How to Clean Your Gmail Autocomplete List • Productivity Portfolio

When I was at UNC for a couple years I sent and received emails from my Gmail account to lots and lots of people I will never see or hear from again. 

This was annoying me recently, when I had to ignore lots of obviously irrelevant-to-me-now email addresses. Where was Gmail finding this stuff -- from my old emails?

In a way, yes. The Productivity Portfolio explains that Gmail creates a new Contact record for every email you receive from or send to someone. The workaround is to find the Contact record and delete it. 

Very handy to know, particularly for when friends change work addresses.

Creating random passphrases for stronger passwords

At home on my iMac, when I need to create a strong password, I use 1Password's generator, specifically where it generates a string of random words. The longer the passphrase, generally, the harder it is to crack.

But I don't have 1Password on my Windows computer at work. And I like to mix things up also. 

Prior to using 1Password, I used a Diceware passphrase. Throw five dice to generate a totally random 5-digit number. Match the number to the list of 7,776 short words or word-tokens, and you have a long password that is easier to remember and type, while harder to crack. 

Since I don't have five dice, I used Random.org's dice-throwing routine, either from its website or iPhone app.  

So throwing 15152 gives you "brawl," 26232 is "fork," and so on. Separate five or six words with a non-alphabetic character, begin or end with a number or !@#$^*(), and I have a strong password that's also easy to type on a mobile keyboard. 

Diceware's was admittedly an odd list, with some obscure words, numbers, single letters (g), single letters with apostrophes (g's), or very short "words" (fy) that do not add to the passphrase complexity and are hard to remember on their own. 

Into the breach steps the Electronic Freedom Foundation's new wordlists to create random passphrases. The long word list is now composed of full recognizable words, without apostrophes, and that are easy to remember and spell. 

The EFF's page has all the information on the reasoning behind the new list along with shorter lists that use only four dice. It also links to the classic XKCD comic explaining the benefit of long passphrases.

 

Windows: My startup.bat file

@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.
@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.
@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.
@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.
@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.
@echo off
:: source: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch001678.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.

8.htm :: to add a pause, insert CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL :: Using the choice command included with these versions of Windows you can delay a batch file anywhere from 0 to 9999 seconds. :: In this example, we illustrate a five-second delay. If you want to increase or decrease this time change the “5” to a different value.

:: evernote start “C:UsersuseridAppDataLocalAppsEvernoteEvernote” Evernote.exe

CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL

:: firefox start “C:UsersuseridAppDataLocalMozilla Firefox” firefox.exe

CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL

:: outlook start “C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft OfficerootOffice16” OUTLOOK.EXE

CHOICE /N /C YN /T 5 /D Y >NUL

:: workrave start C:UsersuseridDocumentsApplicationsWorkravelibWorkrave.exe

References

Surviving the Ordinary: Why We Need Memoirs of Regular Lives | Literary Hub

So why do we need this book?

Mary Laura Philpott’s article looks at books of the ordinary lives that most of us lead: birth (or not), love (or not), marriage (or not), and death (oh yes). As much as the sensational books grab our attention, it’s the quieter books about quieter lives that can speak more loudly to us.

I have read to Liz before her bedtime for many years, and we’ve found that the best books for that are memoirs of ordinary people, but with a twist of some kind.

 Philpott worries for her own book of memoirish essays and whether its normality will speak to readers. Her hope for why readers may find it of interest rests on the concept of “relatability.”  

People come in all the time seeking not just an entertaining read, but (sorry, here comes that word) a relatable one. They pull down books in which they find some version of themselves as they are now or were in the past or hope to be one day. They start out seeing themselves in others; then they see the other in themselves; then they’re able to see themselves and their own futures differently. I’d say these books transform people, but it’s more that the books help people along while they are already transforming.

Perhaps. I would say instead that way down deep, in a place before words are formed, we know that we are all connected, we are all One Self. A good ordinary memoir cracks open the door to that place and reminds us of that truth.  

