Security

November 15, 2010

This recent article got me thinking a little bit about internet security. It’s actually quite sad that I don’t think about it more often, considering I’m an electrical and computer engineer and I  work 8-12 hours a day in front of a computer connected to the net.

I think when people think about internet security, most think of things like viruses, or trojans, or some hacker out there trying to get access to your files. But chances are, these things will almost never happen to you as long as you 1.) don’t open questionable emails/attachments and 2.) don’t visit questionable websites.

Considering that firewall and spyware removal is included as part of Windows and the abundance of anti-viruses out there, it it actually pretty difficult to get malicious software installed on your computer. I think the last time I got an actual virus was in high school.

So no, the type of internet security people should actually be thinking about are the small stuff, the stuff that aren’t really intuitive. Things like that described in the article.

I think most people just don’t realize that when they’re using a public hotspot, they are essentially broadcasting everything they’re doing on the internet to whoever else is in the area. And let’s be honest, if someone can pretend to be you to your email provider, how long would it take them to access every other account you own? This is also why you should encrypt your home wireless, not just so your neighbors can’t use it to torrent movies.

The other thing I’ve noticed that people don’t do is tiering their access information. i.e. Having passwords and email accounts with different level of security. This one should really be common sense. Don’t use the same password for your bank account as you do for the free account you have to make to play that super cool flash game. Likewise, don’t use your main email when signing up for that neat new media site that all your friends are talking about.

The truth of the matter is that the strength of your password is almost never going to come into question. Unless you’re some high profile person, or have access to high profile information, the chance of someone actually trying to brute force your password is virtually non-existent. The time and resources it would take to brute force the password for my bank account probably costs more than what I have in that account.

Okay, let’s end with a mildly related xkcd comic.

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Life Lessons

October 25, 2010

It should be no surprise to hear that I spent a large percent of my childhood(and to a much lesser extent, my current life) playing video games. And while I’ll fully admit that the time wasted in front of the screen could’ve probably been put to better use elsewhere, I didn’t exactly come out with nothing for all the effort I put in. So here’s a list I’ve came up with showing all the wonderful things I’ve learned from playing games:

Travel Skills – This is probably the only thing useful that came out of playing World of Warcraft all those years. Namely, map reading skills and how to travel via public transportation. I shouldn’t be surprised I guess, the DC metro map is like child’s play compared to the monstrosity that are the flightpaths for WoW.

Money Management – Video Game: Save money, buy giant sword. Real Life: Save money, buy furniture?

Vocabulary – Mostly terms related to medieval armory… but it did come in useful during my SATs!

Musical Skills – Rock Band.

Motor Skills – Various hand-eye coordination skills. Not as useful as one would think.

Typing Skills – Back in the day when voice chat wasn’t as prevalent in games, typing was the only way to talk to people online. Faster typing = less death by goblin hordes. It was a pretty good incentive to learn how to type fast. Unfortunately it was also an incentive to get people to start typing like they’re missing a chromosome.

Social Skills – You wouldn’t think so, given the bad rap that video games have for creating anti-social basement-dwellers, but I would argue the correlation goes in the other direction. For me, gaming is very much a social activity. Almost all of my favorite games involve some kind of multi-player. This is especially true for MMOs (although I don’t play anymore), which is all about the teamwork and building social relationships.

Multi-Tasking

October 18, 2010

Something I’ve always kind of envied is the ability to multi-task. This includes any number of things, like watching TV while working, or carrying two conversations at a time, or talking on the phone while playing a game. None of which I can do.

For me, I can only keep focus on one thing and everything else is background. So the only things I can really multi-task are manual tasks that I can do without thinking, like cleaning, or exercising, etc. For everything else it’s one at a time or none at all. So when I’m driving, I can’t listen to anything that requires comprehension (language tapes, books on tapes, podcasts, etc.), even conversations with the passengers have to be kept pretty light. When I’m on the phone I can’t chat with someone on IM at the same time.

