Technology and legal practice
Saturday, March 20, 2004

This will be the last post on this weblog.  We have been at it for about 20 months now, and it has been a rewarding experience.  But the technical problems with Radio have proven to be intolerable.  For the second time in a month, we have found that new postings and/or edited postings have not been posted to the site for several days after they were created.  There is no reason that a user should have to accept such a poor level of service. 

The subscription is good until July 2004, so these pages will be up until then. 

We may decide to set this site up with another service, and if we do, we will post a pointer here.  For now, though, thank you and good night. 

10:28:59 PM    

Sunday, February 22, 2004

The key most needed by Windows users. (Source: Mercury/Digital Res)

8:51:51 AM    

Monday, February 16, 2004

Earlier this month, Nick Confessore of TAPPED wrote "In Defense of No-Name Bloggers", responding to what he called a "very weak attack" by Salon's Christopher Farah against those who post on weblogs under assumed names.  Confessore notes a critical distinction in correcting Farah's reference to them as "anonymous" authors, observing:

That's incorrect. They're pseudonymous, like, say, the authors of The Federalist Papers. And it's an important distinction. Anonymous writing can indeed be poisonous, because it frees the writer from any consequences whatsoever for his ideas. . .

Blogging continuously under a pseudonym, however, is a very different matter. Someone like Atrios or TMFTML has an intellectual identity and a reputation to defend.

A very good point.  (Credit NetLawBlog for the pointer.)  

9:15:30 PM    

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Now on iTunes: the January 27 release of "Baby Monkey" by Voodoo Child (he who may be you-know-who).  I have downloaded the album and will be firing it up to play once I finish this post.

Apple has tapped into a reality that P.C. Connection used to excel at, and which no other vendor (listening, Jeff?) has yet appreciated:  the key to geek happiness is instant gratification

Baby Monkey 
Voodoo Child


9:39:47 PM    

Sunday, January 18, 2004

In all of the controversy about file sharing, copyright protection, and Digital Rights Management, this is the strangest twist to date: a private RIAA "police force", swooping down on unsuspecting vendors and intimidating them with threats of arrest, complete with dark jackets with "RIAA" stenciled on the back.

"The RIAA acknowledges it all — except the notion that its staff presents itself as police. Yes, they may all be ex-P.D. Yes, they wear cop-style clothes and carry official-looking IDs. But if they leave people like Borrayo with the impression that they’re actual law enforcement, that’s a mistake."

Bullshit. They are counting on the official impression, walking a fine line just this side of impersonating police officers.

10:25:25 AM    

Thursday, December 25, 2003

One thing about weblogs that has always been somewhat of an annoyance to me is the persistent use of the narrative format for entries.  Long and wordy narratives are well-suited to books by Charles Dickens; they don't work that well on web pages, particularly weblog pages.  Many entries by How Appealing represent the quintessential example of this approach: entries which are quite often long paragraphs, chock-full of links to stories and other objets trouves, with virtually no commentary or editorializing.  A typical "Elsewhere in Wednesday's newspapers" entry for December 24 includes a paragraph consisting of 22 lines with 15 separate links to newspaper stories -- and that is just one of the four paragraphs in that entry.  Howard has one of the leading weblogs in the legal field, and his accomplishments cannot be doubted, but his approach is not the best use of the weblog as internet media.  These long paragraphs, broken up by links, are very difficult to scan and peruse intelligently. 

Today I came across a site which offers a very well-presented alternative form of display:  CyberAttorney.  The entries are presented in tables, using a separate row for each item, and with the date/time, the link, the commentary, and a link to comments presented in separate columns.  This alternative, which borrows from spreadsheets and word processor tables, is much more pleasing to the eye and better suited to the web browsing experience. 

9:52:19 PM    

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The newest and bestest among the web portals:  Give it a try and see why:  The pages load fast, the home page can be personalized, and there are no pop-up or banner ads.  Plain text / link ads only. 

Included on its "no's" page:

  • No banners.
  • No pop-up ads.
  • No pop-under ads.
  • No flash ads.
  • No video ads.
  • No audio ads.
  • No email solicitation.
  • No free-plus-shipping.
  • No come-ons.
  • No free trial offers.
  • No 24-year-old CEO's.
  • No foosball.
  • No super bowl ads.
  • No corporate jets.
  • No launch parties.
  • No calling our industry "space".
  • No corporate campus.
  • No version 8.0.
  • No butterflies.
  • No Steve Ballmer monkey dance.

