Password Security

March 1st, 2013

I do not claim to be one of the great experts in password security. I know a thing or two about stupid passwords, as I had to reset people’s passwords occasionally when I worked for an ISP. Everyone wants a stupid password. That’s old news.

Today I had forgotten a password for a site I use. I used the forgotten password link and they emailed me a new password. All well and good. Like most email based resets, they urge you to pick a new password upon logging in successfully. After all, they just sent an unencrypted email with the password in it. It’s not very secure. So, dutifully, I go to reset the password and find a single blank to enter it, which did not disguise the characters once they’d been entered (admittedly a bit silly). What does the site do then? Why it emails you confirmation of the password change with your new password in a fresh and equally unencrypted email.

Which I think somewhat misses the point.

Losing Time to Catching Up

August 17th, 2010

I have, over the past couple of weeks, come to realize how much time I lose to “catching up” with where I think I should be. Something about the process of doing something you already think should be done (answering email, listening to those old podcasts, reading those articles you bookmarked) takes longer. I think that people already have a hard time estimating how long a task will take, but I would like to propose a new rule. I don’t have a set ratio yet, but catch up tasks seem to take something like 1.25 times the amount of time they would have taken if I’d just done them first things first. Maybe this is just me realizing all the wasted time I’ve left sitting on the side of the internet’s yellow brick road. But over the past couple of weeks I’ve caught up on a lot of things (alas still not up to date on emails, several people are now nodding their heads, should they happen to read this space). What has struck me is that things that were spiraling out of control, as soon as I caught up on them, seemed almost effortless to maintain. Now, I’m about to go into another semester, so who knows, but with an internship, the managing editor position, working at the computer lab, and looking over the job postings, it’s not like the summer has all been a romp through a field of wildflowers.

So, do it now in one hour, or do it later in an hour and a quarter. Your choice. Am I being too conservative with this? Does it sound crazy? Do you get stuff done faster when you wait until the last minute?

Since moving to Portland, I have been amazed by the reviews on Citysearch. So, really, this is not Portland’s professional reviews, or really any of the other sources of reviews. And this is not to say that the Citysearch in Minneapolis was full of well thought out and eloquent reviews. But maybe a fifth of the reviews here focus on perceived slights on the part of wait or service staff. This is more amazing to me because the general quality of the wait and service staff here seem to be almost eerily happy to be doing what they are doing. I do not pretend to understand why. However, this is not enough for the hypersensitive reviewers of Citysearch Portland. I have yet to understand why seemingly one in five reviewers seems to lack some basic level of empathy, and says that the food was good, but gives one star because the wait staff was not suitably obsequious.

Total Attention Meltdown

June 1st, 2009

Preface: I just finished reading this article on attention and found it to be fairly good, despite the usual “but maybe we are all just charting a bold new way of organizing the human brain” ending.

After the completion of my first year of law school, I had two weeks before things really started up again in earnest. I began this two weeks by reading two books in two days. This, rather obviously, made me feel like I had my attention span all neat and tidied up. I had goals that I wanted to accomplish over the summer, and I was going to set them up and knock them down. This was followed by two and a half weeks of seemingly barely being able to pay attention to anything at all. I didn’t post here, despite having subjects that I wanted to write about. I didn’t write out any of the ideas for fiction that I had been carefully putting away in the ideas.txt file on my hard drive, unwilling to tackle them in the full flush of a school semester. I made a to do list, and I did the things that I absolutely had to do because someone was waiting a few hours down the line expecting me to have them done. This was, I was sure, no way to live life.

Over the course of a year of getting back into school, I had carefully weeded the many distractions from my life. I still got distracted while studying. I still surfed the internet more than I wanted, but when I had to, I could focus much more than I had while working at an ISP. When you are on a phone with a person helping them get Outlook going, there is a certain amount of poddling around the internet as a whole that is understandably acceptable. You have configured Outlook so many times in the past that you may divide your attention, even with the loss of attention quality that this entails. When reading a court case, the same does not hold true. You must be thinking about it, or the words will get you nowhere. I had refilled my RSS feed with many of the things that I had carefully removed over the year. I had played a few flash games. It was relaxing, but it needed to end. Then I came across the article above. Of course, I didn’t read it at the time. I was recommended in a friend’s Facebook message, but I bookmarked it. When I got around to reading it, it was as part of a general reorganization in the hopes of increasing my general willpower and attention span back to school levels. Things can be more relaxing, but I’d rather that they were relaxing on my terms, as opposed by being led around by the nose across the greater internet.

Merlin Mann had some relatively sage advice in the article, as he often does. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, and it really is, but Merlin says one of the best things about attention that anyone ever says. If you spend too much time thinking how you can improve it, or be more efficient, or more lifehack oriented, you will wast too much time thinking about getting things done and not getting them done. First to go from the RSS feed was Lifehacker.com. Sorry Lifehacker. But your useful information ratio is about one in fifty, and the value of that stuff is not so good. You are exactly what Merlin was talking about. Hell this whole post is, in some respect, what Merlin was talking about.

