Realtime: It’s worth it

By Keith Lemons

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. That’s a saying for just about everything nowadays. As court reporters, we know that it is real every day, all day long. When I was a puppy reporter, I had a judge who used to tell me, “Don’t interrupt anymore. Just throw up your hands when they’re talking too fast or on top of each other.” The problem with that is that whenever she said that in a transcript, the appellate court would naturally wonder what I left out. So I decided that I had to get better. I concentrated on learning how to brief on the fly, get longer phrases in one stroke, and write for the computer instead of myself.

I started out my career with the wonderful world of court reporting computers. All of them were written in dedicated computer systems that did not cross over for any other CAT program. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t even search the Internet or type a Word document or run an Excel spreadsheet because none of that had even been thought of yet. But we, the court reporters, had a marvelous new toy that made our work both harder and more meaningful. Imagine, if you will, being able to type two pages a minute when you used to only get one page per five minutes.

The struggle was real to try to figure out how to load a dictionary, how to write a dictionary, how to use a dictionary, how to edit a dictionary — all on a 2-megabyte disk — how to remember to plug in the machine, how to figure out if the cassette reader was really writing or reading that 300-page medical malpractice trial day you just had. But we learned. We adapted. We had to if we wanted to help our agency pay for that $50,000 Baron Data Center.

Later, when I became an official, I wrote for my newest piece of technology, the Baron Solo. It had 5-½-inch, dual floppy drives. The struggle was real to remember how to use this new technology and never, ever, ever use your magnet in the same room as your computer. (We had an electronic magnet system that bulk-erased our cassette tapes for the machines. If you used it near the computer, you risked either wiping out your floppies or causing damage to the electronics in the computer itself.) Then came the Microsoft revolution. We had yet one more machine to buy and one more operating system to learn. This one came with WordPerfect and learning the wonderful works of macros. No more Cardex! The struggle was so real that I accidentally wiped out my entire operating system trying to clear a message that popped up on my welcome screen.

Now we had to buy a new machine with a floppy disk drive in it. The struggle was real. In the early days of these marvelous inventions, we spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading, upgrading, upgrading, all with no such thing as a legacy fallback.

The 24-pin dot matrix printer revolutionized multiple copy printing — that is, unless you figured in the hours spent trying to separate those carbon pages without destroying your clothing in the process. That struggle was real. So was ink in the machine. Try changing a ribbon without making everything around you purple.

Then the struggle became really, really interesting. In the latter half of the 1990s, a CAT program made real-time court reporting a reality. I got to watch a reporter write from her machine and have real words show up within seconds on a computer screen. I have no idea if her writing was pristine or 1 percent or even 5 percent untranslates. All I knew is it was beautiful. Music filled the skies; my heart was full. For the first time in a long time, I really wanted to be a part of something. It wasn’t just about the money anymore. It was something so new and so grand that I couldn’t even envision the possibilities of the future with it.

So I learned it. I bought more equipment, and I learned wiring and splitting and sending and receiving. It was a real struggle. I showed it to my boss, the judge. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But I was enthusiastic about it, so I kept asking her if I could just put a computer on the bench to see if my wiring was correct. She relented, but she made me turn the monitor to where she wouldn’t have to look at it. But she didn’t ever tell me to take it down. Pretty soon, she wanted me to angle the monitor so it would be more visible when she wanted to see the attorneys’ objections. Then she wanted to learn how to scroll backwards, then to search, then to write notes. Eureka!

Realtime (without the hyphen) had come of age. Next struggle was to get other court reporters to accept that our future was in realtime reporting. I felt like the most hated court reporter in the state at times because I provided something that 16 other judges in Wyoming weren’t getting. But when they saw it, they wanted it. (Without extra compensation, of course.)

Little did I know that this struggle would become the thrust of my presentations and seminars for the next 16-plus years. Of course, I’m talking about realtime for the average reporter.

Now the struggle is real because in order to become a realtime writer, we need to put away the things that we learned as a new reporter, that we thought as a new reporter, that we expected as a new reporter. We need to remember that the struggle is not with the machine, it is with our own expectations. We need to struggle to get to the next level of court reporting to make a difference, either in writing realtime or captioning.

The struggle is real; the rewards are great. Two months ago, I was taking a medical malpractice jury trial with several prominent attorneys, one of whom was intensely hard of hearing. I’ve been gently suggesting to him that realtime could help him. Finally, I just did what I did with my judge those many years ago. I put the realtime on his table and told him that it was free; but if he liked it, I would start charging the next day.

