Archive for July, 2005

No, you may NOT have my encryption keys

Data Encryption

Another in a series of my “Dragons” posts, this time about more invasion of my rights. This Guardian Unlimited article talks about the police wanting to make it illegal to withold encryption keys when asked for them.

“They also want to make it a criminal offence for suspects to refuse to cooperate in giving the police full access to computer files by refusing to disclose their encryption keys.”

Let me just publically reply to that with one word: NO.

My encryption keys are put there to keep YOU out, permanently. If you do not have the right to see the information, data or other bits encrypted by my (exceptionally-strong) keys, you simply won’t get access to it.

Threaten me with jail, throw me in jail, do what you think will work to get me to turn over my keys… it will not work. I would rather spend a lifetime in jail protecting my data, than give you the irrevokable right to invade my privacy and freedoms and the freedoms of others who would come after me.

The persuit of freedom and upholding those freedoms is worth more than my life or the lives of any of my friends or family. They don’t have my keys and torturing them will not get me to give them up. I have an incredible tolerance to pain, some would say inhuman in some cases (I’ve had doctors tell me this several times, as I’ve undergone several medical procedures without any numbing agent).

Shipping me off to some other country that allows torture to try to extract my encryption keys will result in one of two things:

  1. A frustrated torturer, who is unable to extract my keys
  2. A dead suspect, after enduring hundreds of different torture methods, unsuccessfully

Either way, you don’t get my keys, or my data, or anything I don’t elect to give you. Pain, medications, whatever you think will work, will not. My willpower and tolerance is stronger than anything you have.

Let me reiterate, you will not get my encryption keys, under pain of threat, physical pain, medication or otherwise. Either I will be dead, or you will give up. Either way, you have nothing.

Are we clear? Good.

Police apologize, but will shoot to the head

Anti-terrorist Vehicle t-shirtI found this interesting article on Google News:

The British police on Sunday accepted ‘full responsibility’ for shooting a Brazilian who turned out to be totally unconnected to the July 21 London blasts, but said they will have to shoot suicide bombing suspects in the head to prevent them from detonating explosives.

There is no point in shooting somebody’s chest because that’s where the bomb is likely to be. There is no point in shooting anywhere else because if they fall down they detonate it. This is drawn on the experience from other countries including Sri Lanka,” London’s Police Chief Ian Blair said about the way Jean Charles de Menezes was killed on Friday in South London’s Stockwell underground station.

Another article makes an interesting point on the murder of this Brazilian by these officers:

They had to kill someone to show the whole population they are working and make the country safe,” Pereira told the BBC.

I’m sorry, has everyone gone insane? Not only did they kill this 27-year old kid by accident, but 3 cops held him down and then shot him in the head.. 5 times!!!

Shooting someone in the head does not stop them from detonating a bomb. A grenade is a perfect example of this. Pull the pin and carry it in your hand. Now, if someone were to shoot the person holding the grenade in the head, especially from a distance, muscle control to the hand would relax, and the grenade’s handle would spring out. Of course a more sophisticated system would be necessary to work with a “chest-mounted” device as this article claims, but come on now.

If a terrorist is willing to blow himself up (and any other people who happen to be in the vicinity), do you really think threatening to shoot them in the head is going to stop them? They don’t care about their “human shell” of a body, that’s not the point. They don’t value life in the way that many other cultures do. These threats will do nothing to stop them, and in fact may just motivate them further. There are probably more terrorists out there (or supporters of terrorists) in any one location than cops-with-guns to stop them..

This is nothing more than the typical fear-mongering running rampantly out of control in our society. You can’t control people with fear, and guess what… THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF TERRORISM.

Main Entry: ter·ror·ism
Pronunciation: 'ter-&r-"i-z&m
Function: noun
1 : the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the
state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion
2 : violent and intimidating gang activity <street terrorism>

ter·ror·ist /-ist/ adj or nounter·ror·is·tic /"ter-&r-'is-tik/ adjective

I found a great comment on Slashdot that touches on some of these exact issues. Its a bit long, but well worth the read.

The irony of all of these attacks, is that Osama has already stated that the attacks would stop when we pulled out of Saudi Arabia. We all know why we can’t, however. I’ve been wondering what $182,862,244,509.00 (the current cost of this “war” so far) would have done if we invested it in alternative fuel solutions instead. Maybe dig a 300 mile lake in the middle of the Sahara Desert to help feed the millions of people there. We could have used it to do hundreds of things other than try to steal someone else’s property (cough, oil) under the pretense of a false war.

