It’s About Time – In So Many Ways

This week was quite surreal.  I’ve spent almost thirty-five years working with computers.  [Note: That includes a few years as a teenager.]  I’ve built computers from scratch.  I’ve held practically every job you can imagine in the software industry.  But I have never been officially certified in anything.  So I’ve been confronted with one of my own personal boogeymen: I must take a test that I must pass in order to keep my job.  What’s up with that?

I have chaffed at the utter indignity of it all.  And I’ve been more than a little bit apprehensive about the upcoming test.  [Note: I’m taking my test on December 27th.  So I would really appreciate your prayers.]  And I’ve also laughed at the ridiculousness of such tests.  As a senior leader, I recognize the importance of such things.  And as an individual contributor, I recognize the fact that such tests are really poor predictors of performance. But as a man called by God to set an example, I must set any and all of these other considerations aside.  I must prepare as if I were doing this for the Lord – as indeed, I am.  And I must demonstrate my faith with my gentle attitude.   So I am soldiering on.

So after a long week of staring at LCD monitors, I was so glad to get home and just relax. Of course, that didn’t happen.  Things have just kinda stacked up at home.  So I finally got some time to attend to some overdue items.

I finally got my revised taxes submitted to my state’s department of revenue. This is always arduous, frustrating and altogether soul-rending.  But I just needed to set aside a few hours to pull all the pieces together.  Hopefully, the state will understand what I have submitted.  But if they don’t, this will take a whole lot more time to iron out.  But I’ve taken the first few steps in the journey.  So I have a smile on my face.

I also had to assemble all of my ‘dependent’ verification documents for my employer.  BTW, I’ve never had to provide so much data before.  I had to get birth certificates for everyone.  I even had to find my marriage certificate. Unfortunately, the marriage certificate was in a safety deposit box at a bank that I haven’t visited for over twenty year.  Neither Cindy nor I could find the keys for the safety deposit box.  So after paying to have the lock drilled out, we retrieved our marriage certificate.  And we bought a fire box so that we could securely store all of these documents in the house.  As of now, all of the older and newer documents that need to be protected against calamity are now safety tucked away in a hiding place that can survive fires or tornadoes.  With this done, I got all of the ‘dependent’ information bundled together and sent to my employer.

In addition to this, I’ve finally finished all of the retirement consolidations that I’ve been doing over the last few months.  It’s nice to have all of the administration in one place.  And it is good to have my retirement savings properly invested in a diverse number of well-managed funds.  I can’t wait to do my next quarterly review in order to see how well (or poorly) we’ve done with my new plans.  I certainly can’t do any worse than I did when almost everything was vested in (and through) only one corporation.

But these things aren’t what prompted me to write this post.  Yes, all of these things were woefully overdue.  But this morning, I got a chance to ‘geek out’ – just a little.  My classes have focused on information security.  And I have always been an idiot-savant in this area.  I’ve never had any formal training in the subject – even though I was a senior security engineer about twenty-five years ago.  I’ve always learned by doing.  And I have a passing familiarity with the subject.  [Note: If you don’t believe that last statement, just read some of my posts over the years.  You’ll see that I am wholly entranced by security and privacy matters.]

With the purchase of my Android phone, I’ve had to confront a whole lot of privacy issues.  I use my phone to securely connect to my home computers.  To do this, I tunnel VNC through SSH.  I also store some fairly important documents on my phone.  So I use Truecrypt (on my PC) to create and store a secure backup of a small number of important files.

But I’ve always had to encrypt the data myself.  Or I’ve had to use other tools on my phone and/or PC.  Basically, all of these tools were file-oriented solutions.  At the same time, there were very few options to securely encrypt streams of data between the phone and other computers.  Yes, I could use https to build a secure tunnel to the site I was interacting with.  But if I wanted to secure all traffic, I was out of luck – until now.

The folks at the Tor project have released an Android tool named Orbot.  I had a little trouble downloading the tool OTA.  But I finally got it by transferring the package to my SD card.  Over the next few days, I’ll be testing this tool to see how it works.  I am pretty darned psyched that this tool is now available – and it’s about time that phones could participate on the Tor network.


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