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Last Updated on January 10, 2018

10 Free Ways to Track All Your Passwords

10 Free Ways to Track All Your Passwords

With the proliferation of web services — there’s a new one out each day, it seems — it feels like we’re always creating new accounts, each with a different username and password.

The easy options — using the same password each time or writing them down on paper or in a spreadsheet — aren’t exactly the most secure. In fact, security experts strongly warn against these options as they leave you vulnerable to online theft.

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So what’s a web surfer to do? If you’ve got more than a dozen services, you’re not going to remember all of them. It’s time to look into a password manager — and if you’re a cheapskate like me, you want a free one.

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Let’s agree, from here on in, to stop using our dog’s name and birth date for our single password. Here are 10 free options for doing that:

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  • Firefox or IE: Both popular browsers offer fairly secure ways of storing your username or passwords for different sites, once you enter them the first time. This is very handy, and can save a ton of time. Unfortunately, under certain conditions, the password could be lost, requiring you to enter the password again. And if you’ve been relying on the browser to remember the password, you’re out of luck. Also, this solution is only for online passwords, not for network or desktop passwords.
  • KeePass: One of the most popular password managers out there, KeePass is great because it’s open-source, free and cross-platform — available for Windows, Linux, OS X, and even mobile devices. It keeps all your passwords, online and off, in a secure database, so you only have to remember one master password. Be sure that master password is safe!
  • Clipperz: Unlike most password managers, this solution is online — so you can access it anywhere. And it stores more than passwords — credit card numbers, account numbers, anything really. Storing passwords and other confidential information online can make someplace nervous, but Clipperz uses an encryption method that means not even Clipperz knows what it’s storing. This is a good solution if you need access to your passwords from multiple computers, rather than just one or two.
  • OSX Keychain: If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.
  • KeyWallet: Windows only, this little utility sits in your system tray, and you just pull it up when you need to enter a password. As a utility, it is browswer-independent, which is ideal for some.
  • Password Manager Plus: The Billeo Free Password Manager Plus toolbar works with both Firefox and Internet Explorer, and allows you to store not only passwords but credit card numbers and online account information, and can autofill your information as you shop online or paying bills, for example.
  • Password Hasher: This Firefox extension generates strong passwords for you by scrambling your master password with the site’s name. The passwords generated by this extension are better than any you could come up with yourself.
  • PasswordSafe: This free online service works on any modern web browser, for any OS, and a desktop version is available for Windows or Mac. Basically, it uses an encrypted safe to store your passwords, along with other information including software keys, website logins, pin numbers, email logins and more.
  • Password generator: This is a little bookmarklet that combines your master password with the site’s name to create a stronger password, and one that is different for each site. Very handy and simple.
  • Algorithm: The best solution may not even be a technology solution — remembering strong passwords could be as simple as coming up with a way to change a base password using the name of the online service you’re logging into. For example, if you come up with a base password of “xlg519” (based on your partner’s initials and your cat’s birthday), you can add the first two and last two letters of a service’s name (“amon” for Amazon) and you’ve got your password!

Some notes on passwords:

  • Never give out your master password if you use a password manager. Be sure you never forget it.
  • Don’t write passwords on a little piece of paper and stick it in your drawer. If it gets stolen, you only have yourself to blame.
  • Password managers may not be safe on a shared computer — it is probably best to only install them on a computer that only you use.
  • Using common information for your password is not secure — such as your birthday, initials, kids’ birthdays, names, etc. And no, “password” is not a safe password.
  • Using the same password for everything is a bad idea, because once that password is discovered, a thief has access to all your accounts.
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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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