Category Archives: Technology

Password Managers. Yes You Need One.

If you can remember all of your passwords, they’re not good passwords.

I used to teach people how to create “good” passwords. Those passwords needed to be lengthy, hard to guess and easy to remember. There were lots of tricks to make your passwords better, and for years, that was enough.

That’s not enough anymore.

It seems that another data breach happens almost daily, exposing sensitive information for millions of users, which means you need to have separate, secure passwords for each site and service you use. If you use the same password for any two sites, you’re making yourself vulnerable if any single database gets compromised.

There’s a much bigger conversation to be had regarding the best way to protect data. Is the “password” outdated? Should we have something better by now? Granted, there is two-factor authentication, which is a great way to help increase the security on accounts. But although passwords remain the main method for protecting accounts and data, there needs to be a better way to handle them—that’s where password managers come into play.

The Best Password Manager

No, I’m not burying the lede by skipping to all the reviews. As Doc Searls, Katherine Druckman and myself discussed in Episode 8 of the Linux Journal Podcast, the best password manager is the one you use. It may seem like a cheesy thing to say, but it’s a powerful truth. If it’s more complicated to use a password manager than it is to re-use the same set of passwords on multiple sites, many people will just choose the easy way.

Sure, some people are geeky enough to use a password manager at any cost. They understand the value of privacy, understand security, and they take their data very seriously. But for the vast majority of people, the path of least resistance is the way to go. Heck, I’m guilty of that myself in many cases. I have a Keurig coffee machine, not because the coffee is better, but because it’s more convenient. If you’ve ever eaten a Hot Pocket instead of cooking a healthy meal, you can understand the mindset that causes people to make poor password choices. If the goal is having smart passwords, it needs to be easier to use smart passwords than to type “password123” everywhere.

The Reason It Might Work Now

Mobile devices have become the way most people do most things online. Heck, Elon Musk said that we’ve become cybernetic beings, it’s just that the bandwidth to our cybernetic components is really slow (that is, typing on our phones). It’s always been possible to have some sort of password management app on your phone, but until recently, the operating systems didn’t integrate with password managers. That meant you’d have to go from one app into your password manager, look up the site/app, copy the password, switch back to the app, paste the password, and then hope you got it right. Those days are thankfully in the past.

Both recent Android systems and iOS (Apple, not Cisco) versions allow third-party password managers to integrate directly into the data entry system. That means when you’re using a keyboard to type in a login or password, in any app, you can pull in a password manager and enter the data directly with no app switching. Plus, if you have biometrics enabled, most of the time you can unlock your password database with a fingerprint or a view of your face. (For those concerned about the security of biometric-only authentication, it can, of course, be turned off, but remember how important ease of use is for most people!)

So although password managers have been around for years and years, I truly believe it’s only with the advent of their integration into the main operating system of mobile devices that people will actually be able to use them widely. Not all Linux users will agree with me, and not all people in general will want their passwords available in such an easy manner. For the purpose of this article, however, a mobile option is a necessity.

A Tale of Two Concepts

Remember when “the cloud” was a buzzword that didn’t really mean anything specific, but people used it all the time anyway? Well, now it very clearly means servers or services run on computers you don’t own, in data centers you don’t control. The “cloud” is both awesome and terrible. When it comes to storing password data, many people are rightfully concerned about cloud storage. When it comes to password managers, there are basically two types: the kind that stores everything in a local database file and those that store the database in the cloud.

The cloud-based storage isn’t as unsettling as it seems. When the database is stored on the “servers in the sky”, it’s encrypted before it leaves your device. Those companies don’t have access to your actual passwords, just the highly encrypted database that holds them—as long as you trust the companies to be honest about such things. For what it’s worth, I do think the major companies are fairly trustworthy about keeping their grubby mitts off your actual passwords. Still, with the closed-source options, a level of trust is required that some people just aren’t willing to give. I’m going to look at password managers from both camps.

The Contenders

I picked five(-ish) password managers for this review. Please realize there are dozens and dozens of very usable, very secure, password managers for Linux. Some are command-line only. Some are just basic PGP encryption of text files containing user name/password pairs. Today’s review is not meant to be all-encompassing; it’s meant to be helpful for average Linux users who want to handle their passwords better than they currently do. I say five(-ish), because one of the entries has multiple versions. The list is:

  1. KeePass/KeePassX/KeePassXC: this is the one(-ish) that has multiple variations on the same theme. More details later.
  2. 1Password.
  3. LastPass.
  4. Bitwarden.
  5. Browser.

