Friday, November 03, 2017


I've been doing a lot of crypto stuff lately.
When I say 'a lot' I do mean literally hours upon hours of internet research and reading which then turns into hours of practical experimentation. Sometimes I just get it and sometimes what I'm reading makes no sense at all so I have to break things down and take baby steps.
The latest problem I've been working on is how to, without an air-gapped machine, write a text file, encrypt it and then send it to a desktop machine for further processing. So far I can do that. The vulnerabilities are plain to see. I could be hacked on any network. There could be a key-logger installed on the first machine which compromises everything. Or maybe my end machine could be monitored. Where there's a will there's a way.
Unless someone is actually on my case I've come up with a reasonably secure method which involves the use of SSH. I can switch my Android phone into Aeroplane Mode, write and encrypt and then send by SSH to a machine anywhere in the world once back on the network.
Of course there's still work to do. I can build upon my security which at the moment is OK but not great. The nice thing is that having started this I know where to look and I'm a little wiser to the terminology.
I'm not quite there yet.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

All Day Cat

It's been an interesting day.
I spent the morning in Nottingham City Hospital taking part in medical research. There's lots I could say about what happened, but as the research isn't published I think that on this public forum I shouldn't say much. What I can say is that my heart monitor kept reporting me as dead and that I had a CAT scan. The conclusion of my taking part is that I maybe a dead cat.
You can call me Schrodinger if you like.
The afternoon was spent writing not one but two shell scripts. They'll be useful to me in the coming months and years. I used the 'cat' command quite a lot.
It's been a cat kind of day.

Friday, October 27, 2017

I'll Be Too Old When...

I bought a skateboard today.
I'll give you a few reasons as to why.

  1. Locking up my bicycle and removing all the luggage every time I want to stop on short journeys is a pain.
  2. Since getting knocked off my bicycle a couple of years ago my knee injury isn't making hill climbing any easier.
  3. It's faster than walking.
I am actually thinking practically.
Skateboarding is both convenient and sustainable. Should I wish to use public transport I can take my deck with me and skate the rest of the way. I can stop anywhere, have a rest, enjoy the view, have a coffee and then be on my way. The only downside is that they're not so good in wet weather, and this is the UK. The thing is that I probably wouldn't want to walk or cycle in the pouring down anyway.
My skateboard is a 'Cruiser' and made for travel rather than tricks although I will have to relearn to Ollie but that's about all. It was bought locally at MagicToast where Joe did a fantastic job of assembling the components that I wanted. He also did a fine job with the grip tape.
The deck itself is a Grizzly with the Spider-Man design.
So at nearly fifty am I to old to ride?
I'll be too old when I'm dead.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Starting Over

It's been a very long time since I've coded HTML.
So long that I cant remember most of it. The basic structure of a site remains in my head but the intricacies are gone. So I'm starting over again. I'm reading up on HTML5 and CSS. It's suprising what comes back. I'm only building a simple site, very simple in fact but I still want it to look, behave and feel right when it's online.
I've downloaded a few PDF's on the subject, there are lots of good free ones around.

When I first learned HTML many moons ago I hand coded in a text editor. I eventually moved to a piece of software that checked the syntax for me.
This time around I'm on Ubuntu Linux and I've chosen Bluefish. So far so good.
If you discover the new site one day I hope you'll appreciate that it was made properly. Even if the content doesn't interest you at all.
The content? That's another story.

Monday, October 02, 2017

New Life

The last time I booted my RPi it failed to load the Debian OS.
I'd long suspected that the Micro SD card was problematic when I couldn't get Mate to work on it. The only thing that would work was Debian. It's OK as far as it goes. There are lots of things you can do with it but having been on Linux for over a year it's just not geared to the way I work.
I decided to invest in a brand new Micro SD and try Kali.
It went onto the card without a problem and booted first time in the RPi.
I'd like to keep it air-gapped but I imagine there will come a time when I need to add a few bits and bobs that make crypto stuff so much fun.
Until then I'm very happy.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Crossing

On days like today when the weather isn't so good and I'm stuck indoors and I need space to think, where do I go?
Everyone needs a change of scenery once in a while to help their thought process. A place where one is away from the distractions that clutter thought. When I'm stuck at my desk I disappear to the location in the picture. Virtually.
It's a live stream on YouTube of a railway crossing in the Netherlands. It's a perfect snapshot of Dutch life. Bicycles, people, scooters, cars and trains all visit this spot. I can lose hours gazing out of my virtual window. It's a place to observe and to daydream and to think. I can mull over the obstacles to solutions and then get back to work. There's all the time in the world at the crossing.
Maybe you'll find it. It might be the escape you're looking for. A place to go in inclement weather. It might provide a solution. Who knows?
You might even bump into me there.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pushing It

