September 30, 2003

3G Side Effects

Techdirt reports a Dutch study's results via Reuters, which concludes that 3G basestations cause headaches and nausea. However, "cognitive functions such as memory and response times were boosted by both 3G signals and the current signals, the study found. It said people became more alert when they were exposed to both." (my emphasis added re: the 2G signals -- I've always thought these things weren't exactly good for my health.)

More alert? Can I just have a large Cappuccino instead? It sounds like the techie version of a popular game show: Hey, I'll take "Brainboost and Hurlies" for $500. Yikes.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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Changing Trends: Associates Not Hot on Making Partner?

Now here's an interesting article, "Associates Giving Up On Partnership". It outlines a generational shift in attitudes, and cites a NALP Foundation survey's results in which large numbers of associates are bailing on law firms before being considered for partnership.

[In my best Family Feud voice] "The Survey Says:"
(Note: I haven't seen the study itself, only the summary per the article, quoted below:)

"By their sixth year, only about a third of associates were still with the firms they joined from law school, according to the study, which surveyed law firms and associates in 35 cities. Of those associates who left, less than half moved to another law firm."
So let's do the math per above, assuming for sake of argument it's accurate, and let's use a pool of 100 associates to keep the percentages easy (rounded to the nearest associate):

1/3 stayed, and 2/3 of new associates left their first firm within 6 years.
Scorecard: 33 stayed, 67 left the firm within 6 years.

Less than half of those who left moved to another firm: 1/2 x 67 = 33
Scorecard: 33 stayed, less than 33 went to another firm, and more than 33 went to a non-law firm.

As a member of the third category, I can say that I completely understand this trend. After all, I did the same thing back in the mid-90's. On a personal level, it was the most difficult decision I've ever made. Sometimes, I think about practicing again (I still maintain my law license and earn far more than the minimum required CLE credits each year). But, frankly, I'm having too much fun being a legal technology consultant, author, and speaker. How many practicing lawyers can honestly say that about what they do?

It sounds to me that these associates just want to do their thing.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
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September 29, 2003

It's the Plugins That Matter

Once again I've learned the strategic importance of choosing and using software products that are fervently supported by their developers and more importantly, by the users themselves:

This weekend I finally got around to installing an MP3Pro decoder plugin for my Winamp 2 Player (it's been on my leisure "to do" list for months). If you haven't tried MP3Pro, you're in for a treat. The idea behind it is simple: Get comparable sound quality from an MP3Pro file that's half the size of its MP3 counterpart. It's easier on bandwidth and storage. At low bitrates (say, < 64 kbps) the sound quality difference between standard MP3's and MP3Pro's is akin to that between AM and FM radio stations. Yes, it's that good, and if you install the necessary decoder, you can easily search Shoutcast for "MP3Pro" to find stations using it and can hear it for yourself. While I listen to higher bandwidth stations for the nicer sound quality, some of the online stations I like are only available at the lower bitrates.

Then I counted all of the plugins I've installed into my Winamp 2 player to achieve results that rival and even exceed some shelf stereo systems. I've customized it with five incredible plugins that I'll mention shortly. If I had chosen any other music player, I wouldn't have had the benefit of Winamp's diverse plugin developer community. When you read my list of plugins, you'll understand why this is so important.

Likewise, when I was comparing blogging systems for creating this blog, I naturally looked at the included features. As you can tell, I chose Movable Type. But not just because it has some very nice features such as multiple category posting and Blogger API support for remote posting. I found out rather quickly that it has a thriving third-party plugin developer community, and that I could easily and freely extend its already impressive features with additional plugins.

And then there's my Palm-based PDA, with no less than 6 installed plugins (also known as "hacks"), to provide functionality not present in the original OS. Not to mention all the great Palm programs I've accumulated over the past several years, many of them freeware or shareware.

As I've posted recently, I've also found MyIE2 to be an incredibly useful free add-on for extending Internet Explorer's capabilities.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the pattern, and so it struck me while I was relaxing to some great classic rock online in glorious 3D surround sound: While these are all very good products in their own right, it really was the developer community and the plugins that made these good products into great ones. It's the plugins (and the people behind them) that contributed to their success just as much, if not more, than the original product itself. Up to a point, it doesn't matter if the platform itself is proprietary, as long as there is a diverse developer community willing to take advantage of its extensibility and push the envelope.

So to all these people who gave us something incredibly useful on their own time, I just wanted to take a moment to extend my thanks: You rock.

As promised, here's my list of indispensable Winamp 2 plugins for creating a great music player on your PC (although it truly helps to have a quality soundcard and speakers, including a subwoofer). This is my small way of giving something back:

1) DFX -- a skinnable* DSP (Digital Signal Processor) that synthesizes and adds back the missing high notes, deep hyperbass, ambience (reverb), and other audio attributes that are removed from MP3's during their compression -- a must-have for all media players;

[*I would be completely remiss in my thanks if I hadn't mentioned all of the graphic artists who painstakingly developed the vast collection of skins or templates for all of the above programs and more. Viva variety, the spice of life!]

2) CD Reader -- enables me to use Winamp's 10-band graphic equalizer when playing normal audio CD's (Winamp 2's equalizer only natively works on MP3 files and streams, not on audio CD's);

3) Bobware Stereo Delay Plugin 2.0 -- a fantastic little 3D sound DSP plugin that generates fully customizable delays between the left and right stereo channels to create a rich "expanded stereo" or "stereo wide" effect, and with very little CPU drag to boot;

4) MP3Pro Winamp Plugin -- discussed above, used to get much better sound quality out of lower bitrate (lower bandwidth) audio streams or files encoded with MP3Pro; and

5) MuchFX2 -- enables me to "stack" or run multiple DSP plugins (such as DFX and Bobware Stereo Delay) simultaneously in Winamp for a custom blended effect. This is necessary because Winamp 2's architecture only allows one DSP to be selected and run at any one time. With MuchFX2, I get the benefit of DFX's sound quality boost along with the expanded stereo effects of the Bobware Stereo Delay plugin. A very cool must-have. (Note: As of 9/27/03, this is MuchFX2's new website for development).

Like Winamp, all of the above plugins were free except for DFX, which cost about $25 at the time for the "master pack" bundle promotion, which works with numerous media players, and is well worth it at twice that price. You'll also note that I'm still using Winamp 2 (aka "Classic") even though Nullsoft released Winamp 3 a while ago. It's for one simple reason alone: Winamp 3 can't run the Winamp 2 plugins natively. You need -- you guessed it -- yet another plugin to do that. Ironic, isn't it? It reminds me of the IBM business consulting commercial about the "universal business adapter", which works with all conceivable devices. However, to use it in Europe, you need an adapter. A classic.

Thus to use some of these plugins with Winamp 3, you need the Winamp 2x Plugin Manager. While it should work with the above plugins, it doesn't support all Winamp 2 plugins, and some users have reported it to be flaky at times. In essence it's a hack or kluge, and I applaud its author for taking time to fill a huge gap for Winamp 3 users. Since Winamp 3 didn't improve much, if any, upon the overall sound quality (mostly just its aesthetics), I decided to stay with Winamp 2's solid support of my plugins. Eventually I'll try these with Winamp 3, but I'll take superior sound quality and program stability any day over more visual bells and whistles.

I've recently discussed how "enablers" should be sought out for great solutions, and all the above certainly qualifies with flying colors. They have reinforced my philosophy of how I look for and choose technology solutions.

Topic(s):   Feature Articles  |  Other Musings
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September 28, 2003

Better Check Your Zipper

While thumbing through the Sept. 2003 issue of PCWorld, I saw an update on the WinZip / PKZip encryption incompatibility problem. In essence there's been no progress, so it was mainly a caution: For now, if you're using the newest version of either program and sharing Zipped files with others, you'll probably want to send them as unencrypted, standard .ZIP files. Read on for more details.

