Category Archives: Tech

A clever bit on passwords and phishing.

I listen to the podcast “Naked Security” from Sophos.com.

Today they had a(nother) great reason to start using a password manager.

Password managers

These are programs to manage your passwords. Yes, duh. But they do that in a clever way. They generate big, complex passwords that you can’t remember, like 3jGrkVvaVNJ$Kv*JRCZsg (note, you will be quizzed on this one later on haha).

You just remember 1 main password to unlock the password manager (and optionally use a Multi Factor code to open it) and the manager does the rest of the heavy lifting.

1Password unlock screen

This is one password manager, 1Password. Because that 1 password is all you remember.

1Password will set you back about $3 / month.

Bitwarden unlock screen

This is Bitwarden. Bitwarden is free and open source, and delivers a lot of good stuff. There is a paid option which will help you keep MFA tokens alive, that costs around €10 / year.

MFA

MFA

You probably know about MFA. Otherwise you should learn it, fast. It is a second login security. If someone has your password (which is something you know) and you enabled the second login safety, there is no way a hacker can break into your account without that second option, which usually is something you own. There are apps for that, like Google Authenticator, Okta Verify or Microsoft Authenticator. A good password manager can handle that as well. You go to a website, the password manager sees you have a login for that, and it will fill in the name and password, and also the MFA code for that site. No need to open another app on your phone and copy the numbers by hand.

Link recognition

Following up on that, as I said, a password manager sees that you have a login for a site.

Suppose you get a mail that sends you to https://your.very.trusted.bank.com. You’ve seen that link a gazillion times, so yep, you know it, you click it. The password manager will handle the login. But then there is no login filled out! What the fork?

The clever bit here is (check the bank link) that the link on the screen looks legit, but the actual link isn’t. The password manager doesn’t recognise the link and so it won’t help you log in. After all, this is a strange place and there might be dragons.

So….

Not yet convinced that a password manager is a good idea? In that case you wasted time in reading this.

If you feel this could be something, check out Bitwarden or 1Password.

No peeking; do you remember the password from up above?

What’s that colour?

Being colour blind (or colour challenged as some people prefer to call it) has its benefits.

It also has some drawbacks.

I have a little bag in my car that sucks up moisture, and the instructions say:

When the blue dot turns pink, put the bag in the microwave for 6 minutes.

Yes. Great. Blue. Pink. What?

Light blue and pink?

Apparently there is light blue and pink in the image up here. Ehm. Right. Beats me, and praise to you if you can see it. For me, it’s something blueish and something white/lightish.

So how do I tell if the blue dot turned pink? Tech to the rescue, because yes, there is an (Android) app for that! Meet Color Grab:

This is a screenshot from Color Grab. Point the camera at something, and the colour inside the little (green? yellow?) circle shows at the top of the screen. Outstanding. This is what I need.

I used the app on the dot that’s on the moisture sucker and it’s still ‘faint blue’, so I’m fine. No waving needed, not even micro waving.

Color Grab logo

Color Grab is available on the Google Play Store. And it’s free.

If you’re a dedicated Apple/Ios/iPhone user in need of such tech, you’ll probably be able to locate something similar to Color Grab for your device.

We’re not going to space anytime soon.

Image result for spaceship

You may think I’m crazy for saying that, because the USA sends things into space. Japan sends things into space. Russia, China and India are doing the same thing. Europe is also in the game. So why aren’t we going to space soon?

Because of exactly that. Each country does the same thing, invents the same thing, spends time and resources on the same thing.

What a friggin’ waste!

Imagine what progress could be made if all those countries put their clever minds and resources together, instead of inventing the same wheel in a dozen places.

It would also cost a lot less. Yes, that stupid invention called ‘money’ rears its ugly head again, and in a big way. Space-going isn’t cheap, and more and more companies want to get rich because of it. Which again is another drawback. Profits hold back progress.

A quick trip around the moon is only possible for the very wealthy (hi, money!), so we (as in the ordinary people) won’t go to space anytime soon. I can only hope that the united clever people of planet earth will show their clever bits and get together in a joint effort to make this happen. There’s a whole universe out there, and we’re not making any use of it.

