October 31, 2004
Fourth Generation Wi-Fi Locator Device
You know Wi-Fi has already arrived when a fourth Wi-Fi finder/detector/seeker/locator is set for release in the coming week. Just when I was about to order the Wi-Fi Seeker, along comes news of the Hawking Technology HWL1 802.11b/g WiFi Locator.
Before I go into the details, here's a brief recap of the Wi-Fi detector devices to date:
1) First there was the Kensington WiFi Finder, which generally received mediocre reviews and feedback from users. (Hint to Kensington: Update your product web page -- it's definitely not the "only WiFi detector on the market today", and hasn't been for nearly a year.) Approx. Price: $30.
2) Next on the scene was Smart ID Technology's WiFi Detector, which received favorable reviews. However, like the Kensington device, its large size (about that of a deck of playing cards) was a drawback. Approx. Price: $25.
3) The third generation arrived in the Wi-Fi Seeker (aka WiFi Spy and PCTEL WiFi Seeker), which garnered much applause for its ability to filter out extraneous 2.4GHz signals from cordless phones, microwaves, and other non-WiFi devices. A Tom's Networking review also gave it high marks. It also picks out the Wireless Access Point and ignores other wireless network client devices, such as other wireless cards in "Ad Hoc" mode. It's the smallest of the bunch, is extremely quick at signal detection, and can be attached to your key ring for easy access. As I mentioned, I was just about to get this one (and I still might). Approx. Price: $30.
4) Now, the fourth generation looms: Hawking Technology is set to release the HWL1 802.11b/g WiFi Locator. It too has signal filters to discern Wi-Fi from unwanted 2.4GHz signals, such as Bluetooth, cordless phones and microwaves. Styled and sized like a flip cell phone, its gimmick is a flip-up high-gain directional antenna which is supposed to help you home in on the source to obtain a better Wi-Fi signal. Even with the flip-phone styling, it's 3.6 inches long and fairly thick -- so it's back to the larger designs of the first two entrants. Details are found in its PDF Datasheet. Approx. Price: $35.
I thought most, if not all, of these devices were directional, but I'd need to confirm that. The continuing shortcoming of these devices is that they do not indicate the Wi-Fi network's SSID name, encryption status, or channel usage -- with the first two being the most important. So if you're in an area with overlapping wireless networks, you'll still need to do some sleuthing with a program like NetStumbler or asking for network information. But looking at the last two entrants, it's definitely getting much better. Like others, I prefer the small size of the Wi-Fi Seeker, so the Hawking device will really need to perform well to steal any thunder.
[Thanks to Gizmodo for the Hawking link.]
[Update 1.16.05: Since this post, I've reviewed and compared the WiFi Seeker (#3 above) and the HWL1 802.11b/g WiFi Locator (#4 above). Overall, I prefer using the WiFi Seeker (which is marketed under several different brand names). My review details my experiences with both, and the reasons why I prefer the WiFi Seeker device.]
October 29, 2004
Fixed Wireless Phones Testing the Waters
Here's an interesting tidbit, also from eWeek: "'Fixed Wireless' Brings Cell Service to Analog Jacks". Here's the concept: Trade in your analog "wired" home phones for a "fixed" cell phone -- fixed because it doesn't go anywhere, just like your old phone.
From the article: "Cell phone coverage and equipment have improved to the point where there is less difference between the quality of cell networks and the POTS ["Plain Old Telephone System"]. Emergency 911 service, previously difficult to use on wireless, is also comparable to landline quality. Consumers are reacting, and the number of households and businesses that are completely wireless is growing."
But here's the rub, at least until I hear otherwise:
"But just like any cell phone, when you purchase a Telular unit, you have to go to your local cell service store and have your unit "activated" with cell service and a phone number (Telular has service agreements with AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States and is working on Verizon).So, if I have three landline phones at home all sharing the same line and phone number, what happens when I go wireless? Do I get three fixed cell phone "boxes" on the same number for the same cost as I do now? Or do I have to pay for three additional phones on my current cell phone plan, with either separate or shared minutes? Remember, these "wireless" phones are not "cordless" with respect to the handset: The photos I saw at Telular's site are desktop phones with corded handsets. Also, if I don't have a landline phone jack handy, I can always use a cordless phone, and one with extra handsets that don't require separate phone jacks.
