Weezer’s Pork and Beans Video is Pure Genius

Although a full schedule at work and at home have prevented me from writing much here lately, I wanted to take a minute to share an awesome song and video with you. It’s called Pork And Beans by the band Weezer, and you can view the video below, or at YouTube.

In case you didn’t recognize a few of them, the Wikipedia entry for the song has a pretty good rundown on all the Internet memes referenced in the video. In addition, Wired’s Underwire has a good behind-the-scenes interview with the video’s director, Mathew Cullen.

I’ve been a huge fan of Weezer since the release of their famous Blue Album when I was in high school back in 1994. I’m glad to see that they’ve still got a lot of great music left in them!

Grand Forks Finally has High Speed Mobile Internet (EV-DO)!

I received a very nice surprise when I opened my Razr phone this morning and saw the little “EV” symbol instead of the usual “1x” one. At some point in the last 12 hours or so, Verizon Wireless silently enabled their BroadbandAccess (EV-DO) network for the Grand Forks area. Word has it that it’s also turned on in Fargo and Bismarck as well.

Verizon Wireless Logo

As a quick, informal test, I did testing this afternoon using a laptop and a Rev 0 BroadbandAccess card that we have here at the office. Download speeds appear to be in the 512 Kbps range, while upload speeds are in the 125 Kbps range. That’s a huge improvement over what we were getting on the 1x network – at least a 10x jump in speed.

This is great news for North Dakotans. The new Rev A EV-DO equipment Verizon has installed here means that Grand Forks now has a faster mobile Internet connection than the Twin Cities. As many other people have noted, having fast, reliable mobile Internet access can be a game-changer for many, especially freelancers and small businesses. No more reliance on spotty Wi-Fi networks or being tied to an office. I call that a productivity booster!

The Paypal/Ebay Security Key

paypalsecurity.jpg

Late last week, I received a very cool little piece of technology in the mail. It’s the Paypal/Ebay security key, and if you use either of those two sites on a regular basis, I highly recommend that you pick one up for yourself too. It’s $5 well spent.

So, here’s what it does. Once you get your key in the mail, you log into your Paypal and Ebay accounts to tie the key to each. From that point on, your regular username and password won’t be enough when you try to login. Instead, you type them in, then hit the button on the front of your security key. The display on your key will then show a one-time, six-digit passkey that you append to your regular password when logging in. The key generates a new passkey every 30 seconds, and I believe you have an addition 30 seconds to login before the number expires completely, requiring you to generate a new one. For a really good background on this technology, I recommend listening to a recent episode of Security Now on the subject.

This all may sound like a hassle, and to some extent it is. But, the security benefits of using this type of security key out way the inconvenience by a wide margin. The scary fact is, the traditional username/password model of website security is broken. People don’t pick good passwords, some websites have poorly implemented authentication systems that are easy to break or bypass, and it’s extremely easy to either steal this information from someone or even convince them to give it to you. This is especially worrisome when dealing with financial websites.

Two-factor authentication like this, combining “something you know” (username and password) with “something you have” (security key), isn’t unbreakable, but it’s many times more secure than just using a login and password. That’s why a similar model works so well when you use an ATM – both your card and your PIN are required to complete a transaction instead of just one or the other.

Online, Paypal and Ebay are by far the biggest targets of phishing attempts, accounting for an amazing 62 percent of attacks in 2005. Adding a security key to your account doesn’t remove the phishing threat completely, but goes a long way toward reducing it. A phisher could have both your username and password, but they would be useless without the security key. It would be a different story if they had access to that too, but of course all bets are off when someone has physical access to anything.

The one really interesting thing I learned from that Security Now episode I mentioned above is that these security keys aren’t limited to just being used at Paypal and Ebay. Verisign, the creator of the encryption technology used inside the keys, has created a program called VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP) that allows financial institutions and other business to use the same security key when logging in to their sites. This would be a huge boom for banks online, and I’m hoping they’ll jump at the chance to participate in this program.