In a nutshell, PKWare, original makers of PKZip for DOS and Windows, introduced new encryption technology earlier this year. However, according to the press, they chose not to post or share the specs with their main competitor, WinZip. Naturally WinZip Computing felt they had to offer better encryption, as normal password-protected Zip files have been easy to crack for some time. So WinZip introduced a different encryption method, and thus the newest versions of PKZip and WinZip generate incompatible encrypted .ZIP files.

This brainy move between the two developers blows the one thing the Zip format really had going for it -- full compatibility. Also, a new WinZip 9.0 beta feature allows the new Zip format to hold more than 65,535 files and be larger than 4GB, which wasn't possible nor is compatible with older versions of either program.

To confuse things even further, both Zipping programs use the same .ZIP file extension for the standard (unencrypted) and encrypted Zip files . Many have suggested they simply implement a second file extension for encrypted Zip files -- to make it much easier for users to differentiate between the two when they download or receive them via e-mail attachments. But, no dice -- it appears they want to keep slugging it out between themselves at their customers' expense. (Uh guys, really bad plan...)

Ever since WinZip beat PKZip to the Windows platform years ago, they've been the clear leader in market share. My money is on WinZip, especially since they released their encryption specification back on May 12th. This is key so that others making Zip-compatible software can incorporate it into their own programming. Since PKWare has been less forthcoming, many question its intentions for keeping Zip an open standard. This move also makes it doubtful their new format will become the new Zip standard or will even be used by others. (That "bad plan" thing keeps coming up, doesn't it?)

The good news is that they both continue to generate the standard compatible .ZIP file if the new encryption is not used, and you don't create larger Zip files than what was supported previously. So unless you know for sure which Zipping program and version your recipient is using, you're best off not using any new encryption or compression feature, unless it's for yourself. No sense in sending a client a file they can't use. If you're regularly receiving Zip files from clients or vendors, you may just want to send them a quick e-mail asking them to use the standard "classic" features, for lack of a better term.

As it's the current issue, the Sept. PCWorld article isn't yet posted online. However, earlier similar articles can be found online at both c|net and

Topic(s):   Legal Technology  |  Privacy & Security
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September 26, 2003

Palm Reading: Divining Where Palm Fits In

Here's an interesting post by Russell Beattie, a fellow gadgeteer if ever I saw one.

After a couple of years of not doing much, suddenly Palm has awakened from its deep slumber with numerous new models. Russell has some insightful comments and questions about why Palm is making certain choices, many of which I share. To his jibe on the Treo 600 not having Java -- it should be installable as I've previously posted. But the fact that Sun is not re-nominating PalmSource to the J2ME JCP Executive Commitee doesn't bode well, and Palm has since hitched its wagon to bundling IBM's J2ME runtime with all Tungsten devices later this year. IBM? That's like choosing the MS Java VM on Windows. It's well known Sun is the driving force behind J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) and is trying to keep it standardized across platforms.

Here's hoping that Handspring's assimilation into Palm (excuse me, palmOne as they preferred to be called now) doesn't squelch Handspring's leading edge. Palm has never, ever "gotten it" when it comes to smartphones -- period. The best they came up with was barely usable "convenience phone" feature in the Tungsten W that required a headset to use (which was released well after the RIM Blackberry 5810 flopped for the same reason -- why imitate failure?).

I'm truly hoping that palmOne's management will let Jeff Hawkins and his creative team run with the ball instead of coaching them to death. It sure beats having Handspring go under, as their financials clearly indicated for many quarters. Handspring desperately needed more resources to grow the "communicator" business, but only time will tell. I've been sensing a real vision and culture clash for some time between the two former organizations and camps, and that they've been downplaying it as much as possible. I'm perceiving they both know they need each other and need to make this work. The next 12-18 months will be critical for the homecoming to be successful.

The Treo 600 looks to be the most promising data-focused smartphone to date, and I'm rooting for them. However these devices' boutique pricing (read: expensive) in a recovering economy makes their success more than a little challenging. Lawyers and other well-to-do professionals will only carry their business so far. Deep carrier bundling discounts is about the only good way to push them through the mass market, again in my humble opinion.

Mobile devices are clearly heading towards J2ME -- one look at the current crop of cell phones, camera phones, and Blackberries confirms it. And with one very good reason: think cross-platform. This enables mobile solution developers to write it once and have it run on competing devices. As simple and convenient as the Palm OS is, it's not universal. Palm is still embracing Java with IBM's version, and for the first time in almost three years I'm actually interested in looking at their newest devices, together with the Treo 600 and some Sony's. But for some reason, that ghost of Palm yesteryear is nagging at me too. The days of the unconnected handheld are numbered. Oh sure, there will still be a low-end market for basic organizers (Sharp has been living there for years). However, as we become even more of a fast-paced mobile information society, it's only too clear that smart, affordable, and convenient connectivity is where it's at.

Let's hope palmOne doesn't lose sight of that.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 25, 2003

A New Outlook on Spam and Web Bugs

The New York Times has a fairly balanced review of Microsoft Office 2003 by one of my favorite technology columnists, David Pogue.

Essentially, his review says that other than adding DRM (Digital Rights Management), and some minor enhancements, there's nothing new worth noting in the core office programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).

However, Outlook 2003 is a completely different story, if you'll pardon the pun. I've been following Outlook 2003's development, and there have been many noteworthy improvements. While the new 3-column view sounds interesting, it's far down the page on my long Outlook wishlist. Happily, several of my Mt. Everest-sized pet peeves with Outlook 2002 appear to have been addressed per Mr. Pogue, namely:

"Outlook now comes with excellent automatic spam filtering. In my two-week test, it nabbed about 95 percent of junk mail as spam yet never flagged a legitimate message as spam. It makes a huge difference.

Furthermore, Outlook now lets you build a blacklist (people or companies whose e-mail you always want treated as spam) or a whitelist (people whose e-mail you want to let through; everything else goes to the Junk folder).

Finally, Outlook thwarts a common spammer tactic by blocking graphics that appear to be embedded into a message but in fact get fed to you from a Web site somewhere. You see only the text of such messages. (Outlook doesn't block traditional attached images, so you won't miss out on your second cousin's latest baby pictures. Furthermore, if you do want to see a blocked image, a couple of mouse clicks calls it up.)

By rejecting these graphics, Outlook saves you time, because graphics are big and slow to download. It also shields you from unwelcome free samples of pornographers' wares.

As a bonus, blocking such pictures prevents Outlook from notifying the spammer's Web site that not only is your e-mail address valid, but you're a sucker who actually opens and looks at spam."

Finally!!! With Outlook 2002, I've been seeking a workable solution to blocking web bugs -- for the very reason listed in the previous paragraph. While I've turned off the preview pane and am pretty good in identifying spam prior before opening it, every so often a particular spam message is crafted to look like it could be legit -- spammers just get trickier every day. Almost invariably, opening it up results in the same spam-induced propagation: the very slight pause while it fetches the web bug graphic from the remote server, logs my address, and adds me to the list of people who likewise said "Here I am, I'm a live e-mail account, please send me a lot more spam, thanks!", simply by opening or previewing that bug-laden message. Argghhh.

So far I've found several ways to turn off images in HTML-formatted e-mails in Outlook 2002, but they're all pretty kludgy, especially for non-techies, and some are not easily toggled on and off on demand (unless you enjoy closing Outlook, swapping Windows registry settings, and relaunching Outlook after the change). Also, some solutions strip ALL images from all e-mails when opened, which of course makes a number of desired e-mail newsletters difficult to view in the way intended.

Thus I found the best way in 2002 is not to disable images at all, but to add the "AutoPreview" button to your Outlook toolbar. Then, before you open a seemingly legit message, you can briefly turn on AutoPreview (this is not the same thing as Preview Pane, which should be avoided, trust me) to display the first few lines of text without fetching the web bug, the remote graphic file. It's not perfect, but it definitely helps.