Just the other weekend, I was over at Dan’s and he was playing a game while listening to baseball on the radio. All I was doing was watching him play the game, and I couldn’t even hear the radio anymore, it might as well have been the refrigerator humming. This became particularly funny, because Dan would regularly make remarks about something that the announcer said on the radio, and every single time I would go “What?” and then gave him a look like he’s pulling crazy talk out of the air.

Favorite

October 11, 2010

My Favorite…

Candy: Swiss Chocolate

Music Genre: Alternative/Punk

Way to Spend Time: With Friends

Food: Chinese (Authentic)

Drink: Tea

Hobby: Video Games

Book: Ender’s Game

Movie: The Incredibles

Place: The Alps

Sport to Play: Ping-pong(?)

Sport to Watch: Soccer

Planet: Jupiter

Classes

September 6, 2010

Classes started last week. I’m a third year now, so it doesn’t feel quite the same as when classes used to start. For one thing, I’m only taking one class this semester. There’s no anticipation, no worrying about how well I’m going to do. The grades don’t even really matter anymore (as long as I don’t fail). I’m taking the class because it’s something I want to learn, not because I’m forced to meet some requirement.

Personally, I think how I feel right now is how undergrad should have been.  Rather than a rat race of random courses and achieving good marks, it should’ve been an opportunity to learn I wanted to learn. I don’t know how they would implement something like that without making loopholes for people to take advantage of, while still managing to provide a broad learning experience. All I know is that something is definitely wrong with the system. Two years after graduation, and almost everything we did in undergrad is practically worthless. The grades and courses we took doesn’t matter. Application wise, only the very basic fundamentals ever really comes into use. Hell, I can’t even remember three-quarters of the classes I supposedly learned.

I realized some time ago that the most important thing I got out of  going to Cornell was the people and connections I made. It’s a shame too, because as it turned out, that was what I spent the least amount of time focusing on during my four years there.

10 Pet Peeves

August 9, 2010

1.)Sighs – Most… depressing… sound… ever.

2.)Smoke – Any kind: cigarette, weed, firewood(which is sad, I like looking at fires). Gives me migrains and sticks to my clothes.

3.)Accounts that periodically force you to change your password to one you’ve never used before. – By the seventh or eighth one I can’t even remember it. Particularly bad if you can’t use any part of your old passwords either.

4.)People that throw bottles into the trash when there’s a recycling bin right next to it. – On a similar note, people that throw trash into the recycling bin, and people that “recycle” newspapers by tossing it into the bottles bin(Some idiot in my building does this regularly, so every few days I have to fish out a newspaper.)

5.)Having a chair put down on my foot. – Ouch.

6.)When different foods/tastes don’t mix well. – For example: drinking white grape juice right after brushing your teeth, or drinking orange vitamin water while chewing gum.

7.)Clutter – Something about not being able to find things that just drives me nuts. It sucks because I’m a pretty messy person.

8.)The sound of markers on paper. – I just shivered thinking about it.

9.) Humidity. – It’s like I’m sweating… all the time.

10.)Forgetting. – I can’t remember why this is on the list.

Tragic Flaw

August 2, 2010

I think if I had to name one quality that is the bane of my existence–the one thing I would fix about myself if I had a chance,  it would probably be the fact that I panic.

I think the problem isn’t just that I panic, because I’m pretty sure everyone panics. Its more an issue of how I handle situations that would induce me to panic. Call it what you want: buckling under the pressure, not being able to handle the heat… the idea is the same. In situations where I’m not prepared I would simply blank out and freeze up. Rather than actually thinking about how to solve problem X, or how to handle situation Y, my mind get filled with “HOLY SHIT WHAT AM I GOING TO DO THERE IS NO WAY I CAN DO THIS @#!%%@ MOTHER @!#$@ @#% GOD @#$#@#!! NOW EVERYONE IS STARING AT ME OH GOD THIS IS SO EMBARRASSING WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I SEE THIS COMING AHHHHH FML“, only on infinite repeat.

