11/29/2007

Seriously

OK, sorry. I hate posting twice in one day, but I couldn't help it. The video I posted earlier? No competition to this:



Please! They're jumping off mountains and flying! Bah.

Hat tip to Owen for the link.

Future Interfaces

Want to see what your future is going to look like? Check out this post from G-fav (husband of my good friend J-Fav). It's pretty mind blowing stuff.



No I'm not procrastinating! How rude.

11/27/2007

Cryptonotes

Some interesting things I've learned from my Cryptography class:

  • PGP, or "Pretty Good Privacy", is a lot better than "Pretty Good" - it's extremely good. The inventor named it "pretty good" because he didn't want to oversell it. (Which is humble and all, but IMO, that's been a barrier for people to use it.) It's open, free, and good, so you should get it. (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • The basis of all communication security as we know it comes down to two darn hard math problems: discrete logarithms, and factoring large primes. Has anyone solved them without brute force? Not that we know of, but, well ... if you solved one, would you tell anyone? :)
  • Authentication (proving who you are) can be based on three things: what you know (passwords), what you have (keys, smart cards, etc.), or what you are (fingerprints, retinal scans, etc). Using two of these at once is called Second Factor authentication, and it's creepy and cool. (5)
  • If your wireless network uses WEP, it can be broken into in a few hours ... not because it uses poor encryption (RC4 is quite strong(6)) but because it's a poorly implemented protocol. Use WPA2 instead.(7)

Footnotes:

1) Incidentally, over a year ago, I posted this entry about PGP, along with my public key block.

2) In that post, I said, "in 10 years time, a brute-force approach to our currently encrypted stuff will be trivial". That's not exactly true; as it turns out, advances in computer power favor the cryptographer (secret-writer), not the cryptanalyst (secret-cracker). Makes sense, if you think about it ... by simply adding one bit, I make it twice as hard to crack my code using brute force. Throw on an extra 64 bits, and the brute force problem is now 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 times harder. Get my drift? So as computers get faster, we can add bits much faster than crackers can brute-force them.

3 - Also incidentally, I happen to know the CEO of PGP Corporation, Dunk. He used to be the CEO at another company I worked at. At that time, I asked him to give me leeway to rewrite the entire asp application stack of the company in .NET, a job that would have taken 6 people 8 months to do. He said no ... and that company still has the same exact code base, 5 years later, and is NOW starting to rewrite the application stack in .NET. Ahem ... I TOLD YOU SO.

4 - Ze Frank (no, he's not back, he's just keeping us company during the writers' strike) posted a funny show today about the NSA and privacy.

5 - Remind me to tell you about my idea for a smell-based authentication device. I may be sitting on a million dollar idea here.

6 - And elegant, too. RC4 is implementable in just a few lines of code.

7 - Or just set up VPN tunneling into a trusted network. VPN tunneling uses IPSec, which is mind-numbingly boring but also important. Like many things in life. In a nutshell, what it does is hide all your packets inside other packets, so nobody knows who they are, or what they were doing. Kind of like druids.

11/17/2007

How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Tags

For years, I've maintained a comprehensive to-do list tree. My entire life is organized into this tree; for example, the act of replacing the air filter in my house:

Improve Myself
Improve Home
Maintain House
Restock
Replace Filters
Replace air filter (every 3 months)
Buy air filters (every 6 months)

This is the backbone of my GTD sytstem. Counting both nodes and leaves, the entire tree has almost 1400 current items in it (3000+ if you count completed items). For the past couple years, I've been keeping it in an application called MyLifeOrganized, which also stores extra information (due dates, context, recurrence, etc.) and then shows me the whole list converted into a single flat to-do list, so I can see all my "next actions". Neato.

Recently, I've become less fond of MLO, mostly due to a variety of little annoyances and lack of any new development, but also because of the sheer weight of what I've got in there. It sometimes takes me a few minutes to add new stuff, just because the tree is so huge.

So, I decided that I'd like to go to a lighter app - maybe something web-based, like Remember The Milk or Nozbe. But, I've realized that beyond MLO, few of these programs offer hierarchical project setup. Instead, they give you tags - you can assign any number of tags to each item, and thereby view things along whatever dimensions you want.

I like tags. But the concept of converting such a huge, heavily used single-root tree to a tag-cloud makes me ... nervous. First off, how do you even do it? And how much of that tree information do I want to preserve in my tags?

One way to do it would be to just keep the same structure, but encode the hierarchy into the tags themselves using some character, like a dot ("."). So the above air-filter stuff would be tagged as:

Self.Home.Maintenance.Restocking.Filters

Ugh ... that's terrible. I'd never keep that up. Another approach, since tags are many-to-many, would be to tag something with all the appropriate tags in the tree structure. So, in this example, I get:

"Self", "Home", "Maintenance", "Restocking", "Filters"

Now I can find it based on any of these tags. Some of the tags are more useful than others, though; from a utility point of view, the right tags for these two items (i.e. the ones I'd ever really want to filter on) are:

"Maintenance", "Restocking"

Other stuff with those tags would be "Restock toilet paper", "Change light bulbs", etc. Other stuff with just the "Maintenance" tag (but not the "Restocking") tag would be stuff like fixing the water heater, painting the kitchen, etc.

Will I need to maintain a list of all the tags I use? I don't know. Will I tag for @context, too? I don't know. Will this work? I hope so ... as of this week, I'm starting the process of converting my 1400-item tree into a tag cloud, using the aforementioned Tudumo, with a little help from Sciral Consistency for the recurring stuff. Wish me luck!

11/09/2007

Brain Dump

I'm still feeling the tumblog thing. Not coherent posts, just a bunch of stuff.

A year ago today, I got my 40,000th saved email. As of today, I'm nearly at 49,000. Today is the 313th day of 2007, which = ~10,400 saved emails this year. At this rate, I'll have on the order of a million saved emails in my lifetime (assuming, as I do, that I'll live to at least 100).

Had a very exciting East Coast / Midwest tour with the spaceshorp jazz fellas. Pics are here.



Classes are going well - this weekend is session 4/5. I finally understand Kerberos! That's been a dream of mine. Yours, too, right?



The Mueller neighborhood is really springing up. Check out our latest photos (not of our house, but of the same floor plan) and read more at our Mueller blog.



Emmet had his 2nd birthday this weekend. He celebrated by being awesome.



Found a new lightweight GTD program, Tudumo, which I am totally in love with. More to come on that, including a forthcoming post about task hierarchies vs tag clouds. Whee.

This is funny beyond words, in the vein of Marmaduke Explained: Garfield Silenced

C'est ca.