1:48:59 PM    

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Although there are a number of nifty new features available under version 6 of Adobe Acrobat, there is one glaring problem: Adobe's scanning plug-in no longer works.  Scanning directly to Acrobat now crashes the program.  Reviewing the Usenet and web-available discussion forums reveals that this has been a problem in the several months that version 6 has been out, but so far Adobe has done nothing to address this problem.  There has already been one 15-MB patch file release, but updating version 6 has not resolved the problem.

Apparently a few scanner manufacturers have been able to release updated drivers that restore the ability to scan under Acrobat, but several of the major manufacturers have not done so. 

10:03:04 AM    

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Jeff Beard offers some important ideas on What to Do When You Get An Odd Electronic File -- with links to sites that identify the oddball and esoteric file formats, recommendations for nearly-universal file viewers (including my favorite, QuickView Plus, a product which has unfortunately drifted from seller to seller over the years), and links to a handful of manufacturer-provided viewers. 

7:39:37 AM    

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I ordered the Griffin iTrip for the iPod this last summer.  It had been on backorder for months and finally came in this week.  I am disappointed in this product.

The two advantages that the iTrip offers over other similar devices like the iRock is that (1) the iTrip draws its power from the iPod and therefore needs no batteries and (2) the iTrip can be tuned to any vacant FM station rather than being limited to two or three choices.

When I installed the software, however, the "playlist" that defines the available stations did not copy, and thus there is no way to tune the device to a desired FM station.  I am stuck with the default 87.9.  More importantly, however, the iTrip offers very poor range.  The iRock that I bought this summer will transmit to my car radio and to an FM radio in my basement without any problem.  The iTrip, by contrast, seems to have a range of no more than about 12 feet, and it will not transmit through walls or floors. 

This has been a long wait for a disappointing product.

4:57:23 PM    

Monday, December 08, 2003

i-duck.jpgThe I-Duck is a 16-MB flash memory device.  (Source: Gizmodo)

Big Teaze Toys I Rub My Duckie Waterproof Personal Massager

This rubber duck has a different purpose.

6:15:22 PM    

Sunday, December 07, 2003

HP Scanjet 4670 See-Thru Vertical Scanner

One of the coolest-looking new devices available -- HP's ScanJet 4670

7:42:47 PM    

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

From the Business software section at TUCOWS, three freeware alternative suites, including Sun's redoubtable OpenOffice.  I have looked at EasyOffice before; it is somewhat "cartoony", but would be an excellent introduction for your mother-in-law:

EasyOffice with PDF Filter 5.95

This office suite is compatible with PDF, MS-Word and Excel files. The word processor supports RTF, DOC, HTML and PDF files.

EasySpeaker is an English-voice reader. EasySpreadsheet reads and writes Excel XLS files. EasyPresentation has special effects, animation, clipart and sound effects. EasyContactManager integrates automatically with EasyWord, EasyCalendar, EasyZip which allows file compression and decompression in both easy and advanced modes. EasySpeller and EasyDictionary is a full reference dictionary. EasyBookkeeper performs classical double-entry bookkeeping. Easybookkeeper supports double-entry bookkeeping.

The built-in contact manager supports hotlists, mass e-mailing and form letters. There is also an image viewer, a database and a calculator.

602PC SUITE 4.0

This office suite is compatibile with Microsoft Office. It includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, a photo editor and a digital photo organizer.

The word processor uses the DOC file format, and it also opens TXT, RTF and HTML files.

The Excel-compatible spreadsheet has more than 150 functions. It can open CSV and DBF files, and you can use it to balance your checkbook, calculate loan payments or export tables to HTML. Data can be presented in 12 different two and 3D graph types with the Graph Wizard. As a stand-alone application, the spreadsheet can be used to insert tables directly into 602Text documents.

A photo editor and organizer rounds out the package. You can create digital photo albums and share photos on the Web with the upload function. 1.1.0

With this office suite, you can create dynamic documents, analyze data, design eye-catching presentations, and produce dramatic illustrations.

You can continue to use your old Microsoft Office files without any problems, and this suite even lets you exchange files with people still using Microsoft Office.

10:52:40 PM    

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Dennis Kennedy, one of the most consistently insightful legal tech writers I know, has posted another incisive message, this time regarding spam and e-mail. 

So, here's the dirty little secret of spam filters. They have fundamentally broken the trust and confidence that was at the root of the whole e-mail system. Fundamentally broken the whole system.