It turns out that my rucksack was only 15kgs.
I thought it was much more. By the end of the 12 mile trek it certainly felt like much more.
I had a wonderful day exploring the Leicestershire countryside. The highlight was the Shaggy Ink Cap fungi above. It was absolutely stunning in its location. A real treat of a find.
More walks are planned.
Bed now. I'm as swollen as a balloon.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Small Victories

Sometimes finding the right command in Linux shell can be an uphill struggle.
I seem to spend hours at a time looking for a simple and elegant solution to a problem only to find long winded articles on how to achieve the result I'm looking for. Today was one such day.
All I wanted to do was re-arrange a list in a random order. There were plenty of articles on how to choose a single item on the list randomly but nothing about my particular problem.
Then I came across the shuf command. There were a few solutions that were close but not quite what I wanted. This is where man pages come into their own. The man page for shuf is short and sweet and all the options I needed are right there on the page. After a little trial and error I wrote a short and elegant command (see above) that does exactly what I want.
How does it work?
I make a list with each item on a different line in a text file and the command writes another text file with the same list but in a random order. Simple.
One more Linux victory under my belt.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Free Speech

There are some people that do bad things. Very bad things.
The people that do bad things like to communicate in secret. The UK government would like to stop the bad people doing that and so they want to compromise the tools that the bad people use.
That's all well and good but there's a problem. The good people use the same tools. The good people don't use those tools for bad things, they use them because their friends use them. That's a lot of people using the tools. Mostly for good.
If the government compromise the tools to catch the bad people, they also compromise the same tools for the good people. If the government can get in on a conversation so can other people. The other people that can get in might want to ruin the good people's experience of the tool and might go beyond that and ruin a lot more.
I'm not saying anything new here. It's well known that in the past various services have been compromised by government agencies and that beyond that people who don't work for the government have got hold of the methods and used that information to exploit any amount of innocent people.
It's been said thousands of times. One must learn to protect oneself.
Linux distributions are FREE! The distributions come with encryption built in and other tools are free also. These can be easily added. The whole Linux experience can reside on a USB stick, 8GB is fine, and cheap. You probably have one in a draw that you're not using because by today's standards it's a bit small for your storage needs.
Google searches for "Linux cryptography" or "Linux steganography" will keep you amused for hours. Linux is easy to get to grips with. If you start with Ubuntu you'll be up and running in no time. There is obviously some learning to do but not a great deal. YouTube is full of 'getting started' videos.
The choice is yours. Be prepared for an onslaught against your privacy or keep your fingers away from your computer or mobile device.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


In case you ever wondered...
Why I upload and then re-edit.
Some things I say are for public consumption over a limited time scale. Like most people I feel constrained by standards.
Sometimes I just talk utter rubbish and I should sensor that. In fact maybe I should sensor everything I say. It's not a bad idea and I've been thinking of doing that for a while. If for no other reason to test a theory.
So this is it. The last plain English post that I have for you. If you're not following events then you'll hit the middle of a muddle.
To the people that follow this blog:
Instructions follow.
After that. Nothing will be the same again.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


It's nearly 19 years since I welcomed Neville into our family. Today he died.
July 4th 1998 - April 17th 2017.
The original "Mr Green".

I love you. Thanks for sharing you're time with me. I learned so much from you.

I'm in limbo emotionally. I have cried on and off all evening. I'm trying to get myself together. I can't.
Mr Green has left behind two brothers, Bailey and Paul.
Paul is taking the news badly.
If there's one thing I know, it's that humans have lost our ability to instinctively know when things have changed. Spend some time around cats and you'll understand. We have so much to learn from our friends, especially the ones that interact with us on a daily basis.

I look forward to sending my life force out to someone special when I die. No gods, no angels, no religion. Just something beyond what I know or that humans may ever have the capacity to understand.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


A few weeks ago my trusty Too Much Coffee Man mug retired with a broken handle. It had seen thousands of fills and enough caffeine to keep a city awake for a decade.
I tweeted the sad demise to Shannon Wheeler, the creator of TMCM, just in case he had ever wondered what happened to the mugs once he'd posted them. In all honesty I thought that would be the end of the story.
As you might have guessed by now it wasn't. I got a reply saying that if I paid postage Shannon would replace my mug. I was gobsmacked and of course I took him up on the offer. I received my parcel yesterday but I had to wait until today until I got home to open it up.
Inside was not only a shiny new mug but an original Too Much Coffee Man artwork, a book of Shannon Wheeler's Postage Stamp Funnies and a numbered and signed print.
I know I'm sitting here writing this but what can I say? I'm stunned, really stunned.
(Gets a bit gushy here.)
For the creator of my favourite comic strip to replace my mug is really kind, but to include the extra art is beyond generous. It really is. I'm grinning like an idiot and will be for the next week at least.
Thank you Shannon Wheeler. You really are the best.

