Archive for the ‘Computers and Internet’ Category

In search of an RSS Reader

March 23, 2013

Being an attorney, I try to keep up with the news. I focus on law, technology, politics, and local events. To accomplish this, I use an RSS Reader to follow a plethora of blogs and websites (including my local paper the News-Press). For those of you not familiar with the term, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is a standard that can be used by websites to share links and information about their posts. The series of links to articles provided by RSS is often called a feed.  Many people and apps relied on Google Reader to manage and follow these feeds. However, Google has made the unfortunate decision to terminate Google Reader as explained in this blog post. This has lead to a blog and twitter campaign to #savegooglereader, including an online petition. Personally, I understand how Google thought Reader was underutilized because I, like I suspect many others, did not directly use the Google Reader website to access our feeds. Instead we used apps, often on mobile devices, which relied on Google Reader as a backend service to provide the feeds that the app would then manage/display on the mobile device. As a service, Google Reader kept track of new/read/unread messages and would enable the apps to sync this information across devices. So the demise of Google Reader, not only affects those people who directly utilized it to read thier feeds, but also all of the apps which relied upon it as a backend service to manage syncing.

Over the years, I have used a variety of RSS Readers on both the Android and iOS platforms. On Android, my preferred app was NewsRob, and on iOS it was originally MobileRss. Over time, the developers stopped updating MobileRss and it lost its ability to easy share articles to other services, such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, and I had to find a new solution. I tried a number of the personalized magazine or curated apps, such as Pulse, Flipboard, Feedly, and Prismatic. But these apps only offered me the content they thought I should read based on their algorithms and did not allow me to directly read the feeds I selected, so I was dissatisfied and searched for an actual RSS feed reader. The one that best my criteria (more on that below) was Byline. Now with all the attention that RSS is getting, I decided to write this post about what I want in an RSS reader. I give credit to Feedly for being so active on Twitter in soliciting feedback about what users want and for developing a new backend service they call Normandy to replace the functionality of Google Reader.

I primarily use my iPad to read the news.  Next most often is my iPhone (yes I converted from Android). Lastly, I rely on actual print media, though I am doing my best to move to all digital sources. So for me the solution has to work well on iOS. I like seeing cross platform support, because I will re-evaluate this decision when it is time for my next technology refresh. Minor segue, for me iOS’s reliability makes up for any limitations in customizability. The below items are not necessarily in priority order.

First and foremost, I am not interested in a pretty magazine layout. I know that has been all the rage for the past two years but I skim through hundreds of articles a day, and need a text based interface to choose which articles to read. Looking at a “list” style view enables me to rapidly select only those articles I want to read. Once selected, I do want to see the articles along with any graphics or pictures the author has included. I also, want to be able to mark articles as “read,” which I do not choose to read. This essentially removes those articles from the feed and they won’t be displayed again in the app. This is a separate function from “liking” or giving a “thumbs up” to an article.

Second, I want the articles to be cached for both faster access and offline reading. The caching should take place in the background and not unduly slow the down being able to select and read articles while the caching is occurring. This is an area where Byline is lacking, when caching is occurring the app becomes almost unresponsive and you have to wait before you can read articles. I understand needing to get the web view for the whole article, as it is the advertising that provides the financial wherewithal to create the content. Based on this only the text in the RSS Feed would be cached and to get the rest would require a live connection.

Third, is the ability to share articles. I primarily share articles in two fashions. One is on a personal level to my friends and family via Facebook. The other are articles of professional interest and I share those simultaneously to Linkedin/Twitter (usually via Linkedin’s integration with Twitter).  When posting to Facebook, I would to be able to edit the title of the link and the summary of the info displayed (this is not as important as being able to easily share to Facebook, but it is my wish list after all). For the joint Linkedin/Twitter post, it is important to respect Twitter’s 140 character limit and use the shortened url as part of that count (which Linkedin native iOS app fails to do, it won’t let you post something over 140 characters from the app, even though when the url is shortened by Linkedin it will be under that limit). Additionally, it should be possible to share an article via email. I’d like to see support for Google Plus, even though currently I am not making much use of it.

