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Comments

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Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt

WaywardGeek Re:Differences between 7.1a and 7.2a (146 comments)

7.2 was stripped of encryption functions. Even if it was without bugs, what good is it? Not to mention the weird way they walked away from their software.

It really was weird. Here's my new theory:

These guys released their best version ever, 7.1a, in Febuary 2012. They had a party, said goodbye, and moved on with their lives. Everyone assumed that since it's open source, some new guys would come along to take over the project. Instead, for two years, there were no security updates, and no credible fork. TrueCrypt was languishing. One of the developers decided to force the world to take action. He pulled that amazing stunt, complete with recommending everyone use Microsoft BitLocker. Now he's kicking back with a beer and watching the world go nuts. It's like kicking an ant hill.

Did it work? You bet! A bunch of geeks like me said, "I want to help!" A couple of Swiss Pirate Party dudes said, "We'll lead the effort", and before the weekend was over, they had thousands of offers for help. True to the Pirate Party spirit, they even pirated the TrueCrypt name: truecrypt.ch. Also true to the Pirate Party spirit, they don't really know how to organize a team of geeks to work together in a common direction. So, I said "Follow me!" on the forum, and signed up geeks as fast as I could at the site that became CipherShed.org. Now they're self-organizing like some sort of slime mold, creating order out of chaos. It's really fascinating to watch! I hope the original authors are enjoying the drama :-) At this point, I think the new team is going to do amazing things.

about a month and a half ago
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Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt

WaywardGeek Re:7.1a for x64 linux (146 comments)

I believe I read about this guy on slashdot a year-ish ago. He verified the Windows binary comes from the official source. I replicated most of his steps, until I became a believer. It is the actual source used to compile the 7.1a binary.

Now, if you're afraid of back-doors, be afraid of what is already in the official source, all 110K+ lines of it.

about a month and a half ago
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Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt

WaywardGeek Re:7.1a for x64 linux (146 comments)

DIST truecrypt-7.1a.tar.gz 1949303 SHA256 e6214e911d0bbededba274a2f8f8d7b3f6f6951e20f1c3a598fc7a23af81c8dc

Excellent. That's what I just got for the source we're using to build the CipherShed fork of TrueCrypt.

about a month and a half ago
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Auditors Release Verified Repositories of TrueCrypt

WaywardGeek Re:7.1a for x64 linux (146 comments)

Source package (not Linux) sha256sum: e6214e911d0bbededba274a2f8f8d7b3f6f6951e20f1c3a598fc7a23af81c8dc

That's what I just signed in the first ever signed git commit of the CipherShed fork of TrueCrypt. It's been a crazy week over there!

about a month and a half ago
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TrueCrypt Cryptanalysis To Include Crowdsourcing Aspect

WaywardGeek Re:Crowdsourcing (131 comments)

From this security analysis there is a 64K-ish block in the header that is filled with random data in Windows, but encrypted 0's in Linux. There's no simple way to insure the Windows header is indistinguishable from true random data, but the Linux version should be OK. As for the rest of the unused portion of the volume, I haven't checked the code. If it's using a pseudo-random number generator that isn't cryptographically strong, then it may be distinguishable. However, the entropy argument seems wrong to me. If the unused portion has measurably lower entropy than true random data, then the random number generator in question must have been compromised.

about 2 months ago
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TrueCrypt Cryptanalysis To Include Crowdsourcing Aspect

WaywardGeek Re:Crowdsourcing (131 comments)

It's actually just a bit over 110 kLOC, but you were close. The crypto code is mostly very good. The GUI code must have been written by someone else, because it totally sucks, IMO. I was just porting it to wxgtk3.0 today from wxgtk2.8, and of course all the crypto compiled without even a warning, other than some AES code I need to look into. The GUI was a freaking nightmare. They implemented their own string class. How stupid is that? Well, they didn't just implement a string class, but they implemented a directory string class, a filename string class, a "volume" string class, a "volume info" string class, and about a dozen other string classes, most of which don't actually have any useful functionality, and just require all kinds of casting operators. Stupid stupid stupid...

