I Just Discovered This
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This looks pretty interesting. What do you think? Leave a comment.
I tried to print out a PDF I found on the web and the whole page was black!
Sometimes, trying to print things we find online is pretty hit or miss. Here are a couple of tricks that may help.
Here is a screen shot of the PDF Services Menu. It in the print dialog box on the lower left.
PDF technology is one of those things we, pretty much, take for granted. In it’s inception, Adobe created the technology to gave users, regardless of computer platform or operating system, the ability to share documents across any computer platform. Back in the computer Dark Ages, this meant that a person using a PC and the Windows operating system, could share a document with a person on a Mac, Linux, Unix… just about anyone.
Launch Adobe’s proprietary Acrobat Distiller application and it would create the PDF for you. Next, you could load the PDF onto a floppy, (remember those?) for distribution. In those days, if we had an electronic mail account, we could “send” PDFs! What an amazing time!
It was amazing because, sharing documents was pretty difficult. Microsoft eventually got around to making Word for the Mac and DataVis made some really good document converters, but it was really a new world full of new languages and new dialects when Adobe’s Acrobat PDF technology came on the scene. Acrobat Reader was a free application that could read PDF files and Distiller was a paid application a producer coveted.
PDFs had the added advantage of being un-editable. You could open a PDF, but could not change it. As the the technology improved and Adobe figured out ways to squeeze (compress) more and more data into an already small file size, the printing industry took notice and began aggressively using the PDF format to send to their digital printing presses. The presses would begin to roll… “Oops.. that’s a typo. Too bad we can’t edit it!” Yep, that changed too. Acrobat Professional is now able to edit and modify documents. We pay for this application and the reader is still free.
Over time, Adobe began to license the technology. The first big player, as I recall, was Apple. When the decision was made to move the core Macintosh operating system to UNIX, rebranding the interface as OS X, Apple built PDF services into the entire printing system. The Preview application is the face of this technology in a Mac. Preview can open and save PDFs. But there is more. In addition to simply opening and saving a PDF, Preview can also empower you to add additional pages to an existing PDF, remove pages from a PDF, rotate, crop and adjust the look of the page and even save a PDF as another file type, such as JPG. This little power house is pretty amazing too. Take a little time and explore its menus.
There is a little bit of a secret to using the powerful build in PDF services. It’s hidden, in plain sight as part of the Print Dialog box. When you select print, on anything from a Pages or Word document to a webpage, a dialog box appears. In the lower left corner of the box is a small button labeled PDF. It is actually a PopUp menu that is loaded with cool items, enabling you to invoke true PDF power. From that little menu, you can process a PDF and automatically attach it to an email. You can simply save a PDF for later reading or emailing. You can have it automatically added to Evernote or Dropbox. Using Applescript or Automator, there are endless opportunities to create amazing workflows to suit your publishing needs.
PDF’s are pretty secure too. We’ll talk about that next.
This was the MacUser Magazine Cover from November of 1989, introducing the new Macintosh Portable. I distinctly remember receiving this issue and sharing it all around the NatMac Users Group in Fort Lauderdale. The whole point of the beautiful model just relaxing, doing a bit of catch-up work in the pool was obviously to emphasize the portable nature of where computing was heading. We were absolutely giddy!
1989… No internet and a huge battery for about 2 hours of computer life. So much has changed and the look back is pretty funny.
As we re-visit this concept today, I would have two questions…
First, would you ever, in a million years, even take your unprotected iPhone into a pool… never mind your Macbook Air? And second, did we really think cordless phones were all that cool?
The other thing that intrigues me about this photo was what I suspect was going on behind the scenes, you know, the praying of the photo shoot staff that the model made it into the raft and that the “portable” did not take a dive.
I am not a fan of the small disclosure triangles that appear in the list view of Finder windows of the Macintosh operating system. Yes, I use them but they can really muddy things up. Let me explain.
When you look at a Finder window in list view, you see all the loose files, folders and documents that are contained in that directory. When the disclosure triangles of a particular folder are pointing down, the contents of that one folder are revealed. This can be very helpful and the indented, “outline style” is a familiar visual cue as to where you are in the directory hierarchy; very nice.
The problem comes when you are in a folder containing a large number of items. If you turn the disclosure triangle down, then scroll down to see the list of items, the enclosing folder disappears off the top of the window! You completely lose the reference point of the hierarchy and the whole point of the disclosure triangle’s purpose. What folder are you now in? There is no easy way of knowing.
In order to find out what folder you are actually working in, you must scroll back, until you find the enclosing folder with the disclosure triangle turned down. This is a real waste of time and can lead to accidentally adding or removing items from the wrong folder. You just don’t know exactly where you are in the folder structure.
One way to regain your bearings is to hold down the Command Key and click on the title bar of the Finder window. It will show you the complete hierarchy, clear back to your hard drive and computer but this only works if you are actually into a folder.
To close all of the disclosure triangles at once, simply issue a “Select All” command (Command + A) and then hold the Command Key again and tap the “Right Arrow” key on your keyboard. This closes all disclosure triangles immediately and gets things back to a nice starting point.
“Welcome to your coronation!” calls Casper, again.
