The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

When to change passwords

Security guru Bruce Schneier has great advice about when to change your passwords:

The primary reason to give an authentication credential -- not just a password, but any authentication credential -- an expiration date is to limit the amount of time a lost, stolen, or forged credential can be used by someone else. If a membership card expires after a year, then if someone steals that card he can at most get a year's worth of benefit out of it. After that, it's useless.

... An attacker who gets the password to your bank account by guessing or stealing it isn't going to eavesdrop. He's going to transfer money out of your account -- and then you're going to notice. In this case, it doesn't make a lot of sense to change your password regularly -- but it's vital to change it immediately after the fraud occurs.

... So in general: you don't need to regularly change the password to your computer or online financial accounts (including the accounts at retail sites); definitely not for low-security accounts. You should change your corporate login password occasionally, and you need to take a good hard look at your friends, relatives, and paparazzi before deciding how often to change your Facebook password. But if you break up with someone you've shared a computer with, change them all.

Carried by four elephants standing on the back of a turtle

First, I'm starting this at 11:11 on 11-10-10, which is 943 in binary (except in Europe where it's 10-11-10 11:11, or 751 decimal). This bit of randomness was brought to you by the letter "geek" and the number "nerd."

Now, my real post. Just last night I finished, after two and a half years, the 38 novels in Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, with I Shall Wear Midnight. Sir Terry is still alive and writing, but sadly he has a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's called posterior cortical atrophy, and may not be able to continue writing. I hope he's able to complete the three or four books he has going right now; he's optimistic as well; but I Shall Wear Midnight may be the last of the series.

Sir Terry started the novels in 1983. They have a noticeable evolution as he explored new ideas, and picked up some threads and dropped others. I enjoyed every one (some more than others). I might just have to start over from the beginning. Still, I hope to read Snuff and Raising Taxes in the next couple of years.

Y'all gots issues

Anyone catch this Daily Show bit last week?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Well, the dude got fired today:

A hearing that was supposed to be held Tuesday was moved up to this afternoon. Philip Thomas, Shirvell's attorney, said he showed up for the meeting and was read one sentence.

“They said essentially that as a result of Andrew’s conduct, it’s become impossible for him to carry out his duties as an attorney general.”

Thomas said he is shocked and confused, saying he doesn’t know what could have happened between Friday afternoon, when the hearing began, and Saturday afternoon.

Probably what happened, Andy, my friend, is that the Attorney General of Michigan watched the Daily Show bit from last week. Or maybe you lied in your disciplinary hearing. Either way, no one else in the known universe is shocked or confused.

When daylight saving time goes too far

It's getting on toward 7:30 in Chicago, and the sun still hasn't risen yet. We return to standard time tonight, meaning the sun will rise at 6:30 tomorrow. Today, however, will be the latest sunrise in Chicago (and in the rest of those parts of the U.S. that observe daylight saving time) until 2021.

What's wrong with the last weekend in October? Or, as they do in parts of Europe, the last weekend in September? The "extra" hour of daylight in the evening has to come from somewhere. I, for one, prefer staying out after dark to waking up before dawn.

Mustn't grumble, I suppose

For no reason I can describe, on Monday night I absently browsed through thinking about being somewhere else. I didn't really have any specific destination in mind, other than one that didn't require changing planes (which, living in Chicago, and flying American Airlines, encompasses a lot of them). It turned out, there were frequent-flier miles seats available for this weekend to my second-favorite city in the world. Amazing. So, I have now arrived, a little fuzzy on the date and time, but quite pleased that for only a few frequent-flier miles and a bit of tax, I managed to get to another continent. And my new passport has lost its virginity.

The city welcomed me with a low, gray overcast, drizzle, and fog, which is very comforting. Of course, this is why there were last-minute seats available for award tickets: no one really wants to go come here in November except for us die-hards. (Today is, however, the fifth of November, a fun day to be here.)

This part of living in the 21st century amazes me.

However, one part doesn't. For $125 per night (cf. $300 for the local equivalent of a Marriott—or the Marriott, for that matter), I have found a hotel room that would fit neatly in my kitchen, containing a bed older than my grandmother and a chair appropriate for a midget. It has Wi-Fi, as just about every hotel in the modern (read: outside the U.S.) world does, but I expect I'll have to go to a café tomorrow to attend classes as our learning platform puts a bit of a strain on the Internet connection. Quoting Henny Youngman, "the room is so small even the mice are hunchbacked."

Meanwhile, I'm going to stay on Chicago time (even though it changes Sunday morning), which means it's time for a shower and some coffee. Then I'll head to the nearest grocery to buy a can of Raid....

Truly impressive customer service...and product

My new Kindle arrived just now, only (let's see) about 30 hours after I ordered it. Amazon pre-registered it, so from opening the box to reading a book I'd previously purchased took less than two minutes. Add five minutes to hook it up to my home WiFi (complete with 26-byte WPA password), two minutes to go to to change the thing's email address, fifteen seconds to buy the next book I want to read, and—I am not kidding—fifteen seconds to download it to the device.

What does that come to? Less than 10 minutes after UPS left, I've got my next book ready to go.

Oh, and: it remembered all the books I've already bought, not counting the ones I'd saved to my local hard drive, so replacing them took just a minute or two longer.

Clearly, Amazon understands the cardinal rule of new technology: If you make it easy, they will buy it.

Update: Add another 30 seconds to find and download the $4.99 Scrabble Kindle edition.

Amazing customer service

My Kindle 2 died last week. Its battery, drained of every last electron, could no longer provide even enough power to recharge.

Two calls to Amazon customer service later, and I got an $89 credit towards the purchase of a Kindle 3, applied instantly to my account. I'll have the new one tomorrow, for about 1/4 what I paid for the original.

Everybody wins: I get a good deal, they sell a new item. They even refunded the last Kindle book I bought, since I discovered the Kindle-bricking when I tried to download it.

Another stick in the wall

This is cool:

Across New York, there are USB drives embedded in walls, buildings and curbs. The idea is to create an anonymous, offline file-sharing network in public space. The drives are completely public and anyone can plug in to drop and download files.

Seriously, you can plug the USB drive into your laptop. ...

It's part of an art project called "Dead Drops" by Aram Bartholl and I have to say, it's pretty awesomely creative. I mean, if I saw a USB stick stick out of a random wall, I'd be dying to know what's in there. I'd have to plug in. It'd also be interesting to see what people would anonymously share on the public drive, well, until some jackass decides to upload a virus to screw up everybody's computer.