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Organizing Passwords, Credit Cards, Web Sites and other Secure Data with LastPass

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Howtos, Internet, Security | Posted on 20-02-2011

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How many passwords do you have memorized? 5? 10? 20? 50? 100? Most people I know of simply memorize a couple of passwords and then use those passwords among all of their websites. This is bad for many reasons. The first reason is if someone found out just one password think for a minute as to what they could get into (bank, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  To be truly secure each and every password you need to know should be different and it should be randomly generated. How does one track all of that data, keep their sanity, and simplify their life all at the same time? There is a better way to manage all of this data and it is really simple and it is secure.  I’m talking about LastPass.

What Does LastPass Do?

LastPass is a secure password or e-wallet manager that plugs into any major browser and supports a variety of mobile devices that lets one carry their data with them wherever they go. What this means simply is there is only one password to remember from now on.

For more *geeky* details and a full list of features visit their site.

LastPass Example: Shopping Online

Instead of me explaining all of the features LastPass has to offer (which would take 20 articles to cover everything) I thought I would simply do a walkthrough of a common scenario all of us do which is online shopping. Of course this could just as easily apply to signing up for a discussion board, Facebook or whatever. 

Pretend for a minute it is Christmas time and the perfect gift was found on a website never visited. As with most websites when going through the checkout process the site requires a username and a password to be created. Typically it will look something like this:


Upon opening a new account the next page shown requires an email address and a password. Here is where LastPass comes into play. As soon as your cursor is placed in the password field, LastPass detects a new account is being created and automatically prompts to generate a password.


Pressing the “Generate” button in the LastPass window then brings up the password generator.


This screen displays the strength of the password and allows advanced options to be selected when generating a new password. Most of the time the advanced options isn’t needed but there are times when creating an account in a website that certain characters aren’t allowed. This is how that would be adjusted.


Above you can see I included more options for this password and increased the length to 12 characters. The strength indicator shows a really strong password.

To be honest I really don’t care *what* the password is and with LastPass I don’t have to.

Pressing “Accept” then stores this password in the password Vault as shown here.


And the random password is inputted into the password fields on the form. Yeah!


Upon saving this information and creating the account the next page LastPass displays a menu at the top of the browser indicating whether or not it should save the site.


When pressing “Save Site” there are other options that can be set like should LastPass auto login the next time this site is visited and which group the site should be placed in.  The groups in LastPass allow sites and different notes (more on notes later) to be stored in folders essentially allowing better organization. For example a group may be *work* or *financial* or *shopping*.


Once the site is saved your work is done. You never have to remember your login information for that site again and you have a random password for that site.

Oh and did I mention this is all free?

Life Before LastPass

I’ve used what have been traditionally called “e-wallets” or “password managers” for several years. Before using LastPass I used several other password managers and wallets that helped organize my information. I am not going to mention any names but if you are reading this article and are currently using one now that *may* be it as I’ve used a lot of them.

The problem with other password managers and e-wallet type applications is the burden is placed on the user to remember to generate a password and copy it into that program. Most of these managers have desktop applications and because they are not integrated with the browser there is a lot of copying and pasting. Simply put they just aren’t efficient and productive. Better than nothing though.

The other problem with these password managers is they do not sync across mobile devices really well, nor allow access to information from anywhere. LastPass solves all of this since it syncs back centrally (although your data is stored locally) and supports multiple mobile platforms including Windows Phone 7.

My Favorite Features of LastPass

Having used LastPass for the past several months I thought I’d share some of the things I really like about LastPass.

Importing Existing Data

The first thing I had to do before moving to LastPass was import my data. Doing so turned out to be easier than I thought it was going to be. Here are the current imports LastPass supports.


The import for me was flawless. I did have to tweak a few things to get it better organized but all in all very happy I was able to move from another product to LastPass so easy.

Multiple Accounts

The biggest and best feature for me with LastPass is the ability to login to a web site easily with multiple logins. Let’s just take Twitter for example.

For Twitter I have my personal account @keithelder and I also have one for our podcast @deepfriedbytes and one for our local .Net user group @hubcitynug.

Here’s how it works. 

I browse to Twitter and I’m immediately prompted at the top of the page to login.