During the trial, this attorney would bring the iPad to bench conferences so he could see what was being whispered — something he hasn’t been able to do for years. Both attorneys used their iPads during the instruction conference to see what the construction of their sentences would look like on their jury charge. That reluctant attorney? He now has set two jury trials with me for the beginning of the year — with realtime. Two weeks ago, I did a realtime feed for a woman who was profoundly deaf, deaf from birth, who read lips but never learned American Sign Language. She read lips, but watched my screen like a hawk. She even got a kick out of a mistran or two that I made.

I know the struggle is real. This job can be the most difficult struggle day in and day out. But with our own self-improvement, learning realtime and becoming accomplished at it makes that struggle turn into satisfied accomplishment. I’m loving that struggle. You will too.

JCR Contributing Editor Keith Lemons, RPR, CRR, can be reached at This article was written on behalf of NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee, of which Lemons is a member.

TechLinks: Improve your odds of getting paid with these apps

One of the concerns that weighs heavily on the minds of independent reporters and small- and medium-sized firm owners is getting paid in a timely manner. NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee did the research into some online options to help you stay solvent.


Square is a free credit card reader that can attach to your cell phone. The credit card reader, which can work with iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, will be sent to you when you sign up with Square.

As an independent court reporter, I do work in the courtroom,” said Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn. “There are occasions when an attorney has forgotten to hire a court reporter and then approaches me to ask if I can cover his matter as well. In the instance where an attorney is not known to you and you are unsure of the payment history, Square comes to the rescue. You have the ability to swipe their credit card on the spot for the attendance fee and never have to worry if you will be paid later.”

If you’re not already accepting credit cards, it may be time to reconsider. Among the benefits, according to Square, is that accepting credit cards can help you instill a sense of trust with your customers, showing that you are an established business. In addition, credit cards can help you bring in more customers and eliminate the possibility of bounced checks. If you are worried about security, the embedded chips in the most current crop of credit cards include sophisticated encryption to further protect you.

“Credit card payments can level the playing field with competition and bigger firms,” continued Mueller. She adds that Square is “great for online payments and makes it easy for your customer to pay you, convenient for the customer and clients, and legitimizes your business.”


PayPal is a way to send money or make and receive online payments, although it can also be connected through a smartphone.

“I also use PayPal for my online credit card payments,” said Mueller. “I can direct clients to my website and a button is displayed where they can click the link and take them directly to my PayPal account. Some clients like the convenience and security of entering their sensitive information themselves online rather than telling me their numbers over the telephone.”

An article on The Balance considers some of the pros and cons of using PayPal for a small business.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner from Wayzata, Minn., mentioned that she loves Freshbooks billing software. “It is integrated with PayPal. There is a button where [my clients] can click and pay via PayPal, and then it is automatically marked as ‘Paid’ in my billing software,” she said.

Other options

PayPal and Square may be the most used, but they are not the only online options for accepting credit cards. A November 1, 2017, article on Small Business Trends offered 20 different suggestions. If neither PayPal nor Square meets your requirements, don’t give up; keep looking.

“There are two iOS apps (there may be an Android app as well) that I like for when you are with a colleague or friend and out for lunch, for instance,” said Mueller. “Perhaps the restaurant doesn’t like to split the bill for each guest. With either the Cash or Venmo apps, you can send cash for your portion instantly to the person who paid for lunch! You can use these apps for tipping your hair stylist or any other service provider. I rarely carry cash with me anymore. It’s so much more convenient to just use one of these apps!”

New online automated booking platform gains popularity

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Feb. 13, eCourt Reporters announced that its automated online scheduling platform is growing in use. The software was launched seven months ago.

Read more.

TechLinks: How to build a strong password

Your best defense may be a good offense, but in the world of password protection, your first line is a strong and unique password. Recent attacks by hackers on private and public institutions can mean that your personal information — name, email address, and password — can be accessed by someone who would use your information to your detriment.

To be more password savvy, the Realtime and Technology Resources Committee rounded up some tips to help make this important part of your personal (and professional) security easier.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Memphis, Tenn., recommends Lifehacker’s Aug. 14 article “How to create a strong password” for starters. The article mentions that the U.S. government had recently changed its guidelines for creating a strong password, now suggesting the use of long, weird strings of random words, with some capital letters, special characters, or numbers. This guidance should prevent both computers, which can run through a dictionary pretty quickly while trying to guess your password, and human hackers from getting into your accounts.

