June 28, 2004

Unveiling "Trick or Treat"

Since I first came up with the concept for this site, I've been wanting to have a regular recurring feature for LawTech Guru. As it's dedicated to providing legal technology information, a regular tips column just seemed like a natural fit. From my speaking engagements and working with diverse legal professionals, it's readily apparent that even the smallest feature discovery can have a magical impact. Sometimes it's the simple elegance of finding a long sought-after feature or function, or that one tip that eliminates an irksome annoyance.

In this spirit, each week I'll post one or more handy tips or tricks that will hopefully make someone's tech life a little easier, efficient, and/or productive. (Hey, isn't that what technology was supposed to do for us anyway?) They'll range from software tips, undocumented tricks, and key web self-help tech resources, to fun, interesting, and savvy things you may not have known you could do with your system.

While I'll be kicking off the inaugural Trick or Treat, I heartily welcome suggestions and submissions. Along those lines, I'm encouraging my fellow colleagues and guest tipsters to open their bag of tricks and share with us. The best ones will get published here with full attribution, and in return they'll get their well-deserved 15+ minutes of fame (this site gets a lot traffic and is therefore Google friendly). Please feel free to e-mail me with your suggestions, as it's always fun to Trick or Treat.

As for the title inspiration, well, the muses arrived after my recent move to Morton, IL, just east of Peoria. You see, while Morton is a nice, quiet, upstanding community, it's also the self-proclaimed Pumpkin Capital of the World (go figure). There are pumpkin signs throughout town, as they have their annual "Punkin' Chunkin'" festival every year -- where folks come from all over to shoot real pumpkins from monstrous home-made crane-like cannons (I once saw this on the Discovery Channel, and it's truly a sight to see).

Apparently the world record is just under a mile for distance, and they can achieve a velocity around 600 mph -- now that's some serious pumpkin chucking. The pumpkins made me think of Halloween, and the rest of the idea just fell into place. The techies reading this should appreciate the "Aludium Q-36 Pumpkin Modulator" (check out the photos, seriously). The cannon's name was inspired by Marvin the Martian's ray gun, the Aludium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator, and the cannon looks pretty cool. (Like I keep saying, this is no ordinary tech blog -- life has a way of being stranger than fiction.) Stay tuned for the treats, which will be posted here and also archived under the Trick or Treat category. I may be a little early for Halloween, but I know we'll scare up some good ideas.

Topic(s):   Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 25, 2004

And So They Came, 2 by 4 and Five by Five

If you're looking to revitalize your practice and get fresh new ideas from some incredibly creative and on-the-leading-edge lawyers and other professionals, then I heartily recommend Matt Homann's Five by Five (the [non]billable hour) and Dennis Kennedy's upcoming 2 by 4 features.

Matt's innovative brainchild: "In weekly posts, I'll ask five people -- who are experts in their fields -- to give me five ideas on a given topic. Every week, the five people will come from a different (usually non-legal) discipline, but the topic will always focus upon the innovative marketing, pricing, and delivery of legal services." So far the submissions have been insightful, creative, humorous, and even a bit off the wall -- which in my opinion is exactly the frame of mind one needs for thinking outside the box. Heck, throw out the box while you're at it.

Dennis' "'The Two By Four (tm).' It's based on the old mule training proverb that you need to whack a lawyer, er, mule with a two by four just to get the mule's attention. It will be a weekly collection of four items from two well-known experts of things that most businesses already know or are already doing that it will take a whack from a two by four to get lawyers and law firms to pay attention to. Since we're talking about lawyers, maybe I should call it Four by Four."

And like Dennis, Ernie, and the rest, I too wish I thought of Matt's idea. But I know sheer genius when I see it and doff my chapeau. And by the way, Matt and Dennis -- Ooo! Ooo! Pick me! Pick me! ;^)

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

CDs & Long-term Data Storage Tips

Courtesy of Dave Rakowski, who posted this link today on the ABA-LawTech listserv:

"Long Term Data Storage on CD-R Discs (how to store your data for a long, long time)", while containing some dated references, covers the controversy surrounding just how long one can expect data stored on burned CDs to survive. In this regard, I liked how it colorfully mentioned "Don't Screw Up the Dye Layer". Most people take great care to protect the clear plastic bottom of the CD, the one that the laser reads, and there's even handy devices like the Skip Doctor to help buff out scratches on that side to bring even badly scratched CDs and DVDs back from the dead.