(ok so I have 4 twitter accounts, but one is a secret right now Smile )

And now I can easily sign in.


This is huge because before I’d have to open my other program, search for the account I wanted to login with, copy the password, type in the username, paste the password and then login. Not very simple and a little bit of a pain, especially for a novice user. This is a win for LastPass.

Secure Notes

When I first started using LastPass I almost didn’t keep it around because I couldn’t *easily* find a way to store my credit cards, bank account info, etc. Now while this may be scary to some of you I’ve been doing it for years and it has paid off numerous times.

For example I’ve left credit cards in restaurants by accident only to go back and find the card was missing. Having all of my credit card details including phone number of who to call and PIN in one secure place has paid off numerous times.  I bet most reading this have no idea what their PIN number is to their credit card either.  Not only that but if I’m buying something online I *hate* to have to get up and go find my wallet and type the number in. Again it is about convenience.

Secure notes is what LastPass uses to store various types of information in LastPass including bank account, credit card, server logins and so on.


Most all of the competing products offer this feature as well but it is a feature that I have to have. And mainly I included it because it isn’t *obvious*.

Sharing Information

Since LastPass stores encrypted data *in the cloud* this opens up other possibilities such as sharing. LastPass allows the sharing of information with other users. Here is how it works. First login to LastPass.com and select the item that is needed to be shared and press “share”.

In this example I’m going to share the information I use to login to Allstate with my wife. This is a perfect example because she obviously needs to know how to get at this information but the password and login info is random. Not only that, but if something were to happen to me or her we both have access to our vital accounts.


As you can see there are several options for the amount of access granted to a shared item. And it even will track changes made by others. The only thing required to share is the other person has to have a LastPass account.

Form Fill Profiles / Identities

Other features of LastPass that I am just not getting comfortable exploring are form fill profiles and identities.

The form fill profiles allows personal information to be stored  for example when visiting a check out form on a web site. The information will be auto populated. Definitely a time saver when filling out form data. And since there is different data for different uses this is where the profile part comes in. For example you may have your personal profile but also a profile from work or from a side business.

Here is the scoop on identities as taken from the LastPass web site.

LastPass Identities allows you to create different views of your LastPass account.

The Identities feature is most commonly used to hide some of your sites when you log into LastPass from a particular location. A common example might be that you create a ‘Home’ and a ‘Work’ Identity.


LastPass is a fantastic tool and I plan on using it for awhile. If you have some concerns over the security of LastPass I welcome you to review their FAQs on the site as well as some information from Security Now about LastPass.

Honestly after converting about 10 friends to LastPass I decided I should take a more formal approach and just blog about how awesome this product is. Seriously no matter what you are using now give LastPass a try.

2008 Christmas Developer Machine

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Computer Hardware, Howtos | Posted on 01-12-2008


Christmas is right around the corner and what better time to start thinking about building a new developer machine.  I’ve been wanting to build a new computer for several months now but I haven’t kept up with the new boards, cases, video cards, etc.  Over the Thanksgiving Holidays I spent a fair amount of time researching and pricing the kind of machine I would build if I built one right now.  Instead of keeping all this hard work to myself I decided to share it.  Who knows, maybe someone out there is looking to upgrade or do a new build.

Here’s what I did.  The first thing I did is throw price completely out the window.  Well, I threw it out up to a point keeping in mind that this is a development machine, not a gaming machine, although they both have the same things in common, SPEED.  I also tried to weigh certain things out, for example, the video card I chose is not the fastest thing on the market, but it is pretty close. 

Case $149 – Coolermaster Cosmos S

imageI like to start with a case when building a new machine.  The case is important on many fronts.  I’ve owned cases that took 15 minutes to get into and I’ve own ones that took 15 seconds.  The case I settled on is the Coolermaster Cosmos S.  Personally I like front I/O panels and this one is nicely concealed.  It is also pleasing to the eyes and has 7 bays.  This makes it easy to support hard drive coolers and plenty of drives for RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10 configurations.  I had a full tower years ago that had 5 and I had it completely full.  Thus 7 is very welcomed.

Motherboard $299 – EVGA X58 3X SLI

imageThe most important thing in building a new machine is the motherboard.  Researching this machine I spent probably 4-6 hours just on this one part.  I read more reviews and forums than I care to mention. 

