Encryption is a fun and useful tool. It’s not magic; it’s just math. If you’re reading this content directly from my web site, you’re reading it over an encrypted connection. The words started out on my web server, got encrypted, sent over the Internet where many different servers and people could be listening, and ended up in your browser. Yet because of encryption, only you can read the words.
I have tremendous respect for United States legislators, especially at the Federal level; however, I wonder if perhaps they sometimes attempt to pass ill-conceived laws before understanding the situation into which they’re legislating and the implications of their legislation. Consider the recent Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016, sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the chair and vice-chair respectively of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. An article in The Hill quotes Senator Feinstein as follows:
I think this world is really changing in terms of people wanting the protection and wanting law enforcement, if there is conspiracy going on over the Internet, that that encryption ought to be able to be pierced.
Normally I find myself in general agreement with Burr and Feinstein on most issues, and I respect both of them because they seem to me to both genuinely care about the real safety and security of the United States. They both put reality above politics. Unfortunately, this bill and Senator Feinstein’s quote demonstrate how little they understand about encryption.
Continue reading Encryption is Math; Math is Legal
There are times both personally and professionally where I’ll get asked all manner of questions that could have been answered with a simple Google search. I suspect you’ve probably had folks ask you to do Google searches on their behalf as well. Now, that’s justifiable in cases like my wife driving and needing me to look-up an address for her. What’s not justifiable are folks sitting behind desktops who want to know Dragonfly Cinema’s weekend showings schedule. The commonality and frequency of these “please do this search for me” requests has spawned sites like Let Me Google That For You [lmgtfy.com]. If you use Chrome as your web browser, you don’t even need to visit Google Search; just start typing a search query into the URL field and you’re off to the races.
Google Search is a quite powerful little tool. (Little and simple on the surface, not behind the scenes certainly.) What you may not know is that there are some ways to tell Google to conduct your search in very specific ways. Most of the time, Google just gets it right. (They have a mind-reading artificial intelligence engine in their Columbia Valley data center.) However, there are times when you want to get more specific. Continue reading Let Me Google That For You
A while back, I discovered a little mobile app from Google called My Tracks. It’s basically a simple GPS recorder that then renders your track in various pretty ways. Here’s how Google describes it:
My Tracks records your path, speed, distance, and elevation while you walk, run, bike, or do anything else outdoors. While recording, you can view your data live, annotate your path, and hear periodic voice announcements of your progress. With My Tracks, you can sync and share your tracks via Google Drive.
And as you can see from the preview screenshots, it looks like a nifty little app:
Now that last page view on the right caught my eye. It had an elevation reading. And that got me to thinking, “My phone never touches the ground. It doesn’t care if I’m suspended by a mountain or air. I wonder if I can use this as an in-flight data recorder.” The answer is: Yes. Continue reading My In-Flight Data Recorder