For example, I just switched to Verizon for my regular cell, and chose the Family Share Plan -- where each additional phone costs a separate monthly charge just to be "shared" with no increase in the pooled minutes. Will each "fixed" cell phone have the same telephone number, or a different one? If, per the article, it's "just another cell phone", then will I have three different home telephone numbers to share with friends and family? Yikes. I'd love to see some clarification. If the total wireless plan costs are less than my combined monthly landline and wireless costs, then it may make some sense. A number of people have already discontinued their landline account to go completely cellular for that reason. However, if I was still using dial-up for cheap Internet access, would I then have to pay extra for the cellular data service? In that case, DSL and cable look a lot more attractive, because cell data plans are very expensive in comparison.
So until it's both cost effective and easy to understand, I'm not too sure this is going to fly in the consumer space. Also, in corporate environments, it sure seems that VOIP (Voice Over IP) is getting a larger toehold. So where does "fixed wireless" fit in -- and what am I missing here?
Smartphones Continue Gain in Market Share
eWeek's "Research: Digital Assistants Continue to Lose Ground, Smart Phones Gain" provides another take on the growth of smartphones concurrent with standalone PDAs' decline. While there's still some need for a basic PDA to prove PIM features (contacts, calendar, etc.), more and more wireless devices are picking up the slack. As I see it, the largest challenge is to integrate, or synchronize, the data between your PC's PIM (Outlook, Notes, GroupWise, etc.) and your wireless device.
If you can do it wirelessly, and with good coverage areas, more power to you. We could all use a little more simplicity at the user level. Naturally, to get that, you typically have to take on a bit more complexity on the backend, at the server and service provider levels. If done right, one hopefully ends up with a more seamless, robust end-to-end system.
October 28, 2004
Yahoo! Acquires Bloomba
Bloomba, an e-mail program that offered impressive search features and speed, was just acquired by Yahoo!. Per the Bloomba announcement:
Why did Yahoo! acquire Stata Labs?I think it's safe to say it's off the market, which is a shame. I looked at Bloomba and thought it had potential, as did Rick Klau. Their main problem was their market -- mainly SOHO and smaller businesses. Hmm... Yahoo! acquired an e-mail program with exceptionally fast search capabilities. With only a little presumption required on my part, it's pretty obvious that Yahoo! purchased the technology to develop their own Gmail service. Keep an eye out for it.
October 26, 2004
Men are from MSN, Women are from Google?
I thought this was interesting today: It seems an MSN poll regarding search engine use reveals gender differences.
To sum up the article's main points while cleansing it of any gender bias tone:
In poking a little fun at myself: Do we finally have proof that men actually stop and ask for directions on the information superhighway? ;^)
October 25, 2004
Treo 650 Announcements & Specs
Both PC Magazine and PC World have details on the forthcoming Treo 650. As I've mentioned, this is a compelling improvement to an already best-of-breed device. Some of the former Treos' shortcomings were actually on the phone side of the equation, and the 650 looks to get it right this time out:
"[...] the Palm OS-based Treo 650 boasts a sharp, 320-by-320 color screen that should be readable in sunlight. The 600's screen resolution was 160 by 160, and it was difficult to read in sunlight. In addition, the 650 features a removable rechargeable lithium ion battery (the 600's battery, while long-lived for a PDA/phone hybrid, could not be swapped out). The new model also has nonvolatile flash memory, meaning you don't lose important data if the battery runs down."The lack of flash memory and a swappable battery always bothered me about its former generations. Regular cell phones have had data protection and removable batteries for years. With the added Bluetooth support for wireless headsets, it now looks to be much better as a phone. For business users, the new Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync capability (per PC World) will hopefully help with Exchange/Oulook integration. While there's no Wi-Fi, the faster processor and added Edge support (for the GSM version -- doubling the data speed of the previous GPRS version) should both add up to improved data speed performance.
Perhaps the lack of browser mention reflects the perception that PDA web-browsing usually left something to be desired. With the exception of ActiveX support because it's not Windows-based (which from a security standpoint is a very good thing), Blazer 4.0 sounds to be one of the most robust handheld browsers to date. Most likely the continued drawback is the small screen for browsing. The increased screen resolution (more detail and smaller fonts possible) and the ability to reflow web pages just might help compensate for the form factor.
