Password Helper – Generating more secure passwords

[Version 1.33 of Password Helper for Windows 7 and higher is available here Password Helper]

Password Helper runs standalone and uses two lists of embedded phrases and one small words dictionary file to generate up to 4 different passwords. Enter your own phrase or use one from the two supplied lists then click on Generate to see the passwords. Three random passwords are also shown for those who like to use those (i.e. Nerds).

On home PCs and others not on a corporate network, you will see this prompt when starting the program. The only way  the program can change the password for you after you have chosen one is to have Administrative privileges. You do not have to enable this as you can always write down any suggested password then press Control Alt Delete and choose Change Password to set a new one.

After making your choice the main screen appears. There will be an asterisk (*) in the Status bar when the program is running as an Admin.

In this example, I have clicked on the second long phrase which enters it into the phrase box. After clicking Generate you will see:

Since the “Enforce 16 character maximum length” checkbox is checked, the program is only showing two possible passwords:

  1. The password #07Abbfybbased on the first letters of the phrase “A bigger bang for your buck” is shown with extra Prefix and Postfix additions. By default, the current Month is part of the Prefix and the current year of part of the Postfix. And the # and the * are added front and back. Together this makes a password of 14 to 16 characters, but, you only have to remember the phrase to figure out the letters.
  2. The second password is based on two random words chosen from a list of 7,000 common words. The words are either 4 or 5 letters long. If the “Enforce 16 characters” isn’t checked then the words will be up to 6 letters in length. Slang terms were removed but some funny combination show up nevertheless.

Remembering an easy phrase or two easy words is about as much help as you can get to create a reasonably strong password.

If you uncheck the “Enforce 16 characters” password length then click Generate again you will see more password suggestions starting with the original phrase without spaces. After some password testing I have found out that the three longer passwords are about equal in strength. The first one is far easier to remember. Using longer than 16 characters is purely up to what your computer(s) or websites are able to handle.

When you click on any password button you will be prompted three times. The password will be copied to the clipboard first. The second prompt is to save the password. The third is the “Are you sure?” prompt.

If you didn’t start with Admin privileges on a home PC then you will see this prompt.

You are still allowed to restart as an Admin now, but, if you like that clicked on password remember to write it down now because it won’t be saved. You can also click No below then use Ctrl-Alt-Del to change the password.

This will restart with Admin privileges. It is much easier to do this when first starting the program.

*IMPORTANT* If you are on an office network then this step is not necessary as the password will be changed with a small program called setpassword. The program will prompt you for your current password and then change your network account password to the new one.

There are a lot of phrases supplied that work with the first letter password scheme and there is a smaller list that works within the 16 character limit.

Clicking Generate repeatedly will always create more Two Word passwords and more 8 character random passwords. Just click until you find one that you can easily remember.

You can also changed the Prefix and the Postfix characters and choose an interleaving character if you desire.

I hope this helps many of you to start using stronger passwords with your computers and websites.

Simple Reminders software

[Version 1.15 is available for download here, Simple Reminders – Added AutoStart and new version notifications.]

As usual there is no installer required, just open the zip file and copy the Simple Reminders to any folder or the desktop and run it. If Windows prompts to run, just click Run anyway.

In 2017 there have been a lot of articles detailing why sitting for long periods of time is very bad for one’s health. Having written a program call Get Exercise last year, I thought perhaps a smaller, more generic Reminder program may get even more use. Get Exercise has had about 2,000 downloads and has a lot of options, lots of pictures / diagrams for stretching and eye exercises, but, it may be overwhelming for some users.

A smaller program that can still reminder computer users to get up, walk, stretch, take out the trash, attend a 10am phone meeting, etc. will hopefully be easier for everyone. For those who want more bells and whistles, the other program will remain available.

The new program is called Simple Reminders and allows users to create up to 9 reminders that are displayed at specific times each day or are shown after user-defined timers go off. Several screen shot will help show how easy this is to setup. Reminders will be displayed as below, either from the bottom left side or right side:

The About Simple Reminder window has general info plus several examples of ways to setup reminders.