DSL woes iv

Still getting frequent, brief DNS outages. The speed is noticeably slower for long periods, but with a few periods where we get close to our provisioned speed. The connection is more stable than it was before Saturday's visit. We have not had any periods of complete downtime.

I am close to saying that this is about as good as it will get.

So, as my friend Peter is fond of saying after a grinding life event: What have we learned from this? 

Do as much work as I can to define the problem before I call tech support

I'm fortunate that our setup is simple: a DSL jack, a modem, the Airport Time Capsule. It was easy for me to directly hook the iMac to the modem so that I could tell tech support it was not the wifi. I left them no room to argue about wifi settings; when we deal with a wired connection, the troubleshooting is much simpler.

Use tools to gather evidence

Using Network Logger Pro, I collected a week's worth of outage data to prove to Frontier that we had a problem and that it was not my equipment causing it. 

Also, using Speedtest (the web site or the app) to do spot checks helped because that's what Frontier tech support uses. 

I like having logs and data showing that I'm getting x number of outages and only y mbps at specific times of day. Anecdotal "It just feels a lot slower" evidence does not help anyone.

The modem itself has its own stats and logs, also, but they're way more technical and I'm not sure they'd do me much good.

Accept that what I can do is limited

Rebooting the modem and/or router is the universal antidote because it solves most common ills. But for us, rebooting worked until it didn't. Getting rid of an ancient DSL filter and upgrading to a new modem helped. Hardware-wise, that was about it.

Of course, you can input different DSL addresses but that's no guarantee that the situation will change (and if you don't flush the DNS cache, then it may take a day or a reboot for the changes to take effect). I've also read that your ISP's default DNS servers may even be faster sometimes.

For wifi, you could use some tools to maybe find some less-crowded channels or change the router's DNS addresses, but again -- that's about it. The change in speed could be noticeable, but I think most likely the bump will be slight.

Beyond these simple tactics, I believe what I can physically do to improve a connectivity or outage problem is limited. Networking is arcane, dark-magic stuff; I chose to stop my research with SN ratios and Line Attenuations because it was clear to me that going deeper was not helping my understanding or the situation.

Call the ISP's tech support and get a trouble ticket

In the end, it came down to me calling the ISP, being persistent in making my case, and getting a trouble ticket. Once I had that trouble ticket, I was reassured that I'd get attention focused on the problem.

This takes time; maybe an hour on the phone with the first call, maybe a couple of hours with the technicians. I don't believe there's another way.

In all, we had three visits by four different Frontier technicians. And the final resolution was ... to replace the modem. So it goes.

All the guys who came to look at the problem were knowledgeable and each advanced the game a little at a time (changing the DSL filter, rewiring the box, double-checking the modem's settings). They have more sophisticated tools than I do to check the lines and they troubleshoot these problems all the time. So I relied on their experiences and instincts.

But ...

Run Speedtest several times before the technician leaves

This was a great piece of advice I picked up in my researches and I kicked myself when I forgot to do this.

The technicians need to see for themselves whether their work made a difference. And until we agree there's a positive change, then the ticket remains open.

In the end, it's up to the ISP (and me)

The ISP controls all the hardware from the street to my house and they're even responsible for the modem. 

My physical location from the switch, the wiring in my house -- some things are beyond my control. But the things I can influence, I want to influence.

So the next time I start experiencing problems, I will gather evidence and then call them: Here's what my logs are showing. What speeds should I expect, given our provisioning? What are Frontier's parameters for acceptable performance, using Speedtest as a guide? How many outages, and for how long, does Frontier consider acceptable? Are there any settings I can tweak on my modem that would help?

It's the ISP's responsibility to ensure I get the speed and service I'm paying for. It's my responsibility to be a partner in helping to solve the problem and to make sure the ISP does not stop focusing on the problem till it's solved to my satisfaction.

How To Access The WiFi Scanner In macOS Sierra - Let's Talk Tech

I was looking for a wifi scanner to check whether there were less cluttered wifi channels in our area. Specifying a less-populated channel can reduce interference and provide a more pleasing experience.

