Wednesday, February 29, 2012

4 Tips for Answering Those Secret Questions on Internet Accounts

Woodchuck photo by Dan Dzurisin (NDomer73), found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Thanks to Time, I know that's one of the secret questions you can choose when signing up for Virgin America's Elevate program. And it's a whole lot better choice than most of the other questions, such as What is the name of the city where you were born? or What is your favorite color?

If you care about your security, you'll never want to answer a secret question, which can be used to retrieve or reset your password, with anything someone else can either easily guess or easily find out. How many people put their city of birth on a publicly available Facebook page?

And there just aren't that many colors that people are likely to name. In his book Perfect Passwords, Mark Burnett notes that "there are around 100 common colors, even considering colors such as taupe, gainsboro and fuchsia." Bruce Schneier says he can probably guess someone's answer to that question in "no more than five attempts."

Back in 2008, someone hacked Sarah Palin's e-mail; all he had to do was find out her birthdate, ZIP code, and where she met her spouse. He claims it took 45 minutes on Wikipedia and Google to find the answers.

As Anish Kumar writes: "Giving the user an option to guess the name of a pet or hometown in lieu of actually knowing a password dramatically shortens the odds for the attacker. The service is essentially telling the attacker: 'We understand that it is difficult to guess passwords, so let us help you narrow them down from potentially millions of combinations to around a dozen, or even better, if you know how to use Google, just one.'"

So how do you answer those secret questions? Here are some suggestions.

1. Use an algorithm.

Lifehacker reports on Danah Boyd's strategy:
The basic structure is:
[Snarky Bad Attitude Phrase] + [Core Noun Phrase] + [Unique Word]

Although these are not my actual phrases, let's map them for example:

Snarky Bad Attitude Phrase = StupidQuestion
Unique Word = Booyah

Thus, when I'm asked the following question: What is your favorite sports team?

My answer would be: StupidQuestion SportsTeam Booyah

2. Use the true answer — with some modification.

Lauren Weinstein has a number of suggestions for answering secret questions, including this:
One particularly useful technique is simply to add unrelated text onto the correct answers (ideally different at every site, but even using the same add-on string everywhere would be better than nothing within the context of secret questions). So for example, your first dog might be Manfred23Skidoo. Your favorite color could be blueRasputin. And so on.

3. Use a totally random reply. Consider writing it down in some non-obvious place.

Computer security expert Bruce Schneier wrote:
My usual technique is to type a completely random answer — I madly slap at my keyboard for a few seconds -- and then forget about it. This ensures that some attacker can't bypass my password and try to guess the answer to my secret question, but is pretty unpleasant if I forget my password.
And Ferdinand J. Reinke commented on another post by Bruce Schneier:
My Mom's maiden name is 7DGG46QPK, FGAD4P3N, DKNNT4VKP C9HJLPQVK, or KEZNBF6N9 depending which of the sites I used it at. If a "secret question" is a password, then I say treat it as such with your favorite 12 random alphanumerics. Just don't tell anyone about your secret list. Memorization of passwords leads to forgetting. As long as I don't lose my little black book, I'm fine.

4. If you're allowed to select your own question, go that route. Choose one where only you will know the answer — and one that can't be easily guessed because the possible answers are limited. That can be a lot harder than you might imagine. I finally came up with one: What's the book Sarah gave me in high school? I bet even Sarah doesn't remember that — it's been over 35 years, and we've long been out of touch — and no one else would have a clue.

