Text Message Spam: the Other White Meat

If you're a human, and you own a cellular handset, you've probably encountered text message spam. Text messaging is enabled on all plans by default, and virtually every provider runs an email to SMS gateway. So, in my case, with T-mobile, my phone can receive email at [my phone number]@tmomail.net. Spammers have to be salivating over this: compared to a standard dictionary attack on an email server (sending mail to every possible permutation of common names at a domain) this is much simpler. Call it a phone-book attack. A spammer can simply sequence through a given set of numbers in a known area code, or, to throw off reactive filters, a random set of numbers in an area code.

Unlike email, though, SMS messages generally cost the user of the handset, whether it's a fixed per-message charge, or a part of a monthly text message package. This, combined with the audible alert that comes with a handset text message, make this a particularly infuriating problem.

If you have T-Mobile, though, you're in luck. Just register your phone on their website to create a profile, if you haven't already. Once you're logged in, choose 'Send a text message' from the 'My Services' menu pull-down. On the right, you should see a link for 'Change my phone e-mail address'. Click that, then enter something unique and memorable as your new email address. Any further emails sent to the SMS gateway will have to use this address to reach your phone.

We'll see if this solves the problem for me, but it looks promising.


The End of the Great American Love Affair?

You know which love affair I'm talking about, of course. No? The love affair with the automobile, the car, the horseless carriage, the... SUV. Ah-hem.

America has been obsessed with cars since their introduction at the beginning of the 20th century. There has always been a good market for domestic manufacturers, even when the rest of the world came to ignore their eventually bloated and shoddy offerings. Much like the brewing industry, car manufacturers in America suffered from mass consolidation. Storied brands were purchased by larger companies and turned into a trim level. The energy price shocks of the 1970s robbed the American car of it's final distinguishing feature - horsepower - and left it with nothing. During the 70s and 80s American consumers were forced to suffer in underpowered, poorly made, characterless boxes. Ruthless management styles at the top of the by now huge corporations brought us vehicles designed by committee to fall apart just shortly after they had been paid off.

The 90s, however, brought us the Ford Taurus and an increasing parade of cars that took cues from European design and manufacturing techniques from Japan (and sometimes whole engines and cars from Japan) and gave America reason to hope again. Of course, this hope manifested itself as the SUV phenomenon. American consumers have proven repeatedly that, given the chance to buy something bigger for only a little more, they will always opt to super-size. Car manufacturers, led by Ford, rode this phenomenon to it's logical extreme, and well past that, with monstrosities such as the Excursion and H2 tipping the scales at a mere 4 tons. Sedans and hatchbacks went the way of the passenger pigeon and triceratops. All this weight required massive amounts of power, and efficiency gains won by things like overhead camshafts, quad-valve combustion chambers, and electronic fuel injection were quickly put to work motivating these huge hunks of metal and plastic. As manufacturers in Japan looked toward the inevitable future, the US behemoths outdid each other with monuments to unsustainability, not even paying lip service to the idea that manufacturers are indeed capable of driving the market.

This is what we want to save? This is what my hard-won tax dollars will be used to keep afloat? I know there are many arguments to be made for keeping these companies alive, and I actually do think it's a good idea in the short term, at least - but something within me is deeply angry.

I feel that these companies have taken enough from the American people. They took the automobile and crushed the life out of it. Yes, they are poised to bring it back, and there are signs that the morbidity is broken. We may get muscle cars with Japanese efficiency and European handling. If this does indeed happen, it will be a breakthrough - but it's not going to erase three decades of terrible cars.

I'd like to see the executives of these companies punished somehow. Perhaps they should all be forced to drive a 1985 Reliant (three glorious speeds) for the rest of their lives. I'd also like to see a new American car - not just an exotic, an actual car. I'm certain it's possible. Other countries have small marques, why can't we?

It's time to reassess the terms of this relationship. American car companies: I'm not happy.


Panorama: Hurricane Ridge March 2008

Since we're so awfully, painfully close to the start of the snowboarding season here in the Pacific Northwest, I was inspired to go back to this set of images from last season and stitch some of them together. They aren't the best source images, as the little lens on the Powershot doesn't do so well in flat light, but it's still a great view.

Enjoy, and think cold thoughts.


Preview: ThirtyTwo Forecast

Well, one part of my softboot carving setup is here. The ThirtyTwo Forecast is supposed to be one of the stiffest soft boots ever made. Unfortunately, ThirtyTwo discontinued it in 2008. It's still possible to find old stock on the internet, but it's slowly disappearing.

From the looks of the current ThirtyTwo line, the Circuit Boa appears to be picking up the torch. A Dual zone Boa system plus a very stiff boot has to be the ultimate in support - but good luck finding these boots for less than three hundred dollars. My 2007 Forecasts set me back $136, which strikes me as quite reasonable for a boot that lists for $229.

These are very serious boots. They are every bit as stiff as I expected, and then some. Recco reflectors on the tongues are a nice touch that's apparently missing from the 2008 version of the boot. The heat moldable liner is held in place with an internal lacing system that holds it against the back of the boot, instead of being integrated with the liner.

Once I actually ride these, I can post a proper review. In the meantime, I can start thinking about the other parts of my softboot carving setup. Don't you just love to daydream about gear? No? I guess it's just me.


Is your big new flat-screen TV killing the planet?

It's Monday morning, so it's only fair that I post something disturbing and/or depressing. This piece from ClimateCheck's Pablo Päster definitely hits both those notes nicely:

What you are referring to is the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in manufacturing LCD televisions. Back in 1992, NF3 was seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to the ozone-damaging perfluorocarbons that the semiconductor industry used in the plasma etching of silicon wafers. While this change undoubtedly had an impact on the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, the international agreement to plug the ozone hole, it is now being blamed for contributing to climate change. NF3 may not damage the ozone layer, but it has been shown to be 17,200 times worse for the climate than the main climate change culprit, carbon dioxide.

Great. While I was unaware of this particular pollutant, in general it's only realistic to assume that electronics manufacturing is still a very nasty and environmentally damaging process. That shiny new cellphone or portable music player that is giving off that lovely smell of new electronics was brewed in a toxic soup of solvents, chemical washes, and etching solutions. The people involved in it's manufacture have taken on an elevated risk of disease related to increased exposure to these compounds. The area of their making has probably been polluted - 'Silicon Valley' is one of the most polluted places in America.

What struck me more than anything else in the piece was the data on an increase of average size in televisions. To anyone who's read 'Fahrenheit 451', this kind of behavior will seem awfully familiar. "Honey, why can't we have a fourth television wall? Our neighbors have had one for ages."

Given the opportunity for more inches at the same cost, humans will opt for the bigger set every time. We now have upgraded signals and pipes to deliver the pixels for all that viewing area, and anyone who thinks that HDTVs current maximum (at 3840×2160, it's a lot of data) is the end of resolution upgrades to the TV signal deserves to be poked gently in the eye with a pointed stick. Don't be silly. There's no logical end to this particular path.

Still, I'm not going to beat myself up while watching movies in HD on my 37 Toshiba. It's just too nice an experience for that.