Barry

Genealogy

I recommend you look at Reunion from Leister Productions, if you are evaluating genealogy programs for the Macintosh.

It has been a minor interest of mine to collect my family history. I haven't been too successful in going back very far, but I do enjoy researching the Abrahamsen, Peters, McDonald of Eigg and Fitzpatrick families. If you think we might be related, please write. 


Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a huge volunteer effort to make as many books that are in the public domain (that is, books for which the copyright has expired) available in plain text format as possible. "The Project Gutenberg Philosophy is to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search." Have a look here and see if you find something that interests you.

Email security

I think people should be able to know for sure who sent them a message and to be able to keep the contents of their communications private, if they want to. A public key encryption system gives you the ability to verify that a message purporting to come from me, for example, actually comes from me. You can learn more than you ever wanted to know about public key encryption (PKE) systems from RSA Security. Public keys are more commonly called digital signatures, as that's exactly what they are. It is my "signature" on a message from me. 

There is a Internet standard for PKE systems published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (the people who brought you almost all of the Internet standards for email, file transfer and other things people don't normally see, but which are essential to the functioning of the Internet.) The standard has the unhelpful title of X.509 and the complete and overwhelming details are available to read. To use PKE is a lot easier than trying to understand how it works.

The confidence one can place in the security of a digital signature entirely depends on who guarantees that the public key attached to a message really belongs to the person who's name is attached to the digital signature. Digital signatures can be made up by anyone with the right software so, knowing who created a digital signature is essential to knowing whether you can trust the signature. Companies who issue digital signatures are called certificate authorities and they all have similar processes for ensuring that the person they are issuing a digital signature to actually is the person who's name will appear in the signature. 

I used to use the Thawte Company as my certificate authority because they were well-known and offered free certificates for personal use, but they have gone out of the email certificate business and I've had to switch to using Verisign. The Verisign certificates are not free. 

Pretty Good Privacy, or PGP, is another popular implementation of a public key encryption system, providing both X.509 and OpenPGP encryption standards. PGP software is available in free and commercial versions for most computer operating systems. 

The American Bamboo Society

Some people like lilies, some dahlias, roses, cacti, rhododendrons and, honestly, fungi. I happen to like grass, big grass. Grass that ranges from a foot tall to 130 feet tall. Stuff that's used to make hundreds of essential things in countries all over the world. Thais, for example, call themselves bamboo people because their lives depend so much on bamboo. Traveling in southeast Asia it was easy to see how important bamboo was in all of those countries, as food, shelter, basic utensils, fuel and even art. The American Bamboo Society is a horticultural society dedicated to education about, and the propagation of, bamboo. I was the creator and editor of the ABS Web site for more than 15 years. Please have a look.
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