…IT issues part 3

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Contents of this section:

  1. Free software, legal and otherwise
  2. Data Protection for advocates (now separate page)
  3. Macs at the bar (now separate page)

Why this group of pages?

These pages are to provide a checklist, for those considering using a Mac as an advocate in Scotland, of what works and what doesn't, with suggestions for work-arounds of common problems, particularly in legal research, and some further suggestions which came out of the June 2004 Faculty workshop 'Using a Mac as an advocate'.

In the mid-1990s, without perhaps an entirely clear sense of what it was doing or why, the Faculty introduced a policy that all IT facilities would be designed for Windows users alone. Some facilities, such as ethernet networking, worked on Macs; but no effort was put into this and Mac-using members were encouraged to transfer to PCs. This policy changed a couple of years ago; it is now recognised (sometimes slightly grudgingly) that it is up to members to choose the system they prefer. Practically all services (electronic fee rendering is an exception) are now equally available to Mac and PC users. Whether in consequence of this or otherwise, the number of Mac users has increased, to 10% in the 2003 Library questionnaire, although that is now an obvious underestimate.

The fundamental advantages of Tiger, the latest version of the Macintosh operating system, over the Windows operating system (ease of use, less need for IT support, practical absence of virus or hacker problems, increased productivity, and lower longterm costs) are not dealt with here; ask people who have used both, or go to the Mac OS 10.3 v Windows XP site.

First, however, I undertook, at the June 2004 Faculty workshop 'Using a Mac as an advocate' to give an electronic write-up of the principal tips then discussed. This will have three parts:

  • using .mac to synchronise files between home and work ;
  • the whys and hows of creating PDF files; and
  • document security.


1. Ethernet networking and USB printing in the Library or otherwise.

No problem; for many years all Apple laptops have come with built-in ethernet.

2. Wireless networking and printing in the Library or otherwise.

No problem; Apple Airport cards are less vulnerable than most PC wireless cards as they are wholly contained in an iBook or Powerbook. All the IT department needs is the number of your card. If using the wireless printers in the Library, use Printer Setup Utility to give them intelligible names.

3. Remote Access ( Virtual Private Network or VPN).

Faculty Remote Access is equally available to Mac users; the software used is now VPN Tracker (free copy from IT Department) and is less clunky than its predecessor. On PC home networks, Remote Access may or may not work; the OS X version, at least, does work on an Apple ethernet or wireless network with broadband.

4. Library databases.

Same as PC; no problem on any browser. At present, unfortunately, they require Remote Access from outside the Faculty network.

5. Electronic fee rendering.

(New, October 2004) EFR now works satisfactorily on Internet Explorer for Macintosh, but regrettably not yet on Safari or other browsers. Modernisation is planned for early 2005. The javascript written to detect Mac users, which excluded members in disfavour, has now been removed.

When a fee is submitted using EFR, an email is sent to the user stating the contents of the feenote. In a random minority of cases submitted other than on Windows Internet Explorer, this will record VAT incorrectly; I have been assured that this is however corrected in the actual feenote submitted. Otherwise no serious problems are reported.

6. Justis.

Justis works exactly the same on Mac as on Windows and is equally accessible in Safari or Firefox (but not in Internet Explorer). It continues to use pop-up windows, which in Safari can be unblocked using the Safari menu or, preferably, using the Safaristand free utility as in this snapshot. The April 2005 new interface introduced two temporary glitches. First, on first use delete all old cookies; in Safari, open Preferences>Security>show Cookies and delete all www.justis.com cookies. Second, in Safari (but not Firefox) 'log-in using cookies' results in a 'your session has expired' message; ignore this and click 'Continue'. There is a support page. Again deleting the justis.com cookies is a cure for most problems.

For menu-bar access, use iChoose (freeware); download replacement preferences and place expanded contents in Users>[whoever]>Library>Preferences folder.