There are a couple of extra features borrowed from Get Exercise which has its blog page here.

The initial Reminders are set as follows.

You can uncheck ‘Left-side Notifications’ to display reminders at the Right-side of the window. In order to edit the Labels, Colors and Delays, you need to uncheck ‘Disable Advanced Fields’ as shown below:

Clicking on the program’s icon in the system icon area of the Task bar will display a min list of the currently set reminders.

Pausing Reminders from the menu will stop notifications from appearing, but, doesn’t stop the timers from running.

For more info on ‘Do Breathing Exercise’ and ‘Pomodoro Timers’ refer to the page on Get Exercise.

If you want more sound when a reminder is displayed then check ‘DOUBLE Sounds.’

 

Data File Search and Copy utility

[v1.67 – after a search, a summary by file types is shown (click the status bar at any time to re-display it), added PDFs when clicking on Check MS Office data in the Edit File Types window.]
[v1.66 – some tweaks, users can add additional file types easily, creating settings file on first start, additional file types, ability to search on Data Documents and Other Files together, ability to search any fixed or removable drive in additional to C drive]

For users who wonder were some of the files may have gotten off to, this utility will search for common file types in either the user’s profile folders (drive C) or anywhere on other fixed or removable drives.

Once you choose the drive and the areas to search, the program quickly finds matches based on the chosen file types. You may right click and copy selected files or the matching files from selected folders to any other media. Here are some screenshots. And here is the program for anyone who is interested. Data File Search and Copy Just drag the file out of the ZIP file and run from anywhere. 


You can choose from any fixed or removable drive to Search.


Tool tips appear when hovering over each item. Searching on files named list finds 37 matches.



A summary by file types is also shown.

Finding all Office type documents finds over 4,000 files. There are 11 on my desktop folder.

Eleven files are also shown when I click on the Folders button to summarize by folders.
Right-clicking allows files or folders to be copied.


The results of the folder copy are here:


The summary by folders shows:

If you wish to search on all files first then you can still find those with list as part of the path name by using the Search in Results field.

You may modify the search file types by click on Create Settings File or Edit Types. The program has preset files to search to spare you the trouble to figure them out.


Choosing to Edit File Types displays a laundry list of common file types. You can check / uncheck as desired. Use UnCheck/Check All buttons to speed up the process. Clicking ‘Check MS Office Data’ will deselect all data document types but the ones with MS (Microsoft) as part of their description. This makes it easy because there are so many. Be sure to click ‘Save Changes’ when you are finished or the Red X for no changes. [New – you can ‘add your own’ file types to either section now. Just make sure to separate the type entries with commas. If ‘add your own’ is blank then once you click Save, it will be displayed as (none) afterwards.

You may also change the background color, the font name and the font size for the lists.

Bible Promises software

[Minor bug fix — Bible Promises v1.10 can be downloaded here, Bible Promises. It is less than 1 megabyte. Just open the zip file, place the Bible Promises executable anywhere and run it.]

I was thinking lately how slack I’ve been at updating my Bible Study application. I just had no new ideas until recently. While browsing the web for lists of promises that God makes to His children in the Holy Bible, I ran across some PDF formatted booklets. One of them on this page http://www.pathlights.com/Bible%20Promises/Bible-Promises.pdf was in a format I could quickly adapt to an application. This would be a “quickie” application for those who desire a very light Bible program.

By creating a popup menu in the place of a Table of Contents, the program is very easy to navigate.

Simply select a desired group of promises from the menu.
And, viola!
You may now read through the promises or press F6 to listen to Audio. F7 will Pause/Resume Audio and F8 will Stop the Audio.

For convenience for readers, you may change the font size from 8 to 24 point and change the font from Times to Arial. The background color is also changeable via Shift F1 to F8. Click About Bible Promises for information.


