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Contest To Crack William Gibson Poem Agrippa

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the brought-to-you-by-lisp dept.

Security 102

An anonymous reader writes "A new cracking contest to cryptanalyse a William Gibson poem. The electronic poem ('Agrippa') was written back in 1992 and self-encrypts after being displayed once. The person who successfully cracks the encryption will win a copy of every published Gibson book." The poem/program binary was recovered in 2008, but it looks like no one has managed (bothered?) to crack the code.

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102 comments

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What were security standards like in '92? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40615673)

What was the standard length of an encryption key back then?

Re:What were security standards like in '92? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 2 years ago | (#40615823)

Not all encryptions are key based.

Re:What were security standards like in '92? (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about 2 years ago | (#40615963)

Yes, but I wanted a grasp of what the state of key-based encryption was like in the era so I could get my bearings on the complexity we're dealing with.

Re:What were security standards like in '92? (5, Informative)

djl4570 (801529) | about 2 years ago | (#40616793)

DES is 56 bits and has been around since the seventies. Early browsers from c1995 used 64 bits because anything more required export licenses. That's what got Philip Zimmerman in trouble back in 1994 when PGP was first posted to boards and online services. Given that Gibson is a futurist he might well have used an early implementation IDEA which was first described in 1991 and is 128 bits.

Re:What were security standards like in '92? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40616061)

Indeed, but there is archival evidence suggesting that it implements DES (and in 1992 that's a short key length). Then again, it's not clear that the programmer followed the standard (or even bothered "properly" encrypting it).

Re:What were security standards like in '92? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617087)

What were security standards like in '92? Pretty Good [wikipedia.org]

Well , I looked at it twice... (4, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#40615681)

... and it was still the same. Perhaps the 1992 tech doesn't work in my shiny new HTML5 browser? ;o)

Re:Well , I looked at it twice... (5, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#40615765)

Crappy summary. The poem is not self-encrypting, rather a program displays the poem once and then encrypts it... it's that program that needs to be cracked. As far as I can tell, the poem itself is just a MacGuffin

Re:Well , I looked at it twice... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40615809)

The summary isn't clear. The posting on the web is just the text of the poem. Per the original linked-to summary:

While the text of William Gibson's elusive electronic poem AGRIPPA is widely posted around the Web, it has not been seen in its original incarnation — custom-built software designed to scroll the poem through a single play before encrypting each line with an RSA algorithm — since 1992.

Re:Well , I looked at it twice... (2)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#40616121)

I also thought that the poem itself was written in some sort of scripting language, and that it literally contained the algorithm that encrypted itself. At first glance the frequency of numbers (years) in the poem also gave the impression that the poem was actually a program of sorts. It seems I was also mislead by the summary, as the poem is arbitrary text and the real challenge is the display program that modified the floppy disc to encrypt the poem text.

Re:Well , I looked at it twice... (3, Funny)

polymeris (902231) | about 2 years ago | (#40616495)

Weird. From here I couldn't even see the decrypted version once. Just see undecyphrable verses.

Re:Well , I looked at it twice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40618371)

http://agrippa.english.ucsb.edu/category/the-book-subcategories/the-poem-running-in-emulation

Decrypted text (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619711)

Inigo Montoya: [Both characters are engaged in a sword fight] You are using Bonetti's Defense against me, ah?
Man in Black: I thought it fitting considering the rocky terrain.
Inigo Montoya: Naturally, you must suspect me to attack with Capa Ferro?
Man in Black: Naturally... but I find that Thibault cancels out Capa Ferro. Don't you?
Inigo Montoya: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa... which I have.

And when they're done here (5, Funny)

jxander (2605655) | about 2 years ago | (#40615697)

The next challenge is decrypting Finnegans Wake.

Re:And when they're done here (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40615717)

I did that once.

I ended up with a Tale of Two Cities. Typo in the first sentence, "blurst" of times for some reason.

Re:And when they're done here (5, Funny)

Verdatum (1257828) | about 2 years ago | (#40615929)

You stupid monkey!!

Re:And when they're done here (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#40616153)

Everyone seems to assume it's a "master work" simpy because nobody can understand it.

Maybe it's just a bad book?

