1996-03-29 - Re: Crypto CD UpDate

Header Data

From: tcmay@got.net (Timothy C. May)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: c552d98c497b9665004f8854ace87b5879da915dd7f104c9080131f25148e0ab
Message ID: <ad7df7b315021004da44@[]>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1996-03-29 14:57:29 UTC
Raw Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 22:57:29 +0800

Raw message

From: tcmay@got.net (Timothy C. May)
Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 22:57:29 +0800
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: Crypto CD UpDate
Message-ID: <ad7df7b315021004da44@[]>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

It pains me to often be the one who throws cold water on what seems to be a
good idea, and what comes from a well-intentioned person. But I have to
call 'em as I see 'em. And maybe I'm wrong. But here are my thoughts.

At 10:16 PM 3/26/96, aba@atlas.ex.ac.uk wrote:
>The idea of putting together a CD with crypto stuff is an excellent
>IDEA, and one which I very much welcome.
>However a question .. are you (Ben) located in the US?  If so...
>that rules out overseas buyers unless you fancy messing with ITAR...
>Is it possible that you could come to some arrangement with some one
>outside the ITAR fence who has a CD writer (any one reading have one?)
>put together the same CD for those outside the US?

A CD-ROM containing crypto programs, source code, etc. sounds like a nice
idea. But it falls apart for various reasons. For brevity, I'll just list

1. The CD-ROM "freezes" the various programs, archives, etc. at the moment
the files are finalized and the CD-ROMs are pressed (or burned individually
on a CD-R, at somewhat higher per-copy price). If the author of the CD-ROM
is not committed to updating the CD-ROM at frequent intervals--say, every
few months--then the programs will exhibit "version decay" and be nearly
The next point is the reason.

2. The Web does a better job at making the latest versions instantly
accessible. True, a CD-ROM will generally have faster access, but I care
more about getting the _latest_ version of PGP, even if takes a minute or
two to snarf off the Web. That I could get an _older_ version of PGP in
fractions of a second off this CD-ROM is not compelling to me. (And
fractions of a second is too charitable: in actuality, I'd have to locate
the CD-ROM, dismount anything already mounted, mount the CD-ROM, search it
for "PGP," etc. Probably not even faster than using Alta Vista and

3. Where CD-ROMs really shine over modem alternatives is, of course, for
very large files. Images, MPEG or Quicktime movies, etc. "Multimedia" being
the operative term. For crypto, this is not an issue. (Except for list
archives, where having a few hundred megabytes of articles might be nice.
However, the absolute KILLER of this idea is the staleness problem mentione
in Point #1: if the archives on CD-ROM lack the most recent month or two,
their usefullness drops precipitously. If the CD-ROM is a year old, and no
updates have appeared, then its archives are useful only to list

(In other words, I will almost always go to up-to-date archives on a Web
site rather than dusting off a CD-ROM that was issued several months ago.
And a CD-ROM every several months is more than I think we can hope for. Or
pay for.)

4. The Web approach allows powerful search engines, links from other pages,
and--importantly--multiple jurisdictions. The PGP could come from the U.S.,
the Digital Postage code from Sweden, and so on. And, again as noted in #
1, the developers could keep improving and iterating the code.

And so on....I can think of more problems, but these are enough.

I have no interest in quashing the enthusiasm of Mr. Holiday. Nor do I have
the power to do so, except by my comments. But I'd hate to see him invest
several months of his life preparing this CD-ROM only to find that it is a
novelty item, ordered by some people to be "cool," with actual downloads of
the latest versions of software being done the way it is now done--the Web.

--Tim May

Boycott "Big Brother Inside" software!
We got computers, we're tapping phone lines, we know that that ain't allowed.
Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
tcmay@got.net  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
W.A.S.T.E.: Corralitos, CA  | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839 - 1  | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders aren't even speed bumps on the information superhighway."