Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

December 2014 Archives

FindLaw's 10 Most Popular Gadget Posts of 2014

It's no secret that FindLaw's Technologist is my favorite of our Legal Professional blogs. Tech + Law = Geek happiness. But this is a surprisingly broad blog: national security, cybercrime, online legal marketing, software, hardware, and gadgets are all fair game.

And out of all that, the gadget review posts are my favorite. Why? It's my chance to play with a new toy and to tell you how that toy might be somewhat, arguably, useful to your practice. (At least if the tax man is asking -- gotta love deductions.)

Anyway, I love gadgets and apparently y'all do too, as our gadget review posts were among our most popular, traffic-wise. Here were our Top 10 legal tech reviews for 2014:

Sony's Bullying Extends to a Copyright Battle With K-Pop Star

We've talked a lot about the Sony hack. And unless you've been living under a rock for the past month, you know that Sony (along with a number of theaters) decided to cancel the release of "The Interview" (the film that may have inspired the hack, which some have speculated was carried out by the North Korean government). Sony then decided to release the film on Christmas Day and online simultaneously.

In all of the hubbub over hacking, however, they forgot one small thing: to clear music samples for the film. According to Ars Technica, the studio is now negotating with Yoon Mi-rae over "Pay Day," a song that is used for approximately three minutes in "The Interview." The K-Pop star and the studio were negotiating before the film was released, but no deal was reached. And instead of waiting for a deal, Sony pushed forward, and released the film anyway.

But, despite the allegedly unauthorized use of the song, will the maneuver pay off for both parties?

Merry Christmas: NSA Admits to a Whole Lot of Misconduct

On the 12th day of Christmas (well, more like Christmas Eve), the National Security Agency gave to us: 12 years of internal oversight documents outlining a number of instances of misconduct by NSA staff members.

What kind of misconduct? Government officials spying on ex-significant others, for one. Lazy queries that inadvertently scooped up Americans' data, for another. And for anyone who has been following the NSA revelations over the past couple of years, plenty of verification of the agency's alleged abuses.

Facebook Private Message Scanning Lawsuit Can Proceed

So, what has Facebook been up to lately? As it turns out, the social media corporation that's desperate to mine your life for ad dollars may have gone a little too far. Last year, Matthew Campbell alleged in a federal class action complaint that Facebook scanned the contents of users' private messages in order to better advertise at them.

Facebook moved to dismiss, but earlier this week, a federal district judge in Oakland, California, denied the motion, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

Sony Bullying Twitter Over Users' Posting of Hacked Documents

Boies' bluster is still blustery. And it may be having the opposite of the desired effect.

Last week, we told you about the letters noted litigator David Boies has sent on behalf of Sony to numerous media outlets. The letters basically threaten to rain down fire and brimstone upon anyone who reports on or posts information that was stolen in the big hack that has been the story in the news for the past few weeks.

Not content with challenging the freedom of the press, however, Boies has now moved on to a new target: Twitter and its users.

Court Makes Obvious Ruling: Cops Can Use Fake Social Media Accounts

Here's some non-news: Cops use social media to catch criminals. But it's not just criminals broadcasting their misdeeds to the wider world, unimpeded by privacy settings or discretion.

No, cops can and do make fake profiles to stalk criminals without being detected. If a cop walks into a bar, pretends to be a bartender, and overhears a confession, that's not a constitutional violation, is it? That's basically what we have here -- cops posing as somebody else to gather intel.

5 Totally Useless Gifts for a Tech-Savvy Lawyer's Office

By now, you've read many of our gift guides, including the Black Friday tech gift guide and the plain old lawyer gift guide. All of those gifts were actual gifts, with real utility. Don't you ever want to get someone something that's completely useless?

Well, fear not. We scoured the Internet looking for five gifts for the tech-savvy lawyer that are just completely useless. (OK, some of them have utility, but are otherwise really silly-looking.)

The 11 Most Popular Technologist Posts of 2014

If there was one blog out of our 19 blogs for lawyers that I could pick as my favorite, it would be FindLaw's Technologist: gadgets, tech tips, landmark cases, and other forms of legal geekery, all in one place.

And it shows in our product: not only is Technologist one of our most popular blogs, but it's on the ABA Journal's Blawg 100 (a list of the top legal blogs) for the second straight year. (If you're reading this on December 19, today is the last day to vote for us!)

