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Archive for July, 2009

My lenses were perfectly clean for this photo.

My lenses were perfectly clean for this photo.

I just spent the week in Pasadena in Southern California. Several of the jaunts made during the week were into Los Angeles.

It almost seems like a different state, except that I have not really been to many other states so I can’t necessarily compare. While I have lived in Santa Barbara for three years it is not quite at the same level as Pasadena/LA.

There were some definite surprises while I was there, the Huntington Library (and gardens) were very nice. They had some good exhibits (one on science) and nice green gardens. I don’t think they conserve as much as residents. Also the Griffith Park Observatory was really fun. Aside from being all about astrophysics it was really cool to see a lot of kids and adults interested in science.

They did have a large tesla coil that I could not find the on switch for, one day.

Also Southern California has a lot of frozen yoghurt places that sell the whole thing (including toppings) by the ounce. Either they do not exist or I have not found them around Sonoma county. I think it is a really good idea but do not know the extent or viability of the business model outside of Southern California.

The biggest surprise of the trip was the free wifi on the Airport Express bus from Oakland Airport. Stream the Colbert Report in traffic is just flat out neat.

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Espresso

A fair warning.

A fair warning.

I just like this sign. I have seen in twice, both times in a winery tasting room.

All I can say is that I was not offered an espresso nor a free puppy.

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Redwoods

Impossible to photograph well.

Impossible to photograph well.

Visited the redwoods last weekend, I was thinking about what lens to bring to take good photos when I remembered: it is impossible to photograph redwoods to encapsulate the feeling of awe.

The trees are too tall to be able to get a good root to top shot without a super wide angle lens, and any distance between the tree often leads to other trees getting in the way. On the forest floor the deep shade is interspersed with direct sunlight giving a very mottled coloring that is either over or under exposed in places.

And the height, the muffled sounds, the hollow ground are all impossible to capture with a camera. Or at least very difficult to do.

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Storke Tower

Storke tower at night.

Storke tower at night.

Storke Tower is nicely illuminated at night but has an odd green tint when white balanced against the surrounding lights.

On retrospect this is not a very good shot of the tower.

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Travel

I like the new palm trees.

I like the new palm trees.

I am going to traveling down to Pasadena for next week so I will have a series of pre-written posts for the next few days.

So short free writes based on the photos, nothing fancy but nothing in depth.

This photo is the newly renovated Pardall Road in Isla Vista, CA. I think the new fat palm trees are great looking and really help unify the look.

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Rad Away

Just a little radiation.

Just a little radiation.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7341336.stm

I must be playing too much Fallout 3.

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If I every have security or body guards, I know what they will be wearing.

If I every have security or body guards, I know what they will be wearing.

Passwords are tricky things.

On one hand it is often said to have unique, complex passwords for each website and every computer. On the other hand we can only remember so much before resorting to password books, spreadsheets of logins and sticky notes on monitors.

In years of part time computer consulting I have seen a bunch of different ways of approaching the password problem. Some have used the same four letter password for everything, occasionally appending a set of numbers if the site requires 6+ characters and numbers to be involved. Others have small address books with websites listed alphabetically with their logins and unique passwords. And recently I have seen an excel spreadsheet with websites, logins and passwords all neatly typed up with notes.

I have done my best to help secure everyone with decent password practices, or at least those best suited to the individual. For those with short and frequently used passwords I had them create a complex password for critical logins like e-mail and computer accounts. Those with small books are actually doing alright, even if their unique passwords are all one word with a number appended or pre-fixed every now and then. And for the individual with a spreadsheet, I could not stop the practice so I made them used an encrypted disk image to hold the password, encouraging them to store it on a flash drive, along with a printed copy as backup.

The challenge for most people in passwords is creating those that are complex enough yet memorable. I found the best method for people is in taking a phrase they know or like and altering it into something unrecognizable. For example a famous quote:

One day, Sir, you may tax it.

– Michael Farady in response to British Prime Ministers Gladstone’s question, “What good is electricity?”.

Then take a short segment of it, “you may tax it”, which is eleven characters and use that as a basis. Add in capitalization of each word, replace characters with numbers and maybe add a few extra on the end. For bonus points add in non-alphanumeric characters. To show how it looks:

  • youmaytaxit – remove the spaces
  • YouMayTaxIt – capitalize
  • Y0uM4y74xIt – replace letters with numbers
  • Y0uM4y&4x!7 – use the shift key
  • Y0uM4y&4k!7 – replace letters with their phonetic counterpart, or similar looking characters
  • Y0uM4y&4k!767 – add some number (the year Faraday died)

The beginning may still look recognizable but the end looks like random characters. A trick to use is just hold down shift for a particular segment, I find that most passwords become muscle memory so after adding in numbers throw in a shift key to get those odd characters.

Of course some websites don’t like this very much. I recently tried to update all of my credit card passwords only to find my sweet new passwords was not accepted due to some unacceptable characters.

Finally I don’t use the unique password for every site technique. Instead I have a half dozen or so passwords that are used depending on how secure that login needs to be. Internet forums have a simple six character password while banks and sites that store credit card information have longer, more complex passwords. Every now and then I introduce a new password and sort of shift everything down a level.

The best thing to do is practice so that password becomes set in muscle memory. Of course if you have ever have to login used an iPhone then all bets are off.

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