100 great and easy "secure" passwords

Resetting my AppleID because I forgot the password, changing eBay and GMail passwords because of hacks, new rules for complex passwords and more of the same somehow left me with dozens of passwords and an irritating inability to merge and standardise the mess. One of the issues is the rules for "secure" passwords which sometimes include having an upper case letter, sometimes not etc.
Then I noticed (or was told, I don't recall!) how to easily generate a policy compliant password! Pick any two digits, say "01". Look at your keyboard and press the first digit 0 and then the keys to the right and down from it: P, ; and /. Now hold down the Shift key and do the same for the second digit. According The Password Meter the resultant password 0p;/!QAZ gets a 90% score and is "very strong". Do the same for your favourite two digits, e.g. a birthday.

There you have it – policy compliance and passwords that are easy to remember! Of course, I am not really suggesting using any of these as an actual password for anything serious but you could easily make your favourite password policy compliant by appending one these two-digit to eight-character password gargoyles.


Endomondo se rekeningstawing skakel my af

Aangesien ek altyd my selfoon by my het, is ek 'n terloopse gebruiker van die Android-toepassing Endomondo, waarmee 'n mens jou drafsarsie kan ontleed en die besonderhede daarvan deel. Ek het dit minstens twee jaar gelede al gebruik en op meer as een selfoon. Vandag maak ek dit oop toe ek reeds by die hekkie uit is (Endomondo is moontlik outomaties geïnstalleer nadat ek 'n nuwe selfoon gekry het) en daar begin die ding vir my vra vir gebruikersname en -wagwoorde. Gaaf, die opsie om deur Facebook aan te teken werk nie want ek het nie Facebook op die foon nie, maar dan probeer ek per Google-rekening. Dít skyn te werk tot die punt waar Endomondo rapporteer dat daar geen Endomondo-rekening gekoppel is aan my Google-rekening nie en dat ek dit nou eers moet soek. Jammer, dis te veel! Moet ek nou vóór ek draf probeer 'n Endomondo-wagwoord herwin of iets?! Ek glo lankal WhatsApp se sukses is in 'n groot mate daaraan te danke daaraan dat hulle rekeningstawing eenmalig en eenvoudig (SMS na die foonnommer toe) is. Endomondo, kyk en leer!


ICASA's new call termination rates (finally!)

ICASA has published revised call termination rates to take effect on 1 October 2014. As of 2017 the cost of connecting a call to a number on the network of a large operator (MTN or Vodacom) will R0,08 which is a far cry from the near criminal R1,25 which pertained for more than a decade after the introduction of mobile telephony in 1994. Two aspects of the proposed rates struck me as interesting.

  1. From 1 March 2015 there will no longer be any difference between the mobile and fixed-line termination rates, except for the “asymmetric” rate for small operators. The means that there is no reason to delay the introduction of full mobile-fixed number portability. If it gets that far, businesses and consumers will be able to take geographic numbers starting with 012/011/021 and so on to a mobile operator for cellular service. In my view, cellular operators should be allowed to provide service on geographic numbers (as Neotel is doing already) without delay.
  2. Many people still have a Telkom line because of the fixed monopoly operator's unlimited calling plans to geographic numbers. When mobile and fixed-line termination rates are equal, how will consumers react when we see more and cheaper mobile packages with unlimited minutes? Can one expect a further erosion of the Telkom subscriber base and would this be a favourable outcome for a Telkom that might be interested in dumping its consumer copper network?

The “asymmetric” rate is also a strange beast. Telkom Mobile will be able to charge more for terminating calls from other networks because it is a smaller mobile operator and the mobile and fixed-line network markets are considered separately for this purpose, which is really just silly. ICASA could have solved the so-called problem of asymmetry by setting the termination rate to zero but at least a positive rate creates an incentive for the operators to report reasonably correct data...


