Visualizing Summer Travels Part 1: OpenPaths

This post is part of a series on visualizing data from my summer travels.

Oscar Levant once said, darkly, that “happiness isn’t something you experience; it’s something you remember.” We humans have a way of constructing and reconstructing experiences and memories through the methods by which we recall them. The endlessly repeated anecdote from your vacation in Italy eventually becomes emblematic of the larger trip. The photograph on the wall from your wedding day becomes a synecdoche for the entire event.

I spent the past two months in Europe and documented my travels through a set of photographs which have become emblematic, for me, of packages of experiences from different places. However, they are often skewed and selective, telling only one deliberate perspective of a wider, richer experience. Another way to remember and reminisce about one’s travels is through maps. Where did I go? What path did I take? How did the parts of the trip fit together? The answers to these questions are useful in revealing another perspective of the larger experience.

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Pattern Unlock an Encrypted Android Phone

We’re all familiar with the possibility of data security breaches. Web sites get hacked, passwords get compromised, laptops get stolen. To mitigate these risks, we (try to) use strong passwords, keep our computers under lock and key, and encrypt our personal data. But what about our phones? They are increasingly relied on as mini-computers in our pockets, replete with email accounts, banking apps, and sensitive Dropbox files. Many apps store usernames and passwords in plain text.

What happens if your phone gets stolen? Many people don’t have any security or lock screen enabled at all. Others simply use a pattern or short PIN that is easily cracked in minutes. Android offers encryption, but it’s turned off by default. It’s also very inconvenient. To be effective, encryption requires a strong password, and Android (4.x) requires that you enter this password to unlock your phone when it boots-up, and also every time you unlock the screen.

The problem is that once you encrypt your phone, Android (again, versions 4.x – maybe this will change in a future release!) disables the ability to lock/unlock it with a pattern (annoyingly) or with a different, shorter PIN (perhaps understandably). Having to type in a long password every time you want to use your phone makes this is a non-starter for most users.

Ideally, we would enter a strong password to unlock and decrypt the phone at boot-up, and then use a simpler, user-friendly security mechanism (such as a pattern) to unlock the phone throughout the day. This would balance the benefits of strong-password encryption with the practicalities of making the phone accessible throughout the day.

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