November 26, 2003

Soothing Brain Wave Inducer for Pocket PCs

PDA's continue to become even more "personal". First there was the RayNet Personal Massager for the Handspring Visor PDA's, which sparked some interesting discussions about its uses.

Now, CNet News reports a Korean company has developed the Peeg, or "personal electroencephalogram," for Pocket PCs.

Peeg supposedly stimulates different types of brain waves by sending positive waves to the wearer. From CNet, "the Peeg consists of a software application for Microsoft Pocket PC, headphones and a set of silver eyeglasses that look like the sort of thing triathletes wear. The lenses are made of opaque plastic. When the PDA application is set on "concentration," rhythmic pinging sounds are heard in the earphones while lights flash off and on inside the glasses. Users close their eyes, so they only faintly perceive the light pulses. The frequency of the pings and the lights are meant to be synchronized so that they induce brain waves of the same frequency."

By altering one's brain wave frequencies, its developers are claiming that Peeg can alter moods, improve memorization, and even induce relaxation, sleep, vitality and jet-lag recovery. If it works, this could be useful after a stressful day or while traveling. Naturally, the skeptic in me wonders how difficult it would be to program it to send subliminal messages...

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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November 20, 2003

Wireless Networking "Best Practices"

[8.01.04: Click here for Version 2.0 of this article. I've updated this list to include many more security measures, tips, and explanations.]

While at the WI legal tech conference mentioned in my immediately prior post, one the best technical presentations I attended was "Cutting The Cord: Wireless Law Practice Is Here!" by Nerino Petro and David Whelan. Not only did they provide great written materials, but they took a very complex, jargony topic and made it understandable.

If any of you are considering using a wireless network (predominantly 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi), in addition to the articles mentioned in my prior post this week, I've compiled a nice checklist of tasks you should always do when setting up and maintaining your wireless hardware and software. If you don't know how to do these, get someone in who does or as Dale Haag recently corresponded with me, any kid with a Pringles can will own your system. (For even more info, try a Google search for the following: pringles can wireless range).

To make your wireless network the most secure:

(Caveat: I make no guarantees or warranties that this is an all-inclusive list.)

  • Change the default SSID (Service Set ID or network name) and encryption keys.

    Hackers know all the default values for nearly each make and model, as they are posted all over the Web. If you really want to know, try another simple Google search for the following: default wireless SSID.

  • Disable the SSID broadcast.
  • Change the default password for the Administrator account.

    Again, wireless hackers know these defaults, most of which are simply "Admin". Try a Google search for: default wireless router passwords.

  • Enable MAC Address Filtering.

    This filters MAC addresses at the access point to allow access to only authorized Ethernet cards. Every Ethernet network card, wired or wireless, has a unique number called a MAC address.

  • In addition to MAC Address Filtering, limit the number of allowed connections to the bare minimum needed.

  • Enable WEP (802.11b) or WPA (802.11g) 128-bit Encryption.

    Please note that this will reduce your overall network performance. However, since Internet speeds via cable and DSL are usually much slower than the maximum Ethernet speeds, it should have no effect on Internet access speed, just on file and print sharing speeds.

  • Limit folder/file sharing to the minimum with password protection.

Additional "Must Use" Safeguards:

  • Personal or software firewalls, such as ZoneAlarm Pro and Norton Internet Security
  • Good antivirus software
  • Anti-spyware/malware programs, such as Ad-aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, and PestPatrol

Ongoing Maintenance for the Best Security:

  • Keep the personal firewall and antivirus programs updated with the latest definitions.
  • Keep up with the various security patches from Microsoft.
  • Change the SSID value periodically.
  • Change the WEP or WPA encryption keys periodically.
  • I've heard some newer wireless access points (WAPs) have a feature for automatic rotation of one or more of these keys, which would definitely make it more challenging to hack. (For you Trekkies, this is akin to rotating the shield harmonics to repel the Borg. ;^)

Naturally, the more secure you make it, the less convenient the setup. But I'll take the extra wireless security anytime, because wireless networks are still horribly insecure compared to wired.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Privacy & Security
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Highlights from the WI Law & Technology Conference

I had the privilege and pleasure of presenting at the annual Wisconsin Law & Technology Conference & Expo in Milwaukee this week. As I've participated in each of the last three years' shows, this was the best one yet as it just gets better every year. It was very well attended, and featured national speakers such as Kingsley Martin, Craig Ball, Donna Payne, Dale Tincher, David Whelan, Sheryn Bruehl, Ross Kodner, and a host of great talent from across the state.

