Outlook vs Thunderbird vs Entourage

I shot a question off on Twitter last week simply asking for a decent Outlook replacement on the Mac. I received a few recommendations, mainly Entourage & Thunderbird. I thought it best to detail my needs in a blog post to solicit more detailed responses.

I have email correspondence dating back to 1988, when my messages were either on electronic bulletin boards, Prodigy, or Compuserve. My message archive has been copied into Word documents, converted to Compuserve mailboxes, and ultimately into Outlook PST files. It is my hope that at some point I can transcribe some of those messages into a memoir of some kind.

Given the GINORMOUS archive of messages, I have been slow to move away from Outlook, currently the only PC application I still use. I know I can run virtual Windows on my Mac, but I really don’t want to fire up Fusion just to check email. I also have pushed the limits of the program by including Notes & Categories in all my Contacts, while tagging messages & calendar information. Currently, I sync my Outlook calendar to my Google calendar which makes it easy to get my schedule to people who need to know. And there’s the little used Journal feature which helps me track billable time on projects (also tagged with Categories & associated to Contacts). Outlook also syncs with my phone so I have a 90 day snapshot of everything I need on the road. Chances are you could ask me what I have done on any given date in the past 20 years, and I could find it somewhere in Outlook.

Which leads us to my original question – what application (or group of apps) would best suit my information management needs?

I use Gmail which excels in terms of message searches. I do not have any folders setup for my Gmail account. I simply search for the thread I need, and it’s so much quicker than Outlook.

Thunderbird looks like a possible option, and it appears to have a calendar plugin, but what about contacts? I would want to use the Notes (& Categories if possible) from my existing Outlook contacts.

Entourage seems like a poor man’s Outlook. I’m not sure I want to exchange one single-file message system for another single-file message system. Also, I remember reading something about Spotlight searches were incapable of reading the Entourage data file. I would lose my Google calendar sync option with Entourage.

I might have to change my approach to this problem. I was hoping to move some of the current Outlook information into the new system I choose, but I may have to do a “clean slate” cutover. This would entail still using Outlook for message/calendar history, but that may be the front-runner solution.

POW! BAM! ZING! Updated Website!

Between clients, the birth of my daughter Sydney, finding time for Michelle, school, frequent air travel, and well, that which we call having a life, it’s taken several weeks to get the website redesign flushed out. But here you have it. I chose to build the site using Brian Gardner’s Revolution Theme set. Overall, it wasn’t too difficult to tweak the theme, and Brian has some decent Camtasia tutorials on the website. He has also built a pretty active community around his themes. If Brian cannot assist you with web development, he has several recommended WordPress enthusiasts who can.

I can now direct my attention to generating the content that we (the collective) have so readily talked about in recent months. I have my minions working in the background to transfer content from previous sites, and launching the podcast is the next big update for the blog.

For longtime readers, I appreciate your patience during this transition, and for all the new folks dropping in, expect great things here.

Blandford Visual Art

There are quite a number of great photographers I have had the pleasure of meeting personally during my travels around the country. They’re the folks with the books, the seminar series; the photographers every wants to meet, and say they’ve met.

The trouble with the famous or up-and-coming, is they generally know they’re famous, and some act the part. I have been surprised by the modesty of some, not so surprised at the vanity of others.

Which leads me to today’s post. Keith Blandford is a local north Texan with a love of photography. I met him during a class on Adobe Bridge I conducted for GUILD some time ago. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of Keith’s work in person, and he recently dove head first into iWeb to publish his work online.

Keith is a minimalist when it comes to digital editing, and his work certainly does not need any post-processing help. I envy admire his ability to see through the lens. His landscape photography catches my imagination, and I can’t help but study his images each time I look at his collection.

I would encourage you to visit his website Blandford Visual Art, and browse his pieces. Keith also has photographs for sale, which he masterfully prints himself.

Unruly Inbox

Rules cannot contain my messages...

Just a quick post tonight. Twitter is up & down which is fine. As you can see I have a lot of student messages to catch up on.

Apparently, I need to rethink my inbox rule strategy, or hire an assistant to whittle through the deluge of messages I am under. 785 is not an accurate count as 1/5 of the messages received are replies which I sent from my mobile phone. My Windows smartphone “Sent Items” folder does not sync to the computer so I’m forced to CC myself copies of responses.

While I am tech-savvy, the creative side of my brain is quite unorganized. A good friend had recommended a book on simplifying things, and I am considering applying those principles to my inbox.

As much as I like Outlook for contacts, I am beginning to seriously consider alternatives. Who or What remains to be found, but I do know that my Gmail account is a Godsend simply from the search functions.

Outlook is the only PC application I still use, having converted solely to a Mac. Entourage is a less than stellar replacement, considering I have over 20 years of message history (dating back to BBS boards & Prodigy) stored as PST files.

Would welcome any suggestions from the Mac faithful about contact/calendaring/mail items under OS X.

What You Should Know About Identity Theft

What You Should Know About Identity Theft

UPDATE 9/11/2017 – Added new items to consider since the Equifax data breach.

UPDATE 11/01/2013 – Many banks have discontinued their special ID Theft programs in favor of account alerts. Check with your bank for the monitoring programs they offer.

UPDATE 4/13/2010 – I referenced Lifelock in this post, and you should be aware that they have been part of class action lawsuits more than once since 2008. As I mentioned in my post, many of the services they offer you can do yourself. Bottom line, in this digital age you have to be ever vigilante with your personal information.

