prevalence of HTML mail

Is HTML mail finally sufficiently ubiquitous that one can simply assume that anyone you send it to will have the ability to read it?

I'm looking for statistics on popularity of mail readers, and having a hard time finding any. Do any of you know of any?

My random wild-assed guess would be something like:

  • 40% Outlook
  • 30% AOL
  • 25% Yahoo/Hotmail/etc
  • 4% Eudora/Netscape
  • 1% everything else
...but surely someone has actually studied this?

Eudora has shitty HTML support (it displays basic tags, but not tables). However, I think all the others on that list display HTML properly. (If my guesses are right, that's 95%.)

(Please note! This is not an invitation for you to tell me that you use /bin/mail in an 80x24 terminal emulator. I'm looking for numbers, not a survey of the personal preferences of power-nerds.)

    Update, Jan 4: The most believable numbers I've seen are these, at; they are approximately in line with my guesses. I think it's safe to assume that Damned Near Everybody is capable of receiving and properly displaying HTML email (though of course they may not prefer it.) Thanks to zonereyrie for pointing to that survey.
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"The company that makes this sued my friend."

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Current Music: Railer -- Kiss Fix ♬

more RFID stupidity on the horizon

Wired has an article about the latest moronic RFID push: "Wave the Card for Instant Credit." It's moderately head-explodey, so I feel the need to pick it apart...

<LJ-CUT text=" --More--( 6%) ">

For more than a year, MasterCard and American Express have been testing "contactless" versions of their credit cards. The cards need only be held near a special reader for a sale to go through -- though the consumer can still get a receipt.

The card companies say the system is much faster and safer because the card never leaves a customer's hand.

"In some instances it's faster than cash," said Betsy Foran-Owens, a MasterCard vice president. "You're eliminating the fumble factor."

This must mean that these RFID credit cards would not require a signature either. It couldn't ever be "faster than cash" without that. It seems hard to imagine how dispensing with the signature step makes it "more secure", even given how seldom the kid behind the counter bothers to check it.

While old-fashioned credit cards store account information on a magnetic stripe that has to be swiped, the contactless cards keep their data on chips inside the plastic.

Oh, chips! That must be better!

American Express' ExpressPay uses a keychain fob, like the ones used by ExxonMobil Speedpass and similar to the tags in supermarket discount programs.

"I like that it's on your keychain and it's fast to use," said Kristie Beenau, 36, of Peoria, Ariz., who has used ExpressPay for about six months at a CVS Pharmacy and fastfood restaurants. "I charge everything anyways. Now I wave it rather than get my card out. It's more convenient."

I'm going to make a fortune by selling an invention that lets you punch a hole in a credit card so that you can wear it on your keychain. Then later I'll repurpose that invention to let you punch a hole in a $20 bill, so you can wear that on your keychain too!

The contactless cards have no battery or power. When they near a reader, they are jolted to life by the reader's electromagnetic waves. A small radio antenna in the cards instantly transmits account information to the reader. The transaction then proceeds through the credit card network just as if the card had been swiped.

In theory, the transaction could be intercepted without a consumer's knowledge by a technologically savvy thief intent on cloning a card. That's because RFID transmissions themselves are not encrypted.

However, the thief would have to get quite close to his target or have a very sensitive reader.

Thank god there's no chance that anyone will ever build a very sensitive reader, then. Or stand close. They'd have no incentive to that, surely.

Also, the account number on the contactless cards is useful only in the RFID system -- it's not the same as a user's credit card number. A crook would thus not be able to use the card number to go on a fraudulent Internet shopping spree, for example.

Oh, that's a relief, then. Because:

Credit cards that incorporate the technology could be used anywhere regular plastic is accepted, as long as stores install the new readers.

They'd only be able to go on a fraudulent shopping spree at any store that used the new card readers! Whew!

American Express makes the RFID reader verify the card's authenticity with a "challenge-response" exchange that depends on 128-bit encryption encoded on the chip. That strength of encryption is considered safe against "brute force" attacks, in which a hacker tries every possible combination.

MasterCard says it uses a different security system but would not provide specifics.

[...] Simson Garfinkel, another MIT researcher who follows RFID, said credit card companies ought to be using "smart" cards with public key cryptography, a very strong form of security.

I don't know what to make of this. It seems to be saying two things: "the cards use crypto in some way", and yet, "the cards do not use public key crypto." Also, from above, "RFID transmissions themselves are not encrypted."

If those statements are true, then I think this probably means something like, there is one master key that every card uses, that only needs to be cracked once. It seems to imply that there is not a key per card, or at least, not one that has anything to do with the transaction.

This is so obviously a step backwards for security that it's impossible to believe that the credit card companies don't realize this: they are very good at running the "fraud" numbers, and what they do is, pass those costs along to the vendors. Some of you may not know this, but stores make less money when you use credit cards, because they're contractually not allowed to charge more for credit card transactions, and yet, they have to pay a per-transaction fee.

And that fee gets higher the "riskier" the credit card companies perceive the transaction to be. For example, they charge more if you don't take a physical imprint of the card; they charge more if you don't have the new "card verification number" from the back; they charge more if the shipping and billing addresses don't match; and so on.

So I have to assume that they're going to totally shaft the vendors on this one: they're going to ship this amazingly insecure technology, and then pressure the vendors into both supporting it, and paying for it.

The RFID lobby is shaping up to be quite a juggernaut...