What makes me so angry about it all is that if I could just focus my mind, most of the time I would be just fine. I can’t even begin to count the number of times where I would leave an entire question empty on an exam, and then solve the problem in my head 5 minutes after I walked out the door, when I’ve calmed down. And it’s not just about high stress situations either. Let’s say I’m with a friend and there’s a lull in a conversation, rather than thinking about something to say, I would think about how I can’t think of anything to say. Or if I can’t recall something trivial, rather than trying to remember, I would think about how stupid I am for forgetting something so simple. If need to get a  bunch of stuff done, but don’t have the time, I would end up wasting more time despairing about how I’m going to do it all than it would take to actual do one of the tasks. And the list goes on and on.

Think of it like this. Let’s say you own an old car, and this car isn’t great at climbing hills. If this car is anything like my mind, then whenever it hits a steep slope, rather than ramping up the horsepower and switching to a lower gear, it would simply just spray cheese whiz all over its engine.

I bet you just went “Urg, that’s disgusting.” Yeah, that’s how I feel about myself every time I panic.

I think..

July 9, 2010

That RSS readers should have a 10 minute grace period, just in case you accidentally publish a future post…

If you read it, it’ll make more sense in a week. If you didn’t, you’ll have to wait two weeks.

Little Things

February 16, 2010

Lately, it feels like I’m always riding on the fast track. My little todo whiteboard at my desk is constantly full, regardless of how much I get done in a day. If it’s not paper deadlines, then it’s preparing for meetings,  or fixing administrative problems, or helping the new folks in the lab, or just plain good old fashion homework.  Half the time I don’t even feel like I’m doing research. All I ever seem to be thinking about is that next deadline which is coming up way too fast.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s been a pretty good month. I got to hang out with Dan quite a bit. We went up to Ithaca last weekend to see a hockey game and what friends we still have left in the area. It’s always a little weird going back. The place doesn’t change much, but every time it feels less and less like somewhere I should be.

It snowed like crazy last week. I think we got like 20 something inches over the weekend and then another 10-15 the Wednesday after. And since the snow budget for Baltimore is like 14 inches for the whole year (and we already had a huge storm in December), the city was mess. Large roads were all reduced to single lanes and small roads were shut down completely. JHU was closed the entire week (which we get to make up at the end of the semester).

Good news though was that I ended up passing my quals. Haven’t really had a chance to talk to my advisor about it, but that’s quite a weight off my back. I was almost sure I had to retake it. Now I just gotta make it through my GBO in a year or so.

Oh, one more thing… apparently it is now the year of the Tiger. I’m suppose to be super lucky this year because of that…. but I had one of those 12 years ago and I don’t remember anything super awesome happening. We’ll see I guess.

One Crazy Weekend

December 22, 2009

I’m little angry at wordpress at the moment. I wrote this gigantic post about this weekend, but when I went to publish it, only the first, second and fourth paragraph got saved. So I’m just going to do a highlight:

-Gigantic Snow storm(about a foot and a half)
-Almost missed a ride to the airport because the taxis I called(and the one I reserved days in advance) didn’t feel like showing up. Ended up lucking out when a lady I worked with over the summer walked by after shoveling the snow off her car to get ready to go to the airport.
-Got SUPER lucky with my plane reservations being at night. It turned out that every flight on Saturday and Sunday morning were canceled and people were getting bumped until Wednesday.
-While boarding, I lined up right behind a good friend of mine from high school, who I haven’t seen in like 6 years. I convinced the guy sitting next to her to trade seats with me(middle seat for my window seat? didn’t take much convincing). We ended up talking for like 2-3 hours of the 5 hour plane ride, which is probably a record for how long I’ve ever stayed awake on the plane.
-Got home and it turned out that my Mom had invited a girl from University of Nebraska-Lincoln to stay with us for the whole break. Apparently she’s one of my grandma’s former students. My mom’s persistent… gotta give her that.