October 28, 2005

One Minute Tech Tips & Gmail Tips

With Halloween just around the corner, here are two very cool Trick or Treats:

I love software tips and tricks. Sometimes the simplest tip helps a great deal. For those of us who can't spare much time to go out and find them, the One Minute Tip podcast is worth a listen. Each audio tip is about a minute or so in length, described simply and clearly. Thus far, OMT has served up iPod, Mac, Photoshop, Google, Gmail, Flickr and other tips. Photoshop Wednesdays are a recurring feature complete with a video clip. OMT includes a 30-60 second audio ad at the beginning of each tip, a trivial price to pay for free advice (and you can always fast forward when you're really in a hurry).

If Google's Gmail is your thing, then definitely check out Gmail Tips -- The Complete Collection by Jim Barr. Jim explains labeling, archiving, pseudo address groups, the new rich text editor, and a lot more. While I still have some privacy concerns about using Gmail, if you're going to use it, use it well.

Topic(s):   Trick or Treat
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October 20, 2005

Savvy Tips on Snatching an Expiring Domain

Do you want a specific domain name that's already in use, but not sure how to make it happen? Mike Davidson, a former Walt Disney Media Manager, offers a number of great tips about snatching up an expiring domain name.

First, he explains the different stages of a domain's expiration cycle (during which the current owner can still retain or redeem it). But then it gets really interesting as he describes several services and their various tactics that leave the customer wondering "Who's really bidding?".

All in all, an exceptional first-hand look into the seamier side of domain name drop-catching. [Via Lifehacker]

Topic(s):   Web Wizardry
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October 15, 2005

AmLaw 200 vs. Fortune 500: Alternate Realities in Professional Development

Bruce MacEwen (Adam Smith, Esq.) has this great post comparing The American Lawyer's release of its annual survey of mid-level associates, and Business Week's cover story on "how to recruit, train, and hold on to great people."

Bruce presents a bone-jarring juxtaposition of negative comments relating to some law firms' approach to professional development vs. that of Fortune 500 companies. As he quoted from the AmLaw survey, "sometimes it's not pretty" in terms of what occurs in large firms. Read the quotes. Having worked in both small and large firms, none of those comments are surprising to me -- keeping in mind that it's always dangerous to generalize or take comments out of context. But clearly, there is something to these concerns.

In stark contrast, savvy corporations are walking the walk and talking the talk: They are devoting substantial resources in finding and developing their greatest resource: People. For instance, read "Caterpillar Constructs a Leadership Pipeline". This is not merely lip service, it is the corporate culture as embedded and fostered by strong leadership.

One of the basic tenets of Six Sigma is "steal shamelessly all non-proprietary and non-copyrighted ideas". In other words, if you find something that has worked for someone else, why reinvent the wheel? Let's just say there is much law firms can learn from their own clients, and they don't have far to go to get it. The real question: How many want it?

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management
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October 09, 2005

Public PCs Expose Confidential Information

Here's something to consider before you use a "convenience" PC at an airport, hotel, or other public place:

"Airport PCs stuffed with meaty goodness"
The Register, Sept. 25, 2005

Even if you just use a public PC to check e-mail, at the minimum you're probably risk the following (particularly as the average user doesn't clean up their information afterwards):

  • Leaving behind a cached copy of e-mail messages.
  • Unopened attachments are iffy, depending on the e-mail client's method for working with attachments -- but if you open one, there's very likely a local copy left behind.
  • Having a keylogger or other piece of malware record your login name and password, and anything else you've typed on that PC, including e-mail replies. These types of programs often transit this information to another web site or server via the Internet.
  • Even if no malware is present on the PC, you may still be leaving cached copies of this information, as well as cookies, completed web forms, etc.
The best advice is not to use public PCs at all. Use your own. But if you absolutely must use a public computer:
  • Assume the PC is not safe, and has already been compromised.
  • Assume everything you access from that PC will be compromised in some fashion from tracking your actions, so only access the minimum necessary.
  • Assume installed keyloggers will record and transmit everything you type, including e-mail replies, login names, and passwords, so exercise extreme caution (general web surfing to open sites is okay).
  • Remember that encryption (e.g., VPN) isn't much protection if your keystrokes are recorded.
  • Learn how to properly clean up after yourself, which includes:
    • Clearing the web browser's multiple caches for web pages, passwords, forms, history, cookies, and other information But clearing these items can't unring the bell if a keylogger was installed, as your information is now in another's hands -- clearing these items just helps prevent later users from accessing the information from the PC.
    • Deleting files and emptying the Trash or Recycle Bins (but remember, deleted files can recovered using special programs)
  • As soon as you gain access to a secure PC afterward, change your passwords.
Thus I still like Kim Komando's article, "Danger, danger: 5 tips for using a public PC", also good advice.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
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October 03, 2005

New DVD Format Wars: Here We Go Again

Will history repeat itself with HD DVD vs. Blu-ray?

What is it about video technology that inspires two competing standards to put consumers smack in the middle? First there was VHS vs. Betamax, with VHS the undisputed winner. While Betamax produced superior image quality, VHS's longer play/record time won out. Regardless, having a single standard made it easy on manufacturers and consumers alike, and the home video market exploded.

More recently, there was DVD-RW and DVD+RW. For a time, the "-" and "+" formats were mutually exclusive. The two "standards" caused all kinds of compatibility issues, at least until drive manufacturers figured out how to include both formats in one device. No clear winner, though, just cohabitation. But it certainly seems to work.

So, just when we finally get to a DVD happy place, two new standards for high definition, high capacity DVDs are threatening to splinter the market. Again.

The two new formats are HD DVD and Blu-ray. Both use blue lasers instead of the red ones used in traditional DVD and CD drives. Due to blue light's shorter wavelength, they can pack more information on a disc.

Each format has different (and in some cases, the same) backers in the industry: Sony, Intel, Microsoft, Walt Disney, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, and others have entered the fray. News.com has done a great job of covering the evolving market turns and explaining the whole mess with the following articles posted over the last couple of days:

High Definition TV (HDTV) and Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) "standards" are confusing enough. Perhaps the drive manufacturers will find a way to either combine the blue laser DVD standards or at least get them to cohabitate. Right now, both camps are fairly polarized and spewing propaganda, so it could be awhile. Until then, at least you'll know what's coming our way in 2006.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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