "cultural" explanation.

Until fairly recently, religion has been a dominant force in the intellectual life of Europeans. Christianity emphasizes "faith", which, in practice, means believing what you are taught to believe, with sanctions for asking too many, or the wrong type of questions. Jewish tradition, by contrast, encourages "study" of the scriptures, and the favoured method of study involves students in pairs, vigorously debating the precise meaning of each passage of scripture and the learned commentaries. In simple terms, all Jews were traditionally taught to think, while most Christians were being taught to believe & obey. Until modern times, most of Christian Europe was illiterate, while Jewish children (especially boys) were taught to read at an early age, so they could begin a life of religious study. The love of learning is a key element of Jewish culture. Although religious in origin, with the greater freedom of modern times, the love of learning has developed into the "my son, the Doctor" syndrome. Pushy parents are still the norm for a Jewish child! Perhaps "intelligence" is what you need to survive an upbringing by pushy parents?

-- Philip Danton

f

On that Chinese ideogram: We have a number of letters. Thanks to all of you who answered. I'll post a few; there seems to be general agreement on what it meant.

Hi Dr. Pournelle:

I work with Dr Yueming Wu, who I asked to translate the rock carving, and he says:

J. R. Hodel Information Systems Manager II Information Technology Office WV Department of Environmental Protection 304 759-0519

>>> YUEMING WU 06/29/2004 11:53:41 AM >>> Nothing offensive!

The 1st character (on the left) is pronounced as Jiao, meaning teaching; and the second one pronounced as Zhong, meaning loyalty.

--Yueming

=====

Jerry,

I am learning a little Mandarin in my travels to the east.
I have found this page to be most helpful for these sorts of questions:
http://zhongwen.com/

If you plod trough it you will find that the rock on the right is composed of Zhong (center/middle) and xin (heart). You could read it as center-heart.
Together they translate to "center."

I will leave the rock on the left for the orignal poster.

Mark Browne
=That seems a bit outside the concensus. Or is it? Loyalty and center-heart are certainly related...

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The ideograph at left means education, teaching, training.

The ideograph at right means loyalty, faithfulness.

Sincerely yours,

David Bernat dbernat@gol.com

===

Subject: Ideograph

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

The ideograph for "loyalty" may be broken down into two constituent ideographs with the meanings of "center" and "heart".

Mr. Browne has broken down the ideograph, which is what leads him to depart from the consensus.

Sincerely yours,

David Bernat dbernat@gol.com

 

==================================

And we have

Subject: Another critical IE exploit

The SANS Internet Storm Center has announced yet another critical exploit against Internet Explorer, this one related to the Browser Helper Objects (BHO) commonly used by banks to extend the functionality of IE. This exploit subverts SSL and HTTPS security to give the malefactor access to passwords and other account information. For details, see:

< http://isc.incidents.org/diary.php?date=2004-06-29&isc=9d5f3a3c121bed12c941b05a5ec9a628   >

This exploit is still more confirmation that the focus of these attacks has changed. Until recently, most viruses/worms/Trojans were mere vandalism perpetrated largely by teenage script kiddies looking for a cheap thrill. Most malware/spyware was, if sometimes skating gray areas of the law, at least intended for semi-legitimate purposes.

That has changed and is continuing to change. Several recent exploits have apparently originated with organized crime and the Russian Mafia. These folks are not playing games. Their intentions are clear. They want access to critical data such as username/password combinations that they can exploit to drain people's bank accounts and that will provide the raw material for identity theft. These folks are out to pillage your identity and your bank accounts, pure and simple.

The common thread through all of this is Outlook, Windows, and Internet Explorer (OWIE). If you continue to use these products, particularly IE, for personal work, you are risking having your bank accounts compromised and your identity stolen. As anyone who has been the victim of identity theft will tell you, recovering is a long, expensive process.

The risk is even worse in corporate environments. Imagine the result if a bank, law firm, or other business allows client/customer information to be compromised as a result of continuing to use software products with known severe security flaws. I expect the first law suit based on such a claim to occur in the near future, and I would expect it to be difficult to defend when competing software products without significant security flaws are so readily available. Even the Department of Homeland Security has suggested abandoning IE and using another browser.

At any rate, Internet Explorer, Outlook, and, to a lesser extent, Windows itself are security disasters just waiting to happen. I strongly encourage everyone to cease using IE as their default browser and replace it with an alternative. My own preference is Mozilla 1.7 <http://www.mozilla.org/products/mozilla1.x>, but Mozilla Firefox <http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox> or Opera <http://www.opera.com> is also an excellent choice. As to a mail client, I think Mozilla Mail 1.7 (included with the browser) is the best client available, much superior to Outlook. If you prefer a lighter-weight mail client, look at Mozilla Thunderbird <http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/>.

Please take this seriously. Ignoring this problem won't make it go away. Download Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, and start using it as your default browser. It's human nature to hate new things, but I promise you that if you use any of these browsers for a week, you'll come to prefer it to IE. Not only is IE riddled with unfixed and unfixable security holes, it hasn't been updated signficantly for years. Any of these modern alternatives provides functions like tabbed browsing that you'll soon find yourself unable to do without. And you'll be a lot safer.

Best regards.

Bob

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/thisweek.html

=Probably good advice. This is Chaos Manor and we continue to do things so you don't have to. I still use Internet Explorer, although I admit I am becoming concerned; we will see how long it takes Microsoft to get past this one.

IIS V5.0 Compromise

Jerry

This is a little more serious than the comments on your website seem to indicate for several reasons.

1) Due to the number of remotely hosted web sites on shared servers it is not always easy for the site owner to check exactly what people are realy getting from the server across the web. The malicious code is appended to every page delivered by that server it does not appear in any of the files uploaded by the site maintainer. This means that the problem can only be fixed by the server administrator, in fact I am pretty sure that in the case of multi site servers the relevant file will not be visible to site maintainers but only to the server administrators.

2) The compromise uses javascript to deliver the payload. Turning off javascript is the best protection until the version of IE is fixed, the problem with this is that it will break a lot of other sites (nowadays almost any site with buttons and forms will use javascript). This means people will need to turn it back on to access features on most sites if the site they are acessing is infected... Bingo down comes the compromise as it is attached to the bottom of every page.

3) Firewalls and NAT are not going to stop this because it all happens over http: . The javascript in the page footer gets the other code from elsewhere by making a perfectly legitimate http request for it which the firewall and NAT happily permit (after all the are set up to allow outgoing http requests and their replies). Information is then sent out over smtp which again is probably allowed out (after all people want mail to work).

The good news is there are fixes, the quickest one is to change web browser to one without this javascript vulnerability e.g. Firebird, Opera etc. then the javascript will happily load and die silently. Secondly programmes like Adaware should pick up the key monitor. Thirdly if you are running a small network run your own mail server and point all your mail clients at it. Then at the firewall block all outgoing smpt traffic from all machines except the one running the local mailserver. That way ET can't phone home. Finally make sure all the updates for IE are installed on all machines.

All the best

Ian Crowe

===

Subject: A Web of Spies

Jerry,

Your current Byte ( www.byte.com ) column has captured the anxiety that web access now entails. The attacks are coming so fast and furious that I cringe when I turn my machine on in the morning. I used to run SETI@Home, and leave my machine on 24/7, but that now seems too risky. These vandals have to be stopped. I'll be happy to help gather firewood.

Bill

Clearly we are coming upon critical times...

And see below

====================

Subject: S. 2541 prizes too little | Low calorie food problems

Re: the SEC. 318 prizes in S. 2541:

Pikers. Too little reward. Maximum of 25 megabucks/year for four years into the fund? Not enough, especially given what this would do for the national economy.

-- 73s and best regards John Bartley, K7AAY, tel. admin, USBC/DO, PDX, views mine. http://celdata.cjb.net Handheld Cellular Data FAQ rm -rf /bin/laden && newfs -m 99 /dev/iraq

Yes, but it's a start. A lot better than what we have now.