So say what you will about Microsoft and their lack of innovation and security in many of their products, including the core Office suite, and I'll most likely agree with you. However, regarding Outlook 2003, this is one small shining moment where I actually look forward to a new release from Redmond.

[via beSpacific, thanks Sabrina]

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
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September 24, 2003

eBay Privacy: The Latest Oxymoron

Think the RIAA is being aggressive in serving DMCA-sanctioned subpoenas upon ISPs without prior court approval (not to mention the individual lawuits)? According to this disturbing article, eBay could have them beat by comparison. In essence, eBay officials freely distribute their member's private information to any law enforcement agency who requests it -- without requiring any subpoena in many cases.

If this account is accurate, then Joseph Sullivan, eBay's director of "law enforcement and compliance", told numerous law enforcment officials in a closed session that "There's no need for a court order," and further stated:

"We don't make you show a subpoena, except in exceptional cases," Sullivan told his listeners. "When someone uses our site and clicks on the `I Agree' button, it is as if he agrees to let us submit all of his data to the legal authorities. Which means that if you are a law-enforcement officer, all you have to do is send us a fax with a request for information, and ask about the person behind the seller's identity number, and we will provide you with his name, address, sales history and other details - all without having to produce a court order. We want law enforcement people to spend time on our site."

The article goes on to state:

The meaning is clear. One fax to eBay from a lawman - police investigator, NSA, FBI or CIA employee, National Park ranger - and eBay sends back the user's full name, email address, home address, mailing address, home telephone number, name of company where seller is employed and user nickname. What's more, eBay will send the history of items he has browsed, feedbacks received, bids he has made, prices he has paid, and even messages sent in the site's various discussion groups.

Have we really agreed to this? On this point, the article states:

A brief visit to the company's Web site reveals that the "user contract" that visitors are supposed to read before agreeing to the conditions is 4,023 words long. One paragraph makes reference to the site's "privacy policy." The user has to click on a link and is diverted to another document that is some 3,750 words long. It then takes another 2,390 words to reach the section about which Sullivan told the legal authorities: The user's privacy is solely up to eBay.

It gets even better when you factor in PayPal's information, as eBay acquired them in July 2002:

PayPal has about 20 million customers, which means that we have 20 millions files on its users," Sullivan proudly relates. "If you contact me, I will hook you up with the Paypal people. They will help you get the information you're looking for," he tells his listeners. "In order to give you details about credit card transactions, I have to see a court order. I suggest that you get one, if that's what you're looking for." It isn't certain that visitors to the site are aware of the thick hints eBay gives the lawmen.

"By buying PayPal, eBay is merging the information about the goods trail with the money trail," explains Kozlovski. "Thus, in spite of the protective mechanisms of the law against disclosure of details on transactions, eBay is in a position to analyze the full set of data and `advise' investigators when it might be `worthwhile' for them to ask for a subpoena to disclose the details of a financial transaction. Essentially, this bypasses the rules on non-disclosure of details of financial transactions and the confidentiality of the banker-client relationship."

It's a small comfort knowing they have to get a court order somewhere along the way -- my, what an inconvenience that must be. When I set up a PayPal account earlier this year, on several occasions their service strongly encouraged me to "verify" my account by providing my financial institution's account information. In fact, they place certain limits on your PayPal account until you do so. Somehow, I just didn't think it a bright idea to hook up my checking or savings account in this manner, so I declined. In hindsight, I'm pleased with that decision.

However, they're free to require this to continue using PayPal (arguably the number #1 payment option on eBay-hosted auctions) and my only two choices will be to a) provide it begrudgingly and hope blindly that my funds stay secure (not a prudent thing to do), or b) lose my PayPal account "privileges", which will necessarily foreclose me from participating in any eBay auction or transaction where the seller only accepts PayPal as the method of payment. Then I can't use it to collect payment as a seller either. And I'm a normal, law-abiding guy who just wants to find a good deal or buy something that's hard to find elsewhere (again, legally).

This is not the first time these issues have been raised with eBay. They've been criticized by PCWorld and most notably JunkBusters in its April 2003 letter to the FTC describing why they believe eBay's privacy policies and summaries (and the gap between them) constitute unfair or deceptive trade practices.

So that I'm not misunderstood here: eBay has its share of scammers, con artists and gray/black market sellers, and they need to be stopped for the protection of its legitimate buyers and sellers. This, by itself, is a worthy goal. On one hand, it's comforting to know that eBay is being "policed", because eBayers benefit from that (as does eBay, the credit card companies, etc.)

However, the wealth of information tracked, collated, analyzed, and distributed under eBay's control is more than a bit concerning. Remember all the hullabaloo years ago when many fought against having their personal video rentals disclosed? And somewhat more recently, all the hype surrounding DoubleClick's data collection practices? For frequent eBay participants, that could be chump change by comparison.

Yes, eBayers have a choice in using the service, but I don't think that is a fair thing on which to hang one's hat. In my humble opinion, I truly believe there needs to be a better balance between fighting crime and opening our private lives to the State just because we're trying to find a good deal online. It's one thing for my local supermarket to track my local purchases via my "saver card". It's another when they start sharing it with others. (By the way, what do they do with all that information anyway?) I'm reminded of the old standby: "If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about." Why doesn't that console me in this electronic age?

I'll stress that this is my personal opinion: I don't think it's even close to "fair" to expect the average lay person to read several thousand words of legal gobbledygook when all they're trying to do is get a good deal on a used CD, PDA, or what-have-you. And I'm seeing a pattern here where organizations' "summaries" of their policies can be quite misleading. A recent case in point is the ongoing discussion about the Creative Commons warranty provisions, which do not appear in their policy "summaries" (you have to read the fine print to find them).

Granted, the latter has to do with copyright licensing and not privacy. But again, this is a real problem for the average person to understand in a meaningful way. We need some "Truth in Labeling" standards. Hey, wasn't that what TRUSTe and similar organizations were supposed to address? Hmmm... Yes, the criminals need to be caught and brought to justice, and we benefit from those efforts. It sounds like the PATRIOT Act debate all over again. However, in this context, it just seems a bit too "over the top" for my taste -- especially eBay's Sullivan's imputed enthusiasm to give away our information.

As the recent onslaught of RIAA lawsuits illustrates, it's just too easy to catch the dolphins along with the tuna in their nets. In this electronic age, Orwell's head would have been mimicking my new hard drive -- spinning around at 7,200 rpm.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
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September 23, 2003

LawTech Guru Available via My Detod's Front Page

I'm pleased to announce that the LawTech Guru Blog is now available on the default or front page of My Detod's blawg and news aggregator -- no customization required.

Chad Williamson, its founder, has provided a great resource to the legal and larger online community, and is planning to add even more news feeds soon. Even though I use various Windows-based news aggregator programs, I still find My Detod's visual layout convenient for quickly scanning multiple news and blawg sites when I just have a few minutes to spare. The associated Blawg Search is particularly handy when looking for prior posts in the blawgosphere. Combined, it's a juggernaut that keeps getting better -- highly recommended.

The LawTech Guru Blog is also available from many online sources, including The Daily Whirl, Bloglines, and Feedster, just to name a few, via any program or source capable of using an RSS news feed, and naturally from My goal is to enable you to read LawTech Guru in the manner that's most convenient for you.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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September 22, 2003

The Great Blog Client Roundup

Tired of your blog's default entry method? There's a great assortment of Blogging Clients for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and more, just waiting to be downloaded. What's a "blog client"? It's a program that lets you create, edit, format, and post blog entries remotely, without having to use your blog's normal interface. In some cases they give you additional and easier HTML formatting tools, to take some of the drudgery out of blog posting and generate more professional-looking results.

Many clients support a range of blogging systems and are freeware or open source. However, just as many are pre-1.0 version betas, which usually means that not all desired features are fully implemented and/or stable yet. Even so, they can make blogging easier. Read on to find a suitable client for you.

