Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Internet Security III: Salting Your Hashes

Image
Internet Security Part I: Cryptography and the DarknetInternet Security Part II: Slowing Things DownInternet Security Part III: Salting Your Hashes
Salting your hashes helps protect against rainbow attacks. No I'm not making this up, this is fairly basic web security.

If you waded through my previous rambles on this topic you'll recall that hashing is a way of protecting user passwords. A hash is an algorithm that generates a very large number from data (often text). The hash represents the data, kind of like a fingerprint. Hashing can be used as a way to verify that data hasn't been tampered with - if the hash is transmitted with the data then you can hash the data yourself and check it matches what is expected. Hashing is also a way to check passwords without having to store the password. When a user supplies a password the password can be turned into a hash and compared with the stored hash. If the two hashes match then the user has supplied the right password and this …

Internet Security II: Slowing Things Down

Image
Internet Security Part I: Cryptography and the DarknetInternet Security Part II: Slowing Things DownInternet Security Part III: Salting Your HashesHere's an interesting geeky snippet you probably don't know. The substantial part of progress in computing technology over the last handful of decades has been about making computers, and computational processes, faster and more efficient. However, there is one very important area of computing technology where significant improvements have been made in deliberately making things slower and less efficient (and no it's not Windows startup time - that's just a coincidence). Making the process more "computationally expensive" as us geeks like to say, just so that you think we're clever and will hopefully pay us more money.
By now some of my geek friends will already know what I'm talking about, because this actually is a rarity. Normally when we make things slower it's by mistake, there really are very few …

Twagging and the Garden Hip Hop

Image
Twagging was the Northern English vernacular for cutting school back when I was a wee nipper. Something I never did, nor did I ever receive a detention. Signs of a seriously misspent youth of which I am appropriately ashamed.

A pasttime I did indulge in was garden hopping. This involved finding a row of suburban dwellings with adjacent gardens separated by fences, normally six foot high. Just high enough for a kid to shinny over. So long as the fences at the start of the row and the end of the row are bordered by roads or paths it's possible to scramble from start to finish with the only obstacle between being a series of fences in various states of disrepair and angry occupants similarly in varying states of disrepair. Even if the occupants were in the garden and could see you coming they were usually surprised enough that you could get across their garden and into the next before they'd even decided they ought to try and stop you. Looking back to see their faces was fun but…

Hippies and Charismatics: From the Sixties to Here

Image
The article linked below is a description of an aspect of the Charismatic Christian revival of the sixties and seventies that happened as part of a wider movement of longing for peace and a better world. And the article mentions my church.

Jesus People Revolution: Meet the 60s hippies who changed the world
That wider global movement had a resurgence in the nineties expressed in electronic dance music, seeking a genuine culture of love, with a parallel within the Charismatic movement called the Toronto blessing. For an interesting look at the youth culture around the nineties the film "Human Traffic" is very good.

Unfortunately Evangelicism, which started so genuinely in love and was more evident in the house church movement of the sixties not covered directly in this article, seems (as a movement) moribund in dogma, commercialism and being defined by what it is against. There are still beautiful, sincere people within the movement who are there because they found faith and l…

Internet Security I: Cryptography and the Darknet

Image
Internet Security Part I: Cryptography and the DarknetInternet Security Part II: Slowing Things DownInternet Security Part III: Salting Your Hashes A friend recently posted to Facebook a link to an article on the wall of lava lamps responsible for security for an estimated ten percent of the world's internet traffic.
A Giant Wall of Lava Lamps The lava lamps provide entropy, a source of true randomness, vital to encryption at heart of internet security. The lava lamp story is a true story and only about as weird as we have come to expect from reality.

As a software engineer who has spent part of his career developing web applications I have to know the basics of internet security, and actually it is a wondrous thing.

The two most important things to know about internet security, as a software engineer, is first that it's important and second that you don't write your own security code. Or at least you don't write your own versions of the standard algorithms and you defi…

Religious Experience

Image
Writing about why I believe in God, and why I think it's a rational belief, is difficult. So many of my friends seem determined to pour scorn on this idea and are determined to tear down any such explanation. What's more they can seem determined to misunderstand as they have a desperate need for it not to be rational in order not to have to think about it. Others would like to understand, but the idea of God is so far from their experience and view of the world that pouring scorn seems the right response to them and is an ingrained habit.

The heart of the belief in God that I was taught is that ultimately the universe is good and that we are loved, and this is called God. It provides a creation story, where we came from and a reason to exist, so it provides a whole mindset and a way to see the world. A faith in Christianity can provide a stable mindset, a stable psyche, and a way of seeing the world that mostly corresponds (with a bit of effort) to normal life experiences. Ch…

The Copper of Darkest Ohio

Image
Tonight I'm going shooting with my 70 year old ex-copper neighbour. He's a member of the Sywell rifle club, which confusingly enough shoots in Wellingborough in the winter. Mike has some interesting stories, twice he was first on scene for a murder. As a traffic cop he held several people as they died. He remembers telling one young man the truth, that he was going to die, and it seemed to bring him peace. What hard things to have seen.

My only interesting recent copper story is from my visit to The Mosaic Experiment this summer, in darkest Ohio. It was actually October, but when it wasn't raining it was glorious sun. Summer's last hurrah. We were deep in Amish country, un-made up roads and horse and buggies everywhere. The festival itself was in an old strip mine, fields of razor grass cut into the countryside and only used for extravagant parties and boy scout expeditions.

