Quick Free OCR? Check out OCR Online

Need your scanned docs rendered search-friendly? Check out OCR Online (link here), a service that converts your scanned documents into text files for searching and editing. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition and OCR Online does it for free. There are limitations – OCR Online only permits uploading 100 documents per day, so it probably won’t do for that big class action lawsuit with massive discovery requests. But, it does allow you to load multiple images at once.

Simply set your language, choose your output (MS Word, PDF, Rich Text format or Text), attach and upload. And, as an added bonus, OCR Online gives links to other cool free sites:

Convert Files – a free online file converter that can convert between most of the common file types.

Video Toolbox – a free online video editor beats the feature set of many desktop commercial products.

Audio Expert – a free and simple online audio editor, file converter and sound recorder.

Text To Links – a tool to turn text into links that you easily follow.

Go get it done!

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Looking for a GReader Alternative? Try Good Noows

Although I am a die-hard Google Reader fan, it is always nice to welcome a new RSS news reader to the fold and expand the options. Good Noows (link here), a web-based reader, has the slick look of Feedly with lots of customization tools  and social sharing buttons. Interestingly, you cannot sign up for Good Noows directly. Instead, you use your social log-ins from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo or LinkedIn.

Be aware that, unlike Feedly, Good Noows is not tied to your Google Reader subscriptions. You must select your topics and sources within the application. Your news options do vary based on your location. In addition to the offered choices, you can insert custom feeds from your own favorite sources. Make sure you de-select the default options that you are not interested in, as Good Noows automatically subscribes you to recommended sources, just to get your started.

There are nine different formatting options for your news blurbs, all of which are nicely laid out and easy to navigate. I like the auto-translate feature – click a button to translate your entire page into another language. As with other readers, clicking on the item ultimately sends you through to the original article.

There is searching and filtering within streams for specific terms, which are called “labels” and can be added as buttons for quick access to your desired content.  In addition to the usual sharing options, you can share links from Good Noows in a chat format, powered by Meebo.

If you are a chat junkie, this last feature may make Good Noows a first place choice. For the rest of us, Good Noows might offer a different view of the news and may fit your needs better than the old standby.

Court Room Objections On Your iPhone

Saw this interesting app reviewed over at Jeffrey Richardson’s excellent iPhone JD blog (link here) and thought I would share it directly with Studio readers. It’s called Courtroom Objections, and is the creation of Texas attorney Anthony Shorter. The app, which sells for $2.99, lists the types of objections one might find oneself needing at trial, broken down by those as to admissibility and those as to form. The lists of specific objections are fairly lengthy. When you click on an objection, the app offers suggested objection wording and background explanation as to why you can make the objection.

While it may not be the most comprehensive option out there, I have to applaud Attorney Shorter for packaging his work in such a user-friendly, portable package. We are seeing more and more detailed and specific legal applications, leaving no doubt in my mind that smart phones are more than just a tech diversion for lawyers.

Hit the link above for more detail and screenshots.

Why "Google" It, When You Can "Twitter" It?

Internet search via search engines has been around a long-time. 15 tech years or more, which is like 102 in people years. Apparently, however, search engines are on the wane, as reported by Hitwise (link here). At least in the U.K. For the month of May, anyway. For the first time, it appears that visits to social networks exceeded visits to search engines. Now, it is kind of unfair to consider this an apples to apples comparison, as they both serve different purposes at present and the difference was approximately .5%.  It is fair to say, however,  that improved search capabilities within social networks might tip the scales even further in the direction of the likes of Twitter and Facebook. During the month, Facebook accounted for the most social networking traffic, followed by YouTube and then Twitter. Check out the graphs from Hitwise, reprinted below:

Another point worth noting is that Google UK was still the top site visited overall. Check out the listings in this chart, also from Hitwise:

Regardless of your take on the results, these still represent some interesting numbers.

Planes, Trains … and Soon Automobiles

The ability to computer on the move is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury, regardless of your viewpoint on whether that should be the case. The traveling workforce needs a pipeline to the Web, while the rest of us just want that connection.

One way to deal with maintaining open lines of communication is through your mobile phone’s data connection. There are drawbacks, including data caps, reception (particularly in buildings or other enclosed areas), and expense.

Another way to tackle the problem is via wi-fi, otherwise known as a wireless local area network, in which users can share a connection to the internet via radio broadcast technology. As long as you are within range of the broadcast signal, wi-fi represents a solid connection. While few devices (read, smartphones and some tablets) offer the ability to pull data over the cellular network, most small and large computing devices have the capability of connecting via wi-fi.

This is all well and good within your own home, where you can easily set up a WLAN off of your own internet connection, But what about when you travel? Some of the best downtime for multi-tasking is during transit – either in the station waiting for public transportation or while en route.

More and more companies recognize the need for widescale wi-fi access and many afford a wireless network for a fee. But, if you  are like me, you would rather suss out the free option.

