Tiny But Mighty Trio

I live digital, and I am sure many of you do as well. We do of course live in a very analog world and our phones don’t always have all the answers. Having a small knife, flashlight, or pen when you really need it can make your day. I have always kept various tools with me in my bag/backpack, but that doesn’t really help you if you don’t have your bag with you. What you really need are tools that fit in your bag that is always with you, your pocket!

Fisher Space Pen – Copper Zirconium Nitride ~$40Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A32F122/

Having an awesome pen with you 24/7 is one of those things you may not know you need until you have one. This was the case for me. Life is too short to write with a crappy pen, and while you are writing with a nice pen, why not have it look cool too!?

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After trying one out, I decided to make the purchase of a Space Pen. There are tons of options for Space Pens nowadays, and the one I landed on is the Copper Zironium Nitride bullet pen. How cool does that sound? It’s super small and you really don’t notice it in your pocket. It writes every time you pull it out, no more scribbling frantic circles instead of writing down that great idea that popped into your head.

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Leatherman Squirt PS4 Red Keychain Tool with Plier ~$26

Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0032XZW82/

I really like my trusty Swiss Army knife, but it is a bit big to keep in my pocket with me every day. I also tend to find myself needing a little bit wider selection of tool types. A standard Size Leatherman is of course a great tool, but again very large. The good news is that Leathrman makes multi-tools in many sizes. The tool I chose is the Squirt PS4 in red. It has a really good selection of tools in a very small package. All your basic daily need tools for small on-the-go jobs, scissors, pliers, knife, screwdrivers.

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Fenix E05 Stainless Steel 85 Lumen LED Flashlight ~$29

Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LGYTET2/

Let there be light! Dropping that adapter down behind your desk and not being able to see where it went is never fun. If only you had a flashlight with you. Now you do! This light is very small, but don’t let the size fool you, it cranks out a lot of light! It has 3 settings for 8, 25, and 85 lumens. Solid construction, ability to stand upon end, and fits in your pocket, or coin pocket really well.

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There you have it, The Mighty Trio! If you are looking for some great little tools to carry in your pocket, give these a shot!

Two Factors Are Better Than One

Another year comes to a close, and that marks one more year full of hacks, exploits, and identity theft. There are many things you can do to help keep your data safe, one of which is keeping your online accounts as locked down as you can. You should of course always have strong and secure passwords1, but there are additional things you can do to harden your security measures. One such item, is the use of 2-factor authentication when available. This type of authentication comes in several flavors. It can be text messages, a hardware token generator, software token generator, phone calls, tokens printed out and saved in your wallet, or even a secondary device. Because there are a vast number of ways to setup this type of system, it is common that people will simply skip the addition of 2-factor authentication all together. No matter the implementation, the idea is to have at least one additional piece of information that is needed aside from your password, in order to access the account or service.

There is always a tradeoff between security and convenience, but this doesn’t mean you should be too far in either direction on the scale. I would always push to be as far towards the security side as you can manage on a day-to-day basis. Even one extra measure of security is better than nothing.

When it comes to 2-factor authentication, we are starting to see more services support the feature and more options for users in terms of token generation. One of the first mainstream options that most people have seen is Google Authenticator. Despite the name, this token generator can be used with many more services beside Google’s own properties. It’s a pretty straightforward and simple app that works well.

General Gotchas of 2-Factor Systems– If you lose your phone that has your token generator, and you don’t have backup codes for each account, you will be locked out of those accounts and have to prove your identity to get back in. Remember, this is what you want the system to do for you.- If you wipe your phone for some reason, many token generators do not keep your data, so you will need to setup 2-factor on your accounts again. (similar to above)- You can only use a single device to generate tokens, so if you don’t have that device around, you are somewhat stuck.

The authentication system I have been using lately is called Authy. This system runs on just about all the devices out there, and has one feature that differentiates it from all the other systems out there that I have seen. It allows you to sync your tokens across devices. So, let’s say you don’t have your phone with you, but you do have your iPad, you can simply open Authy on your iPad and get your token from there. There is also a computer client in the form of a Chrome Browser extension, so if you use Chrome, you are set there.

So far I have not had any major issues with Authy, but your mileage of course may vary. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter which app you use, just as long as you are using some kind of extended security on your accounts. Thing are only going to get worse out there in terms of account attacks, and you should do all you can to be proactively secure before something happens and you have to scramble to clean up the mess afterwards.

More info about Authy https://www.authy.com/what-is-authy


1 Please start using 1Password to create really strong passwords and manage them all for you.

Taking A Step Back From Google

I have been on this here internet for a good while. For the vast majority of that time, I have used a mixture of Google products, and historically, there have been few good reasons not to. Search was of course the big draw to get people using Google, but email, calendaring, and other services came along later as well. For a long time, Google’s search has arguably provided the highest quality results in general, and their style of email is usually either highly praised or adamantly disdained, with little room in between. Even more than the quality of their services, the real big draw for many is the price: free. Free, at least in terms of dollar value. It costs you nothing to do a search, send an email, or create a calendar event. Google’s goal is to create products that give the user value in exchange for you being the recipient of ads and ad tracking.

