mrlachatte: (Default)
Well, I'm back.  For today, at least.  And the topic of today's post?  Usability!  Hooray!

As of December 3rd, I am now a fully responsible, contributing member of society, also known as an adult.  With great responsibility comes great power, therefore it is with (great) pleasure that I am able to announce that I can now bank online.  Yes, the powers that be (also known as The Man) have determined that I am now in possession of some required intellectual capability and must no longer make the trudge down the street to my local TD branch in order to determine the state of my material possessions.  There are not words to describe the intense joy I am experience inside.

However, this is simply the prelude.  Today's topic stems from the newly created Canadian Tire Financial Services.  The chain that previously wanted most of your money now wants all your money.  Well, at least it's Canadian!  Full speed ahead!  What's that?  Until December 31st, normal 4% interest is actually 5.5% interest?  Where can I sign?

That was the idea, at least.  Having now created an account, I am feeling significantly less comfortable with the arrangement.  Here's the deal: after Canadian Tire approves your account creation and the initial deposit, you have to phone them up to receive a temporary password for web banking.  That sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  When I asked to speak to a customer service representative, I had to verify my identity by reciting the usual personal information - name, address, postal code.

'That's good,' I thought to myself.  'I'm glad they're concerned about these sorts of things.'

However, once I let the representative know that I wished to obtain a temporary password, suddenly we went on a trip to Bizarro-land.  I was informed that my identity had to be verified via three random questions from a third-party... identity provider?  I was never quite sure exactly what this third party's role was.  The three questions were similar to these:

  1. What is your home phone number? (Ho-hum, pretty basic)
  2. Which of following is the address of the National Banking branch that you bank with: 123 Dufferin Street, 457 Sunshine Ave, or none of the above? (Hold up, I don't bank with NB.  What gives here?)
  3. Which of the following is the address of a cooperative that you have lived in during the past 10 years: 24 Park Lane, 714 Reno Street, or none of the above? (Wait what?  I've never lived in a cooperative.)
When confronted with question two I paused, for quite some time.  This is the first time I can remember being asked a question which is inherently wrong in order to prove my identity.  There's something very counter-intuitive about the whole situation.  After probably 30 seconds of silence, the representative asked me, "Do you bank with National Bank?" to which I replied, "No, I don't."  Replied she: "Then the answer would be none of the above, right?"  Uncertaintly, I said, "Yes, I suppose?"  She promptly moved on to the next question, which is based on the exact same premise.  This second time I chose the last answer with more confidence, but it's still quite... disconcerting, I suppose.

So, with that formality out of the way, and my identity confirmed twice (double the security!), the representative was now authorized to give me my temporary password.  After warning me that it would expire in two hours, she then proceeded to inform me that the password I changed it to would have to be between 6 and 8 characters long.

"And that's numbers only," she continued.  "We don't accept letters in your password."

Ding ding ding ding.  Warning bells.  Not very loud ones, but bells nonetheless.  What kind of system restricts you to numbers, but requires the same length as a normal passphrase?  Note the irony in calling it a password, but not accepting anything to constitute a word.

I dutifully finished the conversation and went to myCTFS.com, and promptly noted another alarming feature.  Underneath the login box is a checkbox labelled "Using a shared computer."  This checkbox defaults to off.  This is the opposite behaviour of the majority of other financialinternet institutions.  If you could be remembering sensitive data, you should make sure the user specifically instructs you to remember it, not the other way round.  Ding ding ding ding ding.

So, I logged in and was presented with the required password change (after being instructed to input my current password in order to agree to the terms of service.  What?)  And the representative was right, they only accept 6-8 numbers.  And the explicitly state that you should avoid anything like phone numbers, birthdays, sequences, and other similarly easily-deduced strings of numbers.  However, that's not leaving me much to go by, is it?  How many other password-length numbers that are "unique and easily memorizable" can you think up?  That's what I thought.

So that's it.  I can't fathom the thought process behind these decisions.  On one hand, limiting a password to numbers would seem to provide additional security by removing the ability to choose easily-guessed words ("password1", anybody?)  However, it seems to me that people would be far more likely to choose a phone number or birthdate simply because the alternative is a meaningless string of digits.  And if customers can't remember their passwords, I would assume that they could call up the service representative in order to be issued a temporary one.  But if all this requires is validating your identity by what you're not, that doesn't seem like a completely secure system.  I'm going to be contacting CTFS with my concerns later tonight, but I wanted to put my thoughts down coherently first.

