Archive for the 'Tech' Category

iPhone Alphanumeric Passcodes

A number of people wrote in response to yesterday’s post about changing my iPhone alphanumeric passcode to say that they never had the option to use anything but a numeric passcode. I did a little more digging and discovered that the use of an alphanumeric passcode was dictated by an Enterprise iPhone Configuration that was pushed down when I connected to my company Exchange server.

Complex passcode, tiny keyboard

Initially, the system administrator had required a complex passcode. After some reconsideration, he dialed it back to allow less secure passcodes. That is when I changed my own passcode from a complex alphanumeric string to a simpler alphanumeric string, but because my passcode  contained letters, I was still greeted with the tiny keyboard.

(Complex passcode, tiny keyboard)

As I mentioned yesterday, after changing to a numeric passcode, I am now greeted with the much friendlier numeric keypad.

The Enterprise iPhone Configuration Utility is downloadable from Apple and contains many useful tools. From the Mac website:

(The) iPhone Configuration Utility lets you easily create, maintain, encrypt, and push configuration profiles, track and install provisioning profiles and authorized applications, and capture device information including console logs…Configuration profiles are XML files that contain device security policies, VPN configuration information, Wi-Fi settings, APN settings, Exchange account settings, mail settings, and certificates that permit iPhone and iPod touch to work with your enterprise systems.

What I would like to find next is a utility that will allow me to examine the configuration file that was pushed down to my iPhone by my company Exchange server so I can create my own without overriding the one already there.

Easier iPhone Passcode

I connect to my work Exchange email system with my iPhone, which necessitates a Passcode Lock. Initially, I used a secure password mixing numbers, symbols, and letters, but it proved to be a real pain trying to tap that long sequence in every time my phone locked. Naturally, I quickly reduced my passcode to a simple series of letters, but even that proved problematic because the keyboard is so small.

Alphanumeric Passcode

(Alphanumeric Passcode)

Recently, I noticed that fellow iPhone user had a much more manageable passcode screen. It was larger, and used only numbers. Like this:

Numeric-only Passcode

(Numeric-only Passcode)

I have not seen this documented elsewhere, but it turns out that, if you have a numeric-only passcode, the passcode screen displays only numbers. This bigger screen, with bigger buttons, is a lot easier to type in.

Yes, I know that a numeric-only passcode is not as secure as one that mixes in letters and symbols, but ease of use on an iPhone counts for a lot.

On a related note, if you are concerned about losing your iPhone, I recommend the If Found app by Mobility Ware. This free app creates a custom wallpaper upon which you can enter your contact information. If someone finds your iPhone, the screen will display a message “If Found, please contact me at…” where you can list your email address, phone number (presumably, not your iPhone mobile number, because that would be silly) and other information to help you recover your device. This, along with the new Find My iPhone service via MobileMe, should help set your mind at ease about misplacing your precious, precious iPhone.

Custom Charlottesville keyword search in Firefox

Several times a week, I launch Firefox and search for a Charlottesville business or event. Each time that I type the long word “Charlottesville” into my search bar, I tell myself that there must be an easier way.

Turns out, there is. Firefox uses keywords to create shortcuts to oft-used sites. So, for example, if you often search the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), you can create a keyword for that site and substitute your specific search term. Following this example:

You could then type “IMDB Rachel Bilson” in your search bar, and IMDB page would pre-populate with Rachel Bilson as a search term.

That’s nice, but I wanted to find a way to automatically bring up “Charlottesville”, and then append additional search terms.

The steps to do so are similar to that which was outlined in the page above. Here’s how to do it:

  • In Firefox, type Ctrl-Shift-B to bring up Bookmarks Library.
  • Under All Bookmarks, select where you want to place your new custom bookmark (Bookmarks Menu, for example, but it can be anywhere).
  • Under the Organize tab, select New Bookmark. In the Add Bookmark window, give it an intuitive name (like “Google CVille”). In Location, type the following:

  • Finally, in Keyword, give the bookmark a short code that you will remember (ex.: “cv”, without the quotes).
  • Put what you want in Description, then click Add.

Now, when you type “cv” (without the quotes) in your Firefox address bar, followed by a search term, Google will come up with “Charlottesville” and your additional term already in the search box.

So, for example, if I type (without the quotes) “cv sandwich” in my address bar and hit enter, Google will launch a search window for “Charlottesville sandwich”.

Of course, this is for doing a Google search. It would be just as easy to use any other search site, such as Bing, just following the same context. So, for example,

The first part of the URL specifies which search engine to use. “q=” means search term query. The “%20” is a space, and the “%s” gets substituted for whatever you type after the pre-populated search term. In the example above, “%s” = “sandwich”.

There is probably a similar way to do this in Internet Explorer, but I haven’t found it yet.

If you find this useful, or you have other tricks to add, please feel free to comment below.