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For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with not having anything in my pockets. Of course, that isn’t usually possible because generally I always had to have my wallet and keys in my pocket. In the early 2000s when everyone started getting a cellphone I was resistant. One of my primary barriers to entry was the distaste of having ANOTHER thing to store in my pocket.

Now I have three things: wallet, keys, iPhone. I cannot live without these three things, so I have to cope with heavy pockets. I can’t do much to adjust the weight and heft of my phone and my keys (I assure you I keep them very slim). My wallet, however, I do have full control over. I’m adamant about keeping a streamlined wallet. Why doesn’t everyone? When I see people pull out a giant brown brick (from their BACK pocket no less) I am shocked, and often angry. Why are you keeping all your crap in there? Why do you have such a huge wallet!? It is time for a wallet audit. Look at what I have in mine.

My wallet from BellRoy has exactly 5 items in it.

  • Drivers License
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card
  • Key Card for my building of employment
  • Swiss Utility Card

Sometimes I put cash in it also, but I almost never carry cash anymore. It has no folds, three slots and that is all I need. Every time I put it into my pocket I get excited about how thin and light it is. It is easy.

First thing is first. You probably need a new wallet. Listen to the good people at Bellroy; you need to dump the trifold piece of garbage. All that extra leather is the problem. You should only need a card sleeve and nothing more. Then it’s time to look what is inside.

Credit/Debit Cards

If you have more than 2 credit/debit cards in your wallet you are living your life incorrectly. You could probably stand to cut some of those cards up and throw them away. You need a single debit card and a single credit card with you at all times. Leave the rest at home for your online shopping or whatever the hell you keep them around for.

Gift Cards

Do you have a Target gift card with $2.51 left on it? You have that $25 gift card for the Crave you have had since your birthday three birthdays ago diligently waiting for it’s big day to shine? Those useless cards take up a ton of space in your wallet and hardly ever get used. Here is my pro tip, keep the various gift cards in your car glovebox. Generally you will always be taking your car to the gift card’s rightful home anyway. Same with punch cards.

Change

Change is for kids. You have no business keeping change in your wallet. Weight to value change is totally horrible. Dump it in the tip jar, or put it in your car. Once a year you can cash it in and get a smooth $20 out of the deal.

Receipts

I hope in 2013 you have found a better way to store receipts than to keep them in your wallet. I have seen people with just STACKS of white receipt paper in their wallet. They are eventually going to file them all or something. First off, you need to learn about the internet. All of your credit card swipes are recorded and you can easily view them all, along with the date and location. If that is TOO easy for you, then you can take a photo of them on your phone and store them with DocuScan or Evernote or one of the hundreds of other apps.

Business Cards

This is a special case because it really depends on your business. I personally have no need or desire to have any business cards in my wallet. However some of the people I work with need to carry about 20 of their own, and collect a ton from other people. For the people that NEED to deal in business cards, I suggest finding another storage solutions such as: a card holder, laptop bag, or briefcase.

For those of you who don’t have a need for business cards, but still have a bunch in your wallet, I wish I could slap you in the face. Take them out and throw them away right now. If you get a business card you want, take a photo (assuming you have a smartphone of course) and add it to Evernote or whatever service you use.

Membership Cards

Things like gym memberships and AAA memberships cards you can most likely just leave in your car. Or you can keep a photo of them in your smartphone!

Trash

This next category needs little explanation, things like: buttons, paperclips, ticket stubs, bandaids, photographs, notes, and whatever else you have, throw it away.

Let’s go into some real-life examples of me auditing the wallets of my friends.

This is my friend Brian’s wallet. Look at all of that junk he could easily either throw away or keep in his car. There is no reason to junk your wallet up like that! Also notice his wallet is a bi-folder, all those extra layers of leather are almost doubling it’s girth. SLIM UP BRIAN!

Another of my friends Stephen. He has a TRIPLE FOLD wallet. That is so many unneeded folds giving it tremendous girth. In addition he is carrying 6 credit cards. I can’t imagine he needs all of them with him at all times. I bet some of them haven’t been used in months. As usual the regular amalgamation of gift cards, punch cards and business cards need to be removed.

Are you motivated yet? Perform a wallet audit today and send me the before and after pictures. I want to see them.

