Category Archives: Cost

Leveraging ActiveSync to Emulate MS Exchange & Sync Multiple Devices – Part I

MP900448358In order to make great (information) soup, start with the right (data)base.

As promised, this is the first in a short series on how to leverage available software technology to sync Calendar, Contacts, Email and more on virtually all (or most) of your devices.  Now, we all know there are many different ways to accomplish this, however, this is aimed at the individual – or small business or law firm – who can't afford expensive hardware or software, is nervous about the cloud (for good reason) but would like a robust, alternative method to manage their data dependably, automatically and securely.  In other words, they don't want to be up at night worrying about it nor spending the day trying to figure out why it doesn't work!

What do most individuals and businesses in this 24-hour-a-day world want from their technology, anyway?

  • Access to my data 24-hours-a-day! (That was a gimme)
  • Rapid auto-sync (I enter/modify a contact on my smartphone and within five minutes, it propagates to all of my other devices)
  • I reply to an eMail message and it syncs everywhere without having to cc: myself at other locations/accounts (I hear complaints about this all of the time)
  • I receive a calendar appointment and can seamlessly add it to my device's calendar, then it propagates…
  • I generate calendar appointments that others may seamlessly process as well
  • If my server/cloud connectivity is severed, I have access to – and can process – all of my data up to that moment, modify it or generate more, then sync it when connectivity is restored (this is also important while traveling, isn't it?)
  • Ability to mirror/archive/backup the database (if this isn't on your list, it should be)
  • Ability to access the data securely

…and more, of course.  Many products provide some, or all of these features – the problem is, many of them do it in completely different ways, including for each separate function (e.g. calendar or contacts) and don't 'talk' to other devices very well.  The goal is to make the process as seamless as possible.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm hitting for averages here, folks.  There are a lot of Operating Systems and hardware out there.  On PC, we have Windows, MAC, Linux, etc.  With tablets we have MAC, Blackberry, Android, etc.  Smartphones?  Well, there are four primaries; iPhone, Android, Blackberry & Windows.

We know that most PCs are Windows-based (no knock against Macs, it's just the way it is) and the majority of businesses use them.  iPhones and Androids are duking it out, with Blackberries still in the hunt and the new version of Windows phone making a splash.  We also know that a majority use Microsoft Office-based products (even many Mac users).  So, there's no way I'll make everyone happy.

The example I'll use for our purposes is a Windows-based PC, hosting Outlook 2003, 2007 or 2010.  You'll also need a Hotmail/Live Mail cloud component; however, this doesn't mean you'll be changing your existing email setup; you'll be supplementing it.  Last, you'll install the Outlook Hotmail Connector, which allows you to create a virtual database within Outlook.  This will serve as our primary device.  For security, I recommend that it be static, if possible.  Any mobile device, from laptop on down, runs the additional risk of being lost or stolen with your entire database living on it.  Not a pleasant thought.

Is there a method to my madness?  Yes.  The more one can accomplish under a single vendor, the better the results.  In this case, all database components are Microsoft, which makes the process seamless (remember, we're going to be communicating with a lot of devices).  Also, SSL capability was implemented in 2011, meaning your connection to the cloud will be much more secure, whether via Outlook, the Web or your secondary devices.

Once you have your components up & running, you have a choice:

  1. Use Hotmail to "fetch" your emails from your existing database, or,
  2. Forward your emails from your existing database to Hotmail.

Both methods are fine, but I recommend forwarding your emails.  With fetch, Hotmail must make an inquiry and "pull" your messages over.  There will usually be a time delay, which won't be sufficient for those of us who need our messages in real-time.  Forwarding doesn't normally cause a delay; emails are forwarded as they arrive, so this is preferable.  The good news is, you'll have another backup of your messages with your service provider.

As for contacts and calendar, you'll want to import them into your Outlook database as well.  Once completed, you can customize your settings in the cloud.  I recommend disabling as many 'bloatware' features as possible.  After all, you're looking to create a slick, business-like database.  What you do want to enable is your SSL functionality.  One way to verify this is to make sure you may only access it online via https://.  If it works via http://, your security isn't properly configured.