I also noted that the keyboard is now laid out in a slight "smile" curve and the buttons are somewhat flatter -- both to supposedly make data entry easier. Overall, the Treo 650 looks to be a real winner with the many refinements made. Even as a standalone smartphone it's impressive, but its real value lies in the integration -- having it fully hooked up to and synchronized with your groupware data (e-mail, calendar, address book, etc.). With a compatible VPN client, accessing intranet pages would be a nice plus.
palmOne has a number of Treo 650 photos on display.
October 24, 2004
Wireless PDAs Rising, Standalone PDAs Exiting
There are multiple news items on this theme at PalmInfocenter.
First, there's "Handheld Manufacturers Continue Retreat," which highlights the U.S. PDA market exit of Sony, Toshiba, JVC, and Sharp Electronics.
Next, there's "PalmSource to Present Wireless Everywhere Vision", which announces PalmSource's address, "Simply Wireless for the Enterprise", at a recent Gartner Symposium. Per the article, "The Company will showcase PalmSource Mail for BlackBerry Connect, a client solution that brings Blackberry push-based email and data connectivity to Palm Powered smart mobile devices. PalmSource will also demonstrate IBM WebSphere Everyplace Connection Manager (WECM) for Palm OS, a mobile Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution that encrypts data and allows mobile users to roam seamlessly and securely between any wired or wireless network on a Palm Powered smart mobile device."
Last but certainly not least, there's "Rumor: Treo 650 Launch Details Revealed", which highlights all the new goodies on the upcoming Treo 650, which should be out shortly. Definitely worth a read, as the new features address many of the prior Treo 600's shortcomings -- particularly in screen resolution, swappability of batteries, retention of data after power loss, improved e-mail and networking support, Bluetooth support, and more.
The above items mostly illustrate the maturing of the handheld market. One the underlying issues is that many users want a nicely styled compact cell phone but a larger display for reading the PDA-type information (calendar, contacts, e-mails, etc.). The challenge is that these are generally conflicting goals. Again, the Treo line looks like the best compromise I've seen thus far, but don't count RIM/BlackBerry out just yet. Both platforms address both voice and data, and each have their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses. RIM already has a strong corporate presence, but the Treo has the nice intuitive Palm OS interface and developer community.
This isn't to say there isn't room for disconnected devices, but their market is definitely shrinking. As the mobile market matures and consolidates, I wouldn't be at all surprised by more cross-licensing agreements between major players. Otherwise, they risk a winner-takes-it-all outcome, which is great if you're the winner, but not so good for the loser.
October 22, 2004
New Blawg Looks Promising: Feedmelegal
There are so many new blogs springing up that I rarely, if ever, mention them. While acknowledging some are quite good, it seems that an increasing number seem to be in it just for the quick hits, asking for links, some fizzle out, and some just don't post compelling enough content for me.
So when I see good content on a topic that interests me, it's worth mentioning:
If you like reading Kevin O'Keefe's Real Lawyers Have Blogs (he's also the founder of LexBlog), then you'll probably like Feedmelegal. It's a brand new blawg dedicated to "webfeeds, weblogs and the legal profession".
He's even broached the subject of which international law firm will deploy weblogs/webfeeds first? and blogs in corporate legal departments.
Which again raises the question, why haven't more law firms embraced blogging, which is something that has bothered me for nearly two years. Besides the obvious knowledge sharing through an easy publishing system, we bloggers enjoy many benefits from blogging that most law firm marketing officers and partners would kill for: Heavy site traffic, numerous inbound site links, very high search results rankings, name recognition, and perhaps most importantly, being included in interesting and visible professional opportunities due our willingness to share and contribute. Thus I'm left wondering whether it's the time, money, legal issues, and/or just plain inertia that are holding most firms back from client-facing blogs. Granted, it's definitely not for everyone, but I've got to believe that every large firm has at least several dynamic individuals who are well spoken and have a passion for writing and sharing information.
Thus far Feedmelegal has been a micro-aggregator of legal blogging facets (as have Real Lawyers Have Blogs, NetLawBlog, and others -- apologies if I haven't mentioned you specifically). In any event, while the masked blogger behind Feedmelegal hasn't yet revealed him/herself (even the domain name was registered by proxy to protect his/her privacy), it's off to a strong start. Here's hoping for more of the same.
October 18, 2004
Judicial Googling Revisited
The ABA Journal has published a good article, "In Google We Trust?", in the October 2004 issue. Several judges along with fellow bloggers Denise Howell and Tom Mighell provide their thoughts on how much judges and lawyers should rely upon Internet search results. It's a thought-provoking read.
