Bug: Unusable key

Steve Butler sbutler at fchn.com
Fri Feb 6 13:37:16 CET 2004

Reminds me of a humorous antidote in "Are Your Lights On?" by Donald C.
Gause and Gerald M. Weinberg (review at

How much information do you put on a roadside sign as folks leave a tunnel
and just before a parking area for a scenic overview:
  "If it's daylight and you turned on your lights, please turn them off
before parking.
   If it's daylight and you didn't turn on your lights then don't worry
about it.
   If it's nighttime and your lights are not one, please turn them on right
		But turn them off after parking.
   If it's nighttime and your lights are on, then turn them off after

Of course, drivers who read the entire sign had accidents due to inattention
to the road.  Those who didn't read the entire sign were left wondering what
they were supposed to do about the lights (perhaps it was talking about the
sun).  Those who didn't bother to read the sign still had dead batteries
after spending hours at scenic overview with their lights on.

Sometimes the most elegant error message is the one that causes the
user/driver to think and solve their own problem.  As in "Lights?"  Or, in
this case:

	"Hey Buddy.  That public key (and zero or more sub keys) have major
		 -- check into it."
Translations to other languages (English and American included) are left as
an exercise for the reader.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Shaw [mailto:dshaw at jabberwocky.com]
Sent: Friday, February 06, 2004 1:05 PM
To: gnupg-users at gnupg.org
Subject: Re: Bug: Unusable key

On Fri, Feb 06, 2004 at 07:39:55PM +0100, Per Tunedal Casual wrote:

> >Anyway, an error message that just prints something like "all encryption
> >keys in this key are revoked or expired" would suffice in this case.
> >
> I agree.

That does not cover all the cases.  Specifically, it doesn't cover the
case where there is no encryption key at all.

If we're talking about an error message change here, then it needs to
embody the concept "I did find the key, but the key isn't capable of
encryption - this might be because there is no encryption capability
in the first place, and it might be because there was encryption
capability in the past which is now revoked and/or expired."

The current message is "unusable public key".  Any other suggestions?


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