Proposed new password metric: typability

It’s pass­word renew­al time at work, and it’s got me think­ing about the best pos­si­ble pass­word. All the tips, tricks, lit­er­a­ture, guide­lines, rules, and auto­mat­ic gen­er­a­tors are obsessed with cre­at­ing strong pass­words. And that’s fine, I gave up easy-to-remem­ber pass­words a long time ago. But there’s anoth­er char­ac­ter­is­tics of a good pass­word that nobody has yet addressed.

How easy is a pass­word to type? How many times do you have to hold shift down? What about on your iPhone? How many times do you have to flip back and forth from one key lay­out to anoth­er? One pass­word I have makes me flip no less than five dif­fer­ent times.

That’s a pain in the ass.

I’d like to see this become a new met­ric in pass­word gen­er­a­tion. Let’s call it “typa­bil­i­ty.”

Here are three exam­ples of 8 char­ac­ter pass­words, rat­ed “Strong 100%” at some Google-found pass­word check­er site.


OMG. The gen­er­a­tor I used for that one sug­gest­ed you “remem­ber” it this way, ”) % ipod } ’ 4 [ VIRGIN” to which I can only say… no. Plus, talk about hard to type. On a key­board, that takes three trips to the Shift key, so five lay­out changes, or to put it sim­ply, this 8 char­ac­ter pass­word takes 11 key­strokes. On the iPhone, it takes 17 taps (!), shift­ing vir­tu­al key­pads eight times! Talk about awful.


I came up with this one myself, mov­ing rough­ly left to right on the key­board, try­ing to stick with the shift key. On the key­board it takes two vis­its to the shift key, so only three lay­out changes, and 10 key­strokes. But because the keys are close to each oth­er, they are eas­i­er to type quick­ly. Does that make the pass­word eas­i­er to crack? Pos­si­bly, but I don’t real­ly know. On the iPhone key­board, it takes 14 taps, shift­ing the key­pad four times. Mar­gin­al­ly bet­ter than the above. I’d remem­ber this one as “Qwer­ty p”.


I came up with this one, too, but on the iPhone. On a phys­i­cal key­board, it takes two shift key strokes, and 10 key­strokes, which is the same as the above (though it seems faster to me). But on the iPhone it takes only 10 taps, shift­ing the key­board only once. Of course, I’d have to remem­ber it as “assy sand ought nine uh” so that’s prob­a­bly a prob­lem.

So, I’m look­ing for a strong pass­word gen­er­a­tor that can also pro­duce pass­words that are easy to type on a key­board, an iPhone key­board, oth­er key­boards (though I don’t per­son­al­ly care about them), and has mnemonic/memorable clues. I am curi­ous about whether typa­bil­i­ty com­pro­mis­es pass­word strength, too.

Any­one up for that? Lazy­web?

The problem with Google

I do love me Google. A lot. I use it exclu­sive­ly, and when­ev­er I present to the hoi pol­loi on “Search­ing teh Intar­webs” I use Google to do it. But there is one thing they need to fix, between adding more one box­es and putting lit­tle arrows at the end of my cus­tomized search results. They need a decent time­line selec­tor.

Often, and more often late­ly, when I search for some­thing, I want to know what Google has found for this in the last day, or two days, or week, or not this week, but last week, but not as long ago as last month. And there is no easy way to do this.

Sure, there’s the Advanced Search, with its lim­it­ed selec­tion of dates. Or I can use the News fil­ter, or the Blogs fil­ter, but none of that would be as easy to use, or as accu­rate, as a handy slid­er. Google has many exam­ples in their own prod­ucts of tem­po­ral selec­tors, from the stocks charts in Finance to the cal­en­dar pick­ers in Ana­lyt­ics. It is time to bring one of those to the moth­er­ship, Big G.

The WiFi button

I have a sug­ges­tion for Apple. Yes, I know they are (not) lis­ten­ing.

I think the next iPhone/iPod touch should have a WiFi but­ton. Like the pow­er but­ton on the top, maybe on the oth­er side of the device, it should glow a light blue when it is on. You’d use it to turn WiFi on and off on the device, with­out hav­ing to dip into the set­tings all the time. It would then be incred­i­bly easy to pro­long your bat­tery life.

What made me think of this? Run­ning out of bat­tery halfway through my flight yes­ter­day, par­tial­ly due to con­stant­ly look­ing for WiFi at the air­ports. (Par­tial­ly due to watch­ing a lot of TED, admit­ted­ly.)

There, Apple. All yours. The fifth but­ton.

Matchmaking service for students buying Macs and others wanting iPod touches

No, it does­n’t exist, not that I could find. But it should. And quick. Any­one? Lazy­web? Bueller? Make a ser­vice that match­es peo­ple buy­ing Macs this sum­mer via the .edu dis­count, and peo­ple who would be will­ing to fork over $20 for the “free” iPod touch the first par­ty will get. Make it and they will come.

I want to pre-order a book that doesn’t exist, but will

Here’s the deal.  I’m read­ing a tril­o­gy by Robin Hobb.  It’s a fan­ta­sy series, yes, and the books are actu­al­ly a bit of a trudge, but sure­ly worth it in the end.  I have the first two in paper­back.  The third—and final—book is now out in hard­cov­er.  I don’t buy hard­cov­er.

