The Weekly Round-Up: Why passwords are purgatory and social media is hell

And the fate bedevilling the high street...
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor

And the fate bedevilling the high street...

Password [noun]:

  1. A code so hard to remember that it guarantees you will never again be able to access the service it is designed to protect.
  2. A code so simple to break that your granny, kids or that weirdo who works next to you could crack it and empty your bank account quicker than you can make a cup of tea.

You can't win, can you?

Cute cat

ilovecats: A weak password - and what happens when you mashup Apple and The CurePhoto: Natasha Lomas

That's the problem with passwords. Obey the rules and create a strong password - including upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, eye of newt and toe of frog - and you can never, ever access that system again. Alternatively, come up with something easy to remember, like your name, and you can get into the account - but then so can everyone else.

In a bid to save us weak and lazy humans from our own stupidity, Hotmail this week revealed it is rolling out a feature that will stop you from choosing very common passwords when signing up for an account or changing your password.

According to Microsoft, common passwords are not just 'password' or the classic '123456', but also include words and phrases that just happen to be shared by millions of people, like 'ilovecats' or 'gogiants' - presumably a reference by US users to a baseball team, rather than a sign of appreciation for beanstalk-dwelling baddies.

All we need now is technology that can automatically spot and destroy passwords written on Post-it notes and stuck on the side of monitors, and complete computer security will be within our grasp.

Around one in four Brits admit to having such weak passwords, with many of them using the same weedy password for everything. Which, as everyone knows, is a Very Bad Thing. Or, The Only Way to Survive Modern Life, depending on your outlook.

Indeed, all of this password mayhem is just too much for some people. silicon.com's Natasha Lomas has wound up in password purgatory, which it seems is the place people end up after creating and instantly forgetting one too many complicated passcodes. And she doesn't sound very happy about it: "Please, please, won't somebody in the security industry think of the user?" she opines.

There are already plenty of comments on the story but feel free to join the debate - assuming you can remember your password for logging into silicon.com (hint: do you love cats?)

The hell of social networking

You know how you've been wandering around thinking, "What I need is another social network to fill up all that empty time in my life"?

No? Oh, well, those fine people at Google have come up with Google+ anyway, so we've been having a good play with it this week.

Like Dante's Inferno, we've spent the last couple of weeks putting our friends and acquaintances into various circles. Unlike Dante, we haven't named any of our circles Limbo, Heresy and Gluttony - although we did consider putting a few people into...

...Fraud, Treachery and Lust.

All of this is proof indeed that social networking can be hell. Or a divine comedy, depending on your point of view.

Twitter siliconlatest

Social media can be hell unless you follow the right people - like @siliconlatest on Twitter, for exampleImage: Twitter/silicon.com

But if you're still trying to get the hang of Google+ then, Virgil-like, we are here to guide you. Check out our Google+ cheat sheet and our walkthrough of the whole Google+ thing.

And while you're checking out Google+, don't forget all the other tremendous ways of keeping in contact with us - via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Come and say hi! And you can download our iPhone app too, which means you will always have silicon.com close to your heart, especially if you keep your phone in your top pocket.

High Street Blues

Which high street would you prefer? A bustle of little shops with fine produce or a concrete wasteland patrolled by hooded youths ready to happy-slap the unwary as they leave the pound shop?

The Round-Up reckons you'll probably want to choose the former - unless you are a marauding hood-wearing youth, in which case why are you reading the Round-Up? But are your online shopping patterns actually creating the latter?

Are you the kind of person who goes to the high street to check out big-ticket items, and then goes online to buy it cheaper? Of course you are!

So how is the high street going to fight back against your desertion? silicon.com editor Steve Ranger has a few ideas but you meanies might not fancy all of them - like paying to get into shops. Find out why he thinks you soon might have to buy tickets to get into your greengrocer in his latest column here.

And finally...

A whizz through the rest of the news:

Got a BlackBerry PlayBook? Want some funky accessories? Browse through our top 10 and put them on your corporate Christmas list. And if you're an iPad fan, well we've got a list for you too.

Also this week, find out why geeks should never use the word 'cyber' and take a look at our pictures of Apple's two new MacBook Air laptops.

Editorial standards