My temporary setup: AT&T GoPhone + iPad + Google Voice

You may have seen a Tweet from me mentioning that the backlight on my iPhone 3G finally kicked the bucket. I used it for two weeks and couldn’t stand it anymore, so I started thinking about alternatives.

I’ve got an old Motorola AT&T GoPhone I bought back when I was doing a lot of biking and needed an expendable backup phone, but I hate using it for two reasons: (1) it doesn’t have any of my contacts, and (2) I hate texting with the tiny numeric keypad. However, it dawned on me yesterday that I haven’t even been using my phone for most of my texting in the last several weeks. More often than not I’ve used the excellent free Google Voice service on my recently-mobile-data-plan-enabled iPad. It further dawned on me that I can do almost everything I do with my phone on my iPad instead, except for actually making and receiving calls.

So, I’ve dusted off that old GoPhone and swapped my SIM card in there. When I need to make a call now, I bring up Google Voice on my iPad, click Call, choose the contact, and instruct Google Voice to ring my cell phone. It’s actually a great little setup and I’m sure it will serve me fine until Apple finally decides to release iPhone 5. 

My setup: Password Hasher and KeePass

Padlock My friend Aaron recently blogged about an innovative way to generate and remember many passwords using convenient password cards. His post has inspired me to share my own method for randomizing my passwords across many sites. Let me say at the outset, though, I really like Aaron’s approach, and don’t mean to imply by this post that I think my approach is superior to his (in fact, for portability and forward compatibility, his solution is perhaps superior to mine). The point is to find a method that works and then discipline yourself to stick to it.

Let me start with a short story. You may remember that I used to be the proprietor of the Homestar Runner Wiki and its accompanying discussion forum. Well, there was some drama there one year (as there was every year and as there is with all online fora) and one of our members decided to start his own forum and tried to persuade other members to leave us and join him since we were so dumb and he was so cool. I almost signed up on his forum just to see what all the fuss was about, but before I got around to it, one of our forum’s moderators signed up on his site. Shortly after she signed up, he was able to retrieve her password from his own forum’s database, and, since she had used the same password for his site as she had used on our site, he was able to log into our site using her password.

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My setup: YubNub

YubNub logo

I’ve blogged before (here and there) about keyword searches in Firefox. Keyword searches are great because they allow you to perform searches right from your address bar. Simply type your keyword (e.g. I use g for Google, a for, wp for Wikipedia, &c.) followed by search terms and you’ll be magically whisked off to your search results. You can set up your own keyword for any site by right-clicking in any search bar and choosing “Add a keyword for this search” from the context menu. By setting up my own keyword searches, I’ve completely eliminated the need for the little search box to the right of my address bar, and, in fact, have removed it from my browser altogether.

Recently I discovered a service that takes this feature to the next level. YubNub, as the service is called, bills itself as a “(social) command line for the web,” and boy does it deliver. You can try the service out right away by going to the YubNub website, but it really becomes useful if you set it up directly in your address bar. I’ve got my Firefox address bar functioning as a YubNub command line, and I’ll mention later a few ways (and what I think is the best way) to do that. But first let me tell you more about the service.

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