If I can't know for certain that I am getting the e-mail being sent to me that I want to see and that I can't know whether my recipients get my e-mails because I don't know what kind of hyperaggessive spam filter they might be using (or, in some case, might be employed at a server level without their knowledge), then where am I? Do I have to resort to calling to be sure that you get my e-mail? Am I back to hand delivery? [emphasis in original]

My idea and contribution to this subject is the concept of the reverse filter.  Instead of trying to filter out the undesired stuff, filter in the stuff you want.  You can keep the rest and paw through it when you have time, looking for the inadvertently overlooked nuggets before pitching the entire mailbox contents into the trash, ready for the next deluge. 

Assuming that you use an e-mail filter which will allow you to automatically sort incoming mail according to text-based rules, you can create a Wanted Messages folder and use this technique in one of several ways:

  • For known and trusted sources, use the filter to move messages where "From" matches their e-mail addresses to the folder.
  • If you own your domain, create a special username that is given only to trusted sources, and is never (this means never, never, never) posted anywhere on the internet.  Use the filter to move messages where "To" matches this special address to the folder. 
  • If you cannot do this, an alternative is to have trusted sources used a special keyword, either in the subject line or in the body of the message, to enable filtering of their messages.  Choose a word that is not likely to be used in standard messages or in spam.  "Froglips" is an excellent choice. 

Update 11-12:  The more that I think of it, the better this idea is.  The problem with every text-based algorithm used by current spam filters is that the spammers are always staying one step ahead of the people devising the filters.  How many messages have been in your inbox this week saying things like INCR=EA*SE D=CK LEN^GTH ?  No algorithm can figure out every permutation of this dodge.  With a filter-in approach, you define the rules, and instead of you having to figure out how to keep spammers out, the spammer has to figure out a way to get into your inbox.

7:48:02 PM    

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The newest e-atrocity: spam delivered by your Belkin Wi-Fi network router.   (From the Register, via Dave Farber's Interesting People list)

Update 11-9, also from the Farber list: 

The original Usenet posting by a Belkin manager has been cancelled (but got saved here: ); and there is now a message hastily tacked onto their home page at that attempts to paint their current actions as "addressing customer concerns".

From the ongoing reactions I've seen in various places, I don't think this barn-door closing will help to recapture their trust horse.

1:04:10 PM    

Monday, October 27, 2003

New cool stuff written up at Gizmodo:

The MIRT (Mobile Infrared Transponder) - A device to change a red light to green as you approach the intersection.  Now you can truly be the Master of the Universe. 

The Knee Defender - a device to "prevent the asshole sitting in front of you from fully reclining his or her seat" on an airplane.  Gizmodo reports that Northwest Airlines has already announced a ban on this one.

5:44:43 PM    

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

In the wake of the Easterbrook controversy, both Ernie the Lawyer and Jerry Lawson have chimed in on one of the inherent risks of maintaining a weblog: leaving an easy and well-documented trail for later use against the author, not in a court of law (although that can happen) but in the no-holds-barred world of politics.  The practice of digging up old writings and speeches and using them, often in a slanted or distorted way, to discredit the speaker -- witness the current use of old pro-Bush speeches by Wesley Clark -- is a time-honored political tradition in this country.  But if I can be forgiven for using a pair of superficially conflicting metaphors, let me make an observation.  Both the internet, with its inherent stickiness (enhanced by Google and the Internet Wayback Machine), and weblogs, which like Teflon vastly promote the fluidity of ideas, have magnified the volume of the source material that is available for this purpose.

Ultimately, though, several other things are true:

  • A person who has written or spoken extensively will probably have said things that a clever opponent can use against him.
  • A person who seeks a political or judicial office will probably be the type of person who has written and spoken in many venues, compulsives and overachievers being what they are by nature.
  • Often, such a person is precisely the type of person we want for such offices, as he has shown himself to be the type of person who thinks things through and can articulate his ideas.
  • If, on the other hand, he has thought things through to ridiculous or unsupportable conclusions, there's nothing like a weblog to show it.
  • Your mother never told you that politics was for the faint of heart -- or the weak of mind.

7:47:25 AM    

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Lansing's Capitol City Airport is making itself an attractive option for wired business travelers, with a free business lounge (no airport club memberships needed) and free Wi-Fi, courtesy of Arialink.  This company has also supplied wireless service to the Lansing Center and to Beaner's coffee shops.

7:41:36 PM    

Saturday, October 11, 2003

This report says that a "digital content security" company anticipates filing a lawsuit under the DMCA against a student who wrote a paper disclosing that the "security" can be overcome by holding down the Shift key while inserting the CD.  See also Derek Slater's comment.  This would be a "Silly-Ass Lawsuit" if it weren't so damned scary.

