The cool new thing Nov 8, 2014

How a Microsoft-using contrarian ended up with a Nexus 5 and a Mac

It's time for me to confess a deep, dark secret: when it comes to software, I can sometimes be a bit of a hipster.

When I was in high school and into college, I frequently went out of my way to use different software just for the sake of not using the typical apps my friends were using. In the world of IM, I might have used ICQ, AIM and MSN as the protocols, but it never took me long to jump away from the official apps: over the years I used Miranda, Pidgin, Trillian, etc. much more often than actual MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and ICQ clients. I spent nearly a year using MEPIS Linux as my primary OS on a mildly-antiquated laptop. And of course, I spent about a decade using Opera as my main browser, a fact that got me consistently mocked at Microsoft.

Towards the end of college and especially when I started my job at Microsoft, though, I found myself jumping full force in the opposite direction, going out of my way to use the official Microsoft apps like Photo Gallery, OneNote and of course OneDrive. (I still used Opera until they decided to give up work on their own rendering engine and switch to Chromium.) I also bought in to the Microsoft ecosystem, using Windows Phone as my primary OS and an assortment of Windows-based PCs–mostly Thinkpads–over the years.

Ironically, sticking to "the man" during that period was actually somewhat hipster in its own way: as Apple gained success with iPhones and iPads and Android began its spectacular growth, most people weren't buying Microsoft-based devices, and as a consequence weren't having the same computing experience I was. So in spite of my convergence to the safe, no-one-got-fired-for-buying choices, I was yet again in the minority.

On the eve of my five year anniversary at Microsoft, I found myself increasingly out of touch with what most of my peers were experiencing in their day-to-day computing life. I had never owned an iPhone (though I'd had the occasional experience with iOS through iPods and iPads), and I hadn't used an Android phone since the very early, very painful stages of that OS. I hadn't used Mac OS on a primary computer in about five years. Instead, I was quite familiar with Windows, Windows Phone, and–all hipster-like–Palm's tragically doomed WebOS.

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Creating a common password management API Aug 13, 2014

Earlier this year, I spoke at Seattle's fantastic Ignite event (the 24th edition, in my case) about this subject. This is my second post on the problems with managing passwords in the modern world of technology; you may wish to read the first part, where I describe why this is a problem and why the current solutions aren't good enough.

In the meantime, here's my speech from Ignite, in case you'd like the five minute version!

A common password management API

One of the worst things about passwords...

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We need a common password management API May 22, 2014

Note: On May 22 I spoke on this topic at Ignite Seattle 24. If you're familiar with the Ignite format, you'll realize that it demands conciseness, so I wanted to expand on my talk.

This is part one of the expanded write-up.

Background

A few weeks ago, a pretty nasty vulnerability in the OpenSSL software that's used by many popular websites on the internet was discovered. It quickly became known as the Heartbleed bug, and a security company called Codenomicon compiled a fantastic write-up on...

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Adding the Delicious bookmarklet to Opera Dec 2, 2012

If you use Delicious with the Opera browser like I do, you might have found yourself frustrated because the official Delicious bookmarklet just shows up as a blank icon when dragged to the Opera toolbar. I was, too, so I decided to tweak it for my own purposes.

If you just want the fixed-up bookmarklet…

I reused the Opera icon used to bring up the Bookmarks menus. You can simply hold down shift, then drag and drop this button to your toolbar:

Add to Delicious

You'll end up with something like...

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Keep your identity broad Apr 2, 2012

Or, figuring out what I want to be when I grow up

In Jostein Gaarder's remarkable novel "about the history of philosophy," Sophie's World, the plot kicks off with the title character receiving an anonymous postcard in the mail, asking a seemingly simple question: "Who are you?"

The simplicity is, of course, a deception. It often seems the more important something is, the more difficult it is to articulate, not to mention fully understand and apply. This is true of everything from scientific concepts, where the theories that come closest to explaining...

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Fighting the contrarian urge Mar 10, 2012

A few weeks ago I was chatting with an acquaintance who wanted to learn to code. He was stuck in a bit of analysis paralysis, trying to decide on the "best" programming language, IDE, framework, etc. to learn was. I've been there too: at one point in my life I literally flipped a coin on whether I was going to go learn Ruby or Python.

My advice to him was simple: just pick something and run with it. As Teddy Roosevelt supposedly said, "In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the...

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