Ben Laurie blathering

25 Apr 2007

Moglen Celebrates the Increase in the Chocolate Ration

Filed under: Open Source,Rants — Ben @ 19:05

Eben Moglen blogs about the GPLv3 and what a wonderful guy he is. But I’m not going to get into a GPLv3 vs. GPLv2 vs. anything else debate, since I’m a BSD/Apache guy and don’t really care what the GPL crazies’ drug of the month is. However, I do object to this

The release of Discussion Draft 3 has been greeted as warmly as I dared hope: all the recorded outrage has been emitted by Microsoft or its surrogates, which is at it should be.

So, it seems that the fact that at the 11th hour it has been decided, yet again, that the Apache Licence is not compatible with the GPL, despite assurances, to the obvious distaste of the Apache Software Foundation, is not on his radar – despite the fact that the ASF is a client of his company. Perhaps he thinks that

SFLC and its clients will be using the new license before long

applies to the ASF. I think not. In fact, I think it will be a cold day in hell before the ASF has any truck with any likely variant of the GPL.

19 Apr 2007

Chicken Satay

Filed under: Recipes — Ben @ 10:04

Because of the unseasonally nice weather, I’ve done a few barbecues lately. I cooked chicken satay a couple of nights ago for some friends, one of whom has just asked for my recipe. Since I’ve gone to all the bother of writing it up, I thought I’d put it here…

Satay sauce

Heat some oil quite hot (almost smoking), add crushed garlic, let it cook a little and then a couple of teaspoons of violent Thai red curry paste (cheap stuff in plastic tubs with Thai writing on preferred, supermarket stuff is too mild), stir and cook that for 1 minute or so, then add coconut milk (I use a whole can). Bring the coconut milk to the boil, stirring in the curry paste as you do. Then add (crunchy, ideally) peanut butter, half a jar or so, more if you want. It’ll look kinda thin, but don’t worry, it thickens. Keep stirring occasionally and reduce the heat so its bubbling but not hard. Once it starts to thicken add a gloop of orange juice and thicken again, repeat a few times, stirring as often as is needed to stop it sticking. This stuff can sit forever so once you are happy with the flavour you can just turn it off and reheat just before you eat. Note, you will get a fuckload of oil separating out – just stir it in, it stays mixed for a while 🙂

Chicken marinade

There are various marinades, but the one I used was black treacle, ginger, spring onion, lemon juice and soy (go easy on the soy, just to add a bit of salt, really). I never do this early enough – the longer the better.

Cumin and coriander (seeds or leaves) also go nicely in the marinade.

Obviously the chicken gets cubed and dumped in the mariande, and after sitting for a while, threaded on skewers and barbecued. I usually do boiled rice, cucumber salad (slice a cucumber as thinly as you can, add salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar, let it sit for a few hours, stirring occasionally), and barbecue a few vegetables (courgettes, mushrooms, aubergine, for example) to go with it.

When I was a kid and Thai restaurants were just appearing in London, satay was always served with cold cubes of compressed rice and coconut. This seems to have gone entirely out of fashion (I’ve never tried making them either), which seems a shame.
Translations for the Yanks: courgettes = zucchini, aubergine = eggplant, coriander leaf = cilantro, peanut butter = peanuts, peanut oil, salt, sugar – no palm oil, apple juice or other perversions designed to allow the manufacturer to claim “no added sugar”. If you’re a wholefood fan you might need to add salt and sugar to the satay sauce.

18 Apr 2007

Privacy Preserving Road Usage Charging

Filed under: Anonymity/Privacy,Civil Liberties,Crypto — Ben @ 12:06

I recently attended a conference on “Respecting Privacy in Global Networks“. One of the talks was about road usage charging – the general idea being that instead of paying a flat fee related to your vehicle type, you pay for the roads you actually use. Of course, the obvious ways to implement this (either using a GPS to log a trail to some kind of secure device which is periodically examined to determine fees, or by collecting car details with roadside receivers) are stupendously privacy invading.