Sunday, March 12, 2017



Thursday, February 23, 2017

Joy In Looking


Monday, February 13, 2017

Today For No Other Reason

Today, for no other reason than I want to learn the Python programming language I made my first tentative steps into a world many others inhabit.
While day one was easy I know that what comes after becomes increasingly difficult until that day when it all just makes sense. It was the same when I learned HTML, days and weeks of staring at Notepad, stealing and adjusting code. Bit by bit it began to sink in and then one day it clicked. I could knock up a decent web page in minutes without looking at a reference book.
That Python day is maybe years ahead of me but I'm looking forward to getting there.
Hello Python world!

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Move

About 20 years ago I used to play a lot of chess.
On a table in the living room was a chess board with cheap Staunton pieces and a Gary Kasparov chess computer. Both sets would be playing the same game. The idea behind having a real chess board was that I could study my moves for a long time without running the chess computer's batteries down. I could also study the game from both perspectives. And besides, real chess pieces are tactile.
Over time I've played less and less. Despite thinking I should play more I never quite get round to it. Now I'm using the excuse that it will help with my computer's entropy. It's a good excuse and I'm sticking with it.
I've downloaded PyChess. It's a good piece of software and I can export .pgn files to Droidfish on my android phone. I'm going to be playing very slow games so I need to be able to view them on any platform.
The above picture is from a game I've just started.
I'll let you know when I'm done.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Our Man Inside

Just over a year ago Documentally suggested that I might like to make an ident for his new Backchannel newsletter. I did, it was fun.
Backchannel has now morphed into Our Man Inside! so I was once again asked to supply an ident. Something different to reflect the change. Here's the thought process:

I wanted the typewriter sample in there to represent Christian hammering away on his keyboard. The 3+3+6 rhythm spells out Our Man Inside. I used a sample of Christian's voice as a musical note to add chords but the tuning was a nightmare so while playing with various delay lines I happened on the rhythmic middle two bars. Christian spells out O M I and the echo repeats his voice in different ways which mimics the formula of the newsletter.
Christian finally says Our Man Inside! I added plenty of reverb to this to make him sound like he was inside something large. The vast space he is inside equals the vast range of subjects covered in the newsletter.
There's a secret bassline which bounces around the note C. This is my secret nod to (Sea = A boat show has been covered in Backchannel) and (See = There's always plenty to look at).
I hope you're intrigued enough to subscribe to this once a week publication.

Subscribe to Our Man Inside!

Monday, January 30, 2017

All New Old Style

I'm doing something I haven't done in a while tonight.
That something is trying to piece together a musical composition. Well, it's a composition of sorts but more on that at a later date. Hopefully by the end of the week.
The interesting thing is that for the first time I'm using native Linux music and audio tools. Last time I did this I just loaded FL Studio into Wine and worked that way. The thing is that FL Studio and Wine are uneasy bedfellows. I really could do with a dedicated Windows music PC just for FL Studio.
Because I don't own a Windows machine I thought I'd just work in Ubuntu and see how it went. Very well is the answer to that. Above is a work in progress inside Audacity. I bought a book about using Audacity and it has served me well. No more messing around, I'm nearly a power user, sort of.
There's a good chance I might get back to writing some music one of these days. I do have a lot to be getting on with but I'm sure there will be some spare time to get back to what I enjoy.
Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Slice Of Air

Last week I very nearly bought a Raspberry Pi3.
The reason I didn't was because I couldn't think of anything to do with it other than mess around a bit.
This week while installing some excellent cryptography tools on Ubuntu I realised the a Pi would make an excellent air gap computer. Of course there would be a bit of work to do, ie disabling wifi (why not buy a Pi2?) and finding a decent way of getting uncompromised software onto the board. The latter I'm still working on but making sure checksums are intact might be a good start.
If you're interested in what I've been playing with start at privacytools.
I'm also using VeraCrypt, Encryptpad and a useful web notepad called Protected Text.
I'm sure there's enough there you keep you occupied for a while.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Balancing Fruit

I've been trying to quit smoking, as a regular pursuit, for a while now.
I have no problem with my nicotine addiction, I don't want to give that up. There's no need to and I enjoy it.
I like the odd pipe bowl especially with a good coffee. What I don't like anymore is smoking roll-ups as my only nicotine source.
I started vaping a couple of years ago but it wasn't a satisfying experience and I went back to smoking again after a short time. In the last six months I've been getting into some nerdy vaping stuff. You really don't want to know the details but what can be achieved is more akin to the experience that is smoking.
Add to the above a pinch of snuff when I need a quick boost or top up and I really think that I can substitute the roll-ups for eliquids and powder.
I'm currently into fruit flavours. Strawberry eliquids and raspberry snuff.
It's all rather pleasant.