Refrigerator Oatmeal

Heard about refrigerator oatmeal recently from an friend, and it sounded interesting. I looked around a bit on the interwebs and found a few recipes for it. But the ones that I was the most interested in also seemed like a bit of a pain to mix up. I saw a lot of recipes that seemed to be working in lots of small containers. As with most recipes, I took it and played with it a bit. Here is what I ended up with:

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Keeping it clean

We've got a friend, a friend who is having a problem. It's a problem that a lot of people probably have, but most probably don't know about it.

There is some conventional wisdom out there that would have everyone believe that the younger generations are inherently better at protecting themselves online than the older generations. The logic goes that since these younger people have grown up with computers, they are inherently more savvy. My work experience tells me that these people tend to be larger PITAs. They feel as if they are owed a computer that functions perfectly all of the time. Of course, since they've been told that they are naturally better with the tool that they have been provided since it's always been a part of their life.

Well in the same way that new college grads are the tech gurus that they think they are, your kids don't know how to protect themselves on the internet. They can protect themselves from the threats online about as well as they can protect themselves from a marauding horde of visigoths wreaking havoc in the mall. And it gets even worse if they don't want to protect themselves.

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Continuous Integration with MonoTouch and Jenkins

A couple of years ago at work we started developing a mobile application. None of us had any mobile experience to speak of, so we read some books. As we began debugging early versions of the app, we learned pretty quickly that we needed a standardized build process.

At the time we knew of solutions like Jenkins, but didn't really know where to begin. Since the developers were pretty swamped with development and debugging, I took on the responsibility of trying to standardize the build process. I'm not really a programmer, and I didn't really know how solution and project files work. Since we were working in MonoDevelop rather than in Visual Studio, none of the devs really had time or capacity to stop and take a look at the options that were there.

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Too many passwords!!!

I frequently get asked how I deal with so many passwords (I can think of at least 25 right off the top of my head that I use at least once per week). At work people are consistently commenting (complaining) about the number of passwords that they have. I see people writing on Facebook (and less often on Twitter) about the number of passwords they deal with.

In this article, I'm going to put out what I think are some common sense practices that just about anyone can use to help keep their data moderately secure, and still be able to deal with their passwords efficiently.

Let me start by saying that when it comes to your job, and any of your work devices, I wold recommend that you talk to your company's IT staff about what they require (and recommend) for their equipment. I do expect that everyone would fully comply with their corporate IT policy & procedures, even if what they say is in direct contradiction to what I am writing here. Nothing I write in here should be construed as an attack, or a critique of what might be happening at your place of work. With that out of the way ...

I want to start with a couple of common sense rules that should help keep your information more secure.

    Use a separate password for your accounts as much as you can. The higher the importance of the data, the longer your password should be. Change your passwords. Don't try to remember everything.
These days, it is somewhat difficult to do have unique password for every account, but this is the ultimate goal. Short of this, make a list of the passwords you have and rank them by the information about you that they protect. Bank passwords should be unique, online shopping sites where you knowingly save your bank information (Amazon) should be unique. Anything that doesn't contain information that could ruin your life, you can use a common password for; if you have to.

You'll see lots of sites that say that your password should be at least X characters long, and blah blah blah. The simple fact of the matter is that the longer your password is, the harder it is to guess (and when it comes down to it, most of the time when an account is broken into it is because it has been guessed). The more character classes you can use, the more difficult it is to guess.

That last sentence sounds terribly geeky, but it isn't all that bad. In your average correctly capitalized and punctuated sentence, one uses 3 out of 4 commonly identified character classes  -- upper case letters, lower case letters, & punctuation (with the the 4th class being digits). So for the most important accounts, choose a sentence that you will remember, and type it out.

There's another advantage to using a sentence -- it is generally easier to remember. \"Overall, I think that yellow potatoes taste better than purple squash\" is much easier to remember than, \"E0imB1k3\". The great part is that it is more secure as well. The more traditional password has a total search space of 62 possible characters, and a total search size of 221,919,451,578,090. That sentence has a total search space of 85 with a total search size of a number so large that I'm not going to bother publishing it. Suffice to say that it is a number with 45 commas in it. Simply put, that traditional passphrase could be guessed by a routine attack in about 45 minutes, while the sentence would take several hundred centuries to guess.

Sorry about geeking out right there, but I wanted to make sure that you got the point. A secure password doesn't need to be difficult to remember.

There are some passwords that I should change more frequently than I do. There are other passwords that I change 4 times per year. Some passwords get changed more. As I go back through my history, I see that I have had 7 Facebook passwords in calendar year 2012. I'd recommend that you try to change everything at least 2x per year. Some accounts you should certainly change more frequently.

