Ask the Techie: Microphone recommendations

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a court reporter who freelances with several different court reporting agencies. My trusty laptop is on its last legs, so I am going to purchase a new computer and will use my existing machine for backup purposes.

One of my upcoming assignments is a jury trial — a first for me. The courtroom is in an old courthouse and so I am unsure about the acoustics and whether I will be able to hear all of the participants. The voir dire is scaring me to death, actually. There will be no microphones for prospective jurors. I need my backup media to be as clear as possible.

Yikes! Please help! I need some guidance about which microphone options I should be considering.

Muddled Mike


Dear Mike:

Good luck on your upcoming assignment. It’s always good to go in prepared to handle anything. Here are a few recommendations from some of the Committee members.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner in Wayzata, Minn.: I have used many great microphones. Now I am using the SoundTech CM-1000 3.5 mm Omni-directional Conference Microphone. I use the SoundTech to connect to my separate recorder (Marantz Professional, which is plugged into a power strip). I have connected up to three via daisy chaining down a long conference table. There’s a USB version if you want to connect to a computer and then daisy chain more from there. The microphone costs about $39.

I currently use CaseCat and DigitalCAT, and I have a Dell Latitude; but I do not use a microphone with my computer at this time. In the past, I used the DepoBook Stealth Microphone and that was a plug and play, which worked well with my Latitude. Since all software and computers have different audio systems, it’s best to have your CAT company and the microphone company help you get the settings perfected.

I like the low profile of the SoundTech, the daisy chaining ability, and the fact the SoundTech can be plugged into my computer (USB version), sound amplifier (Pocketalker), or recorder.

I don’t use a microphone connected to my computer. I use the Williams Sound Pocketalker (personal amplifier, $189) on many of my depos. The SoundTechs connect to the Pocketalker as well. I set it all up and have it ready to go — if the deponent is difficult to hear, I then turn it on at the next break, or stop the proceedings and turn it on if need be. When I can hear the words more clearly in the first place while writing, I write better, have a better record, which means that I have an easier time editing and I am less tired at the end of the day.

Recently, I connected a lapel mic (Sony ECMCS3 Clip style Omnidirectional Stereo Microphone – about $20) to a low-speaking witness. The lapel mic was connected to the Pocketalker and then I had an earbud to listen with one ear. Also I recently used the Pocketalker on a two-week arbitration where the background noise was awful. I again connected lapel mics (using a splitter cable so as to have both mics go into the Pocketalker) and had the witness and the questioning attorney wear the mics. The arbitrators kept asking participants to repeat, while I had no difficulty hearing.

Lynette L. Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn.: I use the MXL AC-404 Conference microphone. This microphone is designed to capture crystal-clear intelligibility for multiple uses and has easy plug-in-play connectivity. Bonus: There are no drivers to download! It is compatible with Windows and Mac. For my Luminex, I utilize the Martel HGM-2. The cost is about $99, but check online for the best price. Some vendors offer free shipping. My go-to sources are either Amazon or B&H Photo Video. The cost of the HGM-2 is around $179.

I am on Case CATalyst. I find that the microphone settings that get me the best audio quality are as follows:

  • MXL Microphone Sound settings: Speakers Properties: Levels: Balance, 37; Advanced: 16 bit, 48000 Hz (DVD Quality)
  • Audio Settings in my software: 11025 Hz, 80MB/hr
  • HGM-2 microphone sound settings on Luminex: Microphone gain: 52%, Audio Format: ADPCM (14.7MB/hr)

As a freelancer, my court reporting assignments involve a variety of venues: depositions, arbitrations, hearings, and courtrooms. The number-one reason I landed with the MXL microphone is for the judicial reporting aspect. Backup media is an important tool for us. I go into several different courtrooms and am the official court reporter for trials and hearings. I wanted to ensure a seamless way to handle bench conferences. Since the courtrooms are on the small-ish side, it is easier to stay in my seat, slap some headphones on, and I’m ready to roll! Some other court reporters were using Scotch tape to adhere their microphone to the judge’s bench. Needless to say, the finish is wearing off on his bench. This conference mic has a low profile and will lay flat on any surface.