I highlight each of these in this article, in no particular order.

Your Browser’s Password Database

Most people don’t consider using their browser as a password manager a good idea. I’m one of those people. Depending on the browser, the version and the settings you choose, your passwords might not even be encrypted. There is also the problem of using those passwords in other apps. Granted, if you use Chrome, your Android phone likely will be able to access the passwords for you to use in other apps, but I’m simply not convinced the browser is the best place to store your passwords.

I’m sure the password storage feature of modern browsers is more secure than in the past, but a browser’s main function isn’t to secure your passwords, so I wouldn’t trust it to do so. I mention this option because it’s installed by default with every browser. It’s probably the most widely used option, and that breaks my heart. It’s too easy to click “save my password” and conveniently have your password filled in the next time you visit.

Is using the browser’s “save password” function better than using nothing at all? Maybe. It does allow people to use different passwords, trusting the browser to remember them. But, that’s about it. I’m sure the latest browsers have the option to secure the passwords a bit, but it’s not that way by default. I know this, because when I sit at my wife’s computer, I simply start her browser (Chrome), and all her passwords are filled in for me when I visit various websites. They’ve almost made it too easy to use poor security practices. The only hope is to have better options that are even easier—and I think we actually do. Keep reading!

The KeePass Kraziness

First off, these password managers are the ones that use a local, non-cloud-based database for storing passwords. If the thought of your encrypted passwords living on someone else’s servers offends your sensibilities, this is probably the best choice for you. And it is a really good choice, whichever flavor you pick.

The skinny on the various programs that share similar names is that originally, there was KeePass. It didn’t have a Linux version, so there was another program, KeePassX, that used an identical (and fully compatible) database. KeePassX runs natively on Linux, along with the other major OSes. To complicate issues, KeePass then released a Linux version, which runs natively, but it uses Mono libraries. It runs, and it runs fine, but Mono is a bit kludgy on Linux, so most folks still used KeePassX. Then KeePassXC came around, because the KeePassX program was getting a little long in the tooth, and it hadn’t been updated in a long time. So now, there are three programs, all of which work natively on Linux, and all of which are perfectly acceptable programs to use. I prefer KeePassXC (Figure 1), but only because it seems to be most actively developed. The good news is, all three programs can use the exact same database file. Really. If there is a single ray of sunshine on a messy situation, it’s that.

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Figure 1. KeePassXC has a friendly, native Linux interface.

KeePass(X/XC) Features:

  • Local database file, with no syncing mechanism.
  • Database can be synced by a third party (such as Dropbox).
  • Supports master password and/or keyfile unlocking.
  • Very nice password generator (Figure 2).
  • Secure localhost-only browser integration (KeePassHTTP).

KeePass(X/XC) Pros:

  • No cloud storage.
  • Command-line interface included.
  • 2FA abilities (YubiKey).
  • Open source.
  • No “premium” features, everything is free.

KeePass(X/XC) Cons:

  • No cloud storage (yes, it’s a pro and a con, depending).
  • Brand confusion with multiple variations.
  • Requires third-party Android/iOS app for mobile use.
  • More complicated than cloud-based alternatives (file to sync/copy).
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Figure 2. The KeePassXC password generator is awesome. I don’t even use KeePassXC for my password manager, but I still like the generator!

The KeePass family of password managers is arguably the most open-source-minded option of those I cover here. Depending on the user, to handle syncing/copying the database rather than depending on an unknown third party to store the data has a traditional Linux feel. For those folks who are most concerned about their data integrity, a KeePass database is probably the best option. Thankfully, due to third-party tools like KeePass2Droid (for Android) and MiniKeePass/KyPass for iOS, it’s possible to use your database on mobile devices as well. In fact, most apps handle syncing your database for you.

Bitwarden

I didn’t know the Bitwarden password manager even existed until we did a Twitter poll asking what password managers LJ readers used. I have to admit, it’s an impressive system, and it ticks almost all the “feel good” boxes Linux users would want (Figure 3). Not only is it open source, but also the non-premium offering is a complete system. Yes, there is a premium option for $10/year, but the non-paid version isn’t crippled in any way.

