November 23, 2012

ON THE EDGE: Password to the wise

Kennebec Journal Staff

It's the password thing. My early memories of the password were simple: a game show, or the code spoken in the dark, so you didn't get shot. But the rules are different now, and at my advanced age I have moved -- no, fallen -- headlong into the 21st century.

I have followed the advice of my teacher and mentor, the late great Ray Bradbury, who said, "You must jump off the cliff, and build your wings on the way down."

But Ray never confronted computerland. He stayed with his Selectric to the end. Ray never had to confront the dragon that is the password.

The dreaded passwords. If you're new at this, and it appears that only I am, the first piece of advice is crucial. Write them down somewhere where no hacker can find them. A friend of mine in L.A. made the mistake of writing them on his desk top. His were stolen, and everything in his life became the property of strangers, sort of like "friending" everyone on the planet.

The dreaded passwords. If you're new at this, and it appears that only I am, the first piece of advice is crucial. Write them down somewhere where no hacker can find them. A friend of mine in L.A. made the mistake of writing them on his desk top. His were stolen, and everything in his life became the property of strangers, sort of like "friending" everyone on the planet.

I have 14. Yes, 14. That's what it takes to navigate the turbulent seas of the Internet. They are the keys to the kingdom of the candy-colored world of information. I have, for example, Amazon.com, HBO, Huffington, Apple Linked-in, Gmail, Hoops and Yo Yo greeting cards.

Then I found myself drawn into teen technology, when in the throes of the recent election, I took upon myself Skype, Facebook and Twitter, all of which require a password.

She, who has only two, says I'm trying to relive my youth. Is she kidding? My youth, and probably yours, was about a string between two coffee cans.

Trying to stay young is more like it. He who thinks young, stays young, someone once said. Bill Clinton, I think.

A caution: NBC tech pundits warn us this week that hackers from hell are lurking in cyberspace. Attention must be paid, careful attention. The foolish and lazy tend to use the same password for all their dealings. Bad idea.

The other trap is to avoid those that are easily hacked. So I reached into the fog of the past for mine: Otto's Bakery, the name of a hardware store, the name of a priest or nun, a long-forgotten cartoon character.

Once the fever of dealing with that subsides, the rest is easy, but equally fraught with choices.

Facebook, as I've written before, is simple but seductive and annoying all at the same time, like a new girlfriend for an old man, one who is 20 something years younger, flirtatious and bewildering, the land of attention deficit disorder. The eye flits from one cloud light puff to another.

"I just baked some brownies, who wants some?"

"What could be cuter than this?" A tiny clump of kittens pop up.

"I'm constipated, anyone have any solutions?"

Skype, the one-on-one confrontational device, reared its ugly head the other evening, when one of my daughters, the one who won't be coming home with her fiancé this Christmas, insisted that I download Skype, which will allow us to view one another in our underwear or pajamas on Christmas morning as we open gifts of new underwear or pajamas.

We will, she promises, be able to see firsthand the joy, surprise, astonishment, shock, bemusement in person, live, close up and personal, the unwrapped gifts. We will see each other munching coffee cake and spilling coffee on the new ties and socks.

Unfortunately I couldn't get on. Too sad.

Twitter is off the grid now. What writer can say anything in 140 characters?

As to the password, I think I've got it all down pat, and I'm proud of my gift for accepting new technology. I've got them all down on a slip of paper. They're all there on the desk with that pile of receipts. No. They're not. Maybe I put them in my wallet ... which I left in the car ... which she has at school. OK. I'll just sit here quietly until she gets home. I can do this. Yes, I can.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

 

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