I haven't posted in a while, so I thought I post an update on what I've been up to the last few months. Mainly, working on the Cicada 3301 problem (and clinical anesthesia).
"Cicada 3301 is a name given to an anonymous organization that on three occasions has posted a set of complex puzzles, purportedly to recruit capable cryptanalysts from the public... [This] round is ongoing following confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on 5 January 2014.... The puzzles focused heavily on data security, cryptography, and steganography."
Working on the puzzle was an entertaining distraction for me in January and early February. After installing an IRC program and lurking for a bit in the chatrooms devoted to solving the puzzles, I started to work some of the puzzles myself. This in turn required me to exercise some very rusty Linux skills in order to have a platform on which to easily install or compile some of the programs commonly used in the puzzles e.g. gpg, tor, outguess, stegdetect as well as a place to quickly write and compile one-off scripts for analysis. The "solving community" found in the IRC channels and on the wikia have now been waiting for a month with "darkweb" onion hidden services activated and programmed to recieve file uploads with clues to the next step.
Just as interesting were the sidelights I followed while learning about things like hidden services (available on Tor and I2P, cultural awareness rising due to things like Silk Road and references in House of Cards), cryptocurrencies (recently increased media attention due to the Mt. Gox debacle and the possible discovery of the inventor of Bitcoin), and extremely cheap virtual private servers available at e.g. Low End Box. What I'll ever do with any of this information is unclear to me, but it's interesting nonetheless.