Ramblings

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Tuz. Is he cute?

In a bid to help save Tasmanian Devils from extinction, Linus Torvalds decided to release the latest Linux kernel with the “Tuz” logo as the console image at the LCA 2009 conference. Tuz is a name perhaps derived from the popular Linux mascot Tux, plus Tasmanian Devil (Taz – as it was known as a Looney Toones cartoon character). So Tuz replaces Tux as the console boot image for the kernel release 2.6.29.

So 2.6.29 isn’t quite out yet, but I’ve merged the new Tuz logo, so now my laptop boots up with two of these guys showing. See an earlier post about the plush version of this that I got while in Hobart for LCA 2009.
Linus Torvalds

Hindi in GMail

In another news, GMail gets support for writing emails in Indian languages. The Google Transliteration technology had been around for some time now (through Google Labs), and this support for Indian languages in GMail was built using Transliteration.

We currently support five Indian languages — Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam — and you can select the language of your choice from the drop-down list next to the icon.
Google Blog

Tata Nano – The beginning of a new era

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ratan-tata-presenting-tata-nano
Ratan Tata striking a pose with Nano (Image courtesy: bradstinyworld.com)

It’s finally out. The world’s cheapest car is up for the taking now, thanks to the hard working guys at Tata Motors who made the launch possible without much delay (which was being expected due to the shift in manufacturing plant location). Touted as the “one lakh-worth car”, it’s price start from Rs. 1.3 Lakh and goes upto Rs. 1.8 Lakh. Well, that’s a decent price for an entry level car, taking in consideration the various features it has to offer.

This cute little car can speed upto 105 km/hour; pretty decent speed within a city and some highways. It also promises to offer a modest economy of 23 km/litre of petrol. As the engine has been shifted to the back of the car, it makes for huge leg space for the front seats; comfortable driving, you say?

It will be made available in 3 models – Basic, CX and LX – mentioned in increasing order of prices. Don’t expect air-conditioning system in the basic model, and the center-locking system is available only in the LX model. Being a really small and light-weight car, power steering has not been made available in any of the three models. Wikipedia is probably the best source to explore all its features and specifications further.

An interesting thing related to the launch of this small car is that initially it will be made available to only 1 lakh customers until the manufacturing capacity is increased further or more factories are setup. Obviously, the initial bookings are set to exceed this1 lakh mark, so the Tata people came up with a plan. Each potential customer will have to book the car by sending a form to Tata Motors. Out of all the applications received, a draw will be held to select the lucky 1 lakh guys! Whoa! And the forms come at a price – Rs. 300 each. Another money making scheme by the Indian giant conglomerate?

One this is sure – the car is poised to begin a new era of small & cheap cars, and will spark a new revolution in a country where not even every middle-class family can afford a car.

Whatever happened to…

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Software come and go. We like some, despise some and are neutral to others. Most of the good and useful software obtain a huge following and userbase, and usually survive for a very long time until either a better software appears or the technology changes. There also are software that are based on innovative ideas, but do not get sufficient attention, due to the lack of which they perish sooner than others.

And finally, there are software that initially create waves, catch all the attention due to the wonderful concepts they are based upon, attain significant fan following, and then… disappear! In this article, I am going to talk about just these kind of software, err, that were. These are such software that I would have hoped to see flourish till, at least, a couple more years. And yes, all these softwares were free.

Microsoft Reader

MS Reader was Microsoft’s noble attempt to change the way ebooks were read. Reader offered an actual book-like interface that was easy on eyes. It had two other advantages. First, the ebooks created in Reader format (.lit) were considerably smaller in size than an equivalent PDF. Second, it introduced text-to-speech in ebook reading (it would read the book word-by-word with adjustable voice speed).

In my opinion, MS Reader was a novell software. Many popular ebooks were published in “lit” format, but as time passed, such ebooks also disappeared. Today, the most ebooks we see are in PDF format.

Continue reading Whatever happened to…

Happenings

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Blogging after quite some time.

  • Been busy recently with making certain important decisions about the future of Granular Project.
  • My temporary obssession of packaging RPMs has returned. Packaging updates and new RPMs since a few days now.
  • I try to start each day with studying, but miss it. The I try again to study after returning from college, miss it again. Completely frustrated because of that.
  • Playing table tennis (TT) continuously since past two weeks. Beginning to realize excess of everything is bad. :Sigh: why TT is so addictive?
  • Trying to complete all tasks in my long to-do list. Completed quite a few (and got some satisfaction), but most of them are still pending. God knows when I’ll be able to finish them.
  • March ’09 has been quite a happening month till now for me. Expecting more to come in next few days.
  • Changed the blog’s theme to iNove.

Use SMS English to make monoalphabetic cipher more secure

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This thought occurred to me when I was preparing for my end-semester exam of the Information Security Systems course. The course was all about computer networks, security, and cryptology. Before I come to the topic of this post, let me give a brief introduction to Monoalphabetic ciphers.

Monoalphabetic cipher is a way to encrypt data (convert data into a secret form) by substituting each alphabet of the message to be encrypted with some other alphabet such that the substitute alphabet chosen for each alphabet remains constant throughout the message.

Accourding to simonsingh.net:

The ciphers in this substitution section replace each letter with another letter according to the cipher alphabet. Ciphers in which the cipher alphabet remains unchanged throughout the message are called Monoalphabetic Substitution Ciphers.

Suppose we want to encrypt the following message:
Meet me today at twelve

If we choose to substitute the letter “e” with, say, “u”, the letter “m” with “a”, the letter “a” with “c”, the letter “t” with “n”, and so on…, we’ll get the encrypted text like this:
auun au nyxcz cn npukbu

When you pass this message to your friend to let him decrypt it (convert it back into the original message), it would be assumed that it’s only you and your friend who knows the letter mappings – as to which letter was substituted for which. It seems pretty efficient way of sharing secrets? But, nope, it isn’t that efficient as it can be easily broken.

The most common and simplest way to break a monoalphabetic cipher is by guessing each alphabet in the encrypted text by using the help of a table/graph containing the relative letter frequencies in English language. Consider the frequency chart as follows:

As you can see from the above figure that the most used letter in English language is “e”, followed by “t”, then “a”, then “o”, then “i”, and so on…

Now looking at out encrypted text “auun au nyxcz cn npukbu”, it can be noticed that:
the letter “u” occurs 5 times (most times)
the letter “n” occurs 4 times (second-most times)
the letter “c” occurs 2 times (third-most times)

So, the first guess would be:
“u” was substituted for “e”
“n” was substituted for “t”
“c” was substituted for “a”

Using this much analysis, we try to decrypt the text as:
_eet _e t__ay at t_e__e

So you see, it wouldn’t be hard from here on to guess the original message as “meet me today at twelve”.

But this task of breaking the cipher (cryptanalysis) could have been made more difficult for the “hacker” by using SMS English. Suppose we wanted to encrypt this message:
come for tea at club see you there

Now before encrypting this message, you first convert it into SMS English:
cm 4 t at klub c u dere

With this converted text, proceed with the normal monoalphabetic substitution, and make sure your message target (probably your friend) already has the letter mapping. The encrypted text would be very difficult to break as mere guessing of letters using letter frequency table would lead to revelation of utter gibberish. And there are no letter frequency charts (or at least none I could see) for SMS language.

So all you SMS addicts, worry no more. You can finally utilize your skills for some good cause. 🙂