TechLinks: Windows 10 and securing your network

TechLinks_logoThe NCRA Technology Committee offered some updates on Windows 10 and keeping your network secure.

“Encryption … [is] about protecting your sensitive data in case you ever lose your PC, which is something everyone needs,” reminds an article on How-To Geek. The article offers tips on how to make sure the Windows 10 system works for you.

Another tech-savvy website, MakeUseOf, offers a list of the seven top firewall programs to consider for your computer’s security.

A Jan. 20 article on TechConnect showcases a few of the new features planned for the Windows 10 Creators Update, coming this spring.

Finally, because everyone needs a laugh now and then, the committee offered a few funny memes on BoredPanda.com for readers’ amusement.

 

TechLinks: Keeping organized with technology

TechLinks_logoIf one of your 2017 resolutions is to get more organized, the NCRA Technology Committee has your back.

A trio of tips from makeuseof.com offers strategies to reach inbox zero with your gmail account, use the camera on your iPhone to manage your life and help you remember things, and use Google calendar more efficiently.

A Jan. 10 article from Inside Counsel offers information about three startups that help manage your calendar. While originally written for lawyers, it is easily adaptable for court reporters.

Keep in mind that Acrobat Pro DC allows users to scan or snap a photo of a paper document, then edit the graphics or text with fonts that match the original, which keeps you organized wherever you are.

TechLinks: Printers, iOS 10, and portable keyboards

NCRA’s Technology Committee has already started finding information on the products members need for the future. This time, the group offers great starts to your research for upgrading to iOS10 on the iPhone; 2016’s best printers; and suggestions for portable keyboards for your tablets or mobile devices.

Technology Committee co-chair Nancy Bistany, RPR, of Chicago, Ill., shared an article from Business Insider about the iPhone’s iOS 10. From how to unlock your phone to a new keyboard configuration, here’s what you need to know. Read more.

Technology Committee member Lisa A. Knight, RDR, CRR, of Littleton, Colo., pointed out a slideshow by TechConnect.com of portable keyboards to use with tablets and mobile devices. This quick-and-easy read gives the basics on seven readily available keyboards. Read more.

A chart on PCMag.com found by Technology Committee member Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore., offered information about 10 different printers currently on the market. The chart includes links to reviews of each printer. Read more.

TechLinks: From apps to touch screens

NCRA’s Technology Committee pulled together a collection of technology blogs from apps for business people to a yet-to-be-released way to turn any computer into a touch screen.

A post of 10 great apps for productivity by lawyer Katie Floyd of Mac Power Users Podcast offers a wide-ranging set of tools for business-people. Read more.

The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg by Ted Brooks offered tips on using electronic exhibit stickers. The Aug. 5 post focuses on using TrialDirector. Read more.

A new product, the NeoNode AirBar, plans to turn any computer into a touch screen. The 11.6-in. bar is available for pre-order at $69. Read more.

TechLinks: Keeping your information secure

NCRA’s Technology Committee rounded up a group of tech-related articles about keeping your computer files and other information secure, an ever-increasing concern in a world where privacy and security are becoming more and more important. Two articles explain what to look for in scams and the remainder offer suggestions for keeping your devices and information secure.

A tech sector employee explains her vishing – voice phishing — experience and how such scams can threaten the information security of a business. The YouTube video also gives information on how to recognize and how to avoid such scams. See video.

How to recognize a risky email was the topic of a June 16 post on lawyerist.com. Whether avoiding viruses or phishing scams, this article offers the basics for keeping your computer safe. Read more.

A July 4 post on Gizmo’s Freeware, a community website for reviewing free software, suggested Safepad as a simple Windows notepad replacement that uses encryption. Read more.

Bringing the above together, also check out an ABA article on building strong passwords to protect your information from its June issue. The suggestions include using longer words, using both letters – a mix of upper and lowercase – and numbers, and other tricks to make your devices more secure. Read more.

An article in PC Magazine about encrypting data on external drives is a reminder to protect clients’ confidential information as well.  Read more.

Alert: Adobe Flash users should download emergency patch

TechLinks_logoBy Christine Phipps

Adobe issued an alert that Flash users need to update to the latest version as hackers took advantage of a security flaw to install ransomware on computers.

