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.

These top 20 science fiction books of the decade list, part of the general rush of end of the year/decades list from last month, is proof that people don’t even bother to try anymore when they’re going to get their hate on about this or that popular thing. Just to sound old for a moment, when I was a teen, you thought up an almost unrelated reason to hate something, be it pop music or whatever. We took pride in our contrary notions. We crafted them carefully. If you disliked something, even if it was for made up reasons, you came up with better reasons. You didn’t just declare something poorly written or poorly composed. You claimed that it was crassly mercantile or that it was selling out. I suppose it’s impossible to sell out in the realm of writing, so people just say that something is poorly written these days, even if it’s just their taste. I may not like a book, but just because I was ambivalent about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel (I wasn’t. I quite liked it.) I didn’t say that it was because it was poorly written. In my day you had the “decency” to claim that it is an act of veiled racism or something. Where has this disingenuous and more comically awkward disdain gone? Why has it been replaced by people actually seeming to believe (instead of just claiming) they are tastemakers? Has our self delusion completed that delicate shift from knowing self delusion into actual self delusion? Or is it just too late at night, and I should acknowledge that school is starting again soon, and I should readjust my sleep schedule?

It turns out that while car lanes continue through the intersection, at least one local judge thinks that the bike lanes don’t. Okay, so he’s a judge pro tem. Either way, the fact that the law’s interpretation can be mangled to this extent is absurd. What is the point of having bike lanes if some guy decides that they are not operative at the point in the road where they are most needed?

A while ago I changed my email notification settings with the New York Times. One of the things I signed up for, after having dropped several of their digest notices of articles, was breaking news. Now, I expected this would be the really big stuff and I’d get one ever few days, tops. Instead I get them all the damn time, usually about celebrity deaths. Okay… well then, at least I heard it first? No. In yet another sign of the decay of the newspaper industry. I usually get the notice about 8-12 hours after I saw it everywhere else, including the NYTimes front page.

Watchmen

March 9th, 2009

Well that was a bit of a disappointment. It isn’t a completely bad film. It has its moments. Still, I always find it interesting to see what happens when Hollywood gets a hold of a script. It was visible even in Watchmen, where the story was that the director had been given almost total control. One cannot help but think that it would have been better to try to convince Alan Moore to come in and give him total veto power, but that is just speculation. Moore probably wouldn’t have done it anyway.

What really interests me about movies is the way that they change certain rules about how you provide information. There is an old adage that if you introduce a gun in the first act, you have to use it before the third. Watchmen (the movie) seemed to operate under the assumption that if you didn’t introduce the gun in the first act, it couldn’t be used at all. Additionally, if you didn’t remind people of the gun’s possible existence five minutes before it was used, they would be too stupid to realize what had happened.

Alan Moore trusted his readers. If something happened, it happened for a reason, but he didn’t telegraph it by saying “this thing is going to happen for a reason in a little bit.” I don’t know why they felt the need to work it that way in the film.

As for the rest of it, the casting was great, the special effects were great (with the exception of the age makeup, which was hit and miss), and the dialog from the comic was usually delivered well. The dialog written to replace dialog from the comic? That was another story. The pivotal argument on Mars was altered greatly, and in such a way as to render it a sappy piece of crap. I’d give the film a C+ and if I hadn’t read the book… maybe a B-.

Changes clearly had to be made to adapt this to the screen, but as in seemingly all the adaptations that have disappointed me over the years, it was the small changes that I felt were pointless, and not the large ones made to fit the plot into two and a half hours, that really frustrated. As an example, there was a scene in which Rorschach kills a man for crimes that I won’t go into. In the book, he insures the man burns to death, a grim fate that the comic does not gloss over or sugar coat in an attempt to make Rorschach seem less warped. In the movie, he chops the man’s skull up with a cleaver. This nets no additional horror in the grand scheme of the man’s fate, or the question the view asks about the presence of, or lack of, justice in the world, or in Rorschach. What it does is allow the director to put more blood spatters in the movie. In the comic the cleaver is used on two dogs that had been fed a corpse. Now, the argument for the director is that this saved him visual time, and that he included a verbal homage to the dogs in Rorschach’s dialog, but it rings hollow to me because he played the cleaver scene out so long that he didn’t really save time.

Also? Worst soundtrack I can think of. I can’t think of another that even comes close to being as intrusive and disruptive to the overall efforts of the narrative.

And as a small final note, the the ‘heroes’ in Watchmen, save one, are without super powers, but the director seemed to want to give them powers, as they did an awful lot of punching through brick and such in the movie.

The End of a (Three Week) Era

January 13th, 2009

And now it is time for me to go back to school. The second semester formally starts with a confirmation that it is easier to study on campus than at home with my wife watching the Golden Globes in the other room.

