Category Archives: Non-Profits

QR Codes as a Password/Key Storage Mechanism

I was doing some recent volunteer work for the Concord Scout House, Inc., setting up a new network and telephony infrastructure for this non-profit enterprise. In setting up the various pieces of equipment, I was sure to create strong passwords and use key and certificate based encryption or similar security mechanisms in order to keep things secure.

Of course, I kept copies for my own records in a suitable electronic format (I personally do local plus encrypted cloud backups of critical files via Spider Oak). As this is a volunteer job, it is very possible someone else will need to do something with this infrastructure at a later point – when I may no longer be involved with the organization. This left me with the problem of how to document and pass on those passwords and keys in a convenient and durable fashion to those who may follow.

I could prepare a DVD or flash drive with the passwords and keys, etc. in simple text files to hand over. This could work fine but also quickly fall prey to changes in applications or operating systems (e.g.: Wordpad or vi? Unix or DOS line feeds?), hardware technology (how many Android phones have a DVD reader? will USB2/3 ports be usable in 10 years?) or simple hardware failure (scratched DVD). For convenience’s sake, I will provide a soft copy on DVD (as that may be stored easily in a file folder) but there’s one medium all organizations still know how to deal with and store safely: paper.

I could simply print out the passwords and certificates/keys as plain text on sheets of paper, but then someone trying to use it would have to accurately type in that text at a later point where/when required. As we’re talking 100+ characters in some cases, this simply won’t work. Here’s where QR codes come in. I happened upon this blog post which mentioned the idea of using QR codes to store such text as a paper record, able to be machine read for accuracy at a later point. Brilliant!

So here’s a practical example of generating such a paper copy of a password using only online free resources, so no software installation required (of course, there are many programs or apps you may install, should you wish to be off-grid):

The password example:

This1sMy_SuperS3kr3t-pASSwORD=wh1ch*woulD_b3-a-R0y4l+payn3>2>tyP3!

This is a very strong password which, although it isn’t simply random, is still quite secure due to its length (66 chars.) alone. Even the NSA with all its resources would take a very long time to crack it, provided the encryption mechanism doesn’t suffer from a back door or other systemic vulnerability. Given the pseudo english phrasing it would be possible to type or even memorize this password, but it wouldn’t be easy. And a single character discrepancy means not getting in to wherever it protects.

Generating the QR code:
One of many free online QR code generation sites is qrstuff.com. Taking the above password there, we can plug it into their on-line code generator:
Generating the QR code online

And download the image file of that password in a QR code:
Generated QR code

This QR code can then be placed on a printed page.

Reading the QR code to “reawaken” the text:
There are also many online QR reader/decoding sites, including: webqr.com.

This site provides for you to either take a picture of the code via your device’s camera, or upload a file with the code image (say from a scanner or photo of the paper page) and returns the code content.

Uploading the above QR code image file results in the following:
Decoding the QR image

A perfect copy of the original plain text password!

Contra Dance Calling Log

Update 1/1/2019: This post is no longer maintained and now well out of date as I’ve been calling and leading dancing regularly for over a decade now. I lead contra dances at regular series about New England and also in several other states. I also do special events/festivals and private Barn Dance events for schools, scouting groups, churches, social groups, etc. Please see my calling page for more information.


Continue reading Contra Dance Calling Log

Free PDUs for Project Management Professionals (PMPs)

I’ve been a certified project management professional (PMP) with the Project Management Institute for several years now. As part of that comes the need for gaining 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) in each three-year Continuing Certification Requirements (CCR) cycle.

This may sound like a daunting amount, but you can achieve a great portion of this for work you are already doing by practicing in the field and by performing volunteer PM duties for non-profits, etc. Besides these real world activities, completing training or studies related to the field of project management is the next natural way to pursue PDUs, but there are many others ( full details re: theCCRs are available at the PMI site).

The good news is that there are excellent resources out there for training and study which are totally free. This post is my personal list of some of those resources — please feel free to comment with additional ones and I will add them to the list.


PMCentersUSA Complimentary Webinars – Earn 0.5 PDUs/per.
Presented over lunch hour Eastern/US time – lunch and learn! They are not a PMI REP (IIRC), so these need to be filed under another category.
http://pmcentersusa.com/KnowledgeCenter/LiveWebinarsSchedule.aspx

They also have some on-demand free offerings:
http://pmcentersusa.com/KnowledgeCenter/WebinarsonDemand.aspx

IAG Consulting Complimentary Webinars – Earn 1.0 PDUs/per.
Presented over lunch hour Mountain/US time. Mostly on requirements capture and management, their specialty. They are a PMI REP, so these are all cat 3.
http://www.iag.biz/resources/webinar-events/

They also offer on-demand webcasts:
http://www.iag.biz/resources/webinars/on-demand-webinars.html

ESI International is another source, and is a PMI REP.
Free live sessions presented over lunch hour Mountain/US time.

