Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/05/28/letters_2805/
Software pirates stole my stealth plane
So lay off Senator Alston, ok?
Letters Yesterday the aviation industry launched a project to develop a quieter plane . An investment of £2.5m over three years, they said. Our survey said:
The answer already exists, the B-2. Since this is a joint production of Boeing and Northrup-Grumman (or did someone swallow them up), it would be instructive to look at some old promotional footage produced for the commercialization of the YB-49 project or flying wing bomber. I've heard these spectres at air shows and they qualify as being background noise until real, I mean REAL close. They happen to be real fuel efficient too, able to fly without refueling all the way to Moscow and back after searching for those mobile ICBMs (more vaporware). They climb real fast too.
Take away all the special stealth stuff to make it invisible to radar (not a good thing for air traffic control) and then you'd have to get the commercial aviation community to accept a mostly plastic airliner.
J. H. Appel El Paso, TX
600mph is just a bit high for an airliner's landing approach speed - 150 is closer. 600mph is nearly supersonic at sea level.
The big challenge now is that improvements in efficiency are no longer hand-in-hand with lower noise. For a long time manufacturers have been increasing the size (diameter) of engines for the same thrust and so producing slower jets which make less noise (jet noise being proportional to the jet velocity raised to the power of _eight_).
In many cases that's not true any more, we're now seeing airliners that have had to back off from a performance goal to reach a noise goal - the engines were bigger than the performance optimum and produced a bit more drag than they saved in reduced fuel burn.
Also for all you say that improvements on existing designs are incremental, remember that for every 3dB reduction in noise (which is pretty much imperceptible to the ear) the manufacturer has had to _halve_ the noise energy the aircraft produces. In 20 years the amount of noise energy that airliners put out has gone down by a factor of around 10,000 (if memory serves). Chris L
'Today saw the launch of an ambitious £2.5m, three-year project led by Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) - the Silent Aircraft Initiative (SAI). Its plan is pretty simple: to produce aircraft "whose noise emissions would barely be heard above the background noise level in a typical built-up area".'
TWO AND A HALF MILLION POUNDS TO INVENT THE BLOODY DIRIGIBLE?!?!?!
The lobbying on both sides of the software patenting issue continues. Richard Stallman was in London last week to do his bit. We went along  and took notes:
Nice summary of Stallman's position. I heard him give essentially the same talk in Manchester nearly 15 years ago, before anybody had heard of open source or Linux. Despite his prognostications of doom, open/free source is thriving.
His argument omits one key point: it costs a fortune to enforce a patent. It isn't worth doing unless a fortune is at stake, and most independent developers don't strike a gold mine. A large corporation is never going to go after some guy who sold a 1000 copies of a $100 package; it just isn't worth it.
Large corporations develop patent portfolios to protect themselves from other large corporations. When I heard Stallman I was an academic and bought his argument; since then I've been [with the same company] for 10 years, and authored a number of patents. I can assure you that nobody here scans shareware.com or sourceforge for patent infringements.
However, if the little guy hits the jackpot, the situation changes; witness the SCO suit, which I doubt will be the last attack on Linux; there's too much money at stake, and lots of deep pockets to plunder.
The situation is far from ideal, but hardly as bleak as Stallman portrays it.
In regard to the article you recently wrote in "The Register", I find Richard Stallman's position hard to explain. The reason is that patenting ideas is specifically prohibited both in the US and in the EU - you can only patent something that "has been reduced to practice". As a long-time inventor who has authored 22 issued and pending patents, I am pretty sure this is still the case in both jurisdictions. I am also sure that Mr. Stallman, for whom I personally have a great deal of respect, is well aware of this fact.
I will be the first to agree with Mr. Stallman that the state of the patent system, at least in the area of software patents, is pretty dismal. This, however, has little to do with "ideas"; it is caused simply by the fact that patent offices worldwide have little experience dealing with software and are short on expertise in this area. As a result, there are quite a few cases in which patents were granted for software "inventions" which are either not new, or would be quite obvious to a specialist, and thus should not have been granted a patent in the first place.
The issue is not limited to software, and neither is it limited to large companies: in the mid-nineties, an individual inventor made news by suing Intel and other processor vendors, claiming that he has a valid patent on a... microprocessor. What made that case ridiculous is that a US patent used to be valid for 17 years, while people had been making processors for well over 20 years by the time that person brought his claim forward. The only way this could have happened is by someone granting him a patent on a microprocessor years after microprocessors have been invented and companies formed to make them.
This week, ISPs discovered that all these online irritants - the viruses and worms - could actually be costing them money . Something must be done!
While ISPs may be suffering the cost of worms they only have themselves to blame.
A way they could EASILY cut this problem without any real cost: Get their installation software to turn on the Windows XP firewall.
A friend recently had NTL broadband installed. He followed their instructions - the end result was that he had has PC totally open to the Internet. As a result he collected every nasty buzzing around the net within a day.
The cost to NTL for turning the option on? Maybe a day or twos programming time. The result would be many of their customers protected against worms and other attacks.
Even if the customer isn't running a firewall, perhaps unbinding NetBIOS from that network connection and telling the customer to go to the windowsupdate site would solve a few problems.
How about providing a link for customers to get ZoneAlarm or similar? A bit of basic end-user education wouldn't cost the ISPs much would it? Especially as it could save them so many costs in the long term.
