Do You Change Your Passwords?

April 14, 2010

I don’t know about you but my IT department makes me change my computer password on the regular basis. And generally it’s been a standard practice to do so in many organizations. Computer experts for years have been recommending it also. It’s a security thing, right?

Well not so fast. Turns out that in a study by Microsoft, they found that changing your password regularly didn’t make any difference in thwarting cyberattacks.

Huh? you might ask. Well think about it. If someone hacks your “account” they’re not going to sit on it, waiting for you to change your password. They’ll use it immediately, probably changing your password first so you can’t access your account. And it looks like changing your password on a regular basis may have a detrimental effect in that more people will write down their passwords if they have to change them frequently. Makes sense, it can be harder to remember them if you’re constantly changing them.

I’ll be honest, I don’t change mine unless I have too. I have gotten a little smarter about it over the last couple of years.

  1. I steer away from easy to guess passwords, using a combination of letters, symbols and numbers that don’t mean anything
  2. Use a program to keep track of my passwords instead of writing them down. Yes this means that I used to do that, I had a printed sheet right next to my computer with all my login’s & passwords.

#2 has been fantastic! I have a Mac at home and an iPhone. So I use 1Password, it can keep track of all my information but requires that I type in a Master password before it’ll give me that information. The desktop version integrates with my browser, so it will automatically put my login and password into a site I’m logging into. After I put in my Master password that is. Nice, huh?

I highly recommend looking into a similar program for your use if you don’t already have one.

For more information on the study and it’s results, check out the article on Yahoo! News http://news.yahoo.com/s/ytech_wguy/20100413/tc_ytech_wguy/ytech_wguy_tc1590

Word Forms

March 23, 2010

Used to be, I’d encourage people to fore-go using Word for creating forms. And by forms I mean a document that has fields, check boxes, dropdowns, etc. Sure I could design a form in Word but then I’d just turn around and convert it into a PDF and make it a form using Acrobat. There was, I thought, a lot more flexibility with Acrobat. Of course this would require that the user have a full version of Acrobat, not just the free Reader.

Oh how times have changed. While I’m still a big fan of Acrobat and PDF forms, I’ve come to realize that they too can be limiting. The problem with PDF forms is they’re not super dynamic and anything ‘outside’ of the fields is set in stone (pretty much unless you know how to use the TouchUp tools but even then there are issues so we won’t go into that). I mean there are times when you want the fields for users to fill out AND also allow them to modify the rest of the form. Or the rest of the text needs to flow if they put in a lot of text.  This is where Word rules.

The pain is if your users want to jump from field to field. Unless you protect your document, thus eliminating the option for modifying the non-field information, tabbing between fields doesn’t work. Your users have to click into each field and lets face it, Word can be incredibly fussy here. If you don’t get it in just the right spot, it’ll do something else or nothing.

So in my current work, this is definitely the case. I have users who need Word forms but want the structure that comes along with fields in a PDF form (meaning the ability to tab from field to field).

Well if you’re brave, willing to dip you toe into coding, you can accomplish this. Using VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) you can create a UserForm for your fields. What that, you say? Think of a popup dialog box where you can type in your information and when done it populates to your document. Not an easy task as it is coding but when used with bookmarks in Word it can make your users experience a little better.

Check out the resources for VBA on About.com

Appropriate Use of Graphics

March 23, 2010

I see this all the time:

Questions from friends, former & current students, random strangers (well ok maybe not the last one); “I’m creating this *printed piece of choice* and it looks ok on the screen but it *prints horrible, came from the printer horrible, etc*.”

What’s the deal? Let’s talk about the appropriate use of graphics here. I know it’s confusing, I know it’s not intuitive; don’t worry, I’ll hold your hand.

There are a lot of different types of graphics out in the world. Most people just don’t pay attention to that. It’s either a photo, a graphic, a logo, whatever. But the type of graphic it is makes a huge difference!

So let me break it down in simple terms. If you want more information, check out this post over at the Digital Photography School website.

