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July 2006
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July 25, 2006

Mimas, Dione and the Rings

Filed under: Space Exploration — Bob @ 7:59 pm

cassini.jpgCassini continues to send back the most amazing pictures from the Saturn system. Every time I think I’ve seen the most stunning or most beautiful one, they post another one that grabs my attention. This picture shows Mimas (the small dark moon) moving in front of Dione with the rings shown below. You can just make out the curve of the rings at the far right end of the full image (click the image to follow its link to the full version).

The Cassini project also announced yesterday they have strong evidence showing large lakes of liquid hydrocarbons on Titan. I recall one of the more interesting challenges facing the designers of the Hyugens probe was the possbility of landing in a lake. So they made sure the probe could float if required. As it turned out floating wasn’t required, but its nice to think they didn’t waste their time or energy worrying about such a possiblity.

July 4, 2006

Google Knows Everything

Filed under: Work,World Wide Web — Bob @ 7:10 pm

Google sometimes does the most surprising things. It (they? is Google a person, place or thing?) found this site and linked me to a page regarding my former employer Creo. I would have never discovered this except that someone else found it and followed the link, and I found the result in my access log. Weird.

Of course their page doesn’t actually detail the current state of Creo; it doesn’t really exist any longer, it was purchased by and subsumed into Kodak over a year ago. Maybe they don’t know everything but it must be close to everything.

July 2, 2006

More Pics Of The Thin Man Uploaded

Filed under: Machining,Robots — Bob @ 3:28 pm

I uploaded more pictures of my latest mini sumo robot project The Thin Man this morning. It’s coming along quite nicely. At this point there are two major milling operations still required: remove the material where the wheels will go, and remove the material from the bottom where the circuit board, sensors and batteries will go.

Spam As A Secret Communications Method?

Filed under: Software,World Wide Web — Bob @ 3:19 pm

I had an interesting thought this morning while shaving: could spam be used as a communication method for a large, distributed secret organization?

There are two variants possible: hide your message inside plain text using typical cryptographic means or inside images using techniques such as stenography, or send your message as an encrypted blob of data that is otherwise unintelligible.

I received a curious message that got this thought process rolling. The SMTP mail header contains a bunch of HTML strings that got stuffed into Message-id lines. Normally I’d think this was just incompetent message formatting – spam generators often screw up like this. However the body text contains 17,776 characters like this:

WRzFXjk2HB+rXQtUYc0nZoVXaHhfB2HoehrfNI1Rp2qsQoLMcADJJrtLfaGbwtGuMH

This is a very curious message indeed. It originated from IP address 24.60.64.32 which is part of the Comcast network. The owner (I don’t know who it is specifically) is running a web server that claims to be Apache and serves up blank pages. There is no SSH server and no telnet server. The mail server claims to be a Microsoft server but I doubt it.

So continues my conspiracy thinking: its apparently easy enough to send spam; a seemingly endless stream of offers of Viagra and Rolex watches and such in my mailbox demonstrates that. Its even easier to receive spam; do you know anyone who doesn’t get it?

Let’s pretend you are a secret agent in the field, working under cover. I’m headquarters, wanting to relay important information to you. I create the secret message, embed it in an offer for a hot new stock pick, and send it off to millions of people. Only you would know how to decode the secret message, everyone else would simply delete it. Anyone observing the message traffic might not see a one-to-one communication method, they’d see a broadcast of junk to nobody in particular.

If you wanted to communicate covertly at a distance, wouldn’t this be a good way to do it? It’s sort of like hiding in plain sight.

More likely, its just spam. But maybe not. :^)

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