The obvious direction for this technology is to bypass the physical security key altogether and use something else almost everyone already has with them all the time – a mobile phone. It would seem pretty easy to create a phone application that provides the same passkey generation functionality, but without the worry of losing or breaking a plastic key. I hope this happens sooner, rather than later.

Just to reiterate, this security key technology is really impressive stuff that until now, has only been available to big corporations with lots of money. It’s really in everyone’s best interest to take advantage of this offer ($5 is a great deal for a key like this), so I hope you do.

A Few Helpful Web Tools

Here’s a short list of three really cool and helpful web tools/technologies that I use on a daily basis that you should take a look at too.

OpenID

OpenID has been gaining lots of traction lately, and is definitely one technology you’ll want to keep on your radar. At its core, OpenID is an open specification for a distributed framework for web identity authentication. There’s a lot of buzzwords in that last sentence, but what it means to you is a really good way for you to sign into websites using a single ID and password.

Here’s how it works, as best as I understand. You sign-up with an OpenID provider (or create your own OpenID server, if you’re into that) and create an OpenID that is unique across the Internet. I currently use, and recommend, MyOpenID if you’re looking for a good provider. In most cases, it’s a website URL. Mine is actually the address to this blog. Then, when you go to an OpenID enabled website, you enter your OpenID instead of creating a new login and password account as you’re typically used to. The website then delegates authentication to your OpenID provider, which verifies your identity with a password and/or an additional security credential. If you successfully login, you’re passed back to the original website, where you’ll now be logged in.

This all might sound vaguely familiar if you remember Microsoft’s Passport, now called the Windows Live ID, but this implementation is different. Most importantly, OpenID is an open specification not owned by anyone, especially a huge corporation with questionable motives. Also, if you use your own website URL as your OpenID, you’re not locked into using any one OpenID provider, so you can move whenever you want.

OpenDNS

OpenDNS is a free DNS service you can point your computers to in order to get some pretty nice features. It’s quite a bit faster than the DNS service you’re most likely getting from your ISP, so your web browsing will be quicker. It also warns you of known phishing websites and auto-corrects misspelled URLs. If you take a few minutes to setup an account, you can also turn some additional filtering and features on or off.

This one is free, and only takes you a minute or two to setup when following their really good step-by-step instructions. There’s really no reason not to use this one.

Coral Cache

The Coral Cache is a distributed content delivery system that comes in handy when trying to get to a website facing lots of traffic. It basically serves as a back-up if the original web host is unavailable. To use it, simply append .nyud.net:8080 to the end of the host name in any URL. For example, here’s what the URL to one of my most popular pages looks like when “coralized”: http://www.berbs.us.nyud.net:8080/archives/2006/02/03/moneydance/.

The first time anyone checks for a web page in the Coral Cache, the system attempts to go out to the source and retrieve a copy, which it will then display in the browser. If it finds that it’s already in the cache, you see the copy immediately.

Facebook, MySpace, and Class Divisions

Social networking researcher Danah Boyd has just published a fascinating essay called “Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace“. In it, she explains how at least among teenagers, the two largest social networking sites are becoming more and more divided by social class. I’ll let you read it to find out what Danah says is going on, and what it might mean.

I’ll just say this: From my experiences, her research is dead-on.

How the Internet Works!

We bought a store brand version of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch cereal the other week, and it had this unintentionally hilarious panel on the back (click on it to view a much bigger, easier to read version):

The Internet and How It Works!

Titled “How the Internet Works!”, this piece seems like it was written 10 years ago (when the Web was just getting started) by someone with absolutely no clue.

Marvel as you learn about “Electronic mail”, the “quickest, most efficient method to communicate over the Internet” (ha!). Never again wonder how your ISP assigns you a “unique Internet Protocol that makes your computer compatible to all other World Wide Web (www) servers”. Or, find out about Emoticons, a “fun way to liven up a casual e-mail”.

The information on this cereal box isn’t completely wrong, but I think the author referenced some out-of-date materials and didn’t quite understand the subject.