I wanted to include a little more in the program. So I borrowed one Daily Devotional and one Reading Plan from my Ready Bible Study application. In this way, users desiring a quick read each day, can simply use this one program. The devotional is “One Day at a Time” and the reading plan is “New Testament in 90 days plus Psalms & Proverbs in 31 days.” For a regular Bible study program with multiple Bibles, Commentaries, Devotionals, Reading Plans, Outlines, Dictionaries, Topics, click here for more information. Yeah, I know, that was a cheesy advertisement. 🙂

This program starts with a centered popup menu which disappears when you select an item. When you close the item’s window, the menu is re-displayed. If you click away from the menu, it will disappear. In order to show it again, click on the program’s icon in the Task Bar at the right side.

Right-clicking on the program’s icon will display a secondary menu. All of the options are self explanatory except Sleep After Audio. Since you may press F6 from any number of windows, let’s say a devotional, a daily reading and a set of promises, it can take several minutes for Audio to finish. If you are playing several items before bedtime, you can have the program put your computer to Sleep when the Audio is finished. It will give you a 10 second option to cancel; otherwise, the computer will then sleep. [Note: If any Windows 10 users find the audio stops prematurely, let me know and I will fix it. I have no issues on Windows 7 and 8.1 but have one PC with Windows 10 that sometimes cuts audio short if several items are queued up.]

You can select Auto Start and the program will add a shortcut to your startup folder.

The program also has a Bible Browser option that is found in the tray menu and by clicking Today’s New Testament / Psalms readings.

Choosing the browser displays this window. The text size and background color will match the other windows but the window itself is not resizable.

You may easily navigate the New Testament and Psalms/Proverbs and also do text searches. For example, searching on Jesus Christ displays the following. You may press F6 to have the program play Audio for you. I hope this is a worthy addition to the program.Version 1.10 – Added keys to change Font Size and Type (<, >, [ and ]) for laptops without a Mouse.
Version
1.09 – Bug fix, Bible Browser size settings now restored properly.
Version 1.08
– Added Audio Pause option to the tray menu.
Version 1.07
– Bible Browser window is separately sizeable now.
Version 1.06 – Tweaked status bar, added Auto Start to the tray menu
Version 1.05
– Added Bible Browser window to the program
Version 1.04 – Added Promises sub menus to the program’s tray menu
Version 1.03 – Split daily Bible reading into two parts: New Testament and Psalms/Proverbs as it could be quite a bit of reading.
Version 1.02 – Minor tweaks to status bar.
Version 1.01. When the reading window is resized, it will keep that size the next time you start the program. The minimum size is 570 x 300 so that the status bar is fully visible.

Thoughts on creating more secure passwords

After recently spending time creating an application to take words or phrases and turning them into password suggestions, I thought I would share.

Long passwords are in general more secure than short ones. However, it all depends on the composition of a long password. It is much easier to remember a long phrase than a short, random password.

It turns out that most computer users have been taught to use passwords that are hard for them to remember. But, those types of passwords are actually easier for programs to figure out. So, why bother with random passwords at all?

Take the following password phrase and change it up a few ways:

This is a test – plain text
Th1s1s@t3st – change i to 1, a to @ and e to 3
testisThisa – shuffle the phrase
#06Thisisatest17* – add #month and year* to the phrase
#06Tiat17* – first letter of each word

What we find, is that the first and fourth passwords are the strongest and are easy to remember.
Using a password strength tool like zxcvbnthe results are below. This tester checks the characters in the password and also looks up words in a large dictionary. In the first example, a computer would have to check up to 1,000,000,000,000 (10^12) different guesses to find the correct phrase.

This is a test = 10^12 guesses, score 4 of 4 (14 characters)
Th1s1s@t3st = 10^9 guesses, score 3 of 4 (11 characters)
testisThisa = 10^8 guesses, score 3 of 4 (11 characters)
#06Thisisatest17* = 10^16, score 4 of 4 (17 characters)
#06Tiat17* = 10^10, score 3 of 4 (10 characters)


You can see a direct relationship between the length of the password and how hard it is to guess.

Microsoft limits passwords from 8 to 16 characters.
Yahoo use to allow really long passwords but now 32 characters is the maximum.

So, the recommendation is to use a phrase you can remember easily, but, not one that others would know about. For Microsoft logins or emails, you will have that 16 character limitation but you can use a long phrase and just pick the first letter of each word, then add text to both ends of the result. If you use something like month and year above then your phrase can be up to 10 words long. Be sure to include upper and lower case words.

