Letter to the Home Office to Protect Encryption

The Home Office are having a secret consultation to bork encryption in the name of keeping us safe.

I felt inspired to write them an email. Here it is:

Please don’t weaken encryption and so endanger us in the name of making us safer. Anyone can access backdoors into encrypted software. Not just the “good guys.”

Here is an analogy to show what I mean:

Encryption Housing Developers build a housing estate.
These houses are the most secure design in the world. One of the features of the Encryption House is that they are all laid out exactly the same. The stuff inside each house is different, but the structure of each house is exactly the same. They are completely burglar-proof. Most of the people who live in the housing estate are good, law-abiding citizens. I’m one of those law-abiding citizens. I bought a house in the estate, and I’m very happy with it and feel confident that my stuff will never be stolen.

Guy Fawkes also bought one of the houses. But Mr Fawkes is up to no good. the government are watching him closely, because they think he is planning to plant a bomb and blow up the Houses of Parliament. The police want to arrest him before he plants the bomb, but they don’t have enough evidence. He probably has his plot written down in a notebook inside his burglar-proof Encryption House, but the police can’t get to it (Encryption Houses even stop warranted police officers from getting into the house — that is how secure the house design is).

The government passes a law forcing Encryption Housing Developers to dig a secret tunnel into Guy Fawkes’ Encryption House. The tunnel exit into Mr Fawkes’ house is placed there without him knowing. The entrance to the tunnel is on Back Alley Way in Internetborough. The entrance is well-hidden, and only the government know where it is.
Because Encryption Housing Developers had to dig a tunnel into Mr Fawkes’ house, they had to dig a tunnel into every other Encryption House in the housing estate, so that they would all stay exactly the same. Unlike normal houses, if one Encryption House is modified, they all have the same structural modifications. And every Encryption House owner is oblivious to this weakness in the security of their home.

But that’s OK. The government only wants to get into Guy Fawkes’ house. It isn’t interested in my stuff in my house, or my other lovely law-abiding neighbours.

The government sneak into Guy Fawkes’ Encryption House, find the documents describing his plot to plant the bomb, and armed with this evidence they arrest him, preventing a terrorist attack.

Sarah is part of a criminal gang of very sophisticated burglars called The Hack. She and her gang members like exploring all the side streets and back alleys in Internetborough for secret passages. There are many secret passages in Internetborough.

A little while after Guy Fawkes is imprisoned, Sarah wanders down Back Alley Way. She spends a few hours looking in the wheely bins, in the stormwater drains, through the cracks in boarded up windows, kicking paving stones hoping for a loose one. She bumps a particular brick and door slides open. It’s the secret passage to all the Encryption Houses. Sarah goes and calls the rest of The Hack shows them all the Encryption Houses they can sneak into with impunity. The best thing about the secret tunnel is that the Encryption House owners won’t even know that The Hack have snuck in. What an opportunity. Now The Hack can expand from just burglary, to blackmail, identity theft, fraud, and all other kind of lucrative illegal business opportunities.


On mild Internet addiction

sparkling flashes! huge excitement! rushing cables! neon lights! dazzling screens! blue glow! futuristic highway! SUPERFAST BROADBAND

Since I’ve hooked the superfast broadband directly to my house I no longer needed to wait for YouTube videos to buffer, and so have since squandered my leisure time on frivolity and nonsense (and reading all that civilised political discourse out there).

When I lived in South Africa the agony of waiting for online multimedia content to load over the crippled Internet infrastructure of the time was so unbearable that I actually spent my time writing and posting things on this blog. I mean, I was still using a dial-up modem in 2006! The screechy tweeting staccato of a 56k modem. Urgh. Continue reading “On mild Internet addiction”


I started reading my grandmother’s diary, written in Kenya in 1958. It’s providing a fascinating insight into the life my father lived working on a farm, and has certainly shed light on aspects of his behaviour and our relationship. I’m enjoying it very much.

It’s written in quite a terse style, but still manages to convey a rich narrative of the difficulties of life running a farm in Kenya. {A brief digression: WordPress is recommending I tag this post with both “Barack Obama” and “Vampire Diaries.” I think they need their suggestion algorithm checked} Presumably my writing verbosity is inherited from my mother’s genetic stock.

Feeling inspired, I’ve decided to do some diary writing of my own — on the Internets!

Dismayed with the instantaneous gratification of all things digital these days, intrigued by looking back into the past of my grandmother’s diary-world, and just to be generally difficult, I’m introducing a twist. Time-delayed publication! It will be just like I’m not doing anything at all for 5 years.

