New gripes, old gripes . . .
by MARTIN DEAN
I've been discovered! While I thought I was cleverly hiding my e-mail address at the bottom of this column, 30 to 50 of you each month have found it, and are actually sending me gripe mail on a regular basis. Now it's time to respond -- about this column -- and other legal technology outrages that I've discovered.
"Why don't you write about Macintosh products," says one disgruntled reader. Well, it's like this: our office, in fact, does cross-dress. We use both Macintosh and PC platforms in our office and even have them on the same network. But because I don't do software reviews (see scathing comments below), I don't talk about the Mac much because there is not much to say. Sure it's a fine machine, value for money, easy operating system. But NO one is developing new law office products for that platform. No legal publisher that I can find is putting new products on the Mac and no application developer has released a new legal product for the Mac in more than a year. So what's to write about?
Gripe #2: "Where were you last month?" I just plain missed the deadline, folks. Newspapers and courts just don't wait for duffers like me who are preoccupied with new product development, giving final exams, or are just plain too disorganized to meet a monthly publication deadline.
Gripe #3: "What do you mean 12:55 p.m.!!!" So you do read my column -- and carefully. My December column was written to help you determine whether your computer would freak out on Jan. 1, 2000. I suggested that you set your computer clock to Dec. 31, 1999, at (what was supposed to be) 11:55 p.m. and wait a few minutes to see what happened when the year changed to 2000. Some folks get 2000, others 1900, others 1980. (All our Mac tests seemed to work just fine). But we did print the wrong time to start. Try it again set at 11:55 p.m.
Gripes in general: Some of the reasons I don't review products were clearly pointed out in last month's Bar Journal two technology columns. My pal Dana Shultz misled us all when he recommended Norton Utilities for Windows 95. Sure, version 1.0 worked like a charm, and was even useful to a point. But Norton Utilities 2.0 for Windows is, in my opinion, a disaster. It slowed the operation of my test machine by more than 50 percent, and then trashed the system registry when I tried to uninstall it. Which version did Dana Shultz review? Moral: always make sure that you learn the version number of a recommended product.
Speaking of "recommend," in the same issue, always reliable Alan Alberts recommended a Proxima projector for group computer demonstrations. What he didn't say was whether this machine costs three times what another perfectly adequate machine would have cost, or whether it weighed 50 pounds more than a competitive product. So my gripe is that I didn't learn whether machine A is better than B, C and D, and why! Moral: If you want to help me to choose better law office technology, give me information, not conclusions!
In the last six months, I've been quietly doing some good gripe management for lots of you by acting as your technology advocate with recalcitrant manufacturers and legal publishers. You've been contacting me to help you get answers or to solve problems caused by software or hardware that you can't seem to get fixed. I've called and written some manufacturers on your behalf and have had good to excellent results.
Because of those successes, I've decided to offer gripe management now to the rest of you. If you've got a problem with a manufacturer or publisher of law office products, send me e-mail (at the cleverly hidden address below). I'll contact them and use my wiles and clever technical jargon to help you solve them. Then I'll write about both our successes and our failures here to let other readers know where the quicksand is.
Right now we've got open files on the Hewlett Packard Colorado tape drives, and Norton Utilities for Windows Version 2.0.
Let's hear from you!