Sunday, February 14, 2010

Creating an Encrypted Disk Image for Safe Files

As the long list of passwords/user names mount up for all our online social networks, shopping sites and other sites where we are required to log in, it becomes an undaunted task to keep track of all these user names and passwords. 

A method that offers security encryption is available by using the Disk Utility application on your Mac.  The use of encryption is as old as the art of communication. In wartime, a cipher can be employed to keep the enemy from obtaining the contents of transmissions.   

Below is the method to create such a disk image when using Snow Leopard System:

 (1) Open Disk Utility (located in the Applications/Utilities folder on your Mac).

(2)  Click on the File menu, select New and Blank Disk Image.

A dialog and options box for creating the New Blank Image file will appear on the screen:

(3) Enter a name in the Save As field.  

(4)  Next, select a folder or destination for storing this newly created (e.g. SafeBox.dmg) file onto your hard drive under drop-down location menu.  You can store the .dmg file directly on one of the computer's hard drives, either an internal or external hard drive.  It is probably a good idea to check to see if there is enough room available on whatever hard drive you choose.   Note: This .dmg file can always be moved from the Desktop to the main hard drive (i.e. used to boot). If, however, it is moved from the desktop to some other hard drive then a "copy" will be generated which may result in confusion.

(5)  Select a size for the image file from the Size, drop-down menu.  Select a size that will be large enough to sufficiently contain all the data or document files that you plan to place in this secure disk image.   Note: If you want an encrypted disk image larger than 500 MB you will need to select "Custom" in the size box. And plan on about 1 minute per gigabyte for the time it will take.

(6)  Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) from the Volume Format drop-down menu.

(7)  Select either recommended 128 bit AES or 256-bit AES encryption.  It is my guess that recommending 128-bit encryption, may have something to do with additional time required for the 256-bit encoding method.  However, many feel 256-bit encryption is unnecessary. An article by Seagate, a hard disk manufacturer, (reference link: ) states that anything that could crack a 128-bit encrypted file would also be able to crack a 256-bit encrypted file ... with little additional time or effort. They currently estimate it would take 77,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years on average to crack just one encryption under the following assumptions:

        • Everyone in the world (all 7 billion people) work together and simultaneously to crack the key to your encrypted file.
        • And each person uses 10 computers running 24/7.
        • And each computer can test 1 billion key combinations per second.

(8)  Select read/write disk image for Image Format.

(9)  Select the Create button.

(10) Enter a secure password, one that you will use to access this Disk Image.  Note: it is important to leave the box unchecked to deselect 'Remember password in my keychain' option.  Otherwise, your password will not be required to gain access to your encrypted file.   Many experts recommend at least 10 characters, with with at least one character being in a different case (capital letters and non capital letters) and at least one character being non alpha numeric (i.e. $, %, ^ etc).
(11)  Click OK to create the encrypted Disk Image file that will appear in the location you specified.   The created Disk image file (SafeBox.dmg) will appear on the left-side of the Disk Utility window, as well as a mounted Disk Image.


You may wish to rename this mounted Disk Image, by selecting the mounted Disk Image icon (located on Desktop) and using the cmd-I (Get Info method) to give it a name similar to the one used in the Save As dialog box.  Why? It could eventually become confusing having several mounted disk images all having the same name of "Disk Image".   
You can Quit the Disk Utility application at this time.

Now you will be able to use this mounted Disk Image (e.g. SafeBox Image) to store any sensitive data.  Double click on this desktop icon to show the contents window.  You can use this Disk Image (e.g. SafeBox Image), like a normal drive, adding files, opening, editing and copying files to it.  Merely, drag the documents or files that you wish to keep secure into the Disk Image icon or into the opened icon window.   When finished, merely eject the mounted desk icon (e.g. SafeBox Image), by dragging to the trash where you should see the eject arrow as you place the desk icon image over the trash.  

In the future when you wish to access the secure files, select the SafeBox.dmg file and double click this .dmg file to mount the SafeBox Image file to your desktop.   You will be prompted to enter your password in the dialog window and click OK.   It is important to uncheck the box to deselect Remember password in my keychain option.