Together, Casper, Daniel and you walk into a vast atrium filled with flowers, trees, plants, waterfalls and a brook. A small string orchestra plays from a balcony above a crowded veranda. Dozens and dozens of people, who have just completed the same journey, are milling about. There is a buzz of excitement in the air. A large banquet is in preparation and suddenly you spot your wizard standing to the side. You rush to greet him.
“Congratulations on your conquest!” wizard laughs.
“I am so happy you are here!” you say.
“I would’t miss it. This has indeed been a long road. Now, you shall receive your crown!”
“The Crown of Password Prowess.” you add.
“Indeed. You have learned so much. Now that you understand that the Black Knight is your friend and that he is protecting you, perhaps it will not be so easy to loose heart when he shows up in the future. I want to remind you that User Names and passwords go together and that it is aways important to be absolutely sure to which realm you are speaking. As you recall, sometimes it might be your local realm… your computer, that is asking for a password, sometimes it is a foreign realm such as the iTunes store that is making the request.”
“Wizard, I’ll be vigilant.” you insist.
“Yes. Remember too, the dialog boxes always carry a clue as to who is asking. You now know that if you really get stuck, you may reset passwords, though you may never find out what they originally were. You now clearly understand that there is a Root user account and that in the worst of situations, you may seize his power and make password changes that would otherwise be impossible. You also know that it is possible to create good strong passwords with memorable themes. These things are all important, if not vital.”
“I can’t wait to install “One Password.” you exclaim.
“That will be a fine addition.” wizard replies. “But there is the one lingering challenge you will face as you return to your realm.”
“What is that?”
“The man in the monitor, you! Do you remember when I asked you about the curious ability of a computer to pull such emotions from your heart?”
You nod reluctantly.
“In so many cases, it is our emotions that stop us from conquering the Black Knight. We get offended, then angry, then determined, then frustrated and finally quit. Never let your emotions cloud your ability to use your new found wisdom. There is always a way out.”
“A line is forming at the stage. Please take your place with the throng.” wizard motions.
Hastily, you enter the line that leads up to the platform, where a priest is crowning other victors. You suddenly notice that your squires are absent! Taken back, you look around the atrium, a slight panic in your chest. Casper and Daniel had become so close to you in such a very short time. With them, you felt protected. You felt secure. Why would they leave at this time? Had something come up? Was it simply their job to see you safely to the coronation?
“Wizard,” you gulp. “Where are Casper and Daniel?”
“In time. Stay focused.” comes the reply.
You did not realize that you were next in line!
“It is with great honor that I present this particular crown of Password Prowess.” the priest begins. “If it were not for you, my friend, none of these other people would be here!”
“What!” you gasp. “Why? What… what do you mean?”
“Yeah, dude!” the priest nods. “You see, all of these people are the ones who have been following you since the beginning. They have been reading your story and they all stand in gratitude for the way you have persevered. They love the things they have learned through you. You will be esteemed throughout history because of the quest you have now completed!”
With this, there is a massive applause as the crown is placed on your head. It is larger and more brilliant than the others. Suddenly, you realize that you were actually the last one in line. All eyes are on you, each filled with gratitude and admiration. What an amazing feeling comes over you! It has been years since you have felt such joy, knowing your perseverance has blessed so many. This is wonderful. Suddenly, you realize that this is what wizard meant, when he made his comment about the people who would learn from your pain. The words “more than you know” echo in your mind.
For the next few hours, you are able to meet many people who have been impacted by your adventure. Many promise to email you from their realms. They share stories of frustrations and failures and overcoming, all of which flow freely from the lips of your admirers. The food and wine were superb! Nothing quite this exquisite could have been cooked up in your realm… but, it’s now time to go. What an amazing adventure!
Catching wizard’s eye, you nod and he beckons you to follow. You make your “good byes” and head toward a door the wizard is now standing beside. You turn to look at the crowd, one last time and it erupts once again in grateful applause. Many wave good bye.
“This is the door which will lead to your own realm. Your journey has been real but when you pass through this door, you will instantly find yourself sitting in front of your computer, right where you left off but this time, as you know, the Black Knight has been vanquished. Never forget, I will always be available as you call for MacHelp. Have you had a good time?”
“Yes. Yes I have.” you reply. “Better than good, I think. It’s something I needed. Something to make me grow.”
“That’s wonderful to hear. Where there is no learning, there is no growth and where there is no growth there is only death and decay. Keep learning.” wizard says, wagging his finger in the air.
With this, wizard knocks on the door with his staff. The door swings open and you enter the corridor. Suddenly an ominous figure stands before you.
“None shall pass!” comes the powerful and dreadful call.
Once again, the Black Knight stands before you, forbidding you entrance to your own realm!
“Quick! Where’s your journal.” Wizard queries in excited tones.
You dig into your satchel bottom. Bracelet! Quill! Journal! You hastily scramble for the password you had written down back in the Answers Garden.
“None shall pass!” comes the giant again.
Wizard pulls you close as if for protection or reassurance. Leaning down, he whispers in your ear. “I forgot to tell you. Caspian and Daniel were promoted!”
Following the direction of his pointing finger, you look up into the lifted mask of the Knight. It’s Daniel!
“So sorry m’ lord. Couldn’t help myself!
A hearty laughter ensues from everyone. It is so good to see your friend again!
