Sixth Sense Device – Out of the Box Computing

Imagine a world where the “digital world” merged with the “physical world”.  Combine a mini-lcd projector, a ccd camera, a cell phone, and a micro-processor in a device the size of an iTouch.  And then add software that support “multi-touch gestures”.  What you get is the vision of Pranav Mistry (a MIT professor) for what he calls a “sixth sense” device.  Check out the video presentation on TED.com (or click on the link below in the article).

The vision of Pranav is mind blowing.  Imagine projecting a number pad on your hand and dialing your phone with your fingers.  Imagine converting a blank piece of paper into a gaming device.  What he has done is expand the vision and role of computers beyond the “devices” into something that is ubiquitous and integrated into the real world.

The implications of his breakthroughs, and whether they are “ready for market” can be debated. But you need to see these videos to regain the “gee wiz” about computers. He gives new meaning to “gestures”.  Just as the invention of the mouse and the GUI (graphical user interface) revolutionized computing in the last 3 decades, so to will the gesture technology put into concrete form by Pranav revolutionize computing in the next fee decades.  Check it out.

Check it out yourself

About the Sixth Sense Device and presentation at TED.COM

Inbox backwards – XOBONI – The Ultimate Exchange Addon

If you use OUTLOOK or EXCHANGE, you must get XOBNI.  That is inbox backwards.  And it works that way.  It turns your inbox upside down.  From a morass of emails and other crap, XOBNI brings order.  And it does this without you providing any organizing principle.  No need for folders and rules etc.  Rather, there is a simple search box.  It indexes your inbox.  It creates profiles of all your senders and recipients.  It pulls their data automatically from LinkedIn, Twitter, Hoovers, Facebook and other social networking services.  It shows the relationships between that person and ALL your other contacts.  It takes your emails and threads them together in conversations (remember GMAIL).  And it exposes and makes searchable ALL attached documents.

So what is the cost … well FREE.  The free version should be adequate for most people.  For $35 you get a little more.  If you are looking for a needle in a haystack, XOBNI is your metal detector.  It sorts the chaff and out comes the needle.  Want to know who knows whom.  Use this handy little sidebar.

Try it.  You’ll like it.

Google Scholar – Finding the Laws That Govern Us – A Challenge for Lexis and Westlaw

After several years in Beta, Google Scholar has been launched.  For years, “web-based” services have been nipping at the heels of Lexis Legal Research and Westlaw Legal Research.  Several states have put their case law and statutes on line; so have the federal government.  Some ventures have tried to harness the “free databases” and build usable front end search module.  The result has been a patchwork of “data”, sufficient for the “common man” but lacking in depth, scope and comprehensiveness to be used by attorneys.  There was always the risk of missing the latest slip opinion, amendment, or missing the back information about the statutory and regulatory enactments.

With the release of Google Scholar, a new and very well funded player has entered the arena:  Google.  Armed with billions of dollars and a mission to “do good” while also making money, Google has brought its vaunted search engine to the area of law and statutes.  Read the quoted release below and check it out. The search engine options are still fairly limited, but the scope of the database is enormous.

As many of us recall from our civics lessons in school, the United States is a common law country. That means when judges issue opinions in legal cases, they often establish precedents that will guide the rulings of other judges in similar cases and jurisdictions. Over time, these legal opinions build, refine and clarify the laws that govern our land. For average citizens, however, it can be difficult to find or even read these landmark opinions. We think that’s a problem: Laws that you don’t know about, you can’t follow — or make effective arguments to change.

Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in. For example, go to Google Scholar, click on the “Legal opinions and journals” radio button, and try the query separate but equal. Your search results will include links to cases familiar to many of us in the U.S. such as Plessy v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, which explore the acceptablity of “separate but equal” facilities for citizens at two different points in the history of the U.S. But your results will also include opinions from cases that you might be less familiar with, but which have played an important role.

