When The Line Between Smartphone & Laptop Blurs

A couple of weeks ago, I brought both my laptop and smartphone with me onto an airplane. My flight was oversold. Although most of the passengers complied with the strict “one carry-on and one personal item rule”, a sizeable number of passengers were forced to relinquish the carry-on to be checked due to space constraints. I barely avoided that fate and was able to just barely stuff my laptop under the seat in front of me.

The Wall Street Journal asks the question: “Why bother?” Why bring that laptop when you can get it all done with a diminutive smartphone? Just as workers have in the past “ditched” their desktops for laptops, they are now ditching those laptops for smartphones.

You don’t have to sell me. I am fully committed to my smartphone, sometimes choosing to use the smartphone’s internet and email features despite the presence of my laptop at my elbow. Undoubtedly, smartphone technology has come a long way and I believe it beyond question that laptops will be left in the dust as smartphone capabilities continue to improve.

The WSJ article rightly notes some drawbacks: writing and editing on the tiny screens and keyboards can be difficult at best. But as smartphone screens and input mechanisms become easier to use and laptops get  more compact, the line between the devices and their intended areas of expertise invariably will blur.

Price plays a significant role in the smartphone movement. The article estimates that the first year enterprise costs of a Blackberry with wireless service are just under $1,300 while the costs of a laptop are $3,500. Costs to replace? $129 for a Blackberry and $2,000 for a laptop. The “always on” technology of the smartphone makes the device more efficient than a laptop. And a smartphone with both wi-fi and cellular connectivity affords greater access to the internet than a laptop limited to wi-fi connectivity only (assuming you haven’t purchased separate cellular internet service for the laptop).

I am all for smaller units that provide more features and useful tools. In fact, I dream of the day I can combine all of my electronic gadgets into one tiny package. I find it hard to believe that there are any lawyers out there who have not adopted smartphone technology as a regular tool, if not complete laptop replacement.

And, as nice as those airport security personnel are to chat with, I doubt anyone would miss the inevitable laptop check at the x-ray machine. Score one for the smartphone!

When Fast Isn't Fast Enough

Because sometimes you just can’t get that Wikipedia entry fast enough, developer Chirag Mehta has developed a “search-as-you-type” search box overlay for Wikipedia. Called Ajax Wiki Search, the box loads best matches as you type and permits you to type an address to directly to a result (e.g. http://chir.ag/wiki/(fill in the blank)/). Thanks Mr. Mehta and thanks Wired magazine for the heads up!

When Fast Isn’t Fast Enough

Because sometimes you just can’t get that Wikipedia entry fast enough, developer Chirag Mehta has developed a “search-as-you-type” search box overlay for Wikipedia. Called Ajax Wiki Search, the box loads best matches as you type and permits you to type an address to directly to a result (e.g. http://chir.ag/wiki/(fill in the blank)/). Thanks Mr. Mehta and thanks Wired magazine for the heads up!

Length Is Everything

What happens when there is too much URL and too little space? This is a problem all too familiar to Twitter users, who are forced to limit their profound statements to 140 characters or less. Enter the URL Shrinker: a site or application that enables one to shorten those lengthy URLs into a tiny package. I have used both TinyURL and Snurl or SnipURL. But if you would like more options for compacting, check out this nice list of the five top URL Shrinkers from lifehacker. And if you are using FireFox, there is a tool that does the opposite: LongURL will show you the entire URL when you hover over the abbreviated version. So, for those times when length is an issue, improve your stature with one of these useful tools!

Interested In Diving Into Writing Headfirst?

Are you a legal or professional writer who gazes longingly at the fiction writers, wishing you could tap into that creative side and pen the newest New York Times bestseller? I have one question for you: what are you waiting for?

Darling Hill reports that November is National Novel Writing Month and the challenge has been laid down – write a 175 page or 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Called NaNoWriMo, the pursuit rewards “enthusiasm and perseverance over pain-staking craft.” There were over 100,000 participants in 2007 and more than 15,000 crossed the finish line by the deadline. The contest brought would-be novelists from all walks of professional life.  But name me someone better than a lawyer at writing quantity within a short time frame?

Sure you have briefs, motions, memoranda, demand letters, contracts, leases and other documents to write during the work day. But there is always lunch, coffee break, the middle of the night, the train, the bus, the subway, the doctor’s office, the gas station line, the supermarket check out line, the auto repair waiting room, the airport, the red light …..

Fidelity. No Matter The Circumstances.

Fidelity. It is a term of great meaning to me, particularly of late. It is not a term that often springs up in casual conversation. But today, I heard fidelity used in a context that struck a chord in my peace-loving heart.

I had the honor today of attending the commissioning of U.S.S. New Hampshire, the Navy’s fifth and latest Virginia class nuclear fast-attack submarine. Only 3,000 civilian tickets were available nationwide. The place was the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the oldest Navy shipyard in the United States. The New Hampshire currently stands as the most powerful warship in the American arsenal and I found myself close enough to its sleek black back rising up at its mooring to lob a tennis ball onto its main deck.

