Let *Me* Decide What A Good Password Is!

I have had it with web sites that won’t let me put really secure passwords on my accounts. What do I mean by that? I mean sites that won’t allow anything other than letters and numbers in a password. WTF? I have a whole keyboard full of lovely glyphs to choose from; why limit me to 52 letters (upper and lower, assuming the developers are smart enough to know the difference) and ten digits?

By placing non-alphanumeric characters in a password, I am making it much harder to guess or crack. Yet there is a corps of web developers out there who force me to choose less secure passwords, because they won’t let me put punctuation in them. Why they do this, I can’t say. There is not a single compelling reason to exclude punctuation from passwords. Not one. I challenge any of you to give me a good reason for this restriction. In fact, it’s more work for the developers to check for these “offending” characters and scold the user for daring to use them! I’ve been stewing about this for a while, but this morning when I tried to setup an account at podiobooks.com and was told my password was not good enough for them, it sent me over the edge.

So, tech managers, here are your marching orders: Look at your site(s). If you have a restriction on what characters can go in a password, figure out which of your developers wrote that code, and fire them. Then, have someone else rewrite that bit of code the right way.

The Case Of the Too-Hot Transformer

Picture it. Friday night. 22:45. Outside Atlanta, GA. Cold. The wife and I were watching the final episodes of Season One of Burn Notice. Killer show. From the other room came a howl of consternation. Thomas gave it to me straight, “Dad! Can you check our Internet connection? Every website I try to visit gives me an error!” Once the episode ended, I went to work on the problem.

I checked the computer and, sure enough, it wasn’t connecting to the Internet. I then tried to ping one of the computers on the local network and it wasn’t responding, either. I checked the downstairs router and rebooted it, just to be sure. It came back up, but I still couldn’t get through it. I also couldn’t get my iPhone to connect to the router’s WiFi. 

I then headed upstairs to the data center. Actually, it’s my office, but there are a bunch of computers in there. I walked in and immediately noticed that the router (a SonicWall TZ 170) was off. Not good. I unplugged it and plugged it back in. Still bupkus. I then unplugged it and pulled the whole power cord and that’s when I felt it. The transformer in the middle of the cord was hot. I don’t mean slightly warm or somewhat heated. I mean hot as in, “Holy crap! That thing is hot!” 

The quest, then, was to find a replacement power supply amongst the boxes and boxes (and boxes) of old computer stuff that I keep for just such an occasion. I found one that fit and plugged it in. Some of the lights came on, but not all. I unplugged it and reread the label. Oops. The voltage was twice as high as it should have been. I continued looking through my boxes of computer cables and found another with the right size plug and the right voltage and amperage. I plugged it into the router, and up it came. And my wife thought there was no good reason to keep all that junk around. 

So why did the power supply fail/almost melt? I don’t know. It has been running 24/7 since 2004, but I would have expected it to last a bit longer. Oh well, it’s fixed now.

iPhone OS 2.2 – Meh, So Far

I happened to be up and working for the man at 2:00 this morning when I saw a note on Twitter saying that Apple had released version 2.2 of the iPhone OS. Being the fanboy that I am, I immediately started the update process. The whole thing, from first click to iPhone ready-to-use, took about 15 minutes. Not bad, and certainly better than some previous upgrades.

Engadget has a rundown of the new features. One of the biggest additions is Google Street View, which lets you see street-level views while working through driving directions. You can also get walking directions from the Maps app, but since I never walk anywhere, that doesn’t really help me. The rearranging of the URL bar and Google box in Safari is another. You can also download podcasts over the air, but I use my 60 GB iPod for podcast listening, so this feature doesn’t do anything for me, either.

Basically, I’m just hoping that they’ve squashed bugs and made the OS more stable. I love my iPhone, but it does have its problems. I don’t know about everyone else, but I have to reboot my phone about once a week to keep it responsive. I know it’s time to reboot when I’m typing on the keyboard and I’m about 6 letters ahead of what’s shown up.

Oh yeah, Steve has still not decided that we’re worthy of copy & paste. Even though about 99% of iPhone customers are begging for C&P, it’s almost like Steve is keeping C&P away from us out of spite. Maybe in 3.0…

I Found My .emacs File! w00t!

As I lamented yesterday, I had lost my .emacs file. I searched all my computers that I thought I’d ever run Emacs on, but couldn’t find it. Then a few minutes ago, I checked my iBook G4, knowing there was no chance of a copy being there, but checking just for completeness. But there was a copy there! O joy! My .emacs and I are reunited at last. What’s funny about this is that I honestly don’t remember ever running Emacs on this laptop, it being such a puny little machine. To safeguard against losing this file again, I have now copied it to every machine I ever use, even if that machine doesn’t have Emacs installed.

OH NOES! I’ve Lost My .emacs File!

I was first exposed to Emacs back in 1991. It took me a while to warm up to it, but I did and I have been using it ever since. Once I started using it on a regular basis, I started customizing it. You can write modules and such for it, but for simple customizations, you can just put them in a hidden file called .emacs in your home directory. As time passed, I would add various changes to my .emacs file, adding convenience functions in Lisp and other bits to make me more productive. As I changed jobs and changed computers, I always made a point of taking this file with me so I’d always have it.

When I switched from Windows to OSX in November of 2006, I didn’t immediately need Emacs, so I didn’t think to copy my .emacs file over. And once I didn’t need the Windows machine any more, I put Linux on it and turned it into a server. But guess what I forgot to do. Yep, I forgot to copy my .emacs someplace safe. I hadn’t noticed it was missing until today. I need to run Emacs for something and when I went to make a change to my .emacs file, that’s when I realized it was missing. I checked my backup drive, which has a bunch of stuff off that old PC, but my .emacs file was nowhere to be found.

Even though I haven’t used Emacs in a while, I need to now, and having that file sure would be nice. But even if I didn’t need to use Emacs right now, I’m still a bit sad to see the file go, since I carted it around for so long. Keeping one file with you for 15 years is quite a long time, wouldn’t you agree?

Grails Podcast Mentions My Closure Post

Like other bloggers with an ego, I have Google Alerts set up to let me know when someone mentions me or my blog anywhere that Google knows about. I got an alert yesterday letting me know that I’d been mentioned on the latest episode of the Grails Podcast. How cool is that? Specifically, they mentioned my [cref groovy-sql-closure-examples Groovy Sql Closure Examples] post. Thanks, Glen and Sven, for the podcast love. 🙂

I’ve been spending some time with Grails latest and have been really impressed with it. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday playing with it, seeing how much of my Rails knowledge was applicable to Grails. Quite a bit of it, actually. I really like what I’ve seen of Grails, so far. I’d probably have to use it on a real project to really get a feel for it, but it looks like it would be a nice environment to work in.