Law Office Computing
Let the String Remain Unbroken
Over the years I have had so many truly awful experiences with US West (many of which have been recounted here) that I was really pleased to report positively on the US West eBackup utility last month. But I spoke too soon. No longer than it took for the article to make the presses, the US West folks were up to their old tricks. I got a nasty email from their cybercop who told me in no uncertain terms that I was backing up too much data and in the wrong form. What she was doing snooping around in my backup files was not explained. In all events, there were no such limits posted on the Website but I gave up and canceled the service knowing that fighting the US West monopoly is hopeless. I take it all backóif you really want to back up your whole hard drive forget US Worst and stick with Norton Ghost. It will be cheaper in the long run and the folks at Norton do not have cypercops. I canít wait for competition in the local phone market!
Windows 2000 Professional
Speaking of monopolies, it's taken me months to finally get Windows 2000 up and running. It has in fact been excruciatingly painful and extraordinarily expensive. Obviously, Microsoft pushed this product to market before it was really ready for primetime. Itís not vaporware but it is full of empty holes and pitfalls. The basic product is extraordinarily good. The problem is the inability of Windows 2000 Professional to connect up with existing peripheral products such as scanners and printers. Since some computers are now shipping with Windows 2000 installed you need to be aware. Win2K is not an upgrade to Windows 98. It is instead an upgrade to the industrial strength Windows NT and as such requires some special skill to use. There are also some minor software problems that need attention. The bottom line is that Windows 2000 professional can be a solid and effective desktop system only if you are prepared to start from scratch and purchase only those peripherals that will actually work with the operating system. Even then it is sometimes difficult obtain the information needed to install the peripherals. For example, my new Hewlett-Packard 930C printer was advertised as Win2K compatible but it did not come with Windows 2000 drivers and I had go on a scavenger hunt on the Hewlett-Packard web site in order to find them. In fact, they were not easy to find nor were they easy to download and use. It took me the better part of an hour to get the printer installed to a USB port whereas installing the same printer in Windows 98 takes only a few minutes. I had similar problems with my new Hewlett-Packard 5300C scanner, which also was advertised as Windows 2000 compliant. Again, I had to visit the Hewlett-Packard web site in order to get the basic information and drivers that I needed. I was sad that my old friend HP was pushing the edge of the ethical envelop by claiming that the machine I bought was Win2K compliant. For many consumers the lack of an easy install program in the box will be a nightmare.
So whose fault is that? Is it the fault of Microsoft pushing the Windows 2000 operating system into the marketplace faster than they should have? Or is it the fault of companies like Hewlett-Packard and Visioneer? When I called Visioneer to find out why they didn't have drivers for Windows 2000 they told me they were working on it and would have them posted on their web site in a matter of weeks. That never happened and months went by before I decided that the only sensible thing to do was to replace my year old Visioneer scanner with the Hewlett-Packard scanner that purported to be Windows 2000 compliant. Clearly, Visioneer has the responsibility to build the drivers necessary to make its products work with the operating system de jour and their failure to do so is inexcusable. While I understand that the scanner market is very competitive and margins extraordinarily thin, Visioneer must believe that their scanners are not used in the business world in which Windows 2000 is most likely to exist. I think it is a serious default on Visioneer's part to refuse the relatively simple request that others and I have made. I recently read a listserv post from a tech support person at a large firm. Only a year ago they had purchased 200 Visioneer portable scanners that they could no longer use because Visioneer refuse to build a driver for them. I fault Visioneer on this one and not Microsoft.
The situation with Hewlett-Packard is in many ways even worse although they have written drivers for most of their products and posted them on their web site. But they have not written Windows 2000 drivers for all of their existing products, including the color printer that I had been using and a lot of their other products that were current only a few months ago. Because you expect that Hewlett-Packard products are going to be compatible with any version of Windows you may be misled when you purchase Hewlett-Packard products assuming that to be the case. It is very important that you go to the web site to determine whether or not the product to you are considering purchasing is compatible with Windows 2000. Microsoft has a long list of peripherals listed on its web site along with the notation of which of the various Microsoft operating systems are compatible. The bottom line is if you are considering the purchase of any computer peripheral device such is the scanner, printer or USB devices such as microphones, speakers, PDAs and other things you need to check carefully about their compatibility with Windows 2000 if you are even considering the possibility of migrating to that operating system in the coming year. For example, my Palm Pilot refused to work until purchased the DataViz Desktop to go software designed explicitly for Windows 2000. The DataViz Desktop is a huge improvement over the Palm Desktop so the purchase was not in vain, but even so Microsoft ought to make sure that its software works with one of the most popular devices ever made.
There is some good news and some really great news, however. The scanner and printer that I purchased have some truly useful and wonderful features that I note below. My voice recognition software program seems to work much better in Windows 2000 then it did in Windows 98. Although I am using the WordPerfect Law Office 2000 version of Naturally Speaking it appears to be completely compatible with the basic Microsoft products that I use on a regular basis. I am able to dictate directly into the Microsoft Office 2000 versions of Word, PowerPoint, FrontPage, Access and Outlook. In addition, to what appears to be greatly improved basic processing, Windows 2000 Professional is very stable. It almost never crashes and even when it does it has the ability to recover in most cases without rebooting. Now that I have it working, I love it!!
The Really Great News
The HP PrecisionScan software that came with my HP ScanJet 5200C is incredibly useful. I can scan directly into Microsoft PowerPoint, Word 2000, as well as my imaging software and Outlook. When scanning into an Outlook mail message the software creates a PDF file as an attachment. This obviates some of the security problems that exist when sending attachments in Word and other applications that may utilize executable files that support viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other things that go bump in the night. The other function that I like very much is the ability to select just a selected part of the page to scan. This feature makes it easy to build effective trial exhibits in PowerPoint. The software will also scan directly into my imaging software and to PaperPort. At the end of the day, is the best little scanning package I have seen.
The Hewlett-Packard 930C printer produces very high quality, almost photo-like, color prints. It also acts as a color copying machine. The black and white printing is of extremely high quality and certainly usable in the office context. It is a great little printer at a very reasonable price. I am glad I had to buy it because the color quality is so very high. It is small and could easily be carried into court in the event you want to make hard copies of electronic exhibits.
So I guess I got a lot of good with all of the hassles Iíve gone through in the last few months. But before you decide to roll out Windows 2000 in place of old unreliable 9x, I would suggest that you set up a single machine or a dual boot on a separate hard drive just as I did. That way when you run into problems you will not be left high and dry. Above all, do not replace Windows 9x until you are absolutely confident that you have Windows 2000 running correctly with all of your applications and peripherals. We will be installing the Win2K server package in the Law Office of the Future this summer and I will report to you on that in the fall. I hope I will see you at the Convention!