Subject: Comments on Prize language

Dr. Pournelle,

I'm not an expert on this, but I review things fairly often. You may already know this stuff, of course. The best comments are the ones at the bottom, in the section "WHAT IS MISSING". The key is: who sets the prize goals and rewards, and how do we keep them interesting and productive? It's not addressed in the language; more detail below.

"(d) BUDGETING AND AWARDING OF FUNDS- `(1) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- Any funds appropriated to carry out this section shall remain available until expended, but for not more than 4 fiscal years." ******COMMENT on (d)(1): 4 years is a reasonable amount of time for X project sort of prizes, not so good for big prizes.

"`(2) DEPOSIT AND WITHDRAWAL OF FUNDS- When a prize is offered, the total amount of funding made available for that prize shall be deposited in the Centennial Challenge Trust Fund. If funding expires before a prize is awarded, the Administrator shall deposit additional funds in the account to ensure the availability of funding for all prizes. If a prize competition expires before its goals are met, the Administrator may redesignate those funds for a new challenge, but any redesignated funds will be considered as newly deposited for the purposes of paragraph (3). All cash awards made under this section shall be paid from that account. "

******COMMENT on (d)(2): I think this means that they have to at least scrounge up enough 'one year money' to cover the entire prize upfront and put it in the fund. In later years, they can exchange this year's 'one year money' for next year's 'one year money' or even 'no year money' (what fiscal year the money is attached to is determined by the congressional language, of course).

******COMMENT on (d)(2): This also keeps NASA from playing games with the money in the fund (i.e. laundering the prize money by setting impossible goals, and then when no one wins the prize, transferring the dollars out to other NASA programs, like Shuttle).

`(3) OVERALL LIMIT- The Administrator may not deposit more than $25,000,000 annually in the Centennial Challenge Trust Fund."

******COMMENT on (3): Limits NASA. Notice if they put in $25M to start, and set impossible goals, they can keep this money recycling forever and never award anything while meeting their obligation.

******COMMENT on (3): Does not set a minimum. With O'Keefe you might be safe, but the way NASA blew off Congress in Assured Access to Station, they might refuse to fund the Prizes, too. See "what is missing" below.

" `(4) MAXIMUM PRIZE- No competition under the program may result in the award of more than $1,000,000 in cash prizes without the approval of the Administrator. "

******COMMENT on (4): This language seems complex and should be clearer. Like: "No prize may be set or awarded at more than $1M without...". With the proposed language, a $5M prize could be offered ('trust us we'll get the language changed'), but not awarded. It would be best to get it clear at the start. It is good that the Administrator is not bound by the $1M limit.

`(e) RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER AUTHORITY- The Administrator may exercise the authority in this section in conjunction with or in addition to any other authority of the Administrator to acquire, support, or stimulate basic and applied research, technology development, or prototype demonstration projects.'.

******COMMENT on (4)(e): A very good clause, but it should mention operations and be open ended. Something like "...any other authority of the Administer, including but not limited to the authority to acquire, support, or stimulate basic and applied research, technology development, operations concept development, operations support, or prototype demonstration projects".

******COMMENT on (4)(e): On the other hand, after thinking about WHAT IS MISSING 2B, below, it might be a good idea to limit this to "prototype and/or operations demonstrations" only. That would really force NASA to think outside of the box, and make for much more popular prizes.

******COMMENT: WHAT IS MISSING:

1. A minimum should be set, probably on how little can be in the Fund. This has no minimum amount to be set aside for prizes. NASA could choose $0.00.

2. There is no external entity providing oversight over the prizes, in two respects:

2A. Prize amount. Who sets and reviews the prize amounts? Should there be someone? The prizes are supposed to be cheap, but how cheap is too cheap? Who do potential contestants go to to complain? The NASA Advisory Committee?

2B. Prize objectives. Who sets and reviews the prize objectives? I think this is necessary, and probably should be reviewed by the NASA Advisory Committee or some similar body. What happens if NASA sets the prizes for some exceedingly dull and/or inconsequential objectives? They do a lot of work like that themselves, remember. We might think NASA is going to give prizes for neat RLV, Mars greenhouse, station docking, or mini-Sea Dragon types of projects, but they might set the prizes for the best type of turbopump impeller blade, data mining technology, or something stunningly boring like that. Don't expect them to think outside of the box.

Hope this helps.

Tom

=More comments below

================

 

 

 

 

======================

And now that Iraq is sovereign:

Subject: No One Asked Us

I think you will find this an interesting article. D Coleman

http://www.strategypage.com/respect/articles/military_2004628.asp

 No One Asked Us

by Stan Coerr

George Bush coalesced American support behind invading Iraq, I am told, using two arguments: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the capability to deliver them, and Iraq was a supporter of Al-Qaeda terrorism, and may have been involved in the attacks of 9/11. Vicious words and gratuitous finger-pointing keep falling back on these points, as people insist that "we" were misled into what started as a dynamic liberation and has become a bloody counterinsurgency. Watching politicians declaim and hearing television experts expound on why we went to war and on their opinions of those running the White House and Defense Department, I have one question. When is someone going to ask the guys who were there?...

=====

On the other hand

Subject: We need to look out for the Iranians

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3844441.stm

T

No comment. None. Zero.

From: Jimwoosley

 Subject: Iraqi WMD

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=39182 

Saddam's WMDs are in Syria Posted: June 29, 2004 1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Michael D. Evans © 2004 WorldNetDaily.com

There is mounting evidence that at least some of Saddam Hussein's missing weapons of mass destruction are in Syria, smuggled there by the Iraqi dictator for safekeeping before the beginning of the war. Part of the stockpile the coalition forces have so far failed to find in Iraq was probably destroyed; part is likely still hidden. But a massively lethal amount of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons is stored alongside Syria's own stockpiles of WMDs.

Perhaps more worrisome, there are indications these weapons are not under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Rather, in a potentially catastrophic palace intrigue, his sister, Bushra, and her husband, Gen. Assaf Shawkat, the No. 2 in Syria's military intelligence organization, the Mukhabarat, are said to have made the storage arrangements with Saddam as part of a bid for power.

<snip>

See link for full article.

 

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CURRENT VIEW    Tuesday

 

This week:

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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Subject: The Untouchable Chief of Baghdad.

http://www.commentarypage.com/johnson/johnson062904.php

-- Roland Dobbins

==============

Subject: Why Johnny can't write.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/
apus_story.asp?category=1110&slug=Bad%20Handwriting
 

---- Roland Dobbins

===

If I had to do a 20-minute written essay on anything, I'd fail. Or, rather, I'd have to get a book a few months in advance and teach myself how to write again. I can manage 1/4 page of semi-legible printing, but I don't think I can recall the last time I had to use that funny script-font writing. Perhaps 30 years ago, or more.

Weird that they'd start requiring a handwritten on a SAT... in an age when one really does use a computer for any written communications...
Rob Phillip

===

I find it interesting this subject has emerged. I built my first computer from an S-100 bus kit, because of my abysmal typing and handwriting, a serious handicap in journalism school as well as in the practice of journalism. Had my handwriting and first draft typing skills been decent, I might have stayed in Journalism, and followed (revered J-school prof.) Emil Q Dansker onto the Toledo Blade or somesuch, instead of taking a sharp right turn into microcomputers in the very early Eighties, and eventually becoming a net admin.

Later, the ADHD diagnosis kinda explains why handwriting and typing are tough for me. I can easily detect a difference in my handwriting, comparing when I am using my meds as opposed to taking a 'medication vacation'. (One med has potential to crank up my BP, bad for diabetics, so I test for that side effect every now and then when I have time to slack).

I digress. Often.

--
John Bartley

 

I still take notes by hand, but I don't write much in longhand. Odd: my TabletPC recognizes my handwriting, sometimes better than I do.

====================

Hi Jerry,

Sorry to be rushed-I am back to UK tomorrow and have endless tedium to deal with re: renewing my visa. I may have an interesting TSA/US embassy story when I get back, but I hope not!