In summary, there are two files that are created using Disk Utility: 
  • One file will be Safebox.dmg  <-- note the .dmg extension. This is the file to double click for mounting.    
  • The other file (e.g SafeBox Image) will appear on the desktop.  This file does not have an extension and is the file to move to the trash for unmounting,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Renaming a File - Another Method For Me

Often when I wish to rename a file on my Mac, it is difficult to click appropriately on the filename under the icon.  Normally, one would click once and then click again to highlight the characters in the filename.  This would then allow the user the ability to type in the change that he/she wishes to make to the filename.

Unfortunately if you click too fast, the file opens instead of highlighting the name for editing purposes.  Therefore, I have devised an alternate means to change the filename that works more efficiently for me.

First select the icon you wish to edit, then using the cmd I keys, bring up the 'Get Info' window for that file.  In the list of things available you will see the 'Name & Extension' edit box in this 'Get Info' window.  If the name is faded then you may find that you cannot edit the file due to the 'Sharing & Permissions' originally set when creating this file.  Changing the 'Privileges' for the User under the 'Sharing & Permissions' section, will allow you to edit the filename  without a problem.   You can also set the color for the label on the icon, lock the file, hide extension, choose the application to open all documents similar to this one, add comments and preview the selected icon.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Some Tips for iPhone

Podcast Tip:  As you know, you can stream a podcast episode rather than downloading it by double-tapping the episode within the iTunes app on the iPhone. The familiar QuickTime logo will appear and you can listen to the podcast instead of downloading it.   However, a nifty feature is that when you start streaming the episode, you can close iTunes and it will still play.  I've been able to open other apps whilst the iTunes app is playing a podcast episode.

Cut/Copy/Paste Tip:    Since the release of 3.0, cut-copy-paste has been an amazing feature. I have used and abused it from SMS to Safari and beyond. I will claim I can type up a storm on my iPhone and will generally leave characters behind, or find words that the auto-correct thinks are different than I do. To prevent confusion, I always double-check and correct my typos.

With the iPhone, you have always been able to press and hold and obtain the magnifying class to get precisely where you want in the text. In 3.0, I have noticed a little lag when doing so (and it may be my 3G; who knows) and trying to edit my text. As such, the easier correction method here is to double-tap the incorrectly spelled word and then start back over clean.   This hint can also be used for mass delete or mass replacement of text.

Increase Battery Life Tip:  Go to: settings-->mail,contacts,calendars-->fetch new data.  Set "Push" to OFF and "Fetch" to Manually.  This sets the device to only get email when you ask it to.

Friday, February 05, 2010

t-Shirt dress

t-Shirt dress
Originally uploaded by jheitzeb1
Been thinking about showing some love to family for Valentine's Day. As a person gets older it is often hard to do some of the things, you did when younger. I used to sew clothes for my entire family in my earlier days.

I had some Valentine's print fabric that I had purchased a year ago to make a twirly skirt for my granddaughters. As time was running short again this year, I decided to try a quick t-shirt dress. I purchased a t-shirt from Target and added two rows of gathered layers of different material to the bottom of the t-shirt.

Presto Magic! A nice dress for the little one. It was considerably faster to make and actually allowed me to design my own pattern and utilize some creativity. The older granddaughter has passed the age of 'fancy', so I purchased something for her that was not 'pink' or 'fancy'. Alas, they grow up so fast and days of wearing dresses soon pass for convenience and comfort.

It was also nice to use the high tech sewing machine that I purchased several years ago.  I had made a couple of personalized, monogrammed computer laptop bags, several purses, and fun stuff after first purchasing it.   Having a machine that threads itself, a convenient bobbin winder, and numerous built in stitches and so many extras, not available on my 'old Singer' of days gone by, has been a joy to use.  Ah, technology ... don't you love it ... progress ...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

# Sign Problem on Mac Using Excel

I'm always amazed when I run across something that is really weird.  Today while testing some software, I discovered that if I have a folder with a '#' sign in the name, e.g. 'Documents #1', where I have placed Excel spreadsheet worksheets that are of the .csv format (comma separated), that I was not able to open any of the .csv files within the folder with Excel.

I needed to edit one of the .csv files.  I was able to upload it to Google Docs and edit there and then download back to my desktop, and replace the file.  I suspect you could also move the file outside of that folder as well, edit and then put back.  This did give me the opportunity to use the new 'upload' features in Google Docs this morning.

I renamed the folder 'Documents No 1" and was able to open the .csv file with Excel without any problems.

Weird stuff, Microsoft!