Free Fallin’

Here’s one of things that just sucks about the internet age:   premature news of the worst kind.  First we hear that Tom Petty is dead, then we hear that the LAPD didn’t intend to confirm his passing.  And now we are left to wonder, and hope.

I was never a huge Tom Petty fan, but he wrote at least one perfect song:  Free Fallin’.  It’s an anthem, and one of those songs that perfectly captures the modern world, where things are just . . . adrift.  Here’s hoping, against hope, that the reports are wrong.

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Passworded Out

Over the weekend I got another of those messages telling me that my password for my handheld device was expiring, and it was time to come up with another one.

I groaned with dismay, then I sat there for a few minutes, thinking hard about how I could possibly come up with yet another “unique combination” of letters, numerals, and characters that I would be capable of remembering.  Because, after years of coming up with passwords, I’ve just about run dry.

passwords-on-sticky-notes-smallAt first, way back at the dawn of the data security era, coming up with passwords for my handheld and the computer system at work was kind of fun — like being a secret agent who knew the right code word to gain access to information.  Then it became a part of the routine.  But over time passwords became viewed as more important in the war against hackers, and longer and more complex “strong passwords” became the norm, and new policies were implemented to require that passwords be changed much more frequently.  After years passed in which passwords needed to be changed every 60 days, and I’ve therefore had to create and remember dozens and dozens of separate passwords only to see them vanish without a trace after only a few months, the act of password creation became drudgery, and finally it became a telltale sign of my clearly dwindling resources in the password creation creativity department.

I’ve used just about every mnemonic technique I can think of to create passwords.  Dog names.  Nicknames.  Streets where I’ve lived.  Places where I’ve worked.  Rock bands I’ve enjoyed listening to.  Old addresses.  The year our family first moved to Columbus.  The name of the unfortunate defendant in a legal case that my law school classmates and I made into a running joke. The phone number from a commercial jingle that I’ve somehow remembered since childhood.  The name of the robot maid on The Jetsons.   Pretty much everything in the memory bin, down to the most trivial bit of debris, has been hauled out and applied to satisfy the insatiable appetite for fresh passwords . . . and still the demands for new passwords keep coming.  It’s exhausting.

Can we please go back to the days of password1234?