Goeie gratis Internet en niemand is daar nie

Vroeër hierdie maand het ek oor middagete op 'n weeksdag vinnig gaan kyk hoe lyk die stadsraad van Pretoria se gratis Internet (saam met Alan Knott-Craig jnr se Project Isizwe), op die hoek van Lynnwoodweg en Roperstraat by die Universiteit van Pretoria se hoofingang. Dit is heeltemal gratis en toeganklik soder wagwoord en redelik vinnig maar ek kon niemand anders sien wat besig was om dit te gebruik nie. Wat is eintlik die aanvrag vir gratis Internet?


AirBNB offering rooms in Spain for $4 per night

I can imagine exactly how this happened (I had recently moved my computer from South Africa to Europe) but should AirBNB not have worked out a way to actually display a euro sign when giving the prices in euro? At R42 (around $4) per night, it does look like a bargain... This is rather sloppy programming but I have seen the same kind of thing at banks, of all places. Is it not time for a basic price data type (perhaps "monetary") which always has an assigned currency symbol, rules for rounding and so on?


Fonts in e-mail – please don't!

Friends of mine have remarked on my "boring" plain text e-mails but dear Reader(s) the horror that I try to avoid is the one on the left, as displayed in GMail on Chrome. Through naïveté or bad luck and an ill-advised copying-and-pasting event sequence, this newsletter has turned into a real canine petit déjeuner of text and formatting. I suspect the delusion that formatted e-mail is nice to be fuelled by the mistaken presumption that this is a way of transferring a pretty image from the writer's screen to that of the reader. But the appropriate tool for that is an image or PDF type format! The security and privacy risks around formatted (HTML) e-mail are another topic...


Die terloopse rak-intimiteit van die Skype-onderhoud

Dit is deesdae heel algemeen dat korrespondente vir internasionale nuuskanale hulle onderhoude per Skype doen uit 'n woonstel- of hotelkamer. Duidelik werk baie sulke mense van die huis af en ek verstom my in die laaste tyd oor wat 'n mens op hulle rakke sien, selfs op die relatief ernstige videokanaal van die Wall Street Journal: 'n prentjie van Che Guevara, 'n 3/4-vol bottel vreemdsoortige donker drank ens. Was dit nie anders en meer statig in die dae van Tossie Lochner, Italië, nie?


The opposite of steganography?

Hiding secret messages in pictures or other writing is called steganography. The exact opposite could be observed for over 20 hours from yesterday in the presumably frequently read Wikipedia entry on the Capital asset pricing model as the telephone number for one SU Khan defaced the entry. I am really a bit surprised that it did not get fixed earlier but perhaps others (like myself) were simply too bemused by it to do anything. In any case, fixing the vandalism does not delete the message since the revisions are available on the history page for the entry. My first impression is that defacing a Wikipedia page could be a fairly reliable way to leave a message in such a way that the collection of the message (which amounts to reading Wikipedia) would not necessarily arouse much suspicion and where leaving the message requires little skill and involves very little risk. Another job for the data facility in Utah?



Bad fat statistics

Breathless reports in the online Wall Street Journal this week and on the WSJ video channel about the obesity "epidemic" featuring Dr Ng, one of the authors of a study in The Lancet with well over 50 authors. One of the reported key findings:

"More than 50% of the world's 671 million obese people live in 10 countries, the study said, ranking them in order: the U.S., China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia."

But according to my calculation, close to an even 50% of the world's population lives in six of those countries: China, India, the US, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. The only countries in the population top-10 not in the obesity top-10 are in fact Nigeria, Bangladesh and Japan and for what I would say are very obvious reasons. Ditto the "big three" of Egypt, Mexico and Germany – pretzel, taco or subsidised bread anyone? Reporting the blindingly obvious as news is not new but one has to wonder whether this is the best or the worst of The Times... BTW, they "cited South Africa as an extreme case: 42% of women are obese" which you can learn by stepping off a plane (or often, just on an SAA plane).