July 16, 2004

History of OpenPGP

The OpenPGP project has a long and interesting history. Here's some links on the worthwhile effort to document the rise and rise of this great project.

Fabian Rodriguez
PGP Corp

It seems one story has been forgotten, including my own small contribution - the great saga of the PGP 5.0 source code book. The scanning was finished by a team that I coordinated at HIP97. We completed the task, but most of the work had been done by an international team which was coordinated out of Norway by Ståle Schumacher. Not to mention the work done by the original publishers, PGP Inc themselves, and Lucky Green's carriage of the books past the unhappy border guards tasked to protect the world from American cryptography.

Once the book was in the hands of the infidel foreigners, the task was to scan and OCR each page, and construct the source code from the results. To us at HIP was left the last 1% of the OCRs. As it was all the tail-end stuff, the 1% was the hardest - the ones with errors that defied the simpl scanning, OCRing and checksumming process. With about 20 volunteers (of the 3000 or so people at HIP), we set to with a vengeance. Proofreading and error correction was the order of the day.

We must have been going for about 24 hours on the project, and what was left was a bunch of pages that just defied checksums. I wrote a bunch of scripts that did things like insert tabs in where they could be hidden amongst spaces, and mass crunched through errant pages. The final page fell when the Scandanavians read out to us over the phone one particular line - where it should have had a vertical bar "|", it had a digit one "1". An easy mistake to make but it left us cussing and swearing.

It was 3 in the morning when we finally sent out the last fixes, and 2 hours later the Scandanavians pushed out the source code world wide. By this time, the party had broken, there were snoring dead bodies everywhere, and nothing intelligent was being done - a lot of the final work was completed surrounded by one of those head banging disco scenes the Dutch are infamous for.

I thought I'd written about the great adventure somewhere, but I couldn't find any evidence of that. For those interested in more HIP colour, read these rants:

It's cool to be iang@hip97.nl
Hipped on PGP

And bear in mind that we may be due for another in the series. Anybody know anything of plans for 2005? Also, see this additional story of PGP 5.5 - where our OCR experience was put to much good use with new tools and formats, and enabled Teun Nijssen and Stale to do the whole lot in a tenth of the time, by themselves.

PGP 5.5 Scan

Posted by iang at July 16, 2004 06:41 AM | TrackBack