Thursday, January 27, 2011

There's A New, Free Office Suite Out There

Thanks to Rick Georges at Futurelawyer for turning me on to LibreOffice, a new, free Office Suite of products.

LibreOffice Productivity Suite Download � LibreOffice. Libreoffice Microsoft Word is expensive, whether a license is purchased alone, or in a suite. However, there are plenty of free or inexpensive alternatives out there. I use WordPerfect, in its current incarnation, WordPerfect X5. It reads and writes Word documents just fine, and I get to keep all of my decades old WordPerfect goodness. OpenOffice is a great free alternative, which reads and writes Word documents as well. However, after Oracle acquired Sun in 2009, a third of the OpenOffice developers decided that they didn't want to be part of the empire, and they formed the Document Foundation. You can read about its members and its plans here. In the meantime, they have put out a free version of OpenOffice, that is lean and mean, and will continue to get better. Try it out, and see if you still need to give Microsoft more of your hard earned money.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

See Your Network on LinkedIn!

Thanks to for letting us know about a great new visualization tool from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has launched InMaps, an experimental project that creates a stunning visualization of the connections within your business network.

InMaps sifts through all of your connections, detects the relationships between them, and groups them into different network clusters. For example, LinkedIn separated my networks into eight clusers, including my technology/social media contacts, my Mashable network and my network of classmates at Northwestern University. It color-codes and clumps these networks together so you can see the depth of your connections in one interface.

InMaps is an insight into who the major connections, bridges and influencers are in your network. People with bigger dots and their names in larger fonts have more connections (and typically more sway) in specific clusters. Perhaps that’s why my friend Neal Sales-Griffin, the former president of Northwestern’s student body, is so prominent in my professional graph.

InMaps also includes a few options for sharing. It creates a landing page with your LinkedIn InMap (you can check mine out as an example) and provides Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn share buttons so you can spread your map to the rest of your network.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Free iBooks!

Thanks to Michael Aginsky and for this one:

Kaplan, the education and test preparation company, is giving away 130 [different] free eBooks from now until January 17th. To access the free books from you iPad, iPhone, or iTouch open the iBooks store and search for the book by title. All of the free titles will appear with a price of $0.00. Personally, I searched for “kaplan” in the iBooks store and just browsed all the results.

The list of books offered in the legal category are listed below.

Angel of Death Row
by Andrea D. Lyon

Before Roe v. Wade
by Linda Greenhouse

Crime: Its Cause and Treatment
by Clarence Darrow

Geneva Conventions
by Gary D. Solis

Get Into Law School
by Ruth Lammert-Reeves

History in Blue
by Allan T, Duffin

Legally Speaking, Revised and Updated Edition
by David J. Dempsey

Lessons from the Courtroom
by Frank G. Jones

Memorable Thoughts of Socrates
by Xenophon

Mother Accused
by Andrea D. Lyon

Path of the Law and The Common Law
by Oliver Wendell Holmes

Reaching the Bar
by Robin Sax

Rising Through the Ranks
by Mike Wynn

Socratic Dialogues
by Plato

Stumbling Along the Beat
by Stacy Dittrich

Unbillable Hours
by Ian Graham

Free books are also being offered from the college, education, graduate, medicine and nursing categories. For a listing of all the free titles being offered as well as instructions for downloading on to other devices visit the Kaplan Free eBooks page and click on your device.

Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The iPhone Is Coming To Verizon

I love my iPhone. I tolerate AT&T as my service provider. Now we all have an alternative, as Verizon has announced the release of its iPhone. Should you switch from AT&T? Should your first iPhone be with Verizon. Here are thoughts from the highly regarded Boy Genius Report.

Yesterday, my cohorts weighed in on the question on countless iPhone owners’ minds right now — should I ditch AT&T and buy an iPhone from Verizon? The answer is going to be different for everyone, of course. Some people have a compulsive need to switch phones constantly, so they can’t use a CDMA carrier. Some people have a need for speed and Verizon’s 3G network doesn’t cut it. Well guess what? I have a need for a phone that actually works wherever and whenever I want it to. That need is way more important than any need I have to swap phones every day or download iTunes tracks at lightning-fast speeds. I want to make phone calls. I want to receive emails instantly. I want to load Web pages and refresh apps any time, anywhere. AT&T, fast as it might be, just can’t hang.

Before AT&T scored Apple’s iPhone exclusively in the U.S., its network was solid. Once tons of iPhones began hammering its airwaves constantly, however, things changed — especially in big cities. Calls dropped more frequently than they connected, data pipes were clogged, and the iPhone experience on AT&T pretty much became a disaster in many regions. Now, it wasn’t all AT&T’s fault. Reports emerged that Apple, which was new to the cell phone game, didn’t quite know how to make the most efficient use of cellular networks. Internationally, iPhone users on several other networks found themselves experiencing problems as well, but none were as bad as AT&T. To AT&T’s credit, things have improved a lot over the past six months or so, but I still drop calls constantly in Connecticut and in New York City, where I spend most of my time.

I don’t think we’ll see the same thing happen with Verizon Wireless. The nation’s top carrier has had over three years to prepare for the iPhone and I think it’s ready. Beyond that, a video showing what appears to be parts from the upcoming Verizon iPhone surfaced recently, and it looks like we may be in store for a redesigned antenna. Antennagate might not have affected iPhone sales much, much it definitely impacts the user experience. I don’t use a case and I’m sick of dropping calls every time I accidentally touch the black strip in the lower left corner of the phone. I think Apple spent a ton of time on this issue following the Antennagate affair, and I think the new model will definitely be improved.