I haven't looked at the firewall between the GUI and crypto code yet. Obviously there's a fuse driver in Linux and I would not expect it to link with the GUI code at all, but I need to check. Given that the crypto code rocks, and the GUI code sucks, it's critical that they be in separate processes. That would be needed in any case, since you can't trust all that GUI library code living in the same process as the crypto core.

about 2 months ago
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TrueCrypt Website Says To Switch To BitLocker

WaywardGeek Re:Fishy (566 comments)

You're right. I guess it is just about impossible to build a truly secure OS. OpenWall tries, though I haven't checked it out properly and don't really know how secure it is, though it's designer is a genius. It seems that isolation from the Internet is the safest way to maintain privacy. Also, close your window blinds and never leave the house :-)

about 2 months ago
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TrueCrypt Website Says To Switch To BitLocker

WaywardGeek Re:Fishy (566 comments)

I agree that users who are highly concerned about their privacy should avoid Windows, as well as Mac OS X, and likely use some version of GNU/Linux, and air gap their system. However, even Snowden felt he needed to use Windows, and TrueCrypt was likely good enough for his purposes. I haven't read about how he used TrueCrypt, but I imagine that the hidden volume might have been handy.

Places this laptop I'm using may have back doors: Windows, Lenovo software, Lenovo motherboard, Intel CPU, Intel FDE SSD, BIOS, Intel WiFi driver and hardware, Cygwin, TrueCrypt, and any of about 100 binary-only programs I've installed from the Internet. It may have been infected by my Android phone when I connected it, or by the stupid binary-only VPN client our company pays for since it felt the free open-source OpenVPN solution was insecure. GNU/Linux would help, but mostly because I would only install a dozen or so binary-only programs (Skype, NVDA driver, DVD player, Steam...). I have some concerns that my Arch mirrors have been overridden, as some package updates seem to be fishy (security configuration in Apache had syntax errors, yet the package was properly signed...). This stupid method of distributing binary packages from a central repository also smells like something governments would like.

My laptop is a radioactive pile of shit for security, whether or not I use Linux. TrueCrypt also has shit-for-brains password hashing, and wouldn't do anything about it, so I already suspected that the TrueCrypt devs were being pressured somehow.

about a month ago
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Is Bamboo the Next Carbon Fibre?

WaywardGeek Re:Bamboo Bicycle (198 comments)

True, and they are far superior in terms of making the best use of the bamboo fibers. For example, they can steam flatten the crown so that the fibers on the outermost part of the crown (which are far denser than in the interior) are not over-stressed, and the load can be shared by more of the outer fibers. I didn't do that, and the efficiency of my bow is far less than is possible with such technology. However, even the yumi bows fail to make use of beneficial lamination stresses. I got higher energy density per unit limb mass than even yumi bows, though mine still isn't nearly as good of a bow, not by a mile. I just like the physics :-)

about 2 months ago
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Court: Oracle Entitled To Copyright Protection Over Some Parts of Java

WaywardGeek Re:Oh PJ, where art thou? (303 comments)

Thanks for the link. I read: The jury found that Google infringed Oracle’s copyrights in the 37 Java packages and a specific computer routine called “rangeCheck,”

Fuck rangeCheck. I don't care if Oracle gets $1B for that stupid 10-line function that any moron could write in 5 minutes. Oracle succeeding in copyrighting an API, which last a freaking 100 years, is death to our industry.

about 3 months ago
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Really, Why Are Smartphones Still Tied To Contracts?

WaywardGeek Re:" why T-Mobile finds it profitable" (482 comments)

It's not just the dumb 2-year contract scam. We're also being fleeced for voice contracts, on both our land-line and mobile, because the phone companies prefer to continue charging a 1970's service charge for something that modern networks deliver practically for free. T-Mobile doesn't need 850MHz spectrum. They need free VoIP over WiFi whenever you're indoors at work, home, or a friend's house.

Fortunately, there's a new kid on the block, Republic Wireless, who is doing contract-free ultra-cheap service. By offloading traffic to your own home wifi, RW can in theory make money $25/mo for Sprint 3G "unlimited" service. That's the plan I have, and I have the $10 plan for my kids. Verizon 4G LTE was great (my previous phone was a Verizon/Google Galaxy Nexus), but for the $60/month savings on just one phone, I'll live with Sprint. Also, they've got the Moto-X for $300, contract free, and it's hands down the best phone I've had. Time will tell if sane service providers have a chance in this country.

about 3 months ago
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

WaywardGeek Re:Many methods to speed reading (92 comments)

Very cool! Thanks for the abstract and the tip for how to track down research. The abstract sounds about right to me. It's kids with reading difficulty that may benefit the most from combining listening and reading, with adjustable speed. I find that kids seem to have a different difficulties in early reading, and if it is too difficult, they wont start reading chapter books, and it is difficult for them to naturally ramp up their reading speed. Some audio help at that stage might help a lot.

