Non-Financial

Stock quotes import into Excel

I use Microsoft Excel to maintain my portfolio positions in a spreadsheet. One convenient feature about using Excel is that there is a free plug-in available that allows you to download the latest stock and mutual fund quotes directly from the web into the spreadsheet. So you do not have to spend the trouble to key in the latest stock or mutual fund prices when you want to check your latest asset allocation.

2006-10-19-msstockquote.png

The stock quote download plug-in is distributed free from the Microsoft website. You can use the following search keywords “excel stock quote download” from the Microsoft website main page to locate the files. For Excel 2002/2003, here is the link to the file.

Here is how the stock quote toolbar looks like in Excel after you install the plug-in:

2006-10-19-msstockquotetoolbar.png

To insert the latest price of a fund, for example VTSMX, enter the following into a cell:

=MSNStockQuote(“VTSMX”,”Last Price”,”US”)

You can also reference the name of a fund using another cell. For example if cell A1 contains VTSMX, the following will also give the latest price of the fund:

=MSNStockQuote(A1,”Last Price”,”US”)

You can have multiple instances of the above code to download the prices of as many stocks or funds as needed. Once you have modified the spreadsheet with the MSNStockQuote commands, you will be able to view your latest portfolio asset allocation with the click of a button. 🙂

Is Wi-Fi’s 128-bit WEP secure?

2006-10-17-wifi.pngWi-Fi, the technology which allows you to surf the net wirelessly without the cumbersome ethernet wire connection (or the modem connection), is a very convenient feature which many used everyday without much thought. However, as the signals are transmitted through-the-air, it is possible for anyone in the vicinity to eavesdrop into the connection. To prevent this, you need to use encryption.

There are currently a few wireless encryption standards used: 64-bit WEP, 128-bit WEP, WPA and WPA-2. WPA and WPA-2 are the newer standards and might not be available on the device if it was bought 2 or more years ago.

I used to think that 128-bit WEP is very secure; afterall there are 2^128 combinations, which is roughly equals to 3.4 x 10^38 combinations (that’s 34 followed by 37 zeros behind). To put this number into perspective, if we can test a combination in one nanosecond (one second divided into a billion intervals), it will take 1.08 x 10^22 years to run through all the combinations.

Recently, I found that I was badly mistaken. A 128-bit WEP can be cracked in a matter of a few hours; and the 64-bit (40-bit) version can be cracked in a matter of a few minutes. You can read about this in Tom’s Networking HERE.

The solution is to move to the more advance WPA or WPA-2 encryption scheme.

Note: Cracking WEP means that the hacker will have a “physical” connection to your network; it does not mean he/she will have access to your files. That access is usually controlled by the operating system’s file sharing mechanisms.