Google Purge is the final step in Google’s master-plan to index everything ever printed. The Google Purge project will systematically destroy all information Google is unable to index.

This article from The Onion outlines Google’s plans for this and future projects, including indexing of DNA, designed to ensure there is nothing Google doesn’t have indexed.

Read the full article here.

Technorati tags: , ,

MasterWish LogoIntroducing MasterWish.com, a new kind of wish-list!

For the better part of this year Matt Batchelder, Zach Tirrell and I have been working hard on this site and we are happy to announce that it is now ready for prime-time.

MasterWish is a wish list site with a whole lot more. Items on MasterWish can be from anywhere. Make up your birthday list with items from your favorite online vendors, but don’t stop there… You want things that may not come from online vendors. How about that nice lilac you saw at the garden center? Or that circular saw from the hardware store? Add those too! You can list items from anywhere and enter a web URL, a description of where to find it, or both!

Once you have a bunch of items you can organize them into lists. I have lists for music, videos, kitchen toys, and more, but the great thing is items can belong to more than one list. My birthday is coming up so I created a birthday list and added items from all my categories to it. It’s that easy.

The other big difference with MasterWish is you can control who sees your wish lists. You can create a wish list of what you want from friends and one for family and control who can see them.

There is much more to MasterWish than I have mentioned here, but the best way to learn more is to sign up for an account! It’s free (and will always be free) and I think it’s pretty cool.

MasterWish is still in beta, so we’re still working on improving and streamlining the site. If you have any suggestions please leave them at the Bugs & Suggestions link. We’ll do our best to implement everyone’s suggestions.

I hope you enjoy the site, Make lots of suggestions, and get everything you wish for.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

The problem

At Plymouth State University we, like many institutions and organizations are facing the challenges of password maintenance for our twenty-some-odd thousand constituents, many of whom may never visit our campus. As our systems become more integrated, password security becomes more important. Today a user accesses everything from address information to grades to financial information all with the same password.

Historically a system was used in which an initial password was set up for users when their accounts were created. In the case of a forgotten password, a user could present a college ID in person (which they had to present a government issued ID to obtain) and we could update their password. This has proven to be time consuming for the IT department and is inconvenient to our growing audience of distance education students and alumni.

Other popular solutions to this problem currently being used at other organizations include the use of security questions, alternate email addresses, or remote assurance of identity by a third party (e.g. notary.) None of these options provide a complete or ideal solution for the following reasons:

Security questions:
– Answers to standard questions like “What is your mother’s maiden name?” or “What is your pet’s name?” can be easily researched or even guessed.
– Offering a free-form question frequently results in overly simple question/answer pairs such as the question: “What color is the sky?” with the answer: “Blue.”

Alternate email address:
– As we provide email services we do not want to require the user to maintain a separate email service.
– Email accounts, especially those associated with an ISP are rarely permanent.
– Email addresses may be re-used resulting in password information being sent to a third party.

Remote identity providers:
– Time consuming, cumbersome and costly for the end user.
– Involves extensive manual processing at the institution.
– Difficult to identify remote identity providers globally.

Another potential solution which has become available is Faces. This is a commercial solution which presents the user with a series of faces to remember. To authorize the user to change their password, they identify the unique pattern of faces they were given to remember. The company claims users have no problem remembering their face-code after two years; however, our user relationship may last 80 years or more. This solution is also likely to be costly.

Our solution

Faced with this password management challenge, Zach Tirrell and I have formulated the following solution.

When a user obtains an account in our system, regardless of their relationship with the institution (student, faculty, alumni, guest) they will receive a username and Password Change Authorization Code (PCAC) through the mail. The PCAC is a 32 character code, unique to that user.

Upon receiving the PCAC, the user is instructed to keep it in a safe place, such as with their birth certificate or social security card. While the user’s account has been created it is initially locked. With PCAC in hand, the user accesses a secure web form on our site. They are prompted for their username, PCAC, and their desired password. Upon entering a password which fits our requirements (capitalization, numbers, etc.) the account is unlocked and the user may now log in with their password.

Users can change their passwords at any time with their current password. If the user has forgotten their current password they can change it with the same procedure as when they set it up, provided they have access to their PCAC. This offers the user the opportunity to change their password anytime from anywhere and frees them from the necessity of either providing personal identifying information over the phone or having to be physically on campus.

Of course we do expect some users will loose their PCAC. A user can request a new PCAC be sent to them at a known address at any time. Even without their current password we would mail a new code to the user. This cannot be done without the time lag of a few days in the mail; however if the user fulfils their responsibility to keep their PCAC in a safe place they should never encounter this delay.

This solution has the potential to increase the security of user passwords, decrease the time to reset passwords, and decrease the amount of human intervention and IT time involved in password maintenance. Perhaps more significantly the responsibility for securing and resetting passwords is put in the hands of the user.

This flowchart (pdf) outlines the entire password process. I have also provided an example of the PCAC here.

This process is still in the design stages here at Plymouth State University. While we are airing it internally we are also looking for outside opinions. If you have any suggestions or comments please leave a comment here, or email me at jon@lifeaftercoffee.com.

To read more about our procedure, check out Zach Tirrell’s post about this procedure on his blog.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Google is a great (arguably the best) resource for keyword searching on the internet, but many folks don’t realize what else Google is capable of.

Here is a short list of things I use Google for, beyond just searching.

Track packages – Enter a package tracking number for any carrier (I’ve tried UPS, FedEX and USPS) and Google will give you a link to track the package. It’s usually easier and quicker than using the carrier’s page.

Movie show times – Type “movie:” and your zip code or city/state and get a listing of local movie theatres, movies and show times.

Phone number to name and address – Type in a listed phone number and get a name and address of the owner of the number. This is great for finding the address of businesses.

Get a map for a city – Type in a US zip code or city, state and get a link to the map for that zip code.

Define a word – Type “define: ” in the search box followed by a word you want defined and get a definition of that word.

Do math – Google is capable of most mathematic functions. Just type the math you want to do right in the search box and hit search. The result will be at the top of the list. You could write a chapter on just this feature, but most of the functions are defined on this help page.

Convert to and from roman numerals – Enter a search like “28 in roman numerals” or “MCMLXVI in decimal” and get a quick conversion. You will need to put the roman numeral in all capial letters.

Measurement unit converter – Convert measurements of anything from cooking ingredients to rotational force just by typing a search like “2 cups in tablespoons”

Currency converter – Similar to the measurement converter, just type something like “32 US Dollars in British Pounds” and get a quick currency conversion.

So you can see that Google wants to be much more to us than just a search engine. Learn more on this Google help page or try some of the tricks through the search box below. Enjoy!



Google

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

It’s always fun seeing what the folks at Google are up to. While there are several cool things in the lab at Google, I think Google Suggest is particularly interesting.

As you enter search terms in suggest mode (which looks surprisingly familiar,) Google makes some educated guesses and offers some additional words to narrow your search.

Google offers this description:

What is Google Suggest?

As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you’re typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google’s “Did you mean?” feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type “bass,” Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include “bass fishing” or “bass guitar.” Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like “progr,” Google Suggest might offer you refinements like “programming,” “programming languages,” “progesterone,” or “progressive.” You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse.

After trying suggest on a few of my common search terms it seems like the suggestions could be useful for narrowing down searches, but I think the bigger advantage may be helping less savvy computer users understand the power of Google and get better, faster, more accurate results.

Check out Google Suggest at www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en

Technorati tags: , , ,

« Previous PageNext Page »