I will wager that most of you don’t have a lot of time to keep up with the latest tech gadgets, apps, sites, and services. While I probably don’t have a lot of time for that either, I have come to recognize my tech addiction for what it is, and have accepted my need to be an early adopter and tryer of new tech thingies. Recently I’ve been looking for a better, or different, way to share what I find with you – I will start to post shorter, bite-sized blog posts with helpful information, and that’s a start. But recently I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on podcasting, and I was intrigued by the possibility of starting up another, shorter podcast for those of you who would rather listen than read.
So welcome to your first Friday Tech Fix. Each Friday I’ll share with you what for me are the most interesting tech stories of the week, as well as some of the tech podcasts I think are worth a listen. Most weeks I’ll do a quick, 10-minute podcast that you can download to your smartphone or listen to right on your computer. But this week it will be just a plain old blog post.
This is a work in progress – if I (or you) have a better idea for a title, or for the content, I’ll be making changes. I’d love to hear your suggestions for the content you want to see. So without further ado….
The Friday Tech Fix for April 8, 2016
WhatsApp Encrypts the World. Do you use WhatsApp? You may not even be aware of this messaging app that has 1 billion users around the world. And on Monday, it became the biggest protector of worldwide communications by enabling end-to-end encryption for all of its users. WhatsApp uses the Signal protocol, the same technology recommended by Edward Snowden, the noted encryption enthusiast. (If you don’t want to use WhatsApp, download the Signal app – it also provides end-to-end encryption). Of course, WhatsApp’s encryption is only secure as long as you’re not storing copies of messages on your phone, you don’t back up messages to a cloud service, or the person you’re chatting with is using the same precautions. That’s the traditional knock for these messaging apps – to use it, your friends (and colleagues, and family, and others) will need to use it as well. Well, with 1 billion users, WhatsApp is well on its way to having all of us as a user.
The Echo Dot Advances the Alexa Invasion. If you don’t have an Amazon Echo yet, I’ll wait here while you pull up another browser page, go to Amazon, and buy one. The Echo is an amazing device that operates by voice command – it can play music for you, set timers and alarms, play the latest news, add items to your shopping list, and even control your “smart home” thermostats and light bulbs. The original Echo is a cylinder about the size of two soup cans on top of each other – and at the beginning of April Amazon started shipping the Echo’s little sister – the Echo Dot. The Dot is much smaller than the Echo, mostly because it doesn’t have a speaker included. I keep my Echo in the kitchen where I use it most, but I bought an Echo Dot (at half the price) to keep in my office, so I can get information and set reminders from there as well. Early reviews of the Echo Dot are good. Unfortunately, the default way of ordering an Echo Dot was through your Echo (“Alexa, order an Echo Dot”), but there are ways around that.
Facebook introduces AI and livestreaming options. It was a busy week for everyone’s favorite social network. Starting this week, visually impaired readers will be able to “listen” to descriptions of photos. Facebook built an artificial intelligence system to recognize places, people and things represented in a photo, and to describe them to people who have screen readers enabled.
While impressive, Facebook’s new AI did not make near the splash Facebook Live made when it was rolled out to the general public this week. Facebook Live essentially allows you to livestream from the Facebook app on your mobile device (iOS and Android apps only). Just click on the box to post a status update, and you’ll see an option to Share a Live Video – press that button, and you’ll be streaming live to anybody who wants to watch you. I can imagine there will be whole lot of boring livestreaming going on in the near future. But think about it – you arguably now have the ability to stream a live broadcast to more than 1 billion people. How can lawyers take advantage of that in a way that’s actually useful?