My presentation was on mobile lawyering, and it was satisfying to see a large number of WI attorneys looking to improve their mobile capabilities to serve their clients better as well as make things easier and more efficient for themselves. This is a favorite topic for me, and it was fun to present with David Whelan from the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, who was full of great tips and tricks, being another mobile gadget hound.

Kingsley Martin gave a thought-provoking luncheon keynote about KM and the "skeptic's toolbox", which are methods for quantifying leverage and return on investment. He is one of the few people I know who can take complex mathematical formulas, break them down, and explain them in byte-sized chunks for lawyers to understand. If you ever get a chance to see Kingsley speak, run, don't walk to see him.

Lastly, as a fellow lawyer once said to me, "in a perverse desire to increase my anxiety level", I attended Craig Ball's and Donna Payne's session on "Computer Forensics For Lawyers". Craig was as entertaining and educational as ever, and Donna showed us some very scary aspects of metadata that shocked even the Microsoft folks when she had showed them (which is another scary thought in of itself). Suffice it to say, lawyers and businesses working with common business software (MS Office, WordPerfect, Adobe Acrobat, etc.) need to have very good metadata cleaner tools and need to know exactly which features in Word to turn on and more importantly, off. This is one of those sessions that could have been called "Computer Forensics: Scared Straight for Lawyers".

All in all, it was a well-planned and executed conference, and if you're in the area, I strongly encourage you to attend next year's show.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
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November 18, 2003

Top Strategic Reasons for Pursuing Integration has a nice bar chart which lays out the top six reasons to pursue integration of various systems, namely to:

1. Improve information access.
2. Increase accuracy and consistency of data.
3. Leverage existing resources and systems.
4. Reduce IT costs.
5. Improve employee productivity.
6. Enable online collaboration with business partners.

It seems to me that many of these same reasons could apply equally well to the use of Knowledge Management systems. While the KM term has been roughed up a bit in various circles, perhaps a better moniker might be "Knowledge Integration".

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
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November 17, 2003

Wireless Networking Made Understandable

The November issue of the ABA Law Practice Today e-zine is out, and features no less than five great articles on wireless networking. While they were all informative, I particularly enjoyed Jeff Flax's article which warns against using Wi-Fi networks until the security holes are better addressed. All in all, another great job by the LPT team.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
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November 15, 2003

Good Review on the Treo 600

Getting back to ultimate smartphones, here's a new and fairly balanced review of the Handspring Treo 600 from TechTV.

What I like is that in the GSM version, somebody got it right and added all four GSM frequencies (850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, and 1,900 MHz), so it's a true "world phone". Granted GSM coverage in the U.S. is still spotty, but it is improving as carriers build out the GSM network here.

I've said it before, and the review author agrees, that the Treo 600 isn't without some drawbacks. However, it's one the best smartphones currently available in my opinion.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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When Gadgets Get Out of Hand...

X-Reflect Goggles PhotoAdmittedly, this post has absolutely nothing to do with legal technology. As you can tell from my prior entries, I love gadgets as much as the next person (probably more), but this one just seems to cross the line in my book. Just when I thought cell phone camera voyeurism was bad enough, Gizmodo recently posted the X-Reflect Goggles, which claim to have some X-Ray-like capabilities, most notably the advertised ability to see through layers of clothing. An "X" rating could be appropriate, if the claims are to be believed and this isn't just a high-tech scam.

Now I suppose some enterprising person could make the argument this would make a good security monitoring device and even has military applications (consider airport monitoring, to see who's smuggling contraband, weapons, etc. -- but we'd also have greatly distracted security guards to boot). And in all good fun, as a child I remember those notorious comic book ads for the X-Ray glasses that were little more than a gimmick. I even enjoyed the 1963 cult flick, "X! The Man with X-Ray Eyes" with Ray Milland, and of course that Dockers Mobile Pants commercial, which was pretty humorous. So I'm definitely not without a sense of humor or whimsy on the subject, and have to admit I'm intrigued by the technology behind this device.

