1Password: Stop being outright dangerous with your passwords and online security

Computers are much smarter than us now. Using your first pet’s name followed by your year of birth stopped being sufficient as a password about a decade ago. There’s only way to really stay safe online these days: a password manager like 1Password.

It’s 2018. If you’re still under the impression that putting a number at the end of your password, or switching Es for 3s or As for @s in your password, you’re probably very susceptible to having your passwords cracked.

This is the age where computers are now able to guess 350 billion passwords a second. 350 billion. Every. Single. Second. That means that if you have an eight-character password using only lowercase numbers and letters, a computer can guess every possible combination in about 8 seconds.

And of course, there’s been enough high profile hacks in recent years that there’s databases full of login credentials for billions of accounts. If you’ve used the same password on multiple websites and your login credentials have been uncovered on any single website, a would-be hacker potentially has access to all of your online accounts.

With computer power doubling every 2 years, computers are getting very powerful very quickly. The trouble is, if you’re relying on your brain to remember all of your passwords, your brain isn’t getting too many upgrades in its processing power from year to year, no matter how many acai smoothies you drink. You’re fighting a losing battle. Continue reading “1Password: Stop being outright dangerous with your passwords and online security”

Mini Metro: the perfect iOS game for nerds and engineers (or nerdy engineers!)

I don’t usually play games on my phone, but when I found Mini Metro, which let me build my own subway system and improve it, I found a treasure.

I just came across a new game for iOS which has me embarrassingly addicted.

Let’s be clear: I don’t play games on my phone. The only exception is Chess. However, as a big old nerd with autistic tendencies, building my own Metro/Subway/Tube system, refining it, expanding it, making it more efficient and watching it run makes me happier than it should. So when I came across Mini Metro, I found a new pastime. Continue reading “Mini Metro: the perfect iOS game for nerds and engineers (or nerdy engineers!)”

How to search on multiple labels in Google Keep

While the Google Keep interface doesn’t let you search for notes using multiple labels, a little URL hack will get you there.

I’ve recently been moving all of my notes into Google Keep, which I appreciate for its simplicity (Evernote, take note – pun very much intended).

One of its shortcomings though is that you can’t seem to be able to search on multiple labels. For example, I use my labels contextually, so I might tag people that a note applies to, e.g. MartiEllie or Jack, but I may also label a note with what the label is about, e.g. gifts (for reminders about things that someone may appreciate as a gift), or food (for noting someone’s favourite restaurants, recipes, or how they like their coffee made). So when my wife’s birthday is coming up, I want to be able to search for all notes tagged with Marti and gifts. To my knowledge, there is not currently a way to do this within the Google Keep interface. Continue reading “How to search on multiple labels in Google Keep”

How to access Airport Utility remotely

If you need to change the configuration of your Apple Airport router while away from home, there’s a way to do that and it’s actually incredibly simple.

On more than one occasion, I have found myself wanting to make changes to machines on my home network which required adding a port forward to my router (Airport Extreme Time Capsule in my case). I used to think that I’d just have to wait to get home to use Airport Utility while on my local network and apply the change. Today, I had another such need but I decided to dig in and figure out how it could be done remotely.

It turns out that the solution is actually very simple. Continue reading “How to access Airport Utility remotely”

Blockchain: A revolution occurring right in front of our eyes

Blockchain is best known as the technology that underpins Bitcoin, but it is so much more than that. Its uses are endless and in the very near future, we can expect all trade to occur on a blockchain, as well as more abstract uses, such as electoral voting.

Over the last few years, if you’re Internet-savvy, you may be aware of blockchains. If you do, you probably know it as the technology that underpins Bitcoin. If you know more than that, you’re in a very small group of people who actually understand what it does and how it’s capable of so much more.

Let’s take a step back. For those who don’t know, Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency” which is a currency that uses cryptography to handle transactions. Bitcoin is not backed by any central government as most currencies are today (the dollar is backed by the Federal Reserve and so on) and thus, is not subject to the purview of government. It is in this vein that many people have perceptions of Bitcoin being used for illicit activities. And while it does afford a level of anonymity if one so chooses, its uses go far beyond that and the illicit usage is only going to represent an increasingly small percentage of Bitcoin’s users as Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become more prevalent.