There's usually one main prerequisite of your blogging system: You'll find that many blog clients work through the Blogger API (a/k/a "XML-RPC"), which the de facto standard for remote blog access. Blogger, Movable Type, and TypePad are good examples of blogs supporting this, but I've read numerous reports that Blogger's system is having many problems in this regard.

Before I list them, there's one main problem most Movable Type bloggers have with these clients: When attempting to save a post with "draft" status, Movable Type's default "publish" behavior overrides this status and publishes it anyway -- thus serving the wine before its time. That's a problem for bloggers who like to upload their blog entries in advance for later editing and publishing.

The best answer is to set all of your MT default post preferences to "Draft" (both in the MT control panel and in any blogging client) and you must add the following line to the MT.CFG file: NoPublishMeansDraft 1 This may not work for all blog clients, but I've found it works for some, like w.Bloggar and Zempt, as long as you pay close attention to the "post status" setting before you submit it. You'll also want to verify the operating system requirements and blog software supported before installing any of them.

Without further ado, here's a list of blogging clients I've found. It's still a nascent software category and I don't claim it's a complete list. However, I verified that each site was there and had software available to download:

For Windows:

For Mac OS X:
For Linux:

The LawTech Guru's Experience:

As you can tell from my blog, I use Movable Type (MT). For Windows, I felt that BlogBuddy just didn't add much functionality beyond MT's own online interface. However, it was much more difficult to pick a clear winner between w.Bloggar and Zempt.

w.Bloggar's interface is clean, polished, and allows me to add numerous custom HTML tag sets. w.Bloggar amply tries to be all things to all bloggers, and comes very close. However, while it supports MT's Main Entry and Extended Entry fields (the latter supported indirectly by inserting the <more_text> tag around the extended text), it lacks support for other MT features I need.

That's where Zempt comes in. Zempt allows me to remotely enter text in the Main Entry, Extended Entry, Excerpt, and Keyword fields, and even lets me specify multiple categories per post -- something that many other blog clients can't do. Since I make extensive use of multiple categories and these extra fields, this is a big plus for me. Zempt's interface is not as polished as w.Bloggar, nor does it give me even half of w.Bloggar's convenient HTML editing features. For instance, when Zempt is set to display all of the MT entry fields, it becomes very cramped to enter text on the screen. Turning off a few fields gives me some much-needed working room, and I can then toggle the additional fields when needed. It's a little clunky, but it works.

So while Zempt is more dedicated for MT posting, w.Bloggar is the more robust and ergonomic formatting tool. As such, I find myself using w.Bloggar for more complex posts with subsequent multiple-category and excerpt field touch-up in MT. In contrast, Zempt is great for the simple posts as it give me access to better MT field and category support.

As I said, this is a budding software category, and none of the Windows and Palm clients I've tried have met all of my needs. As blogging grows in popularity, I expect we'll see even more competition and more robust blogging clients. But for now, these tools are definitely worth trying, and the price of admission is irresistable.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
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New Palm-Based Devices Rock!

You've probably heard about the upcoming Handspring Treo 600, which is due in mid-October. If you're hungry for more details, Walt Mossberg just reviewed it in his WSJ Personal Tech column. As Walt is generally a tough cookie to please, this bodes well for the Treo 600. Also, Handspring has been building excitement by leaking advance information about its design, features, etc. Like prior Treos, it works with third party providers such as Good Technology's GoodLink, which enables enterprise integration.

And if this isn't enough of a Palm toy for you, how about a real Palm-based entertainment system? Leave the GameBoys for the kids, as the new Zodiac from TapWave (created by former Palm executives) is the one for adults. Besides choosing between 32 MB and a whopping 128MB, it's a Palm organizer, a music center, and a high-end portable game system with a high-resolution (480 x 320) color display and 3D graphics engine. Perfect for those long flights and layovers.

Lastly, USA Today has a nice article summarizing the new portable gaming systems, some of which are geared toward both the young and young-at-heart.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 19, 2003

What's in Your PDA? PDA Survey Sends Wake-Up Call

Pointsec Mobile Technologies conducted the "PDA Usage Survey 2003" and compiled a list of 20 facts discovered from the survey results.

From a security and identity theft perspective, this is scary. I, for one, do not keep any sensitive financial account information on my PDA for this reason. I do use a password, but admit that I don't lock my PDA with it as much as I should, for convenience sake. I have tried numerous Palm programs that are supposed to lock your PDA after "x" minutes of inactivity, but they universally caused so many fatal errors and soft resets that it was counterproductive. There's still a few more I want to try, but I'm not hopeful -- my PDA is just too "tricked out" with a lot of different apps and hacks running on it. The security programs just don't play nice with the rest.

I am, however, extremely diligent about my devices in public places. For example, whenever I get up from a restaurant seat or exit a taxi, I always do a quick pat check, just to make sure the PDA and cell are still there. If this is obsessive-compulsive, so be it. These are indeed the top ways people lose their mobile devices -- the little devils just slip out of your pocket when you're not looking. (I think Dockers was onto something with their Mobile Pants, but the external zippers just looked too geeky.)

The lack of PDA passwords is not surprising at all. What is: storing sensitive financial information or key passwords without password protection. That's just plain crazy, especially since the survey reported that 25% lost their PDA's at some point. That's one out of every four PDA owners. But again, the masses prefer convenience to security at this level -- we're just in too much of a rush these days.

I previously stored online passwords on my PDA in a database using 160-bit Blowfish encryption, which is pretty strong. However, after several months, the database was irretrievably corrupted, and I decided that it was just smarter to keep them in my head. I probably have over 50 passwords, since I rarely recycle them between sources. That way, if someone discovers one of them, it doesn't compromise the rest. When it comes to passwords, compartmentalization is a good thing, as long as you can keep them straight.

So I'm good until Alzheimer's hits, and hopefully that's a long way off. At least I've made sure the Mrs. knows the important ones too. I've also considered encrypting them on my home PC, but that still bothers me -- that someone could somehow access them. If I'm somehow mentally disabled or dead, I just don't think looking up passwords is going to be my #1 problem.

I've recently posted a very compelling example detailing why storing sensitive information on a PDA or other mobile device, without proper security, can really come back to bite you. Let's be careful out there.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Privacy & Security
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September 18, 2003

Are You an "Enabler"?

An exclusive LawTech Guru feature article by Jeffrey Beard

Q: What do e-mail, PDA's, and blogs all have in common, beyond the fact that they involve computer technology?

A: They're "enablers".

So what's an enabler? Imagine something that just works when you try it. Something so intuitive that the basic learning curve is low. Something that you can learn its basic operation in 20 minutes or less, just enough to get you started. It's also something of vital strategic importance to attaining your overall goals.

With e-mail, you just type in the recipients' e-mail addresses, a subject, a message, and click "Send". For PDA's, you just enter your appointments and contacts, and it works.

Admittedly, setting up a blog (a weblog site) might take more than 20 minutes, but once it's up, it just works. I will say that the new TypePad service has made setting up a new blog the easiest yet. It's preinstalled on their web server and includes easy layout design tools. New content can be posted in a few minutes, and from any PC with an Internet connection and a web browser. It's a self-publisher's dream. Case in point: A colleague at my office asked me what's the easiest way to set up a new blog. I showed him the TypePad site and feature comparison chart. That same evening, he signed up and created a decent-looking blog along with his first post.

So, is this article really about any one of these technologies? No. It's about making your practice more productive, more efficient, while reducing problems and even, gasp, enjoying it!

I'm talking about -- you guessed it -- enablers.

One could certainly raise the point: "Well, aren't all technology solutions enablers? What's so different in what you're saying?" When looking for new solutions to problems, technology is often a part of that solution. And more times than not, it becomes part of the ongoing problem as well, if not even a bigger problem than the original one it was intended to solve.

For instance, take a look at litigation support software. Trial presentation software should be easy, like PowerPoint, but many attorneys need someone else to set it up and run it for them at trial. Transcript management and document databases should be easy. But to many, they're not. How does one choose among them?