The Saudi’s attacked us on 9/11, why are we in Iraq? Why don’t we have Osama? Where are the WMD? What happened to all of these stolen, lost and faked votes from the 2004 election? Why aren’t we aggressively persuing these answers?

The current state of affairs sure is making George Orwell’s world seem closer to reality. I have to wonder if someone in office isn’t reading the book “1984” and confusing it with a congressional guidebook to running a country.

“Declaring things that clearly aren’t terrorism as terrorism is terrorism!”

One final thought: Our founding fathers were terrorists, by definition. Terrorists created this country. Repeat that over and over and you’ll see what a sad state of affairs we live in now.

Apologies for the rant, but this country and the growing invasive policies of other countries makes me so sick I could vomit.

One final transmission

James Doohan aka "Scotty"I just found out that James Doohan, aka “Scotty” from Star Trek has passed away at the ripe age of 85. Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer’s disease, he said.

From 1966 to 1969 he starred in the Star Trek series until NBC ordered it cancelled due to ratings problems. He also starred in the 6 Star Trek movies and several other Star Trek related appearances over the years.

James Montgomery Doohan was born March 3, 1920, in Vancouver, British Columbia, youngest of four children of William Doohan, a pharmacist, veterinarian and dentist, and his wife Sarah. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Beam Me Up, Scotty,” his father was a drunk who made life miserable for his wife and children.

At 19, James escaped the turmoil at home by joining the Canadian army, becoming a lieutenant in artillery. He was among the Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach on D-Day. “The sea was rough,” he recalled. “We were more afraid of drowning than the Germans.”

The Canadians crossed a minefield laid for tanks; the soldiers weren’t heavy enough to detonate the bombs. At 11:30 that night, he was machine-gunned, taking six hits: one that took off his middle right finger (he managed to hide the missing finger on the screen), four in his leg and one in the chest. Fortunately the chest bullet was stopped by his silver cigarette case.

For those of you who can, or have the means.. please consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Association so others can live long and prosper without suffering from a horrible disease like Alzheimers.

I’m sure I share in the feelings of millions of science fiction fans around the world when I say “Mr. Doohan, in your new journey, go as boldly as you did when you led us in all your journeys on our television sets over the years, in our hearts and in our imaginations.”

You will be missed.

When Networks Go Bad

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I run some services here for lots of projects. Let me rephrase that, I run a LOT of services here for various projects, development and customers for the two different companies that I own. At any one time there are at least 7 servers up and running here doing various things; generating content, serving webpages, building software, whatever.

This includes personal mail for users (with imap and webmail access), about 2-dozen mailing lists, web hosting for about 70 different domains and projects, bug tracking, blogs, portals, revision control for Open Source projects, irc for developers, torrent tracker for releases, compile farm, and quite a few other things I can’t think of at the moment. All of this requires solid, reliable, 24×7 bandwidth to sustain… and clean power.

All of this comes out of my own pocket: bandwidth, power, servers, hardware, time. Its not cheap.

network rack

About a month or so ago, I decided to double the speed of the incoming bandwidth on the server’s dedicated lines (hosting the services above) and my inbound DSL connection. The DSL is my own “personal” Internet line, and the other lines are dedicated to the servers themselves. This also doubled the price I pay for the bandwidth, but the Google Ads seem to be sustaining most of that now.

I graph and monitor all the inbound and outbound traffic with quite a few different tools, so I can track and notice trends, attacks, statistics for customers, and many other things. Things were good for about two weeks… but then it started sliding downhill.

Here is an example of a recent Slashdotting that we cleanly survived:

The Slashdot Effect

Over the last two weeks, I’ve noticed the VPN to IBM that I keep open has been dropping out many times per-day. I’d try to restart the VPN and get errors. I went into the server room (where the DSL and other networking lines come in) and noticed that the DSL modem didn’t even have a line to the CO. A quick power-cycle of the DSL modem would cure it for a few hours. It started happening late at night and early in the morning, during lower traffic times for me.

Fishy. I checked to see if I was being “packeted” by some script kiddies or attacked, and nothing obvious showed up in the graphs. A call to my provider after 2 weeks of dozens of dropouts per-day seemed to provide some action. They believe the problem is with the port I’m using at the DSLAM, specifically that it is “over-provisioned”. They tried capping my line down a few Mbit, which helped for a day or three, but then the dropouts started again.