Airports were among the first to offer wi-fi, but not all of the options were free. To locate airports offering free wi-fi, check out this list updated by users (link here).  Even awesome -er than airport wi-fi, airplane wi-fi is a bit more recent – I took advantage of a free wi-fi offer on Delta last Fall and, I have to say, the ability to surf the web at 30,000 feet was really, REALLY cool. Again, not all airlines offer free inflight wi-fi. But, you can at least check out which airlines offer infilght wi-fi at all at Trip Advisor’s Seat Guru site (link here). On a lengthy flight, the cost might be worth it.

My local commuter rail train, run by the MBTA, offers free wi-fi access in specially-marked train cars. And now, Amtrak has just announced that the Acela will be offering free wi-fi nationwide (link here). After demoing the service in the Northeast corridor and learning that close to 40% of passengers were logging on, they have spread the goodness to everyone. Tip of the hat to them! If you are at all interested in how they do it, check this quote from the article linked above:

Each train has a central system housed in a ‘brain car’ comprising up to eight data modems using all four major US cellular carriers; Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. A 5GHz wireless network connects the brain car to the rest of the train, providing speeds of 12-22Mbps between carriages with approximately 3.5Mbps total bandwidth available for passenger Wi-Fi connections to the Internet. The bottleneck in any train-bound system will always be the backhaul, so AmtrakConnect uses a quality-of-service system that segregates passenger traffic from on-board system traffic, and uses content filtering to manage bandwidth on a per user basis and block certain material including streaming video. The on-train system is augmented by multi-megabit trackside and in-station wireless broadband that offloads traffic from the cellular connections to platform-based infrastructure when a train is at the station.

And, top choice for most space-age option has to be in-car wi-fi! Several months ago, Ford announced that the next generation of its Sync system will permit Ford owners to plug a USB modem directly into a car’s built-in Wi-Fi, creating broadband Internet access for all passengers. Wow! iPad anyone? There are aftermarket providers too: Autonet Mobile and Waav design similar systems for cars. These gizmos may require a subscription based on the amount of data purchased – anywhere from $30 to $60 per month. It could still be a decent option if you travel a lot by car and aren’t planning to pick up the specific Sync-equipped Ford model anytime soon.

Or, you could just move to Ponca City, Oklahoma, where the entire city is wired for sound.

Microsoft Office Web Apps – Now Live & Free

Have you been waiting for Microsoft to finally put its Office applications into the cloud? Have you been waiting for Microsoft to put a “free” tag on those apps? Well, your time has come. Office Web Apps, MS’ free online version of its Office suite, is now live on SkyDrive and available for U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada-based users.

With the simple creation of a Windows Live account, you can start playing with the new tools. You will find browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even OneNote that mimic much of the look and function of their desktop sibilings. Silverlight improves some of the experience (such as uploading multiple docs at the same time), but is unnecessary. All modern browsers will work with the tools. It’s not the desktop experience, for sure. But it meets Google Docs head on. You can upload (drag and drop!), collaborate with others, create within the web environment, print right from the browser and read docs on your smart phone. And, if you have Office 2010 installed locally (releasing next week), the web counterparts really sparkle with a seamless desktop / web experience. With 25GB of free storage on SkyDrive, this combination of features is nothing to sneeze at.

The Windows team is also promising lots of Office features will be integrated into Hotmail, so stay tuned to that.

Check out The Window Blog (link here) for more information and screenshots. All Hail the Cloud!

Pining For Long-Form News

Short form journalism definitely has its place in our modern, fast-paced, Web environment. “Real-time” implies “short-tail” and even shorter attention spans. But long-form news articles (generally in excess of 4,000 words), requiring a greater depth of investigation and crafting, still have their place in our reading lists. Or should have their place, anyway.

Enter Longform.org. Think of it as a semi-curated, highlighting service for web-based long-form journalism. With its close ties with Instapaper, the web and mobile device-based off-line reading tool, you can easily bookmark these longer piece and save them in Instapaper for more leisurely reading.

Topics are broad, ranging from crime to tech, with editors’ picks and access to archives. There are approximately 50 stories in archives. You can even submit your own suggestions as to worthy long-form articles and they will be considered for inclusion. Candidates for inclusion are driven either by top-notch writing or compelling topics.

There are RSS feeds for all stories and for editors’ picks. Another small, but important, detail is the serving of the entire story in one swoop, rather than breaking up the story into approximately 450 word increments by web news outlets, requiring serial clicking to get the entire piece.

The site’s simple, journalistic look reminds me of paging through my beloved New Yorker Magazine. Not much there in terms of bells and whistles and, thankfully, no advertising.

If you love to read well-written, fully developed, topical pieces and would love the freedom and flexbility of serving them up from the Web, try Longform.org.

8 (I mean 9) New Features of iPhone 4

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Apparently there are over 100 tweaks, but the WWDC presentation highlighted eight of them.

