Make an octave ukulele

An octave ukulele is a 4-string instrument tuned like a regular ukulele (gCEA, with the g being one octave higher than one would expect), but a whole octave lower. It is still played exactly like a ukulele but it sounds more like a guitar, with pretty deep bass. For those of you who actually want to accompany your singing and don’t want the instrument competing with your voice, yet are too lazy to learn a new instrument and set of chords. In this post, I tell you a simple way to make one starting from a baritone ukulele. Read More

Make a cuatrolele

A what?

Well, there is the ukulele, and then there is the cuatro. So the cuatrolele is their love child. Essentially a ukulele that sounds like a Venezuelan cuatro, but can still play along with other ukuleles. The good news is that building one requires less than one hour of your time, plus a two-dollar budget ($38, starting from scratch). The result is a sweet-sounding instrument that your friends will want to borrow constantly. Read More

Guitar vs. ukulele

I am the kind of guy who has a musical interest but not a whole lot of musical talent, or at least not a whole lot of musical training. I have begun to learn guitar many times, always to give up with some frustration or another. Sometimes it was the pain in my fingers, other times the inability to make any chords that sounded half decent, still other times said fingers getting tied up in knots as I attempted to move from one chord to another. But I think I’ve found a way to end this. If you have a similar history, you may want to read on. Read More

How to (almost) learn to play guitar

Perhaps your story is similar to mine. Having missed that crucial period in my teens when all my friends were learning to play guitar (because I was studying, or so I tell myself), I’ve tried many times to catch up and accompany my (arguably) good voice with a stringed instrument, and always failed, for different reasons. In this article I try to explain why, and how I got some traction eventually so that I finally (almost) succeeded. Read More

Make a banjo

Lately I’ve been quite taken by string instruments, and collected four ukuleles, of different kinds, in a very short time (they’re so inexpensive!). I was going to acquire a fifth one, a banjo ukulele or banjolele, when I realized that I would save a lot of money if I made it myself from Chinese parts ordered over the Internet. A lot of waiting for parts, but about two months later the instrument is ready and it sounds awesome. This article will tell you how I made it while hardly possessing any luthier skill, in case you want to do the same. Read More

Cryptanalyzing FibonaRNG

Sorry about the title. This post is motivated by Steven’s comments to the “What is Randomness?” post, where he describes a way that the current paper-and-pencil cipher champion, FibonaRNG, could be broken. Rather than responding with more comments, I thought a whole new post on the issue would make more sense, since it’s going to be rather long. For those who prefer the short version: yes, what Steven says would work, but not very well, although it looks like it should. Read on if you prefer the long version.
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All my apps updated

What started as a small improvement on image steganography has grown into a major update of all my published apps, encompassing PassLok Privacy, PassLok for Email, SeeOnce, URSA, plus two new apps: PassLok Image Encryption, and PassLok Human Encryption. This articles summarizes the changes for those who might be curious. Read More

Low-tech high-security passwords

You’ve seen this advice many times: use a different password for each website you log into, including lowercase, capitals, numbers, and special symbols. Change it often. If you don’t, a hacker that breaks into one of those websites might be able to get into your bank account and your Facebook page, emptying the first of money and filling the second with child porn. But I’d bet you don’t do it because it’s just too hard to come up with a good password for each website, and then remember it. In this post, I’ll be telling you a paper-and-pencil trick derived from one whose author is none other than Turing award winner Manuel Blum, but far less taxing on your brain. Read More