30/12/2012

Life is there to… eat chocolate!

by Rob on

When I did my groceries today, my eyes was caught suddenly by something. Maybe it has been always there and that I just saw it today for the first time. What I am talking about? “Ritter Sport” chocolate!!!

So why did this “Ritter Sport” chocolate made me react like that. Well, I can remember that long ago my grandfather (from my mother’s side) brought at times this brand of chocolate for us (my brother, my sister and me). It is funny how deep such a memory can go.

So I started to wonder if this could be true. Was this “Ritter Sport” company that old? Yes, the German company “Ritter Sport” is already around since 1912 and have been since then creating their chocolate.

When I told Marion about this she had to laugh. She as big chocolate-lover was very familiar with the “Ritter Sport” chocolate. And yes, when we shared one of their chocolate bars tonight, we both agreed that it tasted wonderful.


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It is holiday time and apart from doing all kind of active things together, it is also nice to watch in the evenings together some movies or TV series. And apart from the actual Christmas days Marion and I have been do quit often (although not every evening). Great thing is that Marion also can enjoy often the Science Fiction and Fantasy movies/series that I like watch. Although I to admit that the other way around I am not too found of her beloved soaps *grins*

The scene you have to imagine is the living room with dimmed light. Some candlelight giving a nice atmosphere. Marion and I cozy on the couch. On the table wine and beer… some snacks. All you need to enjoy some movies together ;-).

But with all this wonderful watching together, it also means that we finished watching season 5 of Stargate Atlantis and this is sadly enough the last seasons of that series…

Stargate Atlantis belongs to one of the very best TV series I ever have seen… closely followed by Stargate SG1. I am very happy that I watched both Stargate series completely and that I own those now on DvD. What makes this series is so good are the great stories, the wonderful characters and the awesome humor.

So much I liked Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis, I won’t be watching Stargate Universe. What I miss in that series is the complete lack of humor. That what the other Stargate series made so great to watch.

We also finished to watch the second season of Haven…

Another great series about the strange town of Haven and the people. Luckily this is not the last season. Begin next year season 3 will be shown on SyFy channel, but I will wait on the release of the DvD/BluRay set. Although I am very curious what happens to Audrey in season 3 (she was attacked at the end of the last episode of season 2).

Ah well, there is still enough that I want to see… things as Warehouse 13, season 3… Fringe season 3 & 4… the complete series of Eureka… and oh, and it seems that old SF serie Space 1999 is also on DvD available and I really want to see that… and so there is a lot more to watch. So bored? Don’t think so…


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Life is there to… secure data

by Rob on

Lately I have been pondering a lot about the data on my computers. There is a lot of private and more of less confidential information on those, specially on the one that I use the most.
All kind of documents with letters that I sent to people and companies… salary and tax forms… banking software…
But also more private things as mail threads with Marion and Sanne… photographs I made… so things that are of no concern to most people out there.

There is always the risk that a computer gets stolen. For mobile devices as laptop and tablets this risk is even rather high, but also desktops can be removed with a burglary.
And then there is something else where people hardly think about. What happens with a computer when someone passes away? Mostly they end up with someone in the family and that is basically okay with me, but not the data. The data should only be accessible by a very small group of people…

I have been overthinking how I protect this data that is so important to me.

Well, I had a BIOS password active on all computers (so you had to enter a password before the computer could boot). But this easy to pass by… remove the BIOS battery for two minutes… or play a bit with some dip-switches and this password is cleared. And how to do this exactly is freely available on the Internet. So not a real good solution.

The Windows password (especially on standalone computers) is a joke and gives only false sense of security. There are thousands of programs available on the Internet to reset a Windows password. Even more, it possible to boot with a special CD and bypass Windows completely and get full access to the file system directly.

So it was for someone who knows a little bit about computers not very hard to get past the two “security measures” I had in place. Of course I know this already all for a long time and I also knew the solution…. full disk encryption!

So what kept me from encrypting those hard disks? Performance of the computer… My previous experiences on this matter have not been very good. I have seen very fast computers turn into slow monsters by disk encryption.
And as I use my computer also for (online) gaming, performance is very important to me as well.

For some time have been using a solution in between. With TrueCrypt I created encrypted containers on my computers and stored in those the data I wanted to be safe. This worked well, as long you are aware where all the importanted data is located. TrueCrypt is an encrypting program that create encrypted containers, but can also encrypt devices as USB sticks and hard disks.
Why TrueCrypt? It has a very good reputation and above all, it is Open Source. This means that I can be sure that there are no back doors.
There are stories going around that people managed to hack TrueCrypt. But in all those cases TrueCrypt was not hacked, but the system where it was used on was compromised (as example, keylogger that registers a password that was entered).

Anyway, back to the performance issue. On many places I read that TrueCrypt encryption would have almost no effect on the performance. I saw many benchmarks to support this statement. Even for playing games it would not differ very much (after all much of gaming is done in memory).

So as test I encrypted the two hard disks in my “old” duo core machine (Intel Core 2CPU @ 1.86 GHz, AIT Radeon X1550 Graphic card, 2 Gb memory, running Windows 7 32 bits). Normally I use this computer only for things as MSN, Skype, IRC and such. And every now and then I use it for duo-boxing (playing on two computers with a character on each computer in a online game. Mostly the second characters is a healer-type to support the first character).
And yes, the difference in performance was very acceptable.

So after making a complete backup, I started yesterday early in the morning the encryption of the hard drive in my main computer (Intel I7 2600 CPU @ 3,40 GHz, ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphic card, 8Gb memory, running Windows 7 64 bits). During the day I had other things to do, so a nice opportunity to do this lengthy task. It took a bit over 13 hours to encrypt the 1.5 Terabyte hard disk.

Very nifty is the option of TrueCrypt that you can suspend the encryption process and use the computer as normal again or even to switch it completely off and resume the process later.

The end result? I am very happy with it.

The system is bit slower during booting, but that I will solve soon by installing a (encrypted) SSD (Solid State Disk) with the operation system on it.

But when it runs, it is as fast as it always was. Of course that the CPU in my main computer fully supports the hardware-accelerated AES encryption (Intel AES-IN instruction set) helps a lot. It boosts the encryption process to 4 to 8 times faster. This also explains that my duo-core computer shows a little decrease in performance as it doesn’t support this hardware-acceleration.

Even in heavy online games (as Everquest II) there is really no decrease in performance noticeable. Also not during the loading of new zones (and there I would have expected it).

To access this encrypted hard drive you need a password that is longer than 20 characters, contains uppercase, lowercase, numbers and reading signs…. It is nowhere written down and memorized by the 3 persons who should always have access to it.

If someone would consider a brute force attack on it (and no, I was not so stupid to enter the password on the website that made the calculation below, but entered a password that was constructed in a similar way):

Have fun with that…. *grins*


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