How to use miniLock – a simple way to encrypt files

From time to time, I find I need a quick way to send a file with sensitive information in it, but don’t want to bother with PGP or some other file encryption method – usually because the recipient isn’t comfortable with PGP.

Enter miniLock. miniLock is a Chrome app and relies on the combination of your email address and a strong passphrase as your key. This is both a positive and a negative.

That’s great because it means you can encrypt and decrypt files on your Chromebook. It’s bad because most people don’t have good passwords – much less passphrases.

Still, it’s a simple way to encrypt files, and can be used by almost anyone without the need for any sort of indoctrination.

At the risk of making the process more complicated than it really is, I took some screenshots and walked through the installation and encryption process below.

Step 1: Install

Installation is super simple. Visit and click the link to the Chrome App Store

01- Install from website

Click “Add to Chrome”

02 - Add to chrome

Step 2: Launch

Go to your installed Apps in Chrome and click on the light blue padlock

Yes, I'm a baseball fan...

Step 3: Create key

This is done by entering your email address and a strong passphrase.

04 - Login

Step 4: Select file

Your miniLock ID is shown at the bottom of this window. This key can be posted or sent anywhere – and should be if you want others to be able to send you encrypted files with miniLock.

My miniLock ID is UXTFUyqcoM3spXNMtqpZGqqNzjZyZsGiQQwezVH1UYNR5.

Now you can either drag the file you want to encrypt, or click the big square box to find your file.

05 - Add files

Step 5: Encrypt

Paste in the miniLock IDs you want to encrypt the file for. I strongly recommend keeping these in a text file or email someplace. Again, they are not sensitive, so it really doesn’t matter where you keep them. A file in Dropbox would work just fine. :-)

06 - Add miniLock IDs and encrypt

You can add more miniLock IDs if you need to.

Step 7: Save encrypted file

Once complete, you can download the encyprted file by clicking on the down arrow. This “.minilock” file can be attached to an email or sent via Dropbox or put on a USB stick or stored and distributed anywhere, really.

07 - Download encrypted file


Decrypting a “.minilock” file is just as easy. Simply drag and drop the file onto the window from Step 4. The file will decrypt (assuming it was encrypted to your miniLock ID) and you can download and save the original file.

08 - Download decrypted file

That’s really all there is to it.

While I prefer PGP for encryption, it’s good to have alternatives to work with, so I consider this just another good option.


Happy Birthday Dirge….um…What?!

Yesterday we celebrated the start of the 5th year in the life of our adorable little girl.

In the traditional manner, we lit five candles on a (cup)cake and sang the traditional “Happy Birthday” song. But not too far into the song you can hear Isaac say “We’re gonna do two Happy Birthday songs!”

At first, I was anticipating the Fuqua version of the Happy Birthday song: a stirring rendition sung to the tune of “The Star Spangled Banner”! That has long been my favorite version, despite its length.

The Box family tradition however is the “Happy Birthday Dirge”, sung to the first part of the tune, “The Volga Boatmen“, and which (in our family) begins like so:

Misery and despair, people dying everywhere….Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday.

(There are actually many variations on this song, but that’s neither here nor there…)

After the conclusion of our song last night, Isaac broke out with his version of the Dirge:

In marriage and despair, people dying everywhere, Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday.

And there was silence….

(I captioned Isaac’s quotes, but you have to enable ‘CC’ to see it.)

I should also note that Charisse’s attempts at blowing out the candles were very entertaining as well, but it will be a long while before we get over Isaac’s version of the Happy Birthday Dirge.

Time-Lapse Earth

This has to be one of the coolest videos I’ve seen in a while. It’s a time lapse video of photos taken from the International Space Station, shot at 1fps. (Best viewed in full-screen, as the embedded version simply doesn’t do it justice…)

The author says “[t]he yellow/greenish line that you see over the earth is Airglow.” For the full details, including the locations shown, see the description under the video on the original vimeo page.
(Thanks to @timdan for sharing!)

Flying Lessons

So yesterday I finally got to use my Christmas present from Betsie: a “Discovery Flight” lesson from Genesis Flight Academy!

First I had around a 30 minute classroom lesson on flight physics, covering the four forces of flight and the three axes of a plane, from my instructor, Chris. He was obviously very passionate about flying and gladly answered any question I presented.

Once the ground lesson was done, we went out to the Cessna 172S and completed the pre-flight checks.

The flight checklists

The checklist document for this plane is a four-page pamphlet with lists on each page. The Discovery Flight really only made use of this first page.

After a stop to fill the fuel tanks (when I took the shot of the dashboard shown below), I taxied to the runway.

The control panel

Steering with your feet is a LOT harder than I expected it to be. There were several times when Chris had to get us back to the middle of the taxiway…

I was very surprised that he let me pilot the take off! Once in the air, I did eventually figure out how to keep it leveled off (for the most part). He stalled the plane twice (on purpose) so I could see what it felt like. Then before I knew it, we were very near my house (though not in altitude, fortunately…).

On the way back, it took me seemingly forever to see the airport. I never really did get my bearings in relation to the landmarks on the ground. I took the plane through the pattern to line up with the airstrip, and Chris landed. I taxied back to the parking lot (again with the occasional correction) and then he parked the plane.

The whole thing was a blast, but I will say it was a lot more stressful than I was anticipating. There is SO MUCH to know and keep track of while flying! Chris made an interesting comment that sometimes piloting isn’t so much knowing what to do, as much as knowing what NOT to do!

The only thing I’m bummed about is that I failed to take a close up picture of the plane I flew! I took this from right beside where I parked the car.

Cessna from the parking lot

When I got home, the kids asked me about the flight. I started talking to Isaac and decided to have some fun.

I asked him if he know the four forces of flight, and he immediately responded with “Thrust, drag, lift, and weight”. He apparently remembered that from the movie “Rio!”. (Really?!?!)

Fine, I thought. “Okay Isaac: how do you turn a plane?”

“With the rudder.”

“How do you turn the rudder?”

“Well, in a helicopter you use the foot pedals.”

I give up. He could’ve skipped my entire ground lesson and gone straight to the flight.

All in all, it was a fantastic Christmas present! I still think I would like to get my pilot’s license. Flying would be a lot less stressful once I felt comfortable with the controls. :-)

Who knows? Maybe after I finish my Master’s degree.

Or maybe I can just have Isaac teach me…

He is Risen

He is Risen Indeed!

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen,as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.

(Matthew 28:1-6)

Praise God! :-)

Donkeys and KPIs


Recently, the NSA declassified 136 issues of their monthly internal publication, “Cryptolog”, and released them in PDF versions for public consumption. (alternate Cryptome archive) As a geek this was/is very exciting for me. :-)

Without a great deal of time to read through them I decided to briefly peruse the edition published the month I was born (Volume V, No 3 – Yes I’m a young whippersnapper) and quickly moved to the article entitled “I had ‘Animal Crackers in my soup,’ but you’ve got a donkey in your WHAT?“.

What immediately struck me was that we’re still fighting the same mindset: that we can determine the health/security/etc of a given system simply by looking at a few numbers on a regular basis.

Many will not discover, until a “dead donkey” of some sort shows up in their shop, that statistics, as useful as they can be, are not meant to be the end-all. Their purpose is to indicate, hint, or suggest that a problem might exist. They may highlight a known problem or aid a manager in distinguishing between a symptom and an underlying cause. At that point the computerized report has done as much as it can ever do.

Yet we still try to manage to the numbers. Some things never change, I guess.


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