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  • July 17, 2006

Microsoft announced this morning that it is pulling support for private folders, which it had just recently released on the web. This seemed like a good time to mention a free software product that I have been using for a while that I believe is many times better.


Free Open-Source On-The-Fly Encryption

download: http://www.truecrypt.org/

TrueCrypt is really simple to use. After installing (which is optional for all you no-install fans) You merely create a new true crypt volume. The first decision you need to make is the encryption alogorithm. There are several to choose from. (AES, Blowfish, CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, Twofish, AES-Twofish, AES-Twofish-Serpent, Serpent-AES, Serpent-Twofish-AES, Twofish-Serpent). Luckily TrueCrypt provides a detailed description of each so you can pick one that’s right for you. Next, you need to choose the size. Finally you need to specify a password. TrueCrypt will then format your volume with randomly encrypted data.

After you have created the volume you can mount it to any available drive letter. From there you just drag and drop the files you want to encrypt onto the drive. That’s all there is too it. When the volume is unmounted there is no way to get to the data until you mount it again. (which requires the password)

One of the neatest features of TrueCrypt is “Plausible Deniability.” I know that sounds kind of cloak and dagger but practically it means this. You can name your volume anything you want with any extension you want. So call it setup.exe or something common like that. If someone tries to run it it won’t work. If someone more savvy looks at a hex dump there is nothing in the file that would clue you into the fact that its an encrypted volume. If I kept sensitive customer data on my laptop in a TrueCrypt volume and my laptop was stolen. A hacker might figure out my administrator password (There are plenty of cracking programs available to do that) but they probably won’t notice a temporary file, or a bad setup.exe and think, hey there is probably secret data in there!

Moon from Celestia

I saw a post on Make today of a collection of high-resolution (2750×2300) image scans of the 30 color plates from Alexander Jamieson’s 1822 (almost 200 years old!) star atlas. Couresy of the United States Naval Observatory Library. I’m sure many can think of lots of ways to use this beautiful antique art.

Anyway, while perusing antique star charts it reminded me that I had come across a really cool little application recently that I haven’t heard much about. Celestia, written by Chris Laurel, is like Google Earth for space. Even if you are not an astronomer, this little graphics application offers the opportunity to see the galaxy in a totally different way.

This year, the first thing we did to celebrate Independence Day was complete our bunkbed project. During the last part of last year we bought outstanding online plans to build our own triple bunkbed for our three girls. We bought the wood using gift certificates we received over the holidays. On Saturdays in January and February we cut, routed, sanded and drilled the wood. In early March we primed it. Just last week we painted it and this morning we assembled it amidst much celebration.

Triple Bunkbed

For now we are using sleeping bags and camping pads, but we will get real mattresses eventually. Now we are heading over to have steak and shrimp with the family and then toward dark we are planning to go to the Chris’ home in unincorporated King County where we will “light the night fantastic.”

Recently we have had signs that a mole had made his home in our yard splitting his time between our vegetable garden and mom’s flower garden. Yesterday morning, Micah surprised us when he came to the door holding a live mole. Apparently the mole had come out of his hole and before he could get back in, Micah grabbed him.

Micah and the mole

Since then we have learned all kinds of things about mole. They squeak when you hold them. They eat their weight in earthworms everyday. If you are bit by a wild animal you need to call the state health department to see if that species is on the rabies list. The big one in Washington is bats! Luckily moles currently are not on the list.



Finally, we learned this morning that a mole can escape a 5 gallon bucket filled halfway with dirt. I didn’t think they could jump or climb vertical surfaces twice their body length, but I was wrong. So the mole is on the loose again, but we have an experinced hunter!