Thursday, November 29, 2007

TrueCrypt 4.3a's little quirks

Here's the main one:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>

With Vista, this information is squirreled away in C:\Users\Yourname\AppData\Roaming\TrueCrypt, plain as day. Favorite volumes is also there, also unencrypted.

That means, if you set up a turnkey system — i.e., one where favorite volumes automatically mount when you log in, because you use an empty password, plus you use a keyfile located on the USB flash drive mounted on drive E) anybody who cares to know, can know.

Also, I wonder why you can't cascade hash algorithms anymore; not since version 4.2, evidently. Cascading encryption is pretty much useless, since AES or Serpent or Twofish are each and all unbreakable in universes which have proton decay. Cascading hashes might actually prevent some sort of vulnerability in key generation, though; pipes leak at either end, usually through the numbnuts who select weak passwords and don't want to hassle with mysterious keyfiles.

Keyfiles are a gas. You can use them to set up turnkey systems, as noted above. No more passwords!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

TrueCrypt 4.3a

This is kind of cool.

When Phil Zimmerman came out with the first PGP ("Pretty Good Privacy"), he included a utility called PGP Disk that allowed you to create special files that you could then mount as encrypted volumes, completely transparent to Windows (or Linux, or Macintosh).

As the decades ticked away, that simple utility got taken up by corporate interests and modified with extra bells and whistles for the "corporate environment" — including, allegedly, backdoors which make it possible for management (or the government) to look inside your perhaps not-so-secret volumes. At one point, Phil Zimmerman dropped out and refused to associate his name with PGP anymore. I haven't kept up with the story; maybe all that's changed these days.

The GNU Privacy Guard (formerly known as GPG) grew up as an open source, peer reviewed alternative to PGP — without PGP Disk. TrueCrypt, which has a technically savvy website of its own, offers a free, peer reviewed, open source replacement for PGP Disk.

It's a bit IT-intensive for average home users, but power users should have no problem installing it and using it. I've been poking around in TrueCrypt for a few hours, and can affirm that the bugs probably aren't in the very heavy-duty crypto algorithms (AES, Serpent, Twofish, Whirlpool, RIPEMD-160, SHA-1), but there are a few in the user interface.

I'd give TrueCrypt 8 out of 10 stars; with a good scrubbing through Quality Assurance using naive, but not stupid, users who don't already understand how things are supposed to be done, this could quickly buff up to 10 out of 10.

As I recall, before PGP Disk there was a really old utility called CryptDisk that ran on the Macintosh SE and its antiquated ilk.


Monday, November 26, 2007


From the darkness nearby comes the sound of shuffling feet. As you turn towards the sound, a nine-foot cyclops ambles into the light of your lamp. The cyclops is dressed in a three-piece suit of worsted wool, and is wearing a black silk top-hat and cowboy boots and is carrying an ebony walking-stick. It catches sight of you and stops, seeming frozen in its tracks, with its bloodshot eye bulging in amazement and its fang-filled jaw drooping with shock. After staring at you in incredulous disbelief for a few moments, it reaches into the pocket of its vest and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with a leafy green substance, and examines it carefully. "It must be worth eighty pazools an ounce after all" mumbles the cyclops, who casts one final look at you, shudders, and staggers away out of sight.
— from Mike Goetz' B03 Adventure, back in the daze of CP/M


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Speaking of Flatland...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Gunfight in the SCOTUS corral

Looks like Roberts is moving (relatively) fast on bringing a Second Amendment handguns case to the fore. He said the issue was unsettled during confirmation hearings, and he apparently intends to settle it. Could we save some time here and just jump to the 5-4 decision in favor of handgun ownership by individuals?

Not really. Scalia, Alito and Thomas will fall in the "for" bucket, while Ginsburg and Breyer are the likely "ginnits." That leaves Stevens, Souter and Kennedy, plus the Chief Justice, up in the air.

Moonspeak being the fine art it is, one would likely predict at least four separate opinions on this one, leaving the issue finely drawn and completely undecided. But no one who saw the flinty glint of triumph in Roberts' eye the hour he was sworn in can think the Chief Justice will let his colleagues off the hook on this one. Gutless, Roberts ain't, so he's not going to touch a Second Amendment case without making his separate-but-coequal branch of government's decision historic.

The problem is, the language and context of the Second Amendment clearly favor putting handguns (and any weapon whatever) into the hands of individuals. The devil in the details of implementing that abstraction is breathtakingly unacceptable (hence the Brady bill).

On the other hand, the absolute terror of armed factions is that they spawn their own opposition and everybody then buys arms from third parties — most recently, both Israel and Ireland from the U.S., courtesy of individuals.

In other words, the hellish worldviews the Second Amendment seeks to prevent make their own argument. The bogeymen are compelling: Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Cambodia.

In this world, I think the decision will be at least 7-2 in favor of individual ownership, and might actually be unanimous.

Personally, for all that, I think the Second Amendment should be repealed outright. It's archaic and cumbersome, and cannot affect the outcome of any armed insurgency. It can't confer legitimacy to the winning side, which may include a Robespierre. It can't prevent retaliation against the holiest of losers, who may include among their ranks a Joan of Arc. The Second Amendment is mischievous nonsense.