However, what some people may not realize is that your disc's data is stored literally right behind the label, in what's known as the dye layer. So while there's a lot of clear plastic between the laser side and the data, your data is only a hair's breadth away from being rendered partially or completely unreadable by even a small scratch on the label side. The good news is that this makes it very easy to dispose of these discs securely by taking a sharp object like a flat head screwdriver to the label side with a minimum and quick effort (which I've done in well under a minute). The bad news is that once the dye layer is damaged, say hasta la vista to the affected data.

Perhaps even more helpful, the article discusses why some file formats are better than others -- not for storage, but for long term accessibility due to the fact that technology and formats change so frequently. For example, the included file type table suggested various MPEG versions as preferred over more proprietary formats such as AVI, Quicktime, and RealVideo, which may or may not be around in say, five, ten, or more years. Another great suggestion: "To maintain maximum flexibility for your archived data, you might want to store two copies on each disc, one copy in an industry-standard format, and another in the application-specific format of your choice." Lastly, it pays to check your data collection every few years, to make sure they're still readable and to transfer them to new media types as the old ones become obsolete (not to mention the hardware required to read them).

Topic(s):   Electronic Discovery  |  Other Musings
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 23, 2004

Got Gmail?

A week ago, while discussing Yahoo! Mail's recent improvements, I said, "And don't get me started on the privacy controversy with Gmail (Google's new free e-mail service). Who wants any service to scan your e-mail for profiling and/or targeting?" Well, over the weekend (just before packing up the PC equipment for our full house move from Wisconsin to Illinois -- which is why you haven't seen a new post in a week), I received a spare Gmail invitation from a fellow ABA LawTech listserv mate -- yet another reason why it pays to participate. So I thought, what the heck, let's take Gmail for a spin.

My thoughts so far:

The first thing that struck me was how familiar the web e-mail interface was -- strikingly similar to Yahoo!'s web mail look and feel. The page loading was snappy. However, you must enable scripting and ActiveX in your web browser for the pages to load properly (or Gmail will generate error pages telling you to turn them on). I have my browser set to prompt me for these types of active content as a security precaution, so it pops up a lot of prompts.

After reading through Google's informational screens, I now understand why they not only give you a full Gigabyte of storage, but actively encourage you to dump as much e-mail there as you desire, without ever deleting it: The more content you store in Gmail, the more raw information is presented to Google's e-mail search technology, which in turn enables Google to better profile your interests for their targeted ad system.

In other words, the more you store, the more it indexes, and like the wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood, "the better to see you with". Perhaps this is a harsh characterization, but Google's spin that no human is reading your e-mail doesn't hold much weight with me, and quite the contrary since an automated search should be even more efficient at raw data gathering and flagging. On one hand, better sampling arguably translates to more relevant ads that you may actually find of interest. On the other, regarding privacy, let's just say I won't be storing any sensitive or truly confidential information in Gmail. As there has been an intense amount of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) and controversy over Gmail's privacy issues, Google's statement on Gmail's privacy attempts to put us all at ease. It's up to each person's comfort level after that. After all, no one is forcing us to use Gmail.

Gmail's Getting Started Guide lists a number of "new" features, including conversation threading, no need to delete, and archiving all received and sent messages to a single "All Mail" repository -- which is an interesting concept to dump everything into one place and use Gmail's search, filtering, and other tools to find it later. Each e-mail can be organized with one or more labels, rather than dumped into separate folders (which Google calls "the old way"). This allows messages to be sorted or filtered in different ways. And of course you can search them using the built-in Google search engine.

It also features a spam filter which Google is continuing to improve. Thus far, my account appears too new to attract spam yet, but we'll see how it goes. Also, the Gmail Beta cannot insert recipient e-mail addresses from the included address book, and they are working on this. I was little surprised that a basic feature like this wasn't functional yet, but that's why they call it a Beta.

Overall, though, Gmail will likely meet many people's needs, especially the 1 GB storage and 10 MB per message limit. One danger, as I see it, is that firm and corporate users who have internally-imposed storage and message limitations for their enterprise e-mail systems may tend to use free and more expansive services such as Gmail for expedient workarounds in a pinch. Even if you have solid policies in place, the open web browser egress is something to consider.

