Friday, August 05, 2005

---Shuttle Repair EVA Successful, Bird Flu Pandemic?, AOL "Security" Software Caught Installing Adware 

Shuttle Repair EVA Successful[FOXNews]
Discovery astronaut Stephen Robinson removed two pieces of protruding gap filler from a critical area of the Shuttle’s thermal tiles. The pieces of ceramic cloth are supposed to be needed only on ascent to protect the fragile heat shield tiles from each other---when the craft faces not only high aerodymanic forces but high-amplitude, low frequency vibration from the SRB’s. It looked like the bright red RTV used to secure the filler wasn’t evenly distributed over the edge of the cloth, but then Ireally don’t know much about the things, other than their history of causing trouble on earlier missions.
NASA, as if reeling from the consequences of earlier bad decision-making, is almost jumping at every shadow on this mission. They fretted for several days about a piece of thermal batting that was sliced by debris and puffed up in the airstream on ascent, before deciding it would be okay to leave it alone for re-entry.Discovery is due to return to KSC Monday---pray for the best.

Bird Flu---Preventing the Next Pandemic Killer[New Scientist]
If Flu Virus H5N1, better known as “bird flu”, mutates into a form that is easily transmitted among humans, models show that an outbreak of as few as 40 people could be enough to ensure a global pandemic of staggering proportions---far worse than the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed 20-40 million worldwide. According to the US CDC, "Because these viruses do not commonly infect humans, there is little or no immune protection against them in the human population”. Complicating factors in prevention include the virulence of the disease, poor coordination of healthcare in the often rural areas affected, and restricted access for international agencies by the political entities involved. The result could be infection of half the world’s population within a year, with mortality of up to 50%.
According to studies by Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College in London, published in the scientific journals Science and Nature, prevention of such a cataclysmic outbreak would require that health authorities stockpile 3 million sets of the antiviral drug oseltamivir in advance, and keep the high-risk regions of south-east Asia under effective surveillance. The World Health Organization currently has stockpiled 120,000 courses of the required antiviral drigs. The math isn’t looking good.
Poverty, disease, war---in today’s world there is no such thing as “somebody else’s problem”. It could all be on the next flight out of Thailand.

AOL's Advertising.com Admits Adware Distribution[MSNBC.com]
Advertising.com, part of Time Warner Inc.'s America Online, has settled with the Federal Government on charges that the supposed “antispyware” program, “SpyBlast”, which is provided as “free security software”, installs adware which subjects consumers to popup ads tailored to their browsing habits, which are monitored by the installed spyware, without effective notifications to consumers that they are submitting to this invasion of privacy.
I have a number of local customers with computer security problems who had paid for and installed AOL’s “computer security” suites, who were about 50% better off, in terms of total malicious processes running on their systems, than they would be with no "security" at all. I've also run across AOL-titled processes that refuse to be deactivated or uninstalled.
This kind of foolishness has to stop---if we tolerate an Internet where 90+% of users are freely preyed upon, how long will there be an Internet? We’re about to cross the line from the “Wild West Shootout on a Street Crowded with Invalids and School Children” to “Underwater Chumming for Great White Sharks without a Cage” phases of Internet evolution. I guess I’ll dust off the personalized stationery paper and a few nice pens, maybe some of those ratty old encyclopedeas....
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