Faber FAQs

E-mail Facts

I got e-mail from you with a strange attachment, what is it?

It's a PGP digital signature. Programs that understand the PGP standards can use that information and some publicly available information to show that the mail you received was from me and was not altered between me and you. The publicly available information is called my PGP public key. The next FAQ tells you how to get copies of mine.

You can find out more about PGP from the comp.security.pgp FAQ. I actually use the GNU privacy guard, an Open Source implementation of the PGP standards.

I sign more than 95% of my mail, and unless I know that the attachment will get my mail blocked or cause you problems, you can expect to see a signature on all mail from me. Of course I encourage you to get a mailer that will allow you to verify the signatures and therefore know that the mail is from me and not forged.

If your mailer told you that this is an unknown attachment, you can't use this attachment in any reasonable way. (If you find an unreasonable way to use it let me know.)

If you got an attachment from me that doesn't make sense after reading this, feel free to ask about it. As with any attachment, do not execute it or otherwise open it unless you know what it is.

What are Ted's PGP keys?

My PGP keys are available from the PGP keyservers wwwkeys.pgp.net (via HKP) or pgp.mit.edu (via HKP or HTTP). I keep a local copy as well. Feel free to upload signed versions to those servers, and let me know if you do.

E-mail Opinions

What's wrong with Microsoft format attachments?

Philosophically, that's a question everyone must answer for themselves. However, all the machines I use to read mail run only FreeBSD, which has very limited support for Microsoft formats. I can use StarOffice to read Powerpoint and simple Word documents. In general, if you want me to read it, send it in ASCII, postscript, or PDF. I'll try to read Word only if I believe that the document is urgent and conversion difficult.

What's wrong with my ASCII formatting?

Greg Lehey does an excellent job describing the various ways mailers can badly format ASCII text as well as why and how you should avoid them.

What's wrong with starting a new thread on a mailing list using the "reply" feature?

When you do this, your mailer usually generates an In-reply-to: header that mailers and mail archive web sites use to divide the mail into threads on a common topic. By starting a new topic that has this header in it, you've created a tangle for any system that implements this useful feature. Because you sent the message, it seems you consider the new topic important; why not make it easy to find and follow the conversation?

What's wrong with my quoting style?

Well, it probably deviates from the one I like, which is well summed up in the news.newusers FAQ. The style advocated there evolved over considerable time and is particularly clear, especially in a medium where considerable time can pass between messages, even in one-to-one communications.

Frightening as it is for me to say this, these conventions have probably been simplifying electronic communication longer than you've been around and are well tested by time. Using them is a bandwagon worth being on, even if some newcomers are not.

This page written and maintained by Ted Faber.
Please mail me any problems with, or comments about this page.
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