“The first step in being able to build a strong password policy is understanding what a password policy is,” says Mueller. The password policy is a set of rules set by the company that explains the combinations of words, numbers, and/or symbols you must use to grant access to an otherwise restricted online area. Passwords protect everything from your website to small business networks. For more information, she recommends reading Small Business Trends’ Aug. 2 article “Follow These 20 Password Policy Best Practices to Keep Your Company Secure.”

However, as the Lifehacker article points out, it’s hard to remember a string of random words (and common phrases aren’t random words, so don’t succumb to the ease of using your favorite quote as a password). Lifehacker recommends using a password manager, and some are set to help you create a password.

“As a busy legal professional, keeping information secure is of utmost importance and so is maintaining secure passwords for your online resources,” says Mueller. “1Password can create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them, all directly in your Web browser. Selecting one of your saved logins from 1Password’s Go & Fill menu takes you to the site, securely fills in your username and password, and logs you in, all with a single click or a few keystrokes.”

1Password is one of the password managers that can help you, but it’s not the only one: Dashlane, LastPass, and Google Smart Lock are just a few others. Tammy Jenkins, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Crystal River, Fla., shared three articles to help you get an overview of which one might work best for your systems:

Follow these best practices to help ensure maximum security for your important information!

TechLinks: Is this email for real?

Technology is great, and we love trying out new things. But that doesn’t mean that someone won’t abuse it. Email scams, often called phishing, commonly play upon your greatest hopes, such as a huge windfall, or your worst fears, such as being accused of missing a payment. So how do you sort through the trash to find the treasure? NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resources Committee has some advice on how to make sure you don’t get scammed.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore., offers a three-step process to start:

  1. Read the email closely. Does it ring true? Usually there are spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors that will alert you that a con artist is at work and the email is not authentic. Court reporters and captioners are experts at this! Trust your gut reaction.
  2. If you have access to an IT professional, run it by them.
  3. Google it. Chances are you are not the first person to be hit up.

Nodland references Computer Hope’s article on how to tell if an email is a scam. Red flags can include incomplete and misspelled words, a call for immediate action, a request for personal information, using a username instead of your real name, or a deceptive link or email address (that is, the metadata does not match what you see).

Committee chair Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., pointed to a Wired article entitled “Phishing scams even fool tech nerds – here’s how to avoid them.” The March 13, 2017, article says one of the first things to consider is the sender’s email address for mistakes, such as a number 1 for a letter l and other such substitutions. Also, think about whether this email would be likely to come from such a person.

Don’t overlook the official source for information on your particular email program. Whatever email program you use regularly, consult the help section or visit the online website to find information about how to block specific senders, change your security settings, unsubscribe from mass emails, and otherwise keep up with the latest protections. The Federal Trade Commission also offers information on how to avoid phishing attacks. The website includes information on how to file a complaint and report phishing emails.

To help you get a better handle on what to look for before you are attacked, Mueller recommended three articles on phishing:

Tamara A. Jenkins, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Crystal River, Fla., suggested a few more resources to bring you up to date on the latest in scams:

If you’ve already accidentally clicked on a bad link, Mueller recommends “5 steps to take after clicking on a phishing link,” a July 20 article on This article also notes that spotting phishing messages can become harder and harder to identify as scam artists get sneakier about getting to you.

Those tricky tech terms – when to lowercase, when to hyphenate, and more

Outline of a human head in profile with a TV, radio, and iPod within the head; the head is facing towards lines of computer code with the word "Technology" at the bottom. The entire image is in green and black.The JCR recently reached out to NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council members asking their opinion on spelling and capitalization on a variety of technology terms. Council members were also asked to share their references to back up their responses. The discussion inadvertently revealed how much language can change even within a few short years. The terms are below:

  • It is internet or Internet?
  • Is it website, web-site, Website, or Web-site?
  • Is it email, e-mail, Email, or E-mail?
  • Is it “I Googled it” or “I googled it”?
  • Is it smart phone, smart-phone, or smartphone?
  • Is it the cloud or the Cloud?

Several members relied on the old standby Merriam-Webster, especially for terms like email and internet.

