Law Technology News
May 2002
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Letters

Riding that Train...

Re: Craig Ball's "XP is One Hardy Freight Train," March, 2002.

Editor:

Did Craig Ball try any alternative? I think you could have done the same thing with Linux and Star Office for about $80 instead of XP/Office for several hundred.

Douglas St. Clair
Wilton, N.H.

Ball responds:Yes, I'm familiar with the Unix OS and the StarOffice suite, but, no, it would not do all the same things as XP and Office, at least not the way I am most comfortable. For example, the StarOffice Impress application is less feature-rich than PowerPoint 2002, and while StarOffice does offer a capable HTML editing tool, I have developed a facility with Microsoft Front Page, and my host servers all support its extensions, simplifying site updates.

Because of its ubiquity, developers must write applications compatible with Windows, and hardware sellers are obliged to supply compatible drivers. This insures compatibility now and in the future. My online calendar synchs with Outlook, but not with Star Office. This may not be "fair," but it's the way things stand.

If all I needed were word processing functions and a spreadsheet, I might get by with Star Office and Unix, though unable to use some of the hardware and software I already own. For me, it would feel like trying to stay off the electrical grid by running a gasoline-powered generator in the garage. I could do it, but what a hassle!

Marketplace competition is healthy, so I'm glad there are viable alternatives to Microsoft products for those who want them. The Mac can do all I do very handily, but I'm uncomfortable with Apple's pricing and legal market penetration. Unix and StarOffice also demand some sacrifices. It's about choice.

* * * *

Blue Screen of Death

Editor:

I have to disagree with Craig Ball's review of XP (get used to hearing this). I'm glad it meets his approval, but just go to Microsoft's Web site and get on the XP bulletin board. You'll get a real sense of the program. By the way, you don't get the "Blue Screen of Death" because XP is programmed to dump and reboot instead (although I have managed to get a somewhat similar blue screen that lead to an automatic dump and reboot).

David W. Hodges
Kennedy Hodges P.L.L.C.
Houston

Ball responds: I, too, had real, major problems when I upgraded. Those problems were inexcusable. But, XP as an upgrade and XP as a first-instance OS present different issues. I know of the programming change you describe, but I'm not likely to miss a spontaneous reboot or a "We are obliged to close the application" message. Been there too.

I've also looked at discussions on XP forums and elsewhere. I recognize the issues mentioned and think that I see a pattern that derives from unmet expectations.

People love Macs, in part, because of the system's stability. That stability derives from a near-stranglehold on hardware, facilitating minimal hardware variability. Windows would be rock stable if it only had to support a handful of hardware configurations. With XP, Microsoft is (slowly, ponderously, expensively, frustratingly) moving in that direction, and some are having difficulty with the loss of support for legacy and niche peripherals. The trade off is superior reliability and performance. The improvements are genuine and material.

Most of us -- especially lawyers -- are only moved to action when we are upset. To be fair, forums don't tend to attract the happy folks. Is XP perfect? Hardly. Is it a good OS, head-and-shoulders better than its predecessors? It is.

* * * *

Love It

Editor:

I agree with Craig Ball about "XP being One Hardy Freight Train." I knew the problems beforehand about upgrading, so I just made sure everything in my computer was compatible and did a full install. I love it. XP has never failed me.

Kudos to Microsoft!

Ross Hudson
Division of Public Utilities
Salt Lake City

* * * *

Knowledge Matters

Re: "Defining Knowledge," by Daniel Evans and Storm Evans, March 2002.

Editor:

Defining Knowledge is a good article, but I'm assuming the authors aren't yet aware of software such as SpeedLegal's XML-based SmartPrecedent system, a Web-age product for sharing knowledge in smart documents, forms, templates, etc.

One quote caught my eye: "So, for example, if you decide to bring together a lot of different forms in HTML and PDF formats and store them (and share them) through an Intranet, it can't be a one-time-only project, done over one weekend." This is very true. It highlights the problem of storing data in multiple formats. But if you store your forms in XML, it's easy to get HTML, PDF, RTF and other formats consistently and automatically.

Jamie Wodetzki
SpeedLegal
Melbourne, Australia

* * * *

More Secrets

Editor:

In the Second Opinions column of the March issue, about "best kept secrets" for tracking time when traveling, a not-very-well kept secret was overlooked. Software Technology Inc.'s TABS III time, billing, and accounting suite of programs has had a Palm application available for time and cost entry since 2000. I use it on my Kyocera SmartPhone.

I make my time or cost entries in the TABS III Palm app loaded on the phone, and they are automatically transferred into TABS III when I press the sync button.

No cutting and pasting, e-mailing, or transferring data to other programs is required, as opposed to the more time-consuming and multiple data entry procedures recommended in the article. Current client/matter information is transferred from the desktop to the Palm during synchs. Cost information entered on the Palm can also be synched to the general ledger.

STI's case management system, Case Master, has its own Palm application, so you can also synchronize case information to your Palm.

Robert McNeill
The McNeill Group, Ltd.
Bowie, Md.

* * * *

No Simple Answer

Re: Bill Onwusah, How Much Security is Enough, April 2002.

Editor:

While the article is well-written overall, I must take issue with a line, "Security is acceptable when lawyers and clients are satisfied that their data is safe."

I realize that this was portrayed as a "simple answer," but it is not true.

I could be satisfied that my data is safe if I encrypt everything with a decoder ring I found in a box of Cheerios, but that does not make it safe. In truth, there is no simple answer, and the fact of the matter is that the level of security required must be proportional to the sensitivity of the data at risk.

Anyone responsible for data security knows that the actual level of security on any given system is usually the result of a compromise between data defensibility and data accessibility, and that the weakest factor of any security system is usually its human component. Security is not the result of being satisfied. Security is the result of not having your data stolen.

Preston G. Simpson
Memphis, Tenn.

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