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Cryptography, steganography, movies, cyberculture, travel, games, and too many other hobbies to list!

Woot : One Day, One Deal
Topic: Cyber-Culture 2:28 pm EST, Nov 13, 2008 is an online store and community that focuses on selling cool stuff cheap. It started as an employee-store slash market-testing type of place for an electronics distributor, but it's taken on a life of its own. We anticipate profitability by 2043 – by then we should be retired; someone smarter might take over and jack up the prices. Until then, we're still the lovable scamps we've always been.

Interesting shopping concept. They provide a discounted product via their website for one day. When it's out, it's out, never to be sold again. They swap out to a new product at midnight. Their community also designs and votes on other products such as shirts. I saw an attendee at one of my talks wearing this cool shirt (from that was the Chicago skyline made out of Tetris blocks, with new blocks falling (cleverly placed in such a way so as not to wipe out any of the existing skyline). Great shirt, but only sold on that one day, and never again... Interesting idea! Sort of a geek shopping channel.

Elonka :)

Woot : One Day, One Deal

Kryptos talk at ShmooCon 2006
Topic: Cryptography 1:54 pm EST, Nov  9, 2008

Kryptos and the Cyrillic Projector Ciphers
Elonka Dunin

For any who are interested in my Kryptos talks, this link has an MP4 video of my talk at the ShmooCon convention in early 2006. I found it interesting to watch again, as my talk continually evolves from year to year, as new information about Kryptos becomes available, so it was a nice refresher to see the way that the talk used to be in 2006. :) I also tailor the talks a bit depending on my audience, and so since this talk was in the Washington DC area, I threw in a bit more information and in-jokes for the DC crowd. The sound of the recording is a bit muffled in places, but overall it's pretty good coverage, and they did their best to move the camera back and forth from me to the slides.

Elonka :)

Kryptos talk at ShmooCon 2006

End of an era: The AOL websites shutting down
Topic: Web Design 10:27 pm EDT, Oct 29, 2008

As of November 1, 2008, all of the and websites will be no more.

I have mixed feelings about the closing of the AOL sites. I've been with AOL since the very early days, back before easy access to the internet. Back then, going "online" meant connecting to one of the individual services such as AOL, Prodigy, GEnie, or CompuServe, but there was no web, and no communication between the different services. Our Simutronics games started on GEnie, then we ran them off of 'nix servers from a basement in St. Charles, and then we opened portals to each of the services. To my knowledge, we were the first game company to ever have players from all of the different services all playing together in the same virtual world.

My first ever webpage was via my AOL site, back in the 90s. At first it was cool, but as AOL fell out of favor with the cyber-scene, I took a lot of heat for maintaining my AOL account. But I had loyalty to the service because of our games, because it was my "home" website, and because AOL dialup was often the most reliable way to get online, as I traveled cross-country and logged on from hotels while on the road. Even at hacker-cons, my AOL access would be enormously useful, as the hotel's network would often be down (or hacked), but I could dial onto AOL without a problem. On more than one occasion I'd have "leet" hax0rz standing in line in my hotel room to access the web via my lowly AOL dial-up connection, because it was the only way they could reliably check their email! And oh yes, having access to a dynamic AOL IP had its uses, too. ;)

The amount of FTP space that AOL allotted for each person's website was tiny, only 2MB per screen-name. For my Antarctica site, I remember splitting up my webpages, maintaining the HTML files in one screenname's space, the actual images under a different screenname, and anything geek-related (such as the PhreakNIC tutorial) under a different name, nova1337. :)

Eventually I of course outgrew AOL, and with HugMe's kind offer of webspace, I opened my site in 2001. But I continued to maintain the old AOL site, and also hid some stuff here and there, such as a couple things that were needed to solve the 2002 Elonka Code. In fact, I'd be happy to keep that AOL site going forever, except that AOL is pulling the plug. So, I have my bittersweet farewell. I'm still planning on maintaining my email address... Anyone care to place bets on when that will go away too?

Since I had a fair amount of (old) crypto information at my AOL pages, such as my PhreakNIC Code tutorial, I have now mirrored everything over to my site.

The page is now here

The PhreakNIC Code tutorial (which used to be at is now here.

Any of you that were really familiar with my site(s), knew that I had various sekrit files and pages and puzzles here and there. So if you want to know if I mirrored all of those too, the answer is, "Yes". :) Some of them may be a little tricky to deal with since the URLs have changed, but I think the general flavor is still there.

If anyone finds anything that's broken (or doesn't find something which you feel really should've been where you were looking), please contact me in IMs or email and I'll take a look.

In AOL-nostalgia,

Elonka :)

End of an era: The AOL websites shutting down

Wikipedia survey
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:24 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2008

A survey of Wikipedia editors and readers, being run by the Wikimedia Foundation.

The survey seems to be fairly well-written, so I am encouraging anyone else who has ever used Wikipedia or any of the other Wikimedia projects, regardless of whether or not you've actually made a change to any page, to participate.

Elonka :)

Wikipedia survey

Deal or no Deal Simulation (UK)
Topic: Games 1:53 pm EDT, Sep 21, 2008

A simulation: play the game by box number or by name or at random with the average value of the deal or no deal board calculated as you play. UK (Channel 4) version, hosted by Noel Edmond's.