“Friend.” you think to yourself. “I have just thought of a Black Knight as a friend, for the very first time”
“Where is Caspian.. er Casper? you ask.
“He is waiting in your realm.” Daniel says. “He has been assigned to a grand task by Root himself.” He has become your new localhost gate keeper. You will see him soon.”
“Now m’lord. Be my guest… and happy computing!” Daniel says with outstretched arm — inviting you to step over a threshold. You shake hands with your wizard. Is that a tear? Daniel grabs you in a bear hug. The new armor rattles. He sets you down again and you turn toward the threshold. You are ready.
As you step forward, the hallway vanishes and you are sitting once again in front of your computer. After what seems like hours, staring at your computer screen, you rock backward in your chair.
“I think it’s been a pretty good day!” you say out loud, nodding with a new understanding. Your quest is complete, your crown is secure. You have new and powerful knowledge. Never again will you be thwarted by the frustrations of losing or forgetting your passwords. You have been hardened in the fires of Password Purgatory and have successfully attained the Crown of Password Prowess! Never did you imagine that your quest would bless so many people. But it has… and it still does.
By the way, that faint sound you hear in the distance… it’s all of us applauding!
PS: OnePassword became a vital tool in my personal quest after writing these articles. I can highly recommend it! Here is my affiliate link to the software on the Mac App store and the iOS Store. I absolutely love not needing to enter passwords all the time. —Dana
As we round the wishing-well and pass through the garden’s final gate, two young men, both of them large and muscular, fall to one knee and bow low. You are stunned!
“My lord.” they exclaim in unison.
“We have been waiting for you. We have great news and will provide it as we help you on this final part of your quest.” says the blond bearded one.
“Yes, we will escort you to the castle. Claims the dark haired lad with glistening eyes.
“I will be leaving you presently.” I say, looking closely at your face, as if studying it for the last time. It reveals a hint of despair. “Oh, don’t worry, a simple call for MacHelp summons me. I will never be too far. Just now, I’ve received news of a maiden that has dropped her iThingy in the royal loo. I am summoned to rescue her. She’s quite embarrassed, I must tell you! Now, where’s my kitty litter…”
“Wizard!” you exclaim. “I have learned an awful lot! It will not be the same without you!”
“I too will miss you! Caspian and Daniel will see you to your journey’s end.” With this, I vanish.
“He’s amazing!” says the blond fellow in a deep voice. “Call me Casper, m’ lord.”
“And I’m Daniel.” adds the other. Let’s walk and we’ll tell you about this next part of your quest.”
Both these men tower well above you. Both possess an air of confidence and power.
“When wizard said two squires would be meeting us, I expected a couple of kids. You guys are massive!”
“We began our intense training at the age of 13 as squires. That was after six years as a page. We are both now 22.” begins Daniel.
“Every young page dreams of becoming a squire, now we dream of becoming knights. The smaller fellows do just fine around the castle, but when you are graced with bulk and stature, well, let’s say you’ve already met my brother.”
“The black knight?” you exclaim, surprised.
“Yup. His name is Leslie, but don’t tell him I told you! He’s a bit older and considers himself invincible. Heard you vanquished him though!”
I nod happily and we all laugh.
This path we set upon is well worn and wide, more like a road. In the distance looms the castle on a hill top. This journey will be beautiful and short.
As you walk along purposefully, with your new gallant friends, they begin to explain this part of your quest.
“We have a couple of things that will help you on this quest, m’ lord. The first bit of information we want to give you, is an introduction to a piece of software on your computer called ‘Keychain Access.’ Casper begins.
Gazing up at this giant of a lad, Casper explains, “‘Keychain Access’ is located in the Utilities folder which is inside the Applications folder. When you launch this application, it will give you access to information regarding almost every realm you have ever visited! If you select a realm, such as Amazon, and click the small ‘i’ at the bottom left of the window, another window opens with some options you may examine. In the lower left part of that window is a tiny box that reads ‘Show Password.’ If you click it, a knight will appear, asking you to enter your computer’s password. The rationale is that, if you know the password for the computer, you probably have the proper credentials to access the password for the Amazon realm. The password is revealed and you may use it to reenter that realm.”
“So, ‘Keychain Access’ holds my passwords for me?”
“Yes and no.” Casper continues. Look at the name, ‘Keychain Access.’ It may be splitting hairs, but the actual ‘keychain’ is a file, or several files, stored at various places on your computer. This little application allows you to see the contents of these various files and even make small changes.”
Daniel adds, “This is indeed pretty powerful magic but we have something better for you, just around the bend!”
Some time back, your path entered a wood, shrouding the castle from view and providing some cool refreshment from the sun. Rounding a bend in the path, you see two sentinels, in full armor, guarding a huge oaken door with iron hinges, adornments and locks. The door is part of a solid rock structure that extends possibly 200 feet into the sky. The sentinels nod to Casper and Daniel, who lumber open the massive door.
“Welcome to the castle!” Casper bellows, clasping a huge hand on your shoulder. There is an echo from the entrance.
“What, here already?” you cry.
“Yes, a secret entrance some distance from the draw bridge.” he explains. “Come with us. We have some things to show you and a great treasure to give you.”