[Update 6.25.04: Tom Collins of Knowledge Aforethought posted how Gmail's features - "a full Gigabyte of storage, full search functionality, and automated grouping and labeling - makes it intriguing as a partial answer to the personal KM questions raised by Dennis Kennedy and discussed in a recent post here."]

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

June 16, 2004

New Computer Designs to Watch

Tired of the same-old same-old with desktops and laptops? Check out this nifty summary from CIO.com covering Blade PC's, OQO Modular PC, Integrated PCs, and Adaptable Notebooks.

I've never been a fan of integrated PC's. While it saves space and might make sense for public/kiosk settings, try cleaning out the integrated printer after a cartridge explodes inside. It's not pretty.

A good point: Although these new designs may not reach the masses, some features point to the future of computing. I'd say the key points we can expect are portability, space savings, and adaptability.

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

June 15, 2004

Yahoo! Cranks Up E-Mail Storage

Not to be left completely behind by Google's 1GB GMail services, CNet News reports that Yahoo! is making good on its announcement to increase current members' e-mail storage up to 100MB today.

I received an e-mail in my Yahoo! account today that they expanded service as follows:

  • Increased storage capacity – from your current level to 100MB
  • Increase in total message size to 10MB
  • A streamlined interface that's even easier to use
While I haven't tried Google's offering yet (their beta invitations are limited), I've been a Yahoo! Mail user for many years now. While other services like HotMail have been hacked many times and experienced other problems, I have to say that my Yahoo! experience has been exemplary (and for a free service, that's rare). As I was constantly bumping up again the old 6MB limit, the new space gives me some very welcome breathing room. It's nice to be in the green after living in their red zone for so long.

With their bulk mail (spam) filter, it's been a great free solution for giving out a throwaway e-mail address without contributing to my already flooded personal and business e-mail accounts hosted elsewhere.

So if you need a fairly generous free e-mail account to use to counter spam, send personal e-mail outside of your office system, and to access nearly anywhere, it's not a bad choice if you don't mind the Flash ads. And don't get me started on the privacy controversy with GMail. Who wants any service to scan your e-mail for profiling and/or targeting?

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

James Bond, Eat Your Heart Out

Time for a fun post about a different kind of "mobile technology", and just in time for Father's Day:

What is it about convertible cars that we find so cool? I'm not talking about putting the top down. For amphibious gadget car fans everywhere (which arguably includes fans of the James Bond Lotus Esprit submarine and Ian Fleming's kiddie version, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), this real-life amphibious sports car just broke the Guiness World Record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel by an amphibious vehicle.

The Gibbs Aquada takes about 10 seconds for the car's wheels to retract, the power to switch, and the boat to take off. The accelerator can then be used as a throttle in the water. The makers claim the Aquada can reach speeds of more than 100mph on land and 30mph on water. All for the low bargain price of £75,000 ($115,000 US). If nothing else, it's fun to look at the movie and photos of a true convertible that isn't just a Hollywood mock-up.

That thinking inspired the Swiss-made Splash vehicle, which attempts to kick it up a notch by being able to "drive on land, sail on water and fly through the air" (the latter two look to be hydrofoil and ground effect driven, respectively). Personally, I think it's bit over the top, while the Aquada is more refined. Although, the Aquada's V-hull could be murder over speed bumps!

[Update 7.18.04: While perusing DiscoveryResources.org today, I realized I was completely remiss in not mentioning the WaterCar, which boasts better speed performance over the Aquada and looks more like a street-ready sports car (inspired by the Camaro). Boating Life has a side-by-side comparison of the WaterCar vs. Aquada. Previously, this post had absolutely no relevance to legal technology, but all work and no play makes Jack/Janet a dull lawyer. Then I go surfing over to DiscoveryResources, and it all ties together!]

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

June 12, 2004

Dell's Horrific Tech Support

True story that just happened to me (Warning Will Robinson! -- my first big blog rant lies ahead):

I have a Dell-branded USB Flash Memory Key (a flash memory thumb drive) that was ordered with my new laptop since it doesn't have a floppy drive. It works great, no complaints. However, one of my older PC's runs Win98, so naturally I simply need to download the driver for it.