I attended this ceremony will a horde of mixed feelings regarding war, military might, aggression and the use and misuse of power. I couldn’t shake my sour thoughts regarding the Iraq War and the mental image of the first Marine from my hometown of Beverly killed in combat this past week, and honored yesterday at his local parish.

But with a father who is a Navy veteran from WWII’s Pacific theater and a survivor from the battle of Linguayan who narrowly avoided an untimely visit to Nagasaki, a brother who is a retired Naval engineering officer and another brother who is a retired marine, I have, on occasion, been able to divorce my distaste of the bloodshed and crass horror of war from the singular nobility of those who choose to sacrifice and serve our country and assume that most terrifying of roles most of us would or could not voluntarily assume ourselves.

There were many eloquent speakers presenting from the the Navy, Northrup Grumman, General Dynamics and federal and state legislatures. There was a talented Exeter high school sophomore who belted out a stirring version of the Star Spangled Banner despite the obvious butterflies in her stomach distracting from her course.

But when I heard the ship’s sponsor, Cheryl McGuinness, talk to the sailors who would man the ship, steering its power in protection of our interests, listened to her comments regarding their promise to approach their task with the utmost fidelity, I was more than moved. All of these men (there are no women on the sub) have pledged themselves to face unthinkable possibilities without a doubt in their hearts, with pure fidelity in their purpose under less than ideal circumstances. Yet they have willingly assumed this responsibility with honor and pride.

What is the lesson in this? One might hate the war itself and its horrible consequences. But one cannot possible take issue with these brave men willing to mount and man the most deadly of war machines to preserve our freedoms, however they might be defined. Puts our daily annoyances into complete, hyper-transparent perspective. Puts any casual and cavalierly selfish interest to shame.

Show & Tell

Lawyers are often called upon to collaborate, both showdoclogovertically with superiors and subordinates and horizontally with peers. Lawyers also are spending more and more time on-line, as programs and functions migrate from hard drive to servers to web apps. Combine the two concepts – collaboration and web-based application – and you have ShowDocument.com. ShowDocument affords the user a fully synchronized FREE document collaboration session. The service can be used for live discussion on a document while it is being reviewed. The user selects and uploads the desired document and starts a session on the site. A code is provided that permits access to the desired participants. Each session is limited to one document. The app works with Word docs, PowerPoint docs, PDFs, and text files, with a size limit of 2MB. You can invite users to your document session by email, with a link to the session. The flash screen permits markups with pen and highlighter tools, as well as a chat tool for discussion. You can imbed ShowDocument on your own website with a widget here.

While the tool is still in beta form, it seems a promising addition to the on-line lawyer’s toolkit!

Too Much News, Too Little Time

Do you have this problem: lots of paper and on-line news coming in at an increasingly rapid rate; RSS overload; and, not nearly enough time. For lawyers, time is definitely money. With all the flap these days about value billing, death of the billable hour and cost cutting, making the most of what little time is available is high on everyone’s priority list.

Of course, there is a technological answer for every problem these days (or so it seems). There is one for this  problem as well and it is called “Spreed.” According to the site, Spreed is an R & D company that is “determined to prove that digital reading can be and is more efficient than traditional forms of paper and ink based content consumption.”

Using principals of cognitive psychology known as “eye science,” Spreed has developed algorithms that combine grammar, syntax and personal reading pattern considerations. Spreed has developed its “Spreed Reader” using the algorithm to assist readers in increasing their speed and comprehension.

The reader is free. It converts articles from your subscription news feeds into short phrases containing the substance of the article. You can adjust the speed up to 1,500 wpm, which is pretty darn fast. The interface contains links for posting to Facebook or Twitter, as well as a link to supply feedback. There is also an app for iPhone so you can take your speed reading on the go and satisfy your multi-tasking self as well!

Given the amount of on-line reading I do these days, Spreed might come in very handy for me. Perhaps it could come in handy for you too!

How To Look More Scholarly In One Easy Step

docstocAre you wondering how to dress up your website or profile with professional written material and you don’t have AdvantageAdvocates’ phone number handy? I suggest trying out .docstoc. Jason Nazar’s web-based company provides a repository for professional documents shared by .docstoc users. The documents are available for free upload. Users also can store their own documents on-line for easy access. Once you create a profile you can download any document for, my favorite price, FREE. Publicly available docs are just that: publicly available to .docstoc users. But users who upload documents also can mark them private for controlled distribution to a specific audience. The document categories running along the header include: legal; business; financial; technology; educational; creative; and, one that I haven’t quite gotten a handle on named “BUZZ.” There are also subcategories that appear to mirror current events of public interest. The site is nicely set-up, well organized and quite easy to use.

If you are interested in using a .docstoc article to dress up your own site, there is an embed function, the rationale being that embedded docs prevent unnecessary downloading and user attrition, while increasing web traffic via search engine indexing. The site provides easy step-by-step instructions, with pictures.

There is a lot to choose from.  The legal category shows 34,988 pages. There undoubtedly is something within those pages that might be of assistance. Thanks, Jason, for filling a useful “do-it-yourself” niche!