My reasoning in using a cookie for user recognition, rather than relying on the 
ID, was that with a cookie I could ensure that the connection effectively 
lasted for some
specified period, whereas the session ID lifetime seems to be somewhat short and

Shouldn't be.
You can tell sessions to last as long or short as you want.

As far as login goes, there are many ways to do it and the best way depends upon what you are doing.

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