Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Password Problems:

This morning, during my regular radio broadcast, I tried to log in to Google Mail, but my password was not accepted. I tried several times, watching what I typed carefully, in mounting frustration and worry. I knew I was typing the right password! I prepared to tell Gmail that I had forgotten my password; I even made sure I could log into my backup email to receive a message from Google about my password. But then common sense set in. I had no idea what was going on, so I decided to wait until I got home, even though I badly wanted access to my email.

At about the same time, I noticed something else bizarre. I always enter data into a “playlist”, about each piece of music I play. Some of the radio station keyboard keys were producing funny characters with accent marks, instead of the normal punctuation I expected.

Eventually I put two and two together. I was unable to enter my password because the keyboard was in some weird foreign language mode. If I had managed to tell Google a new password, it wouldn't have worked at home. I saved myself a day's frustration by refusing to overreact and “fix” my password right away. And now, I'm reminding myself that passwords can fail due to keyboard issues. To see if I'm experiencing such an error, I can try entering the password in my login ID field, because that field does not have a mask, so I see what I type.

And that brings me to a topic I've mentioned before. It's not so great that password fields mask your input. Unless someone is standing over your shoulder or watching nearby, you are better off seeing the password you type, for many reasons. We almost never have that option.
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