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Figure 3. Bitwarden is very well designed, and with its open-source nature, it’s hard to beat.

Bitwarden does store your data in its own cloud servers, but since the software is open source, you can examine the code to make sure the company isn’t doing anything underhanded. Bitwarden also has its own apps for Android/iOS and extensions for all major browsers. There’s no need to use a third-party tool. In fact, it even includes command-line tools for those folks who want to access the database in a text-only environment.

Bitwarden Features:

  • Open-source.
  • Cloud-based storage.
  • Decent password generator.
  • Native apps for Linux, Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.
  • Browser extensions for all major browsers.
  • Options to store logins, secure notes, credit cards and so on.

Bitwarden Pros:

  • One developer for all apps.
  • Open-source!
  • Cloud-based access.
  • Works offline if the “cloud” is unavailable.
  • Free version isn’t crippled.
  • Browser plugin works very well.

Bitwarden Cons:

  • Database is stored in the cloud (again, it’s a pro and a con, depending).
  • Some 2FA options require the Premium version.

Bitwarden Premium Version:

  • $10/year.
  • Additional 2FA options.
  • 1GB encrypted storage.

I’ll admit, Bitwarden is very, very impressive. If I had to pick a personal favorite, it probably would be this one. I’m already using a different option, and I’m happy with it, but if I were starting from scratch, I’d probably choose Bitwarden.

1Password

1Password is a widely used program for password management. But honestly, I’m not sure why. Don’t get me wrong; it works well, and it has great features. The problem is that I can’t find any features it has over the alternatives, and there isn’t a free option at all.

There’s also no native Linux application, but the 1PasswordX browser extension works well under Linux, and it’s user-friendly enough to use for things other than browser login needs. Still, although I don’t begrudge the company for charging a fee for the service, the alternatives offer significant services for free, and that’s hard to beat. Finally, 1Password utilizes a “secret key” that’s required on each device to log in. Although it is an additional layer of security, in practice, it’s a bit of a pain to install on each device.

1Password Features:

  • Cloud-based storage.
  • Non-login data encryption (Figure 4).
  • Printable “emergency kit” for recovering account.
  • Cross-platform browser extension.
  • Offline access.

1Password Pros:

  • Easy-to-use interface.
  • Very good browser integration.

1Password Cons:

  • $3/month, no free features.
  • Secret-key system can be cumbersome.
  • No native Linux app.
  • Proprietary, closed-source code.

1Password Premium Features:

  • All features require a monthly subscription.
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Figure 4. 1Password has a great interface, and it stores lots of data.

If there weren’t any other password managers out there, 1Password would be incredible. Unfortunately for the 1Password company, there are other options, several of which are at least as good. I will admit, I really liked the browser extension’s interface, and it handled inserting login information into authentication fields very well. I’m not convinced it’s enough for the premium price, however, especially since there isn’t a free option at all.

LastPass

Okay, first I feel I should admit that LastPass is the password manager I use (Figure 5). As I mentioned previously, if I were to start over from scratch, I’d probably choose Bitwarden. That said, LastPass keeps getting better, and its integration with browsers, mobile devices and native operating systems is pretty great.

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Figure 5. I seldom use anything other than LastPass’s browser extension, unless I’m on my mobile device, but the app looks very similar.

LastPass offers a free tier and a paid tier. Not too long ago, you had to pay for the premium service ($2/month) in order to use it on a mobile device. Recently, however, LastPass opened mobile device syncing and integration into the completely free offering. That is significant, because it brings the free version to the same level as the free version of Bitwarden. (I suspect perhaps Bitwarden is the reason LastPass changed its free tier, but I have no way of knowing.)

LastPass Features:

  • Cloud-based storage.
  • Native apps for Linux, iOS and Android.
  • 2FA.
  • Offline access.
  • Cross-platform browser extension.

LastPass Pros:

  • Cloud-based storage.
  • Very robust free offering.
  • Smoothest browser-based password saving (in my experience).

LastPass Cons:

  • Data stored in the cloud (yes, it’s a pro and a con, depending).
  • Rumored to have poor support (I’ve never needed it).
  • Proprietary, closed-source code.

