Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 21, 2014

Guessing passwords

View From The Cheap Seats

William O. "Bill" James, Jr.

I have a problem with passwords: I can’t remember them from day to day. Too many electronics with the need for a password have put me in a constant state of confusion. Adding to my discontent is the need for more and more passwords for music, apps, books on tape, networking sites, movie services, and whatever else you can think of. The list seems to be endless.

For a long time, I had a habit of using the same password for multiple things. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the requirements for a password have become more complicated, and my standard password has not been sufficient. The fact that the old one no longer worked required me to create new ones that are slight variations of the standard one. The problem with a slight variation is you can’t remember which variation to use the next time you log on, which forces you to create a new variation.

The more variations of the original password you have, the more confusion you produce. Before long, you’re trying to create a “new” password that’s really an old one you’re trying to recycle. In many cases, the program you’re trying to create a password for refuses to allow the “new” password because you used it in the last year. It can be quite irritating. That doesn’t even touch on the requirement that one of the letters be capitalized. Because the choices are endless, the memory gets a test that’s easy to fail.

The thing I hate worse that anything else is changing the password for something while on your laptop and then not being able to remember what you changed it to, so you have to change it again when you get on your smart phone. It’s easy to see how one could find themselves in a loop between electronic devices. I’ve been in the loop many times.

You might ask why I don’t just write the password down and keep track of it that way. If you did ask me, I wouldn’t have a good answer for you. What I’ve done is change the “base” password I use. Although, in all honesty, I now have two different “base” passwords. That in itself has already started to cause trouble. I can tell you that I’ve changed to short phrases with numbers rather than one word with numbers. The new methodology has actually helped me remember the passwords I create. Maybe the real reason it’s working better is simply that I’ve not been forced to create enough variations of my new base passwords yet.

Passwords are a fact of life. Passwords are not going anywhere, and are likely to be something we have to live with to maintain security, whether we like it or not. I’m working on ways to remember my passwords so I don’t spend so much time trying to figure them out. Saving time is good for everyone, especially those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

Bill James is a criminal defense attorney and a founding partner in the James Law Firm with offices in Little Rock, Conway, and Fayetteville, Ark. In 1981, he won the National Silver Gloves Boxing Tournament in the 147 pound weight class. It has been a long time since he was able to make that weight. He can be reached at bill@jamesfirm.com.