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Cyphernomicon FAQ -- Review in "Wired"

A couple of items of interest:

1. Rishab Aiyer Ghosh tells me he has committed to write a review of the
Cyphernomicon FAQ for "Wired," for either December or January publication.
I had nothing to do with this, and it surprised me when he contacted me to
notify me. (I reminded him of the "pre-release" status, the
incompletenesses and holes, but he feels it's still timely to review it.
And by the time his review gets printed, a newer revision will be

I'll make some comments later, but I of course urge Rishab to make his own
comments here.

2. The Cyphernomicon is available in two main places that I know of:

* My own anonymous ftp site: ftp.netcom.com, in pub/tcmay

      - 6 files, including the full FAQ, listed as "CP-FAQ"
      - and 2 flavors of this in compressed and gzipped forms
      - Contents, MFAQ (Most Frequently Asked Questions), etc.
      - Netcom has been having performance problems, lately

* The Karl Barrus/Chael Hall gopher and ftp site: gopher chaos.bsu.edu

      - Karl has split the full CP-FAQ file into 20 chapters, each of
        which can be individually retrieved/mailed.

The Cyphernomicon can of course be put on other ftp sites, though this
complicates the version control problem. I would appreciate it if anybody
who does put it on an ftp site agrees to keep it current, to periodically
check my own ftp site and copy over newer versions.

(I think the approach of _pointers_ to a few sites is a better approach
than copying the actual documents to many sites. The most popular docs will
be replicated at more sites, but I think the Cyphernomicon FAQ is
sufficiently specialized that a few sites will be enough...that might
change if Rishab's review in "Wired" meets with interest...)

3. Hal Abelson, Professor of Computer Science at MIT, has asked me if he
could convert the FAQ into a Web document for his class on "ETHICS AND LAW
ON THE ELECTRONIC FRONTIER." I have great respect for Hal--co-author of
course of the seminal "Structure and Interpretation of Computer
Programs"--so I responded favorably. He says that if I agree, which I did,
he'll leave the Web doc available permanently, even after the class is
over. More on what the URL is when it's ready; you can try
http://martigny.ai.mit.edu/6095, which is his home page for his class.

4. Yes, I still have concerns about multiple, out-dated copies floating
around. I worry about people going to great lengths to "Webify" the version
they have, and then being unwilling, naturally enough, to repeat the work
each time a new version appears. I worry that the "pre-release" version,
the version 0.666 I released, will become frozen/encrusted/trapped in the
silk of the aptly-named "Web" and thus forever be the de facto public

(Unless I abandon the writing tools on my own computer and instead
concentrate only on adding links and making changes to the Web version.
This I just won't do.)

5. Rishab is especially anxious to get CompuServe, AOL, etc., versions
available, or referenced in his review in "Wired." Thus, if any of you want
to make this conversion, download the FAQ, or the chapters (from Karl's
site), etc., and _agree to keep the version relatively current_, then this
would be a Good Thing.

(I'm not sure the advanced stuff in the Cyphernomicon, stuff about
remailers, digital cash, etc., is the most useful stuff for typical "Wired"
readers, given the questions the material will generate (as it does on our
own list!), but this is not my call to make. Rishab says the editors at
"Wired" want his review, so it's out of my hands.)

Rishab says he needs to have the CompuServe/AOL/etc. addresses by 27
September, as his review is due on 1 October. So, not much time.

There are of course major _size_ problems. I tried to e-mail the FAQ to one
list member without ftp access who assured me his mail system could handle
it--but it couldn't. And another list member uses a VAX, and only the first
line would transfer. The compressed versions have also caused problems for
some folks (though not to others, so I know the versions are kosher).

Frankly, I shudder to think about the AOL and CompuServe folks, not to
mention the Prodigy customers, trying to get a megabyte-plus file, or a
gzipped file! So, if someone makes this available, please be careful to
make sure it is really retrievable and readable on these systems.


--Tim May

Timothy C. May         | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]       | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
408-688-5409           | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
W.A.S.T.E.: Aptos, CA  | black markets, collapse of governments.
Higher Power: 2^859433 | Public Key: PGP and MailSafe available.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."