October 1, 2001-- Newsletter #150
Goodies to Go (tm)
October 1, 2001--Newsletter #150
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
Well, if my Goodies "IN" box is any indication, Nimda is alive and cooking. I'm getting 250 emails every time I log in. The vast majority are just carriers for the virus. If you're getting the same and would like a bit of a laugh, a newsletter reader suggested I spell Nimda backwards. It's not a big laugh, but at least you'll get a hint as to where the name came from.
Did you hear...
The U.S. government is going to start, maybe as early as this week, airing public service announcements asking so-called Patriot Hackers to stop using their powers for evil. The ads will suggest that the hackers are hurting the government's case and approach to dealing with the terrorists. The thinking is that well-meaning hackers might release a worm that attacks vital systems rather than, or in addition to, attacking an intended target.
A new virus is floating around that is using the terrorist attack as part of its Social Engineering. The email is titled "Vote." Basically, you're asked to vote on a few items using the attached file. Click it and your data is gone, gone, gone. Be careful.
The ".info" domain has been attached to over 52,000 names and is now beginning to show up around the Web. ICANN states that another quarter million are in the pipeline. It has been suggested that over 60% of the world's top brands have bought the extension.
Seventeen-year-old Eliza Gauger, a student from Bellingham, Washington, may very well have created the most popular piece of amateur propaganda from the September 11th attack, maybe ever. The piece is titled "Mommy Liberty" and shows a sketch of Lady Liberty holding a gun in one hand and a child wrapped in a flag in the other. If you'd like to see the piece, it can be found at this address.
Now on to today's topic...
Back in 1992, the New York Post ran a basically unfounded story about a supposed anti-Semitic message found within Microsoft's graphical font, Wingdings.
The story goes that a person was installing software on a computer running Windows 3.1. I don't know that the fact that the operating system was 3.1 is so important, it just happened to be in every version of the story I found, so I am including it here.
The installation went along just fine until the person doing the work opened the computer's new word processor and typed in the letters "NYC." He (one story had the installer as a "he") proceeded to alter the text font to Wingdings. There was the hidden message.
The screen displayed a skull-and-crossbones, then a Star of David, and then a thumbs-up. You can try it yourself if you'd like. Just make sure the three letters are uppercase.
This was taken to mean, "Death to Jews in New York was a good thing."
I want to know why it specifically has to mean that. The Star of David is actually called "Magen David," or "Shield of David." Why couldn't the images represent that death is shielded and it's a good thing? Why couldn't the images mean that a guy named David makes good pesticides? It could also mean that the Jolly Roger was successful in following the north star.
Is it really an embedded message or is that just simply the way someone interpreted it?
To further muddy the waters, another major U.S. city that's known only by letters, DC, produces an upturned and down-turned thumb. Really. Try it. Does that mean voting? Does that mean the city is both good and bad? We could go to town on that one.
Let me throw another one into the mix. Write the word, "JEW" and turn it into Wingdings. Again, follow the capitalization pattern. You get a smiling face, a finger pointing at it, and then a cross. How do you take that?
Try typing in "JESUS" and see what you come up with. That one seems far more contrived then NYC.
What do you think of the symbols that appear when you type in, "ALLAH"?
How about, "GOD"? Can you get anything out of that?
If you're looking for something bad, you'll surely find it.
Accusations flew and Microsoft investigated the incident along with the Anti-Defamation League. The results of the investigation were that Microsoft did not intentionally place the characters so that such a statement would appear. Furthermore, Microsoft didn't even create the Wingdings font. A company named Bigelow and Holmes built the coding. That further added fuel to the fire. This was all a metaphysical synchronicity known as a coincidence.
If you're wondering, as I was, why Microsoft did not choose to change the Wingdings font characters, it was because they believed that changing three characters could have effects upon text already displaying the font. The actual Microsoft statement regarding the Wingdings debacle can be found here.
Now, you may be wondering why I am dredging up a story from ten years ago. The reason is that after the terrorist attack, the story regarding the "NYC" Wingdings concern is beginning to come up again, along with a few other interesting conspiracy theories.
You may want to be aware of these before you begin getting the overly concerned emails that are sure to start flying around very soon.
With the advent of Internet Explorer 4, Microsoft introduced a new graphical font called, "Webdings." To quote Microsoft, "Our team of iconographers traveled the world asking site designers and users which symbols, icons and pictograms they thought would be most appropriate for a font of this kind. From thousands of suggestions we had to pick just two hundred and thirty for inclusion in Webdings."
No one asked me.
OK, that's fine. Why have one set of strange characters, when you can have two, I guess. The problem is that with the knowledge of the Wingdings NYC problems, those who created Webdings seized a moment.
Type "NYC" into WORD and change the font to Webdings if you have it. It shows a human eye, a heart, and a series of skyscrapers.
"Ah Ha!" you say! I love New York!
This is the point at which conspiracy theorists will start proclaiming that if Webdings had a blatantly inserted message, then the original Wingdings font message must also be true.
It's really a leap of logic, but that's what is being thrown around the Web. I have to admit that it was really dumb to intentionally embed a response to the first Wingdings, but I wasn't in charge back then.
You may also want to keep an eye out for this little ditty, "Q33NY." Please note that the letters are uppercase. That matters.
Take that Q33NY, type it into your word processor and change it to Wingdings. You should see an airplane pointed at two pieces of paper followed by the skull and Star of David. With a little imagination, one can see that as an airplay running into the towers proclaiming the death of Jews.
The problem with this one is that the code, Q33NY, is completely manufactured. It has no relevance to the incident at all except the "NY" stuck on the end. Now, you'll hear that this was a flight number or a tracking number of one of the airliners. It wasn't.
I find it a real concern that at a moment such as this, someone would take the time to look so deeply into such a completely unrelated area such as Wingdings in order to find fault at one level or another.
Why look so deeply when the real problems are so large and so visible right in front of your eyes?
Actually, maybe that is the reason.
That's that. Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And remember: When you make your way down here to New Orleans, maybe you'll find it interesting, as I did, that instead of catsup being on the restaurant table, it's hot pepper sauce. I like it, but those who grew up here just put it on everything. The hotter the better. What makes a pepper "hot" is the amount of capsaicin it contains. In 1912, a fellow named Wilber Scoville devised a scale that ranked peppers in terms of hotness. The scale was measured in Scoville units for obvious reasons.
A pepper is sweet if it ranks between 0 and 100 Scovilles. A Jalapeno has between 2500 and 5000 Scovilles. The hottest pepper is the Habanero, which ranks over 100,000 Scovilles. Some have gone as high as 350,000 Scovilles.