Microsoft and Quantum Computing

Microsoft recently announced they are developing a new programming language designed for Quantum Computing.  This (still unnamed) language will come with full Visual Studio integration as well as a Quantum Computing Simulator and will be available before the end of 2017.

Microsoft is also going to release *two* versions of the Quantum Computing Simulator. One version will run locally, the other version will be powered by Azure. The local version of the stimulator will offer up to 32 qubits and will need 32GB of RAM. Each additional qubit doubles the amount of memory required. The Azure version will scale up to 40 qubits.

This is fantastic news for anyone interested in Programming or Technology in general.  I’ve been very impressed with Microsoft over the last few years, their Visual Studio development tools, their SQL Server database product, Azure etc.  I’ve signed up to the Quantum Computing preview program and am looking forward to playing with their offering in due course.

Quantum Computing

More information on Microsoft and their Quantum Computing efforts can be found here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/quantum/default.aspx

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Magic Cipher Video: Additional Features

http://www.magiccipher.com

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Magic Cipher Video: Steganography (Hiding Data in Images)

http://www.magiccipher.com

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Magic Cipher Video: File and Folder Encryption

http://www.magiccipher.com

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Magic Cipher: Usage Scenarios and Examples

Example 1: One to One Private Communications

Bill and Ted are ready to start making plans for their next Excellent Adventure. Knowing that their email discussions could be intercepted and easily read, they use the Magic Cipher Shared Secret Generator with it’s Strength Meter to create a Shared Secret they can use together.

They type their discussions into Magic Cipher and email the contents as encrypted text directly from within Magic Cipher. They are now secure in the knowledge that no­-one can obtain access to their plans and attempt to put a spanner in the works!

Example 2: One to Many Private Communications

Bill and Ted decide they want to involve the Historical Babes in some of their plans, but not all. The four of them agree a Shared Secret and now Bill and Ted can communicate between themselves using their own Shared Secret and if they wish to include the Historical Babes they use the second Shared Secret previously agreed between the four of them.

Example 3: One to Many Private Communications over a Public Medium

Frodo is setting off on his next adventure and as is the fashion nowadays he wants to update the world with his travels via an online blog. With his new Macbook Pro this will be easy enough, however there is certain information he wishes only to be read and understood by Merry and Pippin who are holding the fort for him back in Hobbiton.

Before he sets off the three of them agree on a Shared Secret and as Frodo updates the world via his blog he uses Magic Cipher to append an encrypted entry on the end of his posts, in a separate paragraph, knowing that the world can see but not read or understand his instructions, which are only for the eyes of Merry and Pippin. Frodo uses the built in Virtual Keyboard to add a little bit of extra security to his posts.

Example 4: The Benefits of Cross Platform

Unfortunately, small, slim and gorgeous though it is, the Macbook Pro is just a little bit too big ­ and let’s face it, expensive ­ to take across Middle Earth, what with the danger from the Orcs and other dark forces.

At the last minute Frodo decides to switch to a small Linux notebook which he obtained free of charge with his mobile broadband card. Luckily Magic Cipher works as well on Linux as it does on macOS or Windows, so Frodo has no need to change his plans, or his choice of encryption software.

Example 5: Magic Cipher, Not Just for Men

While Frodo is off on his travels his wife, feeling lonely, takes a lover. Knowing that the local Hobbiton ISP takes quite an interest in emails to and from the villagers, they both use Magic Cipher to arrange their rendezvous. Even hobbits need loving.

Besides it was rather selfish of Frodo to disappear like that for months at a time ­ and who knows what he got up to with Sam on that epic journey?

Example 6: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words …

Sat on his sofa safe back at home several months after his epic journey to Mordor, Frodo dreams of his next challenge. With Sam on board, who now lives several miles away in Bree, Frodo and Sam use the Steganography features of Magic Cipher to enable them to swap ideas and plans which they have hidden in pictures which they upload to their Facebook pages.