When it comes to types of graphic files it all comes down to 2 things – Resolution and File Type (or extension). The first is the most important but the second can tell you something about the first is. Confused yet?

Resolution means, in the simplest of terms, how good the quality of your graphic is. You want high resolution for printing and lower resolution for “on screen” viewing (I’ll explain this later).

How do we measure resolution? There are 2 ways that are interconnected, very similar, but completely different. For the sake of simplicity we’re consider them the same thing (yes yes you professionals, I hear you screaming at your monitors. Now pipe down, this post is for beginners and it’s a start. You can further their education later).

Where was I? Oh yeah, staring at your screen. That screen shows all those wonderful images, text, whatever; through tiny blocks of color called pixels. So resolution is measured by the number of pixels that can be crammed into an inch. Thus we get the measurement PPI (pixels per inch) or DPI (dots per inch).

*pause* Ok I know I was trying to make it simple but I can already hear some of your scratching your heads in confusion. “Wait, I thought he was talking about pixels? What’s with the dots all of a sudden?” While your screen uses those squares, most printers use dots to print. There’s a correlation between the 2. OK?

So resolution is measured as either DPI or PPI. The more you have the better the quality. This is where the file format comes in (remember, the extension part I mentioned above). Certain file types limit the resolution of the file itself. For example the typical resolution of a .GIF file is 72 ppi/dpi. That’s because screens can only display 72 pixels per inch. You can have more pixels in your graphic but it doesn’t do anything for your graphic except to add to the file size. Which will then annoy those who are looking at that graphic as it cause their computer to take longer to load the file.

So you’re probably asking yourself “what does this have to do the the appropriate use of graphics?”

Good question. They type of file you use and the resolution of that file are important to your use of the file. Resolution is tied heavily to use. Low resolution graphics are ok for onscreen viewing but not necessarily for printing out. High resolution graphics are great for printing but are overkill for onscreen viewing (they just take longer to load and do nothing to the view).

So picking the right file type can be a challenge.  In my next post I’ll tackle files types and their uses.

Do You Design?

February 24, 2010

Today Macworld.com had a nice article on their top 5 design sites. While not all of us do our own designing it’s still not a bad idea to be up on design in general. By doing so you put yourself in a better position to discuss your design or piece with a graphic designer if you are using one.

They’re all good sites, some of which I already use. It made me review where I go when I want design tips. So in addition to those, I subscribe to these:

I’m sure they are plenty of others I use, none come to mind right off the bat. I highly recommend searching for your own and keeping up to date.

Do You Use Salesforce?

February 19, 2010

Salesforce has been picking up a lot of steam (and customers) in the last year or so. I know it’s incredibly popular in the nonprofit world since they give the Enterprise edition to nonprofits for free (up to 10 licenses). It sounds like they just made it better.

Currently I’m working a lot with SharePoint, Microsoft’s collaboration & file sharing tool. It can do some amazing things but it definitely has some limitations. And it’s not known to be “fun” to use. The learning curve can be steep.  So what does this have to do with Salesforce? It looks like they’re taking aim at SharePoint with their new collaboration too, Chatter. And it sounds like it’s much more user friendly.

You can check out their demo video on YouTube here.

Windows & Support

February 9, 2010

So what version of Windows are you running? Most people I know are either on Windows XP or Windows 7. Only a few, myself included, have Vista. But even if you have those, you should pay attention. Microsoft is going to stop supporting certain versions of their operating systems.  Big deal you might think, I never call them anyway. But that also means no more updates and that’s a big deal. Let’s face it, no operating system is perfect. There has already been plenty of new (and bashing) around vulnerabilities & security breaches in Windows. The updates that Microsoft releases go a long way to minimize your risk by fixing (some) of these.

So no updates = no fixes and you will be at significant risk from hackers and such.

What’s no longer going to be supported?