For years I have been an Asus motherboard fan.  But I have kept my eyes on EVGA for awhile.  They are renowned for their support and support of over clockers.  The EVGA X58 3X SLI motherboard was just released a few weeks ago and it is the board right now to own.  Some features are it supports the new X58 Intel chipset which supports the new Core I7 Intel processors.  This board also supports 3 SLI video cards as well as 12GB of memory.  On a lot of other boards, the highest you can go is 8GB, but the new chipset expands this with 6 DDR3 slots which support 2GB each.  This means that you will either have 6GB or 12GB in the machine as you buy the memory in a sets of three. 

CPU $1029 – Intel Core I7 965 Extreme Edition

image Intel’s new Core i7 965 Extreme Edition is crazy fast and not only that, it can be over clocked to 4.2GHz reliably with the EVGA X58 motherboard.  Just be sure to invest in a water cooled unit.

This processor has 4 cores and is capable of running 8 threads at a frequency of 3.2GHz as well as supports the new bus interface called QuickPath.  Windows will report your machine having 8 processors in it since it can support 8 threads. 

To give you an idea of what this new processor is capable of, the current Core 2 Extreme QX9770’s scored a 3D benchmark of 4,922.  The i7 965 Extreme Edition clocks in at 5,716.  And the other kicker is the price for the QX9770 is $1399.  Enough said.

2 Video Cards @ $259 / each – EVGA GTX 260 Superclocked Edition 896MB

imageFor the video card I settled on the EVGA GTX 260 Superclock Edition.  As I mentioned earlier, it is not the newest board out.  But honestly, the difference in price doesn’t justify purchasing the GTX280.  Of course to support SLI we need two of these, however, for a developer rig, one could get buy with just one, unless you wanted to support more monitors.

The other reason I settled on this card is EVGA has a current special on this card and the X58 3X SLI board.  This is not easy to find and I stumbled upon it.  The deal is you buy the board and 2 GTX 260 cards you get an instant $70 rebate (more if you buy three).  Even comparing prices on NewEgg, this deal still worked out to be cheaper.  Here is the link to the deal:  http://www.evga.com/articles/00443/ 

Power Supply $339 – Thermaltake ToughPower 1,200 Watts – Quad SLI Ready


To support the higher processors, multiple video cards, multiple hard drives, DVD, etc, more power is needed.  A power supply is something one absolutely cannot skip out on.

I settled on the Thermaltake ToughPower 1,200 Watts power supply.  Thermaltake uses industrial grade components and is used by high-end OEM’s.  You really can’t go wrong with this one since it supports Quad SLI, Crossfire and more.

2 Memory @ $249 / each – Patriot Viper 6GB DDR3 1600 (12GB)


To get true performance I wanted to go with 1600 memory and the EVGA X58 3X SLI board supports it.  Patriot Viper is a highly regarded and the price isn’t bad either.  Since the motherboard supports 12GB, that’s 12GB of memory for $500!  Not bad.

DVD $94.99 – LG Blu-ray / HDDVD / DVD GGC-H20LK


Blu-ray drives have come down tremendously.  LG is known for making great products and since I really don’t use this device except to load software I’m not looking to spend a fortune.  This model supports Blu-ray, HD DVD and is a DVD RW. 

Sound $0 – On Motherboard

Conserving money I decided to use the built-in sound on the motherboard.  I would probably opt for the Creative X-FI Elite Pro or something higher end only because I work with audio so much for our podcast.  The onboard audio for the motherboard is perfectly fine.  Thus, $0.

2 HDD @ $229 / each – Western Digital 300GB Raptor 10,000 RPM

The Western Digital Raptor hard drive clocks in at 10,000 RPM.  The slowest part of a computer is the I/O and having 10,000 RPM drives definitely helps.   The only thing I haven’t decided is if I would put these in a RAID 0 configuration or just use them as two separate drives.  As a developer I run a lot of virtual machines and need to have virtual machines run on separate drives.  RAID 0 would be the fastest option but not for VM’s if there is only one drive.    There are still plenty of options for storage and I haven’t completely settled on what I’d do at this point.   All I do know is these drives will be in the mix somehow. 



