Astronomy Science Space Exploration

Voyager 1 & 2 At Edge Of Solar System

After 30 years, Voyager 1 and 2 are at the edge of the solar system. This is some really cool and interesting stuff.  Read more from NASA here, and check out the video, which I’ve embedded below.

Astronomy Science Space Exploration

Remembering Challenger – 25 Years Later

Android Mobile Devices Technology

My New Nook

I hope the New Year is treating everyone well. As you can tell, I sort of took the Holidays off from blogging. For Christmas, my wife got me the Barnes & Noble Nook Wi-Fi, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.  I like e-ink as it is easier on the eyes than a backlit LCD display, especially since I do the majority of reading at night, usually just before bed. I charged it up for the first time Christmas night, and I have yet to need a full charge – it’s at about 80% currently. I will say I have hooked it to my computer a couple of times to transfer some pdf files. So in these cases, it did have a few minutes of charging while transferring, probably about 15 minutes total. Navigation is done by what I found to be an intuitive color touchscreen below the e-ink screen.

The first book I read on it was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which is free as a “NookBook”. The next one, that I am currently still reading, is Exercises in Wood-Working by Ivin Sickels (this is the F+W Media/Popular Woodworking release of this title). Also, as I noted above, I connected it to my computer to transfer some pdf based documentation. The formatting of these pdf files stayed intact, and embedded links worked without issue. I did edit the metadata for the pdf files since I found this is how the Nook will display this information in the My Documents display (some of the pdfs had differing or no metadata). For this, I used a free utility called Calibre, which also gives a nice option to copy to the device. If you don’t need to edit metadata, it’s easy enough to copy files from your computer to the mounted drive for the Nook, typically to the My Documents folder.

Below is a picure of the Nook booting.

And this picture below shows the Nook open to the Exercises in Wood-Working book. You can also see in this pic how the size compares, thickness-wise with the hard cover copy of Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson (just short of 600 pages, including index)

Now back to some reading… 🙂

Computers Information Security Information Technology Social Networking

Repost (and Edited): Creating Good Passwords

This is originally a post I did back in 2008, which I have edited to tweak some of my original recommendations. This has become especially more important as sites like Facebook, Twitter, and online emails are becoming more the focus of online attacks.

Most companies and universities have password policies in place that enforce complexity requirements. But do you have a good policy you use for your personal accounts? You should create good strong passwords for any accounts you access – your email, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, online merchants, your personal finance file on your system, etc.

When creating your password, it should:

  • Be at least 10 characters long, but be easy to remember (more on this in a second).
  • Contain at least one capital letter, a digit, and a special character along with the lower case letters. Some web sites may not allow special characters (shame on them!!), so be creative with more digits (preferably) or capital letters.
  • Not be built from a dictionary word or any name – including character substitution!! For example, password is obviously a BAD password, but P@ssw0rd is also a bad password. Another example here would be something like Und3rd0g! or T0m&J3rry (guess I’m in cartoon mode here). Hacking utilities would have these figured out in very little time.
  • Not contain sequences, patterns, or repeated characters, for example 123, 111, qwerty, etc.

So I mentioned making your password at least 10 characters. I used to like to make them 8 characters exactly. Perhaps this is because of my past experience using UNIX systems, where the first 8 characters only were significant (standard UNIX at the time would ignore anything after 8 characters), but I also thought 8 characters would be easier for most to remember, although now I think 10 would be fairly easy, with time, to commit to memory. Once you get used to your new password, it will become second nature. What you don’t want is to have to write the password down and stick it to your monitor; it should be something you can commit to memory. If you must write it down initially, keep it in your wallet or someplace safe and not viewable, but DON’T write your username or what site or service it is for. Even then, only keep it long enough until you memorize, then shred it.

So given the rules, how to actually create a good password? Think of a phrase nine or ten words long, and then use the beginning of each word to make into your password, mixing up the capitals, symbols, and digits. If you use nine words, you can use punctuation as the last character. If you can easily remember a longer phrase and the password you create from it, certainly go for it. Some examples (don’t use these for yourself, though):

Phrase: I really found the Science Attic very useful today!
Password: Irft5@VuT!

Phrase: My new golden retriever Fido is the best dog ever
Password: MngrF1tBde

Phrase: Firefox and Chrome are great internet browsers everyone can use
Password: F&C@giB3cu

So you get the idea. And you can get really creative with this, so have a little fun with it. 🙂

There are password creators/managers, although I haven’t really evaluated any of them and I personally think the best password manager is the one between your ears. The idea is the same though – keeping your accounts that much more secure.

Computers Education Math Science

Benoit Mandelbrot – RIP

Benoit Mandelbrot passed away at age 85. RIP

For those familiar with Jonathan Coulton’s song Mandelbrot Set, his thoughts are posted here.

And if you’re not familiar with the song, listen below.

Jonathan Coulton – ‘Mandelbrot Set’ from Best. Concert. Ever.

(Parental note: There is some language in this song)

Android Mobile Devices Technology

Droid X: Some Things Are Worth Waiting For

I promised to post my thoughts on my new Droid X. One reason it’s taken me so long to post is that the first unit I received was actually defective. It had a problem where the touchscreen had intermittent responsiveness, and I often would not be able to tap to do anything. Long story short, Verizon was very good about quickly putting in for a replacement. Unfortunately, due to lack of stock on hand, I had to wait a week to receive the new unit (I received it on 7/26).

The other reason I haven’t posted until now is that, simply, I haven’t put the phone down long enough to post! I really am enjoying this phone. This is the first Android device I’ve had, and second true smartphone (the first was a few years ago – The Motorola Q).

I wasn’t crazy about the screen protector from Verizon. While it covered the functional area of the screen, it did not fully cover to the outside edges. Also, since it was anti-glare, it gave the screen a grainy look. The silicon case I also ordered from them was okay, but i did cut away the button area so that I could see the buttons light up in a dark area.

I had a discount code for, so I ordered their Invisible Shield Easy Body Install shield for the phone. It went on fairly easily, but noticed after a few days – long enough to allow for any defects to work out, that the screen protector showed very annoying vertical lines that almost made it look as though the screen was scratched. I did some further research, and found some useful user review, especially from one person who has info on YouTube videos here. Because it was reviewed to have a good feel, and the fact they give you two shields in the package, I ordered the Bodyguardz for the Droid X. This has pieces for each section of the phone. Not difficult to install, just a bit time consuming – probably 45-60 minutes for the whole thing. So far, I like the results better – much better screen quality (no vertical lines) and a nice smooth feel, with less of the so called “orange peel” effect.

My goal in getting the phone itself was to replace my old phone, an LG evTouch, and my Gen 1 iPod Touch. This easily handles both tasks. I did try the app Doubletwist to sync music with the phone, but this kept failing, and took too long to act as if it was syncing before failing. So far, the easiest solution thus far I found was to simply put the phone in USB Mass Storage mode, and drag and drop the music files to the phone.

The main thing I did though with my iPod was to listen to podcasts and audio books – a great way to pass my one hour commute to work and back. It’s nice to actually be able to manage the podcasts directly from the phone. For this I’ve been using Doggcatcher – well worth the $7. For audio books, now has a full release version of their Android client. I had been using their beta prior to the release without issue, and just upgraded to the full release. One thing that is nice about having my media player and phone in the same device is that if I receive a call, it will pause the media, and resume once the call is ended.

I could keep going and going, but I should save some stuff for other posts. But let’s just say I’m very happy with what the Android world has to offer.

Android Mobile Devices Technology

Droid X Is On Order…

I’ll be sure to post my thoughts, comments, etc…