February 23, 2019

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Phantom Pictures from Out of Nowhere

  • October 4, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The cable modem was configured and stable. The little black box was, I assumed, protecting my machine from intrusion, at least reasonably well. I'd dragged Cat 5 cable throughout the house, so that all the machines would now have access to the cable and, to some degree, each other. We were now online all the time.

And now pictures were appearing on my screen--pictures that did not reside on my hard drive or the drive of any other local computer, pictures just a few hours old, pictures whose source I did not know. I watched the screen for a little while and noticed, off to the right, the LEDs on the little black box blinking as new pictures appeared. Along with the pictures came control buttons, advertisements, all kinds of stuff.

No, I did not have a web browser open. All I had running were Linux, KDE, and XScreenSaver. The pictures and accoutrements were coming up in the last of these, right after it had cycled through one of the GL screensavers that somehow have lately come to run at a decent speed.

What was going on here? This cable modem thing had been up for less than a week, and already I was receiving unrequested stuff I could see and who knows what that I couldn't see. I have nothing against Olympic gymnasts, but when a picture of one appears on my screen when my screensaver is supposed to be running I get a little concerned. More than a little, actually.

What was going on here?

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