The prize legislation as it appears on your website is very streamlined compared with applying to USG for research funding by any of the usual routes (NSF, Darpa, AFOSR, ARDA etc. etc.). Of course, that's the joy of offering a prize - well defined goals and no review meetings. The one question was how long the prize would be available for? Clay mathematics prizes, being endowed (and being for very difficult problems) are available until solved. Would the prizes be on the usual USG research timescale (5 years with review every six months) - I would hope not!

Best,

Peter Love

Dr. Peter J. Love
Research Associate
Department of Mathematics Tufts University Medford Ma 02155 USA

In theory, theory and practice are identical. In practice they may be completely different.

=======================

On the Water Buffalo story:

Subject: water buffalo incident

While I certainly agree that the U. Penn incident got blown out of control, let's remember that the women did NOT accuse this man of calling them water buffalo's. In their complaint to the university, the woman claimed that the man was screaming at them calling them "black water buffalos" "niggers" and "bitches." This is a rather different different thing, altho the "sticks and stones" admonition I think should still play. I don't see that this approaches the classic "fighting words" but perhaps it does.

Rick

That is not my understanding of the incident, nor is it that of the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper, which said:

"The scandal began when Eden Jacobowitz, then a first-year resident of High Rise East, became frustrated by the clamorous Founders' Day celebrations of 15 Delta Sigma Theta sisters outside his room. He and other students began yelling out their windows, urging the girls to quiet down.

"'Shut up, you water buffalo -- if you want to party go to the zoo,' Jacobowitz famously yelled, after a period of frustration at what he claimed was incessant noise.

"He was not the only student to scream out to the sisters. Still, Jacobowitz was the only one who came forward when Penn Police, spurred on by five infuriated sisters of the traditionally black sorority, who felt the shouts had violated the University's racial harassment codes, searched the dorm for perpetrators of the offense.

"Jacobowitz was also the only student who admitted that he had seen that the sisters were black when he was questioned by the police the following day. "

Note what has happened: someone called someone else names. The police then search a dorm for perpetrators, but none are identifiable until one student comes forward to admit he had told them to be quiet; and admitted to calling them "water buffalo", and they insisted they had heard "black water buffalo" and that caused them irreparable harm and they called the police.

For this he was threatened with expulsion. Hearings were held. The affair dragged on an on. But in the last analysis what we had was the nerds shouting epithets at the jocks, dormies shouting at greeks.

Probably the police should have stormed the dormitory guns blazing. That will fix those nerdy dormitory kids.

============================

Subject: For another view of Iraq... a comment

Dr. Pournelle,

My theory is that this could be one symptom of us living in an age of selfish specialists. This guy is a news director selling newspapers and looking for honors, and the best way to make that happen and beat his competition is to have sensational non-controversial news. His responsibility to his readers as an accurate reporter of the news, and to his country as an honest member of the fourth estate, just keep him from winning, so he ignores those parts of his job.

In a frontier (US before 1860?) or even an underdog (US before 1935?) society, this sort of selfishness more obviously hurt the community, so there was a tendency to not reward it as much. In our society today, the hurt is not immediately apparent, so the success is generally rewarded slightly more, enough to snowball through the generations.

I've heard on TV that a common question in Brazil, a country roughly similar in size and natural resources to the US, is "why is Brazil Brazil and the US is the US?" - ie what makes you guys so successful and us not so much? I theorize that in the past the US has been on one side of the selfish specialist tipping point, and Brazil on the other. That may be changing in opposite ways for both the US (this story) and Brazil ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?
pagename=article&node=&contentId=A19389-2001Jan4   , note the link source!)

Conservatism, libertarianism, 'American individualism', and smaller government fights the trend towards selfish specialization, I believe, since we are expected to be self-reliant and generalist citizens. Liberalism, socialism, neo-conservatism, theocracy, communism, fascism, and other philosophies tend to drive us toward bigger and more centralized government and accelerate us towards being, and futilely depending on, selfish specialists. That hurts us.

It's not black and white, of course, there's a lot of grey in there, and I know newspapers have never been particularly accurate. This is just a working theory I use. Seems to fit so far, though.

Tom

===

Subject: Al-Qaeda Cola?

http://www.thedonovan.com/archives/002216.html 

 Charles Butler

What an interesting place...

(I.E. : I am faced with deadlines, it looks like a very interesting web site, I will look more closely when I have time, and you may enjoy it.)

====================

Subject: (Some) Gomer Gestapo employees arrested for theft

The phrase "tip of the iceberg" springs vehemently to mind. Well, we knew they're stupid. "Stupid" and "dishonest" go hand in hand in hand these days, especially if "government employment" is the third piece of the puzzle.

How much would you want to bet that if you complained in the airport about items missing from your luggage, you'd be threatened with arrest?? Reminiscent of the KGB in the old USSR. I often wonder if John Ashcroft is channeling the spirit of Felix Dzerzinsky.

Employees of the "Gomer Gestapo" (a/k/a Transportation Safety administration -TSA) have been arrested in increasing numbers all across the United States, charged with stealing from the luggage they've been checking.

http://www.wafb.com/Global/story.asp?S=1970743 

(Kenner-AP) -- Eleven employees of the Transportation Security Administration have now been arrested on allegations of stealing items from luggage undergoing screening at the New Orleans airport. Nine suspects were arrested earlier this week. Two more screeners, Noland Metoya, and Terrance Thomas, were charged Thursday.

The investigation began when a TSA employee reported in May that she had seen some of the thefts and watched baggage screeners dividing up the stolen items in an employee parking lot at the airport. According to the records, at least four of the screeners were caught on surveillance cameras taking property out of bags. A TSA spokeswoman says the suspects have been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal cases.

4 more TSA screeners arrested for theft.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:CH1WcYRi6CgJ:forums.
realpolice.net/showthread.php%3Fgoto%3Dnewpost%26t%
3D14455+tsa+employees+arrested&hl=en  Arcade Awards

4 more screeners booked with thefts from airport bags Saturday, June 26, 2004 By Michelle Hunter East Jefferson bureau

Four more federal baggage screeners have been arrested in connection with thefts from passenger luggage at Louis Armstrong International Airport, bringing the tally to 13, in one of the largest such roundups in the 2 Ĺ-year history of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

A Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Friday identified the latest suspects as:

-- Noland Metoyer, 29, 1614 Reynes St., New Orleans, who was booked with theft of property valued at more than $500, and obstruction of justice.

-- Craig Wheat, 30, 8904 Edinburgh St., New Orleans, booked with conspiracy to commit theft valued at more than $500, and three counts of receiving more than $500 in stolen property.

-- Cleveland Lawson, 31, 6201 Ackel St., Metairie, booked with theft of property valued at less than $100.

-- Terrence Thomas, 34, 174 Thomas Lane in the Phoenix community of Plaquemines Parish, booked with theft of property valued at more than $500, and receiving more than $500 in stolen property.

None could be reached for comment.

More arrests are possible, although Sheriff's Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato said, "We're not going to be commenting on this investigation because it is still ongoing."

The latest arrests came Thursday. Nine screeners had been arrested Monday and Tuesday, when deputies made public an investigation that began in May with a tip from one of the suspects' co-workers. One of the initial suspects, Bernard Gill, 32, of New Orleans, was booked Thursday on an additional charge of injuring public records.

All the suspects work for the 45,000-employee Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency created by Congress less than two months after terrorists wielding box cutters commandeered four jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. The following February, the agency took control of security at most of the country's 453 commercial airports in an effort to improve the process of searching passengers, baggage and cargo for explosives and weapons.

<snip>

Although the screeners are federal employees, they will be prosecuted in state court by the staff of Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr., acting U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said.

"The DA's office has the jurisdiction and the wherewithal to handle these cases very, very well," he said.

.

More stories:

TSA Under Pressure To Stop Baggage Theft For Agency, a New Airport Security Problem By Sara Kehaulani Goo Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 29, 2003; Page A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/
A45823-2003Jun28?language=printer 

http://www.klas-tv.com/Global/story.asp?S=1964140&nav=168XO9A9  http://archives.californiaaviation.org/airport/msg30176.html 

 

Why am I not astonished?

