10/05/2009

Browser Password Synchronization, Rethinking the Web Browser: Mastering Firefox like a Ninja 2

Being able to manage passwords is the biggest, and most important, time saving skill that can be learned about utilizing a browser. Having to remember and retype multitudes of passwords is very cumbersome, and in any given hour of using a browser it can significantly tax your time. Fortunately, there are a few very good solutions. These solutions allow you to save your passwords and have them auto-fill when you visit a login page. These solutions also encrypt the password storage file for transferring between computers.

Xmarks (formerly Foxmarks)
Keepass

Both of these tools allow for fairly seamless password sync between computers. The beauty is that they fully encrypt already encrypted passwords and sync them between different browsers and/or profiles. I use Xmarks, and have since it was in beta. I have not used Keepass, but know that it is a very good solution. The main difference is that Xmarks uses the cloud, and Keepass uses a flash drive.

The differences get even more subtle when comparing and contrasting the details. Once Keepass syncs your passwords to a new machine, only newer passwords saved will create differences between machines until a new sync. Xmarks advantage is that all computers/browsers remain generally similar in their password storage via a server sync. The Keepass advantage is that 3rd party servers are not involved in the exchange of the encrypted file holding the passwords. However, Xmarks gives you the ability to utilize your own server for the file. Saved passwords are associated with a profile. Also, Xmarks is a Firefox extension and thus needs to be associated with a profile. Keepass is a standalone program and works differently.

When it boils down to it, both are equally matched. The decision is basically between trusting the cloud, or being a flash drive toter. That decision aside, every button needs to be well understood by the user. Take a lot of care when adopting either of these programs, or any other. It took me 2 weeks before I fully trusted Xmarks when I was implementing it. This caution is well within bounds, because the systems are very simple yet hold a lot of power. Again, know what every button does before trusting any password management tool.

Once you have a good working password manager it will become extremely easy to browse to any website that requires a login. Having the password automatically fill in a login page is a very rewarding experience. First, you save the time that would have been expended typing the password. Second, your mind is free to concerns other than the password. Take the simple action of a login and span it out over how many times it is done in a given week, month, or even year. One might save tremendous amounts of time and brainpower over a number of given repetitions.

TIPS:

Again, know what every button does before trusting any password management tool.

NEVER print your passwords out on paper.

A random password generator will improve your security, but may hinder you when you need to manually type a password.

If you use Google, make sure that it knows your phone number, or that you have a good way of getting your account back if security is compromised.

A few login pages will not be recognized by the browser, and it will not prompt to you to save the password.

There are other solutions and strategies for saving passwords, that may fit your situation better.

It would be good practice to not save passwords for financial accounts (bank, credit, investment).

For Foxmarks avoid clicking the “Never” when prompted to remember a password, as there’s an unsolved bug that messes with sync(ignore this if they’ve solved the bug).

Links:

Lifehacker

Password Generator

Secure Passwords

Your Own Xmarks Server (not required, advanced only)

10/02/2009

Managing Profiles, Rethinking the Web Browser: Mastering Firefox like a Ninja 1

At the very least one needs to know what a profile is and where it resides, and how to back it up. The Mozilla support site does indicate that using profiles is for advanced users. This is great because it’s pretty simple to use them. The Mozilla website has more than enough information on how to do anything with them. However, they do not provide us with what can be done using the simple how to instructions. This is where the fun starts: What would you use profiles for.

There are two principle ways to utilize profiles. One is to uncheck the “Don’t ask at startup” button and chose the profile you want at startup, this can become cumbersome. The other is to utilize shortcuts, by changing the shortcut to point specifically to your profile by appending the target with –P “profile name”. The shortcut method may be preferred because it is very similar to using hotkeys. So you can have multiple profiles assigned to hotkeys, this means that a new set of things can be done.

If you have multiple accounts with the same website and need access to both simultaneously without restarting the browser then two windows each accessing a different profile can accomplish this. It is easy to do this if you have multiple monitors, but if you don’t have multiple monitors, then a profile switcher may be a solution, or simply switching windows constantly (alt-tab).

Below is a list of cool things that can be done:

Portability
If you need to move between many computers via flash drive, or other means like a live CD profiles are what you will be moving. Knowing about profiles is a must, how specifically to do this will be covered in a later post.

Lightweight
If you occasionally get tired of the load time of your bulky set of add-ons, a lightweight profile can be made. A profile that has no plug-ins installed, basically a quick loading light browser. Set this to a hotkey and it will be totally fast for a quick lookup tool.

