Friday, August 26, 2011

The Last Password Standing....

“Please choose a new password”. As my eyes skimmed the five words, I felt sickened…..almost light headed with the realization that today might just become THAT day….the day I had known would come eventually, but that I had feared with an unhealthy fear… would become the day that I end up using, “the last password”.

How did this happen? How did we get here….now…today? What led up to this moment (insert 60’s psychedelic swirls here)?

We are all born with a certain number of things; the obvious are arms, legs, fingers, toes….brain cells, ovum, etc. But…I also believe that the human body contains a limited supply of computer passwords. Yes….that is correct. It is a little known fact that we are born with a limited supply of these word/number/uppercase/lowercase combinations and that when you run out – you ARE out. Sure, you can go back and begin reusing something that you used in the late 1990’s but honestly, you are sacrificing your online security.

A good password is like an old friend. It roles off your fingers onto the computer keyboard with nary a backward glance. A bad password makes you stumble, trips you up. We all do the unacceptable with our password selection. A good password with good “security strength” contains a magical combination of uppercase and lowercase letters with a few numbers thrown in for good measure. It shouldn’t be your wedding anniversary date with the initials of your children thrown in; it shouldn’t be the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend. It is supposed to be completely random and hard to remember because if it is hard for YOU to remember, then it certainly should be difficult for a hacker to hack.

My point is….we all have had good passwords in our lives and bad passwords. A good password is comforting like a warm blanket, a bad password irritates you every time you use it.

Which brings me to now…today, the day that I might have to break out my last good password. Why is it my last? I honestly don’t think I have another really great one in me. I always thought that I would be in my 60’s or even 70’s before I used my last really good password, but between the online banking, itunes, facebook and now google+, I have used up my passwords like the U.S. government has used up stimulus funds. And now it is time to pay the piper.

Walking out to the yard with the shovel, a rush of emotion washes over me and I prepare to dig up the canister that contains my last, perfect, password. I have secured it much in the same way as the cold war launch sequence codes or the Cadbury secret. As I began to dig one hole, then two, then three I realized that perhaps I should have told someone where I had buried my hidden treasure.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bits & Bytes

For any of us who travel for work regularly and stay in hotels, access to the Internet is a not an added benefit, it is a necessary amenity. I don’t even like to refer to it as an amenity (a useful or pleasant facility or service), because to me, an amenity is the little shampoo’s in the room or the strange little shoe shine foams. No…. Internet access for me is a requirement and I compare it to having access to a telephone in the room, or sheets on the bed.

I have stayed in hotels where the internet access costs me ten dollars a day, isn’t wireless and the cord they provide is 4 ½ inches long ensuring that my comfort is compromised. I have stayed in hotels where the access is “wireless” which is code for only having two bars of signal strength. My favourite marketing ploy by a hotel is the signs that state, “free internet” and then they limit how much I can use it OR the server that they are using limits how many guests can be online at any given moment. They installed the server in 2001 when the hotel had only 40 rooms and since then have gone through an expansion and now have 120 rooms but the server hasn’t been upgraded to accommodate the additional potential users. As a consequence, you can only get online at weird times like 3:45 a.m. or 2:00 p.m.

Strangely enough, the best Internet access service I have received is at a smaller, privately owned hotel. It is at these establishments where I have access to free WiFi with great signal strength and I can work well into the late evening or begin early in the morning. No 4 ½ inch cords, no limiting bits and bytes.

These are some “fun” experiences I have had with Internet use while traveling:

Pay me once, pay me twice – You log onto the hotel Internet and it informs you, “There will be a $10 charge per day for Internet access – please check the box if you agree”. So you check the box and proceed. You go to check out the next morning and you see a $20 charge on your bill for Internet access. Mistakes occur, make sure you check your bill carefully.

I am not a geek – so don’t baffle me with terminology. All I want to do is check my email, send and receive some information and perhaps check my facebook.

Don’t lie to me Argentina – When I can’t get on the Internet and you tell me it is because I have exceeded my free bits and bytes amount…I call steer manure on that one. Do you know how I know? I know that I didn’t exceed my free bits and bytes because I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO ACCESS THE INTERNET SINCE I ARRIVED!!! (sorry, I will use my inside voice from now on). So, don’t try to sell me a package upgrade – just provide me with what you promised when I checked in.

I am not Lounging in the Lounge – (In response to your suggestion to solve my broken internet access in my room) No, I don’t want to go into the lounge where you offer free WiFi….unless of course, I can go down there in my pajama pants.

Is there a moral to this story? No, not really….did writing it make me feel better? You bet!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Are you a fast talker?

Have you ever sat through a power point presentation, bored to death, eyes barely able to focus on the power point slide because it is filled with numbers and lines…..the guy/gal presenting is speaking in a monotone voice with no highs and lows to their pitch, filled with “um’s and ah’s”. Have you begun counting ceiling tiles or light fixtures or maybe even have begun pulling on a wayward thread on your sweater, hoping that somehow it will make the presentation go a bit faster? You begin thinking about spontaneous combustion and wondering if it could really happen and if it did, could it happen here, in this room, with these people, now…..during the presentation. You drift off and are startled awake by limp applause and the sudden realization that you were drooling and probably mouth breathing.

I have been to these presentations. They can certainly be a challenge to sit through. What if the challenge was the other way around? What if the challenge rested on the presenters’ shoulders? What am I talking about? I am talking about Ignite presentations; 5 minute powerhouse presentations on any subject with a power point presentation set to auto advance the slide every 15 seconds. Keep up with the slides or risk embarrassment.

Now you are interested…..right? No matter how boring the subject matter, you are going to be watching and listening and waiting to see if the presenter can get his/her point across in the 5 minute time limit. Bring on the popcorn! You will now be leaning forward in your seat, no longer pondering such things as spontaneous combustion.

Introducing the Ignite session. 20 slides, but only 15 seconds per slide before the slide auto advances. Now that is a challenge! The tagline of the Ignite session is “Enlighten us but make it quick”. It originated in Seattle in 2006 with Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis of O’Reilly Media. It took off and over 200 Ignite Sessions have been held since.

I have scheduled an Ignite session into a conference I am currently planning. We sent out a call for presentations with a couple of caveats. The first being that topics were provided; community, leadership, change or social responsibility, and the second was that they needed to name a local charity in their proposal. Why the local charity? We threw a bit of a twist into the session. We are going to have the audience vote on the best presentation and the winner will receive $1000 to pass along to their favourite local charity. It is a win win!

How did it all turn out? Well, ask me in about a month after the conference is over. I will either have a big toothy smile and a bounce in my step, or I will be seen walking along with my toes dragging, shoulders slumped and a nervous tick.

Wish me luck!