The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

All materials © Ted Brooks, unless otherwise indicated.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rest in Peace, Finis Price

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of a highly-regarded and respected fellow Trial Consultant and Blogger, Finis Price. I would always enjoy reading his reviews of various software and iPad apps for the legal professional. At only 37 years old, he was already soaring among eagles.

Though our nation may be large, our community is small and tight. Here is the email which was sent to me by Don Gibson (The Trial Division, LLC), another fellow Trial Consultant:

FYI – Ted.

Subject: Finis Price

Those of you active at LinkedIn have probably heard of Finis or read some of his posts. He was an attorney from Louisville, Kentucky who, with his wife, a paralegal, had a trial support and presentation company called TechnoEsq.

A marketing email I received today from ExhibitView contains this sad news.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Finis Price, Esq. this past weekend. Finis was an incredible person, always willing to help and was a consultant for us on our iPad app. He came to Georgia for our CLE in January and everyone just loved him. He was the author of and he was a major authority on iPad apps and legal technology. Finis was from Louisville, Kentucky and we, Bob Finnell, Esq. and I, Bill Roach will miss him, his laugh and his advice a immensely for a long time into the future. –Bill”

From what I’ve gathered it was an accident of some kind last Thursday. He was only 37. Those of you who know Ted Brooks might want to pass this along should he wish to post the news at the Trial Technology group.

Keep on soaring, Finis - we will miss you and your unique perspectives. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

iKeyboard for iPad, Touch Typing, and How Mavis Beacon Changed My Life

You may recall my first reviews of the iKeyboard, which were both written prior to release of the final version. Even working with the prototypes, I was sold on the concept of having the ability to touch-type on my iPad, without requiring me to lug around a clunky external keyboard. I know, some will say that they're small, and can easily fit into a briefcase or purse. Well, to that I respond - so can a laptop. The main attraction of the iPad is that it is a compact and self-contained device, capable of doing much of what a computer can do. Start adding external accessories and you're losing out on the real benefit of the device.

So, when I first learned of this project on Kickstarter, I was very interested. Kickstarter is a program in which you may invest in the development of some undeveloped product or idea. Some are better than others, and this is the only one I've actually been personally involved in. When I learned that the developer was an attorney, I was even more interested. Cliff Thier, a Connecticut transactional and litigation attorney had a dream, and thanks to Kickstarter, had some funding.

The Kickstarter program allowed one to invest at a few different levels, one of them which would include a first-generation iKeyboard, and also the second, once released. Since I review a good number of apps and software, I was also sent an early prototype.

This version worked well, but was a little bit on the clunky side, due to its method of attachment to the iPad, using small side clips, making it difficult to use with most iPad cases. Even so, touch-typing on the iPad was now a reality. Having the tactile “feel” of typing, along with the “F” and “J” home key reference bumps means you can actually type without looking at the keyboard.

The current version utilizes a series of sticky “magnets,” which hold it securely to the iPad’s screen.

If you have to ask me why touch typing is so important, I probably won't have an answer that will satisfy you. If you're convinced that looking at your on-screen keyboard is good enough for you get things done on your iPad, I'd guess that you fall into the category of the majority of users, who see their iPad as a great way to do a lot of things, but probably aren't doing a lot of typing.

Backing up a few years - quite a few, actually, I really learned how to type by using a DOS program, called Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Sadly, it appears that dear Ms. Bacon hasn't introduced a typing app for the iPad yet, but there are a few others available. In any event, back in 5 or 10 B.C. (before computers), I never had the need to learn how to do it correctly, since for the limited amount of typing I was doing at the time, I was able to get by with the hunt and peck method. I can still recall playing a game which had words falling downward on the screen that you had to type before they crashed to the ground. Seems like a sorry excuse for a game, but here I am many years later, cranking out a good number of legal technology articles each year, in addition to making a living using computers in trial presentation, which also requires a mastery of the skill. Mavis Beacon, I owe you one.

Back to the future, and my review of the iKeyboard. I will say that other than a very brief test, writing this article is the first time I've used the commercially available version, and although I'm a little slower than I might be on my laptop, I'm still a heck of a lot faster than typing on the iPad's display, which is really little more than a modern version of hunt and peck typing. 

According to Cliff Thier, the key tension and response are designed to emulate the Apple keyboard. While I can't personally say whether they've nailed it, I will say that it does take a little time to get the feel of it, but once you do, your typing speed increases a great deal.

In order to be comfortable while typing, I'd recommend getting something like the Candy Convertible case, which I'm using now and have reviewed, or the Apple Smart Cover. Either of these (and there are others) will allow you to add a slight angle to your iPad, making it much easier to read what you're typing - because you're not looking at those keys any more now, are you?