A Phone with 2 Cameras? Crazy! Anyone who knows me well is aware that I tend to switch phones more than the average person; I am always looking for the next must-have, “best” phone out there. For me, however, that means Android, so you iPhone users out there can skip ahead to the next story. I currently use the Huawei Nexus 6P, and think it’s the best phone I’ve ever owned. So I was intrigued this week when the manufacturer unveiled the Huawei P9, which is primarily designed for people who love to take pictures with their phone. The P9 comes with not one but two 12-megapixel cameras, co-engineered with German camera-maker Leica. One camera has a black-and-white sensor, the other traditional color. Huawei says this combination will allow for pictures with more than three times the light and 50 percent more contrast. The phone will launch later this month. I’ve generally observed that people use their phones far more for taking pictures than answering calls, so I’m thinking this could be a popular phone.
Outlook for Mobile is Getting Even More Awesome. Last year, Microsoft purchased a little app called Sunrise, an extremely popular calendar app for both iOS and Android. Microsoft promised it would be incorporating the Sunrise features into its Outlook mobile app, which in the past had a fairly stodgy reputation as an email and calendaring program. Well, Microsoft continued to make good on its promise this week, by launching Calendar Apps for Outlook. You can now connect your Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist apps to Outlook (to start), and see all of your tasks, events and notes in one place. I’m still not sure I want to see all of that information in one place, but I love the fact that Microsoft is incorporating useful tools from companies other than Microsoft.
It’s a Great Night for Football on…..Twitter? Beating out tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, Twitter won a deal to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games online starting later this year. And Twitter wasn’t even the top bidder – it’s only paying $10 million to stream 10 games, which seems dirt cheap when you consider CBS and NBC paid a combined $450 million for broadcast rights. This appears to be part of Twitter’s move to take a more active role in live events – Twitter recognized that Twitter is most effective when people are commenting in the moment on something that’s going on. This is a great way to take advantage of that.
That’s your Fix for the week. Be sure to tune in next Friday!
From the looks of it, this is my first official blog post in over 6 months, and only the second post in more than a year. From the days when I used to track law bloggers, I definitely qualify as an “inactive.” I’ve been trying to get back into the blogging swing of things during that time, with an obvious lack of success.
It’s certainly not for lack of content – I am constantly thinking of great blog posts I could be sharing with you. It’s more a lack of time, but I think that’s a cop-out to some extent. I do have the time to write, I just choose to spend it doing other things. I recently realized a major reason for my extended silence: this is a legal technology blog, and I am not truly a legal technology blogger – so much – anymore. The past few years as an information governance consultant have been fantastic, but it continues to take me away from the legal technology field, so I am less in that world these days. On the other hand, I continue to be deeply interested and involved in all forms of technology. How to best represent that on this blog?
Starting today, Inter Alia is back, and with a slight change of focus. While I will continue to discuss legal technology issues, I’m going to spend a lot more time talking about the “non-legal” technologies lawyers need to understand – the best consumer technology tools, apps, and services that may not be designed just for lawyers, but can still help you be more efficient in the way you practice. Those of you who listen to Dennis and me on The Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast know that we are always talking about the newest technologies and devices for lawyers, even though they might not be grounded in the world of legal technology. You can expect to see more of that here, as well in a couple of other places – on Twitter, Facebook, and maybe one other outlet – you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out about that.
For my past readers, thanks for sticking with me – let’s get back to work.
If you happened to be sleeping or otherwise absent last week, you may have missed that Apple announced a few products. Being an iPad fan, I was of course interested to see the much-rumored announcement of the iPad Pro, a much larger tablet that Apple says “lets you be more creative and productive – at a whole new scale.” Of course, the pundits immediately began to call the iPad Pro a “Surface Pro Killer,” leading some to say that it is terrible news for Microsoft. Is it?
