The (in)culture of encryption

A couple weeks ago I had found out that a friend was keeping his passwords in a google sheets document. I was horrified. But he’s a normal person. I mean, not more technical than the next guy, or just a little. He’s using the web interface of gmail for his mail, like many people do (I even know very technical people doing it, which is still boggling me). I looked around and found mailvelope. So I hook him up on it and now he can use GPG.

In the past 20 years I have seen the timid evolution of personal encryption. Oh there are initiatives like Keybase, various simple tools like passowrdstore or Felony that I discovered this week. But it seems that encryption don’t really stick to the usages, unless you have a specific thought about it. Fortunately there is some wise generalization of SSL for inter-server communication, with initiatives like lets encrypt. But inter-personal communication is still wide open.

More and more it is well-known that our data is food for various corporation, governmental agencies, and dark organizations. What will it take for getting the users to claim better privacy? Will it ever happen?

I mean, yes for sure people can use the tools. But it’s cumbersome. Until encryption is embedded in our tools and services, it simply won’t spread significantly enough. There are some projects like Caliopen that try to do so. On another hand, we have seen some services like Telegram which provide such service, and even some mainstream providers like Whatsapp jump into the full-encryption train. So maybe there is hope? I still wonder what’s the part played by Facebook (which now owns Whatsapp) in that move.

The recent fight between Apple and US government was supposed to set some kind of precedent. Too bad it was aborted. But they would have complied at the end, this is my bet. Now that encryption is the only way for companies to legally keep their users safe from legal (and illegal) inquiries, maybe more will consider it?

If you have two onces of technical savyness, please stop running naked on the streets. Gear up and use encryption whenever possible.


2 years


You certainly heard about it, this week there was a new huge Linux vulnerability on glibc revealed. Actually it was leaked by a stupid communication agency few hours before it should have been announced. When such big bug is discovered usually there is a small period of time where the news spread into some limited circles. They keep it embargoed until major distro vendors get patched packages ready. Well, it didn’t go that well this time.

This vulnerability is pretty nasty even if less obvious to exploit than Heartbleed or shellshock, it’s probably in the same category. If you manage servers that are vulnerable (LTS and stable, less up to date versions, mostly), you better upgrade asap. When a bug gets its own name (this one is called Ghost), it seems to be the sign it requires immediate attention. How long is this trick going to work?

And, as we talk about security, Hipchat users should read this (unnamed) security notice.

2 years

This edition is marking the 2 years anniversary of Green Ruby. For 104 weeks I’ve been sending out this newsletter every week. Last week I had a discussion with a friend, he was asking me what was my drive, and what was the reason of my consistency. Well, there are various reasons.

First there is the routine aspect. It’s like practicing Taichi or some kind of exercise. It keeps the mind fresh, and in this context where things change pretty fast, enforcing a weekly review gave me an overall feeling of symbiosis with the wave of what’s going on.

Second is the philosophy of it: this newsletter is a gift. The ruby world is very business oriented. There is a lot of open source in there but still the average spirit is based on a market economy. There are of course many exceptions, I wanted to be one of them, and I believe a gift economy would be more my thing. You get rich of what you give away, not always individually, but most definitely collectively. I like that feeling.

Third, this media keeps me in touch with a bunch of my friends. It’s like a beacon that I send to the people I left behind when I left France to go live in Taiwan. Or people I worked with in my past jobs in Taiwan, even. They don’t often respond to it but I know they can perceive me through this weekly proof of existence.

Also, there is the support from xenor and more recently from simon, which, by sending me a few links each weeks, validate the need to keep things going.

Trello and irc

For as long as I remember, I always have been coding irc bots. In so many languages. I suspect there is some aspect of this that appeals to me. Maybe the creation of life-like pattern. Anyways, my last bot was of course in ruby, I called it cogbot, and is based on the great cinch framework. It has been sleepy for a while, since we were not using irc in Faria.

But Gandi is heavy irc user, and our recent experiments on trello gave me an occasion to get cogbot out of the dust. As a matter of fact Trello has a really great API, and also supports webhooks. So I added a trello listener to cogbot, and it was a lot of fun. Maybe next I will add some cards creation and update features in that bot, but it requires some kind of users management, which, on an irc bot, is not that trivial to implement.

Free your code

Do you have a side project? You should! Maybe the code you produce at work can be generic enough? This is a call for you to consider freeing your code. Open source community is plentiful but I know as a fact that 90% of the code that could be shared is not shared.

There is something I noticed in my own code publication. Often in my work there are constraints of time that lead to trade-offs and code quality is never as good as I wish it was. By working on side projects, the pace is much more relaxed and I can spend hours focusing on non productive efforts to make my code better. Well, this is not to say that side project code is perfect, but the environment of producing it brings another mindset. And after a while, the code produced at work gets naturally more insightful because of this extra practice.

Give it a try, if you happen to have some free time. If you don’t have free time, you’re doing something wrong. But that’s another story.