In conclusion, for $35, you can add touch-typing to your iPad, and you won't have to carry around chargers, batteries, or other external accessories in order to do so. Not a bad investment, available in black or white.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Popular Cloud File Storage Apps Compared

It is estimated that nearly 300 Billion emails are sent worldwide daily, according to a 2010 study by the Radicati Group, Inc. The massive amount of data and web traffic is mind-boggling, with some highlights shared in Internet 2010 in Numbers, an interesting compilation of facts and figures. While email was once one of most efficient methods of moving relatively small amounts of data from one point to another, nowadays, with plenty of convenient alternatives, you don’t have to choke both sender’s and recipient’s email servers with ten pound email attachments. Here a few services you can use, each offering a free level of storage and service, along with full-featured paid upgrades. I've also included a handy comparison chart at the end of this article.

I’ll list Dropbox first, since it’s the one I personally use most often. This is a referral link which gives you an extra 250MB on your free account. Dropbox is primarily a cloud-based storage service, but now also features a decent method of file-sharing at the folder level, and also happens to be perhaps the most popular method of moving files to and from iPad apps. There is a version for the desktop of your PC as well, which automatically remains synced to the cloud. So, you can actually use this as an offsite backup. The file-sharing occurs when you select others to share a work folder with, and then you can add or remove files for all to have access. Bear in mind, if you delete the files from your desktop version, they will also be deleted from the shared folder. You can also share individual files an unsecured “Public” folder via a link, such as I’ve done here with my bio. Just be aware that there are no password requirements for anyone to download from your Public folder, so anyone choosing to download and distribute my bio is free to do so. Go ahead, try it.

YouSendIt started off as more an email replacement for sending large attachments, but now they also offer free storage. You are able to send files to their server, which then generates an email sent to your recipients with a link to download the file, or files may be saved in the cloud on their server. With upgraded versions, you can select multiple files, or even entire folders. The zip feature is actually much faster than locally zipping your files in my experience, and you have options as to how long the file will remain on the server, and how many downloads are permitted. This is probably the easiest method of sharing files with others, since the recipient doesn’t have to have an account.

This service is similar to YouSendIt, although their initial focus was more storage-based, with the option to send a link for sharing. This service started as, and has been around quite a while, as one of the first services of its kind available to the public. One advantage of Box is that it features 5GB of free storage, more than doubling the YouSendIt free account limit. There are lots of great features in both free and upgraded options. Sending a file link via Box does not require the recipient to have an account. I hadn’t used this service in a few years, and am impressed with all of the updates and functionality.

This was designed primarily as a cloud-based working document collaboration tool, where someone can post a document, and others can review and update it. The key here is that the documents do not require you to have any other office software. In other words, you could use you phone, iPad or Android tablet for full editing ability. They have also recently rolled out a new Presentations app. Upon checking, I just noticed there is a new feature currently being Beta-tested, which will allow you to save a local read-only copy of the document. It appears that although each of these cloud storage sites began with some unique features, they are all becoming more alike. Overall, Google’s options are becoming very attractive, with the ability to automatically upload photos from your phone, a calendar, Gmail, and a full suite of features.

Surprisingly late to the table, and also lacking in some of the best features noted in the above apps is Apple’s own iCloud. In any event, you’ll find the familiar suite of email, contacts, and your calendar, plus an option to “find my phone” (or iPad), and an iWork icon, which is a cloud-based document storage area for Keynote, Pages, and Numbers, while also serving as a backup for your iPad data with 5GB of free storage available. Upgrade options are available. Although this service is pretty much a no-brainer for iPhone and iPad users, the interface with the computer doesn’t seem to be quite there yet. After logging into my account, I would have expected to have access to the same set of contacts, calendar, and email that I have on my iPad. Instead, they were empty, and I could not locate a method of getting it all to sync up. Not sure if that feature is available yet, but it’s not practical to assume that anyone is going to manually update their contacts again. Remember doing that each time you got a new cell phone? That is so 1980’s.

I would suggest getting at least a free account for one or more of these.  You will likely find yourself naturally gravitating towards one or more to the point you’ll want to pay for an upgraded version. This may be a result of discovering which works best for you, or because a client is using it, requiring you to upgrade to more storage or functionality. Each brand offers several upgrade level options and some include personalized branding, although the comparison chart below shows only the least-expensive upgrade option for each. There are many other options available, which a quick search on “Cloud Storage” will demonstrate. All of them include a login and web-based interface.

Click on chart to enlarge