Tag Archives: internet

How Secure Are Those Security Questions?

In general, I appreciate the lengths financial institutions go to in keeping my account—and the information behind it—safe from hackers. These steps include multi-page sign-in procedures, displaying a personal phrase, and requiring that a random security code be entered. Yes, it’s a hassle, but it’s a hassle I endure to reasonably protect my information.

What perplexes me, however, are the security questions—they are either too simple or too hard.How Secure Are Those Security Questions?

Some security questions are in the category of too easy, such as what high school I went to. This and other basic facts can be reasonably uncovered online.  Similarly would be my favorite food. Anyone who reasonably knows me, would be aware that the answer is pizza. Plus, I am sure that this fact has been mentioned in public, appeared in an article, and written in a blog on more than one occasion.

My mother’s maiden name is another such question that is not all that secret. If I have the choice I skip those security questions, as I question their security.Security questions are either too simple or too hard. Click To Tweet

The other category is the impossibly hard questions. First, are the ones with multiple answers. For example, what street did you grow up on? What was your favorite pet’s name? Or what color was your first car?

For each of these, I have two equally valid answers. I moved while growing up; among scores of pets, two dogs tie as my favorite; and as far as my first car—I had it painted. Should I note the starting color or the ending color?

Other hard questions are those that change over time. Examples include my favorite color, my best teacher, my preferred type of ice cream, my all time favorite movie, or my favorite TV show. Then to compound the whole issue, I need to spell the answer correctly (challenging for my dogs’ names) and remember if I capitalized any of the letters (“School” or “school”) or used abbreviations (such as “W” or “West;” “Ave” or “Avenue”).

However, I think I have a reasonable solution for all this. I will simply make up an answer, random and completely secret, that I will use for every security question.  For example, I might pick “ArgyleSocks45” as my answer.  Then:

Q: What’s your favorite food?  A: ArgyleSocks45
Q: What color was your first car?  A: ArgyleSocks45
Q: On what street did you grow up?   A: ArgyleSocks45
Q: Is your security question really secure?   A: ArgyleSocks45

By the way, ArgyleSocks45 is not the right answer to my security question.

However, some places won’t let you give the same answer to multiple security questions. I’m still working on a solution for that problem.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Responding to Email

My website FindaCallCenter.com features a directory of call centers. All the information listed has all been submitted by the businesses themselves.To ensure the information is current and accurate, I periodically email each call center, asking them to review and confirm their information.Responding to Email

The lack of response—and the slowness of response—to my recent verification effort was appalling. Only 25 percent responded to my first email message, while 11 percent of the addresses generated a failure notice. The majority of those responding did so the first day, but many trickled in over the next week.

For the second email message to the remaining non-responders, 13 percent replied, but only one third did so within one day, with the rest taking up to five days. For the third and final email only 5 percent responded.

Altogether, only 37 percent responded at all; 13 percent had non-working email addresses; 50 percent apparently received but did not bother to reply to any of the three messages. Furthermore, of the minority who responded, only about half did so on the same business day.Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better. Click To Tweet

We live in a world that expects a response and wants it immediately. The above dismal results—which are likely applicable to all industries—suggests that merely responding to email on the same business day would make your organization stand out.

How sad. Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out even more, and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Euphemisms for Broken

I subscribe to an online computer file backup service. It is easy to use and does its work automatically with little assistance from me. This is how all backups should function—automatically and without human involvement.Euphemisms for Broken

However, there was a time that it warned me that it hadn’t backed up any files for more that 24 hours.  I did what I could to do a manual backup, but without success. After an hour of futile effort, I decided that the problem was on the provider ends. Unfortunately, by that time their tech support call center had closed for the day. So, I used the email support optionand waited.

The next day, things were no different, so I called. Once I finally was able to talk to someone, he quickly informed me that the server handling my backups was “unavailable because of extended maintenance.” The maintenance was expected to be complete by mid-afternoon. Why couldn't they just be honest and tell me it's down and being worked on? Click To Tweet

Why couldn’t they just be honest and tell me it’s “down and being worked on?”

I also wonder why they didn’t put that useful information on the call center recording that kept repeating every 20 seconds. Why did they instead say that tech support was “busy due to a high number of new subscribers?”

