Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Simple Look At Passwords


            I have a bad habit of being optimistic about humanity.

            Oh, in theory that’s a good thing. Let’s all think the best of people! Shouldn’t it be that way? Sure it should. Chamberlain thought the best of Hitler. So did Stalin, who was certain Hitler wouldn’t be dumb enough to invade Russia and stick around through winter. Come to think of it, just the word “Hitler” is a good hint that thinking the best of people might be a mistake.

            But this isn’t about mass-killing despots. This is about passwords.

            Hitler would have had a very secure password. He didn’t think the best of people.

            According to researchers, in 2013 internet users finally got smart, and stopped using “password” as their #1 password when dealing with computers and internet sites. Finally, some sanity!

            It dropped to number two.

            Number one is now “123456”. Yeah.

            It would be 12345, but so many sites require six digits.

            Another team of security researchers uncovered a cache of two million login credentials, and according to their research, “password” was far down in fourth position, after, “123456”, “123456789”, and “1234”.

            Next came “12345” and, yes, “12345678”.

            After that, in a sudden desire to be different, came: “admin”.

            And so my optimism is defeated.

            Yahoo Tech … excuse me, Yahoo! Tech points out that you can’t get much worse than “password”. It has no numbers, no capital letters, and no unusual symbols, and can be guessed pretty easily. It reminds me a lot of my first computer password, which if I recall correctly was “Mark”. No, worse: It was “mark”.

            Other popular passwords: “111111”; “abc123”; and “qwerty”, which if you learned touch typing—or just glance at a keyboard—is pretty easy to figure. Also popular: “letmein”, again self-explanatory.

            I apologize if I just gave out your password. However, if your password is any of the above for any gadget or site the general internet could get a crack at, you’re a moron. Perhaps your password should be “moron”. Perhaps it is.

            Here are other common passwords identified by Yahoo! (doesn’t that make you think you’re one of the Howling Commandoes? Say it out loud): “princess”, “Monkey”, “Sunshine”, “Shadow”, and “iloveyou”, the latter of which is possibly involved in a gifted device, or someone who really, really can’t live without electronics.

            All you hear about these days is this bad guy cracking a password, that bad guy stealing data, some other bad guy putting malware on your computer …  Malware is another word for software that sneaks into your computer and kicks your own software into a corner of the hard drive. Do hard drives have corners? But if you haven’t educated yourself enough to know what malware is, the case could be made that you shouldn’t be in the position of passwording anything.

            Is passwording a word? It is now.

            For the record, the best passwords are 10 characters long, use uncommon letter/number combinations, and employ punctuation or odd symbols, so someone can’t just guess it and hacking programs can’t easily figure it out. For instance, my password is My9@s3W0Rp.

            Or, um, … it was. Yeah, it was.

            However, I used that password for everything. The experts say you should have a different password for each online service; that way if a bad guy gets one, he won’t get all of them.

            And you should never write them down. Nope.

            Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Are you nuts?!”

            Well, I still think more people are good than bad, so … yeah, I’m probably nuts. But if you’re talking about passwords, then I’ll give you an idea that, I assume, the experts will wildly disagree with:

            Write ‘em down.

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can barely remember … well, there was something, I don’t recall what it was, but I can barely remember it. How can I be guaranteed to remember even one password, let alone several? I can’t, that’s how.

            I’m talking about home use. I’m not suggesting you tape it to your iPad, or have it tattooed to your forehead. (Although if you do that, remember to have it tattooed backward.) But yeah, if you have a password so convoluted that the Navajo Code Breakers couldn’t figure it out, you’re going to be in trouble if you keep forgetting it. Put it in invisible ink, on a piece of paper at the back of a desk drawer. Train the dog to dig it up from the back yard. Put one number or digit in the corner of each room of the house.

            Sure, you could lose it if your house burns down, but won’t you have bigger problems then? And if the place gets burglarized, just change your password. That’s assuming the burglar is no longer there—first thing’s first.

            The average hacker is not going to physically walk into your house, unless you’re talking about a relative with bronchitis. That’s not the kind of virus we’re dealing with, here.

            Then you can put in nice, complicated passwords that aren’t likely to be stolen, such as 3vcl943(#^&%/2id[aude8/1, which is what I typed when I hacked just now.

            Here’s another idea, which I got from a website where someone suggested typing your name one handed, without looking at the keyboard. No, I don’t know why. Still, it’s an interesting idea for generating a password. Let’s try it:


            Not bad. Needs some numbers and symbols. Maybe I’ll try again when I feel a sneeze coming on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fire training photos

            I took some photos at the Albion Fire Department’s recent vehicle extrication training (it was 86 degrees!) and, naturally, posted them on the AFD’s FB page:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer vacation: Pain and Writing

            Summer update: I haven’t been online much, because I’m both having fun and being miserable.

            It turns out those things are not exclusive. I’m on vacation, and when someone goes on vacation during the summer they need to be outside, where the vacation-y stuff is. We especially had fun the first week, when Emily and I took the grandkids to, among other places, Science Central in Fort Wayne and Black Pine Animal Sanctuary. We’ve also done some trail walking and camping (photos to follow).

