Flickr-Based Cryptographic Photo Collections

May 8, 2009

You know how things work on the Internet.  A search for something in Google displays a link, which leads to another page, which leads to a third, etc.  Before you know it, you’ve discovered goldmines you never knew existed.

NationalCryptologicMuseumThis past week I searched for “PURPLE” in Google’s image database (I think that’s what I did — it was oh so many link clicks ago :-)).  Perusing the booty uncovered a link to a link to a link etc. until I chanced upon some cryptographically-related photo collections on Flickr.  I have spent many an hour since enjoying the eye candy there and in other locations.  I’d like to share some of these sites with you. Read the rest of this entry »

No RSS Feed on a Site? No Problem!

May 1, 2009

I have a confession to make: I am a hi-tech late adopter with a high threshold for pain.  So long as I have a low-tech method for performing a necessary task, I’m content to use it, sometimes for years on end.

When I started this blog a few months ago I encountered many sites I wanted to monitor on a regular basis.  For example, I wanted to monitor several pages deep within the NSA web site for changes.  Unfortunately, most of these sites have a common problem: they have no RSS feeds.  So I used the same method I’ve used for years: periodic manual checking.

At some point even I threw up my hands.  The work involved in checking an ever-growing list of sites was becoming too painful.  At that point I searched for, and found, a better and free solution:  It’s changed my life and I’d like to share it with you. defines itself as follows:

At your request, we monitor any website page for text changes. If a change is detected we send you a notification email. We also maintain a log of recent changes to the page and allow you to see the difference between any two versions of the page.

After registering yourself with, monitoring any Web page is simplicity itself.  Select the “monitor a page” option, enter a page address, give it an e-mail address to send notifications to, tweak optional features, and you’re done.  And you can monitor any number of pages to your heart’s content.

When any of your monitored pages change, you will be notified of the exact changes by e-mail.  The service also records the full history of this site, showing you all changes (or inactivity!) over time.

Another great feature is the ability to enable visitors to your web page to register for notification when your page changes.  If your site lacks a built-in RSS feed, if you’re too lazy to maintain one, or if you want to enable non-techie visitors to know when your page changes, just insert some HTML code that provides a simple-to-use interface (see my Chaocipher Clearing House site for such a feature).  You can even tell how many people are currently monitoring your web page.

Although I’m a late adopter, when I finally adopt some technological feature I know I need it and I’m happy with it. has changed my blogging experience, enabling me to concentrate on blogging,   Don’t leave home without it.

Foreign Language Text Recognition for the Layman

May 1, 2009

It’s not often that I looked at a foreign text and cannot determine what language it is.  We can all tell French, German, or Spanish, but what about the different Cyrillic languages, or Far Eastern ones like Thai and Vietnamese?  I recently came across something that might help us.

The US Army Field Manual 34-54 on Battlefield Technical Intelligence is freely available on the Web.  Here is a description of this manual as taken from the manual itself:

chp_9_402This field manual provides guidance to commanders and staffs of military intelligence (MI) and other units responsible for technical intelligence (TECHINT) or having an association with TECHINT. It provides general guidance and identifies the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) used in the collection, exploitation, and dissemination of TECHINT in satisfying the warfighter’s requirements.

Appendix G, entitled “Foreign Language Text Recognition”, is a concise and educational lesson on how to recognize a foreign language in unknown text.

Quoting from Appendix G:

When TECHINT personnel are able to correctly identify foreign languages used in documents or equipment, it has two immediate benefits. First, it helps identify the equipment or type of document and where or who is using it. Second, it ensures that TECHINT personnel request the correct linguistic support.

This appendix contains language identification hints that will enable TECHINT personnel to quickly identify some of the many languages used in documents, on equipment plates, and on other materiel. TECHINT personnel can speed up the entire battlefield TECHINT process by following the guidance herein.

For those of us who are, um, a little rusty and have forgotten the difference between a cedilla and a circumflex, this appendix will set you right.  Gone are the excuses for not recognizing a foreign language when you see one. 🙂