 

==

TOP

CURRENT VIEW    Wednesday

 

This week:

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Thursday, July 1, 2004

Last night I sent out a Chaos Manor Warning to subscribers:

I got this from Alex, who has had clients infected thought Internet Explorer.

I am still using IE, but in part that is because I do silly things so you don't have to.

Read the indicated article. You will have to decide for yourself. I am making contact with high levels in Microsoft both tech and press relations, and I will tell you what I find out.

Dear Jerry Pournelle,

Alex Pournelle (alexp@earthlink.net) wants you to read the following article with the comment "Based on what we know, I think my client got hit by this vulnerability. This is why so many people hate IE. I think it needs comment.".

US-CERT: Beware of IE Ryan Naraine 06/29/2004

This article can be found online at the following location: http://www.internetnews.com/security/article.php/3374931 

Jerry Pournelle Chaos Manor

The back story here is that one of Alex's clients was infected with a particularly hard to remove malware, and the only reasonable route to it was through Internet Explorer.

Today one subscriber wrote:

Jerry,

It is a strange world where I find myself, if not defending Microsoft's products, chastising the press attackers of same. However, the "US-Cert recommends dropping IE" headlines seem to be sensationalized and distorted. If one reads the US-Cert vulnerability note cited in this article and several others with similar headlines (apparently not many people reporting this have), one finds that item #5 in a list of 5 items under the recommendation "Until a complete solution is available, consider the following workarounds" is "Use a different browser". I find that far weaker than the headline claim. As you know, I'm no fan of MS or most of their products. However, the time when IE could be trivially replaced passed us by (particularly those of us who use it in the enterprise) several years ago. By all means, let us get on better designed and supported software, including the browser. But let's do so in a measured and rational manner, not in a panic responding to media hype. So there is no mistake, I'm not suggesting that you are advocating rash action, but the gesalt of the press coverage may have that effect. YMMV

-Scott Miller

Which is in fact a reasonable reaction. I had not intended to make for panic in sending out the warning. Alex did have the experience of spending considerable time removing a particular malware from a system protected by a firewall (but not NAT) and Norton anti-virus kept up to date, and it was pretty clear the infection method was IE. I have also had several data miners and other phone-home malware infections of some of my machines, but Ad-Aware and Spybot were able to get rid of them without problems.

I continue to use Internet Explorer, in part because I have standby systems so that an attack on me has mixed effects: I get the experience and something to write about, in addition to the annoyance. Most of my readers and subscribers don't have that luxury.

I have asked Microsoft for a response this, but as of Noon today I don't have one; but I do expect them to answer. They have always been prompt and up front with me on such matters. More when I know more.

This latest IIS/IE exploit was just waiting to happen. For years now Microsoft have said they're working on security, but then do something that shows that they either don't care or don't understand - neither of which is encouraging.

Mr. Thompson covers the IE situation nicely:

"There is not and never has been a technical reason for tying IE so closely to the OS. Microsoft did it back in the days when they were facing monopoly charges because they wanted IE to continue to be the dominant browser. The unexpected result is that they've made Windows itself a security disaster just waiting to happen. If it were possible to remove IE completely from Windows and substitute a modern, secure browser I'd have a lot less concern about continuing to use Windows. But it's not possible to do that. Microsoft has seen to that."

IIS is even worse. Until IIS6 there hasn't been the slightest indication that security was even on their radar, let alone a serious concern.

- IIS has always run as the LocalSystem user; that doesn't look like it's a factor in this particular exploit, but it has been in many others. Everyone knows you don't run things as root under Unix, and the same applies with LocalSystem and Windows. Yet, Microsoft does it, and then other people think this is ok, and the problem spreads.

- IIS can change its own configuration. Depending on how the attackers gained access to the servers this may well be a factor. This was added for IIS4 for the web-based admin; yes it makes the sysadmin's job easier, but at what cost?

IIS6 looks like a step in the right direction, but on closer examination it shows that someone somewhere in Microsoft just doesn't get security. There was only one way the design of IIS could have been made less secure - by moving some of it into a driver. You get a lot more performance, but a lot less security - remote BSOD anyone? If security isn't top of your list it might as well not be on the list at all, and it clearly isn't top of Microsoft's list because with IIS6 came http.sys.

The sad thing about all this is that NT is actually a very well-designed OS. It has the facilities to be far more secure than any UNIX or UNIX-clone available now or in the near future, yet almost no-one uses them - especially not Microsoft. Microsoft are doing their utmost to help their competition overcome this advantage by integrating things into the OS that have no business being there. Is it then any surprise that the OS gets tarred with the same brush as IE?

However, unlike some (most?) people I don't actually think that Windows needs a rewrite. Rather, someone needs to apply a chainsaw to the installation until it resembles a minimal NT3.51 (can we have the video drivers back in user-space please?), make sure *no* services run as LocalSystem, and make everything that's left over an optional install. I'm not at all optimistic about this happening....

Fortunately I have a good firewall (OpenBSD), don't use IE (Firefox) or Outlook (Thunderbird), and have never and will never host any of my sites on IIS (I use my own webserver), but I do feel sorry for those in a less fortunate position.

Perhaps one positive outcome will be to force the stupid companies that have IE-only websites to fix them, but I'm not optimistic about that happening either.

-C

My firewall is a router, and I use IE and Outlook, and except for the rather well publicized Melissa infection I got years ago by opening an attachment to a press relations person I knew well (I won't make that mistake again!) I have never had a virus, and Add-Aware and Spybot get all the malware and spyware that has come here.

However, for those who want to set up a Linux based firewall or run a Linux system, keep your eye out for an upcoming column in www.byte.com next month, where I'll talk about XANDROS Linux.

Dr. Pournelle:

I would have to agree with Mr. Miller that a wholesale recommendation to not use Internet Explorer is a bit radical, and not really an option for many users. While IE has problems, they can be mitigated or reduced. I believe that other browsers may have similar problems. There are some browsers that use parts of the IE "engine" to render (display) web pages (I use "NetCaptor", it uses the IE engine for parts of it's functions. In fact, they sent me notice of an update yesterday. The update disables the "Russian" bug that I told you about.)

And IE is such an integral part of the Windows OS that you can't get rid of all it's pieces, even if you do install a new browser.

I believe that SANS (and US-CERT, which is a cooperative effort between SANS and "Homeland Security") went a little overboard in their zeal. (I still have great respect for SANS and their work, and their excellent training classes.) And much of the computer and mainstream press also got excited, breathlessly reporting that 'the sky is falling, replace IE now'.

Spyware/malware is a difficult problem. Those programs take advantage of many of the features of browsers that allow the web page developer to make some quite interesting and useful pages. Email is quite useful to all, but it has a dark side (spam). Movies can be useful and educational, but have a dark side (adult/offensive/etc movies). And there is a dark side to the features that are available to web page developers (spyware/malware). I'd equate spyware/malware authors at the same level as spammers.

I use IE constantly (along with NetCaptor, mostly for it's tabbed pages feature), and will continue to do so. I use Windows XP, and will continue to do so.

But I will be continue to be careful to follow my mantra of updating and carefulness. I have current anti-virus. I have a firewall. I have Windows Update running. And I have Spybot Search and Destroy. I back up my important data. I don't give out my credit card number or my mother's maiden name to anyone that asks. ("Trust, but Verify"). When I leave my house, I lock it and turn on the alarm system. I lock my car in the parking lot. I avoid dark alleys.

By being careful, I believe that I am well protected against nefarious deeds, against my computer and my personal life. The bad guys are out there, and bad things happen, but I do as much as I can to protect myself.

Regards, Rick Hellewell

===

I have heard no one recommend abandoning Internet Explorer. What I have heard people recommend is to abandon Internet Explorer as one's default browser. There's a big difference there, and I don't think anyone could reasonably argue with the wisdom of using something other than IE for default browsing, using IE only for sites that require it.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

 

===

===========

And another lesson from the water buffalo incident:

Dr. Pournelle,

Ah, the "Water Buffalo" case! Thanks for the reminder.

