Xriva Defined

What is an Xriva?

"Xriva", ("ex-reeva")

  1. (n): A software developer and webmaster near Dallas, Texas.

  2. (n): Any Kevin who knows rot-13.

A long time ago, on an Internet far, far away, there were newsgroups. (They're actually still there, they're just even more overrun with crap than in the olden days. Plus, I think Google owns them.) Newsgroups contained lots of really cool information that was usually specific to a very tiny subset of humanity, along with piles of crap (ok, mostly crap.)

Many of the articles posted on the newsgroups often contained "spoilers" for books, movies or TV shows which revealed critical plot points, mildly humorous (to some) but wildly offensive (to some) material, and other things that should not be shown on a screen without some warning first. How do you warn someone about content in the content itself?

The solution was an elegant SMOP (Simple Matter of Programming) known as "rot-13". Also known as the Caesar cipher in some circles, it is a very simple coding formula in which every letter is replaced by the letter 13 positions after it in the alphabet. "A" becomes "N", "B" becomes "O", and so forth. When you reach "Z", you just wrap around to the beginning, so, for example, "X" becomes "K". There are a couple of truly wonderful things about this algorithm: first, it was easy to code in any number of languages, since you can add 13 to any ASCII value and get another letter (except for the wrap-arounds, but that's only one condition you have to check), and secondly, it decodes itself ("N" becomes "A", "O" becomes "B", and so forth.)

This means someone wanting to hide information would just run it through the rot-13 processor, and someone desperate enough to read it would run the coded version through and get the original back.

I tried to explain this to my son when he was very young by running a program that rot-13'd our names, and all he got out of it was that "Xriva" sounded like a cool space creature name. I suppose I shouldn't have bothered to explain to him it was "Kevin" run through rot-13 and how rot-13 actually worked (and I really shouldn't have bothered with the C code), but I was trying to teach him about computers. He wasn't very impressed with his name ("John" becomes "WBUA") but so it goes. I would say "Some day, he'll understand", but he's a computer user, and trust me, he's never going to be a coder.

Xriva has been a good login name for me because it's almost always available (although another Kevin beat me to it on AOL years ago), it's long enough to make most systems happy, and it's pretty easy to type, especially once you use it for a login name enough.