Category: Crypto / security

Turing Centenary (by )

Alan Turing 100 yrs

Alan Turing one of the most important people in the history of the computer would have turned 100 today if he had lived. Though the chances of living to 100 are not great Turing didn't even manage to get as far as he should have.

It is occasionally argued about but it is considered that he committed suicide due to being hounded by the powers that be and given chemicals to subdue his sex drive. The reason for this was that he was Gay and in 40's and 50's being homosexual was not just illegal but thought to be a security risk.

Alan was faced with the choices of chemical castration or prison and exclusion from his work. He chose the chemicals. They had nasty side effects but he seems to have taken his treatment mainly in his stride.

Mr Turing wasn't just a mathematical genius he was a war hero having worked at Bletchley Park during the second world war cracking codes and thus saving at least allied lives. He is most often mentioned in association with the enigma machine.

His contributions to modern computing are huge and he is considered one of the founders of the subject Computer Science.

His achievements are great and yet the first time I heard of him was when I picked up one of Alaric's computing books after our move to Gloucestershire. It is strange that like Ada Lovelace he seems to have fallen through the cracks some what. And worse than that his centenary year is plagued by arguments of how to portray him.

Is it good or bad for those on the autism spectrum to know of him and so on. If he had been alive to day he would have probably been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrom but why is this a problem? Yes that was a facet of his personality but that is all. Use him to show others in the same situation as him that they can achieve by all means but that is not what is happening - I think there needs to be a gear shift in society. After all with the modern world lets face it the Geek shall inherit and that is all geeks, the meek, mild, argumentative, know it alls and the distracteds.

His achievements are his and he should be being portrayed as a founder and hero to everyone and I mean everyone. I will twist Alaric's arm into writing a blog post about Alan's achievements.

We made a Turing Machine Cake and drew the shamefully bad picture at the top of the post.

Wind Up Turing Machine Cake State Table on top of Turing Machine Cake Marker on side of Turing Machine Cake

The Tooth Fairy Left a Letter (by )

The Tooth Fairy's response to Jean's letter in Tooth Fairy Language

Jean lost her second tooth in the new house yesterday and spent the day worrying that they wouldn't find it as we still haven't found the tooth cusion I'd made her. She was also doing lots of wondering about how the tooth fairy would get into the house and lift the tooth and swap the money and did they go big/small, or could they walk through walls and were they a boy or a girl?

So she left a letter.

And the tooth fairy answered it. I thought it was just pictures but Jean pointed out it was a letter written in Fairy Language so she immediatly demanded to go on the computer to see if wikipedia could help her translate it. But after some google searching it became evident that there are lots of different fairy languages and dialects and when Jean looked closer she found that the symbols were very toothy and so we came to the conclusion that this is a specific tooth fairy language.

There are teeth and pliers and ladders and pillows and moons.

I told Jean we would probably have to wait until Daddy got home and she could work at translating it with him. She looked very serious and took the letter and sat staring at it about ten minutes later she announced that this symbol was M and this symbol N and before long she had worked out the second word was Jean.

'It now sort of looks like Jean as well Mummy' and she's right it does. She got the first few lines translated before school. And there was me thinking I would have to phone Tooth Head Quarters and ask for a key so we could find out what the letter ment.

Of course as the fairy borrowed one of mummy's pens Jean did initially accuse me of writing the letter until I pointed out I couldn't read what it said.

Cloud Storage (by )

Currently, you can go to various providers and buy online storage capacity (IMHO, is best, after research I did to find an offsite backup host for work). It's more expensive than a hard disk in your computer, and miles slower, but it has one brilliant advantage: it's remote. So it's perfect for backups.

And that's the heart of a free market - storage is cheap to the cloud providers (they just buy disks, and in bulk at that), but their storage has more value to you than your own storage because of it's remoteness. So they can rent it to you at a markup, and you get a benefit, and everyone is happy. Money flows, the economy grows, and one day we'll get to have affordable space tourism et cetera.

But large, centralised, cloud storage providers are attractive targets for people who want to steal data. They become centralised points of failure; if they go bankrupt, lots of people lose their backups. Therefore, it's smart to do your backups to more than one of them, just in case. But that means setting up your systems to talk to each one's interfaces, arranging payment and agreeing to terms and conditions with them all individually, and so on.

Surely this state of affairs can be improved? With ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY?

Well, I think it can, and here's how. Read more »

Lords of a new economy (by )

Pondering Bitcoin, I recently opined:

Who sets the difficulty of the puzzle and all that? The computers in the network do - when the system was created, rules were agreed, and written into the software. As everyone runs software following those rules, anybody solving easier puzzles or trying to award themselves more bounty for doing so will have their bounty-claiming transaction rejected as invalid. To loosen the rules, a majority of the computers in the system will all need to accept the new rules - so it will require consensus from the community.

I've been thinking more about this. Read more »

Bitcoin security (by )

I've been learning about Bitcoin lately.

It's an electronic currency. I've seen electronic currency before - in the late 90s there were efforts to create them based on virtual banks issuing coins. The coins were basically long random serial numbers which, along with a statement of the value of the coin, were then signed by the bank. The public key of the bank is published, so people can check they're valid coins issued by the bank. The idea was that rather than withdrawing a bunch of notes from the bank, you can ask the bank to mint you a bunch of these signed numbers instead; and anyone who sees them can check their value, and eventually, return them to the bank (which can also check their value in the same way) to get their account credited.

Read more »

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