11:05:39 AM    

Sunday, September 28, 2003

"I write books to educate myself."  This from Paul Johnson, whose recent book on art history was discussed yesterday by Tyler Cowen of the Volokh Conspiracy.

Johnson's shared insight applies to those who "blog", doesn't it?

10:32:09 AM    

Saturday, September 27, 2003

ASFileFinder excels at the frequent task of searching for a file by its name.  It is just over 75KB in size, and runs as a standalone executable -- no DLLs, not even an installation routine.  When you run it, it asks you to choose a drive, and then does a quick survey of all the files on that drive.  The process takes no more than a few seconds, and then it is ready to search. 

You then start to type in letters, and it displays the file names which match the entry.  If you are looking for "The Year of Living Dangerously", type in "liv" and only those file names containing that string are displayed.  (If you have used PowerMarks, you know the power of this simple search technique.)  Type in a second entry to narrow it further.  Type "liv", then a space, then "dan" and it is likely that only the one desired file will display. Double-click on the file name to open it. 

Very simple, and much faster than Windows' search tool, particularly if you need to do several different searches of a single drive one after the other.

11:02:08 PM    

Tom Mighell posted:

A Brighter Outlook for Spam Sufferers -- Jeff Beard has a nice post outlining some of the new features available in the soon-to-be-released Outlook 2003. One thing that Jeff and I both are looking forward to is the enhanced spam filter. Read more about it in David Pogue's Microsoft Office 2003 Reviewed. While you're at it, head over to the New York Times E-mail subscription page and sign up for "Circuits," David's weekly newsletter. Definitely worth a read.

I tried to comment, but his commenting machine is broken, resulting in three copies of the following appearing at Tom's comment section:

Franco's First Law:
Any solution from Microsoft is more terrifying than the problem.

8:30:03 AM    

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Is this woman using a sex toy?

11:19:38 PM    

I downloaded and tried PDFExplorer.  Avoid this product.  It exhibits bizarre behavior and runs very slowly. 

Early indications of a problem:

  • Although I identified a different directory on a different drive than the default c:-program files-pdfexplorer 1.2 (I never install programs there), it ignored my choice and installed into a newly created directory under c:-program files anyway.
  • To add a PDF file to its database, some parameters have to be entered.  It will not accept an entry, though, without a category, but there was no obvious way to add a new category.  So I had to back out of the dialog and then go looking for the "add a category" button.
  • When I found the button, I hit it, and was brought right back to the same dialog I had seen before. 

This piece of garbage was immediately uninstalled from my system.

8:01:43 PM    

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

When I first wrote my September 21 piece on K-logs, the sentence "The entire internet is a tool for information sharing" read "The entire goddamn internet is a tool for information sharing".   I removed the expletive, not to placate my mother, though that is a good reason in itself, but because it rang a little familiar. 

Today I found it.  It is a classic Tom Tomorrow quote, delivered in the course of his rant of October 14, 2002, one I have cited in this space previously, come to think of it.  Tom was responding to a phrase then in common use by webloggers:

"Also high on my list of grating terminology: self-congratulatory references to one's uncompensated output as 'free ice cream' -- as if the entire goddamn internet consists of anything but free ice cream."

6:12:56 PM    

Sunday, September 21, 2003

This is a first.  Steve Covell's site is a "static" web site which includes a separate scrollable window displaying his weblog, which happens to be posted in a directory off his main host site.  It would not have to be -- the contained page could be at a remote site.  This is an interesting use of a little-known web technology.

7:18:03 PM    

There is a group of users which advocates for "K-logs", or knowledge management-oriented weblogs.  This seemingly worthy concept appears to be drifting aimlessly.  "Knowledge management" as a concept, separate from the older and more substantive "information management", is itself rather rudderless these days, but at least it does have an indepedent meaning. 

A recent request on the so-named group at Yahoo Groups for examples of up-and-running K-logs was answered with pointers to the following:

A look at these sites reveals that they do not convey anything that sets them apart from any other site.  There is no spark of inspiration, no "wow" factor in either of these sites. 

Another illustration: look at, which purports to list and link to "BLOGS illustrating Information Sharing". Many of the 16 sites listed are worthwhile, but none sets itself apart from the numerous others in such a way that the knowledgeable user can say "this is what knowledge-sharing (or 'information-sharing') is all about".  What does separate these sites is that some are run by very smart people who know what they are talking about.  That has nothing to do with knowledge management; it has everything to do with individual knowledge.

When it comes down to it, the entire internet is a tool for information sharing.  All weblogs are tools for knowledge sharing, as are standard web pages and groupware of all kinds.  I see nothing in the concept of "K-logs" which can be differentiated in any meaningful way from the concept of law- or technology-oriented weblogs in general.

