Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the Road --Everyday Gadget Use

I'm just one Baby Boomer and last week I was on the road up and down the east coast for graduations. In between the two graduations I attended a professional conference. I expect that my life is a lot like yours. Boomers are ever moving, whether visiting children and grandkids or traveling for fun. However, this time I was amazed at how many times I used some gadget or my iPhone to help me out while I traveled and even at the conference. Here are some of the ways I used technology:
  • GPS -- The GPS navigation in my car was a life saver. When I booked the hotels for this trip I was a little bit late (graduation day hotels are often booked a year ahead of time) and the hotel in Maryland I found was a bit out of the way.  My GPS got us to the hotel for graduation and to the graduation ceremony with no problems.
  • Blackberry navigation -- Once, we found that the GPS that came with the the car wasn't updated with all of the local streets located inside the University of Maryland campus. My daughter brought out her Blackberry and we were able to use that to navigate the campus and find our way to specific buildings.
  • Hotel Reservations -- First, I made my reservations online, once using a hotel site and once using one of the travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz or I kept a copy of my hotel reservation on my phone, just in case, so I could check to make sure I was being charged correctly. I admit, I also printed it out.
  • Finding Restaurants -- In one case we were looking for Gluten-free restaurants in Boston. First we used Google online to find one, simply by keying in the words Gluten free + Boston. Then we used one of the many review sites (I can't remember if it was Urban Spoon, Open Table, or Yelp) to find out what people thought of the place. I made reservations using Open Table.
  • Taking some pictures -- The battery in my husband's fancy Nikon camera wasn't charged when we went to use it in Maryland, so I took out my iPhone and took some pictures with the phone. They weren't the best pictures I've ever taken, but they were better than not having a record of these important memories. I can't wait for the day when the iPhone has a really good camera in it.
  • Sending photo messages -- I sent one of those pictures, of my niece and her husband participating in our festivities, directly to my brother-in-law's iPhone through photo messaging. That was cool. I've used photo messaging before, but this was a terrific way to send the picture.
  • Texting -- The phone reception in each of the graduation venues was terrible, but we all kept in touch by texting. Somehow the texts went through when the phone calls wouldn't.
  • At the conference -- I used my iPhone to record presentations and take pictures of events. The little record app that came with the iPhone did a great job. I wrote about this record app when I first got my phone.
This was just a short list of all the ways technology helped me enjoy these special days.  We were at dinner with relatives when one of my husband's cousins jokingly said to me, "now what will you do? Put your pictures up on Facebook?" He thought he was being funny. Well, that's exactly what I plan to do, as soon as I have them together. And that should give me some fodder for a future post.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Change your Passwords, Boomers

    I recently extolled the virtues of password managers to help us remember all of our many and varied passwords. As I said in that post, I really can't remember every password I've created. Some people even use the same password for everything, taking a risk with their security.

    This morning I received a message in my inbox that LastPass, the company I used as an example of an excellent password manager, may have had its master passwords breached. Here is the text of the message. If you took my advice and actually downloaded and used LastPass, then you probably got a message like this too:
    Dear LastPass User,

    On May 3rd, we discovered suspicious network activity on the LastPass internal network. After investigating, we determined that it was possible that a limited amount of data was accessed. All LastPass accounts were quickly locked down, preventing access from unknown locations. We then announced our findings and course of action on our blog and spoke with the media.

    As you know, LastPass does not have access to your master password or your confidential data. To further secure your account, LastPass now requires you to verify your identity when logging in. You will be prompted to validate your email if you try to log in from a new location. This prompt will continue to appear until you change your master password or indicate that you are comfortable with the strength of your master password.

    Please visit for more information.

    The LastPass Team
    My suggestion to everyone who read my blog and downloaded LastPass: change your master password. It's easy to do. At the top of your web page you'll find the star symbol that represents LastPass.

    This is how the LastPass symbol looks on Google:

    Click it and this popup will appear:
    Log in to the site with your current Master Password. Unfortunately I can't show you this part because it would breach my own security! Once you've logged in, go to Account Settings. A blue window will popup with  your current password information. Click on Change Master Password and follow through with the steps given there. You'll be asked to create the password, and repeat it, and provide some memory hints so you can remember it. That's really all there is to it.

    This company and the others out there like it provide a valuable service, but even companies that spend lots of money and time creating ways to circumvent hackers can sometimes be vulnerable. LastPass got the word out to the press and to the public fairly fast, as soon as the company confirmed that there were problems.

    Am I sorry that I told you about password managers? No, I'm not. I will continue to use them because they save me time and effort at individual sites. The bottom line: you do have to be careful to take reasonable action if you hear that a password manager has been hacked.