100% Useful: Strong Passwords, Hacking IKEA and Basic Statistics

And the password is …
128px-4-digit_combination_padlockWell, for many people, it’s “password.” Or 1234. But that level of gatekeeping isn’t going to protect your bank, email or Hulu account. Creating a great password is a balancing act where “complicated enough to be protective” needs to meet “easy enough to remember.”  (As someone who hits “send me my password” at least 5 times a day, I confess that I have not yet found that sweet spot.)

In Choosing Secure Passwords, Internet security blogger Bruce Schneier of Schneier on Security gives mnemonic device tips for easy-to-remember but hard-to-decipher passwords. The short version is: He suggests coming up with a personally meaningful sentence and then constructing a password based on the first letters of each word of the sentence. He also describes techniques and devices that hackers use to break a password.

If this information doesn’t worry you, it could mean you’re smart! Schneier’s March 27 post cites a study linking intelligence to a willingness to trust others, Smarter People Are More Trusting. (At the risk of proclaiming myself an idiot, I’d really like to see the numbers from that study.)

If coming up with a catchy sentence isn’t your thing, consult an online password generator. Some are random, some let users set parameters. All require memorization.

German-based Password Creator offers passwords in five categories: Simple, Medium, Golden Middle, Larger and Strong Stuff. Passwords range, respectively, from 5 to 11 characters. All are alphanumeric with Strong Stuff adding special characters. Hit the “Neu Laden”/ refresh button for a new selection of passwords. Pass Creator lets users select combinations of uppercase, lowercase, special characters, numbers and password length.  There’s also the cutesy Password Bird, reliable Norton Identity Safe and many other sites out there.

Want even more protection? Maximum security sites like Perfect Passwords generate random 64 or 63- character long hexidecimal, random ASCII and/or random alpha-numeric high security passwords.

For the love of God, people, write down your passwords. Or get a Password Manager, which does just what it sounds like it does — manages your passwords so you don’t lose them. PCMag did the leg work for you in January with its roundup of The Best Password Managers, priced from free o’ charge to $89.95.


Hack IKEA
What do students love more than IKEA furniture? Absolutely nothing. Not even beer! But before you bustle on 128px-Ikeavästeråsup to Charlotte for meatballs and melamine, make a plan. Start by downloading the IKEA catalog — onlineandroid or iPhone. For inspiration, check out ikeahackers.net, and Pinterest pages 101 IKEA Hacks and DIY Home.

Furniture this cheap doesn’t come without a cost. If you already have IKEA items, take a look at the company’s Product Recalls page. The ounce of prevention could save you from getting crushed, shocked, burned, suffocated, gouged and/or lacerated.


Electronic Existence
128px-Schrodingers_cat.svgA March 27 piece in the Currency section of The New Yorker website takes a look at what happens when our digital doppelganger — our Web presence — moves independently of our living self. A woman who died in 2009 “existed” electronically for 6 years after. Read The Afterlife of Pia Farrenkopf.


Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics
Students, professors and newswatchers are bombarded with statistics, most of them meaningless. But without statistics, where would we be? 35% better off? 75%? 100%? No one can answer that question — mainly because it is a qualitative judgment, not a quantitative one.

Class readings, scholarly studies and project papers include a boatload of data. As a paper writer, you will likely cite statistical examples to support your ideas. And data is impartial, right? The numbers will either pan out for you or they won’t, right? Au contraire, mon frere. You can make those numbers sing and dance in any number of ways. And …. so can others.

Library scholars out there will likely appreciate a 60-year-old book on statistics that is still relevant: How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff (1954 edition, illustrations by Irving Geis). There’s also a 1993 Kindle edition available on amazon for $7.99.

As Librarians and Scholars, we are noble people in search of The Truth, so why would we read such a nefarious sounding book? Why, to learn how to better evaluate what is true and what is false, of course!

The book covers statistic basics such as mean, mode and median; variations; errors; sampling procedure; semiattached figures and more. This is for the non-mathletes among us and is a short, painless, gentle introduction.

graphAn anonymous source and longtime player in the data and analytics industry says: “The only thing I love more than statistics is infographics. They say that 96% of all statistics brought up in a conversation are made up on the spot. … Is this one of those 96% or one of the 4%? I don’t even know.”

For more detailed statistics information, take a look at the YouTube lecture Statistics for Librarians, Part 1 (of 4) from the University of North Texas Libraries. Or, see Khan Academy’s Data and Statistics.

Want statistics fun on the go? Try these apps: Google Play free Statistics CalculatorGoogle Play free Statistics Quick Reference and At My Pace Statistics on iTunes.

Some kids books on statistics that could be helpful to adults are: Statistics for Kids: Model-Eliciting Activities to Investigate Concepts in Statistics (Statistics for Kids, Grades 4-6) and The Cartoon Guide to Statistics.   rsz_images

Believe me when I say that of the 100% of people who read this segment of the blog, 100% will have read this segment of the blog.

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