The Quest for Password Prowess – Part 5

Through the Gate

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.”


The Bracelet

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!bracelet

“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!”


Home Has a Name

Your "Home Folder" shows up as a little house icon. Never change the name of this or any other user's folders.

Your “Home Folder” shows up as a little house icon. Never change the name of this or any other user’s folders.

“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!”


The Keys

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.Keys

“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, 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.”


The Quill

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.”Quill

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?”


Foolproof Storage

“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!


Surprise at the Gate

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!”


On to Part 6






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