Monday, August 11, 2014

Not Shibbolethless

In the midst of a busy morning of typing and clicking and clicking and typing, I encountered this:

I've been authenticated before, but never in quite these terms. My laptop computer pronounced Shibboleth correctly and was allowed to cross the Jordan! Makes me feel so special.

Some Googling reveals that Shibboleth has evolved beyond its biblical roots, as I am apparently the last person on the planet to learn. Shibboleth can still refer to words or customs (particularly "outmoded" belief, according to some definitions) that identify a particular group, but Shibboleth is also "among the world's most widely deployed federated identity solutions, connecting users to applications both within and between organizations."

(Federated Identity Solutions: institutional jargon or great name for a rock band?)

Whatever it is, I'm delighted that my laptop passed the Shibboleth test because at the moment this computer is connection to the wider world. We're accustomed to having no cell-phone coverage out here in the woods, but for the past month our landline has been in decline. First it was infected with a bad case of loud static, but after we filed a complaint with Frontier, the static went away--but so did the service. We now have a dead line, total silence, not even a dial tone, and Frontier is not responding to my e-mails.

On the plus side, we're not answering a dozen robo-calls every day. On the other hand, we need a phone. If my house decided to burn down right now, I would have no way to dial 911--and what if I were suddenly overwhelmed by a desire to hear my adorable granddaughter giggle? Dead phone = it's not happening.

But our internet connection, amazingly enough, is stronger than ever. Gone are the days of ultra-slow dial-up or unreliable wireless access; my genius son-in-law installed an antenna that boosts our signal so that I can do just about anything online except view video. In fact, I've even used my laptop to make voice calls over Skype, which worked well enough to make me wonder whether we ought to cancel the land-line entirely. Would my tech-resistant spouse be willing to master a new technology? Or would that be a Shibboleth too far?

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