With no evidence that their pictures are anything more than rather boring pictures of Sams garden or Frodos wine collection, nobody has any clue that there is another adventure being planned. In fact nobody has any reason to suspect Sam and Frodo are even in communication regularly. Problem Solved!

Magic Cipher Video: Text / Email Encryption

http://www.magiccipher.com

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Magic Cipher: The Story [1/2]

In 2007 I’d just launched my first application for the Mac, macVCR and I was looking for inspiration for my next project. I had long recognised the need for a simple and easy to use encryption program and hadn’t been able to find one. I decided my goal should be to create one.  Not only would this ‘scratch an itch’ it would hopefully go on to become a successful product in its own right.  If I needed this then so did others.

The problem was that I used, and still do, macOS, Windows and Linux on a regular basis, and so would some of my customers. If they, for example, use Windows now – they may use macOS in the future.  For this to be a worthwhile endeavour my product would have to run on those three major operating system platforms and provide transparency and compatibility between them. This was no longer a small project.

R10Cipher: Supported Operating Systems

To make this product a reality I chose Xojo as a development platform, or REALStudio as it was then known, and set to work creating R10Cipher.

The first thing I needed was a Vision Statement, something to guide me during development and help focus my thoughts. I settled on the following:

A Simple and Easy Method to Safely Encrypt your Email Correspondence and Document Files.  It’s like your emails and documents are carried by a SWAT team rather than being written on a Postcard !  R10Cipher is for Individuals. For Businesses. For You. For Me. For Mum and Dad. For Teachers. For Professionals. For Journalists. For Executives. For Everybody.  Because our Privacy and Security have never been more important.

The next thing I needed to do was decide on what encryption technology to use. AES was relatively new at the time and was still looked at suspiciously by many Americans following the whole ‘Clipper Chip‘ incident.  In the end I settled on a UK invented encryption technology called Blowfish.  Blowfish is a keyed symmetric block cipher which was invented by ‘Security Guru’ and renowned author Bruce Schneier in 1993. It provides excellent encryption and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Blowfish is free of patents and back doors, and Bruce has placed Blowfish in the public domain.

Version 1 of R10Cipher was released in 2008 and sold only a few dozen copies.  Using the feedback from these early customers Version 2 was released with some significant enhancements including drag and drop batch encryption of files and documents.

When Version 2 was released, Version 1 was featured as a free edition on the DVD Cover Disks for the glossy UK editions of MacFormat and MacWorld magazines, on consecutive months.  Since then I have agreed for it to be distributed on several foreign editions of the magazines.  Hundreds of new users were gained through the distribution of the free edition, and many of those went on to pay for an upgrade to Version 2.

Macworld and MacFormat Magazines featuring R10Cipher 1 on the Cover DVD

Direct Sales of Version 2 were excellent, with good feedback and testimonials. New customers means new ideas and feature requests and so Version 3 was scheduled.

Version 3 released 2nd August 2009 was a major new version that addressed all user requests from Versions 1 and 2. The main advantages of Version 3 were an increase in encryption strength to 384 Bit, an encryption strength indicator and a full Key Management capability which creates an encrypted local database which contains the ‘Shared Secrets’ that you use to communicate with your different contacts.

Interest in Version 3 was phenomenal, it far exceeded my expectations. I had many upgrades from Version 2 to Version 3 and as I offered an upgrade policy even from the free edition, I have had a few upgrade from Version 1 to Version 3 also.

2009 also saw R10Cipher become a Finalist in the UK IT Industry Awards, Technology Excellence / Information Security Product category.  The UK IT Industry Awards are held annually by Computing Magazine and the British Computer Society.

R10Cipher: Finalist UK IT Industry Awards

In April 2010 in conjunction with MacFormat Magazine I offered a free Version 2.5 SE on the DVD Cover Disk with a discounted upgrade to Version 3. This promotion was not as successful as earlier promotions, possibly because 2.5 SE was a ‘designed to be free’ product, rather than an actual previously sold version. In addition Version 3 had at this stage been out for a while.

