Reach out and Touchscreen

Touchscreen are now becoming ubiquitous on smart phones and other gadgets, and new computer Operating Systems are now start to include touchscreen options as standard. So how useful are they for your office computer systems?

Using a touch screen as a “user interface” has a lot going for it. It is intuitive, you literally point at what you see, and it can be more ergonomic than various other methods. The previous downsides of high price and low responsiveness have been largely removed by cheaper high quality touchscreens: decent 15 & 17 inch screens can be bought for around £150 and slightly more for 19 inch.
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Age of Irresponsibility

Much has been made in recent years of the problems of the “Compensation Culture” and many politicians have expended great gusts of hot air about how they propose to end it. However, in reality this is merely a symptom of a far wider problem.

Historically in the UK, when a government department got something seriously wrong the Minister for that department would give an “honourable resignation”, leaving his position on the basis (as a US President1 famously said) “the buck stops here”. Now we have government Ministers who when something goes wrong send a junior member of staff to face the wrath of the press and carry on regardless. But it is not just politicians, this type of behaviour is endemic across society.  Bankers mess up in catastrophic ways, even breaking the law, and walk away with large bonuses in their pockets. Security contractors accept lucrative jobs, then ask the government to bail them out when they can not do what is needed.
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The Great Dictator

In an earlier blog, I made a remark about some firms still using cassettes for dictation, which attracted a couple of comments. Therefore I thought I’d go over the moderns options, pros and cons.

The first decision is to dictate or not to dictate in the first place. The advantage of not dictating is a possible reduction of costs in equipment and staffing, but this is set against having to deal with the production of text yourself. This ranges from typing everything yourself (where output depends on your typing speed), to document creation systems which let you simply pick from banks of styles (which reduce ability to make bespoke documents) This is not an either/or proposition, but a continuum, and the more work a document creation system does for you in general the dearer it costs, possibly outweighing the savings of have less staff.1
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Abusing Corroboration

The Solicitor General of Scotland has recently put back on the table the idea of the abolition of corroboration in Scots Criminal law. The reason given to the Press is that this might lead to more convictions in domestic abuse cases.
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Domains of Defamation

The recent expansion of generic Top Level Domains (TLDs) will allow all sorts of opportunities for registration of new internet addresses, especially combined with the introduction of IPv6.

For my non-techie legal readers I will pause to explain what these are. To access a computer on the internet, you obviously need an “address” to find it. The “native” address used by computer equipment is the “IP address” which is a string of numbers. Until recently these have been IPv4, being a set of 4 numbers from 0 to 255 separated by dots, for example “192.168.0.1”. Obviously this gives a limited number of addresses (256^4 or 4,294,967,296) – certain ranges were specified for “private networks” meaning that by various technical methods a whole network of computers within an office could share a single IP address for the outside world but the total public numbers were still limited, and running out. Therefore a new version, IPv6, was invented comprising 8 numbers from 0 to 65536 giving 65536^8 addresses, which is an enormous number.
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Cyberspace – the lawless mirage

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators” ~ William Gibson, Burning Chrome

Cyberspace is not a physical location; neither is “the internet”, or “the web”. It is worth bearing this in mind when listening to various people pontificating on whether or not “real world” law does or should apply to these “places”. William Gibson’s original definition when he coined the term Cyberspace is still accurate; like a corporation1, day to day we all pretend that this mental construct has an actual reality in the universe instead of being a metaphor for a complex form for human interaction2.
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Software for nothing and your clicks for free

One of the expenses of setting up and running an office is software. With a certain popular word processor/office program coming in at a couple of hundred pounds per user, the costs for even a small legal office can soon build up. You pay for it when you get it, then every couple of year you need to pay for another “upgrade”.  Of course no lawyer is going to buy one copy and “pirate” in on all their users computers are they – that would be breach of copyright! While everyone is going to need a word processor, that doesn’t go for all programs, so perhaps you can trim costs by making sure that some packages are only installed for a couple of users, who do all of that type of work for the whole office.

Or perhaps you can get your programs at a price of zero: welcome to the world of Free and Open Source software.
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