You should take a look at the Dallas Semiconductor Java iButton,
which is a small Java smartcard like device in a package about the
size of a button-battery. There's also an inexpensive reader
dongle you can attach to a serial port to talk with it.
The Java iButton can do RSA public key processing; in fact, with
a suitably written application (in Java, of course), you can have
the device generate a public/private keypair, hand you back the
public key, and never expose the private key inside the tamper
resistant device. Very cool.
And extremely easy to write/handle. I used it to do the above; have it
signed by a CA - and then use the iButton to sign 5 day cert's which go
down into a web server. They are not that fast though - i.e. do not expect
those nice <1msec touch-and-go you see with the nedap devices. You have to
conciously press them against the blue connector for a noticable period of
time. I.e. there is a 'rest' moment.
See http://www.ibutton.com/ for information. See also
/usr/ports/comms/mlan3 for some low-level code used to talk
to these types of "one-wire" devices.
I found them working just fine. However - the IDE requirers java comm
support - which I could not get to work on FreeBSD (a year ago). So I had
to do the initial part of the development on Sun Solaris box (PC is fine
But once you are set up it is 100% java and platform agnostics; and
especially if during development you allow the iButton to DHCP network
itself in - using one of the adaptor cards and the java SIM - you can use
(t)ftp to do all your develpment just fine from any unix. And may only
need ot do something special when you are rolling out the ibottons on a
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