For more information on zxcvbn which was created by a programmer at DropBox, click here.

For another password test page, click here.

Popup Info – Displaying popular quotes and other information

  • v1.03 update. Corrected the number of Christian Quotes to 1,750.
  • v1.02 update. Adds menu options to display popups on left or right side or the center of the main monitor window.
  • First Public Release v1.0 is now available.

Over a year ago, I added some popup information to my Ready Bible Study program. It took some time to get the lists together and learn how to present them in a simple, attractive way.

Late last week I decided that I would split off those lists, add some more and create a separate, much smaller program called Popup Info. I added a list of 160 general quotes, 100 motivational quotes, 50 computer programmer quotes and 65 workout quotes which makes a total of 8 different lists. As I run across more, I will add them in the future.

The current version 1.03 is about 900kb and may be downloaded here. Just place it in any folder and run it. PopupInfo

Program Info:

Program Menu options:

Sample popups are easy to display with Demo Mode:

Users can set the number of minutes between popups and also turn off any lists they are not interested in.

Setting any Interval to 0 will turn that list off. Setting the Display Time to 0 will display each popup until you click on it.

You may click on the program tray icon to Pause or Resume display of Popups.

Multi-Launcher v1.26 – A different type of program/file launcher

NEW RELEASE. Version 1.26 can be downloaded here Multi-Launcher. There is no install. Just copy the contents of the zip file to a folder of your choice and run it. The program still needs the Web Updater added. After a little more testing it will be released.

One of my co-workers frequently mentions how scattered all the files and the web pages seem to be. And I agree that keeping track of everything can be daunting even with the conveniences of newer versions of Microsoft Windows.

I used this need as a starting point for what I believe is a very different type of launcher application. While I originally called the program WH4 which stood for Which, What, Where and When, I finally picked the name Multi-Launcher. The program tracks four types of information: 1) Which applications you have been running, 2) What documents you have opened (local, network share or other connected storage like flash drives), 3) Where you have been looking or the folders you have accessed and 4) When you were browsing various web sites. The four lists are stored under My Document in Programs, Documents, Folders and URLs files with a CSV ending.

As you can see below, there are four parts in the standard window or tabbed view.

As you go about your work, the program gathers this information. Later on, you can launch any program, document, folder or Web URL by double-clicking on it. If a matching window is already running, the program will bring it to the front. For web browsers this only works if the double-clicked item matches an existing tab in the browser. The program will go through all tabs and browser instances. If it doesn’t find a matching page (same Title), it will add a New Tab and retrieve that web page. [This still isn’t 100% working which is why I’m keeping the program as beta for a while yet.]

So, the most typical use of the program is to press the SHIFT and PAUSE keys, enter some search text then double-click the desired item to launch it. Or you can open the window and sort on any column to find the item you need and launch it.

Each list is always sorted with the most recently used items at the top for easy reference. And it serves as a memory jogger as well. The Time is in Year-Month-Day-Hour-Minute-Second format which makes for proper sorting. When you are working in the program’s window, you can resort on any column by clicking it. But, when you leave the program, the list will resort by date and time.

Visual indicators of the active list are shown with a different color Tab background. The Tabbed view is also resizable. The windows size and position are remembered. You may also switch to the Stacked or vertical view which is shown below.

Entering search text will filter each list for matches. This makes the program into a database of sorts and frees your mind for other tasks. The search window has gray boxes for backgrounds. When you clear the search text, the original lists reappear. Multi-Launcher continues to update each list even if search values are being displayed.

Clicking on the program’s Taskbar icon will either Hide or Show the window. You can also use the middle mouse button to Roll Up the window into just its Title bar. Other options are to have the window be Always On Top of other windows.

While getting the active program’s title and process name and the title and folder path were pretty simple to do, I had to do more research for open documents and web URLs.