I’m a Surface Pro user myself, and I love it – it combines the best of a tablet with the functionality of a Windows computer. So I wanted to take a look at what we know so far about the iPad Pro, and try to make some early predictions about whether it will pose serious competition for Microsoft. Here are some of the specs compared side by side (the ones that matter to me, anyway):
|iPad Pro||Surface Pro 3|
|Resolution||2,732 x 2,048 pixels||2,160 x 1,440 pixels|
|Storage||32GB / 128GB||64GB / 128GB / 256GB / 512GB|
|RAM||4GB*||4GB / 8GB|
|Ports||Lightning and Smart Connector||USB, Micro SD Card Reader, Mini Display Port, Cover Port, Charging Port|
As you can see, the iPad Pro is a little thinner and lighter than the Surface Pro, and the resolution is much better. None of that is really unexpected – Apple excels at making thin, light devices that look beautiful. In the areas of storage and of ports, the Surface Pro seems to have the advantage in terms of options. To iPad users who store their documents in the cloud, the capacity and number of ports might not be a big deal. But it really depends on whether you are looking for a tablet as a laptop replacement. With these features, it seems to me the Surface Pro offers more opportunities to be a true replacement for a laptop.
Then there’s the matter of software. It was truly amazing to see Microsoft on stage at an Apple event, demoing a new version of Office for iPad. With Apple’s new iOS 9, you can multitask and put two apps side by side, which makes it really nice to put Word and Excel, or two Word Documents, or Excel and PowerPoint, side by side and make it easier to work. I believe that Microsoft Office offers the best office suite for the iPad (with the exception of Keynote), but even so, Word and Excel for iPad are vastly slimmed-down versions of their Windows brethren. There’s just no competition between the iOS version of Office and the Windows version, in terms of feature set. Then there’s the fact that most legal-specific software tools either aren’t available on iOS, or also lack all of the features of their Windows counterparts.
For litigators, the iPad Pro may be a terrific option. As I have discussed before, I believe the iPad is the best tablet for use in the courtroom, because the apps are simple enough for a lawyer to use without being distracted from actually trying a case. The new multi-tasking features of iOS 9 will make it really easy to use tools like TrialPad side by side with other apps to make evidence presentation even easier. I still believe, though, that for lawyers, the iPad – Pro or otherwise – is still better as a supplemental device, rather than a replacement for the laptop or other computer.
Of course, this is an early assessment, without having the chance to actually try out and use the iPad Pro – but for now I think I am going to stick with my Surface Pro as my official work device. Let’s meet back in November and see whether my opinions change any.
Way back in 2008, Dennis Kennedy and I wrote The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together – hard to believe it has been 7 years since we wrote that book! We recently decided to revisit the topic on our podcast, so in our latest episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, we survey the 2015 collaboration landscape in The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies. Check out the show notes for links to the different things we talked about.
I must confess to some frustration on this subject, because I’m just not convinced that lawyers use collaboration tools as much as they could, or should. Sure, we are using instant messaging, text messages, and social media more these days – if you can call social media a collaboration tool. But I tend to think of those tools as more communication than collaboration. When I think of true collaboration, I think of using tools that help lawyers get stuff done – whether it’s a legal document, a project, or a simple brainstorming exercise.
Let’s take document collaboration as an example. Google Docs has been around for nearly 10 years now, and has continued to improve itself over the years. It’s a great way to collaboration on a document – any number of people can review the document at the same time and edit it together. Having the document in a central location where a single version can be edited by everyone at once is much more efficient than creating multiple versions of a document, having many people creating documents with different revisions at the same time, and having email flying back and forth carrying different revisions of the same document. Yet, other than those lawyers who are regular Google Apps users, I’d wager that very few lawyers use tools like this to collaborate on documents.
You may say that you don’t use Google Docs because you use Microsoft Office for your documents. But Google Docs can handle Word, Excel and PowerPoint files just fine. Even better, Microsoft has rolled out its own online collaboration platform, Office Online, which is a nice tool that handles online document collaboration with relative ease.
Am I wrong about lawyer use of document collaboration tools? Here’s your chance to tell me. I created a Document Collaboration Tools survey with Google Forms, and I’d love for you to let me know what tool(s), if any, you use to collaboration on documents. If you want to continue the conversation, leave a comment below – let’s discuss the types of collaboration tools you use with your clients or other lawyers. I’d love to know more about what you are all doing out there.