LastPass Premium:

  • $2/month.
  • Gives 1GB online file storage.
  • Provides the ability to share passwords.
  • Enhanced 2FA possibilities.
  • Emergency access granting (Figure 6).
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Figure 6. This is sort of a “deadman’s” switch for emergency access. It allows you to give emergency access to someone, with the ability to revoke that access before it actually happens. Pretty neat!

LastPass is the only option I can give an opinion on based on extended experience. I did try each option listed here for a few days, and honestly, each one was perfectly acceptable. LastPass has been rock-solid for me, and even though it’s not open source, it does work well across multiple platforms.

The Winner?

Honestly, with the options available, especially those highlighted today, it’s hard to lose when picking a password manager. I sort of picked the top managers, and gave an overview of each. There are other, more obscure password managers. There are some options that are Linux-only. I decided to look at options that would work regardless of what platform you find yourself on now or even in the future. Once you pick a solution, migrating is a bit of a pain, so starting with something flexible is ideal.

If you’re concerned about someone else controlling your data (even if it’s encrypted), the KeePass/KeePassX/KeePassXC family is probably your best bet. If you don’t mind trusting others with your data-syncing, LastPass or Bitwarden probably will be ideal. I suppose if you don’t trust “free” products, or if you just really like the layout of 1Password, it’s a viable option. And I guess, in a pinch, using browser password management is better than nothing. But please, be sure the data is encrypted and password-protected.

Finally, even if none of these options are something you’d use on a daily basis, consider recommending one to someone you care about. Keeping track of passwords in a secure, sync-able database is a huge step in living a more secure online lifestyle. Now that mobile devices are taken seriously in the password management world, password managers make sense for everyone—even your non-techie friends and family.

Resources

[NOTE: This post was originally posted on the Linux Journal website. Since Linux Journal is now defunct, and authors own their content, I’m reposting here.]

The New Ride

My beloved 1994 Chevy S-10 unfortunately drives very much like a 1994 pickup truck with 200K miles on it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my truck. The thing is, now that we’re in the city, when I commute to work in the morning it feels very much like I’m going to die at any moment. My truck shimmies, it rocks, it skids, and its safety features are pretty much non-existent. I’ve almost rear ended several vehicles because old Betsy just doesn’t stop like she used to. So, it’s time to get a new vehicle. And I LOVE my new vehicle.

Pictured here is my new 2013 Dodge Dart SXT/Rallye Sedan. The cool blue color is nice, but honestly is just a bonus, as the stuff inside is really what I was worried about. Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

  • 1.4L Turbocharged, 16 valve, 4 cylinder engine
  • 6 speed manual transmission
  • 17″ Aluminum wheels
  • Eleventy hundred airbags (estimate)

The 1.4L engine with the multi-air turbocharger makes for interesting driving. I’ve never driven a car with a turbocharger (it actually still sounds like something fake to me), but it takes a little getting used to. The “turbo” kicks in when the car reaches a certain RPM, so with gentle driving it’s rarely engaged. Give it a little gas, however, and you REALLY notice the difference. It makes for a very VERY fun drive. 6 gears is a lot to shift through, but even that I’m getting used to.

Here is a photo of the inside. Doesn’t that look fun?

Along with the drive train, the technology was something I was very concerned about. I’m going to have this car for 10+ years, so it has to be worthy of such a long relationship. Along with the 8.4″ UConnect touchscreen entertainment panel (pictured above), I insisted on having Bluetooth connectivity. If I’m going to be driving 90MPH 70MPH on the way to work, I can’t be fiddling with my phone. So, the Dart has handsfree built in. It also has Bluetooth audio streaming, which is really cool — but in practice it’s a little underwhelming, because it lacks tools like fast forward and such. Still, in a pinch it’s pretty neat.

