Universal Logins

I have more than a hundred different accounts. Some for websites, some for software, my phone company, webhosting accounts, database, email, ect.. For the most part I was dilligent and used a unique password for each one. I store them all in a wonderful little password storage program called PINs. PINs tells me I have more than 180 usernames and passwords. Even with PINs, all those passwords are a pain to keep track of. I want a Universial Login System. Let me create one username and password that works across hundreds of sites. Microsoft tried this with Passport and it failed. The problem with any such system is that the user usually has little to no control over who has access to their data. The key to making a universal login system work is giving the user complete control over what sites have access to what data. Bruce Schneier’s article mentions that many ecommerce sites have no way of cancelling accounts, you are forever liable for the accounts and the information about you that they contain.

So the Universal Login System (ULS) should allow you to give or remove a website’s right to see your email address, credit card number, home address, or any individual bit of information about you. It is important that the ULS gives you the ablity not only to allow a website to see your information, but also to revoke it.

A ULS user should be able to login to the ULS site and:

  1. See what information is being made available to what websites.
  2. Grant and remove a websites rights to specific information.
  3. Approve and reject requests from websites for additional rights.
  4. Change password, edit personal information, ect.

A user should be able to login to a ULS enabled website using their ULS account transparently. Essentialy if you have a ULS account you already have an account on any ULS enabled website. The key is that unless you specifically authorize otherwise, that account is empty and contains no information about you.

ULS offers the website operator two main advantages.

  1. A lower barrier to entry for users. I don’t have to go through the effort of creating yet another username and password, I’ve already got one.
  2. The ULS handles fixing lost passwords, expired email addresses, old and outdated personal data.

Mount an ISO in Windows

Many is the time I’ve had an ISO CD image and wanted to use it without the waste of burning it to CD first. The fact that my CD burner fails about half the time makes it all the more important to me. Well after much searching I’ve finally found the application that allows me to do just that. FileDisk allows you to mount a file as a disk. ISO Recorder Power Toy lets you create your own ISOs. With these two you can create and use ISOs. Now if I could edit an ISO I’d be happy.

Eventually I’ll add these to OpenSourceList.org. Which I’ve decided I will start adding to soon, even though the code isn’t complete.

OpenSourceList.org

Quite a while back I started a site devoted to all the free stuff you could find on the internet. It was a monument to my cheapness. Well, the dotcom bubble burst, the free stuff started drying up, and I lost interest. Slowly I developed a new interest in open source software. It was free, thus appealing to my cheap side. It was open, giving it a chance to have a life beyond that of the interest of any one devloper or company, appealing to my lazy side. I was getting tired of finding replacements for good software that suddenly either cost money or vanished completely.
Continue reading OpenSourceList.org

Log file name formats

I’ve used several different webhosts over the years, and occasionally been frustrated by their useless, or even bizarre naming schemes for log files.

Currently I am using both 1and1.com and HostRocket. Both are fine hosts and I am quite happy with both. Except for how they handle log files.

HostRocket required me to write a script to put a copy of the log in my directory, because HostRocket clears and restarts them every day. Bizzare, but with the script it works out ok. Every so often I fire up FileZilla, download the accumulated log files, then delete them from the server. I’ve even been able to add my own log file naming scheme into the script, so it works out to be almost a positive experience in the end.

1and1 is a little more sensible. They put the log files in my directory, but the names look like this:

access.log.21.gz
access.log.22.gz
access.log.23.gz

Continue reading Log file name formats

The Ultimate Cell Phone 2

Revision of my thoughts on the perfect cell phone:

  • Use open standards wherever possible. I don’t want any device’s life limited by it’s drivers or software.
  • Connections: USB, Bluetooth, Wifi
  • Charge battery via USB or a traditional charger
  • Act like a thumb drive
    • USB Mass Storage. Show up just like a flash thumb drive when the phone is connected to a computer.
    • Ringtones (mp3, ogg, midi, wav), Address books (xml format?), Calendars(ical), all show up as files in standard formats. Sorted into their own directory (/Ringtones, /Addresses, /Calendars, etc.).
    • Extra space can store arbitrary files. If the phone doesn’t understand the file, the phone ignores it.
  • Continue reading The Ultimate Cell Phone 2

Just installed WordPress

Just installed WordPress. It’s a nice piece of software, has a beautiful admin interface, but an ugly default theme. I’ll change it someday. I’ve got to cateogorize and re-assign all my old posts first. Whee!

Organize and Sync files

Ok, I want a program to help me organize and sync my files.

Duplicates
It should search for duplicates, options for matching by, file name, size, CRC, and byte by byte comparison. Allow me to define in which folder(s) to keep and in which folder(s) to delete duplicates. Allow me to define folders to ignore.

Sync
Help me to keep folders, removeable media, and other computers in sync. Track deletions, on any copy, note conflicts, and when in doubt, never delete anything.

Organize
Suggest, but never move without permission locations for files.

The Perfect Cell Phone

I’ve been thinking about my vision of the perfect cellphone.
It should:
Use USB to connect to a computer.
Be able to charge it’s battery via USB.
Show up just like a flash thumb drive when the phone is connected to a computer.
Ringtones, Addressbooks, Calendars, all show up as files in standard formats. Probably sorted into their own directory (/Ringtones, /Addresses, /Calendars, etc.). I can use extra space to store files that I want to keep with me, if the phone doesn’t understand the file, it ignores the file.

Bluetooth (or something similar).
When I get close to my work or home computer (only the computers I setup) the Phone automatically syncs up with the desktop.

Every alert / noise the phone makes is customizable.
Caller groups
Calendar
Addressbook
email recieve (with alert)
keypad lock
quickly to silent mode

I don’t have to pay extra to use all the features of my phone.

