Passwords to the wise – password creation made easy.

Passwords are a pain! Most people either use the same one over and over again or tie themselves in knots attempting to come up with convoluted codes which will be never be guessed in a million years.  Some passwords are obvious and I wonder just how much I could access with the password “trustno1?”

Here’s a quick guide to painless password creation.

Step 1. Choose a four-letter word or four-character phrase

Use a four-letter word like care, look, tree, bull, pine, rest, blob, east, bike – OR – use a four-character phrase that’s easy to type with one hand such as qwea, wers, ertd, rtyf, tyug and so on.

Step 2. Choose a single-digit number

You have the choices of 0 through 9. Pick one.

Step 3. Use the first three characters of the web site’s domain (URL) the password belongs to

This is best shown by example:

Yahoo Mail: yah
Hotmail: hot
Facebook: fac
Twitter: twi
Gmail: gma

Step 4. Choose the pattern of the password

The patterns you have to choose from are any that DO NOT start with the digit, because there are several web sites that do not permit that. That being the case, you have four patterns to choose from:

1. Word+Digit+URL
2. Word+URL+Digit
3. URL+Digit+Word
4. URL+Word+Digit

Let’s say the four-letter word you chose was tree, the digit 8, and the pattern you chose was Word+Digit+URL. Here’s how the password would look:

Hotmail: tree8hot
Yahoo Mail: tree8yah
Facebook: tree8fac
Gmail: tree8gma

Benefits of generating passwords with the Word + Digit + URL method

Easy to remember for you, difficult for others to guess

You’ve been told over and over again that you should always pick passwords you can remember easily but others could not guess – but were never told how to do this. W+D+U passwords are exactly the way to do it.

No need for a password manager

Many people do not want to be bothered with a password manager because they consider it too much of a hassle. For those that hop between OSes this is especially true because many password managers only work on one OS and nothing else.

Has “good enough” security for most people

You’ve also been told over and over again never to use the same password for multiple web sites. The 3 characters from the URL keeps passwords unique and satisfies this requirement.

Drawbacks of the W+D+U method

Some sites will have the same password

Example: Meebo and Meetup. Both start with mee, so the password would be the same for both sites. You can get around this by counting the number of characters in the domain name and adding an extra digit. Meebo is 5 characters, Meetup is 6. If the password is tree8mee, Meebo’s would be tree8mee5 and Meetup tree8mee6. If both sites have the same amount of characters in the domain name however, you’re out of luck.

Same-service accounts will have the same password

This is the biggest drawback of the W+D+U method of password generation, and the only way around it is to add an extra digit based on priority.  Example: You have two Hotmail accounts. Both accounts have tree8hot as the password. Whatever account you use the most should be changed to tree8hot1, the second tree8hot2, and so on.

If someone guesses your 5-character passphrase and recognizes the pattern, the password is useless

The likelihood of this occurring is slim, but it’s a possibility. If your 5-character passphrase is tree8 and someone realizes that you use that passphrase plus the first three characters of a domain name for all your passwords, you’re basically screwed – but only if you use the same username everywhere.

W+D+U is weak, but better than 12345678

I’m not saying using W+D+U for passwords is strong or secure, but “good enough” as said above. These passwords are easy to remember, difficult for others to guess, you don’t need a password manager and the best part is that they work everywhere.


Facebook is not private!

For some of you lovely people out there this may come as a surprise, but the simple fact of the matter is that data on Facebook is not private. Don’t get me wrong, FB is great. Its practically part of life these days. Most people seem to have their facebook page, companies have their company page quite frankly, search for Wanderjahre Computing and you will find us there as well! But Facebook is not the place to hid your deepest darkest secret. Its not the place for anything at all, if that anything is private or confidential or needs to be limited to a small number of people.

But there is an interesting development with FB, and that is namely that people and by people I mean its own users are no longer surprised to learn that their information has been compromised. The reaction seems to be “Oh? Facebook leaked some of my personal info again? Well that’s Facebook!”

I is not saying “Don’t use Facebook!” Not at all. It would be pointless,the application is too wide spread and has become too much a part of life. I know people who practically live on Facebook and even some of the smaller businesses that I work with who generally regard Facebook as some kind of Damien Omenesque evil are starting to think again about using it and it to them that I would like to make the following points.

