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Password Crazy

 

Elaine lined up tiles from Qwirkle, a board game, and announced, “That’s my password, Gran!” Qwirkle tiles are stamped with six different shapes, in six different colors. My Grand’s password was an orange square, a green rectangle, a red circle and then four more tiles with different colored shapes and she grouped them, 3-1-2-1. “They have to be like this. Not in one long line.”

I shook my head. Since when did a five-year-old look at shapes and colors and create a password?  And Elaine’s password of seven completely different tiles reminded me of some of my passwords.

Remember the first time you chose a secret word or phrase? It probably included a birthdate, or at least, a birth year. It may have included your name or nickname. Or a family member’s name. And maybe, like me, you used the same password for everything. From online shopping to games to whatever.

Now I’m advised by technology experts to have different passwords for each application and change them frequently and don’t use anything that is easy to guess. Like birthdates and names. So I need to come up with something clever.

Fernando Corbato invented computer passwords in the early 1960s, and he says that passwords have become a “kind of nightmare,” according to an article on businessinsider.com. A nightmare is right. I’m lost in a tunnel of symbols and numbers and letters. Capital letters. Small letters. Corbato admitted that he has a crib sheet, also know as a cheat sheet, so I’m in good company with my handwritten list I keep right beside my computer and the one I keep in my billfold and the one on the notes on my computer desktop screen.

But my crib sheets create problems. Like one in four people I reset at least one password once a month. Not for security, but because of errors. Sometimes the passwords on my lists don’t match and by the time I’ve tried all of them and don’t enter a capital S or don’t type numbers in the correct order, I get a message that I need to reset my password. When I try, messages say the password isn’t strong enough or I can’t use the same one I’d used before. So, in frustration, I choose a phonetic way to spell a word or numbers that make sense at the moment and then I forget to write the new password on all of my lists or I don’t write it correctly.

I’m ready to go with the most common password of all time: 123456. Or one of the two most common words: QWERTY or password. Or one of the more creative top ten passwords: abc123. Surely, I could remember one of these.

If experts are right, Elaine won’t need passwords. Facial recognition or fingerprints will replace the need for a string of letters and numbers. Technology life will be simpler. I just hope my Grand keeps playing board games and never loses her creativity.

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Everything You Want to Know about Emojis

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 5.00.59 PMMany text messages I receive include emojis and almost every time they make me smile. Did the inventor of those digital images or icons create them just for amusement? Why are those pictures called emojis? Can anyone create one?

According to the online Oxford dictionary, emoji, is a Japanese word and ‘e’ refers to picture and ‘moji’ means letter or character. In the late 1990’s, Shigetaka Kurita who worked for a large Japanese mobile communication company invented emojis because he wanted a way to messages and pictures using limited data. Much like my generation used shorthand, emojis were created as a way to send messages in an abbreviated format. Kurita’s idea was simple; one character or image communicated what required several words and more data on electronic devices.

Emojis quickly became a widespread success in Japan. In just one month, Kurita came up with the world’s first 180 images. He first looked at people’s expressions and created faces, including several smiley faces, and he expanded faces, such as adding a drop of water to symbolize nervousness and a light bulb over a head to show ‘flash of an idea.’

Kurita also turned to pictograms, designs displayed to give the public information. He’d served as chair of a committee to make signs for the 1964 Olympics, and those pictograms created for Olympic sports at that time are still used. In addition, pictures indicated directions, restroom facilities, restaurants, emergency exits, and no smoking areas. Faces and pictograms comprised the original palette of emoji choices and have been widely used in Japan since 2000.

Soon iPhones, Androids, and major operating systems displayed emojis and the choices grew by leaps and bounds. Anyone can submit an idea to the Unicode Consortium, a group of volunteers, most from tech firms, who votes on proposed symbols. This non-profit group strives to standardize digital text that can be used with different computer software in hundreds of different languages.

