Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Richard Silverman
sysadmin / author / music / languages / cat
sysadmin / author / music / languages / cat

Richard's posts

Post has attachment
“It’s encrypted — it must be secure!”

I just received a confirmation from my insurance company, Travelers, for a change I made to my policy. I received it via email, with a PDF attachment. The email reads, “Your Travelers PDF is encrypted for your protection… Enter your mailing ZIP code when prompted for a password.”

There are, obviously, only 100,000 possible 5-digit ZIP codes — considerably fewer if one considers only those codes currently in use, apparently only around 43,000. A computer can try all of them in a few seconds at most, and decrypt any document they send out. They might as well say, “The password is no more than eight characters, and is the name of a species of tree,” or for that matter, “the password is a number between 1 and 10.” This is ludicrously stupid and ineffective.

The mailing appears to be handled for them by a company named Striata (, which specializes in electronic document delivery. Someone needs to be severely beaten with a clue stick.

In addition to sending a strongly worded letter to Travelers, I’m going to drop a note to the technology reporters at a few major newspapers. Someone with an audience needs to ask these people some rather pointed questions.

Post has attachment
My most recent O'Reilly book, the Git Pocket Guide, is included in their current "5-Star Review" promotion.

Post has attachment
Set Bach Free!

Last year, the Open Goldberg Project produced a professional recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations with pianist Kimiko Ishizaka, along with a new score in digital format — all in the public domain for everyone to use and enjoy. Another project is now underway to do the same for the Well-Tempered Clavier. Consider contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, and in any event enjoy the music!

Open Goldberg recordings:

Open Well-Tempered Clavier project:

video of recent live performance by Ishizaka:

Amazon’s system for keeping track of what I’ve ordered and recommending related useful things is generally great, but there are certain corner cases it’s just not set up to handle. Like continually recommending that I buy a book I wrote.

Post has attachment

Post has attachment
My new book, the O’Reilly “Git Pocket Guide,” was published on Thursday. Digital versions are available, and paper ones will appear in a couple of weeks.

Post has attachment
Nice video of a young guy playing the first movement of the Dvořák B-minor cello concerto (on the same model cello as mine, as it happens).

I logged in, and G+ is displaying at the top of the page a great animated GIF of the Lincoln Center plaza at night, with the fountain in motion. Did it do this because it “knows” that I live nearby, and am a musician? Google is both cool and scary…

Post has attachment
“We believe every child should have the opportunity to learn computer science, from primary school up to and including further education. We teach elementary physics to every child, not primarily to train physicists but because each of them lives in a world governed by physical systems. In the same way, every child should learn some computer science from an early age because they live in a world in which computation is ubiquitous.”

“The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.” — Chaucer, “Parlement of Foules” I often have to fight a sense of despair at taking on anything new, considering how little time I have left to get it right. I wonder if other people have this issue.
Wait while more posts are being loaded