A good reminder: Hackers are out there

A site I occasionally help out with was on the receiving end of a brute-force attack today. Nothing subtle about it: a single IP address in Europe sent nearly 50,000 attempts to log in using a single user account. Hackers are out there, people, and they are persistent.

For securing WordPress sites, I highly recommend the Wordfence plugin. I have no affiliation with the product, but I will say that even the free version is truly an excellent piece of software.

Ebooks Community on Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange has launched (in beta) a wonderful new community at ebooks.stackexchange.com. It’s a fantastic and free resource for all questions related to ebooks – reading, writing, publishing, buying, selling, and lending. Anyone can ask a question, anyone can answer, and the best questions and answers get voted to the top. I encourage you to come check it out and get involved!

Fix Quicken 2014 Copy and Paste with AutoHotKey

For no apparent reason, Intuit broke the copy and paste functions in Quicken 2014, such that you can no longer copy text from a transaction or paste into a transaction field. If you use AutoHotKey, there’s an easy fix. Just add the following to a .ahk script:

#IfWinActive Quicken
; Quicken 2014 no longer allows pasting of
; text in most contexts, so fix that
^v::
^+v::
SendInput {Raw}%clipboard%
return
^c::
ControlGetFocus, ctrl
if (RegExMatch(ctrl, "QREdit\d+")) {
ControlGet, clipboard, Selected,, %ctrl%
}
return
; This must be at the end of this section
#IfWinActive

Toggle the Find Results Window in Notepad++ with a Hotkey

I write software and play with websites in my spare time, mostly using Notepad++.  One of the banes of my existence is that there is no keyboard shortcut for closing the Find Results pane / window that appears when I do one of the following:

  • Find All in All Opened Documents
  • Find All in Current Document
  • Find All (in multiple files)

There isn’t one built in, as discussed in this question on Superuser.com, as well as this one and this one. F7 opens the pane or window, but doesn’t close it. The second question link above suggests that Esc will close the pane or window, but this doesn’t work for me, at least in Notepad++ >= 6.

I got fed up with this and created a script for my own use, using AutoHotKey. The following script will convert F7 from an open-only shortcut to a toggle; it opens it if it isn’t already open, and closes it if it is.

Here is the script:

I hope this helps everyone else out there who loves Notepad++!

Note: I posted this originally on Superuser.com.

Edited 1/14/2014 to fix a bug in detecting the undocked window

Jumper Cables for the Mind

Here’s one way to get those juices flowing: Jumper Cables for the Mind – NYTimes.com. We’re already concerned about people enhancing their ability to access and process information using tools like Google Glass, and it’s already well-known that everyday activities like drinking a cup of coffee can enhance mental performance. Now, we’re going to have to watch out for people with electrodes stuck to their heads.,,

On a related note, you might head over to Lumosity.com if you’re interested in some (non-electrifying) mental stimulation.

Passwords Done Wrong

I recently changed a password at Citibank, and was greeted with this absurd guidance.

citicards_password_rules

Where to start? A 6-character password is ridiculously insecure, so that’s not great. But the “must not” section is what amuses me. The first and second bullets are perfectly fine. The fourth one is very disturbing — how secure can a password really be if you eliminate 26 characters that I might otherwise use? More importantly, this implies that perhaps passwords aren’t being stored in a secure manner, in the first place — if they are properly hashing their passwords, it is impossible to tell if a password is an “almost” match, except for capitalization. You have to wonder how they are storing the passwords.

It’s the third rule that convinced me we are in never-never land. Your password must not “[h]ave any spaces before, in the middle of, or following any characters.” Leave aside that they already told me that my password must not “[c]ontain any spaces,” so this whole point is redundant. What in the world does it mean to say that I can’t have any spaces “in the middle of… any characters?” Bizarre.

This whole thing made me think of this truly excellent comic from xkcd and this post about it, complete with passphrase generator. Personally, I strongly recommend using KeePass and letting it generate and store ridiculously strong passwords for you.