At this time of year, every year, you can count on a regular deluge of articles on New Year’s Resolutions, “getting a fresh start,” and all types of advice to suggest that everything you did last year was a failure, and to make sure this year is not a similar disaster, you’d better get started now. Interestingly, this year I have seen many more “anti-resolution” articles, along the lines of “I don’t believe in resolutions” or even “I believe in evolution, not resolution.” And the anti-resolutionists have a point. I would guess that most people’s resolutions don’t make it past the first quarter of the year, let alone the first month.
Pessimism aside, I do think there is value to setting goals for the year, particularly in the area of technology. I would wager that for most of you lawyers, technology is not your day job. Instead, it’s a cost center – something that costs your practice money, with little opportunity for boosting your bottom line. And technology doesn’t make you a better lawyer – sure, it can improve the service you provide to clients, but it doesn’t help with essential skills of lawyering. So why bother keeping up with technology at all?
For one thing, it’s sort of an ethical requirement, at least according to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (Comment 8, at the bottom). As I interpret the comment, to “keep abreast [of]…the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology” includes not just the technology you currently use in service of your clients, but technologies you don’t use, but which might elevate or improve the services you provide to them. For lawyers, that last part is tough – see the above statement about technology not being your day job.
That’s why I think it’s important to at least try to set a few goals each year where technology is concerned – reasonable goals, goals that don’t cut into your law practice or require you to sacrifice too much of your personal life. In the latest edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, Dennis and I talked about how that might be accomplished. In Making Your 2015 Technology Resolutions, we discuss how to go about setting technology goals for the year, and we give some examples of the types of goals we have both set for ourselves this year. For most lawyers, my advice on selecting a goal would be to smart small, with one goal – either 1) learn a completely new tool that can help your practice – document assembly, project management, time and billing, whatever is most relevant to you; OR 2) learn more about a tool you already use, but probably aren’t using as well as you would like. Tools like Word, Excel, or Acrobat. As I mention in the podcast, Lynda.com is a great site for learning how to use just about any software program out there.
Check out the show notes for links to the things we mentioned in the podcast, as well as my and Dennis’s goals for 2015 – to hold us accountable when we take a look back about a year from now.
For years, I have used (and recommended) two Bluetooth keyboards, primarily when I am using my iPad. I tend to use Apple’s Wireless Keyboard more; it’s reasonably thin and light, and I like that it’s a full-size keyboard, which is not the case with most of the other portable keyboards for the iPad. If I have a complaint, it’s that it is too big and clunky – of course it’s all relative, but if I could find a Bluetooth keyboard that was smaller, I’d jump at it in a heartbeat.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a thinner, smaller keyboard, and I do like it a lot, but I could never get into using it with my iPad – I prefer to keep a cover on my iPad, and you can’t have a cover and use the Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s either one or the other. That means if you happen to drop it, you might be more like to suffer real damage, especially if the case comes open during the fall.
But Logitech recently released a Bluetooth keyboard that has the potential to replace both the Apple and Ultrathin keyboards – for me, anyway. Its new Keys-To-Go keyboard is a significant departure from what you might think of in a mobile keyboard – but it also may be just what you’ve been waiting for. Keys-To-Go is a flat, rectangular board, measuring 5.39″ tall by 9.53″ wide, and weighing a mere 6.35 ounces. It’s not a full-size keyboard; by comparison, the Apple Wireless Keyboard is 5.12″ tall by 11.06″ wide, and weighs almost 12 ounces.
It doesn’t feel exactly like a “mini” keyboard, however – it was relatively easy for me to type without my fingers stumbling over each other. More on that later.
The keyboard is made of FabricSkin, a material Logitech has used on other iPad keyboard folios. The material is water resistant and easy to clean – it feels very sturdy to the touch. Some reviewers have complained that the FabricSkin feels cheap to the touch – it doesn’t feel that way to me, but I’m also not looking for luxury in a portable keyboard.