Adobe Flash is a software platform that runs video, animation, and games inside of Web pages. Flash was born when the Web began in 1996 and quickly became the standard for Web video, especially after a little startup called YouTube began using it in 2005. Now it’s largely obsolete, as most websites and apps use different technologies for the same purpose. In fact, in July 2015, Google and Mozilla (Firefox) each announced that their Web browsers will be dropping default support for Adobe Flash, citing the plug-in software’s newly discovered vulnerabilities to cyberattacks. Those moves came only a few days after Facebook’s chief of security called for Adobe to set an “end of life” date for the often exploited 20-year-old platform.

That being said, pretty much everyone that uses the Internet still uses Flash. If the sites you go to do not use Flash, uninstall it. Flash is a program, so uninstall it like you would any other program.

Ransomware has been becoming increasingly popular, hitting law firms and organizations as well as individuals. After visiting an infected website, your computer will install ransomware, which locks you out of your computer until you pay hackers a specified amount of money.

I know we say it over and over again and present it in some form at every convention, but I’m going to say it again because it obviously bears repeating: Back up all of your data. If you do get a ransomware attack, you will have your information saved and you won’t be scrambling to come up with the ransom money to get your important files back — and that’s if they even do uphold their end of the deal.  I recommend a cloud backup and local firmware back up.

You can find the current version number of flash: adobe.com/software/flash/about/.  After you locate which browser you use, write down the number. Then go to your browser and look in your gear icon or something similar, or you can go to install/uninstall programs and look for Adobe Flash and match each one as there are different programs for different browsers. You should also update your software as soon as a new version is released or have set to auto update because there are often security and bug fixes included within them. You should absolutely be running antivirus software as well.

Protect yourself by staying up-to-date with backups and current versions of your particular OS service pack releases and programs.

Christine Phipps, RPR, of North Palm Beach, Fla., is co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at christine@phippsreporting.com.

TechLinks: backing up data, passwords to avoid, and a rival pdf software

TechLinks_logoNCRA’s Technology Committee rounded up a group of tech-related articles that offers news on using Windows’ File History, passwords to never use, and a review of Soda PDF 8.

An article on How-To Geek explains how to use Windows’ File History to back up your data. Windows’ File History was introduced in Windows 8 and is “a fully featured back-up tool.”

A post on iPhone J.D. covers ten more passwords that you should never, ever use. Author Jeff Richardson urges readers to “use complex and unique passwords on each of the websites that you visit.”

PC Magazine reviews Soda PDF 8, a pdf software that rivals Adobe’s product. According to the review, “Soda PDF 8 offers powerful tools for creating and editing PDF files in a sleek, modern interface with a useful cloud-computing component.”

TECHNOLOGY: The benefits of early adoption

person hold laptop with digital planet; light emits from video cameraBy David Ward

Because concentration is paramount for their job, court reporters don’t like disruptions — and that often extends to the equipment and other technology they use during work. Once reporters are comfortable with their writers and other gear, many are loathe not only to try to try new hardware, but often even to update some of the software that supports their equipment. This reliance on the tried and true can help a reporter stay in their comfort zone, but it also comes with a cost.

Foregoing the opportunity to be an early technology adopter means that at least some reporters may end up missing out on trends that can help them do their job better and also grow their business.

“There are so many great new tools now with reporting,” says Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, a principal with LNS Court Reporting based in Portland, Ore. “From where it was when I started in 1980, it almost feels like we’re cheating now thanks to software that can, for example, remember complex medical terms, so if you write it two or three times, it will start to suggest it.” Though it does require both a financial investment and a willingness to learn the ins and outs of the latest hardware and technology, Nodland says being an early tech adopter has more than paid off by helping her firm generate new business.

“Being tech-savvy really resonates with our client base,” she explains. “Every single time we’ve given a five-minute tour of our technology to a client, they are beside themselves. It’s usually the assistants — the attorneys don’t want to deal with it — who are just delighted because it makes their job easier. If they go home and are not sure if they have scheduled a videographer for the next day, they can log in and double check.”

One of the main reasons LNS embraces new technology is because it now does a lot more than reporting and videography. “We are tech heavy because we have both court reporting and captioning and video conferencing over IP, so we need a real robust infrastructure,” Nodland says.

LNS has an IT person on monthly retainer to oversee and maintain the company’s servers and website. “We use ReporterBase for the calendaring, invoicing, and the repository with 24/7 access to transcripts — and it’s our IT person’s job is to makes sure it’s all running properly. He also makes sure there are backups to all our reporters’ notes and files, even though that’s really the reporters’ responsibility.”