I head on over to Dell's site, click on Support, go to Downloads and look around. Even after performing over a half dozen well-crafted searches, I come up with nothing even close. So I go to the product page which tells me that no driver is needed after Win98 (but naturally no link for the Win98 driver).

I then call Dell tech support -- twice. Both times I got a heavily-accented person who I could barely understand and both told me they weren't well trained for this area. Lovely, and oh, by the way, could we have your Dell tag number for the memory key? (Hint: There's no tag number on it.)

Windows reports it as a Lexar Digital Film USB Device. So I head on over to Lexar's site. Nope, nothing under their driver downloads that even resembles my drive.

So in a fit of desperation, I did what I should've done in the first place -- gone a-Googlin'. Sure enough, after two failed searches, the third delivers (searched for: dell driver "flash memory key"). It leads me to this wonderful gem of a support forum discussion with a Dell Support Forum Moderator (and you absolutely must read this one -- it puts Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First" routine to shame.) I begin to hear Janice's (from "Friends") voice in my ear: "Oh -- My -- God!" If the Dell forum site is unavailable, here's the Google cached version.

Bottom line, Dell's tech support is truly clueless. Short answer to a long problem: The driver appears to be at memorykeytools.com all along, from the link in the last post of the forum thread above. Surely that's completely self-evident for a Dell-branded product, right? (And no, I didn't order the memory key from Dell myself.) Again, the device works just fine. I just needed the driver. (A driver! My kingdom for a driver!)

Which made me realize that Dell didn't lose me because of the product they delivered. They lost me because of the terrible service and the terrible web site. Relating that back a little closer to home, I think there's a lesson in there for attorneys who believe that competent and affordable representation is enough, and that good content doesn't matter as long as you've got a web site with your name and services on it.

Another lesson learned is that Google is arguably the best way to usefully navigate through a huge commercial web site. I wanted to look at Sony's MicroVault since it includes some nice extras. So I head on over to Sony.com. I look and click and search, but I can't find the exact one I saw in the store. I Google for Sony MicroVault, and bam, it's in the top five or so results. Some of these big commercial sites are fundamentally broken from a usability perspective. If a good product exists in a forest, but no one can see it, does it sell?

Okay, bad computer day, rant over. You may now return to your regularly-scheduled surfing. ;^)

[Update 6.15.04: Thanks to Google, Dell might actually read this. Today, Googling for the words "Dell tech support" returns this site in the top ten results. Actually, a fair amount of the other nine results weren't too complimentary either. If you don't want to speak to a foreign support center, it sounds like your best bet is to go through their corporate support program.]

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

June 11, 2004

Sprint Offers Camera-less Treo 600

Sometimes it pays to wait. Sprint just released the camera-less version of the Treo 600. As I recently posted, for many professionals and especially lawyers, camera phones can be more of a liability than an asset if you need/want to take your cell phone everywhere.

Rather than repeat all the details, I'll direct you to the various news stories and press release:

TreoCentral: "It's official: Sprint announces camera-less Treo 600"

PalmInfocenter: "Sprint Officially Offers Camera-less Treo 600"

Sprint's Press Release: "Sprint Addresses Corporate Security Concerns With Nationwide Availability of Non-Camera Sprint PCS Vision(SM) Smart Device Treo(TM) 600 by palmOne" (and winner of the longest PR title of the year award!)

No word yet from other major wireless carriers on the camera-less version. It's rumored Verizon will offer the updated Treo 610. I'll temper it by pointing out details are very scarce on this one, and I'd wager it'll be the camera-only version, at least for a while.

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

Google Reconsiders RSS Support

CNet reports that Google is once again looking at supporting the RSS standard for their Blogger line. As you probably know, after Google acquired Blogger, it dropped RSS 1.0 and 2.0 support for its feeds in complete favor of Atom. This sparked off a huge debate regarding the two formats, and how Google's dominance would affect the "balance of power".

As CNet reports, "According to an internal Google e-mail seen by CNET News.com, the company has been considering the change and last month assigned at least one staffer to write a memo summarizing technical details relating to RSS. The request came amid a broader discussion touching on extending RSS support for new Blogger subscribers and Google Groups, which supports Atom but not RSS in a test version of the service."

