Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Strong Passwords

I read or heard somewhere that the word password is the most common password. I believe pet's name, child's name, and birth dates are also high on the list. 

Most people feel that their passwords are safe and are quite casual about their passwords. "Who would want to break into my accounts, anyway?" Well, you'd be surprised at how many unscrupulous people are out there in the big wide world. It is always better to be safe than sorry. 

Some time ago I read about creating a formula for your passwords that make it nearly impossible to break. I am sorry, but I don't remember where I read this article.  (I will describe the principles for the formula further down in this post.)

My online friend, Andy Traub, recommended LastPass to me. It is a password management program/site and their slogan is "The Last Password You'll have to Remember". They also claim that they are a "password manager that makes web browsing easier and more secure". So far, I have no reason to doubt them. 

I've been using LastPass for over a year now and I really love it. I have one password to remember, which I created using a formula, and it keeps all my passwords secure, but easy to use. LastPass will even create randomly generated passwords for you, if you wish to use that service. There is a free version of LastPass as well as a Premium version. And, it is as secure as your main password, that is why you need a good strong main password.

To create a strong password you should use alpha, numeric, and special characters. You should have at least one uppercase letter. And, most importantly, you should not use the same password for everything. If you choose not to use LastPass it will be a challenge to remember all the different passwords. In order to help with my aging (and forgetful) mind, I have a formula I use for my passwords.

My passwords are created with one section that remains the same and one section that changes.  I created a password base, plus a password variant section. Mine, actually, has three sections: two static and one variable section.

Here is a formula to get your thought process going. Use any variation of this formula, or create your own.
  1. pick a favourite person, animal, or thing
  2. choose a special character
  3. think about the site you are creating the password for
  4. think of a favourite three number or letter combination
Sample Password:  owL!fBk678
  1. owL (Favourite animal with a randomly placed uppercase letter)
  2. ! (one special character)
  3. fBk (for Facebook site, with one uppercase letter)
  4. 678 (Favourite number combination)
Here is another Sample Password, using the same formula: owL!gMl678

As you see, only the site section changes. 
  • owL!fBk678 (Facebook)
  • owL!gMl678 (Gmail)
  • owL!tWr678 (Twitter)
Create your own pattern and it will be simple to have distinct passwords for all your online browsing, difficult to hack, and effortless for you to remember.

Before you try to hack into my accounts, the above passwords are only set as examples, and not my actual passwords.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pencil Sharpeners

Now that I am back to creating and working in coloured pencil again, I have been giving pencil sharpeners a lot of thought. It is important to have a good pencil sharpener with you at all times when working in coloured pencil because you need to have a very sharp point for the best effects. A bad sharpener will twist and break your lead or chew up your pencil.

Today, a member of one of my online FB art groups posted this link to A Closer Look at Pencil Sharpeners, and it could not have come at a better time. I plan to upgrade my pencil sharpener this week or next.

Generally speaking, I prefer an electric sharpener for the majority of my work.  I have been using a moderately priced Staples brand sharpener that has been working well enough, but does give me too long a point.  The only time I use a battery operated one is if I am traveling or working away from home.  The hand held manual sharpeners are fine for short bits, but your hand become cramped and sore if you are using these for large pieces.

Please read the linked article for a more comprehensive analysis of different pencil sharpeners.

A Closer Look at Pencil Sharpeners

A Quick Tip:
You should run an HB (#2) pencil every now and again through your sharpener if you are using it exclusively for coloured pencils. It will help it to keep running and sharpening well.

Also, avoid dropping your pencils. It breaks the lead inside the casing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

First Post of the Year 2012

This is my second attempt at the first post of the year. My first attempt was lost to a power outage and slothful saving implementations. After well over a decade of working on computers, I really should know better than not to save my work.

I am not one for making new year resolutions, but this year I decided to try my hand at a few. After some reflection I have decided to start with just a handful of resolutions. I am not making a lot of resolutions, but here are some I believe I can keep:

  • lose 125 pounds (not all at once, and not necessarily in one year)
  • draw more
  • work on creative endeavors
  • keep a tighter reign on our finances
  • get my home in order
Here are the steps I have taken so far to help me keep these resolutions:

  • Joined Weight Watchers online. They have the best reputation of all weight loss programs. They have a cool online program, and iPhone/iPod app. They have been around longer than any other program and have had great success rates. Also, Roy and Kathy in Working Daze comics (by John Zakour and Scott Roberts) are also doing the Weight Watchers program. If it is good enough cartoon characters, it is good enough for me. 
  • I am drawing more in my sketchbook. I hope to draw everyday, either in my sketchbook or otherwise. If I am not working on a piece I will draw in my sketchbook. I must pick up a pencil/pen daily. You can see my sketchbook offerings on my sketchbook blog.
  • The creative endeavors can be anything creative. It can be drawing, painting, building something, writing, reading, viewing something to do with creativity, or listening to music. It can one or more from that list at the same time! Drawing in my sketchbook counts towards creative endeavors, however, it is only one way of creative expression. This resolution can be totally separate from drawing. Writing blog posts can also count.
  • Our finances have been up and down over the years.  I have downloaded Finance4One to help me keep track of where our money is going. This is different than an accounting program like Quicken or Quickbooks. It is a very simple to use program that can help me get a quick overview of our current overall financial status. I will build a new budget from this, and go from there. 
  • I will ramp up my daily routines and keep better track of them using the HomeRoutines app. I will continue to follow FlyLady and will continue to remove clutter from my home. The more clutter that is gone from my surrounding the less cluttered my mind/existence will be. This will ultimately lead to more peace in my life. 
I will be 50 years-old in February and I think it is time that I grow up and take control of my own life. I have worked on the above things off and on over the years. I will stop paying lip-service to self improvement and actually start working, earnestly, on self improvement. The steps I have, so far, implemented are a good and strong start to the new year. Let's see how this year progresses.

Wish me luck!