Tag Archives: Writing

Encryption 101

Not many people know this, but I am a published author. By published author I mean, I have been paid for my writing. I have been published in 2600 magazine, Dragon magazine, Linux Gazette and a little known magazine called DOS Resource Guide. I have never received more than $50 payment and in the case of DOS Resource Guide, they folded before I received any payment at all.

It is really kind of sad too, because that one is probably the article I was most proud of. I wrote a qbasic encryption program that I felt was kind of clever in its implementation. Of course it would never withstand the attention of the NSA, but as I said in the article, it would keep your little sister from reading your files. Most of the qbasic encryption programs of the time simply used the password provided to seed the built in pseudo random number generator and then used the XOR function along with these pseudo random numbers to encrypt the file. I took this a step further and used this process to generate a 128 character string which I then used via my own algorithm to fill an array the size of the original file with a pad, which was then used to encrypt the file. Again, this was not military grade encryption, but I think for a first try it was a novel idea.

This lead to another project which I actually did with a friend. He decided the best way to encrypt a file was to use another file as a key. His idea was to XOR the bits in the file you wanted to encrypt with the bits in the key file. The way we built the program was it required three things to decrypt the file, a user name, a password and the key file. I used more or less the same process I used in the first program, only instead of using my own number to encrypt the file, I would use my numbers to determine the location of the bit to be XOR’d within the key file. As close as I could tell at the time, as long as you never used the same key file twice, it would be basically impossible to crack the encryption. This of course was naive thinking back in 1994, today I suspect this could be broken in a weekend using a $400 laptop.

I wish I still had this code, unfortunately it has suffered digital death as many of my early projects have. I even went looking for a copy of the DOS Resource Guide where my original program was published, but unfortunately I have not been able to find more than a few issues here and there. I guess an old short lived magazine from the early 90’s covering an obsolete operating system holds little interest for anyone these days.

Writing again

A couple of years ago I set myself to writing a short story. I admit that it was basically porn. The point of the exercise was to write 10,000 words, what I wrote was not particularly important, I just wanted to write a short story and set a couple of goals for myself. I wanted to write 500 words per day culminating in a 10,000 word short story.

I have decided I am going to start this up again. Same parameters, 500 words per day, 10,00 word goal. This time I am writing a near future cyber thriller, or rather I am writing the prelude to a cyber thriller. I am setting up the world and laying out the background of the primary character. I am placing the story in my Alt-80’s CyberPunk setting, it sucked as a GURPS game, but I think it is interesting enough to set some stories in. While the GURPS game took place in the early 2060’s, my story is going to be set in 2017 and will describe some of the events that lead up to the Alt-80’s world of 2063. I am current up to 2000 words, wish me luck.

RE: Writing

My Internet crush Felica Day has written an article on how to increase your writing productivity. Much of it is common sense, but if you are serious about writing it is a pretty good starting place.

http://felicia.posterous.com/10-simple-ways-to-double-the-speed-of-your-wr

My own writing productivity has drastically dropped since I got my new job. I simply do not have the time anymore to sit down and write a 1000 words day, heck, most days I struggle to write 250. Even on weekends I find it difficult because now I am squeezing more activities into less time.I would really like to get to doing a 2nd draft of my short story and I’d like to get started on a longer project I have been outlining, but I simply lack the time. I am seriously considering dropping this blog in favor of the more shallow Facebook (but easy to use) or at the very least writing here less, maybe cutting down to 12-15 posts a month.  I have made no decisions, but I see some changes coming down the road.


On a separate note. Smallville, the really wretched TV show about Clark Kent before becoming Superman, is finally off the air after 10 seasons. All I have to say is in some alternate reality, this show lasted 7 episodes and Firefly had an epic 10 season run, and that is a universe I want to live in. As for this universe, I cry for humanity.

RE: Writing exercise

Late last month I wrote I was going to try and write a rather lengthy short story. As of today, I finished the story. My goal was to write 10,000 words over a 5 week period, the final count was actually 11,400 words. The pace was very comfortable and I had no trouble writing 2000 words a week. I am not going to be showing the work to anyone else, primarily because it is a first draft and is not really ready for any one else to read yet. I am going to mark this one a success, I set a goal for myself and I was able to focus enough to see it through to the end. I am going to walk away from this particular project for the moment, in a couple of weeks I will come back to it and do a second draft. I could easily add 4-5000 words further developing characters and adding more and better dialogue, so the end product will probably be more like 15,000 words. In the interim, I will be plotting out my next story, and deciding how I want to divide up the chunks.

Writing exercise

Recently PezWitch and I have been discussing professional writing. What has been working for me over the last year is I make a concerted effort to sit down and write a minimum of 250 words per day. Some days I write more, some days I go back and edit a previous days work and add another 250 words to it. The whole idea behind forcing myself to write 250 words per day was just to get into the habit of writing. Even on days I didn’t feel like it or had nothing to write about, I still sat down and wrote. The sole exception has been when I was really sick, but if I could get out of bed and sit at a computer for about 30 minutes, I wrote my 250 words. Most of the output is this blog. You will probably notice I don’t publish 250 words a day here, that is because often I trash what I have written or I spent a couple of days writing a bigger post.

My new writing exercise is to write a short story of about 10,000 words. I am chopping it into 5 chapters of 2000 words each, I figure that is a comfortable output for 1 week. I am further breaking each chapter into 4 scenes, approximately 500 words each, which I should be able to do easily in an hour or two. Chapter one is done, hopefully in another 4 weeks I will have a first draft. If this works and I try again, I may try cutting the story into 3 acts and each act has 3 scenes, similar to how plays are written.