Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm not your "pal"

Q: Why should I use the PayPal Security Key?
A: You shouldn't, really.

- my version of the PayPal Security Key FAQ
So I'm checking my PayPal account balance today, because I was supposed to get a refund from a merchant who couldn't ship a Halloween costume accessory in time, and I notice a sidebar image ad for the PayPal Security Key. It looks a lot like a VPN token card, so I click on the ad to read more about it. Yup, that's exactly what it is.

Just in case you've never had to deal with one of these things before: a VPN token is used for authenticating users to a secure network. The token is initialized by a network admin and displays a six-digit number which changes every so often. The same sequence of numbers is being generated inside the network, and changes in sync with your token card. When you try to connect to the network, you need to provide the current authentication token to prove that you're an authorized user.

But here's the thing. VPN tokens are annoying. They're chunky, they get lost easily, they're yet another piece of hardware you need to carry around. My company stopped using them altogether earlier this year, and life has never been better. (I'm only half-joking.) And PayPal actually wants their users to pay FIVE DOLLARS for the privilege of having to deal with this hassle? What kind of message does that send? "Hey, uh, so, our security is pretty good, but it's not, y'know, great, so maybe you want to add another security feature to your account? And, hey, it would be great if you could, like, chip in for that. Yeah."

To quote Dr. Evil: Riiiiight. Not gonna happen, sorry. And stop annoying me with those damn interstitial advertisements after I log in. Seriously. Just stop it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Woman On Fire

Did someone say synchronicity? I just read the first TPB collection of Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman run a few days ago, and now a huge swath of southern California is on fire.

Here's what the Flash and Diana had to say about fighting wildfires in Wonder Woman #197:
WONDER WOMAN: Let it burn.

FLASH: What?

WW: The forest needs this fire, Flash. It's how it grows, it's how it stays healthy. If you pull the air from it, you will seve nothing but the now to the pain of the future. The next fire will be worse.

F: Do you hear yourself, Diana? This isn't a new age seminar, it's a damn forest fire! We're wasting time--

WW: No, Flash. Let it burn.
Just to be clear, Wonder Woman is saying they should protect the homes, but let the forest burn itself out. This is a pretty standard firefighting approach, but I'm sure it still freaks people out to see huge fires burning within sight of their homes. My thoughts are with all the victims--which, thankfully, don't include my parents or my sister, who are nowhere near the actual burning.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fun With Cats

"There are certain things I am willing to do at home to save money. For example, I ask my wife to cut my hair. Something I won't do is reach into my cats[sic] asshole and wring out its butt juice. I'm willing to pay a professional for that."
- Penny Arcade

D and I are familiar with this phenomenon; Bayla, the older of our two cats, has had this procedure done several times at the vet, and we are very happy to pay for this service. Bayla also suffers at least one chronic condition which has been mentioned on House, but that's probably unrelated. I only mention it because it's fun to say "eosinophilic granuloma."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Instant Heroes

NetFlix should seriously be advertising the heck out of this: You can watch new episodes of Heroes via their "Watch Instantly" service, the same week they air. No DVR or advance planning required. Hooray for convenience! (The bad news is coming. Wait for it.)

The service had piss-poor selection when it launched earlier this year, but it's looking much nicer now. Unfortunately, and here's the bad news, the other problems still exist: you have to use Windows XP and IE6, deal with Microsoft's crappy DRM, and you have to stream the episodes--no downloading for later offline viewing. So Web 1.0. Are they gonna get a sock puppet mascot too?

But it's still marginally better than Amazon Unbox, which forces you to install additional software to manage their own proprietary DRM. Also, you don't have to pay-per-view for each show or movie on NetFlix; you get as many hours of viewing per month as the number of dollars you pay for your subscription.

In my case, that's seventeen hours, and much more than my actual free time per month. But it's nice to know that I could go online, fire up a browser, and watch Pan's Labyrinth or Time Bandits whenever I want. It's not perfect, but I've got to admit, it's getting better.