Re:And when they're done here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617227)

“Scrotie McBoogerballs.”
'nuff said. :)

Re:And when they're done here (1, Insightful)

Ubergrendle (531719) | about 2 years ago | (#40617329)

The difference of art over technology, is that art's definition is not binary. It changes based on personal experience, experience of exposure to the art itself, and perception of it can have its own meaning changed by evolving society and its values. Ontop of all of that, there's intricacies of language, meter, symbolism, etc that are not immediately apparentt but may be uncovered in time. In short, just because you don't understand it doesn't mean that its bad. Finnegan's Wake is not accessible to a high school english student, and it was never intended to be.

Re:And when they're done here (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 2 years ago | (#40617853)

Art, like life, does not have an agreed-upon definition but I've settled on one (binary to boot) that's served me well: if it's done purposefully and has no practical use, it's art. It's very generous as regards art installations, photography and even "found art".

That may earn the ire of any artists here (assuming there are any) but it came in very handy when I had to explain the difference between patents and copyright to someone. I think they may have even got their head around design patents, which can be tricky to grasp.

Re:And when they're done here (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#40618551)

Finnegan's Wake is not accessible to a high school english student, and it was never intended to be.

Well, snoot snoot!

But seriously, apperently it's not even "accessible" to most dedicated English Lit wonks, either. Most descriptions written by the highly edgeumakted run in circles and leap at random when trying to describe this work. In other words, most people accross the board just don't understand this piece of abstract art.

And much of the abstract art out there is simply crap.

Re:And when they're done here (2)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40619557)

You aren't supposed to know what color the Emperor's clothing is. You darn peasant.

Re:And when they're done here (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#40620381)

You aren't supposed to know what color the Emperor's clothing is. You darn peasant.

Or whether or not his cat is dead...

Re:And when they're done here (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40619515)

'Bad' is not a binary absolute. It is an attribute of degrees. Perhaps Gibson's poem is just mediocre. Certainly many people could say that. And they could put it more simply by just saying it is a bad poem.

Just because somebody doesn't understand it doesn't mean it isn't bad. There is a lot of terrible drivel out there. And remarkably, Gibson is not renowned for his poetry.

The ballad of Jim and Mary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40618825)

As it happens, my dissertation was based on proving how and why it, ("Finnegan's Wake" by James Joyce,) is "a bad book" and why no one should ever be forced to read that gibberish nonsense garbage.

A quick summary of it: Writing is a form of communication that followed the advent of spoken communication. As such, writing is essentially a transcript of what is spoken, or what might be spoken. Writing is an analogue of speech. Nothing should be written, by and large, that shouldn't be spoken. Tables of data aside, speech is linear, flowing in time from past to future. I start a sentence, then end it. Whether left to right, or right to left, top to bottom, or across a diagonal, or written as though following the line of a spiral, sentences have beginnings, middles and ends. Even a very short sentence, such as "I am." still has a beginning "I" and an end, "am." The shortest possible (theoretically complete) sentence in modern English, "No." still has a beginning and an end. N and o. It follows the progression of thought. We have heads full of jumbled ideas, as our brains handle and respond to stimuli of various types from both within and without, but for communication to be sensible, to encode advanced, nuanced ideas in a reliable, intelligible symbolic system, requires a certain framework. In English, for example, it is common to start an expression with a subject, and a predicate, containing a verb, and often various objects, such as "Jim went to the store to buy Mary a sweater."

Other languages and even non verbal communications systems can vary this formula immensely, but at the end of the day, there are common features. Concepts expressed, and a relationship between them suggested. To express the idea, one must convey the idea of Jim, typically done either by dereferencing him somehow, (the sound associated with him, "Dg'i-mm" or perhaps a photo or drawing of him, a parody of some expression typical of him, etc.) the idea of the store, the idea of Mary, and the idea of the sweater. If you showed someone a set of photos, one of Jim, (a head-shot, etc.) one of Mary, one of the store, and one of the sweater, a guess could be made, but you really don't know until you constrain the infinite number of possible relationships to the one that reflects the idea one wishes to convey.

For example, with just the four photos, it could be that Jim owns a store where Mary works selling sweaters. It could be that Mary sews sweaters at home, and has brought one to Jim who works at the store to try to convince him to sell Mary's sweaters. It could be Mary owns the store and ran Jim over while trying to remove her sweater, because it was too hot to wear one. It could even be that Mary and John are conspiring to steal a sweater from the store. The list goes on and on. Jim and Mary were out shopping for a sweater, and stopped at the store to buy hot cocoa, because at the time neither yet owned a sweater.

