Archive for category Information

Microsoft Word Shortcut Keys

 
In the Customize Keyboard dialog, find FileProperties under All Commands and assign a shortcut of Shift-Ctrl-Alt-P

 

Alt +f           Opens the Office Button

Alt +e           Opens the Prepare options

Alt +p           Opens the Properties
ALT+F, T         Open Word Options

W2010: Alt, F, I, Q, P    Show All Properties
W2010: Alt, F, I, Q, S    Properties

Keyboard shortcuts for Microsoft Word (from Microsoft): https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/290938
KeyRocket: https://www.veodin.com/keyrocket/word-2010-shortcuts/ https://www.veodin.com/keyrocket/word-2007-shortcuts/
MVPS Word: http://word.mvps.org/faqs/general/shortcuts.htm
Shortcut World: http://www.shortcutworld.com/en/win/Word_2013.html

 

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Passwords

Constant bane of our computing life, but here are some resources:

Update (25 June 2017): Comparitech added.

A little commentary …

Security of a password when it comes to brute force hacking of passwords depends very much on the number of characters used in the password, since the number of combinations to be tried increases exponentially (well, not precisely exponentially in pure mathematical terms, but you know what I mean from a layman’s perspective. The maths would bore you) as more characters are added.

The common rules applied to make a password 8 characters (or at least more than 6) with at least one upper case, one digit and one special character are well and good, but really are not super-effective against a concerted hack, especially if one uses a “standard” type of password. What do I mean by a “standard” type of password? Well, in many instances, people use a word, with a capital as the first letter, then a special character (sometimes optional) then 1 or 2 digits at the end. The whole string is only 8 to 10 characters in length maximum. Knowing this type of behaviour, a hacker will apply some heuristics in their crack-search, to vastly reduce the amount of time to crack the password.

Thus, the first site above suggests that a 6 character only password with 1 capital letter could be cracked in 2 seconds and a 2 digit number could be cracked in 10 nanoseconds. If you had an 8 character password with 6 letters beginning with 1 capital and then 2 digits at the end, the site suggests it would take 6 hours to crack it (brute force approach), whereas cracking each independently and then trying all combinations of the two sets being brute-forced independently as one went would theoretically only take 20 seconds (hopefully my maths is correct).

Say adding the extra complexity of a special character just before the 2 digits would add an extra 2 nanoseconds for the special character and take 40 seconds for the whole lot to be cracked.

The same would apply if one turned the digits and special characters around (digits first, then special character then letters).

Furthermore, using a word search through a known dictionary even further reduces the number of permutations to search and the time to crack (very substantially).

The following snippet from a Wikipedia article on the subject is very informative:

Human-generated passwords

People are notoriously poor at achieving sufficient entropy to produce satisfactory passwords. According to one study involving half a million users, the average password entropy was estimated at 40.54 bits.[8] Some stage magicians exploit this inability for amusement, in a minor way, by divining supposed random choices (of numbers, say) made by audience members.

Thus, in one analysis of over 3 million eight-character passwords, the letter “e” was used over 1.5 million times, while the letter “f” was used only 250,000 times. A uniform distribution would have had each character being used about 900,000 times. The most common number used is “1”, whereas the most common letters are a, e, o, and r.[9]

Users rarely make full use of larger character sets in forming passwords. For example, hacking results obtained from a MySpace phishing scheme in 2006 revealed 34,000 passwords, of which only 8.3% used mixed case, numbers, and symbols.[10]

The full strength associated with using the entire ASCII character set (numerals, mixed case letters and special characters) is only achieved if each possible password is equally likely. This seems to suggest that all passwords must contain characters from each of several character classes, perhaps upper and lower case letters, numbers, and non-alphanumeric characters. In fact, such a requirement is a pattern in password choice and can be expected to reduce an attacker’s “work factor” (in Claude Shannon’s terms). This is a reduction in password “strength”. A better requirement would be to require a password NOT to contain any word in an online dictionary, or list of names, or any license plate pattern from any state (in the US) or country (as in the EU). In fact if patterned choices are required, humans are likely to use them in predictable ways, such a capitalizing a letter, adding one or two numbers, and a special character. If the numbers and special character are added in predictable ways, say at the beginning and end of the password,[11] they could even lower password strength compared to an all-letter, randomly selected, password of the same length.

The take-away: read all the Wikipedia articles on passwords and cracking etc, and follow the latest advice. At the moment, it appears to be to use a longer phrase (the more characters the better) and insert special characters and digits in random places in the phrase, if possible (not just at the front and the end).