You follow and enter a torch lit spiral staircase. It leads to a great hall, well above ground level. You consider that you must be in a wing of the castle that was not visible from the path. At the top of the stairs, you exit this stair case and step into a vast hall. Directly across from the stair well is a small door, nothing unusual about it, but it is locked with a large pad lock.
“We want to show you something important. It’s an object lesson, if you will.” Casper says, as he moves toward the door.
He then produces a large bronze key from his vest, places it in the lock and turns it. Clanking metal yields and the door opens with a creaking sound. All three enter. The room is completely empty — except for a small wooden table in the absolute center of the room. On top of the table sits an iMac, just like the one on your desk. It is unplugged. Then you notice, there are no plugs or electricity in this room at all!
“This is the only true security you can have with your computer, mate.” Casper says, looking at you with a bit of gleam in his eye.
“I realize you have not talked much about general computer security, but that’s what our passwords are for, right?” Daniel adds. “We want security… privacy.”
“The only truly secure computer, is one that is in a locked room and not connected to power!” Casper says, with a bit of determination… pointing straight at the iMac.
“I see your point.” you agree, remembering that Wizard told you that one day there would be another quest about computer security.
“Let’s move on.” Daniel barks, with a nod toward the door.
Locking the door, you continue down this vast hall, lined with tapestries and hanging chandeliers every few yards. It’s breath taking! It feels both modern and ancient.
There is a door at the far end. It’s a library. Shelves of books extend possibly 20 or 30 feet up every wall with sliding ladders on each wall to facilitate easy access to the treasures. There is a rich smell of paper and leather here… it smells like wisdom!
Casper walks over to a shelf, selects a small binder and returns to you, placing it in your hands. It reads, “One Password.”
“This is some extremely powerful magic.” Daniel warns. Casper nods emphatically.
“What is it?” you ask.
“This is a ‘Password Vault.’” Casper begins. “It has the ability to not only remember your passwords for you but even create super difficult passwords upon your initial visit to a realm. It does this all automatically. It is a piece of software you install on your computer.”
Daniel interrupts. “Once you create just one memorable password, that only you know, it creates passwords for everything else, difficult passwords. As long as you remember your ‘One Password,’ you will never need to remember another. It fills in those previously created, very difficult and secure passwords for you.”
This is amazing! you exclaim. This solves everything… right?”
“Pretty much.” comes the reply in unison.
“It gets better.” claims Casper, excited about the next part. “Not only can you install this on your computer, but it may also be installed on your other devices too. The software shares a common highly secure database with each of your devices and you will never be without your passwords again.”
A great feeling of closure overwhelms you as you cradle the small tome. It is clear that this quest is over… so you think. It’s as if you have just discovered “Password Nirvana.” The notion that a piece of software could be the answer to your dilemma never crossed your mind. This is gold!
“Wow! This is wonderful. I couldn’t dream of a better ending!” you exclaim.
“Oh, we’re not quite finished.” says Daniel, and he motions for you to follow.
Returning to the vast hall, you walk to what you thought would be the end, but instead, discover it is only a right turn to another vast hall. Walking proudly with these two new comrades, to the end of this next hall — you begin to hear music! There is some sort of event underway. The amazing aroma of rich food permeates the air. There are voices… laughter. As you continue your forward pace, together, you enter an enormous atrium filled with flowers, plants, trees, waterfalls and a brook!
Casper turns to face you, Daniel at his side. They look serious. Both of these young men now look you squarely in the eye. It is clear that they will make excellent and stalwart black knights. You are just a bit nervous. You sense keenly, that something important is about to happen.
Once again they speak in unison. “My lord, welcome to your coronation!”
We have just passed through a slightly creaking garden gate on our Quest for Password Prowess. We delight in how beautiful the day has become. This garden is stunning! It is filled with flowers of amazing variety, all if full bloom and trees both grand and petite. Willows flow along our intended path and the smells of lilac and sandalwood, sage and carnations provide an incredible olfactory banquet!
“This is stunning!” you exclaim.
“Yes. This is a Resource Garden. It was designed by the priests to facilitate a richer understanding of all that we have been learning. You may spend as much time as you wish here and you may even return. The truth is, we are nearing the end of our quest. As many variety of flora and fauna you perceive here, as many answers to your questions will also be found.”
Massive stone tables line our cobblestone path at various points. On each table is just one tool, instrument, device or book. All seem very old, but in excellent upkeep.
“These tables have been prepared for us.” I exclaim, as we continue to stroll through this wondrous place. “Ahh! Our first stop.”
On this table is a small, delicate christening bracelet constructed using a variety of beads. Each bead has a letter on it. You look closely and see that the delicate beads spell out your name!
“It’s me!” you cry.
“Yes. This is a naming bracelet. Notice that it is all lower case letters. This is important.”
I continue. “You have seen and we have discussed ‘User Names,’ from the beginning of our quest. You may think that ‘John Smith’ would be a fine user name—if your name were indeed John Smith, but the underpinnings of the computer don’t see things this way. We see names in upper and lower case letters, the computer converts all of that to lower case and drops out all spaces. The actual name for that user becomes ‘johnsmith.’ This is called ‘the short name.’”
“And the secret of a short name is?” You muse.