Nothing on your Facebook page is private – by its very nature a site designed to make the sharing of information easy will struggle with privacy.

1. Don’t make any comment you would not be comfortable with making in a meeting of your local Rotary Club or political association.

2. A race hate comment on Facebook is every bit as likely to cause you problems as the same comment delivered in public or it may not. It all depends on who complain and how hard they complain!

3. Don’t post pictures of you or your kids unless you are comfortable with how you and they are dressed.

4. If you feel inclined to moan about your job or manager, spend the several hours it will take to see if there is a link between you and them via someone who is both your friend and their’s or a concealed link via another friend or friend of a friend before typing your thoughts into your rig!

5. Think before you post anything which could come back to haunt you!

A quick round up

A screenshot of Xournal 0.4.5 running on Linux...

Image via Wikipedia

Some articles that have caught my eye in the last couple of weeks and look promising. Check them out.

Getting better all the time? Tweetmag for the iPod.

Xournal Note taking application for Linux OS. Xournal is a note-taking Linux application.You get a blank piece of “paper” every time you open it up and if that sounds a bit flat it does come with a host of note taking notes. If anyone out there is downloading or using Ubuntu 11.04 right now could be worth a few moments to check out.

On a similar note check out  WriteBoard: A Free Note-Taking Web App That Supports Collaboration and Exporting

Springpad opens up its note-taking platform

A modern Email sig. PCMech

The link goes to a profile site where you can have a blog and Facebook community page listed. The profile page is purposely simple, but has the option of adding in a ‘bio’ in a text box, and the ability to add in as many links as wanted.  I have since found out that using this seems to need the person who wants to view the sig to register which seems to miss the point to me. It may be a glitch somewhere but otherwise looking out for my article on how to do this using Dropbox for free and no registration for your viewers.
USB3 is a technology that was hyped up quite a bit in 2010, and it was said many times in many different places that wide availability of USB3 would be

Slipstreaming is the process of integrating a Service Pack to a Windows ISO. The tool that will be used to do this is called RT Se7en Lite.

Some of you out there may have read stories like this one and may be confused at the fact as to why Google of all companies uses tape as one of its backup

New IP Wikiprox is a fast web proxy for keeping yourself anonymous and for bypassing network restrictions!   Comment anywhere and enjoy the best of the web, as voted by the Pushnote community.

‎ free disposable email address service, unlimited free disposable email addresses

Webmail: Battle Of The Awesome Features. PC mech looks at some champions and young contenders in the world of webmail.
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Back from the dead

Screenshot of Ubuntu 8.04.

Image via Wikipedia

Spent much of the weekend and a fair bit of Monday, a couple of weeks ago trying to persuade a laptop to work…

A practically venerable Evo laptop suddenly decided that it didn’t like Youtube and refused to play anything declaring each time that the flash player had crashed and I need to refresh the browser, a phrase in IT terms akin to “turn it off and turn it on again and see if that help?” I didn’t!

To be fair it’s a very old machine, AMD Athlon XP 2000+ 512 RAM shared with graphic and 40gb storage. Pretty ancient – the theme set should probably be velociraptors!

Youtube is not a site I spend a lot of time at; watching teenagers attempting to castrate themselves on a skateboard or dancing Meercats not really having much appeal, but at the time I had been clutching my notepad and rewinding frequently in an attempt to understand another aspect of this IT Kabala they call Joomla 1.6 so the timing was not good.

I started to investigate. After a bit of experimenting I found that non-Youtube sites were fine. All very puzzling! Reinstalling flash did nothing and trying various Firefox plugins and handlers just seemed to make the problem worse.

I decided to reinstall….nope. Ubuntu 10.4 would not even let me have a decent Gnome desktop! Probably a badly burnt disk, but I didn’t have the time to burn another one and suspected that it was actually more of a hardware issue with the latest version of even Ubuntu demanding more than an old machine could handle. This needed a rethink.