A relationship needs to be shown, the verb, as it were, and prepositions to fully flesh-out the relationship between the concepts of Mary, Jim, the store, and the sweater. In our case, we need to show Jim GOING to the store, the first relationship. Then we allege intent, by suggesting Jim's reason for going to the store was to buy a sweater. Since, (let's suppose,) in the picture of Jim he is already wearing a jacket or sweater, we can further qualify his motivation that he wants to buy a sweater for the end-purpose of giving it to Mary. This conveys an entire, complex set of ideas, although even with this, we can go into infinite degrees of detail.

Jim met Mary at a party, where they really hit it off. He regaled her with stories of his exploits as a high school football star quarterback, and she thought he was a reasonably successful, good-looking young "go-getter". She pretended to be interested in his ramblings about his past, faded glories that even at the time she (being something of a math-nerd) wouldn't have given a damn about. She smiled while contemplating the n'th digit of Pi, and pondered whether anyone could truly find any number encoded in its infinite length of digits..., such as her phone number... as he pantomimed a particularly impressive moment of athleticism on his part, he jerked his arms spasmodically, bumping into Kelly in the process.

Kelly, who has not been mentioned up until this point, was holding a mimosa, her favorite sophisticate-beverage. There is no reason to go on telling you about Kelly, though I could go on and on about her for pages, as she is herself a fascinating person, elegant, beautiful, and worthy of study. However, I will stop here, because it's enough to tell you that as a result of being bumped by Jim, she spilled her drink on the carpet. (You probably thought she was going to spill it on Mary, but as Mary was not wearing a sweater at this point, you can see it would not make sense to have that happen.) Instead, a young male child, who had spent a considerable part of the evening staring at Kelly's exposed legs, and wondering what female wonders she was hiding under her skirt, where those legs went up and up, tantalizingly out-of-view... saw the spilled drink as a golden, god-sent opportunity to pretend to be helpful by mopping up the spilled drink, (imagining Kelly would care, despite that none of the drink spilled on her person herself, nor was the house or the carpet on the floor of it hers). Hoping to be able to crouch next to her, and maybe catch a glimpse up her skirt, he grabbed the nearest absorbent-looking object (Mary's sweater, as it happened) and almost knocked over two older gentlemen rushing across the room to begin mopping up the spill.

I could go on to mention how Kelly inadvertently denied him his fondest wish by kneeling next to him, hoping to stop him from wrecking Mary's sweater, (though secretly very amused, Kelly didn't like Mary much, and never had, though she couldn't be seen doing nothing to prevent the sweater-wrecking... it just wouldn't do,) but I won't. I will suffice to say that though the boy HAD been fascinated with her legs and thighs, and felt momentary dejection at missing seeing what was up her skirt, he did nevertheless get a SPECTACULAR view down her open-necked blouse... something he almost missed in his burning dejection over missing seeing up her skirt. Almost before he had time to recover from the disappointment, he looked up a little, even getting to see the edge of a nipple outlined against the silky white of a brassier, nearly making him faint in the process...

It can be seen from this that any idea that may be expressed is but the view at a given level of magnification, of a sort of fractal drawing of meaning, of depth of interconnected events. The expression "Jim went to the store to buy Mary a sweater" is just scratching the surface of the story of one moment in the life of a single member of a community group. If we back out one level of meaning in our story as fractal analogy, we have "Jim went to the store, to buy something for Mary" or "Jim went to the store to buy a sweater". A few other possibilities exist at this level, such as Jim went somewhere to buy a sweater for Mary, or someone went to the store to buy a sweater for Mary. One more level of meaning back, and we just have "Jim went to the store'. (Or a sweater was purchased from the store, or Mary needed a sweater, though that can imply very different things, not necessarily true or intended to be expressed, etc..) This is the last level we can back out before we no longer have a narrative of any kind, but just four photographs, again, with no interrelationship, and hence, no meaning.

We, each of us, know thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of words, and more importantly, the ideas they represent. Of the basic set of concepts, most of us can agree generally what the meanings are, without each of us having to know EXACTLY the same language, that is, we needn't all know the exact same set of words, or agree 100% on the precise meanings of all those words. It is the selection of these commonly known and accepted symbols (spoken or written, drawn, pantomimed, etc.) that allow us to communicate meaningfully. By symbol, I mean basically "packet of meaning, however expressed". People who study this refer to the process as message encoding or meaning encapsulation. If I were to try to express an idea, but turn off ALL filtering, so I gave you the verbal or written equivalents of Jim, Mary, the store and the sweater, along with thousands or millions of other ideas, and didn't express any relationship between them, nor imply it by order of presentation, or with words restricting or explaining of suggesting meaning interspersed between them, but instead simply made a word-salad, or perhaps a letter-smoothy for you, with bits of all these photos thrown in, (AND HERE IS THE POINT...) there would be NO REAL MEANING to pick out of it. The transmission would be ALL noise, with NO discernible signal.

