0wnz0red annotation (page 2, in progress)

Well, I’m a little busy today, but I thought I’d give you folks what I’ve got done on the annotation for page 2 of 0wnz0red. I’ll update this later today, tonmorrow at the very latest.

Slight update on Friday, August 30th at 3:15 p.m.

Once again, if you don’t know what this is all about, go read Cory Doctorow’s nifty short story, 0wnz0red. Day by day, I’m annotating each of the pages of the story, covering the dense techno-folderol and Cory-isms contained within. I’ll eventually collect these and put them on a single page.

Graphic: Title graphic for '0wnz0red'.

“…they had cute girls on the documentation floor, liberal arts/electrical engineering double-majors…”

It’s true. many of computerdom’s “cute girls” were double majors. I know cute women from double majors in theatre/computer science, English computer/science, fine arts/computer science and biology/computer science.

“His car was one of the last ones in the lot, a hybrid Toyota with a lot of dashboard geek-toys…”

This was probably inspired by our friend Quinn Norton’s recently-bought Toyota Prius, a hybrid gasoline/electrical car. It relies on its whisper-silent electric engine at lower speeds and the gasoline engine kicks in on the highway or when extra power is needed. In the center dashboard between driver and passenger is an LCD display which gives you status reports from both engines, energy consumption and other cool data. I found its readouts endlessly fascinating.

cryptographic handshake

Let’s do this one word at a time.

A cryptosystem is a method of disguising messages so that only people for whom the message is intended can see through the disguise. Encryption is act of disguising a message; decryption is the act of removing the disguise so that the message can be read. Cryptography is the science of creating and using cryptosystems.

A handshake is an exchange of messages between two computers.

A cryptographic handshake is an exchange of disguised messages between two computers – in the case of this story, between Murray’s key fob and the door lock system of his Toyota. The door lock system of Murray’s Toyota is like a combination lock and the key fob contains the combination to the lock. The key fob encrypts the combination before transmitting it to the car; the car decrypts the received message and then checks to see if it’s the right combination for the door locks. If the key fob did not encrypt the combination before sending it to the car, it would be the high-tech equivalent of climbing onto the nearest rooftop and shouting out the combination to the car door locks for everyone to hear.

(Update: Just re-read that entry and thought: wait a minute — it’s not really a handshake, because the communication between key fob and car door lock system is not an exchange. The key fob, as far as I know, doesn’t actually reply The communication is more akin to that between a TV remote and the TV. The minimum kind of exchange for a handshaking scenario is along the lines of something like this:

Computer 1: Here’s a message for you.

Computer 2: Cool. I await your next message with bated breath.

Okay, I embellished it a litte. You get the idea.)

El Torito

A chain of Mexican restaurants in southern California.

Some geeks may remember that the specification for bootable CD-ROMs for IBM PC-compatible computers was conceived in the El Torito in Irvine, California, which is why it’s called the El Torito Specification.

Shallow Alto

Cory’s nickname for Palo Alto, one of the high-tech centres of Silicon Valley. Yes, he actually uses this term in real life.

“So, do I get two other ghosts tonight, Marley, or are you the only one?”

Actually, in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, three ghosts visit after Marley: Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas you’re-dead-and-nobody-gives-a-crap.

“…they’re hardcore for it.”

(Still have to write this one.)

Turing Machine

(Still have to write this one. Gonna be tricky, because it’s hard to explain using this in only a sentence or two. )


(Still have to write this one.)


(Still have to write this one.)

“Now, forget about that for a sec and think about Hollywood. The coked-up Hollyweird fatcats hate Turing Machines.”

(Still have to write this one.)

secure app

(Still have to write this one.)




(Still have to write this one.)


(Still have to write this one.)

Gutenberg Project

(Still have to write this one.)




Quantum Electrodynamics.

Well, yes, but it this case, it’s an abbreviation for the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum meaning “which was to be proven”. A clever-clver way of saying “I rest my case.”


Short form for cryptography, which I covered in cryptographic handshake, above.


(Still have to write this one.)


Same thing as a cryptosystem, which I covered in cryptographic handshake, above.


(Still have to write this one.)


(Still have to write this one.)

signing key

(Still have to write this one.)

chip fab

Short for chip fabrication plant, where computer chips are manufactured.


(Still have to write this one.)

“That key is used to sign another key that’s embedded in a tamper-resistant chip”

(Still have to write this one.)

Fritz Hollings, the Senator from Disney

(Still have to write this one.)


The term for starting up a computer is called “booting”. It’s derived from the expression “to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, which means “to get started without any outside help.”

There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation when you boot your computer. The operating system of a computer, among other things, is responsible for loading applications from your hard drive and then running them. The operating system is itself an application that somehow has to be loaded from the hard drive and then run. But how do you do that without already having an operating system up and running?

(It’s kind of like a question someone once asked me when we were watching people constructing a new high-rise building: how do you set up a crane without using another crane?)

That’s where the boot loader comes in. Unlike operating systems, which are relatively large programs stored in RAM (whose contents evaporate as soon as you cut off the power), a boot loader is a very small stored permanently in ROM (whose contents remain even when the power is cut off). The boot loader tells the computer how to load and then run the very core part of the operating system, known as the kernel. Once loaded and run, the kernel then starts up the rest of the operating system.

“cryptographic signatures that reflect the software and hardware configuration of your box”

(Still have to write this one.)


Short for configuration.


Central Processing Unit.


Operating System.


(Still have to write this one.)

“You can’t fake an interface”

(Still have to write this one.)

“You know that these guys sued to make the VCR illegal, right?”

(Still have to write this one.)

“You can’t wrap up an old app in a compatibility layer and make it work with a new app”

(Still have to write this one.)

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