October 28, 2004

Zafi-C

Technically not spyware but just as annoying, Robert Jaques at Forbes today reported on the Zafi-C virus, which targets Google, Microsoft and the newly appointed Hungarian prime minister for distributed denial of serviec attacks. According to Sophos, spreading by email attachment with socially engineered subjects like 'Re: Hey buddy!' and 'Re: very sick little girl!', it "turns off anti-virus applications, sends itself to email addresses found on the infected computer, forges the sender's email address, uses its own emailing engine and installs itself in the Registry".

Posted by torque at 9:30 AM | Comments (49) | TrackBack

I want a Draganfly Predator

predator.jpg
What if I told you that you could do overhead video at 8000 ft. for $750? This month's Fortune has a facinating article on surveillance cameras all around us. Of particular interest? Draganfly Innovation's Predator with optional eyecam.

Draganfly Innovation's scaled-down Predator looks just like the Predator B you have seen on CNN. And, like its full-size cousin, the scale Predator is flown by a radio system from the ground while it transmits real-time color video and takes high quality still photos. Designed with a low-drag fuselage and V-tail, the Predator is configured to extract the maximum power and endurance available from the flight battery.
Now I wonder if I can use it to do aerial topography mapping? The radio has a 1 mile range. Flight times are up to 1.5 hours with the lithium-polymer battery (an additional $110). You can even get GPS for pre-programmed flight routes - 20-mile range. I found some old pricing - the GPS adds about $7500 to the the total cost. Hey, maybe this can be used to carry express mail. DraganFly Innovation was started by Zenon Dragan (is that his real name?) in his basement in 1998. Here's a profile of the company.

Posted by torque at 1:08 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

October 25, 2004

Kessler economics

Cecil Johnson has an interesting article in the Star-telegram on Andy Kesseler's economics who argues that the trade deficit is not such a big deal. Here's the synopsis, think Toshiba laptop. A $300 Intel chip and $50's worth of Microsoft XP get purchased by Japan. In exchange, I buy the computer for $1000 - a $650 trade deficit. Bad. But look closer. The $300 chip made Intel $250, the software, $49.95. The hardware? They were lucky to make $50 overall. So who won?

Microsoft and Intel together spent $50 and made $350 - about 700%. Toshiba? It spent $950 and made $50. Interesting huh?

Posted by torque at 5:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 16, 2004

Microsoft's speech recognition

this post will be entirely dictated using Microsoft's speech recognition technology as you can see for some words not so bad I can tell you that every time you will get the word Microsoft see Microsoft Microsoft Microsoft. Everything else however is not so clear . Is there something that I can say well you know what where first carry using it and took a long time before the words even (ahead to train about five times reading a substrate bowls among other things is the road actuI think that they are eastward Miller said the race were you race word you raise the rates were the race were

hoping for was unclear is trying to say you use the word of Cisco's into their lot of things the rest of trade messed up. Interesting this could be anywhere generate massive message content that seem to make sense and have some intelligible value and look for that look completely random audit.

today we went to a picnic it was a CC a frustrating . CC accessto his hard to resist pressing the backbone Italian. It was hosted by Michael. We had hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, and Sonja made some tasty potato bonds are some tasty corn pudding . A space taxpayers backspace .

We'll have a case like this is a wake for its only 348 minus is a way , is in the center he's very sleepy minus line is Linus yen line is minus minus ten visit was meant . Sonya is having coffee with her friends and here I am beginning to a computer with my son Linus he's my friend of mine by the highlight of Linus anybody but the body by the bloody line by the Intel, disappointing OK but by

Posted by torque at 3:44 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Probability of winning at poker

We've been talking a lot about probability and poker at lunch. I'm sure somewhere someone has done the calculation for the probability of winning given a certain (partial) hand. It may be related to the number of players. Anyway, I found a great starting place. Interestingly, the probability of getting one pair is about 42.3%. So it is appropriate to feel bad when you don't even have a pair. Incidentally, there are 2,598,960 possible hands (52C5). That's not actually that many - though you can imagine the math can get pretty crazy when there are multiple players. A lot of factors need to be computed to really give the probability of winning. And then there is the chance of switching cards...