Unicode has released 1,624 emojis, with many more options such as skin tone of a screaming woman. Original emjois are brought to life after thousand-word proposals and multiple voting sessions by the Unicode volunteers. About 200 new images were released last year.

Oxford dictionary’s word of the year for 2015 wasn’t a word. A picture – an emoji. Officially, it’s named Face with Tears of Joy. Laugh until you cry. A bright yellow smiling face with tears. The Oxford website states that it was chosen because it reflects the ethos, mood, and preoccupations of the year.

You either love or hate these digital images. I’m in the love camp. When Daughter sent a text with a picture of one of my Grands covered lines made by a green permanent marker, and Daughter’s only comments were a Wide-eyed Face and a Face with Tears of Joy, I knew Daughter restrained her anger and saw the humor her child’s mess. When I agree with the restaurant Husband suggests, a simple thumb up tells him I like his idea. A happy birthday message to Grands (on their parents’ phones) includes a birthday cake and sparklers.

Emojis aren’t going away and I’m glad. But if you disapprove or are skeptical of using these images, one will be released soon just for you: A Face with One Eyebrow Raised.

Smiley Faces and Emojis

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 5.06.15 PM           A smiling face is happy. A frown is sad. Well, not always. In the world of emojis, there are dozens of faces and depending on the eyes, a water droplet, or a tongue, a smile can take on different meanings.

What’s an emoji? (ēˈmōjē)   If you’re asking, you probably don’t use a smart phone or online conversation. Or maybe you hate and ignore those little pictures people use in text messages. Or you’ve seen those little pictures and didn’t know they had a name. An emoji is simply a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in an electronic communication. Certainly not everyone who communicates by email and texting and social networking uses such icons.

Is the idea for emojis really new? A yellow circle face is one of the most poplar emojis and a double first cousin to a smiley face. And haven’t smiley faces been around forever? As a teacher, I drew a circle with a big curved smile and two dots for eyes beside A and B grades on many students’ papers. Sometimes, I’d circle the dotted eyes to draw glasses and add wisps of hair. And if I wished the grade had been higher, I drew a straight-line, curved down mouth for sadness.

According to Smithsonian.com, in 1963 Harvey Ball, an American graphic artist and ad man, was commissioned to create a graphic to raise morale among the employees of an insurance company. Ball was paid $45 for his work that took less than 10 minutes. The State Mutual Life Assurance Company made posters, buttons, and signs to encourage their employees to smile more. There’s no record if that worked, but the company recognized that the logo was a hit and produced millions of buttons. Neither Ball nor the insurance company attempted to copyright the design.

In the early 1970s in Philadelphia, two brothers who owned Hallmark card shops added the slogan “Have a Happy Day” to a smiley face and produced copyrighted novelty items. Within one year, over 50 million happy day smiley face buttons and other products had been sold.

Worldwide, smiling faces have been used by many businesses, even a French newspaper to highlight positive news. And thru the years, there have been trademark and copyright disagreements, ending in lawsuits and multi-million dollar settlements. One argument is that a circle with a simple curved one-line mouth is so basic that it can’t be credited to anyone. And it’s been claimed that the world’s first smiley face dates back to 2500 BC on a stone carving found in a French cave.

Many of us can probably find a smiley face button stuck in the back of a kitchen drawer or at the bottom of a sock drawer. Those bright yellow metal buttons that have one long stickpin to wear on lapels. Those buttons that we gave to each other to say ‘Have a good day!’ Buttons we wore to let the world know we were happy.

That simple face with a curved line smile and two dots for eyes was transformed into many variations and has appeared on posters and pillows and art. And when emojis came along, smiley faces learned to scream and whisper and cry and vent and wink and love and kiss and laugh.  And along side those round faces are thousands of other emojis.

So who created emojis? Why? I intend to research just a bit and I’ll let you know.

We’ve Got a Problem

woman-upset-broken-computer-22267785Most times when I call to a help center, I choose to talk to a real person. But when Ms. Automated Help Line took my phone call, she intrigued me so that I played her game.