“The short name, is the admin name the computer uses for your account. You may change the ‘human readable’ name to anything you want and it will have no bearing on what the computer will use as the short name, in the future. This can be the source of some confusion. Once a user name is established, changing that ‘human readable’ name in the future has no consequence. If you change it to John B. Smith at some point in the future, don’t plan on using it as part of your login credentials. It may not work. Try to always use the ‘short name’ if the User Name field of a particular dialog box has not been repopulated by our friend in black. Even then, you may wish to erase his helpful insertion and enter the short name. The human readable name may work just fine, but I have bumped into too many situations where that longer name simply did not work. Having this tiny bit of information in the back of your mind may save you some trouble. Just remember, the short name never changes once it is created… at least not without a wizard’s assistance!”
“You will also notice that your ‘Home Directory’ is branded with that short name as well. Never change the name of that folder. It is linked to that short name alone. If you have multiple users sharing the same machine, you will see their folders in the ‘Users’ folder as well. You do not have access to them and a red ‘no entrance’ logo appears on those folders to give you a visual clue to this fact. You may keep the christening bracelet to remind you about short names. Let’s move on.”
“But what happens if I change the name on one of those other users folders?” you implore, pausing us in our tracks.
“That’s actually pretty funny!” I grin. “When you change the name of a user’s folder, Root thinks that Elvis has left the building and will happily rebuild that user’s folder with nothing in it! The next time that user logs in, all of their stuff seems to have vanished… everything! The system does a pretty good job of preventing this from happening, but some people are persistent enough and some how manage to change the name of their own home folder. That’s when I am summoned. I simply remove the new folder and rename the original folder back to it’s original name. It does cause quite a bit of panic, I must say!”
We pass several tables featuring curious devices but stop at none of them. Presently, we arrive at a table with a wooden back. Fastened to the back wall of this table is a rough hewn picture frame covered with a pane of really old glass. There are a variety of iron and bronze keys displayed in the box.
“These are passwords.” I say, admiring the craftsman ship of each key. “They were forged in fire and molded to perfection. They give us a clue as to how we might craft our own passwords.”
“How so?” you press.
“Passwords guard the realm. That trade-off between ease of use and security is forged here. A good password will provide ample security for the treasure it guards. You might choose a small, light weight password such as ‘password’ for things with little value and a long, complicated password for things of great value.”
There is a trick, in the creation of long passwords, that may help you remember them. Choose a theme for your longer passwords that is common. For example, your initials, followed by the three middle digits of your social security number, followed by your birth year would make a fine password for your stuff. Change the initials and birth year for your kid’s stuff and the initials and birth year for your spouse’s things. Pretty good security with a memorable theme.”
“So, I pick a theme and build a password structure around that. The theme makes it easy to remember and the structure will be the same, no matter what realm I am visiting.”
“Precisely. You might even use the initials of the realm instead of yours. For instance, amazon.com might use ‘Amz.’ Not every realm’s rules will accommodate you, but it is good start. You may want to make the first letter a capital… or the first two. That would be great, but some realms may not permit capitals. Another great idea is to use special characters to replace letters, for example, John B. Smith may replace his initials JBS with Jß$. That ‘B’ is the Greek letter ‘beta’ and is created by holding the option key down while typing the B key. Be creative but consistent on the theme.”
Carefully sliding the glass out of the frame, I offer you the choice of just one key. You choose a bronze skeleton key of stout character.
“Keep this key to remind you that, cleverly created credentials are important.”
We continue on our stroll gazing upon more tables and more devices. There are parchments, scrolls and heavy bound books atop ornate doilies on each of the tables in this part of the garden. In the midst of this tea-room like setting, is a handsome weathered brownstone table. It beckons you. On its doily rests a small ornate indigo colored vase; which boasts a single, long, majestic peacock quill. I take the vase and hold it up to the bright sun light. Rays of indigo light flash over the entire garden!
“This quill is meant to remind you to write your passwords down.” I say, looking seriously at you. “It is meant to remind us that nothing will ever replace a written list of your passwords. It’s that one tiny step, which we often skip, when visiting other realms or setting up our systems for the first time. That one little step, we ignore to the pain of hours of toil, trying to recover from that brief faltering moment. Never again.” I admonish.
“I think I have learned my lesson.”
“Then, this is for you.”
Gently, I remove the quill from its vase and place it in a beautifully bound smallish book I retrieve from under my cloak. I place the quill just inside the front cover. “Write your system password as the first entry.” I command. “Don’t forget to include your short name. Write it like this: ‘johnsmith / password123’. As part of your theme, always include the username followed by a space, a slash, another space, then the password.”
“Why so specific?” you ply.
“You will store your passwords in your computer. As you know, when you double click a word, the computer highlights the entire word. When you have all your passwords in a document on your computer, you can then simply double click it, copy it from that digital version of your passwords and paste it into a name or password field. Makes things quick!”
“Store my passwords in my computer? Why not my book?”
“Make life easy on yourself. When you are sitting at the computer dealing with new login credentials, put them into a ‘passwords’ document right then and there—while you are thinking about it! This allows you to later, edit them easily. Do a physical printout to save some place safe. That’s better than filling that beautiful book with lists for things that are scratched out every time you need to change a password. Use your book to begin your journal!”
