KeePass for Opera

Opera 12 has been released, and brought with it a handful of new features. But there’s also been a feature removed – a little-known feature that allowed power users to have the web address appear in the title bar of the browser. I guess that the development team decided that, because the title bar is rarely seen nowadays (the space in which a title once occupied has for a long while now been used as a tab strip, in the style that Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox eventually copied), this feature wasn’t needed.

But for users of the KeePass Password Safe, this has the knock-on effect of crippling the ability for this security tool to automatically type passwords and other form data into web pages, forcing users to take the long-winded route of manually copy-pasting them each time.

KeePass for Opera Plugin

To fix this problem, I’ve released the KeePass for Opera browser extension. It’s ludicrously simple: it injects a bit of Javascript (originally by Jean François) into every page you visit, which then appends the URL of the page to the title bar. This allows KeePass to detect what site you’re on, so the usual Global Auto-Type command (typically Left Ctrl + Alt + A) will work as normal.

[button link=”” align=”right” size=”medium” caption=”KeePass for Opera”]Install[/button]

Download KeePass for Opera (browser extension)

Open in Opera to install.

Further reading:

I’ve mentioned KeePass a few times before. See:

Domain Name Hacks of 2013

Now that the list of new top-level domain applications for 2013 has been revealed, geeks around the world can start planning for the domain hacks of the future. was fun, and all, but the if many or all of these new registries are willing to sell their domains to anybody, there’s a lot of potential for new and unusual domain names. – a website based on a simple domain name hack

I suspect we’ll soon be typing in addresses like:

  • jack.and/jill – the .and TLD is clearly supposed to be for the Andalusian community in Spain, but I doubt that’s going to stop people from coming up with imaginative uses for domain names where you can just “put your own suffix” after the .and/, like we used to do before before it got taken over by domain squatters. (note that .gay will soon be a TLD, so there’s probably going to be a whole raft of these new sites soon…)
  • – or as we’ll say at the time, “.bar – it’s not just for bars any more!”
  • I quite like the idea of, but I think a far more popular use will be “put your own suffix” sites, again, like
  •  .bot is one of the many TLDs that Amazon is going for, and it seems likely to me that they’re going to try to resell domains underneath it. I’m just not sure whether or will be first to be snatched up.
  • – perhaps you have to be in my head to find this amusing.
  • This web site would have the best hit counter ever on it (why?).
  •,, and dozens of other domain names that are only a letter away from meaning something completely different – and that letter is often “s”.
  • – etc. etc. I’d buy if the price was right, and then run a basic site spanning, and the like, with automatically-generated content on each. It’d be fun.
  • – a complete abuse of the .dog  TLD, no matter what its purpose is supposed to be. Better still, I’d put a page at, containing the message “I heard you like domain names in your domain names, so I put a domain name in a domain name.” (why?)
  • – the website that Koreans will set as one another’s home page, as a cruel prank against the superstitious.
  • would be an awesome domain name! Who wouldn’t want to have the email address
  • the future domain name of Hungry Horse pubs? (get it? “empty gee-gee”?)
  •, after the Goo Goo Dolls album. But then, I don’t object to domain names with possibly-excessive numbers of dots in them, as the Summer Party On Earth website probably gives away. Hell: I could possibly be using as the domain name for our house, in 2013.
  • – I’ll bet that homosexual sex blogger Dan Savage, who’s been trying to reclaim the word “faggot”, would love to have the email address!
  • – I’ve got an idea for a webcam-based site, like ChatRoulette, but with facial recognition software that watches your eye movements. You get paired up with a random stranger and the pair of you have a staring contest, right over the Internet. If you win, you get a point. It’ll be awesome.
  •,, etc. – I’m sure that Istanbul, for whom the .ist TLD is intended, won’t mind if we borrow their new domain name for a few amusing addresses. Like the email address, for example.
  • – with apologies to those who don’t follow Arrested Development.
  • – sure,.bingo is likely to exist anyway, but this way’s more fun.
  • – I have no idea what anybody else expected TLD to be used for, if not this.
  • – I quite like this, because it makes not only a full word, but the first part is a word, too.
  • – faux Russian is never going to go out of style.
  • – if I can, I’m totally setting this site up in 2013. All that there’ll be is the picture, below, which makes me smile every time I see it.
Polar bear: got my tube, tube tube tube, tuuuuuuube!
Tube tube tube. Soon to appear at, if I get my way.

