Future Thoughts

I have returned to school after a hiatus of 22 years. I’m working towards a degree in software development/networking and of course, that could change, but for now is pretty solid. I can only take a couple of courses each semester.

I hope to provide some examples of the python I’m learning, but it’s very basic. The best part of the class is the fact that I’m learning software development and not just the language. I can pick oup the language syntax just about anywhere. The development techniques, however, are something that I’ve lacked in the past.

Our current item is a simple slot machine, but we’ve moved from the basics, to using lists and functions to make it more streamlined and better.

I’ll post sections of it later.

Offline Blogging Tools? Bueller? Bueller?

I wonder if anyone can point me toward a portable preferably cross platform offline blogging program. I’ve tried a lot of different ones and none are even close to what I want.

This is currently being written in Zoundry Raven. I am hoping it will be the last one I try today and that it will do the things I need it to do for my blog. I would like to get back to this again and start pushing out new content, maybe related to the classes I am going through. I will say that I am having a problem with editing posts after they are published with it, so that might be a big mark against it. I’ll have to see if that’s just a misconfiguration error or something wrong in the parsing when it gets the post back. I keep getting a tag error and it won’t let you edit then. That forces me to end up back here at wordpress.com to edit my posts. Sigh.

A thought for a new day

Today, I sit and think about all the recent revelations related to the NSA spying scandal and I see that a couple of email providers, Lavabit and SilentCircle, have decided to shut themselves down. This is a shame. They have provided a necessary service to the world community. Lavabit’s statement that they had hit the wall legally and were unable to express their very real frustration with the issue is taken to mean that they’ve been served with an NSL.

SilentCircle’s statement that they saw the “writing on the wall” and thought it would be better to shut down now is disheartening. I do however understand their reasoning. No one wants to go up against the national government apparatus. It’s expensive and there’s always the risk of unending, unlawful detention.

The USA that I live in is not the USA that I grew up in. We were never terrorized by our own government, by over greedy corporations, and by the never ending 24/7 news media that can’t seem to understand the difference between sensationalism and news.

I’m sincerely sad, upset and truly pissed off. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve tried to vote for people that I think are going to change things, but they seem to fall prey to the same influences as the rest. It’s not possible to actually get someone in office that seems to be able to stand up and refuse to accept the money from various companies and organizations that are trying their best to subvert the original laws of the land.

What should we do now?

Here’s my suggestion. I’m going to make it my mission to teach my parents, sister and all the family how to secure their email. I’m going to show them gpg4win, install it on their machines and set them up with a pass-phrase. That’s the only thing I can do. Maybe you need to do it as well. If you have the ability to show people how to do something, then you should do it.

I’m also going to start making it more of a point with my friends and colleagues to request and insist upon using secure email. It’s not just for home use. Businesses should be more than happy to start teaching their employees about how to secure the email they send. Although I know a number of businesses that would cringe at giving their employees the power to send email that they can’t read.

I’ll get you started. Go find gpg4win, and be smart, download the light version. kleopatra is a pain in the ass to deal with. then go download Thunderbird. then go get enigmail, as a Thunderbird add-on. It’s pretty self explanatory, but I will go over this in a future post. hopefully very soon.

Start protecting yourself now. The more people do it, the less it will make it seem like you have something to hide when someone tries to find out the “secrets” you’re emailing. I’ve used the analogy before, but encryption is just putting an envelope around your email, and everyone in the USPS reads postcards. Trust me. I used to work for them, and I know they do, no matter how much they deny it.

In the end will this help? Will it change the way things are now? I honestly don’t know. It’s a start. Maybe we can turn this beast around or behead it in a future election. It’s sad that we have to look at our own government, the one that used to be a shining beacon to the rest of the world, with jaded eyes.

Time will tell if the apathy that pervades the country will allow this to continue or if they will once more begin to take part in the governance of themselves, instead of relying on everyone else to do the job because it’s too much effort. I’m going to do what I can, but in the end it’s up to you to try and do the same.

