July 30, 2004

Warcraft III is Ridiculous

I tried my hand at playing on battle.net today, and I've forgotten how crazily competitive people online can be about their games. I spent twenty minutes building up what I considered to be a rather large army, defended my allies against multiple waves, and marched into battle, only to see swarms of demons descend upon me in what could only be called digital rape. The opponent's name was even along the lines of "Dr. Anus", I kid you not.

Warcraft Single-Player was fun, but I'll probably stick with UT2k4 or some other such game at which I stand a chance. Chess is always cool.

While I'm here, I might as well do some ranting about games...

If you've ever played a computerized chess game, you know they're pretty bland. I've been hooked on Freeverse software's Big Bang Chess ever since I downloaded it. It is seamlessly integrated with Mac OS X's Address Book, iChat, iTunes and Mail applications, and utilizes Apple's implementation of ZeroConf, known as OpenTalk (and formerly known as Rendezvous) to find you a game on any ad hoc (read: wireless at a coffee shop) network. The AI is pretty good, but the networking abilities are what really sell this game. Or would, because it's free. If you have a Mac, try it out.

Also... DOOM 3 comes out in a few days for our PC brethren. [H]ard|OCP has an excellent hardware guide to determine whether or not you can run Doom 3 without buying a new machine. According to them, a 64 MB graphics card on a 1.5 GHz Athlon using only 384 MB of RAM was sufficient to run this game at bearable quality. They also attest that DOOM 3 looks great at 640x480, a fact I'm not so quick to believe (especially because my laptop would have to scale that up to 1280x854), but am still anxious to see in action. If their statements are true, not only my 1.5 GHz G4 laptop with a 128 MB graphics card and a GB of RAM, but also my family's old 533 MHz dual-processor G4 with 64 MB of video RAM and 512 MB of System RAM will run the program.

I just might have to buy this when it comes out.

July 28, 2004


Argh. I decided today that users needed a simple way to create a secure password to meet their system administrator's needs. So I wrote one. I'll put it in a GUI form next, but right now the basics were tiring enough for me.

I tried to write it in C++ at first, but don't know enough of that language to get around in it. Java was much simpler, but still not easy to make sure the passwords were completely random. I named it "weakestlink" after the oft quoted phrase "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," or something like that. The class file is here.

Invoke it using the java command, per your system. Its arguments are case sensitive: Uppercase enables a parameter and lowercase disables it. The hash argument is disabled by omission, enabled by inclusion. All parameters can be stuck together (except one), and/or preceded by a hyphen, per the user's style.

Included parameters are:

  • n, for numerals. Controls whether or not a password has numerals in it. Default: On
  • l, for letters. Controls whether or not a password has letters in it. Default: On
  • c, for case-sensitivity. Controls whether or not a password is case-sensitive. Requires that letters be enabled. Default: On
  • p, for punctuation. Controls whether or not a password has punctuation characters in it. Default: On
  • s, for spaces. Controls whether or not a password has spaces in it. Default: Off
  • r, for repitition. Controls whether or not a password can have repeated characters. If off, number of possible characters must be greater than password length. Default: On
  • #, for combination or permutation calculation. Controls display of password security. Default: Off
  • a numeral, for password length. Controls password length. Must be separate from other arguments. Default: 8

The program works rather admirably. If anyone wants to comment on the source code, feel free... I am a newbie. I used the SecureRandom class over the Random and Math.random() options, because (as I understand) it is cryptographically strong, whereas the others are not. I have also noticed that the hash symbol must be preceded by another character (a hyphen or other argument) or enclosed in quotes for the shell to pass it to the program correctly. An error should also be thrown when the length of the password exceeds the number of available characters.

I hope to eventually add support for rhyming passwords and dictionary checking. Any help on efficiency and whatnot would be nifty. I should probably be going to bed now though.

July 27, 2004

Eating Lunch

Schlotzsky's is awesome. I'm sitting around chatting with my roommate and friends while eating tuna and coding. I hope someday that 802.11 is so ubiquitous as to be accessible from the middle of the Gobi-It's the greatest thing since sliced cheddar and parmesan bread.

Also, has anyone seen this? Apparently ol' Dubya has picked up mountain biking. I've taken a few spills myself, but without the "mouth guard" he apparently rides around with. I mean, he is the president, but biking with a mouth guard is pretty geeky. I hope he likes the sport, even though I can't say I like him.

Any other bikers out there? I busted my back tire last Sunday, but it already had four or five patched holes in it, so I wasn't surprised. I think I may have done it jumping off a foot-high concrete pavilion... It was a nice jump, but I had forgotten I had tightened my back shocks for street riding. Oh well. I guess I'll be buying a new tube.

Back at Work

I finally got in touch with my roommate for next semester this morning. Seems like a pretty smart guy; He's a Computer Science and Physics Major that has taken courses at Princeton. He uses Linux and is a seasoned Bind and Apache veteran, so I hope to learn a lot from him on those fronts.

I think I'll be going to Schlotzsky's again today, so my next post should be from there.

Also, I found this old junk on a server recently. It was my first (and last, as of yet) attempt to make music using GarageBand. If you're a fan of electronica you might like it. I'm no Moby, but it was fun to make.

July 26, 2004

Added Badges

I just added badges to the sidebar of this page. I decided that the badges were too darn cute to pass up. I liked the PGP ones, but don't use PGP, so I made a S/MIME one for those of us who like structure.

Not sure if the badges will interest anyone, but just wanted to tell you.

Also, comments are now allowed as anonymous.

You can buy items on my wishlists and/or make a donation to my PayPal account through the badges as well. Enjoy!

S/MIME Revisited

I just realized that S/MIME may be a bit enigmatic a word to throw out there.

It's public key encryption with authentication handled by a central certificate authority, or CA. In my case, Thawte is the CA. They gave me my certificate, which also acts as a 2,048 bit key for encryption. Thawte keeps track of trust points that enable you to do more. Fifty points will let you put your real name on your certificate, essentially ensuring to the recipient that you are you.

To get trust points, you have to meet up with notaries, and not the ones at the post office. Thawte's CEO was the initial notary, capable of giving 100 points to anyone. With 100 points, you become a notary yourself, so he hand-picked a couple of closely trusted colleagues to be the initial notaries. They were able to give ten points to begin with, which could grow to 35 as they assigned points to more people.

A notary needs to meet you in person to verify your identity, and must withhold a copy of two nationally sanctioned identification records-birth certificates, DL's and the like-to give you points. Notaries are widespread (there are 18 here in Austin), so finding enough to become authenticated isn't a problem.

S/MIME is a powerful tool to encrypt sensitive data, and if enough of your acquaintances adopt it, siphoning out spam could possibly become easier. Feel free to comment on my mistakes, if there are any... I'm new to the whole crypto scene.

S/MIME Usage

Just a question (for the large number of readers out there). How widely used are S/MIME certificates for signing e-mails and such?

I have been eyeing PGP for a while, but as there is no longer a free version available, I looked to alternatives. Apple has S/MIME built into Mail.app, so I went to Thawte to get a certificate, and signing and encryption has been working perfectly. For some reason, most of my friends still insist on using GnuPG. I found a plugin for Mail.app, but it's a bit of a hack. Anyways, I'm pushing for my friends to use S/MIME because it's built into Thunderbird. If any of you are notaries, please email me.