Monday, February 18, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
As far back as I can remember-- which admittedly isn't very far-- GUI toolkits have included a special type of text entry field for passwords. As you type, the password field displays a generic character, usually a dot or asterisk, instead of the character you actually typed.
I've criticized the login dialog before, but I definitely understand the need to obfuscate password entry, even if you're using fancy two-factor authentication with smart cards and the like. If password entry was treated as plain old text entry, you'd reveal your password (or PIN code) to anyone who casually happened to be looking at the screen while you're typing. So instead of seeing:
Everyone in your meeting or presentation would instead see:
Which would be sort of traumatic on several levels. Not to mention the security implications.
I can't talk about login dialogs without bringing up one in Lotus Notes 6.0. Like everything else in Notes, it's a massive trainwreck.
This dialog box contains several security "features":
- The hieroglyphics on the left of the dialog box are supposed to distract anyone who is peering over your shoulder trying to learn your password as you type.
- The number of characters you type is hidden; a random number of X's appear instead of one asterisk per character.
Is any of this nonsense really necessary? If I want to learn someone's password as he or she types it, I will look at the keyboard, not the screen!
I actually had to use that exact login dialog for my job at the time, and I can tell you from personal experience exactly how mind-bendingly, appallingly awful it truly was. Who reinvents a perfectly standard dialog-- and makes it so much worse? On second thought, perhaps "how can we make this worse?" was the design goal for Notes. It certainly felt that way while I was using it.
But I digress. As much as we worry about password obfuscation, at least one dialog in Vista bucks this long-standing GUI trend. Specifically, the dialog where you enter your wireless network password.
Checking the "display characters" checkbox overrides the password obfuscation and reveals the password. At first I was appalled. Reveal my password? Imagine the security implications! The chutzpah of Microsoft's developers, putting my password at risk in such a careless, haphazard manner! What were they thinking?
I'm guessing they implemented the reveal option here because network passwords can be unusually long and complex-- and troubleshooting network connectivity is difficult enough even without factoring in the inevitable password typos. But are network passwords really so different from any other type of password? After using this dialog a few times, I began to see how useful the reveal password option truly was. If you think you've made a mistake entering your password, tick the reveal box and find out. It's quite a time saver compared to typing in your password in blindly two, three, or even four times before getting it right. I don't know about you, but that happens to me at least a few times a day on average.
I've come full circle. I now think the password reveal option should be available on all login dialogs.
It's awfully convienient, and it doesn't seem particularly risky to me. Nobody leaves their password typed in and waiting to be revealed on the login screen. If you're in a public place, you simply refrain from using the reveal option. But at home or in a private work area, why not opt to reveal your password? Traditional GUI password obfuscation is a nice convention, but it's not the alpha and omega of password security. Far from it. If criminals really want to get your password, they'll be watching your fingers on the keyboard or using keylogger hardware.read more | digg story
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
11. Find a public toilet
12. Track a US or Canadian flight number
13. Lookup real-time US airport status
14. Map US FAA delayed flight information
15. Find a world airport, airline or connection
16. Find out "walkscore" for house or apartment
17. Calculate US or Canadian Taxi Fare
18. Look at the clouds!
19. Explore any location on earth
20. Map US telephone area codes
21. Drive like a madman
22. Find a job
23. Find even more webcams
24. Scan your UK driving route
25. Explore and map the bible
26. Map your wedding festivities
27. Find a world hostel
28. Form a crop circle, send a smoke signal
29. Track US big box store construction
30. Map US Zip code boundaries
31. Find a UNESCO World Heritage Site
32. Find an alternate map
33. Find a US mailbox
34. Plan a mid-point meet-up (exact)
35. Find out who is sick around you
36. Explore photos of the world
37. Map places by book name
38. Find a US Winery
39. Find an extreme sport
40. Map the top 10 world skyscrapers
41. Find a place to eat in the US
42. Find a popular map in any area
43. Measure long range distance.. in 2 ways
44. Determine Lat/Long for anywhere
45. Make your own map
46. Find the shortest round-trip route
47. Google Map your blog or website visitors
48. Find tons of area info for anywhere
49. Plan and map a worldwide conference call
50. Determine ease of doing business in any country
Monday, February 4, 2008
When train left me on Saint Petersburg train station, the only thing was in my mind was the fear fed by different people. But, there came an angel with bright smile on her face. She guided me with very warm welcome. She helped me on every stage on leading to hotel, dealing with dinner menu, translating Russian to English and making a way to communicate with people. In deed, she was an angel who helped on every aspect. She was also one of the students of Winter School, so, she helped on very friendly manner being conscious on very small details to make our Russia trip unforgettable. It was growing a sense of security inside me fading out the fear of my mind. Another two days made me really comfortable with Russia. University people, teachers and all of my friends here helped me a lot to wash out the fear about Russia. I was being much comfortable with it. Then, another day came, the Sunday, gloomy Sunday!