Phones, phones, phones

Phones.

I’m intrigued by all the new phones that swamp the world. Nearly every day there’s a new phone coming out, or so it seems.

phones
Phones

This is a world of communication. Being connected has become part of our life. Some people take it to extremes by being connected 24 hours every day. Modern smartphones, whether you’re into Apple, Android, Windows, Tizen, the unfortunately (officially) deceased Ubuntu phone or any other platform, give you that option.

A new phone.

I wonder how many new phones a person needs. With so many new phones coming out every week, I wonder if the manufacturers can actually make a profit from all their new designs, options, gadgets and doo-dahs.

Don’t get me wrong: I couldn’t care less if they do make a profit; they’re rich enough as it is. I just wonder what the advantage would be to have a new phone every, let’s say, two months, just because the bezel is a little more rounded, the display is 0.2″ bigger or the camera is a bit better.

Are there people who change phones almost as often as their socks? Or even more often? (Eeuw?)

Consumerism.

Piggy bankThat’s probably the thing. The media are pushing people’s buttons to get the latest and greatest. Constantly. Get a new this and that or you won’t be happy. Get the new iPhone or your friends will laugh at you. Make sure you have the latest wearable gear or you look silly. Be hip, hop, modern, and most of all: spend your money. Spending money makes happy. (Okay, mostly that means happiness for the people who get your money but that’s beside the point.)

Freedom.

Our world seems to hand us freedom. The freedom to go where we want, when we want, and stay connected to all our Facebook friends (how many of them have you actually met?), connected to Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and what not. And the world knows where you are, when you’re there and probably even why. Big data rules, and big data is watching you.

When’s the last time you went out for a walk, leaving your phone at home?

 

A new phone.

I got a new phone last week. An Asus Zenphone 3. Yes, I stepped off the Samsung train for a change. Samsung has really nice phones but they also have really nice price tags.

I had my eye on the Zenphone for a while already. Read about it somewhere, liked the specifications and the way it was shown by Asus.

I also read lots of reviews. Many of them told me it’s a great phone and so I waited for it to become available in the Netherlands. I could have ordered one online from somewhere and hope for the best but for such amounts of money I tend to be a bit careful. If something’s wrong with the device and the seller whose name I can’t pronounce lives in a place I’ve never heard of, that’s enough for me to be patient.

Last week was the day I discovered the phone to be available. Again I went out to read the latest reviews. What struck me was that many of them sing and dance about the Zenfone 3 but there is only one common gripe: the bloatware, the odd Zen UI launcher and the many notifications.

Bugger all that. I ordered the phone. I have it here. It’s really nice, fast, and the screen is definitely nice. The resolution is less than that of the Samsung Note 4 I had before but I don’t notice that at all.

On to the bloatware. I have disabled everything I don’t need. That took me several hours because on a new phone there’s a lot of new stuff and it’s not exactly sure what you need and what not. That took care of that.

On the Zen UI launcher. I don’t use it. Since a long time I moved to Smart Launcher 3 and that’s perfect for me. There are lots of launchers available for Android; there has to be something you like if you don’t like Zen-UI. I had a look at Zen-UI and it looks a lot like regular Android to me but I didn’t investigate a lot. If you ignore a phone simply because of the default launcher you’re going to miss out on a lot of good devices.

Finally: the notifications. The Zenfone 3 comes with a nice built-in option to set which app can push notifications and which can’t. People who whine about the notifications should first really get to know the phone. I have no problems with the info on the screen; it shows what I want, when I want.

Another nice thing on the Zenfone that no one has mentioned in the reviews I read is the option to prevent specific apps from starting at boot time. That saves boot time and memory. I have the 4GB/64GB version so memory isn’t a big problem but the option’s there and it’s great.

All in all I’m really happy with the phone. I’m not going to list all the specs, you can find that online everywhere, like on the Asus site. Why it’s called a mid-range phone is a riddle to me but my demands on phones aren’t high. I don’t spend hours playing the heaviest games on my phone. I think the Zenfone would do well in that area but I have no inclination to find out because I’m a lost case with games.