Tucked away in my collection of distros was my Ubuntu 8.04 LTS custom CD. A partial roll-your-own of Ubuntu 8.04 with lots of added goodies that I had put together using Remastersys. I had some doubts fearing RAM or power supplies issues which would have been way too expensive to deal with in a machine of this age. However I crossed my fingers (realised that this would make inserting the CD difficult) uncrossed them and tried. Synaptic had demanded 840 odd updates which came as no great surprise but in the end I had a working laptop which was more than 8 years old and had seen heavy use. Youtube worked fine, DVD played and MP3 did their thing from the admittedly tinny speakers.

I never did find out what the problem was? My guess is an update for Linux Mint the previous distro had conflicted with my hardware, some modern driver that definitely didn’t want to play nice with my ancient rig. But its comforting to know that Linux gives you options and if all else had failed I am sure one of the lightweight distros like Puppy, DSL or Feather would have loaded.

Aw well now back to what I was doing when this problem started on Saturday….ho hum!

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Notaclu (Very) Limited

Microsoft Word 5.5 for DOS

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s a little story aimed at that rare creature, the managing director or CEO of a company who wants to get to grips with its information technology, read the article below and see if any part of it rings a bell:

Welcome to Notaclu

Notaclu is a small not for profit company on the outskirts of London. It employs 30 staff, mostly on part-time contracts and depends for revenue on successfully pulling in grant money and it’s relationship with lots of outside agencies some public sector, some private sector

Notaclu has internet but not for all the staff, because some “don’t need it!” Likewise not all staff are on email because the need for them to have accounts is not clear. Notaclu generates vast amounts of paper documents.

Notaclu has a website, but no one has updated it in a long time. Some of the links are broken and contacting people is a form that finds its way to the part-time IT bod who then prints it and passes it on as needed. The site is static and no not particularly well put together.  It also uses proprietary formats like MS Word in download format for forms and applications.

Notaclu does not like staff to use Facebook because in the past they have been criticised on that platform for some of their actions. It not really aware of Twitter or Linkdin or similar other site. But is aware that social networks might help them in their constant quest for money.

There has been talk of a blog, but no one is sure how to progress that.

Notclu computers were second-hand when bought (a mixed bag of Dells and odds and sods bought when a bigger firm upgraded and are now more than five years old with the company alone and showing their age. Minor problems are commonplace. The company use an outsourced company to deal with the larger problems since their dedicated IT guru was made redundant due to lack of funds.

There is no RAID on the server, the additional drives failed some months back and there was no money to replace them. Essentially documents find their way to a shared drive but there are no permissions installed, one click could delete everything.

There is no intranet and staff wanting policy information either wade through the hard copy or the equally tortuous hundreds of individual word documents on the shared drive.

OK so very few companies would survive if they were Notaclu. But once fictional company is made up of a number of companies I have been involved in assisting in the last five years with several having many of the problems listed above. So if anyone reading that thought, “he is talking about my company” then they should read on.

What can I do?

Email: if your staff are not on email, get them on it now and make sure they can access it from home. Check out Gmail or one of the many excellent webmail applications out there. Use email to update staff on new events, changes and anything they need to know. Good use of email alone will aid change management in the way that a hundred meetings will not since the member of staff has time to digest content and ask questions in the way a time constrained meeting will not allow.  Many phone have competent email clients.

Internet: This is a no brainer, get staff to spend some time on a computer as part of their admin function, train them to check those sections of the net you want them to see. Even if they only spend a few minutes on the company Intranet a week, you will save time in meetings and and questions.

Website: It may help to think of your website as your newspaper or advertising hording for the internet. You want lots of people to be able to see what you are offering but they will only be able to do that if a) your stuff can be seen and b) they find it worth the effort to come back which in net terms means they will want to see at least a little that is new.  Google search placement makes it essential that a website generates new content. More content and plenty of links to your site from other well-regarded sites will put you high in the ratings for your chosen search term. The trick is to choose a term relevant to your company. Its one of the areas where Notaclu struggle, being number 1 for a search for the name of the company may not be of much help if everyone you want to link with is doing searches based on a service or paradigm.

Intranet: Get one! Put every policy you have, all documents you want people to see and every piece of paper that might be needed to do your work. Encourage staff to visit and flag new and changed documents. Find a space for staff to comment, install a bulletin board. It’s an axiom that in a good company the right ideas will find their way to the right people but a little help never hurt.