 

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Conversation as Ephemera

Now, I find this concept rather interesting: http://bokardo.com/archives/calling-snapchat-the-sexting-app-misses-a-huge-shift-in-mobile-photos-and-communication/

The basic premise is that, in the past, engaging in a conversation was totally ephemeral – it was NOT recorded for posterity, unless someone specifically wanted it to be recorded.  Hence, laws regulating taking secret recordings – people have to give explicit permission to be recorded.  Many computer products want to record everything for all eternity – thereby potentially leading to embarrassing or legally difficult situations in the future (those awful pictures of one when drunk, or the inappropriate status update or comment, which are available for everyone to see forever on Facebook).  But this is not what is necessarily intended by the participants, nor desired and maybe we should be moving back to ephemeral events (conversations, statements, comments, photos, etc) and only explicitly recording some as worthy of posterity.

 

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ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and WiFi Connection

So, I got an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer last weekend.  A beautiful little tablet computer, which docks into a very nice keyboard so easily and solidly that you just want to leave it docked. Indeed, when it is docked, it is like a small notebook – slim, tidy, good looking and very very light.
It is very easy to carry, even with the keyboard.  The touch screen works well, and you can readily type when it is sitting on your lap, even at speed.

It runs Android 3 – so there is a bunch of software available, including many of my favourite online apps which I have been using on the web and on my iPhone. And some of the functionality in the new Android apps is very good.

As you can see, I am quite happy with the new machine (I am writing this post on it at this very moment).

I do have a whinge though.

What is it about software developers?  Don’t they ever learn?

The WiFi connection capabilities of both the ASUS Eee Pad and Android leave a lot to be desired.

Firstly, my encounter with the ASUS WiFi.

The machine worked perfectly well in the shop.  Got it home and everything worked except it would not connect to the WiFi. Nothing I tried would work. It just would not see my nework, although it could see other people’s networks.  I went to someone else’s house and it connected to their network.

Some investigating on the internet (luckily I have many other computers available to do this investigation, and I am quite good at doing this research) revealed that it appears that the ASUS is programmed to only connect to WiFi on channels 1 thru 11 – any channel used above that will not be found.  It appears that in the US, no channels above 11 are used, whereas channels 12 and 13 are extensively used elsewhere in the world. So the dumb-ass programmers who think that there is no other place in the world than the US did not bother to think about making it work everywhere, nor testing it outside their lab.

I had to go into my WiFi Router and change its settings so that it did not use 802.1n but rather 802.1b/g only.  After rebooting everything, the ASUS Eee Pad connected and everything was fine.

For a while!

A couple of days later, the machine just would not connect to the WiFi again – but this time, it was even worse.  Every time that it tried to “Obtain an IP Address” it would reboot. Time after time after time. Absolutely frustrating.  This time I thought there must be something wrong with the hardware, so I rang the ASUSTek support line.  They told me that I need to reload the Android kernel image, since sometimes the WiFi connection settings are overwritten with bogus values and it causes the machine to reboot.

So I did the kernel image reset a number of times. Seemed to work once or twice and then back to the same rebooting behaviour.  Since this was now the weekend, I did some research in the internet again and read about some sort of weird behaviour relating to not getting addresses through the DHCP server on the WiFi Router, or something.  Not directly applicable, but close enough for me to follow up this lead.

Investigating both the WiFi Router and the Internet Modem Router (a legacy of the old setup I inherited at home), I noticed that the Modem Router was serving IP Addresses in a range from one address that was the WiFi Router address, upwards.  Thus, there was potentially a conflict. Well, NOTHING else that has connected to the network over the last couple of years has had a problem with this potential conflict.

Along comes Android, sees that there is some sort of problem (how, I am not sure at all) and then decides to REBOOT when it sees this problem.

REBOOT!!!

I ask you.  Couldn’t the programmers think of, what, an ERROR MESSAGE. Say, “Error obtaining IP Address” at its simplest.  Or even “Conflict in IP Address resolution”.  Displayed this message and then continued operation. How simple would that be.  Maybe they could be smart enough to move on and obtain another IP Address and avoid the problem entirely (I know, they will argue that my WiFi Router and Modem Router should not have been setup like that in the first place – but hey, everyone else seemed to be able to handle the situation).

But to REBOOT the machine. Automatically.  You have GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!