So the new goal is of course to do things until they are done, or something else must be done at that time. This resolution will almost certainly not last beyond my first rem cycle tonight, but hopefully by destroying some of the faster links to distraction that I had on the computer, there will be less of it tomorrow. Another big one I hope to get better at: not pretending that doing a bunch of smaller tasks that don’t really amount to anything will “build momentum.” That never really seems to work. The slow cognitive rebuild begins once again for another ‘net denizen.

To all my friends who are thinking that I owe them an email. I know. That is one of tomorrow’s buckle down tasks.

Wee! Comcast!

August 30th, 2008

On moving to Portland, I found that DSL was not available where I had moved. Get on that Qwest, or someone, because now, bandwidth caps are coming from my current provider. I can’t tell you how not happy that makes me, and if I weren’t stuck with it, I’d switch.

All of this of course comes because Comcast’s way of distributing bandwidth is way better for advertising than for actual practical use. People get 4-6 mbps depending on what basic plan you are on, but it’s split among the people in the area, so if you all press go at the same time, you all have to wait a while. DSL is always what they provision you at, even if that is lower than what cable advertises. Now, this (and working for a DSL provider for 2.5 years) had me on the side of DSL, because I’d rather know I always have 1.5 than hope no one else is using it to get 4. Especially with streaming video from youtube, hulu, and netflix, that is a big deal.

But you know what makes those three a bigger deal? Oh, wait, no surprise because I put it at the top of the post. The future of online usage is not speed, but large portions of buffered data, speed matters, but you’re going to hit that bandwidth cap a lot faster than you think. Comcast claims that 99% of their users won’t be affected, but with the number of people who use them as an internet service that’s still thousands of people they are giving the finger, all because their business model really isn’t able to handle streaming video, i.e. the future of the internet. Meanwhile, DSL is rolling out much faster speets, Comcast is advertising up to 20 mbps, though I can’t get anything in the middle of SE Portland.

Comcast probably figures that most people will assume the 1% is a bunch of kids illegally downloading videos. Of course, streaming video is just now coming into its own, so over the next six months, that profile is going to change drastically, as will the percentage of people affected. Comcast is essentially going into a cell phone limited minutes style model. That wouldn’t be crazy, if their competition were doing the same thing.

Way to go Comcast, you made me want Qworst. I just spend years grappling with their tech support, being grumpy about them, and making fun of their phone script, only to wish I could use them.

Now in Portland, Testicles

August 10th, 2008

So, K and I have moved to Portland, and I had the obligatory ‘revelation’ that I was totally hooked to the internet and get a little lost when I don’t have a connection to it. I also learned that there is no DSL available for my apartment. It actually ends on the other side of the street, so I’ve got a cable modem now, which I don’t know how to feel about. It’s not that I think cable modems are bad, but 1.5 mbps for about $33 a month is the price point and speed that I feel suits my needs. I don’t really need the 4-6 mbps that cable modems provide and I don’t want to pay $20 more to get it.

Today was the first significant interaction I had with fellow first year law students at Lewis and Clark. Two of them were from Montana, which seemed pretty impressively against the odds, as the whole state has a population of under a million. It also brought back memories of the trip through Montana, which seemed like it would never end. We drove from Bismark, ND to the edge of Idaho in one day and the Montana part dominated that. It was also flat, and pretty boring, getting really pretty only at the end, when things were getting dark.

The highlight of that was when I got to shout, “Look honey! A testicle festivle!” I got to shout this because we were driving by a billboard for a testicle festival. The billboard had a bull holding the spot from which some enterprising individual had stolen his nuts. At first we couldn’t believe the thing existed, but the signs kept coming. I was unable to snap a picture and worried that without one I would have no proof that people had such a thing as a testicle festival. The internet did not disappoint me though. Kudos to Rock Creek Lodge for having one of those small town festivals, but coming up with something better than another damn cherry festival or something.

Two Thoughts

July 22nd, 2008

First: This is not good when you are a candidate who has been getting mocked for a lack of knowledge about the internet. Blocking ‘net’ in words hardly seems a sensible filtering policy.

Second: Twin Cities Public Television has a channel for children, which I don’t get as I don’t have cable (yeah…). At 12:30 in the A.M. they are showing Curious George, which seems to me to be more than tacit admission that they think of the channel a the stoner at night. I’m probably reading into this too much, but while I’ll buy that kids want to see the adventures of a curious monkey, I don’t think they do it after midnight.

Extra bonus side association: Has anyone fed George after midnight? I’d be interested in the results, though he probably just flings poo.

Newest Bestest Waste of Time

March 21st, 2007

Twitter!

I’m late to the party again. This post I’m linking is old. Thankfully most of this party, the twitter part, is not one that I want anything to do with. If twitter really does take off, it might just be a sign that we should let global warming or a meteor strike step back in, so that nature can go back to the drawing board.

Seriously, are people that insecure about their own actions? I know I post some banal stuff on this blog, but at least I take the time to think through the banality. And does someone really need to know if I’m doing my laundry? If they did, wouldn’t it be faster to just call me? I have a cell phone, now.