The keys are almost flush with the keyboard itself; just enough is raised so that your fingers can move from key to key. And although the keyboard itself is very thin (1/4 inch), when you type on it, you can very clearly feel the keys being depressed. This has been an issue I have experienced with other “flat” keyboards, and Keys-To-Go is definitely the most successful at maintaining a true typing experience. That said, some of the keys – most notably the spacebar – would not always work when I pressed down. This is very much the exception and not the rule, and I think that it will go away the more I use it – but it’s what I noticed most with the keyboard out of the box. Not a dealbreaker for me, however – I would still use this keyboard.
Keys-to-Go is designed for iOS devices – iPads, iPhones, and Apple TV. That’s why the top row is full of great shortcuts for your i-Device. With a press of the right button, you can:
- Go to the Home Screen
- Open a preview of currently running apps
- Open Spotlight Search
- Bring up the virtual keyboard
- Take a screenshot of the current screen
- Music/video controls – Stop/Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind, and Volume Controls
The keyboard is rechargeable, and boasts a three-month battery life. A USB cable comes with the keyboard so you can charge it.
Other reviewers have said that there are better, more responsive keyboards out there for the iPad and other iOS devices, and they are probably right. The main reason I’ll be using Keys-to-Go as my primary portable keyboard is its size – it is so thin and light, it is much easier to store and carry than any other Bluetooth keyboard I have owned. I’m used to a smaller keyboard, and I’m also not a snob about the feel of the FabricSkin. It’s priced at $70, which is the same as Apple’s Wireless Keyboard – a cheaper price point might have been nice, but in all I’m satisfied with this keyboard.
Logitech Keys-to-Go Keyboard | $69.99 | Available in Black, Red and Teal
I am a firm believer that there can never be too many practice management resources for solo lawyers. As the name implies, solo lawyers don’t have the colleagues to help them when it comes to technology, marketing, finance, and overall management of a law practice. That’s why I was pleased and flattered to participate in The Art of Being Solo, a summit hosted by attorney Sarah Poriss. It’s a free online interview series designed to explore the issues and challenges faced by solos and small firm attorneys to answer the question “How can we all build a law practice that we love and that inspires us?”
She already has twenty interviews posted, with many of them dealing with marketing-related issues. You’ll also find some technology and finance interviews, including the interview I gave on the benefits of incorporating a tablet into a law practice. I enjoyed our discussion, and hope you will too – click the link above to access the interviews!
The subject of passwords is one that is both fascinating and frustrating to me. We know that it’s getting easier and easier for hackers to crack our passwords; just three years ago, a nine-digit password would take 44,530 years to crack, but today that same password can be cracked in less than a day, according to Passfault. And yet, when I mention this in speeches that I give, lawyers invariably give a heavy sigh, roll their eyes, and promptly tune out. I know what they’re thinking: “12 digit password? It’s hard enough for me to remember the name of my dog and the numbers 123!” The idea of coming up with a different, really complicated password for every site we visit is just too overwhelming for most people – so they continue to use the same short, repetitive, simple passwords they have used for years.
So we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that the retailers where we set up our passwords are acting as enablers, allowing us to continue this practice of weak password-setting. In a new report out from password manager service Dashlane, the company found some pretty amazing practices among the Top 100 online retailers. Among the findings:
- 55% of the stores still accept notoriously weak passwords like “password” and “123456” (seems like if the other 45% don’t allow it, this should be a simple problem to fix)
- 51% still allow you to keep trying out password after password even after 10 unsuccessful attempts. What this means is that the “brute force” hacker can keep beating away on the lock, until it finally finds a password that will unlock the door.
- 61% do not provide any guidance when setting a password, and 93% do not provide a password strength assessment. I would guess that those Password Strength meters are able to shame at least some people into setting a stronger password.
Interestingly, most of the sites mask your password as you enter it, which actually does very little to secure it – as a general rule, the password blank on a website is not unsecure, unless someone is looking over your shoulder as you enter it.
