August 2006

"Security Engineering" available for download

Skinflints of the world rejoice; Ross Anderson's textbook Security Engineering is now available for free download:

My book on Security Engineering is now available online for free download here.

I have two main reasons. First, I want to reach the widest possible audience, especially among poor students. Second, I am a pragmatic libertarian on free culture and free software issues; […]

I’d been discussing this with my publishers for a while. They have been persuaded by the experience of authors like David MacKay, who found that putting his excellent book on coding theory online actually helped its sales. […]

(Via Light Blue Touchpaper.)

Jonathan Coulton to appear in Second Life

Jonathan Coulton, my favourite writer of songs about robot overlords and uppity zombie co-workers, will be featuring at a Second Life Concert:

OK, this is one that everybody can attend. On September 14th I’ll be playing a show in Second Life (the show starts at 5PM SL time, aka West Coast time). Yes: a virtual show in a virtual world with my virtual self, Yonatan Coalcliff.

Alas, the show starts way past my bedtime over here in PT+8 land, so I'll just have to hope for some good recordings by people who can be there "in person". Just as well, really, my Code Monkey avatar is at the cleaners.

(Via Jonathan Coulton.)

Strong Angel Island

My friends and colleagues The Magicians built a beautiful and immersive Second Life shared space for the Strong Angel III event this year. I say "they" because my own contribution was very minor this time round. I did get a chance to tour the completed island the other day, and I made a video which may give you some idea of the place. The cheesy intro is courtesy of iMovie but the lack of sound is entirely my mistake.

You can see from the video that the build has a kind of calming idealised ancient Greek feeling, and includes several meeting areas with the ability to display video or still images. The centrepiece includes a model of the area of San Diego that Strong Angel are using for the real-world event. There are many imaginative touches; you'll see an oracle and a sheep-eating Cyclops in the video, and unfortunately only a passing glimpse of a nest of tiny dragons (I should go back and re-shoot that part). In my opinion, it's details like these that turn a potentially sterile virtual meeting room into somewhere with a real sense of being a place.

Strong Angel itself is a recurring "integrated disaster response demonstration". It allows disaster responders to get together with technologists to explore techniques and technologies that could be used in future disaster and humanitarian relief efforts. Although it will be a while before tools like Second Life can be fully integrated into that kind of response (bandwidth is pretty thin on the ground in most of these situations) the response from the other Strong Angel participants was very positive. Rather than go into that in any more detail, I'll refer you to Sanjana Hattotuwa's excellent article on the subject and to his podcast interview with Kimberly Rufer-Bach, the Magicians' Head Honcho.

[Updated 20060830: more videos of the island: one, two.]

Benefits of Getting Old

I'm sure a lot of people I know have had this experience:

Another bonus of advanced age is the accumulation of generally useless knowledge that is nonetheless impressive. After about the age of 40 you start hearing a lot of ‘How did you know THAT?’ If you sum up all of the facts in your head plus your awesome powers of inference plus your exceptional skill at bullshitting, you look like a psychic to anyone under 20.

(Via The Dilbert Blog.)

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Bruce Schneier Facts

Everybody loves Eric Raymond is a pretty weird web comic to start with, combining as it often does obscure open-source in-jokes with the premise that Richard Stallman, Eric Raymond and Linus Torvalds all live together in a flat somewhere.

Today's episode jumps over into the even more obscure realm of crypto in-jokes, with the even weirder premise that Bruce Schneier is actually a cryptographic Chuck Norris.

Clicking through to the interactive Bruce Schneier Facts Database is well worth while. My favourite random fact so far is:

Bruce Schneier doesn't even trust Trent. Trent has to trust Bruce Schneier.

Obscure enough for you?

Stargate Monkey, Frohman Beta Prime

Jonathan Coulton continues to inspire others to create high art. This week's must-sees are:

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