Like many others, I'd like to see Google remain neutral and support both RSS and Atom for several good reasons. First, it would give Blogger customers and their readership the freedeom to choose what they want to use. In turn, this laissez faire approach will let the market develop more naturally according to the needs, rather than having a few big players artificially skewing it.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 10, 2004

Get Ultraskinny With Sony’s X505 Notebook

Get fashion-model thin with a sleek new notebook: PC Mag has a review, specs, and photos of Sony's latest marvel. "Its latest VAIO creation measures just 0.6 by 10.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD), making it one of the thinnest notebooks we've ever seen. At an astonishing system weight of 1.8 pounds, you won't even notice it in your bag; but considering the system's $3,000 price tag, you're likely to feel it in your wallet." That's no typo -- it's only six-tenths of an inch thick.

The X505 appears geared more for the predominantly mobile than office-frequented worker, since it features "two USB ports, one FireWire port, one type II PC Card slot, and a DC out port... Since there is no built-in wireless, a Sony 802.11g PC Card specially designed to fit seamlessly with the notebook comes bundled with the system." For presenters and wired workers (or perhaps wired presenters ;^), Sony includes a VGA port and 100Mb Ethernet via a funky detachable dongle. Naturally it wouldn't be a true Sony product without the bundled Memory Stick mouse, and an optional $400 external DVD+/-RW drive. Sony claims it maintains a battery life of up to four hours.

Otherwise, it's nicely equipped with a 1.1-GHz Intel ULV Pentium M, 512MB DDR SDRAM, 20GB hard drive, and 64MB Intel 855GME graphics, which is pretty good considering what they had to do to shoehorn it all in.

But to really appreciate this baby's sleek lines, you need to see Engadget's photo or Sony's Flash demo. Wow.

As much as I'm oohed and aahed, I'm afraid it would eventually end up the unfortunate victim of an (un)satisfying crunch while in transit. Ouch.

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

June 09, 2004

Extensive RSS Reader Review & Compilation

[Via beSpacific:] PCWorld has a very good review on the current RSS reader (news aggregator) offerings. While the review focuses on only five programs, the real gem is the expanded chart that covers 18 news aggregators, including information on the price, Atom feed support, pros, cons, comments, and overall ratings (up to 5 stars) for each. As I've looked at most of the readers listed at some point or another, consider it your one-stop RSS reader shopping list -- it includes both PC- and web-based readers. Whether you're new to RSS feeds or a veteran looking for a better reader, there's something listed for everyone.

By the way, I completely agree with FeedDemon as the Editor's Pick -- definitely my favorite for PC-based readers. If I could add two features to FeedDemon, it would be an expandable/collapsible Outlook folder interface (presently under consideration by the developer), and SharpReader's ability to thread posts to show common links between blogs and therefore inter-blog discussions. So far, that seems to be SharpReader's claim to fame, because otherwise it's a fairly basic reader which also requires the large .NET Framework installation to run.

If you prefer web-based readers for ease of use and central storage of your feeds (so you don't have to try to keep all your PC's synchronized), then Bloglines is worth serious consideration. The downside with free web-based readers (thin clients) is that they tend to run a little slower than the PC-based fat clients, even with broadband connections -- mainly this is due to the page refresh latency inherent in web browsing, reliance upon scripts, etc.

Also, the web-based services need to make money somehow, so it's probably only a matter of time before they morph into various tiered free/pay service models, adopt advertising, or some other form of revenue generation. Thus once they have a critical mass of users and their feed lists, the service can change. In the meantime, it's not a bad place to start and kick the tires. As long as they offer an OPML* file export feature, you are free to take your accumulated feed list elsewhere. It's also a good idea to back up your web-based feed list on a fairly regular basis, since you never know when the service could be down, or worse, out of business.

(*OPML = "Outline Processor Markup Language", and it's an XML-based format that's used to exchange outline-type information between applications running on different operating systems and environments. In plain English, since your list of feeds can be formatted as an outline, the OPML file format makes them portable between most RSS readers via their Import/Export features. Very cool if you ask me.)

