29 December 2012

Firearms take 2

The Sydney Morning Herald published a piece today on how143,473 Australians died in 2010.

By my count, the number of Australians who died in 2010 by assault with a firearm was... 30. I assume that that did not include deaths in combat (I think there were four), but you might recall my recent blog post on deaths or wounding in the USA.

Terrorism in the USA: On 11 September 2001 a number of aircraft were flown by al-Qaeda hijackers into buildings in New York. About 3,000 people were killed in this atrocity.
Shootings in the USA: Each year nearly 100,000 people are wounded or killed by gunfire in America"
Motor vehicle accidents in the USA:In 2005 the number of people who died in motor vehicle accidents in the USA was 43,510. As of 2009 that was down to 34,000.
 Now, we're not comparing fairly here, since the USA number including wounding, which the Australian figure does not. So, let's say that 80% were only woundings. That leaves 20,000 deaths by firearms in the USA.

Population of the USA: 311 million
Population of Australia: 20 million.

If my arithmetic serves me correctly, per 100,000 of population, that's 0.2 for Australia, and 6.4 for the USA - 32 times more for the US.

USA, you need to change your laws in relation to firearms.

28 December 2012

Book prices in different markets...

One of the advantages of subscribing to a VPN service such as Witopia is that you can see things that are hidden from you. Here's an example:
  On the Google Play Bookstore this book is USD$18.99 when my VPN makes me look like I'm in the USA, and and it's AUD$21.98 (USD$22.80 at the time of writing) when I'm "in" Sydney. Electronic download only, yet it's nearly AUD$4 more expensive to download in Australia. I'd like to hear the explanation for that!

20 December 2012

Dropbox v Cubby

Logmein has released Cubby, a cloud and distributed file storage and sharing product.

I've been a beta tester of Cubby for quite some time, and for most of that time I saw no particular benefits over Dropbox. After a few days use of the production version I can summarise my thoughts quite quickly.
  • Cubby and Dropbox are extremely similar, but there are two key advantages to Cubby...
  • Cubby offers peer to peer synchronisation, much like Windows Live Mesh does/did (it's closing soon). That means that two separate PCs/Macs can synchronise the contents of folders without storing the files anywhere online. That can reduce costs and provide a bit more privacy.
  • Material in Cubby can, by default, be accessed by Cubby personnel (but they promise not to unless they have to). However, unlike Dropbox, you can turn on encryption on a folder-by-folder basis so that even Cubby can't get to your documents.  You might infer that law enforcement authorities can't either, but there is a growing body of law in Australia and the USA that suggests that a court can order you to give up passwords.
Like Dropbox, Cubby has iOS, Android, OS X and Windows clients.

So, it's a bit better than Dropbox, but I won't be switching over to it for one huge reason - at the moment you can't edit documents on a mobile device and have the edits synchronise back to your other machines. When that is sorted and more mobile apps can interact with Cubby I will take another look.

© 2012 Andrew Calvin, Sydney

17 December 2012

The Killing of the United States of America

On 14 December 2012 a young man in Connecticut, USA, killed 26 people. He shot them with a legally purchased and owned AR-15, which is very similar to the M-16 used by armies all over the world.

I did a quick search on the internet and found a legal USA web site that sold not only many models of AR-15, but also 50 round drum magazines to suit them. This is obviously more than the 30 round magazines we used in the Australian Army in the 1980's.

In full automatic mode that 30 round magazine lasted probably less than 5 seconds. That's probably a good thing if someone is firing back at you at the same time. Those rounds probably also cost AUD$1 each, so it's an expensive activity. The AR-15 is sold in semi-automatic mode only, but it is easily converted to full automatic (I guess it's similar to the F1A1 SLR that could be converted to full auto with a matchstick).

On the other hand, if you're shooting a deer then the right thing to do is hit it in the heart and lungs and kill it with the first shot. Anything else is just cruel.

So that leads me to ask why any civilian needs a magazine that takes more than, say, three rounds. If you're on a rifle range you don't even want that - a single-shot bolt action will give more accurate results. A fifty round magazine only has one use...

But let's deal with some numbers.

Terrorism in the USA
On 11 September 2001 a number of aircraft were flown by al-Qaeda hijackers into buildings in New York. About 3,000 people were killed in this atrocity.

Shootings in the USA
According to the Sydney Morning Herald,
"Each year nearly 100,000 people are wounded or killed by gunfire in America"
Motor vehicle accidents in the USA
According to USA Today
In 2005 the number of people who died in motor vehicle accidents in the USA was 43,510. As of 2009 that was down to 34,000.
The motor vehicle improvement is impressive. Perhaps some further re-prioritisation is in order.

14 December 2012

If you're going to sue someone, get it right


(NB for those of you who think I may have a prejudice, I have never voted for the Australian Labor Party).

In December 2012 the Federal Court handed down a decision in Ashby v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor (No 4) [2012] FCA 1411 (12 December 2012). It was interesting because of the notorious reputation of the parties - the respondent (the person who was sued) was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the applicant (the one doing the suing) was one of his staff members. Mr Ashby also sued the Commonwealth of Australia (the technically correct name of Australia), since the Speaker is an official of Australia and Mr Ashby was therefore actually employed by the Commonwealth.

The originating application was made pursuant to the Fair Work Act 2009, and was ultimately dismissed pursuant to r 26.01(1) of the Federal Court Rules 2011. That rule deals with abuse of process, and the Court ordered that Mr Ashby (the complainant) pay the costs of Mr Slipper (the former Speaker). This is an exceptional order in the Fair Work Act jurisdiction.

Mr Ashby started working for Mr Slipper on 22 December 2011. Mr Slipper had been Speaker for about a month and his party (the Queeensland Liberal National Party) had "dumped" him. He was therefore an independent.

On 20 April 2012 Mr Ashby sued Mr Slipper, making a number of allegations. Mr Slipper responded by applying to have the claim dismissed as an abuse of the process of the Court. This kind of application is very serious, because it means that the Court stops a court case in its tracks - the case is never heard. That sort of power needs to be used carefully, because even a weak case needs to have its day in court. However, an abusive case is a waste of the Court's time and the Court should be able to terminate it at an early stage.

The dramatis personae in this case were James Ashby (the applicant), Peter Slipper (the second respondent), the Commonwealth of Australia (the first respondent), Karen Doane (a staffer for Mr Slipper), the Hon Malcom Brough (a senator who wanted to move to the House of Representatives), Steve Lewis (a journalist at News Limted), Anthony McClellan (a media consultant), Peter Clyne (a barrister), and the solicitor for Mr Ashby Michael Harmer (well known in industrial relations legal circles and also for having a stoush with a former legal partner).

A proper analysis of this case would take quite some time, so we'll have a look at a few key points (with my emphases):

"5. Mr Slipper also argued that the proceeding should be characterised as an abuse of the process of the Court because it was commenced and prosecuted in a manner that was seriously and unfairly burdensome, prejudicial and damaging to him, or productive of serious and unjustified harassment. He argued that the proceedings were commenced and prosecuted in a manner that brought the administration of justice into disrepute, based on those vexatious and oppressive features together with the allegedly improper purpose of Mr Ashby and his confederates. He also contended that the process of the Court had been used as an instrument of a calculated and orchestrated political and public relations campaign with the object of harming him, aiding his political opponents and advancing the interests of Mr Ashby and Ms Doane."
Mr Ashby had, amongst other things,  made allegations known as the 2003  and Cabcharge allegations, which were later abandoned in the Statement of Claim, which was filed on 15 May 2012. Mr Slipper noted that no evidence of these allegations was filed, and the Court found that Mr Harmer had breached his professional obligation "not to misuse his privilege to make allegations under absolute privilege in Court documents." (para 190).