Additionally, the application’s interface allows them to send me messages, so why didn’t they simply use it to notify me it was down? After all, they did use it to communicate the “busy due to a high number of new subscribers” message and suggest I use email.

The backup was again backing up my filesjust as they promised. As for the “extended maintenance,” it took about 44 hours.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

Websites I Can’t Live Without

Please forgive the hyperbole in the title “Websites I Can’t Live Without.” The truth is, yes, I can live without them. However, I use them so frequently that not having them at my disposal would create a void.Websites I can't live without.

Google: I use Google for all my Internet searches and online research. I launch it from my toolbar in Firefox, which takes me to Google for the search results. I can quickly zero in on the exact information I need and only seldom get distracted.

TheFreeDictionary: For online dictionaries, this is my favorite. If I’m writing anything, there’s a good chance that I have this site open. It allows me to quickly verify the correct usage of a word, as well as point to synonyms. (Random trivia question that was recently posed to me: “What is a synonym for euphemism?”)

IMDB: For all my movie, television, and actor information, I immediately go to imdb (“Internet Movie DataBase”). I tend to spend too much time there: I suppose that it is my guilty pleasure—no, wait that might be…

BibleGateway: This is a great site to read or study the Bible. Search by verse, key words, or topic. Plus it has lots of related tools and resources. It also has more Bible translations than I knew existed.

The Weather Channel: Yes, I’m fixated on the weather and weather.com is my go-to source. Though lately, I’m more inclined to use their app.

Amazon: As a writer, it seems I’m often looking up books and checking authors. Though I’m not there every day, it’s close.

Social Media: I’m often on Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and GoodReads. What are the websites you can't live without? Click To Tweet

I use these sites most every day that I’m online—which happens to be almost every day.  I suppose that I could live without them—but why try?

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.



What If There Was No Mail?

On Monday this week (in the United States) we had no mail delivery because of Veterans’ Day.

To miss mail for one day is not a problem, but what if this occurred on a regular basis? What if Saturday delivery was omitted or we only received mail three days a week? (These ideas are considerations to help the USPS — United States Postal Service — save money.)

I could deal with that, too.

But what if all deliveries stopped? Looking at what I receive via US mail, what would be the contingency plan?

  • Magazines: I like my magazines but would not start reading them online (at least not how it works today). I guess I’d go without — and that would give me more time for other activities. (Of course this would be a problem for those in the magazine business.)
  • Bills: More and more companies send invoices and statements via email. This allows me to move one step closer to paperless bill paying.
  • Checks: My business receives some checks via mail. But payment could be made by credit card or electronic funds transfer instead.
  • Formal communication: Invitations and thank you notes, as well as cards are typically mailed. If need be, they could go online as well.
  • Shipments: Although the USPS is sometimes the least expensive option, it’s far from the only one.
  • Ads and junk mail: I could do without this category of mail, but I supposed they’d go online too and start spamming me.

The USPS isn’t likely to stop all mail delivery anytime soon, but if they did, we could get by.

Which Internet Browser is Best?

I’ve been a long-time advocate of the Internet Browser Firefox. Lately I’ve been rethinking that.

I first switched from Internet Explorer (IE) to Firefox because IE was slow and clunky. As a bonus, Firefox had many neat features that IE lacked. I kept IE around, but only used it when I was forced to. IE v9 is supposed to be a lean and quick browser, but one of the cloud-based providers I use says their service won’t work with IE 9.

Now Firefox is slowing down and becoming clunky. More significantly, I am increasing running into websites that won’t work on Firefox, so I need to use Chrome and sometimes even IE for them to function. But most annoying is Firefox’s frequent updates and the side effects each one causes with add-ons that no longer work.

So, although not excited to give Google one more view into my online existence, I recently switched to Chrome. Chrome has a clean interface and is fast. It has a couple of features Firefox lacks, but also lacks what Firefox has. I used Chrome for a month and when compared to Firefox, what I gave up overshadowed what I gained.

I’m now back to Firefox, but not too happy about it. Firefox is like a comfortable old chair that you want to replace, but can’t find anything better.

