The state of the world and other stuff

It pays to advertise

There’s a billboard near my house advertising a local motel. For the past five years or so, every headline on that billboard has been something like “Sleep with me tonight, my wife won’t mind” or “Sleep with my hubby tonight–he’s had 23 since ’93 (awards, that is),” with a picture of the owners beneath the headline.

I always more or less assumed the owners were swingers. The new billboard that recently went up, however, is dominated by an enormous picture of a parrot–and the rest of the billboard, advertising a tie-in with a local attraction, has nothing to do with parrots at all.

Okay, so they’re poly. Cool.

Just me and a baseball bat, Lord, just me and a baseball bat

I have several clients who’re being slammed by the Novarg virus–not because they’re infected, but because their email servers are getting swamped by people who are infected.

It blows my mind that in this day and age people are still dumb enough to download file attachments they get in their email.

Just let me have half an hour alone with the virus writer, just me and him and my baseball bat, please, Lord…

A few whacks of that bat are reserved for Comcast and other broadband service providers who allow their networks to be flooded with the virus and don’t notify the owners of the infected computers, and who connect new customers to broadband without teaching them about firewalls and viruses and phishing scams and Nigerians. I really, really think broadband ISPs should be obligated to tell new customers about these kinds of dangers, and I really, really believe that ISPs who have reason to believe their customers’ machines are infected should disconnect those customers from the Internet until the problem is fixed.

And now for something completely different…

I’m working on a peer-to-peer chat program for Macs and PCs (and soon Linux), mainly because I want to teach myself about TCP/IP networking. I’m also adding encryption to the chat program, largely because i feel I don’t know enough about the nuts and bolts of how encryption works, and I feel I should learn.

It’s been stuck for a while, because I haven’t been able to get the encryption (an implementation of RC4) working properly. I finally had a flash of insight last weekend while I was in Miami for Graphics of the Americas, and two nights ago, I got it to work. Yay me!

Of course, Shelly asked me who needs secure, end-to-end encrypted, point-to-point chat besides kiddie porn dealers, which is an interesting question.

Yes, I know she said it largely in jest, but it deserves a serious answer, because plenty of people feel that encryption in the hands of private citizens benefits only criminals.

I’m not one of those people. i believe that people have certain basic rights to privacy, and that a country which encourages and values free expression must make it safe to express ideas and opinions that are unpopular.

Popular speech doesn’t need protection. Unpopular speech, on the other hand, is a very different matter. i happen to hold unpopular social, religious, and political ideas myself, and I am well aware that there are people in this world who hate me for it and who would, if they had the chance, use those unpopular ideas against me in any way they could. I do not trust those people not to read my mail, listen in on my telephone conversations, and even eavesdrop on my Internet connections if they can, even though all these things are illegal. Those who oppose unpopular speech can’t always be bothered with trivialities like ethics or the law.

I know there are other secure chat applications out there; my own program is mostly an exercise in learning networking and secure encryption. But I do plan to make the newest build available on my Web site when it’s working properly, and if someone can use it to exchange ideas privately, all the better.

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