What da fug? £1.75 for broadband? Sign me up! Wait, what’s that £15.75 per month line rental fee? #facePalm

What da fug? £1.75 for broadband? Sign me up! Wait, what’s that £15.75 per month line rental fee? #facePalm

Account Management in a 2 Factor Authentication World

I like two factor authentication (2FA). Anything that can make breaking into my accounts more difficult for an attacker and is not appreciably more difficult for me to use is a win-win. To that end, I have been using Google Authenticator almost from the day it came out. First with Google’s own services but then with more services that support TOTP, including Microsoft’s Live. I am rarely without my phone and I can get to Authenticator from my home screen. Easy.

Until I reset my phone back to factory settings which wiped out Google Authenticator. I had used Titanium Back-up to back-up and restore Authenticator, but the restore failed. I imagine a new seed was generated on the restore. At any rate, I had to re-establish all of my 2FA accounts. For Dropbox, Google and Microsoft, I had created recovery codes when I set up the account and I set the option to have security codes sent to my phone via SMS so getting access and recreating those accounts was easy. Not so for Tumblr and Amazon Web Services.

Tumblr has an option to set your phone as a back-up for SMS messages, but I never enabled it (or I disabled it). As far as I can tell, there is no way to generate a back-up code. I had to contact Tumblr and prove who I was before they would disable 2FA on my account. It was an easy process, but it took time. When I regained access, the first thing I did was set my phone as a back-up to receive authentication codes. Unfortunately, when I login to Tumblr, it sends me an authcode anyway.

Amazon Web Services had no way to create either a back-up code or a set my phone as a back-up. I have to call AWS to get it fixed.

The Lesson:
If you are using 2FA, and you should whenever possible—it is that easy to use—make sure you set-up back-up access methods once you set-up the account.

How I spent $280 on Android Apps

I have spent $280.69 on 129 Android apps in the Play Store since I bought my Motorola Droid on October 17th, 2009. That’s average of $2.18 but that doesn’t mean much because there are a number of apps I bought on sale for less than $.99. I haven’t accounted for the number of free apps that I’ve downloaded and installed but it’s probably north of 500.

I decided to take a look at how I spent that cash by downloading my transactions from the Play Store and putting my pathetic Excel skills to work. Onward!

Sorry for the reverse order, but this is my average spend per year. Even though 2009 is a partial year, its third highest for spending because I bought Touchdown Exchange for 9.99 and Docs to Go for 14.99. 2014 is also a partial year, but I think my purchasing is slowing down. In 2012, I bought a number of games and other tools. Yikes.


Here is a break down of apps per year. It’s a crappy chart and the colors run together, but the upshot is … Nah, it’s a crappy chart. And redundant. Just look at the pretty colors and move on.


Here is another view of my spend based on category. The category is from the Play Store. Tools are mostly system tools like Llama (automation), File Browsers, Wi-Fi tools, and so on. I’m not big on in app purchases (IAP)overall. I only spent $10.93 but I use those items often and they were additional features to the app added well after the fact.


I took the top 8 apps based on volume and plotted out the average price of the apps I bought per category. The Business would be higher than $5.69 except that I bought two font packs for OfficeSuite Pro for $.25 which brought that price down. Removing those raises the average price to $9.32. Today Touchdown Exchange is $19.99 and Docs to Go Premium is still $14.99.

Finally, I broke down the number of apps I bought in price ranges ending with anything over $5.00. I bought almost as many apps under $.99 (on sale) as I did at full price up to $1.99. There are few apps that I bought that were more than $5.00. They are mostly productivity tools with Docs to Go being the most expensive at $14.99.


A few parting thoughts:

I bought each of these apps once and used them across three different devices (two phones and one tablet). Some of these apps I’ve had for over 5 years with updates (going from Android 2.X to 4.X). That is incredible value.

I think the quality of the apps I have bought is overall outstanding especially considering what I spent. There are some apps that I bought even though I don’t use them just to support the developer. There are some apps that were rough at first but have improved with age.

For the most part, every app I have bought has also been available for the tablet and has been perfectly useable. I honestly can’t think of a single app that wasn’t useable on my tablet, though some, like Touchdown Exchange got better with a dedicated tablet layout.

There are, of course, a ton of free apps that I use as well and I am deeply appreciative of those who write software and make it freely available. I want to give you money!

There is one potential down side and that is support. Sometimes the developer is very responsive—I once spent the better part of an afternoon installing and testing iterations of an app to help a developer track down a UI issue. Other times the developer isn’t helpful (I had trouble with Box transfers with Titanium Pro Backup and was told it was a network issue. But I can reach box with the it’s app, the browser, and other apps. Just not with Titanium, I replied. They stood firm that it was a network issue. Um, no, it ISN’T.)

Smarter smart phone: Automatically silence your phone during meetings

I hate remembering to do things and having a smart phone is supposed to help with those mundane chores. Why then do peoples phones still ring during meetings, presentations, etc? Do  yourself and those around you and let your phone silence itself.

I don’t know about Apple’s IOS, but Google Calendar app doesn’t automatically silence the phone when a calendar event fires. Seems like a no brainer to me but then again, I actually use my phone. There are likely many ways to do this automatically, here’s how I do it.

First, I synchronize my Outlook calendar with my Google Calendar using Google App Sync. That keeps everything current. Then I use an Android app called Llama (it’s free but buy a license anyway. You get nothing more than a warm-fuzzy but supporting the developer is worth it).

Llama is positioned as a location based app for automating actions based on course (Wi-Fi or cell tower based) or fine (GPS) location data. I don’t use any location features mainly because I don’t need to. However, Llama has a bunch of other triggers defined that can launch an event. For example, I have a time based trigger so that every night at 10:00 pm, my phone goes silent and at 8:00 am it can make noise. No more late night wrong numbers to wake me up!

For calendar events, I set a trigger so that when an calendar event is active, Llama set’s my phone to silent. When the calendar event ends, my phone can make noise again. It’s really simple to do and I have never had my phone go off during a meeting. But wait, there’s more. I can also set up exceptions so that if my wife calls, for example, that will always ring my phone regardless of the setting. When I’m on the road, she would only call if it was important and, of course, I want to take that call. It just works.

Llama can trigger on other events like NFC tags, if a headset is connected or not and other stuff. It’s easy to use and makes your phone smarter. There are other automation apps out there like Tasker (which I don’t find as easy to use) and others.


Anonymous asked: Are those your shoes? What is that dark slime spilling out of the shoes onto the plate? Do you need a full set up for that meal? What's holding up the right side of the table? And, last, white bread? Really? BTW - Good thing you have grounded circuits! You never know.

Not my shoes though if I were a woman and had size 6 feet, I’d wear them. That pic is a still life called “Toe Jam” taken back in my long hair days when I shot, processed, and printed film. The table is a one-arm table similar to the ones you see in hospitals, though this was for home use. Cast iron and the top was leather covered wood.