Honestly, though: it feels like all of these new top-level domain name opportunities take a lot of the fun out of domain hacks. The more TLDs we have, the easier it is to put together words and phrases with the opportunities given.

Scrabble wouldn’t be so enjoyable if each player had a rack of, say, 30 tiles, rather than just 7. The restriction (and working around them) is what makes domain-name-based jokes so funny, in my mind. What are we supposed to do in a world where anybody with a spare $185,000 USD can have anything he wants?

When I realise that the era of funny domain hacks is coming to an end, it makes me a little sad. But then I look at that picture of a polar bear and everything’s okay again. Tuuuuuuube!


In Europe? Here’s the trick I used when Civ 5 was first released to get it a few days early… it’ll probably work for Gods & Kings, too.

This link was originally posted to /r/civ. See more things from Dan's Reddit account.

The original link was:

I’ve just tried this and it works; thought I’d share my results with you so that any fellow Europeans can give it a go too.

  1. Pre-order the game in your own country (I’m in the UK and bought my copy months and months ago; paid in £)

  2. Pre-load the game (shocked if you haven’t already done this), so Steam says “Pre-load complete; unreleased”

  3. Get yourself a US-based VPN provider. I’m using VyprVPN because I had an account with them already, but if you’re just after an ultra-short subscription for this one thing then you can probably get a better deal: here’s a starting point.

  4. In Steam -> Settings -> Download + Cloud, change your “Download region” to one of the US ones. Save, and shut down Steam.

  5. Connect to your VPN.

  6. Open up Steam again: by the combination of (a) the VPN and (b) the download region, Valve will believe that you’re in the USA and activate your game! Hooray!

  7. Play!

I hope you all appreciate the time I spent typing this when I could have been playing Civ 5! See you online!

Cardless Cashpoints

My mobile banking app, showing me a special six digit code.
The mobile app presents you with a special six-digit code that is used to withdraw the cash.

RBS Group this week rolled out a service to all of its customers, allowing them to withdraw cash from an ATM without using their bank card. The service is based upon the same technologies that’s used to provide emergency access to cash by people who’ve had their cards stolen, but integrates directly into the mobile banking apps of the group’s constituent banks. I decided to give it a go.

The first step is to use the mobile app to request a withdrawal. There’s an icon for this, but it’s a bit of a mystery that it’s there unless you already know what you’re looking for. You can’t make a request from online banking without using the mobile app, which seems to be an oversight (in case you can’t think of a reason that you’d want to do this, read on: there’s one at the end). I opted to withdraw £50.

Next, it’s off to find a cash machine. I struck out, without my wallet, to try to find the nearest Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, or Tesco cashpoint. The mobile app features a GPS tool to help you find these, although it didn’t seem to think that my local Tesco cashpoint existed, walking me on to a branch of NatWest.

Cash machine: "Do you wish to carry out a Get Cash or Emergency Cash transaction? [No] [Yes]"
The readout of the cash machine demonstrates that the roots of the “Get Cash” system lie in the older “Emergency Cash” feature: the two are functionally the same thing.
As instructed by the app, I pressed the Enter key on the keypad of the cash machine. This bypasses the usual “Insert card” prompt and asks, “Do you wish to carry out a Get Cash or Emergency Cash transaction?” I pressed Yes.
Entering a 6-digit code from a mobile phone into a cash machine.
The number displayed upon the screen is entered into the cash machine.

The ATM asked for the PIN I’d been given by the mobile app: a 6-digit code. Each code is only valid for a window of 3 hours and can only be used once.

A cashpoint asking for the PIN a second time, and then asking for the amount of money to withdraw.
The cash machine asks for the PIN a second time, and then asks for the sum of money to be withdrawn.

I’m not sure why, but the ATM asks that the PIN is confirmed by being entered a second time. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – if it was mistyped, it’d surely fail anyway (unless I happened to guess another valid code, within its window), and I’d simply be able to try again. And if I were an attacker, trying to guess numbers, then there’s no difficulty in typing the same number twice.

It’s possible that this is an attempt at human-tarpitting, but that wouldn’t be the best way to do it. If the aim is to stop a hacker from attempting many codes in quick succession, simply imposing a delay would be far more effective (this is commonplace with cash machines anyway: ever notice that you can’t put a card in right after the last transaction has finished?). Strange.

Finally, the ATM asks what value of cash was agreed to be withdrawn. I haven’t tried putting in an incorrect value, but I assume that it would refuse to dispense any cash if the wrong number was entered – this is presumably a final check that you really are who you claim to be.

