10-28-08

19th Century Automata

This is some of the most amazing automata. I’m sure it wasn’t quite as freaky over 100 years ago when created.

10-26-08

Storing Your Passwords Securely

When it comes to storing multiple passwords, most people either save them to a file on their local computer, or simply use pen and paper. While both methods work, they can easily lead to your security being compromised.

My solution is not a simple one, but definitely worth the trouble. You’ll just need three things:

1) Any USB drive (as cheap as $5 at newegg.com)
2) KeePass Password Safe (a free Open-Source password manager)
3) TrueCrypt (a free Open-Source encryption tool)

Step 1
Download TrueCrypt from the link above and set it up on your local machine

 

Step 2
Plug in your USB drive and make sure it has been completely formatted

 

Step 3
Next, you’re going to encrypt your USB drive so that all data saved to it is secure. Open up TrueCrypt and click the “Create Volume” button. Make sure “Create a standard TrueCrypt volume” is selected and click “Next”

 

Step 4
Click “Select File” and browse to your USB drive and open it. Now you will need to create a new volume within your USB drive. Everything within this volume will be secure. Next to “File name”, create a name for you new volume and hit “Save”. Then click “Next”.

 

Step 5
Here you will need to select your encryption algorithm. Since I am by no means an encryption expert, I’ll leave it up to TrueCrypt to explain each one. Once you’ve made your selection, hit “Next”.

 

Step 6
Now you’ll need to determine how large to make your volume. If you were using this volume to store/backup files, you would want to designate as much space as is available. But since we’re only storing passwords, 10MB is more than enough. That way you’ll still have the rest of the USB drive to store other things (although not securely). Click “Next”.

 

Step 7
Set the password for this volume. Make sure it’s a very good one using the guidelines set by TrueCrypt. Click “Next”, and then click “Format”. Finally, click “Next” once the Volume Created screen appears. You can now click “Cancel” to close the window.

 

Step 8
Now that you’ve created the encrypted volume, you must now mount it in order to add/remove files within it. This step will need to be done each time you plug your USB drive back in. Click “Select File” and browse to your USB drive, open it and click on the volume you just created. Click “Mount”, enter your password, and click “OK”. You’ll find the drive mounted as a separate letter name within My Computer. Find and open it.

 

Step 9
Download the KeePass portable edition to your local machine and unpack it into your open volume. Double click “KeePass.exe” and follow the master password creation instructions.

 

Step 10
Add your passwords to KeePass. Once finished, close KeePass and click “Dismount” in TrueCrypt and safely remove your USB drive.

That’s all there is to it. If you happen to lose your USB drive, not only are your passwords encrypted by TrueCrypt, but also protected by KeePass’ built-in password. Comment with any questions or suggestions.

08-24-08

Gnomedex 8.0

Just got back from Gnomedex 8.0, easily the most interesting yearly conference I’ve been to. In a nutshell, Gnomedex combines geek culture with tech, and usually a few surprises mixed in. I usually come back knowing a bit about something I previously knew nothing about. This year it was Cyborgs.

Nathan Wade, quite possibly the most well-spoken college junior, gave a talk on how he synthesized art and technology to create “Serial Cyborg”, a wooden sculpture derived from simple MRI scans of a human head. From one angle it looks more or less like a human skull. From another, you can make out specific facial features.

The most entertaining presentation came from Ben Huh, owner of the Icanhascheezburger network of websites. His presentation was centered the website’s rise to fame, focusing mostly on the statistics of growth. And of course mixed in were some relevant, hand-picked LOLcats. While Ben did not create the original website, he is directly responsible for its monumental growth and expansion in recent months.

Given the nature of this conference, there are certainly loads of attendee-created galleries and videos around the net. Flickr seems to have the most attendee-submitted images, and Ustream (where it was streamed live during the event) has plenty of videos.

Gnomedexers listen intently to Sarah Lacey\'s presentation on problems faced by the growing Blogosphere (credit Shashi Bellamkonda)

Gnomedexers listen intently to Sarah Lacey's presentation on problems faced by the growing Blogosphere (credit Shashi Bellamkonda)

06-11-08

The Iowa Floods

Flooding continues across Eastern Iowa today in what they’re saying is going to be the worst in several decades, if not centuries. As is the case during most community catastrophes (which have been all too common the past few years), the Iowa City Press Citizen has devoted a significant portion of it’s website to flood coverage.  These arial photos of Iowa City will give a good idea of how bad it already is.

Taking off work tomorrow in the morning to to assist with sandbagging. Water levels are expected to expand at least another five feet before the water crests next week.

View of City Park in Iowa City - Note: the trees weren\'t always under water

View of City Park in Iowa City - Note: the trees weren't always under water