What is Identity and Access Management?

Online identity is what I've been building my career on (career phase II), and it is high time I say a bit about what this is. In its most essential form, identity and access management is all about logging on. Whenever you log in to a computer, you are taking part in a small ceremony of telling a computer who you are. There are many ways of doing this; using a username and a password is the most common.

There are some problems with doing things this way, and they can be fixed. Allow me to focus a bit on what might be problematic for you.

1) People forget passwords. It happens all the time, after all, how could you be expected to remember the hundreds of passwords you might have? But why do we have hundreds of passwords? Many people instead have one or two passwords they use everywhere. But what if you give that password away to someone you now wish you hadn't, or what if that password is stolen? It doesn't have to be this way, we don't have to have hundreds of passwords.

2) People move. Changing your address shouldn't be so hard, and your address is certainly a part of your identity. Some people also change their names but still want their old identities to be tied to their new name, for example when they get married.

3) You cannot revoke information once you've given it away. But you should be able to. There is no workable legal framework for doing this today, without spending a lot of time and money.

These are some of the big issues in the identity space. There are another set of big issues if your perspective is one of website operator, such as a bank.

So, this is identity and access management. All of the technology, protocols, and conventions around getting computers to recognize who someone is and managing the information needed to do that.


Deep-fried Mars bar

While eating at the Templeton the other day, my lunch companion and I decided on a whim to try their dessert special of the day; a deep-fried mars bar. We were not entirely sure if we should be doing this, but it was the kind of silly thing that once the idea gets a little bit of momentum, just keeps going until its inevitable conclusion. The mars bars arrived on a plate, with whipping cream (needed) and with a bit of chocolate caramel sauce, just in case the sugary overload of a mars bar wasn't enough. There were even sprinkles.

Sure there are nearly 6 billion people in the world and most of them can't eat deep fried mars bars, nor if they actually knew what they were would willingly do so, but right here there were two suckers that did it. About 5 minutes and most of the way through the mars bar, the edges of normalicy were well into peeling away. The combination of insane sugar rush and eating a chocolate bar with knife and fork resulted in said lunch party sitting stunned as fits of giggles took over. The crash was surprisingly not so bad; it was like being pulled back in a giant playground bungee ride and shot up into the sky, and just when you're about to fall back to earth you suddenly find yourself standing on two feet again without the harness on.

But let's be clear on this, it was fun but something that only needs to be done once!



Yesterday I was invited to go to the Vancouver Metrobloggers meetup, and I had a great time! It was fun to meet some new people, play bocci ball, and be interviewed podcast style. Wow do I ever need to work on my interviewing skills, but that's really all part of the fun!

As a post-note; It has been a long-time goal of mine (dating back several years at least) to become a morning person. Actually making it happen was much harder than just wishing it so. Lately it seems like this change is finally coming around to happening full-time, as I just seem to have a much easier time getting out of bed and putting myself to work right away instead of lounging about waiting for all the time to slip away.


A day for healing

Well, today I'm home from work and recovering from a cold. This was brought on by some dental work on Wednesday, a sudden burst of pollen from local flowering trees and perhaps a little too much sun on Saturday. Either way I'm on the mend but just need to take the day off to recover and really kick the pants off this "gotcha".

There is also a stack of important things that should get done that seem to have been put off far too long. I've slipped behind on writing emails I'd like to write. Also while I'm here and faced with my space I feel a need to hit it pretty hard in terms of getting it cleaned up. Sometimes I feel like I'm ahead of the cleaning, but today is not one of those times!

So, lots of water, lots of rest. And writing emails and doing some cleaning.


Tickets are booked! Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal

Well I've gone and done it, I'll by flying to Toronto on August 27th and flying back to Vancouver on September 16th. What happens during those 20 days I've not quite figured out, but generally here's the plan:

- 8 days in and around Toronto, including Labour day long weekend (!). I hope to hang out with some friends, make contact with at least one old acquaintance, and explore this city!

- 7 days between Ottawa and Montreal. I've heard the train is the way to travel here and I'll need to book accommodations early; this is still something I need to figure out. Also this part of the trip will be fairly compressed; I'd like to visit the "big places" in Ottawa, and pretty much just spend a few days hanging out with whatever cool people I happen to bump into in Montreal. And visit at least one Jazz club.

- And to wrap up, 5 days visiting dear Mom in PEI :) It's already been two years since we last were able to give each other a hug. How odd to know that the last time I was in PEI (5 years ago?), photography was something other people did, not me.


Mmm the dentist

Just got back from the dentist for two fillings; that freeze stuff is pretty effective. Frankly I barely even noticed the dentist doing her work, they had me glued to episodes of "Sex and the City".