about 3 months ago
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

WaywardGeek Re:Many methods to speed reading (92 comments)

Just for fun, if you want, go listen to the first chapter of the audio book I just read This is a 3.5X speedup of a voice that already reads above 150 wpm normally. It's probably around 600 wpm.

about 3 months ago
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

WaywardGeek Re:Many methods to speed reading (92 comments)

Another interesting, yet annoying case is my daughter, who I used as a subject for speed listening so often that she not only listens fast (she was already a pretty faster reader), but she's decided to talk fast, too. I don't know if this is a potential pitfall in your scheme :-)

about 3 months ago
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

WaywardGeek Re:Many methods to speed reading (92 comments)

I'm honestly not actually sure why your idea *would* increase reading speed.

It's very simple. As you suggest, the bottleneck is in the brain's ability to process the information rapidly, not in eye movement, for most readers. Therefore, whether you learn to speed "read" with audio or text, doesn't really matter. It's the back-end processing that needs improvement in both cases, and it's the same back-end. Improving one will improve the other.

about 3 months ago
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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work

WaywardGeek Re:Many methods to speed reading (92 comments)

I had a very similar idea, and it will work. Really. By the way, the poster above, Bysmuth, is dead wrong, labs and all. Feel free to contact me (Bill Cox - waywardgeek@gmail.com) if you need me as a reference to support this idea.

One of my contributions to open source and the blind community has been improving speech speedup algorithms. I listen at > 600 wpm, and have a blind friend who listens at double that. As part of this, I've done numerous A/B tests on many subjects (friends, family and acquaintances), trying to figure out what works for them. Here's what I found. First, anyone who is already a high speed reader also very rapidly becomes able to listen at high speed. This is 100% correlated, after maybe 100-ish tests. I found no counter examples, and the strength of listening speed ability increases with the subject's reading speed. While some speed readers do not hear a voice while reading, it must still using the speech centers in their brain, because high speed readers are already prepared for speed listening, whether they claim to vocalise or not. There are other contributing factors, most notably age. I am the only non-blind person I know who learned to be comfortable speed-listening after the age of 40, though I do have a strong central vision loss issue. Every test I did on with anyone over 40 backed up the fact that speed readers are also naturally speed listeners, but the > 40 crowd is almost violently opposed to speed listening, while the under 40 crowd thinks it's cool. I know... that's such an objective scientific observation :-)

Also, I found that non-blind listeners who force themselves to learn to speed listen (including me), discover that their regular reading speed increases naturally. People can argue all day long about vocalisation being good/bad while reading, but the fact is that the same centers in the brain are used regardless. If you train to listen fast, your reading speed will increase, and vise-versa. This is the single most obvious conclusion I have been able to draw. It's a very real effect.

Another interesting point is that young people will, given a chance, naturally turn up the audio speed over time while listening to good books, very much like we see kids reading faster as they read a good series.

Reading a story both visually and audibly in parallel should enable a reader (whether mostly using their eyes or ears) to focus on the story the way that is more natural for him, and as he goes faster over time, his regular reading speed will increase, regardless of his preference for audio or printed text.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

WaywardGeek Re:Commodore Amiga 3000T (702 comments)

I solved my cellphone battery life problem with a Moto-X from Republic Wireless. Republic still has a few growing pains to get past, but for big geeks who don't mind putting their phone in airplane mode and enabling wifi once or twice a day, it's amazing. In that mode, I go for days without having to charge it, though my phone is only a few feet from the wireless router most of the time. For $25/month for "unlimited" Sprint 3G everything but tethering, it's hard to beat.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

WaywardGeek Re:Commodore Amiga 3000T (702 comments)

Oh! You totally beat me to mentioning RealCalc. The HP-41CV is a better calculator, even if RealCalc is awesome, but like my camera, it doesn't fit nicely in my pocket.

about 3 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Tech Products Were Built To Last?