While it wasn’t a feature I was really concerned about one way or another, my car does have Sirius Radio with a year of service included. It turns out this is actually kinda nice, and while the stations aren’t really up my alley, a few are nice. For the most part, however, when I commute to and from work, I listen to audiobooks. At first I did this by connecting my phone to the car via USB (cool feature), but now I actually just loaded up an SD Card with a bunch of audiobooks, and leave it plugged into my car. It remembers where it left off, even if I remove the card and put it back in later. Oh, my car has an SD Slot, did I mention that? 🙂

At the end of the day, this $22,000 car is a big investment. I feel so much safer driving to work now, however, so I think it’s worth it. And at 39MPG on the highway, it will practically pay for itself. In about 300 years or so. 😀

My Chat with AT&T

Posted without comment…

info: Please wait for a chat representative to respond.
info: You are now chatting with ‘Ian Young’
Ian Young: Thank you for chatting with at&t today, I am happy to assist you

Shawn Powers: Can you give me an idea when our service will work here in Indian River, MI?

Ian Young: I am happy to look into that with you today

[over 5 minutes go by]

Shawn Powers: Are you doing that now?

Ian Young: I am

Ian Young: I do see the reports of the issue, but no estimated resolution time

Shawn Powers: So you recommend I switch to Verizon?

Ian Young: I did not say that

Shawn Powers: You are one of many AT&T folks that acknowledge a problem, yet have no estimate for repair time, nor explanation as to what is happening.

Shawn Powers: So, since you can’t help me — switching companies seems the only logical choice.

Shawn Powers: What if this goes on for years?

Shawn Powers: Shall I never again make a call or text?

Ian Young: unfortunately, we only have the information our technicians provide us, and as of yet they have not advised us when the expect to have the issue resolved, in all my years with at&t I have never seen an issue like this last for years, but if you feel that is what you must do, that is your choice

Shawn Powers: Do you understand why a continued “we don’t know when it will be fixed” makes me question why I spend $350+ a month?

Shawn Powers: this is at least week two, which means I’ve paid for half a month of service that rarely works

Ian Young: I do understand, and if we had a date we would be more then happy to provide it to you

Shawn Powers: Do you have an estimate on when you might have an estimate?

Shawn Powers: or possibly does a manager have a better idea of when the problem will be identified or fixed?

Shawn Powers: Certainly someone in all of AT&T must know something.

Shawn Powers: I could flag down AT&T trucks that pass by on the road, but that seems a bit drastic.

Shawn Powers: I would call and talk to someone, but you see, my phone doesn’t work.

Ian Young: they would have the same access to the information as I do, unfortunately our technicians have not provided us that information, weather you reach us through here for chat or call, we have the same information

Shawn Powers: Perhaps could someone *call* the technicians?

Shawn Powers: Or email them.

Shawn Powers: Or text them

Shawn Powers: Communicate with them in some manner?

Ian Young: if we had a way to contact them, we would already have done so

Shawn Powers: So… the company which claims to be the biggest and best company for communication can not contact their own technicians?

Shawn Powers: You do see the irony, no?

Shawn Powers: I suppose I would understand if you can’t reach them on their phones if they live in Indian River.

Shawn Powers: Our towers don’t work here.

Ian Young: with our technicians it is a one way communication, the let us know,

Shawn Powers: You don’t think that is unacceptable? That’s the same efficiency as smoke signals.

Shawn Powers: Perhaps a note could be slipped into their paychecks, asking for an update?

Shawn Powers: I’m certain they receive that from AT&T, even if they never have to receive information from the company in other matters.

Ian Young: I do understand your frustration

Shawn Powers: Yet, you have no suggestions for me?

Shawn Powers: Let’s pretend you were me, what would you do?

Shawn Powers: Would you continue to pay for service that does not work?

Shawn Powers: Is that that what the ideal customer would do?

Shawn Powers: Or should I continue to spew sarcasm at you, and hope it goes up the chain?

Shawn Powers: I realize you personally aren’t responsible — but you’re my only point of contact.

Shawn Powers: So you get the brunt of my frustrations.

Shawn Powers: I must have some resolution, as I’ve patiently waited for two weeks now.

Shawn Powers: If I ordered a hamburger, and it didn’t arrive for two weeks, I would most likely leave the restaurant, thus my questions about switching to Verizon.

Ian Young: again it is your choice as to weather to continue service with at&t or not, at this point, the information you are requesting is not available, our technicians are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible

Shawn Powers: So will I be charged for the past two weeks?

Shawn Powers: Or will my bill reflect the time it takes the technicians to fix things?

Shawn Powers: If I knew the length of time it would take, I could better judge if I wanted to remain a customer.