The second reason I bought the MXL was for the sound quality. I’ve utilized several different brands of PCs over the past five years. Each laptop has different specs for the audio quality. With each one of my purchases, though, this mic has always enhanced my BAM with generally no concerns.

The third reason was the USB plug-in-play. I like the idea of never having to install drivers. When I do have the need to switch to my backup computer, I know I am ready to go at a moment’s notice because of the plug-in-play feature.

 

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, a freelancer based in Brentwood, Tenn., (and frequent JCR contributor): It depends on the venue. Right now, for most applications, I use my HGMUSB mic and set it up on the table for a deposition or on a tripod at the bench for bench conferences and normal courtroom sound. I also have purchased the SP-USB-Mic-Model-6-Plus from Sound Professionals that I can also use as a standalone mic in depos, or with two boundary mics at the bench and at the witness stand via a 10-foot cord. It sells for about $300 from Martel. The Model 6 plus with the boundary mics was about $525 together.

I’m currently on Case CATalyst, and I use the default settings on the USB mics. Using the noise-canceling feature may work in some really bad deposition suites, but I’ve found that noise canceling will keep you from hearing the whispered bench conferences. Most of the time, I keep the mics at about 80-90 percent, keeping watch on the sound bar provided by my CAT system. If it starts to run to red, I reduce the volume. If it barely registers, I increase it. I set my systems to always listen and set my default audio as the USB devices. That forces you to use an earbud or headphones to monitor or play back. But there’s nothing worse than having your monitor be your system speakers: You cannot stop the caterwauling feedback quickly enough.

I’ve bought the cheap ones and the not-so cheap ones. Frankly, I had a lot of problems because the Lenovo Yoga Power Converter interfered horribly with all of my USB mics. Once I bought a different computer, I could hear again with crystal clarity. So my reasons for setting on the HGMUSB mic were: 1) Reliability; 2) Sound clarity; and 3) Ability to adjust the sound easily. All USB devices are similar. Cost is not a true consideration when a lot of my cases are realtime jury trials. I have to hear. These mics (and a great pair of Bose headphones) allow me to hear the bench conferences without too much difficulty.

As far as microphones for my writer, I use the Martel HGM-2. It’s a condenser mic with a battery that lasts forever, almost. I’ve used this mic on my writer as a backup to the CAT system numerous times. A USB is subject to audio environmental whims more often than I’d like, and the writer backup stays consistently outstanding.

 

Lou Chiodo, CLVS, a videographer who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator and Trial Presentation Professional certificates, of New York City, N.Y.: I use the following two types of microphones in every deposition. These particular models are somewhat pricey, but I believe the audio is as important or likely more important than the images. If you want a demonstration of why, put the news on your TV at home sometime and move to the next room; and you will (if audible) hear and understand the information. Try that with the picture only — and even stay in the room — and it likely will not convey the information being provided.

There are a myriad of available models and styles that may work for videographers and court reporters alike. The Audio-Technica AT899 lavalier microphone is designed to be mounted on or hidden underneath clothing. Its slim low-profile design is ideal for depositions and broadcast applications. The tailored frequency response accentuates the frequency response of voices while minimizing low frequency noise, such as the air conditioner in many board rooms where depositions take place. A low-frequency roll-off switch further minimizes noise due to hum, ambiance, and proximity effect. The AT899 features a condenser element with a cardioid polar pattern. The cardioid pattern is effective in minimizing noise and ambiance at the off-axis sections of the microphone capsule. (The most common unidirectional microphone is a cardioid microphone, so named because the sensitivity pattern is “heart-shaped,” i.e. a cardioid. The cardioid family of microphones are commonly used as vocal or speech microphones, since they are good at rejecting sounds from other directions.)

The U841A from Audio-Technica is an omnidirectional condenser boundary microphone for surface-mount applications. It is designed for surface-mount applications such as sound reinforcement, conferencing, television sound, and more. A boundary microphone is essentially a small diaphragm condenser mic mounted in a housing that directs the diaphragm parallel to the surface onto which it’s mounted. You can see a diagram of a boundary mic’s setup in the illustration above. The parallel setup allows the mic to pick up the sound that is reflected off the surface that it’s mounted to, such as a wall or table.

TechLinks: What you need to know about scanners

NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resources Committee members tackled the subject of scanners this month to give NCRA members a leg up on finding the best solution in going paperless.