WaywardGeek Re:Clock Radio! (702 comments)

This may not count, but my great-great-grandfather's gold pocket watch, built in 1891, just passed the "chronometer" tests, gaining no more than 3 seconds or loosing 6 in a 24 hour period. Heck, back then they didn't even design them to be that accurate.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

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Republic Wireless Announcement Could Revolutionize Cellular

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  about 10 months ago

WaywardGeek (1480513) writes "Do you remember how you felt paying $0.25 per photo you downloaded from your own camera phone? How do you feel when you pay $250 for a Verizon wireless extender for the privileged of burning minutes over your own Wi-Fi? Enter Republic Wireless to save the day with today's announcement of a $300 Moto-X, and all-you-can-eat everything plans for $25/month (3G), and $40/month (4G). By using free Wi-Fi for calls whenever possible, and Sprint's network only when Wi-Fi is not available, RW cuts cell phone charges in half. With the Moto-X, RW is finally ready for big geeks like me."
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Romney Team Dumps $2M to Sway Intrade

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  about a year and a half ago

WaywardGeek writes "Intrade was subject to massive political manipulation today. Starting just past 6am, someone dumped about $100,000 worth of Obama shares to tank Obama's odds from 69% to 64% within a few minutes. Only 15 minutes later, Intrade's Obama odds had recovered to 68%. Throughout the day, the huge Obama dumps were repeated over and over, to the tune of about $2M. Can you buy Intrade odds? Apparently, yes. For $2M, you can reduce a candidate's odds from 69% to 66%. Did American Crossroads find this a good use of secret donor funds?"
Link to Original Source
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Is Oracle Trashing Your FOSS Project?

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  more than 4 years ago

WaywardGeek (1480513) writes "Oracle has finally started gobbling up Sun. The first casualty of consequece? Oracle has decided to decimate Linux accessibility, laying off the entire Orca team, who provides the Linux screen reader. Around the world, thousands of blind individuals now have their computer access threatened. What Oracle cuts have affected you so far? Where can users go to have their concerns heard?"
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Sony Ericsson Xperia X10/Android: official video!

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  more than 4 years ago

WaywardGeek (1480513) writes "Sony may try to steal a bit of Motorola's Droid thunder this week, with a blockbuster announcement of their own later today. They just posted a preview video and specs, and frankly, they nailed it! The girls are hot, and the phone looks good on them. They look smart and sophisticated using it, rather than geeky. Finally, someone has figured out the Apple magic, and looks poised to deliver a real competitor! The phone should look like sex, and this one does."
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What Filters are Right for Kids?

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  more than 5 years ago

WaywardGeek writes "My daughter is using phrases like "hot guys", and soon will have a chat about the birds and the bees. I believe in letting kids discover the world as it is, and have no Internet controls on any of our systems, which are mostly Linux based. However, it's not fair for aggressive porn advertisers splash sex in her face without her permission. My question is: What Linux-based Internet filtering solution do Slashdot dads favor, and do they hinder a child's efforts to learn about the world?"

Journals

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Zvi OrBach, and Romania in 1999

WaywardGeek WaywardGeek writes  |  more than 3 years ago

As I've just thrown out a bit of a nasty comment about Zvi OrBach, so I'd like to explain a bit more here. First, Zvi considers himself a man of high ethical standards. I'm no moral relativist, but Zvi is from the Middle East, where I suspect lying to the patent office and Romanian employees is considered wise, rather than unethical. At AMI, I dealt mostly with very ethical Christians and Mormons, and I figured it'd be hard to be screwed by the likes of these people. However, I discovered that a company with weak leadership is capable of acting like the worst individual that could be made from the worst aspects of all of it's leaders. One John Stone provided much of those worst aspects, but others provided irrational fear, NIH, kingdom building, genuine stupidity, etc. The individual made from these traits is not someone you can actually deal with.

I loved the trip to Romania Zvi sent me on in 1999. I often wish I could go back there for a while. I'm sure Romanians on this list could properly describe Romania, but I'd like to say how it was for an American geek. First, I was not allowed to carry any significant amount of cash, and there was no such thing as credit cards. Instead, I had a person assigned to make sure I was well taken care of all the time. This is probably a very good thing. The first day, my guide and friend stepped between me and a poor child on the street who was reading a newspaper while walking past me. My guide explained that it was likely that the kid had a knife behind it to cut the laptop shoulder strap while another kid stole it. The poverty on the streets in Bucharest was quite sad, but the city was in many ways like all international cities, vibrant with activities, great food, and culture. We drove to a city which I believe is IaÅYi, though Zvi called it Yas or something similar, so I remained confused as to where I actually was.