Three times in one week I lost Internet service. The first two times I disconnected the cable from our wireless router, restarted my computer, reconnected the cable, and I could surf the world. The third time my trouble-shooting trick didn’t work, and I called tech support. Ms. Automated answered, with perfect diction.

“Welcome. Your call may be monitored and recorded for quality assurance. Please enter your 10 digit telephone number.” Hoping to get a real person on the line, I pushed 0. “Your selection was not recognized. Enter your 10 digit telephone number.” I did nothing. Would someone pick up the call?

Ms. Automated said, “I can help you. Let’s try this. Push 1 for payment information. Blah. Blah. Blah. 6 for technical support.” I pushed 6. “Say your 10 digit phone number beginning with the area code.” I did. “How may I help you today?” Ms. Automated asked.

“I don’t have Internet service,” I said slowly and clearly. “All right.   Enter your 16-digit customer account number or say ‘I don’t have it.’” I didn’t have it. “I can help you,” Ms. Automated said, “but at any time that I’m not addressing your problem, say agent. To continue working with me, say continue.” It was at this point when I hadn’t responded as Ms. Automated first requested and she seemed positive that she could help that I took it as a challenge to work with her. Could she really tell me how to connect to the Internet? If she couldn’t, what would she do?

Ms. Automated said, “Let me check the modem from my end. It looks good on my network. We are on our way to solving your problem. To continue working with me, say continue. To speak to a service person, say agent.” Was she trying to get rid of me?

Following Ms. Automated’s instructions, I shut down my computer and unplugged the router cable. I booted up my computer and connected the router – exactly what I’d done before calling her. Ms. Automated said, “If this does not resolve the issue say there’s a problem.” After I repeated her last three words, she again spoke with confidence. “We are on our way to solving your problem… Blah. Blah…” What now? “Continue,” I said.

Two more times I followed her directions and two more times I said, “There’s a problem.” And I chose to continue working with Ms. Automated. The phone line was silent for almost sixty seconds. And then Ms. Automated said, “We’ve got a problem. I will connect you with an agent.” She gave up!

I heard a friendly male voice. “Hello, my name’s Musa. I’m sorry your Internet isn’t working. I know how frustrating it is when technology doesn’t work.” Musa listened as I explained my problem, and after a few minutes he and I concluded that I needed a new wireless router. We had a pleasant conversation and not once did he ask me to enter numbers or say continue and he seemed to really care.

Ms. Automated did her best, but it took a real person to identify the reason for the problem and determine how to solve it. Just as I thought.

Long Distance Visits

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Through the magic of the Internet, Husband and I visit our Grands who live across the country, close to the Rocky Mountains.  We sit in front of our computer, click a Face Time icon and wait to see Dan, age 2 ½, and Neil, 8 months.

“Hey, Dan.  Look who’s on the computer!” says Son, as he comes into focus on our computer screen.

I hear Dan running before he comes into view.  Big smile, open mouth.  I could count his teeth if he were still for just a few seconds.  “Hi Gran! Hi Pop!”  My heart melts just hearing him call my name.  Son prompts him to tell us about a recent trip to the zoo and what he ate for supper.   Then Neil appears beside Dan.   A happy, smiling baby.   Daughter-in-law turns him around so we can see his curly hair on the back of his head, and then he crawls across the carpet toward a red ball.

Sometimes Dan shows us tricks like turning a somersault or throwing his basketball through his four-foot goal. And sometimes he has a new matchbox car to show, but mostly he plays.  Neil usually sits in one of his parents’ lap.  Daughter-in-law and Son talk with Husband and me, but we rarely see them.  They keep the camera focused on our Grands.  I’m happy – happy to watch.

