A solution to the password nightmare. The most common means of controlling access to IT is a username and password.
This works well for many applications as is flexible and simple to implement. There is however one major problem with passwords – You have to remember them!!! If you only have one or two passwords this is not a problem, but many IT users have many systems they need to log into. If you work in IT, like I do, it is not unusual to have to remember 20 or more different passwords. Usually you are forced to change these on a regular basis and they have to contain numbers and/or strange characters. For the normal mortal (well for me anyway) this is impossible to do without “cheating”. One way is to write them down, another is to make all the passwords the same, or slightly different versions of the same thing. This fundamentally undermines the security of using passwords. Enforcing policies like changing passwords regularly just seems to make things worse instead of better, as more people adopt more coping strategies.
KeePass is a free, opensource program that I have found to be the perfect solution. It provides a secure password manager that will essentially remember all your passwords for you, and type them in when you need them. The result is you only need to remember ONE password. Password managers are nothing new, but any I have came across in the past have been unsuitable (in terms of either security or usability). This little program simply does everything right to provide a very secure way of storing your passwords, while making it easy to access the various systems. I have found it works well over terminal server with the ‘autotype’ facility and I keep the software and database on a usb key so I can access it from various PCs. With a little configuration, it is extremely flexible. I highly recommend using KeePass for all your passwords. For many users and IT professionals it is a very necessary quality application.
Minitab is a statistical analysis software that is great for learning and teaching statistics.
It is extensively used by Six Sigma practitioners. The help feature that comes with the software is excellent. It has the capability to generate several statistical distributions, perform a variety of statistical analysis and plot results. Plots can be easily copied to other Windows applications such as Excel and Powerpoint. Data can be easily transferred back and forth between Excel and Minitab making data analysis and visualization very easy. One feature that Minitab lacks is the ability to perform analysis of long-tail distributions. Also, bootstrapping procedures are lacking.
For those of us who must use workstations with limited program capability a thumb or flash drive can become a necessity.
What should you look for in a thumb drive? How much space do you need? These are the kinds of questions you should think about before going shopping. First of all let’s look at your needs. Are you a rough traveler? Do you tend to throw stuff in your bag? If you tend to be a little rougher on your peripherals, look for something that’s shockproof and if you shop around you might even find one that’s water resistant. No matter what you’re carrying on your drive look for something that won’t corrupt your data or shatter if you’re not entirely gentle. How much space is enough? You can find flash drives anywhere from 512 mb to 4 gb. If you don’t need more storage there’s no need to spend the extra money for 4 gb when you maybe only need one. Generally speaking, you’re looking at spending anywhere from 14.00 on up to 150.00 dollars or so depending on your needs. These days, you can find many applications that are available in portable versions. From Word processing programs to Photoshop, you can carry around a few programs that don’t make registry changes, don’t need installation and won’t get you in trouble with the IT department. You can also keep your music handy, documents, homework in case you don’t have a laptop or don’t want to take your laptop anywhere. Surprisingly, picking yourself up another peripheral might make your life a little easier. Work on projects away from home, write that paper that’s due tomorrow, and keep yourself entertained with music. All in all, a flash drive is a good little investment in portability. As with any peripheral or data storage, always make sure to back up your data in a separate place just in case.
If you’ve used a computer in the last 20 years or so, you’ve spent some time playing solitaire.
Now that the iPhone and iPod Touch have allowed a rich computing experience to fit in your pocket, solitaire can come with you on the go. Smallware LLC’s Solebon Solitaire is only 99 cents, but it packs 40 different solitaire games. The classic Windows solitaire – known as Klondike – is there, but Solebon includes some more exotic varieties and even a few that the app developers invented themselves. The simple interface and slick animations make for a compelling solitaire experience. A free version of this app is available under the name Sol Free Solitaire. It has only six games, but it does include Klondike. The full version is worth the dollar though as you will likely find some of the games, such as Aces Up or La Belle Lucie, downright addicting. It comes out to about two and a half cents per game, and it’ll save you from boredom many, many times.
Most of the professional game development community will tell you that you should learn C++ to get into the industry.
In reality, they’re only partially right. The professional game development companies are using C++ to develop their games, while an independent (indie) game developer has the freedom to choose the language and platform on their own. Visual C# 2008 Express and XNA Game Studio 3.0 are superb tools for the indie developer. C# is very easy to learn, and Visual C# 2008 Express greatly increases development speed. XNA Game Studio 3.0 is a framework added onto Visual C# 2008 Express. It takes the headache out of developing a lot of the low level systems in game design. The two together make an excellent choice for indie game developers. You can get games out faster and easier!
HandBrake is a wonderful and free application that will transcode your DVDs into MP4 format so you can play them on your ipod.
Not only will it rip the data from DVDs it also will take any video_TS folder you have lying around on your computer and convert that into MP4. But, that isn’t all folks, HandBrake also has the ability to transcode video for output to your Apple TV and PSP, if you have either of those lying around. Using HandBrake is dead simple, you just point it to the file or disc, use one of the built in presets for whatever device you are using and click start and then just let it sit for a while and do it’s magic. In short, HandBrake is a simple tool that fills a niche that no other software I have found has. Although it is a little simple to look at, and some features are lacking (like just a straight DVD rip) what it advertises to do it does it very well. So go out and try to finally fill up that 60gb iPod.