            Also, I started physical therapy on my tendonitis. The therapist said I needed to cut back on keyboarding as much as possible, and there’s where the irony kicked in: I probably would have had medical instructions to take a week or so off work … but I was already on vacation. So at least my sick days are saved.

            But I could do some typing, so I had to decide between hanging around on the internet or writing. Guess what I chose? Even though I went back and did some revision on my SF story Beowulf: In Harm’s Way (because revision doesn’t take as much typing), I’m still up to 30,000 words on the story. I also did some plot changes that make me very happy—I love it when adding something in early on leads me to a great plot twist idea for later in the book.

            It also takes my mind off the pain. On a related note, kids: Don’t get hurt to begin with. Because, apparently, the only way to stop the pain is with much more pain.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Speak of the Devil: After All, It Is Called Mount Widowmaker

"If Eulogist step away from the cliff edge, sir ..."

Speak of the Devil: After All, It Is Called Mount Widowmaker: Some links to see to before we get ourselves started today. Yesterday was a Sunday, so we had a  Snippet Sunday  post at our joint blog. C...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of An Idiotic Mayor

I really don't think William likes this guy.

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of An Idiotic Mayor: Some links before I get started today. Norma had her  Friday photoblog  yesterday. Shelly had  things to be thankful for  at her blog. Par...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Splash Pad: The Safest Place To Freeze


            I had a chance to watch my grandkids playing in Albion’s splash pad the other day, and it took me back to my childhood: Jumping in the water, splashing around, screaming …


            A splash pad is a really cool place for kids, because you get the splash part, but not the worries of going into water too deep. Plus, it’s clean water. There’s no such thing as a play area where you absolutely can’t get hurt at all (and what a boring place that would be), but that beats the heck out of the “good” old days.

            When I was a kid, there were several places you could go swimming, if they were within biking range, or you could talk an older person with a car into taking you there. Some of them were beaches, and occasionally we’d even find a lifeguard at one.

            We avoided those places. The lifeguards were too much like … adults. No roughhousing, no throwing stuff at each other—it never occurred to us that they could save our lives.

            No, we’d go to the places where the beaches consisted of gravel, or to good old fashioned swimming holes. I’m not sure what the difference is. I can tell you that lakes beat ponds, if you were at all disturbed by stuff squeezing between your toes. Clean water? Never entered our minds.

            One of our favorite places to go was the Skinner Lake beach, and it’s a perfect example of the revelation I had while I sat there, safely out of the water, watching the grandkids:

            When I was their age we’d get out of the car at Skinner Lake, and it would take me five minutes to cross a gravel driveway. I’m one of those kids who always wore shoes, and now I was barefoot, on my way to the water. It never occurred to me to take shoes with me, or wear what, in those days, we used to call thongs. Believe me, the thongs of forty years ago protected an entirely different area than the thongs of today do.

            Then I’d work my way down the beach, and put one toe into the water. The water was freezing. It was always freezing, no matter where we went. Heated swimming? Unheard of.

            My brother, along with whoever else my parents made drag me along, would dive right into the water, which was of a temperature about the same as what Jack and Rose dropped into during Titanic. After a while, I’d recover from the shock and dip a foot in.

            Then a toe of the other foot. Goose bumps popped up all over my body, including inside my ears. Every hair stood on end. By the time the water reached my knees, I’d be shivering uncontrollably. The others would be tossing a Frisbee back and forth, or splashing around in inner tubes.

            The water would reach my swim trunks, seeming momentarily less cold until it reached the top and touched my bare abdomen. My belly would suck in against my spine.

            Eventually, about the time the sun reached the top of the trees, I’d get just comfortable enough in the water—by which I mean, still freezing but now up to my neck—that I’d start splashing around a little.

            At this point the others would call from where they were drying off on the beach, to tell me it was time to come home.

            This was called having fun.

            It was many, many years before I fully understood that I just got colder than other people did. Others wear shorts, I wear pants. Others wear t-shirts, I pull on a sweater. Others enjoy autumn, I’m digging out long underwear and a winter coat. Others love winter, I … don’t.

            I should have just stayed on the beach.

            To this day, I love being on big bodies of water—lakes, rivers. By that I mean on, as in a boat, or a raft. It took me all these years to figure out that, as much as we used to beg adults to take us swimming, I rarely liked it much (unless we were there at least a few hours, by which time I was numb enough to have fun). The first time I remember completely enjoying myself from the start (outside of discovering heated swimming pools) is when my wife and I went into a river in southeast Missouri, where the water was almost bathtub-like, late in their hot summer.
            As much as I loved watching the kids running around in the splash pad, I wouldn’t want to join them. Well, not until the temperature touches 90, at least … let’s not get too silly about this whole cold water hatred thing. Goose bumps will never beat heat stroke for unwanted side effects.

The best reason to take grandkids to the splash pad? There's a place for the non-wet to sit.