Am I right to be this wary?  Do you get the same alarm bells in your heads?  Internet, talk to me.
mrlachatte: (Default)
Oh man, jetlag.  Oh man.  I just got in at 6 pm, and my body thinks it's 5 hours later.
mrlachatte: (Default)
What ho, France followers!  I've been in Nantes for the past three days, and lacking internet access, I actually had more to experience the wonder and mystery of France.  So, to sum up:

  • Galettes = crepes with fillings like bacon, mushrooms and cream, or ham, mushrooms and cream.
  • The aforementioned galettes were my delicious dinner two nights in a row
  • Then I followed that up with crepes filled with honey and lemon
  • The French meal plan: Breakfast (brioche, pain sucree, toast, whatever, all covered with nutella) around 8-9 am.  Lunch, anything you want that is not a sandwhich, anytime from 1-3 pm (everything closes for lunch, too!).  Dinner, anywhere from 8-11 pm (a dinner party last night: 3 courses, spanning 3 hours, and dessert was served at 11:30!)
  • Wine for $1.  Better wine than you find for $10 in Canada.
Is there anything else to France than food?  Not really, as far as I'm concerned!  Well, there are scarves, too.  And large, phallic buildings, I guess.  It's been good, though!  Now we're in Paris again, for our last night, on our way to a Greatest Hits concert of classical music.  The concert's happening in a multi-century old building, so the acoustics should be good, at least.  So long from France!
mrlachatte: (Default)
I spent today on the beach, eating treats from the patisserie. That's about it!

Oh yeah, and I had pain au chocolat for breakfast. Life is good. Tomorrow, we attend the Dinan market then head out for Nantes!
mrlachatte: (Default)
Today I:
  • Listened to a saxophone busker play sweet sweet jazz on the bridge by Notre Dame
  • Climbed up Notre Dame
  • Climbed down Notre Dame
  • Watched the Eiffel Tower attempt to induce seizures on passers-by (it does some insane flickering light show every hour after dark)
  • Ate Chinese food (cheapest thing in the Latin Quarter besides Greek food)
  • Heard "House of the Rising Sun" sung very badly by another busker
  • Was accosted by multiple street entertainers/entrepreneurs in one of the seedier Parisian areas
  • Took pictures of gargoyles
  • Loitered in a park, while listening to cool jazz and eating a croissant
  • Enjoyed the sunlight and +15 C temperatures
That's it!  Tomorrow we leave Paris and move to Dinan for a few days, before heading for Nantes.  Who knows what the internet situation will be like!
mrlachatte: (Default)
Today was an extraordinarily beautiful day, so we made the best possible use of it that we could: we picnicked.  In fact we ate our lunch of baguette, camenbert and spanish sausage in front of The Thinker, the centrepiece of the Rodin Museum's garden.  It was delicious, and cheap, too!  We bought a sizeable chunk of camenbert for €0.85, or just about $1.20, which would be around $4.50 at any North American deli.  After our delightful time at the museum, we decided to head to St Chapelle for last light, and we saw some marvellous displays of stained glass projected onto the wall there.  Apart from these activities, nothing else has changed: we're happily tired at the end of each day, Paris is full of wonder and surprises, and the food is delicious.  And the people here are all beautiful!  I think it must be illegal not to be beautiful in Paris!

The metro here is pretty nice, too.  Canada should look into copying it.
mrlachatte: (Default)

Yesterday we walked through some of the ritziest parts of Paris while trying to find a currency exchange building.  We also passed through a shopping mall that was built underneath a 400 year old stained glass dome.  Today, we're going to the Rodin Museum, and we're picking up some (lots) of bread and cheese so we can picnic in the garden.

PS. in Paris, everyone is fashionable.  Even the babies.  Especially the babies.
PPS. French keyboards are insaaaaaaaaaaaaaaane!

mrlachatte: (Default)

Attention internet: I am leaving for France in five minutes.  More updates to follow over the next twelve days.