We’ve also had a lesson in how company health plan changes can totally screw people over. My wife’s company switched health plans, which meant that she had a hard time getting health care services. Now, you would think that if people were dispensing medications that have withdrawal symptoms, they would consider it below the belt to try to step out on the first month of the prescription, especially when they said it was covered. However, we could not acquire it without the insurance card. We ended up paying for it out of pocket, as the looming threat of withdrawal symptoms will tend to have a chilling effect on waiting for the HMO to get off its but and tell the pharmacy that you should be given the medication (despite their statements over the phone). This will doubtless take us into act two, in which the HMO says that because we paid for it, we clearly didn’t want the services that they promised over the phone but could not deliver in in a time frame that did not cause a lapse in care. This is twelve days after coverage began, and we could not get a covered medication at the promised rate.

Dear Obama administration: Can we get that national health care already? Can that be day one or two? My Canadian family members never seem to have to deal with this crap.

Yo Mama Jokes

October 22nd, 2008

Over on Boing Boing, they posted this sampling of politically themed yo mama jokes. As I was doing my Constitutional Law reading for today, as I read a dissent by Powell, I couldn’t help but think of:

Federated Feed Lots v. Yo Mama (The She Can’t Have No More Case)

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.

News You Can Use

July 19th, 2008

I know that most of our fellow citizens live inside the chamber of silence when it comes to international news, but fucking eh! When one of your closest allies in your largest war front is releasing studies about how you’re full of shit and can’t be trusted for anything… When other people have to start distancing themselves from you on torture, it’s time to start some serious self appraisal. Too bad this one isn’t getting reported on CNN or anything. Also too bad we don’t have ‘British Fries’ or something we can rename to show our defiance in the face of international law.

Also, as a dual citizen, with family in the US and Canada, the next time someone tells me about how the Canadian health care system sucks, I’m pulling out this little anecdote. That’s a gem, that one. I love how people who argue this with me are always people who have a third cousin who they’ve never talked to who had to wait for an elective surgery like a face lift. I’ve had relatives die in Canada, and they sure didn’t want for medical care. I loved them, I was devastated by the loss of them, but I never wondered if they had been tricked into not being given care by the medical equivalent of DSL tech support.

Tiny Karmic Wheels

March 14th, 2008

Saturday of this last week was one of the best days in ages. I got my first response from a law school and it was an acceptance letter. I got some chores done, wrote a little, hung out with Kelli and had a really good Old Fashioned and a pretty darn good Manhattan to finish off the day, also just a taste of my 16 year Lagavulin, because if you don’t drink your single malts on celebration days…

Anyhow, that has all been balanced out by the crazy this week. The highlight so far has been managing to walk into a door while going through my apartment in the dark. After two years, I feel pretty comfortable moving around without the lights, but the door was halfway open and I slammed right into the site of it. There was a blue flash, and it was time to break out the ice. Nothing like icing your head at one in the morning. You should try it, really.

I’ve also gone on one hell of a run at work. Today alone, I’ve had one guy ask me to change a password, and then get mad when I didn’t change a different username he’d never mentioned. I also had to explain the concept of windows in OS X to another customer. He had been doing everything with his right mouse button.

Repairs

October 4th, 2007

Someone managed to take out the driver’s side mirror on my car. They didn’t get the whole mount, just the glass of the mirror itself. I was stupid enough to think that this would not cost much to repair. It turns out that replacing the glass means replacing the entire mount. So, it’s a four hundred dollar repair all of a sudden, for a small piece of glass.

Why does the car have to be designed so that replacing the glass of the mirror mean replacing the whole mount? Shouldn’t this just be something we pop into place? I could even see the spot where it would pop into place with two clips. I wondered if I could have just popped out a mirror at the junk yard and fitted it.

Upon getting home with my repaired car I decided to hop onto my bike and go to the grocery store. When I took the first turn I realized that a screw had come loose, and my baskets were floating half free. If the other one came loose it would drop onto my tire and I’d be walking it home. Total cost of repair? 16¢ And I could do it myself. Actually 9¢ because I already had a locking nut of the right size. In so many ways biking seems like a better option. I’m down to under 40 miles a week in my car. The rest is done on the bike.

Of course winter will come soon, and I’m not that hardcore yet.

Laffer

July 13th, 2007

So, a little bit ago I saw a post by Ezra Klein. That linked back to this post by Brad DeLong.

The hilarious Laffer Curve graph that DeLong was ranting about got me thinking. I’m not really good with image editing programs, but I figured, “Hell, that graph is amazing. I could do my own Laffer Curve.” Here it is:

The many and various Laffer Curves.

Now gimmie an op-ed someone.

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