Tara Gandel Hudson, RPR, CRR, for example, chose Internet because “Merriam-Webster still uses the cap. Perhaps it will change some day but not yet.” She also chose Google, adding, “While the preferred way may change to lowercase in the future, I don’t think we’re there yet.” And she chose cloud excepting if “it’s part of a proper name like iCloud.”

Katherine Schilling, RPR, defaulted to Merriam-Webster’s primary entry for all terms except cloud, explaining, “I actually have no good reason for this other than to capitalize it makes it sound like it’s a business’s name.”

Pat Miller, CRI, CPE, abstained completely because “I use almost all of the options depending on which reporter’s work I am reading” as a proofreader, which is probably the most telling statement of all.

Aimee Suhie, RPR: “When the first of these terms came up in transcripts in the dark ages, I’d like to say I Googled them (definitely Googled capped because it is a proper name) and used Internet capped; web site as two words, lowercase; and e-mail hyphenated (although now I would do it as one word, email, because so many terms such as evite and eTran begin with lowercase e no space). I looked up smartphone as recently as this past year on Google and found it to be one word lowercase. But I would cap the Cloud simply because it’s cool.”

Francesca Ivy, RPR, said, “I guess I should revisit these terms from time to time considering how fast the computer world progresses” but offered the following responses:

  • Internet — I always have, but I may have to rethink that choice pretty soon since, according to Merriam-Webster, the lowercase form is becoming more widespread and is the more common form used in British publications.
  • website — It is such a common word now that it looks wrong to be capped or hyphenated.
  • email — Up until recently, I was spelling it e-mail. But when I started on the Proofreading Advisory Council, I learned that they were spelling it as one word and I switched.
  • Googled — Because it’s a company name.
  • smartphone — Same rationale as website; just such a common word. And Merriam-Webster has it as one word.
  • the Cloud — To me, it stands out that way to mean it as connected with the computer world as opposed to a cloud in the sky.

Lisa Inverso (scopist for Kathy McHugh, RPR, CRR): “I can tell you how I do it, but I’m not sure I can give the why because just looking up Internet shows a lot of controversy in the why and when to use it. It was once referred to as a proper noun and that’s why it was capitalized, but then if it’s used as an adjective like internet resources, it is not capped. So I’m not sure there are any easy answers to these. Some of these are changing with time, which is making it difficult for everyone.

My comments below reflect how I do things when working on jobs for editing. If I’m proofing jobs, I always go with what the reporter has and keep everything consistent.

  • I use Internet capped when used as a noun.
  • I commonly see website spelled as one word uncapped in articles.
  • I know email is becoming the common spelling without being hyphenated and lowercase.
  • I think Googled is still capped because it is the proper name of the company Google.
  • I have found smartphone as lowercase and one word because there are now many different models of smartphones in existence and not just one.
  • I believe it’s referred to as the Cloud with the capital because it is a proper name for a place where things are being stored.”

Judy Lehman, FAPR, RMR, CRI: “These are my practices and opinions only, of course — because if you look long and dig deep enough, you’ll find conflicting rules and usage and a decent argument for whichever style you choose. So in the end, just be consistent.

  • internet: Because it has become ubiquitous in the same manner as kleenex (for tissue), xerox (for photocopying), and band aid.
  • website, one word, lowercase: The lowercase website is a generic use. I checked over 20 references on this one. Each used one word, not capped. I’m rolling with the majority which, fortunately, is consistent with what I do anyway.
  • email, no hyphen: The word/term has evolved (from electronic mail) in a similar fashion to other words in this list. Once again, the overwhelming majority of references I found used email. And … it’s quicker to type — and every little bit helps! Another consistent example: Gmail, not G-mail.
  • Same with google as a verb, lowercase, although I understand Google doesn’t want us to use google as a generic verb for searching on the internet/web and that we should only use google as a verb when we actually use Google to google, er, search. If one adheres to the rule that the site Google is a proper noun that should be capitalized and that the verb google should be printed with a lowercase leading g, then there would be no confusion about how the word is being used, no?
  • smartphone: One and done. That’s it. Always.
  • the cloud: This one is a little trickier. It hasn’t been in the lingo as long. Some of the usages I found use the Cloud. But the lowercase version makes more sense to me. Cloud in the general sense means a part of cyberspace or is cyberspace. Cyberspace isn’t capped — well, except here where I used it to begin the sentence. And here’s an interesting blurb that solidifies my choice to use lowercase:

What is cloud computing? Everything you need to know now | InfoWorld

Jul 10, 2017 – The “cloud” in cloud computing originated from the habit of drawing the internet as a fluffy cloud in network diagrams. No wonder the most popular meaning of cloud computing refers to running workloads over the internet remotely in a commercial provider’s data center — the so-called “public cloud” model.

