Monthly Archives: August 2006


# the general progression of your working or professional life
# move headlong at high speed

It had never really occurred to me before that they were in fact interrelated..

Hands on with an Enigma machine

Well I had a most interesting morning this morning. An email came around last night from the security mailing list here, advertising the chance to get close up with a genuine Enigma machine – the workhorse German cipher machine from WW2.

So at 10am I pitched up to the location to find a working Enigma machine (3/5 reels) with not a single unauthentic fitting (bar the new lightbulbs), and had an entertaining lecture on its history, how it was procured (it is in the hands of a private collector) and a demonstration of encoding/decoding, changing the reels etc. Even better – got to handle it! The one at Bletchley park is behind glass, and I’ve never seen one before except in books.

Lots of photos were taken but unfortunately I can’t publish them, because the machines are extremely rare and expensive and I can’t identify the owner or the machine (each one is clearly serial numbered). However there was nothing like getting to touch a real live machine – the impetus for what is basically the birth of computer science in this country.

I recommend Simon Singh’s “The Code Book” for a history of this machine and how it was cracked.

Back to work

I’ll write about Brazil later. I don’t have the time right now. However, this is fairly indicative of what I’ve had to come back to work to:

An unnamed user writes:

“Dan, I stupidly pasted a script with the machine and my account including my password in an IRC for a couple of minutes before someone reminding me that. I changed the password immediately upon knowing it, but there were already some people logged on the machine, they didn’t do more serious things than ‘cat /etc/passwd’ and logged of politely within a few minutes. But I still believe it’s better for you to check it again. I hope my account doesn’t have the right to create new accounts.”


Why did I come back from holiday again? It’s cold, wet, and my inbox is depressing.