Someone had already written two functions to get the URL from an active browser and they work well for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. If your browser opens several pages on startup then you will have to click on each page to make it active. This allows the program to quickly store the page Title and URL. It also stores the browser path as many of us use multiple browsers to cover our bases when different web apps. When launching web pages, the program looks to see if the source browser is running, if not it starts it. Otherwise, it will search each Tab to see if there is a matching page.

The last piece, getting the name of open documents (like a Word or an Excel document), turned out to be beyond my programming skills. I did a good bit of research on this part. The only utility I could find that would create a list of all open files along with their path is called OpenedFilesView. However, I was recently reminded that Windows for years has tracked recently accessed files and folders. By filtering out the folders I was left with recent files. The documents list updates whenever any file in the %appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Recent folder is updated by Windows.

Other settings for the program are contained in its right-click menu as below. Items that are checked are currently active. You may switch views by selecting “Use Tabbed View” which requires the program to restart. Unless you change it, the program will stick with the last chosen view. You may also adjust how many columns are displayed by choosing “Show Details.”

Clicking Hide After Launching will automatically hide the Launcher window after you double-click any item. This keeps you from having to click the icon or pressing ESC to hide the window and make using the program more unobtrusive.

Choosing AutoStart will add a shortcut for the program to your Startup folder. You can deselect Show Details to hide some of the columns and the headers to make the window more shrinkable. You can Rollup the window to just the Title bar height. If you use multiple monitors on different PCs and the main window is off screen then choose Recenter Window. If Firefox is not grabbing URLs properly then uncheck Use Firefox Legacy. You may also restart from the menu.

The program automatically saves the four lists in your c:\temp folder to reload the next time it is run. For convenience, you may right click any item and delete item from a list (not from disk). You can also filter out items, especially web URLs that are redundant. Many web pages go through several title changes while loading. You can filter out all but the final page to keep things a bit cleaner. All Filters are stored in the Multi-Launcher.Ini file. This may change later and a filter list for easier management will be added.

       

The program now saves backups of each list on startup (.bak) and allows users to backup/restore from any folder. For the Recent Documents list, users may also remove invalid or old links. The program defaults to showing up to 100 Recent Documents.

PC Monitoring and Remote Administration

So, over the last two years, I have written some scripts or apps that were ultimately used at work. One was a response to the malware family called ransomware which gets onto a computer, encrypts the user’s files and then gives them instructions on how to pay to have them unencrypted.

DocWatch

Our antivirus software, at the time, did not prevent this type of activity and we had a couple of attacks and a lot of files encrypted. Fortunately, we have good backups, so the files were relatively easy to restore.

I found a directory watcher routine that miraculously would notify me of changes to any number of files and folders on both local and network shared folders. It was written in AutoHotkey, which I was unfamiliar with. But, I put on my thinking cap and created my first app in that language and called it DocWatch. It basically lets users add folders to a watch list and only looks at business documents for either rapid changes or certain filenames. Most crypto malware or ransomware programs use specific filenames and are easy to detect after they start their damaging encryption. DocWatch alerts on both activity levels and filenames, both of which are configurable. It will email an administrator and, if running on the infected computer, it can shut it down automatically. Below are a couple of screen shots.

The PDF Manual is here DocWatch Manual.
For those who are interested in this feel free to contact me.

PC Dashboard

Another application we use frequently brings a lot of separate PC utilities under a single program. We regularly work with lots of computers, installing software, troubleshooting issues, inventorying, etc. So, I embedded many small applications into a common interface shown below. Again, if anyone is interested in adapting the program to their network, please contact me. The PDF Manual is here PC Dashboard 2



Click Eye Reminder v1.29

v1.29 – fixed audio volume issue
v1.28 – added AutoStart, For Audio Only it uses two beeps for Right Eye, one beep for Left Eye
v1.27 – fixed accidental lowering of system volume by the program
v1.26 – added Timer Only Audio if you want to use sounds only to signal switching eyes. Chimes Up for Right Eye, Chimes Down for Left Eye.
v1.25 – added different times for Audio feedback when using Timer Only

For people who predominantly use one eye while reading, this program periodically displays a small prompt to switch from Left to Right eye after a user chosen number of mouse clicks. I use my Right eye much more than the Left, so I wrote this hoping to help my vision.