This brings me to Finnegan's Wake, as anyone still reading this was probably expecting, eventually. The point of writing something, like the point of saying something, is lost if you throw every concept at someone, with no rhyme, rhythm, or reason, unfiltered. I am convinced James Joyce sat down at his typewriter, ass-first, and had a case of flaming diarrhea, directed at the paper. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Page after page he filled with gibberish garbage, perhaps hoping people would think it was avant-garde, or maybe he just had syphilis... in any case, perhaps the disease spread (or was gotten from) whomever it was who decided to publish that dogshit-smear on paper as a book, and as a result, you can find this literary abomination in many fine bookstores. It is one thing for an author, or indeed any artist to challenge the audience with a work, it is entirely another to shove a book in a blender, set it to puree, and expect anyone to be able to read the result.

In summary, it IS not just a BAD book, it is one of the worst travesties ever perpetrated upon the world, disguised as, and simultaneously thus maligning the good name - of literature.

Re:The ballad of Jim and Mary (2)

greg1104 (461138) | about 2 years ago | (#40619715)

Your quick summary could use a quick summary.

Re:The ballad of Jim and Mary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40623215)

I'm posting as AC because I already modded someone insightful, and instead of modding you "wrong" I figured I would respond instead.
 
In short-- a paintbrush is not a painting, MS Word is not a poem-- you are confusing the quality of the tools at hand (story, meaning, word selection, etc) and dexterity with which they're used with the quality of experience that a work of art can provide.
 
To be fair, "Finnegan's Wake" does have a high signal to noise ratio ("is noise art?" is not an interesting conversation) but some of us find that ratio intriguing. The fact that the book is widely regarded as a classic of literature and has stood the test of time should spur you to take a second look-- no one makes that kind of noise by accident. Try it-- it's tougher than it seems.
 
You know, I just realized that your argument boils down to "I don't enjoy the aesthetic, so the technique must be lacking, therefore !=art". Only a fool or a child would be so simpleminded... I may have just been trolled.

Re:And when they're done here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40621939)

http://webstarts.com/?aff=wfaith

Re:And when they're done here (1)

Illusion2269 (959341) | about 2 years ago | (#40619277)

The next challenge is decrypting Finnegans Wake.

Its much easier to understand, and enjoy, after having a few pints.

We are talking about the Irish drinking song, right?

Losers will receive (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40615699)

2 copies of every published Gibson book.

Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40624339)

Can I have the encrypted copies?

"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (5, Funny)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 2 years ago | (#40615733)

There's your problem right there as to why no one has bothered. It's like that old joke - ".... second prize is two weeks in Cleveland, Ohio and the grand prize is one week in Cleveland, Ohio!"

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

snarfies (115214) | about 2 years ago | (#40615989)

I hate to agree. I loved loved loved Neuromancer, but everything he has written since has been awful (well, Idoru was so-so) to the point where I'm half-convinced he didn't actually write Neuromancer himself. I gave up completely after All Tomorrow's Parties.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (5, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | about 2 years ago | (#40616045)

It's true. I just re-read the "Sprawl Trilogy" in the last couple of weeks, just to see if "Count Zero" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive" were any better than I remember. They weren't. They're tedious-as-fuck.

"Neuromancer" is great, but Gibson went up his own ass after that.

Still, he wrote "Neuromancer", which gets him a lifetime pass.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617107)

...I just re-read...

Well there's your problem. I've enjoyed every Gibson that I've read. But none that I've re-read.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617411)

...I just re-read...

Well there's your problem. I've enjoyed every Gibson that I've read. But none that I've re-read.

I too enjoyed every Gibson book I've ever read. Total as of today: 0.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40617157)

the short stories from burning chrome were best of Gibson so I guess that it fits that Neuromancer was best of sprawl.

I rather liked Spook Country though.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40618417)

I agree Burning Chrome is probably the best of all his writing. I think the insight he is pushing tends to be missed if the story is too long. It also doesn't help that he has gotten away from the cyberpunk theme in his latter books so the audiences would be completely different.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617241)

Seriously? Mona Lisa was a bit disappointing, but I thought Count Zero was as good as Neuromancer.