There are obvious downsides to switching and I’m well aware of them. Verizon’s 3G is typically slower than AT&T’s network, battery life will probably be a tiny bit worse, and I’ll lose the ability to use voice and data at the same time unless Verizon shocks us with a workaround today. But you know what? I dropped five calls before 9:00AM this morning and I just can’t take it anymore. I’m someone who needs to be connected at all times, in all places, and I need to be able to rely on that connection because by business often depends on it. AT&T simply doesn’t seem to be up to the task — I really hope Verizon will succeed where AT&T continues to fail.

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Find The Typewriter In Acrobat X

The typewriter tool in Adobe Acrobat is a great tool. However, it has been renamed and relocated in the new Version X. Not to fear, Rick Borstein shows us the way at his Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog.

How do I find the Typewriter tool in Acrobat X?

With the changes to the user interface in Acrobat X, a few folks haven’t been able to find the Typewriter tool.

Don’t feel bad, you’re not the only one!

Adobe renamed the tool to make it easier for new users to find.

That probably won’t make you feel better . . .

The Typewriter tool is now called Add or Edit Text Box.

To get to it, open the Tools panel, then twirl down the Content section.

Acrobat X Quick Tools Bar

One nice new feature of Acrobat X is the new Quick Tools bar.

This toolbar at the top of the application window offers fast access to frequently used tools.

If you use the Typewriter tool regularly, you might try adding it to the Quick Tools bar:

  1. Right-click on the Edit Document Text tool
  2. Choose Add to Quick Tools bar

Now, it’s easy to access the Typewriter tool whenever you need it:

Using the QuickTools bar in Acrobat X

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Blackberry Has A Tablet

Thanks to our friends at Boy Genius Report for giving us a sneek peek at RIM's upcoming tablet.

This afternoon, RIM welcomed us into their CES lair to get some much-anticipated hands-on time with the Playbook. We were able to spend about 15 minutes manhandling the device, and while the software on the machine is a pre-beta build and not final, we came away with some pretty good impressions — for the second time.

First things first… tthe hardware on the BlackBerry PlayBook seems to be incredibly well built. Honestly, it feels super solid, really good in the hand, and definitely has the weight and feel of an upmarket device — not too heavy though, and not too light. As far as the 7-inch screen does, well, it’s a bit too small in this writer’s personal opinion, but the PlayBook comes away feeling way superior to Samsung’s current tablet offering. All hardware controls including the volume keys and even power key seem to be manufactured well even. Hit the break for more!

The screen on the PlayBook is very crisp, rich, and bright, with text showing clearly and very easy to read. We’re not Retina Display crisp, but much sharper and crisper than Apple’s iPad. Now, for what people have been waiting for — touch responsiveness is amazing and anyone concerned that the somewhat dodgy experience of using a BlackBerry Storm or BlackBerry Torch touchscreen would be replicated on a larger scale here shouldn’t worry. The screen reacts beautifully to every input, and given the early nature of the software build, we have no doubt that this tablet will perform wonderfully in customer’s hands as far as touch is concerned. The card / tab interface worked great and is going to feel similar to anyone who has used webOS, but for those who haven’t, it’s pretty intuitive and is a very well put together UI.

The pre-production unit we used didn’t have much in terms of pre-loaded software and apps, and we weren;t able to test any of the multimedia player functions (though we previewed them in our earlier PlayBook demo session), but we did get a chance to dive into the flash-capable browser and poke around on YouTube just enough to tell you that Flash works, and it works quite well. The browser itself is fast, and scales text admirably, with most sites showing up quickly and crisply.

As for overall device strategy, RIM seemed to be pretty clear on their commitment to a well fleshed out ecosystem. While the device we used didn’t have much in the way of apps beyond the basic OEM stuff, they assured us that, come launch time, Blackberry App World will be full of PlayBook-specific apps. We hope they stay firm to this commitment, as while the Playbook hardware is certainly impressive, the stock configuration does leave a bit to be desired in terms of extended functionality.

As has been noted before, none of the messaging-specific applications, including the email app, your calendar, contacts, and BlackBerry Messenger will work without tethering the Playbook to an actual Blackberry handheld device. RIM noted that this was a conscious decision, believing the PlayBook in stand-alone mode to be more oriented towards media and web-specific purposes. That’s all well and good from a marketing standpoint, but in real-life usage, we’re not sure we agree. The case for BBM on a tablet isn’t cut and dry, but a RIM device without default access to the legendary Blackberry push messaging experience seems like sort of a bizarre proposition to us, and the argument that web-based email and applications will supplant the actual on-board messaging system in a pinch is exactly the kind of logic that led Apple to eat their words and launch the App Store.

Don’t get us wrong, the PlayBook has the makings of an incredibly solid platform, we just hope RIM is as attentive to the App ecosystem as they have been to the actual hardware. Check out our hands-on gallery as well as some video, alright?

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Apple Launches Mac App Store

Apple has launched its Mac App Store with more than 1,000 free and paid applications.

The Mac App Store is the desktop version of the same experience that iPod and iPhone users have been enjoying: a categorized list of apps that are easy to find, buy and install. Click on an app, enter your iTunes password (the same one you use to buy apps through your iPhone), and you’ll be able to use your new app as soon as it’s downloaded and installed.

The store lets users browse through new and hot apps, staff favorites and top charts to find the best apps available. App categories include education, games, graphics and design, lifestyle, productivity, utilities and others.

For a sample of pricing, you can get Apple’s own iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand apps for $14.99 each; Pages, Keynote and Numbers are available for $19.99 each, while Aperture 3 costs $79.99.

You can check out the store either by downloading the latest Mac OS X update (v10.6.6) or by visiting Developers interested in creating apps for the Mac App Store can go to for more info.

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Solo nets Supreme Court win!

I know this has nothing to do with technology, but I think it is pretty cool. Andrew Simpson is a sole practitioner in the U.S. Virgin Is...