Proprietry formats. Microsoft Office may be on plenty of machines, but anyone contacting you is not going to want to mess around filling out and snail mailing a form when they would expect something online and far more immediate. Check out Jotform for a good online system or build your own.

If your Face fits?: If you decide not to use Facebook that is fine, but be clear why you have opted for that. Chances are your competitors are using the social network. Anyone looking to deal with you could well do a search for your company Facebook page as a first point of call. You may regard it as a pain or some excuse to avoid work, but it’s got a lot of people on it. Trying to crack a youth orientated market, looking to bid of young people funding. The people with the cash may check you out on FB first!

If you are worried that staff might spend all their time on Facebook then frankly some managers on the top floor need to talk to one another very seriously.  It should be pretty obvious if your staff are busy fighting Mafia Wars rather than working. Let your peple use their lunch break to browse the net and Facebook, it won’t cost you a penny and you may even get a reputation for being a cool company to work for. As a bonus a switched on web savvy company is more likely to have staff defend it if someone tried to criticise you elsewhere and chances are they will cover a lot more ground that you or your IT staff can.

Blog off! Too simple! There are any number of off the peg blog solutions for blogging. Since we are where we are, I think I would recommend WordPress.

WordPress is very versatile can be made to look like a website and for me hits a number of the blog buttons.  Easy to use; plenty of themes; good configurations options; plenty of users and useful addons. (Big thanks to Zemanta at this point as well for their content addon which takes the hard work out of finding links.)

Serves you right! OK, IT geeks amongst you will probably have been most worried by Notaclu’s attitude to data. Our well meaning buffoons simply do not have a clue. They have data on individual machines and data on a server neither is backed up. The day the server dies is the day the company director losses a lot of weight fast!

Lots of little companies rely on flash drives and CDs to back up data and while this might work its not strategic. It’s easy to set up your machines to have a network connection to shared space on a drive and simple to back up all this data – if that is what you want. You may think you are fine with a single back up solution but suppose you had a fire tomorrow; suppose your single hard drive failed. How much could you restore?

Offsite storage is your friend if you in any way at all value your data. If you think you can manage without a backup then take a close look at your data – policies, records, minutes, videos, photos. Can you manage if they vanished tomorrow?

Your basic requirement is an off site solution backing up everything essential and no older than say 24 hours. Cloud storage is your friend here look for inexpensive options which mark changes in the saved documents to save you time and expense. If you have a decent amount of storage as part of your web package dedicate some for essential backups. If all else fails, at least dump some of the key stuff on DVDs or some largish flash drives and get it off site. Its far from ideal but at least you will not be completely lost if and when that fire happens or that electrical problems blows the fuses and your server.

There we have it, senior staff take note, Notaclu may be the modern version of a firm of insane Luddites, but unless you can cheerfully  you have all of the above covered then you may want to think about your application for Notaclu….got a stamp?

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Broadband router install

Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Router

Image via Wikipedia

Getting yourself on broadband is nowhere near as difficult as some people would have you believe. Provided you have a PC with a network card installed (essentially any machine built in the last 15 years or so) you should not have any problems.

Read more

Just browsing…part 1

Internet Explorer Mobile Logo

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Time was when getting on the net meant using Internet Explorer. You may have been around for Netscape Navigator or toyed with the various AOL offerings, but then along came the new kind on the block, Firefox, and promptly knocked old IE out of the park. IE came puffing and panting from behind. But there are other browsers out there so lets have a look at some of the lesser known competitors in the so called browser wars.

Konqueror: one for the Linux fans here. Konqueror used to be standard for Linux machines on KDE and may still be if Firefox is not cresting the tape first. It’s a nice browser but in my experience lacks decent flash integration however if you are using PCLinuxOS or other KDE environment chances are it’s there somewhere so go play.

Epiphany; Epiphany is a Gnome based browser, the Gnome version of Konqueror. It’s light responsive and well worth a trial. This browser got me out of some problems with streaming audio back in the days of Ubuntu 6.04 so I have maintained something of a soft spot for it.

Aurora: Aurora is another lightweight browser. Its come in handy as the installed browser for low powered systems using DSL and Puppy Linux.

More next time

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