Logos

I am a huge fan of Logos Bible Software. For those who aren’t familiar with them, Logos makes the leading software for reading and analyzing the Bible, along with hundreds of other materials, including ancient texts, commentaries, and more.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the Scholar’s Library — dozens of resources, worth thousands of dollars in print versions — more than a decade ago. Sadly, somewhere in the past few years, my installation broke, and I could never get it to work properly on the last couple of computers I have owned, nor would it recognize the many resources that came with the Scholar’s Library. Logos has gone through many versions since then, and the latest versions didn’t even recognize my license key.

Thanks to a very helpful Logos staffer named Hunter Clagett, I now have access to all of these materials again, and could not be happier about it. Thanks, Hunter, and thanks, Logos!

If you are experiencing similar difficulties, this link may be helpful.

How to Move Your Contacts from an iPhone to Exchange

When I changed jobs, I found myself with a lot of legacy contacts that were on my iPhone but not in Outlook at work. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you can use an app called Orbi Tools to move contacts from the “On my iPhone” group to Exchange. I did this, and it worked perfectly, although you should be aware that any photos associated with your contacts on your phone will likely not make the move to Exchange, because of how Outlook stores image information. Also, if you have a few hundred contacts or more, you may want to plug in your phone before starting the move — it can take quite a while to move all of the contacts, depending on the speeds of your internet connection, your Exchange server, and other factors.

Hat tip: The Sysadmins

You Need a . . . Discount! (on You Need A Budget)

I have blogged before about the awesome personal budgeting software You Need A Budget!, a/k/a YNAB. It is now in version 4 and better than ever, with cloud syncing among all your devices (computer, smartphone, iPad or tablet, etc.). We use it for all of our budgeting, and we absolutely love it.

Anyway, if you want a $6 discount on the new version, use this link: http://ynab.refr.cc/XTT5GR6

Disclaimer: I will receive a small commission on any sales through the above link.

Handy Software – WinDirStat

This is a PSA for those who have way too much junk on their hard drives.

Background

For several months, McAfee has been taking ever longer to run virus scans on my hard drive, getting to the point that it sometimes took a couple of days. When I investigated, it reported that it was scanning almost 1.1 million files — far more than I realized that I had. In fact, I couldn’t even figure out where that many files had come from. For example, I knew that I have several large collections of sample data from programming efforts over the years, but these totaled at most maybe 100,000 files, not hundreds of thousands. So, at first, I was just left wondering which program had secretly cluttered up my drive with random junk, but without any good options for resolving the problem.

WinDirStat to the Rescue

I found the problem areas by downloading and installing WinDirStat, an open source application for scanning a hard drive and determining which files and folders take up the most space, as well as which file types do so.

Screenshot of WinDirStat
A screenshot of WinDirStat (from the official site)

WinDirStat took about 20 minutes to analyze my hard drive on the first run, but the results were tremendously helpful. I was able to see at a glance that I had two enormous folders buried on my system about which I had totally forgotten. One contained a complete backup of Sarah’s hard drive from, I think, 2007 — it had even been migrated in at least one laptop replacement, if not two. The other folder contained hundreds of thousands of files from an old backup of my own files, which I didn’t even know was on my system. Many of those were related to software development, meaning they got extra processing time from the virus scanner. The upshot: two folders alone accounted for more than 450,000 files and more than 100 GB. Unsurprisingly, getting rid of this junk sped up those virus scans tremendously, at least four-fold based on the first post-cleanup scan.

Summary and Non-Windows Options

If you are looking for a good way to clean up your hard drive, WinDirStat is a handy tool to have. Check it out at the official site or the project blog.

WinDirStat Logo
The official WinDirStat logo (variant 06 shown here) is pretty nifty, right?

WinDirStat is Windows-only, but there are good options for other systems. Although I don’t have personal experience with them, similar alternatives for other operating systems include:

P.S. Sarah glanced over at my computer from a good distance while I was writing this post and thought that I was writing that I had 1,000,000 flies in my hard drive. Fortunately, no. If that happens to be a problem that you do have, I am afraid I can’t help you.

P.P.S. This post had the unintentional effect of illuminating serious shortcomings in my WordPress theme; the way images with captions are displayed is terrible. I think it’s a question of new versions of WordPress coming out more often than I post, on average, so the theme has languished for quite a while and quite a few versions. Time to give it another face lift, I suppose.