Lo, there is a Wireless Diagnostic utility included with macOS. It takes an Option key press on the wifi icon in the menubar to get to it, so it is definitely non-obvious -- why does Apple hide this kind of thing? 

The instructions on Let's Talk Tech page are clear and short. The utility told me the best 2.4 and 5 GHz channels to specify, and we're trying them out now. So far, so good, though the 5 GHz recommendations seem to change whenever I check them. 

   [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1382.0"]<img src="http://tempblogfood.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/07f5c-wifiscan.jpg" alt=" The panel on the right shows all the wifi networks in our neighborhood, the wireless protocol they're using, the band (2.4 or 5 GHz) and, most important, their channels. The summary in the left panel recommends the best channels that&nbsp; take advantage of less-populated bands. " />  The panel on the right shows all the wifi networks in our neighborhood, the wireless protocol they're using, the band (2.4 or 5 GHz) and, most important, their channels. The summary in the left panel recommends the best channels that&nbsp; take advantage of less-populated bands. [/caption]

Self-Improvement's ultimate goal? Creating James Bond villains

[caption id=“” align=“alignnone” width=“720.0”] Credit: [filmonic.com/top-10-ep...](http://filmonic.com/top-10-epic-james-bond-villain-deaths/) Credit: filmonic.com/top-10-ep… [/caption]

One of my first coaches observed that the end result of self-improvement and motivational techniques is to create James Bond super-villains. Bond, on the other hand, embodies the exact opposite of those aspirational ideals.  

Consider: what marks the extreme Bond villains such as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Dr. No, Hugo Drax, and Raoul Silva?  

  • They are ambitious. They think big, dream big, plan big.  
  • They take action on their vision.
  • They are single-minded in the pursuit of their goals and put in the hours to achieve those ends. (Work-life balance must be an adorable middle-class concept to a guy like Blofeld.)
  • Those big plans require extraordinary self-discipline to achieve. No villain binges Netflix. 
  • They are persuasive leaders who inspire loyalty, or at least command the loyalty, of other powerful people. 
  • They have no hangups about money, either getting more or hanging on to it. 
  • They leave no money on the table. They take the money and the table and then sell the table to get more money. 
  • They don’t care what people think or say about them. 
  • They have no issues with negative self-image or negative self-talk.
  • They don’t second-guess themselves. 
  • They set SMART goals and employ mind-boggling Gantt charts to help them achieve their (to them) utterly reasonable visions. A secret missile base inside a dormant volcano doesn’t just grow itself, you know. 
  • They exercise a tremendous organizational prowess to run tight, clockwork-precise organizations employing dozens or hundreds of people. 
  • They have no conception of “leaving their comfort zone” because their comfort zones cover a lot of ground. 
  • They have no filters on their personality, thinking, or behavior – they are who they are, like ‘em or not. 
  • They do not ask for either forgiveness or permission. 
  • They think outside the box. 
  • They think win. Win. Win. 
  • They feel free to do whatever they want to do. 

Look at that list. Self-help books and motivational speakers by the hundreds build careers teaching only one or two of these attributes to their audiences. There is absolutely no reason in the world every villain on Her Majesty’s Shitlist should not succeed with their diabolical plans. 

Yet into every scenario blunders that damnable James Bond: emotional, impulsive, instinctive, reactive; an opportunist who improvises without doing proper research; who acts inconsistently, impulsively, rashly; who is suspicious of everyone around him when he’s not manipulating them; who works hard instead of smart; who destroys years of delicate and methodical preparation in a few loud explodey minutes.  

The Bond villain is ruthlessly, terribly orderly and methodical, a top-down thinker, patiently building his organization step by step, consolidating gains and reversing losses. He’s even planned for his escapes in case things go wrong! Isn’t this type of worldly success and behavior what traditional mainstream self-help and motivational literature – especially those books sitting on the “Business & Economics” shelves – holds up as the ideal?  