Fourth, saving articles. I use both Pocket and Evernote and desire the ability to clip or save articles to either one as appropriate. I do not believe the app needs to have its own save for later functionality.

Fifth, I want to be able to review my articles by the feed they are sourced from. I like the idea of curated content, as a layer on top of my feeds. A feature I have not seen yet (I apologize if there is an app that does this and I’ve missed it) is one that combines the two types of functionality. The ideal app would present me a “feed” of personalized content that I could use to start my reading based upon my previous actual reading habits. I understand there is a challenge in just using reading articles as a method of determining topic preferences, because it is difficult to distinguish between marking as read and actually reading. But that would be the holy grail of personalization. Not to require a separate step of “liking” or giving a “thumbs up” to an article, but to automatically distinguish between articles I simply mark as read from the list view without reading, and those I actually read. However, I would be happy to use a liking method on articles I actually read to help generate the curated feed, if I did not have to “handle” the article twice. By this I mean that if an article was in the curated feed and in a subcribed feed, reading or marking read an article would mark the article as read in both places, regardless of the view the article is accessed from.

If you took the time to read all the way to end of this post I appreciate it and will certainly respond to any requests for additional information. I can be found on twitter @scotthertz.


Crashing the Third Party: Experts Weigh How Far the Government/Opposing Parties Can Go in Reading Your Email & Documents in the Cloud

August 16, 2012

This article Crashing the Third Party: Experts Weigh How Far the Government Can Go in Reading Your Email – Magazine – ABA Journal discusses whether one loses confidentially when sending documents via email, and by extension, when one stores documents in the cloud. This can be compared/contrasted with previous rulings on the expectation of privacy in bank records and phone numbers dialed. This is a area of increasing concern for both lawyers and their clients. Because the rights are no longer clearly defined and are being impacted by changes in technology, it is only by the retroactive application of rulings to the situations that the current expectations of privacy become clear. I think this is a topic that deserves more attention and I intend to share thoughts on it going forward.

It is also important to note that this issue is not limited to the Government, but raises the question in the civil litigation of whether the attorney/client privilege is breached by sharing confidential documents in the cloud or via email. Is email entitled to the same protections as paper mail sent through the post office? Should only the “envelope” data be considered exposed, or if the ISP or email provider scans the actual attachments for spam or viruses, has that caused a breach of confidentiality and hence a loss of the privilege?

Florida Supreme Court Mandates Use of Email for Service and E-Filing of documents

July 1, 2012

This order SC10-2101 (as corrected) from the Florida Supreme Court mandates email service as of September 1, 2012 in civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial and appellate courts. Email service in criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions will be required as of October 1, 2013.  Detailed instructions, including mandatory and optional items are included in the order, but it will take some time to sort out the new obligations imposed.

I would recommend that attorneys reevaluate how they handle “junk” email to ensure they receive proper notice.  It is permissible to include secondary email addresses which can be monitored by an assistant or perhaps  by a litigation support specialist on a firm wide basis, to ensure receipt of service is properly logged and notated in the firm’s case file.

The Court also  in SC11-399 mandated electronic filing (e-filing) procedures for all documents filed in Florida Courts pursuant to Rule 2.525, starting with the  civil, probate, small claims, and family law divisions of the trial courts, as well as for appeals to the circuit courts in these categories of cases, on April 1, 2013, except as may be otherwise provided by administrative order. E-filing will be required in the criminal, traffic, and juvenile divisions of the trial and appellate courts, on October 1, 2013, except as may be otherwise provided by administrative order. Additional details can be found on the Florida State Courts website. One important detail to be aware of is that even though service is deemed complete when the email is sent, e-mail service is treated as service by mail for the computation of time, as opposed to being treated like a fax.

Technology continues to play an increasing role in the practice of law, and Florida is moving towards the Court’s stated goal of “of a fully electronic court system.” I continue to believe that the ever growing prevalence of tablet use by lawyers will also cause paper to become less common in the court room. These changes will make it easier to keep all of your documents in electronic format, because that is how they will be need to be sent and received.