EDIT: I am now relaxing in the wonderful Air Canada lounge, as my flight's had a teensy delay.  PS, life sucks because they just ran out of sundried tomato & basil-flavoured chips >:(

mrlachatte: (Default)
So I was reading this interesting paper on Self-Reproducing Programs in Common Lisp, and I've just come to the bibliography at the end.  Lo and behold, there is some kind of story written there about a king, a toaster and several advisers who are supposed to create a microcontroller for it (the toaster).  Unfortunately it cuts off about halfway through, and now I'm curious as to what the moral is at the end.

Interweb, commence your sleuthing!
mrlachatte: (Default)
A testament to the awesomeness of stop motion

Today was my 17th birthday.  I got the paperback version of Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan, my own Go board (the deluxe edition, no less!), a promise from my brother to register me a copy of djDecks, a "Code Hero" shirt and a bit more than $150 in cash.  The harvest is good!

I also composed a song for my Dad, whose birthday it also happens to be.
mrlachatte: (Default)
Well, it's been a month since I last posted.  That sure was unexpected!  Time to get a collection of links in no particular order off my chest:

Make Google dance for you (no, srlsly)
13000 people cannot be wrong
The power of Flickr and Google Earth come together in one epic evolution (go go Photosynth, I choose you!)
How to ransom a wallet over the internet
Every Topic In The Universe Except Chickens (Qwantz readers keep going)
Hello computer, how are you doing today? Oh good, a major scale - that means you're in top form! (non-nerds move on)
Guitar hero - on your chest
Everything in the universe about Zoggs

NOW, on with reality:

Today, I was thinking about programming and permutations.  We haven't covered permutations in Geometry, yet, but I was idly toying with flimsy's Ziggurat idea.  Instead of doing Geometry Proof review, I worked out a pseudo code algorithm to generate all the possible combinations of 1-15 letter words composed of a-z.  So, you shove all these words (I'm too scared to work out what the total number would be) into a database, then you use them to create all possible permutations of, say, 20 word sentences (this is a pretty ridiculous number, I know).  Finally, with this gargantuan database in hand, you create a hotornot/Google Image Labelling-like web app.  Interested visitors are shown a pair of sentences, and asked to vote on which is more powerful.  Far more often than not, they're both rubbish, but the user still has to choose one.  Anyways, these would be marked as unusable, and they would not be voted on again until the first "round" was finished.  You can read the rest of the Ziggurat link to find out how it all ends, but I'm pretty intrigrued by the idea of distributed permutations and then having people sort out the rubbish.  I'd love to try to get a distributed 50x50 pixel image permutation generator going, but it would require a lot of concentration, something which I don't feel inclined to give the idea.
mrlachatte: (Default)
I smashed a piñata today. It was surprisingly easy, yet the thrill of success was tempered by my foreknowledge of the prize inside - a digital camera. Three short, quick strokes with the obscenely plastic bat; that's all it took to vanquish the fell beast. But lo, a divine message appeared:

You did it!

Click here to receive!

The Digital Camera!

Click to tell your friends about it!


I wish life were as rewarding and forgiving as banner ads. Every day I discover new ways to win extraordinary prizes for a minimum amount of effort. Lassoed the bull? Hooray, a new iPod! You hit George Bush with three eggs? That sort of skill deserves a free SUV! Decided between "Awesome" or "Terrible" for Steven Harper's opinion rating? A 50" plasma TV is on its way!

Do people actually click on these? Do they really have no concept of an effort/reward ratio? Are there actually human beings who are outraged to discover that the digital camera inside the piñata isn't real?

Then again, maybe life is far too similar to a banner ad. Big promises all over the place, but when it comes time to put its money where its mouth is, life is just another big jerk. I'm sorry, Mr. Matthews, but you didn't let enough of your friends know about this amazing offer, so you won't be receiving your plasma TV. Better luck next time!

Or maybe life is actually one big pyramid scheme. The people who have it made are the ones who've figured it out - they passed on the revelation to all their friends, and now everybody involved is rich and prosperous. Except for the children in Africa, of course. They're too busy trying not to die to bother with the real secret of life.

I just received an email. Apparently my wife is complaining about me being on for only a few minutes. Viagra Soft Tabs can change everything, however!!!!!! I'm sure my wife is worth it, but who has time for erectile dysfunction in this life of disappointment?

I just received a second email. Andy and John, the directors of MSN, are angry at me because I have reserved more than one account for myself. There are only 578 names left because of selfish people like me. I hate people, they are dumb and inconsiderate and never think about the long term ramifications of hitting the piñata. The piñata is a metaphor for Gilligan's Island reruns - Gilligan's still not going to escape his island, just like you're not going to get your free digital camera.