“Among the scanners I have used, the Fujitsu ScanSnap and also the Epson Workforce scanners are my two favorite,” says Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark. She offers the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500

Advantages

  1. It has a small footprint.
  2. It works wireless and wired.
  3. It will auto-detect two-sided and automatically delete blank pages.
  4. It will OCR, which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  5. It can be set up so that the program automatically pops up when you open the dust cover/lid.
  6. Its scan destinations include Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. You cannot put in a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  3. You need to choose the highest resolution setting if scanning photos to get good quality.
  4. The wifi is awkward to set up.

 

Epson Workforce ES-400

Advantages

  1. It offers a preconfigured naming series with auto number advancing.
  2. It will OCR (optical character recognition), which makes the text in the PDF searchable.
  3. Epson offers great customer support.
  4. It can scan to destinations including Google Drive and email, as well as Dropbox, Sharepoint, Evernote, OneNote and SugarSync.

Disadvantages

  1. It does not have a flatbed for scanning.
  2. The OCR is slightly more clunky, but it uses ABBYY FineReader as an adjunct.

 

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC

“Make sure you configure your default scans to automatically OCR (found in the scanner settings),” recommends Hayden.

“I find myself using a scanner app lately a lot,” says Christina Hotsko, RPR, CRR, Arlington, Va. “I’ll use it to scan in exhibits if the office needs something quickly. I’ve scanned over files to my scopist during a break on a long job. I scan in receipts to keep track of travel expenses. I’ve even had my passport scanned and saved on my phone when I needed to pull it up in a pinch.”

Hotsko recently started using the app, Adobe Scan, which she keeps on her smart phone. “It’s a little more user friendly and offers a few more options,” says Hotsko. “What’s convenient about a scanner app is you open it up and let the app do the rest. It searches for the document, image, or whatever you’re trying to scan, auto-captures a shot, and then adjusts and fits the captured image to page.”

With Adobe Scan, documents are stored in an Adobe DC account on your computer. Adobe Scan lets you search your photos for documents, and from there you can select which ones you need to send.

There are many scanning apps available for smartphones. “Try a few different apps and see what works with your style,” advises Hotsko.

Need more information?

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Committee chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn., provided some additional resources to research the best scanner for your needs. “Document scanners are all about being able to process documents in a seamless way,” says Mueller. “I recommend purchasing a dedicated sheet-fed scanner rather than a flatbed one or an all-in-one device.”

PC Magazine, one of Mueller’s go-to sources for products, offered a chart on April 6 of best scanners.

TechGearLab, a well-known online tech review website, listed their favorite scanners of 2018.

Also in April, Best Reviews published a list of the best scanners. “My scanner is a Fujitsu ScanSnap, and it made this list,” says Mueller. “I absolutely love it for its size and fast scanning options.”

Still need convincing to go paperless? Mueller offered a number of reasons on her blog.

Additional Links

Lynette Mueller’s ScanSnap settings

How to reduce the size of a pdf file

Ask the techie: Condensing software

The Realtime and Technology Resource Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the technology committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am a freelance reporter and thinking about starting my own business. It’s so intimidating thinking about the many facets of running my own firm! First on my list: Which condensing transcript software should I be considering? There are so many options available that it makes my head spin and I’m not sure which one to choose. Please help!

Concerned About Condensing


Dear Concerned:

Congratulations on taking the next step in your career! Indeed, there are many things to consider when starting your own firm. Glad we are here to help get you started on the right track.

There are several options available for word indexing and condensing. Here are our suggestions.

Cheri Sullivan, RPR, of Memphis, Tenn.: We selected YesLaw after meeting them at the convention in Nashville in 2013. The customer support team has always been great to work with. It is easy to link exhibits, insert a signature/notary seal, insert a picture of the witness, and even place “original” or “copy” on the style page. All eight of us have been happy with YesLaw overall.

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portland, Ore.: We have ReporterBase, a.k.a. RB, for calendaring, transcript production, and invoicing. We produce the transcripts with RB. With it, we can digitally sign, hyperlink exhibits, and create bundles that include full size, condensed, and word indexes. We create these paperless PDF bundles for all clients. We still have clients that want paper and Etran as well.

Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, of Nashville, Tenn.: For cross-CAT platform use, our company uses Min-U-Script.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Wayzata, Minn.: After testing several programs, we decided that YesLaw was the best program for our needs. It’s easy to link the exhibits, and the transcripts look great. An added benefit is the transcript generator software integrates with their video synchronization tool so it is a good program to have in case you ever decide to try video/transcript syncing.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Mobile, Ala.: I use Min-U-Script Pro. It’s easy to use, and the final product looks great! Support is available and very helpful as well.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, from Memphis, Tenn.: I use Min-U-Script and absolutely love it! The exhibit linking is another great feature of this particular software. You may add in multiple users, along with their signatures and notary seals for electronically signing the transcripts. I can’t say enough good about it.

Dana Hayden, RMR, CRR, CRC, of Fayetteville, Ark.: I currently use YesLaw for all the reasons already mentioned: It’s very user-friendly, and they have good customer service. You can link exhibits, provide a link to the attorneys for them to download the transcript in every imaginable format (although you have to manually create and include the ptx version, which I would love to see YesLaw incorporate like Stenograph did in their CaseCAT), and all the attorneys have to do is click the link to download/save to their computer. It also has lock-out restrictions if needed, such as to send for read/sign only.

Send your questions about realtime and technology to the technology committee members at jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Court reporters – legal videographers: How to change time in Windows 10 for syncing 

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting that was posted April 19 by JD Supra provides the steps necessary for court reporters working with legal videographers to follow to sync time before every deposition to ensure that timestamps on the transcripts match those on the video.

Read more.

TechLinks: The 2018 guide to Windows 10

Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 to the public almost four years ago, in September 2014. For people who are not early adopters and take a wait-and-see approach, now is the time to safely upgrade, especially if you’re purchasing a new computer. Here are a few good things to know.

Getting set up

Windows 10 Home users can’t defer updates like Pro users, but no one can put them off forever, and nor should they. Many of the updates contain important security patches and bug fixes.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, shares an article from SearchMaster titled, “Windows 10 and the Court Reporting Profession.” The article advises not upgrading to Windows 10 but instead suggests using what you are on until you need another computer and then setting up 10 on a new computer.

“My recommendation on upgrading to Windows 10 is to not do it,” says author Scott Friend. “Stick with whatever operating system you have right now because that is what your computer was designed to work with.”  Later in the article, he adds: “Purchasing a new computer with Windows 10 already installed on it is perfectly safe, and I would encourage you to do this.”

Kleinschmidt also recommended PC Magazine’s “10 reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10.”

“The five reasons I felt pertained most to reporting:  Startup speed and speed overall; ability to access and download from the App Store; touch screen; browser, Edge, started to drain your battery less than Chrome; and 10 is generally a more secure system,” says Kleinschmidt.

“As court reporters, we certainly don’t need our operating system to be updating right before we start our jobs,” says NCRA Technology and Realtime Resources Committee Chair, Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR. “Be sure to schedule the updates on your schedule. I love the metered connection option!”

Mueller recommended an article from TechAdvisor, a British website, that explains how to schedule Windows 10 to update when it works for you.

“The No. 1 complaint about Windows 10 is, of course, the continual updates,” says committee member Cheri Sullivan, RPR. She recommended a March 2, 2017, Register article that provides some background on the debate around the update procedures that are imposed by Windows.

The latest bug to come up with Microsoft is connected to the USB and onboard device. A March 6 ZDNet article includes a link that identifies the problem. The Feb. 21 HighDesertDiva offers an alternative fix.

“Let’s face it: Sometimes the Windows updates are not always great for court reporters. Just when you know you have all your settings streamlined and perfected, an update can ruin it all,” says Mueller. The instructions on the Microsoft website offer some information on how the “restore” function can restore your system to when a point when everything was working as expected. This option takes your PC back to an earlier point in time, called a system restore point. Restore points are generated when you install a new app, driver, or Windows update and when you create a restore point manually. Restoring won’t affect your personal files, but it will remove apps, drivers, and updates installed after the restore point was made.

Mueller says: “I know this link is a little bit older, but it is still relevant.” She also suggested an article on how to reset Windows 10 with Refresh Tool.