When in doubt, my opinion is to go with the one that's the most intuitive, the easiest to use, as long as it meets your defined needs. This last point is critical - a dumbed-down system may be easy to learn, but if it can't do what you need, then what good is it? Conversely, what good are all those extra bells and whistles if no one ever has time to figure them out and use them?

Now if you're already a power user, this changes the dynamics a bit. I'm referring to the median in most of this discussion, as that's where the mass base of business professionals fall in the bell curve. However, power users don't just use enablers -- they run with them.

At first, I was amazed that latecomers and upstarts such Verdict System's Sanction and CaseSoft's CaseMap/TimeMap took their market by storm so quickly.

Then I took a good look at these programs, and the people who created them. Their focus wasn't on adding every feature that everyone could possibly want. Instead, they focused on making software that was stable and actually usable without an MIS degree. It was priced affordably and bundled with fantastic customer service.

So what set these new guys apart? They created enablers.

They understood their customers' needs and built something that enabled them to get the job done without intensive training. Sure, to truly master these programs, it still takes an investment of time. But I'm a big believer of the 80/20 rule, that the first 80% is the easiest to obtain with the least effort.

Many law firms can "enable" their clients to do more via creative extranets. From the client-facing side, a well-designed extranet is an enabler. Whether it's a simple document repository, a geographical representation of pending matters, a deal room, or online training, law firms can make it easier for clients to get access to mission-critical information quickly and easily. And by offering an enabler that most other firms haven't, the law firm has an extraordinary opportunity to cement their client relationships. If a client is receiving competent services with unique benefits that are cost-effective (this is not the same thing as "cheap"), what strong motivation is there for them to leave their law firm for another?

In the economic downturn, I've seen a huge emphasis placed on marketing tactics, and not just in the legal profession. However, one has to ask exactly what it is they are marketing, and why it's better or different than their competition. All firms say they are competent and experienced. So why would I choose one reputable firm over the other? Among other factors, customer service and cost effectiveness often play a critical part here. Whatever enables you to provide them is worth investing in.

So, when making strategic and tactical decisions, try asking yourself, are you using enablers? Is your firm acting as an enabler for your clients? Or are they still waiting for you to catch up to their needs?

Creating effective enablers is no easy feat. It takes a lot of thought and creativity to make a complex technology or process drop-dead simple to use. How will you know if it's worth the effort? You'll know for certain when you see a lot of people actually using it, and talking about it with excitement. Take bloggers: This past year, blogging hit the legal market (and the rest of the world) as a force majeure. I haven't seen this level of technology adoption and excitement since the Internet exploded in the mid-90's.

What else has exploded in the past few years? What has sneaked into organizations via the back door? Odds are, such technologies are enablers. How about instant messaging and file-sharing? Aimster (n/k/a Madster), seeing the potential, combines both into one service. Let's add Wi-Fi to the list -- making Internet and network access nearly as easy as getting a cup of coffee. Digital photography and CD/DVD-burning also come to mind.

All of these technologies enabled people to gain access, communicate and share information so easily and quickly, like never before. And it didn't hurt that many of them were free or relatively low cost to consumers -- yet another mass enabler. Quite simply, an enabler is closely tied to providing self empowerment and convenience.

Law firms have been interested in Knowledge Management (KM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). These systems have great potential for being enablers, but only if implemented correctly, including the inherent cultural issues. These complex systems must be easy and compelling to use or they won't be doing much enabling.

So, how does one become or select an enabler?

Survey or otherwise feel out your target audience in advance. Gaining their input and buy-in is a necessary step to help make sure you hit the target. A simple question often gets the ball rolling: What do you need?

I've been describing a concept, a philosophy of an overall approach. Lest you think I'm painting a rosy picture: In the real world, implementing and deploying "enablers" can be quite challenging and expensive on an organizational scale. But I am suggesting that the ROI is more than just the financial numbers, and both are important items to consider.

While "enabler" may have a negative connotation in some other contexts, it most definitely is the focus of companies and firms who want to move their organization and customers ahead, whether they consciously realize it or not.

Are you an Enabler?

Topic(s):   Feature Articles  |  Law Practice Management
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September 17, 2003

All Tech and No Play Gives Jack Mental Health Problems

From the Seattle Times: "Too much technology diminishes work relationships, author says"

Tim Sanders, Yahoo's Chief Solutions Officer, relates how the increasing use of technology reduced social interaction at work, rendered him emotionally empty and contributed to other mental and relationship problems -- including depression and insomnia. He coins it the "New Economy Depression Syndrome," a state of work-related stress brought on by information overload, constant interruption by technology (think e-mail, instant messaging and cell phones) and the increasing personal isolation that technology affords us.

Let's see, I spent a considerable amount of time on the computer both today and this evening, I just checked my e-mail, I'm posting this after midnight, and am communicating electronically to many people with whom I can't directly speak when they read this.

Now I'm depressed...

Seriously, though, besides explaining why work makes some people ill, it underscores the need for molding a firm's culture, increasing team building opportunities, and simply just taking a co-worker to lunch. We've all been involved in e-mail exchanges that were less than friendly. I find it telling that in speaking with fellow attorneys about the use of electronic chat, instant messaging, or forum software within my firm, some replied they simply preferred walking down the hall to ask a colleague a question, or having a "brown bag" lunch meeting to chat about the latest issues.

Just goes to show we really are social creatures by nature, and it's a group thing. Just think, the next time an office server goes down, you'll feel better... right? ;^)

(Thanks goes to Tony Chan of Quarles & Brady LLP for sending me the Seattle Times link and a much-needed chuckle.)

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
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September 16, 2003

Smart Identity Theft Countermeasures

There's been an e-mail going 'round the Net for some time purporting to be from a corporate attorney who experienced the horrors of identity theft.

If you haven't read it yet, you should. Even if you have, it's a good reminder. To help prevent identity theft, s/he lists a number of smart things to do in advance as well as common traps to avoid. There's also good advice on immediate steps to take after losing a wallet or purse, to protect yourself as much as possible.

Yes, I suppose this classifies as spam as I came across it in my inbox. However, the tips just make good sense and so I decided to track down a cleanly-formatted copy on the web to share. Just goes to show that not all spam is bad (just 99.9999999999%). It's easy to think, "this happens to other people", until it strikes too close to home. You may want to verify the credit bureau numbers, just to be safe.

Also, Sabrina Pacifici has a great cumulative list of posts on ID Theft topics at her blawg, beSpacific.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
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September 15, 2003

MyIE2: Internet Explorer on Steroids?

LawTech Guru Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Unhappy with the prospect that Microsoft could stagnate Internet Explorer 6.0? It doesn't mean you have to suffer without IE innovation and new features until Longhorn, the next Windows version, is speculated to be released in 2005 or 2006.

Ever since Mozilla hit the scene, I've really liked its tabbed browsing (initially introduced by the Opera browser), pop-up blocking, and numerous other features. After a while, using IE just felt like driving last year's model.

Enter MyIE2, a browser that's based on the IE extension architecture. Simply put, MyIE2 puts its own interface over the top of IE (IE 5.x or IE 6.0 required). I just took it for a test spin, and really like it.

Check out the added features for IE 5 & 6 when using MyIE2:

  • Tabbed browsing

  • Mouse gestures (e.g., for "go back a page", simply hold the right mouse button down, and drag the mouse to the left a little bit -- it's much easier than it sounds)

  • Privacy protection: Clean cookies, web addresses, history, cache, form data, and undo list upon closing MyIE2 (but are they really gone, or can one undelete them?)

  • Ad blocking

  • Pop-up blocking

  • Google bar support (however, not supported well under Win 9.x per the MyIE2 site)

  • Auto-hiding toolbars for uncluttered full-screen viewing

  • Super Drag&Drop for dragging links, doing searches on highlighted text, etc.

  • Skinning: Change the browser's appearance with over 50 skins available for download.