This strikes me as the stupidest piece of coding that I have ever come across in my life.  The people at Google that write this code should be ashamed of themselves.

It is another example of how the ICT industry shoots itself in the foot all the time.  And an example of why Apple is now the number 1 ICT company (by market capitalisation) in the world today.  Because they do try hard to design tools which are usable by anybody and everybody and do not suffer these types of issues.

What ordinary person is going to know what DHCP means? (Damn Huge Crappy Programming probably).
What ordinary person is going to know how to change settings inside a WiFi Router and a Modem Router, hidden deep in “Advanced” menus, to somehow get a WiFi connection going?
What ordinary person is going to want to know about a Kernel Image Reset – why on earth would they need to do something like that?

Honestly, I love the Android concept, and Google, and all that stuff. But you have to do better than this.

I am not giving up the machine – it is too nice. But golly, it makes it hard to recommend to novices – you know – all those consumers who make the bulk of the populace that you (Mr ASUS and Mr Google) want to sell too.

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Why Concrete Language Communicates Truth

Another pertinent post from PsyBlog, this time about communicating (mostly writing) effectively. Particularly relevant for consultants, but applicable for all employment in all fields. Click on the header below to go to the original article.

Have I said before that you should be subscribing to PsyBlog? Well, it is about time you did so – click here!

Speak and write using unambiguous language and people will believe you.

I’ve just deleted a rather abstract introduction I wrote to this article about truth. The reason? I noticed I wasn’t taking the excellent advice offered in a recent article published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. That advice is simple: if you want people to believe you, speak and write concrete.

There are all sorts of ways language can communicate truth. Here are some solid facts for you:

  • People usually judge that more details mean someone is telling us the truth,
  • We find stories that are more vivid to be more true,
  • We even think more raw facts make unlikely events more likely.

But all these involve adding extra details or colour. What if we don’t have any more details? What if we want to bump up the believability without adding to the fact-count?

Just going more concrete can be enough according to a recent study by Hansen and Wanke (2010). Compare these two sentences:

  1. Hamburg is the European record holder concerning the number of bridges.
  2. In Hamburg, one can count the highest number of bridges in Europe.

Although these two sentences seem to have exactly the same meaning, people rate the second as more true than the first. It’s not because there’s more detail in the second—there isn’t. It’s because it doesn’t beat around the bush, it conjures a simple, unambiguous and compelling image: you counting bridges.

Abstract words are handy for talking conceptually but they leave a lot of wiggle-room. Concrete words refer to something in the real world and they refer to it precisely. Vanilla ice-cream is specific while dessert could refer to anything sweet eaten after a main meal.

Verbs as well as nouns can be more or less abstract. Verbs like ‘count’ and ‘write’ are solid, concrete and unambiguous, while verbs like ‘help’ and ‘insult’ are open to some interpretation. Right at the far abstract end of the spectrum are verbs like ‘love’ and ‘hate’; they leave a lot of room for interpretation.

Even a verb’s tense can affect its perceived concreteness. The passive tense is usually thought more abstract, because it doesn’t refer to the actor by name. Perhaps that’s partly why fledgling writers are often told to write in the active tense: to the reader it will seem more true.

Hansen and Wanke give three reasons why concreteness suggests truth:

  1. Our minds process concrete statements more quickly, and we automatically associate quick and easy with true (check out these studies on the power of simplicity).
  2. We can create mental pictures of concrete statements more easily. When something is easier to picture, it’s easier to recall, so seems more true.
  3. Also, when something is more easily pictured it seems more plausible, so it’s more readily believed.

So, speak and write solidly and unambiguously and people will think it’s more true. I can’t say it any clearer than that.

Image credit: Lee Huynh

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6 Easy Steps to Falling Asleep Fast

Another post from the PsyBlog, once again, re-posted with kind permission.
Something that we are all going to have to pay attention to at some time in our lives.

6 Easy Steps to Falling Asleep Fast

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Psychological research over three decades demonstrates the power of Stimulus Control Therapy.

Can’t get a good night’s sleep? You’re not alone. In surveys of what would improve people’s lives, a good night’s sleep frequently comes near the top of the list.

Poor sleep results in worse cognitive performance, including degraded memory, attention, performance and alertness. And in the long term insomnia is also associated with anxiety and depression. And people’s sleep gets worse as they get older. After 65 years old, between 12% and 40% of people have insomnia.

All sorts of methods have been tried to combat poor sleep, from drugs through psychological remedies to more outlandish treatments.

