Advanced strategies for children’s games

16 04 2012

Lifehacker had a post a little while ago about advanced game strategies for children’s games:

I thought it was pretty funny, coming up with advanced strategies for children’s games, something a total nerd would do (like me!).  Thought I’d share a similar experience, playing Donkey  Kong Jr Math with my 9 year old nephew and my cousin-in-law.

If you aren’t familiar with the game, it is 2 player and looks like this:

Each player must climb the ropes, select numbers and operations and get to the center number first.  I believe you start with a random number.  The first couple of games my nephew beat me as I learned the ropes (pun intended), but I quickly realized a faster strategy:  Divide to a low number, then add/subtract so that you can quickly multiply to get close to the final number, finishing off with another add or subtract.  Depending on the available numbers and the size of the final number, this may or may not be necessary.  For example, 62 is easy to get to with anything around 10 in your box, 10×6=60 then add 2, 11×5=55 add 7.  The game adds some complixity by sometimes skimping on certain numbers and sometimes I think even removing certain operations.  The game is relatively simple if it lets you do something like “add 4 8”, but is much more fun to play with the ability to only use single digits.

Anyway, just thought it was interesting that advanced strategies exist for children’s games (all except Candyland which is 100% luck).  I don’t think I ever realized this as a kid, I would just play the most obvious way, I guess I wasn’t very bright.

Another example is Guess Who, a game in which each player selects a character from about 25, each having different traits (gender, hair color, glasses, eye color, facial hair, hat, etc).  Each player has a board with all 25 characters and players take turns asking questions about the other player’s chosen character to eliminate potentials and eventually guess who the other player has.  I played with my niece recently and realized, due to the difference in frequency of various traits, there is probably a most efficient search algorithim and a “hardest to single out” character to choose (of course the other person could immediately guess that person).

Extra Password Security Tip, plus some extras

6 03 2012

Forgot to include this rule in my recent post on passwords:


I came up with this rule after watching a Psych episode in which a couple went to speed dating events to steal people’s identities.  They used the speed dates as covers to ask questions like:

Where were you born?  Where did you go to elementary school?  What was your mother’s maiden name?

Do these sound familiar?  They should, because you usually have to answer them when creating an account online.  The answers are easy to find out, especially with the advent of Facebook, Google+, personal blogs, etc.  To defend yourself simply answer security questions with fake answers.  It’s helpful to save these answers in your password program, but picking easy to remember answers is good too.

A couple of examples:

Who is your favorite teacher? – answer with your least favorite teacher.  or perhaps a teacher’s name from a TV show.  or something you associate with your favorite teacher.

What color was your first car? – moonglowmetallicgrey, dirtbrown

Some extra safety tips

Tossing these in because I randomly remembered them and felt they’re worth sharing.

  • I don’t use my real birthday on the web because it is necessary for most forms of identity theft.  Unfortunately Facebook thinks I’m a 60 year old single man and constantly advertises mature dating sites to me.
  • An extremely paranoid thing I do is scratch off the CVV2 code off the back of my credit/debit cards and memorize them.  This means if someone steals my CCs they won’t be able to order anything on most websites.  Or the guy working the counter can’t glance at my card and memorize them.

Simple Two Tier Password Setup

28 02 2012

First, why should you have two tiers of passwords?  Every once in a while a company will have a breach and all user names and passwords will be stolen.  What can happen is that the phisher can try all the stolen user name and passwords on other popular sites, and thus break into your life.

Password limits are stupid, courtesy of XKCD and creative commons

There are a million different things that people say make a good password.  There is no such thing as a completely secure password (especially with keyloggers existing), but I have a few simple tips to help you develop a great two tier system that will protect from:

  • brute force
  • someone getting your password on one site, then using it on another
  • someone getting a low level password, like to log on to comment on a blog, and using it to access a high level password, like your banking
  • forgetting your password

If you’re paranoid, the best thing to do is use a password storage program, such as KeePass.  You can have it generate extremely complicated passwords and copy and paste them everytime you want to use them.  Personally I don’t like that system, so I use a simple two tier variable password setup.  Here are some of the basic rules:

  • Use lower case, upper case, numeric, and symbolic characters
  • Be able to substitute for symbolic characters when stupid websites won’t let you use symbols
  • NEVER use the same exact password twice (but they can be close)
  • Save your passwords in a secure storage program just in case.  I also keep a copy of the master password and how to access my passwords in my safety deposit box, in the event I die my family can access my digital life
  • Have at least two tiers of passwords to separate important things like banking from unimportant things like a forum logon

Creating Your Passwords

You need to create two separate passwords, the first being about 7 characters long and the second greater than 15 characters long.  I would prefer both to be 15+ characters, but most websites are retarded and have very short maximum password length requirements.Here’s the process, with an example.

  1. Choose a word, phrase, or character trait.  I will choose entelechy
  2. Sub in some numbers.  3 can be e, 1 can be L, or you can just randomly add some.  3nte1echy
  3. Sub in some symbols.  a can be @, 1 can be a semicolon ;, o can become parenthesis (), etc.  3nte1ec^  I choose the carrat key because it is phonetically the same, so I would think entelec key when typing.
  4. We haven’t used uppercase and we haven’t distinguished our password between websites yet.  We can solve both by adding 3 cap letters which are related to the specific website.  Make a rule, for example, the first letter, last letter, then second letter of the website.  So gmail would be 3nte1ec^GLM.  Or you can get more complicated, such as using the second consonant, last vowel, first letter.  3nte1ec^MIG.  Also, have an “escape” rule, in case you have some website like AAA, which has no consonants.  So, for example, if there is no consonant or vowel, sub in the last letter of the website.

Now repeat to create a stronger password, but with a phrase which is about 15 to 20 characters long.  A phrase will work better than a word for this one, for example: Iloveyourdeepblueeyes, yugiohrocksmyworld, idriveanacuraintegra, etc.

Save your password in your password manager plus your rules to complete it.  The last thing to do is type your password several (hundred) times to help get it imprinted in your motor memory (also a good way to remember phone numbers).  If I had to read off my actual password, it would take me several minutes to actually remember what it is, but I can type it in a second or two.

And that’s all there is to it.  Now you have two passwords with upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, which are relatively easy to remember and that are never the same on two different websites.