The reason that Bitcoin can work without the backing of a central institution like the Bank of England is what is known as triple-entry accounting, made possible by the blockchain. In modern accounting, we use double-entry accounting, which means that for every debit, there has to be a credit somewhere else. This system has been in use since the 1400s and provides error-checking, but doesn’t stop people from falsifying records (think of “cooking the books” a la Enron).  The “third entry” in triple-entry accounting is a cryptographically-secure public record of every transaction so that these transactions can be verified. This is the blockchain. When you make a transaction using Bitcoin, a record is made in the blockchain and now everyone knows that one wallet paid out some Bitcoins to another wallet and so everyone agrees how many Bitcoins are in each wallet. Continue reading “Blockchain: A revolution occurring right in front of our eyes”

How to remotely access your VPN-connected computer with Dynamic DNS

By using a dynamic DNS service in conjunction with some static routes on your home computer, you can access your home network, files and computers remotely, even if your main computer which reports your IP to the dynamic DNS service is permanently connected to a VPN.

This is a problem that I’ve been trying to crack for a long time now. I want to be able to access my home network remotely. The problem seems simple enough, but there were a number of roadblocks stopping me from doing this.

Firstly, my Internet connection at home has a dynamic IP address. This means it’s hard to target it because the IP address changes regularly. The solution to this is to use a Dynamic DNS service. The way these services work is to run a utility in the background on your computer and report its current IP address back to the Dynamic DNS service. It ties this IP address to one of its own domain names or a custom domain name that you ascribe to them.

I started to pursue this option. I purchased my own domain name and got an account at Dynu, one of several free dynamic DNS services and attached my domain name to it. I installed the IP Update Utility on my home computer, added my account credentials and successfully started reporting my IP address back to Dynu. However, there was a problem…

My computer is always connected to a VPN. Thus, whenever the IP Update Utility retrieved my IP address, it was getting the IP address of my VPN, not my public IP address. Thus, if I tried to use that to access my home network, I’d instead end up at the servers of my VPN service. Continue reading “How to remotely access your VPN-connected computer with Dynamic DNS”

Why institutional trust has vanished and distributed trust is soaring

Uber, AirBnB and Bitcoin are at the forefront of a trust revolution, where we’re ditching our faith in institutions like banks, governments and churches in favour of trusting complete strangers that we can reliably put our faith in.

I love a good TED talk. Every now and then, one resonates so well with me that I feel compelled to post it here to share it with other.

Rachel Botsman’s recent talk was one such talk. She discussed how trust has moved through three distinct phases in history: local trust, where our trust was knowing those in the village, institutional trust, where we relied upon banks, companies and governments to determine who and what could be trusted to the recently emerging distributed trust, where our behaviour, reputation and globally accepted practices and technologies dictate what we can trust today.
Continue reading “Why institutional trust has vanished and distributed trust is soaring”

Mechanical music

Using 2000 marbles and a hand-crafted machine, Wintergatan has made an enormous music box that is mesmerising to watch

My wife happened upon this YouTube video today and I was just blown away by how creative it was.

Wintergatan is a Swedish folktronica band that have spent the last two years ago building a giant music box out of wood, metal and LEGO that uses steel marbles to play instruments including a bass guitar, vibraphone and drums.

I have watched this several times, in awe at how each marble is lifted into place and rhythmically fired towards an instrument to hit the right note at the right time. So creative. Continue reading “Mechanical music”

Wikiwand – a much better way to read Wikipedia

We all use Wikipedia, perhaps many times a day. But the layout and functionality hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years. That’s where Wikiwand comes in, to add a fresh coat of paint and add in some features that make using Wikipedia that much easier.

Where would we be without Wikipedia? How would we settle those instantaneous curiosities without the de facto encyclopedia always available in front of us and in our pockets?

Without a doubt, Wikipedia is a crucial piece to our everyday lives for many of us. But why does it have to be so damn ugly!? Am I right!?

To a certain extent, it makes sense: it needs to meet the needs of billions of people without distracting them or turning them off; it needs to be easy to read to accommodate those with disabilities; and it needs to be lightweight to not be a drain on the resources of the end user or the Foundation.

However, for those looking for a more immersive and beautifully designed layout, look no further than Wikiwand. Continue reading “Wikiwand – a much better way to read Wikipedia”

Get a short URL from YOURLS in Zapier

With the incredible Code by Zapier app, getting a short URL for any URL you have is very easy using the API in YOURLS. I used this strategy to promote new content from my websites on social media using the item’s short URL.

I love automating things. For a few years now I’ve configured my site using Jetpack’s Publicize module in conjunction with Buffer to automatically post new content to my social networks. However, there’s a couple of limitations with that approach:

  1. Publicize seemingly won’t let you use the post’s short URL,
  2. You have little control over when these posts go out on social media.

With my new found love of Zapier, I sought to rectify both of these issues. Continue reading “Get a short URL from YOURLS in Zapier”