Category: Miscellaneous

Tips to Strong Passwords for Improved Privacy

LockMany people think the strongest passwords are those made of special/foreign characters such as É, &, * or ¿. A password looking like g&J2!3aQ must be pretty strong right? What about taking a dictionary word, and replacing letters with numbers, for example, 0r4ng3? Well, these two examples aren’t THAT strong.

For a human being without automated tools, the first one is kinda hard to break, and the second one is a bit easier. For a specialized bot though, it’s almost as easy as breaking 87654321. Many algorithms exist to help dishonest people break into your email, bank Web access, or social media accounts. I’m sure all of you will want to prevent that. Following are my personal advices for safer passwords (or pass phrases). Some are based on computer science facts, and others on real experiences from friends, and myself. They can’t be taken as the ultimate truth, but will help you achieve better safety for your multiple on-line accounts.

Don’t use the same password twice

Imagine you are on a public computer signing in to some irrelevant website, let’s say to leave a comment on a forum, and someone sees what you are typing: your email address (which is often used as username), and your password. He can now access your email account if it is protected by the same password. From there, he can do almost anything because he’ll be able to use the “retrieve your password” feature of all other websites you have an account on.

Prefer a long phrase to a complicated short password

As illustrated in this image, the longer the password, the better. More than that, you can choose it so it’s easier for you to remember. “I lost my favorite green shoe” (if it means something to you), is much easier to remember than uJ@ggC9K!.

Some miscellaneous tips for short passwords

If a site limits you to a short password (10 or 12 characters for example), here are some easy tips you can follow :

  • Don’t use dictionary words or people/place names, even with numbers at the beginning or end, this is the first thing password crackers will try
  • Same thing with replacing letters with “matching” numbers: m4st3r, those are broken easily
  • Find something easy to remember so you don’t have to write it down, for example : 1994 with “turtles” (the year you bought your favorite turtles): 1tURt99Les4
  • You might wanna use a more complex combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, and also numbers to make it hard to break for humans

Don’t change your password for no reason

If your account hasn’t been compromised, and if you don’t have a good reason to change your password, don’t change it. You risk forgetting it or maybe not choosing a password as strong as your first one. Remember, it hasn’t been cracked yet! 😉

Please, I’m sure some of you readers will have more tips, and maybe discredit mine, who knows. Feel free to leave your comments.

2012: The Year I Stopped Using Microsoft Products

First, this post is about a personal crusade during which I intend to stop using ALL Microsoft products that I am currently using. My reasons to do such a thing are mostly philosophical, and I won’t start hating Microsoft fans/lovers, and I truly don’t want to start a fight with anyone. But feel free to add your thoughts and ideas to this post.

I work in a company where Microsoft products are too often presented as the only answer to a problem, even if nobody has taken the time to analyze other possible solutions. My team though works very hard to promote open source solutions inside the company, and among our clients. So this whole idea (dropping Microsoft products) came to me at work about 2 weeks ago. I was telling everyone in my team we should stop using MS products just to prove to “the world” that it can be done, and you can still live a happy life. Hehe! To make a long story short, I accepted my own idea/challenge! So here’s what I plan to do over the following months.

Close my Hotmail account

I’ve had a Hotmail account for something like 15 years now, and most accounts I have opened on other websites are linked to it. This is why I’m giving me a couple of months to switch all of them to my Gmail account.

Wipe my home PC… for a Hackintosh!

I have a recent PC at home I use for music recording. My band’s first album (available for free here) was partly recorded with it. Our sound engineer works with a software called Cubase, which is sold for Windows and Mac. Because everyone around me works with Cubase, I need to stick to it. This is why I passed the last few days working on building my own Hackintosh. It’s been kind of an easy operation with the great help of iBoot and Multibeast found on this website. My new Hackintosh with Snow Leopard is up and running, and Cubase 6 works like a charm on it.

I’m not much of a gamer, but I do enjoy a game of Star Craft 2 once in a while. I believe I can download the Mac version of the game directly from my account. That’s good news!

Flex development

Currently working on a mobile Flex (iOS and Android) project at work, I use the Flash Builder IDE everyday, and it’s Windows only. In the following weeks, I will analyze a couple of possibilities I have in front of me, and I should be able to do all my work with Ubuntu. Those are the possible solutions I have found so far:

  • fb4linux, an unofficial port of Adobe Flash Builder
  • Standard Eclipse IDE with a couple of Ant scripts
  • FlashDevelop, offering a Mac/Linux virtualization, what ever that means

Wine for Adobe Photoshop

For most of my needs, I can live with GIMP instead of Photoshop. But for more complex tasks, I prefer Photoshop. After some short research, it seems that Wine is the answer as WineHQ reports gold rating for Adobe Photoshop CS5.