It reminds me of the lesson of Martha Stewart. This is an illustration of the fact that it is *never* safe to talk to the police. If Jacobowitz had simply maintained a dumb look and asked "What girls?" he would have been saved a lot of grief.

Robin K. Juhl, Captain, USAF (retired) ----------------------------------- Never choose the option in which evil triumphs

A hard lesson for one brought up in the high school civics classes I took. In a self governing Republic the people and the government are one. When the government becomes "them" it is no longer a real republic.

And once in a while I put in mail because I like it...

Dr Pournelle,

(Publish or not, as you wish.)

I would like to bring a problem to your attention, but I would also like to say that your webpage is one of the most readable and interesting I have ever found. I have been reading it from about the third or fourth week. It is the first one I pull every time I sit down at my machine(s) and I do it to see if anything significant has happened that day, as opposed to what the news media has used to fill their pages (web or paper) or used to fill the otherwise dark space on tv between the commercials.

 

The problem is  table width formatting in the tables that frontpage uses to create your pages.

One mail316.html, in the Wednesday table, there is the following link : http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:CH1WcYRi6CgJ:forums
.realpolice.net/showthread.php%3Fgoto%3Dnewpost%26t%
3D14455+tsa+employees+arrested&hl=en  <http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:CH1WcYRi6CgJ:forums.realpolice.net/showthread.php? goto=newpost&t=14455+tsa+employees+arrested&hl=en> when I use Netscape to view the page, the length of the text associated with this line pushes the width of the column out to 1 1/2 screen widths. IE will trim the text at appropriate points to wrap it.

Because the column of the table is that wide, all the text wraps at that width and becomes cumbersome to read.

I edited the html, and broke the text string associated with the link at a given point and it did correct the column width.

I do not use frontpage for webpage publishing, having to work more directly with raw html in my work, so I do not have anything to recommend to you on tricks to handle this problem, but since more and more people could be moving away from IE, this could become more of an issue.

Best regards

William S. (Bill) Wilkinson Montrťal, Quťbec

Thanks. I usually catch those long URL's and break them with shift-return into manageable widths, but this one got pasted in from a letter and I didn't notice that the breaks were put in by FrontPage. Frontpage 2003 does this; the older version did not. But I usually get them.

And thanks for the kind words.

And more on TSA and related stuff

Dr Pournelle,

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I donít know if this makes you feel any better, but clearly you donít need the TSA to have the sort of problems you often comment on...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/3856023.stm 

QUOTE/ Five Gatwick Airport security guards have been charged with stealing from passengers' bags... ... Police said £50,000 worth of items, including 30 laptop computers, were recovered. /END QUOTE

The price of freedom may be eternal vigilance, but then who guards the guardians?

Jim Mangles

Heh. Apparently England and the US are in a contest to see which one can shed which freedoms faster...

====

And on a topic nearer to The Burning City

Subject: The Fremont people

http://www.dhonline.com/articles/2004/06/25/news/nation/nation08.txt

---- Roland Dobbins

========

And here is something I wish someone would try out and let me know what happens:

Subject: might be very useful from dan bricklin

http://www.softwaregarden.com/products/listgarden/ 

Mark

I have never experiments with RSS feeds, and somehow I have never quite understood their value, although people I respect recommend I try it.

One of my problems is that I don't think I can use much more information than I already get.

 

 

 

 

==

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This week:

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Friday

Dr. Pournelle:

From the Microsoft Security site ( http://www.microsoft.com/security/default.mspx  ), the fix for the "Russian Hack" (my name, everyone else calls it "Download.Ject", among other names):

"On Friday, July 2, 2004, Microsoft is releasing a configuration change for Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003, to address recent malicious attacks against Internet Explorer, also know as Download.Ject.

"Windows customers are encouraged to apply this configuration change immediately to help be protected from current Internet Explorer exploits.

"The update is currently available on the Download Center and will be made available later today on Windows Update.

"Customers who have enabled automatic updates will receive the configuration change automatically. We recommend that customers immediately install this configuration change as soon as it is downloaded by automatic updates or by visiting the Windows Update site later today."

Mantra: automatic updates are good for workstations. (Testing might be required for servers, but these updates are important for servers and workstations.)

Regards, Rick Hellewell, information security at digitalchoke.com

Note that if you have XP Service Pack 2 Release Candidate 2 (SP-2 RC-2) installed you are already safe. The Russian Hack server was taken down by law enforcement; rumor has it that the perpetrators are enjoying a tour of the Lubianka.

I think it's overstating things to say that Microsoft has provided a "fix" for IE. Here's what Microsoft says:

"On Friday, July 2, 2004, Microsoft released a configuration change to the Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 operating systems that improves system resiliency to protect against the Download.Ject attack."

Note that they don't refer to a "patch" but to a "configuration change". Frankly, I don't care to spend the time necessary to figure out what they're really saying, but I note that they don't claim to have patched the problem or to have created a "fix", but only to be distributing a "configuration change" that "improves system resiliency". Why can't they use plain English? Probably because we wouldn't like what they had to say...

My impression is that the problem is not fixed and that Microsoft is devoting more effort to double-speak efforts to minimize the damage from this PR disaster than they are to fixing the problem. Meanwhile, I note that downloads of Mozilla have doubled, to more than 1,000,000 per week.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson

Subject: It's not a fix

I was right. It's not a fix, just a configuration change. The confusion, no doubt intended by Microsoft, is because they're distributing the configuration change as an executable. But it's not a patch in the sense of providing updated code. All it does is make configuration changes that could have been done manually.

See the following link:

< http://www.ntbugtraq.com/default.asp?pid
=36&sid=1&A2=ind0407&L=ntbugtraq&F=P&S=&P=569 >

-- Robert Bruce Thompson thompson@ttgnet.com

I'm not astonished, because last night on the phone to the Microsoft managers they said that "No fix is imminent." The setting changes are still worthwhile although the Russian server is out of business and so far no one else seems to be using the Russian Hack. The REAL fix is XP SP-2; I've been using that for a while, and it works smoothly for me, on my communications, web browsing, writing, and TabletPC machines, and I have had no problems at all.

Dr. Pournelle:

According to various AV vendors, a new variant of the "LovGate" worm via email messages is becoming more prevalent. It comes as an executable attachment to an email message. The message may appear to be a reply to a message you sent out that was unread by the recipient. Of course, if you don't open executable attachments, or are filtering them, you will be protected. (info from McAfee here: http://vil.nai.com/vil/content/v_126560.htm  )

This one will try to spread across a network as well as email. It will disable any anti-virus software on your computer. On the network, it will attempt to log in as administrator using weak passwords. It can be destructive on network drives by replacing all EXE's with a copy of itself, with the original EXE renamed to <filename>.ZMX . There is also a 'backdoor" component. From the reports, it doesn't seem to install a keystroke-logger, but it will allow remote access to your computer, probably to allow the infected computer to be used as a mail (spam) relay.

Several protections against this (the usual): - current Windows Updates (it exploits a vulnerability fixed last year MS03-026) - block and do not run executables found in attachments - current anti-virus updates (the backdoor component has been sensed by the AV for a while; this new version will be detected by AV updates made available today) - strong passwords, especially at the administrator and network level - careful email practices

Regards, Rick Hellewell, Information Security at DigitalChoke.com

Of course we all know not to open unexpected email attachments. Don't we?

 

 

========================

Subject: The Origami Boulder.

http://origamiboulder.com/

---- Roland Dobbins

My guess is that you have never seen anything like this...

===

Subject: So many places to go

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3856401.stm

Mark

Indeed.

