Category Archives: Punditry

Password de-escalation

For a time, I was good.

1Password is a wonderful tool– simply great. With it, you can easily make sure you have a strong and unique password. When you have 1Password on every device you spend serious time on, it can’t be beat.

At my last job, this was exactly the situation. I had a Mac at home, a Mac at work, and an iPhone, all happily running 1Password and syncing with Dropbox.

These days, I have a PC and Mac at work(don’t ask), no ability to install software on the PC, and any sort of cloud syncing is probably… Minor treason?

So, I have these random and essentially un-memorizable passwords, that I occasionally need (or just want) to use from one of the work machines. What do I do? Usually, one of these:

  • pull up the relevant password on my phone or iPad
  • email it to myself
  • stick it in evernote (simultaneously making sure my Evernote password is saved on every machine)

The first is inconvenient and error-prone. The others are simply stupid. The Evernote thing is particularly jackass-tastic.

What’s the right solution, then?

It seems to me that I need to come up with memorable and unique passwords for any service I expect to log in to during the work day.

It’s funny how much this feels like defeat.

ifttt.com is how the internet should work

If you had reason to divide technology users into two groups, those who are curious enough to look behind the curtain and figure out how things can be made to work better, and those who aren’t– I can think of no better line than the humble email filter. Tinkering with email rules isn’t rocket science (or even computer science), but it marks a person as belonging to a certain tribe. Lets call them People Who Think The Computer Should Be Working Harder.

ifttt.com (If This Then That) is for people who think the Internet should be working harder. It’s basically the same principal as email filters: instead of applying rules to incoming emails, you assign them to particular triggers– which could be a Craigslist search, incoming Facebook messages, new posts to an RSS feed, photos on Instagram or Flickr, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, and any of dozens of other triggers– even email. Triggers are grouped by source, called a “channel”.

Ifttt  Channels  20111207

Most of the channels can also be the destination of an action. For example, here are some tasks I use:

  • Send posts from the CFPB blog to Instapaper (I figure it’s probably good practice to read the stuff my employer publishes)
  • When ever there’s a new post to the official Django blog, email me– these are most often security updates.
  • Longreads is a great source of good (and, long) articles. I like sending those to Instapaper, too.

As you can see, I’ve barely scratched the surface– I could be doing a lot more with this. Here are a few some contrived examples, mostly for fun:

  • Post to Twitter, every time I “love” a track on Last.fm
  • Whenever I post a new Facebook status, post it to LinkedIn as well. Or Tumblr. Or Posterous. Or WordPress.
  • Every time I send an email attachment to a certain address (provided by ifttt), save it to my Dropbox account.
  • Send me an email whenever someone is selling a particular item on craigslist.

Explore it yourself, and I think you’ll find several examples of ways it can make the web more useful for you.┬áThis is one of those sites that I wish I could pay for. What they do is so useful, I hope they find a way to make it sustainable. It’d be a shame for it to go away.

Cox’s “Unbelievably Fair” wireless is $100/GB for overages

I’m hardly an AT&T partisan, but both they and Verizon charge $10/GB when you go over your data plan limit. Cox wants to charge $0.10/MB, or about $100/GB.

Screen shot 2011 07 14 at 8 28 44 AM

At least, they cut you off before you spend that much, so the most you’ll ever really go over 500MB ($50).

I’m glad Cox is providing a new choice in wireless providers, and their phone plans seem genuinely nice (they buy back your unused minutes every month, up to $20). These data plans are a bit hard to swallow, though.

A general theory of software distribution in the “app store” world

I started writing a longer post, but decided that this graph mostly stands on it’s own.

Software theory

The point of it is that I don’t think open/centralized is tenable for very long, a path that it seems Google alone is taking. At best, Google is putting it’s weight and reputation behind apps that haven’t been vetted. At worst, they are distributing Malware.

Google+ is Facebook Without the Agenda

At least, without the same agenda.

Mark Zuckerberg has made no secret that he considers privacy a quaint idea. In the world he is pushing towards, our lives become increasingly public. It’s a an important idea, and it shouldn’t be treated with the knee-jerk fear of privacy advocates nor unthinkingly accepted. Facebook is trying to bring about a very specific utopia, and it should be embraced or rejected thoughtfully.

Have you used Google+ yet? It borrows a lot from Facebook (and it’s predecessors), but innovates in some areas as well. The “Circles” system lets you group your contacts by arbitrary themes, and then limit access to particular items to just the groups you want. It’s a boon on several fronts– the most obvious being privacy, but as Jeff Jarvis points out, it’s also a great tool for sharing things with the “circles” who would find something relevant or interesting. In fewer words: I like it.

Screen shot 2011 07 12 at 7 24 34 AM

I know several people who have kicked the tires on G+, appreciated its unique features, but instantly assume that Facebook will “steal them”. Google took some of it’s ideas from Facebook, and features like Circles and Hangouts are certainly fair game. Facebook has never been bashful about absorbing the best ideas from other sites, and there’s no reason this should be different.

I’d argue, though, that the idea of selecting who you share with isn’t compatible with the Facebook agenda of “personal transparency”, and that we’re unlikely to see such a feature from them.