I know this is a lot of detail, but if you're willing to take some time and make the effort, you'll have an excellent base.  In Part II, I'll examine how you'll exploit various flavors of ActiveSync (Corporate Sync on some devices) to sync your data over mutiple platforms.

That's when the fun begins…

A Titanic Failure of Disaster Planning

MP900407559As we mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, questions that were raised then are being repeated now; how did this happen?  Obviously, I'm not going to cite all of the opinions, but as one can imagine, blame is assigned virtually everywhere.  Regulation (or lack, thereof) is to blame.  Management is to blame.  You know what I think?  They all miss the point, entirely. 

Why?  Because 1,500 people are dead, that's why.  Titanic was doomed before it ever left port.  One thing we can state with certainty; it was known that if the ship sank in an isolated area, then there wouldn't be enough lifeboats on-hand to save all of the lives on board.

Analysts point to a comedy of errors that, if they hadn't occurred in sequence, then Titanic wouldn't have sunk.  There's that word, if, again.  But this flies in the face of competent disaster planning.  We already know that if events occur as expected, then there won't be a disaster.

Let's enter the equation at the real-time departure of Titanic in its actual condition (meaning, not enough lifeboats).  Here are some of the assumptions that might have been made:

  • The ship will not sink
  • The number of lifeboats are an acceptable risk versus the unlikely possibility the ship might sink
  • Other disasters may occur (e.g. boiler explosion), but the ship won't sink and there are sufficient lifeboats
  • Even if the ship were to sink, it will sink very slowly – or close to land – allowing landed resources or other ships to respond in sufficient time
  • The experts on board – and in the surrounding area (such as the California, or wireless operators) – will act predictably (i.e. not make any mistakes), thereby avoiding errors
  • Icebergs will be exactly where we expect them to be

Here's a question I haven't seen (although I'm sure someone has probably raised it):  Even if the ship had sufficient lifeboats on board, would the crew have been able to launch all of them in the rapid time that titanic sunk (estimated at 2 hours, 40 minutes)?

A good risk management team understands the first rule of disaster planning – follow Murphy's Law:  If anything can go wrong, it will.  The second rule?  Follow-up with O'Toole's Commentary:  Murphy was an optimist.

  1. No plan will ever be correctly analyzed unless it begins with an honest assessment of the following question:  What can go wrong?
  2. The rest becomes a matter of probability.  What is the likelihood that anything (and everything in-between) on the list created by question one might go wrong.

Then, it's a matter of prioritizing between several factors, such as time needed to address & correct, manpower required, cost vs. budget, insurance, politics, etc.

I wish we could go with something more simplistic:  The chance of the bread landing with the buttered-side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet…

The Bench: #California Judicial Council Kills ‘Tower of Babel’

Home-alone

Project:  California Court Case Management System

Number of Years in the Making – Ten

Number of Computer Systems Utilized State-Wide – 70

Initial Cost Estimate – $260 million

Amount Spent to Date – $560 million

Amount Still to be Spent – $8.6 million

Estimated Cost to Complete – $2 billion

Number of Counties Upgraded – Six out of 58

Cancellation Date – Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Effect on the California Court System – PRICELESS!

Temper, Temper…

MP900149066Let's begin with the premise that the Internet makes it easier to…

Does your mind automatically think of positive attributes such as, 'communicate with others', 'market your business' or 'research virtually any topic'?  You'd be right about all of them.  Unfortunately, the Internet also makes it easier to:

Defame others.

There have been a trifecta of such cases in Georgia; and juries haven't been shy about awarding substantial (six-figure) damages.  What's the commonality?  They're all blogging cases.  The highest award of the three is $900,000 (The article says it's nearly ten-times what the plaintiff's sought – $48,000 – but isn't that nearly twenty-times?  Must be that new math…)

Yikes!  Did I mention how much I love you all?

People are taking – what used to be – vicious 'water cooler' gossip at worst and posting it online.  Unfortunately, in the eyes of the law, that creates an important distinction.  It changes an old case of slander (spoken statement, aka 'to the ear') into a new case of libel (written statement, aka 'to the eye').