Chris Pirillo posed the question yesterday, “Do you protect yourself from identity theft?

As a two-time victim of identity theft, I thought I would expand on the tips that he received via email:

1. Credit Reports – Get your free credit report from ALL THREE of the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion via Annual Credit Report. Setup an annual reminder for these reports, and also spread them out rather than getting them all at the same time each year. I was surprised to learn that the three agencies had different information regarding my credit at the time my identity was stolen. Also consider a report from ChexSystems, which reports on checking/savings accounts in your name.

2. Credit Monitoring – Consider using free services such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Quizzle. Each has their benefits, e.g., Credit Karma includes reports from Equifax and Transunion, Credit Sesame includes identity theft insurance, there’s no reason not to sign up for all three. Your bank or credit card company may offer a service to monitor your credit reports. Most of these vendors will also give you copies of your credit reports as part of their service. American Express has Credit Secure, Bank of America has Privacy Assist, and Chase has Identity Protection.

3. Credit Protection – Rampant ID theft has created a new industry, and the front runner in protective services is LifeLock. The company offers a number of services, many of which you could do yourself, but <sarcasm>who has that kind of time?</sarcasm> They remove your name from many junk mail lists, put a “fraud alert” on your identity with all three credit reporting agencies (which only last 90 days), renew that alert for you, order your three credit reports each year, and help you contact all your banks, credit cards, etc., should your wallet ever be stolen. The advantage to using a service, “set it, and forget it.” You are paying for their service, everything offered you could do yourself for free if you choose.

4. Credit Insurance – Check with your insurance agent, or your bank. Many offer identity theft insurance. This is simply a service that helps you pay many of the legal fees associated with identity theft. It is not much in terms of money, but every bit helps.

5. Freeze Your Credit – there are debates about the security vs convenience of freezing your credit. If you do not have any immediate need to have credit for purchases such as a home, car, or need a new line of credit then a freeze probably makes sense. Know that you’ll receive a PIN number to help unfreeze your account. Know that you shouldn’t lose that PIN.

6. Secure your Social Security account – Yes, there’s an online window to your social security account. Best you login and secure it before someone decides to do that. https://www.ssa.gov/

7. Secure your IRS account – Tax fraud, i.e., someone filing a return as you to get a refund, has been on the uptick for the past few years. Do what you can to secure your IRS account. https://www.irs.gov/individuals/get-transcript

8. Get a Google Voice number – Consider a Google Voice number for securing accounts instead of your cell phone, especially if you use text/voice two-factor authentication. If you don’t already have a GV number the upside is you can use it ONLY for your bank and credit accounts. Less likely to be spoofed like an actual cell number.

9. Secure your cell phone account – while not fool-proof, adding a PIN to your cellular account is helpful in thwarting attempts to access by identity thieves. In some cases you can turn off online access to accounts, which while inconvenient means potential threats have to be done in-person at a retail location.

10. Use a password manager – If you’re not already using a password manager then consider 2017 your year to upgrade. Plenty of options to choose from in another article I wrote about apps for non-technical folks.

But what happens if you still become victim of identity theft? Here are some things nobody told me:

1. File a Police Report – The moment you are aware of the ID theft, file a police report. This makes an official record of the event, which will only help you when talking to the bank or credit card agency to remove charges.

2. Put a Fraud Alert on Your Accounts – If you’re using a service such as LifeLock, this has already been done. If not, you can contact the three credit reporting agencies (see above) and enable the fraud alert. A fraud alert means any request for credit requires your written signature. This makes it harder (but not impossible) for someone to request credit via the Internet or over the phone. It also means more hoops for you to jump through when you are the one legitimately applying for the loan.

3. ICE Your Credit – CNN posted an article about Emergency Contacts back in February. The article had some information about the new ICE initiative. The basic idea is making emergency contact info readily available on your cell phone, and a free ICE website also provides laminated wallet emergency contact cards. I use a similar approach with my credit card info. I have a laminated wallet card with the phone numbers of all the accounts I would need to contact in case my identity is stolen. I do not keep this card in my wallet — it does me know good if I get robbed — instead I carry it separate in my pocket. I also have the numbers programed in my phone for access. The benefit of the laminated card? It’s water proof, doesn’t need batteries, and anyone can use it in the event I’m incapacitated. Oh, and I also carry an ICE card.

4. Don’t Blame The Internet – Despite what most people think, email & phishing scams are not the only sources of identity theft. I would say that they’re not even the largest sources. When I moved to Dallas, it was the number one city in the country for ID Theft. Some examples of how ID’s were stolen: mailbox theft, credit card skimming (using a device to record your credit card number), ATM decoys, and best of all companies that do not correctly secure or destroy personal records. In terms of ID Theft, Liz Pulliam Weston wrote an article suggesting we could learn something from Europeans.

If you’re not concerned about identity theft, you should be. Here’s a thought, it’s not the financial impact of identity theft that’s the potentially the most damaging, but the ability of someone to use your identity to commit a crime. Criminal Identity Theft does not go away overnight, and can follow you for years. Victims of Criminal ID Theft find themselves in constant struggle to prove their innocence. I could not find the original article, but I read years ago of a woman who had three official court documents for her state, and she still would occasionally end up in jail for warrants that were not her. (Apparently, Judges do not work on weekends.)

OK, if you’re a first time reader, then you can see I have a tendency to ramble on quite a bit. I hope the information proves useful to you, and you never find yourself in a position where $75k is spent on your company’s corporate account in your name.

I don’t normally ask, but please share this post if you found the information useful. Thank you.