Blaise Pascal studying the cycloid, 1785, Louvre

Here is the story of how I became an atheist and stopped fearing God. My transformation occurred through an exposure to three key philosophical ideas over the course of several years. The first was that I could rely on my own mind rather than on a say-so of experts. The second was that arbitrary claims do not require proof. And the third was that one should hold his knowledge at certainty, rather than at 99% probability. I have learned all three ideas from Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff.

Ironically, I have considered myself to be an atheist even before the…

Raised by Wolves is a science fiction TV series directed by Ridley Scott, the same man who directed Blade Runner. The setting is a devastating war between Mythraics versus atheists. I was intrigued the moment that I heard of a show about atheists, and rushed to buy an HBO subscription to watch it.

The historical Mithraic Mysteries was a mystery religion that competed with Christianity in the 3rd century CE. It was based on the god of the sun Mythras whom the Romans imported from Persia. …

This article goes into technical details concerning Elliptic Curve encryption.

Public and private key cryptography is a recent invention from the late seventies that did not occur to our creative predecessors. Instead, they relied on symmetric encryption schemes which requires both sides to know the encryption key.

The earliest of such schemes is Scytale, a device first mentioned in 7th century BCE by the greek poet Archilochus. In this scheme the secret was in the width of the stick on which a strip of ciphered text is rolled on.

Scytale (image from Wikipedia)

Since then there were a series of innovations in the complexity…

At Smarking, we use the Amazon Web Services (AWS) infrastructure. We help organizations improve the efficiency of parking lots, and to do that we need to communicate with their computing systems. However, these organizations, which include hospitals and universities, often run closed private networks. Outside vendors like us may access those networks only through an IPSec-based VPN.

Is it possible to create an IPsec tunnel from an AWS Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to a network outside of AWS? The use case that AWS supports well is connecting your own on-premises network with the VPC. Thus, in naming components, AWS uses…

Religion is a Ponzi scheme, whose currency is faith. And, I am not talking about money. Although money is a key factor driving religion, I want to focus on faith alone. There are two levels to my claim.

The first level is individual. The longer a person stays within the confines of faith, the harder it is for him to admit that it’s wrong. But, his own rationality, which he still has and uses in daily affairs, continues to challenge him. Consequently, he must buy-in even more into faith. This is a never-ending cycle which bursts when he is in…

Names of keys on a piano

One-sentence summary: In this article I will explain the math for the Just intonation and Pythagorean tunings for the diatonic major scale (all the white keys on the piano).

In the preceding article The Physical Nature of Musical Sound I have talked about how air vibration affects a human eardrum and causes the perception of sound pitch. I used a piano as a case study, noting that there are metal strings inside the piano that vibrate at different rates. The vibration frequencies to which the strings should be tuned, is the subject of this article. …

At Smarking we receive data from third-party vendors. This data comes in various formats: XML, CSV, Excel, PDF, and JSON, and we use an Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) process to store the data in our database. This kind of ETL process is used by many organizations that ingest data from external sources. What are the security considerations pertaining to this process?

The security issue is that a third party may unintentionally provide data laden with exploits. This can happen if the third party accumulates but does not filter free-form data submitted by users. Such data may include names, street addresses or free-form…

Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman are researchers who invented a safe method to communicate a password. Their 1976 paper opens with the following:

WE STAND TODAY on the brink of a revolution in cryptography.

The development of computer controlled communication networks promises effortless and inexpensive contact between people or computers on opposite sides of the world, replacing most mail and many excursions with telecommunications. For many applications these contacts must be made secure against both eavesdropping and the injection of illegitimate messages. At present, however, the solution of security problems lags well behind other areas of communications technology. …

This is a technical article concerning web development.

Third party cookies help advertisers track people’s interests in order to show relevant ads. Given a choice between irrelevant versus relevant ads, I chose later. Thank you, third party cookies.

A third party cookie is any cookie set on an embedded resource inside a web page. If your web page has an image ad that is loaded from an advertising web server on another domain, then the ad may change based on who is browsing.

There is a security issue with third party cookies called Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF), which arises…

This is a technical article for web developers.

Are you working on a “stealth” web based project that you wish to demo to a potential client or investor, yet do not wish to leave it wide open to the public? There are several ways to do it, the simplest of which is to password protect it. This, however, requires you to give out the password and sharing a password has its own security implications. It also makes user experience worse.

An alternative solution is to block access from all IP addresses except a whitelisted few. When you wish to demo…

Boris Reitman

The course of history is determined by the spreading of ideas. I’m spreading the good ones.

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