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Many of us when considering how to protect ourselves from a physically external threat against our personal computers would usually consider the following steadfast solution:

  • Password everything
    • Use passwords that are difficult to guess (unrelated to our lives, jumbles of letters and numbers, etc)
    • Never use the same password twice
    • Always use mixed case letters, numbers and symbols
    • Ensure the password is at least 8 characters long
    • Never use whole dictionary words anywhere in your password
  • Keep Daily Backups
  • Keep Your Computer in a Safe Place

These rules generally keep us safe in the information age; but I wonder if we didn’t think our clever plan all the way through. What if an unpleasant sort of person might sneak about and steal away our computer? What if they also were to take our backup drive? What then?

Well, here’s what happens.

  • If you’ve passworded and encrypted your operating system…
    • If your data is worth it, they can still get it.
    • They reformat your laptop and re-install a pirated OS on your computer. It’s easy .
    • Your chances of recovering the laptop at this point are slim to nill.

  • If you’ve only passworded your operating system…
    • They can still easily get your data.
    • They reformat your laptop and re-install a pirated copy of OS on your computer.
    • Your chances of recovering the laptop at this point are slim to nill.

  • If your OS doesn’t have so much as a password on it…
    • They get your data with no difficulty whatsoever.
    • They usually sell your laptop as is, sometimes even with your data still intact!
    • Your chances of recovering the laptop at this point are actually pretty good!

So really, the question comes down to this: What’s more important to you? The privacy of your data, or your hardware?

Privacy

If the privacy of your data is more important, then keep this in mind. Generally speaking, once someone has physical access to your computer, there’s pretty much nothing you can do to prevent them from accessing your data. Encryption slows the process, it might stop a few, but if your data is worth having, nothing can stop someone from pulling it from the physical machine. With that in mind, don’t carry that data on your laptop if it’s so important! Keep it on a flash drive and tuck it away in a safe. Nuke your browser history and cookies after you browse the internet, or use Firefox and plug-ins that help you do that more easily.

If you’re concerned about ensuring you don’t lose your data, you might keep online backups. It’s all the rage, and there are lots of different companies already offering services for around $5.00/month.

Once your mobile system is free from the things you’re terrified of others seeing, your main concern is retrieving the hardware should it be stolen.

Hardware

In this day and age, one can easily use services to track the location of an individual by IP address. There are many companies that provide this service, and many programs have thus been made to take advantage of these services. If you were to install one of these many, many, many, many products, you could get an exact location of where your laptop is the next time it’s turned on. You could use software to take a picture of the thief in action. These products, however, assume the thief is able to log into and make use of your system. After all, if you can’t get into someone’s laptop, how much fun it is to stare at the lock prompt, asking you for a password you don’t know? At that point, you’d just wipe it and start with a new OS, wiping away all of your security. Useless.

So, am I saying you should leave your computer with no password? No. That’s not a very good idea at all. …but it sure couldn’t hurt to make a guest account with just enough to get your thief to use the computer for a while so those wonderful products tell you what s/he looks like, and where s/he is.

Not convinced of this method yet? Well, this gentleman certainly presented a great case.

1 Comment Written by in Amusing,Security at 1:24 pm

Good evening, internet! Today is December 20th: A day of no particular consequence for some, but for me, today is the beginning of my holiday vacation. I don’t have to go back to work for a full 7 days; a desperately needed break from the monotony of recent projects at work. This holiday season will be spent with my loving husband, our room mate Sammy, who has been living with us for all of the 3 years she’s lived in California, and two of my closest friends; One all the way from Indiana!

When we moved into our home some 8 months ago, we were splitting a much larger house into two; and as such, we split furniture up between the two groups. We ended up with a couch and a coffee table, which made our living room look rather sparse!


A quick panorama taken shortly after moving in

We had always talked about buying a beanbag chair or two to fill up the space; The larger ones which seat more then one person. Since our livingroom tends to be chilling room anyway, it felt like appropriate furniture for the task. Lovesac has a store at the mall nearest to our home, so we headed over to see what they wanted for one.

$400 is not a reasonable price for a bean bag chair. Incredible. I was figuring on at least half that! We found another company, Sumo, that made bean bag chairs with slightly more reasonable prices; about $100 less then Lovesac on average, but still a bit too steep for what seemed reasonable to my roomies and I.

