Sunday, March 20, 2005

Saving the Internet?

I was reading this article over at Ars Technica which refers to a article that speaks about the Internet being crushed under its own weight. Both articles address the problems, so I am not going to repeat the discussion. There are various really bad solutions suggested, but it is a growing problem that needs to be addressed.

In my opinion, e-mail is the crux of the problem. Spyware and viruses are installed to send mail for spammers, phishers start their con with an e-mail message. Some have suggested a pay-as-you-go solution. I think you can add a payment function and keep it free as well. We don't need a tax, or a permanent 'per-use' charge, but a pay-rebate system. E-mail is popular because perceptually it is 'free'. Yes, this sounds like having your cake and eating it too, but I think this is a viable solution.

SMTP must be changed or modified. It's just too easy to abuse. Those who want to stick with SMTP can, but will still be subject to the avalanche of spam and phishing. I'm going to call the 'new' type PMTP for Protected Mail Transport Protocol. (AMTP, QMTP, and VMTP were taken)

How it works is something like this:

Company A registers their mail-server in the similar way that one registers a Domain Name. It would be something like the way DNS is currently handled by a centralized system. You put X dollars into each of your servers' account, and you do get charged Y amount for each e-mail you send out. When you run out of money in your account, the mail is stored on YOUR server waiting for funds to be available. When someone opens and reads your mail with their client program, you are credited back the Y amount to your account. Therefore, if you send nothing but e-mail to those who want it, you get 100% of your money back, and still use e-mail for free. Individual users would buy e-mail accounts from their ISPs, and this way if a user gets infected with a remailer virus or spam, their account would soon deplete, (because they wouldn't have to keep much money in it), they would know they have a problem with their computer, and spammers might quit trying to take over as many systems. Those who break spam laws would soon find their servers de-authorized.

How would we authorize mail? After all, a spammer could simply bypass the central server and use the PMTP protocol to send you an e-mail. Well, the central servers are going to have to store some sort of identifier and delivery status for each e-mail sent (not the whole e-mail, just an identifier). When someone sends your server an e-mail, it would include the unique mail identifier for that message. Your e-mail server would then query the 'root' e-mail servers to see if that identifier was valid, and if the mail had been delivered yet or not. The mail identifiers could be quite long, so as to be almost impossible to spoof or forge.

Of course, there'd have to be modifications to current systems to allow for this. I don't think it would require entirely new e-mail client or server software. Microsoft Exchange and other e-mail systems have supported various 'connectors' that allow for support of many different types of e-mail, whether SMTP, X.400, or others. Sendmail, Postfix, and other Open Source SMTP programs could be modified and could have included in their config files lines to enable or disable SMTP and/or PMTP services. Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, Evolution, and other e-mail client programs could be modified to support PMTP along with SMTP. Yes, it would take time and testing - but I think it could be a paid-for enhancement. Would you pay $5 to practically eliminate spam from your mailbox by purchasing an enhancement for your software? I've seen people spend more. This approach could be taken over time, SMTP and PMTP would be run in tandem, until such a time as PMTP was prevalent enough to start allowing organizations to stop supporting SMTP.

The hardest part would be deciding who would be the 'keeper' of the authorized PMTP server lists, accounts, and data and what compensation they would receive - as well as setting up the databases. You'd want thousands of root e-mail servers to handle the massive amount of data and traffic.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Buying Iraqi Dinars

I've been keeping up on my blog reading, though not necessarily my writing. On a few of these blogs that have been talking about the Iraqi elections, I have been seeing some interesting ads.

Yes, Jack looks at the ads sometimes.

One of these services advertized is "Bet On Iraq". They say that you can help the Iraqis by purchasing Iraqi dinars, and if the price goes up, you can make a lot of money.

It sounded like a good idea the way they presented it, and being that I've seen the ads on many blogs I respect, I was thinking about buying a few for more historic purposes than an investment. However, the closer I looked, the less sense it made.

You can see from the Bet On Iraq site the number of Iraqi Dinars you can buy, and how much in US Dollars it cost to buy them and have them sent to the US. So I head over to, a currency conversion site, and plugged in some numbers to get a real conversion rate.

Now I know it costs to get the money to you through Fedex from across the world, through some bad conditions, but the numbers didn't add up to my Ferengi brain. I put it all into a table below. The first column is the number of Dinars you get, the second is how much you pay for them, the third is the actual converted value according to, the fourth is "Bet On Iraqs"' gross profit before shipping and other costs. You can see for yourself the numbers. You pay almost twice in shipping and profit for the company than what it costs to buy 25,000 dinars. OK - $32 to get a package from Iraq and keep their business running, I can understand that. what I don't get is how quickly it raises with the number of Dinars you buy. Maybe it is the 'insurance' costs from FedEx. I haven't called FedEx to get a quote for shipping stuff from Iraq, but it still seems to be too high.

