Monthly Archive for April, 2014

Passwords = entropy!

I couldn’t sum it up better than this. It’s time websites started getting down on the fact that random passwords with a specific character length, containing an upper case character, a number, and a symbol may not necessarily be any more secure than a random couple of words put together.

Let me put it this way, depending on how you do the calculation, the passwords “7H#e2U&dY4” (ten random characters) and “blanketsensory” (14 nonrandom characters) are approximately equal in strength, but the latter is much easier to remember and type. Even though it contains only lowercase letters, and blanket and sensory are both ordinary English words, the password’s entropy is high enough that a concerted brute-force attack would take days or weeks to crack it. The moral of the story (as brilliantly illustrated in the following XKCD comic) is that when you have to memorize a password, a longer phrase composed of random words or syllables will make your life easier than a shorter string of entirely random individual characters. Enjoy!

Password Strength

Oh, and before you start wondering where I am getting all the time to post all this stuff I can tell you very simply. I had dental surgery on Tuesday last week to remove an impacted lower wisdom tooth. A very gruesome operation; in all honesty I have no idea how a dental surgeon can remove a tooth that is lying sideways under other teeth in ones jaw. Well, I mean, I guess I do have a fair idea of how it’s done, I’m not stupid, it’s just that the idea I have disgusts me so much it hardly bears thinking about. Well I’ve come this far, so let me get it out there into the wild. I guess what they do is open up and fold back the gum flesh, remove some portion of bone, break the evil tooth into several pieces to aid removal, and finally remove said tooth through the created pocket in gum/jawbone. Afterwards leaving a gaping hole in the side of ones jaw that surgical sutures snigger at when used in an attempt to close the wound. All I can say is that I’m glad I look under the hood of software, and not humans. That I could not stomach.

Hmmm….yes, I think that about sums up what happened. Safe to say I insisted on a general anaesthetic, and would do the same again if I ever have to go through this procedure in future. God forbid being awake and aware for that gruesome operation! So as you can imagine, I have been lying in bed since then in a significant amount of pain. Unable to eat anything other than soup, unable to drink anything other than water, and unable to do anything physical other than sitting around. Not to mention I can’t go anywhere because I look terrible (swollen mouth to the extreme) and cannot speak. What to do…….post up on my blog, change the site design slightly, and finally get around to changing all my passwords to something way more secure 😉

Oh, and if you want to read something that will make your stitches split (quite literally) check this post out from Hyperbole and a Half: The Party

Yahoo! e-mail is dead, long live Gmail!

Well, I have finally been pushed into a corner whereby I cannot reap any value or benefits whatsoever in using Yahoo! as a free e-mail account any longer. I have been a user of Yahoo! since 2002, so not too long after they first introduced their ‘classic’ e-mail web interface (ok, 5 years). At the time when I signed up I used the web interface exclusively, solely due to the simple fact that no one was walking around with laptops, smartphones or tablets at that point in time. The connected future was not yet upon us. But guess what, things change, and if service driven software companies don’t change with the times, sadly they too are relegated into the past. Working for a software company myself, I know this only too well. We have to constantly keep our eye on the market and predict where it is going to move, how the demographic is going to change, what we might need to build into the product to address market demands etc. Evolution, not revolution is a staple of the game. Revolution is a distant cousin always more than welcome to the party, but rarely turning up.

So I wonder, whilst Yahoo! went on to become one of the top 3 e-mail providers in the world in 2011 according to comScore, did Yahoo! take into account or understand the importance of this service to its end-users? Did they see their e-mail service as a valuable part of their product offerings? Did they understand that having over 200 million users worldwide is quite a valuable thing to have. Well, simply put, I doubt it. I think the company lost all vision at some point in time, or at least had no clear vision steering them to a specific goal. Instead they rested up on their laurels and went into cruise control.

They changed their classic web interface in 2005, which many complained about, but I lived with just fine. Sure it lost a few features the classic interface had, but overall it was still a very solid web-based e-mail client. They did not alter anything to do with the client again until 2010. 2010 I hear you say, wow, that’s a long time to sleep on existing technology considering the iPhone, admittedly a market changer, was released in the year 2007. Didn’t Yahoo! want to address this new demographic of always online users. Again, I don’t think so.