We think this addition to Google Scholar will empower the average citizen by helping everyone learn more about the laws that govern us all. To understand how an opinion has influenced other decisions, you can explore citing and related cases using the Cited by and Related articles links on search result pages. As you read an opinion, you can follow citations to the opinions to which it refers. You can also see how individual cases have been quoted or discussed in other opinions and in articles from law journals. Browse these by clicking on the “How Cited” link next to the case title. See, for example, the frequent citations for Roe v. Wade, for Miranda v. Arizona (the source of the famous Miranda warning) or for Terry v. Ohio (a case which helped to establish acceptable grounds for an investigative stop by a police officer).

As we worked to build this feature, we were struck by how readable and accessible these opinions are. Court opinions don’t just describe a decision but also present the reasons that support the decision. In doing so, they explain the intricacies of law in the context of real-life situations. And they often do it in language that is surprisingly straightforward, even for those of us outside the legal profession. In many cases, judges have gone quite a bit out of their way to make complex legal issues easy to follow. For example, in Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court justices present a fascinating and easy-to-follow debate on the legality of internment of natural born citizens based on their ancestry. And in United States v. Ramirez-Lopez, Judge Kozinski, in his dissent, illustrates the key issue of the case using an imagined good-news/bad-news dialogue between the defendant and his attorney.

We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants.

Join me on LINKEDin.com and add your comments to the Virtual Lawyer Group.  BTW:  The URL is Scholar.google.com

A Fresh Start for HotDocs

This week LexisNexis divested itself of the HotDocs software group.  It sold the assets the group to Capsoft UK.  In a post on LinkedIn, titled “Capsoft Buys HotDocs Software Business from LexisNexis,” Loretta Rupert, Senior Director of Community Management wrote:

LexisNexis is divesting HotDocs to its leading global distributor Capsoft. This divestiture is in keeping with the LexisNexis strategy to provide a family of complementary products in the legal market. HotDocs is a very popular product with many satisfied customers but no longer fits with the Practice Management product line. The sale to Capsoft allows HotDocs customers to benefit from continued support and product development to meet their evolving needs.

Capsoft is the largest distributor of HotDocs software globally and has over 13 years experience with the technology. As LexisNexis continues to transform its lineup of offerings to focus on the company’s core competencies, Capsoft is singularly equipped to maintain and enhance HotDocs software and support for you.

LexisNexis is retaining its Hot Docs Automated Forms business that utilizes HotDocs Player and unique LexisNexis content. To do this, LexisNexis is licensing HotDocs software to support Automated Forms and to resell the HotDocs software in certain markets.

The official Press Release is quoted in full below: Official Releae

EDINBURGH, Scotland & NEW YORK, Nov 17, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) —-Capsoft, a leading international provider of document automation software and services, and LexisNexis, a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions, today announced the sale of the HotDocs(R) software business to Capsoft. Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed.

Through retention of its Automated Forms group, LexisNexis will continue to provide HotDocs-enabled forms and precedents with solutions such as Lexis(R)PSL, LexisONE(R), lexis.com(R), Lexis(R)Library, LexisNexis Total Practice Advantage(TM), and other LexisNexis(R) Automated Forms sets.

Law firms, banks, insurance companies, government agencies and other large businesses use HotDocs document assembly software to quickly and efficiently generate customized documents such as contracts, sales proposals, government and court forms, legal documents, loan applications and medical forms. The technology streamlines these processes to deliver faster document creation, lower costs, improved document accuracy and a valuable knowledge base of an organization’s most critical documents.

Over the past 13 years, Capsoft has been distributing and implementing HotDocs software in some of the largest law firms and financial institutions in the UK, Europe, Australia, and the Pacific Rim.

Russell Shepherd, CEO of Capsoft, said, “For Capsoft, this is a natural progression and one that I am very excited about. As an established distributor of HotDocs, we know the product inside and out and are extremely well placed to invest in the continuous development of both the software and the support offered to new and existing customers across the world. I look forward to enhancing our longstanding relationship with LexisNexis through the ongoing provision of HotDocs software.”

“As LexisNexis continues to transform its portfolio of offerings, we believe that Capsoft—as the largest distributor of HotDocs software globally—is singularly equipped to maintain and enhance HotDocs software and support for that product’s customer base,” said Alison Manchester, vice president of content management services at LexisNexis.