Here are your favorite posts of 2014, in terms of traffic:

BlackBerry Classic Has Arrived; We've Got Deja Vu x2

You miss that QWERTY keyboard, don't you? You're not alone. Many of us do, which is why BlackBerry keeps releasing new keyboard-equipped models, including two entrants this quarter alone -- the Passport and the Classic. We've talked about the Passport -- behemoth phablet meets QWERTY taskmaster at a premium price -- but today, BlackBerry made the Classic model official.

What's the Classic? Depending on whom you ask, it's either (a) a long-overdue pragmatic fit of nostalgia or (b) the same phone BlackBerry has released three times in the past few years.

Clearing Up 5 Things About the Apple iPod Antitrust Lawsuit

Yesterday, a federal jury found that Apple's iTunes 7 updates, made between 2006 and 2009, weren't anticompetitive . The verdict caps 10 years of litigation alleging Apple locked other music providers out of its iPods.

There's been quite a bit of misreporting what's actually going on in this case, so we decided to clarify some of the facts and issues at play.

David Boies' Letter About Hacked Sony Data Is Probably Bluster

For a few weeks now, 11,000 gigabytes of information stolen from Sony by as-yet unknown hackers have been floating around the Internet. The eclectic data range from private, racially tinged jokes emailed between producer Scott Rudin and Sony exec Amy Pascal about President Obama's favorite movies, to ideas for ludicrous sequels (like a "21 Jump Street"/"Men in Black" crossover), to whole copies of finished, but unreleased, films.

Well, Sony's pretty sick of hearing about it. To that end, they've decided to hire attorney David Boies to make some legal threats via demand letters.

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

For the longest time, many workers complained about commuting to work. On top of a long work day at the office, they also had to lose time while being stuck in traffic or commuting by other means. Between work and commuting, there was hardly any time in the day to do anything of personal benefit.

But then this situation started to change. With the growth of the Internet and the ability to communicate electronically from practically any geographic location, no longer was it necessary for workers to be tied down to their desks at their companies' offices.

'Monkey Selfie' Photographer Now Wants Money for 'His' Photo

Remember the "monkey selfie"? Well it's back in the news, this time sans monkey.

In August, we blogged about the case of a black macaque (which, unlike a chimp, is properly called a "monkey") that pushed the shutter of photographer David Slater's camera while it was set up on a tripod.

Slater claimed that he owned the photograph, but we (along with others) concluded that the photo had no owner. Slater didn't create the photo, but a monkey isn't a "natural person," so it can't own anything. Now, Slater is taking his monkey selfie fight to copyright experts.

No Matter What Anyone Says, Use Two-Factor Authentication

Earlier this week, Owen Williams of The Next Web found his Apple iCloud account locked. Williams was smart and enabled two-factor authentication on his account after reading the sad story of Wired's Mat Honan, whose Apple and Google accounts were hacked through a social engineering trick in which the attackers got his password reset over the phone.

Williams, unfortunately, couldn't access his iCloud account because he'd forgotten the recovery code. Does this mean we should all dismiss two-factor authentication?

5 'Smart' Devices That Seem Pretty Dumb

What happens when everyone suddenly has a smartphone and a wireless network? Appliance companies start making the same old things they used to -- but with wireless capability and smartphone access.

Seems preposterous? It can be. From the "smart" washing machine to the "smart" yoga mat, companies are coming up with new and interesting ways to make you pay $200 more for the same old crap you always had -- but now you can control it with your iPad!

Here are five of the dumbest-sounding "smart" devices we've come across:

5 Signs That The Mystery Email in Your Inbox is a Virus

Our network crashed on Monday. And the cause won't surprise anyone: somebody opened an email containing a virus.

It strains the mind to imagine how anyone could be that naive nowadays -- you're really going to believe an email from an unknown sender with an attachment containing "important documens" [sic]. And yet, someone did. And someone else did. And before we knew it, the entire network was down and an hour's worth of productivity was lost.

We're pretty sure we can pick out fake emails, but here are a few signs for those of you who are a little less experienced:

Comcast Enables Public Hotspots on Customers' Home Wi-Fi: Lawsuit

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Comcast (which won't matter soon if the Justice Department approves Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable), they go and do this. According to a lawsuit recently filed in San Francisco, Comcast secretly enabled a "feature" in Comcast-owned wireless routers that broadcasts a public wireless signal from those routers.