The problem with drugs is that they have side-effects and are often addictive. The problem with the more outlandish treatments is that although they tend not to have side-effects, we don’t know if they have any effect at all. Psychological remedies, though, combine the best of both worlds: studies show they work without side-effects.

Stimulus Control Therapy

Professor Richard R. Bootzin has been researching sleep disorders for many years at the University of Arizona Sleep Research Lab. Writing in the Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, he describes the different psychological approaches that have been used to treat insomnia (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011).

Of these the most successful single intervention is called Stimulus Control Therapy (Morin et al., 2006). You’ll be happy to hear it consists of six very straightforward steps. If you follow these it should improve your sleep. After the list I’ll explain the thinking behind them. First, here are their six steps:

  1. Lie down to go to sleep only when you are sleepy.
  2. Do not use your bed for anything except sleep; that is, do not read, watch television, eat, or worry in bed. Sexual activity is the only exception to this rule. On such occasions, the instructions are to be followed afterwards, when you intend to go to sleep.
  3. If you find yourself unable to fall asleep, get up and go into another room. Stay up as long as you wish and then return to the bedroom to sleep. Although we do not want you to watch the clock, we want you to get out of bed if you do not fall asleep immediately. Remember the goal is to associate your bed with falling asleep quickly! If you are in bed more than about 10 minutes without falling asleep and have not gotten up, you are not following this instruction.
  4. If you still cannot fall asleep, repeat step 3. Do this as often as is necessary throughout the night.
  5. Set your alarm and get up at the same time every morning irrespective of how much sleep you got during the night. This will help your body acquire a consistent sleep rhythm.
  6. Do not nap during the day.

Why it works

This method is based on the idea that we are like Pavlov’s drooling dog. We attach certain stimuli in the environment to certain thoughts and behaviours. Famously Pavlov’s dogs would start drooling when a bell rang, because they associated hearing the bell with getting food. Eventually the dogs would drool at the sound of the bell even when they didn’t get any food. Replace the bell with a bed and food with sleep and conceptually you’re there.

If we learn to do all kinds of things in bed that aren’t sleep, then when we do want to use it for sleep, it’s harder because of those other associations.

This is just as true of thoughts as it is of actions. It’s important to avoid watching TV in bed, but it’s also important to avoid lying in bed worrying about not being able to get to sleep. Because then you learn to associate bed with worry. Worse, you suffer anticipatory anxiety: anxiety about the anxiety you’ll feel when you are trying to get to sleep.

So, this therapy works by strengthening the association between bed and sleep and weakening the association between bed and everything else (apart from sex!).

Other treatments supported by the research are progressive muscle relaxation, which is exactly what it sounds like, and paradoxical intention. This latter technique involves stopping people trying so hard to get to sleep. The paradox being that when people stop trying so hard, they find it easier to fall asleep.

All this assumes you don’t live next door to a late night drummer and you’re not downing a double espresso before hitting the sack, but those sorts of things are pretty obvious. Everything else being equal, though, Stimulus Control Therapy seems the easiest for most people to implement.

Image credit: Meredith Farmer

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Persuasion and Influence

Another excellent article from the PsyBlog, a site which you should really bookmark and read, read, read (you can receive emails as well – makes it far too easy to keep up to date with the latest of interest). This time the article is about the mechanisms of persuasion or influence – particularly relevant in organisational settings, and those where one may not be wielding the ultimate power within the organisation (which is pretty much always with respect to ICT). Find the article here, but, with kind regards, it is reproduced below.


3 Universal Goals to Influence People

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Central to the art and science of persuasion is understanding three goals for which everyone is aiming.

The art and science of persuasion is often discussed as though changing people’s minds is about using the right arguments, the right tone of voice or the right negotiation tactic. But effective influence and persuasion isn’t just about patter, body language or other techniques, it’s also about understanding people’s motivations.

In the scrabble to explain technique, it’s easy to forget that there are certain universal goals of which, at least some of the time, we are barely aware. Influence and persuasion attempts must tap into these to really gain traction.

