Monday, December 30, 2013

5 Ways to Prepare Yourself for a Paperless New Year

There's still a couple of days left before the start of the new year, and thus very little time to prepare for a resolution to start the year out paperless. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you ready yourself and your workflows for this new endeavor. 

1. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Going paperless is a process that will take some time. Don't expect to just flip the switch on January 1 and become paperless. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

2. Define your motivation. Why are you going paperless? Environmentalism? Mobility? Search-ability? Scaleability? Any of these are great reasons. What's yours? You needn't pick only one. 

3. Evaluate your hardware needs. Are you starting with only new inputs into your system or do you plan to go back and digitize old documents? What format(s) do you need to store documents in? Where will you be when you receive new documents? How will you be accessing stored documents? You will have a plethora of choices when picking scanners, storage, laptops, tablets, phones, etc. Is staying in one ecosystem (such as iOS, Android or Windows) important to you or are you willing to mix them?

4. Ask for digital. Don't be afraid to ask others to start sending you information in digital formats. Make clear your choice to avoid paper whenever possible. 

5. Don't be afraid to fail. This is a process that will require time. Be prepared to stumble. You will meet resistance from external sources. You will fall back into old habits of printing. That's okay. Pick yourself back up and objectively evaluate the issue(s). Move in the paths of least resistance first.

Going paperless is a rewarding journey, one that will keep you constantly challenging yourself and motives. There are many gains to be made but it may take some time before you first start to realize them. Relax, enjoy the ride, and know you're not alone on the road.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why I switched to the iPhone, and why I waited until now

I remember my first night with my Pilot 1000 PDA way back in June of 1996. One of my first thoughts after using it for an hour or so was "Why didn't they make the interface finger-friendly?"

Fast-forward to 2007 when Apple released their first iPhone. I was intrigued with the idea of their capacitive screen and lack of stylus. But this first version was lacking a few things imperative for me. I considered what Apple included in this first iteration a good first go-round, but the lack of ability to add third-party apps left the original iPhone out of the running.

In 2008 Apple practically reinvented the iPhone with 3G, third-party apps, GPS, etc. I was not eligible for a subsidized price on the new iPhone as I had recently upgraded to a new smartphone a few months earlier. But I had high hopes. Apple made the world stand up and take notice of smartphones and I had hoped that while developers began building new and creative applications for the iPhone, much of that would cross to other smartphone platforms also. I had enjoyed the previous year using some of the web apps designed for the iPhone and spent the remainder of 2008 anxiously awaiting some of these new apps on my smartphone platform.

I was disappointed at the lack of attention developers were paying to other platforms while at the same time witnessing an increasingly web-centric nature to smartphone apps and services. In specific I was disappointed with Microsoft who was unable to answer the challenge for a finger-friendly platform. Windows Mobile 6.5 is already too little too late to the arena and by the time 7.0 arrives, I fear Microsoft will be consigned to "also ran" status. I do applaud Blackberry for thinking outside the box and pressing forward with both their existing OS and their new finger optimized version in the Storm and to Palm for rethinking their entire platform; though why they chose Sprint to host their initial device I have no idea.

The iPhone has turned my eye more than a few times this past year, but little details it was lacking kept me from moving on it when I became eligible for one. It's ironic that the iPhone lacked cut and paste until this year given that Apple was the one to finesse that feature some 25 years ago. Once I became eligible for the upgrade, I vowed to wait until June to see if they would again update the hardware.

I wasn't disappointed. This third iteration of the iPhone seems to finally be a true contender in the smartphone arena. A vast array of third party apps, many of which are not available for any other platform, a speed boost, well for those in the right area anyway--I'm still confined to Edge speeds in my corner of the world--and an operating system that has matured well beyond its humble beginnings.

Apple, you've won me over and I anxiously await the delivery of my new iPhone 3GS.

Password Security 101

Lately I’ve had a number of people ask me about password security. How does one secure themselves against identity theft, or even financial theft, on the Internet, by using different passwords for every site yet still remember them all without resorting to writing them down?

I initially came across the concept of a ‘personal hash’ thanks to Thinking Blog. The idea is to create a password unique to each site by utilizing information from that site and a unique, yet consistent, way of putting it together.

Over time I’ve refined it quite a bit. Here’s how I do it now:
  • Keep a list of every site you visit that requires a password. It is still a good idea to change your personal hash method occasionally, and a checklist can help you plow through all the sites you visit without being a compromising list of your passwords.
  • Create a bogus word. For my example here I’ll use ‘fsoph’. This should be a word that doesn’t appear in a dictionary. Spend a few minutes with Google to locate one.
  • Decide on a password length. Some sites require a minimum of 6 characters or 8 characters, or no more than 15. I find 8 to 10 works best.
  • Create a ‘personal hash’ method.
Say you’re visiting A 10 character personal hash might look like this: First your made up word, then the first vowel of the site name (a), then the first letter of the site name (p), then the total number of characters in the site name (6), then the last consonant (l), and the last letter capitalized (L).

In the personal hash shown above your password for Paypal would be ‘fsophap6lL’. You can recreate this password every time you visit the site simply by looking at the address bar. You can vary this by including less or more from the site name or the made up word.

I advise using upper and lower case letters along with at least 1 number. In the case above, if the site name had more than 9 characters, you might elect to reduce it to a single number by adding the digits up until you get to a single digit, or simply using the ones place or even the tens place as the single number. You can vary the position of the made up word you use to the middle, end or even break it up into 2 or more pieces. The important part is that the word cannot be guessed with a dictionary trial and error method, and that you can recreate the password simply by visiting the site.
  • Lastly, I advise you keep a written copy of what your personal hash is someplace safe, say with the paperwork you keep for your next of kin to look at should you unexpectedly die; you do have that filed somewhere, right?
  • When the time comes to change passwords, simply grab a copy of your list of websites, create a new personal hash, and spend a couple of hours changing them all and checking them off as you go.
  • Once you’re done be sure to update your “In event of death” paperwork.
Like two men trying to outrun a tiger—only the slowest gets eaten; make sure someone else’s password is easier to guess than yours and you’re generally safer.