IaÅYi for me was a place of great contradictions. The beauty of some architecture was breathtaking, old and magnificent, while much of where people actually lived was dull and uninspired, built under communist rule. I stayed at a hotel considered very nice for the area, and have no complaints. The bed was very small, more like a cot, but it was fine. One night a very beautiful tall slender girl knocked at my door, and opened her over-coat, revealing barely legal clothing underneath. She said "Speak, and I there", and pointed to the floor. Now, I am a huge geek, and I was married, but you'd think I'd figure out what she meant. I thought she was saying she had lost her dress under the couch, but there was nothing there. It took about five minute for her to get me to understand what she was suggesting, and then I was quite embarrased and turned her down as nicely as I could, which frankly was hard for me to do. I think fear was what kept me honest to my wife that night, fear of catching some disease, fear that my room was being taped and I'd be black-mailed, fear that she would somehow wind up taking my laptop (the only valuable thing I had).

The software team was a group of around 10 employees, mostly in their 20's, who had degrees from the University. They worked in one room, on stools, with the worst PC hardware available on the market. Zvi had a Jewish buddy living here, who was running the whole thing, and one thing Zvi may not have realised is that he paid for Dell computers or equivalent, but the team got much cheaper hardware. His buddy pocketed the difference. A major problem was that the network barely worked at all, because the wiring was sub-standard. Their eithernet cables were super thin, and many just didn't work. I'd never seen eithernet cables like that, but someone was making money by skimping a penney per foot, and the software team was hard pressed to collaborate at all. It was litterally a sweat shop, where the heat from the machines and our bodies made the room quite uncomfortable.

But, the team love to write code, some of them were pretty good, and the others seemed to learn quickly. There was an experienced coder named George who's code was outstanding. I hope he was allowed to run the team and train the rest. There was a very nice and very smart girl I believe I called "Cat", who always wore a suit jacket. It turned out she was 8 months pregnant, but didn't want me to know, and she hid her condition under her coat, and gave birth something like 2 weeks after I left. We needed access to Synplicity FPGA software, which I helped develop in my previous job. Everyone already had copies on their machines, and I wondered how they could all be running softare worth seveal times the machines. It turned out that every piece of software in the place was pirated, mostly code broken by Russians. They had Cadence layout tools, and Synopsys Design Compiler, and virtually anything they wished. They had a million dollars worth of software running on $200 computers.

The highest paid employee got $200/month, but a Big Mac cost something like $4. Instead of American fast food, we ate at local resturants with outdoor seating and amazing food for $0.50. The chicken soup was so thick and delicious it could warm your whole body and leave you wanting to return just for the food. Beer by some unit greater than a pint was cheaper than Coke, and not bad. They had a local wine for $3/bottle that I loved so much, I brought some back to California, to discover that the wine acutally tasted pretty bad in California. The difference must have been the food pairing, and ambience, or maybe even a shift in attitude. To go to the bathroom at the resturant, you had to pay a nickle to an old lady who guarded it.

The University was a combination of beautiful and ugly buildings, probably because of when they were built. In one of the older beautiful ones, the bathroom was more elegant than a bathroom should be, with carved marble everywhere. However, the plumbing leaked a continous stream from multiple places to a drain in the middle of the floor. Everything was in a sad state of dis-repair. In courtyards that should have had fountains and students studying, there were broken down cars and mud. The same was true of the people. The programmers I worked with were healthy, and from what I could tell, happy, intelligent and mostly pretty nice looking. They were geeks with a good sense of humor. One of them was a guy with long hair who I thought of as a bit of a hippy, but I think he was the best adjusted of the lot. He alone told me he had no desire to ever leave Romania. He loved his home and told me of hiking and fishing in the mountains, and how he enjoyed his family. I think the poverty weighed heavily on the rest, though they were doing well compared to most in the city. On the streets, we'd see Gypsies who looked like they were starving, and the place had pitiful wild dogs, who breed to the extend that they can find enough food to survive. I think the Gypsies were suffering a similar fate, and I think the Romanians and I tried to not look at them. It was too hard, and there was nothing we could do.

Zvi wanted to get visas so he could have a couple Romanian programmers working at his house in San Jose all the time. Basically he wanted super cheap labor, that would be paid $200/month or less, living in Silicon Valley. I went to the American Consulate with my guide, waited through a long line and suddenly was in America, with Americans speaking proper American English, and trying to hold to very American values. We talked with the lady who had the power to grant such a visa, presenting myself as evidence that this was a real American company, not some Romanian sham. My guide brought her flowers, and clearly indicated that he just wanted to pay the expected bribe. Even I could figure out what he meant. The lady seemed insulted, as I would expect Americans to be, and turned us down flat. When Zvi found out, he was angry, and tried every means to increase the bribe, etc. I've never seen him so angry. He was outraged. Was his money not good enough for Americans? Zvi and the Romanians seemed to agree that the lady suffered from many evil qualities I wont go into. They were deeply insulted that she would not accept a generous bribe. It was racist. It was ugly Americans who thought they were better than Romanians. You wouldn't believe how long they could go on about the injustice of it all.

