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Where Do You Store Your Online Valuables?

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I'm not talking about diamonds and greenbacks and mink stoles (e-mink stoles?) or even corporately valuable documents and business silos of data and such, but about the ever burgeoning amount of web addresses, login/usernames, passwords, PINs, codes, and on and on that are necessary to support our modern online life.

I'd bargain that an increasingly annoying eater of wasted time (there should be some kind of metric for this) involves sitting in front of a typical login screen (take your pick, from online banking to shopping to social networking to blogging to gaming and back around again) while one's face becomes redder and angrier and steamier as a message is returned again and again that says something to the effect of: Sorry, your username and/or password is forgotten and/or lost to the e-winds.

One of my geekier obsessions is content and information aggregation. There should (and likely is) a great solution out there, a simple web-based interface that simply and elegantly gathers all the maelstrom of usernames, passwords, and, well… crap that's needed to get things accomplished online nowadays.

I'll walk through my own personal journey and current (so so) solution with the hope that some cutting edge folk out there know about something better. A perfect comment to this piece, therefore, would be: Haven't you been using flibberjibber.info (or some such), it saved my life back in the day (read = Christmas, 2006), n00b!

Phase One: I tried to remember stuff

This didn't work out so well, as you might imagine.

Phase Two: I tried to write stuff down

This yielded marginally better results, though I ran into the age old problem of having to remember where I wrote stuff down. Since I'm typically online in one of several locations throughout the day, the problem became having to remember where my stuff was written down at any given time.

Phase Three: I got (sort of) organized

Finding 37 Signals was a great help. I used Backpack for a spell as a way to organize lists and information. It worked fairly well, but at the time the interface was a little bit clunky and glitchy (this was back in the spring of '05, so I imagine it's much improved by now), so I abandoned it and slipped back to Phase Two befuddlement for a spell.

In early 2006, I moved onto Basecamp, another 37 Signals product. It's basically very simple project management software, in the best possible sense (anyone familiar with the term chronogram will know what I mean!). The great thing about 37 Signals is that they try to KISS (keep-it-simple-smarty).

So I now use Basecamp's writeboard feature as a general dump for all the URLs (including multiple social networking profiles, work-related login information, blogging software tools, etc.) I need in my day-to-day online experience. No matter what computer I'm in front of, I can easily login to one website (allowing me to simply remember one web address and password instead of dozens!) and gather all of the information I need at any time.

Some things that used to drive me batty are now much easier to deal with. A great example is Wine Country Gift Baskets, an absolutely stellar place to find gifts and quickly ship them to anywhere in the country. However, they force you to provide a unique customer ID of their own choosing that is an eight- or nine-digit number. Basecamp has provided me with a way to continue to utilize this service without losing the last remnants of my sanity.

However, I'm convinced that something better is out there or in the process of being developed. I'd like to be able quickly search the first few letters of "My URLs" (or whatever) to instantly bring up the web address, login information, and password that can aid me in plugging into and out of the wild array of websites and interfaces that make up a typical day online.

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  • http://www.istherefood.com Daniel Woolstencroft

    Google has helped me a lot with three products:

    Google Browser Sync – all bookmarks, passwords etc from Firefox sync’d to every machine I care to run it on.

    Google Docs – document management, lists etc.

    Gmail – with good use of labels, rules, and “stars”, combined with Google’s search expertise, I can find pretty much anything in Gmail.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Great stuff Daniel, thanks! I love gmail and find it to be very helpful for archiving all kinds of materials, but I’ve never quite trusted it enough to save login/password info. I suppose it could be useful to have a folder called passwords (or whatever) and clearly mark subject fields with the name of the web site or type of product.

    Is Google Browser Sync a Firefox plug-in? The thing that slightly scares me about that kind of solution is that I would not want to run it on semi-public computers. For example, I’d not want my banking login information easily accessible to someone who happened to happen by my work computer and just happened to type in http://www.citibank.com.

  • http://johiac.blogspot.com John Vaccaro

    I too am a big Googlr fan. In addition to the things Daniel mentioned, I use Google Notebook. With the Firefox plugin your notebook is always in reach! There is even a option when your right click on a link to add it to your notebook. You can have multiple notebooks and even share them out to other gmail users.

    For security stuff like passwords, PINS, and such I’ve begun using FlexWallet. Its an Windows app that allows you to log all the URLs, passwords, PINs and other stuff you need to keep secure in an encrypted database. They provide templates for Credit Cards, Secure Web sites and more. You can also create new templates as you need.

    The sweet part of this for me is that FlexWallet has a component that runs on Windows Mobile 5. So I can maintain my security info on my PC and it syncs to my mobile phone whenever I connect my phone to my PC and tell FlexWallet to sync up. So anytime I have my phone I my info at hand. The mobile version’s database is also encrypted so a properly chosen passphrase will make cracking your wallet tha much harder.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Excellent John, I will definitely check FlexWallet out! I must admit that I feel slightly shaky storing so much personal info on one web interface that is not intended to be used for such use, so the encryption factor is very cool.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com/ Ken Edwards

    I have used Basecamp for years! It is such a great product. I use it for both business and personal things.

  • http://medmeeting.blogspot.com roueche

    I like RoboForm. This extremely useful program adds a password protected toolbar to IE or Firefox. It remembers login locations and passwords, can generate strong passwords, has password protected “safenotes” where you can store sensitive information, and also has an identity editor that will fill in online forms for you.

  • Reg Aubry

    While this isn’t EXACTLY what you wanted, it’s SIMILAR: in Firefox, do Tools/Options/Security/Show Passwords. You’ll see a dialog box with the URLs and the username listed. There’s a Show Passwords button – click that and you’ll see the passwords associated with the usernames and URLs. Now, if someone could write a Firefox extension to do that in one button click, that would rock.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Great stuff, all! I suspected there were likely much better solutions out there than the one I currently use, and seems I was right.

  • https://www.passpack.com Tara

    Hello.
    I suggest an online password manager. These give the added advantage of being encrypted.

    passpack.com

    You can store links, logins and short notes for free. It’s also anonymous (no email required to sign-up).

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Thanks for the great leads all !