Some Poker Odds Calculator
BTW, use at your own risk - by no means am I advocating gambling... this is just for education. Also, be careful what you click.

  • Poker Calc - Does a simulation of 100,000 trials. Kind of close to what I was envisioning. Though it might not be so far off to just do every possible combination. Maybe this gets close enough.
  • Twodimes
  • has a non-graphical calculator that works for a number of different games. Cool. They also do simulation, 500,000.

Newsflash
Pokersource.

Posted by torque at 1:02 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 15, 2004

Block Undertone Networks

Technically it isn't spyware, but it sort of is. Why isn't my Google pop-up blocker working for Undertone Networks? This article lays it out.

Some new pop-up techniques simply avoid that command, thus subverting blockers that rely on suppressing it. For example, some advertisers are sending pop-ups through a "user initiated command" triggered when people mouse over an object on the page, according to ad executives familiar with the technique.

Posted by torque at 10:08 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 13, 2004

Caning

In light of Prop 66, three strikes and overflowing prisons, what do you think about caning (warning: some images of caned buttocks) as implemented in Singapore?

Posted by torque at 1:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Jail, prison and penitentiary

Sweetie asked me what the difference was between "jail", "prison" and "penitentiary". Of course, I just had to find out, even though I should really be sleeping right now so that I can do good work tomorrow and have a cheerful attitude. Well, here it is, courtesy of Jim Ferr.

a "jail" is for incarceration of prisoners while awaiting trial, or after sentencing on misdemeanors (less serious offenses) even if the combined sentence on more than one misdemeanor is over a year. A "prison" is for incarceration for the conviction of a felony. A "felony" is a crime punishable by imprisonment for over a year. A "penitentiary" is a "federal prison" for sentencing by a federal magistrate (Judge or acting Judge) for a period of time over a year.

Posted by torque at 12:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Who is Gary B. Wesley?

Gary B. Wesley, Attorney at Law, appears a number of times opposing various propositions on the California Official Voter Information Guide. Who is this guy? He sure opposes a lot of things. Here he is, asking for a recall of Mountain View Councilmember Sally Lieber. Interestingly, he represented at least at one time Republican Stan Kawczynski. He was a former City Council candidate (Mountain View). In November 2003, he represented one Nick Bulaich in a potential flouride-related lawsuit between the city of Watsonville and the California State Department of Health Services. Later Bulaich sued both the state and the county. Here he is, compaining about improper use of school funds for bond campaigning.

Posted by torque at 12:35 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

No on 60 and 62

Status quo for me. The primaries are for parties to select their candidates, not a general election.

In the case of 62, the primaries become a pre-election, essentially the election. Why top 2? Why not top 1? Then parties will have to hold a pre-primary so that they aren't offering up multiple candidates. It just doesn't make sense and will cost everyone more time and money. Just say no.

In the case of 60, the primaries become a free for all. Democrats can vote for Republicans and Republicans can vote for Democrats. If, as a Republican, I already know that my candidate will win, I can just go vote for a really lousy Democrat who I know will even turn off regular Dems. That's just lame. Just say no.

Posted by torque at 12:20 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2004

Not ready to adopt?

The full 18 years is rather daunting. How about becoming a Child Advocate? At a wedding reception over the weekend I sat next to a gal doing legal work for Child Advocates in Milpitas. Please take some time to go through the site and learn. It'll break your heart. A Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) is a person who volunteers to spend time with an abused or neglected child. This serves two major goals. The first is to be there for the child, who may often times really have no one else. The second is to represent the child in court, because often times there is no one to do that.

Posted by torque at 11:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Embryo Adoption

On a seemingly unrelated article, there is a new movement underway on embryo aodption. The article opens with a story on eight-month-old twins Savannah and Morgan Gillingham. Counting in Chinese, they are not eight months but five years and eight months. Eh?

