Beachlandguy: Law and Technology (and Life too)

Thoughts and questions by a lake dweller

Fall and All

Fall seems to be here with its attendant political campaigns, pumpkin spice and cooler temperatures. What I am not seeing is a bunch of pandemic hoopla. Is that because we have reconciled ourselves? Is it because the virus is receding? Is it because we are all just burned out on talking about it. Could be all of the above. I have grown tired to blaring headlines designed to scare me into clicking. I have grown tired of people blaming each other. I am really sick of the idea that knowledge doesn’t evolve.

I am curious about what the US Government is doing experimenting with viruses in Wuhan? What is the rational – its over there and that’s better? Or is it that they are already doing it, so lets use them? The whole thing seems rather like a sci-fi story, but it is apparently reality. I don’t know what to think, but I am interested.

Facial Recognition IS A Bust and I Wish Siri Were Better

At least it is for me. I have a wonderful VW Campmobile. It does not have CarPlay or any of those equivalents. It has a single DIN space for a head unit. So my phone is my source of music. I have it mounted on the dash on a little magnetic mount. And of course I can’t change the settings to “never” require a password due to some security software that I am running. Do you think that iPhone can recognize my face from 3 feet away? Never. So if I want a song, I have to enter my pass code. Then I have to find the song. Doing both takes longer than my eyes should be off the road.

If Siri were better, I could just ask for the song. But remember, this is a VW Campmobile. It was built in 1985. I have actually put sound deadening mat inside the doors and on the hard surfaces and it is still pretty loud. Siri comes up with some very entertaining offerings when asked for specific songs. Sometimes I am not in the mood to be entertained that way.

You are likely saying to yourself “get a modern, quiet car.” Well, if you have ever met anyone with a Campmobile (often called a Westfalia) you know that is not going to happen. Imagine driving a vehicle where every time you drive it, people talk to you about it, give you a thumbs up, wave, etc… The strange thing is that you’d think this would just be former hippies. But the love of the Campmobile spans races, genders, and probably creeds, though I don’t really ask. And yes, I have a modern car, its a Volvo C 70, a convertible, so any time it is dry and over 55 degrees, I have the same problem.

I know, these are first world problems. But these are technologies that I really want to like. But I don’t. Frankly, if the iPhone 13 came with an option for fingerprint recognition, I would take it.

What Do Clients Want (and how do we get it to them)?

I read a piece by Dennis Kennedy recently (If you don’t read Dennis’s blog, you should). The piece was about innovation by lawyers to help clients. The piece contrasted what lawyers, usually do – send a client alert about something that might be relevant to someone, somewhere, to everyone.

It got me thinking about what clients want and how we meet that. One answer is in talking to people. However, it is a conversation that takes a while, probably an ongoing conversation. My conversations with clients about what a law firm can do for them are typically not satisfying because they are filled with concepts but not applications. I know, and the client knows that we want to “partner.” But what does that look like. We have to have a lot of conversations until we hit on a thing that we can see and touch. Getting from the theoretical to the practical is difficult. For me, I stumble from moment of enlightenment to moment of enlightenment with miles and miles of plodding in between.

Maybe there is another way.

I am reminded of Steve Jobs comment: “Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

So what can we think of to give out clients to make “partnering” and “transparency” and other words have distinct meanings?

It’s Mostly Indoor Work.

And here we are, week four, safe at home. I guess I am lucky. I am a lawyer, so my job continues much as it did before. I have a practice that is fairly specialized and results in my being able to work from anywhere and isn’t that affected by court dates and scheduling. I am a geek, so all of my technology works and was built for this a long time ago.

But as the Barry character said in High Fidelity: “can I go back to work now?”


We have had a Synology NAS for years. We use it for back up. I thought we would use it to stream music and movies through Plex, but Plex is not (or was not when I last tried) great with the Apple iTunes ecosphere. So our giant Synology raid striped array was kind of overkill.

At the same time we each have Evernote accounts and Dropbox accounts as well as Bear, Google Drive and large iCloud accounts. We pay for those to sync files and sync notes.

In poking around the latest iteration of the Synology Disk Station OS, I noticed a package called Drive and a revamped Note Station. These promised to emulate the functionality of Dropbox and Bear, maybe Evernote. I decided to give them a try.

I have been impressed with the ease of set up and the syncing. My equipment isn’t new – a Synology DS 713+ with a 5 bay add on. My home internet connection is relatively fast at 3-400 Mbps.

This is better than the old home “cloud” Transporter system that Drobo owned for a while.

I suppose the draw back is that if my house burns down, there is no true “cloud” storage. Also, if something happens, like a power outage, I am the tech who has to restart things.

However, for home use, this appears to be pretty stable and awfully useful. The interfaces are attractive and you can indeed send links to people.

I haven’t cancelled Dropbox, Bear, or Evernote, but I might. (BTW, you can migrate your Evernote files, keeping the structure, to Disk Station. No option with Bear.)

Ring Doorbells and Hype.

It strikes me that in these days of anyone can apparently publish anything, we have a concurrent amount of “pick me, pick me.” Everyone wants to make a dent and be able to monetize that dent. This is not the marketplace of ideas, this is the mob of ideas.

And that brings us to the Ring Doorbell vulnerability. I have a Ring Doorbell. I think it is a II model. It works; I like it. If something dramatically better came along, I would switch. I have no real loyalty to Ring, other than the investment.

So Ring, it has been found, has a vulnerability. Apparently when I set up my doorbell 5 years ago, and went through that weird dance of joining its network before it could join mine, my wireless network credentials were sent to Ring in the clear.

That sounds scary. But lets think about this. How would someone get my wireless network information? He or she would have to have been focused on my house from some relatively close distance at the time I was transmitting that information to Ring: about a minute.