Hubble discovers 100 new planets

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3856401.stm 

"If confirmed it would almost double the number of planets known to be circling other stars to about 230. "The discovery will lend support to the idea that almost every sunlike star in our galaxy, and probably the Universe, is accompanied by planets. "

Steven Dunn

========================

Subject: Marlon Brando, RIP.

http://www.kpho.com/Global/story.asp?S=1990163&nav=23KtOOSA

---- Roland Dobbins

I never met him. Long ago in another life I knew Gerry Paige who had known him well (she said intimately, but many actresses claimed that association and I have no data; at the time I would have believed her if she had said Brando had horns and a tail, or a halo, or almost anything else she might have said, but we were very young). I knew other show business people who had known Brando, and they all said he was a fairly nice guy, but that was in the 50's. Everyone in New York in the early 50's had stories of being with Brando in summer stock, and I would guess that more than half of them were true. They all showed his comradeship with fellow actors, and his siding with them against directors.

He was my neighbor for the past 20 years, but I never met him: he lived in a walled compound up at the top of the hill, and there was no indication of whose it was, and he never showed up at any of the (few) show business parties Roberta and I went to.

His best work was when he was younger, and he did bring a style to the theater that changed it, perhaps for the better; and when he was older, he could still be believable in any part he chose to play.

==============

This link finds Islamic sites (and businesses owned by Muslims) for any zipcode in the US. http://www.islamicfinder.org/

R

I have no idea if this works, or why one would want it, but it's interesting...

====

Swedish pastor sentenced to one month in jail for offending homosexuals

By Lars Grip

Stockholm, 30 June (ENI)--A Swedish court on Wednesday sentenced a pastor belonging to the Pentecostal movement in Sweden, Ake Green, to a month in prison, under a law against incitement, after he was found guilty of having offended homosexuals in a sermon.

Soren Andersson, the president of the Swedish federation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (RFSL), said on hearing the sentence that religious freedom could never be used as a reason to offend people. "Therefore," he told journalists, "I cannot regard the sentence as an act of interference with freedom of religion." <snip>

Freedom is of course the right to say anything you like so long as the rest of us approve of it.

==============

http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?
command=newPage&nodeId=156129&contentPK=10497330 

MUM'S ANGER AT £200 RACISM FINE More News | Back to home page

10:30 - 01 July 2004 An 80-year-old mother has spoken of her anger after a court fined her son £200 for making racist comments about Scottish people.

Leila Tyler, of Coulson Road, Boultham, Lincoln, said the ruling was "ridiculous" and that her son was not a racist.

She has called for race equality laws to be toned down and for courts to use more common sense when interpreting them.

Mark Tyler, of North Down Avenue, Hulme, near Manchester, admitted using racially aggravated disorderly behaviour on May 15 at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Brayford Wharf North, Lincoln.

After drinking in the hotel he got into an argument with the manager and made "disparaging comments about the manager and his Scottish ancestors".

My o my o my...

======

Greetings, sir. Delighted to hear you're excited about your new fiction, and I hope you'll have time to read this short note.

Regards,

Tim Elliott

Tim Blair busts the Washington Post, which had falsely claimed that Paul Bremer left Iraq without a word to the Iraqi people:

"When [Bremer] left Iraq on Monday after surrendering authority to an interim government, it was with a somber air of exhaustion. There was no farewell address to the Iraqi people, no celebratory airport sendoff."

Wrong! It turns out that -- as several newspapers are beginning to report -- Bremer actually gave an eloquent speech, partly in decent Arabic, that changed the minds of some cynical Iraqis about America.

And how did Tim Blair first learn this? By reading Iraqi blogs. The Iraqi blogger in question described Bremer's speech this way:

Suddenly Mr. Bremer appeared on TV reading his last speech before he left Iraq. I approached the TV to listen carefully to the speech, as I expected it to be difficult in the midst of all that noise. To my surprise everyone stopped what they were doing and started watching as attentively as I was.

The speech was impressive and you could hear the sound of a needle if one had dropped it at that time. The most sensational moment was the end of the speech when Mr. Bremer used a famous Arab emotional poem. The poem was for a famous Arab poet who said it while leaving Baghdad. Al-Jazeera had put an interpreter who tried to translate even the Arabic poem which Mr. Bremer was telling in a fair Arabic! "Let this damned interpreter shut up. We want to hear what the man is saying" One of my colloquies shouted. The scene was very touching that the guy sitting next to me (who used to sympathize with Muqtada) said "Hes going to make me cry!"

Then he finished his speech by saying in Arabic, "A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq, A'ash Al-Iraq!" (Long live Iraq, Long live Iraq, long live Iraq). Don't expect to see this point of view in your local paper. It sounds too much like good news.

Speaking of the suppression of good news, see what another Iraqi blogger has to say about the media. Blair has turned over his weekly column to some Iraqi bloggers. One of those bloggers, named Omar, says something I just have to share with you:

Something you may not have read about: in May, Iraqi soldiers saved the life of a US marine shot during patrols in Al Karmah, near Fallujah. Private Imad Abid Zeid Jassim dragged the injured marine away from gunfire then attacked the enemy. We (and you) don't read any good news like this. All we get are pictures of idiots throwing bricks at burnt cars. Why don't the media cover such stories? The attitude of the major media no longer surprises me. It only disgusts me. Looks like Iraqis have more in common with Americans than you'd think!

(This is a truncated version of a post at Patterico's Pontifications.) http://patterico.com/archives/002397.php

I am no fan of Mr. Bremer's but this is interesting and he certainly deserves to have his story told.

===========

Dr Pournelle, How long till a private company makes it to Orbit? Burt Rutan has cryptically hinted, "we're heading to orbit sooner than you think," Armadillo Aerospace and (I hear) StarChaser Industries have said they intend to try to go to orbit after they have their suborbital vehicles running. Scaled Composites has the funding; however, it is thought that Armadillo has a suborbital vehicle closer to what what will be needed to reach orbit.

You have access to better information than I do. What do you think?

Ian Perry.

http://www.floridatoday.com/news/space/
stories/2004b/spacestoryN0623SPACEONE.htm  

 It depends on both finances and regulations. We thought the SSX program would accomplish an orbital ship with some payload in about 4 years. Since then we have gone backwards, but I would say it can be done in 4 -5 years now, if government doesn't try to stop the effort.

 

 

=

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Saturday, July 3, 2004

Jerry

Ed here. Someone thinks like you, sort of:

Okay, let's pretend for a moment.

Straight from the G8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia enjoy:

WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR GEORGE W. BUSH GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?

My Fellow Americans:

As you all know, the defeat of Iraq regime has been completed. Since congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, Our mission in Iraq is complete. This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now the time to begin the reckoning. Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. The United Kingdom, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there.

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening. Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war. The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world Hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption. Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic?

Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth. Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China.

To Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Yo, boys. Work out a peace deal now. Just note that Camp David is closed. Maybe all of you can go to Russia for negotiations. They have some great palaces there, big tables, too. I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia. Thanks for all your help, comrades. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.

I have instructed the Mayor of New York City to begin towing the many UN diplomatic vehicles located in Manhattan with more than two unpaid parking tickets to sites where those vehicles will be stripped, shredded, and crushed. I don't care about whatever treaty pertains to this. You creeps have tens of thousands of unpaid tickets. Pay those tickets tomorrow or watch your precious Benzes, Beemers, and limos be turned over to some of the finest chop shops in the world. I love New York.

A special note to our neighbors: Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change. Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil. Oh, by the way, the United States is abrogating the NAFTA treaty --- starting now.

We are tired of the one-way highway. It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them be saying, "darn tootin." Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget. To the nations on List 2, a final thought. Drop dead.

God bless America. Thank you and good night.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.

Well --   well.

Don't shoot the messenger: Ed didn't write this, he sent it along. It's making the rounds of the Internet.

Most of the mail I got on this points out that Canada doesn't really belong on List Two at all: they did help in Afghanistan, and their reservations about Iraq were about the same as my own. I can hardly fault them on that.

And of course Canada's analysis of defense needs is that it doesn't really need any. No one can invade Canada without dealing first with the United States, and thus Canada doesn't require a large armed force or expensive defense establishment. The US isn't going to invade Canada, and if we did decide to do so, there isn't a lot Canada could do about it. (That's now, they certainly did manage to resist the last time we tried it...)