Related Post:
Organizing the Passwords

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Hold the Rubber Bands

rubber bands on a doorknob
Photo by Michael Basial, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

No one needs a product specifically intended to hold rubber bands. Any little basket, bin or box will do — or you can use the approach that Michael Basial's relatives did, and just use the doorknob to hold them. (That's what I do, personally, with the few rubber bands I keep.) But if you'd like a fun way to store them, read on!

rubber band holder shaped like standing person

The newest product, available for preorder, is the Rafael rubber band holder from J-Me. There are three color choices, and each one ships with three rubber bands to start you out. [via Book of Joe]

rubber band holder shaped like seated person

Oomy makes this one: the Fitness Addict, which you can see on the company's Facebook page. This one comes with a few rubber bands, too. You can buy the Fitness Addict at Perpetual Kid. Oomy says it can also make these as branded products — that's a promotional product that would grab some attention!

rubber bands stretched between two metal hands

The Rubber Bando comes from India, and you can order it shipped from there. If you're in Australia, you can get it from Roaring Hippo.

You can also go see the Metaphys desk organizer, with a container designed specifically for rubber bands, mentioned in my February 2009 newsletter.

rubber bands made from recycled bicycle tubes

And finally, let me mention some special rubber bands, which come to us from Switzerland: the Plattfuss rubber bands by tät-tat, made from recycled bicycle tubes. Each package has 70 rubber bands, in various sizes. You can buy them from tät-tat or Pico Bollo or Pigr. In the U.S., you can get them through Spitfire Girl.

Five Ways to Stash Stuff in the Shower

shower niche

My shower has a "shower niche" — I had it added when the bathroom was remodeled, so I'd have room for shower gel, shampoo and conditioner bottles. (And no, I don't transfer my liquids into uniform bottles, as Martha Stewart recommends.) People can get pretty creative with these niches, as you can see on Houzz.

But what do you do with all the bottles (and the bar of soap, if you use one) if you don't have a shower niche?

shower caddy

Well, you could always use a standard shower caddy, and there are some pretty nice ones. This one comes from Hammacher Schlemmer, and Simple Human might be another good place to look. There are a large number of other choices, too. Update on July 14, 2014: Hammacher Schlemmer no longer carries this product.

Octopus shower caddy, with 8 arms to hold bottles

Or you could get the very fun-looking Octopus Shower Caddy, sold at Sleek Identity, Uncommon Goods, Made in Design, PA Design, and other sites. Update on July 13, 2014: Sleek Identity's website has disappeared, so look elsewhere for this product.

teak shower bench with shelf

If you have room for a shower seat, you can get one that also has a place to store your shower supplies. This one, in teak, comes from Frontgate, but I've also seen one at Hammacher Schlemmer.

shower shelf fits over shower towel bar

And finally, here's a new idea: the Shower Shelf, which transforms a shower towel bar into a shelf. Update: Sadly, I'm no longer finding this product.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

5 Ways to Successfully Store the Plastic Lids

pie chart of time spent using Tupperware
Comic used with permission.

Want to minimize the time spent looking for those lids? First of all, make sure you're only keeping the food storage containers you really need, and that they all have lids. Then try one of these strategies:

1. Store the lids on the containers. This can work just fine if you have few enough, and enough storage space.

2. Use storage containers designed to make lid storage easier, such as the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids; Rubbermaid has created a video showing how these work. You can also look for containers of multiple sizes that all use the same lid, so matching the lids up is easier.

3. Use a lid holder, such as the Place for Seals from Tupperware, or the plastic lid holder from Grayline Housewares.

4. Use a Command organizer from 3M, as Donna Smallin demonstrates.

5. Use a repurposed item. You could use a dish rack, as Donna Huisinga does. [via Decor Hacks] Or you could use a CD rack, as Better Homes and Gardens shows us. [via The Storage Geek] And any number of baskets can serve this purpose, too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

12 Cool Kitchen Utensil Holders

terra cotta kitchen utensil holder with Celtic dragon

Many people have some sort of utensil holder — but how many of these express the owner's sense of style? The utensil holder is an everyday storage item that can also be a work of art — or lovely piece of design. Let's look at some of the delightful options out there.