Live events: http://www.esi-intl.com/en/Resources/Events.aspx
On-demand: http://www.esi-intl.com/en/Resources/Webinars-on-Demand.aspx

They also present IMPACT 2010, a day-long yearly virtual event, coming up September 29th. http://request.esi-intl.com/content/IMPACT_2010

Gantthead.com runs a yearly live “virtual conference” called PMXPO.
This is another day long live event which is also now available as recorded sessions. They are a PMI REP, so these are all cat 3.

You have to register on their site to access the resources, but there’s a free level of membership. They also offer lots of other free content of interest to PMs.

Update 3 Sep. 2010: Through a posting on a LinkedIn PMP group today, there was a link to this Examiner article which detailed the following additional resources (nice!):

1) Earn 30 PDUs in Category 2:

a. Category 2 –SDL: Self-Directed Learning:

* 15 PDUs – Visit http://pm411.org/ and start listening to their free podcasts. 60 minutes of listening qualifies for 1 PDU you can claim. Remember you can claim up to 15 PDUs from this type per each 3-year cycle. Keep a record of what you heard as PMI.org may audit your claims.

b. Category 2 H: Practitioner of project and/or program management services:

* 15 PDUs per 3-year cycle. Did you work as a Project Manager for more than 1,500 project hours during the past 3 calendar years? If so, you can claim these and it costs you nothing.

2) Earn 85 PDUs (yes, you can transfer up to 20 PDUs towards your next 3-year cycle) under Category 3 – PMI Registered Education Providers. And yes, these are all free:

a. 26 PDUs – Visit the International Institute of Learning’s web site. It has a number of podcasts and webinars for free:

* 2 PDUs – Hear Dr. Harold Kerzner’s 8 Modules Podcasts series on PM’s Best Practices, Executive and Line Managers in Project Management and the PMO. These qualify for 2 PDUs.
* 20 PDUs when you register to take over 20 Webinars offered by the institute, each worth 1 PDU

b. 24 PDUs – Visit Solution’s Cube Group site and register for two FREE live webinars offered each month, worth 1PDU each.

c. 18 PDUs – Visit IBM’s Rational Project and Portfolio Management certification training e-kit site. There are four free interactive training courses each worth 4 PDUs and one free course worth 2 PDUs.

d. 5 PDUs – Visit Provedia Learning Inc’s site and take the free course on Rescuing Troubled Projects worth 5 PDUs .

3) Earn 12 PDUs under Category 4 – Other Program Provider:

a. 12 PDUs – Visit Rita Mulcahy’s RMC Project Management, Inc site. It offers 12 free pre-recorded webinars per calendar year each worth 1 PDU.

Did you know that Categories 3 and 4 have no maximum on how many PDUs you can claim? So go ahead, listen and claim. And keep in mind, not only are you going to learn a lot by taking these PDUs, but you can return to many of these sites each cycle and earn your PDU requirements again for free. Good luck and share this knowledge with your fellow PMP-ers.

Update January 2014: I’ve noticed several recent comments posted which are straying from the Free PDU topic and show evidence of being posted by paid commenters. I am marking these comments as SPAM, which feeds back to a central registry of comment SPAMmers – so don’t bother commenting unless you’re just a plain old interested human being!

Debut of the all new ConcordScoutHouse.org

Tonight I finished initial delivery of a large project I’ve had going with the Concord Scout House, Inc. (CSH). I was approached to do some web work with them as a result of what I’d previously done with MondayContras.com.

This project has been going on, to some degree, since January of 2010 (non-profits work seems to go in fits and starts). CSH is a group whose prior web site was showing its age. Users and other constituents were frustrated that information on the site was old and inaccurate, but there was no easy way to update the content via the folks then involved. The site was running on an infrastructure that was out of proportion to the group’s needs (but had been provided at no cost), and was too complicated for them to manage themselves.

The solution I composed included using a very simple yet powerful GPL’d Content Management Sysytem (CMS) which their non-technical content managers could use to maintain the public-facing site. At the same time, I secured them a non-profit (aka Education) account for using the Google Apps platform and integrated that with their web presence as a backend suite. The end result meets their current needs and will scale into the future easily. Should I be hit by a truck, the technologies involved are much more mainstream and should be able to be picked up by someone else with the right skills.

And the best part? It will cost them well under $50/year to operate — web, email, calendar, docs: everything. Yep, less than fifty bucks.

I can’t wait to see what CSH do with it, now that the modern tools are in their hands! You can check it out here: http://concordscouthouse.org .