Dear Jerry,

Ed [Note above: this wasn't Ed's creation; JEP] makes some good points, cutting off foreign aid to most of the world, dumping NATO, although he doesn't go far enough with the UN. Personally I would say "Get the F**K out of New York!", perhaps The Hague would be a good place for the UN to be, they have big tables there, too.

Alas, he suffers from chronic Amerikanism.

Canada didn't follow the US into Iraq. Given that you thought it was a bad idea, I'm not sure why Canada should be penalized for also thinking it a bad idea (it was a bad idea!). We are in Afghanistan (where we have lost Canadian lives to amphetamine drugged pilots, now there's a scary thought, let's fight the War on Drugs, while on drugs!), remember that we are helping to rebuild Iraq, remember that we have enjoyed almost two hundred years of peace. Remember why the White House is painted white. Canada might seem wimpy to you, but we have fought bravely beside America more than we fought against her. I consider the War of 1812 a draw. While America is a super power, I consider another super power that lost to a handful of dedicated people. For those not quick enough to figure that reference out, I am referring to the American Revolution.

Abrogate NAFTA, PLEASE. It benefits the US far more than Canada, though I can't say the same for Mexico. I do agree with his statement about Fox and his corrupt government. But consider that Canada exports a huge amount of lumber to the states. Are you going to build your houses out of mud?

Spain, on the other hand, did go into Iraq, and then pulled out after the Madrid bombing, why are they still on list one?

If America is so wonderful about trying to bring a "decent life" to the "rest of the world" why is there still hunger and poverty in America?

Oh, one last thought, if you are reading this in English, thank the English!

Bill Grigg

There's damned little non-voluntary hunger and poverty in the US; and what we define as poverty is wealth in about 60% of the world. What in the world is that line for? I was more or less in agreement up to that point, but apparently no one can talk about the US without getting in some kind of dig.

I have been rich and I have been broke (not poor, poor and poverty are states of mind; broke is simply being without money) and I can say there are places in this world I'd rather be rich in than the USA, but I don't know of any place I'd rather be if I were broke, and I doubt you do either.

As to being "wonderful about trying to bring a 'decent life' to the 'rest of the world', I suggest you take a crack at it; or, you can talk US citizens into doing it with their own money. Some American do in fact support kids in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East in Catholic schools and orphanages where a hundred bucks a month goes a very long way; but that's not America being wonderful it's just someone fortunate helping out kids who aren't. If your reference is to US foreign aid, 85% of which vanishes into the pockets of bureaucrats, I don't need reminding that it's a futile wish, but I don't understand, exactly, why we ought to be castigated for our generosity.

Ah well. Have it all your way.

Jerry,

Thank you for your thoughts and intelligent discussion board. Reading your writings has made me reflect many times on my own beliefs.

I was somewhat discouraged to read the letter which included the following quote:

"WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT TO TURN ON THE TV AND HEAR GEORGE W. BUSH GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?"

As a Canadian, I lived (and am living) through the discussions on whether we should or shouldn't have participated in the Iraq conflict. Yes, we had some politicians who need "adult supervision". But, we also had some legitimate reasons for not joining in this war. First was the practical. All our resources were and are tied up in Afghanistan in support of your needs. Second, our normal policy regarding political conflict is to defer to the United Nations. I venture that better management of that relationship on the part of Bush would have seen Canada involved in Iraq at some point. Third, Canada was the first country involved on September 11. We accepted thousands of passengers when the US air space was closed. There was never any second thought. It was the right thing to do so we did it. Finally, keep in mind that we also had resources in support of the Iraq war in excess of that of most other countries, even though we weren't officially participating.

I am discouraged that this writer expects us to do your bidding in every international dispute no matter what we have done in the past. Again, we had some unfortunate comments expressed by people in our government. Conversely, we hear unfortunate things all the time from politicians on your side of the border. I'm hoping that our current Prime Minister can re-establish a professional relationship that allows us to participate according to our beliefs and abilities.

Thank you for your time, Omar Freeman

The Princess Pats were in my war, and greatly appreciated. As to whether Canada, with its resources, ought to keep a larger military establishment in this age of odd wars on terror, that is worth discussion. I didn't care for the Iraqi War, and still don't, but I certainly don't hope for US defeat, nor do I want to discourage the troops who are there.

Like all free countries, Canada has a diversity of opinions, some of them rather silly. I was once told the political parties in Canada aren't what most people think: there's a French party, an American Party, an English party, and what's left over are divided in odd ways. That data may be some years out of date since I haven't paid much attention to Canadian politics since I left Washington State where the Vancouver Sun was readily available; I was interested in the Social Credit experiment. (Ye Socred Cow...)

I've no great fear of free trade between the US and Canada. I have a great deal of fear of the New World Order which is likely to make the world rich at the expense of the American poor and lower middle classes. The smart and the rich usually manage under any scheme; but the mass export of jobs for reasons of comparative advantage has always concerned me.

That's another story for another time, but I do note that the theory of comparative advantage (everyone is better off if each country does what it's best at and then has free trade) is a static analysis: you ain't going to get better at something you don't do and can't afford to try.

US and Canada in a customs union makes sense, with common tariff against certain overseas competitions; there is sufficient similarity in culture, education, skills, and econonomic/social class structure to make a customs union an advantageous arrangement. NAFTA on the other hand sucked jobs out of the US, and now Walmart is causing those jobs to be sucked out of Mexico for the Orient. But we can all live by retraining to be telephone solicitors.

In any event we are not in serious disagreement.

Subject: HEAR GEORGE W. BUSH GIVE THE FOLLOWING SPEECH?

I think if this gent believes ending aid to France et al is going to pay for the war against Iraq he should try arithmetic with the correct placement of the decimal point - he is certainly 1 & probably 2 places out.

When I am feeling less charitable towards the US (& my own UK) government I could quite happily endorse his policy. Perhaps it really would be a good idea for the rest of the world to align with China & France in opposing "rogue states".

Neil Craig

More or less correct, except that we aren't spending some of the money appropriated for rebuilding Iraq.

There are two kinds of expenses: those you'd make anyway, but now can charge against this particular venture; and those you make only because of this venture. The marginal cost of the war given that we were going to build a defense establishment is not quite as high as some think. But in any event, I see little to be gained by giving American taxpayer money to foreign countries. I'd rather use the army to levy tribute on them and let them call it foreign aid. But I would a heap sight rather see the Army come home and defend out borders, and the TSA put into enforcement of immigration laws.

Terrorists have managed to kill a few thousand Americans; we have, in answer, done far more damage to our own economy and peace of mind. And hired endless bureaucrats who will cost us more over a longer period of time. Ah well.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Pournelle,

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

I donít know if this makes you feel any better, but clearly you donít need the TSA to have the sort of problems you often comment on...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/southern_counties/3856023.stm 

QUOTE/ Five Gatwick Airport security guards have been charged with stealing from passengers' bags... ... Police said £50,000 worth of items, including 30 laptop computers, were recovered. /END QUOTE

The price of freedom may be eternal vigilance, but then who guards the guardians?

Jim Mangles

Ah well. Das Buros immer steht...

Dr Pournelle,

Private orbiting

How long till a private company makes it to Orbit?

I donít know, but as you know kinetic energy is a function of the square of velocity so the problem is roughly 130 times harder to crack than SpaceshipOneís recent trip was.

Donít hold your breath.

Jim Mangles

Well, yes and no, but it's not a bad approximation: 130 x $20 million = $2.6 billion which is about what we thought SSX would cost to get to orbit through X programs.

But in fact I would guess that it can be done for about half that using private means.

I used to say that I could build a Lunar Base for about $4 billion but I would want assurances of $6 before I began rearranging people's lives and making serious commitments. I said USAF could do it for about $10 billion if they could do it black without having to comply with the ASPRs, ADA, OSHA, and other bureaucratic restrictions. If it were done by competitive bid as an open program with all the regulations in place it would be more like $16 billion.  NASA has already said they need $80 billion to go back to the Moon in force.