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 08, 2004

New Position Announcement

Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed my postings were more sporadic than usual. Well, there's been a very good reason for it:

I'm very happy to announce that I've recently joined Caterpillar Inc.'s Legal Services Division as their Legal IT Manager. This is a newly created, senior-ranking IT position for their corporate counsel division. Caterpillar (aka Cat) is a Fortune 100 company with 2003 annual revenue of $22.7 billion. Caterpillar is the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment. You've probably seen their large earthmoving and mining equipment, and they've diversified into engine production, financial services, logistics and supply chain management, IP licensing, and other areas.

More to the point, Caterpillar has 130 talented in-house attorneys globally, which means they face many of the same challenges and needs as large international law firms, as well as those unique to corporate counsel. As such I've moved to their world headquarters in Peoria, Illinois, to help guide their legal division's technology endeavors. These will include short- and long-term strategic planning, needs and scope assessment, supervising the legal IT staff, product selection, training, knowledge management, collaboration between corporate and outside counsel, coordinating with their global IT department, process and workflow redesign, and implementing new technological solutions.

Cat is very big on Six Sigma, having already derived many benefits from it. We have more than 2,700 trained black belts, who are launching thousands of new projects this year across the entire company. Thus I'm looking forward to participating in the Six Sigma teams.

I'm very excited to join and help guide their legal team's technology development. I've included my new contact information in this vCard which many address book and contact manager programs can import (including various PDAs).

(On a personal note, while I've relocated from Milwaukee, WI, to the friendly Peoria metropolitan area, I'll be forever rooting for our beloved Packers, even against "Da Bears". However, with Peoria being a good trek southwest from Milwaukee, hopefully I'll have a little less "frozen tundra" during the year.)

Topic(s):   Other Musings
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (2)

June 04, 2004

Smart Flash Drives: Tiny Personal Servers

I've seen a lot of hyped gadgets come and go, but this one sounds promising, especially for corporate laptop users who don't want to mix or leave their personal information on the company laptop or vice versa with home PCs:

Engadget alerts us to the next generation of "smart" USB flash or thumb drives, such as the M-System's Xkey 2.0, which will feature an embedded 32-bit processor. The processor lets you run programs directly from it, including the ability to run it as a personal server for Microsoft Exchange server. That's right -- all directly from the tiny USB flash drive. The Register offers a fuller account of the Xkey 2.0, and M-Systems has already issued a press release.

Per The Register, another cool feature "removes all traces associated with a Web browser, such as cookies, history and temporary files. Furthermore, Xkey encrypts all information on the device." Now those are some handy features, although I'd first want to see proof that it also deletes the associated Windows index.dat files and registry entries. The index.dat files are notoriously difficult to clean in Windows NT/2000/XP because they are perpetually kept open and in use by Windows (in comparison, Win9x/ME users can easily boot to DOS and delete them that way).

Because these are smart drives, the idea is that you could use one when you've left behind or lost your laptop. Just plug it into another PC (say at a hotel or cafe public kiosk), and it will run your programs and access your data separately from the PC. It does so "without leaving any valuable information, including temporary files, on the host PC. Where the host system requires files to exist physically on the PC, "shortcut" pointers or stubs are employed that point to files held on the USB stick."

Since the data is encrypted, presumably we could breathe a bit easier when having lost or left it behind in a public place. While the Xkey claims to block key loggers, I'd feel better scanning any public host PCs, just to make sure they aren't running any key loggers or other malware that could compromise my passwords and confidential data. Better safe than sorry.

As with all gadget hype, I'm only cautiously optimistic regarding these claims. However, if it delivers as promised, it would truly redefine the notion of what constitutes a "personal computer" and "server", and challenge our preconceptions of size.

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

June 03, 2004

Better Hurry If You Want a Sony Clie...

Sony just announced that "it will stop selling new handheld digital assistants outside of Japan this year, exiting a declining market and striking a blow to PalmSource Inc., whose software powers the devices."

Interestingly, the NY Times/Reuters article reveals Sony's true purpose for jumping into the handheld market was to sell more of their multimedia content: "The Japanese electronics and entertainment conglomerate said the Clie failed to realize its intended goal of becoming a mobile device that links content and hardware. 'We consider mobile devices a key aspect of our strategy to converge contents like music, movies and games with hardware and since the Clie functions as a personal organizer, we wanted to refocus our efforts,' a Sony spokeswoman said."

It's truly a shame for non-Japanese markets, as Sony released some of the coolest Palms ever, especially the ones with the twist display, MP3 players, etc.

