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Having just bought a car with the somewhat strange designation ‘g-tron‘ made me pay attention when I noticed an article in The Atlantic, titled “The Suffix That Tells the Story of Modern Science. Why did words that end in “tron” once sound so futuristic?“. Here’s an interesting quote: in the twentieth century, the suffix ‘tron’ was…

…a proud and optimistic emblem of the electronic and atomic age. It was a totem of high modernism, the intellectual and cultural mode that decreed no process or phenomenon was too complex to be grasped, managed, and optimized. The suffix emblazoned the banners of nuclear physics’ Cosmotron, modern biology’s Climatron, and early AI’s perceptron—displaying to all our mastery over matter, life, and information.


It is too soon to know whether the Audi ‘g-tron‘ range will turn out to be future-proof. Electricity will be the fuel for vehicles, factories, and more at some point in the future. But I am not convinced that the current battery technology will be enough to make that possible. And anyway, Audi also has the ‘e-tron‘ moniker to cover that part of the future.

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So far, I have driven our new Audi A3 g-tron for almost 700 km. I’m still adapting to the S-tronic automatic shifting – this as, after all, my first car in 40 years that does not have manual shift. But other than that it’s a pleasant experience to drive this vehicle, with all its little extras that make life easier behind the wheel.

All the time the car has run on CNG. What does that mean in practice? Well, current fuel consumption is about 5.3 kg per 100 km. At today’s price that means it costs me less than 5€ to drive 100 km. Compare that to my previous A3 (a 2005 model with the 1600 petrol engine) than consumed about 7.5l per 100 km, costing more than 9€ for that same distance. And not only is this one cheaper to run, it’s also cleaner: less CO2, less fine particles, etc.

Getting ready for new winter tyres!

Audi claims that this car has a range of 400 km when running on CNG, and many publications reprint that number without much discussion. One thing is clear: that estimate is very optimistic (as usual, no?). I drive mostly in a very urban environment, with relatively short runs. That makes my range in reality something like 250 to 270 km. That’s better than most electric cars in this price range, and I still have a 50 liter petrol tank as a backup. I’m not complaining!

Over on ISO 1200 Magazine, Mattias Burling has published a nice comparison of the qualities of four cameras, in order to answer the question: “What if I could only pick one camera?“. The comparison is quite objective, so I urge you, just like one of the commentators, to watch the video all to the end.

Click to see the video on Youtube

A few (5 or more?) years ago, I was looking into PGP as a way to encrypt email. At some point, I bookmarked the Keybase homepage… and then forgot about that link, just like so many other URLs about PGP – PGP was pretty hard to use in those days. At that time, if I remember correctly, Keybase promised a way to store (and publish?) PGP keys.

While cleaning up the bookmarks section of my browsers I stumbled upon that URL again, and, unlike many other websites, Keybase is still up and running. Better yet, they seem to have succeeded in making a tool that could actually be useful and uncomplicated at the same time. In their own words:

Keybase is for anyone. Imagine a Slack for the whole world, except end-to-end encrypted across all your devices. Or a Team Dropbox where the server can’t leak your files or be hacked.

(Click to go to the Keybase website)

Creating an account and adding a device to your account is a simple and painless procedure. Why would you do so? Well, I’m still exploring the possibilities. One thing to do with Keybase is to authenticate accounts on systems like Twitter and Github. Keybase allows you to store (and share) files in an encrypted format over an encrypted channel. And the (encrypted) chat function has recently been extended with a Team chat that is supposed to resemble Slack. “Supposed”, because I haven’t been able to check that out – you need multiple members to make up a team ;-)

Anyway, it’s certainly an interesting product, and I intend to do more than keep an eye on Keybase!

On my g-tron overview page I have only published a stock Audi picture. Here’s a first picture of the car we actually bought, just after we took it for a test drive.

On this picture it may look aggressive, but in reality it isn’t that much of a beast. It’s just a very nice car ;-)

Since a few days, there’s another firmware update for the Samsung Galaxy S7 here in Belgium (and probably elsewhere too, of course). The announcement did not promise a major update to Android, although the download was more than 400MB:

After the installation, rebooting the S7 triggered a message that said a number of application were being upgraded – but the docs mention none of them explicitly. In the end, what counts most for me is a more current security patch level: that is now up to October 1st, 2017. Unfortunately, that won’t include any defence for the KRACK attack which was made public at the end of October…

A lava lamp is something from the late 1960’s – they were quite a rage when when I was a teenager. Today, lava lamps are a tool for cryptographers – at least at Cloudflare, a provider of a significant piece of Internet infrastructure.

In their blog post “Randomness 101: LavaRand in Production“, Cloudflare explains how they use a collection of lava lamps to generate random numbers.

LavaRand is a system that uses lava lamps as a secondary source of randomness for our production servers. A wall of lava lamps in the lobby of our San Francisco office provides an unpredictable input to a camera aimed at the wall. A video feed from the camera is fed into a CSPRNG, and that CSPRNG provides a stream of random values that can be used as an extra source of randomness by our production servers. Since the flow of the “lava” in a lava lamp is very unpredictable, “measuring” the lamps by taking footage of them is a good way to obtain unpredictable randomness. Computers store images as very large numbers, so we can use them as the input to a CSPRNG just like any other number.

If you don’t want to read the whole blog post, just have a look at this video on Youtube:

Click the image to go to Youtube