For dinner, a stir-steam

Today marks day one of a new era in my life, cooking in a somewhat organized fashion, and I'm happy to blog about everthing coming together to make a productive and decent meal. It meant going to bed early so I could get up early and decide on a recipie for dinner before going to work. Writing down the ingredients I needed and shopping on my way home. Getting chores underway and fitting the chopping in between other tasks.

So here's what I made; Asparagus, onion, tomato stir-steam. This involves simmering the asparagus (1lb) and onions (1sml) in 4tbl of water for about 7 minutes; then adding soy sauce (2tsp) and ginger (1tsp finely chopped) and finally the tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes) go in just long enough to heat.

Pretty simple dish, but that's a good start for where my cooking skills are at. The dish could use a bit more spice, but I've not yet figured out what will work. Also the ginger was quite nice but subtle and I'd like to find a way to enhance the dish without losing the ginger.

Weekend in Seattle

We're at a far corner of the street market in Seattle's Chinatown. There is drumming from a nearby stage where few minutes ago dancers were creating shapes from their clothing, fans and stance. We've been walking through the tent stores, considering all sorts of colourful shirts and scarves and tapestries. The last tent on this row is a one-day temple, within and around it are enrobed monks and a few helpers. There is red everywhere, the inside of the wide-open tent is an overwhelming visual feast. The designs create a space that is immediately sacred without any further explanation. A woman standing in front of the tent with a handful of burning incense catches my eye.

"Would you like to make an incense offering for good luck?" she asks.
I nod, "sure, why not?"

Rachael's ahead of me and has already made an incense offering; Hendrik is buying cherries. There is a large pot with sand and burning incense, most of the incense appears to be recently lit since I don't see any drooping ash.

She hands me the incense and tells me:
"Speak your name out loud, then say your wish within you as you place the incense in the sand."

I carry the incense over to the offering pot and speak my name out loud. I think the words of my wish and nestle the incense in with the other stalks. A monk standing next to the offering hands me a small slip of paper, on which is an intricate design with a central figurine, a goddess I think but I've no idea which.

As I emerge from the tent, Hendrik is there and he offers some cherries. They are very good!


This is one moment out of so many from this weekend. Rachael and I drove down to visit Hendrik in Seattle and together we explored some of this city. Hendrik is a great guy, just hanging out with him is satisfying because I always learn something new and he seems to move through life with a gentle grace. Plus we found some really fun things to do (arrr!) and places to visit (that library really is incredible). All together, a tremendous weekend. Thank you Hendrik!


Getting back into CSS and looking at AJAX

Suddenly a good reason to brush up on the long-neglected and somewhat underdeveloped skill of CSS has arrived. This morning I found myself immersed in exploring the state-of-the-art of CSS, and I've got to say, the state is very good. The last time I was this deep in CSS was in 2001 or so, and times have changed since then. These days, there are browser bugs but not nearly as bad as in 2001, and there are websites such as quirksmode that document the way to avoid the bugs. Of course the CSS Zen Garden is still a masterful resource, among many others that have popped up. At this point, I'm not going to link to any more CSS sites as it will take some time to mature my taste in CSS resources, but I'm very impressed by the accessibility of work for both design and layout ideas.

So now that CSS has matured into the wonderfully expressive medium that it is, what's next? Lots of people are getting excited about AJAX and quite frankly so am I. My career was built in the webapp space so I'm very aware of the problems AJAX is trying to solve; the intermingling of layout and content being the greatest point of pain for many people.


Collaboration Mode: GPLv3

Zak pointed me towards the new draft GPLv3(*) comments site. Zak and I were disscussing some of the DRM issues and I wanted to take a closer look myself. While I've not yet had time to really dive into the issue, what stood out right away (and Zak mentioned) was the mode of collaboration over this important document.

Anyone can select text and comment on it. As more people comment on specific slices of text, the colour of the text changes from white to red to black, so you can immediately see what parts of the document are under intense scrutiny. This kind of collaboration is a great way for computers and the Internet to help bring out the wisdom we have.

(*) The GPL is the core of free software, and I really like free software because it provides a foundation that is the software we all own, as a species. If you've never seen the GPL before, take a look at the document preamble.


Canada Day

There's something nice about returning to Canada on Canada day. Despite the day being very busy for the airports, there were no problems and my flight even arrived a few minutes early. There was a surprising shortage of patriotic accoutrements; I somewhat expected to be handed a flag to show my pride but all I got was a peppering of questions pertaining to my work and educational background.

The day was brought to a close in the company of Rachael, Mandy and Zak. We had a very nice beachside picnic with a complete view; seadooers frolicking in the swimmers area, loons wearing purple underwear, long shadows cast from tilly-clad tourists. It was a cool and entertaining spot that we chose for our relax-in-the-grass kind of take-out.

It was great to see Mandy again (still waiting on film from the last time we met) and to meet her husband Zak. Zak is very much a believer in open source, he's made it central to his work and it's refreshing to meet someone so dedicated to building community around tools many of us take for granted (such as Firefox).