About LexisNexis(R) LexisNexis(R) (www.lexisnexis.com) is a leading global provider of content-enabled workflow solutions designed specifically for professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting and academic markets. LexisNexis originally pioneered online information with its Lexis(R) and Nexis(R) services. A member of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: ENL)(NYSE: RUK) (www.reedelsevier.com), LexisNexis serves customers in more than 100 countries with 18,000 employees worldwide.

About Capsoft Capsoft is a privately held company based in Edinburgh, Scotland. The business was formed in 1996 to provide document automation services to large corporations and law firms. Capsoft now provides software and services to hundreds of law firms across the globe, and provides business critical software and services to many large corporations, including some of the largest banks in the world.

SOURCE: LexisNexis

By The Lake – Dog Training

In our last home, we had a postage stamp sized back yard.  With a wooden pike fence on one side, a hedge on the other, and a wire mesh fence on the third, as well as a gated driveway, we had the dog contained. Chloe, a border collie/pointer cross, weighing in at 70 pounds could do 3 full circuits of the backyard before you could count to 60.  And so, each morning, each afternoon and each night, she bolted out the back door at mach speed to reign terror on any wooded creature that dared to cross our threshold.  It is all different now.

She Escapes, Again and Again

Here, by the Lake, we are on a level wooded lot with a large front lawn, and a larger back lawn.  There is a barrier, some might call it a fence on north and south sides of the yard.  Such barrier, however, to Chloe is aspirational.  For within five short minutes, she had escaped through a gap large enough to drive a tractor through.  In fact, the purpose of the gap, was likely to bring lawn mower tractors through.  In the first week in residence by the lake, I have gotten to know several of my neighbors.  First they would see the blur of black and white that was Chloe charging.  Then they would hear the long drawn out command: “Chloeeeeee … come baaaaaack!” repeated a few times and increasing volume.  Next, they would see me marching across their private back yards, leash in hand, scowling … What an introduction!  Luckily, Chloe is a very friendly happy dog, and not the menacing type.

A Solution … Or a Start at a solution

And so, after a week of this I moved on to the next phase.  My first thought was to patch the fence.  One square acre of land.  That’s a lot of fence.  And with a dog that runs at light-speed, rapidly patrolling the perimeter, and also a dog who could dig a hole deep enough to sink a tractor in minutes, I was hesitant to try.  If I didn’t succeed, I would hear from my new neighbors.  Moreover, I would be working on their border.  If I put up an “ugly patchwork fence”, I would actually be invading their site-line and marring their property.

With this concern in mind I saw an advertisement for PetSafe(r) Pet Containment System.  For $200 I could bury a radio-transmitting wire around my property.  I could then administer electroshock therapy on my rambunctious dog.  Home Depot had the equipment.  Shortly after buying it, my wife found an advertisement that heralded $200 for a fully installed system, training included. I was ready to return my system to Home Depot, but decided to check the advertisement.  On closer reading, it turned out to be “$200 off” which consisted of a $100 discount on hardware and $100 discount on training.

And so … I went ahead with my plans, laying out 600 feet of yellow wire, connecting it to electricity, and determining the radio-frequency border-width.  I then took my son Itzak around, electronic RF collar in hand.  We approached the border at 10 foot intervals to determine at what point the collar would indicate the “zapping point”.  With 50 flags in place, it was time to take out the dog.  I read the training manual.  I armed myself with the tastiest liver treats …

…. More later ….

A Room With A View

It’s day two in the new office.  You have seen the layout in a previous post. What you may not realize it has windows from desk level to the ceiling on three sides; that’s a lot of window and a lot of heat.  We put in new electricity line to handle all the equipment, and put in new baseboard heating on a separate zone.  The view out the window is nothing short of stupendous.

The room sits on the “premier etage” – the first floor above the ground level.  In front of me is a small lake covered with lily pads.  Surrounding the lake are several 100+ year old trees.  There is a graceful oak tree with branches that span out over 100 feet.  And there is a soaring maple tree with a girth the size of a small cypress tree.  All around is a riot of color.  Leaves are turning yellow and red, and orange, mixed with a sea of green.  A small drizzle is rippling the lake. Occasional ducks land on the surface en route to warmer climates as the seasons change.  We hear the gaggle of geese.