We still consider the most reliable sources of information those which are written by those people we consider to be knowledgeable, whatever the means of communication.  An e-mail-based newsletter or a column in a magazine written by someone who I know knows his stuff -- both are still more useful to me than any 10,000 randomly-selected weblogs.

Among all of these, two factors are of overriding importance: the author must be knowledgeable, and the reader must be aware and intelligent.  The reader must know what it is that he is interested in learning and know how to find it.  He must know how to filter out the crap and find the good stuff, and fast.  Our maxim is caveat lector -- the reader must ultimately decide which sources are worth his valuable time.

I suspect that the search for "K-logs" is based on the hope that ways can be devised to drive substantive information to hungry users in some type of automated fashion, independent of the ability of the reader.  My conclusion: that ain't gonna happen, folks.  You are going to have to search, and do so intelligently.

Thus I submit that: K-logs are dead.  Long live the seeker of knowledge.

1:01:41 AM    

Friday, September 19, 2003

Jerry Lawson is advocating that weblog authors include "e-mail echo" updates for those who would like to get new entries via e-mail.  On the other side of the fence, we have learned that Oddpost, an excellent web-based e-mail client, now offers RSS syndication.  Now you can have your RSS feeds appear as folders within your e-mail window - no separate aggregator needed.

8:26:15 AM    

Sunday, September 14, 2003

For technical questions that relate to the Microsoft Windows operating system, of which there are at last count about 4.23 million, an excellent resource is the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals site.  Here over 600 recognized MVPs congregate to volunteer their time to answer these questions.  The site is not sponsored by Microsoft, although the designation of an MVP does require that one be recognized by the grace of the company's support engineers and team managers. 

Linked from the home page are a number of useful substantive sites covering several MS products.

Now if this volunteer corps could only band together to help Microsoft itself develop safe software. 

7:58:42 AM    

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Recently, there were reports (example, from the Register) that recorded CDs had been found to be degraded, sometimes to the point that they were no longer useable, after only a year or two.  When CDs were first used for archiving computer data, the assumption was that they would last for decades if not indefinitely.  For long-term archiving of important company information, this is a big deal indeed.

No doubt the biggest problem is the common tendency to use cheap-ass CDs.  A spindle of 100 recordable CDs purchased at OfficeMax for $12.00, with a $10 rebate, is no bargain. 

Again, we had news reports and online discussion about a problem, but no one offered a solution.  Never fear.  I ventured into territory where the inhabitants know these issues --  the forums at Steve Hoffman's audiophile site -- and asked around.  Here is what I learned.

A good high-quality CD is manufactured by Taiyo Yuden, and can be purchased online at AllMedia ($8.25 per pack of 25) or at CDR Outlet ($30 per 100 spindle).  The gold standard, as it were, for highest-quality recordable CDs is the Mitsui Gold, which is available at CDR Outlet for $81 per 100 spindle or directly from Synthemedia for varying prices.

Now you are armed with the information necessary to safeguard your data (or your treasured NRBQ MP3s) for years to come.

6:46:58 AM    

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Denise Howell's Bag and Baggage has an extended post covering the issue of spam and spam removal lists, including discussion of efforts by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox to go after for deceptive trade practices in connection with its claim that it can add your e-mail address to a purported national "opt-out" directory for $9.95 per year.   She links to the following news accounts:, Direct Marketing News, and InformationWeek.   Denise shares the consensus view that such a list would never work, and that view underlies the AG's efforts against

Not mentioned by Denise or anyone she links is the fact that there is no national opt-out listing, and that the site appears to be deliberately confusing its listing with the national opt-out phone solicitation list in an effort to suggest to the public that a similar such list exists for e-mail addresses. will, when challenged, undoubtedly claim that its listings are "national in scope" and thus that its representation is not false.  But the insinuation that its purported "opt-out" list is also government-sponsored is hanging in the air. 

A somewhat similar scam is the company that operates the National Star Registry which offers to "name a star" for someone for $49 and promises that the naming will be "registered in the U.S. Copyright office". 

11:08:21 AM    

Saturday, September 06, 2003

The MouseRug -- an excellent alternative to the mousepad.

8:35:57 PM    

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Web pages that start their page titles (within the <TITLE> tags) with "Welcome to. . ."  They take up space on my Opera tabs, and they all clump together on my list of URLs, until the titles are manually edited. 

4:36:13 PM    

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Last Update: 3/20/2004; 10:29:22 PM

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