RoboForm is my friend

I keep meaning to post something about Roboform. It’s a nice little utility that keeps track of your personal info – credit card stuff, online passwords, notes – and secures it for you behind a single password. It integrates with IE and Firefox (it’s PC-only, though) and presents itself as a toolbar.

I used to be guilty of keeping a very small number of passwords that were pretty easy to guess at. This made me uncomfortable when it came to sites such as Paypal or my bank’s site, where someone could do some damage if they logged in to my account. Now I use Roboform to create *random* paswords for me, then remember them. If this random-ness makes you uncomfortable, remember that you’ve usually got an “I’ve forgotten my password and I can’t get up” option on most sites. Roboform has a search box that I can type a partial login title into to find saved information. Opening a login takes you to the site *and* logs you in, so it acts as a bookmark manager of sorts as well.

Roboform is also smart about entering your info into Web-based order forms. It can usually figure out which fields on a form it can fill for you and does so quickly. If you don’t feel comfortable entering in your credit card info, even allowing Roboform to manage your address info is a big timesaver. Roboform allows you to maintain multiple identities (work/home/spouse/etc) as well.

Roboform keeps its info encrypted in individual files in a folder of your choosing. This makes it easy to backup your data or synchronize between two computers (laptop/desktop). The folks that make Roboform offer a free-for-personal-use file-sync utility. Roboform can sync with a Palm or run from a USB drive (both are separate non-free products, though). It’s even easy to securely email logins.

Roboform encrypts all of this info with a password, so you’re secure even if someone gets access to your machine. It can even handle multiple-password encryption schemes (like blowfish) to handle employee/supervisor scenarios.

Roboform is one of my must-haves.

Note: the first thing I recommend to folks installing Roboform for the first time is to open the options, go to the general tab, and de-select “Offer to save logins from web(HTML) forms”. This makes it so Roboform isn’t so eager and in your face all of the time. If you want it to save a form, you can hold “shift” when you submit the form (via submit button or “enter”) and Roboform will offer to save the login info.

Don't go there, friend… of meta refreshes and status codes.

I know I’ve been guilty of this one in the past, but I want you to make this pledge along here with me: “No more abuse of the meta refresh!”

I know — it’s a handy in so many ways. I used it most often as a way to create short URLs for my visitors that would redirect to a page with a longer, more complicated URL. I’d create a directory off of the root of a site and pop an index.html in the directory that would include a meta refresh to send visitors on to another page.

“So, what’s the deal?”

While the meta refresh appears to do the job, it’s not the best method to acheive this result. Two problems spring to mind… Firstly, it mucks up your visitor’s browser history. If they try to hit “back” from the page you redirected to, they’ll quickly find themselves back on the page, since the meta refresh will do it’s thing and redirect them again. The other issue is that most reputable search engines typically ignore meta refreshes. They have long been abused by search engine spammers and the search indexers have adapted.

The answer?

Use the 301 “Moved Permanently” status code. The 301 status code tells browsers and search indexers that the content they are looking for can be found in another location. It’s Google-friendly and preserves your users’ browser history.

But how?

If you’re using Apache, it’s a matter of updating your .htaccess file. I’m a ColdFusion guy, myself and the following code works for me:

<cfheader statuscode="301" statustext="Moved Permanently">
<cfheader name="Location" value="">