Burney's Legal Tech Reviews - How to Install Norton SystemWorks; Hub-ba Hub-ba for a USB Hub; An Acrobat-ic Correction; and A Sp

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com's Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal-technology questions at bburney@bburney.net.

I decided to pack a little extra punch into this month's issue. After hearing many horror stories about installing Norton SystemWorks 2002, I looked into some of the problems and wanted to share some solutions. I'm also the proud owner of a Keyspan 4-port Mini Hub and I'll tell you why. I follow up last month's review of Adobe Acrobat 5.0 with a small correction and then discuss some security options for your PDF files. And lastly, I decided to thrown in a fun review of the PSA[Play 120 from Nike Tech Labs.

Norton SystemWorks 2002 – Addressing Some Installation Issues

After my review of Norton SystemWorks 2002 Professional Edition in my February column, I discovered several computer users that experienced problems while installing the program. I did a little research and dug up a few tech-nuggets of information.

First, to be fair, when anyone installs an application like Norton SystemWorks that interacts so intimately with an operating system, you MUST expect some problems to arise. Not to mention that a little thing called Windows XP has forced software houses to re-work their applications to navigate the rigorous integration issues with the new requirements of the OS.

On the other hand, there is no good excuse for a “tried-and-true” application to have major installation issues. A good practice is to always think about “preparing” your computer for the installation of a major application such as Norton SystemWorks. One very helpful article on Symantec’s Knowledge Base  that I found was appropriately entitled How to prepare your computer before installing Norton SystemWorks. Following the steps in this article is no guarantee that you’ll have a smooth installation, but it may definitely save you a headache or two.

My favorite quote from this article is “a stable Windows environment will help to ensure a successful installation of Norton SystemWorks.”  Using 'stable' and 'Windows' in the same sentence can sometimes be scary. The article is divided into two sections for “first-time” installations and “re-installations.”  Helpful tips for a first-time installation include removing temporary files from the Windows\Temp folder (not the Temporary Internet Files) and defragging the hard drive.

The most important piece of helpful advice concerning installing Norton SystemWorks 2002 was that you MUST make sure that you completely UN-install all traces of older versions of SystemWorks. I found another article from the Symantec Knowledge Base entitled How to use the Norton SystemWorks cleanup utility (SymClean). This article stated that “previous versions of Norton SystemWorks would allow installation over an earlier version. Norton SystemWorks 2002, however, requires pre-existing SystemWorks’ files to be removed before installation will proceed.”  My guess is that this is where many of the installation problems have arisen. Most people would rightly assume that a later version of a program should naturally install over an earlier version and so they’ll just pop in the upgrade CD and click install. Indeed, this is how many applications are upgraded without a hitch. It just appears that Norton SystemWorks is a bit out of the ordinary in this regard. Again, this issue is probably due to the tight integration with the OS.

The best way to remove a program from a Windows machine is to use the Add/Remove Programs icon in the Control Panel. The article I reference above even mentions this. But when the Add/Remove Programs option doesn’t completely do the job, you might need the help of the Norton SystemWorks utility called SymClean. You can follow the instructions to download and use the utility, which will completely remove any Windows Registry entries and program files that may potentially interfere with a smooth installation of Norton SystemWorks 2002.

I know that the suggestions above won’t ease the pain of a SystemWorks installation that’s already gone haywire but it’s some food for thought for those of you considering the upgrade. My contact at Norton thanked me for sending her the feedback I’d gathered on installation issues and mentioned the suggestions I’ve given above. I found the Symantec website, (http://www.symantec.com) parent company of the Norton brand, to be fairly good in it’s tech-support offerings and I would certainly suggest perusing the site for additional information.

A Hub for All Your USB Needs

When I got a new, speedy, lightweight laptop at work, I was disappointed to find that it only had one USB. It’s not that I expected the computer to have more ports, I just never seem to have enough plugs for all my USB devices. Ever since the USB peripheral standard was introduced in 1996, I’ve been drawn to its simplicity and complete ease-of-use.

I currently use USB connectors for 1) my Microsoft and Logitech optical mice, 2) my PDA sync-up cord, 3) my Canon scanner, 4) my digital camera, 5) both of my MP3 players, and 6) my Web cam. Since at least two of these devices are plugged in at any one time, I have to use a USB hub. I don’t like using most USB hubs because they’re big or bulky, but I’ve finally found a USB hub that better fits my lifestyle with the Keyspan USB 4-port Mini Hub.

USB is the Key

The USB interface has done a great job of replacing the old serial and parallel ports that have survived well past their prime. The USB (Universal Serial Bus) interface is much faster, more stable, and supports “hot” plug-and-play. That means that I can un-plug my USB scanner while my computer is on and plug in my digital camera without a problem and without needing to reboot the computer.

Another great aspect of USB is it’s ability to power an external device directly from the computer. For example, to operate my USB scanner, the only cord I need is the USB cable running from my computer to my scanner – the scanner doesn’t require any external power cord to operate. The scanner draws it’s power from the computer via the USB cord.

Now you can see I'm so excited about USB. Nowadays, I only purchase USB compatible devices for my computer so you can see where I get into a jam when I have more USB devices than USB plugs.

