Sunday, September 21, 2008

Confusing confusion, and passwords

Skeptic Lawyer has a good post up about how she hates passwords, and I certainly agree.

Looking at the amount of passwords I have, though, you might come to the conclusion that I love them. I've certainly got a lot of them - probably almost twenty by now, certainly over ten. There's the password I use for blogger, the password I use for my email address, the password I use for my other email address, the password I use for my other other email address, and even the password I use for my other other other email address. There's the pin number I use for the bank, and there's the code I use to get onto Rentpay (something I invented on the spur of the moment and for some reason stuck in my head), the password I use for Pollhost. There's also several other subsidiary passwords that I've had to make up on the spur of the moment in order to use some website function, or get a new internet connection, or access something at work.

I rarely write passwords down, since I do a lot of re-using and recycling of old passwords. After all, when I go to the trouble of remembering a randomised string of numbers and letters given me I like it to stay remembered. Sometimes, indeed, I do write passwords down in case of my forgetting them: but this is a largely futile exercise, since I promptly forget where I have written them down in case of my forgetting them.

More often, though, I forget what websites or functions or computers I have remembered the passwords for, and as a result, I end up typing the wrong password into the right box at the wrong website, or the right password into the wrong box at the right website. Sometimes, too, I get my user names and passwords confused, and end up typing in a user name into the password box, or a password into a user name box. This is not really as hazardous as it might sound, since a lot of the email addresses and user-names that I have are little more than randomised strings of digits anyway. So although it can be confusing sorting out the wrong passwords from the right passwords, it's sometimes even more confusing when you type in the right passwords and the right user name. And that confusion is itself confusing.

Which is, strangely, reassuring.

And then there was what happened when I went to the bank on Friday to pay a bill, and ended up typing in the wrong pin number. Now there was an altogether different level of confusion: you see, my pin number for the bank is probably the oldest password I have. I know it better than I know the back of my hand. I certainly know it better than my phone number. It's got to the point now that when I go to a bank or an ATM, I type in the number automatically.

However, when I got to the bank I found myself automatically typing in another number that I have to remember, also four digits, but quite different to the pin number for my account. When I tried to remember what my real pin number was, I just couldn't bring it to mind.

So oddly enough, it seems that I remembered that password so well that I forgot it. To quote the preacher, Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!

So saith the preacher - and so saith I.


nailpolishblues said...

I need two passwords just to be able to do my job. One of which can't be reused for five or six password changes (fortunately I can just swap two about for the other one). And soon I'll need a third - with fingerprint/scan, mind you - to show that I am at work and I'm not cheating the bosses by fibbing on my time sheet. Perhaps I don't take my work seriously enough but it is starting to seem a little excessive.
I'm too afraid to count all my passwords. I do have a pristine bankcard that I can't use because I can't remember the pin. I'm not sure why they keep issuing me with cards. And there are countless internet things that I can no longer use as I can't figure out what password I used.

TimT said...

The combination of password and username is the real killer. I can remember most of the passwords I make up, but since my user name is by default 'TimT', I occasionally come across these sites that demand I use my email address or make up another user name instead. Which I can never remember.

When did we start using these crappy passwords, anyway? Waste of time. It's a computer-generation thing, isn't it? I can't remember any of this happening pre-computer.

nailpolishblues said...

I'm starting to have trouble remembering life pre-computer. They've been a major influence in my life for about 15 years and I've been using them, one way or another, ever since I started school.

There were no passwords in preschool. I was doing quite well to write my name then. *wanders off down nostalgic path*

Email: timhtrain - at -

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