The point of War, after all, is to decide what the law is when the courts and all other recourses have failed. It is by its very nature, despite all pretenses, extralegal. In that arena, the Second Amendment is no more pious than any hopeful utterance, and has no jurisdiction.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Flatland, the DVD

We can only hope the film is not as two-dimensional as the book.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Adventures of Jack Hammer

What? You know Jack?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

MoGo's just another way to lose...

Actually, MoGo release 3 does lose to GNU Go 3.7.11, the most recent version, every now and then. They seem to be about evenly matched.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Estate pipes

Wow, estate pipes...! Seems a bit ghoulish to me, but apparently it's a standard feature of the slowly dwindling tobacconist diminuendo. By the way, those long skinny jobbies hobbits and wizards puff on are called churchwarden pipes, while female pirates can generally be seen not inhaling their silver-clad black ladypipes.

It must be said that J. R. R. Tolkien approved of pipesmoking as a potent aid to clear thinking, as the frequent asides about Longbottom Leaf (especially in the old "authorized" Ballantine boxed set) clearly demonstrate. Saruman's jibes about The Leaf dulling Gandalf's wits in the movie are non-canonical, adventitious nonsense. You'd own a pipe Tolkien smoked, right? But (*tremble*) would you smoke it?!

Speaking of delightfully insidious, I enjoyed Pixar's Ratatouille — Pixar has been delicately twisting the noses of Disney's old school, ever since Michael Eisner tried to strongarm Steve Jobs out of the pixel business (Eisner lost).

Uncle Walt's purblind mania for mice used to catch flak from the moi polloi in the old daze — not rats, though, which were always villains; Disney's legal department used to go ape about underground comix like Mickey Rat. After all, didn't them big rodents carry the Black Death? And shucks, we all know hantaviruses aren't exclusively mouseborne either!

This film clears all that nauseating madness up for us, probably in excessive, or even obsessive, pestilential detail.

A plague on both your mousses, Remy! (But five stars.)

Update: Of course from a simple Marxist perspective, Ratatouille is just a nice little fable about illegal immigrants working in kitchens and occupying the intimate spaces of our petit bourgeoise homes. Oh, the peril! Personally, I'm still learning high school Spanish (via podcasts), but thanks to Univision, I'm finding reasons to ... besides Texmex kwizzeen.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

A bit more about MoGo

  1. Apparently, MoGo plays Chinese rules (only) because that makes calculation easier.

  2. MoGo (the black stones) seems to play randomly early in the game...
  3. Then, unlikely as it seems, MoGo always wins by 0.5 point! (I haven't seen it lose yet... *coff* *choke*)


Thursday, November 08, 2007


MoGo release 3 plays Black against GNU Go level 10 with White.

GNU Go parameters were gnugo mode -gtp with default values, in particular level 10.

MoGo is a little touchy to set up on Windows. This game was hosted by SmartGo 2.7.3 in tourney mode. MoGo's parameters were mogo --19 --time 30 --dontDisplay 1 Note that Anders Kierulf's suggestions are only that; on this Compaq notebook, I have to give MoGo 30 seconds per move or it skips directly to random moves. Not that MoGo, a Monte-Carlo UCT algorithm player, doesn't half look random normally ;-)

So far (or maybe forever?) MoGo only plays Chinese rules — set Game Info accordingly! Also note you have to set the board size in Mogo's parameters; it's perfectly happy to play 9x9 on a 19x19 board, but the output is ... strange.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Elizabeth, the Golden Age

Weirdly truncated speeches by Elizabeth. I can't honestly say the stuff they put on screen was better than history, although "the Inquisition lies in the bellies of those ships" — Phillip's Armada — was pretty good and I hope she said it.

Mostly, this little fillum seemed like an opportunity for Cate Blanchett to display an entire zoo of facial tics and nuances, and she did her craft proud, but look like Joan of Arc in shining armor and flowing red Valkyrie hair she never did. Disbelief suspended, the two DVD box set will be a nice Christmas presentation, this year or next.

The great alpha women have a peculiar effect on the Queen's English, even more than men. If you listen to the King's English on dictaphone, what you hear is not Oscar Wilde but Edward R. Murrow about a decade out of joint. Elizabeth's brogue survives even in her own hand; it's always struck me odd that her style seems more modern than her contemporary, Shakespeare's.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

Busy, busy, busy...

I just got my Iowa Driver's License renewed. It's been five years, so the pup looks different from last time. For one thing, what does that pink stripe along the top mean? Digimarc makes the equipment that spews out both Iowa and Indiana licenses, so here's a photo:

These things are chock full of "copy protection" zoobies, like "ghost photos" (bottom right corner), color shifting overprinting (IOWA and the wild rose graphic), watermarks, etc. etc.

The only altered license I've ever seen used to buy beer for minors was pretty crude — photo razored out with an Exacto knife, another tucked in and held in place with Scotch tape. Didn't fool the checkout girl for one instant, but the punk walked out with his beer, unchallenged. The thought, "citizen's arrest," never really entered her head, not in any immediately compelling sense of the word. Maybe she, like me, was stunned by the chutzpah of such a cheesy forgery.

Sikkurity Nurds, full of suggestions for the rest of us, are such luuuzers.