Archive for February, 2011

Google Two-Factor Authentication

Google has recently enabled two-factor authentication for Google products like Gmail. What is two-factor authentication? It means that in addition to providing your password, you need to provide a random verification number that Google will send to your phone, either via an app, a text message, or an actual phone call. Thus, to log in, you need two things: a password and your phone. With only one or the other, you can’t get it. This is much stronger than a password alone, which is why some banks have been moving to two-factor authentication for customers. Google’s decision to enable it for email, and for just about everybody with an account, is certainly groundbreaking.

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Dayton’s budget

Governor Dayton released his budget yesterday. It was essentially the budget that he campaigned on: higher income taxes on the richest 5% of Minnesotans (who aren’t paying their fair share in state taxes in the first place), protections against property taxes increases by not slashing LGA to the bone, more K-12 education spending, and no draconian cuts to health care. Nobody should have been surprised by this budget, as it reflects his vision for Minnesota as he has often described it.

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Motorola loses a customer

I have written earlier about my displeasure with Motorola’s delay in upgrading my Cliq XT from Android OS 1.5 to 2.1. That update was in September, when the upgrade was supposed to be out by the end of the year. Fast forward to February, and in the end, Motorola gave up. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are incredibly mad, me included. As a result of this fiasco, I will never buy a Motorola device again.

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When is a government benefit not a government benefit?

When is a government benefit not a government benefit? Apparently, when you are on the receiving end of it. So says a recent column by Bruce Bartlett, former Treasury Secretary under George H. W. Bush, today in the Fiscal Times. In a stunning table that was also referenced by the Economix blog, it shows that majorities of people who enjoy the benefits of government programs do not understand that they are, in fact, government programs.

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Useful Computer Utilities: KeePass

Some time ago I blogged about the password manager I had been using for many years: Password Safe. It’s a great program, one that I recommend wholeheartedly. However, I’ve since switched to a new manager: KeePass. Like Password Safe, it is a pretty functional password manager that allows you to automatically generate and save passwords. Also like Password Safe, KeePass is open-source.

Why did I switch? Well, essentially because I like the interface and functions better in KeePass. The UI looks a bit better, and there is a graphical representation of how strong a password is. Other than that, though, it’s almost identical to Password Safe. Password Safe is even a bit easier to use for the novice, as it doesn’t have quite as many options to fiddle with as KeePass. One issue with KeePass 2.x is that is requires the .NET architecture, which isn’t always available, especially if you plan on using it on a computer that you don’t have control over.

I’d unhesitantly recommend either of the two for your password manager needs. Play with both of them and decide which one you like better. But pick and use some kind of manager. Using strong, random passwords is an important part of security, and password managers help make doing so simpler.

Opting out of the health care market

Lawsuits have been filed, conflicting court decisions have been handed down, and ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide whether Obama’s health care reform will be constitutional. The main argument proffered by those against the bill is that the law regulates economic inaction, something that opponents claim Congress does not have the power to do. But is that really the case? Is it possible to opt out of the health care economy in this country? I’m not a lawyer, but I think that the answer to this question can be found in a law passed 25 years ago, one that everybody takes for granted. A law that has done a great deal to put us in the situation we are in today.

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