Comcast is hijacking your wireless network! Well, sort of. But it's still sneaky, if true.

Drones: The Next Big Thing!

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

There have been several technological paradigm shifts over the past few decades. First, there was the personal computer. Next came the Internet and worldwide technological/communications access across the globe. And now, we have drones.

So what is a drone? It's commonly defined as an unmanned aerial aircraft. But drones really are much more.

Netbooks Are Back: Should You Pick Windows or a Chromebook?

Netbooks were a thing once. They became so popular that we even mention them in our post categories (Computers/Laptops/Netbooks). Care to guess when we last wrote about them?

It was probably a couple of years ago, to be honest. There was a rush of popularity for them, then tablets came out and took the low-end market, and then slowly, a little bit at a time, Google's Chromebooks (netbooks with Google's own operating system) chunked out a stakehold. We've advised lawyers to stay away from them, however.

What Should You Look For in an Office Printer? Here's a Wish List

Does that office printer you're considering put dark text on a light page? Good enough.

Except, it's not that simple. I mean, it is that simple if you don't mind major inconvenience (the inability to make copies or send faxes, the high cost of ink refills, etc.), but for the rest of us, buying a printer for our offices is actually a decision that requires some thought.

Here's a list of things you'll want to look at:

Google Replaces Annoying Anti-Spam CAPTCHA With Checkbox, Kittens

One of the biggest annoyances on the Internet are those anti-spam, anti-bot CAPTCHAs -- the little scrambled text puzzles you have to fill out on forms to verify that you are a human. Maybe you're registering to leave a comment on a blog, or trying to buy a ticket to a sporting event, or even logging in to your email.

Instead, you see this: "Type the text"... But we can't read the text because it is horribly disfigured to make life harder for robots. Unfortunately, bots have long since reached the point where they can crack the codes while humans squint, mistype, mutter curse words, and leave your site without contacting you.

Google introduced a better solution this week: the "No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA," which we'll refer to as "checkboxes and kittens."

Will Radio Shack Survive the Holiday Season?

Remember the good old days, back in the 1980s, when you needed a 500 microfarad capacitor, and Radio Shack was your friend? They had drawers full of electronics parts of all shapes, sizes, and amperage.

Radio Shack, however, has fallen on hard times. Few people need electronic components, and even if they do, they can get them online. All the other electrical gadgets Radio Shack sells can be purchased elsewhere. Is this the end of the once-venerable tinkerer's institution?

Using Windows 8.1 on a 7-Inch $59 Tablet Is Interesting, Worth It

It's not much of a secret around here that I despise Windows 8.1. I'm not the only one -- its market share is in single-digit territory -- but I haven't exactly been shy about my feelings: It was a terrible mistake by Microsoft to push a touch-first operating system on everyone, especially corporate, legal, and other business users whose keyboard-and-mouse setups did not play well with the OS.

On Friday, I bought my first Windows 8.1 device: a $59 WinBook TW70CA17 tablet from Micro Center. And while it may not be fair to evaluate the OS in such a less-than-ideal environment, I really was curious to see how it would fare on a tiny 7-inch screen with bare minimum specs: a quad-core Intel Atom Z3735G processor with 1 GB RAM and 16 GB flash storage.

Why did I engage in the tech equivalent of self-flagellation with a spiked leather belt? The tablet, however useful or not it may be, came bundled with Office 365 Personal ($70 from Microsoft), which meant I saved $10 on Office 365 and got the tablet for free.

Online Holiday Shopping Is Here to Stay

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Once upon a time, holiday shopping meant schlepping from one store to another, braving traffic and crowds, with the hope of finding the perfect gifts for our families and friends. Countless hours and hassles later, we finally collected our stash of presents.

But with the advent of Amazon and other online shopping sites more than 10 years ago came the prospect of buying holiday gifts right from home.

AT&T Criticized for Misleading Claims of DSL Value

Companies are allowed a certain amount of bluster ("puffery") when making advertising claims. If those claims are demonstratively false, though, that's when you get into trouble with regulators.

AT&T claims that that its U-Verse DSL Internet service is the "fastest Internet for the price," which is true -- only if you're talking about its 3 Mbps plan, the slowest one it offers.