Shawn Powers: I would say the phones work about 25% of the time, will I get a 75% discount?

Shawn Powers: If you can’t resolve my problem, can I stop service with AT&T, and no longer have a committment on my contract? ie, revoke early termination fees?

Shawn Powers: I think that would be a fair compromise. If you can’t tell me when my phones will work, then canceling my early termination fees would be acceptable.

Shawn Powers: it’s not even all my phones, some are past their contract dates.

Ian Young: I apologize, we in tech support do not have information on termination fees or contracts, if you want to call our Customer Care at 1-800-331-0500 from a land line phone, they would be able to look into that with you

Shawn Powers: Shall I go ask the neighbor if they have a landline phone?

Shawn Powers: We have 5 cellphones you see, and no landline.

Shawn Powers: Customer care cannot chat?

Ian Young: I am happy to find the location of one of our at&t company owned stores, they would have a courtsey phone you would be able to use

Shawn Powers: The store itself couldn’t help me?

Ian Young: they might be able to, but most likely they would direct you to call

Shawn Powers: I see. Well, Ian, I would thank you for your help, but really you haven’t helped at all.

Shawn Powers: I’m sure you tried — but you’ve said the same thing I keep hearing over and over.

Ian Young: as I said if we had more information, we would not hesitate to provide it

Shawn Powers: Well, if I see a technician, I’ll let them know you’d like to talk to them. Too bad AT&T doesn’t have two way phones for them yet.

Ian Young: it is not a matter of Phones

Ian Young: it is a matter of allowing them the ability to do the work they have to do with out intruption

Shawn Powers: So you *can* call them, you just won’t?

Shawn Powers: “Ian Young: with our technicians it is a one way communication, the let us know,”

Shawn Powers: But they don’t let you know apparently, therein lies the problem.

Ian Young: they let us know when they know, if they don’t know, then don’t have the information, hence we don’t have the information

Shawn Powers: If it took me two weeks to figure out how long it would take to solve a problem, I would be fired. Perhaps I should get a job as an AT&T technician, it sounds like they have a cake job.

Shawn Powers: “We’ll get it fixed… someday. No, we won’t tell you what’s wrong. No, no idea how long it will take.”

Ian Young: I understand your point of view, but the technical aspect is not as simple as you seem to imply

Shawn Powers: Ahh, yes, that’s it. Think about it not as the AT&T tech support, but as a person that paid hundreds of dollars for shoddy service.

Shawn Powers: If you truly believe it’s acceptable to hear “no estimate” for weeks, with no further information, you have a horrible concept of customer support.

Shawn Powers: Hours, i would understand.

Shawn Powers: A day, maybe

Ian Young: I do apologize that we do not have an estimated time of resolution, it is not an issue of weather I feel it is acceptable or not, it is what we have to work with

Shawn Powers: So what should I do?

Shawn Powers: Please tell me what the recommendation is.

Ian Young: What you should do is up to you, at this point all I can say, is we are working to resolve the issue

Shawn Powers: So you have no recommendation?

Ian Young: If I had a recommendation that would fix the issue, I assure you I would not hesitate to provide it

Shawn Powers: What I’m asking is, when I go into the other room and my family asks about their phones, I need to say, “Ian said we should __________.”

Shawn Powers: Because that’s why I contacted you.

Shawn Powers: I need to know what to do now.

Shawn Powers: My phones dont’ work.

Shawn Powers: I came up with ideas, like switching to Verizon. I need to know what AT&T suggests I do.

Shawn Powers: Continue to wait indefinitely? If that’s the answer, just let me know.

Shawn Powers: You currently represent all of AT&T, I need to know what AT&T suggests I do.

Ian Young: What to do now is up to you, as for you concerns about the contracts, is to call and speak with our Customer Support,

Shawn Powers: let’s start over then. Ian, my phone doesnt’ work, what should I do?

Ian Young: I do understand Mr Powers, you want us to tell you what to do, but you don’t want us to tell you to wait till it is fixed, no carrier is going to tell its customers to go to another carrier, outside of that what else are we to tell you?

Shawn Powers: I guess you don’t have an answer for me then. Very well. Thank you for a lovely chat, Ian. I do hope you have a good day.