  • Windows 2000 – Support for this operating system ends on July 13, 2010. And for God’s sake, why are you still running this???
  • Windows XP with Service Pack 2 – Support for this operating system ends on July 13th also. So you should upgrade your version of XP to Service Pack 3.  Although Microsoft encourages you (of course) to upgrade to Windows 7
  • Windows Vista RTM – This is the original version of Vista that would have come pre-installed on a new computer. Service for this version ends on April 13, 2010. Yikes! Upgrade to Service Pack 1 for Vista and you get support until July 12, 2011 or Service Pack 2 and you get even longer support.

And really, you should have the latest service pack installed anyway, just to be safe. Now I know that sometimes the service packs cause more problems than they seem to solve and many of us don’t want to rush out and be the first ones on the block to install them. So it’s ok to wait a little while to do so but not forever. And at this time, they’ve all been out long enough for most of the kinks to be worked out.

You can check out the security blog here for more information.

Is Your File Corrupt

February 4, 2010

I was helping a co-worker the other day with a Word document. She was experiencing all sorts of problems. It would look just fine on the screen but when she went to print it, all of the text on one line would be condensed into a tiny little square. This would happen throughout the document in random places. It would also do it if she converted it to a PDF.

Sounded like corruption to me. Unfortunately there is no “sure” way to test for this. You have to start over. And by that I really do mean START OVER. Do not copy one little character from that file into a new file or you could copy the corruption. Yuck!

So how does this happen and what can you do to minimize your risk? Files can become corrupt for a variety of reasons but one of the most common is because of how we do our work. Here’s what I mean:

I need to create a letter. I already have a old letter document that I want to use ‘most’ of the text from.

  • So I open it
  • go Save As
  • give it a new name
  • delete a bunch of text that I don’t need
  • type in new text that I want to replace the old text with
  • done

One the surface this doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a real time saver and I don’t have to re-type a bunch on information that I already have in an older document. Right?

Here’s the problem. The more times you go through the steps above, the move likely that your end document will start to get sloppy. What I mean by this is that “pieces” of computer code can get left behind when you delete and replace existing text with new text. That can cause corruption.

How many times has that document been copied? Your letter may be a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy …

That’s a lot of copies!

The better way is to create your base document and save it as a template. This format minimizes your risk of corruption as long as you use the template each time, not a previously saved copy of the document.

By using a template, you’re starting out with a relatively clean copy; reducing the risk of corruption. This applies to ALL file formats.

Replace a Font in PowerPoint

January 26, 2010

Now I’ve worked on a PowerPoint presentation or two in my time. And I don’t know about you, but inevitably I’ll get down and not be happy with the way it looks. Changing the background stuff is fairly easy, just apply different slide masters to your presentation until you get the one you want.
But what about the fonts? I don’t want to go slide by slide, selecting the text I want to change (because I almost always use 2 fonts in my presentation, so selecting all the text isn’t going to work either) and then changing it.
In PowerPoint 2007 & 2010, turns out you don’t have to do this. Right there on the Home tab, in the Edit chunk, there’s the Replace button. I have used this before but I clicked on the button itself to search for a particular word and replaced it with another word.
However, if you click on the drop down arrow on the right side of the button, you’ll get a short drop down with 2 options: Replace and Replace Fonts. Choosing Replace Fonts will give you a list of all the fonts you are using in your presentation and a drop down list of fonts you have on your computer that you can change to.
Pretty easy, huh?

Hello world!

January 25, 2010

I’m baaaccckk! Well for some of you anyway. Once upon a time I was the Training Manager at NPower Seattle, a great nonprofit that helps other nonprofits with technology. Then I was lured away by an exciting opportunity that was sure to challenge me with our Judicial system (which it has).

But I miss the opportunity to share with the world all the things I’m learning, stumbling upon, or just plain know about technology that can make working with applications/software/programs/justplainoltechnology easier.

So I finally got off my duff and started this blog. You can still find my old posts over on my original blog at NPower or the updated NPower Seattle blog.

In the meantime, stay tuned here for all kinds of posts that I hope will make your work easier.

Jon