Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chaning My Computer Interface

For a few weeks now I've been using fingerprint readers to login to my computers. Mostly an experiment to see how good, or bad, the technology has become over the past several years, it's turned into my preference for logging into my machines and accessing sensitive information.

The basic idea was to minimize the number of times per day that I have to type my 13 character password. Across my machines I estimate that I get asked for my password 36 times per day (not including websites, but that's a different post). I now respond to at least 24 of those requests with a finger swipe. The remaining requests still require password typing as those requests are to unlock my Apple keychain which the software I'm using (Upek Protector Suite for Mac) doesn't support yet (other than one-time global unlocking which I don't want to enable).

The reader accuracy is effectively 99%, so recognition, which I thought would be an issue, is a forgone conclusion these days; a non-issue.

I'm left wondering why all machines don't integrate (via mouse, keyboard, or body) fingerprint readers by default. Then again, I'm also the guy wondering why all machines don't come standard with retinal scanners. I know the answer to both wishes, but... dare to dream.

It looks like the Protector Suite software supports windows machines 10x better than it does OSX, but it's enough of a step up in user experience for me that I'm sticking with it.

A notable bug is that manual password override doesn't work when bring the machine out of sleep mode when the USB reader is NOT plugged in. Put another way, you have to always have the reader plugged in when moving in/out of sleep mode. This is a major annoyance when using a laptop as it means you have to drag the thumbdrive sized device along with you. The workaround is to cold-boot the machine and potentially lose data in the process. Upek blames Apple's Snow Leopard release, and is waiting for them to resolve the issue, which I suspect will never happen.

Feature Requests:
  • Firefox password manager support for Mac.
  • Background swipe monitoring for fast user switching. If I walk up to my home machine, which has 4 different user accounts on it, and the machine is logged into userA (I'm userB), I want to just swipe my finger and have it automatically switch me to userB.
  • Individual keychain access request unlock swipe support.
  • Physical hardware integration with all the hardware I use. iPhones, starting my car, all my machines, etc. The readers have to be all but free to manufacture anymore, so I'd like to see them as ubiquitous as built-in web cams please. Thanks.
My configs:
  • All machines running Apple OSX Snow Leopard
  • 13" Macbook Pro laptop
  • 21" iMac
  • 13" Macbook laptop
  • One Upek mini/portable/thumb-drive sized USB reader
  • One Upek larger desktop based USB reader

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