The Court came down pretty hard at this point:
"Mr Harmer knew that Mr Ashby had the right, if not the duty, to go to the police with any concerns he genuinely had about Mr Slipper’s use of Cabcharge vouchers. But, the pleading of Mr Ashby’s intention to do so had no legitimate forensic purpose. His inclusion of irrelevant assertion of Mr Ashby’s intention to go to the police in the originating application was an abuse of the process of the Court for the same reasons as was the submission of the barrister, Peter Clyne in open court that a solicitor, Mr Mann, had been guilty of professional misconduct."
"191. Here, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion, that I draw, namely that the inclusion in the originating application of the assertion that Mr Ashby intended to report the Cabcharge allegations to the police, offered him and Mr Harmer the opportunity to make a more serious public attack on Mr Slipper than would have been the case merely by making the balance of the Cabcharge allegations. That attack, in the form it was made, was a misuse of Mr Harmer’s privilege as a lawyer. The use of the Court’s process to make that attack in that form was an abuse of process."
I can't put it any better than the Federal Court:
"For the reasons above, I am satisfied that these proceedings are an abuse of the process of the Court. The originating application was used by Mr Ashby for the predominant purpose of causing significant public, reputational and political damage to Mr Slipper. It contained the scandalous and irrelevant 2003 allegations and assertion that Mr Ashby intended to report to the police Cabcharge allegations. To allow these proceedings to remain in the Court would bring the administration of justice into disrepute among right-thinking people and would be manifestly unfair to Mr Slipper:.. Even though Mr Ashby has now abandoned the 2003 and all the Cabcharge allegations, the features that I have criticised did the harm to Mr Slipper that Mr Ashby and Mr Harmer intended when those allegations were included in the originating application. A party cannot be allowed to misuse the Court’s process by including scandalous, irrelevant or damaging allegations knowing that they would receive very significant media coverage and then seek to regularise his, her or its pleading by subsequently abandoning those claims."
A lot of comments could be made about these portions of the judgement, but a lesson from this case is that one should only plead allegations that are intended to be made, intended to be pursued at trial, and are supported by evidence.

13 December 2012

Google Maps is now available for iPhone

Google maps is available in the App Store again. In Sydney (where I've tested it) it has turn by turn directions, the original level of detail of Google maps, and the GUI has been designed for easy use in a car cradle. I'd say it's better than the version on my Nexus 4!

12 December 2012

New mobile phone deal

I don't normally like talking about mobile phone plans because they are poorly marketed in Australia.

I personally use TPG - their $18/month plan works well for me, and I also have 2 of their $1/month SIMs for my iPads. I rarely pay more than $1/month, and when I do I'm ok about it.  The plan is run over Optus's 3G network.

Kogan has just released a package based on Telstra's 3G 850 MHz network. It seems to be quite specific to that frequency, so if you're interested make sure your phone works with that frequency.

For $299/year you get unlimited Australian calls, sms, mms and 6GB of data per month. Not bad.

09 December 2012

Stupid activities in the name of money

Fools at 2DAY FM

You may have heard that recently two presenters on 2DAY FM telephoned a hospital in England and asked for personal medical information about one of its patients, while on-air.

The phone was answered by a staff member who transferred the call to the ward where the personal information was given out. The nurse who answered the phone, Jacintha Saldanha, subsequently committed suicide.

Prior to the not entirely unpredictable terrible outcome, the radio station and staff thought it was funny and a harmless prank. There was no malice, and there was no intent to injure, but this is a classic case where "prank calls" have not been thought through, regardless of the outcome.

Let's break down what occurred:

Trivialising the nature of the illness

The patient was a member of the British royal family. Apparently the radio station thought it was harmless because the Duchess of Cambridge's illness was morning sickness. This trivialises the fact that she needed to be hospitalised - no-one wants to be in hospital or have someone in their hospital who is not sick. Was the illness "funny" because it was a woman's illness? Would the radio station have called Prince Charles if he had prostate cancer? Why is an illness that was sufficient to hospitalise an adult woman considered funny?

Breach of the Privacy Act 1988

In Australia the activities of the presenters would have placed the hospital and its staff members in clear breach of the Privacy Act 1988. The Act deals with "health information" specifically, and does not differentiate between HIVAIDS and a broken toe.

Health information, as defined by the Privacy Act, is "sensitive information", a category that includes criminal history, sexual preference, genetic information, and racial or ethnic origin. It is particularly protected.

Work Health and Safety Laws

Notwithstanding the nurse's death, there are Work Health and Safety laws at issue here - the woman could have been injured as a result through depression, being ostracised, damage to her career prospects (this may well have affected her hiring prospects in the future), the derision of colleagues or acquaintances  or more. She didn't get paid to suffer these things.

Confidential information

The common law in both Australia and the United Kingdom protects the disclosure of information that is imparted in a confidential context. Again, 2DAY has opened innocent staff up to an action for breach.

Penalties for the conduct

Disclosure of information in breach of the Act renders the discloser - in this case the nurse and her employer would have been if they were in Australia or the patient was an Australian citizen - liable for a penalty of up to 1 year imprisonment or 60 penalty units (a substantial fine). No-one goes to work expecting some person who, for the sake of advertising, dupes them by false pretences (they falsely pretended to be persons they were not) into disclosing "sensitive information". Was that actually funny? Would you like someone to do that to you at work? Your job and your livelihood are potentially put in jeopardy  by someone trying to make money by selling advertising.

Message to 2DAY

2DAY makes money by selling advertising. To maximise the income, it needs to maintain or increase the number of listeners. To maximise the number of listeners it has created a situation where innocent health workers have been put in potential or actual breach of laws, creating sadness and hurt in the workplace (without even taking into account the tragic death). Perhaps prior to the next prank call 2DAY's staff should consider the sad moments in their own working lives and how others have created or contributed to those moments.

29 November 2012

The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 passed today

The Privacy Amendment (Enhancing Privacy Protection) Bill 2012 passed today.

This substantially amends the Australian Privacy Act 1988. This is a big deal for Australian businesses. If you collect personal information (including surveillance video) and/or engage in direct marketing of any sort, you will need to understand your obligations (obviously I would be happy to do so for a fee). 

There will be work for businesses to do. A few high points:
  • You will need to disclose more information at the time of collection of personal information
  • It will be prudent to collect, at the time of collection, audit data about when, why, who collected the data. 
  • I suspect a lot of (if not all) IT systems used for collection and storage will require changes to allow storage of the “audit data” and perhaps other information
  • Changes to under 18s data collection
  • All privacy policies will need to be redrafted since the National Privacy Principles are to become the Australian Privacy Principles, and there are substantial changes.

Short explanation is available at http://www.oaic.gov.au/news/media_releases/media_release_121129_privacy_changes.html

© 2012 Andrew Calvin, Sydney

23 November 2012

Nexus 4 - Four days on...

Four days on and I still like Android 4.2 and the Nexus 4, except...

Bad news

1. On day 2 I picked it up to use it and the screen  was flickering very quickly and had a washed out overbright look to it. It stayed that way through several reboots, but resolved itself eventually. It hasn't recurred (yet).

2. Today I picked it up and went to use it but pressing the power/wake button did nothing. I held it down for 15 seconds - nothing.  I used my office phone to call the Nexus and ...