  • Plugin support (it comes bundled with several, such as a text highlighter for highlighting all occurrences of a word on a page)

  • Saved tabbed browser groups: Save all open browser tabs as one group, for automatic launching of the grouped sites later -- perfect for saving and restoring research projects with multiple open windows
There's even more features I haven't listed. I have to admit, it didn't even feel like I was using IE anymore, and it was fairly easy to catch on to the differences. If these new features are too alien, don't fret -- you can still use IE normally, as MyIE2 doesn't replace it. Since they both use IE, your bookmarks are shared between them. Since it uses IE's rendering engine for all the heavy lifting, MyIE2's download is less than a 2 MB Zip file download. Now that's slick.

I ran SpyBot and Ad-aware (both latest versions and fully updated) on my PC after installing MyIE2, and it came up clean. Thus it doesn't appear to install any adware or spyware.

I still think Mozilla beats IE in rendering speed and standards compliance. If you want sheer performance, try Firebird. These browsers, along with Opera, are leading the charge in innovation. Despite this review's catchy title, MyIE2 can't improve upon IE's rendering performance, as it's more of a feature facelift. Another downside is that MyIE2's pull-down menus are somewhat cluttered with features, so it's a bit difficult to quickly find the desired feature or setting.

Other minor annoyances include the lack of displaying the IE link bar by default, which is where I keep my frequently-accessed sites. MyIE2 has a feature for marking selected IE bookmarks as "Most Favorite", but it's just not as convenient as IE's link bar. Fortunately, MyIE2's support forum decribes how to set your IE Links folder to appear on the MYIE2 "Favorites" bar to restore the IE Link bar equivalent, so it's not really missing. Also, the "close window" "X" buttons are not located on the same bar as the tabbed browser windows -- which requires some extra mousing to close the embedded browser windows, especially when I have the "autohide" feature enabled. But again, these are fairly minor, and thoughtful features like "minimize to system tray" help offset these shortcomings.

[Addendum 10/7/03: After further use, I've discovered there are several additional methods for closing the tabbed browser windows without using the standard "X" buttons on MyIE2's System Bar: 1) Double-click on the desired tab button, 2) Right-click on the tab button and click on "Close", and 3) Add the "Click Close Button" by clicking on the "Options" pull-down menu, then click on "MyIE2 Options", click on the "Tab" category on the left, and customize the options further, including checking the "Quick Close Button" option. I particularly like the ability to quickly close any tabs by double-clicking on them. However, it does take some care to avoid double-clicking when you intended a single click to select it instead of closing it.]

If you don't like switching back and forth between IE and another browser like Mozilla (think of the bookmark management issues), or just want to give IE some zing, this is one to check out. The tabbed browsing feature alone is worth the trip, especially in conjunction with the group tab save and restore. I also like how the skins and 3D menus really spruce up IE's plain jane appearance. Who knows? Perhaps we just might see some of these features in IE7. So here's your chance to drive next-next year's model today. (After all, Longhorn isn't due until at least 2005.)

Perhaps the best part is that MyIE2 flies in the face of Brian Countryman's (Microsoft's Program Manager in Internet Explorer) statement that "Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS." After all, think of all the great improvements MyIE2 added as an extension to IE 5.x and 6.0, and it just happens to run on "legacy OSes" such as Windows 98.

The price? Per its donation page: "MyIE2 is free, which means you could use it free of charge for non-commercial purpose [sic]."

Pretty darn good for this much functionality.

[Updated 9/22/03 re: tabbed browsing and IE link bar features.]
[Updated 10/7/03 re: easier methods to close the tabbed browser windows.]

Topic(s):   Web Wizardry
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Global Web Browser Usage

Speaking of web browsers, here's a report I found over the summer while designing this blog. No major surprises re: IE, as it reads very similarly to the office suite market share reports -- global domination, anyone? It was interesting to see that Mozilla's use was increasing ever slightly. Not that IE is a bad browser, but I just like having choices and version upgrades occurring more frequently than every 2-3 years.

Topic(s):   Web Wizardry
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September 14, 2003

Cingular's New FastForward Device -- Forwarding Cell Calls at What Cost?

Noted gadget author David Pogue reviews Cingular's forthcoming FastForward device in a recent New York Times "State of the Art" column (note: you may need a free registered account to access it). As David puts it: "On Oct. 1, Cingular will begin selling a unique $40 cellphone cradle called the FastForward. What it does can be described by a single sentence: whenever you slip your cellphone into it, the FastForward automatically routes incoming cell calls to your home or office phone." Read on to discover the real LawTech Guru take on this device and service.

On the surface, this sounds pretty handy -- automatically forward incoming cell calls to your home, office, or a third number, without using up your precious airtime minutes. All three desired numbers need to be entered into your cell phone's phonebook with a special code name.

However, there's some definite trade-offs involved, which David aptly outlines, so I won't repeat them here, other to note that you have to be a Cingular customer to use it. Full disclosure: I am a Cingular customer primarily because of the nice corporate discount through my firm. Overall, they've been "okay" as a carrier. General customer service has been good, but they have been TOTALLY CLUELESS when it comes to supporting cellular internet access -- yes, I meant to shout that, after enduring many hours of their tech non-support torture.

Here's a few more aspects to consider: There's a separate FastForward cradle for each major cell phone manufacturer, so if you switch phones to a different brand, you need to pop for another $40 cradle. I have the same problem with my PDA's foldable Stowaway keyboard, so I'm not a big fan of this approach. Why not just bundle it with a universal charging adapter and make the phone connectors the snap-in variety? Duh. Also, if I want to forward cell calls to my office phone when I'm at work, and then later at home, it sounds like I either need to lug the cradle around, or buy two of them for $80. It sounds like the PDA cradle thing all over again.

If you already have call forwarding for your cell, that might be preferable to all the gotchas David and I listed. I will at least applaud Cingular's attempt to simplify and consolidate your phone recharging cycle and auto-call forwarding. It's refreshing to see cell phone innovation that doesn't involve games or low-res cameras, and actually tries to enhance the phone's primary use (hint to cellular companies: we actually bought it because it's a phone -- get it?). However, as David alludes, they are certainly sending mixed signals about their true intentions in offering this device.

In certain situations, this could be quite handy -- for example, if you have broadband Internet access and don't need to worrry about the dial-up issue, or can't easily remember how to enable and disable your regular call forwarding service. In others, well, I just might hit the rewind button instead of buying the FastForward. You be the judge.

(P.S. Thanks goes to Rachel Schneider at my firm for passing along the article link. Rachel is another tech-savvy attorney who's been a past speaker at the ABA TECHSHOW conference. She's also an impressive environmental and litigation attorney in my humble opinion.)

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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September 12, 2003

What's in your e-Wallet?

I was reading this quick metric on on the rapid climb of Identity Theft complaints filed with the FTC clearinghouse.

Then I recalled my recent experience. I discovered some personal information in one of my legal directory listings and had it removed ASAP. I don't want to go into too much detail here, as I don't want to create a roadmap for identity thieves. Suffice it to say, it was detailed enough to cause me concern. I called the publisher, who confirmed they had been receiving many calls from attorneys requesting the same.

I simply just hadn't looked at my listing in ages, and that info was added at least 5 years ago, when I joined my firm, and before Identity Theft was as rampant as it is now. It was a standard field on the profile form, and I dutifully filled it out at the time. Well, times have changed.

While I had it removed, there are many more listings with such information, which should be a concern to those individuals. Hopefully, this will raise some awareness within the legal community. Of course, this is only one of many sources of information. Sites like have been around for quite some time (although you should remove that data as well), and that's just the tip of a very large iceberg.

But at least I can help my little corner of it.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
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September 11, 2003

Azure Skies

It's eerie, perhaps fate, and definitely a bit haunting, that on Sept. 11th I should discuss a program named Azure, and then read Dennis Kennedy's moving post about this tragic date and those blue skies. Dennis, well said, and I join in the sentiment.