One thing's for certain: This issue isn't going away. Quite the converse, actually, as our overall tech and web savvy increases. As I said back in May:
For one, no search engine can index the entire web, especially since a chunk of it is still hidden in proprietary databases served up in dynamic just-in-time "active server page" (.asp) or similar web pages. Thus each search engine takes its own unique "photograph" or map of the web, akin to the example of ten blind men and the elephant. Each one cannot see the whole, so they report upon what they can sense of it.
October 16, 2004
Stupid Browser Tricks
Okay, so they're not stupid -- but it got your attention, didn't it? It's October, so it's a good time to do more Trick or Treating. Here are some very simple web browser tricks I've found both helpful and time-saving over my years online:
1) Autocomplete your ".com" URL:
Instead of manually typing a full web site address such as http://www.lawtechguru.com, try this instead:
- Type lawtechguru
In IE and Firefox, the web browser will automatically type the http://www. prefix and the .com suffix for you and take you to the site. This saves you 15 keystrokes for each web site address you type. Over time, it all adds up. It only works for .com domains, although some browsers will let you use other key combinations for ".net", ".org", etc. It's also a good reason to choose a domain name ending in ".com" when you set up a new web site.
Note: For CTRL-Enter to work in IE, the Autocomplete feature must be enabled in your browser settings. Do this by clicking Tools menu, Internet Options, Content tab, Autocomplete... button, and making sure the Web Addresses option is checked.
2) Quick, go the Address field in one easy step:
Without tabbing or lifting your hand to use the mouse:
- Press Alt-D. That's it. In IE, Mozilla, and Firefox, it will jump your cursor back up to the Address field and select all text.
3) Print a table or grid with all of its color shading in IE:
Ever print a web comparison table only to find it difficult to read? That's because the shading is in the background. Here's how to tell IE to print the background colors:
- In IE, click on Tools, Internet Options, and the dialog will appear.
Now go ahead and print your web table, and odds are that the table shading will print properly. (It all depends on how they were formatted, but this usually works for me.) Afterward, don't forget to go back and turn off this print option. Otherwise, other web pages with colored backgrounds will probably print with dark backgrounds, making the text difficult to read.
4) See more in fullscreen mode:
Don't have a nice, large 21-inch monitor? Temporarily get rid of all of your toolbars, status bars, etc., save for one bar at the top:
- Press F11, or
It's a toggle, so you can easily change it back by repeating the process or clicking on the Restore button in the top right corner. These methods work in many browsers.
5) Open Links in a New Window:
- In any open browser window: Shift-click on the hyperlink (hold down the Shift key when clicking). This tells the browser to open the link in a new browser window.
This is very handy when you want to keep your original browser window open for reference (e.g., your Google search results). In geek circles, this is also known as "spawning" a new browser window. It also works in a number of browsers that support tabbed browsing.
6) Mozilla Easter Egg:
Here's a bonus Treat after all the Tricks above. It's an oldie but a goodie, and it works in many Mozilla flavors (Mozilla, Firebird, Firefox, etc.):
- Go to the address bar (remember Tip #2?) and type this without any spaces: about:mozilla
If you have both Mozilla and Firefox installed, try it in both as you'll get noticeably different results.
October 12, 2004
Future Treo Support on Exchange -- palmOne & Microsoft Detente?
Even longtime rivals may stand to benefit from strategic partnering: palmOne recently announced its license agreement with Microsoft for providing more direct support for the popular Treo smartphone devices on Microsoft's Exchange messaging platform. Treo's perceived higher device and server integration costs have always been a barrier for broader adoption in corporate enterprises, especially because third-party server integration solutions are presently required.
From palmOne's press release:
"palmOne...licensed Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) Exchange Server ActiveSync(R) protocol to enable the delivery of secure, wireless and direct synchronization between Microsoft(R) Exchange Server 2003, part of Windows Server System, and future Treo(TM) smartphones. palmOne intends to use the technology to extend the company's device support for Microsoft Exchange Server by adding capability for wireless server-based synchronization."According to the press release, palmOne will be integrating the Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol into its future devices. Note the emphasis on future.