Hint – libel is usually considered more serious.  Never mind the evidentiary advantages (you put your comments in writing), but people are much more apt to believe something written rather than spoken.  Why?  Because the perception is that someone wouldn't put an item in writing unless they had a reasonable level of confidence that it was true.

I guess they haven't been watching the primary contest, lately…

…After the Horse has Escaped. #PDA and the #5thAmendment


 

I closed my last post with this line; "Now comes the more difficult argument; explaining how a password is exactly the same as a key…"

In my view, the law is a password.  For example, right or wrong, a police officer may perform a search because he or she believes the law permits it.  A judge is another interface who decides whether to grant or deny access to information.  There's one major difference between a police officer, a judge and a computer, of course.  An officer or judge will make decisions based on several factors, whereas a computer – in proper working order – will decide based on pass/fail.  Nevertheless, like our friend, Maxwell Smart, the law is just another door in a series that parties must pass through.

So, what if we have a person under arrest who has password-protected their PDA and refuses to divulge it to the government?  Do they have 5th Amendment protection?  For starters, here's an excellent, big-picture view of the issue and emerging case law (I linked to this on Twitter a few days ago).

I think I get a bad rap sometimes.  My views may appear to be pro-defense versus pro-government.  However, if you've read my bio, you know that I've worked with the District Attorneys office.  I've also served as criminal defense counsel (this is not an unusual situation, by any means).  For me, the issues are simple.  Individuals on either side of the law have rights and responsibilities and it's important to know what they are (assuming any one of us can keep up with the rapid changes).

Also, the game has changed in another major way.  I understand that a lot of criminals use cellular devices to facilitate their behavior, but a majority of law-abiding citizens do not.  If one such citizen is arrested for, say, disturbing the peace, should the government have a right to search through all of the data on that person's Blackberry?  What if he or she is the Vice President of a major corporation and the device is issued by said corporation – and contains privileged communications?

Do I have the answer?  At the moment, it depends on what jurisdiction I happen to be standing in when you ask me. 

Which do you think is a better scenario from an individual-rights standpoint: 1) Spending time and funds (possibly while defendant is incarcerated) arguing that a search was illegal, or 2) Preventing the search from occurring in the first place?

I tweeted another story that produced this quote from a University criminal law professor:

"We're seeing a whole generation for whom privacy is not important."

I can't say that I agree with that assessment.  In most cases, people still don't grasp the concept that what they post online can be seen by anyone.  They only figure it out when their privacy has already been breached and it's too late to do anything about it.

You know what they say; nobody likes a cop until they need one…

The Truth about Truth as a Defense

MP900342030 You can be held liable for telling the truth.  That’s right.  As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it’s (for lack of a better word) true.  I mention this because, once again, I’m hearing that someone – a blogger, in this case – was held liable for reporting the truth – and everyone gets into a lather.  How can this be?  It’s a travesty of justice!

Well, technically, they’re right.  The pure definition of defamation includes a false something.  But this sometimes clashes with other laws, such as the right to privacy, also referred to as “the right to be let alone”.  After all, some truths are private.

We could argue all day about a court’s right/wrong decisions, but taking the above case as an example, they seemed to be looking at the totality of the conduct of the defendant – and the results of that conduct.

Ultimately, as the post’s author explains, this case came down to contract law.  They got the defendant on tortious interference.  We’ll see what happens on appeal.

Something to think about prior to that next gossip session at the water cooler.

Braking Bad: #Amazon Stops CA Taxman with Deft Maneuvers

MP900309533 Well…that was the week that was; a shortened holiday week in which I didn't get any opportunities to write (I guess that's what Twitter is for at times…).  I did Tweet about Amazon's fight with the State of California over collecting Sales (Use) taxes.  However, a deal has now been reached.  Why italics?  Because it's not much of a deal.  In my opinion, the winner – at least in the short term – is Amazon, and they accomplished that win through sophisticated use of the political system.

Elevator description: The state passed a law requiring Internet retailers to collect sales (use) taxes beginning July 1st.  Not surprisingly, Amazon wasn't fond of this idea.  They embarked on a course to get a Proposition repealing the law on the upcoming June 2012 ballot.  California wasn't fond of this idea.