Techniques of persuasion

To illustrate these universal goals, let’s have a look at six common techniques of influence that you’ll have come across either explicitly or implicitly (from Cialdini, 2001):

  1. Liking: It’s much easier to influence someone who likes you. Successful influencers try to flatter and uncover similarities in order to build attraction.
  2. Social proof. People like to follow one another, so influencers imply the herd is moving the same way.
  3. Consistency. Most people prefer to keep their word. If people make a commitment, particularly if it’s out loud or in writing, they are much more likely to keep it. Influencers should try to gain verbal or written commitments.
  4. Scarcity. Even when companies have warehouses full of a product, they still advertise using time-limited offers that emphasise scarcity. People want what they can’t have, or at least what might be running short.
  5. Authority. People are strongly influenced by experts. Successful influencers flaunt their knowledge to establish their expertise.
  6. Reciprocity. Give something to get something. When people feel indebted to you they are more likely to agree to what you want. This feeling could arise from something as simple as a compliment.

There are many more, but these six are often quoted, especially in business circles. The reason these work is that they tap into three basic human goals, and it’s these goals that are the key to understanding how to influence and persuade people (from Cialdini and Goldstein, 2004).

1. Goal of affiliation

In the most part humans are social so they want to be liked. Rejection is no fun and we’ll do almost anything to avoid it.

We reciprocate because it sends a message about our sociability. We try to elicit liking from other people by behaving in ways we guess will be attractive, like agreeing with them or complimenting them.

Not only do we want approval from specific people, we also want it from society at large (see this article on conformity). We want the things we do, think and believe to be broadly in line with what others do, think and believe. It’s not impossible to be different, but it is difficult.

The techniques of liking and reciprocity mentioned above both clearly play on our desire for affiliation, as do many other techniques of persuasion and influence. Most people are joiners and followers so influencers like to give us something to join and someone to follow.

2. Goal of accuracy

People who don’t care about doing things correctly never get anywhere in life. To achieve our goals in what is a complicated world, we have to be continually trying to work out the best course of action.

It could be accuracy in social situations, such as how to deal with the boss or how to make friends, or it could be accuracy in financial matters like how to get a good deal, or it could be accuracy in existential matters. Whatever the arena, people are always striving for the ‘right’ answer.

Influencers understand our need to be right and so they try to offer things that appeal to our need for accuracy. For example, experts or authority figures influence people heavily because they offer us a ‘correct’ view or way of doing things, especially one that we don’t have to think too carefully about.

The techniques of social proof and scarcity both nag at our desire to be accurate because we assume other people are likely to be right and we don’t want to miss out on a bargain.

3. Goal of maintaining positive self-concept

People want to protect their view of themselves because it takes a long time to build up a semi-coherent view of oneself and one’s place in the world.

We work hard to keep our world-views intact: we want to maintain our self-esteem, to continue believing in the things we believe in and to honour whatever commitments we have espoused in the past. In an inconsistent world we at least should be self-consistent.

Persuaders and influencers can leverage this goal by invoking our sense of self-consistency. A trivial but instructive example is the foot-in-the-door technique. This is where an influencer asks you to agree to a small request before asking for a bigger one. Because people feel somehow that it would be inconsistent to agree to one request and then refuse the next one, they want to say yes again.

People will go to surprising lengths to maintain their positive view of themselves.

Unconscious motivators

Everybody wants to be accurate, to affiliate with others and to maintain their concept of themselves, however little awareness we might have of these goals. Effective persuasion and influence attempts can target one or more of these goals.

With these goals in mind it is possible to tailor persuasion attempts to the particular characteristics of an audience, rather than relying on transparent generic techniques. Whether it’s at work, dealing with your boss, or at home negotiating with a neighbour, we can all benefit from thinking about other people’s unconscious motivators. Then we can work out how to align our message with their goals.

Image credit: ATIS547

How to Be Creative

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Others Experiences of Cloud Computing

A pastiche of others experiences with cloud computing (as a piece of reportage for your delectation) …

Kevin Drum – Working in the Cloud — http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/05/working-cloud

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Motivation – Purpose

Watch this: Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

  • Define your purpose
  • Orient to your purpose
  • Succeed

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Online Engagement Principles

In many ways, we found managing conversations in [Google] Wave much like managing them in any other online environment: create reward mechanisms for the things you want to encourage, develop ways of dealing with the things you want to prevent. Praise good activity publicly, deal with the bad in private. Understand and deliver what people want in return for giving of their time and expertise. Find the champions amongst your users, they want to do more to help. Offer people a variety of ways to get involved and make it easy for them to transition from lurker to participant.

by David Crane, debatewise.org,
source: http://www.debatewise.info/index.php/blog/debatable/lessons-learnt-from-using-google-wave-in-phase-1-of-the-cop15-project as at 16 March 2010 – discussing the use of GoogleWave for a worldwide organisation of more than 1,000 debaters.

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