Sending pictures or text messages only count off of my regular minutes? No extra charge.

Duplicate file handling

Ok, when I am copying or moving files from one directory to another and one of the files has the same name, Explorer asks me if I want to overwrite Version A with Version B. What frustrates me is that Explorer isn’t smarter. What I’d like for Exporer to do when it finds a duplicate file name is:
1. Do a file size check, if the same go to 2
2. Do a CRC check, if the same go to 3
3. Do a byte for byte comparison, if the same, don’t bother asking. No copying necessary. If moving, you can just delete the Move From copy.

If the checks fail at any of these steps, then prompt asking what to do. Having a diff button right there would be nice too.

The only question would be what to do with different timestamps. I don’t really care, but I’m sure some people would.

Mozilla should put a Bayesian spam filter as a high priority.

Mozilla should put a Bayesian spam filter as a high priority.

After reading the article A Plan for Spam I got fairly excited about this new method of spam filtering. Assuming that Bayesian filtering works as well as the author of the article claims, this new method works about as well as the highly regarded Spam Assasin. This method however has several important advantages. Bayesian filtering does not rely on any other machines. It makes no extra connections, no extra requests. All the processing and rules are client side. The rules in a Bayesian filter are adaptive, they adjust automatically as new emails come in.

This could be the “Outlook killer” feature that would push many to switch to Mozilla as their email client. True the user still has to download the message before being able to filter it and for many not downloading the spam message is the whole point. Possibly in the future a standard could be developed wherby a client machine periodically communicates to the server a users personal keyword ratings and filter thresholds. Then the filtering can be done server side and the user never has to download spam. But this would be in the distant future. As is, this should not be an overly taxing addition to the current filtering methods, although not being a programmer I am most certainly over simplifying the case.

What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

Usually before a program is distributed it is compiled. When a program is compiled it is translated from the understandable language used by the programmers (well, understandable to programmers anyway) to a language that is faster for the computer to understand but completely meaningless to humans. A compiled program is a black box. You can see the program, observe what it does, but you cannot see _how_ it works. If there is an error in the program you cannot open it up to see where the problem lies. It is near impossible to edit the compiled copy of a program. Most companies release only compiled programs to prevent competitors from using their code in competing products.
Continue reading What does the term “Open Source Software” mean?

Eudora to Mozilla

I switched my email from Eudora to Mozilla yesterday. Will take some getting used to but I think it will go well. The switch also forced me to look at which email addresses were getting what mail and I’ve started rearranging some accounts.

The hard part will be wating for some of the more advanced filtering features that I really want.

Microsoft Subscription

Looks to me that Microsoft is already starting down the path toward subscription software. They start by releasing patch after patch, so that server administrators have difficulty keeping up with them. Next they make the handy Windows Update service available to servers for free. And finally they are ‘forced’ to turn it to a pay service.

Viola! Subscription software.

I love TiVo!

Tivo has literally changed the way I watch TV. I love it!

I never watch live TV anymore, I let TIVO record everything and watch when I am good and ready. I get to see many shows that I would have misssed because of when they happen to be on. I don’t even look at the TV book to see what’s on. A quick look in Now Showing and presto! The Simpsons, Drew Carey, Doctor Who, even a couple of movies, are all sitting on my Tivo right now.

I just got in my Tivo doll and green remote yesterday. Too cool.

I sleep better now that I have a Tivo. No I’m not that much of a freak. I know it sounds weird but the hours I keep are more consistent since I don’t have to stay up just to catch a good show. I now get to bed at a decent time during the week.

I don’t channel surf, I get to pick what to watch from a list of my favorite show instead of settling for the best that’s on right now.

A Tivo is a smart VCR in the same way a computer is a smart calculator. There just isn’t an easy way to simply explain the real magic of a Tivo.

The Election – 2000

As I write this, a week after the Presidential Election we still don’t know who won. Part of the problem is simply due to the incredible closeness of the vote. The main problem lies with the archaic way we vote.

I am not talking about the Electoral College, which I think is as valid today as it was when first established.

The actual ballots and how they are punched, checked, marked, and above all counted, are hoplessly out of date and should be replaced.

There are many technical issues and detailed checks and balances that will need to be addressed but a general approach is easy to determine.

Each voter is mailed their precinct card, just like we already do. The new precinct card will contain a voters unique ID# and a random default password. The ID# will be randomly generated so that they can not be easily guessed. Additional steps, such as sending a conformation code to each mailing address could be added if necessary.

Voting could be done either via the web, using any browser that supports SSL, or at the polling place using the same web based interface (ensure consistency). The machines at the polling place should be on an isolated network (to prevent hacking) and connected only to the central state voting commission computers.

Using a basic HTML form it is easy to prevent many of the common problems that currently cause votes to be discarded. Radio buttons can easily prevent multiple selections. By forcing the voter to specify that they abstain from voting for a canidate or issue rather that just leaving that section blank, simple JavaScript can alert the user to missed sections before the vote is even submitted.

After voting each voter is given a reciept that is the only record of how they as an individual voted. The reciept is simpy a confirmation page sent to the web browser. It contains their name (maybe not?), their ID#, vote#, how they voted on each issue (including abstentions) and a plain text (not human readable) public key signature block at the bottom that “certifies” or “verifies” that it is an offical reciept (perhaps enclose an encrypted copy of the vote information in that block).

The voters ID# is tossed out and not stored with the vote. Each vote is assigned a unique vote#. If a voter suspects that their vote was not correctly recorded they simply present the vote reciept. The vote# is matched to the vote# stored in the election database. The database entry is compared with the reciept.