Another productive day

2006-01-04

in Daily updates, Oxford, Rants

Ceiling in the Bodleian Library

This was an exceptionally productive morning, both before and after meeting Claire for coffee. Into the post, the scholarship application has gone. Likewise, my absentee ballot request: out into the ether of the international telephone system. As always, Joanna Coryndon in the Tutorial Office was very helpful with all the bureaucratic hassles of university life. I was disappointed to learn that she didn’t win the college staff member of the year designation. As I’ve said before, the human face she contributed to the admissions process did much to skew my thinking towards Oxford.

During the afternoon, I finished the Atwood book, reviewed briefly below, and made decent progress on the Hume and Keohane books. By the end of the inter-term break, I will have finished the reading assigned by Dr. Hurell and hopefully made a more general start on the material for next term. I may well need to present for fifteen minutes in the first seminar with Jennifer Welsh and David Williams, after all. All of this reading was done in the Upper Radcliffe Camera, which also reminded me of the increasingly pressing need to find a summer job. The two seem unrelated, but places that are fairly rarely visited have a way of making your mind jump back to what was being thought about when last there.

Thanks to Claire, I even got a copy of the information sheet on the upcoming statistics exam. Part A is a multiple choice and short answer component, centred around general principles in statistics, as elaborated in Dr. Tilley’s lectures. For that, I will definitely want to read the relevant chapters from a good statistics textbook. Part B is interpretation of statistical tables, such as are output by STATA and found in many American international relations journal articles. Having looked over the description, I am not terribly worried. Still, it’s something I will need to devote a couple of days to, at least, during the next ten days or so.

Ever More Banking Frustrations

After months of trying, I finally got access to NatWest Online Banking. As I have come to expect, it includes a powerfully counterproductive security feature. Instead of entering a PIN or password, it forces you to put, say, the 3rd, 5th, and 12th characters of the password into little boxes. This basically means that you need to write your password down, number off the letters, enter the numbers they want, and destroy it. It is completely contrary to convenience and introduces a whole new security failure of visible passwords all over the place or the need to securely destroy them. As punishment for such idiocy, I shall simply not use their credit card unless absolutely necessary. Based on what I’ve seen, I can’t begin to comprehend why Britain is a financial services hub. Banking here is a tragicomic business.


  • First Oxford exam in ten days…
  • photo.sindark.com now automatically links to my Photo.net page.
  • More family members that I thought are apparently reading the blog. My greetings to you all. I shall have to be on my best behaviour, henceforth.
  • Arthur: “What happens if I push this red button?”
    [noise]
    Ford: “What happened?”
    Arthur: “A light came on and said ‘Please do not push this button again.'”

    Related concept: the self-referential warning sign
  • As far as Google is concerned, the blog is still a real mess. The old URL still has hundreds of links to it, now all broken. Hopefully, a few crawls over the next few months will fix things. Until then, I will try to stop moving things around.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

B January 4, 2006 at 1:36 am

Maybe that curious password system is more resistant to brute force attacks?

Strikes me as unlikely, since it seems to discard most of the information in your password. The chances of brute forcing a 12 digit password of just letters and numbers would be one in 12^36 per attempt. The chances of brute force guessing three characters from it, at random, should be one in 3^36. Still way too low for an attack to be likely to succeed – I’m betting you get three guesses.

Really, this stumps me.

Milan January 4, 2006 at 1:44 am

I am thinking it’s probably meant as a defence against keystroke loggers. Since you would presumably never type out the full password, they would only catch bits and pieces of it.

Of course, this makes the extremely naive assumption that people use different passwords for different things. I am betting at least 80% of their customers will use their email password and almost 100% will use a password shared with some other site or service.

Anonymous January 4, 2006 at 3:27 pm

I think you might be interested by this article on the longevity of the B52.

R.K. January 4, 2006 at 3:32 pm

Hmmm. You guys talk way more about bombs and rockets stuff here than about environmental politics…

Just my 2¢

Ben January 5, 2006 at 2:14 pm

I like the random letters from a password thing. It does stop people logging strokes, and I don’t find it too hard to work out the letters.

You could always try something like abcabcabcabc and then you’ll know 3, 6, 9, etc are all c…

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