Unless you are talking about a particular company’s cloud perhaps, i.e.: IBM Cloud or Azure Cloud computing, which you may then want to capitalize.

In terms of NCRA skills testing, the RPR, RMR, CRR, and CRC Skills Tests are developed based on the rules of punctuation set forth in The Gregg Reference Manual and Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.


Read more from the NCRA Proofreading Advisory Council:

Grammatical sleuthing: Best resources for searching in print and online

Commas and hyphens and exclamation points, oh my! A conversation about punctuation

TechLinks: Podcasts that keep us learning

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee members shared their favorite podcasts, one of their favorite ways to learn the latest about technology.

If you are not already familiar, a podcast is a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the internet (according to Merriam-Webster). Podcasts can be downloaded to a computer or mobile device, such as a smartphone. Typically, podcasts are released as a series, and people interested in a particular podcast series can subscribe so that the new releases are downloaded automatically. Although they are similar to radio shows, podcast listeners don’t have to tune in to a particular broadcast at a specific time; once released, podcast episodes are available on demand. (Learn more about podcasting at How Stuff Works.)

Podcasts offer the latest in politics and culture, interviews with your favorite celebrities, serial dramas, and comedy aplenty. All of this programming is available for free; just install an app on your smartphone and download the shows you want to hear. So rich is the abundance of great podcasts and apps, diving in can be overwhelming. (If you want to explore this in more depth, Wired offers a beginner’s guide to podcasts.)

Apps to listen to podcasts

Many apps are available for podcasts. Here are a few links to get you started on Android and iOS devices:

Favorite podcasts of the tech committee

The committee members first offered several published roundups of podcasts lists, which will give everyone a chance to find something to their personal taste.

The committee members also offered some of their personal favorites:

  • All podcasts on The Vergecast — just select the story you want to listen to.
  • Wired’s weekly Gadget Lab podcasts — you can listen directly from the website or subscribe to the weekly podcasts.
  • The Accidental Tech Podcast is a show led by three developers who cover tech in an in-depth way and are very entertaining.
  • That old stalwart the Wall Street Journal has a pretty robust tech podcast list.
  • What does it mean to be a nerd? Listen to The Nerdist to find out. The brainchild of Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick, the weekly podcast interviews famous nerds (and people you wouldn’t consider nerds) like Drew Carey, Jane Lynch, William Dafoe, Sofia Coppola, Bill Maher, Donald Glover, and Angela Bassett talking about a wide range of topics.
  • How Stuff Works is often cited by the committee, and they have a great podcast series. The Tech Channel covers all the gadgets and technology you love to use.

If you don’t see what you want here, try Listen Notes.

Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, a committee member based in Portland, Ore., further commented that although she loves tech podcasts, she loves many non-tech radio shows too. She suggests The Moth and Snap Judgment, both found on, as well as 2 Dope Queens.

WORKING TOGETHER: How’s your audio?

By Mindy Sindiong

Part of a CLVS’s training is to provide great video and audio for our clients. However, we have two clients: the attorney(s) and the court reporter. Yes, I said court reporter. Part of our job is to offer the court reporter some form of audio, whether it be a live feed from our audio mixer or a digital computer file recorded onto an SD card. The better audio we provide, the more court reporters will want and request to work with a CLVS. I’ll get more into the relationship between a CLVS videographer and a court reporter in a moment. First, I want to discuss the importance of the audio.

The CLVS program teaches a CLVS the audio chain, meaning audio should come from wired microphones to the mixer, from the mixer to the video recording devices, and, from there, into a monitoring device, otherwise known as headphones. Unfortunately, many videographers seem to forget the importance of audio in video. We are sometimes swayed by the technical specs of that new camera that just came out. We want the video aspect of it to look great on that new 4K video monitor. Can we see every line on someone’s face? And, in the process, audio sometimes falls to the wayside. This is a shame because, in reality, the audio is of utmost importance, especially in video depositions. The testimony is the deposition. Try an experiment. Turn on the TV with the sound turned down and watch for a few minutes. Turn the sound up and turn your eyes away from the TV and just listen. In most cases, you will get a better understanding of what is happening by listening rather than watching. Now, mind you, I am not disregarding the importance of the video portion of a recorded deposition. Studies have shown that much of how we communicate is through body language, but that would be a different article.

