December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays!

As you may have noticed, I took a break from posting for two weeks (which nearly feels like an eternity in "blogger years" ;^). I was wrapping things up at work so I could take a nice long holiday break, and spend more time with my family.

This time of year always makes me feel thankful for all the good things in our lives, as well as the many challenges that were encountered, endured, and hopefully overcome during the year. I think about the many people I've met and had the wonderful opportunity to work with and learn from them. I also think of those less fortunate, and have tried to make a difference in their lives, however great or small that difference may be.

So during this holiday season, I wanted to send my warmest wishes to you and your loved ones.

Happy Holidays!

Topic(s):   Other Musings
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December 07, 2005

IE Flaw + Lax Google Desktop Security = Very Fast Phishing

Now here's a very clever hack, using your own software tools against you:

Phishing with Google Desktop
The Register
Published Saturday 3rd December 2005 01:24 GMT

IE flaw lets intruders into Google Desktop
Published on ZDNet News: December 2, 2005, 1:31 PM PT

From CNET:

"This design flaw in IE allows an attacker to retrieve private user data or execute operations on the user's behalf on remote domains," Gillon wrote in his description of the attack method. He crafted a Web page that--when viewed in IE on a computer with Google Desktop installed--uses the search tool and returns results for the query "password."
The security researcher who found it is recommending the use of alternative browsers, such as Firefox and Opera, to be safe. Until a patch is developed, you may not want to use IE if you have Google Desktop installed. At least be very careful about which sites you visit, as the exploit requires a specially crafted web page.

From the articles, the flaw is in definitely in IE, but Google isn't above reproach: The Register reports, "The weight of responsibility for this flaw falls on Microsoft. But Google shares some blame too, for failing to take the integrity of your personal data seriously." "...this particular flaw wouldn't have been possible without careless programming by Google, which amazingly, fails to obey the Google Desktop security model on its own site."

Of course, other search phrases are possible. Call me a rebel, but it's times like these I'm thankful I've resisted the strong urge to install some of these free goodies, for exactly the privacy and security concerns that have abounded since a number of free desktop enhancement tools have been released in recent years. Yes, it's mainly an IE flaw, and desktop productivity software has its uses, but I've always thought it a good idea to be a bit leery of anything that wants full access to all my personal files and e-mails and is Internet-enabled. Today, it's IE and Google Desktop. Tomorrow, it'll be something else, but I guess that's what keeps it interesting.

Topic(s):   Privacy & Security
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December 06, 2005

2005 Holiday Gadget Gift Guides

'Tis the season for all good gadget lovers to find something cool online, at some of the lowest prices of the year. I've made a list and checked it twice, so here's some great online technology gift guides, other resources, and tips to help you or that special someone get that ultra cool gadget that's been wanted all year:

Online Techno Gift Guides:

  • PC Magazine has their 2005 Holiday Gift Guide, which includes daily gift ideas, a high tech wish list, product guides, shopping advice, and more. Perhaps one of the more useful columns is What Not to Buy in 2005. It tells you which items or technologies are on the way out, and which ones you should get instead.
  • Computer Shopper has their Present Tech product roundups. It's nicely categorized into The Audiophile, The Frequent Flier, The Newbie, The Fun Lover, The Trendsetter, and Thrifty Gifts. Something for nearly everyone.
  • CNet has their Editors' Choice Awards, listing products and services that have won their editors' nod for "best buys" in many categories, from PCs to home entertainment systems, peripherals, mobile tech, and more.
  • Wired News offers The Ultimate Geek Gift Guide, by Home, Mobile, and Everything Else (which goes far beyond the mundane PC stuff, including a $1,000 Taser gun, for that hard-to-buy person).
  • PC World checks in with Gadget Freak: Holiday Tech Grab Bag--Gadgets to Love or to Lose, an eclectic review of some of the good, bad, and the uglier side of holiday tech gift offerings.
  • A bit closer to home, Reid Trautz offers his 2005 Holiday Gift Guide for Lawyers, a combination of the useful and whimsical stress relief.
Online Product Reviews:

Once you found something you like, how do you know how good it is? Is it a quality item, or just as likely to break right after the short warranty expires? Here are my preferred methods for finding this information online:

  • Search for online reviews: I often search Google and other leading search engines by including the product name or part number, followed by the word "review". That usually brings up a number of useful reviews by professionals and consumers alike.
  • Check out the customer feedback on, even if you don't buy from them. You'll likely find out in a hurry what's good or bad about it, similar products or complementary products, and perhaps even some great tips and tricks for using them.
Deal Finder Sites:

These are the unsung heros in online shopping. They quietly scour the web for all kinds of price cuts, rebates, coupons, specials, and other online and offline deals to save us a bunch of money. I've been able to pick up all kinds of tech gadgets at half prices by tuning into these sites. Some even offer RSS feeds, which are extremely useful if you have the right RSS reader.