Savanna and Morgan were previously frozen, leftovers from in-vitro fertilization. There are 400,000 such frozen embryos waiting, shelved and filed in hospitals and infertility clinics. About half will survive thawing, and of those only 12-15% will live. That's 25,000 to 35,000 potential babies. The movement is to bring together willing, infertile parents and these embryos so that they can be adopted. The organization is Snowflakes, founded by Rod Stoddart of Nightlight Christian Adoption.

So... ummm, what happens if they don't get adopted? Ahh, here's the connection. Guess who said this?

"I think if we can save millions of lives by doing research on something that may be destroyed anyway, that the balance is important."
Excuse me, something? It is sad enough that they are there to begin with. There are other ways to do stem cell research. There are alternatives.

We are taking the most helpless people on earth and killing them in the name of research.

Posted by torque at 10:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Reeve, Stem Cells and Political Hype

It really sickens me each time I hear Reeve's death used to push no-holds-barred embryonic stem cell research. It is manipulative and does not project truth. Notice I said "no-holds-barred embryonic stem cell research" - the media and propaganda would have you believe that the Democrats are for stem cell research and the Republicans are against this life-giving make-the-lame-walk research. Finally, CNN has a pretty clean piece on the subject.

What is the issue? The issue is not stem cell research as a field, adult stem cell research continues to be funded by the NIH. (In fact, this technology would have been closest to bringing a cure to what Reeve had - rather than embryonic stem cell research.) The issue isn't even embryonic cell research as a field, as the NIH is allowed to fund research on embryonic stem cell lines acquired prior to 9/1/2003. The main issue is whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem cell research without "moral" restrictions. Is it OK for embryos to be harvested for stem cells?

We got this super flashy multi-page pamphlet asking us to Vote Yes on 71. This thing is even scarier. It puts a bunch of borrowed money into an "Independent Citizen's Oversight Committee". Hmm, I wonder who will get to be on that Committee. Fortunately, the borrowed money (read bonds) are "self-financing". Ooo, that's a neat trick. I wonder if I can get a "self-financing" mortgage? But wait there's more! If you sign up now, not only will you receive this "self-financing" loan, but you'll even make money, with an ROI of 236% or more! Jobs, revenues, health care savings, cures for cancer, diabetes, severe burns, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, HIV/AIDS, Heart disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autoimmune diseases, Osteoporosis, ALS, Spainal cord injuries. Wow. Call now, operators are standing by!

More seriously, do check out the No on 71 page. There are some very good reasons to not get sucked into the hype.

Posted by torque at 10:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 11, 2004

Christopher Reeve - Superman - dies at 52

Chistopher Reeve really was a superman - his determination to live on inspired and helped many people. I have always been struck by pictures of him in a wheelchair with a smile on his face.

Posted by torque at 10:27 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 5, 2004

Gallivan, Gallivan & O'Melia

I met Bill Gallivan today at the Stanford Fall Career Fair. He is one of the founders of Gallivan, Gallivan & O'Melia. Dubbing themselves "the Digital Evidence Specialists", Gallivan et al. provide digital investigation services to companies facing IP litigation, insurance claims,. In other words, they poke into people's emails, registries, etc. to dig up facts. Fun work!

Just 'cuz I like to be a digital investigator myself...

Whois results

Registrant:
Larson Gallivan & Gallivan (KNYGYMCJUO)
101 Yesler Way, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98104
US
Phone: 206.652.1441
Fax: 123 123 1234

Domain Name: DIGITALWARROOM.COM

Administrative Contact, Technical Contact:
Larson Gallivan & Gallivan (KNYGYMCJUO)
gallivans@bainbridge.net
101 Yesler Way, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98104
US
Phone: 206.652.1441
Fax: 123 123 1234

Record expires on 14-Jun-2006
Record created on 14-Jun-2002
Database last updated on 06-Jul-2004

Domain servers in listed order:
NS1.DIGITALWARROOM.COM 67.40.185.233
FINALLY.ATLASTA.NET 12.129.13.23

Posted by torque at 3:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 4, 2004

What does this circuit do?

