Another Cryptopals Learn-A-Long

Are you interested in cryptography or Internet security? My friend Matt Baker and I have been leading a learn-a-long workshop where we all work through Matasano’s cryptopals challenges together. The next meeting is this coming Thursday 10/23 from 7PM to 9PM at Pumping Station: One in the electronics area.  None of us are experts, we’ll all be learning this stuff together.  Some people will be just starting out, others are part of the way through the course. Bring your laptop, charger and learning spirit!

Cryptography

Math! And a lock! CRYPTO!

Schedule Recurring Tasks on Trello

I use Trello a lot.  It plays a key role in how I Get Things Done.  It’s easy to use, snappy and lightweight.  There’s been one feature missing for me, though: recurring tasks.  There are tasks I need to do every week.  Laundry, my weekly review, whatever.  I can add them manually of course, but it would be nice not to have to.  So I wrote a quick little script that does it for me.  If you’re interested, feel free to clone the repo.

There’s a bit of setup required.  You need to install py-trello, the trello API wrapper I used.  I should add a requirements file so you can install it with pip, but I haven’t yet.  You’ll probably want to clone the py-trello repository anyway, since it simplifies the process of getting tokens.  Copy the two config.example files over and remove the “.example” suffix.  Get your Trello API key and secret.  Get your OAuth token and secret (py-trello provides a handy utility to do this, see their docs).  Replace the placeholder values in auth.config with your real values.  Edit schedule.config with the recurring tasks you want.  Next edit lines 19 and 24 of schedule_trello.py and replace “/absolute/path/to/” with the actual absolute path.  The last step is adding a line to your crontab so that this script will be run daily.  I wanted mine to run early in the morning so I set it to run at 5 AM every day.  More information on cron can be found on the Ubuntu community site. Fire up your terminal and run:

crontab -e

This will put you in a text editor editing your crontab file. At the bottom add:

0 5 * * * /full/path/to/schedule_trello.py

And you’re all set! Pull requests, comments and questions are welcome!

Crypto Learn-a-long

Are you interested in cryptography or Internet security? My friend Matt Baker and I have been leading a learn-a-long workshop where we all work through Matasano’s cryptopals challenges together. We had our first meeting last week and had a great time! If you want to join us, the next meeting is this coming Tuesday 10/7 from 7PM to 9PM at Dev Bootcamp. Bring your laptop, charger and learning spirit!

image

Obligatory ones and zeroes

ExctinctionCSS

I recently became aware of the extinction symbol through Orbital Operations, Warren Ellis’ mailing list.  Something about having a visual moniker, an icon, to represent our distress in the face of the Sixth Mass Extinction resonated with me.  The icon itself is fairly simple, and I thought “hey, I bet I could make that just using CSS.”  So I did.  I leaned heavily on the shapes of CSS from CSS Tricks, though getting the shapes to nest and line up correctly was a bit tricky.  If you’re interested in the code, take a look at the ExtinctionCSS repo on GitHub.  Pull requests welcome!

Steganography: A First Foray

There’s something satisfying about the thought of a message hidden in plain sight.  A puzzle whose very existence is the prize to find.  A maze with cheese at the end.  Good cheese.  None of that Kraft singles crap.  Gouda.

Steganography has a history stretching back to Greek philosophers.  One if its most widely used current incarnations involves the manipulation of image files.

shuttered window partially masked by flowering bush - and maybe something else?

Kodak Image 7 from the True-color Kodak test images

Gouda goes to the first commenter with the message.

Ginger Champagne 2014

Another year another batch of ginger champagne.  The 2013 batch turned out pretty well but a little sweeter than we expected.  A couple bottles didn’t carbonate but made for a decent liqueur and mixer.  Overall it was good enough that we decided to do another batch.  We adjusted the recipe in a couple of different ways.  First, we decided to make a full 5 gallon batch instead of the half batch we made last year.  We also used a mix of brown and white sugar, but less of it than last year since it turned out on the sweet side.

This was the first time we brewed a 5 gallon batch and we ran into some difficulties we didn’t anticipate.  We didn’t have a pot large enough so we ended up using multiple batches and then adding extra water after the steep.  Since we used multiple pots we needed multiple steeping bags but only had one.  Next year we’ll either buy an appropriately size pot or sterilize some water ahead of time to cool with.  Or both.

The recipe we used was basically a double batch of last year’s recipe with the following alterations:

  • 1lb 10oz ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3lbs 6oz brown sugar
  • 6lbs 12oz white sugar

We saved the ginger and zested the lemons again to make some infusion experiments.  I made ginger-lemon brandy and ginger-lemon vodka that I’m looking forward to trying out soon!

Year in Review 2013

Too much happened in 2013 and too recently for me to try and review everything that happened, so I’ll stick to the things most relevant to this blog.  Namely my projects and this blog itself.

First, some blog stats:
Articles:  7 (up 140% from last year’s 5)
Total word count:  2298, 9.1 pages* (up 127% from last year’s 1803, 7.2 pages*)
Average words per article:  328.3 words / 1.3 pages* (down 9% from last year’s 360.6, 1.4 pages*)
Views:  454 (up 142% from last year’s 318)
*250 words is roughly one page, hand written

I’m happy that I wrote more than last year, though the decrease in article length isn’t super exciting.  Articles and pageviews are both up 140% which is kind of interesting.  I imagine there’s a point at which writing more doesn’t directly translate into more pageviews, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have to break the article per month barrier before that becomes true.

Projects:
In 2013 I branched out a bit and started working on some new platforms.  I wrote my first ever Firefox plugin, I wrote a quick and dirty ‘Hello World’ style app for my new Pebble watch, and got my feet wet with some home automation.

Tools:
I’ve started using two new tools this year that have really helped me be more productive and organized.  I started using Beeminder in September and have found it to be a fantastic addition to my toolbox.  It’s data focused goal tracking powered by science and a team that is serious about eating their own dog food.  It’s currently helping me stay in shape, write more, and be more productive all around.  They also have an excellent data policy (you own it and can leave whenever you want to).  I also recently migrated my to do lists to Trello.  I think it’s an improvement, but I haven’t been using it long enough to tell.  I also want to give a shout out to 750words.  My one month trial just expired and I haven’t decided whether to pull the trigger on paying for it, but the trial has inspired me write more which I am very happy about.

I’m going to end this year in review on a personal note.  In November I proposed to my beautiful girlfriend Deana.  She said yes.  Don’t be surprised if you see some wedding related projects over the next year or so.


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