What I did this, err, summer

Taking a hint from Joe, aka Swimgeek, here’s a summary of my life since the previous time we spoke:

  • The VCBM 2008 workshop, my first attempt at playing the organising conference chair, went swimmingly.  Two days of solid presentations, a lovely dinner at Van der Dussen (no Ronald McDonald in sight!) and meeting up with many old friends.  I stopped stressing during the conference dinner.
  • I joined the ranks of the intelligentsia (As opposed to the millions of plebs with iPhones – oh stop whining and look at the stats.  Can’t find the stats?  Go figure out how to copy and paste, then get back to me. :) ) and acquired a Nokia E71.  Best. Gadget. EVAR.
  • Had a fan-tas-tic holiday in South Africa.  Had profound conversations and the most raucous get-togethers with best friends and family.  Realised again how extremely lucky I am with people I’m this close with, on two different continents.  Linked up with my dad for the first time in too many years, which was cool.
  • Migrated my extremely complex todo system (I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth GTD follower) from todoist to a local installation of the open-source RoR-based Tracks software.  Todoist is really cool, but it’s very much deadline-oriented, whilst in the GTD world deadlines are just so passé.  DAMN I’m with it.
  • My laptop was sort of stolen and then returned 5 minutes later.  Besides the acute trauma that this caused, it got me wondering about the security of the Windows XP Encrypted File System thingy that I use to encrypt some of the more sensitive, err, documents on my laptop.  On Windows 2000, the fact that on a local install the administrator was the default data recovery agent (DRA), made it possible to decrypt a user’s files without having to crack that user’s password.  On a local install of XP, this is fortunately NOT the case.  I repeat, on a local install of XP there is no default recovery policy.  In other words, a laptop thief needs to crack your password to decrypt your EFS encryption.  You can double check this by downloading efsinfo and running it on your files with “efsinfo /u /r your_files”.  It should confirm that there’s no recovery agent.  You should also check the strength of your Windows passwords with ophcrack.  Your EFS is only as strong as the user password protecting it.  After my little episode, I’ve deleted most of those sensitive, err, documents from my laptop (they’re duplicated on a server at home) and encrypted even larger parts of my laptop hard drive, just in case.

Now I’m supposed to conclude this blow-by-blow with something profound.  I know, I’ll end with a quote attributed to Plato that I first saw in the PhD thesis of a friendly colleague.  At the time it made quite an impression on me:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Heck, it still does.