Recently, one Sunday night one of our Grands, Elaine who lives just across town visited Husband and me, and I had the great idea that she and Dan, who are the same age, would like to see each other through Face Time.  All went well in the beginning.  Elaine sat in my lap quietly; she’s not accustomed to seeing her cousins and uncle and aunt on a computer screen.  Dan said, “Hi Elaine.”  She sucked her thumb.  Dan held a green matchbox car so that it filled the computer screen.  Elaine jumped down from my lap, ran to the playroom, and brought back a black car to show Dan.

Back and forth, Dan and Elaine showed each other toys.  A blue car.  A yellow school bus.  A tennis ball.  A big colorful striped ball.  My heart was full.  These two cousins were hundreds of miles apart and having fun together.  Elaine showed Dan a red truck and he collapsed into a two-year-old melt down.  His happy face turned into tears and amid his sobbing I heard, “Go. Pop’s. Gran’s.”

I wanted to stretch my arms through the paths of the Internet, wrap my arms around Dan, wipe his tears, and give him the red truck.  Son hugged Dan, but there was no consoling.  Elaine dropped the truck. Thankfully, Husband caught it before it hit the computer.  We said our good-byes quickly and signed off.  “Dan come to Pop’s and Gran’s?” Elaine asked.

How can toddlers understand that they can see and talk to someone, but can’t visit right that minute?   Dan wouldn’t come to visit that night, but another time.  And sometime we’ll go see Dan and Neil and their parents.  Until then, we see each other on computers.

You have to be a grandparent to appreciate that a highlight of my week is to stare at our computer screen and watch Dan line up matchbox cars on a windowsill and see Neil crawl across the floor.

Facebook – Not Just for the Young

“Really, you do Facebook?” a friend asked.  Really, I do.  But I was skeptical when I first heard about social networking websites.  I thought such things were created by and for young people, not those of us who are considered over the hill.  My introduction to an online social network was listening to three young teacher friends while we ate lunch together.

“Did you see my Facebook post last night?”  Julie asked.

“No, what’d it say?”  Ann asked.

“I saw it,” said Cindy.  She turned to Ann.  “ Julie wanted to know whether she should wear her new walking shoes or her old ones when we walk after school today.”

“I’d wear the new ones.  What’d you tell her?”  Ann asked.

After listening quietly, I had to speak up.  “Wait.  I don’t understand.  Why’d you ask something like that online?  Couldn’t you all just talk to each other?”  The three laughed.  They insisted they were talking to each other.  “Is that the kind of thing people put on Facebook?”  I said.  For the rest of lunchtime, they told me what their friends had recently written and described pictures that had been posted.  I shook my head.  Some of it sounded like an old-fashion party line gossip.  But I did want to see pictures of a friend’s new house.  That was about six years and ­­­530 friends ago.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few friend requests.  “Are you the Mrs. Ray who taught 4th grade in Sparta a long time ago?”  Von asked. He linked me to other friends who were my very first students.  Now I know about Abby’s children and grandchildren and Caroline’s success as an elementary school teacher.  Another former student is a stand-up comedian.  As a 6th grader, he shared a joke at the beginning of most school days, but he never learned the names of European countries.  I laugh every time Monty posts a picture of himself on stage at one of his shows.

I like that our daughter’s friends, girls who slept on our living room floor at slumber parties twenty years ago, let me peek into their lives.  And I’m glad that our son’s friends, now grown-ups and daddies, share pictures of their children.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings – all are celebrated among FB friends.  Pleas for prayers for those who are ill circulate quickly.  Pictures of newborns, less than an hour old, announce births.

Skimming and scanning, I make my way through Facebook posts.  I’m hooked.  In fifteen minutes, I know what’s happening with friends and family who live near and far.  I skip past reposts and long quotes.  I read personal updates.  I marvel over pictures of sunsets, hummingbirds, and old barns.  I take virtual trips to Italy, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the beach.  And then I see the best pictures of all.  Pictures of my Grands.  So I linger, longer than fifteen minutes.

Yes, I do the online social networking thing.  And I’m pretty sure that the creators of Facebook never imagined how much this grandmother would appreciate their invention.