“Yes. Someday, you will want to publish all of your memories from this adventure. People all over the world, face these very same challenges and frustrations. History will laud your name and sincerely appreciate you for the humility and perseverance you have shown, by pressing through all these challenges and sharing your wisdom with them!”
“My pain becomes their wisdom!” you groan.
“Yes. This is true.” I reply. “You will begin your story with that user name and password combination you just wrote down and say something like, ‘… this how I took control!’ It’s no ‘Call me Ishmael.’ but it will still be a fine story, minus the fish!
We move just a bit deeper into the garden and round a fairy-tale like wishing well. It is absolutely beautiful! Swinging around the well, to the right, we move on to what appears to be another gate.
Opening the gate, you are stunned by what happens next!
“My Lord!” comes a harmonious greeting.
You gasp! “It’s the squires!”
We have successfully traversed several realms and have gained great wisdom in the process. The Black Knight, obstinate and stalwart, has stood his ground and we are still unable to pass! We are finally out of the dark forrest, with its tangles and trip points, and feelings of dismay are creeping to the forefront of our mind.
The sun is shining brightly and just as we begin to enjoy it’s warmth, a young man, dressed in jeans, a Beatles T-Shirt and a white lab jacket appears. He looks slightly unkempt and totes a Diet Coke and a small bag of Doritos—a dead give away. This is a priest!
“Hey dude.” Comes the hearty greeting. “Need a little help?”
We nod sheepishly, knowing all priests have great wisdom, big hearts and an impish sense of humor. We are a little cautious at first but this fellows’ affable demeanor is fetching.
“I can’t get beyond this Black Knight and I am the owner of the system. Can you please give me some hope?”
“No problem, man.” He smiles. “Always eager to support an Administrator.”
Reaching his hand into the inner pocket of his jacket, he pulls out a shiny silver disk, glowing with a rainbow of colors. He hands it to you.
“Lean not on your own understanding dude. Lean on the sea.” Having said this, he suddenly vanishes and as he is vanishing, we also hear him add, “If that fails, command are…” He is replaced immediately by a sleek white desk and a beautiful 27” iMac! Just for effect, there is even a little fog.
“Trust the sea.” You say out loud. “Trust the sea?”
What in the name of Jobs is this all about? Turning your eyes to the shiny silver rainbow disk, you see the instructions. “To startup from this disk, hold down the ‘C’ key as the computer starts up.”
“Oh!” You say aloud. “‘C,’ not ‘sea!’”
You walk over to the computer, sitting on the desk, insert the disk, and hold the “C” key down as the computer starts. It takes longer than normal. Starting from CDs or DVDs always does. Eventually, the computer comes to life and you see the Apple logo appear on the screen. It looks as if you are about to install a new operating system. You click the “agree” button and a familiar menu bar appears across the top of the screen.
I should inform you at this juncture that we are now treading in the realm I warned you about. You are as close to Root as you may ever be! By inserting that CD/DVD and starting the computer this way, you are able to access features and functions with a level of permissions no mere human uses lightly. With this power, you can erase an entire computer, casting whole realms into oblivion! This is powerful magic! At this moment, you are Root’s ambassador!
As the Ambassador of Root, you have many of his powers. With this power, you will be able to change the password of any user on the computer, even his! You will not be able to discover what any password was, but you will be able to issue new ones. This is another security feature that, as your wizard… regrettably, even I have been unable to circumvent.
Once you have changed the password, you can restart the computer and use these new credentials to access your local domain, appeasing the Black Knight. The incantation you desire is found under the “‘Utilities Menu.” It should be obvious as it reads, “Reset password.” Select this option, choose the user whose password you wish to change and fill in the appropriated fields.
“Awesome!” You scream. “Lean on the ‘C.’ I get it! But what about the ‘Commanding Are?’”
“‘Command R.’” I correct. “Not ‘are.’ Many machines no longer have a CD/DVD drives. In these cases, you can hold down the ‘Command Key’ and the letter ‘R’ while the computer is starting and by design, it will magically startup your computer through the internet or a hidden partition on your hard drive! The computer must have an internet connection for the former, of course, but this is another amazing and powerful option. As I have warned you, always use great care when using your powers and these incantations here.”
Together, we change the password to something you are sure to remember and enter it in. Instantly, the computer, the desk, and effects fog vanishes!
“So, I can change a password and gain access to my system… but I will never know what it was?”
“Yes.” I respond.
“Well, what happens if I am visiting a foreign realm and I have forgotten my password?”
“As you know, every realm has laws of their own. Their gatekeepers and sentinels are well-versed in communicating with foreigners who have forgotten their passwords. In these cases, you must remember to always play by their rules. It is a little like a game. You must listen very closely to the questions they are asking you and assume nothing.”
“For example, they may challenge you by requesting information you should both be familiar with such as your birthday, or favorite restaurant. This will always be information you established on your original visit to their kingdom. Once you have verified that you are who you claim to be, one of two things will happen. And you will either gain access to your password, or it will be emailed to you. Sometimes the password will be contained in the email, at other times there will be a link which will allow you to change your password. In many realms, the priests have ordained, that passwords can never be recovered, only changed. This is for our safety.”
“The biggest stumbling block, in dealing with these other domains, will be your own weaknesses. Never let your feelings or your opinions cloud your ability to play their game, no matter how silly you think it may be.”