Life itself is a piñata. The more you hit, the more frustrated you get. The lucky kid, the popular kid, will get all the candy inside in one swing after you've softened it up for him. It's the one promise, the only prmosise, that big jerk life comes through on. Count on it.

mrlachatte: (Default)
<@ahaahhtahahighfiveadued> flimsy said that religion is a bunch of people who basically agree on the same tihng but can't agree on what kind of hat to wear
mrlachatte: (Default)
<Revvy> ahahahaha
<Revvy> I'm listening to a coldplay remix I downloaded
<Revvy> and it sounds like the person recorded it through the WaveOut or something
<Revvy> because halfway through there's the windows XP alert noise pretty faint :D
<Sai`ke> :DDD
<Sai`ke> no msn sounds?
<Revvy> that would suck
<Sai`ke> of course :p
<Revvy> I should make a song out of the windows sfx
<Sai`ke> I've done that once
<Sai`ke> it turned out AWFUL
<Revvy> haha
<Sai`ke> but AWFUL on purpose
<Sai`ke> I think it was called LOKKS LIKE UR RITING A LETTAR or something
<Revvy> :D
<Sai`ke> house with the windows chord as afterbass
<Revvy> that's awesome
mrlachatte: (Default)
"Google and Earthlink [discovered] that dealing with the local San Francisco political scene is about as fun as being set up on a blind date with Mike Tyson after being rubbed down in meat sauce."
mrlachatte: (Default)
I went to the free Oktoberfest opening pancake and sausage breakfast this morning.  I have never seen so much Aunt Jemima maple syrup in one place.

Also, somebody had spraypainted "Oktokerfest" on the wall of a nearby warehouse during the night.
mrlachatte: (Default)
It's official. I've progressed farther on my revamped level editor in two weeks than I did in two months! I've just created the first "new" feature that isn't just re-implementing what was in my non-guichan editor. As a side benefit, this new feature (which happens to be a button labelled "Edit") demonstrates that my state-based system works properly, which was only theoretical up until this point. Hooray!
mrlachatte: (Default)
I like when I get the coding bug and actually get stuff done.  I don't think I mentioned it before, but I decided to rewrite my level editor using a real GUI library instead of my homebrew, hacked up, scary "everything is a button" system.  I settled on guichan, and I like it a lot after spending a bit of time with it.  It's basically what I was trying to do with my SDL-gui library, except it's actually planned out and stuff.

Now, it had previously taken me several months to get my editor up to a certain point - a working tile map, buttons everywhere, infinitely-resizing map, scrolling, a history and debug system and more.  I believe that I picked up the most recent release of guichan about 3 weeks ago, give or take a few days.  It took me close to a week to get just a basic ImageButton class moving and shaking in this new paradigm framework library, but in the remaining two weeks I have brought the revamped editor back to to the pre-guichan state in terms of interface and function.  This bodes well for the future.

Also, I need suggestions for a topic for my 700-750 word informal essay that's due in 9 days.
mrlachatte: (Default)
For anybody who has an idea what Theatre and Company is:

Go.  See.  BarefootInThePark.

NOW.

Seriously, it's one of the best plays I've seen in ages.  It ends tomorrow, it's got rave reviews and it's totally worth it.

For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, here is a consolation link:

The Chrono Trigger Mix Tape

Some crazy fellow mashep up hiphop acapellas and the Chrono Trigger soundtrack.  The result is intriguing and even brilliant at times (Milkshake and 1,2Step are my favourites!)  Make sure you get the version without DJ Epoch, because the voiceovers are a bit too obnoxious to be appreciated properly.
mrlachatte: (Default)
My mum and I spent the morning in Stratford browsing used bookstores.  I bought two Wheel of Time books (I own the entire set except for Knife of Dreams now), Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov, Snow White and the Seven Samurai by Tom Holt, and Lost in a Good Book and The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde.  Came to $35 and dashed my hopes of buying a soundcard today as well.  I shall have to grab money from the bank and stop into Sherwood Music after school on Monday.  Until then, I'm pouring through The Eye of the World (Book #1, which is pretty fun after reading #3-11 in the past few months) and hacking on a couple fun projects I have going while I don't have homework.

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