The cost-effective early tech adopter

Not every firm or individual reporter will have the resources to invest in an array of on-site servers, let alone hire a tech guy to manage it all.

But Sue Terry, RPR, CRR, an NCRA director and freelance reporter based in Dayton, Ohio, notes there are still cost-effective ways to be an early tech adopting reporter. Terry notes that even little things like upgrading laptops and home PCs to the new Microsoft Windows 10 operating system can make a huge difference.

“I know many reporters are afraid to make that switch for fear of messing up their laptop,” she explains. “But most of the upgrades are taking place on the software side, and many reporters don’t realize how powerful they can be and how effective they can be when streaming a deposition. Once you have your router in place, no matter what CAT system you’re on, it’s easier to get the hookup when all your software is up to date.”

Being an early tech adopter also requires reporters to understand what type of new tech can truly make a difference in their business.

Dianne Cromwell, RPR, is an official reporter in Boise, Idaho, as well as the owner of the Boise reporting firm Tucker & Associates. Cromwell says that virtually every reporter can help their business with relatively low-cost investments such iPads. “Compared with the old days when you had to deal with all different kinds of laptops and other repeaters, the iPad is much easier,” she says. “The freelancers that work for our company all have their own iPads, which they provide clients.”

Asking the right tech questions

Many small business owners — and not just those in the court reporting field — may understand the importance of staying on top of technology but often don’t know how to start that process.

Terry notes that people don’t have to be all that tech conversant to be early adopters; they just have to know the right people and ask the right questions.

“Many reporters buy a new laptop or other equipment, and the settings are not optimized for their job, which is the recording of proceedings,” Terry explains. “So they think they have a crappy laptop and they go out and buy another one.”

Asking other court reporters for advice is one way to get up to speed on new technology, but Terry says reporters also can’t be shy about asking the very people they’re buying the equipment from for their input. “These are professionals, and to me what they’re also selling me is support,” she says. “It really doesn’t do you any good to get a microphone that picks up the sound in a room great if you don’t know how to set the settings to make that happen.”

Most tech and software vendors say they want those questions from court reporters. Jason Yee, marketing director with OMTI, makers of the ReporterBase line of software, notes his company routinely handles queries from their hundreds of firm clients.

“We find their interest in new technology ranges from very conservative to eager early adopters,” he explains. “We view it as our job, as software developers, to be up on what is happening technology-wise and use our experience from 30 years of developing for this industry — plus insights from our clients — to decide which technologies to incorporate into ReporterBase. Then we teach our clients why they have these new abilities and what they can do with them.”

Yee says OMTI upgrades its two main court reporting products, RB8 office management software and RB Web online office, twice annually, keeping firm owners abreast of any new features through online content as well as its annual conference.

“We have found that often clients who describe themselves as not technically savvy will embrace these foreign new concepts and abilities when they understand the benefits and learn how to use the new features properly,” he adds.

Reporting technology for a rich future

The right technology can not only assist individual reporters and court reporting firms with their current work, it can also ready them for what could massive new opportunities over the next decade.

Jason Primuth, executive vice president for NextGen Reporting, points out that remote reporting — where the reporter is far from the witness being deposed — has not really taken off in many parts of the country.

“However, we’ve seen a strong growth in the demand for remote depositions where the parties are in multiple locations, and the court reporter is generally with the deponent,” he adds. “Forward-thinking corporations and insurance companies have found significant savings in time and money by conducting remote depositions.”

Primuth has also seen a surge in the use of video technology in legal proceedings, noting, “Some of our cases require the high-quality video that only traditional videographers and a professional camera can provide. But there’s a massively underserved market for video in smaller cases with smaller budgets. Other options, such as remote streaming, make video affordable to a much broader range of cases.”

Rhonda Jensen, RDR, CRR, CMRS, president of Jensen Litigation Solutions, based in Chicago, Ill., says her firm is rapidly adding new video equipment, including HD cameras, to take advantage of the growing popularity of video.

“We’ve expanded dramatically,” she explains. “We now do promotional videos for attorneys to post on their websites, and we’re very active in the local bar associations here in Illinois where we’ve done things like ‘Women in the Legal World’ videos for them.”

Jensen adds video is already influencing many parts of civil litigation. For example, her company now works with law firms to put together day-in-the-life videos used in personal injury suits.

