If you were following the tech news last week, hopefully you’ll have heard about the surge in leaked and phished passwords from Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo. CNET UK covered it twice.
This brings up the thorny issue of how to effectively manage all of your passwords. Some people have one strong password they use everywhere, others will do this but append something for each site. Other people, who frankly scare me, use simple things like “password”, “12345″, “67890″, etc.
What exactly is a strong password? The more random and unpredictable a password is, the stronger it is. In other words, predictable passwords are easy to remember, and easy to crack.
Randomly flaying your fingers at the keyboard will generate a random block of text. Although, you need to recall this random text sometimes, but how? You could keep them all in a file, but this is no good, because if someone gets that file, you’re sunk (same goes for paper records). Even if you use a password manager which keeps your passwords in an encrypted file, they’re still there in a file, which if obtained, could be decrypted by brute force.
The Password Maker Firefox add-on.
A while ago, I listened to Floss Weekly interviewing Eric Jung from the Foxy Proxy project. During the interview, his involvement with a free and open source project called Password Maker was mentioned. Password Maker works by generating a cryptographic hash of both the domain of the website you’re logging into and a master password of your choosing. Thus creating a different piece of pseudo-random text for every website you use. There are lots more settings so that you can finely tune what goes into the password, but don’t worry about those just now.
To put it simply, you never have to find or recover your passwords, because they’re never stored, they’re just generated for you when you need access to them.
The best way to use Password Maker is in the form of a Firefox add-on. However, if you’re away from home, or whatever, there is an on-line version and a mobile browser version, which you can even install on your own website, if you have one. This best security aspect of this is that your master password isn’t stored, and the hashing algorithm is already open, so there’s nothing to hack.
If any one of your site passwords are compromised, it is easy to create a new one by using a new master password. Furthermore, so that you’re not having to remember different master passwords for different sites, I would take one compromised password as an excuse to change ALL of your passwords. Changing your passwords is inconvenient when you have a lot of accounts on the web, but Password Maker makes it easier to get into the habit, especially with the Firefox add-on.
The recent news pushed me into finally doing this, although I had been putting it off due to the fear of trying to make it work with my mobile browser. Although thanks to Opera Mini 5 now supporting text selection and tabbed browsing, the mobile browser version is a viable method for advanced password management on your phone.
This blog is primarily focused on technology, but that’s not all of what I’m about. These days I like to read books, so I’m going to share my book reviews via my blog. I’m a member of Goodreads.com, a site which I use as a book manager, and I’m trying to make a habit of reviewing everything I read from now on.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Forever Fifteen is the novel with which I attribute my new found joy of reading. It is also the only novel I have so far read which I have wanted to read a second time.
The book is about a 600+ year old vampire called Lucy (Lucia to be precise) who was abducted and turned during the 14th century, at the age of 15. Forever frozen with the face & body of a fifteen year old, Forever Fifteen. The book is primarily set during the 1980′s, but has frequent flash backs into Lucy’s past as a human and then a new vampire.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this, besides Kimberly Steele’s writing style, is the attention to detail of how a vampire would actually survive in the modern world. This was the first book I came across where vampires can go out in daylight, thus removing the biggest difficulty.
There is of course a love story here too, two in fact. In the flash backs, we see the tempestuous and eventually abusive relationship between Lucy and Sebaastianus, the vampire who turned her. In the 1980′s era, we find Lucy finding possibly the love of her life with school boy John.
There will be inevitable comparisons of this book with the the Twilight books, given the latter’s mainstream success. If I were to draw any comparison between the two, it would be that while the Twilight series is clearly aimed at teenage girls, Forever Fifteen is by no means a book for adolescents. I said above that this book concerns itself with the practicalities a vampire would face, this has to include sex and death, which Forever Fifteen tackles, while Twilight self-censors itself around those topics.
The book does have a satisfying ending, but it is an incomplete story as there are two more books planned. They are as of yet unfinished.
I not only recommend this to fans of the vampire genre, but I would also (and frequently do), recommend this as a first vampire book for anyone interested in the genre.
About time I paid my dues to one of my favourite computer applications, besides my web browser. Miro is a free and open source HD video player and it is also a podcast management system. This means that Miro will not only download all the video (and audio) you’ve subscribed to, but it will play it for you too.