Don’t forget to activate an antivirus program. TechAdvisor notes that Windows Defender, which Mueller says is her chosen antivirus program and is built into the Windows suite, “now uses the power of the cloud to more quickly detect threats, and you can also perform offline scans. It’s on by default (if no other antivirus software was pre-loaded on your computer) and it does a great job, scoring highly in our roundup of the best free antivirus software.

Optimize your setup

TechAdvisor also offers information on how to keep your computer running at top-notch speed by controlling your startup programs.

DriverEasy.com gave advice on troubleshooting your microphone setup, which can be useful for audio sync users, especially those who have new computers.

Kleinschmidt suggested a TechAdvisor article that explains Virtual Desktops, which is now very easy through Windows 10, and which reporters may find useful.

If you want a magnifier tool, this New York Times article has you covered. And if you want to tweak your start menu, try this one, also from the New York Times.

TechRepublic offers some suggestions on new features that are available for 2018.

ITPro Newsletter identifies “17 Windows 10 problems – and how to fix them.” Sullivan pointed to several that are pertinent to court reporters:

  • 2, Can’t upgrade to latest Windows 10
  • 4, Windows update isn’t working
  • 5, Turn off forced updates in Windows Pro
  • 8, Enable system restore
  • 11, Fix slow boot times
  • 14, Stop Windows 10 using 4G data

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

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

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!”

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 AgingCare.com. This article also notes that spotting phishing messages can become harder and harder to identify as scam artists get sneakier about getting to you.

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 AmateurRadio.com, 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: Staying safe online

Nancy Bistany, RPR, found a list of five steps to take to make sure that you are protecting your privacy online. The how-to piece by VIPRE security reminds that it is always a good idea to review your setup once in a while. [Want to learn more about how the Tech Committee members protect themselves? Read the June 29 TechLinks “Understanding internet safety,” in which several of them shared their typical practices.]

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, found a good list for security issues for lawyers in the SmallLaw blog, part of Technolawyer, which can easily be adapted for court reporters and court reporting firms. The article shares that security for a law firm should be a layered affair, covering physical, digital, and human factors. “I love the question at the end: What happens if you get hit by a bus?” Nodland says. ”I ask this of every one of our court reporters, whether they’re an employee with us or an independent contractor.” [Note that the article is free but requires a TechnoLawyer profile to access.]

Jonathan Moretti, CLVS, shared the July 2017 issue of Malwarebytes’ newsletter, which included an article on how to stay cyber safe. Tips included how to monitor your children’s internet habits, watching out for public WiFi, and avoiding credit card skimmers at ATMs and gas pumps.

TechLinks: Helpful products

Recently, the NCRA Technology Committee shared a few products that can help with work tasks. The products include a password management system, an education technology tool, a messaging app, and an audio solution.

Nancy Bistany, RPR, shared a blog post by Dashlane on the worldwide password problem: Internet users’ tendency toward “using the same, easy-to-remember password on all of their accounts over the security of using strong, unique passwords” on each different account. Dashlane is a password manager that can also manage other security-sensitive information, such as IDs and credit card numbers. “I use Dashlane for my Level 1 Password user,” says Bistany. “Its reminders are great.”

Bistany also shared an article from Forbes reviewing Learning Tools for OneNote. Microsoft OneNote is a now well-known note-keeping program, and Learning Tools is an ancillary product. According to the article, “Learning Tools for OneNote was originally created for dyslexics … [that leverages] a variety of already existing Microsoft technologies like Bing’s speech recognition, simultaneous audio text playback, and natural language processing … to make reading and writing more accessible to all students.” One of its features is fluent fonts, which allows “readers to adjust both the letter spacing and the number of words on the line.”

Teresa Russ, CRI, shared a link on the messaging app Slack. According to the company, it’s “oriented toward small-team collaboration” and has both a free and premium version. Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, explained, “I use Slack to talk to a captioning team that we do a lot of events together with. All or most of the tech companies use Slack to communicate. It has awesome searching capabilities, and you can tag someone in the conversation to bring it to their attention.” Frazier added that he has his own name set as a tag so he gets an alert when the conversation involves him.

Finally, Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, shared a review of Trint, an audio and transcription app. Nodland pointed out a quote from the article that explains that Trint makes “it easy to compare the audio clips to the transcript as you’re verifying and editing it.”