Zvi's buddy, the Jewish man running the operation, was friendly and deeply religious. He invited me to his home, a small condo, and I met his charming family. Everyone was so nice, the Jewish boss, the Romanian programmers, everyone. However, the Romanians hated Jews with a passion that was clear bigotry. Jews had over time exploited them, they felt, as Zvi's buddy was doing at present. The Jewish boss certainly didn't feel bad about exploiting the local labor. The one thing they agreed on was that they hated Hungarians and Gypsies. Everyone was willing to lie to and steal from everyone else, and this did not seem immoral to them, so far as I could tell. Everyone hated every other identifiable group, and blamed them for their problems.

My guide and friend was certainly no exception. Before leaving, he proposed to start his own programmer sweat shop, and he'd only charge me $2,000/month per person. By the way, Zvi's buddy had ten programmers, but he had them working for multiple clients without the clients knowing about it, so he was overcharging. I'm sure my guide thought he could pay a programmer $200/month and get $4,000 from clients. This, I suspect, is why Romania remained so poor... it was impossible to find an honest person to do business with. After ending my consulting relationship with eASIC, I would have gladly helped set up a business paying programmers $400/month for programmers rented out for $800/month. My friend the guide could have made probably $300/month per programmer, and would have been relatively wealthy compared to others in his city. I would have felt great about increasing the income of the workers, helping them to raise families, and would have gotten a screaming good deal in terms of software development costs. But how could I trust my friend and guide? He was scheming to steal away his boss's business, and clearly thought I had no idea how little he would have to pay his programmers. I know that I would be taken advantage of in every possible way. Code I paid to be developed would be secretly sold to the highest bidder, or more likely all bidders. The programmers themselves would keep copies and use it for any benefit they could find. I honestly hope things have gone well for all of these people. They are charming and intelligent. If I knew of some way to work with them, I would. I don't feel that Zvi, his Jewish buddy in Romania, or any of the Romanians are unethical. They're just different, in a way that naturally happens to people who have been through hell. When times get hard, I would hope that people would come together to try and help each other. I think it does in some places and some cultures, but at some point the cheaters and lairs start doing better than the rest, and if the hard times persist, more people become cheaters and lairs until no one can remember why anyone would want to be honest. It's a self-perpetuating state, where a culture of cheaters and lairs becomes unable to pull itself out of poverty.

The last time I went out at night with the programmers (they were expected to go out with me to dinner every night), we were in a couple of cars that came to a railroad crossing just as a train pulled to a stop maybe 50 feet away. The train was close enough to trigger the lights warning drivers not to cross, but there were no gates to come down an block our way. It was a single track, and the train was clearly stopped, and in no hurry to get moving again. We were at the front of the line. There was zero danger in crossing and continuing to the restaurant. Never the less, these kind people who clearly would steal me blind given a chance, sat there, refusing to move. Cars lined up behind us for maybe 50 yards, and another line formed on the other side of the tracks, going the other direction. Not one person honked or complained. When I said we should just cross, everyone in the car seemed to get upset, as though I had just recommended incest or something. It's like they believed I had no ability to determine right from wrong. You just don't break laws in Romania like crossing tracks when the lights are flashing. Whatever... I guess I didn't stay long enough to begin to understand the culture.

I asked my friend and guide if I could take him and his fiancée to the best restaurant in town, to thank him for everything he had done for me. He agreed, and wound up at a place that charged huge prices - probably $10 per person for dinner. It was a Tex-Mex American restaurant. It was packed with poorer retired Americans who were in Romania for a cheap vacation. The food was nothing special. However, everything was clean. The waitresses were pretty and friendly, and nicely dressed. The bathroom was spotless. The Romanian couple with me seemed to feel this place was wonderful. I would have rather spent fifty cents for some of that great Romanian food.

Romania, at least the part around IaÅYi, is beautiful, with rich culture, art, and architecture. The mountains remind me of the Black Hills of South Dakota (which if you haven't seen, by all means, get going!). The people are genuinely kind and well educated. I love the place. I agree with the long-haired programmer. If I were Romanian, I wouldn't ever leave. It's one of the best places on Earth. I hope the last decade has brought luck and prosperity to those people. They need it.

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