I also ran into this article on that talks about the various scams.

Now, i am not claiming at all that "Bet On Iraqs"' offering is a scam, I believe that if someone offers a service at a price, it is up to the consumer to look at all the facts and make an informed decision. Impulse buying on risky investments rarely pay off. I just thought I would point this out. I wonder how many bloggers would still feel comfortable advertizing this service once they see this. What do you do if the currency is 'changed' to another type, you'd have to send it back to be exchanged for the 'newer' stuff. How would this be accomplished?

Again, I'm not saying that there should be any regulations or the business should be closed down, just pointing out the numbers involved.

Dinars	Cost ($US)	Converted ($US)	Gross Profit

25000 $50.00 $17.09 $32.91
50000 $90.00 $34.18 $55.82
100000 $175.00 $68.36 $106.64
250000 $339.00 $170.91 $168.10
500000 $639.00 $341.81 $297.19
750000 $859.00 $512.72 $346.29
1000000 $1,150.00 $683.62 $466.38
2000000 $2,300.00 $1,367.24 $932.76
3000000 $3,450.00 $2,050.86 $1,399.14
4000000 $4,600.00 $2,734.48 $1,865.52
5000000 $5,750.00 $3,418.10 $2,331.90

0.00068362 Iraqi Dinars for Each US Dollar as of 1-31-05		

Saturday, January 15, 2005

One Omitted Word

I was watching one of our local television news stations (WSYX6) last night. One of the stories was about a student who took a gun to school with him. Those links don't last very long (or don't point to the same story after a new one is posted) so I have included the text of the website article here:

Gun Found in Middle School Locker
Sheriff's deputies arrived in full force at Pleasant View Middle School in Grove City. Six cruisers lined the bus lanes Friday afternoon. A handgun was found in a locker, and one student taken into custody of the Sheriff's Office.

When the cruisers had gone - so had the 13-year-old accused of bringing a small-caliber, semiautomatic handgun. He had not been accused of anything more than that - and may or may not be formally charged. At that time there was no indication of intimidation of other students. It is still unknown as to why the gun was brought to school. That's something police are trying to find out and something the sheriff's office will investigate. A letter from the principal came out with everything they knew, prior to 3pm.

Legally, the southwest city school district cannot discuss the penalty to this student if he indeed brought the weapon on to school grounds. However - a zero-tolerance policy means the district can suspend him for ten days - with a recommendation for expulsion.

A 'standard' story sure enough. This happens from time to time at different schools. Has been happening for a very long time, even way back when Jack was in High School. However, during the story they flashed the 'letter from the principal' across the screen, and being somewhat of a speed reader - I saw the words 'unloaded gun' in the text of the body of the letter.

It immediately made me wonder why this detail was left out of the story. Surely a single polysyllabic word didn't 'lengthen' the story to make it too long to fit into the news broadcast segment. Something seemed amiss to me, that one word changes the store quite a bit, it was a fact that was left out, not an opinion. Now, don't get Jack wrong, kids shouldn't be taking guns to school, loaded or unloaded. However, leaving out the word 'unloaded' just smelled a little suspicious to me.

Back before Ohio had CCW licenses, it wasn't a felony to carry an unloaded or non-working gun. In fact, even if it were loaded, it had to be shown to be in 'working' condition before you could charge the person with a felony-level CCW charge instead of a misdemeanor (if even a charge at all). We used to send all firearms confiscated during CCW arrests to the range for testing to be sure they worked. Now, if you took out the unloaded firearm and pointed it at someone, it was a different matter, you could be charged with 'Aggravated Menacing', though it was still only a misdemeanor. When you tell a someone that a kid took a gun to school, there is an assumption that it was a loaded firearm in working condition. While again, it does not lessen the degree of concern a parent should have, it does make somewhat of a difference that the firearm wasn't loaded. I might then question the obviously poor judgment of the student, but I'd be then more likely to believe that he just might have brought it only to 'show it off' to some friends (which is probably how he was caught with it). It sure makes a difference to me, and not just a 'slight' one.

So I wrote the station an e-mail through their website feedback submission form, though I doubt I'll get an answer. I asked them if an electronic copy of the letter the principal sent to parents was available, and if not, was I correct in reading that the gun was 'unloaded'. We'll see if I get an answer and what answer I get. I might follow-up with a phone call if I don't.

I'll let you know what happens.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Take Command of Windows File Copying

Back in the DOS days, one of Jack's favorite utilities was Norton Commander. This was back in the days when Norton software was worth more than it cost. Today you wouldn't catch Jack spending a single penny for any of Symantec's crapware. (In case you didn't know, Symantec is now the company that owns and maintains all of the Norton software.) Norton Commander was the earliest file manager that has been somewhat duplicated by Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer, but the File Manager, Explorer). It had two 'panes' and using the function keys - you know those keys at the top of your keyboard you rarely use), you could do a myriad of standard file functions (View, Edit, Copy, Rename, Delete, etc.). It was also easy to start, just type 'nc' at the DOS prompt to start it.