Version 4 of R10Cipher was released in June 2010, with Version 5 being released in July 2012.

Commercially R10Cipher has been a great success for me with several thousand users and it is a product I am very proud of. Just as importantly, my customers have had immediate and measurable benefits through the use of R10Cipher. Previously they knew they needed something to protect their communication and documents, but they could not find a product that seemed easy and simple enough for them to use.  R10Cipher filled that requirement.

IT Security and Data Protection were and are high on many peoples agendas at the moment, or at least they should be, and yet the majority of people are left exposed because until R10Cipher came along there was not a product simple and easy and complete enough for them to consider using it.

Here are some paragraphs about R10Cipher, back in the day:

R10Cipher is unique in that this is the first cross platform end to end encryption product that real people can and will use for day to day encryption purposes. R10Cipher does not attempt to encrypt a complete volume, R10Cipher does not try and involve the user with complex Public Key encryption, R10Cipher does not need a complicated install, in fact R10Cipher does not need installing at all. R10Cipher concentrates on being the easiest to use and most reliable End to End, Text and File Encryption software.

The lack of an installation makes R10Cipher unique in that you can copy the Windows (XP, Vista and 7), Mac OSX and Linux versions of R10Cipher to a USB drive or external device, along with your documents and carry your data about with you knowing that a) You can access that data on any computer and b) It is secure, so if you lose it or leave it in a taxi then the information is unreadable and no harm is done.

Because of it’s simplicity and ease of use R10Cipher pioneers new ways of working. Backup your important data to the web, iCloud, Dropbox or similar – encrypted by R10Cipher, and retrieve the information later, wherever you happen to be. Your data is secure – secured by you not by your web hosting company. If your hosting company is enforced by law to hand over your information, that information is useless to the recipient unless *you* agree to provide access.

The main innovation of R10Cipher therefore is not in the technology but the way in which the product is designed to be easy and simple to use for everybody – not just IT Professionals.

This brings us nearly up to date.  I should perhaps mention that R10Cipher took a back seat for me, as did my other commercial products, between 2012 and 2016.  This was due to personal and health problems involving, amongst other things, Motorcycles and Air Ambulance Helicopters.

R10Cipher was never forgotten and when the chance came to resurrect it through an acquisition by Area51 Limited I was extremely pleased.  Not only could the product be re-written, updated and enhanced and once again made available, but I would be backed up by others who could step into my shoes and continue development, should the worse ever happen.

2016: Magic Cipher was born.  Press Release

Magic Cipher

Part 2 of this post will detail how Magic Cipher was built, its initial goals as well as the way it will change over time and the additional functionality we will be adding in the near future.  For now, you can obtain a copy of Magic Cipher with a 20% discount using the coupon code: MCBL20 which can be entered at checkout: http://www.magiccipher.com

Contact us for further information:

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A Radical View of Software Licensing

My article on Software Licensing and Piracy is now available in the current issue of Better Software Magazine. You can download the issue here, or alternatively you can see my article only at this link.

A Radical View of Software Licensing

Thanks for your interest.

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Software Licensing and Software Piracy: Part 3

If you’ve made it Part 3 then you either find this subject really interesting or else you have difficulty sleeping at night 🙂  This final part of my article on Software Licensing discusses some of the ‘nitty gritty’ and gets down and dirty with some real code samples. All code samples are taken from oneSql.

The value of Part 3 of this article will be mainly to developers using the Xojo Programming Language for Cross Platform Software Development, although developers in any language can benefit and in fact anybody with an interest in going ‘behind the scenes’ of software development.

One thing very noticeable when preparing this article is just how much ‘behind the scenes’ work is necessary sometimes to give the customer a simple, slick experience. Simple is hard ! The way this article is structured with a Customer Experience section followed straight after by a Behind the Scenes section, makes this very clear.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE [1]

When the customer decides that your product is for her, as far is as she is concerned the following two events take place:

  • The customer clicks the Buy Now button and is taken to the Paypal login page.
  • The customer decides whether to pay via Card or Paypal, then fills in the form and submits the document.