Pop quiz time. Software pirates: Should they, or should they not be allowed access to the SP2 upgrade?  What do you mean, you don't know?
Speaking as someone who hates paying Microsoft one dime and is a member of the "anyone but Microsoft" club, but who has legal licenses for every piece of software on all of his computers (unique licenses I might add, which cost me a pretty penny) I am completely in favor of Microsoft writing their next service pack for Windows XP and Windows 2000 so that it "phones home" if it's installed on a known pirated of Windows and gives Microsoft the public IP address of the computer that it's installed on so that Microsoft can file lawsuits against everyone using known pirated serial numbers for theft.
Stealing software by pirating serial numbers is no different than me walking into your house tomorrow afternoon while no one is home and taking your TV, computer, and stereo system. It's also no different than walking into a computer store and shoplifting the same piece of software. Anyone who pirates software deserves to face the same penalty that I would face if I was caught shoplifting that same piece of software from a retail store, and Microsoft has the legal right and moral obligation to see to it that pirates face those penalties. 60 or 90 days in jail, a misdemeanor on their permanent criminal record which would keep them from employment at a number of government agencies such as schools for the rest of their life, a minimal fine, and losing the item which they stole. In this case I'd be in favor of the court erasing the hard drive of their computer and then returning the computer to them.
Software pirates are criminals and deserve to be treated as such. If their computers cause damage because they're not patched and they get taken over and used for DDOS attacks or spam relays they need to face the penalty for that also. --
You might just as well think I wanted to be funny. I don't.
"So here is an idea for Microsoft in the future. How about two versions of its upcoming Service Packs: one with only security upgrades, and one with functional and security upgrades. Only the former can be downloaded by all. The latter will be disabled, at least for the pirates Microsoft can detect."
What a crap of an idea. You don't punish the pirates. You punish me.
I'll have to go search for those twenty odd numbers and migrate my boxes to a pirated identity. And I'm not the only one who wants just one thing from XP2: security updates. Smaller file, no further 'features', a pure, well-come no-nonsense solution.
Except my machines are legal and will download all crap, forcing it down my throat.
Hold your breath, give us readers a good service: publish some of those numbers and make our (sysadmins) day!
This week, we also wrote that the Net is proving something of a door opener  for US soldiers currently in the closet, Official US Military Issue.
Could this be a deliberate ploy to get out of serving in Iraq, you wondered:
My unit is going back to Iraq, to be shot at, I've developed a distaste for hot sand, and the easiest way to avoid this is for me to post my picture on gaydar and get 'a vengeful ex-girlfriend' to contact the military.
The internet these days makes even running away to Canada easier.
Or, you could just quit. No conscription anymore...[Or "yet", depending on how optimistic you are feeling - Ed]
"All six of them were outed by someone they knew either from a relationship or a roommate situation,"
Six less sexual deviants in the military assigned to Iraq.
Oh dear...that one might get a few responses...
Just to clarify: while the US Military operates a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, we at El Reg operate a "Don't care" policy. Works wonderfully.
Wonder what the policy would be on Venus? 
The concept of floating life on Venus is not new. Google shows "Venus floating plant" or "Venus balloon plant" has been mentioned several times in Web and Groups. I'm sure these are amateur scientists, but I assume those who spend months thinking about Venus also considered the skies.
As in my contribution on Usenet (apparently before Google's archive), the topic often is terraforming Venus by seeding the clouds with floating plants. There are plants with floating bladders of various types. If a plant can be made to fill bladders with hydrogen, nitrogen, or methane (or other gas lighter than the Venus atmosphere), it then "merely" has to make enough large bladders and become an air-feeding plant...or be a parasite of an air plant.
Dead plants would fall to the surface. Even if most are totally destroyed, if some accumulate on the surface then carbon would be removed from the atmosphere. Getting too much oxygen in the atmosphere might then become a problem, although that might encourage more oxidation of rocks.
However, you'll note that the effect of plant life should be in build up of carbon deposits on Venus. If there is native plant life, that might also happen. So if plant life has existed there for a long time, why is the atmosphere still so heavy? Maybe the dead are totally burned and returned as gases, but that should generate some charcoal which would accumulate under a CO2 atmosphere.
There is another issue which a biologist might not consider. In recent years it has been recognized that it is likely that Earth's Moon was created by huge splashes from a rock colliding with Earth. The Moon is probably lighter than Earth because a lot of the light stuff on the surface got splashed off. Such an energetic activity could have also splashed away some gases. So we might have an atmosphere which does not crush us, and have access to heavy metals, because we have a Moon.
Venus wasn't so lucky as to have been blasted apart.
Moving smoothly from a plan to terraform a hot, lifeless planet, to Australian politics:
Our "Five years ago..." series has really been upsetting some of you. Judging by the content of some of the letters, this is because you have not understood the concept. Can we be clear on this: it is vintage Reg, reproduced for your entertainment. A little glimpse back at where we were, all those years ago. [In the pub, if memory serves - Ed].
This next letter is a little different, and we suspect was prompted by our latest wander down memory lane :
Hi, I just wanted to say that I am getting quite bored of your continual bad mouthing of the now retired Senator Alston. He was actually quite good at his job, and I don't know why the Register has such an obsession with him, why don't you research your stories.
We don't know, Steve. Have another read of the article for clues on the roots of the obsession. In the meantime...that's probably a good place to call it a day for this week's round up, don't you agree? ®