Cash machine: "Please take your cash and your receipt."
It feels strange taking money and a receipt from a cashpoint without first having to retrieve my card. I spent a few minutes after the experience with a feeling that I’d forgotten something.

It worked. I got my money. The mobile app quickly updated to reflect the change to my balance and invalidated the code: the system was a success.

The banks claim that this will be useful for times that you’ve not got your card with you. Personally, I don’t think I ever take my phone outdoors without also taking my wallet with me, so the chance of that it pretty slim. If my card were stolen, I’d be phoning the bank to cancel the card anyway, so it wouldn’t save me a call, either, if I needed emergency cash. But there are a couple of situations in which I’d consider using this neat little feature:

  • If I was suspicious of a possible card-skimming device on a cash machine, but I needed to withdraw money and there wasn’t an un-tampered ATM in the vicinity. It’d be nice to know that you can avoid having your card scanned by some kid with a skimmer just by using your phone to do the authentication rather than a valuable piece of plastic.
  • To send money to somebody else. Using this tool is cheaper than a money order and faster than a bank transfer: it’s an instantaneous way to get small sums of cash directly into the hands of a distant friend. “Sure, I’ll lend you £50: just go to a cash machine and type in this code.” I’m not sure whether or not this is a legitimate use of the service, but I can almost guarantee that it’ll be the most-popular. It’ll probably be reassuring to parents of teenagers, for example, who know that they can help their offspring get a taxi home when they’ve got themselves stranded somewhere.

What do you think? If you’re with RBS, NatWest or Tesco, have you tried this new mobile banking feature? Do you think there’s mileage in it as an idea, or is it a solution in need of a problem?

× × × × ×


This blog post is about password security. If you don’t run a website and you just want to know what you should do to protect yourself, jump to the end.

I’d like to tell you a story about a place called Internetland. Internetland is a little bit like the town or country that you live in, but there’s one really important difference: in Internetland, everybody is afflicted with an unusual disorder called prosopagnosia, or “face-blindness”. This means that, no matter how hard they try, the inhabitants of Internetland can’t recognise each other by looking at one another: it’s almost as if everybody was wearing masks, all the time.

Denied the ability to recognise one another on sight, the people of Internetland have to say out loud who they are when they want to be identified. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’d be very easy for people to pretend to be one another, if they wanted. There are a few different ways that the inhabitants get around that problem, but the most-common way is that people agree on and remember passwords to show that they really are who they claim to be.

Alice’s Antiques

Alice runs an antiques store in Internetland. She likes to be able to give each customer a personalised service, so she invites her visitors to identify themselves, if they like, when they come up to the checkout. Having them on file means that she can contact them about special offers that might interest them, and she can keep a record of their address so that the customer doesn’t have to tell her every time that they want a piece of furniture delivered to their house.

An antique desk and chair.
Some of Alice’s Antiques’ antiques.

One day, Bob came by. He found a nice desk and went to the checkout to pay for it.

“Hi,” said Alice, “Have you shopped here before?” Remember that even if he’d visited just yesterday, she wouldn’t remember him, so crippling is her face-blindness.

“No,” replied Bob, “First time.”

“Okay then,” Alice went on, “Would you like to check out ‘as a guest’, or would you like to set up an account so that I’ll remember you next time?”

Bob opted to set up an account: it’d only take a few minutes, Alice promised, and would allow him to check out faster in future. Alice gave Bob a form to fill in:

A form filled in with name - Bob, password - swordfish1, address - 1, Fisherman's Wharf, Internetland, and with a box ticked to allow a catalogue to be posted.
Bob filled in the form with his name, a password, and his address. He ticked the box to agree that Alice could send him a copy of her catalogue.

Alice took the form and put it into her filing cabinet.

The following week, Bob came by Alice’s Antiques again. When he got to the checkout, Alice again asked him if he’d shopped there before.

“Yes, I’ve been here before,” said Bob, “It’s me: Bob!”

Alice turned to her filing cabinet and pulled out Bob’s file. This might sound like a lot of work, but the people of Internetland are very fast at sorting through filing cabinets, and can usually find what they’re looking for in less than a second. Alice found Bob’s file and, looking at it, challenged Bob to prove his identity:

“If you’re really Bob – tell me your password!”

“It’s swordfish1,” came the reply.