And let's start with this stunning terra cotta utensil holder from Pilliga Pottery in Australia; another design, with birds, is also available.

porcelain utensil jar

Mug Heaven has a number of porcelain utensil jars.

utensil holder - pueblo building design

I'm enchanted by this pueblo utensil holder from Cacart Southwest Designs.

porcelain utensil jar with birds

This sweet utensil jar comes from Rocky Broome, who has three other designs, too.

stoneware utensil holder with moose

And because I like whimsy, I'm pulled toward this "Moose Ware" stoneware utensil holder, by Monica Mann of Earth and Fire Pottery.

utensil crock, solid color

If you like a simpler look, there's the Fiesta utensil crock, in 15 colors.

white utensil holder, porcelain - says Utensils

And here's another simple utensil holder; it's one of the Ecology brand of products.

utensil holder, green

While I've mentioned this Sengware utensil holder before, it wasn't in a "utensil holder" post, so you may have missed it — which would be a shame. It comes in eight colors.

utensil holder

Another simple but stylish look is this cheese mould utensil holder from Garden Trading. It's also available in a slate color.

utensil holder, cherry wood, Shaker style

This gorgeous Shaker-style utensil holder comes from Shaker workshops.

holder for wooden spoons

And here's a very different product: a wooden spoon holder, sold by Baileys.

brass kitchen tool holders

And finally, if you have a lot of money to spend on a utensil holder, you could get the large or the small brass tool holders from Mjölk, a store in Toronto; Mjölk also sells online. At the time I'm writing this, there's only one left in the small size, which sells for $200; the large one, which goes for $300, is out of stock.

Related Posts:
15 Kitchen Utensil Holders
3 Kitchen Utensil Holders with Personality

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blackboards: Four Very Different Looks

heart-shaped board

Looking for a blackboard that isn't boring? Consider this "blackboard with a difference" which ships from Portugal, but thanks to Etsy is easy for anyone to purchase. It's sold by Etch Attic, which has a number of other choices in blackboards, too.

square framed chalkboard

Like the framed look? Twelve Timbers sells framed chalkboards with 29 color choices for the frame. There are two sizes: a 12" square, and a 12" by 24" rectangle.

blackboard with elaborate frame

And if you'd like something more elaborate, head on over to see the blackboards by Shabby McFabby.

chalkboard shaped like an elephant
chalkboard shaped like a shark

Finally, I'd like to show you the chalkboards from Karma Kiss. I couldn't pick just one, so here are the elephant and the shark. There are six other choices, too. They all come with a string to hang them by.

Related Posts:
Two Cool Chalkboards - see the chalkboard chickens!
Chalkboards: Moving Way Beyond the Basic Schoolroom Blackboards

Monday, February 13, 2012

Under-Bed Storage: Boxes, Baskets, Bins and Crates

Photo by phototvdirector / Joe Michaels on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Q: What lives under your bed?
A: I store an occasional cat under my bed.
Apartment Therapy

If you'd like to store more than your cat under your bed — and store that stuff with a bit of style — I've got some products to show you.

wicker under-bed storage box

Let's start with the Basket Lady, who has both under-bed baskets, and this under-bed storage box.

under-bed storage basket, raffia, green

Rice has raffia under-bed storage baskets in three colors.

bin on steel frame for under-bed storage

Hable Construction's Hideaway Storage Bin has a steel frame which keeps the bin off the ground. There are nine color choices.

rolling under-bed storage drawer

Room & Board has a steel under-bed storage drawer, available in natural steel (as shown above) or white. People who've bought it say it would be even nicer if it had handles. [via Mighty Goods]

under-bed rolling crate

So here's a similar type of product that does have handles: the under-bed rolling storage crate from Serena & Lily, handmade from mango wood.

rolling under-bed storage

And over on Etsy, you can get a rolling under-bed storage from Andrew Morel, who says: "I made this out of desperation for a quality box that will not crack or fall apart. No plastic, no nails, no glue no staples are used. It’s made from good old fashioned wood and screws. It will last as long as you have your bed." You can get theses boxes with or without a lid.

under-bed storage box - flip lid to create play table

Finally, here's an under-bed storage unit from Childs & Co, where "the lid can be turned over to be used as a play table." The company says that this piece is "made from high quality Finnish plywood from responsibly managed forests and painted with child-friendly paint." There are seven color choices, and two sizes. You can also find this at Not On the High Street.