That includes 2 video cards, 2 300GB drives, 12GB of memory

What’s missing?  Obviously I didn’t list a liquid cooling system, I’m still shopping around for options.  I would also probably include a couple of HDD coolers.  Those drives spinning at 10,000 RPM are going to generate heat, best to keep them cooled.  I like the Vigor iSURF II’s if you are in the market. 

Like I said, I spent a lot of time figuring out what I’d build starting from scratch today.  Hopefully someone else out there will find this useful.  And of course, if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.  I don’t know when I’ll start to build this machine, certainly not this year, but at least this gives me an idea now for cost. 

Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) Fix

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Howtos, Mobile Devices, Windows | Posted on 25-10-2008


Since I upgraded my Blackjack II to Windows Mobile 6.1 I haven’t traveled anywhere where I needed Internet Connection Sharing to work.  Getting ready for a trip this week I decided to test ICS before I got to the airport.  I just assumed it would work but it wasn’t the case for me. 

First off props to Steve Harman for already posting how to get into the phone and unlock the connections on the phone.  Like Steve I figured the settings were not correct (I’ve gone down this road before with AT&T).   Here’s how to fix the Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 to tether to your computer using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) that is built into the 6.1 upgrade.

Step 1:

Follow Steve’s outline on how to unlock the GPRS connections via the registry.

You’ll need to download a utility.  Here is the link for posterity sakes:


Step 2:

Once the settings are unlocked try to connect and see if you can. I was unable to.  I kept getting:

The remote party has ended this connection.

I went back into the settings and added the following username and password to the AT&T ISP setting and then it connected.  Success!

Password:  CINGULAR1

When connecting to wap.cingular as the access point, I’ve always had to enter the username and password to get things to work.  Maybe some don’t, I’m not sure what the rules are, maybe it is location based who knows.  Anyway, I hope this helps.  Cheers.

UPDATE 10/31/2008

When I was in Los Angeles, CA I had to change these settings.  The only thing I got to work was applying the same settings in step 2 to the AT&T MediaNet connection.

UPDATE 3/20/2009

The best way I’ve found to get ICS working on Mobile 6.1 is to install the previous fix.  You’ll find it on my other review of the Blackjack II here.

How To Add Holidays to Outlook 2007 Calendar

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Howtos, Windows | Posted on 23-01-2008


After installing Outlook I have found the default installation does not automatically add holidays to the calendar.  When scheduling appointments and tasks it is important to know the holidays.  For example, a husband can find himself in a lot of trouble if he schedules a dinner with a client on Valentine’s Day.  I have also found instances where users entered the holidays by hand into their calendars.  In either case holidays can be added to Outlook with just a few clicks of the mouse.  Here are the steps you need to take to enable holidays in your Outlook calendar.

Step 1: Tools->Options

In the top menu of Outlook select Tools then Options in the menu.


Step 2:  Select Calendar Options


Step 3:  Select Add Holidays

In the middle of the next screen select “Add Holidays”.


Step 4:  Select Country


Press OK.

Step 5: Option Screen

You may or may not get the following screen.


If this screen appears just press “Yes”.

Step 6:  Wait for Holidays to Be Added


Step 7:  Done


Press OK to close the other screens that are open.

Step 8:  Check Calendar

After this you should be able to visit a date that is known to be a holiday like Valentine’s Day for example.  The holiday will be displayed at the top of the calendar in Outlook as shown below.


Tracking with Twitter

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Howtos, Internet | Posted on 04-10-2007


After several months of using Twitter, I’m still twittering.  I guess because other friends are as well.  As soon as I forget about Twitter I get a text message from someone reminding me haha.  For those that are new to Twitter here are some commands you can do on Twitter if you have setup IM or your mobile phone.

track iphone

Send this via your phone or IM client and anyone who updates in public mentions “iphone” you’ll get it on your device in real-time.  From there you can send “whois username” to find out more about that person, or “follow username” to follow his or her updates.

untrack iphone

This will toggle your tracking on obviously.

You are allowed to create as many tracks as you want but if you want to get a list of what you’re currently tracking send:


or you can send


To turn them all off send:

track off