  • it started vibrating like it should, but 
  • the screen stayed black, 
  • there was no ringtone (I know it wasn't in silent mode - I had recently used it).  
  • after I hung up my office phone the Nexus kept vibrating like a call was coming in. 
It stayed vibrating for around 5 minutes until I held the power button down for about 45 seconds, when it finally rebooted.

Good news (sort of)

This handset has got to go...

Following the links on the email order confirmation from Google, I found a help site. After a bit of reading I found both a support form and an Australian 1800 phone number for support. I called the number and spoke to an American named James (we had a chat about Casey Stoner retiring from MotoGP) who agreed that the phone was classified as a DOA, organised the RMA and sent me a detailed email about the return process.

The return process seems very well organised - they will pick it up and at that point I can click a link which will start the shipping of the replacement. I have no assurance that they have a replacement Nexus 4 at the moment to actually send to me (the demand world-wide is very high at present) but I trust that they have held back enough to replace DOAs.

More to follow in due course...

20 November 2012

My Nexus 4 and my iPhone 4S

Nexus 4

I received my new 8GB Nexus 4 yesterday. It's one of the new series of Google-branded devices that sold out in hours when they were released in mid November 2012.

I'm quite new to Android - my first experience with it was 4.1, and this Nexus is 4.2. I've never used an Android phone before. I've been an Apple iPhone user since the iPhone 3, and have a 4S with iOS 6.01 as well.

This is a short review of my findings about the Nexus 4 after 24 hours...

Review summary

I really like it - more than I appreciate my iPhone 4S. I suspect the latter will be for sale on eBay shortly.

Physical design

It's bigger than an iPhone which means a bigger screen. It has on/off and volume buttons and is about 6mm thick.


This is the important bit, because phones are really just containers for the applications and operating system. Here are some bullet points about things I like that are at least the same or better than the iPhone. Bear in mind that I am a Google Apps user so the integration is great, just like it would be on a Windows Phone 8 if you were in the Hotmail camp, or iCloud in the Apple camp.

Here's a random download of my thoughts so far...
  • My home screen shows me my latest email, calendar and RTM to-do list. After using the Nexus 4, the iPhone seems dumb - you have to open an app just to check who you have mail from. (Actually, on the iPhone you can swipe down from the top, but it's not as good as having it on the home screen).
  • It's very easy to cache maps for offline use (great when travelling overseas)
  • They are Google maps
  • You get traffic information for free.
  • The turn-by-turn driving directions just seem better - I'll try to isolate why.
  • Directions can be public transport (shame on Apple), car, bicycle or foot.
  • It has StreetView.
  • You can tell it that some Wi-Fi access points are actually 3G/4G wireless hotspots so it won't don't do big downloads on them. eg You tell your phone it can only download music over Wi-Fi, but you have a 3G hotspot device like a MiFi. The phone would ordinarily think that it's now on Wi-Fi and start downloading like a mad thing, using up your bandwidth or creating extra charges. Instead, it can treat this hotspot like the phone's really on 3G.
  • The new "swipe" typing is very fast indeed. It can even predict the next word.
  • Wider screen is nice
  • It has all the applications I had on iPhone.
  • Screen resolution is as good as the 4S/5.
  • Picked the settings up off my TPG SIM card more accurately than iPhone (I had to futz around with the APN on the iPhone)
  • Blogger App works really well (hence this blog entry...)
  • Google Now automatically presents useful personal information.
  • Can set your own warnings for data usage per month, starting on a billing day you choose, and turn off data automatically when you hit your limit.
  • System wide integration with Google Apps (for Business, in my case).
  • Recent notifications are available to access for quite some time after they arrive.
  • Notifications don't "take over" the interface like an iPhone. You can keep working.
  • You don't have to react to a notification straight away.
  • App switching from notifications is smoother and disrupts less by not shutting apps down.
  • Very small charger
  • Easily send your current location by email or SMS or other built in methods.
  • Widgets are great on the home screens. Eg quick dials,calendar, email, to-do
  • Google IM works well.
  • Nice integration with Skype throughout the OS 
  • $349 v $799 for an iPhone. Some of that is due to more RAM on the iPhone, but 8GB is plenty if you're not pretending it's a music player. I have a 160GB iPod for that.
  • Earphone music quality good
  • Speaker volume about the same as iPhone - maybe slightly less.
  • The Tracks app is a little like trailblazer pro, which is great for tracking what you've done during the day on holidays.
  • My old Blackberry Pearl flashed a red light when I had a message or other notification. I missed this a lot when I moved to the iPhone, because I had to periodically check it to see if I had an email, SMS or other notification. But it's back on the Nexus 4! Actually it's a discreet white LED, but the same idea.
  • Auto brightness could be brighter but plenty bright on manual control, and you can also control brightness with widgets.
  • The widget experience is pretty good.

19 November 2012

Insider trading, without the inside knowledge...

Can you be convicted of the following, when the "information" is actually false? In other words, perhaps false information is not information at all, and therefore you can't be convicted of insider trading...
Trading in securities by persons who possess information that is not generally available and know, or ought reasonably to know, that, if the information were generally available, a reasonable person would expect it to have a material effect on the price or value of the securities.
The answer is "yes, you can be convicted of insider trading when the information is false."

This was established by the little known judgement handed down by the High Court of Australia on 14 November 2012 in Mansfield v The Queen, and Kizon v The Queen, [2012] HCA 49, 14 November 2012, P60/2011 & P61/2011

If the alleged conversations took place, each appellant possessed information about AdultShop that was information not generally available. Mr Day communicated knowledge about a subject (the expected profit and turnover of the company or a particular shareholding in the company) and what Mr Day communicated was not generally available. That the knowledge communicated was not true does not deny that it is "information". (HAYNE, CRENNAN, KIEFEL AND BELL JJ)
Valuable-seeming material may be true or false or partly true – which of these it is cannot be known until a time after it is acted on. But the legislation proceeds on the basis that "insiders" should not be allowed to use that material when it is not publicly available. A key element in the prohibition on insider trading is that which is indicated by the words in s 1002G(1)(a) – information which "a reasonable person would expect ... to have a material effect on the price or value of securities". "Untrue" information can have that effect as well as "true" information. As Buss JA said in the Court of Appeal, "untrue" information may influence people who acquire securities in deciding whether or not to acquire or dispose of them if the untruthfulness is unknown to them. Or if the untruthfulness is known to them, those people can use this knowledge in deciding whether or not to acquire or dispose of the securities.
The insider trading provisions, read as a whole, catch conduct by those who trade on the basis of untruths.

18 November 2012

Don't get caught - "International Catalogue of Trademarks"

A client recently sent me a document he had been sent by the so-called International Catalogue of Trademarks. 

It was in the form of an invoice, clearly based on a recently filed trade mark application with IP Australia, and asked him to pay AUD$1,850 for "registration costs" to an account in Hungary.

What is it?

It's a scam. The document is obviously created as a result of the scam operator monitoring the public trade mark application register. It promises a "listing in the TM-Edition 2012". If that exists (which I doubt), it will such a worthless "thing" (because it doesn't specify if it is paper or electronic) that it is a waste of time, much less money.

Don't do business with them.

13 November 2012

Obeying Court Orders

One of the first things I learned as a junior lawyer was that if a court makes an order, you obey it. It didn't matter if it was something as simple as directions for dates of filing documents - you simply obeyed the court's order.