What's the deal?  Kick the can.  Everybody stands down for a year.  Anyone else notice that very little is being resolved at the state and federal level?

Why do I feel that Amazon's the short-term winner?  Had they qualified to get the Proposition on the ballot – and with their resources, that wasn't likely to be a problem – the law would have automatically been suspended, pending the outcome of the ballot fight.  So, California agreed to do what would have inevitably occurred on its own.

Thing is, we're still mired in the Great Recession, budgets are upside-down and this gives lawmakers cover to capture more revenue – or at least make the attempt.  We'll see what Governor Brown does next.

As for the long term?  Ask me in a year.  These days, that's considered the long term.

e-Discovery California: How am I Behaving? Text 800-IM-DRUNK

MP900443394 A bunch of people get together on a Saturday night.  They drink beer.  They drink more beer.  At last call, wanting to keep the buzz going, they order two more beers – and guzzle them.  Somebody looks at somebody else sideways and a fight breaks out.  And so it goes at the local pub?

Yes, but so it also goes at the local baseball diamond, etc.  "I went to the fights and a hockey game broke out!"

Now, California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-L.A.) wants to establish a new law that would beef up penalties for fan misbehavior at sporting events.  It would also fund a reward-based program to encourage fans to report other fans.  Here's why I think this is a misguided idea:

  1. Ever heard of Crime Stoppers, et al?  Mechanisms already exist for reporting crimes.
  2. Why is this venue singled out?  Because it's on the news?

A more reasonable approach, among others, is the method adopted by some teams that enables fans to text information about incidents directly to security personnel.

The minute one introduces pay-for-play to the mix, the potential for abuse increases.

Heck…next you'll tell me they're gonna pay kids to go to school!

Cascades: Good for Mountains, Bad for News Orgs

MP900438949 First things first.  My beloved Cubs rewarded my visit with a 13-3 loss to the Marlins, marking this as the most lopsided score over the 15+ years I’ve been making this journey.  Now, firmly ensconced in San Francisco – and with my state bar duties dispensed with for the week – we can return to more pressing matters…

How many of the execs swallowed up in the News of the World Scandal thought they’d ever be arrested in their lifetimes?  None.  In fact, a high percentage of the general public would agree with them.  But people-who-you-normally-wouldn’t-expect-to-be-arrested are arrested.  And some of them eventually go to jail.

While you watch the slow and painful erosion of the Murdoch empire – and the collateral damage causally connected to it – I hope you consider one ingredient to add to your schadenfreude; you’re watching a large-scale version of how your criminal or civil matter will unfold if you don’t deal with it when it’s manageable.

Of course, yours won’t likely be this big or this public – or this expensive – but this is how it’ll start; a molehill that, over time, grows into a mountain.  Or, in this case, a mountain range.  eDiscovery rules & regulations, litigation readiness programs and early case assessment are all designed to staunch the bleeding and, if instituted early enough, prevent the wound altogether.

You have to be willing to take the pain.  Like they always say, the first cut is the deepest.

The Seven-Second Solution: You’re Suspended!

MP900175530 Folks, I know we have a sense of humor (otherwise, you'd be offended by half the posts I write), however, maybe it's just me, but I'm starting to think the general population doesn't.  Granted, these are tough economic times, we have wars going on, and yes, seriousness has its place.  But, knowing what you do about the reactions lately to 'attempted' humor, you've still got to do what I advised way back in the olden days; be your own filter.

Think it if you want to, just don't repeat it.  It's not worth it.  My Twit List has grown longer and longer with these examples, but look what happened to journalist Mark Halpirin yesterday.  He made a joke – and even warned everyone ahead of time that he was about to make it – yet, still was suspended by MSNBC.  Of course there's more detail to the story, but we don't need to hash out whether he regrets the decision to tell it out loud.

Last I checked, this was the land of free speech (I'll point out that this incident should not be confused with Constitutionally-protected speech, which commenters mistakenly do all the time), but with electronic devices come new problems.  Virtually everything you say or email and every destination you travel to is now being monitored by someone.

Remember Ari Fleischer?  "Americans need to watch what they say, what they do".  Who ever thought it'd come to this?!