If Napoleon had had better passwords, you might be reading this in French today.
Computers may be new, historically speaking, but cryptography is as old as writing. Martin, a British professor of information security who wrote one of the standard texts on the topic, Everyday Cryptography, delivers numerous examples of failed codes from the past, including one that cost Julius Caesar dearly and another that essentially sent Napoleon packing to Saint Helena. On the matter of that Napoleonic code, Martin writes that it was “designed to counter frequency analysis” by blending plain text letters into “ciphertext” along with “masking common letter combinations using dummy characters.” As with much that is technological, operator error ruined a good thing: The soldiers entrusted with the job encrypted only parts of the French military’s communications, and the British soon decoded “La Grande Chiffre de Paris.” Every code will eventually be broken, and passwords like “password” and “god123” are going to be cracked in a second. In this survey, Martin gives readers the essentials of cryptography without much by way of the underlying numbers even though cryptography is, strictly speaking, a branch of mathematics. Even though “you can breeze through life using cryptography without even being aware of it,” courtesy of the algorithms hidden away on your bank site and in your smartphone, it’s better to know a little about the devices and formulas by which messages go from one place to another without being intercepted and decoded. The author’s text, while readable and indeed even elementary at times (“ASCII…defines the rules for switching between keyboard characters and bits”), requires a high tolerance for nerdspeak and the ability to deal with terms such as “transport layer security” and “challenge-response” without immediately dozing off. Regardless, it’s highly informative and offers a good argument for hardening one’s digital security.
Tech-savvy readers will come away with a greater appreciation for the science involved in keeping secrets from prying eyes.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)