So by this point you probably think this is impossible -- multiple passwords that are insanely long and get changed multiple times per year. How could anyone ever remember that? Well, my secret -- I don't. Or at least I don't worry about remembering them.

There is lots of software out there that can help you securely manage your online accounts & passwords. The common objection to this sort of software, of course, is one of convenience. If your passwords are all stored on your PC at home, how can you get one when you are at the in-laws? The answer (hopefully) is your phone.

I always have either my iPhone or an iPad with me anywhere I am. To duplicate my password management system, follow these steps:

Go to Dropbox.com and sign up for a free account. We'll come back to this in a bit, but you need the account to really get started. Download a piece of software called KeePass and install it on your PC. KeePass is password management software. When you first run it, it will prompt you to create a database, and it prompts you for a password. Make the password solid -- make it long, and do your best to get a digit and some punctuation in it. This will be the absolute last password that you'll ever have to remember. Enter all of your passwords into KeePass, remembering to hit save from time to time. Take the time to poke around in KeePass and get to know it. It is fairly intuitive, but it is still worth getting a good feel for it. Once you are ready, go back to your Dropbox account, and create a folder called /Crypted Move the KeePass database file to the /Crypted folder in your dropbox account Grab your trusty iPhone, and install an app called KyPass. Yes you have to pay for it. It's a couple of bucks, and well worth a little peace of mind. Open KyPass, and it should walk you through setting itself up. Essentially it will need to connect to your Dropbox account, where it will find your password database. Enter in your super secret password that you made when you set up KeePass, and voilà, you should have all of your password at your fingertips. As long as you have an Edge connection (hopefully better) you should be able to get to your passwords from anywhere. *Now put a password on your iPhone.

So in the end, you end up with an encrypted password database that stores all of your passwords in the cloud and you can access from anywhere. The only 2 things that you absolutely have to remember are the KeePass password and your iPhone unlock code. You can forget all of the rest, knowing that it is stored somewhere more secure than in your brain.

Now there's no more excuse for using the same password on your bank account that you have had on your Hotmail account since 1996 (and has been compromised 14 times). Now there's no reason not to change frequently, since you don't really have to remember the new password, you only need to save it. And you've got no reason for choosing pathetic password. Did I miss anything?

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that I have a ton of password that I remember. It's true, but I remember them because I access a lot of different systems frequently. I remember through repetition, not because I make an effort to remember. In fact, it seems to me that making an effort to remember something is a sure fired way to ensure that you forget it. There are dozens more passwords that I don't use that frequently, but I have stored in a KeePass file. No muss, no fuss.

If you do move to adopt something similar to what I do, a couple of words of common sense.

First, make a backup of that KeePass file from Dropbox from time to time. Even if it is just stored on your PC, just make sure that you make an effort to grab an extra copy of it once per month or so. When encrypted files corrupt (and all files can get corrupt), there is generally no recovery -- it's encrypted, remember? If you wanna go all out on this, then put a copy of it on a thumbdrive once a month, and keep it in your safe deposit box.

Second, write down the KeePass password and put it somewhere secure. Don't write \"KeePass password\" at the top, and then the password right underneath it. Just write the thing on a Post-It or a small piece of paper, and put it somewhere where you no you won't lose it -- in a safe deposit box, or something like that. That way if you do forget the one password you have left to remember, you can still get your data out of there.

Third, keep dropping breadcrumbs. If you haven't figured it out yet, those first 2 common sense items were to help safegaurd your data fro yourself. Take the last step, and put the following info in that safe deposit box (or whatever you are using): your Dropbox password, and the email address that you used to register.

Fourth, don't keep all of your breadcrumbs in a notebook in your underwear drawer. While it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to be snooping through your skivs, you can't leave everything in one place, unless it is truly secure -- like the bank.

So there you have it. Now take the step, and get started. After all, you write yourself notes to remember to get beer and pretzels. Why not document something that is truly important?

Zen and the art of shaving

I've never liked shaving. In fact, it seems as if I've hated it for most of my adult life. It could be inaccurate, but I remember being very nonchalant about getting a razor for Christmas from a friend -- I think I was 14 or 15. It also seems like it was quite a while before I used it.

I remember looking around at people when I was in college and starting work who were constantly clean shaven. Sometimes I wondered what my problem was. I suspect that it had to do with the fact that I had a girl friend -- even though I'm certain that she would have preferred that I had been clean shaven.

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Sidetracked...