“Finally, make absolutely sure that you know with which domain you are actually communicating. For example, let’s pretend you are trying to get to the New York Times crossword puzzle through the Game Center application on your iPad. You are asked to enter your credentials. Now, who do you thing is asking?”
“The New York Times, of course.”
“Oh, were it that easy.” I sigh. “Look carefully at the Black Knight’s face. He has pre-populated the User Name field, with your Apple ID User Name! It’s the iTunes App store asking! They want you to update your credit card info with Apple.”
“What?” You cry, incredulously.
“Sure, think about it. You obtained the NYT Crossword puzzle from the iTunes store for free but your must also have a paid subscription required from the New York Times itself. The New York Times produces the content but Apple distributes the App for them. It may indeed be the New York Times making the request for your account information at some other time, but in this case, it was Apple, asking you to update something. Even though you were in the Crossword Application, it does not mean other realms can’t pop up a request for credentials. You must be on your toes! Even while your are using your iPad, a dialog box might pop up asking for information such as permission to access a new wireless network. Understanding these subtleties can really cut through some muck.”
“I realize this can be quite frustrating. This is why we must be vigilant and always remember to think… ‘Who’s asking.'”
“Well, I think it is time to move on. Do you notice anything new here?” I ask.
“The Black Knight! He’s gone!”
This is a monumental event! For what seems like days, we have been stymied by this insidious problem, all because our password was misplaced. Hours of torturous mind raking and nail biting have ended! A huge burden is lifted. You now have complete control of your computer. Joy fills your heart as you take in the warm sunshine and breath deeply the earthy smells of the woods.
“Congratulations!” I say with a huge grin. “You have successfully vanquished the Black Knight.”
Yet, a thought lingers. “Is there a way we can deal with this issue of forgetting our passwords, once and for all?”
“It is possible.” I explain. “But frankly, it requires a lot of planning, and a lot of careful introspection. Consider for a moment. If you had a solid password plan in place, we would never have begun our quest. We would not have this new, clear understanding of the power and purpose of the Black Knight. In truth, had we not been through these trials together, you would have simply been agitated every time he showed up. In all honesty, the burden of password organization actually falls on us, not him. Hardships like our little quest, are wonderful teachers. Pain’s lessons fall hard upon us. Always remember, wisdom comes from pain, and the best wisdom is savored when we use somebody else’s pain to learn our lessons!”
“I’ll bet someone is learning a lot from mine.” You exclaim, wincing.
“More than you know.” I chuckle. “More than you know. Now, to your question… creating great passwords is something we will discuss as we travel along in our next realm. Remembering passwords is an age old problem. Do you remember that I told you, that two squires will be waiting for us when we reach the end of our journey?”
I think you’ll find the support they provide, extremely valuable.”
“By the way…” I say, pausing and looking deeply into your wide open eyes. “Please write your new password down someplace safe. The squires will require it.”
With this, we approach a garden gate and give it a slight push. With a creaking whisper, it opens and we walk through.
Editor’s Note: OS X Recovery is pretty powerful. It gives us the ability to completely restore not only passwords but our entire operating system from the internet. For a complete treatment of this powerful option, please click this link which will take you to an in-depth article on Apple’s Website… Click Here.
Our grand quest for Password Prowess continues. Let’s check our bearings.
These are the stops we were to make on our journey.
We have vanquished realm one and two. We are now entering our third realm, the authentication process. As I have warned you, this is a longer, more challenging realm. Tangler trees, weeds and vines are common trip points and I shall point them out as we traverse. Stay close.
Presently, we face the Black Knight who defies our attempts to advance, demanding two things, our User Name and our Password.
Now, what was that he said? Did he say our “User Name” was wrong? Did he say our “Password” was wrong? Or, did he say our “User Name and/or Password” were wrong? Our first trip point! But, our nemesis has dropped a tiny clue! Perhaps only one of our entries is wrong! This may be very helpful. We carefully examine our two entries. Our name is correct but the password is just a series of dots. This feels hopeless!
Dealing with dots in the password field means we very carefully retype our password or grab that small gnome that often lurks nearby, a small checkbox that reads, “Show password.” This small check box, when checked, turns the obfuscation dots into the actual characters we have been typing—another huge help. Those dot are there for our protection. They prevent prying eyes from seeing what we type, in case someone happens to be standing behind us.
Another little known secret about these obfuscation dots is that they often morph! Once you establish a password, don’t count the dots when you revisit an authentication dialog box. They most likely have changed in number. This is a device to confuse an intruder from using that “count of the dots” to guess your password. This is another built in protection.
Now, where were we? Ahh, we are still staring into the closed mask of the Black Knight.
We have entered our credentials with perfection but our attempts are still in vain. Now what?
As the King, you are the one who created the password! You know what it is. You wrote it down and double checked your notes. The “Caps Lock” key, another potential tangler, is not on and you have carefully typed your password at least six times! What gives!!!?
Anger begins to boil within your heart. You once again begin to feel old emotions of inadequacy. Take a deep breath and pause… remember what your wizard said, “It will require some delicate self examination and patient endurance.”
Is it not curious that silicone, metal, bits and bytes hail such emotions? How many times can we be challenged before we start taking it personally? This is a very personal test!