BEHIND THE SCENES [1]

chol.technology receive the Order Confirmation via Paypal. The chol.technology LicenseBoss Software automates the following sequence of events:

  • Product and Edition Information fetched from the LicenseBoss Database
  • The Encryption Key for the Product Editon is retrieved. Abbreviated as Key1
  • LicenseBoss parses and Inputs: User Name, Email Address, TimeStamp and Transaction ID
  • LicenseBoss combines the input into a string with appropriate delimiters and identity markers
  • We now have a ClearTextLicenseString
  • The ClearTextLicenseString is then encrypted using Key1. We now have the EncryptedLicenseString
  • The ClearTextLicenseString and the EncryptedLicenseString are then concatenated
  • We now have the FirstPassLicenseFileString
  • FirstPassLicenseFileString is then encrypted using the License File Encryption KeyKey 2
  • We now have the EncryptedLicenseFileContentsString
  • An email is then generated from a Template and the EncryptedLicenseFileContentsString  is appended
  • The email is sent to the customer

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE [2]

The customer receives an email which looks similar to this:

licenseemail

The instructions are Clearly Documented for the customer in an email as a Four Step Process. After Step 4 the product is fully licensed, and the window below is displayed briefly before closing automatically:

onesqllicensewindow

BEHIND THE SCENES [2]

The Software License window, accepts the email pasted into it and immediately strips the unnecessary information and displays the encrypted license. The actual encrypted license is contained between the <CHOLTECH> and </CHOLTECH> tags, therefore the only part of the pasted email that is displayed and then processed is the part taken from between those two tags.

When the Save button is pressed the encrypted license is created as a text file and stored in the SupportFiles folder within the oneSql folder. The newly created license file is called oneSqlLicense.lic

At this point the License File Decode method is called with the license file contents as a string parameter. Multiple flags are altered and adjusted within the program to indicate that the product is now licensed. Further details on that wouldn’t be prudent for me to discuss publicly 🙂

The actual license file decode method is straightforward. All the Encryption and Decryption routines are pre-build, based on my R10Cipher File and Text Encryption product, (shameless plug –  developer licenses are available for the Encryption modules, contact me for details) and imported into my products as a module whenever I start to develop a new program.

Obviously the DecodeLicenseFile method basically reverses the work done by the EncodeLicenseFile method in the LicenseBoss program as described in step by step detail earlier.

I know some of you out there are Xojo Developers, so here’s a commented example of the code. You can see how straightforward it actually is:

decodelicensefile1

decodelicensefile2

decodelicensefile3

 

NOTE: Licensing in this fashion has an additional benefit. It caters for Zero Effort Configuration.

In a corporate environment if you were rolling out oneSql to dozens of computers, you could have a centrally situated Corporate or Site License which could be copied to each persons computer using a script. Very Fast, Very Simple and Damned Convenient 🙂  Essentially zero interaction required from the user. That’s got to be a good thing 🙂

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Spanish Language Beta of oneSql Available

Finally !  English, French, German, Italian and now Spanish are all supported by the latest Beta of oneSql, our Cross Platform, Multi-Database SQL and Database Tool.

onesql_0907

Always interested in additional Beta Testers, if you are interested you can go to this page to register your interest.

Besides the addition of Spanish as a supported language, there are just a few more changes ‘under the hood’ so to speak.

  • New Default Logon for MariaDB: root
  • New Default Logon for PostGreSQL: postgres
  • New Windows Menu
  • Main Window Area Zoom Facility
  • Logon Window, Cleaner User Interface
  • Logon Window, Removed the Connections Log
  • Did I mention Spanish Language Support ?

Existing Beta Testers can download from the Build List in the Trello project as usual. Please let me know of any issues as the Release Version is due very soon now … 🙂 Your time and efforts are much appreciated.