Ian Young: I hope you have a good day as well, and that the issue is resolved soon for you

Photon Obesity At All Time High

Our nation is struggling with a growing obesity problem unlike anything we’ve seen in generations past. Our slovenly lifestyle is beginning to leak into science as well, however, and the ramifications could be deadly.

Researchers at CERN, (yes THAT CERN) have discovered the speed of light is beginning to slow down. They fired a beam of light and some subatomic particles (neutrinos, arguably the most physically fit subatomic particles) into a particle accelerator, and a neutrino won the race. Light wasn’t even on the heels of the neutrino, and was lagging 60 billionths of a second behind!

Scientists are baffled at how our precious photons are getting so slow. Margaret Flanahan of Boston University posits, “We think it might be due to all the television watching that happens. As we sit on our couches and get fat while watching sitcoms, photons are exposed to the same life-draining drivel. I’m only surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.”

What seems like a minor mathematical error or fluctuation in space time is really a more serious problem than most people realize. If photons continue to pork out and slow down, light won’t be as reliable as we’re used to. Live reality TV will no longer be in real-time. Sunsets will happen later. Cats will be able to catch laser pointer lights with minimal effort. Truly, it’s the beginning of the end. Real life scientist Bob McFeebly thinks obesity is only the first problem. “What happens when our happy go lucky photons start to get depressed due to their obesity problem? As their mood darkens, so do we. Global cooling, food shortages, return of the ice age, and the bankruptcy of countless sunglasses factories. We’ve only seen the beginning, folks.”

Certainly a grim sign of what’s to come. Some folks are making the best of a bad situation, however, and nature photographers in Florida’s Lightning Belt are getting some prize photos. Snappy McSnapherson, a well known lightning photographer commented to our reporters, “It’s easier now than ever before! You just wait for the thunder, then point your camera in that direction. By the time the light gets there, you’re set up for an awesome shot!”

Former California governor, and known health advocate, James Rolph Jr. recommends a rehabilitation program for our overweight photons. “We just need to put photons on a regimen of diet and exercise.” Rolph recommends the following:

  1. Use fewer batteries. Flashlights are way too bright nowadays. Back in my day we carried around a glowing coal ember, and it was plenty. Light is getting fat because we use too many batteries. Just take one battery out and replace it with a stack of pennies.
  2. Swing around your flashlights. Make those photons get out and MOVE. Why I once had a dog named Old Chuckles, and he got fat from not moving around. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. My dad was in the Navy, and I had to switch schools at least 23 times a day. Days were shorter back then, and twice as hard. I miss my friend Cooter.

That was all we could get from Mr. Rolph, as he started babbling nonsense. Good advice though, we should all follow it. Of course, by the time the light gets to your eyeballs from the computer screen to read this, it will likely be too late.

So long folks, and remember to turn off the lights. Otherwise you’ll wake up with a lazy puddle of photons on the floor, and who’s gonna sweep that up?

I Miss My Droid

Three or four months ago, my beloved Droid died. Since I don’t use my phone for actual phone calls, I decided to just not get a new phone, and stick with my work provided iPhone for my mobile computer needs. (I can’t use it for personal calls, but I have unlimited data and talkatone, so those rare times I have to make a personal call, I just use that) Anyway, it’s been a few months, and I can easily say:

I miss my Droid.

Really. I have nothing against Apple products. I use them all the time, and they usually “just work”, which I really appreciate. When it comes to a mobile device, however, it turns out I need more from a phone that the iPhone can offer. Heck, even jailbroken, the iPhone lacks customization that Android has by default. The big things that annoy me about the iPhone:

  • Lack of real integration with core services. If I want to use Google Voice, I should be able to do it without some weird hack.
  • App limitation. I need to use a WiFi scanner rather often, and a phone is perfect for such a thing. For some reason, however, Apple deems that an inappropriate use a phone.
  • Customization. iOS 4 gave us the earth shattering ability to set a background photo. Wow.
  • Did I mention app limitations? 🙂

Anyway, I’m up for a new device now, and I’m thinking about getting the Motorola Atrix. I don’t want the weird laptop thing that goes with it, but the battery life, CPU horsepower, and screen resolution look appealing. Anyone ever use one? If not, what’s your favorite Android phone?