But there's still a little time left if you're dying for a new Clie: "Sony plans to stop development and sales of a new Clie after autumn in all regions, except for Japan."

Afterward, "Sony aims to fill the Clie void with new advanced handsets from Sony Ericsson, its cell phone venture with Sweden's Ericsson, and a new handheld game machine, the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The PSP promises to play games, movies and music and will hit stores later this year in Japan. It goes on sale in the United States and Europe by the end of March 2005."

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

June 02, 2004

LawTech Guru RSS Feed Changes

Some good news for those of you subscribing to LawTech Guru via RSS feeds:

1) I recently made time to distinguish my RSS feeds, since it didn't make much sense to have the same content syndicated in redundant RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds (most RSS readers handle both anyway):

CURRENT RSS SUBSCRIBERS, PLEASE NOTE: The RSS feed filenames have not changed at all, so you will continue to receive them automatically. Thus you do not need to make any RSS subscription changes unless you desire different RSS feed content:

If you prefer a bandwidth-friendly, excerpts-only feed, subscribe to the "RSS 1.0 - EXCERPTS" feed button on the home page. Perfect for dial-up users with numerous RSS feed subscriptions. The excerpt size was increased to send the first 100 characters, which is still compact.

If you prefer to receive the complete body of the posts in your RSS reader, subscribe to the "RSS 2.0 - FULL" feed button on the home page.

Full feeds are advantageous because you don't have to do the news aggregator "two-step" (i.e., read the partial feed text, then click through to the blog to get the rest of the post and embedded links). Also, if you're using a threaded news aggregator, such as SharpReader, receiving full feeds enables the reader to do its job to show you the inter-blog postings. Enjoy.

2) RSS 2.0 Feed Format Fixed:

Those of you receiving my RSS 2.0 feed (featured in Ernie the Attorney's "Legal News" blog listing) may have noticed that all of the paragraphs mysteriously ran together and the hyperlinks were removed. Not a good thing, and I've chalked it up to a Movable Type glitch. I'm happy to say it was easily corrected once I had a chance to look at it.

It's always satisfying to fix problems while adding enhancements at the same time. From the very beginning, the layout and format of this blog was designed with you, the reader, in mind. It's PDA browser-friendly, appears virtually identical in all popular browsers (no small coding feat, I assure you), and all of the useful tools are located at the top for easy reference: Search, e-mail, RSS feed buttons, categories, etc. Also, the body font size is adjustable in various browsers (particularly IE) so you can make it easier on your eyes. While my goal was to keep things simple in appearance, this is no ordinary blog under the hood.

Lastly, thanks to Rick Klau for providing the know-how for distinguishing feed content, and Dennis Kennedy for reminding me of it recently.

Topic(s):   Blogging Tips
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink  |  Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

BlackBerries: Breaking Up is (Too) Easy To Do

Now here's a very scary thought: Take your corporate BlackBerry or cell phone text messaging and use it for dating, flirting, e-mailing a late night rendezvous, or even breaking up with someone remotely (cowards!). As pop tech meets pop culture, people are doing just that. Techdirt has a riveting post re: how young Washington DC workers are finding that BlackBerries enable Just-In-Time dating.

You know you have a major problem when you have to take your BlackBerry in the shower with you:

"One woman dating a man who works on Capitol Hill said he has taken his BlackBerry into the bathroom with him when showering, to keep her from snooping. 'I admit I would have snooped, because he's a total player in Washington, and I would have wanted to see who else he was dating,' said the woman, a 31-year-old television producer who asked to remain anonymous.

Many users caution against taking the BlackBerry out for a night on the town. Drunken Berrying — like drunken dialing — can be dangerous, or at least regrettable.

'The BlackBerry is so mobile, you can just pull it out and start saying idiotic things right away,' said Danielle Baussan, a 28-year-old lawyer in Washington. 'In contrast, in the time it takes for you to get home to your computer you might have sobered up.'

'It's actually worse than drunk-dialing,' she said, 'because at least they know you are drunk. But if you drunk-Berry, they're not so sure.'"

Not to mention that e-mail lives forever. Yikes.

(Double-Yikes: It doesn't just have a name, but a verb, "Drunk-Berrying".)

This is like a 1L final exam -- see if you can spot the numerous issues.

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