logo

Notes from the Tech Trenches - A Closer Look At Weblogs - June, 1999

By Elizabeth H. Klampert, Published on February 7, 2006

Elizabeth H. Klampert was formerly a litigator for five years, specializing in professional liability litigation. Before attending law school, she was a corporate librarian for twelve years, holding management positions in libraries in a number of large organizations, including Rainier National Bank in Seattle, Deloitte & Touche, and Merrill Lynch, both in New York. She received both her BA in English and MLS from the University of Washington in Seattle. She received her JD at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.


There have been a number of developments on the technology front since my last column, so this column will touch on the major ones of interest to readers.

While I’ve been hyper-vigilant this month to avoid getting any new and destructive viruses, virus developers have been busy creating new ones. The latest to bedevil computer users is a very nasty virus (or worm) called "ExploreZip" that surfaced in early June. Like the virus I contracted a couple of months ago (Happy99.exe), it attaches itself to outgoing e-mail, so that the person receiving the e-mail is lulled into thinking it is safe to open. The message header won’t give you any tips, but if the text reads as follows, DELETE the e-mail immediately:

"Hi [recipient’s name]!

"I received your email and I shall send you a reply ASAP.

"Till then, take a look at the attached zipped docs.

"Bye"

The reason this virus, or worm, is so destructive is that, once opened, it will delete Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files off the hard drive. It also targets files created by C, C++ and assembly language editors. If you have anti-virus software, be sure that it is updated to include this virus. Check out the Symantec Anti-Virus Center page for fixes, as well as Trend Micro Inc. and McAfee. At this point, I would recommend bookmarking these sites and checking them regularly! In addition, ZDNet is a good source to check for information on new viruses.

Electronic commerce is continuing to flourish, though, in spite of viruses and pessimists. On May 6, four Republican Congressmen introduced the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN), H.R. 1417. The intent of the bill is to allow consumers and businesses, when making online transactions, to use electronic signatures the same way they use hand written signatures on contracts and agreements. Not much is happening with the bill so far, but it will be interesting to follow it.

On to a happier topic. Lest you think that the producers of search engines are asleep at the wheel, a couple of new ones have cropped up. One costs (!) and bills itself as "the SLOWEST search engine on the Net" and the other claims to be faster than any of the others.

The first, Gold Rush!, developed by Wisdom Builder, gathers information from five major search engines (including Alta Vista, Excite, Hotbot, Lycos, and WebCrawler) and strives for accuracy and relevance, not speed. Unlike other search engines, however, it will cost you, currently $79.95 (list). It can also search your hard disk for data but cannot yet combine disk and Web searches. In addition, the disk searches are limited to Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, HTML or Adobe Acrobat PDF documents. At present, Gold Rush! is only available for the Internet Explorer (version 4.0 or greater), but a Netscape Communicator version is "under development." I have not yet tested this search engine, but if relevance is important to you, it may be a product worth trying. For a "free" search engine that also prides itself on accuracy and relevancy, don’t forget about Google!

So, from slow to fast. The second search engine that deserves a second look is FAST Search, developed by a Norwegian company. As its promotional material notes, the search engine currently offers 80 million searchable documents and plans to have 200 million by this summer, a laudable goal. I note that it is, indeed, fast. However, the few searches I ran did not seem to be appreciably more accurate or relevant than, say, a similar search in Alta Vista. They also need to update their FAQ page! In any case, it is a site worth watching.

By now, most of you are aware that the Supreme Court has left standing lower court decisions that deny WestGroup’s quest to get copyright protection for its pagination system and the text of judicial decisions maintained in its database. On June 1, the Supreme Court denied certiorari on both appeals, West Publishing v. Hyperlaw, No. 98-1519 (text) and West Publishing v. Matthew Bender, No. 98-1500 (pagination). While some commentators, including Hyperlaw, maintain that this means the end of West’s monopoly, WestGroup itself notes that the 1986 ruling from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld West's copyright interest in its pagination system still has force. Given the diametrically opposed decisions from the Second and Eighth Circuits, it would have been extremely helpful if the Supreme Court had granted cert. As it now stands, no one is quite sure how to proceed, and I predict that there will be more litigation on these issues.

And now, for something completely different. For all of you genealogy buffs, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has launched a Web site, FamilySearch.org, that allows access to the Church’s vast collection of records. To do an ancestor search, the site searches three databases: the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index and Personal Web sites. Since the Church has a database of at least 400 million names, it should prove to be an excellent starting point for most searches (I’m still searching, though!).

I include in this column an article that I found too late to include in my last column. Since it is still quite pertinent, I decided to go ahead and let you all know about it. Reporting on the outsourcing of Pillsbury Madison & Sutro’s library, Law News Network’s article, "Librarians Warn of Fines as Firms Shelve Books", contained interviews with a number of law librarians. The general consensus was that, while outsourcing is expected to continue, the need for librarians’ expertise will grow, particularly as firms realize that all this electronic information is, surprise, surprise, costly and that they will need people with information savvy to manage these resources.

Finally, a note on another Microsoft case. In May, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that thousands of former and current temporary workers at Microsoft should have been permitted to participate in the company’s stock repurchase program. Microsoft had hoped to limit this option to a few hundred. While some experts do not expect this ruling to have fallout beyond Microsoft, others believe that it will have a major impact unless a company has a well-crafted temp agreement that can avoid such an outcome. The U.S. District Court in Seattle is still considering whether Microsoft must give the same 40l(k) benefits to temporary workers that it gives to its regular employees. To be continued.