New Website Debuts Featuring Searchable Records of 240 Years of Trials at the Old Bailey – News – ABA Journal

August 24, 2011

Thanks to powerful digital tools and an international team of researchers, a detailed history of hundreds of years of British criminal trials can be quickly scanned and categorized as never before. A new searchable website contains records of nearly 200,000 trials at the Old Bailey, the principal criminal court in London, between 1674 and 1913, reports the New York Times reg. req.. “It’s the largest body of accurately transcribed historical texts online. All of human life is here,” said historian Tim Hitchcock of the University of Hertfordshire. He is a member of the research team that created the website. Want to know when the tide began to turn toward plea bargains? The trend started in the early 1800s, after prison sentences began to be a viable alternative to the death penalty and exile, the newspaper recounts. By the mid-1800s, trial records show, a third…

via New Website Debuts Featuring Searchable Records of 240 Years of Trials at the Old Bailey – News – ABA Journal.

Litigators Provide iPads to 20 Clients, to Help Them Stay Connected to Cases – News – ABA Journal

July 17, 2011

A sign of the changing times. Technology is reshaping how we all interact.

Corporate clients generally have access to smart phones and other cutting-edge technology. But working class individuals often dont. So two litigators at an Arizona law firm have provided iPads to 20 clients in their biggest cases. The devices act as hotlines, helping clients of partner Marc Lamber and associate James Goodnow at Fennemore Craig to keep track of whats happening, and keep the 180-attorney Phoenix firm informed of developments, reports the Arizona Republic. Client Melissa Frankel, 40, was pleasantly surprised to be given an iPad, which she will be expected to return at the conclusion of her case, but has found it useful to take photos of the scene of her accident and have video conferences with her lawyers on Skype. With the help of Google Voice, the devices also make it easy for clients to reach their legal team. By…

via Litigators Provide iPads to 20 Clients, to Help Them Stay Connected to Cases – News – ABA Journal.

Warning – Dropbox files may NOT be encrypted from viewing by Dropbox or its employees

May 18, 2011

There are many articles encouraging attorney’s to use Dropbox to share files with others or with themselves. Often it is suggested a great way to get files between a work computer and a laptop or iPad.  However, this is first time I have seen a claim that the files are not securely encrypted and that they can be viewed by Dropbox employees and subject to subpoena.   Please review the below information and take appropriate steps to protect the confidentiality of your client’s data.  I am sure we will hear more about in the days to come.

Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher has published the following information at  How Dropbox sacrifices user privacy for cost savings:

Dropbox, the popular cloud based backup service deduplicates the files that its users have stored online. This means that if two different users store the same file in their respective accounts, Dropbox will only actually store a single copy of the file on its servers.

The service tells users that it “uses the same secure methods as banks and the military to send and store your data” and that “[a]ll files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.” However, the company does in fact have access to the unencrypted data (if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be able to detect duplicate data across different accounts).

This bandwidth and disk storage design tweak creates an easily observable side channelthrough which a single bit of data (whether any particular file is already stored by one or more users) can be observed.

If you value your privacy or are worried about what might happen if Dropbox were compelled by a court order to disclose which of its users have stored a particular file, you should encrypt your data yourself with a tool like truecrypt or switch to one of several cloud based backup services that encrypt data with a key only known to the user.

The issue is also discussed in this Infoworld article, Dropbox caught with its finger in the cloud cookie jar  and for me the most interesting part of the article was this:

On April 12, the Dropbox help site said:

Dropbox employees aren’t able to access user files, and when troubleshooting an account, they only have access to file metadata (filenames, file sizes, etc. not the file contents)… All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) and are inaccessible without your account password.

Starting on or before April 14, Dropbox changed that help page, and changed it again on April 23, so it now says:

Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files you store in your Dropbox account, and are only permitted to view file metadata… we have a small number of employees who must be able to access user data for the reasons stated in our privacy policy (e.g., when legally required to do so). But that’s the rare exception, not the rule. We have strict policy and technical access controls that prohibit employee access except in these rare circumstances… All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256)

A little different, eh?