And if you read between the lines, even though Neuromancer is more often cited, a lot of Shadowrun's concept comes from Count Zero. So even if you can't stand them, be glad he wrote them.

2nd Prize!! (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 2 years ago | (#40617617)

Second prize Is TWO copies of every published Gibson book.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40626221)

Blimey. Tedious? I think, possibly, you need to de-arse your own head before criticising Gibson.

I never the understood the fuss over The Difference Engine, but his other novels are eminently re-readable.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

John Bokma (834313) | about 2 years ago | (#40617217)

A lot of people have the same problem with Larry Niven. Maybe some writers only have a limited time they can write something really good?

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#40618933)

A lot of people have the same problem with Larry Niven. Maybe some writers only have a limited time they can write something really good?

Not just some, I think.

Your milage may vary, but authors who I think have declined severely include:

Neal Stephenson
Robert A. Heinlein
Orson Scott Card (very quickly)
Terry Pratchett
Spider Robinson
Philip K. Dick
And much as I hate to say it, Charlie Stross too

Come to think of it, the only author whose writing I think didn't decline at all was Poul Anderson.

Again, YMMV

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619149)

Or, maybe, people tend to like the work that first exposed them to an artist?

Its not 100%, but my favorite album from most artists I like was the one I was first introduced to (doesn't have to be their earlier work, just had to be the first thing I came across).

Same with most authors.

Maybe its just me.

But its not.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (2)

greg1104 (461138) | about 2 years ago | (#40619831)

Whether Philip K. Dick's works declined or improved over time really depends on how much you're looking for amphetamine fueled visions of bat-shit crazy. Like it or hate it, his later work really didn't go through the usual out of ideas curve most writers follow over time.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 2 years ago | (#40623693)

Some of those authors are dead. I'd expect that to have an effect on their output....

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 2 years ago | (#40625197)

I think Stephenson's always written like this. He just had better editors in the past, who would rein in his more autistic measures. Now that he's a big moneymaker, people are afraid to challenge him too much, even though it was the harsh editing that made his prose better.

Re:"win a copy of every published Gibson book"?? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 2 years ago | (#40627305)

I think Stephenson's always written like this. He just had better editors in the past, who would rein in his more autistic measures. Now that he's a big moneymaker, people are afraid to challenge him too much, even though it was the harsh editing that made his prose better.

That may be true.
I also think there's an overall dumbing down of editors; much like most "journalists" nowadays being little more than copy/paste machines, book editors now seem little more than machines for rubberstamping the lastest harlequin parasmut, video game or TV rip-off, or other crap that would have been pulp or outright rejected in the past. And proofreading? That task has been relegated to computer programmes that don't understand the text, and cannot provide useful feedback.
Seen a stet lately?

I've cracked it (5, Funny)

mmarlett (520340) | about 2 years ago | (#40615903)

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

Re:I've cracked it (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#40616009)

Be sure to salt your Crypto-routine

So in other words... (5, Funny)

TeknoHog (164938) | about 2 years ago | (#40615995)

They want you to hack the Gibson.

Re:So in other words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40616797)

Came here for this - was not disappoint.

Re:So in other words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40616945)

Hack the planet!

Re:So in other words... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617239)

Check the garbage file

Re:So in other words... (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#40618013)

Mess with the best die like the rest.
The code was in the place I put that thing that one time
Crash and Burn.

There, now you don't have to do those.

Here's food for though. I'm an assembly programmer, and I decompiled the program. IT'S FUCKING CRACKED. What would you like me to do? NO-OP the cipher?!

Re:So in other words... (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40619029)

Acid Burn, Crash Override, Cereal Killer
Oh the lulz

Re:So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619133)

If it isn't Leopard Boy and the Decepticons....Type "cookie", you idiot.

It's in that place where I put that thing that time...

What? It's Corinthians one, chapter thirteen verse eleven.

Spandex: it's a privilege, not a right.

Re:So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619819)

Mr. The Plague.

Re:So in other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619865)

Stupid, man. It's universally stupid.

Yo. Check this out guys, this is insanely great, it's got a 28.8 BPS modem!

Look, you wanna be elite? You gotta do a righteous hack. None of this accidental shit.

No need for new infrastructure (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40616003)

No need for new infrastructure, just post it as a project euler problem and when you "win" the blog/psuedowiki thing has a link to the torrent file for a collection of his books... I've uh, heard, that such a torrent exists.