James Bond, on the other hand, is the (secret) agent of chaos and destruction whose job is not to change the world, but, in a sense, to protect the status quo. Is he really the guy we’re meant to emulate?  

Of course, there are downsides to being a villain, too. 

[youtube www.youtube.com/watch

[youtube=://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrcVY_b1XCI&w=854&h=480]

DSL woes iii

Every couple of years something goes wonky with our DSL connection and it requires major intervention. A couple of years ago, I had two Frontier technicians in my office talking to a third who was at the local switch.

Yesterday, I had THREE Frontier technicians in my office. One of them was the first guy who came out over two weeks ago.

Restricting them to just the iMac connected via Ethernet to the modem sped things up a bit — no futzing with the Airport wifi settings.

After all three tested and tried their ideas, they wound up doing what I thought they’d have to do: switch out the modem for a newer model. In this case, an Arris NVG443B modem, which is a brand I’ve never heard of before.

So far, so good. There were some teething problems early on as reported by Network Logger Pro, mainly Domain Name Server (DNS) outages. Network Logger has not reported any total outages since before the technicians came.

After an evening of iPad-surfing, Liz reported pages taking a long time to load, but they eventually did load and there were no outages. So the connection seems stable, though slower.

I ran the macOS-based Speedtest app and was discouraged to see our 3 mbps provisioned download speed drop to 1 mbps or less on several tests. Even though we experienced outages before, we got close to 3 mbps when the connection was up.

Update: I got 2.8 or 2.9 mbps late last night, but am barely scraping 1.5 this morning.

According to the modem’s built-in xDSL stats page, it’s seeing a downstream rate of 3360 kbps (so, about 3 mbps) and an upstream rate of 863 kbps. 

Hm. The modem seems to be receiving data at the provisioned rate, but on my Ethernet connection, I’m seeing 1 mbps or less. 

Hm. Network Logger Pro is showing now only DNS outages since the Frontier guys left. Fewer than before they arrived, but still...should I be seeing DNS outages at all?

On the old modem, for the last few years, I’d replace the default ISP DNS addresses with the Google DNS addresses or OpenDNS addresses. Supposedly, those server addresses resolve the domain names faster than the ISP’s DNS servers do. (There’s also a new entrant to the DNS space called Cloudflare.)

After some Googling around, here’s what I am doing, using Kim Komando’s DNS article as my guide. 

  1. Removed the Google DNS numbers from Airport Utility and the macOS Network System Preferences pane. They automatically reverted to the ISP’s DNS servers. It seems you can set the new DNS addresses at the modem, router, or device level. I'm keeping the modem's DNS settings untouched for now; I don't want to give Frontier ammunition for saying I mucked up their modem settings.
  2. Flushing the DNS cache (for both computers and browsers) was a new idea for me. Flushing the cache on High Sierra required a special syntax. This required me to log in as the administrator on my Mac to run the Terminal command, since having a separate administrator account is considered good practice.
  3. I downloaded Kim's recommendation of namebench, whose purpose is to discover the fastest DNS servers for your geographic area. I ran it but I would not recommend using it. It was last updated in 2010 and there are few recent references to anyone using it. Namebench recommended Ultradns-2 as the fastest DNS address server, but I will likely go with Cloudflare as primary and Google as secondary, since they're more recent and up to date.
  4. I added 1.1.1.1 (Cloudflare) and 8.8.8.8 (Google) as DNS addresses to the Airport. So our wifi devices should be OK. 
  5. For my iMac, I'm connected to the modem via Ethernet, so I'm using Frontier's default DNS resolvers. 
  6. Liz and I will do our normal surfing to see if speed and stability are better. 
  7. If the speeds are still slow, place another call to Tech Support.

I’m not a tech guru by any means, and network stuff brings me to my knees. What I’ve been documenting in this series is what I know to do, given my paltry knowledge and Googling around. How do normal people deal with this stuff?

Update: Komando wrote about Netflix's Fast.com site. I'm checking its results against Speedtest to see if they agree.