  1. Because the court said so - that is one of the foundations of a civil society.
  2. Because as a lawyer who complies with orders you gain credibility with the court, and when the day comes that you need a judge to take you at your word as an officer of the court, you need to be able to be trusted.
In Samsung Electronics (UK) Limited v Apple Inc [2012] EWCA Civ 1430 (UK Court of Appeal, 9 Nov 2012)  the court dealt with non-compliance, and made a number of orders against Apple, as well as some unpleasant observations.

What happened? The court had previously ordered Apple to:

- place a specified notice on its web site within 7 days; and
- place specified advertisements in specified newspapers and magazines within 7 days or in the earliest available issue.

Apple Inc was represented in the proceedings by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Samsung by Simmons & Simmons.

The text of the notice was specified in an Order of the court. Apple acted in what can only be described as a childish and petulant manner and failed to comply with the order. Let's have a look at the behaviour of Apple and the comments of Sir Robin Jacob (with unanimous agreement from Kitchin LJ and Longmore LJ) in the Court of Appeal...

A. Apple chose not to place the advertisements in the first available issue. It acted in such a way as to ignore the court's order, replacing it with a decision of a marketing and comms person, and "coordinate" the advertisements.

B. Apple simply failed to post the court-ordered notice. It placed words of the notice together with its own text interspersed. That was not compliance with the order.

C. Apple's actual text was even more invidious, in that it made misleading and deceptive statements - in relation to litigation, registered designs and patents. At its best, it can only be said that it must have been drafted by someone who knew nothing whatsoever about the court case. The court said "the matter added was indeed false." However, I may be too charitable about the author's intentions. The court said that it revealed "a fundamental misconception" about what the case was about.

D. The Apple statement referred to patent litigation. 'No patent of any kind has been involved in Germany or here, still less "the same patent."'

E. The Apple statement referred to a design judgement which had already been revoked.

F. The Apple statement made derogatory imputations about the British legal system, which were built upon by sites such as The Register.

G. Apple claimed it would take 14 days to put the notice on its home page "for technical reasons." However, when asked to put on an affidavit as to why it would take 14 days, Apple's claim mysteriously disappeared. The court said "I hope that the lack of integrity involved in this incident is entirely atypical of Apple."

It also ordered indemnity costs against Apple. Indemnity costs are not often awarded - in Australia (similar to the UK) some of the bases for indemnity costs are: hopeless cases, fraud and misconduct, unreasonable conduct or "relevant delinquency", and abuse of process (Judicial Commission of NSW).

A few quotes from the lead judgement:

"I do consider that adding false and misleading material was illegitimate. "

"The false innuendo is that the UK court came to a different conclusion about copying, which is not true for the UK court did not form any view about copying. There is a further false innuendo that the UK court's decision is at odds with decisions in other countries whereas that is simply not true."

"The reality is that wherever Apple has sued on this registered design or its counterpart, it has ultimately failed. It may or may not have other intellectual property rights which are infringed. Indeed the same may be true the other way round for in some countries Samsung are suing Apple. But none of that has got anything to do with the registered design asserted by Apple in Europe. Apple's additions to the ordered notice clearly muddied the water and the message obviously intended to be conveyed by it."

"Finally I should mention the time for compliance. Mr Beloff [Apple's senior counsel], on instructions (presumably given with the authority of Apple) told us that "for technical reasons" Apple needed fourteen days to comply. I found that very disturbing: that it was beyond the technical abilities of Apple to make the minor changes required to own website in less time beggared belief. In end we gave it 48 hours which in itself I consider generous. We said the time could be extended by an application supported by an affidavit from a senior executive explaining the reasons why more was needed. In the event no such application was made. I hope that the lack of integrity involved in this incident is entirely atypical of Apple."

One matter that wasn't dealt with by the court was that many publications have stated that Apple had also posted the notice with scripting elements that caused it to be forced well below the normal readable part of the page, regardless of how tall the user's screen was.

The problem is - is the lack of integrity displayed actually atypical of Apple, or does it think it can treat court orders (and perhaps your data) contemptuously? If it doesn't obey court orders, why would it obey laws that require it to keep your data confidential, or look after your privacy?

12 November 2012

Cyberspace December 2012

Cyberspace is published in the Journal of the Law Society of New South Wales, and online at http://blog.calvin.it

Online textbooks

As someone who’s been doing a bit of study lately, I’ve been buying books. There are advantages to paper books, such as being quick to open, easy to festoon with post-it notes and jottings, and can be read anywhere. However, as a Nexus 7 (Google Android tablet) and iPad owner I am interested in having books available electronically. I recently bought the Lonely Planet Guide for Singapore (in PDF format) from their website, and the CCH Australian Competition and Consumer Law 2011 from Google Play. But do they make sense?

Sadly the CCH book was a bit of a dud. Having 1,940 pages on a 7” tablet was pretty neat, but it cost around $65 and is just a scan of the pages of the book. The text has been made searchable, but you don’t have the ability  to resize the text (to fit more on a page, or make it bigger for the hard of eyesight), nor the other benefits of e-books such changing the font or making the screen white on black (easier on the eyes). Despite purchasing in September 2012, it was an old edition consolidated to 1 January 2011, had around 50 pages of commentary at the front, then just the Act, Regulations and associated legislation. Paying that sort of money for that content made a lot of sense when buying all that legislation in hard copy or printing it yourself was fairly expensive, but in the age of portable document readers it doesn’t really add up anymore. There are much cheaper ways of achieving the same result.

I returned to my former method of using legislation: download the PDFs from the government web sites (found using http://legify.com.au), put them into Dropbox (www.dropbox.com)  insert bookmarks and add markup using my PDF editor (Foxit, or Acrobat standard), all at no cost (assuming you have the software). GoodReader on the iPad is also great for marking up PDFs directly on the device.

Lessons learned

The lesson I learned (because this isn’t meant to be a dig at CCH, nor is it Apple v Android) is that electronic books vary a lot, and you need to watch out for certain characteristics of the book you’re buying. If you want all the benefits of an e-book, then you want flowing, resizeable text. If you want versatility, note that iBooks (Apple format) can’t be read on a PC or Mac, whereas PDFs and books on Google Play can appear on many device types. If you just want access on your PC then a PDF will be fine, but it may not display well on a tablet or phone. There are a number of ebook formats, and not all work on every device. The best advice is to download free books or sample titles and test them on your device. Just watch out for the other “gotchas” mentioned above. There are many eReaders available on Android and iOS platforms that suit both tablets and phones - you may need several depending on the books you acquire - and don’t forget the dedicated readers such as Kindle.

Are there Australian legal e-books out there? Yes, but it’s a select few, they’re hard to find, and a lot are superseded. Few of them actually make use of e-book features. One example, the CCH Australian Business Law by Paul Latimer (31st Ed 2012) has flowing text, and internal hyperlinks to help you move around the book. Not everything that could be hyperlinked is actually hyperlinked (eg cases or legislation) but that might be a product of the book’s intended readership. Checks on a number of other titles showed old editions, no flowing text, or general irrelevance. (My apologies to those excellent books out there that I didn’t find!)

LexisNexis has a few books available in eBook format, but they note (possibly to ensure that no law firm buys them) that an eBook cannot be moved from one device to another. On the other hand, a physical book is pretty easily shared.

© 2012 Andrew Calvin, Sydney, Australia

06 November 2012

Lawyers, open plan and offices

I've got an office now, and I'm excited. I didn't have one for the previous 4 1/2 years - instead, I was in an open plan organisation. We didn't have cubicles - we just had desks. Prior to that I had my own office for the previous 20 years of practise.

