July 2006

Photo: Tomato Face

MSN-Mainichi Daily News, via BoingBoing, reports:

The tomato, which is about 10 centimeters in diameter and weighs about 150 grams, is of the regular “Momotaro” variety, but is about three times the normal size. It was harvested in Yawata from a field owned by 61-year-old farmer Kiyoshi Ueda.

Photo: Tree Mummy
My mummy found a “Tree Mummy.”

Photo: Kids
Locked up in custody for two hours: Tree-climbing friends Katy Smith, left, Sam Cannon and Amy Higgins

KHUSHWANT SACHDAVE, Daily Mail (UK), reports:

To the 12-year-old friends planning to build themselves a den, the cherry tree seemed an inviting source of material.

But the afternoon adventure turned into a frightening ordeal for Sam Cannon, Amy Higgins and Katy Smith after they climbed into the 20ft tree - then found themselves hauled into a police station and locked in cells for up to two hours.

Their shoes were removed and mugshots, DNA samples and mouth swabs were taken.

Officers told the children they had been seen damaging the tree which is in a wooded area of public land near their homes.

Questioned by police, the scared friends admitted they had broken some loose branches because they had wanted to build a tree house, but said they did not realise what they had done was wrong.

Officers considered charging the children with criminal damage but eventually decided a reprimand - the equivalent of a caution for juveniles - was sufficient.

The Associated Press reports:

NEW YORK (AP) — A mysterious blackout during the hottest week of the year left tens of thousands of New Yorkers without power for a fifth day Friday as residents sweltered, businesses idled and city officials seethed after the power company revealed the outages were 10 times larger than previously reported.

“It’s a total catastrophe. We’ve been throwing things out for four days,” restaurant owner Louis Panazakos lamented as workers threw out garbage bags full of fresh pasta and sauces.

Power company Con Edison initially said fewer than 2,500 customers were affected, but it increased that number tenfold Friday morning to 25,000 customers. By 9 p.m., the number of customers without power had dropped to 23,950, the utility said.


NO positive leap second will be introduced at the end of December 2006.
The difference between Coordinated Universal Time UTC and the
International Atomic Time TAI is :

from 2006 January 1, 0h UTC, until further notice : UTC-TAI = -33 s

Dark Reading reports:

JULY 19, 2006 | 9:32 AM — For years, the “card key” has been considered a reliable means of securing the enterprise from unauthorized visitors. In some cases, these cards also serve as identification, and when combined with smartcard technology, a form of network authentication. But if these cards are misconfigured or managed, they can be rendered useless — as my penetration testing company recently proved.

Abstract from the United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences’
“Cooperative Interface Agents for Networked Command, Control, and Communications: Phase II Final Report”:

Report developed under a Small Business Innovation Research Program 2000.2 contract for topic A02-024. This Phase II research advanced the Phase I approach to enable improved human-system interaction of mixed human and robotic elements for a company-sized unit. The research reported here explored the utility of intelligent user interfaces for command and control tasks. A system prototype was developed using a virtual simulation environment, Soar-based intelligent agents, and a standards-based communications infrastructure. The prototype was evaluated by active duty Army officers using think aloud and situational awareness protocols conducted during a simulated urban mission. Results from the evaluation indicate that cooperative interface agents may be a practical technique for reducing command and control complexity, especially when manned and unmanned forces are integrated. Although this technique was demonstrated in a relatively simple simulation environment, further research is warranted to assess scalability and usability when applied to more knowledge-rich, real-world environments.

Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 01:53:33 -0700
From: ‘BlueHost Support’ ()

Dear Bluehost Customer,

This evening (July 14th) from about 5:25pm-6:55pm many of our servers
were offline causing significant downtime for many of our users. The
outage was due to a severe power outage in the north end of Orem, Utah
where our servers are located. We do have UPS backup as well as diesel
generators, but at about 5:30 they finally gave out. The power outage
was for much longer than that period of time, but the reserve power
was eventually consumed in its entirety. When it rains it pours.

WX radar image of may flies
This radar image from the National Weather Service shows a gigantic hatch of mayflies last Friday evening along the Mississippi River in portions of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. (Photo/AP)

LEE BERGQUIST (lbergquist journalsentinel com), Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reports:

It wasn’t rain. It certainly wasn’t snow.

So what was it last Friday that turned the radar in the La Crosse area into a sea of white?

It turns out that it was a gigantic hatch of mayflies.

The bugs were so thick that they showed up as a rainstorm of mayflies on National Weather Service radar.

For about 1 1/2 hours starting at 9 p.m., the insects drifted north, with the radar showing them blanketing areas along the Mississippi River.

“They were dive-bombing in the root beer floats,” said Gary Rudy, owner of Rudy’s Drive-In, whose family has been slinging burgers and soft drinks since 1966.

“It hasn’t been that bad in a long time.”

At Riverfest, the city’s summer festival, the mayflies were buzzing revelers, and folks were scraping the insects off the bottoms of their shoes.

“They have a fishy smell when you step on them,” said Gar Amunson, superintendent of parks for the city. “They are an annoyance.”

The weather service reported that “some roads across the Mississippi River in and around La Crosse were covered with bugs, piling into ‘drifts’ on bridges over the Mississippi River and its tributaries.”

Cornell University, via /., reports:

Newswise — Members of Cornell’s Global Positioning System (GPS) Laboratory have cracked the so-called pseudo random number (PRN) codes of Europe’s first global navigation satellite, despite efforts to keep the codes secret. That means free access for consumers who use navigation devices — including handheld receivers and systems installed in vehicles — that need PRNs to listen to satellites.

The codes and the methods used to extract them were published in the June issue of GPS World.

On /., LackThereof writes:

“An IT consultant for the FBI, hired to work on their new ‘Trilogy’ computer system, apparently got hold of the username and password hash databases for the FBI’s network. He then used a common dictionary attack to get usable passwords out of the hashes, including that of FBI director Robert Muller, making him able to access virtually any data stored electronically at the FBI, including Witness Protection program records. The consultant, Joseph Thomas Colon, claims he used the passwords to avoid bureaucratic obstacles, and that his actions were condoned by the FBI agents he was working with at the agency.”

“He has pleaded guilty to 4 counts of ‘intentionally accessing a computer while exceeding authorized access and obtaining information from any department of the United States.’ He initally gained access to the hash database by borrowing an agent’s username and password; he then re-downloaded and re-cracked it three more times to keep up with the FBI’s 90-day password expiration policy. Lesson: Your users are your biggest security hole. Don’t trust your users, especially if they’re government agents.”