Seriously though I've also heard second hand that if you really want to piss off Mr Gibson all you have to do it tell him you love his book iconic genre defining cyberpunk book "snowcrash". At least thats what I've heard. If you don't get the joke, if you ask people the name of a cyberpunk author then family feud style 90% of them will say Gibson but if you ask them their favorite cyberpunk novel a majority will say "snowcrash" which was actually written by Stephenson. I like Gibson's novels too, this is just funny how people assume the awesomest book must have been written by the awesomest author.

Re:No need for new infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40616773)

I read your comment twice, and wasn't able to decrypt it.

Re:No need for new infrastructure (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40617275)

I read your comment twice, and wasn't able to decrypt it.

Well, get cracking or you're not going to get a torrent collection of all my /. comments

Re:No need for new infrastructure (1)

Maltheus (248271) | about 2 years ago | (#40617385)

Snowcrash is downright goofy compared to Neuromancer. But Stephensons other books are better than Gibsons other books.

Interesting - no ResEdit? (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 2 years ago | (#40616211)

MacOS 7 (System 7) apps were 68k, but they were stored as two "forks" - a resource fork (for icons/cursors/windows/menus and 68k code), and a data form (for free-form data - binary, text, or PowerPC code, but I doubt there's any PowerPC in it).

It's kinda interesting the website doesn't link to ResEdit as it's the way to tell if the binary is runnable by MacOS. (ResEdit also has a primitive disassembler for code resources).

And some old Apple documentaiton on how the Mac works would've been valuable as well - MacOS is a pretty strange OS (each resource can be up to 64k in size, and large programs are known to have multiple code segments).

Especially since knowing how the file must look like helps in its decryption since it has to be well-structured.

Re:Interesting - no ResEdit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617773)

I don't claim to know anything about the classic Mac OS internals, but System 7 was compatible with PowerPC processors as well.

Wikipedia has a good write-up about the 68k software emulator [wikipedia.org] , but with the poem being a native 68k app running on a 68k vCPU (Mini vMac), the emulator is a little out of the scope of this project.

Re:Interesting - no ResEdit? (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about 2 years ago | (#40621767)

Umm, resource forks were there long before System 7. They were always there on Mac OS.

Not encrypted (5, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#40616507)

According to the diff of the disc image before and after the program runs (http://www.crackingagrippa.net/files/agrippa_diffs.txt) it's perfectly clear that the text is not being encrypted. The listing on the left is after the modification, and the listing on the right is the original disc image. A large portion of the disc (exactly 8,000 contiguous bytes) has been rewritten with only four different bytes: 0x41, 0x43, 0x47, 0x54.

Thus a very significant portion of the original information is lost during the "encryption". It sure looks to me like the program merely overwrites the poem portion of the data with one of four randomly selected bytes. The poem, as listed in HTML on the web page, is 9190 characters, which correlates pretty close with the amount of bytes being modified on the disc image.

Re:Not encrypted (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#40616533)

Correction. 6,000 contiguous bytes of data on the disc is modified, not 8,000.

Re:Not encrypted (4, Interesting)

zamboni1138 (308944) | about 2 years ago | (#40616715)

A large portion of the disc (exactly 8,000 contiguous bytes) has been rewritten with only four different bytes: 0x41, 0x43, 0x47, 0x54.

Aren't those hex for ASCII characters A, C, G and T? Isn't that the same four characters that are used in DNA sequences?

Re:Not encrypted (3, Insightful)

WillAdams (45638) | about 2 years ago | (#40616873)

Correct.

The program was supposed to be over-writing itself w/ (randomly?) generated DNA information --- to match the DNA etchings / prints on the bundled cloth included w/ the physical original.

Re:Not encrypted (3, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#40617219)

Well in that case the only question is if that "DNA" contains some other message or meaning. Each of the 6,000 DNA "bytes" can be one of 4 values. Thus each "byte" can store 2 bits of information. That's 12,000 bits of data. Assuming uppercase letters only, it takes 5 bits per letter minimum to encode text (without any compression). That only allows for 2,400 characters, which is 1/4th of the poem text.

Looking at it another way, the poem contains 1649 words. That allows for 3.6 DNA "bytes" per word (6000 / 1649), which is 6 bits of data per word. I'll round it up to 7 bits per word to be generous. That's still only 128 unique values per word, which isn't enough to encode all the unique words in the poem.

I just don't see any way to encode a 9,000 word poem into 12,000 bits of data. If the "DNA" does have meaning then it would have to be an excerpt of the poem, or additional verses that aren't in the plaintext version.