Yahoo! mail integrated into the iPhone ok using the default iPhone mail client, but was very slow and unreliable. Let’s not forget that before this, Yahoo! wanted to charge you for a premium account if you wanted to use their mail as a POP or IMAP account in conjunction with an e-mail client such as Outlook. Sometimes the mail was received, sometimes it was successfully sent, then again, sometimes not. An unreliable mail client is essentially worthless, let’s get this one thing straight. When you send an e-mail, you want to be certain that the targeted recipients are receiving said e-mail. At around this point in time I started using my own domain-based webmail as my default e-mail client since I simply couldn’t rely on Yahoo! any longer to deliver and receive my e-mail with 100% confidence.

And surprise, surprise. If their e-mail service was any indicator, the company was in trouble. And true to that, Yahoo! was going through a hard time. They had lost a LOT of users, and had hacked away at the workforce in an attempt to remain profitable, unfortunately to little or no avail. About the only outcome of these cost saving measures was poorer service, which in turn equalled the loss of more customers. You can see where this is going right?

Well let’s fast forward to today. Yahoo! took onboard Marissa Mayer, a former Google executive in the hope that she would turn around this failing company and lead them to salvation. And to some degree she has. According to comScore, during July 2013 Yahoo! surpassed Google on the number of United States visitors to its Web sites for the first time since May 2011, set at 196 million United States visitors, having increased by 21 percent in a year. But does this really tell us anything about the backbone of services they provide? As I think we all realise by now, large companies such as Yahoo!, Google, Apple, IBM and more recently to the game, Facebook and co., buy up smaller, emerging software companies to stay on top of their game. So did the purchase of Tumblr, Flickr, and other such companies by Yahoo! influence this result? You’re damn right it did! And does it point to the fact that they are improving the backbone of services they have always provided? No, and sadly if it does, then it was a very misguided effort. For example, their latest UI overhaul design introduced to users in October 2013 was met with heavy criticism due to its layout and usability.

Can you imagine if you had so many millions of users all logging on to your home page occasionally to access their webmail? The power of having this audience alone is unfathomable, laughable is not knowing what to do with it, and not realising the value.

A brief history of what has made me move away:

  • Yahoo! passwords hacked: 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010…the list goes on
  • Yahoo! passwords leaked: 2013, 2012
  • My personal e-mail account hacked 2014, 2011
  • Various mail outages whereby mail was not at all accessible, the last being in December 2013
  • Not compatible with the Apple mail client in OSX causing huge e-mail woes
  • Terrible performance, maybe an e-mail will arrive on the same day
  • Terrible UI in the 2013 web-based tool, only 50 e-mails searchable per page
  • Searching fails with errors half the time
  • Legitimate e-mails being classed as spam regardless whether you have put them in a safe sender list

So in short, I am sick of the crap from Yahoo! I want a web-based e-mail client that is always accessible, no matter how I am accessing it. Always reliable, no matter where I am. Always safe no matter where I am accessing it from. It is 2014, surely one of the nets biggest e-mail providers can manage that, can’t they? Well, rather sadly it seems a big, fat, NO! So I am moving to Google, they have a beautifully integrated migration tool that imports all my e-mail from Yahoo! into Google and can collect all e-mail being sent to Yahoo! for 30 days. So it is so long to Yahoo!, it has been a good ride, but you have become the rock and not the water. And in this age of almost unlimited choices, I have to leave sentimentality out of the game and let you go. We shared many good times, and many bad times. You were my knight in shining armour that came to rescue me in 2002 from the harrows of Hotmail (remember the time where if you hadn’t logged into your Hotmail account for more than 7 days your e-mail account was deactivated and you lost all e-mails attached to that account? And this was in a time when not many people had internet connections, let alone online devices).

But those times are long ago.

And your armour has long since been pierced.

May you rest in peace!

A (very) brief photo journal in memory of you:

To buy or not to buy!?

So, back in Germany and getting grounded again.

It was pretty sad to leave Sydney, and I really only realise now in retrospect how sad and depressed I became upon my return. I guess I should have expected it really. Anyway, am once again used to being in Berlin and am definitely enjoying it just as I used to.

Unfortunately I was thrown into work relatively hardcore. I mean, I never really stop working entirely, even when on holiday – if only to reduce the amount of e-mail I have to catch up on when I return. But this time kinda sucked a bit. I returned on Thursday, which I thought was a good plan, 2 days work and then the weekend. And that part of the plan went ok. It was only the next week that things started to get tough.

  • Firstly, I started noticing all the mistakes my team had made in my absence.
  • Secondly, one person on my team went on their planned holiday, whilst another person in my team simultaneously went off sick for the week.

As you can imagine, the workload suddenly became quite large. What with both catching up on work as well as filling in for two people that were away. I mean, my team is only 5 people big, and when two are away for whatever reason simultaneously, resources become very tight. That’s why I usually plan it that two people on my team are never away at the same time. Unfortunately I can’t predict the future, so sickness is something I have to live with. Just unfortunate that I’d only been back here a week before that happened.