But, it occurs to me, we have the technology at our fingertips to make this system anonymous (except for defaulters) quite easily. All we need to do is fit cars with a device that can spend anonymous digital cash as they pass checkpoints. Cars that don’t fork out get their numberplate photographed. Obviously you have to back this up with legislation that forbids checking numberplates except on defaults but that seems easy enough.

Of course in London we should have this system for congestion charging, which already monitors everyone’s movements.

17 Apr 2007

High-altitude Balloon

Filed under: Toys — Ben @ 10:02

My friend 3ric helped build a high-altitude balloon. They got it up over 100,000 feet, and then lost it. If they ever recover it, there should be some awesome pics, but in the meantime, here’s some pics of the construction and launch, and a Google Earth track.

15 Apr 2007


Filed under: Distributed stuff,Security — Ben @ 18:20

It isn’t often that I get to mention some of the weirder things I do at work, but here’s a write-up of something I was peripherally involved in, a bot that attempted to do distributed click fraud.

Sunspots and Global Warming

Filed under: Climate — Ben @ 17:02

The BBC have an article about global warming and sunspots. Guess what? Sunspot count and global temperature are correlated, and have been for the last thousand years, including the Maunder minimum and the Little Ice Age. How does this compare to CO2 correlation? Given the slippery nature of statistics, is that even a meaningful question?

What I really want is Gapminder for global warming, with added statistical analysis…

8 Apr 2007

Self-modelling Robots

Filed under: Brain Function,General,Toys — Ben @ 18:49

This guy made these cool robots. Basically they do experiments on themselves to figure out what shape they are and how their motors are wired up. Then you rip an arm off, and they do some more experiments to figure out their new shape.

I wonder if this explains the mean kitten experiment? The mobile kitten can do experiments to figure out what its legs and stuff do, but the immobile one cannot, so the mobile one gets more clues about the motion it sees than the immobile one.

Whatever, its a damn cool idea, though they clearly need to do some work on the walking thing!

(via BoingBoing)

7 Apr 2007

Monotone versus Subversion?

Filed under: Open Source — Ben @ 12:26

It has come to my attention that various CVS repos with bits of my software in have stopped working. This is because of hardware death and arcane chroot configuration that I can’t be bothered to reproduce.

So, my plan is to move these repos to a new machine and run them under Monotone, because I think Monotone is cool. However, I am prepared to listen to shrieks of protest (with reasoning) that say I should use Subversion. Or, indeed, something else.

BTW, when the Monotone guys presented at CodeCon a couple of years ago, they had this funky graphical depiction of the version history. Anyone know how that’s done?

5 Apr 2007

The Joy of DNSSECs

Filed under: Crypto,Security — Ben @ 11:34

Matasano Chargen have an amusing writeup of DNSSEC, complete with pretty pictures. I need to learn to make OmniGraffle do that!

1 Apr 2007

Anonymity on IP Networks

Filed under: Anonymity/Privacy — Ben @ 14:13

I attended a security summit for OLPC recently (which I will write up more fully when I have time). One of the issues that was raised was the trackability of the laptops via their MAC address – this is of particular concern because they participate in the mesh network even when powered off(!).

So, you can change the MAC address occasionally, and that will help – though the sudden disappearance of MAC A and appearance of MAC B will give the game away in low density situations. But when you are online, that hardly matters, since your IP address isn’t going to change – and changing it will cause your connections to drop.

This got me thinking about anonymity on IP networks. And I suddenly realised I know how to do it! A while back, I created Apres, a system for anonymous presence (which, incidentally, there is actual code for). The essence of Apres is that the two parties who want to exchange presence have a shared secret. They derive an ephemeral identifier from that secret and the current time. They can then use that ephemeral identifier to find each other, in the case of Apres via a rendezvous server. Obviously, one could use a similar system to derive an IP address known to both parties but to no-one else.

What’s more, unlike Apres, you could do this entirely on the fly, at least for client/server systems – you could contact the server on some well-known port and agree a secret, and then start using it for connections with that server.

Obviously this is going to be somewhat tricky to implement on an IPv4 network, and if you are on a fixed machine, obfuscating your IP address isn’t particularly going to help. But with IPv6 and mesh networking, it becomes quite an interesting proposition. Now, if only I knew of a laptop that did mesh networking and IPv6

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