It’s all in the bag

I recently changed jobs and found myself in need of a new computer bag. I originally went for the same bag that I had a few years ago from Dell. Unfortunately, they didn’t change the name, but they changed the bag completely–and for the worse. So, I went on a hunt for a solid, nice computer bag that I could use to run my life. After all, a computer bag to a computer consultant is sort of like a purse to a mother of four children (I only have two, so this is based on stories I’ve heard): it holds your entire life and finding things in it quickly is key to your daily happiness.

I hunted high and low, bought at least 4 bags from the typical computer stores locally and, one by one, took them all back. Finally, I asked my good friend Matt Topper, who generally knows lots of useless things, for a recommendation. As usual, he came through with what may be my last computer bag ever: The Empire Builder from Tom Bihn. The only negative thing I can say about this critical piece of equipment is that it is fairly expensive. Once you get beyond that and realize that it’s worth it because it’ll last you forever, you won’t be sorry. It’s a great piece of equipment and I actually paid them to write this testimonial. In fact, I may buy another bag from them at some point if I need something else (smaller or backpack style or something else).

So, if anyone wants to ask me for a shoulder-style computer bag, you now know what I’ll recommend.

I’m a diver

In a departure from the usual technical grind, I spent this past weekend scuba diving in a local quarry (Haigh Quarry, to be precise) and obtained my PADI Open Water certification! It was a great weekend to be in the water (though the water was murky…about 5-10 ft vis in most places). My classmates were great too and we had fun playing catch with the bowling balls scattered around the bottom. Eunice is an awesome instructor–be sure to request her when you sign up at Below H2O.

I logged 6 dives (two as a full-fledged OW diver) and did the first of my 5 required dives for PADI Advanced Open Water certification. I’m hoping to finish the others either next month or next spring if next month gets too cold.

So, since I’m the only diver in my family, if anyone in Chicagoland is looking for a dive buddy, let me know as I’ll be looking on a regular basis.

Passwords, or just semi-secret passphrase?

As my friend Matt Topper posted (only because he begged me to let him post first–I can’t stand seeing grown men cry), we’ve both experienced a number of cases lately where we’ve been disappointed by security practices we’ve observed. My personal pet peeve is when I call my cell phone provider and they attempt to verify my identity by asking for the password on the account. Now, I know what they’re asking for and I do have an online password that I use when visiting the website, but I instead tell them that I don’t know the password. They are just as happy to verify me by the last four numbers in my SSN (which is another rant for another day). Anyway, I comply and as soon as I’ve been “verified” by this method, they read me the password on the account.

My primary gripe is not so much that they read me the password (which is stupid and wrong), but that they *could* read me the password. Why oh why is the password stored in any way that is retrievable? As Matt pointed out, there are almost countless, very well-documented ways to store passwords such that they are safe and non-retrievable (by the customer service reps or anyone else). I am not completely insensitive to the company’s issue when someone like my mother calls up because she forgot her password and just wants them to reminder her what it is. However, I think it is silly that she had to call them–the “forgot password” link should verify identity and allow her to reset the password on the spot or email a validation link to her unique email address.

So, my point is that there are many, many ways to protect me and my information, but it’s extremely frustrating to have to deal with vendors that just haven’t caught up with the last 30+ years of low-hanging fruit. If anyone from Sprint PCS IT is listening, please, oh my God please, fix this.