My conclusions here are based on time in an organisation with an AUD$7B market cap and an organisation with revenues/expenditure of about AUD$1.3B.

I didn't and don't like open plan:- personally, nor for lawyers, nor for anyone who has to think for a living.

Here are my observations about open plan for lawyers...


Open plan for lawyers is a mistake. Stop thinking about it right now.


Open plan probably made us less friendly, less collegiate and less disposed to spend quality non-work time together. I got sick of listening all day to people on the phone, people talking to people at desks, and seeing people around me. All I wanted to do was get away from them.


I thought I had really mastered the ability to tune out and not be affected by open plan. Now I'm out of that situation, I can clearly see that that was not the case - I had merely come to terms as best I could (and I think I was as good as if not better than most).

I write this blog piece having just spent the better part of two professional work days deep in very complex legislation, and I can see that I just could not have done that work in open plan - either to the level or quality or within the same time frame.

Break out rooms

These are terrible. You don't know whether a conversation at your desk is "breakout room-worthy" or not till part way through it. Then you interrupt the flow and say "let's go to a breakout room" but the closest ones are full. The conversation is damaged.

Going to a breakout room with managers or subordinates makes you look like you're going to trial. If you need to have a "chat" with a subordinate you can't nuance the meeting by waiting till they come to your office for another reason or are passing by. You've got to go and get them and drag them off to a breakout room or "for coffee."

Confidential phone calls

Yes, you can go to a breakout room to make a confidential call. This usually takes a few minutes extra because you have to marshall the documents you need, the phone number, a pen and pad. Of course, you won't have your computer with you in there, so you can't use it to take notes or look things up in the file shares or document management system. You probably won't have your entire paper file either.

But wait -  what if someone calls you on a confidential matter? Two choices - tell them to hang up and you'll call them back in five or so minutes (see previous paragraph), or try to do the extension-transfer-dance, but it will still take a few minutes (see previous paragraph).

Confidential meetings

These suffer from the same problem as phone calls, plus the added time and discontinuity of having to head off to a breakout room. As a bonus, everyone else gets to watch you in your glass-walled breakout room (it has to be glass walled, otherwise you'll be in a room with the equivalent ambience of a refrigerator crate).

Efficient use of space

I'm not sure of this, but I'm fairly confident that open plan does not use space any more efficiently than offices.

Human comfort

I have a small library of books that I need. I cost my employer a great deal. I spend a lot of time at work, and as a non-litigator these days I don't get the chance to get outside that much. I need space and comfort to deal with that. I like to talk to my colleagues without having to make what amounts to an appointment with a breakout room. I like a bit of personalisation of my environment, whether that be having music or the radio on sometimes, or a bit of artwork or Christmas lights.  All these things add up to a bit of comfort for someone who has a lot of responsibility, a long way to fall, and works long hours.

Open plan is anathema to lawyers. Don't do it.

22 October 2012

I WAS a bit interested until I read SpiderOak's illegal terms of service

I had been interested in SpiderOak's products until I read their FAQ, which breaches several parts of Australian law:
Help and Frequently Asked Questions/FAQ - SpiderOak.com: "As is stated in our Services Agreement (https://spideroak.com/services_agreement), SpiderOak is under no obligation to provide refunds of any kind on service. However, we do believe in standing behind our product and will evaluate specific requests on a case-by-case basis."
I've had a few questions about why this term is illegal in Australia.

The Australian Consumer Law is part of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The FAQ set out above breaches several sections of the Law.

Section 18 prohibits misleading and deceptive conduct, and the deception here is that there is "no obligation to provide refunds of any kind on service."

Section 29 prohibits making a false or misleading representation concerning the existence, exclusion or effect of any condition, warranty, guarantee, right or remedy (including a guarantee under Division 1 of Part 3-2).

Section 64 does not permit statutory warranties to be avoided. It states:

(1) A term of a contract (including a term that is not set out in the contract but is incorporated in the contract by another term of the contract) is void to the extent that the term purports to exclude, restrict or modify, or has the effect of excluding, restricting or modifying: 
    (a) the application of all or any of the provisions of this Division; or
    (b) the exercise of a right conferred by such a provision; or 
    (c) any liability of a person for a failure to comply with a guarantee that applies under this Division to a supply of goods or services.

14 October 2012

Copyright breach by Apple confirmed - you and I are liable

Copyright breach by Apple, Inc - you and I are liable

Apple, Inc recently released a Clock application for the iPad which used the design of the clock designed for the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB).

It appears that Apple failed to license the use of the clearly copyright (and perhaps trade marked) appearance of the clock. SBB has now forced Apple to enter into a licensing agreement and pay license fees for the use of the design.

The use of such a design without a licence is, all by itself, a breach of intellectual property law. However, there is a much bigger issue here - Apple has caused all its iPad customers using iOS 6 to also breach SBB's rights, and SBB has the right to take action against Apple's customers. This is clearly a case of what Australian law would term "authorisation" of infringement (which is the claim that the movie companies tried to run against iiNet).

Normally a supplier of software will indemnify its customers for any claims for breach of other's intellectual property rights. That is a fair apportionment of risk since the software company has complete control and knowledge of the risk.

The iOS 6 license agreement

Amusingly, clause 5 (f) of the iOS 6 licence agreement requires you and me to ensure that we are legally permitted to use any content we upload to any Apple services. I guess Apple doesn't think it is fair to have the same obligations that you and I have.

Clause 8 limits liability of Apple for any loss or damage you and I suffer arising out of use of the software. In other words, if SBB (or anyone else who is aggrieved by Apple's disregard of their intellectual property rights) sued you, Apple would say it is not liable to compensate you.

And the most important clause which exists in every software agreement I have read in the 26 years of legal practice - the indemnity by the software vendor for any breach of others' IP rights - it doesn't exist.

This is completely outrageous in a consumer software agreement - it would be good if someone could take action under s.23 of the Australian Consumer Law. That section provides that a term of a consumer contract is void if the term is unfair and the contract is a standard form contract. Clearly cl 8 of the iOS license agreement is unfair and capable of being declared void in Australia.

Why is clause 8 unfair?

Section 24 of the Australian Consumer Law provides that a term will be unfair if it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights, or is not reasonably necessary or it would cause detriment if relied upon.  Further, the term is simply not transparent (cl 24(2)) - if you read it you will see it is not expressed in reasonably plain language, is not legible (it's IN ALL CAPS), and is not presented clearly (IT REALLY IS IN ALL CAPS AND THAT MAKES IT HARD TO READ). Clause 8 offends several of the examples in s.25 of the Act.

Perhaps one day we'll see some kind of reasonable response from the Australian company Apple Pty Limited (ABN 46 002 510 054).

29 September 2012

Apple - A letter from Tim Cook on Maps


I guess removing Street View is, in Apple's view, an improvement. Apple Map's focus on useless frills like flyover and 3D  is a bit like having an Earthquate Alert App with skins, custom sounds, 3D maps, but doesn't actually warn you about an earthquake.

To our customers,

At Apple, we strive to make world-class products that deliver the best experience possible to our customers. With the launch of our new Maps last week, we fell short on this commitment. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and we are doing everything we can to make Maps better.

We launched Maps initially with the first version of iOS. As time progressed, we wanted to provide our customers with even better Maps including features such as turn-by-turn directions, voice integration, Flyover and vector-based maps. In order to do this, we had to create a new version of Maps from the ground up.

