Friday, June 6, 2008

Job application weirdness of the day


I am still unemployed, and I am going to take out my frustration with the process on my blog. Yesterday, I tried applying for one job, but the site had two problems: 1) they insist one use Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or greater and 2) every time I tried submitting, the code handing the process would suffer a catastrophic error and give a detailed listing of what happened that is utterly meaningless to anyone other than the person who wrote the job application submission code.

Problem 1 was relatively easy to overcome, despite my ideological refusal to use Microsoft software whenever I do not need to (and the whole point of Web standards is so that one can use any standards-compliant software and not be chained to a particular vendor) and the simple fact that Internet Explorer ≥6.0 does not exist for Mac OS X. I currently use Safari 3.1.1 (latest version as of this writing), and in the Preferences window under the “Advanced” tab there is the option “Show Develop menu in menu bar”. When enabled, one can choose a specific “User Agent” and lie to Web sites about which browser one is using. Aaron 1, Microsoft chauvinists 0.

Problem 2 took a bit longer to crack (figured it out a few minutes ago), but it all came out to a matter of passwords. My standard method of choosing passwords is to use text which I see or hear at the point I need it. E.g., I have a copy of Vanity Fair by W. M. Thackeray near me right now, so if I needed a new password, I might take some text off the front cover, such as “MODERN LIBRARY COLLEGE EDITIONS”. This system has the advantage of being highly unpredictable. The obvious disadvantage is that I have to keep records of my passwords, but good security is not always convenient. The not-so-obvious disadvantage is that many Web sites on the Internet have arbitrary rules for passwords, e.g., demanding that there be a number or symbol in them or refusing passwords with spaces in them. It turns out the problem with the site I was trying to submit to is one of the most idiotic limitations on passwords since it reduces the work anyone has to do to crack the system: the site crashed in response to a password that was too long. I wanted to use a four-word phrase, but the site only was happy when I fed it an eight-character password.

Go figure.

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