Dropbox followed up on April 21, discussing employee access to encrypted data, and explaining changes to its Terms of Service Agreement, including this new TOS provision:

We may disclose to parties outside Dropbox files stored in your Dropbox and information about you that we collect when we have a good faith belief that disclosure is reasonably necessary to (a) comply with a law, regulation or compulsory legal request; (b) protect the safety of any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of Dropbox or its users; or (d) to protect Dropbox’s property rights.

So Dropbox appears to be clearly stating they have access to your data and have the right to disclose it as they believe necessary.

Once again, the security of cloud computing for attorneys is brought into question.

Newspapers Fight To Keep Government “Notices”

April 26, 2011

Interesting article about several states reconsidering whether to continue requiring public notices to be published in a newspaper.  This could also affect how public notice of lawsuits is given. It discuss how newspapers are advocating that governments (state and local) keep advertising their notices via newspaper versus providing the information on a government website.  The question should perhaps be, which one is likely to reach the most people and has the newspaper lost its role as the medium best suited to give “notice”.

Click to read the rest on Business Insider

Grooveshark Pens an Angry Open Letter to the Music Industry (cc’s Google, Apple)

April 19, 2011

Interesting tactic from a online music sharing company.

The peer-to-peer music streaming service Grooveshark has had a series of run-ins with mobile providers. Its iOS app was pulled from the App Store in August of last year, and its Android app was booted from the Android Marketplace earlier this month.

The company has now fired back at the music industry and at Apple and Google, contending there’s nothing illegal about its app.

Continue reading at:Grooveshark Pens an Angry Open Letter to the Music Industry (cc’s Google, Apple).

Six Law School Deans Form a Discussion Group on Ways to Collaborate on More Effective Use of Technology in Legal Education

April 19, 2011

Press release from PRWeb

The deans of the Australian National University College of Law, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the University of Miami School of Law, New York Law School, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, and Southwestern Law School have agreed to begin a joint conversation on how law schools can collaborate to use technology more effectively and expansively in legal education.

Recognizing that the study of law, like many other aspects of education (and modern life in general), is relying more on technology and moving online, and is subject to being disaggregated and unbundled at a rapid pace, the discussion group will focus on the following issues and ideas:

  •     how the law schools might work together to explore ways to facilitate blended and online courses and degree programs at these schools and more broadly in legal education.
  •     the prospect of developing a place on the Web to provide access to learning opportunities and information about a wide variety of legal topics on a “just in time” basis (fixed learning, variable time), untethered from legal education’s restrictions around academic calendar and course/program arrangements (fixed time, variable learning).
  •     creating a marketplace to bring together those who want to build and sell even finer-grained sets of learning objects, activities, and games with students and others who want those opportunities.

Hackers Penetrated at Least 4 Major Canadian Law Firms in Recent Months, Expert Says – News – ABA Journal

April 5, 2011

The most concerning part of the article is the deliberate targeting of the firms and the potential liability for exposure of the clients information.  The internet is too powerful of a tool not to take advantage of, but firms will have to continue to evaluate whether their in-place security measures are adequate.


Sophisticated hackers seemingly based in China have penetrated four major Canadian law firms in a little over six months, in attacks intended to destroy sensitive data or obtain information related to mergers and acquisitions, a security expert tells the Globe and Mail. While it isn’t certain the hackers’ efforts were successful, it is clear that they did at least get inside the computer systems of the unidentified law firms, located on Bay Street in Toronto, Daniel Tobok of Digital Wyzdom Inc. tells the newspaper. “This was probably one of the most sophisticated attacks we have seen.” Lawyers at one of the firms inadvertently introduced malware into their system when they apparently clicked on an attachment to a fake email that seemingly had come from a partner at the firm working on deal but, in fact, had not, according to Tobok.

via Hackers Penetrated at Least 4 Major Canadian Law Firms in Recent Months, Expert Says – News – ABA Journal.

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