There are already more than 100 million iOS devices using the new Apple Maps, with more and more joining us every day. In just over a week, iOS users with the new Maps have already searched for nearly half a billion locations. The more our customers use our Maps the better it will get and we greatly appreciate all of the feedback we have received from you.

While we're improving Maps, you can try alternatives by downloading map apps from the App Store like Bing, MapQuest and Waze, or use Google or Nokia maps by going to their websites and creating an icon on your home screen to their web app.
Everything we do at Apple is aimed at making our products the best in the world. We know that you expect that from us, and we will keep working non-stop until Maps lives up to the same incredibly high standard.

Tim Cook
Apple's CEO

25 September 2012

Using your mobile phone overseas - getting more technical (part 2)

In Part 1 I discussed easy ways that anyone can manage to stay in contact overseas without too much expense, and only one software package on their smart phone or laptop - Skype. In fact, if you go to an internet cafe you may not even need your smart phone, as many have Skype installed.

These articles may sound like Skype advertisements, but I have no link to Skype at all - I am just recommending it because most people just want an answer that works.

Outgoing calls

If you run Skype on your smart phone you can ring any other Skype user. If you buy some call credit you can ring any telephone in the world (for 2-3 cents/minute) as well as other Skype users (free). You can use 3G or wifi, so judicious use of free or cheap wifi can make outgoing calls very easy. You can even make Skype calls from a normal phone. Note that I include using 3G (or other mobile phone technology such as 4G, LTE, and perhaps Edge - read on for details).

Incoming calls

A feature you might be strongly tempted by is having a permanent Australian phone number on which you can receive calls wherever you have Skype access. This means that you can be logged into Skype on a PC in Malaysia, or using Skype on your smart phone on 3G in France, and Skype will ring like a normal phone. The only caveat is that you need to be on the network (Ethernet, 3G or wifi on your phone) to receive the call, but even if you're not it will go to voicemail which you can pick up later. At the time of writing it costs €15 for 3 months for the phone number -  called an Online Phone Number.

Using wireless (3G, 4G, LTE, Edge)

What if you could carry wifi around with you? Normally you should just stick to using wifi for Skype calls. But, if you want to use wireless such as 3G, 4G, LTE, Edge and others to make (or receive) Skype or VoIP calls then you won't want to use your Australian SIM Card to do it (too expensive). So how can you do it cheaply?

Consider companies such as XcomGlobal (I've never used them, but the concept is right). For around AUD$15 per day you can  rent and carry around a little box that acts like a wifi access point, and it connects to the phone network for you over 3G. Your phone, tablet, computer etc, as well as those physically near you (who have the password) all connect to it just like a normal wifi point. Five devices can connect simultaneously. It's like your backback becomes a roaming wifi point.

Example: I have an iPhone, Nexus 7 tablet and a laptop.  I rent the MiFi and SIM card for France. When I arrive I put it in my bag and turn it on.  For $15/day I have unlimited mobile access for all three devices! For example, all up costs for 8 days of unlimited access is $164. However, you pay for days that you're not using it, such as flying days.

The downside to using wireless like this is that the MiFi has limited battery life, and wireless (as we all know) has patchy coverage, even in Australia. But, if you're in a good coverage area and can deal with battery issues then this is a cheap-ish solution for a few days.


Everything I've discussed regarding Skype can be done (and I do) using Voice over IP (VoIP). You can get an account with many providers, such as Engin, Spintel, Pennytel, CallCentric, MyNetFone (these aren't recommendations, just names). You then install a VoIP client like GroundWire or 3CX on your smart phone, tablet and computer and you get all the same benefits as Skype, and sometimes cheaper. Why didn't I mention this upfront? Because it's a little bit more complicated than Skype, and a lot of people already know something about Skype.


There are many ways to stay in contact cheaply while overseas. My recommendations will suit the average holiday maker in most countries, but if your needs are more particular then you will need to mix and match.

© 2012 Andrew Calvin andrew@calvin.it

20 September 2012

Using your mobile phone while travelling overseas (Part 1)


I am often asked how to cost-effectively use your mobile phone overseas. Here's my answer...

Think very carefully about your needs for your phone while travelling. Stop and think - right now.

Few people actually need a phone that works just like it does at home, even for business purposes. The only cheap method is the system I outline here -  everything else will be more expensive and/or will involve purchasing third party or foreign SIM cards with different phone numbers (often overseas mobile numbers, which will make it expensive for people at home to call you). If you do get a good value travel SIM card from an Australian provider like TravelSIM it will still be expensive.

The truth is that almost everybody doesn't need to be constantly connected or contactable. If you do need that, you simply will have to pay a serious premium when you're overseas.

Instead, try this:
Turn off data roaming


  • You have an Australian mobile phone account (pre-paid or post-paid) with international roaming activated.
  • You turn off roaming data - really important.
  • Your Australian carrier has roaming agreements with the carriers at your destinations.


Do you need to receive calls urgently? Probably not. You don't want to receive calls from someone just for a chat (not everyone will know you're overseas) - it costs you due to international diversion, and the call may be unimportant (I once received a telemarketing call in Frankfurt - it cost me $2 just to tell them to go away).

Optus Diversion
Get SkypeOut
A better option:- divert all calls to voicemail, and change your greeting to tell the caller you are overseas. Ask them, if it's urgent, to send you an SMS requesting you to call them back. You will get the SMS at little or no cost. Then you can return the call as set out below in "Outgoing".

Your voicemail message should be something like:
Hi, thanks for calling me. I'm overseas at the moment. You can hang up, or leave a message now which I will not receive until I return to Australia, or if you really need to talk to me urgently you should send me an SMS asking me to call, stating your name and phone number. I will call as soon as I am able.


Don't make calls using your normal mobile line. Instead, use SkypeOut when on wifi - 2.3 c/min to any phone anywhere in the world and it works great. Put $10 credit on your SkypeOut account and install Skype on all your devices. Top it up if you need to while you're travelling, but trust me - $10 on SkypeOut goes a long way! On the other hand, I once paid $20 just to check my voicemail from Germany. Ouch.

If it really can't wait until you get back to wifi, then send an SMS - it won't be cheap but it will be much cheaper than anything else.


Do you really need data over 3G while travelling? You probably don't. You can probably just use wifi in cafes, hotels, restaurants, McDonalds etc.

If you want to use data to get maps it will be cheaper to either:
  • buy a GPS app for the relevant countries (eg TomTom Europe for the iPhone); or
  • use Android - my Nexus 7 caches maps and is easier to use than OpenMaps (see below); or
  • use OpenMaps on your phone, after caching all the maps you need while on wifi. This is fiddly, but it works once you get the hang of it - I recently used this in Singapore.
If you really need 3G data then consider http://www.travelsim.net.au/. For example, data is $0.65 per MB (USD) in 33 European countries. This isn't cheap (65 cents to look at one page of the the Sydney Morning Herald), but it's about as good as it gets.

Using local SIM cards

This is possible and can be cheap - for example, I recall that the Woolworths (now called countdown) SIM card in New Zealand was pretty good. However, you end up with a new phone number and can't easily check for SMS on your real number (you have to play SIM-Swap), and calls back to Australia still won't be very cheap. Your friends and family won't thank you either, because they get to make an international mobile call.  Generally speaking I don't think this is a great option unless you are happy to forget about inbound calls and just use it for local data.

