Tuesday, March 12, 2013

On Internet Webcams

When I tell people that I bought a webcam it almost always illicits a, "what the heck kinda creep are you?" reaction. I'm going to assume that I'm a fairly non creepy person and that it isn't because of my personality that people think this (I may, however, be completely wrong). I completely understand the inherit fear people have of webcams because it means that, if I wanted to, I could record and post everything on the internet that happens within the private walls of my house. I wouldn't do that because that does sound creepy but none-the-less I have a webcam.

There was a day in the fall where I accidentally left my girlfriend's dog (Ricci) outside all day while I was at work. I felt so bad because I had neglected him and, worse of all, didn't even realize it happened until after I got home. Now, this wasn't an issue because it was spring and a beautiful day, but it sets me up for a worrisome day that winter.

It was especially cold one day and Ricci asked to be let outside before I left for work. I won't leave you in suspense, I let him back in before I left. The problem is that, for the entire day, I couldn't remember for sure if I had let him in or not. I worried about it all day and if it wasn't for back-to-back meetings that day I would have taken off to make sure. I let it get to me so badly that I bought a webcam that day before I left for home. I knew that it wouldn't help me now but it would allow me to solve this worry in the future and that piece of mind was worth so much to me in the moment and I have never been in the same situation since.

The best part about having the webcam is that I set it to take random photos periodically and upload them to my private FTP server. So far these photos have been very boring, but there is some fun at going through them every now and then to see my life as captured by a 3rd party. As an example, to the right is a fairly uninteresting photo taken by the webcam at 6:15 AM on the morning that I wrote this. You can see Ricci staring longingly out the window and a few bits of "teacher scrap" left on the floor from the night before.

I've been enjoying the webcam because it's nice to know what's going on in my house but it is also an interesting conversation topic. Ashlee loves to ask people if they want to see her puppy and proudly pulls up the live stream on her phone. The only problem with webcams is that they can be very addictive; I think I want a few more, is that creepy?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Life After LastPass

I'm sure this post is going to feel like a commercial and I'm fine with that. :)

A friend (who will remain entirely anonymous) posted a light-hearted jest on Facebook about some password requirements being insane and asking about ways to make up a password that worked within these particular criteria. All of the usual suggestions came up: take a normal password and change some letters to numbers, the algorithm that you remember that turns the url of the site into a password, XKCD's awesome method at http://xkcd.com/936/, and I mentioned LastPass. At this point I hadn't used LastPass, only heard about it and thought it would solve his problem.

LastPass is a secure password management tool that will generate (and remember) new passwords for anything you want. The passwords tend to look something like this "bQ0SCNPS7Q1c" and are encrypted and stored locally as well as on their servers so that you can access them from anywhere. Your master password is the key to unencrypt your other passwords. The entire service is free as long as you use their site and/or browser extensions but you can pay $12 a year to be able to access it from your mobile device and at that price why not.

During my research on the service I decided to create an account and begin using it, but not trusting it yet. I enjoyed not needing to remember several of my passwords and the security admin that lurks deep inside my brain kept telling me that this was a good thing. It wasn't until Twitter announced that they were requiring everyone to change their passwords because of a security breach that I really began to see why I loved LastPass. After the announcement, I gladly allowed LastPass to take over from there for just about everything.

Let me just say that I've been using LastPass for a couple months now and couldn't be more happy. After the Twitter incident, I didn't go out and immediately change all of my passwords to the cryptic ones that it generates but as the opportunity arose I would gladly allow it to provide me with a new one. This thing has made me not worry about my passwords anymore and when security holes rear their ugly head I don't feel too bad about having to change any of my passwords.

If you've every forgotten a password or had an account compromised then LassPass will certainly help you out. I couldn't recommend it with any higher praise and it's basically free.