I needed to fax some documents recently, so I began looking into various web based fax alternatives. There are actually quite a few web based fax sites out there and most of them are fairly inexpensive. They’re especially valuable if you want to be able to receive faxes and don’t have a dedicated line or fax machine. That was definitely overkill for my situation though so I kept looking around until I had a sudden lightbulb moment.
The built in modem in Apple laptops (which I had never used because I use WiFI or Ethernet 100% or the time) supports printing documents as faxes. In MacOS X Tiger (and possibly earlier versions) it’s also fully integrated with the Address Book application and the Printer Setup Utility in a very elegant fashion. I plugged our Canon usb scanner into the iBook I’m using right now and suddenly faxing signed documents became a very simple task.
At this point faxing still has the advantage of being (somewhat) more secure than email since it goes through the phone system rather than the internet, but it seems fairly archaic by today’s standards and really isn’t the most efficient way to send documents back and forth. It’s really too bad that we haven’t figured out how to make public/private key email encryption and communication simple and ubiquitous yet. The technology has been around for a long time, but it’s still not mainstream and I kind of doubt it ever will be.