Alice checked the form and, sure, that was the password that Bob chose when he registered, so now she knew that it really was him. When he asked for a set of chairs he’d found to be delivered, Alice was able to simply ask, “You want that delivered to 1 Fisherman’s Wharf, right?”, and Bob just nodded. Simple!

Evil Eve

That night, a burglar called Eve broke into Alice’s shop by picking the lock on the door (Alice never left money in the till, so she didn’t think it was worthwhile buying a very good lock). Creeping through the shadows, Eve opened up the filing cabinet and copied out all of the information on all of the files. Then, she slipped back out, locking the door behind her.

Alice’s shop has CCTV – virtually all shops in Internetland do – but because it wasn’t obvious that there had been a break-in, Alice didn’t bother to check the recording.

CCTV camera.
Alice has CCTV, but she only checks the recording if it’s obvious that something has happened.

Now Eve has lots of names and passwords, so it’s easy for her to pretend to be other Internetlanders. You see: most people living in Internetland use the same password at most or all of the places they visit. So Eve can go to any of the other shops that Bob buys from, or the clubs he’s part of, or even to his bank… and they’ll believe that she’s really him.

One of Eve’s favourite tricks is to impersonate her victim and send letters to their friends. Eve might pretend to be Bob, for example, and send a letter to his friend Charlie. The letter might say that Bob’s short on cash, and ask if Charlie can lend him some: and if Charlie follows the instructions (after all, Charlie trusts Bob!), he’ll end up having his money stolen by Eve! That dirty little rotter.

So it’s not just Bob who suffers for Alice’s break-in, but Charlie, too.

Bob Thinks He’s Clever

Bob thinks he’s cleverer than most people, though. Rather than use the same password everywhere he goes, he has three different passwords. The first one is his “really secure” one: it’s a good password, and he’s proud of it. He only uses it when he talks to his bank, the tax man, and his credit card company – the stuff he thinks is really important. Then he’s got a second password that he uses when he goes shopping, and for the clubs he joins. A third password, which he’s been using for years, he reserves for places that demand that he chooses a password, but where he doesn’t expect to go back to: sometimes he joins in with Internetland debates and uses this password to identify himself.

Bob's password list - his high-security password is "h@mm3rHead!", his medium-security one is "swordfish1", and his low-security one is "haddock".
Bob’s password list. Don’t tell anybody I showed you it: Bob’ll kill me.

Bob’s approach was cleverer than most of the inhabitants of Internetland, but it wasn’t as clever as he thought. Eve had gotten his medium-security password, and this was enough to persuade the Post Office to let her read Bob’s mail. Once she was able to do this, she went on to tell Bob’s credit card company that Bob had forgotten his password, so they sent him a new one… which she was able to read. She was then able to use this new password to tell the credit card company that Bob had moved house, and that he’d lost his card. The credit card company promptly sent out a new card… to Eve’s address. Now Eve was able to steal all of Bob’s money. “Muhahaha!” chortled Eve, evilly.

But even if Bob hadn’t made the mistake of using his “medium-security” password at the Post Office, Eve could have tried a different approach: Eve would have pretended to be Alice, and asked Bob for his password. Bob would of course have responded, saying “It’s ‘swordfish1’.”

Then Eve would have done something sneaky: she’d have lied and said that was wrong. Bob would be confused, but he’d probably just think to himself, “Oh, I must have given Alice a different password.”

“It must be ‘haddock’, then,” Bob would say.

“Nope; wrong again,” Eve would say, all the while pretending to be Alice.

“Surely it’s not ‘h@mm3rHead!’, is it?” Bob would try, one last time. And now Eve would have all of Bob’s passwords, and Bob would just be left confused.

Good Versus Eve

What went wrong in Internetland this week? Well, a few things did:

Alice didn’t look after her filing cabinet

For starters, Alice should have realised that the value of the information in her filing cabinet was worth at least as much as money would be, to the right kind of burglar. It was easy for her to be complacent, because it wasn’t her identity that was most at risk, but that of her customers. Alice should have planned her security in line with that realisation: there’s no 100% certain way of stopping Eve from breaking in, but Alice should have done more to make it harder for Eve (a proper lock, and perhaps a separate, second lock on the filing cabinet), and should have made it so that Eve’s break-in was likely to be noticed (perhaps skimming through the security tapes every morning, or installing motion sensors).

But the bigger mistake that Alice made was that she kept Bob’s password in a format that Eve could read. Alice knew perfectly well that Bob would probably be using the same password in other places, and so to protect him she ought to have kept his password encrypted in a way that would make it virtually impossible for Eve to read it. This, in combination with an effort to insist that her customers used good, strong passwords, could have completely foiled Eve’s efforts, even if she had managed to get past the locks and CCTV un-noticed.