Its gotten significantly worse now, and my speed on DSL is slightly slower than a 28k dialup modem. I can barely use the web now because of it. Its painful to watch servers and DNS queries time out, because I’m browsing at less than 5k/sec. Yowch!

If my provider can’t fix this (and credit me for the horrible speed and downtime), I’m going to explore moving to cable modem service again, like I had in Westerly.

Is providing broadband REALLY this difficult? I pay $180/month for 1.5Mb-6.0Mb/384-608Kb here and I barely reach the low-end of that scale. I’m 8k feet from the CO, so I should have a nice solid signal. Other countries have 10-times the bandwidth and pay pennies for it.

To their credit, my provider has been very patient and helpful during these stressful times, and we’re working through the issues to try to solve it, but… its been two weeks now. Let’s hope they solve it tomorrow when the landline provider shows up to test the lines and figure out the problem.

I use the Internet every day for research, for my job, and for other development purposes. I can’t have it go down like this, at these speeds now.

This is ridiculous.

All I wanted was a pair of headphones

My daughter has taken to “exploring” her environment by picking up, touching, and walking around with anything she can. Its great to see her combine things in her environment, learn how to put things together, and where things go.

Unfortunately, she walked off with my Sony earphone buds, and nobody can find them… I’m sure she put them down somewhere, but I’ve searched every crevace in the house and I can’t find them. They were a bit old anyway, so I decided it was time to replace them.

My other headphones were a pair of BOSE QuietComfort noise-cancelling units, but over the last couple of years, the headphone cups deteriorated, leaving little rubber pieces of “goo” on my head when I would take them off. Too bad that BOSE can’t make a good pair of headphones for $300 that do NOT deteriorate. Ironically, their warrantee covers everything except the exact kind of deterioration that I suffered. Obviously they knew about it ahead of time.


So I went out in search of a replacement set. I have simple requirements:

  1. Must be ergonomic to fit in my ear
  2. Must NOT be white, I don’t want that iPod “cool” look, period.
  3. The cord must be symmetrical. I don’t want the cord running down one side of my chest, and I certainly don’t want to have the cord running down the back of my neck and around my arm.
  4. They must be able to handle 10-20k Hz, minimum. A lot of the music I listen to is bassy and has lots of highs (ambient, electronica)

That’s it. Simple… Nothing magical, ergonomic ear buds with a symmetrical cable, in black, that can reproduce a decent range of frequencies.

I went to about a dozen different stores to find some earphones. I went to OfficeMax, Staples, FHM, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Target, WAL*MART, and some other local no-chain stores. The one with the widest selection was FHM in the local mall here. Note to self: Do not go to the mall on a Friday night when school is out. It felt like a high-school hallway in every store.

FHM had about 20 pairs of headphones, none of which I could take out and try. Most of them had these wacky wrap-around-the-back-of-the-head earbands with huge earcups. Their buds were big, round, and non-ergo, and the others had white cords, for the trendy iPod crowd. I don’t want to look like I have silver dollars in my ears. They should be unobtrusive, black, and ergonomic, so they fit in my ears without any gaps to let sound (i.e. bass) escape.

Best Buy had a good selection also, but their headphones had that cord-down-one-side thing that I hate (because my laptop’s input is on my left and the cord went down on the right, I’d have to have the cord draped over or under my arms as I type. No thank you. There was a set of KOSS buds there, non-white cord, symmetric, but went from 70Hz to 20k Hz.

simple earbuds
These are NOT ergonomic headphones, people…

slightly better earbuds
What the heck is this? Quark from Star Trek?

ugly earbuds
For the last time, NO NO NO NO NO!

Come on vendors, just make some useful headphones, and don’t make them out of recycled milk cartons, and people will buy them. People who care about reproducing their music at more than 128k… you know, REAL audiophiles? Remember them?

Somewhere there is a design team who thinks their customer base is actually ASKING for this kind of garbage. Do some research, talk to your customers, stop calling them “consumers”, and treat them like people. You’ll find your products are not even remotely close to hitting the target market you’re trying to penetrate.


All I wanted was a set of earphones. I ended up coming home with NOTHING. Its depressing. The whole world’s products are turning to disposable garbage, mass-produced, without a hint of quality. The 5-year old headphones I had were ten times better than what you can find today, and today’s headphones are almost twice as expensive.

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