A password protected area for the web site, with no password

Dennis Faas's picture

I bet you're just dying to know "what's new in the land of infopackets.com?"

Seek the answer to that question no further!

Since I developed "How to Install / Reinstall Windows: downloadable Video and eBook Ultimate Guide", the response from users has been tremendous.

What can I say?

First, I'd like to personally thank Microsoft for introducing so many bugs in the Windows Operating System and for making everyone's lives miserable because of it. If it wasn't for their valiant effort, I would not have taken time out of my busy schedule to produce such a helpful guide. Hey, I guess that's the way the Microsoft cookie crumbles!

And all is well again... sort of.

Out of the many users who purchased the guide, I received a few emails from folks that were having problems getting into the password protected area of the infopackets.com web site. This area of the web site houses all the pay-tutorials I've developed, such as the "How to Install / Reinstall Windows: downloadable Video and eBook Ultimate Guide."

Welcome to Password Protection Hell

After scratching my head and wondering why only a few people were having such a difficult time trying to obtain access to the protected area of the web site -- and after testing it myself and being able to get in 100% of the time -- I came to the conclusion that it was incorrect input (from the user) which was causing the grief.

So, I asked myself, "What could cause a user to enter the data incorrectly?"

There were multiple reasons why the login and password information could have been inputted improperly:

  1. The user's passwords, which were generated by the program, always included non-sensible (non-English) passwords (example: gklfoaghqm might be a password). Because passwords were non-sensible, this increased the probability that a user might make an error when attempting to gain access;
  2. The password field in the Authentication Window (the window prompting for the password) would not display the password as it was being typed in. Therefore, users were not able to determine if they made a mistake while typing in the password;
  3. There were two areas of input: a user email address and password. If either one was incorrect, the user could not gain access to the ebook and video. Furthermore, having two areas of input also made it twice as likely for an error to occur during input.

Solution: find another way to protect files on the web site where there is no user input, and no chance for input errors.

Finding the answer to this problem was no easy task.

I had to sit and think about it for some time, but I came up with a pretty good idea -- and it didn't even require that a user had to enter a password! The solution was to provide a direct web link to the "protected" files (ebook and video) -- the hitch was to have the web link expire after a certain amount of time. This would stop anyone from "sharing" the link freely.

I sat down for about 20 minutes and came up with an algorithm.

Do you remember when I talked about algorithms? To recap: an algorithm is a method used to get something done. In this case, I needed a heavy-duty algorithm to write my new "members only" program.

After reviewing the algorithm and thinking about the possibilities, I began writing my program. So far so good, I thought. Unfortunately, I neglected a few critical steps in my algorithm and before I knew it, I had spaghetti code.

Back to the drawing board!

That's the way it is, sometimes. After some more hard work and careful methodology, I re-wrote the program from the bottom-up and was able to finish it within 2 days... and voila -- no more password problems!

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