Big Power in a Mini Hub

After I saw the Keyspan Mini Hub, I knew that it was the answer to my USB shortage problem. The hub is literally the size of a credit card and only 1cm thick. The casing is made out of lightweight plastic. It’s so light that it felt “cheap” to me the first time I picked it up. But it turns out that its lack of weight is part of the genius encased in this nifty gadget.

One section of the hub involves a little flip-up door. Inside lives the USB plug that you plug into the USB port on your computer. The plug only has about a three inch long cord coming out from the hub but it fits into a slot in the hub very nicely so the flip-door can close.

The Keyspan Mini Hub can run in “bus-powered” or “self-powered” mode. Bus-powered mode is when the hub is simply plugged into the computer and draws its power from the computer. Keyspan smartly designed this hub to have very low power requirements, but the hub can supply enough power to run many common USB devices.

For the self-powered mode, Keyspan is very nice to include an electrical cord with the hub, although the wall adapter is heavier and bulkier than the hub itself. Also, I wish Keyspan had designed the electrical adapter so the prongs could be retracted – I’ve found this makes for easier traveling in other devices that I have.

The whole bus-and self-powered issue comes into play depending upon the circumstances of your use. If you’re running your laptop from the battery and don’t want any additional drain on your precious power, it would be a good idea to run the hub in self-powered mode. Also, if you want to run several USB devices that demand a lot of power at the same time (like scanners and printers together), you might need the electrical adapter to simply provide more juice. I personally have never used the hub with the electrical adapter and I've been very satisfied with the low power drain and operation.

When the hub is properly plugged into your computer, there is a small green LED on top of the unit that glows. I found that you really have to be looking down on top of the hub to actually see this LED, but it’s nice to know it’s there. You shouldn’t need to look at the LED, however, since the hub doesn’t require any drivers to operate properly (make sure that you’re using at least Windows 98 or Mac OS 8.1). Once the hub is plugged in, I simply connect my other devices which get recognized immediately.

A Friendly Travel Companion

If you’ve found yourself running out of USB ports on your computer, it’s definitely time to pick up a USB hub. If you think you’d like to take the hub with you on the road, the Keyspan USB 4-port Mini Hub is your answer.

A Secured Correction for Adobe Acrobat 5.0

In my column last month, I reviewed Adobe Acrobat 5.0 and mistakenly stated:

“The one caveat with creating PDF files using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 appears to arise on the reader side. The person reading the PDF file will need to upgrade to the Adobe Reader 5.0 in order to read the PDF file.”

It was quickly brought to my attention that this is incorrect. My subsequent tests confirmed that indeed you can use Adobe Reader 4.0 to view and read PDF files that were created exclusively with Adobe Acrobat 5.0, unless the PDF was protected with 128-bit encryption security (more on that below). This means that if you create a PDF using Adobe Acrobat 5.0 and you send that PDF to another person, they should be able to use Adobe Reader 3.0 or 4.0 to view the PDF without a problem.

To Protect and To Serve

My hat goes off to Adobe because they made sure to incorporate backwards compatibility into their new product (Acrobat 5.0) while still offering the important benefits of extra security to those who decide to upgrade. Oftentimes, many software companies decide to “force” users to upgrade software because newer applications are not backwards compatible. This leaves users out in the cold, and a bad taste lingers around the software company. I guess I assumed that Adobe had just followed the crowd.

As you can read from my review of Adobe Acrobat 5.0, I think the product is fantastic and provides even more functionality than the earlier version. One subject I did not touch upon in my earlier review was security. One aspect of PDF security is simply using a password to restrict access to the file. Another aspect of PDF security involves dictating what actions are allowed to the PDF such as editing or printing the file. This second aspect can really be useful when you want to distribute a PDF but don’t want your readers to make changes to the document; you don’t want to give them the ability to copy text or graphics; or you want to dictate the resolution they are allowed to print.

You can set the security of a PDF file in Adobe Acrobat 5.0 by clicking on “File” and “Document Security.” This will open a dialog box where you can select between “Adobe Standard Security” or “Adobe Self-Sign Security.” The Standard Security option is the default security handler that will allow you to add simple password protection and select an Encryption Level of either 40-bit RC4 or 128-bit RC4. Depending upon what level of encryption you select, you can then define what actions are permitted on the PDF such as printing or editing.

Using Self-Sign Security can get a little more complicated. With Standard Security, you can set a password for opening the PDF, but if anyone simply gets a hold of that password, they can open the file. With Self-Sign Security, you must have a “Trusted Certificate” for each recipient to whom you want to send your secured PDF. This security option is based upon the glorious technology of Public Key Infrastructure and requires a little more setup time before you can use the technology. Once you do set it up, however, you’ll have a rock-solid method of securing your PDF files and can rest assured that only people that you specify can open the file. Self-Sign Security will always use the near-unbreakable level of 128-bit encryption.

Encrypted Clarification

Acrobat’s encryption is built upon the RC4 technology developed by RSA Security, a world leader in today’s cryptography industry. Any PDF created by Acrobat 5.0 and secured with 40-bit RC4 encryption can be opened by Acrobat and Reader versions of 3.0 and 4.0. If you decide to apply 128-bit RC4 encryption to your PDF in Acrobat 5.0, any person that wants to view that file will be required to upgrade to Reader 5.0.