I use FeedDemon, wherein I have a special group for these deal sites along with "Watches". Easily created in mere seconds, Watches automatically search the feeds as they arrive. They collect the matching results for anything I'd like to get at a phenomenally good price, such as flash memory cards, USB hard drives, etc. Think of it as news clipping for online deals. That way, I don't have to manually visit each site. I just look in a particular Watch bin to see which new deals match the desired product. All of this is especially important since these kinds of deals are very short-lived -- low-priced stock sells out in hyper-time, and the coupons/rebates expire almost as quickly. But if you jump on them within a day or two, you may have a pretty good chance.

Some of my favorites, complete with RSS feeds:

Price Comparison Sites:

If you're shopping online, it'll often save you time and money to compare prices. PC Magazine has a review roundup of 6 price comparison sites, complete with ratings and good discussions on what's good and what's lacking.

My personal favorite and all around standby is Pricegrabber, but I've known to use Shopper, Shopzilla, Froogle, and Cairo on occasion.

Don't Forget the Customer Support:

Last, but certainly not least, it's important to be able to contact your online seller by telephone when you have a problem or question. Some online sellers make their customer support numbers accessible, while others would rather that you just leave them alone, as evidenced by a complete lack of contact information other than the dreaded e-mail support. That's a good sign in itself to steer clear regardless of the price. But if you just can't find it anywhere else or feel so compelled, offers this valuable consumer resource:

Also, don't forget to read their return/exchange policies before ordering. Many online sellers charge a hefty restocking fee or don't allow returns of non-defective merchandise. I've often paid just a little more (say $5-$10) to get the same item from a respectable online seller like Amazon for this reason alone. It just wasn't worth my time, trouble, or risk dealing with some of these other outfits just to get the absolute lowest price. Good customer service is definitely worth something in my book, and who needs more stress during the holidays?

Like everyone else, I still buy a lot in stores. However, being a busy professional, sometimes it's just nicer to stay home and let my fingers do the shopping. I often find desired items I can't find in local stores, and at better prices. Have a Happy Holiday, and hopefully this will make your holiday shopping a bit more enjoyable and save you a few billable hours in the process.

Topic(s):   Feature Articles  |  Mobile Tech & Gadgets
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December 01, 2005

Free eBook: "BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas"

I've been a long-time subscriber and occasional contributor to The TechnoLawyer Community. It's a unique free service for seeing what's new and interesting in the world of legal technology. TechnoLawyer is also a particularly great place to get some good ideas and feedback on various topics and technologies. I've seen it evolve from a simple listserv into an organized online community, spawning many topic-focused newsletters, an integrated blawg, and basically giving its readers more substance than noise, a rarity indeed.

Along those lines, Neil Squillante and his capable crew have been working for months on delivering even more value to their subscribers. I'm happy to say the fruits of their labor are now available in their new TechnoLawyer eBook, BlawgWorld 2006: Capital of Big Ideas. It's designed to take you on a journey through 51 of the most influential blawgs. (And yes, LawTech Guru is included -- I thought I'd get that out of the way, as I'm truly honored to be in such good company.)

I was immediately struck by the high quality of the publication in PDF format. There are some phenomenal thought pieces in it, and couldn't help myself from sinking into reading many posts from some of my favorite blawgs as well as others I had not visited in a while. With so many blawgs available today, it's all too easy to miss some great posts, even with using an RSS reader.

BusinessWeek Online's blog, Blogspotting, recently asked, "Where are the good law blogs out there?" Well, here you go.

BlawgWorld 2006 has something for everyone: Whether you're new to blawgs and are wondering where they are and which ones to read, an avid blog reader who'd like to catch up on some of the better posts you may have missed, or somewhere in between. If ever you found yourself thinking, "so many blawgs, so little time," then the BlawgWorld 2006 eBook is a great stop along the way. Each blawg's representative thought piece contains a brief author and blog bio, as well as the topics it covers. This makes it very quick and easy to skim, and you may just find the articles useful. If nothing else, they are interesting and thought-provoking -- exactly what you'd expect from good blawgs and their authors.

While the eBook is free, you do need to be a TechnoLawyer subscriber to receive it. If you're not already one, I recommend joining (it's a free sign-up). While Neil probably wouldn't want me to say this, you can always cancel at any time, so there's little lost in the effort and much to be gained. Enjoy.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Legal Technology
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