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Software Licensing and Software Piracy: Part 1

Your favourite piece of software was created by someone, or many someones, who used their time and hard won expertise to build something useful or enjoyable, or both. With the exception of Free Software or Open Source Software, that someone is entitled to, expects and deserves to be rewarded for their efforts.

If a price is attached to the software and you use the software without paying the price that is asked, then that is Software Piracy. Many would argue that it amounts to nothing less than theft.

If I sell physical products, lets say Widgets, then if I have 10 and you take 10 without paying for them, then I now have 0, you have 10 and hopefully a guilty conscience as well. That is theft. If however you use my software without paying for it then I am not directly affected by it. I still have it. Would you have bought it if you couldn’t have obtained a pirate copy ? Maybe. Maybe Not. In my opinion that is why Software Piracy differs from traditional theft. What you have actually done is taken away my chance of receiving income from you for that software sometime in the future. It just isn’t clear cut either way, with laws, policies and attitudes being firmly rooted in the ‘pre digital media’ 20th century.

Having established that there is a cost to producing software and that the developer does deserve to be rewarded for their time and efforts, it stands to reason that we have to have a mechanism in place that makes this possible. That mechanism is generally known as Software Licensing.

I’ve been developing software for financial reward for nearly as long as I’ve been using computers, getting on for thirty years, and I have never wavered in my belief that whatever form of licensing you use, you should never punish the genuine, fee paying customer for the actions of the Software Pirate.

Seriously, I have bought software in the past that had licensing schemes so restricting or complex or time consuming (or just plain ridiculous), that I have saved time and effort by downloading a cracked copy of the software and using that instead, all the time cursing the software developers for making me waste my time and effort. In effect punishing me for my honesty.  As a Software Developer or Software Publisher that’s not an experience you want for your customers.

Whatever Software Licensing mechanism is used, there will always be some who do not like it and resent it being used. If as a developer you have done your best to minimise the impact on the genuine customer, whilst making some effort to thwart the Software Pirate, then you have done all you can and any customer who is going kick up a fuss about your licensing mechanism is unlikely to be a customer you actually want. Most customers would actually like you to stay in business and realise that to do that, it is necessary to be paid for the work you do, and / or the products you sell. Sacking your customer can sometimes be a good thing. But that’s a subject for another blog post 🙂

So what is a fair software license, for both the supplier and the customer ?  What is it fair to expect your customer to do to license their copy of your product, and so help protect your product, your sales, your livelihood and the future investment and development in a product that is important to both you ?

Part 2 Soon …

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DataViewer 1.3.0 [Update]

This latest update to the DataViewer components for Xojo and REALStudio contains the following enhancements:

  • List View Configurations Saved on Exit
  • DB Objects Now Available from the Tab Area
  • Database Objects List, Now Double Click to Insert
  • Option to prefix Columns with Table Name
  • Option to append a Comma to the Column Names
  • User Input Prompts [[T-xxxxx]]
  • DML now Supported as well as Queries
  • Parsing of Multiple Statements with Sequential Execution
  • Multiple Small Bug Fixes

DataViewer is a small collection of components that allow a Xojo or RealStudio Developer to put a full featured SQL Query and DML tool into their own applications for a one time payment. There are no restrictions on use. The images below are from the latest version.

Click here to download the Demonstration App for Mac, Windows and Linux.

www.stevencholerton.com

 

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DataViewer [Update] 1802

This latest update to the DataViewer components for Xojo and REALStudio contains the following enhancement:

  • The Database Objects Viewer window has been redesigned.

DV DBObjects 121

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Knowledge Is Power

Scientia est Potentia is the common translation. Not that that matters in the slightest, unless of course anyone ever asks you the question and then you may gain from knowing, maybe credibility, maybe respect – maybe both. After all, Knowledge is power.

www.stevencholerton.com

In business, knowledge is key. Knowledge of your products is very important, knowledge of your competitors is important, knowledge of when taxes need to be paid is also important. Of over-riding importance however is knowledge of your customers and of your target market(s).