We left for City Center with much eagerness to visit the heart of Saint Petersburg. We took a bus which was almost empty. Then, we took metro train, which was also almost empty. We went to Hermitage Museum. It was really a wonderful masterpiece collection of paintings, arts and scriptures. It was really wonderful. Then we went to view the high tide on the river. The wind storm was pushing us backwards. We struggle enough to walk forward. Then, we visited a very wonderful church. We climbed up to have bird's view of Saint Petersburg City. The view was simply awesome. The wind was very strong, it was pushing us backwards. It was a wonderful experience. It gave me an unforgettable moment. I must admit, this city is far better than Lappeenranta and even Helsinki, though I havn't visited much areas of Helsinki. It is really beautiful city.
Now, I need to take metro train for another destination. It was my fourth metro travel on Saint Petersburg, so I was being more comfortable with it. But this time crowd was bit more. Me and one of my friends Idres were getting inside the train. Three Russain young guys were behind us. When we just stepped inside the train, they pushed us so abnormally, so I took out my left hand from the pocket and get support of Idres to resist their pressure from behind. There were no other people behind them, so its really unnatural to me that why they pushed me. My right hand was still inside the right pocket of my jeans. It contained my purse which contains my cards, bank information, student details and some Russian cash. I had just now taken out my left hand from pocket which contains a Camera to resist their pressure. Imeediately after few seconds, I felt an unknown hand inside my right pocket. I immediately caught that hand and jerked it out of my pocket. After jerking his hand out of my pocket, all of those three guys immediately get off from the train. I immediately turned my head to view his face. He was showing some wired expressions. Suddenly I remembered my left pocket which contained my Camera. I had just now taken out my hands to resist their pushing pressure from behind. Unfortunately, Camera was not there. They were already partially successful. Though I was successful on protecting my purse, I had already lost my Camera. I was really surprised by their courage that they tried to sweep out both of my pockets. It all happened within maximum 2 minutes. But now, its too late, since the speed train had already taken its speed and those'courageous' rubbers won't be waiting me back to return it. I was speechless. I was expressionless.
Camera, for me, is very important. It was one of my best friends. I really enjoy photography. And, that was only the camera I had these days. The realization that I won't be able to buy any new camera in immediate new future really scared me that I would be living without a camera. My friend's warning was repeatedly bugging me in my mind like, 'I had told you before'. "Anything can happen in Russia, be alive", "You will get robbed in a flash that you won't even notice that you are already robbed" and "Russia is always Russia" are making an iterative loop inside my mind for reminding my carelessness and my foolishness to being confident on new place. I was laughing myself for my foolishness that I lost it because of my feeling it secure and comfortable on new place despite of several warnings of my Russian friends of Lappenranta.
I started making sounds inside the train since I was in a shock of loosing it. I started communicated with my friends about the rubbery since I was really scared now. And, more importantly, Camera was really something meaningful to me. Friends were giving me some sympathy. Some were suggesting me to search it better to confirm the rubbery. I was damm sure about it, since, I felt his hand on another of my pocket and my another hand was inside the pocket as well and I was playing with one of the button of the camera inside my pocket. I felt, its obvious and natural for me to be shocked and making sound. Train stopped on another station. An older women came to me. She told me very politely (?) "You are too noisy." I was really surprised to hear that. I am sure she understand english since she told me that in English. If so, she must have understood I was rubbed on her homeland. Then, what should I suppose to do? Dance with happiness for celebration of loosing it? Get happy and laugh for being happily rubbed? OR get very silent and accept the fact I am rubbed. For me, its not natural and normal to be rubbed like this. And, I wanted to ask her, what should I suppose to do Madam? But I could not, since she did not have passion to get my response back and already walked now. Again, I remembered our coordinator, "Anything can happen in Russia !".