Archive for April, 2005

Plug safety

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Whenever I throw out a dead or defective electrical item I normally scavenge a few parts off of it - usually the cable and the plug. However, I never leave the cable with a plug attached to it with a free end with the wires showing - this in an invite for it to be plugged in accidentally and cause injury or even death. I separate the plug from the cable completely, thus making both safe.

I'm I'm throwing away an electrical item that I think it dangerous I always either remove the plug or damage the plug so that it cannot be plugged in by someone else easily. Similarly, if I have a damaged plug I will render it unusable by bending the prongs with pliers.

Don’t believe everything you see on TV

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

This from Bruce Schneier's blog:

"Blowfish on "24"
Two nights ago, my encryption algorithm Blowfish was mentioned on the Fox show "24." An alleged computer expert from the fictional anti-terror agency CTU was trying to retrieve some files from a terrorist's laptop. This is the exchange between the agent and the terrorist's girlfriend:

They used Blowfish algorithm.

How can you tell?

By the tab on the file headers.

Can you decrypt it?

CTU has a proprietary algorithm. It shouldn't take that long. We'll start by trying to hack the password. Let's start with the basics. Write down nicknames, birthdays, pets -- anything you think he might have used."

This is an example of where the scriptwriter's added the word "TECH" to a script and then came back to it to fill in the blanks with generally meaningless technobabble. What surprises me is that they chose the name of a crypto algorithm (a well respected algorithm) as part of the script. Needless to say this technology exists only in the scriptwriter's imagination. It's a bit akin to saying:

"Look up there, that's the Fox satellite."

"How can you tell?"

"By the orbital data it is transmitting - look at this data streaming to my cellphone."

"Can you bring it down?"

"Of course. I have a proprietary fishing rod with an anti-gravity attachment on the end. Stand back!!!"

All in fun of course 🙂

Net-powered computer goes on show

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

"Ethernet could be a universal power supply
Soon you could be using one fewer cable to keep your computer running.
UK firm DSP Design has made a PC that gets electric power via a network cable rather than through a wall socket."

BBC News

An ingenious way to solve the problem of different power voltages, sockets and plugs found in different countries.

Workshop tips – 3

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Take care if using magnetic tipped screwdrivers inside a PC. Even though the magnetic field caused by them isn't strong enough to erase the data on a hard drive (unless the magnet is really strong) the magnetic tip can make them hard to control inside a metal computer chassis and the tip being attracted to metallic items can on their way impact components and cause a lot of damage.

Most often used PC repair tool

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

When asked this question most people would say that the screwdriver (crosspoint/Phillips head) is the most used tool in PC repair and upgrading. I disagree - I say it's the flashlight. More than anything else light is important. You don't want to do pulling wires out of the back of a system or poking around inside the case unless you have a good light source!

I like a combination of a handheld flashlight and a head mounted one. For me it has to be LED driven as these offer the longest life, are very reliable and generally these kinds of lights are all-plastic construction so the chances of causing a short-circuit are eliminated. They're also quite lightweight so there's less chance of causing damage tot hings with it.

I also like the soft glow of the LEDs because it doesn't create harsh shadows and nasty reflections when shone against shiny metal surfaces.

Petzl E43P2 Tikka LED Headlamp

Petzl E44P Zipka LED Headlamp

Streamlight 68202 ProPolymer 4AA Flashlight with 7 Ultra Bright White LEDs

Streamlight Stylus White LED Light