>A couple of days ago, I had to ring Sky because I was having trouble with my reception. After waiting a while to get through to a customer service wallah, and having answered a number of preliminary questions, I was asked for my password. I couldn’t remember it.

Some years ago, I had to ring Eircom Phonewatch because our monitored alarm system kept going off at around 4 in the morning. Every morning for like a week. The only respite I could get was to turn off the alarm entirely, which defeated the purpose of having the system on. In desperation, I rang Eircom asking was there anything that they could do to help me out. The representative was very helpful right up to the point at which I was asked for my password. I couldn’t remember it.

Passwords are the bane of my life. I have one password which I use for most of the sites I visit. It’s a six letter password – all lower case. Occasionally, I use variants of that password when I am required to mix letters and numbers, or where I am required to use a password with no less than eight characters. I also have a password where I am required to use letters (upper and lower case) and numbers. So far, so couch…

I have two main problems with passwords. The primary one is that there are some passwords which I only use on a very infrequent basis (Sky and Eircom Phonewatch would be two good examples of this). And because of that, I tend to forget them. Of course, I could just write the passwords down somewhere, but then the words “purpose” and “defeat” spring to mind.

My other main problem is where sites generate a password for you and don’t give you the option to choose/amend a password to suit yourself. Almost invariably, the generated passwords will be a random character string, comprising upper/lower case letters and numbers. Occasionally one might come across a requirement for special characters. I can never remember these damn passwords, and because I can’t trust my eyesight 100%, I tend to copy/paste the passwords from whatever e-mail the site sends when one initially registers with it. Which is all well and good, except that doing this removes the immediate necessity to memorise the damn password. And then you clear your cookies one fine day, re-visit the site and find that you can’t remember your password. And you can’t find the relevant e-mail so that you can repeat the copy/paste process.

One final comment on passwords:- some months ago, I was involved in an online collaborative project with an individual. Now, my idea of online collaboration is that you e-mail me your files, I’ll do my bit on them and then e-mail them back to you. That’s how people born in the 1960s do it. However, my collaborator seemed to be involved in the internet security business, so my chosen methodology was obviously not “comme il faut“. This was going to be online collaboration in the true sense of the word – live and online. All of this required me to have a password. In our initial correspondence, a particular word was used which caught my collaborator’s eye. He suggested I use that word as my password. Reluctantly, I agreed, but I requested that he would not generate a password which substituted number for letters in that word, 1f y0u s33 wh4t 1 m34n. So what did he go and do…? It was a bad start to our collaboration and some weeks later I withdrew from the project altogether.

Now, I’m not saying that the collaborator was wrong to do what he did. Since he seemed to work in the internet security industry, then I am sure that his actions were perfectly “natural” and in order for him, just as much as it would be for me to favour one hand over another when scratching my itchy bits. But I’m getting too old to remember passwords. Whatever steps can be taken to make the process easier for me are most welcome, whereas any steps taken which make the process more difficult for me are almost acts of provocation.

But that’s just me being a curmudgeonly old 801106k5, I suppose…