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Closet Entrepreneur

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Closet Entrepreneur

Every weekday, my reoccurring wish is not suffer through another traffic jam. Every two weeks, there is an urge to be independent and to control my own destiny. Every month jealousy rages when the media celebrates another start-up company with an un-extraordinary idea. And every year there is a realization…time is slipping by.

Living a Dream

With enough dedication, hard work and maybe a little luck, nothing is impossible. My dream was to always start a business to apply all the things learned during college and graduate school (and, hopefully, create a little wealth). After all, my determination, work ethic and being a little lucky already helped me a lot. However, starting a business would be a great learning experience.


Even after programming all day at work, tinkering at night always brought a little enjoyment because there was something new to learn about. And as someone who enjoys learning, these nightly sessions provided many rewards. Then one night something happened.

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I thought of an idea that could be turned into a business.

The idea itself was simple: it solved my problem of being late. But then there was the realization that it could solve other people’s problem of being late. And then this thinking became a flurry of possibilities…

Procrastination

…but there was a problem: I was late a lot because of my procrastination. Although this procrastination didn’t affect my studies or work, it affected everything else.

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One of my tricks for getting things done is simplify the problem and write down each step on a scrap piece of paper. More importantly, I can scratch off each step after completing it and real progress can be seen. Scratching off each step is a reward in itself — it feels empowering.

So each night, the task of creating a business formed on little scraps of paper. And steps were being scratched off one at a time.

It helped having a friend that helped with the legality of starting a business. And thank goodness for the tech bubble because the bust made a lot of internet-related services, such as web site hosting, dirt cheap.

So less than the price of computer, my simple idea became a real business one night at a time, one step at a time.

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Living a Life

Luckily I had a weekend to myself to create most of the code for my internet start-up.

Within three days, the entire start-up, including the client software, web site and supporting applications, were developed. But now came the hard part: it had to be ready for prime time.

Working on this start-up was fun and rewarding, but it was impossible to dedicate every night to finish my start-up. And that was okay. Working on the same problem for too long only produces new problems. Like everyone else, I tend to get sloppy from working too much.

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Imaginary deadlines were created to ensure that steps were completed within a reasonable time period. But there was always a goal of trying to reach that elusive balance. Work was not to be my entire life — this was supposed to be a learning experience.

Starting a business has been a great learning experience, although it hasn’t created too much wealth yet, I’m still at the beginning of a great journey. Living the dream hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding and, best of all, it’s possible for anyone else to do the same.

Matthew Choinski is the founder of messagingreminder.com, a Baltimore, MD, USA small software start-up offering a service that synchronizes your Microsoft Outlook calendar and sends reminders to your mobile phone. The service is the perfect complement to your mobile phone since it’s easy to use, reliable and very affordable.

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Leon Ho

Founder of Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 25, 2021

Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

The easy fundamentals

First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

Here are some examples of strong passwords:
* i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
* ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
* mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

And not so good examples
* sammy1234
* password123
* christopher

You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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Managing your passwords

I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

Upkeep

You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

Alternatives

You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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  1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
  2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
  3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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