I hope that clears everything up a little bit. I foresee document security as becoming very important in the next few years and it appears that Adobe is already heading in the right direction.

Just Do It - Listen to your Nike PSA[Play 120

If you’re one of the lucky ones in this world that can find time to workout and exercise, then you might be interested in a little music to accompany your sweat. Gone are the days now of bulky Walkmans, or blah, boring FM radios. Today you can enjoy the music that you want to listen to on your own digital MP3 player. And if you want a product designed for vigorous activity, then the Nike PSA[Play 120 is your best bet.

And-a-1, and-a-2, and-an-MP3

The term “MP3” has become a household word thanks to the popularity of online music and Napster. MP3 is simply a compression technology for digital files. A song in digital form on a compact disc can be 40 or 50 Megabytes, while the same song in MP3 format is reduced in size to 3 or 5 Megabytes. The MP3 file format has become so popular because it’s much easier to trade a 3 Meg file over the Internet than a 50 Meg file.

Contrary to what many have concluded from reading the mass media, the MP3 file format itself is not illegal, no more than the JPG or BMP file formats. Just like the U.S. Copyright law allows you to buy a CD and record those songs onto a cassette tape, you can take the same songs from that CD and convert them into MP3s so you can listen to the songs on your computer or MP3 player.
Not only that, digital music is ideal for those of us “on the go.” When the original Rio digital music player was first introduced, many people realized the fantastic possibilities of MP3. It was like discovering the original Walkman all over again. The Rio PMP300 was the size of a deck of cards and could hold 32 Megabytes worth of MP3 files. This only came out to about 8 songs, but there were no moving parts to worry about and it only ran on one AA battery! It was an audio revolution.

Nike Swooshes In

Today, the selection of MP3 players is vast. I’ve tried several of these gadgets myself but my favorite right now still has to be the Nike PSA[Play 120, especially when I’m riding my bike or jogging. (The “PSA” stands for “Personal Sport Audio.”) As you can imagine, Nike’s MP3 player is designed specifically for active workouts and vigorous activities. Interestingly, the guts of the Nike PSA[Play 120 come from Rio (now owned by SonicBlue). But the outside of the unit is all Nike. Which means that you get the best of both worlds.

I’ve heard the Nike PSA[Play 120 been described as a flattened egg and that’s fairly accurate with it’s oval shape. There’s a rubberized material around the outer edge and the main faceplate and buttons are covered in rubber as well. This main unit of the PSA[Play contains Play/Stop buttons, as well as Forward and Backward buttons, and volume controls. The On/Off button is also located on the main unit. The best part of the product is that the main unit can be screwed onto a sporty, neoprene armband that’s included. If you prefer, you can trade the armband for an optional belt clip.

The armband fits snugly on your bicep, but not too tight to become bothersome, although I could see this getting in the way if you’re lifting weights. The armband uses Velcro to stay in place and I’ve never had a problem with the unit slipping while jogging or bicycling.

The PSA[Play 120 comes with a very small “remote” that can be plugged into the top of the main unit. Your headphones then plug into the top of the remote. This remote can be clipped on to your shirt and has the same Play/Stop/Backward/Forward buttons, as well as volume control. The main advantage of using the remote is that it provides you with a small LCD screen so you can see what song you’re listening to. I only used the remote once or twice. Even though the main unit does not have an LCD screen, I’ve found that I’m not worried about looking at a screen while I’m working out and using the remote is just another thing to worry about. You can plug your headphones directly into the main unit which in my opinion is much easier and less of a wiry mess.

Sportiness is Your Middle Name

The Nike PSA[Play 120 comes with 64 MB of memory, only 32 MB more than the original Rio. While this isn’t much compared to many other MP3 players on the market today (like Apple’s iPod), you can purchase an extra MMC memory card to expand the player’s capacity. I enjoy switching out my music on a regular basis so I’m not bothered by the 64 MB limit.

My one major complaint with the PSA[Play 120 is with the bundled software used for transferring MP3 files from your PC to the player. The software is not very user-friendly and it took me a few minutes to realize you have to load up an initial file database from the music tracks on your hard drive before you’re allowed to transfer them to the unit. I know there are other functions that the software can perform but I’m burned out after finally figuring out how to transfer files.

The only other issue that I found with the PSA[Play is that you can’t leave the battery in the unit if it’s going to sit for a while. Even when the unit is not used, the battery apparently drains. This isn’t a big deal since the player only takes one AA battery, but I had to scramble around for a AA battery after the player sat without any use for about a month.

If you’re into working out and you like to take along your music, I highly recommend picking up the Nike PSA[Play 120. I know there are many other MP3 players on the market that are portable, but I really like Nike’s design and I think they did a good job on creating a product that can travel easily with you to the gym or out on the trail.

Please feel free to e-mail me (bburney@bburney.net) with any questions, suggestions, comments, or any helpful tips and tricks that you might have relating to technology used in the practice of law.