Here in the real world: Some of Alice’s mistakes are not too dissimilar to the recently-publicised mistakes made by LinkedIn, eHarmony, and LastFM. While these three giants did encrypt the passwords of their users, they did so inadequately (using mechanisms not designed for passwords, by using outdated and insecure mechanisms, and by failing to protect stolen passwords from bulk-decryption). By the way: if you have an account with any of these providers, you ought to change your password, and also change your password anywhere else that uses the same password… and if this includes your email, change it everywhere else, too.

Bob should have used different passwords everywhere he went

Good passwords should be long (8 characters should be an absolute minimum, now, and Bob really ought to start leaning towards 12), complex (not based on a word in any dictionary, and made of a mixture of numbers, letters, and other characters), and not related to you (dates of birth, names of children, and the like are way out). Bob had probably heard all of that a hundred times.

But good passwords should also be unique. You shouldn’t ever use the same password in two different places. This was Bob’s mistake, and it’s the mistake of almost everybody else in Internetland, too. What Bob probably didn’t know was that there are tools that could have helped him to have a different password for everybody he talked to, yet still been easier than remembering the three passwords he already remembered.

Here in the real world: There are some really useful tools to help you, too. Here are some of them:

  • LastPass helps you generate secure passwords, then stores encrypted versions of them on the Internet so that you can get at them from anywhere. After a short learning curve, it’s ludicrously easy to use. It’s free for most users, or there are advanced options for paid subscribers.
  • KeePass does a similar thing, but it’s open source. However, it doesn’t store your encrypted passwords online (which you might consider to be an advantage), so you have to carry a pen drive around or use a plugin to add this functionality.
  • SuperGenPass provides a super-lightweight approach to web browser password generation/storing. It’s easy to understand and makes it simple to generate different passwords for every site you use, without having to remember all of those different passwords!
  • One approach for folks who like to “roll their own” is simply to put a spreadsheet or a text file into a TrueCrypt (or similar) encrypted volume, which you can carry around on your pendrive. Just decrypt and read, wherever you are.
  • Another “manual” approach is simply to use a “master password” everywhere, prefixed or suffixed with a (say) 4-5 character modifier, that you vary from site to site. Keep your modifiers on a Post-It note in your wallet, and back it up by taking a picture of it with your mobile phone. So maybe your Skype suffix is “8Am2%”, so when you log into Skype you type in your master password, plus that suffix. Easy enough that you can do it even without a computer, and secure enough for most people.
× × × ×

Spee Kin Dork Weans Anguish

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The Signal and the Noise

The Signal and The Noise
The Signal and The Noise, by Andrew Paul Regan.

I’d just like to say a few words of praise for Andy‘s new album, The Signal and the Noise. It’s not the first time I’ve said nice things about him, but it’s the first time since he’s been recording under his full name, rather than as “Pagan Wanderer Lu”.

I can say this for sure, though: The Signal and the Noise has finally dethroned my previous favourite Lu album, Build Library Here (or else!). It’s catchy, it’s quirky, and it’s full of songs that will make you wish that you were cleverer: so far, so good. I think that one of the things that particularly appealed to me in this album were that the lyrical themes touched on so many topics that interest me: religion and superstition, artificial intelligence, the difficulties of overcoming materialism, cold war style espionage, and cryptography/analysis… all wrapped up in fun and relatable human stories, and with better-than average running-themes, links, and connections.

One of the joys of Andy’s (better) music comes from the fact that rather than interpretation, it lends itself far better to being issued with a reading list. To which end, here’s a stack of Wikipedia articles that might help you appreciate this spectacular album a little better, for the benefit of those of you who weren’t lucky enough to have read all of this stuff already:

Oh; backing vocals, you’re too kind! But this is just another chapter in the story of my life.

The Omniscient Narrator

The final track’s a little weaker than the rest (the actual final track, not the “hidden track” bit), and I’m left with a feeling that this was so-close but not quite a concept album (which would have been even more spectacular an achievement), but these are minor niggles in the shadow of an otherwise monumental album.

Go get a copy.

By the way; I’ve got a spare – who wants it? Spare copy’s gone to Claire as an early birthday present. Somehow she failed to preorder a copy of her own.

Looking for an alternate opinion? Here’s a guy who didn’t “get it”.