“If someone is injured, the attorneys often want the jury to know what it’s like to be in their shoes by showing their daily life,” she explains. “We’ve also just invested in our first GoPro camera, which can be put on the injured person to show directly what life is like from their side.”

As much as video is affecting litigation, the huge growth in video outside of the legal arena has been a real technological trigger for the court reporting industry along with the need to caption much of that content.

A report last year from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicted that 80 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2019.

Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRC, and co-founder (along with Nodland) of LNS Reporting in Portland, Ore., agrees that the surge in video, both online and off, could have a profound effect on the captioning community – but only for reporters willing to step outside their comfort zone.

Studenmund explains that over the past five years, captioning prices in the network television affiliate world have dropped, adding, “But I still see reporters who only want to do network affiliate news, and they’re willing to take less money to just do that. In the meantime, there’s all this new work.”

One area where Studenmund is seeing growth is areas affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“The world of people with hearing disabilities are finally beginning to ask for what they’re allowed to have through ADA,” she says. “And it’s booming. One example is stadiums. How many stadiums now have to provide captions? Another is in the workplace as people are realizing that in order to participate in a workplace webinar, they need captions.”

If that’s not opportunity enough, consider the vast amounts of old videotape that could soon be converted to digital and posted online.

“There’s so much content, not just current videos being produced, but archived content from years back when they still had VHS,” Terry says. “These are sitting at colleges and universities, and they’re dying to make that content digital and searchable.”

In addition to possessing their traditional captioning skills, Terry says court reporters should start thinking and talking like early tech adopters when it comes to video.

“You have to explain to people looking to post videos to YouTube that most search engines can’t index that content unless it’s captioned and there are keywords to pull up,” she says. “We have so much video history right now that if I was just entering the business, I would be marketing video captioning as strongly as I would depositions and hearings. If you can learn to caption videos, you really have an unlimited market.”

The good news for court reporters looking to be on the cutting edge of video is that it doesn’t require that much new tech.

Studenmund, who does captioning at stadiums, including high-profile events like the Super Bowl, remotely from her home office, says other than a great high-speed Internet connection, all you really need are great earpieces.

“I indulge in nice headphones,” she adds. “When working remotely, it all comes down to hearing clearly.”

Like most early tech adopters, Studenmund says the real key is to embrace any new technology as an opportunity rather than distraction, adding, “Everything changes all the time, so you just need to be ready for that.”

David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

This article was suggested by NCRA’s Technology Committee.

 

TechLinks: The latest on Windows 10, iOS9, and bad passwords

TechLinks_logoNCRA’s Technology Committee shared links with information on Microsoft Windows 10, iOS 9, and this year’s worst passwords.

Nancy L. Bistany, RPR, of Chicago, Ill., Co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, pointed out a white paper by the VMware Team on how the Windows operating systems evolved into a cloud and mobile-based system, giving people insight in how to use this tool effectively. Read more.

Bistany also noted an article from iDropNews on the beta version of iOS 9.3, the latest mobile update for Apple products including the iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices. The beta version includes a feature called Night Shift, which is supposed to alter, or shift, the colors of an iOS device’s display to the warmer, complementary end of the color spectrum in the evening time — thus reducing a user’s exposure to those otherwise lively and awakening blue hues that we see by default. Read more.

Christine Phipps, RPR, Co-chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, reminded reporters to be smart about their passwords. Recently, SplashData released its annual list of the top bad passwords. “If any resemble your current passwords,” Phipps advises, “you may want to consider changing them immediately.” Read more.

TECH: Talking technology with Fred Middlebrooks

 

By Debra A. Levinson

Fred Middlebrooks, recently of Stenograph, has create CR-Help.com, a consulting company with the specific mission to help court reporters better understand the technology that is right at their fingertips. CR-Help.com offers subscriptions for writers, transcription software, computer equipment, and connectivity tools, such as USB, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

I sat down with Fred to find out more about this new venture and how court reporters can make better use of technology in their everyday lives.

 

Levinson: Fred, as an integral part of the development team at the world’s leading provider of hardware and software for court reporters for 33 years, what did you have in mind when you started CR-Help.com?

Middlebrooks: Respecting the demands that are put on court reporters, our service is intended to be a symbiotic-type of support. I don’t believe either can survive without the other. I created CR-Help.com to mean just that: We provide training and technology consultations to court reporters, scopists, and court reporting IT departments by phone, Web, or on site.