...and how come "circuits" isn't pronounced like "biscuits"?

I've been fiddling with an ADS1251EVM and am a bit perplexed about what happens to the signal before the ADC. I would have expected something straight-foward, but the circuit is a bit unusual.

ads1251evm-input.PNG

We have here inverting amplifiers, U9 and U8, but the strange thing is that they take in (basically) the same signal at the negative terminal. The positive terminals have DC voltages coming from a voltage divider circuit. The first op amp gets 1.25 V and the second 2.5 V. Following the "golden rules" of op-amp behavior, U9- will also be at 1.25 V, which means Vin-1.25V across R13, And 1.25V-Vout across R12. The inputs "drawing no currents" means that

(Vin1-1.25V)/R13 = (1.25V-Vout1)/R12
Vout1 = 2.5V - Vin1
Hmm, I can see how this is going to work. In U8, we have the same situation, with 2.5V substituted for 1.25V, so that Vout2 = 5.0V - Vin2. But Vin2 is Vout1, so Vout2 = 5.0V - 2.5V + Vin1 = 2.5V + Vin1. So, when we do Vout2 - Vout1 = 2*Vin1. Why was this necessary? Buffering? I'm very confused.

Update. Sleep always help - and now it makes sense. The op-amps act to shift the inputs. Notice that Vout1 = 2.5 - Vin1 and Vout2 = 2.5 + Vin1. Since the ADC limits input voltage between 0 and 5 V, this lets Vin1 be between -2.5 and 2.5 V. Which is what you would want it to be anyway. This way you don't need to worry about changing the ground of your input signal. You can take input directly from an oscillator, for example. Good, good. I was just starting to worry about this.

Posted by torque at 11:27 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 3, 2004

PDF via CGI::Application

I'm working on a little application which requires the generation of PDF files. Overseeing the whole app is CGI::Application. I was rather perplexed as to how to set header-type to something other than 'text/html'. It turns out that the answer is not $self->header_type('application/pdf'). You will get an "invalid header_type 'application/pdf'" error. The answer, courtesy of weierophinney is

$self->header_type('header');
$self->header_props(-type=>'application/pdf');
Kind of unintuitive, but I can guarantee that it works.

More info from Adam Gent also shows how to name the downloaded file:

Through the header_props method is C::A, which goes via CGI.pm

$webapp->header_props(-type=>'image/gif',-expires=>'+3d');

So you can then do

$webapp->header_props(-type => "text/comma-separated-values",
-attachment => "download.csv");

Should work fine.

You can also do this for zip and pdf files, if you set the correct header type, i.e., application/zip, application/pdf

Posted by torque at 5:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 2, 2004

Cutting tulips

The "right way" can be rather involved. Properly cared for, cut tulips can stay fresh for seven to ten days, even continuing to grow up to an inch or more. So, what's the secret? Leonard Perry from the University of Vermont has a few tips.

First, recut the stems - diagonally, removing about a half inch of stem. Hmm, is that half inch with the diagonal or without? One-half inch is quite short!

Now, rewrap the bouquet in paper, with a few inches of stems sticking out. This goes into water for about an hour or two, with the paper above the water line. Why is this? My guess is that this rehydrates the stem so that later on, when you add floral preservative, it doesn't all get trapped at the bottom. If you just came back from the store, you are probably ok. I just did so I'm going to skip this step. The paper is probably for keeping the flowers from drying up.

If you did the soak, recut the stems to the desired length, again diagonally. Fill a vase with water and floral preservative. That's it.

Posted by torque at 3:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Free, guaranteed healthcare in the United States

In fact, such a program already exists... in U.S. prisons. One of the rants has been certain prisoners using such services for sex changes - quite an expensive procedure. However, all is not so rosy. William Anderson has an interesting piece on prison health care in Maryland.