Security Expert Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corporation took the data and put it into this great spreadsheet. Take a look and see how your favorite online retailer fared. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look too good for Amazon, Walmart, or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
There’s no good solution to this problem yet, but it’s not for lack of trying. Google declared last year that “Passwords are Dead,” and companies are already using fingerprints, pictures, and even winking to avoid password-based access, with mixed results. Google talks about eventually moving to hardware token-based authentication, but we’re not there yet. Two-factor authentication is also a good way to secure access to websites – but try telling that to a lawyer who already has to remember a complex password. “Now you want me to use a 6-digit number on top of a password?”
So what do lawyers do now? I’ll come back to the best, easiest way to create and manage secure, complex passwords: the password manager. There are several password managers out there, including:
I’m not going to spend time comparing these tools with one another – although I’m partial to LastPass and 1Password, all of them will do a good job helping you to select and manage passwords. Just pick one and start using it.
In the next post, I’ll show how I use LastPass, so you can see how the workflow is easy and fast once you get the hang of it. In the meantime, let me know what you think – is this an issue that’s being blown out of proportion? If you don’t use a password manager, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The latest episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report is called Automation or Control: Why Attorneys Must Choose (I didn’t choose the title) – in it, we discuss the fact that technology services are increasingly connecting to each other, automating things that we used to have to do ourselves. For example, my Fitbit now talks to my scale, my fitness app, and the app I use to track the food I eat. It’s a great convenience that all of these services talk to each other – I don’t have to worry about entering information into each service. It just all works. Is that a good or a bad thing? For me, anyway, in most cases it’s a good thing; technology should be about making your life easier, not harder – and if you can find ways to automate the things you do now, then why not give it a try?
That is, however, until the technology decides it knows what you want better than you know what you want. An example of that happened to me this morning. I routinely use both Spotify and Songza to listen to music, when I’m working out or just plain working. Being apps in this age of social media, both services allow me to tweet or post to Facebook the songs that I’m listening to at any given moment. My sharing philosophy is not that granular; most people don’t really care about my taste in music – besides, why give people an extra reason to make fun of me? When I installed both of these apps, I specifically instructed them that I did not want them to post my music-listening habits to Facebook. That worked well, for awhile. Then I changed computers and reinstalled Spotify on the new computer. The default setting in Spotify is to “share everything,” so my Facebook friends were instantly treated to hours worth of my music listening. When an aggravated friend pointed out that “I love you, but I really don’t care about what music you listen to,” I finally became aware of the problem and (mortified) immediately corrected it by changing my settings in the Spotify desktop app. Problem solved…..right?
Not so fast. Spotify updated itself on the iPhone just this morning. Either the settings for the iPhone app are separate from the desktop app, or it just decided to ignore my earlier instructions. Anyway, Facebook friends were once again subjected to a steady stream of workout hits and country music. The net result is that I have disabled both Spotify and Songza within Facebook, so neither of those services can post to my Facebook page ever again.
I could have done this from the beginning – after all, I am under no obligation to connect any app I use to a particular social media service. But I always like to have the option of sharing something, whether it’s a song, my location, or a book I’m reading. But we are now in an age where “Share Everything” is the default setting – which can be very hard to monitor if you’re not the “share everything” kind of person. Tools could help us with this – they could remember our preferences on an account level, so that those settings could be applied no matter whether we change computers or get an updated version of the app. But not many apps do this – which puts the burden on us to keep track of all the relevant settings. I now understand why so many people choose not to share with most social services – it’s just too big a hassle to keep up with it.
I would seriously consider investing in a company that came up with the “social media dashboard” concept – one place where we could store all of our preferences on what/how we want to share information on the Internet. Each app we use would be required to connect to that dashboard to gather our preferences, then communicate them to whatever social media site we want to use. I doubt this kind of standardization is coming along anytime soon – but it’s nice to dream about it.
What are your thoughts? Is automation getting out of hand?
We’ll end the week with a fun blog – Blawgletter is published by Dallas lawyer Barry Barnett, and it features “legal bits you can hold onto.” He talks about a number of legal topics – recent posts have discussed Peer-to-Peer movie sharing opinions, the Supreme Court’s “first sale” decision, and other recent decisions of interest to lawyers.
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