Related Posts:
Making Good Use of Under-Bed Space
Five More Ways to Store Stuff Under the Bed
How to (Nicely) Store Stuff Under the Bed

And for shoe-specific under-bed storage, see #8 here:
The Definitive Guide: 15 Ways to Store the Shoes

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Five French Ribbon Memo Boards

heart-shaped ribbon memo board

With Valentine's Day approaching, the heart-shaped memo boards from BeGreenCue caught my eye even more than they normally would. But I've found a number of lovely French ribbon memo boards that might help anyone who wants photos and other mementos, bits of inspiration, or important notes to be out and visible.

French fabric memory board

Kim, at Memories to You, has French memory boards in five sizes — and some stunning fabrics.

University of Texas Longhorns French memory board

This University of Texas French Memo Board from TresBelleJamie seems like a great idea for a Longhorns fan.

ribbon board in blues

Vera Bradley is known for wild patterns — and now you can get those on a ribbon board. [via Naomi Dunford]

ribbon memo board, solid color, elegant

But simple solid-color French memo boards, like the ones from French Knot in Australia, can be quite wonderful, too.

Related Posts:
A Bulletin Board Alternative: French Ribbon Memo Boards
Memo Boards with a Multitude of Fabric Choices

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Using the Walls: Shelving with Style

yellow shelf with red mouse

Do you have limited storage space? For those who do, making good use of the walls is one coping strategy — and an attractive wall shelf can be a nice way to store and display things even for those without limited space. I've been collecting images regarding using the walls over on Pinterest — which made me realize it's time to write about wall shelves again. The more unusual ones, of course.

The shelf above is the mouse wall shelf, part of the Kinder Touch series from Amore, and also sold at Smart Furniture. Take a look at the seagull! [via Furniture Fashion]

steel shelf, bracket is part of the shelf

These steel shelves are called Brackets Included, for obvious reasons; they come in six colors. The designer is Sylvain Willenz. [via Apartment Therapy]

wall panel with slots for shelves

Insert Coin, designed by Neuland Industriedesign and manufactured by Nils Holger Moorman, is a painted birch plywood wall panel with slots and trays, so you can customize your storage. You can buy it here and here. [via swiss miss and Designspotter]

wall shelves, 3 tiers

These lovely shelves, called Ruth, come from Kay + Stemmer. They're sold by SCP. [via Retro To Go]

And another interesting shelf is the itbox, by it design. Right now the website shows five color choices, and seven sizes. [via swiss miss]

Related Posts:
Shelving Genre: Surfboard Wall Shelves
Five Options for Wonderful Wall Shelves
Colorful Shelves to Brighten Your Day

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Organizing with Love: Hearts and More Hearts

box with winged heart

Continuing with yesterday's Valentine's theme for storage pieces, let's admire this lovely winged heart box from Gwynnie B Designs. (Photo used with permission.) Update on Feb. 9, 2013: I'm no longer finding this piece on the web.

wooden jewelry box with heart

This maple jewelry box, with black-stained alderwood trim, comes from Kyle Designs. You can also get the box with bloodwood rather than maple. And if you don't want a heart design, you can select one of the company's other designs; there are 500+ choices. (Photo used with permission.)

hearr-shaped trinket box, says Love comes in all colors.

This "Love Comes In All Colors" heart trinket box was designed by artist Outi Harma, and can be found at 2 Grrlz. (Photo used with permission.)

drawstring purse organizer, with heart pattern

And then there's this drawstring purse organizer, from Tesage by Yukiko Sato. You can purchase it on the Tesage website, or through Etsy.