Use Pidgin instead of MSN Messenger (or whatever the new name is)

Pidgin is a great chat client which works over many protocols, including gTalk. This is where I am heading.

Ubuntu as main OS

For all my computers, including my corporate notebook, I will be using Ubuntu as the only or main OS. I have tried a couple of other distros like Linux Mint, but I keep getting back at Ubuntu. My girlfriend will also switch to Ubuntu. No more Windows in the house! This means no more MS Office which will get replaced by LibreOffice and Google Docs.

Replace MS Outlook for corporate emails and meetings

My employer uses Exchange servers worldwide. My own corporate account is configured/hosted on a Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. I’m anxious to see if Thunderbird 11 will offer some level of connectivity, and if not, I will need to explore different avenues. I haven’t thought a lot about this last point yet.

That’s it!

After realizing all those steps, I think my “life” will be Microsoft-free. At least, I will feel like it is. OK, I will probably still be using some services that have Microsoft written somewhere under the hood, such as self-service grocery checkouts. But I think I will still prove that life without buying or owning Microsoft products is possible. This also means no Ford vehicles for me as long as they’ll be equipped with MyFord Touch/Ford Sync, and XBox game nights at friends’ are over. Hahaha!

The Mouse that Saved My Life

Evoluent Vertical Mouse 4Ok… it only saved my right wrist. But when you work as a computer engineer, it’s almost as saving your life.

A love story

First time I heard about Evoluent’s VerticalMouse was on TV in show where they were comparing ergonomic mice, about 7 years ago (wow, it’s been a while). Some time after that, I bought a VerticalMouse 2 which, to be honest, took me a bit more than a week to completely master. I loved this mouse from day one, even if I had some difficulty using it at first. But with it’s great resolution, capability to work on all surfaces I’ve tried, its very light weight, the way I never have to move my wrist while using it, and feeling all the weight of my arm being supported by my forearm and not my wrist, I knew I had found the right mouse.

Why I started using this mouse in the first place

First of all, my right wrist suffered many brutal shocks in the time I was a skatepark adept. Second of all, I’m still an active snowboarder, and that sport often gets hard on the wrists. Finally, I’m a bass player, and I play with with my fingers only. Also, I’ve seen many people with carpal tunnel problems who had to have cortisone shots in their wrists… Anyway. At the time I thought: “I know I’ll have to use a mouse at work all my life, so why not act today?!”

New model review

After 7 seven years with my VerticalMouse 2, it recently stopped working. That’s why I ordered a standard size VerticalMouse 4 on Monday. It finally arrived today, and I’ve been using it for several hours now. I am so NOT disappointed! I love the space they added for your little finger, the fact that I can change the precision (or resolution) with a hardware button is very useful, and the shape of the mouse itself has greatly improved since version 2. They also added a second thumb button, which I use as a forward button. As I’m already a VerticalMouse use, it felt comfortable right away. Finally, it looks great with blue logo light and three green precision level lights.

I totally recommend this mouse to anyone who already has wrists problems or forearm problems or someone who wants to PREVENT problems. If you’re in the same position I am, you’ll be using a mouse at least 40 hours a week for the next 30 years or so. It might be the right time to start preventing recurrent problems.

Best and Easiest Flash Player Setup for Ubuntu

Flash-Aid LogoLike many Ubuntu users out there, you have probably had problems with Flash Player in the past. I’ve had a lot myself, mostly related to poor performance, and sometimes with strange behavior such as videos playing too fast. People at Ubuntu have done a good job at adding better Flash support in the last year or two but I often feel it’s still not enough. This is why I have been using the Flash-Aid plugin for Firefox for many months now.

Helping Firefox, but also Chromium

According to the official page, this Firefox add-on removes conflicting flash plugins from Ubuntu Linux systems, installs the appropriate version according to system architecture and applies some tweaks to improve performance and fixes common issues. All that in a single click! And because Chromium (and I suppose other browsers you may like) uses the same Flash packages, Flash-Aid will also “help” them.

How to install and use in Firefox 4

  1. Open Firefox
  2. Go to Tools / Add-ons menu
  3. In the Add-ons Manage, type “flash-aid” (without the quotes) in the search box located  in the top right corner
  4. In the result list, locate Flash-Aid and click its install button located on the same row
  5. Restart Firefox, you should now have the Flash-Aid icon in the top right corner of your browser
  6. Click the icon and follow instructions
  7. You now have one of the best Flash installations possible


If you are also a Windows user, you will notice performance downgrade compared to Windows. At this point, you should mostly blame Adobe who won’t put more effort in their Linux support.

If you have any other tip or trick to Flash tweaking, don’t hesitate to post them.

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