Though I didn't watch it when it first started, there's something about the televised game show "Deal or No Deal" that I currently find fascinating, and I'm trying to catch all the repeats that I can. The flow of statistics, the way that some contestants prefer to rely on hunches than logic, the emotional question in myself of when would I press that button to maximize my profit... Plus just the thoughts about what non-monetary "deal" could I be offered that would make me press that button early. :) For me, it would probably be something travel-related, such as access to a relatively inaccessible part of the world. Like an offer of a trip to Mecca to see and touch the Kaaba would have me hit the button at a really low number.

This particular link that I'm recommending has a (British) online simulation so that you can randomly choose cases and watch the average offer change. I haven't found an American one yet, but if someone knows of a good link, let me know!

Elonka :)

Deal or no Deal Simulation (UK)

What Is My IP Address? - IP Address Lookup
Topic: Computers 3:29 pm EDT, Sep 17, 2008

Handy URL to use when trying to troubleshoot things, or to ask someone to tell me their IP so that I can help figure out a connection problem.

What Is My IP Address? - IP Address Lookup

Do You Use GMail? If so, please read:
Topic: Computer Security 2:03 pm EDT, Aug 21, 2008

Hello, folks--earlier this month, at a well-known conference, there was announced a tool that can hack into any GMail account, regardless of how good your password is, as long as the data is flitting around unencrypted.

That's bad, m'kay?

Google has always had it so that your login credentials flit around encrypted, but once that's done, drops you to an unencrypted session (for long reasons that work out to "it's cheaper that way" for several kinds of "cheaper"). This will leave you quite open to this tool when it's released into the wild at the end of the month.

However, there's help! Google has just made it so that you can choose to have all your GMail traffic encrypted, and I would recommend this to any GMail user, even if you think "oh, my e-mail isn't that important". It's really easy to fix this. Actually, they should fix the dodgamn underlying bug, but leaving that aside for now, here's what you can do:

Simply log into GMail, and click on the Settings link over in the top right corner. At the bottom of this screen is a section labelled "Browser Connection", which by default is set to "Don't always use https". Change this to "Always use https", then click the "Save changes" button directly below. That "should" keep you safe from people using this fascinating new toy.


-- Lorrie

Bottom line: Turn on HTTPS on your Gmail account.


Do You Use GMail? If so, please read:

Lego hobbyist site:
Topic: Games 11:41 am EDT, Aug 19, 2008

Inventoried By: Elonka Dunin

One of my latest obsessions, is Lego. I've been building all kinds of robots and remote-control devices. Also, when sick with the flu or something, I've found that I really enjoy just picking a set at random, and working through the instruction manual, step by step to make something fun.

This site,, is an amazing resource for Lego-enthusiasts. You can:
* Search on any set, and get a list of all the pieces in that set
* Learn all the locations where you can buy the set, new or used
* Search on any piece name or number
* Click on any piece, and see all the sets that contain that piece
* Learn the prices from various resellers (international) if you want to purchase a particular piece, sorted by color
* Maintain a database of every set that you own, which you can customize plus or minus if you lose pieces or add a few here and there
* Download set inventories or your own piece database to your own computer (where you can review it in programs such as partscatalog.exe)
* And, perhaps coolest of all, once you have your own parts database on the site, you can then click on any other Lego set that you're interested in, and then ask, "Do I have the parts already to build this?" and it'll run the compare and tell you what you already have, what you have, but is in the wrong color, and what you still need to obtain.

I've been helping out with the site as a volunteer. For example, one of the "Mars Mission" sets, ETX Alien Infiltrator, didn't have an inventory yet, so I compiled it offline, and then uploaded it to the site. For which I get "inventoried" credit at the bottom of the page. :) Now I just wish I had a camera to take a closeup picture of the unique pieces in that set!

In Legomaniac happiness,

Elonka :)

Lego hobbyist site:

Boston Dynamics Big Dog
Topic: Technology 10:37 am EDT, Aug  2, 2008

Wow. Stunning robotics. I want the LEGO version!

Wikipedia article here.

And for more fun, watch a spoof of the above...

Elonka :)

Boston Dynamics Big Dog

FunCom blows it. Age of Conan in flames
Topic: Multiplayer Online Games 10:24 am EDT, Aug  2, 2008

As posted by Dagmar:

So, in case any of you were out there wondering about the Age Of Conan release (or if you had the misfortune of trying it) it's becoming clear now that Funcom has managed to muck things up pretty severely.

A quick review:
* System requirements for the game were laughably wrong
* Large amounts of the promised PvP content never actually made it in
* Massive errors with billing people after they'd cancelled
* Heavy-handed ban-stick use by moderators in the official forums for
questioning any problems.
* Aggressive hiding and denial of bugs by devs (including a seemingly sexist
problem of melee attack speed for females)

The linked article covers this and more, up to and including a look at their stock performance after release (apparently investors thought it might be a good idea to look at the game, and then started selling).

FunCom blows it. Age of Conan in flames

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