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Category Archives: Productivity

Password Management Shoot-Out: Passpack vs. 1Password

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Filed under Productivity

Let’s compare apples to oranges: an offline paid-only desktop / mobile app with browser plugins; and a free for limited use online password management system:

1Password vs. Passpack

Passpack

Passpack is free, as long as you have 100 or less passwords to keep track of. I’ve been using it for many years now. You sign in to their site using a username and password, click on the screen where they tell you to click (to prove you’re a human being), then enter a passphrase to unlock your passwords. A passphrase is just like a password, only an entire sentence. Whatever nonsense makes sense to you is going to make for nigh-impossible-to-guess credentials.

At that point, the simple interface lets you search for a password which you can copy to the clipboard without showing on the screen. You can also store notes that are also obscured onscreen until you click a “reveal” button. I have loved this service. It meant I never had to remember a particular password for my lesser-used logins. It will also auto-generate random passwords of the desired strength. After all, if you don’t need to memorize it, it can be as complex as you want. There is an auto-login feature and an Adobe Air desktop app. The desktop app appears to locally cache the web app and your encrypted passwords. I have had limited success with auto-login in Passpack, though I confess I have not given it more than 3 attempts.

The 100-password limit was fine for a very long time, though I have hit that limit recently. The next stage would have been paying $1.50 USD per month to have access to 1000 passwords. That’s quite inexpensive, but the subscription model made me think twice. What happens if Passpack goes under?

So why would I ever try anything else?

No mobile app.

You cannot access Passpack passwords offline from a mobile device. The mobile interface is usable on a good connection, but I have no desire to waste any bandwidth nor wait for a slow connection to access my passwords when on vacation.

AgileBits 1Password

On the strength of glowing recommendations from friends, I gave 1Password a shot. The allure of paying once and having it over with sealed the deal. It’s lucky everyone loves 1Password, because it isn’t cheap. 1Password for Windows and 1Password for Mac each cost $50 USD. If you use Macs and Windows machines, well look at you, Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags, you’re going to have to pay extra. Thankfully, there is a Mac + Windows bundle for only $70 USD. I paid $100 USD for me and my wife. It’s a 5-user license, so when we have kids, they’ll be able to store their super secret “P00pYD14perz” passwords as well. I also sprung for the expensive iOS app: $18 CAD.

Ouch. Still, I now own the current version. One advantage / disadvantage of 1Password is that you maintain your encrypted password file yourself. You can synchronize it over multiple devices using cloud storage. I was advised that iCloud worked better than Dropbox, so I went that route. I’m sad to say it is not rock solid. My iOS devices are sometimes days out of sync, forcing me to fish out another device to retrieve a password. I will be trying Dropbox, which will at least enable syncing with my Windows machines as well.

The Chrome plugin is excellent. Press ctrl-\ (or Command-\ on Mac), enter your one password (no need to sign in then enter a passcode), and you are logged in “automagically.”

The mobile app not only gives you access to passwords but provides a web browser window that logs you in automatically.

If I can get my passwords in sync over all devices with minimal delay, 1Password will be perfect.

Conclusion

Right now, both systems are on par in terms of value in my head. With Passpack, I am never guessing whether I will have access to my passwords as long as I have a connection. With 1Password, the automatic sign-in in a desktop web browser works perfectly.

If you have questions or recommendations, join me on twitter (link at the top).

How do you guarantee success?

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Filed under Growth & Development, Productivity, SharePoint, Usability

Since we officially launched PreQuel in 2013, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about what it is and what it can do for different organizations. In a nutshell PreQuel is strategic consulting to help you define and articulate your vision for success.

Make sense?

We have had a lot of organizations come to us with great ideas for new technology or improvements to their business processes, but how can they be sure they are recommending the best solution for their organization without knowing all the facts or consulting with an expert? They can’t.

Understanding PreQuel is simple. PreQuel is about engaging a team of our best consultants to meet with you and your interested stakeholders to clarify what the needs and ultimate goals of the business are. Have you considered possible risks of proceeding or not proceeding with your initiative? Do you have a clear understanding of the best solution for your business problem? Let our experts figure that out for you.

Through a facilitated workshop we will ask the right questions and collect the right information needed to create a thorough report for you to share with your business leaders. Don’t walk into murky waters alone. Let us help you clear the way with a vision of where you are going and how you will get there.

Find out if PreQuel is the right step for you. Contact us for a free PreQuel risk assessment today.

One Way to Look at Life

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Filed under Corporate Culture, Developing Teams, Productivity

Cloud Storage Solutions

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Filed under Productivity

Outside of Azure storage requirements for Windows Azure projects, I use cloud storage for two things: syncing photos to all my devices and sending large files to other people. Getting files out into the cloud isn’t even half the battle: it’s all about the OS / device integration.

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LightSwitch Apps for SharePoint 2013 Rollup

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Filed under Cloud Practice, LightSwitch, Productivity, SharePoint

Hey, I may be all about cloud computing these days, but my heart is still anchored in all that is LightSwitch. With the new Visual Studio 2013 Preview out, I’ve been a busy little beaver (okay, a busy big ol’ bear) with all that interesting LightSwitch stuff.

VS2013_LightSwitch_01

(image courtesy of Microsoft)

For what it’s worth, here is a bit of a web content rollup about creating LightSwitch applications in SharePoint (yes, most are from Microsoft):

Building Modern, HTML5-based Business Apps for SharePoint 2013 with Visual Studio LightSwitch

Building Modern, HTML5-based Business Apps for SharePoint 2013 with Visual Studio LightSwitch (same presentation, different presenter at TechEd 2013 Europe)

Walkthrough: Creating an App for SharePoint by Using LightSwitch

Walkthrough: Accessing a SharePoint Workflow from a LightSwitch Mobile App

Get Started Building SharePoint Apps in Minutes with LightSwitch

Sending Email from a LightSwitch SharePoint App using Exchange Online

Theming a LightSwitch SharePoint App with ThemeRoller (way cool!)

Publishing LightSwitch apps for SharePoint to the Catalog 

Survey App Tutorial: Developing a SharePoint Application Using LightSwitch

More to come I’m sure.

Hey, if you’re curious to learn more about LightSwitch, I’m your guy. Contact me and I’d more than happy to chat with you about how using LightSwitch can shave weeks, if not months, of your next line of business software project.

Cheers!

Paul P

The Ultimate Project- My Wedding

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Filed under Growth & Development, Popular, Productivity, Uncategorized

A couple weeks ago, I took the big plunge and married my partner of 4.5 years. When we got engaged last year, as excited as I was, the business analyst within knew the amount of work that was now ahead of us- but mainly, ahead of me (let’s be real, most grooms just show up to the party). Shortly after our engagement, being the diligent business analyst that I am, and to my then-fiancé’s utter dismay, I shifted to project mode. Planning a wedding is no different than planning an intranet redesign or building a new timesheet application system. The same fundamentals apply:

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You Have a Plan, Right?

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Filed under Productivity, Uncategorized

How essential is planning in the whole scheme of things? Ask a jet fighter pilot. Last Friday, Brittney from Capital Ideas, along with Andrew and I got to board a plane to Cold Lake where we spent the day taking in Exercise Maple Flag.

What’s that? Exercise Maple Flag is “one of the largest and most advanced air combat exercises in the world” inviting and bringing in advanced military air personnel from all over to fly their aircrafts in simulated war situations. My bucket list got a little bit shorter that day.

It was a full day event packed with lots of tours of the military base, demos, take offs and presentations. Watching fighter jets take off from 200 feet definitely beat my typical day in the office. (The best?) Part of the experience was getting to talk to future, current, and retired fighter jet pilots. They were not only instrumental in helping us understand what life as a pilot was like, but also had the most intriguing stories and random facts. Did you know fighter pilots can be in the air for up to 14 hours straight (without bathroom breaks), or that that they always fly in groups of 2 or more (too risky to fly solo). Both completely random and useless facts that I will probably never use, and now never forget. You probably won’t either. You’re welcome.

