Cracking weak passwords

A really interesting read over at One Mans entitled “How I’d crack your weak passwords“. The article outlines how he’d go about cracking weak passwords, which involves making some educated guesses which in 20% of cases actually succeed. If they don’t he resorts to brute force attacks.The attacks can vary in the amount of time they take to crack a password, with the time increasing depending on the strength of the password. Here’s a table that demonstrates this, and should illustrate why its a good idea to use strong passwords:

People are generally very bad at selecting strong passwords, the OneMan provides a some tips on how you can go about selecting a strong password. One tool that he recommends and that I have used in the past is Microsofts Password Strength Tester. Another tool is Google’s password checker, which is driven by a URL request that returns an integer in the range 1 – 4, where 4 means Strong and 1 means very weak, for example, the password “123456” returns 1 denoting its very weak:

https://www.google.com/accounts/RatePassword?Passwd=123456

It’s relatively simple to integrate Google’s solution into your own web applications, however I should point out that the company does not provide any official branding or user interface, and im not sure how long they will continue to provide it.

Google Apps Launches premium offerings

Everyone knew it would happen sooner or later but it’s official. Google is launching a premium service for companies wishing to use Google’s on-line app’s as opposed to traditional desktop suites such as MS Office. The premium package includes a custom 10GB Gmail inbox, Google Calendar, Writely, Google Spreadsheet, GTalk IM, Google Pages, Google Custom Home page, and iGoogle – the price will be around $50 per Employee per year, as opposed to MS Office which costs between $500-$600 per license..

You can read more about the competitive pricing in this articly over on NY Times. It’s going to be interesting to see how Microsoft react, however I doubt they’re will be any immediate impact from this, it will take time for Google to take any significant market share for the simple reason that I personally don’t believe large organisations are ready to trust Google with all their corporate data … yet!
I’ve been using OpenOffice for a while now, I also have MS Office on my works laptop. My own feeling is that as much people berate Microsoft, the Office suite is actually really quite good. Open Office is catching up, but does have a fair way to go in terms of a feature by feature comparison. Google’s Writely ( word processor ) doesn’t come close to having the same number of features in it as either of the other two, but the question is … does it need to? I don’t think it does. Most users probably dont use more than 30% of the features ( if that ) in MS Word – I know I don’t! ( admittedly I’d still love to use LaTex ).

Google’s new offering is not only a threat to both OpenOffice and MS Office, it’s an excellent example of how, with today’s technologies, you can liberate people from the desktop and deliver compelling Software as a Service Solutions, that users can use … anywhere! They’re not tied down to a single machine … and that’s really cool!

In fact find out more over at the Official Google blog.

UseIt.com – Usability in Movies — Top 10 Bloopers

Had sweet little christmas lunch in the hospital visiting M with our little gang. Its been a nice day so far, hope your all having a great christmas?

Anyway, didnt get round to posting this up last night so here goes …

Jakob Nielsen posted up his list of top 10 usability bloopers in movies. Its actually a fascinating read, and does make me smile. However science fiction has provided the inspiration for many technological advancements, take a look at this demo of a Minority Report like gesture based interface being developed over at Microsoft Research.

Google Tech Talk : 7 ways to ruin a technological revolution

James Boyle gives a fascinating talk about how one might go about undermining the technological revolution of the last 30 years. It’s an alarmist talk, he exaggerates for comic effect but not all that much and it’s extremely thought provoking, especially when we consider the question … how many of those things are we doing now? Much of the talk is around Intellectual Property rights and what that has meant to the technological revolution up and until now, and also how it might evolve going forward. Also he touches on Google’s standpoint on copyright and IP with reference to the Libraries project and Google Books.

One of the funniest anecdotes he mentions is when he spoke to someone from one of the collections societies and said to them “theres always been a private space where people can enjoy music, like in the shower” to which the indivual replied “thats just a problem of monitoring” , on the grounds that it could be interpreted as a performance! 😉

Installing IE6 and IE7 on One Machine … well kind of.

I’ve been playing around with testing some changes to the user interface for our Project Cenote research prototype. Unfortunatly the new IE7 update was rolled across all the machines at work and it means I cant test to see how the changes I’m playing with look or even work in IE6. Anyway I tried to look around to see if it was at all possible to have both version of the browser running on a single machine – and thats when I came across an interesting article by Jennifer Kyrnin entitled How to install two version of IE( IE6 and IE7) on One Machine.

I was a little disappointed though I guess I was kind of hoping for a solution that didnt involve creating a Virtual Machine. The article does tell you exactly how to get two versions of IE working on the One Machine, however the only way to get it to work is to use run a Virtual PC running an instance of Windows XP that has IE6 installed in it. That way your native PC has IE7 and you can flick to your VPC to test pages with IE6. Its an excellent little tutorial and well worth a read if you need to get around the problem. I prefer VMWare over VPC and I guess I’ll get our wonderful support team to set up a VMImage running WinXP for me without the IE7 patch but still ….

I do get a bit frustrated at the fact that I cant simply choose to install IE7 without loosing the ability to use IE6 … but that would probably mean that Microsoft would have to seperate their browser from the OS – of which its still seamingly an integral part.

Oh well its a good thing that IE isn’t the only browser out there … did I mention how much I really, really like Firefox! It’s totally free, you can run more than one version on a single machine, and its still much better rounded and far more extensible than IE.

Get Firefox

Platform dependent file-locking

MS Windows and Linux handle file locking differently. This article describes both approaches in detail. To summarise though, when you open a file for reading, under windows it prevents others from deleting it or writing to it, however under Linux it does not.

I fell foul of this while trying to run some Java based unit tests that worked perfectly well under Linux but started throwing errors on windows.

Microsoft Labs – Photosynth

I’ve been playing with Photosynth over at Microsoft Live Labs. My first reaction was … wow!  Every now and again you come across something that makes you sit up and ask how the hell did they do that? The demo bascially takes a number of images of an object or a place and creates a scene, which is a detailed 3D model that gives the user the sensation that he or she is “flying” around the model.