But Holy X-Ray Batman! This one even includes a video jack so the voyeur can make movies, and the unsuspecting victims could turn up on one of those Internet or late night video offers. Maybe it's just my conservative Midwestern upbringing and the privacy advocate in me, but if this is the real deal, I'm thankful it's priced at a whopping $2,400 a pair. Devices like this raise the ethical question, "Just because we can do it, should we?" Can we just get back to developing the ultimate smartphone (without the X-Rays)?

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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November 13, 2003

Wi-Fi Web Surfing on a Pocket PC & New PPC Smartphones

First, here's a useful article entitled "Wireless surfing with my Pocket PC" that covers the various web browsers and browser service providers on the Pocket PC -- perfect if you're looking for alternatives to Pocket Internet Explorer. The author set up a wireless network at home, which includes his PPC. He reviews each browser program or service from his usability perspective, and includes many screen shots. Suffice it to say, some were up to the task. Others required a lot of left-right scrolling, which I call "tennis browsing", not a good thing.

Second, just when you think the Palm OS will own the smartphone market, there's several new Pocket PC smartphones that could make you sit up and take notice. Right on the heels of its Palm-powered brother, the Samsung SPH-i500, there's the Pocket PC-powered Samsung SCH-i600 (pictured on the left), as featured on Verizon's site as the SPH-i600. I was immediately struck by their similarity in appearance to the Kyocera 7135 smartphone. In this case, imitation isn't flattery, they're just capitalizing on a smarter design.

Motorola also jumped on the PPC flip-smartphone wagon, with their recent MPx200 (aka V700) device (pictured on the right). has a good review.

With these two releases, PPC smartphone manufacturers have finally "gotten it" that we don't want big honking iPaq-shaped devices for our cell phones. Personally, I still like the Palm-based Handspring Treo 600, but I certainly wouldn't object to seeing it with a high-resolution display and a better way to protect the screen, which is where the flip style comes in handy.

[Courtesy of the The Connected PDA.]

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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November 10, 2003

Upcoming Laptops: Thin is In

CNET also has an intriguing interview with Anand Chandrasekher, vice president and general manager of the Mobile Platforms Group at Intel. The topic: What to expect in laptops over the next year. It includes an interesting discussion over the Centrino bundle, switching between different types of wireless networks, and how thin we can expect notebooks to go.

There's even some that will feature a smaller second screen, to enable messaging while the laptop is shut down, an intriguing concept. Sad to say that most of the network switching innovation is happening in Asia and Europe (e.g., switching from Wi-Fi band to cellular when you need it -- a nice solution for the road warrior in all of us).

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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Microsoft to Release Office 2003 Add-On Today

Per CNET News, Microsoft should release today one of the first add-on packages for Office 2003: a bundle of software and services aimed at helping sales professionals create better proposals. It's available as a free download for Office 2003 customers enrolled in Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing program. What looks promising is that planned packages include tools for creating financial reports and administering compliance projects for new Sarbanes-Oxley Act accounting rules.

Today's package includes templates and tools to help sales professionals create proposals. According to CNET, it also includes guidelines for building services that cull data from corporate databases, so proposals reflect the latest facts and figures. It uses XML and Web services to tap into the corporate knowledge base.

Say, for example, you receive an RFP that asks how many financial institution M&A's your firm has done. It sounds like there is potential for integrating the data between your back office and front office suites. However, I note that it states "guidelines for building services", so some assembly may be required. Just in time for Christmas.

Topic(s):   Legal Technology
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November 06, 2003

Are You Ready for Bluejacking?

It seems there's no end to the imagination of high-tech cell phone users. First there was cell phone camera "voyeurism", which prompted a number of organizations to ban or otherwise restrict them (think potential trade secret and other leaks). So much so that cell manufacturers are now being asked to sell special editions without the cameras to various organizations. But enough on the cameras.

"Bluejacking" is the latest craze. In essence, it's a way to surreptitiously send messages to strangers, from one Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to another. For example, your Bluetooth phone mysteriously receives a message, "You've been Bluejacked!" Gizmodo has a nice summary of the process. Ironically, it's actually done by sending a new contact record to another phone that's in "discoverable" mode, but it appears to the recipient as a message. That's because the sender types the message into the name field. At this point, it sounds like a harmless prank to watch people's puzzled reactions or perhaps a clever way to break the ice with an attractive stranger. But if you're like me, the idea of leaving one's device open to pranksters doesn't generate any warm fuzzies.