The latter has my vote. If the author really is clever, then he came up with an algorithm that takes the original poem text and converts it into "DNA" looking data, which can further be decoded into text that contains additional readable text that completes the poem. If he pulled that off then he earns some major respect.

Re:Not encrypted (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617445)

Yup, supposedly there is not enough information (in the Shannon sense) contained in the overwritten genetic sequence to contain the poem, however, it's not clear that this is where the poem is (the sequence is from the *compiled* binary). The available source code suggests something else (it doesn't just say "spit out random genetic sequence"). My guess is that the genetic sequence is a red herring, perhaps to throw people off.

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619923)

Wasn't most of the genome sequencing done in the 2000s? Would there have even been much DNA info available to people outside of the scientific community in the 90s? It's not like he could have just googled the information back then.

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40629097)

if there isnt enough DNA bits of info, then perhaps it is placed into DNA form, then compressed ala an algorithm like gzip.

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40622567)

Maybe the encryption isn't at the word level....

Re:Not encrypted (1)

StuckInSyrup (745480) | about 2 years ago | (#40617225)

Try to feed that AGCT stuff to a DNA to aminoacid translation table [hongyu.org] . The result in single letter aminoacid code should mean something, as there are 20 different aminoacids coded by triplets of DNA bases, e.g. ACT=T (for Thereonin). I would try myself, if I wasn't late allready...

Re:Not encrypted (1)

midgetpoker (1148901) | about 2 years ago | (#40617559)

Don't forget that there are multiple nucleic acid triplets which code for a single amino acid and that these triplets can overlap. So if the output doesn't make sense on the first attempt there are other means of encoding and it'll also change depending on if there's a start codon (AUG) or not.

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617277)

doesn't mean it's not encrypted. an alphabet of 4 symbols -> 2bits/sym. if the original
poem were monocase (32 characters), you'd need 3 encoded symbols /
original. if the original is 2000 bytes or less, then there is a simple encoding
into the ACGT symbol set.

Re:Not encrypted (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | about 2 years ago | (#40618711)

A large portion of the disc (exactly 8,000 contiguous bytes) has been rewritten with only four different bytes: 0x41, 0x43, 0x47, 0x54.

So a poem that calls itself "the book of the dead" kills itself?

Sounds more like a need for literary interpretation than a cryptographic one.

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619269)

Ever heard of compression? :) Perhaps it's compressed, THEN encrypted. OTOH, what a waste of time and effort decrypting that would be. I'd much rather decrypt a document revealing the location of hidden treasure, than revealing something that rewards you with some books you could go get from the bargain bin at the Friends of the Library bookstore...

Re:Not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40624027)

According to the diff of the disc image before and after the program runs (http://www.crackingagrippa.net/files/agrippa_diffs.txt) it's perfectly clear that the text is not being encrypted. The listing on the left is after the modification, and the listing on the right is the original disc image. A large portion of the disc (exactly 8,000 contiguous bytes) has been rewritten with only four different bytes: 0x41, 0x43, 0x47, 0x54.

Thus a very significant portion of the original information is lost during the "encryption". It sure looks to me like the program merely overwrites the poem portion of the data with one of four randomly selected bytes. The poem, as listed in HTML on the web page, is 9190 characters, which correlates pretty close with the amount of bytes being modified on the disc image.

Assuming the data is not compressed somehow, switching from about 70 symbols/byte to 4 symbols/byte, while maintaining the same number of bytes, indicates that some of the original information is missing. IE. the file is probably scrambled, NOT ENCRYPTED.

I found the problem (3, Funny)

Phoenixlol (1549649) | about 2 years ago | (#40616563)

Perhaps "no one has managed (bothered?) to crack the code" because "The person who successfully cracks the encryption will win a copy of every published Gibson book." Just speculation, being unfamiliar with his work.

Re:I found the problem (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about 2 years ago | (#40616749)

If you haven't read any Gibson you're missing out.

Re:I found the problem (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#40618075)

You're certainly missing out on an experience, in much the same way that you are missing out on an experience if you've never accidentally fallen in a river.

Re:I found the problem (2)

greg1104 (461138) | about 2 years ago | (#40619913)

I'd intentionally fall into a river if the other option was reading more Gibson.

Re:I found the problem (1)

chrismcb (983081) | about 2 years ago | (#40621973)

Falling in a river can be a lot of fun.

