The Quest for Password Prowess – Part 4

Out of the Woods

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!


The 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.”

CDReaching 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.

Seizing the Power of Root

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!

This dialog box allows us to reset the password for any user, of the computer, including Root. In this illustration, I have clicked on the pop-up menu which exposes every user. Select one, then enter a new password and confirm it.

This dialog box allows us to reset the password for any user, of the computer, including Root. In this illustration, I have clicked on the pop-up menu which exposes every user. Select one, then enter a new password and confirm it.

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?”


Incantations in Foreign Realms

“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.'”


A Significant Change of Scenery

“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 nod.

I think you’ll find the support they provide, extremely valuable.”

Garden Gate

“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.

On to Part 5



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