"Bill," he said, "If you are in prison, you had better stay healthy." Prison medical care, he said, is deplorable at best, and he cited an example of one inmate who had broken his leg, but prison officials there refused to take him to a local emergency room for two weeks. By that time, the bones had set, so doctors had to break the bones again in order to permit a proper resetting.
Of course, this has to do with the prison officials, why they delayed this may be a whole different issue. And, it may vary from locality to locality. In a single payer system, how would doctor's visits be regulated? I suppose there could be a co-pay to keep things in check.

Posted by torque at 8:27 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 1, 2004

Single-payer health insurance

Kudos to Enoch for bringing this to my attention. Ok, Graham's animation is cute, but is this direction really going to work? Check it out... then come back here.

Uhh, isn't that also known as socialized health care? Who came up with the term "single payer". Smart. Single-payer health insurance sounds a lot better than socialized insurance. This will work? What prevents abuse? What happens if the prom committee doesn't sell enough tickets? What happens if the prom committee sells a bunch of tickets but doesn't have enough to pay for all the bills. After all, how can you cut back on the dance hall, or the streamers? (Of course, in real life, the prom committee, a.k.a. the US government, doesn't have to "sell" tickets. It can just take your money from your wallet until it has enough to pay for the punch and cookies.) Think Social Security. Think Canadian health care system.

Graham addresses my thoughts in his FAQ, in particular on the government control.

And government's not all bad. Government has provided us with public libraries, the GI Bill, Social Security, police and fire protection, the Do-Not-Call list, emergency services, national parks...
I'm surprised he mentioned Social Security in there.

As for the great deals that this single-payer leviathan will be able to squeeze from doctors, hospitals, etc. - think U.S. military. Where will be the insentive to cut costs? When things cost more, they can just reach into your back pocket and pull a little bit out. At least you can leave your insurance company for another - or choose another plan, with a single-payer insurance policy, there will be NO competion - monopoly! Your thoughts?

Update. As I suspected from my gut feeling, it is a partisan issue, with the Dems pitching single-payer hard. I can understand why doctors might be in favor of this though - cutting out health insurance may leave more for the docs. But maybe not.

Posted by torque at 11:02 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

SubmitFire search engine submission

I usually shake my head in skepticism when I see search engine optimization (SEO) sites claiming submission to 1000s of search engines as I did when I first saw an ad for SubmitFire. I was suprised when I looked at the site and saw that CoffeeCup was an affiliated company. For those of you who don't know, CoffeeCup released a pretty nice HTML Editor in the early days of the web. It was shareware, though I never did get around to registering my copy - and moved on to direct coding shortly afterward. So, is it worth it?

How do these sites work? A lot of times they have some backend software which registers your site with one search engines which is then duplicated thousands of time. Probably not what you really wanted. I've read (though I can't recall where) that this can sometimes even lead to diminished rankings on Google. They give a partial list of the sites. If you are already listed on many engines, is it worth it?

Possibly. I took by random one of the listed sites, Chubba. This is a premium listing site, charging $24.99 for the "slow" listing, and $49.99 for the "express" listing. Yikes, who is going to pay that? Who even uses Chubba. A search on a relevant keyword "download patents" reveals not only my absense but Overture premium listings. I wonder if anyone even uses this site.

My experience is that the major sites will eventually find your site and crawl it. The big question is whether these small time sites are worth even listing on. It may well be a gigantic pyramid like scheme, where people join, and try to get other people to join so they can collect the commission. See, to become an affiliate,

First, Join the Program, it only takes 5 minutes. Then place banners, buttons or text links on your Website. When someone clicks any link and then makes a purchase within 30 days you get 20% of that sale !
Sounds mighty suspect. My guess is that most people sign up in order to be affiliates. Buyer beware - even if it is from the developers of CoffeeCup Software.

Google Groups has a thread on submitfire started by the proprietor of www.jaya123.com. His review on the customer service is rather critical, though unclear whether or not the service eventually worked. His site has a PageRank of 4, 22 links none of which were search engine based. I would say that it didn't work.

Posted by torque at 10:23 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack