The Joys of Changing Your Password

July 17, 2013

Back in the day, when I had an 80-pound glass and steel mainframe terminal on my desk, there was only one place I had to go to change my password every month. Eventually I had access to more than one mainframe system and then I had two or three passwords, but still just one place I had to go to change them.

This afternoon I completed the bi-annual password change required by the university. The following list is all the places I needed to go to complete this one password change.

  1. The University's eProfile page to actually change the password.
  2. My primary work desktop computer, a 27" iMac. Here I changed the password in four places: the Mail client, the Calendar client, my chat tool, Adium, and the Wifi connection.
  3. My primary work laptop, a 13" Retina MacBook Pro. As with the iMac there were four individual places to change the password: Mail, Calendar, Chat, and WiFi.
  4. My secondary work desktop, a Window 7 machine. Just one change here, the Postbox email client.
  5. My secondary work laptop, a Unibody 15" MacBook Pro. Just the WiFi access here. No email or calendar.
  6. My personal 15" Unibody MacBook Pro. I read my work email on this machine and I use it on the campus WiFi network, and I chat from this machine, so 3 change locations.
  7. The Windows 7 virtual machine that runs on the iMac. I use Windows Live Mail on rare occasion on this VM, so I updated the account information there.
  8. My personal iPhone. One change effecting mail and calendaring across the device. One change for WiFi connectivity.
  9. My personal iPad Mini. One change effecting mail and calendaring and one for WiFi connectivity.
  10. 1Password entry for my University account. So that I don't have to type the password in every where going forward.

I am certainly not advocating returning to the limited technology of mainframes in the early 1980s, but there has to be a better way to manage our means of authentication than some 20 password changes in 10 locations. I'm technologically savvy. In making my list of anticipated password changes I only missed enumerating one change. How do non-technical people who have a smartphone and a table and a laptop and a desktop manage to survive this recurring chore?

Some aspects of our increasingly technological society are making life easier and better, but other aspects have only become more daunting and tedious. Hopefully there is some startup out there with a novel approach to biometric identification or password management that will remove this odious chore from our lives.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.