General Articles

Lack of Posts

I've not posted much of late. I've just not felt the urge. There's a bit of a malaise at murky internet HQ. It's not as if I've had nothing to say, not least of which is to do with the incompetence surrounding the seemingly never-ending data losses (why should a low-ranking civil servant have the ability to download 25 million records at once? It's reasonably trivial to limit access so they can get records only one at a time - This has never been explained). I don't have a problem with the 'people make mistakes' - I do have a problem with the systems allowing this particular mistake.

I think it's the end of year lull. I'm always a little underwhelmed with December. It's all the forced jollity and people buying things for people which the recipient doesn't really want, only to receive back something they don't really want. It seems so futile.


Then there's New Year.

New Year is never an event in and of itself for me, as it's tied up with my Birthday. This means I each affects the other. When I was a kid, the stroke of midnight got me the bumps - by pissed people. I've hit the ceiling a few times! Also, New Year and Birthday sort of roll together, I envied people who could have a birthday at some point mid year...

These days I've managed to foster the rule that my birthday doesn't start until after sleep happens, but everything is still tied up somehow.

This year I'm 35.

So, what do I do on my birthday? So far, have a cup of tea, look at the internet and have another cup of tea.


Why is Cryptography Important?

Cryptography seems quite an esoteric subject, yet it is fundamental to our world in so many ways. When people think about cryptography, assuming they have heard the word, they will tend to think of 'cloak and dagger' stories, of spies and battles, of secret liaisons amongst lovers and all sorts of high drama.

Of course, there are plenty of examples of this sort of thing in history, from Babington writing in code to Queen mary, to the Allies cracking the German Enigma code, to the Rosenberg trials in the states.

However, cryptography is essential in everyday life. When you buy from a site such as amazon you are relying upon public key cryptography to keep your credit card details safe. When your operating software automatically updates over the internet it too will use a public key algorithm to check that the update it is about to install was really published by the right people, and not by someone trying to get into your computer.

Without cryptography cash machines would not be possible, as the machines would not be able to reliably communicate with the bank computers. Without cryptography, even the idea of electronic voting would not be possible (though they are making a mess of the new systems in the US).

Cryptographic ideas can also be used in making message easier to decode - without these ideas we would not have error checking capabilities on communications lines, and the internet would run much more slowly. We would not be able to reduce redundancy in a message and hence compress it, thus negating popular archival programs such as 'zip'.

All of these ideas, making messages compact, error resistant, secure (or all of the above) are related to cryptography.

Without cryptographic ideas, you would not be able to read this website.