  1. First, the beautiful new design, previously broken by Gizmodo. Flat front and back, stainless steel edge, 9.33mm thick. 24% thinner than iPhone 3GS. Thinnest smart phone on the planet. Mute, volume up and down buttons on left edge. Front facing camera, micro SIM tray. Camera with LED flash on back. Microphone, connector and speaker on bottom. Headset, second mic for noise cancellation and sleep / wake button on top. The stainless steel band around the phone is part of its structure and serves as the antenna for the phone. Glass front and back.
  2. Next, a vastly improved display, with four times the pixels in the current space of one – 326 pixels per inch. Its called “retina” display, fits within the same 3.5″, but crams in 960 by 640 pixels.The results are downright amazing, and undoubtedly will set a new screen standard.
  3. Next, the A4 chip, designed by the Apple team. It has bigger specs – 6 hours 3G browsing, 10 hours Wi-Fi browsing. 10 hours video. 40 hours music. 300 hours standby and up to 32 gb of space (the latter is the same as the 3GS). Quad band HSPDA/HSUPA, 802.11n.
  4. Next, its got a Gyroscope! It has a 3 axis gyro, with its own, new CoreMotion API. Will be interesting to see what developers do with this. The Jenga demo, with 360 degree rotation, is pretty breathtaking.
  5. Next, a completely new camera system. There is an illuminated sensor on the back, along with the new, 5 megapixel camera. It has a 5 times digital zoom. Tap to focus. The flash is LED. And guess what? High definition video! 720 pixels at 30 frames per second (getting worried, Flip?). iMovie is coming to the iPhone as well (for $4.99 – why isn’t this included?), so you can edit your vids right on the phone.  It will even allow incorporating photos into your vids.
  6. Next, iPhone OS 4 has been enamed iOS 4. All the features previously layed out by Jobs and discussed in the tech blogs, ad infinitum. Mail and Pandora music at the same time. New Mail features – unified inbox and threaded mail items. Bing will now be  search option in Safari. Unfortunately, it will not be available for download today (or even this week).
  7. Next, iBooks is coming to iPhones with iOS 4. All the same features, including reading / viewing PDFs and downloading all the same books. Mailed PDFs will open in iBooks automatically. AND, you will be able to sync all bookmarks and notes across devices.
  8. Finally, and I am not sure why this is relevant to the iPhone discussion,  iAds. Although Apple has only been selling them for 8 weeks (with over $60 million committed by advertisers), clients already include: Citi, Unilever, AT&T, Chanel, GE, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Geico, Campbell’s, Sears, JC Penny, Target, Best Buy, Direct TV, TBS, and Disney. The ads will be turned on for all iOS 4 devices on July 1 (so we will be getting iOS 4 before then).
  9. Oh, wait – there’s one more thing (because the fine folks at Apple can’t count). Yup, you guessed it. Video chat. The person called shows up full screen, and your tiny little image shows in a box in the lower left corner. It’s called FaceTime. Looks to be wi-fi only for now. And you can use front or rear camera so the person called can see what you are seeing.

Will I be getting one? Let’s just say, my 3GS is sitting right next to me is starting to sweat.

UPDATE: Stuff I missed because I had to leave before the live blogging ended – FaceTime will only work between iPhone 4 users. iPhone 4 will be $199 for 16GB and $299 for 32GB, and ATT is making everyone whose contract expires in 2010 eligible for upgrade. Pre-orders for iPhone 4 start on June 15. iPhone 4 will be available in the familiar black and white.

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How Social Is Your Company?

Infographic time! This one, from Flowtown, measures online social networking activity of the employees of the most socially active companies. Is this sanctioned activity or unsanctioned? Check out the graphic below:

Wikipedia for Judges?

You bet! And it’s called, oddly enough, Judgepedia. Looking very much like its relative, Wikipedia, Judgepedia is a people-powered wiki on American judges and courts. The wiki began in October, 2007 and today has 89,140 articles and 630 registered users. The home page breaks out information by federal courts, state courts, judicial selection, judicial philosphy, news and changes and Judgepedia community. There are links for recent news, Facebook, Twitter, Ballotpedia (an interactive almanac of state politics) and the Sunshine Review (a wiki on standards about government transparency).

Obviously, the more interest in a particular court or judge, the more information. A lot of information is merely in the form of external links to the right source (mostly in state or federal government web sites). It still represents a fairly large collection of judically-related links and a decent source to hit if you are looking for particular information about judges and courts.

It’s a wiki – anyone can participate, but to prevent excessive spamming, one must register an account before adding or editing entries. Judgepedia also strives to maintain a “neutral” point of view, which means that:

  • Views should be represented without bias.
  • “Assert facts, including facts about opinions, but do not assert the opinions themselves,” as it says on Wikipedia.
  • Do not give undue weight to one viewpoint.
  • Exercise fairness of tone.
  • Good research, verifiability and reliability of sources are core values

It is currently sponsored and maintained by the Lucy Burns Institute, a non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, founded in December 2006.

Hat tip to Robert Ambrogi over at LawSites (link here) for this great find!

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