Friday, 24 June 2011

Clever and totally pointless - my first publication

Way back in the early 90s, I subscribed to a magazine (think of it like a big website but printed on paper and sent through the post) called ‘PC Plus’. It included a section called “Wilf’s Programmers Workshop” where every month, Mr Wilf Hey would present a project (usually written in GW-Basic) and discuss the principles at work. It was here where I first managed to get something clever into print, except I didn’t do it quite right.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Vinegar - refined Vigenère - can you break my cipher?

I'm idly interested in cryptography, the art of scrambling a message so that it can be transmitted securely, and only someone with the magic key can understand the message.

When I was young, I designed a cryptographic algorithm. I thought I was so clever, but just because *I* couldn't break it, that doesn't make it secure.

In this article, I present my naive cryptographic algorithm. It's very flawed, so please don't use it for anything important. Can you find the flaw?

This article will start with some background on substitution ciphers and the Vigenère cipher, which my method was based upon. Then, we'll look at my big idea itself, Vinegar. To keep it interesting, there's a little code breaking challenge as well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The cult of 140

Apparently, women don't understand the offside rule. At least that's according to some TV sports pundit who lost his job recently.

I don't really understand the offside rule either, so I wrote this on my facebook page in response to the news.
The key to understanding the offside rule is that it doesn't really matter what the rule is.

Make up any old rubbish, like "Goal keepers must be pipe smokers" and call that the offside rule. It is just as meaningful.
Meh. Hardly my best work, but I thought it just about good enough to post it on my twitter feed too.

That's where I met... the cult.

Monday, 10 January 2011

'First Past the Post' isn't.

I’m a bit of a nerd for vote counting systems. So I discovered with delight that in the UK, there will soon be a referendum on changing the way votes are counted. As I write this, most of the UK (and the USA) uses a method we call “First past the post”.

It’s called “First past the post”, but it isn’t. The name is about as ridiculous as calling North Korea;  “The Democratic People's Republic of Korea”. The country is on the Korean peninsula, so at least that name is a little bit honest.