Levinson: How does working directly with court reporters help meet their goals?

Middlebrooks: By promoting both the profession and encouraging reporters to better use more of the technology that’s available. In some respects, reporters don’t completely realize that the CAT systems and writing machines on the market today are there to increase their level of productivity, but that only happens if they make the time to embrace the learning process. It is a commitment of their time. Since today’s page rates are static, at best, using the productivity of their tools would allow an increase in their page output per day.

Levinson: Would you classify court reporting as a technological profession?

Middlebrooks: In today’s marketplace, absolutely. What was required of a reporter 30 years ago is completely different than current needs. Between the realtime, streaming text, and captioning applications as well as adapting to the wanting it now generation, using technologies that exist proves viable to delivering it all.

Levinson: With the level of sophistication that writers have today, what is the importance of technology to working reporters?

Middlebrooks: The writing machines on the market today allow for a change in how the reporter interfaces with them.

  • Completely new electronic methods of setting the keyboard detection are available to better control when a key stroke is registered as a stroke.
  • Utilities that allow for the analysis of the strokes written give the reporter the information needed to better adjust the writing machine.
  • Enhanced connectivity: WiFi, USB, and Bluetooth. In some cases allowing the writing machine to be connected to more than the CAT system.

In my opinion, reporters need to budget time to learn and budget funds to replace equipment and update software. Given the exponential changes in technology happening, having money available for the purpose of replacing a computer every two and a half to three years and a writing machine every five to six years would be my recommendation.

Levinson: Do you feel the average reporter is sufficiently trained in order to perform the job effectively?

Middlebrooks: Yes, trained from the perspective of the skill of taking down the spoken word on a writing machine, their knowledge of the theory, and the vocabulary needed to create a record.

I believe reporters should be setting aside time in their busy schedules to better understand their software, what it can do for them, and refine their personal dictionary for better translations. Better understanding of their writing machine and how to make adjustments to match their writing style would lead to less time spent editing after the fact.

Editing is where reporters spend the bulk of their time and the process begins at the writing-machine keyboard. Problems exist with mistranslations, stacking, or splitting, and everyone likes to blame the machine. Unfortunately, the machine is not the cause. Realizing you’re fresh and ready to go at 8 a.m. but by 4 p.m. you’re not writing the same way, the answer is to tune the machine and create keyboard profiles if the steno machine has that capability. These tools are available provided you are willing to invest the time to learn how to use those tools and understand what they can do for you.

Levinson: You’ve said that reporters should allocate expenses for updates. Do you feel they stay informed about their software improvements?

Middlebrooks: As a general rule, I’d say no. There’s a population of reporters who won’t go on the Internet to check for even basic updates. People need to remember that all hardware and software have bugs and updates are necessary. Some people do check for updates from their CAT system, writing machine, and computer. Unfortunately, most people do not unless they hear by word of mouth or on forums that there is an update available. Staying up to date does require a commitment of getting into the habit to check for updates.

Levinson: Is there job security for those who embrace technology?

Middlebrooks: Yes, and from my perspective the underlying technology allows those willing to put the time in to have an excellent opportunity to highlight their skills. Anywhere the spoken word needs to be captured is an opportunity for a live reporter.

There are three options to capturing the spoken word: live court reporter, video, and audio tape. The problem with last two is that video and audio are not searchable. The only way to perform a search is through text, and the only way to produce text is with a live reporter, a transcriptionist, or speech recognition. The speech recognition works but not very well. Basing searches on text produced from speech recognition produces poor search results.

When you look at job security and embracing technology, we look to the talent of highly skilled reporters. That skill relies on technology constantly in flux, which underscores why staying up to date is of paramount importance. This is not just a job; this is a professional commitment.

Levinson: When reporters are faced with technology challenges, who should they consult with? Their reporter friends? Agency? Software support? Trainers?

Middlebrooks: Reporters and scopists, when encountering an issue with their system/hardware, should go to the source (vendor) because who better knows the writing machine software/hardware and CAT software than those who made it?

When it comes to helping you get up and running with a new release of CAT software or a new CAT system, trainers are a great resource.

When it comes to other questions about the record, dictionaries, format, briefs, and things other reporters have tried and used, then reporter friends and agencies are a great resource.

Debra A. Levinson, RMR, CRR, CRI, is a member of NCRA’s Technology Task Force. She can be reached at dal@dalcoreporting.com.