So life was immediately pretty bloody stressful.

The really funny thing was when one of my colleagues came back from holiday and said she’d take it easy getting back into work – because that’s what you’re meant to do – and I thought to myself “If only I had that luxury”. What a rude shock reentering the country it was.

Amongst all of this, my CEO would like to migrate my position (Director Technical Support) to a more management focused position as far as I can tell. Which is fine by me, the only thing is that I first need a large enough team with the resources to look after the workload independently without me having to step in too much. At the moment, that just isn’t possible, I don’t have the resources. I am constantly ‘getting my hands dirty’ so to speak.

On another note, I am getting a new work computer to make my life a little easier. A pretty powerful laptop which will give me the flexibility to work anywhere within our building. Lately I have really been needing this. Albeit, I have a laptop and a workstation at work, but the laptop is not powerful enough to do any real work. And the more I am focusing on management and less on the basic job, the more I need to work in silence in order to concentrate where I do not have the constant interruptions that I have had to deal with up till now. Let’s see how that goes. I really like my company, and my job, but get quite sad when I feel so much stress from the job just because of the workload due to certain limitations.

Anyways……I am finally building up the new bike I’ve been talking about forever. It breaks down to something like this:

  • Dartmoor Two6Player Frame – 2100g
  • Spank 777 Bars – 318g
  • Primo Boy Grips – 15g
  • Twenty6 F1.2 Stem – 118g
  • Chris King Headset – 230g
  • Fox 34 831 Forks – 1930g
  • Chris King Hubs – 164g + 411g
  • Titanium Spokes – 270g
  • Dartmoor Raider Rims – 1100g
  • DT Swiss Rim Tape – 20g
  • Michelin C4 AirComp Latex Tubes – 260g
  • Continental Race King Tires -1100g
  • Formula R1 Disc Brakes – 534g
  • Raceface Bottom Bracket – 92g
  • Raceface Next SL Cranks – 400g
  • Raceface Next SL Chainring – 25g
  • Chris King 12 Tooth Sprocket (calculated with hub weight)
  • KMC X9 Super Light Chain – 242g
  • Twenty6 Predator Pedals – 340g
  • Twenty6 Seat Clamp – 18g
  • Nukeproof Warhead V2 Seatpost – 235g
  • Octane One Rocker Saddle – 295g

Coming to a total estimated weight of 10.22kg – I might be able to get it a little lighter due to the fact I can cut down the seatpost, but that is about it really. So around 10kg for the entire ride, which isn’t too bad I guess and which I’m sure my back will appreciate!

Really looking forward to when it’s complete. The 24″ BMX is just getting a little too hard on my body to ride anymore. Sad really, but then again, it has lasted me the last 8 years, so I think it’s perfectly fine going up to a 26″ at this point in time. Here’s hoping it’s a bit more of a comfortable ride. I mean, it should be. Bigger size with a suspension fork, should be quite different. First time I will have ever had disc brakes too! Will post pics when it’s done 🙂

What else has been on the menu?

Well, on top of that is the fact that as you might already know, Ina and I have been trying to purchase an apartment here for the last year or so. Well, we found another one that we really like and have put an offer in. It’s on Schönhauser Allee 27, is a rooftop apartment, is spread over two floors – level 4 and 5, and seems about perfect. Ok, not absolutely perfect, but very nice. The only detractor is that it is only 2 rooms. 1 bedroom and 1 living room. Ideally we wanted to have a 3rd room to work in etc. But it seems that we can’t quite afford that, so this will have to do for now. Anyway, the apartment, as well as the location are freaking perfect, and I really like the fact that it is spread over two floors with a large terrace facing a pretty good direction. The positives far outweigh any negatives! The only rather sad thing is that it means I would be moving out of my current apartment with Thommy and Hans. Since moving here I have really got to know these guys and I think we have all formed a pretty damn good friendship. It will be sad not to see them on a regular basis anymore coming home from work after having moved out, but I guess that’s life – nothing lasts forever. I really hope we stay in touch though and don’t become like all too many friends of my past. We’ll see. Really great guys which I have been lucky enough to get to know.

But that’s about it, those are my travels of the moment. So a lot of exciting stuff going on all over the place, work/home/life. It’s all good. And on top of that it is coming into Spring and everyone is becoming happier and easier to deal with…..yay!! So on that note, here’s a nice drum and bass track to remind us all of sunshine and all things good: