More Thoughts on Digital Signatures

I have written multiple times about using digital signatures. As I have pointed out before, however, what I am referring to in my posts is actually just a picture of my signature added to a PDF file. A true digital signature is different and includes security and verification protocols. Recently Adobe Acrobat hosted a webinar on using and deploying digital signatures.

Unfortunately, most of the conversation was over my head. It looks like I was not the only one. Ernie the Attorney reports at PDF for Lawyers:

The other day I attended a free online webinar by some Adobe gurus who dove deep into the arcana of digital signatures.  After the dive I realized that I had a mild case of the bends.

Here’s the problem.  Like most people who don’t live in an ‘enterprise world,’ where there’s a rigorous document review cycle, I just want to sometimes slap a ‘digital signature’ on a document and not have the recipient feel like I’ve sent them some bizarre totemic glyph.
My needs are simple.  Apparently, true digital signatures are not.
Ernie correctly notes that people are not familiar with digital signatures and most do not know what to do when they see one. As Ernie explains:
A signature, digital or not, has to satisfy two elements: (1) non-repudiability, and (2) acceptance by the receiving party.  In other words, the point of signing a document is so the recipient knows it’s from you, and that you can’t deny it’s from you (i.e. you can’t repudiate authorship of the document).  Digital signatures are far superior to regular signatures in this arena.  Where they fail miserably is in the ‘acceptance’ part.
Because digital signatures are not familiar to most people they freak out if they see a bunch of numbers where they’re used to seeing indecipherable human scrawl.  So, how to remedy this problem?
The quick and dirty fix is to do what I outline in that blurb I mentioned a few sentences ago. Just create a stamp and slap that on the document you want to ‘sign.’  It won’t be secure like a real digital signature (and if you want to repudiate it you can say your secretary exceeded her authority and stamped it without your knowledge).  But, let’s say you’re a fair-minded, by-the-rules kind of guy (or gal).  Is there another option?
Turns out there is (although this wasn’t covered in the Adobe webinar; I had to find it myself using a snorkle).

Check out Ernie’s entire post to see a simple way of incorporating both a normal looking signature and a digital signature in your electronic documents.

Tips for Using Google Docs

Google Docs is becoming more popular as people realize the advantage of having documents accessible to them anywhere they have internet access. Recently Digital Inspiration posted a “practical guide to Google Docs.” The post includes tips such as the following:

Q: How do I upload all my Microsoft Office documents from the desktop on to Google Docs?

A: List Uploader is a Windows utility that enables you to bulk upload files to Google Docs via drag-n-drop or through the right click menu.

Mac OS X users can upload documents through GDocsUploader – simply drag-n-drop the document onto the uploader icon. Another option is GDocsBar – just drag your files in the Firefox sidebar and they’ll automatically get uploaded to Google Docs.

Q: How do I associate the common Office file extensions like doc/xls/ppt with Google Docs so that desktop documents open directly in the web browser?

A: Get the Google Toolbar for Firefox and select the ‘Google Docs’ checkbox from Toolbar options. This will let you open Office documents directly in the browser bypassing Microsoft Office.

Q: I am worried that someone may hack into my Google Account and delete the important files. To play safe, I want to download all documents from Google Docs locally and burn them on to a CD. Is it possible?

A: To download a copy of all your Google Docs documents on to the hard drive, get this Grease Monkey script. It will create a list of all your online documents that you can download in one step using the DownloadThemAll add-on.

Click here to see the remainder of the tips. If you use Google Docs, you definitely want to read this post.

Thanks to Dumb Little Man for pointing me in the direction of this post.

Safely Using Wi-Fi

The Consumerist has a great post titled The Idiot-Proof Way to Securely Use Public Wi-Fi. The article discusses a variety of VPN solutions to protect your privacy when you are using a public wi-fi connection. I have a VPN through my work. Thus I have not tried any of the listed programs. However, because I am a fan of open source software, I was intrigued with the discussion of OpenVPN. If you want to check it out, it can be found here.

Basic Tech Tips

One thing I have noticed is that the shortcuts people use to make their computing lives easier are usually things that someone else has showed them or, more typically, something they discovered by accident. I can remember freaking myself out the first time I moved my scroll wheel with my Ctrl key depressed. At the time, I had no idea that it changed the display in my browser.

In a recent post, David Pogue has put together his list of basic computer tips. The tips he lists are useful and definitely worthy of reading. Even better, however, his comments are open and he has invited others to provide their tips as well. At this point, there are almost 1,000 comments, the majority of which contain handy tips of their own.

This post from David should be required reading for everyone.

My favorites from David’s list:

You can double-click a word to highlight it in any document, e-mail or Web page.

Nobody, but nobody, is going to give you half of $80 million to help them liberate the funds of a deceased millionaire…from Nigeria or anywhere else.

You can tap the Space bar to scroll down on a Web page one screenful. Add the Shift key to scroll back up.

Extending Your Laptop’s Battery Life

PC Magazine has a great article on extending your laptop’s battery life. The article contains suggestions that we are all familiar with such as dimming your screen and not using the DVD drive. However the article also contains more substantive tips.

Some of these include:

  1. Turn off ports. Disabling unused ports and components, such as VGA, Ethernet, PCMCIA, USB, and yes, your wireless, too. You can do this through the Device Manager or by configuring a separate hardware profile (see next step).
  2. Create Power-Saving Hardware Profiles. Configure your laptop for the various scenarios in which you use it (on a plane, at the coffee shop, at the office, and so on). You can do this through the Hardware Profiles menu by right-clicking on My Computer and selecting Preferences or by using a freeware utility such as SparkleXP (for Windows XP users).
  3. Configure your display to turn off when not in use. This is different from just using a screensaver, because in many cases a screensaver still requires the display’s backlight to be on. You can set the interval to turn the display off in Windows’ Power Options—found in the Control Panel.

The article contains several more tips, all of which will help you extend your laptop’s battery life. i urge you to check it out.

Blocking Cellphone Spam

Spam is the bane of our email existence. Recently David Pogue wrote about how to stop cell phone spam. He explained the problem as:

OK, now I’m really, REALLY annoyed. Within a week, my wife and I have both started getting spam text messages on our Verizon cellphones. I know that this is nothing new, but it’s new for us, and it’s apparently getting worse.

David explains that blocking the cell phone spam is relatively easy. He provides instructions on how to do this for all of the major cell phone services. For example, to block text spam if you have Verizion Wireless:

Verizon Wireless: Log in at Under Text Messaging, click Preferences. Click Text Blocking. You’re offered choices to block text messages from e-mail or from the Web. Here again, you can block specific addresses or Web sites. (Here’s where you set up your aliases, too.)

If you are having a problem with cell phone spam, you definitely want to read this article.

A tip of the hat to Jim Calloway to pointing me in the direction of this article.

Another Word Tip

One question I often get from others who are frustrated with Word deals with how to fix the formatting in a particular document. Often the formatting screw ups occur because someone was not properly using styles. Somethimes, however, the formatting is screwed up because the document is imported from aonther format or because someone pasted text without using the Paste Special function.

The best way to deal with this formatting problem is to take the formatting back to square one. You can easily do this simply by selecting the text and then pressing Ctrl + Enter. This converts the formatting for the selected text to the Normal style. Once it is there, you can then reformat the document as appropriate.

I Heart Adriana

I love Adriana Linares‘ blog I Heart Tech. Her posts often contain the best tips. Her tips are so good becaue they are often very simple to perform, plus they are practical. Her latest tip is a tip for Outlook that I love. In her tip, she explains how to simulaneously view nonsequential days in Outlook. As she explains:

  1. Start by going to the Calendar view in Outlook, you’ll see (hopefully) a thumbnail view of the current month on the left hand side of Outlook .
  2. Press and hold the Control (Ctrl) key down as you click on the dates you want to view.
  3. The big Calendar pane to the right will change to show you only those dates.
  4. You can even select dates in other months by going to those months (see red arrow on graphic) and still Ctrl + Clicking.

This is so simple to do, yet it is something that never occured to me.

Ways to Beat Stress

In a recent post, Dumb Little Man gave some good tips for beating stress when working at home. Although aimed at people who work from home, you can apply most of the tips, regardless of where you work. This is especially true if you take your work home with you.

My two favorite tips are:

It’s all about the time

Really, it is. When you decide to work from home, it is you who would decides your working hours and how you can get the maximum the time. I know time-management is cliche now and you are tired of hearing it again and again, still the fact remains that you can’t get yourself out of the 24/7 schedule. If you set your priorities right and allot time to different parts of your work, in the end you’ll work less hours and gain more out of it. In other words you’ll be more productive.

Disrupt the continuity

Sitting at your desk for 5-6 hours continuously isn’t a good thing for your eyes or your health. I mean, it’s common sense right. So whether you take 3-4 short 5 minute breaks or 1-2 long breaks, you gotta take them.

If you work from home any, you should check out the entire post. Also, if you are not reading Dumb Little Man, you should be. In their own words, the purpose of their blog is as follows:

Welcome to Dumb Little Man. Each week we provide a handful of tips that will save you money, increase your productivity, or simply keep you sane.

They certainly have an eclectic mix of topics that they cover. However, during the week I almost always find some useful information there.