It’s been a long time since I read, nay, swallowed the famous novel “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoyevsky (Достоевский). But yesterday, I took part in a meetup discussion on this book, which brought the novel into my focus.

Over the last twenty years, I have learned a few things from Ayn Rand that gave me the tools to see “Crime and Punishment” on the meta level. First, the novel is written in a Romantic style, much like writings of Hugo, Dumas, Jules Verne, and Ayn Rand. In the Romantic literary style, characters such as Edmond Dantes (the Count of Monte Cristo) are idealized and don’t have miscellaneous irrelevant attributes. …


In the previous article The Tree Table Workstation I have written about how I came up with the Tree Table, and listed all the accessories that I use to make it a full workstation. In this article, I focus on the fact that it is also an alternative version of a standing desk.

In the last years, developers have seen a trend of using standing desks, so as to avoid sitting all day. Some went so far as to create a treadmill desk, on which they walk and work at the same time.

The Tree Table is a new kind of standing desk. While all other standing desk solutions have a complex mechanism to lift the table high enough, the Tree Table can be mounted to any height desired, simply by choosing a mount point high enough on a trunk of a tree. …


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The Tree Table

In my previous article titled “The Outdoor Office” I described how I used Roll-a-Table to take my work outdoors. That table allows me to set up virtually anywhere, but it weighs more than 10 lb.. Half of that weight comes from sturdy legs, the other from the body of the table.

As I walked around the parks looking for the perfect spot to set up, I looked at trees. I thought to myself that a tree’s trunk is like a leg of a roundtable. If I could get a table mounted off of this “leg”, the table could be made light and portable. …


One-sentence summary: I explain why an exponential scale was invented, and how it compares with the older scales based on ratios of integers.

This article is the continuation of the article on the mathematical nature of musical scales. In that article we have used ratios to come up with a division of an octave. We have given Latin names to musical intervals (or ratios of frequencies): octave as 2/1, tertia as 5/4, quinta as 3/2, quarta as 4/3, tone as 9/8, and semitone as 16/15.

In American English the tone, tertia, quinta and quarta intervals are familiarly known as second, third, fourth, and fifth notes of a basic scale. However, I will use the Latin names for reasons described in the previous article. …


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I got into computers in my teenage years, back in the nineties. I spent a lot of time cooped up in my room for the simple reason that computers weren’t portable. I got a laptop early on, but I still remained at home. Going outdoors didn’t work because I didn’t have portable power. And, there was no way to do email or browse websites without a dialup modem, which had to be plugged into a wall.

After a short while, cell phones appeared. They quickly gained an email function and a basic internet browser. Finally, I was able to go outside and still be engaged with my computer passion. But using dialup internet through a cell phone was too costly, since there were no unlimited cellular plans. …


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Image attribution: “Many intersecting arrows” by Kalinin Ilya from the Noun Project

This is a technical article for software developers concerned with privacy of users. However, it’s written in a general way, so that a layman can read it.

While many databases store users’ data encrypted, additional metadata is stored in databases in order to look up records. This metadata is not encrypted and can reveal relationships between people.

Let’s say we have two people A and B who wish to store in the database a reference to a datum R. …


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A young man feeds the spirits of his ancestors (photo by Johannes Eisele, Twitter: @johaynz)

Last week I had a chance to appear on a Russian radio station Radio Vera, and I, an atheist, was asked a question about what I think about Spiritism. What is Spiritism? It’s not a fondness for alcoholic drinks (the other meaning of the word “spirits”), but it is a belief in ghosts. Instead of answering what I think about contemporary Spiritism, let’s look what are the origins of such beliefs.

Primitive people had a form of religion already in the prehistoric times. They thought that a spirit inhabited every element of nature. For instance, a mountain has a spirit. And a flower. And the moon. What facts of reality led them to these ideas? There exists a hypothesis that when they dreamt of their dead friends, or when they flew in their dreams with their body still sleeping on the ground, they began to believe in a resurrection of dead spirits. …


This article discusses technical details about email protocol.

How can one tell that an email belongs to a certain web service? The first thing you can do is look at the “From” address. For instance, if it says “Meetup” then the email is probably from Meetup.com.

Another way is to embed a certain keyword in the subject line, usually in the beginning. For instance, emails from Slack have “[Slack]” at the beginning of the subject line.

In addition to these two methods, there are custom mail headers, called by email marketers as X-headers. By convention, they must begin with “X-”.


This articles gets into technical security discussion of a new key-exchange protocol called OPAQUE.

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https://www.teatimeforauniverse.com/cartoon/open-sesame/

You have seen One Time passwords, these are short digits-only codes you get as SMS in order to log into websites. Such one time passwords (OTPs) would protect you from a thief who stole your main password. Without knowing the OTP, which only you have received, the thief can’t login on your behalf. But, can’t he steal your OTP as well?

There are two ways how a thief can steal your OTP. He can observe it as you are typing it, or he can observe it as it’s transmitted to the website’s server afterwards. The former method is called Fishing (a.k.a …


This article goes into technical details concerning Elliptic Curve encryption.

Public and private key cryptography is a recent invention from the late seventies that did not occur to our creative predecessors. Instead, they relied on symmetric encryption schemes which requires both sides to know the encryption key.

The earliest of such schemes is Scytale, a device first mentioned in 7th century BCE by the greek poet Archilochus. In this scheme the secret was in the width of the stick on which a of with text is rolled on.

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Scytale (image from Wikipedia)

Since those times there were a series of innovations in the complexity of encryption, culminating in encryption schemes such as that of Enigma which was used in WW2 by the Germans. …

About

Boris Reitman

Speaking about ideas that matter, on an Objectivist foundation.

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