Don't forget to consider the size of SIM card you use. There are three types currently in use:

  1. Standard SIM -  the original big SIM
  2. Micro SIM - smaller than the Standard SIM and can be manufactured by simply cutting the Standard SIM. This size was more or less introduced with the iPhone 4.
  3. Nano SIM - introduced with the iPhone 5, and cannot be easily created from larger SIM cards.
If you want to use a local SIM you need to consider whether the local carrier provides a SIM that will fit in your phone. At the time of writing the Nano SIM was not widely available, but by January 2013 this should no longer be an issue.


  1. You ignore my advice and simply take your phone overseas: your buddy calls to organise a beer on Saturday night. It costs him $1.50 and you $1.50 just to say you can't make it. Worse still, he might ask about the trip - this call ends up costing you $10 or more.
  2. You take my advice: your buddy gets your voicemail telling him you're overseas. He forgets about drinks on Saturday night. It might have cost him 40 cents.
  3. You ignore my advice: you receive an SMS telling you there's a missed call. Then you get another one telling you there's a voicemail for you. You ring your voicemail and it's a message from a mate asking you to give him a call. You call him and he says "Do you want a beer on Saturday night?"... All for the cost of 2 x SMS, calling voicemail and calling your buddy. No actual benefit to anyone, and probably cost $10.
  4. You take my advice: your mother needs to get in touch. She rings your mobile and it goes to voicemail. She sends you an SMS asking you to ring. You ring back on SkypeOut. Cost: 1 x SMS and maybe 15 cents for SkypeOut.


Everyone has different needs, but I think these recommendations will suit most people. If not, try your own ideas.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 - Getting more technical.

© 2012 Andrew Calvin andrew@calvin.it

iOS 6 - Maps

Apple Maps overview
I've been using the iOS 6 beta for about 6 weeks, and the NDA no longer applies since the retail version has been released. Here's my take on maps because I'm a bit of a maps geek.

The worst part? Apple Maps. Apple Maps are terrible. I forgave them during the beta, because it was, well, a beta. But the production maps are the same! The maps have little detail and terrible fonts. I could probably make other criticisms, but these are deal breakers.

Fortunately you can still use Google Maps in Safari - if you want detail and readability then you have no choice.

Apple Maps

Google Maps

Oh, and one more thing: Google Maps starts predicting the address as soon as you start typing - Apple Maps doesn't. It makes Google Maps so much better. Actually it does on the 4S, but not the 3GS.

15 September 2012

History isn't all bad

I wasn't great at history at school, but I suspect it had something to do with learning facts about the French Revolution, as opposed to learning about significant issues in human life which might teach us how to behave in the future. Yes, the French Revolution could have taught me that, if only it was taught by someone else.

Anyway, I was watching Channel 11 in Sydney the other day - it's an offshoot of Channel Ten - Ten Network Holdings Limited ABN 14 081 327 068.

It has a promotion at the moment for comedy shows "Sunday Silly Sunday". I can't think of a reason why they'd use that phrase, unless it was a reference to the U2 song about Bloody Sunday - the Bogside Massacre - which involved the massacre of Irish citizens by British troops in 1972. This was a tragic time in UK and Irish history, of which, I suspect, neither is proud.

I believe that this is not an intentional slight to those murdered - the relevant staffer in marketing probably had heard it at some stage and thought it would be catchy if modified as a marketing slogan.

However,  if this is the level of intelligence by the relevant manager, and a mark of the oversight of approvals by mature personnel  then there's little wonder that Channel Ten seems to be in dire straights.

Perhaps a history lesson might be useful.

11 September 2012

Cyberspace October 2012


You may recall the Great Google Kerfuffle of 2010, when it became known that Google had kept some data it had captured from unsecured wi-fi networks while recording Street View images and maintaining its database of wi-fi networks. On the latter topic, it’s worth mentioning that Google is one of a fair number of companies that drive around, capturing the location and identity of all wi-fi networks it sees to aid in geolocation software used by devices such as iPhones, Android phones and many other devices.

I call it a kerfuffle, because some people got very excited about the fact that Google had recorded information that was publicly available and “broadcast” to everyone within 50 metres of the access point. “It was private!” they screamed, and Senator Stephen Conroy said it was ““single greatest breach in the history of privacy.”

The US District Court of Illinois released an interesting opinion on 22 August 2012 in In Re Innovatio IP Ventures dealing with the capture of data from unsecured wi-fi networks. Innovatio is a patent owner who is litigating over the use of wi-fi patents. It wanted to collect wi-fi packets to support its claims, but was concerned that it might be a breach of the Federal Wiretap Act 18 U.S.C. It therefore filed a motion to establish a protocol for collection of data.  Innovatio’s staff used wi-fi packet capture hardware to capture information from wi-fi networks such as those at cafes. Anything sent public unsecured wi-fi can be easily made human readable (which is why you subscribe to a VPN solution such as Witopia (www.witopia.net) and use it at unsecured wi-fi hotspots, don’t you?).

Bear in mind that in NSW s.308A of the Crimes Act 1900 specifically states that interception is not impairment of a communication, and it would be a long bow to draw to say that sniffing of the type described comes within “unauthorised access” under s.308B. However, in the USA capturing wi-fi data is likely to be a breach of § 2510 of the Wiretap Act.

The problem is that all devices like your mobile phone on a network listen to all packets, but they discard packets if they are not meant for them.  Innovatio had to listen and capture packets, but then wanted to ensure that the payload itself was not stored, as it didn’t need it. Luckily for Innovatio it didn’t have to go too far down this road, because the court held that it fell into an exception: “to intercept or access an electronic communication ... that is configured so that such electronic communication is readily accessible to the general public.” In other words, if you don’t secure a network then you can’t complain if someone listens.

The court considered the USA Street View litigation and noted that that court accepted the proposition that capturing insecure wi-fi data required considerable sophistication and therefore was not publicly accessible. However, in the present case the court noted that the required hardware and software can be had for well under $1,000, and I note that it is not akin to using a ouija board. What this highlights is the tendency for courts and politicians to come down hard on new things they don’t understand, rather than taking the time to understand.

The court noted that the public might, due to lack of understanding, have an expectation of privacy for data transmitted over private wi-fi that is unsecured. The trouble is that reality does not match that expectation and the fact is that those communications are “readily accessible to the general public... Any tension between that conclusion and the public's expectation of privacy is the product of the law's constant struggle to keep up with changing technology.”

Cyberspace is published in the Journal of the Law Society of New South Wales.

10 September 2012

OS X - Do your network shares keep disappearing?

I have a Mac Mini so I can keep in touch with Apple computer technology.

I don't like it a lot - especially with way it plays on a network. For example, mounting a network share and getting the file listing takes less than a second on my old Windows Core 2 Duo, but on my Mac Mini i5 with 8 GB of RAM it takes up to 20 seconds. The same Mac, running Linux inside VMware, takes less than a second - in a virtual machine!!

Anyway, another frustrating thing was I have some iTunes content on a network share, and I'd like iTunes on the Mac to be able to see that content all the time. I set up the startup so that the appropriate network shares auto mounted on login. The trouble is that they kept disappearing after a relatively short time.

After a lot of digging around on the internet, it turns out that Apple has decided that if you don't use a network share for more than 60 minutes it will simply unmount it!  That is truly bizarre. Windows does something very slightly similar by closing the network connection, but it reopens it instantly. This is unlike the Mac OS X system where it trashes the entire connection, requiring human intervention.

Anyway, here's the answer to a problem that shouldn't have occurred:

edit the file:


change AUTOMOUNT_TIMEOUT to a large number. It is set for 3600 seconds (1 hour) by default. Restart and you're in business.