Topic(s):   Other Musings
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Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 2 of 2)

As promised yesterday, there's a better way to post and edit Movable Type entries from your Palm. It's a free Palm program I found called Azure.

2) Azure: A Movable Type Blog Client for your Palm (and Other Devices)

LawTech Guru Rating: **** (out of 5)  Azure's Web Site

In concept it's similar to what w.Bloggar does on your PC by being a remote blogging client, and it's only somewhat scaled down in features by comparison. If you're not familiar with w.Bloggar, both of these programs allow you to create, edit, and publish blog entries without having to log into Movable Type's more limited control panel. They add a host of additional editing tools to make drafting posts and embedding HTML markup a breeze.

Azure is a J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) program that runs on Palm OS devices and J2ME-enabled cell phones. Yes, I said cell phones, if you're that driven to blog, although the Nokia 6800 would probably work quite nicely here.

It wasn't mentioned on Azure's list of tested devices, but the newer Blackberries are J2ME-based as well. So I'm thinking -- you guessed it -- that Azure might even run on a Blackberry. With their thumbpad keys, they could become interesting mobile blogging devices if you subscribe to the optional internet service feature.

Pretty versatile for a tiny 120K program, eh?

I've been using Azure's version 0.3 and 0.4 betas, which have worked surprisingly well over my 56K dial-up modem in my Visor. As long as your Palm can access the Internet with a full connection (i.e., not web-clipping), it'll probably work with a cell phone data connection or Wi-Fi. By the way, those version numbers are not typos -- these are beta releases, which brings me to the next point:

IMPORTANT TIP #1: Always hotsync your PDA to back it up *before* installing any new program.

As the hotync process installs programs first and backs it up last in the sequence, do two separate hotsyncs (one to backup, one to install, but disable the backup conduit for just this second hotsync) -- don't combine them. And please don't blame me if your Palm doesn't like the new software, I didn't write it. That's what backups are for. For which I heavily and heartily recommend using BackupBuddy from
IMPORTANT TIP #2: Make sure your Palm has sufficient free availalble memory:

The Palm Java "engine" listed below has these minimum prerequisites for running on a Palm:

1) Palm OS version 3.5 and above.

If your Palm is running OS 3.3 or lower, don't try this. If you don't know how to determine your Palm OS version, don't try this. (Seriously though, you can easily find the OS version in the Palm Launcher: Tap on its pull-down menu, then tap on "Info" and then tap on "Version" at the bottom of the screen.)

2) Palms with at least 4 MB total memory.

Add to these requirements the fact that Azure takes up 120K, and the Sun Java "engine" for your Palm takes up 590K, so you'll need a minimum total of 710K free on your palm just to install it. You should leave some additional free memory to run it. New Palm devices should have enough memory to burn for this, but if you have an older device, try having at least 1 MB of free memory before you start.


For general Palm use, you'll need to do the following. I've created this guide because there's not much installation documentation "out there" when I looked:

1) Download the Sun Java MIDP for PalmOS v1.0

You first have to install this Java engine on your Palm, before Azure, or Java apps like Azure won't run. It does for your Palm what the Java VM (virtual machine) download does for your PC -- it lets you run Java apps on it. In that Zip file, you only need to install the MIDP.PRC file on your Palm via the normal Palm Install Tool route. This installs the JavaHQ app on your Palm, so you can run J2ME apps on it.

The only preference setting I changed in the MIDP app was to enable the "Network" setting since I was going online with Azure. Leave the rest alone unless you encounter any serious problems.

You shouldn't have to run JavaHQ again by itself, as all other J2ME apps should be run by launching their own icons from the Palm launcher. Just think: You now have a Java-enabled Palm.

You can ignore the rest of the files in the downloaded zip file, unless you want to run the sample programs or need the included Java JAR/JAD converter for installing other Java programs from that format.

2) Download Azure for your Palm OS-based device and click on the Download link on the left side of the web page.

You only need the single AZURE_0-4.PRC file from the "Download PalmOS PRC" link. Install it on your Palm per the usual Install Tool method.

Launch Azure on your Palm. You'll need to tap on the "Add Blog" screen button and enter the following:

1) The complete web path to your mt-xmlrpc.cgi file on your blog site. (FYI, this is also known as the Blogger API, which is now a de facto standard for third-party software programs to interface with blog sites. This is how Azure and w.Bloggar talk to Movable Type.)

You'd want to enter something similar to this in Azure's "Weblog address" field, just like you would with any other remote blogging app:

Note: You'll probably need to substitute "scgi-bin" for "cgi-bin" if you're running MT with cgi-wrap (aka "CGI Wrapper" in some hosts' CPanel app). I did this to increase my blog's security level. (As you may have guessed, this is no ordinary blog.)

2) Now just enter your MT username and password to login, connect to the Net and you're able to blog from your Palm. Very slick.

Personally, I was thrilled to see it work, as it definitely has that "wow" factor to blog from your Palm. And it made me very happy that I chose a widely supported blogging system like Movable Type -- there are tons of add-ons and plugins for it. This level of third-party support made all the extra web design effort bearable, and it reminded me very much of the Palm community -- if there's something you'd like to do with your MT blog or Palm, chances are that someone has already written a program or plug-in for it.

Enjoy your moblogging, and please leave me a comment if you found this useful or have additional tips to share.


Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

September 10, 2003

Moblogging From Your Palm (Part 1 of 2)

Wouldn't it be useful to post new or edit existing Movable Type blog entries from a Palm OS-based PDA, smartphone, etc., while traveling?

If you have a Palm with Internet access (via modem, Wi-Fi, cell phone connection, etc.), there are several ways you can post blog entries from it.

1) The PDA Web Browser Approach

LawTech Guru Rating: ** (out of 5)
(Limited results for now, but stay tuned)

I've successfully entered new and edited existing posts to my Movable Type blog database from my Visor using the AvantGo browser (v. 4.2) and the Handspring Blazer 2.0. I say entered, but not published, for a reason.

Both browsers hang when I tap on the "Rebuild" button, with a message at the bottom of the screen that it's rebuilding the page. However, the modem is idle and nothing happens after that. Here's why: The Rebuild web button normally pops open a new browser window, and it's probably a javascript feature. The problem is that many Palm-based browsers can't run java or javascript commands.

So I can add new entries but they never can get rendered to the visible blog page if all I use are these browsers (can't rebuild).

Lesson Learned: Your Palm browser needs to be compatible with the data entry method of your blog. Many pared-down Palm browsers don't support scripting and more advanced HTML coding methods. Why? Because most of them are proxy-based. In essence, the PDA browser doesn't fetch web site content directly from the source. Instead, the browser first contacts a separate proxy server (usually run by the browser developer or PDA manufacturer). Then, that server goes out and fetches the web site content, strips out the advanced features, and sends it down to your PDA browser. This keeps the pages small in size so they load faster and use less of your PDA's limited memory.

So why did I mention this? Supposedly Palm's newest browser, Web Browser Pro, is much improved in these areas. It's advertised to handle javascript and even CSS (cascading style sheet) formatting. So there's still hope for the browser moblogging method for Movable Type. However, the downside is that it's only bundled with three models of the Palm Tungsten line: Tungsten T, T2 and W. But why not the "C" model? It's ready to surf the web via the built in Wi-Fi. Instead, they bundled the AvantGo browser, which as you can see, is limited. I guess we'll have to wait for "C2", coming next summer to a theater, er, Best Buy near you.

Here's some good news on this front: Palm Infocenter has some updates on both the Palm Web Browser Pro and the upcoming Handspring Blazer 3.0 browser.

No news so far on whether either browser will run on older Palms running OS 4 and lower. Seeing as Palm OS 5 devices run on a completely different processor than all of their predecessors, I'm not holding my breath.