7. Thomson/Sweet & Maxwell products

1. Scots Law Times CD-Rom.
Macintosh compatibility was removed by Greens by accident. Until 2004, SLT compatibility in OS9 or Classic could be replaced with the Top 1000 US Supreme Courts Reports CD-Rom which contains Folio 3 software for OS9 ($30); then Greens altered their software for the worse a second time to break this. It now needs Virtual PC with at least Windows 95. But given their pricing policy who cares? The point of the SLT CD-Rom is the historical database, not its updating which is almost valueless, so a 2003 one is good enough.

2. Westlaw
Reportedly does not work on Panther with Internet Explorer, but usually no problems with Safari other than that the "Copy with Reference" feature does not work; it may work on other browsers. It has however on occasion refused to accept a log-in. If any problem, try uninstalling or disabling Asian fonts (these are a cause of several problems). I find it works well in Firefox (although search strings coming to this site suggest there are some problems here); or the Westlaw text-only site. Pop-ups for uk.westlaw.com need to be allowed; see 6. Justis above.

Advocates group subscription organised by Vinit Khurana.

8. Butterworths products

This silly message sometimes appears, but is inaccurate; - just click OK.
Until recently, no problems were known other than that the "Copy with Cite" feature might not work. Poor implementation of Javascript now has the effect that some documents may not display. The cure for this seems to be to instruct your browser to represent itself as Windows Internet Explorer 6. Using Safari, this can be done by implementing the 'Debug' menu (with Safari Enhancer or the excellent Onyx utility) and choosing 'Windows MSIE 6' as User Agent as in this snapshot. In other browsers this can usually be done via the preferences.

2. All England CD-Rom.
This (advocates group subscription organised by Vinit Khurana) needs Virtual PC with at least Windows 98. Now that Justis is available free, its main value is that the entire CD can be put on hard disk.

9. Data Protection Seventh Principle.

This requires a reasonable degree of security for electronic personal data. As a starting minimum precaution, on OS X, use the Accounts panel in System Preferences to create user account and a password; disable automatic log-in in Log-in options; and in the Security panel check 'Require password to wake this computer from sleep or a screensaver'. This level of password protection, however, does not protect files against being opened from another CPU (for example, using Target mode with a firewire cable). Consider using Filevault, also in the Security panel; this encrypts your entire Home directory. Using encrypted disk images for confidential files is probably the most convenient security; this page for explanation.

10. Microsoft Word and Excel documents.

Users of Microsoft Word have, considered as a class, little idea that this is software which not everybody uses or can read. And why should they? It costs a fortune compared to any comparable word processing software and has no significant advantage other than tracking the date and authorship of changes to a document- a dangerous security flaw as much as a useful feature. Other word processors are more secure, but non-users need to be able to read documents produced with Word for Windows and to produce documents Word users can open.

1. Users of Microsoft Office for Mac, whether 2001, X, or 2004.
No incompatibility with Word and Excel on Windows; if saving a document to send to a Windows user, include the file extension.

2. Non-users of Microsoft Office:
Word. Word's standard file format, .doc, is proprietary to Microsoft. In Panther and Tiger, this will open in TextEdit, but without showing tracked changes or the numbering of footnotes. For non-users of Panther/Tiger, a work-around is to configure .doc documents (via Get Info) to open in AppleWorks which is included with the iBook, eMac, and iMac. Pages, the word processor in iWork, will also import and export Word documents. WordPerfect for OS 9, (now free), RagTime Solo, Tex-Edit, and other word processors may need MacLink (supplied with AppleWorks). The best alternative to Word on OS X is probably either Mariner Write or Nisus Writer Express, neither of which require MacLink (I haven't tried Pages). The principal limitation on opening .doc documents in another word processor is that tracked changes are not shown. If this matters, Word or Office X or Office 2004 for OS X or Office 2001 for OS 9 is required.

Practically any word processor, including Word, will save, and can open, documents in .rtf format. This, or pdf (via the print dialog, see this page) is the preferable format in which to send word processed documents.