So, I would very much like to vis­it on online book retail­er, find the hard­cov­er edi­tion of this book, and check a box that says, “Noti­fy me when this is avail­able in paper­back.”  Sub­mit!  When I get the email, I click on a link, I check out, I have the book, they have my mon­ey.

But nobody does that.  Not Ama­zon, not Bor­ders, not Barnes & Noble.  Now, I under­stand that they can’t actu­al­ly place a pre-order for a book that does not yet exist.  It has­n’t been announced by the pub­lish­er, it does­n’t have an ISBN num­ber, and who knows, maybe they’ll nev­er get around to print­ing a paper­back ver­sion of it.

But chances are (and I’d put them at 99.99%) that this book will even­tu­al­ly show up in paper­back form.  They could offer me the option, with the caveat that I may nev­er get noti­fied.  If any of those three retail­ers had this option, they would have just made a sale.  As it is, I’ll like­ly for­get about it, and maybe see the book on a shelf dur­ing one of my infre­quent vis­its to a phys­i­cal book­store.  And maybe I’ll buy it then, and maybe I won’t.

On a relat­ed note: Bor­ders and B&N both offer lists of books com­ing soon.  But none of these lists are search­able.  Hel­lo?  Of course, Ama­zon does­n’t seem to offer a brows­able Com­ing Soon list, so maybe the oth­er guys aren’t wor­ried.

Powered by Gravity: Hot Wheels and Line Rider

While on vaca­tion in Flori­da, we passed a bill­board that had a very cool car on it, at a down­ward angle, and the tag line read, “Real Cars are Pow­ered by Grav­i­ty.” In the cor­ner was a Hot Wheels logo. I thought that was awe­some. Then, a few days lat­er I saw some­thing pass by in my RSS read­er about Line Rid­er, the game. And a moment of adver­tis­ing syn­er­gy was born. Hot Wheels (nee Mat­tel) needs to license a ver­sion of Line Rid­er that uses a car instead of a sled.

Remote sensor for thermostats

This is one of the Mil­lion Dol­lar Ideas. Please, take this idea, and make it a real­i­ty, so I can buy it. And if you know that this exists now, please point me to it!

You know those weather/temperature sta­tions you can buy every­where now? The ones with the 2, 4 or 16 remote sen­sors, so you can see what the tem­per­a­ture is out­side, in your room, and in the dog house? Well, some­one needs to take that tech­nol­o­gy and apply it to the ther­mo­stat.

I want my ther­mo­stat, wher­ev­er it is (incon­ve­nient­ly) locat­ed, to be able to access 2, 4 or 16 remote sen­sors about the house. Then it could be pro­grammed to set the tem­per­a­ture based on the read­ing in our bed­room at night, the kitchen in the morn­ing, and the baby’s room dur­ing nap time.

It seems like an easy, cheap way to approx­i­mate zoned heat­ing.

Advanced online banking features

Here’s an awe­some idea, if I do say so myself. I was look­ing at our bank account online, at our check­ing and our sav­ings accounts, when I thought to myself, it should­n’t be this hard to save for stuff.

If I can see my sav­ings account online, why can’t I des­ig­nate some of it as “Saved for new com­put­er” or “Saved for car down pay­ment” or “Saved for col­lege”? I’m not ask­ing for actu­al accounts, just vir­tu­al walls with­in my sav­ings account. If the bank were to offer pre-deter­mined cat­e­gories, they could do a lit­tle research and maybe offer tar­get­ed prod­ucts. For exam­ple, if I’m using the “Saved for home down pay­ment” cat­e­go­ry, they could be sure a mort­gage rate ad shows up on the page while I am view­ing my accon­ts.

I’m not sure what you would do when a large sum was with­drawn from the account… would the vir­tu­al accounts be drained in any par­tic­u­lar order? All to the same degree? All by the same per­cent­age of total? I don’t know, let the banks fig­ure that out.

In the mean­time, I’ll bank with you if you can offer me this fea­ture.

Buzzer the Washing Machine

Buzzers on clothes dry­ers are ubiq­ui­tous, but nobody seems to be putting buzzers on the wash­ing machines.

I under­stand that the dry­er buzzes because of all those cloth­ing care labels that say, “Tum­ble Dry Low. Remove Prompt­ly” But frankly, we use it to remind us that we have to switch loads around. But there are times, when we put a load in the wash, and for­get about it for hours (or days, or even a few days… ick). A buzzer on the wash­er would help us.

So go ahead, some­one (Ken­more, we buy a lot from you), steal this idea and get it done.

Single-use superglue

Every so often I wish I had some super­glue. I prob­a­bly do have some, in some tool­box some­where, but it is sure to be rock hard, or the cap is super­glued on, or you need a jack­ham­mer to get through the dried bit in the tube. Most­ly, I wish I had it, then I do some­thing else. Why go buy a tube of super­glue when you know the next time you need it, it’ll be all dried up?

Well, for the record, I would pay a dol­lar ($1 US) for a sin­gle-use tube of super­glue. Yeah, I know, you can buy a pack of two tubes of super­glue for $1.98. But I can’t see myself wast­ing all that super­glue.

Sin­gle-use super­glue may not make a lot of sense eco­nom­i­cal­ly, but I think it is an awe­some mar­ket­ing idea.