Ever since Evernote was hacked and the password database compromised, I started getting concerned about my passwords being broken and my accounts hijacked. I took a serious inventory of my passwords and I didn’t like what I saw. Although my “master password” was long and secure, it was the password I used for way too many accounts… Access to one of those accounts meant I was vulnerable to having my bank account accessed. But how can anyone remember more than one truly “secure” password?

I committed to finding a solution that was memorable, secure and different for every site I visit. I stumbled upon a popular xkcd comic about password strength. It made me think.

The good news is, I can use phrases to make secure passwords, which can in fact be easy to remember but hard to break. But unique for every page? That is still a challenge… Then I remembered hashing technology. You can feed anything through a hashing algorithm to get disgusting-looking secure passwords like these:

  • b0905560869cbcaad7870eed80bf0a8a78c6e631
  • 137519e625ff10d62383e3452f5d03792cb8e452
  • 05023df71bbae6fbd874300fe43da5de254c4772

If you didn’t already guess these are SHA1 hashes. Try it for yourself. How does this help? Well now I can use a systematic approach to coming up with password phrases, like these (add capitalization and punctuation for added security):

  • alexkrasny password ebay
  • alexkrasny password amazon
  • alexkrasny password wellsfargo

Then I run these phrases through a SHA1 (or whatever) hashing algorithm to get long, disgusting, impossible to remember passwords. This solves all of my problems! Easy for me to remember. Hard for people to guess. Different for each site.

People will say SHA1 hashes aren’t even secure blah blah. Well let’s break it down. There are two ways your password can be found and broken.

  1. Someone guesses it.
  2. A major website gets hacked and the hashed password database is compromised.

In the case of a human guessing those absurd hashes? That would be nearly impossible. It would take a quattuordecillion years (that isn’t made up)! Even if someone KNOWS you are using a SHA1 hashing system, they still need to guess the pass-phrase. The beauty of this is you only need to remember a single pass phrase “my password at X” and it creates a unique password for every site. Even if someone somehow sees the hash, there is no way they could get your pass phrase out of it.

In the case of a major password database being compromised? Well if that is the case, the hackers can still crack your password. Hacking a hashed password database is actually almost identical to simply guessing your password except they are guessing thousands at a time. The hackers aren’t actually inputting passwords and either getting it right or wrong. They are hashing a guess, and comparing the hash to the database and seeing if it matches. If it does, it replaces the hash with the pre-hashed password. The whole process is well explained in this comprehensive article on Ars Technica about password hacking.

Although the article does make it seem like passwords are hopeless, the key takeaway is, if the source password is complex, it will be hard to crack. Hackers will likely stop cracking the database before getting to the most complex of the passwords.

Because you are already inputting a hash as your password, and then the website in question is RE-HASHING it, your source password is actually very long and complex. Of course if a website you have an account on get’s hacked, it’s a good idea to change your password. In the LEAST you can be comfortable knowing that only a unique and specific password is in danger, not your entire life.

As for password management, I am a huge fan of the LastPass extension. You just add it to your browser and it stores and organizes all your passwords. Whenever you add a new one, or change one it asks if you want it recorded. Just make sure you have a secure password for your LastPass account! Also make sure to read the great password management tips on Penguininitiatives using a KeePass and Dropbox system.

Do you have a better system? I would love to hear about it! Please let me know in the comments below.

review of a set of life hacks featured blog image

You’ve probably seen these do-it-yourself life tips popping up on the internet all the time on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest and Tumblr. Who is to judge which are worth a try and which aren’t worth your time? Obviosuly me. So sit back and enjoy my analysis.

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alt People often see me enjoying the wonders of retro gaming on my PowerBook and they ask me “How do you play those old games?” or simply say “I wish I had that on my computer!” Well everyone can, it’s easy peasy! Every aspect is free and time-tested. There are only two steps. Download an emulator, download a rom (game), open the rom with the emulator. That’s it! Optionally, you may want to get a controller to make your experience more enjoyable. I use an Xbox360 controller for all my retro gaming needs and it has been perfect. I am going to make this whole process so easy for you there is no excuse. I have provided all the links, done all the research, read on, and relive your memories!

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