Boring, though, isn't it? (4, Insightful)

eyenot (102141) | about 2 years ago | (#40616829)

I mean, what's to stop a programmer, who isn't necessarily a heady cryptanalyst, from simply reverse-engineering the Mac application and figuring out exactly how it's done without looking at the poem itself (or the encrypted version) at all?

So, this isn't a cryptanalysis contest. It's a reverse-engineering contest. A cryptanalyst isn't given the actual encrypting mechanism, the original, and the cipher all out front and asked for an explanation. They just get the cipher and some reasonable expectation of what the original might possibly contain (the words "fuhrer" or "atom" for example).

So it's kind of boring for me -- a hobbyist with an ardent interest in cryptography -- to bother tackling the problem, when somebody with some familiarity with Macintosh machine language is going to have a severe advantage.

The contest caters to the wrong crowd and packages itself all wrong.

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#40617207)

well, you'd still have to figure out the algorithm to decrypt it if it's really devious, I guess that's the point.

maybe it's a joke and it just a one way hashing algo.

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40617715)

A cryptanalyst isn't given the actual encrypting mechanism, the original, and the cipher all out front and asked for an explanation. They just get the cipher and some reasonable expectation of what the original might possibly contain (the words "fuhrer" or "atom" for example).

So it's kind of boring for me -- a hobbyist with an ardent interest in cryptography -- to bother tackling the problem, when somebody with some familiarity with Macintosh machine language is going to have a severe advantage.

The contest caters to the wrong crowd and packages itself all wrong.

It sounds like you are talking of WWII era code-breaking. The state of the art has advanced significantly since then. A modern cryptanalyst most certainly would get this information. That would be a known plaintext attack. This can be quite common, for example, if you are trying to decrypt a file type with a consistent header, or trying to break an SSL session, where the first page is always the login page. Knowing the algorithm used isn't uncommon either, such as with SSL.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Known_plaintext_attack

This is also explained in the first section of Applied Cryptography. If you haven't read Applied Cryptography, check it out. It will take your hobby to the next level.

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40618611)

As pointed out elsewhere in the thread, the encrypted data isn't large enough to contain the whole poem. Either it's not really an encryption mechanism or the encrypted text is something other than the poem.

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | about 2 years ago | (#40618917)

So it's kind of boring for me -- a hobbyist with an ardent interest in cryptography -- to bother tackling the problem, when somebody with some familiarity with Macintosh machine language is going to have a severe advantage.

Not everything in the world is meant for you. Sorry, you aren't the target audience. You also likely aren't the target audience for barbie dolls, but are you going to complain when their marketing doesn't appeal to you?

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40619097)

First, the guy is wrong about their audience. It is the right audience. He just doesn't seem to realize the encryption can be asymmetrical and therefore the decryption process can be completely different from the encryption process. However, his complaint would be apt if he were correct with his original statement. To use your example, it'd be as if Mattel continued to try and market current barbie dolls toward you. it'd obviously be the wrong market. and you could be upset if they were using whatever your favorite hobby is and say that barbie dolls are an awesome representation of said hobby.

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 2 years ago | (#40619649)

So who is the target audience, then? Macintosh 68K machine language enthusiasts? I have a few SE/30s in storage, but won't be plugging them in and booting them up for this.

Possibly the best encryption needed would be to store the poem in plaintext on an 800K Mac floppy diskette.....

Re:Boring, though, isn't it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620333)

Christ Jesus, shut the fuck up.

Good luck with that (1)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#40619629)

I met the guy who was doing this, and I think it was written in Mac Common Lisp, which obviates any 68k knowledge.

The one thing it does do is change the NMI vector so you can't use the programmer's key to break into it. That was my small contribution. You may be able to bypass this by running it in multifinder, finding the process-specific NMI vector, and restoring it. You may also be able to set a breakpoint when the NMI vector changes and then reset it. It's been a really long time, and I've forgotten how multifinder dealt with the various vectors...but I do remember that they did get swapped out per-process.

I suppose it must refuse to run when it's run off of read-only media. The whole point was to make sure it only ran once then destroyed itself. You could bit copy it onto floppies - I'm not sure how to do that anymore either. Damn, was that was only 20 years ago.

Busted! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40616943)

La gripa [youtube.com]

Fools... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40620027)

... the encrypted version IS the poem.

VM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40625809)

Interesting. Given that to run the program now a VM is required doesn't that open up all sorts of possibilities with regards to working out what is going on?

After all, one should be able to run it in a modified VM which is able to trace the execution of the program as it does it's job and thus give one a better idea of what is going on and why...

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