Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 23 Nov 2004

I'm still here

Just in case my reader thinks I've dropped off the face of the earth, here's a quick summary of what's been going on. The main home PC is still playing up, so I've been using the Linux box some more. It's happily running Firebird, Thunderbird and PSI with added GPG. I'm learning a bit more about how to run a Linux box.

Since I am using IMAP mail and using web tools for links and news I am not tied to any one PC. That makes life easier.

I gained a further signature to my GPG key last week. The previous one made me part of the 'strong set'. This is the main group of users who are linked by mutual keysignings. This puts me just five steps away from someone like Linus Torvalds (creator of Linux). One of the latest del.icio.us links is to a site that works out the connections.

I bought myself a new case for the Palm from Brando in Hong Kong. Good prices and speedy delivery. This case should resolve the problems I had with the battery getting discharged when a button was accidentally pressed in my pocket. I also went for a new stylus with built-in pen. That's about as much hardware as I can afford at the moment.

[15:35] | [/News] | Comments | G

Tue, 09 Nov 2004

Time to dump Internet Explorer

Microsoft's browser accounts for about 95% of internet usage, but it has lots of bugs and lacks many features. There is an alternative. For some time I've been using browsers from Mozilla. You may know them better as Netscape, but this is the open source version that is being very actively worked on. I have happily used their internet suite (browser, email and web design), but more recently have switched to their newer browser, Firefox. Today Firefox reached version 1.0. It's a wonderful tool with features such as pop-up blocking, tabs and an ever-expanding selection of extensions to add even more goodness. Go to their site for more details.
[13:37] | [/Internet] | Comments | G

Wed, 03 Nov 2004

Another Distributed Computing Success

I've gone on before about the fact that most computers spend 99% of their processing time waiting for users to do something. There are many projects that allow this wasted capacity to be applied to solving various problems, from detecting aliens to finding cures for cancer. One of the oldest projects is over at distributed.net. They started off trying to win competitions for breaking encrypted messages, but diversified into some hard mathematical problems. This week they completed the OGR-24 project. See their page for the details. I contributed many hours to their projects in the past, but have moved on to other things.
[09:15] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Tue, 02 Nov 2004

Secret Messages

I've been fascinated by the science of encryption for a few years now. It's gone way beyond the old letter substitution of my youth into advanced mathematics, giving codes that could take longer than the age of the universe to crack. There are a multitude of free tools that allow you to protect your communications from anyone who might be listening in. It doesn't have to be the government spooks, your email could be read by anyone with access to a server that it passes through.

The basis of my encryption options is GPG (Gnu Privacy Guard, descended from PGP, Pretty Good Privacy). This uses public key encryption techniques. This means that you can freely publish a key for people to encrypt messages to you with, but only you can read them with your secret key. One of the interesting concepts is that other people can 'sign' your public key to say that they confirm that you are who you say you are. Yesterday Simon and I met up with Rob from Rotterdam to exchange keys. This was coordinated via Biglumber.

There are utilities for most email clients that allow easy use of GPG. My chat client of choice, Psi, can also use it to encrypt instant messages. Simon and I are using that now. I just need to bring some of my other contacts up to speed.

I don't have major secrets, but I like my privacy.

Assorted encryption links on my del.icio.us.

[09:11] | [/Computer] | Comments | G

Mon, 01 Nov 2004

To any Americans

I don't generally do politics, but I would just like to ask any Usians who may happen to read this, please go out and vote in your election, but don't vote for Bush. That man scares me more than Saddam or Bin Laden.
[20:55] | [/News] | Comments | G

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