(b) Excel. Again, the standard file format, .xls, is proprietary. Excel spreadsheets will open in AppleWorks with MacLink. An alternative is Mariner Calc.

This page is written for advocates, but students and parents should note the better/cheaper educational edition of Office 2004, c.ú100 at Amazon or John Lewis (upgradeable).

Incidentally, the reason why Faculty circulars such as the weekly memo are sent as Microsoft Word attachments (.doc rather than the more compatible .rtf) is that the Faculty bulk e-mail program was written many years ago to permit only messages of up to 160 characters. Primitive!

11. E-mail.

The Mail application in OS X is excellent and only needs an e-mail address/ISP; so also Outlook Express for OS9 and Entourage, which comes as part of Microsoft Office (Entourage help page here). As an ISP, I can recommend the MacUnlimited free service, which has dedicated Mac support, webmail, unlimited free addresses, and is compatible with .mac. It doesn't attract a lot of spam. Advocates.org.uk e-mail is equally useable on Macs and PCs: but if you read Faculty policy on its use, you will be unhappy with its limitations (written by a West End firm, not internally; e.g. the sending of birthday cards is not allowed!), and should arrange to have advocates.org e-mail automatically forwarded to another e-mail address; IT department will arrange this on request.

If you use e-mail to send documents you don't want altered (or you don't want your own alterations to be readable), OSX includes a free pdf creator: no need to buy Adobe Acrobat: just save as .pdf in the Print dialog and then send that file.

12. XDAs.

These obviously work as standalones (and the new XDA II is an enormous improvement), but software is available to sync contact details, diary/calendar, and other files with a Mac from PocketMac (OS 9 or OSX) or MissingSync. If using PocketMac to sync Entourage contacts or calendar, duplicate or back them up first; some users have reported that they are deleted on the first sync.

13. Electronic diaries, when they happen.

There should be no problem, at least using OSX. Meridian Law tells me that their diary system, which is generally regarded as the leading brand and is likely to be that adopted by Faculty Services, will allow Macintosh access using Remote Desktop Connection Client (which is free). There was no access problem from the former internal diary project.

14. Back-up

Most easily done with .mac. BackUp will backup selected files and folders to iDisk, on Apple's servers, on a daily automatic schedule. Using Panther, it isn't even necessary to do this; iDisk is copied to the hard disk and synchronises automatically whenever connected to the internet. To clone an entire hard disk so that an exact copy is preserved, use freeware Carbon Copy Cloner; particularly useful to copy the contents of a disk to an iPod or a new laptop.

15. Faxing and telephoning to and from computer

1. Using a Mac as a telephone.
There are a number of pieces of free software which enable this. The best is generally thought to be
Skype, fully described in JLSS December 2004 (the screenshots in the printed edition are OSX), which enables free computer-computer conferencing and also dirt-cheap international calls to land line telephones.

2. Using a Mac as a free fax machine.
Faxes can be received by email using the free
eFax service. This provides a personal national-rate (no rent) telephone number to which faxes are sent; these are then e-mailed to you as attachments which can be printed or turned into pdfs. The only commitment is to receive at least one fax a month. The service seems to have no drawbacks. Everyone should have it.

On Panther faxes can be sent using the Print dialog.

16. Virus protection

Viruses which could affect Macintosh users directly are practically unknown, but it is a condition of joining the Faculty network that anti-virus software be installed because it is possible for Macs to transmit viruses between PCs (particularly by macros in Word files) . Virex comes as part of the .mac package. In reality, even without anti-virus software, the chance of infecting other people's PCs is minimal; PC viruses rely on Windows security flaws.

17. Help

For further help, try searching the Apple online support for Panther; Apple discussions section; or Macintouch. The MacAttorney Newsletter is a useful free e-mail newsletter describing developments in legal software for Mac. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to the editor with the subject: "subscribe".

18. Other queries or suggestions.

Ask me; if they are of general interest I may post them here.

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