Some may ask, what about Safari? I’ve tried that too, but never warmed up to it. Plus Xmarks won’t synchronize my favorites with Safari, where it will with IE, Firefox, and Chrome. Some of my friends assert that Safari is tops, but they all run Macs and I do not.

I have all four browsers on each of my three computers (each running a different version of Windows). This gives me lots of browser options to test my websites — and lots of headaches.

I Get a Kick Out of Kickstarter

The website Kickstarter is a funding platform to help creative people finance their projects.

I’ve been wondering if Kickstarter might be a viable vehicle to help me self-publish a couple of books I’m pursuing. I’ve also experienced Kickstarter from the other side: providing financial support on two projects.

The first was for a friend, a most talented musician, who wants to take his recording career to the next level. He raised most of the funds himself and then turned to Kickstarter for the final ten grand. He got off to a great start and then donations reached a plateau, with things looking iffy as the 30-day funding window began to close. But a last minute surge put him over the top. He will soon leave for Nashville to record his next album.

More recently I jumped on board a project to help an author who is using Kickstarter as a litmus test to show there is interest for his upcoming book. His goal was more ambitious: 40k. He has a large following of readers and a great social media platform. He didn’t need 30 days to reach his goal; he didn’t even need one; it took about 3 hours. (Presently he is at five times his goal and still has 26 days remaining.)

Regardless if a project is funded quickly or takes a while is not the point. The point is Kickstarter is a viable way for people to support artistic projects they believe in and the creative people behind them who dare to dream big.

When these projects are complete, I will receive a CD and a book (plus some other rewards), along with the knowledge that I helped two creative people advance their careers. And that gives me a real kick.

Tantilizingly Close

In the ongoing saga of running fiber optic cable to my home (for high-speed Internet, digital telephone, and video services) things moved one step closer to completion this week.

I watched with excitement as a third construction crew showed up in our neighborhood and then began running the fiber optic cable though my yard, from the distribution canister to my house.

Then I realized they were just taunting me. Although the cable is now run to my house, it is merely leaning against the outside wall of my abode — they did not install an interface box.

Apparently, another crew will need to do that. I don’t know when that will be or if that will mean they are ready to connect me — but I am certainly ready to be connected.

As the saying goes, “Good things take time.”

The Reality of a Rural Fiber Ring

I was ecstatic last summer when it was announced that a fiber ring would be installed in our rural area.  I was also quite surprised, given that I thought fiber rings were only feasible in more populated areas that possess a sufficient population density to warrant the costly installation.

However, glad that higher Internet speeds — along with digital phones and video — was soon to be a reality, I gave it no further thought.

This spring I attended an informational meeting about the project.

It turns out that my fiber ring is a result of stimulus money.  With an installation cost in the millions, averaging an astounding $10,300 per house, there is no way this project would ever be economically feasible without a grant to cover the installation.

The stimulus money had to go somewhere and I am glad to a direct beneficiary of it.  What dismays me is that this is a three-year project.  This means that much of the project’s money is yet to be spent, therefore delaying its impact on the economy.  If this slow disbursement of the stimulus money is common, that might explain why the recovery is so slow.

Regardless, with my connection to the fiber ring scheduled for September, I do thank everyone who paid taxes, thereby providing me with access to high speed Internet.

By the Numbers

Being a numbers guy, I want to share some stats about this blog:

3 years, 1 month: the amount time I’ve been blogging
457: the number of posts
123,300: the number of words written (enough for a decent sized book)
1,272: average number of posts viewed per week (the most was 2,954)
14,718: the number of views of my top read post

Some things I’ve observed:

  • Posts receive most of their traffic within a week of being posted, but some are still being read a year or two later.
  • Most traffic is not a result of followers, subscribers, or newsfeeds, but of search engines.
  • Of traffic in a given week, most is not for recent posts but older posts.
  • Despite all of the traffic, the Google ad to the right generates only a few pennies of income a month. (Google ads are worthwhile on my Websites, but they’ve been a bust on my blogs.)
  • Soon after this blog was setup, I turned off the “track back” feature. Aside from never fully grasping it’s purpose, I was receiving thousands of spam track backs for every legitimate one.
  • Recently, I also turned off the comment section. The ratio of spam comments to real comments has escalated, now being at over 100 to one.