Sharing
Some people have a single computer, with a single user in their house. If you’re tired of the bookmarks, or history getting messed up, a separate profile is a simple solution.

Sock Puppets
One could chat as two people at once in a chat room, via the paragraph above.

Hacking
The settings are included in the profile, so one could use multiple proxy servers to appear as multiple IP addresses.

Separating Tasks
Using different profiles for different kinds of work, i.e. one profile for work one for play is a strategy that might aid in focusing on specific types of tasks. This can be taken too far and become a nightmare to manage given all of the specifics and details.

Links:
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Managing+profiles
http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Profiles
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Profile_Manager

Accessing the profile manager is as simple as typing firefox -P into the RUN screen. At the very least, back up your profile about once every 3 months. It is a simple copy paste.

02/23/2009

Conspiracies, in General, are Phony

I have this grandiose conspiracy theory. It’s so intricate that you’ll know it’s got to be true. The details have been kept hidden up until this time. Since you’re reading this, I must tell you to keep the detail to yourself and don’t tell a soul. If this was to get out the world would fall apart. Everybody would just stop and the world would set still. Here it is: Conspiracy theories are a conspiracy, they are made to keep you afraid, albeit hating and bitter. These postulates are meant to keep the masses concentrated on what has been done wrong to them. While they focus on that more wrongs can be done to keep the cycle in place.

It takes a while to settle in, and it’s hard to accept. It’s very difficult to let go of the hate. It’s very difficult to set it down. These thoughts are there to cause friction in your mind, they’re circuitous, hate breeding, and most of all they lead nowhere. In all essence, a conspiracy theory is the human equivalent of an animal chasing its’ tail. Conspiracies are as non-existent as international assassins, or that car that runs on water.

If the last paragraph is unacceptable to you then this one will hurt. This is the ultimate in being a better person, don’t hate on a group of others, start your own conspiracy. If you still cling to the hateful diatribes, try it yourself. You will find constructing a conspiracy a much more enriching experience. Also, it will be much more difficult than you could imagine.

I have tried constructing my own conspiracies, and it is immensely difficult even on small tasks. The point to be taken from the exercise is that those who talk about conspiracies are those that have not been there. This is somewhat like the expression: Those who can’t teach.

The goal in mind should be to be more constructive, try to enrich your life and others. Conspiracy theories are just another form of hate, which will keep anything positive from coming your way. People in general don’t like being around bitter, sour individuals. That’s why some spiritual hooey like “The Secret: The law of attraction” can flourish. We all know that being near somebody that is too happy also has deleterious effects.

Again, reiterated for those of us who espouse these strange curious statements of gloomy bleak futures. I have a challenge you aren’t up to: Make your own conspiracy! I have a second challenge you aren’t up to: Be a positive influence on those of us around you! If you can say “Conspiracies are Phony” you probably shouldn’t have read this.

01/22/2009

Check for bullet holes in the window, before signing a contract

My work environment doesn’t afford me much sun. So a compromise for this is what I refer to as “fake-n-bake” or tanning beds. It’s relaxing and I get a tan, everybody has to have their things. This story starts out when there was this great deal at $10 a month at a place just down the street from where I live. I checked it out, made sure that things were in order before going to the place.

From the start things were funny. It wasn’t operated like other tanning salons. One day I noticed a .38 bullet hole in the window at waist level. I though about it, and concluded that maybe I had made a mistake. It takes making a lot of people mad to find the idiot who would fire a 38 into a public establishment.

I finished my 4 month contract, and summer came and went. When fall hit and I was turning pale again I began to research what deals I could find on tanning salons again. It was then that I realized that my suspicions were correct. They are now attempting to extort me out of $150. Funny when I was willing to pay $50 a month for a year. I am a fairly obstinate person, and generally don’t give into pressure especially when my wallet is involved. So I have no intention of letting my mental health be deteriorated by a fraudulent company. I decided to find another place to take my business; I have spent in excess of $300 over 6 months at another local place.

It was just the other day that I was in a conversation with someone else in a similar situation. It should not have been a surprise, but it was clear that I had made a mistake in dealing with the company. The moral of the story is that you should always check for bullet holes before signing a contract. Not actual bullet holes, but metaphoric bullet holes.

“At The Beach Tanning” will attempt to put items on your credit report fraudulently long after you have been a member. It was a very bad and stupid mistake to have done business with them. I hope you read this or another warning and do not do business with them.

Projects & Links

Colonize the Moon
About moon/mars/asteroid colonies and space stuff

Computer Dungeon
About
linux/raspberry-pi/bitcoin and computer stuff

VidUploadServer
A video upload server I coded myself