One concept that was revisited throughout the day was the importance of getting things right on the first try – rarely is there a second chance when in flight. Being in control of a powerful machine at such a high altitude, meant making split second decisions that could equate to life or death. Think about that next time you are stressing out at work about what font or colours to use in your next PowerPoint presentation. These guys not only had to be smart, but they had to be prepared for anything that could hit them.

So what was the secret to staying alive? How does one confidently go into battle? They planned – and they planned A LOT. Throughout the day we saw countless examples of how every possible situation was accounted for in training. Thunderstorm suddenly pop out of nowhere? Covered. Engine failure? They’re laughing. They had to be able to deal with every situation in the worst case scenario – that could mean upside down, in the dark, with little to no sleep because there is no real way for to predict what could hit them. Planning was also a big part of their military strategy. Before any planes took flight, ‘teams’ were briefed on who would sent in as ‘bait’ to find enemy jets, who would be on the offense and who would be on the defence. Nothing was ever left to chance, and all instructions were followed without exception. Any deviation from the plan could mean risk, and risk could mean failure. No thank you.

The importance of planning in the military is a concept that has been around for a while. Don’t believe me? Open “The Art of War”, by Sun Tzu and take a look at its first chapter – “Detail Assessment and Planning”. I think he was on to something. So where else is planning essential to success?

We at Quercus aren’t shy when we talk about planning. We believe that it’s essential to ensuring any IT engagement is successful.  You could call it ‘The Art of Planning’, but we decided to call it PreQuel. We developed PreQuel because we believe our customers have the right to strategize and create a plan before making a major commitment. No one wants to be midflight before they find out their target is flying in the opposite direction. Likewise, you probably don’t want to be half way through your IT project before you find out your solution didn’t quite get to the core of your business problem.  With PreQuel, we’ll meet with your key stakeholders, get to the root of the problem and provide you an analysis with our recommended approach.  We’ll leave you with a strategic road map and the peace of mind knowing that we have looked at your problem from every possible angle and provided the most effective and efficient solution. We’ll start you on your path to success.

Don’t let improper project planning be the reason your project fails. For more information on how PreQuel can help jump start your next IT project, click here.

To learn more about Exercise Maple Flag, click here.

Automapper Review

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Filed under .NET, Productivity, Software Architecture

Automapper is a great tool we used in a recent project for mapping objects.  With the tiered architecture we used, we ended up with and MVC front end, and a web service back end.  This meant that there were web service objects and MVC models that had essentially the same structures, but .NET does not implicitely realize this.  What this often causes is code that looks like this:

person.FirstName = Webservice.Person.FirstName;
person.LastName = Webservice.Person.LastName;
person.Birthdate = Webservice.Person.Birthdate;
person.Address = Webservice.Person.Address;
person.PhoneNumber = Webservice.Person.PhoneNumber;
person.Gender = Webservice.Person.Gender;
…

We’ve all seen this code and to the human eye it looks repetitive, but to a machine it is necessary.  This is where automapper comes in.  It simplifies this process and turns the above code into this:

person = PersonMapper.Map(Webservice.Person);

Having your objects sharing identical field names makes your life a lot easier.  You can install Automapper from NuGet and have it working right away.  Just create a new class and include the automapper library..  Your method signature will look something like this:

public static Models.Person Map(MemberServices.Person person)
{
   return Mapper.Map(person);
}

That’s it!  You can call your .Map function from now on and Automapper will handle the rest.

 

This is of course a very simple example that all Automapper can do for you.  In the case where you do not have identically named fields, you can configure Automapper to map to fields of different names.  You’re also able to map entire arrays if need be to save yourself work on those redundant copy loops.

 

For more information on AutoMapper and to get started, click here

 

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