As I said, for now this is "so-so" at best. However, the very good news is that I've found a much more elegant and free solution for Palm moblogging. It really works, and I'll share it tomorrow. See you then.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

September 09, 2003

Enabling the Gecko Engine

This is an ambitious post for a new blog, but I thought it was worth sharing:

The Mozilla web browser is a great alternative to Internet Explorer -- especially since Microsoft has stated future IE versions may only come with each new Windows version. That's a long wait. Mozilla is moving along nicely, and looks to be more standards-based than IE.

So what's Gecko? It's Mozilla's and Netscape's HTML rendering engine. IE also installs its own HTML rendering engine, which is used by many other programs to display HTML (i.e., web-based) content on your PC. That's why some programs require IE to be installed on your PC to work.

However, while the current Mozilla 1.4 release installs the Gecko engine, it doesn't actually enable it for other programs to use. The good news is that after you manually enable it, some newer programs will let you choose between the two rendering engines. And having choices is a good thing in this MS-dominated era.

Two such programs I use are:
HTML-Kit: A free, yet fully-featured web editor used to design this blog, and
NewzCrawler: My favorite RSS news aggregator.

In particular, HTML-Kit will let you preview your web pages within the program using both IE's and Mozilla's engines, so you can compare them literally side-by-side on the screen. A very handy feature indeed when doing web design. However, there's not too much reliable documentation available on the web, so I created my own.

It's a bit techie in nature, just to warn you. If you're not comfortable tweaking your Windows settings, then find someone who is, or make sure you fully back up your PC before trying this. I don't want to anyone to muck up their PC, even though most of these steps are pretty benign.

Note: These steps are specific to Mozilla 1.4, as the path Mozilla uses in step 4 has changed between version releases.

After installing Mozilla 1.4 in Windows:

1) Download the Mozilla 1.4 ActiveX zip file from the Mozilla ActiveX Project.

2) Unzip the files to the proper location:

Using WinZip (or your favorite Zip program), unzip the files contained in the above Zip file to C:\Program Files\Common Files\\GRE\1.4f_2003062408. Make sure to check the options for using the folder paths in the zip file -- otherwise they won't be unzipped into the proper subdirectories, and it won't work.

3) Register the Mozctlx.dll file in Windows:

Launch the command prompt:

In Windows 9.x and ME:
Click on Start, Run. Then type "command" without the quotes and press ENTER.

In Windows NT, 2000, and XP:
Click on Start, Run. Then type "cmd" without the quotes and press ENTER.

Next, for all Windows versions:
In the black command window, type in the following line exactly as follows, and press the ENTER key:

regsvr32.exe "C:\Program Files\Common Files\\GRE\1.4f_2003062408\mozctlx.dll"

You should see a message dialog stating that the file was successfully registered within Windows.

4) Edit the windows path statement to append the following text to the path:

"C:\Program Files\Common Files\\GRE\1.4f_2003062408"

In Windows 9.x and ME:

Edit the Autoexec.bat file in the root directory, and add this path to the end of the Path line. Don't forget to put a semicolon immediately before and after this path text. If you don't have a Path line, add one by typing:
Path="C:\Program Files\Common Files\\GRE\1.4f_2003062408";
Note that you need to add the quotes above due to the long directory names.

In Windows NT, 2000, and XP:

You don't edit the Autoexec.bat, but you'll need to add a user environment variable to Windows. The exact steps vary slightly between these three Windows versions, and I was able to document them for NT and XP:

On the Windows desktop, right-click on the "My Computer" icon, and left-click on "Properties".

- In Windows NT, click on the "Environment" tab.
- In Windows XP, click on the "Advanced" tab, and then on the "Environment Variables" button at the bottom.

In the "User Variable" section, look for a "Path" variable and select it. Add the path in quotes and separate it with a semicolon.

If the "Path" variable doesn't exist in the user variables, click on the "New" button, and type in "Path" (no quotes) for the variable name, and "C:\Program Files\Common Files\\GRE\1.4f_2003062408" (with the quotes) in the "variable value" field. Click on each of the OK buttons to close all of the dialog boxes. You might need to reboot for the changes to be effective.

You're now done with the hard stuff.

5) Set your other programs to use Gecko:

This varies with each compatible program, so I've provided some examples:


- Launch the program.
- Click on Edit, Preferences, Startup tab.
- Check these two boxes: Detect browsers and Detect programs
- Click on OK to save.


- Launch NewzCrawler.
- Click on Tools, Preferences.
- With "General" highlighted in the left pane, click on the "Use render engine" pull-down menu under "HTML Render engine" section on the right.
- Click on "Mozilla (Gecko)" to select it and click on OK.
- Close and re-launch NewzCrawler to make it effective.

That's it!

Topic(s):   Web Wizardry
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

September 08, 2003

Juicy Blackberry Information Leaves a Stain

It's truly amazing what one can buy for under $20 on eBay these days:

Wired News details a cautionary tale for firms with confidential information stored on their employees' and principals' mobile devices: BlackBerry Reveals Bank's Secrets.

For a mere $15.50, a Seattle computer consultant picked up a Blackberry on eBay that contained high-level e-mails, names, addresses, phone numbers and transactions relating to Morgan Stanley, their clients and executives worldwide, and even the seller's personal financial information. The seller was a former VP of M&A at Morgan Stanley.

The VP's e-mail account was closed, but much of the data still resided on the device. He simply had no idea that data could remain on a device long after he removed the battery. (Apparently this guy never heard of flash memory.)

It's 10:00, do you know where your Blackberry is? Or PDA, cell phone, laptop, tablet PC, etc., for that matter. This is the perfect "poster child" situation for why mobile security solutions and procedures are a good thing to have -- and more importantly, follow.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Privacy & Security
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

This Blog is PDA-Friendly

While I'm on the topic of PDA's, I thought I'd mention this site was designed and laid out specifically with PDA's in mind. If you have a PDA with a web browser and an internet connection, you should be able to read LawTech Guru on the go.

I tested this site with the Handspring Blazer and AvantGo browsers on my trusty Handspring Visor, and it displays remarkably well on the small screen. The blog title and description appear first, with the Search and RSS feed links next for easy access. Right below that is the body of the blog posts for quick reading very near the top, and all of the sidebar links appear at the end.

I'm keeping my eye out for a true RSS news feed reader for the Palm OS. So far the closest one I've found is BlogPuck, which requires a Java 1.4.1-capable computer to first convert the RSS feeds into the open source Plucker document/web reader format for the Palm.

In essence, it's like AvantGo for RSS feeds -- you can read them in offline mode on your Palm. I'd like to see a true RSS reader for real-time reading on any Palm with a live Internet connection (via modem, Wi-Fi, cell carrier, etc.).

Then my blog will truly be portable.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

September 07, 2003

Welcome to LawTech Guru!

Welcome to my humble blog. Hopefully, you're interested in learning how you can improve your professional and personal endeavors by using technology, trying new approaches, or perhaps you simply enjoy hearing about cool new things.

As I haven't added an "About" page yet, here's a brief introduction: I'm an attorney-turned-consultant with a uniquely blended background in law, business management, and computer technology. I've previously consulted with over 100 law firms, and have been in-house with Quarles & Brady LLP, in Milwaukee, WI for the past five years. Quarles has 400+ attorneys, and is among the 60 largest law firms in the United States.

I'm a frequent author and national presenter, and recently served on the ABA TECHSHOW executive planning board. Lastly, all opinions and information stated here are of my own personal endeavor, and not that of my employer.

It's ironic how one can make the largest difference by doing a simple thing: communicate. I am often amazed by the improvement gained just by showing someone how to use something they already have, or pointing out something new that's actually useful (what a concept!). All of which are reasons why I created the LawTech Guru Blog. That, and an insatiable desire to write and share ideas.

Of course, learning and playing with new tech toys is irresistable too. Enjoy!

Jeff Beard

P.S. Last but not least, many thank-you's go to Jerry Lawson, Dennis Kennedy, and Larry Bodine for their generous comments and feedback for this blog. Likewise, Chris Duecker and Jack Holmes at Quarles & Brady LLP were phenomenal in their web coding ideas and suggestions.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)