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so that future humans can be genetically incapable of getting drunk

Researchers find 'drunk gene' in worms

Researchers found that the sober worms had the same mutated gene that appears to make them immune to alcohol's intoxicating effects. The natural job of the gene they found is to help slow brain transmissions. Alcohol increases the gene's activity, which slows down brain activity even more. But if the gene is disabled, as it was in the mutant worms, the brain never gets the chance to slow down.

Food Simulator: a teledildonic technology?

The Food Simulator is a haptic interface that displays biting force. It is designed to fit to the user's mouth, where it delivers the captured force of real food and auditory and chemical sensations associated with eating.

The curved shape of this novel biting-force interface is derived from the structure of the human jaw. It generates forces based on the captured forces of real food, measured with a film-like force sensor. The profile of the biting force of the real food is realized by the Food Simulator's force control.

The Food Simulator is integrated with auditory and chemical sensations of eating. The sound of biting is captured by a bone-vibration microphone and displayed by a bone-vibration speaker. It is synchronized with the biting action. Chemical sensations of taste are displayed using a micro injector installed in the end effecter. The chemical sensation is synthesized from five elements of basic taste: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Smell is displayed by a vaporizer.

The Food Simulator can change the properties of food during chewing. A cracker can be suddenly changed into a gel, for example, which generates a surprising and humorous experience. This kind of entertainment contributes to chewing capabilities in children.

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you can't make up propaganda like this

Occupation Soldiers Ordered To Execute Cute, Friendly Iraqi Puppy

It's against the rules for U.S. soldiers in Iraq to have pets, but the skinny black puppy that wandered up to the Florida National Guard soldiers at a base in northern Iraq wouldn't go away. So the soldiers from Alpha Co. of the 2nd Battalion of the 124th Infantry Regiment adopted the mutt and named her Apache after their radio call sign.

But Army regulations finally caught up with Alpha Co. and Apache. Family members said Wednesday that the soldiers were eventually forced to obey orders and have the dog killed.

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Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman. Candyman.

Myths Over Miami

This is the secret story shelter children will tell only in hushed voices, for it reveals Bloody Mary's mystery: God's final days before his disappearance were a waking dream. There were so many crises on Earth that he never slept. Angels reported rumors of Bloody Mary's pact with Satan: She had killed her own child and had made a secret vow to kill all human children. All night God listened as frantic prayers bombarded him. Images of earthly lives flowed across his palace wall like shadows while he heard gunfire, music, laughing, crying from all over Earth. And then one night Bloody Mary roared over the walls of Heaven with an army from Hell. God didn't just flee from the demons, he went crazy with grief over who led them. Bloody Mary, some homeless children say the spirits have told them, was Jesus Christ's mother.

"No one believe us! But it's true! It's true!" cries Andre at the Salvation Army shelter on NW 38th Street. "It mean there's no one left in the sky watching us but demons." His friends sitting on the shelter patio chime in with Bloody Mary sightings: She flew shrieking over Charles Drew Elementary School. She stalks through Little Haiti, invisible to police cars. "I know a boy who learned to sleep with his eyes open, but she burned through a shelter wall to get him!" a seven-year-old boy says. "When the people found him, he was all red with blood. Don't matter if you're good, don't matter if you're smart. You got to be careful! If she see you, she can hunt you forever. She's in Miami! And she knows our face.

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transportation calories

Global Trade = Global Warming:

Sustain, a U.K.-based food and farming alliance, has shown that iceberg lettuce flown from Los Angeles to London requires 127 calories of fuel for every food calorie. Sustain also reports that countries often end up swapping food instead of importing critical items that cannot be produced locally. The U.K., for example, imported 126 million liters of milk and exported 270 million liters in 1997.

Researchers at Iowa State University have found that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles within the U.S., a 22 percent increase since 1981. [...] The transportation sector consumes nearly 60 percent of the world's oil and produces a quarter of all energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. Oil use by transportation has almost doubled since 1973.


Arcade Ambience

Arcade Ambience:
"As a child of the 80s, I will never forget the feeling of walking into a crowded arcade -- the sounds, smells, excitement, etc. This page is dedicated to recreating the audio portion of that experience in the form of a long, non-looping ambient audio track."

But tell me more about the smells!

Current Music: simulated video games in the background

James Kunstler rants good

I just discovered Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month" page, where he ridicules architectural monstrosities. Here are some of my favorites. (Also, if you haven't read his anti-sprawl article Home from Nowhere, do so.)

August 1999: Here we see the nearly complete metamorphosis of the two-family house into an industrial loading dock. Well, children in America are getting pretty large these days. Must be all those Cheez Doodles and Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I suppose soon they'll have to be forklifted into the dwelling by Soccer Mom. (She then becomes Forklift Mom).

June 2002: The sad little bench is deployed on West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, affording excellent views of four travel lanes plus one stacking left-turn lane and finally the Medical Arts building surrounded by its parking outparcels. The purpose of the bench is not rest for the weary traveler, for nobody ventures out here by foot. Nor is it a bus stop. It's there to provide the illusion that we are interested in a humane daily environment.

March 1998: Observe the lovely costuming of this building in downtown Worcester, Massachusetts. The argument has been made that Americans are not merely indifferent to the appearance of their towns, but are postively devoted to ugliness. This specimen has it all: the disruption of the original design, the revolting cladding material and color choice, the dedicated stretch of blank wall fronting the street, the utter lack of architectural dignity. This is a building perfectly suited to a culture of mental defectives. There is not enough Prozac in the world to cure this.

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