A good audio recording will also capture the nuances of the spoken word. Is the voice changing in pitch? Is the speech speeding up or slowing down? How long was that pause before the answer? Did that question seem to come out right? These telltale signs are all an important part of communication. If the video-recorded deposition has audio that has a lot of distracting noise, noise that can come from a bad connection, poor quality microphones, an audio mixer that introduces a bad hum sound, and so on, then the spoken voice starts losing its relevance to the listener. That is why the CLVS training stresses the importance of setting up, monitoring, and troubleshooting your audio chain.

Back to the relationship with the court reporter. As I said before, we also teach a CLVS to offer the court reporter some sort of way to monitor the audio, whether it be a live feed or a recording. Court reporters should also be prepared for working with a CLVS and may need to know how to make some audio adjustments on their end and be able turn up or down the input levels on their laptops. Being prepared to make these minor adjustments has huge payoffs in the quality of the audio for scoping and proofing later.

Being able to offer a high-quality live feed to the reporter can have other benefits. I can’t tell you how many times we have done depositions during which one of the participants was extremely soft spoken. Having a microphone on the witness and being able to boost that audio signal through the mixer can make all the difference in the world. The court reporter will be very thankful to be able to hear that witness loud and clear using a headset. I’ve always felt that if you take care of the court reporter, he or she will take care of you. In this business, I believe the court reporter is my most valued partner and friend.

Mindy Sindiong, CLVS, of Lawrenceberg, Ind., is a member of NCRA’s Certified Legal Video Specialist Council. She can be reached at


TechLinks: Using tech to reach your 2018 goals

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is getting 2018 off to a tech-savvy start for NCRA members. It pays to keep up with the latest, and the members of the committee pulled together a great grouping of resources to aid you.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the committee, recommends getting your tech organized. “I have so many zipper bags,” said Nodland. “I have my MiFi and charger in one. I have my Shark multi-port charger with power cord and extra cables in another. I have my display port adapters and HDMI cables in another.” She sent along an article from Lifehacker offering suggestions on what to include in your tech dopp kit.

Nodland also suggested a trio of articles that help get you set up for the year. Attorney At Work suggested tips for dealing with tech based on your business goals for the year – everything from going paperless to building a new website. PC World offered a list of the top USB portable chargers for your phone, the perfect accessory for anyone constantly on the go. PC World also has a list of their top-rated laptops from 2017.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Fayetteville, Ark., and another member of the committee, forwarded an article from, which explained the functions of different colored USB ports, including the tip that a yellow or red port will allow you to charge a phone or tablet from your laptop battery, even if the computer is sleeping.

TechLinks: Best gadgets of 2017

Who doesn’t love finding that perfect gadget that makes things so much easier? Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Portland, Ore., and a member of the NCRA Technology Committee, has a few suggestions from around the Web for monitor mounts, audio recording, webcams, surge protectors, and apps.

“I love my dual monitors,” says Nodland. “I have one landscape orientation and one portrait. I can edit and have exhibits up at the same time.” A monitor mount will help keep screens organized and at an ergonomic eye level. This guide by How-To Geek will help you figure out how to pick the right monitor mount for your setup.

“Every now and then, we need a solution for rerecording audio for a number of reasons,” says Nodland. She recommends another article by How-To Geek about recording sound coming from your PC. The article has three solutions, two of which use software solutions and one “relies on an old trick that connects your computer’s audio output to its audio input with an audio cable.”

“We’ve noticed a pattern after years of notebook testing: Built-in webcams generally stink,” says Andrew E. Freedman in an article for Laptop Mag reviewing the best webcams. Use a webcam for an upcoming NCRA Skills Test, a webconferenced deposition, or as a way to talk to remote clients.

“I am very protective of my surge protector,” says Nodland, and anyone who has suddenly lost power just before saving a file can relate. This article by Wirecutter reviews a surge protector with a fail-proof method of letting you know when it’s time to replace it.

And finally, to cover all your bases, Wirecutter has the best tech and apps for your home office. “You don’t need the thinnest, lightest, or most elegantly designed items for your home office,” says the Wirecutter team. “In the space you make your living, you want reliable, comfortable, efficient tools — though it doesn’t hurt if they look nice, too.” The review includes storage and backup solutions, laptops and phone docks, routers and modems, productivity and finance apps, and more.