It can be customized by font, size, display time, etc. For multiple monitor users, it can be set to use one eye for each monitor.  In Clicks Only mode, after 5 minutes of no clicks, the prompt to switch eyes will be displayed at twice size, centered with audio. I have only tested multi monitor support with my three monitor setup at work.

Users may also Pause / Resume the program from the menu or by clicking on the tray icon. If they choose Use Audio then every visual prompt is preceded by a beep.

Just open the download and copy the file to any folder and run it. No install is required. The program download is here Click Eye Reminder


   

 

 

Get Exercise 1.7x – Exercise Dashboard and Timers added

Version 1.74 of Get Exercise may be download here GetExercise or from this page http://michaels-tech-notes.info. The latest additions are below.

v1.74 – 01/10/17  Add left click tray menu, shorter, more context sensitive than the right click menu.
v1.73 – 01/06/17  Added ability to click on Tray icon to Start, Stop or Switch Pomodoro timers, Pause/Resume Exercises, exit the program. Made the Stretching timers owned by the current exercise window so it only stays open for one exercise.

   

A lot has happened since the last update to Get Exercise. After noticing that there were a lot of windows and prompts on my computer after I had been away from it for a while, I decided that a central window to hold exercise reminders was needed. I have called it an Exercise Dashboard for lack of any better name. Below is an example of the Dashboard with sample reminders. It displays up to 6 reminders, each one can be for Stretching, Aerobics, Circuit training or Eye exercises.

The parts of this window are: 1) Instructions – Left clicking on a button acknowledges that you have or will do it and displays any associated picture instructions, Right clicking a button skips that exercise, 2) The button area, 3) a motivational quote areas which changes upon receipt of a reminder or by clicking a button and 4) a status bar that shows the totals for each type of exercise.
If you click on the status bar you will see a summary and the option to zero out all the totals.
You may close this window without taking any action, but, every time a new reminder occurs, you will see the window and a new reminder button.

I hope everyone will agree this Dashboard approach provides a much more convenient and less cluttered approach than the previous versions of the program.

The other big additions are Timers for both the stretching exercises and the 1 Minute exercises. It dawned on me that these should have been included a while ago. Now you can start a timer, do your stretching or 1 minute exercises while waiting for a beep. Screen shots of these timers are below.

Clicking the TIMERS button displays:

When you reach 3 counts of stretching the color turns green.

The timer itself looks like this.

The 1 Minute exercise window also has a timer preset for 60 seconds.

 

When you Exit or Restart the program, you are prompted to Save the checked 1-minute items and the Dashboard totals. When you make changes to Setup, these are automatically saved since the program needs to restart after those changes. This makes is a lot easier to experiment with settings as you won’t lose the exercises you have completed for the day.

Right-clicking on the program’s tray icon to reveal its menu. The new additions are Display Exercise Dashboard and Pomorodo Timers.

After you select either the Standard or Longer Pomodoros you will see a taskbar message as below. This means for 25 minutes you are to work diligently on a task. This will be followed by a 5 minute break. You will see these prompts once per minute while Pomodoro is running. You can stop it at any time. Also, notice that the program’s icon will turn Green during Work and Red during Break. I am very visual and threw this in just as another reminder that Pomodoro is running. You can also select the longer 48 minute version with 12 minutes of break. Traditionally, Pomodoro cycles are counted and after 4 of them you can take a 15-30 minute break. I may add that in the next release. You can see how many have counted off by the #number in the minute prompts.

When you exit or restart the program, you are now given the opportunity to save the number of Dashboard exercises that you have completed and also which 1 Minute exercises you have completed for today. At the start of a new day you may need to reset the 1 Minute list and click on the Dashboard status bar to clear its counters. Or simply exit the program without saving these. Also, when you make changes to Setup, these are automatically saved for you so you won’t lose your counts or check list for today.

These are the additions to the Get Exercise program. I am hoping all of my testing is complete. I’ve been quite ready to upload this new version as it is much more complete than the previous release.

Please leave comments on any issues or future features you would like to see in the program. I will be giving it a break for a while until some more ideas come my way.