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How Computers Work: Encryption & Public Keys | Video

October 25, 2019

Mia Epner, who works on security for a US national intelligence agency, explains how cryptography allows for the secure transfer of data online. This educational video explains 256 bit encryption, public and private keys, SSL & TLS and HTTPS.

Part VIII (7 minutes) of the series produced by explaining computers in terms most of us can understand. We’re getting past the ins & outs of downloads and uploads and into the guts. We’ll post a new installment approximately every ten days until we run out.

If you like this series and want to go through it at your own rate, the 17 videos listed HERE include the 12 which I have scheduled so far. Having some familiarity with the topics, I watched the first 12 in about an hour. It’s time well spent.
[Chuck Almdale]

  1. Edna permalink
    October 25, 2019 9:32 am

    Hello Chuck,

    With all due respect, really, but what does this topic, encryption & public keys, have to do with the mission of the SMBAS? [just found on SMBAS -Mission Statement: The National Audubon Society’s Mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and wildlife for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. As part of this, our chapter’s particular mission is to be a center for wildlife education, habitat protection, and conservation issues that involve birds.]

    The subject of the blog may be of interest to me … or not … but I would like to choose what I open and what I read relying on the source – ie SMBAS – to suggest the nature of the topic. This is the same on Facebook. A similar non-Audubon related topic was posted the other day.

    We all get so much input these days and we have to have ways to control our time. One is by using the source to guide our minds as to what will be the content of the email or FB post. Sort of like caller id – it provides a hint as to whether or not to pick up the phone. By seeing who the sender is, I want it to be a meaningful hint as to whether to hit delete or go on further. Often, I don’t need to read the subject line to make that decision.

    I have thought of this issue with SMBAS social media for so long but just didn’t ‘dare’ raise it as you do so much for SMBAS. But, now I need to do so. Maybe because I just returned from a birding trip to Sichuan and have hundreds of emails that I am going through.

    I know you are the imperial blog master but I hope you will give this some thought and use these SMBAS social media outlets for Audubon related materials/mission and form your own blog for those broad non-Audubon topics that are of personal interest to you. I am copying a few others in order to broaden the discussion.

    Thanks for all that you do.

    Best regards,




    • Chukar permalink*
      October 25, 2019 11:21 am

      Hi Edna:
      Yours is a reasonable question, one which I expected from someone, which I will summarize as: “What do computers or understanding computers or other non-bird topics have to do with birds and Audubon, which is what you are supposed to be doing?”

      You’ve noticed that I post blogs that have to do with various scientific topics. (They’re every 5 days.) I don’t expect that all people will be interested in all topics and all individual videos. I think they’re all interesting and informative, but that’s me.

      I get a lot of email and on a normal day delete between 80-100 emails, nearly all of them unopened. Following a return from a trip, I have to delete 1000’s of unwanted emails. I invite any of our readers whose interest is not immediately piqued by the title of an email from us to immediately delete it with a quick push of a button. BING! There, it’s gone. You’ve expended perhaps 1/10th of a calorie.

      The non-bird series’ we’ve followed are:
      Deep Look
      Los Angeles County Natural History Museum
      It’s OK to be Smart
      Gross Science
      Above The Noise
      Skunk Bear
      Infinite Series
      How Computers Work

      This is all general science education. I like them all. I get a lot of “thank you” comments and “likes” from readers and our readership has greatly increased due largely – I think, because it is concurrent – to our posting these short blogs-with-links.

      I decided to run the “How Computers Work” series (which expires in December) for three reasons:

      1. A lot of young kids might be interested. Their futures, their interests, hobbies, careers and minute-by-minute lives are and will continue to be inextricably linked with computers, more so with every passing day. It will not hurt them to know that these computers operate using basic processes and what these processes are. It’s not magic and it hasn’t been here forever. People thought them up and built them quite recently (on my time scale).

      2. Computers and peripheral electronic equipment have become essential tools in all forms of wildlife study: GPS, sonar, radar, nest & trail cams, animal tagging, censusing, reporting, data-sharing. eBird is a gigantic bird-sighting system, used by probably millions of people and containing possibly trillions of bird sightings. People carry bird ID, listing and information programs and pre-recorded songs on their telephones. Such phones have computing power millions of times larger than the dainty on-board computer on the space probe Voyager, now tooling along somewhere outside our solar system.

      3. Old croakers like you and me grew up without any computer more complex than a pencil and paper or if we were a professional engineer, a slide rule (remember those?). I, however, began studying and programming computers in the 1960’s, and they became essential in my career of accounting. I daily use programs such as Word, Excel, email, web-browser and a few others less often. I do almost all the editing and posting on this blogsite, not an easy task but one on which I am entirely self-taught. It wasn’t easy but it was interesting and often fun.

      It’s not just interesting and fun to have a grasp of how computers work, it’s becoming a matter of life-or-death. If 12 post-link-video blogs on our website spark an interest in “How Computers Work” in even one child, adult or geezer out there in SMBAS blog-reader-land, I’ll be happy.

      I am astonished far too often by the enormous ignorance of many people of our generation of the basic uses and how-to of computers. When I say basic, I mean really, really basic. How to move a cursor with a mouse, left-click the mouse, copy-and-paste, save a file, delete email, create folders in your email system so you can categorize them, moving a file from folder to folder. And so on. This is unbelievably basic stuff, like putting on your sock before putting on your shoe.

      So, as I previously said, I expected a question such as yours. And, as I said, if anyone finds any of our postings annoying or boring, the delete button is always nearby. (There’s one on your keyboard, and often one displayed on the screen as well.) [Chukar]


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