When I say "I could build" I mean that the people who know how to do it would work for me, and I'm not all that bad at saving money: what I meant of course was that a private organization able to hold costs to a minimum and make decisions fast: one competent person in charge, not endless committees -- could do it. I now think I would not start for under $6 billion with the probability that it would be $8, and my guess is that USAF would now need more like $18 billion black and more with ASPRS. But that's USAF as currently constituted. With a presidential directive and streamlining the chain of command USAF could do it black for $10 to $12 even now. But they won't.

So: your approximation isn't awful. If what we want is a reusable orbiter, I'd start with a 600,000 GLOW of which 90% is fuel and oxidant, and one copy of that shouldn't cost more than, well, let's see, 60,000 pounds dry and $3,000 a pound for the ship is $180 million. Fuel is what, average methane or propane and LOX and it shouldn't be more than $1 a pound, so we are talking about 5 times fuel costs or about $3 million a flight fully fueled (and actually in that range flying in incremental missions since the crew and instrument costs aren't going to change a lot in a test program.) Say 20 flights, so $60 million in flight test costs. So we are up to a quarter of a billion for one ship, and add half again that to have a second tail number. Three tail numbers is half a billion, with test flights.

All that takes about 3 years, and now we are ready to design the actual orbiting ship since I suspect that if that test SSX ever makes orbit it will be toward the end of the program without much payload beyond the fuel it takes to get it home. But the next ship shouldn't cost as much as the last one: we will know a lot more about ships and technologies will have improved in the next few years.

So again, a billion dollar program gives us 3 tail numbers of an orbiting ship that can take about 10,000 pounds payload up, and do it for probably 3 times fuel costs or about $3 million a flight, or $300 a pound to orbit, the whole program taking about 5 years. That won't happen, but it COULD happen.

And see below

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I thought you might be interested in this, on several levels. It raised several points that I had not heard or thought of before. It moved me.

http://www.strategypage.com/respect/articles/military_200472.asp 

Also, this picture of the airbourne M1 Abrams,

http://www.strategypage.com/gallery/articles/military_photos_200473.asp

  Patrick A. Hoage
 

======================

 

 

 

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Sunday, July 4, 2004

In the year of our Lord 2004 and of the Independence of these United States the 228th

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, America

Subject: Amerika.

One honorable exception to Hollywood's silence regarding the evils of Communism was the surprisingly good 1987 ABC television miniseries "Amerika", starring Kris Kristofferson and Sam Neill, which sought to portray the grim realities of life in a United States which had been subverted from within by the USSR:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092316/ 

As I recall, all the usual suspects (Phil Donahue, Vladimir Posner, etc.) protested in force that ABC were needlessly 'provoking' the Soviets, etc.

Ironically, the seminal Hollywood anti-communist movie, "The Manchurian Candidate" (the resemblance between Hillary Clinton and the Angela Lansbury character, is stunning, heh) has apparently been remade as an anti-capitalist film, with the management of a sinsister 'Manchurian Corporation' replacing communists as the villains of the piece:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0368008/ 

----- Roland Dobbins

 

====================

On going to Orbit (see above)

Dr Pournelle,

If wishes were horses

...an orbiting ship that can take about 10,000 pounds payload up, and do it for probably 3 times fuel costs or about $3 million a flight, or $300 a pound to orbit...

Two points.

First: If it takes $2 billion to develop an SSTO and $0.5 billion to build three units, with finance costs of , say, $1.1 billion, the full commercial cost of each vehicle if no more were built would be $1.2 billion.

Assuming mean time between failure (vehicle write-off) is a generous 500 trips and the direct incremental flight cost is as you say $3 million, the total cost per trip would be $3 million plus £(1,200/500) or $5.4 million/trip. However, donít forget insurance on vehicle and cargo. Assume 10,000 lbs cargo is valued at $10,000/lb and a replacement vehicle costs $150 million and the insurance premium is 1%, then the insurance premium cost per trip is going to be some $2.5 million. So letís say we end up at $8 million/trip or $800/lb ($1,800/kg) of payload. But then you want to make a reasonable but modest profit/risk premium; so the selling price becomes $1,000/lb ($2,200/kg) Thatís not so cheap after all.

Second: Assuming the vehicle is unmanned, it can deliver 10,000lb (4,500kg) to LEO. What use is that? Almost all the business today for commercial launchers is destined for GEO, not LEOóand the typical delivered payload to GEO is about 20,000lb (9,000kg) However, to boost the SSTOís 10,000lb LEO payload to to GEO will use up half its mass in the form of a transfer vehicle, so the actual payload deliverable to GEO would be more like 5,000lbs (2,200Kg)ówhich is well-neigh useless. In any case, there are less than 100 commercial space Ďmissionsí per year these days. The SSTO is ruled out of GEO delivery missions as we see, which does not leave much. I suspect it would be lucky to garner five or ten delivery trips to LEO/year. With 500 trips/vehicle, three vehicles, and 10 trips/year, the fleet will still be flying in 150 years time. Or to put it another way, one vehicle is enough, but then all development cost ends up on its head and cost/trip rises to something like $1,250/lb ($3,600/kg).

Now suppose the SSTO is manned. It would seem to me that the best it will be able to manage with 10,000 lbs available for payload, and considering that flight duration could hardly be less than two or three days, would be one crew (pilot) and two, perhaps three passengers. Assuming people are worth more (especially if there is litigation) per lb than inanimate cargo, insurance cost will rise. There are other costs associated with carrying people, but for the moment letís say one passenger (if there are three) costs the equivalent of 4,000lb cargo at $1,000/lb, or $4,000,000. Add a modest profit/risk premium and we are looking at a ticket price of $5 million.

Now of course there are people who will pay that much for such a mission. But assuming a fleet of three vehicles and one such trip per week, can you be certain of finding 150 paying passengers per year, every year for 30 years, at that price? Thatís 4,500 billionaires, remember.

Sorry, but I donít think this business plan will fly.

I wish it would.

Jim Mangles

My first impulse is to just go stick my head in the oven and shoot myself to be sure of the job.

If you want a business plan and you have some money to invest I can put you in touch with people who will do more than simply answer mail off the top of their heads, which is about all I have time to do (and often I don't have time for that).

And you know the difference between marginal costs of a flight and average costs that retire initial investments including R&D, and I know those differences, and you know that I know them, so why play that game? I have often said that one of the main reasons we need government paid X projects and prizes (or see here, which was in response to the Columbia disaster) is because the R&D will benefit all of us, but the costs are high and the early profits not so.

Yet even so, the costs may not be what you seem to think. Given your analysis the airplane was never a good investment, since you are taking the costs I came up with  off the top of my head for THE FIRST REUSABLE orbiters and projecting them as if they were to be fixed for everything subsequent. In fact I deliberately underestimated the payloads (which do not include the pilot and life support because those are part of the ship and structure, not payload) and I rounded up on the costs. It may seem to you that the best an SSTO can do is 10,000 pounds payload, but I am not entirely certain your 'seems' are better than Max Hunter's were some years ago; and Max and I were looking at early ships.

Rocket engines improve. Drag improves. Altitude compensation improves. And if necessary one sacrifices some operations simplicity for better performance (and thus uses a recoverable zero or first stage to get the mass fraction better). Structural materials get better every year. Rutan's SpaceShipOne couldn't have been built not all that long ago, and materials are greatly improved since the Air Force's HAVE REGION study demonstrated that SSTO was possible with a positive payload given the materials and structural designs of the 1980's.

In any event I haven't time to play this game. I have to go put my head in the oven. But see  Monday's continuation.

------------------------------------

Subject: Great SpaceShipOne pics

Those who weren't fortunate enough to attend may enjoy these pics. The last one is particularly good.

http://spaceshipone.airshowjournal.com/2004/ 

James Utt Defense Research Associates

 

 

 

 

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