Password Security

 Posted by on 23 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Security, Technology
Apr 232013

In my discussion of online privacy on March 10th’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I talked about how people need to take active measures to protect their privacy online, just as they do in real life. Also, just as in real life, criminals should be of concern. Hence, good passwords should be of concern.

I’ve long known that many people use insecure passwords — such as ordinary words, reusing the same password across many sites, or using an easy-to-guess pattern. However, I didn’t realize just how careless many people are until I read this article: PIN Analysis. Basically, the author analyzed the data from various databases of exposed four-digit passwords — 3.4 million PINs in total. Here are a few of his findings:

The most popular password is 1234 … it’s staggering how popular this password appears to be. Utterly staggering at the lack of imagination … nearly 11% of the 3.4 million passwords are 1234 !!!

The next most popular 4-digit PIN in use is 1111 with over 6% of passwords being this.

In third place is 0000 with almost 2%.

A staggering 26.83% of all passwords [are the table of top 20 passwords listed in the article]! (Statistically, with 10,000 possible combination, if passwords were uniformly randomly distributed, we would expect these twenty passwords to account for just 0.2% of the total, not the 26.83% encountered)

For more fun facts, check out the article: PIN Analysis. If you’re now thinking that perhaps you should have more secure passwords… good! I’d recommend using a password program such as LastPass or 1Password. If you’re already using nothing but super-secure passwords, even better!

I’ve used 1Password to generate random passwords for me, store them securely, and access them on my phone and in my web browser for many years now, and I’d hate to go back to my old (and far less secure) methods!

Note: This commentary was originally published in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter before the broadcast. Subscribe today!

Technology in War

 Posted by on 17 April 2013 at 2:00 pm  Technology, World War 2
Apr 172013

Last week, I posed the following interesting question to Paul, then posted it to Facebook:

What technology was known to the Allies during World War 2 — that likely would have helped them win the war faster (or with less damage or casualties) — but that was not used?

The question occurred to me while listening to Max Hastings’ excellent history of World War 2 — Inferno. Hastings says that the Germans had radar but never made good use of it, as the British did during the Battle of Britain.

Paul and I couldn’t think of any stellar examples, but I thought that y’all of the interwebs might have some suggestions.

Apr 152013

Here are three more tips for email. (The first three are here: Three Tips on Managing Email.) As before, your mileage may vary.

(1) Don’t assume that you should respond to an email with another email. A phone call or in-person chat might be more efficient and effective. In some cases, the precision of writing is worthwhile, but in many cases, you’re consuming too much time in writing — and asking others to consume too much time in reading. Or, in the case of conflicts, you can seriously worsen the conflict by miscommunication, particularly in tone.

(2) Be ruthelessly purposeful about your email communications. Identify the purpose of every email you write before you begin writing — and then write the email according to that purpose. Don’t just write a reply in order to get another message out of your inbox. (Yes, I’m guilty of that on occasion!)

(3) If an email requires some action of you that you can’t completely in two minutes or less, create a task for it in your task list. Don’t let it languish in your inbox as a reminder; it’s too likely to be missed, and it just clutters up your inbox in the meantime.

Now, I’m off to go plow through my inbox… hopefully with all due care and purpose!

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!

Apr 052013

Here, I offer you three tips on managing e-mail, partly inspired by the awesome podcasts of Manager Tools. (As with all such advice, your mileage may vary.)

(1) Don’t leave your email opening and running all day. It’s a major distraction from your work, and it leaves you feeling like all that you do is email. Instead, schedule blocks of time in which to process your email — and do nothing else. That focus will improve the quality of your emails, while decreasing the time required. (GAH. I need to start doing this again… and closing Facebook too!)

(2) Be willing to give very short replies to emails — or no reply at all. Just because someone emails you doesn’t give them a right to your time. Make sure that you’re not sacrificing what matters most to you in responding to other people’s emails.

(3) Make the purpose of your email clear to the recipeint at the outset: give the summary of what you’re telling or asking at the very top to set the context. Yesterday, I received a lovely email from a fan of Philosophy in Action. Alas, it began with two big paragraphs of personal history (700 words), and the request for an interview was left to the bottom. Not only might I have missed the request if I’d just skimmed the email, but I didn’t understand the relevance of any of the personal history as I was reading it. Putting the interview request at the top would have helped me understand the email better.

In essence, be focused, selfish, and purposeful in your emails!

Note: I published a version of the above commentary in Philosophy in Action’s Newsletter a while back. Subscribe today!

Digital Manners

 Posted by on 27 March 2013 at 10:00 am  Communication, Etiquette, Technology
Mar 272013

This article — Disruptions: Digital Era Redefining Etiquette — raises some fascinating questions about the evolution of manners with the rise of the internet, social media, and other new technology. It begins:

Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?

Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?

Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies. But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.