The friends I'd come to see were on the DWP, the Department of Work and Pensions that orga…

Positive Nihilism: A Fallback Philosophy

Image
Assuming God, for merely a moment, and if we accept that God didn't create herself, then the question of who created God - of why anything exists at all - simply cannot be answered. Like a child any answer you might think of can simply be responded to with "but why?". In the end we have to admit we have no idea because there can't be an answer. Why anything exists at all must forever be a complete mystery. As far as I can tell even God can't know because there can't be an answer. It just is.

This reminds me of the lovely philosophy Positive Nihilism. It's not necessarily the philosophy I ascribe to, although I think it may be possible to prove that it's functionally equivalent to the philosophy I do ascribe to. Positive Nihilism does however make a good fallback philosophy, even if you question everything else this is still true. If there's no inherent meaning or purpose in life then the only possible meaning and purpose is the meaning and purpos…

Wuthering Drunks

Image
I've had a funny relationship with alcohol, by which I mean I'm not convinced I like it very much. I've been drunk, good and roaring drunk, once in the last twenty or so years. It was great fun.

The trouble is that I don't like being a bit drunk, my head gets a bit slippy-slidy and my stomach complains. Unfortunately it's pretty difficult to get from sober to very drunk without going through the "a bit drunk" phase. I usually try and pace myself so I don't get too drunk and end up not-very-drunk-at-all. Which isn't so bad.

The time I managed to get roaring drunk was at a conference social gathering in Poland. I was with friends but I wasn't feeling very sociable. The conference organisers had laid on drinks, which mostly meant vodka. The Polish like vodka. They were serving it in shots with a dollop of raspberry coulis at the bottom, so after knocking back the shot the last taste on your tongue is a lovely raspberry taste. A high enough dose …

Short Meditations IV: Romance, Telepathy, Intuition and the Pain at the Centre of the Heart

Image
Romance I'm not a great believer in romance. Now hold on a minute before you decide "poor Delia", although for all I care you've already decided that anyway.

What I mean is this. I don't think romance exists as a separate or distinct aspect of life. I think romance is, at heart, the warm, affectionate, friendly and intimate display of love. The demonstration that you really know and care about another person.

To couple that with the expectation of sex, or even merely to place it in that context, and therefore to limit it only to relationships of that nature is a great and unnecessary limitation. Be warm and affectionate with everyone you care about, and care about as many people as you are able.

Of course, those you know the most deeply and those with whom you share the deepest intimacies, these you can share the most beautiful romance with.

Telepathy Telepathy exists, but it's possibly not what you think.

Ever been with someone you know really well, and you…

Social Evolution and the Struggle for Survival

Image
The lense of "struggle for survival as base imperative for behaviour and therefore character" provides an interesting perspective on the topic of social evolution. It particularly sheds light on what some call the patriarchy and I, perhaps controversially, think is a more general manifestation of authoritarianism perpetuated and participated in by both men and women (although benefiting men for reasons explored below) and which is at its root the rule of force.

Conforming to societal norms is a survival trait. When individual survival depends on the protection of the community, being perceived as a member of the community becomes a necessity. As a psychological trait, beliefs and attitudes that we require in order to survive we take on and identify with, they become our values and part of our character. Therefore we perpetuate those social norms in our attitudes and behaviour as it becomes part of our understanding of the world and how we, and other people, ought to behave.…

A Cheesy Article About My Cat Rosie and the Animal Nature

Image
Rosie has good taste. I share with her a passion for cheese. Amongst our favourite cheeses are Parmesan and Cambozola.

I've always loved dogs, we had a beautiful golden blonde slender golden retriever called Toffee when I was a child (a slightly tragic story that I may tell sometime) who loved me and whom I loved with all my heart. It was only when I was in my forties that I discovered I'm really a cat person. That shouldn't really have come as a surprise, did I ever mention that I'm a Leo born in the year of the Tiger, but it did.

If treated with love, dogs offer unconditional love and loyalty which is truly lovely. Historically cats were domesticated much more recently than dogs, so within the bounds of understanding that all generalizations are wrong (including that one) cats are much closer to their animal nature than dogs. In general cats value respect and your relationship with them is on their terms. Understanding this they can still love and be loved, knowing …

Parousia

Image
Here's an interesting thought to entertain. It's about the purported return of the Christ and the ultimate fulfilment of the Kingdom of Heaven, a belief central to Christianity including Progressive Christianity. So if you aren't willing to entertain this idea I'm going to assume you'll stop reading here and not feel the need to point out in the comments that you live your life to a different set of assumptions and explain why and how you misunderstand what I'm saying. If you wish to read anyway, please read it in in the spirit of "if it were true, how might it be true?". That's how I treat it anyway.

The premise of Christianity is that the victory is already won, that death is defeated because perfection itself was slain, thus fulfilling the law that there is a price to pay for evil, but perfect love could not die and yet lives.

The incarnation of perfect love, the personhood of love, rules in the heavenly realms but the victory is already won a…

Software Engineering Abstractions: Design and Testing

Image
Note: this is the third article in a series. The two previous are:  

The Craft of Software Engineering and Abstractions and Business Processes 
Back to the topic of abstractions and software engineering and thinking about the design of software and engineering systems. 

The art and science of Software Engineering is the developing of good abstractions that map well to the problem domain. A good way to create these is to let the abstractions, their shape and form, emerge from gradually solving aspects of the problem you are working on. If instead you design abstractions first, typically in a design phase prior to implementation, then you impose those abstractions onto the way you solve the problem. The way you look at the problem is the way you implement your solution. So when you look at the system, when you look at the problem you see your abstractions. If you design your abstractions at a high level up front then you really need to get them right. You need to properly understand the pr…