While BlackBerries have been king in the corporate mobile e-mail market, RIM has struggled in the convergence market -- something they're trying overcome with their latest offerings. Many people just don't want to lug around separate cell phone, BlackBerry, and Palm devices, and have their address books split between them in fragments. The Treo has had the converse experience. While many Treo owners love having everything in one device, it just hasn't been a darling of most IT departments due to the extra research and support of finding and implementing a third-party solution. Thus RIM probably has a better perceived "out of the box" experience with their soup-to-nuts approach between offering the devices and the accompanying BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) solution.
In the past, Palm and Handspring were great in making such announcements, but never seemed quite able to deliver on all the hype. Thus it will be quite interesting to see if the relatively new merging between Palm and Handspring, and its new relationship with Exchange, will finally give Treo the entré to the Enterprise it has so desperately been seeking since its debut. While other solutions have existed, Palm-based devices have long needed a more level playing field for the corporate wireless messaging market. This is a great announcement, but now palmOne needs to put its money where its mouth is and execute, execute, execute like never before. They're probably not going to get a better opportunity at the corporate market than direct support with Exchange (and thus Outlook).
October 05, 2004
Perhaps the most challenging part of any CIO or IT Director's job is managing expectations. To get the IT budget dollars, you need to justify them with a good business case -- in other words, you need to sell it. But it's all too easy for business executives to get an inflated expectation of what the technology can reasonably deliver. After all, technology is the CIO or IT Director's bag, not management's.
That's why I really enjoyed reading CIO.com's "THE NO. 1 CHALLENGE: Managing Expectations". It lists the following five ways to help bridge the expectations gap:
Legal Technology Surveys
Major themes are practical enhancements. Many of them could be categorized under the following:
Nothing terribly sexy nor any surprise, but again, what would one expect at the beginning of an upswing? Firm management is cautiously optimistic and is taking the time to patch the roof and fix the plumbing before building any new wings.
October 04, 2004
Metadata Resource Sites
Trying to get a leg up on metadata before it sneaks up on you? Here are several excellent sites worth visiting:
If you're aware of other good metadata-related sites, by all means, please leave a comment with the full URL.
This Way to the Future
BusinessWeek Online has a slew of articles about the Innovation Economy, and where we may likely to see the next round of advances in technology. A great read to get a flavor of what could be. Having read and even participated in my share of predictions articles, I'll err on the side of evolutionary, as opposed to revolutionary, advances over the next few years.
I fully expect that the more we learn, the faster we will learn, and thus the discoveries will progress geometrically as opposed to linearly. While the overall discoveries seem to be coming even more rapidly as technology aids our abilities, it will be the practical application of those discoveries which will make the difference. I'm still reminded of the history of the Post-It Note: The adhesive which stuck to nearly everything (but just not too well) was around for a number of years before another thought of using it on paper to make a bookmark. Those discoveries resulting in innovations that make a difference to us in a cost-effective manner ought to do well.
October 02, 2004
Microsoft Planning to Offer Anti-Spyware and Antivirus Software?
"This malware thing is so bad," he said in a speech at the Computer History Museum here. "Now that's the one that has us really needing to jump in." It's also a problem that has affected Gates personally. He said his home PCs have had malware, although he has personally never been affected by a virus. "I have had malware, (adware), that crap" on some home machines, he said.Sounds like he's a bit peeved. However, no news yet on when Microsoft would offer anti-spyware software:
"Gates said Microsoft will offer software to detect malicious applications and that the company will keep it up-to-date on an ongoing basis. He did not say when the software would be available or whether Microsoft would charge for it."Regarding the giant's entry into the antivirus market, the above CNet article references another back from June 2004:
"Our plan is to make antivirus part of our pay-for product offerings," she [Amy Carroll, director of product management for Microsoft's Security Business and Technology Unit] said. "But we don't have specific (antivirus) product plans right now." The comments come almost exactly a year after the company bought a Romanian antivirus firm, GeCAD--a move that set off speculation that the giant was going to turn its attention to dominating the antivirus market.My concern, and I'm sure that of many, is that Microsoft's approach to security leaves much to be desired. Would it would add value to have these solutions seamlessly integrated with other Microsoft products? Or would it be a larger security risk to put all one's eggs into the same basket? I'm not planning to abandon Symantec's excellent antivirus offerings nor effective anti-spyware products such as Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy just yet. Microsoft will definitely need to prove itself in these markets.
Best quote of the day, from Techdirt: "Anyone want to suggest BillG start using Firefox to protect himself?"