So as we write all these posts about our vacation, I feel like I should start an "Anthony's best quotes" page for all the crazy things my sweet child has come up with this week.  I hate to clutter the vacation stuff with them or have someone miss one so...  here I am to tell you a few good ones...

We started playing the license plate game on the way -- At one point early in the week Anthony says, "Why are there so many stinking Virginia plates everywhere we already got Virginia?"  -- sorry dear our hotel is in Virginia... DUH!

Today's quote:  "The metro is really fast except when it slows down"  Uh... wasn't sure what to even say to that!

Zoo = animal hotel thingy

I'll add to this as I think of more of them... he is a riot some days!

Thursday, August 4: Mount Vernon -- a day way too short!

So we opted out of the busy city today and thought we would check out Mount Vernon. Wow I am so glad we did. Kirk went all out today and got the full package plus the National Treasure 2 tour.  So we got to ride the spirit of Washington tour boat -- pretty short, beautiful views, very relaxing! We toured the house and grounds, went to the distillery and gristmill... we arrived at 11am (should have been there at 9 but I let everyone sleep in... note to anyone who goes... do it early! There is soooo much to see!) and we left around 5:30.  The house was amazing.  Can't even imagine the work it took to make it so magnificent.  The gardens, the buildings, the work... most amazing to me was the faux brick exterior: beveled wood made in shape of stone and painted - while the pain it wet they put clean sand on it - making it look like stone!   I am sure I can't do the description well enough but it looked very cool! What else... so many things I can't tell you all... Washington was truly before his times... rotating crop fields, composting, sanitation, freeing slaves... just very cool to think he was thinking so far ahead.

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Wednesday, August 3: Madame Toussauds Wax Museum, Natural History Museum and Air & Space Museum

Today was an un-energetic day.  Everyone was a little tired, Syd wasn't feeling great and I didn't sleep well last night. And oh... it was raining.  We started out our day with the Wax Museum.  First up take a picture of Anthony with all 44 wax Presidents... yep you read that right. EVERY last one of our presidents. Anthony has a picture with them all. We made him keep the pictures in order so there is no confusion later when we get them off the camera as to who they are!  He even sat next to Lincoln in his Presidential box at the theater where he was shot.  We got a few other shots of various famous people.  Notable people other than the presidents: Johnny Depp, George Clooney (kids are into Danny Ocean movies), Julia Roberts ( they didn't know who she was -- when is it ok to show Syd "Pretty Woman" ?  I love that movie!) Britney Spears ( and yes they made her look like a tramp in wax too... swinging on a pole); Tiger Woods (the sports section was lacking); Oprah ( the skinny version -- barely recognized her!) Can't think of who else....It was pretty expensive for our blood and was cool until we realized we were done and that was all there was.  Don't think we would bother ever again, but Anthony got his pic with all the presidents like he wanted so I guess it was good. Then we walked a bit, ate lunch and then headed to the Natural History Museum. Highlights: Dinosaurs, Gems (syd and I enjoyed this), Mammals... Sure the kids will fill this in. Then off across the National Mall to the Air and Space Museum.  It was pretty cool. Nothing that really excites me personally. Kids were wilting at this point. So we headed out, hopped on the Metro and came back to the hotel.  Of course those wimpy children who couldn't look at anything more are currently wrestling in the other bedroom ( yep this is why Kirk and I get a 2 bedroom suite ... he's watching TV in the common space, I'm in our room and the kids have their own -- though Sydney does sleep on the pull out sofa.) Now for the kids... I am interested to see what they liked about each place....

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Tuesday August 2: National Zoo & Arlington National Cemetery

Today we started out at the National Zoo...aka The animal hotel thingy... according to Anthony on the way home when he was a little overtired and not thinking well. The Pandas were pretty cool.  We arrived at 10 and walked around the zoo until just before 4... 2 downfalls to this zoo 1- lots of exhibits were under construction. 2- the hill... you wander thru the zoo enjoying the  scenery and then suddenly realize you have been here for hours and are exhausted and .... you parked at the top of the hill and you now have to walk the 8/10th of the mile up hill back to your car.   Note to any coming here in the future... park in c or d lots... they are at the bottom of the hill... you will enjoy the end of the day much better!

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Monday, August 1 : DC bound!

Today was the first day in DC! We visited many monuments and memorials. My favorite was the Lincoln memorial. We also went to the Smithsonian Museum of American history. My two favorite parts of that was the first lady's dress. my favorite one was Ms.Obama's dress. My other favorite thing was the original Sam and Friends (A Jim Henson creation) puppets.
--Sydney, age 11

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