For me, the burden of online communications doesn’t come from the mere inflow per se: I’m good at reviewing, then deleting or archiving my incoming mail. (Hence, I do send those little thank-yous, as I like to acknowledge receipt and express appreciation.)

The major burden lies in what I need to do in response to some email — not just replying (which often requires a bit of research), but also making decisions, updating projects, and the like. The problem is compounded when I receive the information by some means other than email — such as a Facebook message, tweet, or text message. Those venues are perfect for quick replies, and I prefer them to email for that. But I never use them as storage, as I do my email inbox. So if I can’t reply right away, then they’ll just be forgotten. (That’s not always a bad thing!)

I expect that managing my online communications will always be something of a struggle. Yet over the last few years, I’ve done better in two ways.

  • I improved my implementation of Getting Things Done, thanks to some tips that Andrew Miner offered in this interview. I don’t have projects masquerading as tasks any longer. I don’t use artificial deadlines. Instead, I’ve gotten in the habit of making progress on critical areas of focus by just reviewing my projects and tasks, then buckling down to get some stuff done. (Amazingly, that works!)
  • I’ve developed the habit of writing very short emails. I almost never discuss anything other than logistics via email: if I want to have a serious conversation, that must be done in person or via the phone. Or, if a person has a philosophic question, that should be submitted to the queue. I engage in substantive discussion in Facebook comments pretty regularly though. That’s because others chime in with interesting remarks, the medium encourages short comments and dialogue, and I can simply drop out when I get busy.

At this point, I wonder what I can and should do to function better. So… what have you done over the past few years that has helped you better manage your digital communications?

The Untimely Demise of Google Reader

 Posted by on 19 March 2013 at 10:00 am  Business, Technology
Mar 192013

Hitler finds out Google Reader is shutting down:

Like many, many people, I’m pretty upset that Google Reader is shutting down. I’ve used Google Reader for years — not just to read blogs, but also to manage The Paleo Rodeo. So I’ve got some extra work to do thanks to this unexpected demise of Google Reader, and I’m not enthused about that.

More, to shut down the most popular RSS reader seems like a really idiotic decision for Google. If they’re not making money on feeds, that’s because Google closed AdSense for Feeds back in September 2012. Plus, they shut down the sharing functions of Google Reader with the launch of the utterly useless Google Plus, thereby killing their sole social media platform that actually worked.

With the murder of Google Reader, I’m sure that Google will shut down the awesome FeedBurner soon too, which will be another huge problem for me and tons of other people. That’s even more frustrating.

Overall, Google has going downhill lately, in my view. I’ve had ever-more problems with their offerings, and I’ve heard ominous news about the exodus of the best engineers from people who work in the industry. That sucks, because I love Google.

If you’re looking for an alternative to Google Reader, check out Old Reader. You can easily download your data from Google Reader, then import everything into Old Reader. (They have a backlog of 50,000 imports right now though, so you’ll have a wait a few days.) You’ll be able to find what I share here.

Geek Not Like This: Electrostatic Discharge

 Posted by on 7 January 2013 at 2:00 pm  Funny, Science, Technology
Jan 072013

I nearly cried from laughing too hard when watching this video of … er… how not to handle electrostatic discharge.

Home Computers in 2004

 Posted by on 12 December 2012 at 2:00 pm  Funny, Technology
Dec 122012

“Scientists from the RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a ‘home computer’ could look like in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not yet invented technology to actually work. But 50 years from now, scientific progress is expected to solve these problems. With telescope interface and the Fortran language the computer will be easy to use.”

I must admit that I’m very curious about the function of the steering wheel.

Update: Alas, the image is a fake.

Facebook’s New Advertisements

 Posted by on 30 November 2012 at 10:00 am  Business, Funny, Technology
Nov 302012

I have no problem with Facebook earning gobs of money from its users (i.e. the product). However, placing huge ads in the newsfeed ought to be done with some degree of care. That shouldn’t be hard, since I tell Facebook everything about my life. Hence, choosing to advertise an Israeli politician to me — in Hebrew — seems like a pretty major case of FAIL.

Still, that’s not quite as bad as advertising young single women to my mother. I kid you not.

Man Interviews Himself of 20 Years Ago

 Posted by on 31 July 2012 at 11:00 am  Cool, Technology
Jul 312012

Man Interviews His 12-Year-Old Self:

What would it be like if you could go back in time and talk to a younger version of yourself? Filmmaker and actor Jeremiah McDonald got to experience that process — in a way — thanks to a video tape he made for his future self back in 1992.

Twenty years later, McDonald cut together an interview combining footage of himself in 1992 (at age 12) and in 2012 (age 32).

The result is funny, poignant and ingenious in its presentation — which cuts present-day McDonald against his improvised 12-year old self two decades ago. As precocious as the younger version is, he also has one or two things to teach the older McDonald.

And now, the ever-so-awesome video:

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