Up to this point I saw no reason to venture outside the Google walls. But, in my typical fashion, I thought it would be interesting to see what else was out there in the various arenas that Google was a part of. In years past, there really weren’t any alternatives that were on par with Google’s offerings; but that was then, and times are a bit different now.

As of yesterday, I was using a Google Apps account to host email, calendar, and contact data for my wife and I. Neither one of us were particularly in love with the overall solution, but it worked ok in a general sense. The event that triggered this Google cancellation was actually a switch in search providers. As I said earlier, Google had been my go-to in the area of search for a while, but that changed a couple weeks ago when I started using DuckDuckGo. This search provider is not new, and I have, in fact, used it in the past. Problem was, it was not available as a default provider within browsers in OS X or iOS, so using it was cumbersome. However, with Safari’s latest updates in both OS X and iOS, DuckDuckGo is now fully integrated, which meant I could finally give it a fair tryout. Somewhat long story short, I have now been using DuckDuckGo for a few weeks and am very happy with the service; it has completely replaced Google search for me. The removal of ads and tracking have been a welcome change, to say the least. I would, however, like to see some way for me to compensate DuckDuckGo to help ensure its resilience in this brutal marketplace.

Changing my search provider was the pebble that started the snowball that has become the diversification of my online life. After this small win, it was time to tackle “the personal service trifecta”: email, calendar, and contacts. Because I use OS X and iOS exclusively, Apple’s iCloud was a good place to start looking. I do, however, want to use a custom domain for my email, so I was only really looking at iCloud for calendars and contacts. The service works really well for those items, and I have not yet had any issues. Email tends to be the difficult one (if you want to use a custom domain). After trialing several solutions, I actually ended up with something I already had access to, but forgot about. I register new domains with Hover, and have moved all of my previous domains to them as well. Hover also has email services, and being that the domain is registered with them, adding email service to the domain was very easy.

In a nut shell, that’s it. I now use the below configuration of services and devices, and don’t rely on Google for anything. I am also now not being tracked or subjected to a barrage of ads through Google search. I have to be clear, I am not faulting Google, or accusing them of wrong doing. I simply do not find their business model to be in line with my best interests.

Service OverviewMail: Hover IMAPCalendar: iCloudContacts: iCloudSearch: DuckDuckGo

DevicesiMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook AirMail: Apple MailCalendar: Apple Calendar, FantasticalContacts: Apple ContactsBrowser/Search: Safari & DuckDuckGo

iPhone 6Mail: Apple MailCalendar: FantasticalContacts: Apple ContactsBrowser/Search: Safari & DuckDuckGo

iPad MiniMail: Apple MailCalendar: FantasticalContacts: Apple ContactsBrowser/Search: Safari & DuckDuckGo

My First Computer

After having another birthday (32nd to be precise) and I sit here at an amazing Late 2013 27" Apple iMac, I got to thinking about the computer that started my life path into the world of computers. Where do I begin? How about we start with the first computer that was all mine! It didn’t belong to my parents, my school, or a friend; just me. Since first using computers, I always had a deep desire for my very own machine. I was amazed at what could be done using a computer, even in the very beginning. This was not the only reason I wanted my own, however; I also wanted to go inside and look around, and learn how and why computers worked at all.

So what was my first personal computer??

It was a Compaq Presario 4784! Wow! Let’s talk specs for a minute.

Specs (from the best of my recollection)- Processor: 200MHz Intel Pentium w/MMX Coprocessor- Memory: 64MB SDRAM- Hard Drive: 10GB Fireball Quantum IDE Hard Drive- 52x CD Drive- Video Card: S3 Virge 3D 2MB PCI Video Card- 56k Modem- 3.5" Floppy Drive- Zip Drive- Windows 98- Compaq USB Web Cam (Actually did Video Calls using Dial up!)

It’s hard to believe how far we have come in every respect, and even more amazing to think about how far we will go into the future, given the same short amount of time. I look forward to sitting shotgun throughout the wild ride we have ahead of us.

What was the first computer you had? How did it shape your life?

Year End Podcast Roundup!

I definitely listen to my fair share of podcasts every week. It is one of the best ways to deal with long unforgiving commutes in the bay area. I recently went through my podcast client and pruned my collection and thought it would be interesting to see how my list compares to your list. So here is my list! What’s on yours?!

My current podcast client of choice: Pocket Casts. iPhone App, iPad App, Web Client (using Fluid SSB on Mac), and Android.*I have tried pretty much every iOS client, and Pocket Casts has the  most reliable sync in my experience.

Podcastsclick image for larger size.