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30 January, 2003

Watch Out For Xupiter

Wired has an article about a spyware app called Xupiter. Xupiter bills itself as a search engine, but its only reason for existence is to install a toolbar that hijacks your browser, monitors your web surfing habits, and annoys the hell out of you. Once installed, this application is very difficult to remove.

The EULA and Privacy Policy for Xupiter are so absurd that they are almost laughable. A few excerpts:

  • You acknowledge that Xupiter or parties appointed by Xupiter may from time to time provide programming fixes, updates and upgrades to you, including automatic updates to Xupiter, upgrades may include installation of third party applications, through automatic electronic dissemination and other means.
  • Conflicts may occur with other software applications that may already be installed on your computer. The Xupiter software will report back to our servers what applications may be running on your system and will resolve these conflicts whenever possible.
  • To further enhance your media viewing experience, Xupiter reserves the right to run advertisements and promotions based on URLs and/or search terms users enter when navigating the Internet. Other enhancements and to allow access, users web browser, start page, search page, auto search option, bookmarks and default error page will be changed, along with the Xupiter accessory toolbar added to the web browser.
  • Active desktop panel will be installed on the users desktop which will enable active desktops on the system for special promotions. Our software license requires that users browser start page be set to Xupiter.com in order to continue use of the Xupiter toolbar, from time to time we verify that users start page url is set to Xupiter.com, if it is not we reserve the right to alter it back.
  • This Agreement will be governed by the laws of Hungary, excluding the application of its conflicts of law rules. This Agreement will not be governed by the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, the application of which is expressly excluded.
  • In the event of a merger, acquisition, asset or stock sale, bankruptcy, or other asset transfer (regardless of legal formality), any of our assets may be transferred to An assignee, including personal information collected from visitors to our Web site. Licensed Software incorporated into this product collects personal information.
  • I acknowledge and understand that downloading and using the Xupiter Licensed Software constitutes an acceptance of the terms and conditions of this End User License Agreement. I am over the age of 13, no one under the age of 13 can download this software.
  • By installing, using, or copying Xupiter you acknowledge that you have read, understood, given your informed consent to, and agree to be bound by this Privacy Policy. This Privacy Policy is subject to change by Xupiter at any time. Notice to members shall be made by adding any changes to this Privacy Policy document, which will remain posted at the Web site. Members agree to review this Privacy Policy from time to time for changes and updates.

Simply put, if you agree to that EULA, you are giving these sumbags permission to do just about anything they want to your system.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

A New Form of Internet Scum

Send 22 million pop-ups per day! Patent-pending! As seen on TV!

The Register has an article about Windows Messenger pop-up spam. I've got a firewall, so I have no personal experience with this new form of spam.

The article also identified the company that is selling this service to spammers: DirectAdvertise.com. And now they even have a reseller program.

Why is this service better than traditional spam? They provide six reasons, each designed to appeal to low-life spammers:

  • There are no email lists to worry about. Bulk email is regulated by different laws in different states, instant popups are not.
  • Bulk email is sent to an email address which sometimes is not even checked. popups delivered by this program are delivered straight to the screen of your client.
  • Responses to emails come in days later sometimes, when people read their emails. Responses to PowerBlaster popups are as instant as the popups. Message arrives, people go check out your website.
  • These popups are completely anonymous and virtually untraceable. Bulk email will cause you trouble with your ISP if you are not using special software to hide your IP address. With this program your IP address never shows up anywhere.
  • Response rate is a lot higher, which means more business to you.
  • Delivery rates are instantly presented to you. You can see how many popups were delivered and actually seen by people.

They claim that 85% of all consumer computers are susceptible. Let's get that number down to 0%.  If your system is not behind a firewall, you should follow Microsoft's instructions on how to prevent this crap. Or, go here for more information.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Anaglyph 3-D Images

For some reason, I'm fascinated with 3D images. Jason Kottke has been experimenting with stereographic photography, and has posted some examples. These are the dual-image variety, in which you need to cross your eyes to get the 3-D effect. For me, that almost always results in a headache.

I prefer the anaglyph method, which requires Red-Blue glasses. Here a few links to sites that have anaglyph 3-D images (there are many others).

And here's a link that lists software that enables you to create anaglyph images.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Separated at Birth?

Was Dobby the house elf modeled after Russian president Vladimir Putin? According to this story:

A Russian law firm is reportedly drawing up legal action against the special effects people who dreamt up Dobby, arguing that the ugly but caring elf has been modeled on Mr Putin.

The Kremlin and Warner Bros, producer of Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, have declined to comment but the controversy has stirred emotions in Russia.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

The Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich Manuscript, which has been referred to as "the most mysterious manuscript in the world," is a medieval document that resists all attempts at translation.

It is either an ingenious hoax or an unbreakable cipher. The manuscript is named after its discoverer, the American antique book dealer and collector, Wilfrid M. Voynich, who discovered it in 1912, amongst a collection of ancient manuscripts kept in villa Mondragone in Frascati, near Rome.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

AOL Sets a Record

AOL Time Warner posted a loss of $98.7 billion for 2002.

Let's see... Assume that each of those promotional AOL CDs costs $1.00 to produce and distribute. The world population is 6 billion, and each person on earth received 16-17 of those CDs last year.

Yep, that would explain it.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

3D Tetris

I'm not slouch when it comes to Tetris, but this 3D Tetris game made me feel like a beginner.

(via Wastrel Division)

Posted on 30 January, 2003

U.S. Gasoline Prices

The Daily Fuel Gauge Report tracks gasoline prices for markets in the U.S.

For the U.S., the average price for regular unleaded is currently $1.48 per gallon. Georgia ($1.36/gallon) has the least expensive gas, and the most expensive is in Hawaii ($1.82). Excluding Hawaii, the most expensive gasoline is, of course, in California ($1.70). And the price in San Francisco ($1.89) even exceeds the Hawaii average.

But we Americans have it pretty good. As Charles Davies pointed out to me, gas prices in the UK work out to about $4.66 per gallon.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Infomercial Product Reviews

KRBC, in Abiline, Texas, publishes reviews of products that are advertised in TV infomercials.

Find out if that Weed Thrasher really thrashes weeds. Can you really fix a flat tire with a can of Fix-a-Flat? And how about that Hair-Off Mitten?

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Create a Blueprint Online

At smallblueprinter.com, you can create a simple floor plan, with walls and doors. Then you can take a 3D walk-through.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Pizza Delivery Adventures

If you're considering a career in pizza delivery, read this first. Andy offers lots of stories and rants.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Incredible Origami

From Joseph Wu Origami, Inc.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Attaching This to That

What's the best adhesive for the task? Find out here. You can specify two materials, and you'll be told how best to glue them.

Or, just go for the duct tape.

Posted on 30 January, 2003

Gates Eludes the Slapstick Terrorist In Belgium

Remember Noel Godin? About seven years ago, he creamed Bill Gates with a pie in the face. According to this Reuters article:

Gates also eluded practical joker Noel Godin, who hit the Microsoft boss with a custard pie on a previous trip to Belgium. Godin had brought three pie boxes as a present for Gates, but complained police had prevented him from setting foot outside his car to deliver the parcels, which he insisted were empty.

"He's a must-have target for slapstick terrorists like us," Godin said. "But I'm delighted with having pied the master of the world last time." Police guarded Godin's car outside a conference on e-government, where the man he calls "Mister Dollar" said security had become the top priority for Microsoft.

Posted on 30 January, 2003