As of Windows 95 Norton basically turned NC into another version of Windows Explorer, which means you might as well use Windows Explorer itself.

A client of Jack's had committed the coffee backflip into the keyboard of his Dell notebook computer and watched it slowly die. The screen slowly dimmed until the Dell fell into a forever electronic slumber, never to awaken. Luckily for the client, the hard drive is rarely damaged in these cases.

After procuring a new desktop for the client, Jack was for the umpteenth time copying the files from the clients old hard drive to the new one, running it through a virus scanner on the way. I was using Windows Explorer

The many problems with Windows Explorer is that it: 1. Stops on all errors, meaning you have to figure out where it left off and painstakingly go through the file list and select the remaining files to copy, or start over, which is a pain because...; 2. On the new Windows OS's, it 'scans' over the files to be copied to make a determination of several factors and settings to be used in copying, so for a large number of files, it can be minutes before the files start copying; and 3. It takes forever to do copies across the network or even from hard drive to hard drive.

On Linux, I use "Midnight Commander", which is Norton Commander for *nix. Works almost exactly like the old Norton Commander. It doesn't work well under OS X without disabling some Function keys that have useful operations on the Mac. Besides, you really don't need it on OS X. Luckily, someone ported Midnight Commander to Windows.

Midnight Commander does stop on errors, but it gives you the options to skip the error and proceed, abort the operation, or retry. The 'skip' is the most useful. Its easier to jot down a few skipped files or directories than to have to start all over again. That and it is much, much faster. It only took it 10 minutes to copy an amount of data that would have taken Windows Explorer 30 minutes.

You can find links to other 'Commander' type programs at as well as more information on this type of program.

Jack Heartily Recommends it.

UPDATE: A new "Best 46 Freeware Utilities" list is up. Check it out for other good stuff.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Diamond TV

I've always wanted to go to one of the CES shows. This years 2005 show has featured a lot of neat stuff. One thing that interests me is Carbon/Diamond Nanotube TVs. With HDTV being a requirement in the near future, I've been looking at what I wanted in a new Television. Converters aren't going to do the job if you care about the quality of TV you watch - sort of like those old 'color tv' adapters for black and white televisions. (Are you old enough to remember having B&W TVs for the most part? I remember).

This new technology looks promising. I haven't cared for the projection TVs, Plasma TVs supposedly wear out (sure it might be 12-17 years, its just the whole principle and expense), and LCDs are extremely expensive to get 'theatre sizes'.

Looks like I need to save my pennies until 2006-07.

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Trouble With Chicken

Yeah that's right. Chicken. That stuff you buy in the grocery store that you bake, fry, broil, shred, or do whatever you need to for your recipes.

Jack gets many requests for his chicken wings. (even though at Jack's New Year's party, they were sub-par for my normal fare.) So I buy them in large quantities, at least once a month.

I don't buy those ones pre-cut that come in a bag all frozen. They often have an 'ice' covering, and since I deep fry my wings the water and very hot oil (350 degrees F) don't mix very well. I find that if I thaw them out, they are quite small. However, something about those frozen wings and even the fresh ones that I buy is now really bothering me.

"Up to X % of a solution added to enhance flavor"

Poppycock. You see, they 'inject' the chicken with a solution (probably Chicken Broth, or just salted water) to allegedly make it more 'moist' and 'tasty'. Blah. All it means is that you are paying so much per pound for water. If you fry or cook the chicken, it comes right out during the cooking. When I cut fresh wings that have this solution injection, it just makes a large mess of raw chicken liquid that is a pain to cleanup.

By now you're probably wondering what the big deal is. Well, its like this, that X % used to be 10% at most. OK - a 10% extra charge on what I am paying for after you get rid of the 'enhancement'. I could deal with that. Now its up to 15-20% (though I did see some that was as low as 12%, once), so I am paying for 1/6th to 1/5th of the cost per pound in water!

There could be a couple of reasons for this. One is that it leads to higher profit margins. The other is that the FDA has banned growth hormones use in many of the meat products we eat, one of these being chicken. I don't know which it is at this point, it seems that the ban went into effect in 2002, so its been around for a while, even though there is still argument about whether or not these hormones are harmful.

I just want chicken that has no 'enhancements' of water without paying an arm and a wing for 'organic' chicken. I'll take the stuff grown in cages thankyouverymuch. At least the Giant Eagle near me carries stuff that has no solution enhancement, but we'll see how long that lasts. Of course it is about 30% higher in cost.