As already reported, while at Debconf9 this week, I succumbed to peer pressure, and have generated a new 4096-bit RSA key. Doing this was made substantially more pleasant (and certainly a bit more amusing!) by the fact that I was loaned a prototype of the new Simtec Entropy Key to play with.

Can't wait until they're in production and available for sale...

Basically, it's "just" a very high quality hardware random number generator that sits on a USB interface. Associated with this is a small MIT-licensed daemon that gets loaded along with some udev configuration (all in a Debian package in my case), such that any time you plug it in, your system available entropy goes way up and stays up until you unplug it. It really is that easy! My new 4096-bit GPG key generated without perceptable delay, while the one my daughter made at the same time on her similar notebook required lots of mouse wiggling and I/O traffic generation to accumulate enough bits. A dramatic difference, to say the least!

Anything that needs lots of random bits for generating things like session keys will clearly benefit from a device like this. Some systems have other hardware sources of random numbers, but I was impressed by the attention to detail the guys have put into this little widget, and the work they've done to make it integrate so well with Debian.

Very cool.