I invite constructive commentary and dissenting opinions, but ranting, ad hominem attacks (if you don’t know what that is, don’t bother commenting.) and party line politics have no place in this discussion.

GPG and learning never to forget a passphrase

So it finally hit me today. I have been messing around with gpg lately on different platforms and using it for file encryption on transfers between places. It’s been a novel and nice idea and I really thought I had gotten it the workflow down, but today it struck me that I had apparently forgotten the passphrase. It’s one that I should have never forgotten, but I did and as a consequence I’ve lost a couple of files I have tried for the last day and a half to decrypt.

I’ve now gone back to a different one, but it is a standard one I use. I don’t like that because it’s been in use for over 10 years on a previous set of keys, but I did change to word order around, so maybe it will be ok. Never ever forget your passphrase. Or at least somewhere keep it or the orginal files in a decrypted state. Although that obviates the need for the encryption…. It’s a process. I’m learning it, but sometimes it seems like I’ve had to relearn it over again.
And no, john the ripper didn’t help, although I did manage to crack a few other passwords on my system that weren’t up to snuff as to complexity. That made it a help.
That’s all for now….


So, after trying to find a browser extension that was easy to use and would not add advertising to my blog, I’ve decide to give blogilio, a KDE blogging client a try.

This is just the first of what I hope will be a new series of entries, but as you can see, sometimes my plans and what actually happens are far from reality.
Just a heads up that this is not a dead space. it’s just not as curated as I’d like it to be.

Conundrum – CMYK psd files in GIMP

Before you think I’ve come up with a solution to this problem, understand that I have not. I’m just frustrated by the way I’m going to have to do things. So, I download a bunch of free images, vector packs, psd files that people have put out on the web for designers. The problem comes when the items I’ve downloaded are saved in the CMYK colorspace instead of RGB. Gimp will not open them and even using the convert option with ImageMagick on the command line, I’ve not been able to get a clean enough file to do anything with. So, it appears that I’ll have to actually open the files in photoshop (in windows) and then change the colorspace there, save the file, then re-open in GIMP. If anyone has another idea, I’m open for suggestions.

Document organization and backups with rsync

Before I begin, I’ll assume that you know how to setup cygwin on windows and install various packages. if not then you should really go to the cygwin homepage and read up on it first.

Since creating a cygwin setup on my workstation I have begun to finally get my files organized. I took a tip from LifeHacker’s Gina Trapani’s article, written in 2006, about using just a simple 6 directories as the basis for the organization. Her idea was to use a bak, docs, doc-archives, multimedia, junkdrawer (I called mine temp) and scripts.

Being the type of person I am I figured it was best to start there and move down the trees in as many subfolders as needed. The easiest thing to do was getting the directories set up, but I had to move them at least once as it turned out is was going to bog my workstation down pretty quick with moving all these files around. For some I would even need to sync them to a portable drive to have access to them. I did make the final decision to move them over to the network drive I was connected to.

What makes this whole thing so simple is the rsync utility. After you’ve made your master setup, it becomes trivially easy to make backups to a portable or other drive location.

Typically in a windows setup you will have your mount points under the /cygdrive directory. So if you are using a netwrok or portable drive to send your backup to, then you need to find out where cygwin thinks that drive is located. It will most likely have the same drive letter as it does in windows, but check it to make sure.

For me it was as simple as creating the directory I wanted the backup to go to (in my case a backup of cygwin_home) and telling rsync to get started.

rsync -av ~/* /cygdrive/l/cygwin_home/

The trailing slash is significant. Also I was making it run in archive mode (-a), and verbose (it tells me each file it touches, the -v). The -a is what I use to make sure it copies everything over including directories and that it goes through all the subfolders as well like a -r flag (for recursion) would do.

Once this major item is done then it just becomes a habit to run this everyday or however long you want to choose to do it so that you can maintain a backup of a set of directories.

Be sure to run  a check before so that if you try the delete function with the rsync operation, that you don’t accidentally delete files you wanted to keep. Experienced it myself this weekend.