The perceived utility of this thing is such that even if it did only what it was supposed to, and human nature will make sure it won’t, it would still be destructive. We don’t need to make the cultural signal to noise ratio worse.

Q: “Did you hear what Bush said he would fight the subpoenaing his aides?”

A: “No! I was reading that one of my friends was going to the store to buy cat food, and another was going to see 300, and another had a strange pain in his left side that he didn’t think was serious. He probably pulled a muscle. Oh! And my roommate just twittered that he’s leaving the apartment…”

Dear God. Please, all of my friends, do not use this thing. I will write you a letter, I will read your blog/myspace/live journal page. I promise. I’m only half lying.

Second Sex

February 24th, 2007

And since that last post touched on sex, there were a couple of interesting articles on sex in Second Life that I saw this week.

Toothpaste for dinner took the game for a ride, and didn’t much like it.

Warren Ellis sees a lot of sex on Second Life, which he acknowledges isn’t surprising, but gets glossed over.

Every now and then I think of trying out Second Life, and then I read things lke this, and it seems like the place is a little too much of a second life. All the problems of your real life exist in the fictional world. They just take less time, because you get drawn away to do chores in First Life. I can hardly contain my excitement. And then a little part of me says, but didn’t you love Snow Crash?

Tazer Me Badd, Bitter

November 18th, 2006

Well, thank God I’m not in college any more, I don’t know that my heard could handle all those tazerings, and the threats of tazerings. I have a fragile constitution. I mean, I know they’re for my safety, but after my doctor ordered three martini lunches, I just don’t know how my system would respond. The saddest thing is that this story is the second time I’ve found myself ACTUALLY THINKING that L.A. would be better off with vigilante justice. Here’s an article on it from people closer to the source. I’m not going to link the video from YouTube, as it makes me sick to watch. No one I am related to will ever go to UCLA, or maybe even vacation in L.A., if I can help it.

It was a nasty looking day outside. I went and bought four kinds of bitters from the liquor store. I had intended to buy six or more, but they didn’t have all the brands that I wanted to try. It’s sad when you don’t have all the bitters you want for winter.

Mark went with me, and he bought some lillet. When we both got home we mixed drinks, 20th Century coctail, Sazerac, and Manhattans. It was good, except for the drink I mixed with amaretto. I don’t know why I bought that. It really did seem like a good thing to get. Then I wasted scotch mixing it into this horrible drink called a godfather. Mark poured it down the sink when I wasn’t looking. That man saved my life.

I also went to see Stranger Than Fiction, which was pretty good. It didn’t change my life, but I did enjoy it. I was a little intoxicated while I was watching it, see the previous paragraphs, and there were a couple of moments where I had ideas for things of my own to write, but alcohol swept them away in the great mass of other thoughts, that probably weren’t worth writing in the first place. I was frustrated for a moment when I was walking out of the theater. That was followed by me remembering how many of my ideas I did remember had not been fully written yet.

I did at one point lean in and chat with a friend of mine who’s at the University of MN for creative writing. We agreed that the movie made writers and publishers look hunormously more wealthy than was realistic. I wish I lived in a huge apartment with wood flooring and modern furniture. No, wait, I like my apartment. It’s cozy.

OOPS

n+1

November 14th, 2006

There is an interview with Keith Gessen of n+1 in the NY Inquirer.

I had been on the fence about subscribing to n+1. I’ve got too many periodicals coming to my house. Gessen may have convinced me though.

Gessen also makes a point in the interview that does not relate to my subscribing or not subscribing. He says that there aren’t enough publishing points that young authors can aspire to. Blogs are not the answer, and he rightly points out that no one reads blogs about writing or literature, with the few exceptions being established authors. The New Yorker has become one of the few places that everyone knows about. It has thus become a barometer of success. If you’ve been in the New Yorker, it can be assumed that you’ve got some chops. The New Yorker, like all publishing ventures, has editors, and those editors have an idea of what is good. They do not cover all that is good, just what the editors like and have space to print.

Gessen says that this is part of the reason he works on n+1. There are other voices out there, voices that The New Yorker can’t cover. It wouldn’t hurt Slate, or other online periodicals like it, to take not of Gessen’s attitude. Just to pick on Slate for a moment, I can find one poem on their page, and that’s about it right now. More please.

George Lucas is engaged in a little fan service right now. He’s sent a cease and desist to R Stevens of Diesel Sweeties.

Three T-shirts are named in the letter (yet not the robot evolution one, which is odd). The art is heavily pixelated in two of them, but there’s no text, which might make it hard to get it through as satire or parody. Then again, at least one of those two shirts barely looks like what Lucasarts says it does. It seems that they have the copyright on two curves and a circle, when joined by two dots? Come on. Chewie is My Co-Pilot is also easy to defend, as it’s clearly satire, a defense that has repeatedly held up in court.

Sadly R Stevens is but a maker of comics, and will likely not have the money to fight this. For what is likely a limited time, you can buy a three pack of the shirts and celebrate a right that copyright law, and the occasional large bank account, is rapidly stripping.

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