29 August 2012

Cyberspace September 2012


My article last month on dictation using voice recognition generated more feedback than any other article I've written in the last 14 years. There is clearly an appetite for better productivity and cost efficiencies in small to medium practice. A simple time and motion study will show that direct transcription will halve the man-hours required to get text down compared to one person dictating and then another person transcribing.

Another common task is the production of cost estimates and invoicing. I recently installed eSlip in my Google apps domain to test basic accounting software as a service (eSlip is just an example of many similar products). Click "New estimate", insert client details if necessary, enter the quantity and unit price, watch it calculate the totals and add GST, then click to e-mail it to the client. The client receives a link to the estimate where they can pick "approved", and you receive an e-mail telling you you can start work. When you are ready to invoice it is a single click to turn the cost estimate into an invoice, with reference to the original estimate, and the invoice is mailed to the client. If you have PayPal as a payment option the client can immediately pay the invoice by clicking another link. If you want to send paper copies eSlip will do that automatically for a small fee.

A little tweaking of the process is required to ensure compliance with the Legal Profession Regulation 2005. The point of this example is that by becoming aware of available tools and either having the time or a suitably qualified consultant you have the opportunity to streamline processes. As a colleague said to me recently, "I feel like I'm not getting the maximum benefit out of my IT."

Sit back and consider the practical issues in running your practice as they affect you. You might prefer to be much more mobile rather than sit in an office or even have an office. However, how would you have access to your billing system, documents and e-mail? Using a product such as Google Apps for Business and something like eSlip means you have access to all your information on any other computer anywhere in the world, the same as if you were at home or in the office. Tie these in with online research tools such as LexisNexis and legislation and some practitioners will have just about all they need. Again, there's a bit of tweaking involved to get the best out of this setup, but it's the one I adopt without hesitation. I don't need to worry about backup, disaster recovery, business continuity or security as these are professionally managed for me. However when selecting a solution you need to consider the type of support that you need. I would not suggest that Google support is particularly terrific, but I am the sort of user who knows more than the person on the helpdesk.

While iPads are popular, they are useless to a practitioner straight out of the box. You need to know which software to purchase and how best to use it. Just because you own a box of crayons doesn't mean you're a good artist - the same applies to information technology. If your practice is principally conveyancing then you will need a completely different set of tools to simplify your life.

Windows 8

This column was written on the production version of Windows 8, released to subscribers in August 2012, and generally available in October 2012. There is absolutely no reason to upgrade any of your computers from Windows 7 to Windows 8, and the interface change is such that you should continue to ask for Windows 7 on new hardware until we see how the new interface pans out in business.

Law Society of NSW - Small Practice Portal

Starting your own legal practice? The Law Society of NSW has a web site for you.


26 July 2012

Mac v PC

I'm hesitant to write this piece, because there are a lot of people out there who don't analyse functionality - they just adhere to brand preference. It's a bit like the Holden v Ford wars of the 80's.

Anyway, I own a new Mac Mini with 8 GB of RAM and Mountain Lion (as of today), an older Mac Mini with Leopard, and a bunch of Windows 7 machines. I even have a Windows 8 preview, which I can't stand and never use.

I think Mac OS X is not as convenient to use as Windows 7. I think Ubuntu 12.04 is not as convenient to use as Windows 7. I would never by choice use either as a day to day machine. I think OS X is a terrible operating system - as bad as Ubuntu.

There, I've said it. But why? Now, bear in mind that I suspect many of my complaints can be fixed with tweaking, but I don't tweak Windows 7 either.

For document management, the Finder is truly awful. Each of the views in the Finder doesn't display all of the information you need, nor the display you last requested.

Even something as simple as "Don't reopen my windows on next boot" is simply ignored by the Finder. EVERYTHING friggin' opens all the time without me requesting it.

Reopening documents I've finished with is even worse.

Cut and paste files? It seems to work in some scenarios but not others.

Connect to an SMB/CIFS share? Not only is it stupidly slow to connect, it takes 20 seconds to enumerate a file listing that takes 1 second on my slowest Atom powered netbook. Is Apple trying to be funny?

The moment you don't want Apple's defaults - say, moving your music folder, you need to learn about UNIX symbolic links. On Windows you right-click and re-home the folder.

The stupid Finder file views don't make any sense at all.

Desktop web shortcuts always default to Safari - why can't I make them open in Chrome?

Sherlock on the Mac has always been superior to any other OS - that's one good thing.

The Dock is a very odd and not very intuitive GUI element. And by the way, the incredibly subtle little dot underneath running apps is an exercise in modesty. I don't know how to improve the Dock, but it just doesn't feel right.

My Mac is every bit as unstable as every Windows 7 machine I've used. It freezes just as often - say, every fortnight or so.

I'll add to this post over time, but really, five months with the Mac and OS X has made me realise that Windows 7 is the best currently available.

22 July 2012

Cyberspace August 2012

I regularly revisit technology that I think has potential but hasn't made it yet. In the mid-90s I wasted a lot of time on voice recognition on the Macintosh, and asking the computer what time it was usually ended up in launching WordPerfect. I've done the same with Linux over the years, and a recent trial of Ubuntu 12.04 reminded me why I still don't use it.

I decided to revisit voice recognition this year, and purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 Premium (available for Windows and Macintosh). I normally use it wearing a headset at my computer, but there is an iPhone client which allows you to dictate as if you were speaking on the phone, and later upload dictation for transcription later. The voice recognition is very accurate, and after learning the basic set of commands I can navigate my PC, open and close applications, dictate magazine articles, and look at documents rather than the computer while dictating, just as I would do with a normal handheld dictaphone.

Is this more productive? I think it is - I recently wrote a 3,000 word paper using the system and I believe I saved approximately one third of the time I would have taken to type it myself, despite being a fast typist. I can now read, look at other documents, use both hands with a book and avoid common spelling mistakes while getting my thoughts down. It is reasonably tolerant of background noise and regularly processes the dictation it receives to create a voice and audio profile that seems to negate some of the effect of working in an open plan office. The transcription is context sensitive, so it makes fairly accurate judgements as to whether I want to use for or four, and it can insert commas and full stops for you. If it struggles with a word you can spell it and it will remember that word and all your particular pronunciation of it. The main requirement is to speak clearly, because it is not as intelligent as your secretary - however that does not mean that you need to speak like a robot. On the contrary, it prefers you to speak naturally in full sentences so that it can understand the context of the words you dictate.

Would I recommend it to another lawyer? Yes. It provides the freedom of dictation with instant results.If you are happy to go back and revise it yourself you can get a lengthy document out quite quickly. I haven't fully explored all the commands available or the customisations you can carry out, so that inserting footnotes and other rather specialised activities are still a manual process for me but I have no doubt that I will master those in time as well. I can even open an e-mail in Outlook, reply and send the reply all without touching the keyboard. It works in most applications, including browsers, so if you use Web based e-mail you can still dictate. It can also scan your e-mails to learn the names of people you correspond with, so you can say "new e-mail to Joe Bloggs" and it will understand who that person is and his e-mail address.
One particularly interesting modification you can make is to set up commands that will automatically insert boilerplate content or signatures and logos. For example, you may have a standard limitation of liability clause for trusts – you can insert a whole page with one command.

Both Windows 7 and the next version of OS X, Mountain Lion, have built-in dictation abilities. However, they are not sufficiently advanced to use in practice. You may be able to make them work, but the cost in time will far outweigh the cost of buying a dedicated product.