In the U.S., Bluetooth phones have not truly taken off yet, so most people don't have to worry for now. This is really quite similar conceptually to what happened with open Wi-Fi access points. Either people don't realize they can enable simple security or they don't want to because the lack of security makes it easier to connect devices on the fly -- which enables Bluejackers to have their bit of fun. At least the good news is that Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology, with a range of only 30 to 40 feet, but newer developments are extending its range. That's about the same range for cell phone cameras, and look at the mischief it's caused.

And in case you were wondering, yes, there are more than a few people who find this quite amusing and can't wait to try it -- it's the latest tech craze. Just check out the forum chat at Mobiledia.

My suggestion is that if you have a Bluetooth-enabled device (who said this is only limited to cell phones?), I'd recommend searching through its settings, or heaven forbid, read the manual to see whether there are any password features worth enabling. If necessary, one can disable the security if things aren't connecting when desired. With the possible exception of Bluetooth wireless headsets, I'll wager that most Bluetooth cell phone owners are not even using their Bluetooth connection most of the time. So it just makes sense to close the open hole.

Again, this seems like a bit of harmless fun at the moment, rather like the digital equivalent of "ding dong ditch" or prank phone calls. Although it's possible some miscreant could find more serious implications. Thus if you'd like to learn more about Bluejacking, head on over to BluejackQ, which further explains Bluejacking and freely offers the steps, tips, and tricks for the Bluejacker wannabe.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Privacy & Security
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November 05, 2003

Hawkins Interview: The Next Big Thing in Mobile Computing

Here's an intriguing interview with Jeff Hawkins, from the Investor's Business Daily. Hawkins founded Palm Inc., then Handspring, and is now palmOne's chief technology officer. In the interview, he comments on his future role with palmOne, the significance of the Treo 600 and teases us about the "unbelievable next big thing in mind" that will require the combined resources of Palm and Handspring to pull it off.

Some of the better passages:

"Hawkins: Many years ago - 17 years ago or something like that - I got the bug in my head that the future of personal computing was going to be mobile devices, mobile computing. I looked at the world of PCs and said, "This ain't gonna work for a world of 6 billion people." Well, back then it was 5 billion. These products (PCs) are too complex and they're too hard to use and too expensive, and computing ought to be for everybody."

Regarding the next big thing:
"One of the reasons I wanted to merge Handspring with Palm was because of this idea. And it's something that was bigger than just Handspring could do on its own. I felt that the combined companies were perfectly aligned to do this new thing."

"Those are my two intersection points: future of personal computing and mobile. (It) may yet again be sort of a different industry or different business, but plays on our strengths in the things we've been building over the years."

Why the Treo 600 is a significant product:
"It moves us more toward the direction where everybody's cell phone ought to be a smart machine. It shouldn't be this dumb little thing where all you can do is make phone calls on it." [Amen to that.]

"And one of these days these things will be $99. They're not today, but they'll be here in a few years. (The Treo 600 sells for $600, but can be obtained for less with a service plan with a cell phone company.)"

A $99 smartphone would be irresistible at that price, as long as it was usable by the masses. Given Hawkins fascination with brain research and the intuitiveness of the Palm OS, I'm looking forward to his next brainchild. Too bad they take over a year to build -- but in the meantime the Treo 600 sounds like the cure for the "dumb little thing" that can only make phone calls.

Hmm... "brain research", "personal computing", and "mobile" -- I used to kid a busy fellow technology consultant that he needed a cell phone brain implant. Change it to a smartphone implant or brain interface of some kind, and I think we've got something. One thing's for certain: It's going to need a darn good spam filter -- we've got enough mental clutter already.

[Update 11/6/03: Yet another sci-fi device is becoming science fact, as The Boston Globe reports on a company seeking approval to test a new brain implant which could enable paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains or possibly help them move their limbs. It features a jack for the hard-wired connection.