Knowledge in these areas more than any other determine whether your employees are paid this month, or not. Whether you drive a nice car, or ride an old pushbike. Whether you live in a house or sleep on a park bench.

CRM has been described in many different ways. To me it is simple. CRM should provide the tools to help you obtain, retain and use the knowledge of your customers and your target markets, to allow you to better serve those customers and markets and to help you make your own business successful.

With knowledge comes the ability to service those customers and those markets more effectively. To look after them and become known as a company who cares. You can’t care about what you don’t know.

Knowledge gives you the tools to become successful. Use them wisely.

Because Knowledge *IS* Power.

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CRM: Contact Notes

Just a quickie today – for ContaxCRM users who have recently purchased the software, here is the single annotated image that explains all you need to know about adding Notes to a CRM contact.

ContaxCRM Notes

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Free: macsFileMover

This is the second of my products that I have decided to release , free of charge for personal, non-commercial use. This is a  small utility product for Mac OSX and Windows.

If you find my software useful and you feel you’d like to help with my personal quest for a USA PRS Guitar then feel free to make a donation via Paypal. My address is scholerton@gmail.com 🙂

Click Here for Further Information …

Product: macsFileMover
Purpose: Automated File Moving and Copying
Platform: Windows and Mac OSX
Size: 5Mb
Copyright: Steven John Cholerton
Download: http://bit.ly/1eFuO0w
YouTube: http://youtu.be/Pi_kL7j-Yto

License:

Supplied Free Of Charge for Non Commercial Use Only
Businesses and Other Organisations Contact Us:

license@zombielabs.net

Summary

macsFileMover allows you to setup multiple file Source and Destinations and at a user determined interval the contents of the SOURCE folder will be COPIED or MOVED to the DESTINATION.

That is pretty much all it does.  Where it excels is when used on servers particularly when regular archiving of logs etc. is required. Once setup the Source and Destinations can be saved to a preferences file and then reloaded when you next use the software.

macsFileMover

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macsFileTool: The Movie

I’ve just upload a short demonstration movie of macFileTool to YouTube.  You can view it using this link:

http://youtu.be/n1QSg6GWh40

Further Information on macsFileTool can be found here:

http://bit.ly/1euQA55

License:  macsFileTool is Supplied Free Of Charge for Non Commercial Use Only.  Businesses and Other Organisations Please Contact Us: license@zombielabs.net

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DataViewer [Update] 1701

Another couple of additional features added to the DataViewer Components for Xojo and REALStudio:

An additional Menu Option which will fetch all Rows and all Columns for the currently selected Table.

An additional Menu Option which will create a SQL Statement ‘Template’ for the currently selected Table, see the example shown below:

DataViewer

The updated libraries are available for download now.

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jSql: Final Beta

jSql is a MySQL and SQLite Query Tool for Windows and Mac OSX.

jSql is built using REALStudio / Xojo and the DataViewer Components.

jSql is Small, Simple, Fast and Cross Platform for a seamless experience whether using Mac or Windows as your platform of choice.

Final Beta was sent out to ‘Early Adopter’ Customers today and depending on feedback from them, the final release will almost certainly be early next week.

At this moment in time I am still unsure regarding pricing. How much to charge – or should I give it away – using it as an example of what can easily be achieved using the DataViewer components. Maybe add a load more features and benefits and release a chargeable Pro version later ?

Here’s a couple of screenshots to be going on with 🙂

jSql by Steven Cholerton

jSql by Steven Cholerton

Any comments or feedback:  scholerton@gmail.com

DataViewer [Update] 1501

Thankyou to those who have so far purchased my component and also to those who have made constructive suggestions.  Two of these suggestions have been implemented in a new release earlier today:

  • One Click to Fetch 20 Records for Quick Query
  • One Click for Record Count, any Table

DataViewer

DataViewer

More to come …