Enough with the Analogies

Where the country road led
Perranporth Beach

I’ve found that there isn’t really time (or more accurately — energy) to write these Internet logs when one is fully employed.  Thus the the numerous internet fields I sowed sowed in the past have been left untended and barren.  I bit like the communist remnants of Statue Park in Budapest.

If you’ve been following Waffle Group closely, I left you on a bit of a cliff-hanger with the last post. What a long time to dangle out there? Your arm must be aching terribly! So sorry.

I did, in the end, make it to the top.  There is a lovely view from up here.  Beautiful country roads that tunnel through overhanging tree branches, leading past rolling farmlands to the coast. It’s windy down there on the beaches, but I’m told the air calms down in the summer months making the beach perfect for an influx of tourists.

Seaside walks along craggy cliffs are an option. ‘Rambling’ is what they call it around here.  Bean Dog has certainly been impressed with the potential of the place.  We took her to Perranporth beach and she couldn’t decide whether to dig a hole, manically run in a circle, or chase a tennis ball — so she opted to cycle between the three, switching from one activity to the next every 30 seconds.

A fair summary is that I think Cornwall is a kickass place to live.  It has less temperamental weather than Scotland has, and it generally warmer.  There are similarities too.  The Scots rather enjoy waving about their blue and white flag, and beating the drum of Scottish pride and nationalism. The Cornish have a black and white flag to wave about and appear to be similarly keen on their unique identity.

The best thing about Cornwall is that I have a professional job here.  The rest of the UK misses that key ingredient to self-sufficiency, and so Cornwall could be an environmental wasteland devastated by years of unrehabilitated mining activities and tailings dams, and I’d still think it was the most magical place on Earth.

My new employer has offices in the with a breath-taking view of a mine tailings facility used to store precipitated acid rock drainage from historic underground mine workings.  A fitting location for a mining engineering and environmental consultancy.  I don’t intend to say too much about work here, except that I am extremely happy and really enjoying the company, the people I work with, and the job itself.  If you do want to know more about my work-related things (environmental management, environmental science, mining practice and stuff along those lines), such writing may appear at Pragmatic Hippie.  There is not much there now, so no surging ahead in your effort for dull soothing reading.  (As an aside — if you cannot contain your need for tedium, the Dull Men’s Club might be just what you need).

Cornwall would be less lovely if I only had a job here, but my family were elsewhere.  This was kind of the case when I first arrived here.  I rushed off to Cornwall to get stuck into the job, while Angie packed up our old place in Scotland, arranged for the move, looked after Jethro, looked after Bean, performed circus tricks and generally displayed superhuman characteristics.

I eventually managed to find a place for us to live. Angie travelled down by train with Jethro and Bean. A ten hour journey. Miraculous no-one was thrown from the train in frustration during the trip.  No sure how Angie managed it. Then our stuff arrived at the house.  It would never have made it on to the truck had our magnificent friends Jude and Andy not been there to coordinate things in Scotland.  You guys rock!

The dust of the move has mostly settled, but we are still left with no cupboards in the house (or at least very few), although we did buy a lawnmower. It’s about keeping up appearances. As long as we keep people out of the house, they can’t really see how the clothes are all piled in stacks.  Long grass at the front of the house is less easy to hide without blinding all of the neighbours. And although a recently blinded neighbour is unlikely to complain about an unkempt garden, they will probably call the police which will just attract more attention and more people requiring blinding. In the end it just seemed like less work to cut the damn grass.

We have the essentials, but we still lack friends, and this is something that is hitting Angie particularly hard.  I have people to interact with at work, but she would really like a little more conversation with other adults.  We’re working on it and know we’ll get there eventually — it just takes time.

Jethro starts school this year in September.  Due to the awkward timing, it’s a little pointless signing him up at a nursery, so Angie has been trying to find interesting extra-mural activities to keep him busy and herself sane.  Swimming and French lessons have commenced.  I can say that I’ve learned more French from Jethro’s age 3-4 French than I ever did during my disastrous attempt to study French at university.

And here ends the lengthy general update thing. The next one might be a long time coming, so if you want Internet update-type things from me it might be best to find me on Google+. The Book with the Faces is not to my liking.  I don’t really get the Short Shrill Bird Noise, although I do occasionally make sub-140 character droppings.  Frankly, there are so many of these damned social network things that it makes my brain rattle inside my skull, and my eyeballs pulsate.  I decided I have to choose one of these things, and I’m choosing the one that almost no-one I know uses.  How very anti-social-network of me. I’m certain some of my readers understand.