If you've ever watched Andromeda on television, then you may have seen Harper jack into the ship's computer in a very similar fashion. Naturally, with my focus on mobile technology, I'm scratching my head here. Why haven't they included a wireless transmitter that could jack in and sit behind the ear or fit in a shirt pocket to make it easier to change or recharge the batteries? Hard wiring just seems so "90's" to me. If one truly wants to empower these folks, cut them loose.]

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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November 04, 2003

Doug Caddell on Just-in-Time Training

Doug Caddell, CIO of Foley & Lardner, has a nice article in Law Technology News on Just In Time/Just Enough (JIT/JE) training trends and applications within law firms. This really has become the norm in successful tech-savvy firms. The lawyers simply don't have the time to spend 2-3 hours or more in formal training sessions. Thus, the on-the-spot, personalized, customized, feature-specific training model works well in this environment.

Quite simply, it is an implementation of empowering lawyers with enablers without the large non-billable time overhead. "Show me just enough to use it tomorrow or next week" is a common request these days. From learning how to use lit support software during a deposition, running a PowerPoint presentation, to even syncing up a PDA to Outlook for the first time, this is a model that just seems to work for busy professionals. In my experience it's been a relatively painless way to get at the low-hanging fruit: Bolstering and improving your legal staff's skill level with practical applications and quick return on investment.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
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November 02, 2003

Christine Edwards on Corporate Governance & Technology Issues

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted in the past several days, I was catching up after returning from LegalTech Chicago. Both of the keynotes were quite good. Christine Edwards, a partner at Winston & Strawn in Chicago, spoke about "Accountability at the Speed of Thought", which addressed the challenges and responsibilities that chief legal officers face today. I jotted down her key points, and found her perspective about corporate technology issues quite refreshing:

  • The "informed technologist's" star has risen. The current regulatory climate will increase reliance upon technology.
  • Technology's role will be more in the spotlight as companies scramble to meet the requirements (e.g., Sarbanes-Oxley). Several big things need to happen: Standardization, automation, and integration. Sears combined multiple systems into one, and as a result is seen as a leader in this area.
  • Businesses need to cross divisions and business lines (no more silos), and no more spreadsheet accounting.
  • Many companies lack consistent retention policies. For example, they may have an e-mail retention policy, but they forgot about adressing other business records such as prior document and e-mail drafts.
  • Convergence and matter management is the trend in corporate law departments.
  • Management reports are key. There is a great need to slice and dice the information in many different ways to meet the needs being asked of corporate management and board members.
  • The informed technologist has a career path. Business leaders today are more interested in methodology and softwares. Today, the sky is the limit for business leaders with a technology background. Communication skills are key. Corporate boards need people who understand technology, but can see the broader picture. As Ms. Edwards put, they can see around corners.
  • Technology has heightened expectations for quick decisions. However, is the fast decision the best decision? In the context of e-mail and instant messaging, consider contemplative decision making instead.
  • Technology can facilitate things, but what is really needed is a change in behavior and culture -- there are no silver bullets.
While I thought a few portions were perhaps a bit overly optimistic, I agree with her overall assessment. IT can no longer be considered infrastructure. It is integral to the success of the business in surmounting its challenges. Strategic alignment and savvy implementation are key to monitoring and managing the business.

Even more important, in my opinion, are hiring and retaining people who "get it", use their heads, and can communicate persuasively. Ms. Edwards' point about many companies' oversight in adressing prior document and e-mail drafts is a perfect example. Those are things which definitely grow fangs of their own if not included in the strategic planning and tactical implementations.

Considering the impact of HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and other necessary but burdensome regulation, companies need even more insightful information and technology guidance than ever before. No longer can effective business leaders avoid dealing with it. There's a new breed of business professional in town -- the informed technologist.

[Update: I had the pleasure of sitting next to and meeting Ron Friedmann during the keynote. As Rick Klau recently posted, meeting a fellow blogger is much more congenial than meeting a stranger. Through our blogs, we already knew each other to some degree. As we already had a good idea of the other's interests and skills, our conversation just gained its own momentum.

I just noticed via my news aggregator that Ron also posted his thoughts on her keynote. He focused on Ms. Edwards' comments regarding the main distinction between how lawyers view decisions and how business people do. Having worked in both arenas, I can definitely relate.]

Topic(s):   Other Musings
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