We saw bean bag chairs sitting outside of a Mancini’s Sleepworld and decided to check them out. The very helpful and friendly salesperson pointed us over to a group of ginormous1 beanbag chairs for a very reasonable $129. We bought the only one they had, and traveled to their other San Jose store to pick up a second. We could only fit one in the car at a time! It was so cool!

Now we have them home, and they take up that massive empty space. I think once the Giftmas tree is taken down, they might even look more like they belong there. Here’s to hoping!

As you can see by the picture, our Giftmas tree’s lights are half dead; This happens every year around this time. Every year before we’ve tried to find more lights to replace the dead set, but in every attempt we find that every store is sold out of the lights we want. So instead, this is the last Giftmas in which we’ll be using these lights. Next year we’ll get out early and pick up some colored lights instead2; So sayith my husband!

Happy Holidays everyone!

1: It is so totally cool that Webster put this word in their dictionary.
2: HA! Us? Proactive about a holiday? That’ll be the day. :D
2 Comments Written by in Amusing,Life at 6:48 pm

Yesterday was Halloween, where in this part of the world, kids dress up in crazy costumes before their parents send them off to walk around in dark neighborhoods in search of strangers who will give them candy. Halloween is in my opinion the greatest upheaval of our society’s control by fear. I love it!

The past 4 years I’ve lived in the Bay Area, our houses have almost never gotten any trick-or-treaters. Our first house had one the first year, but none the subsequent 3, our second was previously a halfway house, so no one would go near it. Our new house, however, is this cozy place on a cul-de-sac, and many of our neighbors have kids. I was totally excited, and bought a truck load of candy in giant mix bags for the occasion.

The problem, however, with buying giant mix bags of candy is they have a few of the really awesome things, and a ton of Tootsie Rolls. Most would agree that Tootsie Rolls are pretty tasty, but when every place you stop hands them out in their mix, you end up with a pumpkin half full of the things. I have never once met someone that liked Tootsie Rolls that much.

Well, one of my room mates had the bright idea of picking out every single one of the tootsie rolls from our mixes and putting them in a separate bowl. When each kid showed up to demand candy, we would ask them “Do you like Tootsie Rolls?” The night was almost over before we finally had a zombie admit excitedly, “I LOVE Tootsie Rolls!” We dumped the entire bowl into his bag, filling it nearly to the top, to the cheers of his friends.

I don’t know exactly why, but living in a home where trick-or-treaters come in abundance makes me content. It makes my home feel more like a home.

5 Comments Written by in Amusing,Life at 8:05 am

Ever since the first release of Portal, I have been an ecstatic fangirl.  I used to play tons of video games, but these days, I find too many other things that seem more interesting to do (like making websites, or entertaining guests and such.  What happened to me?  Anyway).  Portal grabbed me and re-taught me what a spectacular gaming experience could be.  After an experience like that, I started seeing other games-  2K’s Borderlands, I was floored by the story in Bioware’s Mass Effect 2, but for gameplay, nothing could possibly compete with the simple, brilliant, intuitive and challenging levels of Portal… Except maybe a sequel.

My dreams have come true.  Not only is this sequel continuing an interesting storyline, bringing back old characters and concepts; it introduces a whole new world of possibilities for ways to enjoy the game.

First and foremost, it has a Co-op player mode.

There’s also a robust and story packed 1st person campaign that I can’t wait to explore:

Then there’s the host of all new interesting toys to add to their puzzles.

2011 can’t come soon enough!

No Comments Written by in Games at 8:56 am

Sep 02 2010 New friend

I have a new friend here at work.  He is very curious.

5 Comments Written by in Amusing at 12:45 pm

Talking with friends after watching the final movie in the Back to the Future trilogy, I realized.  On the back of the time traveling Delorian, were two black baffles, as shown here:

The baffles largely serve no purpose in the first movie (save for cooling purposes, which they are ill-equipped for). there were no thrusters, just the power of the car’s engine to propel it forward.  They added thrusters in the second movie (which appear at the end of the first).  Why, then would they be there from the start?

Why, because of quantum physics, of course!  Perhaps without the baffles, the space time continuum would not deem the craft worthy of time travel; Perhaps it deems the ever present “Rule of Cool” a more worthy of consideration then we frequently do.  Could it be, the reason our scientists and mathematicians can’t figure out quantum physics is they lack the prerequisite style necessary to unlock the secrets of the universe?

Sounds like we could use a lesson from the champion in this field:  Doctor Emmett Lathrop Brown, Ph.D.

2 Comments Written by in Amusing at 2:52 pm