Allow no impatience to enter your heart. Resist the temptation to hunt for the sledgehammer. Here again is that emotional component we face as we pass through this Password Purgatory. We need wisdom. Pause. Think.
“None shall pass!” The Knight growled.
“But, I’m the King!” We retort.
The Black Knight is unmoved. Nothing happens. It matters not. I am the King! Why is he not responding to me? I’m the boss… or am I? Then we get a fresh idea! Yes. Yes. Now we remember!
“Who summoned you?” We demand.
He does not answer but we remember, the Black Knight works for God! The priests crafted him as an icon and he reports directly to God!
“Which god!” You gasp, incredulously.
You know, the one who lives in your computer!
The god of your computer is an invisible user named “Root.” He controls everything that happens in the system, everything! In essence, even though you paid for that computer, you do not own it… in a digital sense. In fact, compared to “Root,” your “Administrator” privileges pale.
This topic is a completely separate journey, one I hope to take with you one day. It travels through the realm of “Permissions.” This is a fascinating world full of amazements and power, but I digress.
While it is true that this all powerful “Root” commands the Black Knight, our Black Knight may be summoned by a variety of entities, human and otherwise!
“Who summoned you?” We call again.
“iTunes.” Comes the reply.
“Who, from the land of iTunes, has made this request?” We parry.
“The iTunes store.” Comes the reply.
Armed with this new information, we realize that the User Name and Password combination to access the iTunes store is a different song from that of the computer access tune we learned earlier. Our computer level authentications will not work here. “Who summoned you?” is a revealing question.
“Who summoned you?” opens the mask of the Black Knight and allows us to pier through his face and begin to see his soul. Knowing the answer to the question, “Who summoned you?” allows us to unlock a good bit of the mystery that surrounds this, so called, Black Knight.
Many entities possess the ability to summon the Black Knight. For example: we, as humans, can summon the Black Knight’s dialog box by attempting access something on our computer such as “Software Update.” These are local events. In most cases, they will require our normal computer login name and password.
We are now getting pretty comfortable with the computer itself requesting our credentials permitting changes to the operating system or updating some application. Applications themselves sometimes ask for permission to access things on our computer such as our contacts, or perform actions on our behalf. We use our regular credentials here too.
As we look into the heart and soul of this Knight, we begin to understand his intent is for our protection.
I must interject a dire warning before we proceed. There is one entity with whom we must deal most shrewdly when our credentials are requested.
“Who?” You ask.
“Another human being!”
Never, never, never give your User Name or Passwords to anyone! When you provide this information, you essentially allow them to become you. They now have all the powers, authority and persona of the King. Are you sure you want to do that? There are times it becomes necessary, this is true. Just make sure that you have provided these credentials to a very trusted ambassador. If it ever becomes necessary, you can always change passwords if trust is lost.
Finally, there is one other entity to discuss. When a website or foreign server requests credentials, things change.
When we ask our computer to contact other kingdoms, anything outside our home or office, our computer will eventually encounter the sentinels of those kingdoms. For example, we attempt to negotiate with the King of MyBank or the popular King of Amazon, their knights ask for User Names and Password combinations too.
Let’s be very clear. These foreign gatekeepers have absolutely no interest in our local credentials. They are only interested in the credentials you established during your original visit to their kingdoms. If this is your first visit, their systems will ask you to create your own credentials, which may be of vastly different character, than those of our own realm.
The face of the distant knight most certainly looks different too. It may not be a dialog box. He may show up as some lines of text on a web page and, don’t think of trying to invoke the name of “Root” there either, they have their own gods. Dealing with other kingdoms is easy, if we respect and accept the laws.
The laws of other kingdoms may require that we augment our native language as we craft passwords by using additional symbols such as * or ^ or %. Their laws may require upper case, lower case, symbols, numbers… any manner or combination of the above! When we travel abroad, we must know the language and the laws. More importantly, we must conform, despite any feelings of inconvenience. As your friend and wizard, I feel compelled to remind you that protests do no good and only provide fertilizer for more tangles. We must keep our heads.
The iTunes Store is a fine illustration. While you can use just about anything you want for your local computer password, including nothing at all, this is not the case in the Land of Apple. The iTunes store imposes strict conventions on password creation. It must be at least eight characters in length. It must have at least one capital letter. It must have at least one number. It must have some other character, etc.
Patiently developing our communication skills with other kingdoms brings some of the richest rewards of owning a computer. It opens amazing opportunities for entertainment, education, enlightenment and enjoyment. This is where many people spend a vast majority of their time. I want to encourage you to explore the depths of these riches. There was a time when we needed great sailing ships to visit the library of Alexandria, now it and a million other kingdoms with massive libraries offer portals to their lands, right on your desktop!
Well, we are now at the end of this forrest! In discussing the soul of the Black Knight, we now see how truly loyal he is to us. He may not be as powerful as we originally thought but he is every bit as obstinate. Crafted by the priests to do Root’s bidding and for our protection, we are almost beginning to appreciate the once formidable fellow.
In the next realm, you are to stay close by my side! It is a realm of great magic, incantations and power. Deadly mistakes can be made. The Black Knight, who seems to be quickly becoming our friend, will not be there. What we are about to do is something few dare try. We will be speaking face to face with Root and even borrowing his powers! We must use caution.
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