I have been using Miro for almost a year now. In fact, I gave it some small coverage on the CNET UK Forums, although I forget which version number it was back then. However, I am pleased to say that the major niggles I had with it back then have now been fixed with the 2.0 version. Not least, the ability to skip back and forth within a Adobe Flash video files (.flv), the VLC project has recently overcome the same hurdle.
Before I continue, I am going to let the Miro people tell you in their own words what this is all about:
The new user interface is a big improvement. The Windows version of the 1.x branch had a sexy-black design, which I miss, although it is more than made up by the increased responsiveness. Also, Miro used to be a terrible memory hog, not anymore, the application loads up in a small amount of time and I no longer feel as if I’m going to have the perform the Heimlich Maneuver on my laptop!
Miro 2.0 in action
Another nice new feature is that the video pane will detach from the main Window so that you can still browse within Miro while playing a video. This was something of a problem before verison 2.0, as I did sometimes wish I could do other things in Miro while I had a video playing in the background.
Miro is based on the same core of code that the Firefox web browser is (that core of code is known as “Gecko“), which enables one of Miro’s nicest features, the Miro Guide, to appear within the application itself. This is the easiest way to browse content and subscribe. If you want to subscribe to things the old-school way, you will go to the web site of the show you want to follow, get it’s RSS feed copied to your clipboard, then go to Miro and hit Ctrl-N where it will pick up the URL you have in the clipboard. So yes, Miro Guide is good. However, there is an alternative method if you use Firefox 3. Firefox 3 has “Podcast detection“, which means that when you click on the RSS feed of something Firefox can recognise as a podcast, it will not only ask you if you want to subscribe to the feed, but also ask you if you want to choose a podcasting application. Well, if you use Miro, you select it. From then on, whenever you click on a podcast’s RSS feed Firefox will automatically enter the feed into your Mrio subscriptions, nothing more for you to do!
Also, another nice little feature for content creators who can’t afford the bandwidth of serving their shows, is that Miro seamlessly supports the Bittorrent protocol. This means that you can subscribe to a feed that only serves out the .torrent file, then you’ll download your content from other people who are also downloading the same material. This helps content creators, and you don’t notice any difference in how you get your content.
The Miro Guide, in Miro
As well as adding internet video to Miro, you can also tell it to watch folders on your hard drive so that you can watch content you already have saved. This combined with Miro’s search box, turns Miro into a pretty competent video library management application. It isn’t meant to do this, so there’s no metadata for videos you already have. Still though, as long as you use helpful file names, it’s almost as good.
Lots of talk about video, although Miro is just as happy getting audio podcasts and playing them. One of the listed “features” of Miro 2.0 was better audio podcast support. All I can actually see that they’ve done with this is create an “Audio Feeds” heading in the sidebar. Personally, I find this pretty useless, I prefer to organise my feeds within folders on the sidebar. So as you’ll see from my screen shots, I already had a folder for audio feeds. However, while you can just about use Miro as a video library manager, it is by no means an audio jukebox, I would not recommend Miro for handling your music collection. For that I would recommend another Gecko based free and open source application, Songbird.
For me, Miro is the centre of my multimedia life. Most of the content Miro downloads for me, I watch on my mobile phone. Although, since I let Miro take care of the downloading, I just have a batch script which synchronises Miro’s downloads with my phone’s memory card.
Talking of my mobile phone, I also use the Nokia Podcasting application, which can import feeds from OPML files. Well, another benefit of Miro being free and open source, is that it works on open standards like, OPML, which it can import and export. This means that whenever my phone and I are going to be away from my computer and I want to download podcasts directly, I can simply export my feeds from Miro, and put that file on my phone. Being able to import and export OPML files also helps you if you’re setting up a new computer or Operating System (OS), and you want to carry across your feeds to your new installation of Miro. Simply export on the old computer/OS, and import on the new computer/OS.
Phew, I’ve said all I have to say. I seriously recommend Miro to everyone. Television is moving to the internet, and scheduled broadcasting is being replaced by content on demand. Miro is a great way to find lots of fantastic and expertly made content away from all the mainstream networks and corporations.
Just to finish off, I thought I’d include another review of Miro, this time in video, by @ChirsLAS:
For another review, @Rarst has just written a new first impressions review on his blog.