This is the interview as it has appeared on The Lair webmagazine (Nov-97),
reproduced below with minor changes to layout, links etc. since The Lair is no longer available on the web.

Thomas Tavoly

A Bit of a Bovine character

The RC5 effort was designed as a (legal) effort to show that the current 64 bit encryption methods could be cracked. It has its origins in the US law that defines encryption software above so many encryption bits as ammunition, and hence not exportable.

Thomas Tavoly decided that this was a good way to showcase the Amiga. So he did. And this is his story.

Erik Elgersma talks to Thomas Tavoly about RC5, Amiga exposure, and Bovine.

Erik: What exactly is Bovine?
Thomas: Bovine is one of the teams set up to participate in the RSA Secret Key Challenges, but they are also gearing up for other distributed computing projects, such as Mersenne primes, SETI, and others to come such as distributed chess and perhaps other useful projects like research into diseases in the future.

They provide the proxy network, client programming facilities, statistics servers etc., through a cooperation of various programmers on various platforms.

RC5 effort
Erik: What is your connection with Bovine?
Thomas: The Amiga RC5 Team effort is participating in the RSA Secret Key Challenge by using Bovine clients, and perhaps in the future other distributed projects. There is no personal connection, I am only coordinating the Amiga effort out of a desire to bring exposure to the Amiga. Cow!
Erik: How, when and why did it all start?
Thomas: It started as the proverbial 'neat thing', also because I was interested in encryption and such distributed efforts since DES started and before. The snowball effect was created by the community, now it's becoming a serious vehicle to promote the Amiga.
Erik: What exactly is the RC5 challenge?
Thomas: It's one of the contests in the RSA Secret Key Challenge, an effort to show that a concerted effort can result in breaking what was thought to be a safe encryption algorithm and thus show the US government how silly their export restrictions on such algorithms are. RC5 is one of the algorithms used, it is extensible to various strengths, RC5-40, RC5-48, RC5-56 have now been cracked and currently RC5-64 is undergoing the same treatment.

Erik: How long have you been participating in the RC5 challenge so far?
Thomas: At the moment of writing this about 75 days (since the Amiga client for RC5-56 appeared), though I have been following the effort for almost a year.
Erik: What do you attribute your success to?
Thomas: The Amiga community
Erik: Do you think it is possible you might actually win the challenge?
Thomas: Yes. We were the third top ranked team at the end of the RC5-56 challenge, our chances of finding the right key were somewhere around 1 in 300, which is very good compared to the average lottery.. For RC5-64 this chance is higher because we are participating from the beginning, and the effort is growing.

Erik: It has been said that you are more a group of Amiga users pooling resources, than actually being a group that is utilising the power of the Amiga to crack the code. Is this true?
Thomas: That depends on the definition of 'the power of the Amiga'. I like to think that it means 'the power of the Amiga community' rather than actual Amiga processor power, which is obviously below average due to years of mismanagement and stagnation. I must note that this is changing with the PowerPC architecture coming to Amiga this year, and next year will hopefully bring new Amiga technology that will bring us to the forefront of computing again, power and otherwise.

There are many machines competing in our effort under the Amiga flag that are no Amigas themselves, they are rather machines administered by Amiga sympathizers, and thus have a place in the Amiga effort.

Phase 5 Erik: What difference will the PowerUP cards make to your effort?
Thomas: That depends on how many of the cards will be sold, they could bring us into the very top position(s). According to some crude calculations we could have beaten Apple in the RC5-56 challenge if the cards were available a couple of months earlier, and of course in the right quantity, over 1000 Amigas took part in that effort. The PowerUp cards increase performance more than 10 times on average.
Erik: Has an Amiga group gaining so much success raised a lot of eyebrows and interest outside of the Amiga community?
Thomas: The Windows Magazine website reported on the effort and the Amiga client got a small mention. There were several articles on the effort in various national and international Amiga magazines and even one UK newspaper. Other publicity is being sought. The key objectives of the effort is to bring exposure to the Amiga, the success of our team is an ideal tool for this.
Erik: Do you think the computing world has started to take notice of the Amiga again since Gateway took over?
Thomas: Many industry analysts raised eyebrows over the acquisition, but most people are obviously going to wait to see what is going to happen. The major players (i.e. Wintel and Apple) are hardly likely to be concerned, their marketshares are not being threatened for at least two years, depending on what Gateway will do with the Amiga technology. One can only hope for market share numbers like they were seen in the late eighties and early nineties, where the Amiga was one of the major platforms. This will take time and a lot of patience.
Erik: Have you heard anything from Amiga International congratulating your effort, are you receiving any help from them at all? If not, would you like to?
Thomas: I have mailed them several times and have received no response. I have mailed the Amiga International webmaster for a mention on their site several times as well, without a reaction. I do not know whether this is due to them being busy or because of other reasons. Someone sent me a letter allegedly coming from Petro Tyschtschenko saying he is impressed, but I have received no direct communication on this. As my ailing finances do not permit international phonecalls, possible cooperation will have to wait until the Cologne 97 show which I am planning to attend.

Their support, even in the form of a mention or link to the effort homepage would greatly help, since it would lend official 'approval' to the effort and of course enhance exposure for our effort because of the central nature of their website. In my opinion our effort can only help the Amiga and it is a shame such cooperation has not happened yet.

The same goes for phase 5 and Haage & Partner who have not responded to my mails directly, though some allied developers have shown interest.

Obviously all of the above companies can be excused to some extent due to their current scale, though several dealers have lent considerable support to the effort by placing visible links/buttons on their homepages and even participating with some of their machines in the effort. These companies are mostly even smaller scale, but seem to be more proficient in recognizing and grasping opportunities which benefit both them and the Amiga in general.

Erik: What would you like to say to Amiga users participating in your effort?
Thomas: A heartfelt thankyou of course, and may our effort bear fruit in all possible forms!
Erik: What would you like to say to Amiga users not yet participating in your effort?
Thomas: To join of course :) Already over 1000 Amigans participated in the last effort, with a little effort this could double or triple and bring us to the very forefront where the Amiga is bound to be noticed.


The Amiga RC5 team have to be highly commended: they, more than anyone else, have shown that with a little organisation the Amiga community can once in a while create some waves that will generate publicity not only in the Amiga scene, but throughout the computing industry, even if they are little ones. And that's with only a thousand members. That may sound (and is) a lot, but we here at The Lair know for a fact that there must be far more Amiga users out there that have or have access to the kind of processing power required by the RC5 team in orde to make a really big bang: winning the RSA Secret key Challenge overall. Thomas has in this interview already hinted that it should be possible to double or even triple the number of users participating, and with the RC5 team already ranking high right now, that would surely result in a shock Amiga win!