The tranquil moment is marred only by the steady hum of my computer fans.  Not sure whether it is my Dell Server or whether it is my switch that has the louder fan.  The shelves in the back of the office are up.  We now have two large white cabinets to store the messy wires that come from running a computer business (old USB cables, network cables, power cables, serial cables, parallel cables, mouse cables, and an assortment of devices whose purpose have drifted out of memory).

Moves are interesting.  In packing up we left a wide pile of devices in the waste bins.  Who needs a “floppy drive”?  Anyone continue to use a ZIP Drive … wore 100 MB of storage?  I had a serial to mouse adapter.  Remember when serial ports were all the rage.  And now there is the universal serial bus (USB).  Bluetooth was supposed to replace that.  But my latest acquisition, a Plantronics wireless headset still uses a USB to power the device.  I finally decided to retire permanently my Dell Pentium III server. With a RAID V SSCI drives of 50GB (once immense) , the whole system only can store 150 GB, not even enough to backup my current server.  And weighing in at 80 pounds, that was one solid hunk of metal. It certainly has freed up space on my computer rack.

Documents in the Clouds

I spend a large amount of time and money each year worrying about “backing up” my data files.  Years ago, I decided to centralize all my files on a File Server.  A peer-to-peer network was good for distributing processing, but a disaster when you are like me, working on multiple PC’s. I do that so that I can test software on different environments.  Once I decided on a central file server (realize the decision was not rocket science), the issue came on appropriate backup routines.  I tried tape cartridges, but most were too slow and too small.  I currently am working with a RAID-V server array, removable hard-drive backup, combined with MozyPro.  The system works, but is not ideal. The hard-drive backups are not swapped often enough; MozyPro took forever to get all my data, and afterwords, is quite slow on the restores.  And so, I am now looking into a “cloud” solution, in particular NetDocuments.

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Basha Systems LLC is Moving

Well, it’s official.  Basha Systems LLC is moving.  After ten years in Croton on Hudson, it is time to MOVE our offices … well not so far … in fact … just up the road.  We signed the deed, mortgage,and note TODAY. We are moving to Cortlandt Manor, NY.  The actual move won’t be for another week or two.  When it is, it will be to 17 Lakeview Avenue East, Cortlandt Manor, NY 10567.  The phone numbers will change, but you are free to call our (800) number which will be automatically routed to wherever we are. (800) 725-0326.  And of course, email will continue to follow us to our new home.

And here is the building where the office is located

Here is a photo of the new office layout

And if you like barbeque, we have not only a new gas grill, but we have a real smoker.  Smoked brisket anyone.

Toss Out Your Server – No Really!!!

The computer-industrial complex has been on a mad race of hardware, software and services to shape us “users” in their own image.  With the drop in prices for hardware, it seems that a “network” is in everone’s reach.  Microsoft is even shipping a “home server” – instant network in a box.  What is missing in this hardware and software gold rush is that few of us, myself included, are capable of properly managing a network and hardening that network against attack.  And there are a lot of malevolent forces out there ready to attack.  As a result, we find ourselves relying increasingly on the gray wizards of networking, often calling them in when it is too late.

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HotDocs Instruction – QUIT

The HotDocs QUIT instruction specifies that any code in a computation after the QUIT instruction is to be ignored as code. There are two major uses for this instruction.

Firstly, because QUIT stops HotDocs processing a computation as code, it means that you can put it at the top of a computation to stop that computation from being processed.  Very handy if you are halfway through a computation or cannot otherwise make it work.

Secondly, you can use QUIT as a way to add developer comments – simply finish your computation code, enter the QUIT instruction at the bottom, then enter any comments you want after the QUIT command.

The reality is that the QUIT instruction doesn’t really do anything that comments don’t already do. And thanks to HotDocs’ “Comment/Uncomment” block function, its pretty easy to work with large sections of commenting code.