Tumblr password breach

And now Tumblr is saying that they’ve had a data breach potentially exposing the passwords of 65 million accounts. Like the LinkedIn and MySpace breaches, this appears to be a few years old, and Tumblr is forcing passwords resets on the accounts it thinks is affected. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to reset your Tumblr password.

MySpace password breach

There’s a story going around that someone is trying to sell a collection of SEVERAL HUNDRED MILLION MySpace passwords (and that it’s the same person who is selling 100+ million LinkedIn passwords). As with the LinkedIn case, this may be a data breach from months or even years ago.

Still, if you have a MySpace account, or if you’ve re-used a MySpace password elsewhere, this might be a good time to change your password.

LinkedIn account breach

A LinkedIn data breach has been in the news the last few days. Someone is trying to sell a set of 117 million LinkedIn accounts from a 2012 breach, a breach that now appears to be much larger than was originally reported.

If LinkedIn thinks that your account is affected, they’ll probably force you to reset your password. And even if they don’t, this might be a good time for you to do that anyway, especially if you think your password might be older than 2012.

2016 AccessU

I spent most of last week at the John Slatin AccessU conference, an annual digital accessibility conference held on the St. Edwards University campus in Austin. This post will be a somewhat haphazard collection of observations from the conference, but it may serve as sort of a followup to the web accessibility post from a couple of months ago.

There were several people at the conference with visual impairments. Two in particular stand out in my mind, as they were in several of the sessions I attended. One of them used a service animal (German Shepherd, I think), and the screen of his laptop was remarkably smudged (because, why would he care?). The other fellow used a collapsible cane, and he typically only opened his laptop far enough to get his hands on the keyboard. I’m not sure their laptop screens ever actually came on (which probably helped the battery life). The second fellow said he works part-time as an accessibility tester for Knowbility (the group that organizes the conference).

There was another fellow there who was sighted but had no arms (born that way, I presume). I didn’t see him use a computer, but I’ve seen pictures of other people who don’t have the use of their arms. They grasp a stick or pencil in their teeth and use that to type (that must take a lot of patience).

And there was a woman with diminished vision who gave a presentation demonstrating how she uses a computer. She uses a combination of a screen reader and a magnification tool. She uses the magnification tool to set the screen in reverse video mode for high contrast. Her demonstration was particularly interesting, because the computer she was using had trouble connecting to the wireless network, and then it wanted to run Windows updates. She got some help and rolled with it pretty well, but it was instructive to see what a barrier it was to be faced with poorly-presented error messages.

The third day of the conference I attended a mobile accessibility bootcamp presented by Paul J Adam, and that was really interesting. The presenter said that people with visual impairments favor iOS over Android, and it turns out that it’s by a pretty wide margin: in a July 2015 survey of over 2500 screenreader users, about 70% use an iOS device as their primary platform (compared to around 21% using Android).

As one of the exercises in the mobile accessibility bootcamp, I tried using a native app on my Android phone with the Talkback screen reader, and it was a real struggle. Some of that was my unfamiliarity with screen readers in general and Talkback in particular, but some of it was probably poor accessibility in the app (and that’s likely pretty common).

If you ever visit Austin, the St. Edwards campus is really nice (the Sorin Oak is particularly impressive), and Pinthouse Pizza has really good beer.

May 2016 security updates for Microsoft and Adobe (updated)

Adobe and Microsoft have released updates to several of their products. Many of these updates address critical vulnerabilities. Here are the fascinating security bulletins:

Update (14 May): Adobe released another Flash player update.

Scanner hell

Here are a couple of “life in IT” horror stories, both involving desktop scanners. This is to give some idea of what it’s like when things go wrong while working in information technology. These particular misadventures were more frustrating that terrifying.

While my main responsibilities at work involve programming, I’ve ended up helping out with our imaging system. This means that I set up desktop scanners and configure desktop software to interface with the document management software running on one of our servers. I’ve probably done this kind of thing several dozen times. Although it can be time-consuming, it usually goes pretty smoothly.

Last week it didn’t go smoothly.

It was a brand new scanner and a brand new computer. I installed the scanner drivers off the installation CD, told the installer to download and apply the latest driver updates, hooked up the scanner, and configured the software to allow the user to scan pages (things like transcripts, release forms, etc.) into the imaging system. Like I’ve always done, I enabled the image processing feature to do things like deskew the images (that helps if the paper feeds into the scanner a little bit crooked). Every time I tried scanning a page into the imaging system, the desktop software would crash.

I un-installed the drivers, re-installed the drivers, reconfigured the desktop software, and the same thing happened. So I called technical support at the imaging system software company. A very patient technician made a remote connection to the PC so that he could try fixing it. For two hours I watched him do the same things I’d done with the same result.

He finally tried configuring the software without enabling the image processing feature. I saw him skip that step and almost said something about it, but I was tired and didn’t say anything. And of course that time it worked. Then I asked him to enable the feature, we tried it again, and the software was back to crashing. Disabling the feature again made the software start working again. So we left that feature disabled and called it “good enough.”

So as near as we could determine, the only thing wrong was enabling a helpful feature that I’ve used for years.

The other scanner nightmare was a few years ago. This one was a flatbad scanner–the type where you open a lid, put a single sheet of paper on a glass pane, close the lid, and the scanner moves a lamp back and forth under the page, taking a picture of it.

This was an older scanner that had been in storage for a while. That fact turned out to be significant.

I installed the drivers, hooked up the scanner, and tried to scan a page. I could see the lamp come on, and I could hear it trying to move. It made a delightful kuh-KUNK noise, and it was clear that the lamp wasn’t moving back and forth like it should.

This episode also involved a long phone call to the software vendor. In retrospect I probably should have called the scanner manufacturer, but it wasn’t clear to me where the problem was. The help desk at the software vendor has lots of experience with scanners, and I think they must have a room that’s nothing but scanner after scanner sitting on shelves, because they came up with a scanner just like the one I was struggling with–same manufacturer and model.

After an hour or two, the two technicians on the call were finally able to reproduce the problem I was having. I could hear them chuckling as one of them said, “Pick up the scanner and look on the bottom. Do you see a black slider switch with a couple of little padlock icons? And is the switch in the LOCKED position?”

Some helpful soul had locked the scanner when they put it in storage. So I moved the little switch, and was done setting up the scanner a few minutes later.

This is what happens when they put a programmer in charge of things with moving parts. It always ends in tears.