I live in a nice little neighborhood in Cleveland. It is in the city so that houses are relatively close. I know my neighbors well, and they me. Someone wandering down the street, or even parked in a strange car, attracts notice. I was in and out of the house with the screwdriver and my phone, setting this thing up. What are the odds that 5 years ago, someone with nefarious intent was in that small space precisely at that 60 seconds. I would say nil.

I suppose someone could send me a message to reset my Ring Doorbell and then wait around to see if I did it. That would be a lot of time invested, and like a savvy person, I would verify that message before I acted, but it could happen.

And yet, we got blaring headlines about the vulnerability from the tech press (by the way, the problem has already been fixed). The headlines were not: “ignore random emails telling you to rest your Ring Doorbells” which might have been useful. It was a “See, see, IOT cannot be trusted” type of headline. This sort of thing doesn’t help anyone. When your read further, you need to slog through the hysteria and do more research to assess the risks and understand what the fix it.

Dear tech press (and everyone else for that matter) take a breath. Deal with real problems in ways that can help. Did no one read Chicken Little as a child?

And it’s dark

Well, its dark a lot, but it is really dark in the morning. I decided to start writing again. I am sure you both are thrilled. (Again, self flattery).

After some weeks of running iOS 13 and Mac OS Catalina, all I can say is “meh.”

There just isn’t anything to get too excited about for me. There are not really useful features that wow me. Sidecar is okay, but I wish it was a little more intuitive. Dark mode is goos with some apps, and not good with others. But the hype about it is over the top.

I have almost completely switched to my 2 iPad Pros for work. I don’t really use my laptop. My firm has some crazy restrictions on using the Mac’s native email client on Mac OS, so these are my main drivers for communication. They are nice machines. I can’t say that the typing experience on the Apple “Folio” keyboard is great; it isn’t. However, it isn’t awful and it isn’t heavy. My second Pro, a 2d generation, sports a Logitech keyboard that is fabulous, and connects to the connector and has lights, but it is pretty heavy. I do think that the 2d gen. Apple Pencil is really terrific. It is just a lot better than the first gen.

I have also gone to Mac Minis both at home and at work. I don’t need great monitors, but I want two of them. I can get more bang for my buck with the Mini. As I steam toward retirement, the “bang for the buck” thought seems to crop up more and more.

Finally, I have been a loyal Dropbox user for years. I still like the functionality better than Box. I don’t like the fact that my “stuff” is on someone else’s server. I don’t like the pricing, and I don’t like the way sharing has become a sales pitch for Dropbox. Enter my Synology NAS. The ability to host my own files, share them and sync them seems really appealing. There is also a note capability, more like Bear than Evernote. I had been an Evernote devotee until it just became too busy. I switched to Bear. The Synology DS Note, mimic’s Bear.

Now here is the thing: this is all in my house, so I have that to worry about. But for now, I am testing.

Suddenly, we are popular

Interesting. Over the past two days, this blog has caught fire. Is it the content? The visuals? No, I think it is hackers. Russians? The Obama administration? Hmmmm. My guess would be less exciting. So, for both of you who read this blog (I flatter myself), govern yourselves accordingly.

Spring May Come and the Eeros

Today is the first day that it feels like the days are getting longer. I know that this has been going on for three weeks, but today it feels noticeable. It is 5:10 and the last vestiges of the sunset are still visible.

On the technology front, I have been enjoying the Eero routers that I got for Christmas. It feels like the wifi coverage is better in the house. I love the interface. With all of the IoT that we run in the house, doorbell, smoke alarms, thermostats, locks, Amazon products, Sonos products, lights, I am amazed that we have not overloaded the bandwidth. So far so good.

Customer Service and a tip.

We had three examples of customer service this past week, and thinking about them gave me an insight.

My wife ordered some t-shirts for the 4th of July from Cafe Press. She was concerned about them getting here on time and she ordered in plenty of time. She also paid for expedited shipping. On Thursday, June 30, she checked and sure enough, Cafe Press had sent the shirts to the wrong address, on the other side of the country. She called. She explained the timing. The customer service rep was helpful, and assured her that they would reship, so that the shirts would arrive Saturday. They would also refund the expedited shipping.

On Saturday at 4pm. My wife called again. The customer service rep was again very pleasant and explained the mistake on the first shipment (something about FedX rerouting numbers) and the since the expedited shipping had been refunded, the Cafe Press shipping department had sent this batch of shirts by regular shipping. Needless to say, neither of us will buy anything from Cafe Press again, and we will, if asked, tell this story as a warning.

We got the obligatory follow up survey yesterday. Cafe Press refunded the whole order. The shirts arrived Tuesday and then again Thursday. (the first errant shipment).

On Tuesday, I made a reservation on Hilton’s website. It was a special deal for gold passport members. I knew that. I knew that it said that it was not cancellable and that it was not refundable or changeable. And when I hit the button to finish the transaction, I realized that I had entered the wrong date.

I called and spoke to a customer service representative and told her what I had done. She was not in the US. She told me that she could not change the reservation. I asked: So I am stuck? She then said that we could cancel this reservation and rebook for the right day. There was no fuss. There was no “I need to talk to my manager.” She just got the job done. She was polite but not fawning.

I was at the athletic club, trying to log in with their fingerprint reader. It spit back something odd. The receptionist told me to hold on a second. She kept looking at the computer. I was going to change into my bike clothes that were in a locker and ride home. I was in a hurry. At some point, the receptionist got frustrated with the computer and just looked up and smiled and said: You’re fine.

Here is the point. Everyone was polite. The Cafe Press folks were trained to speak politely and even be a little obsequious.


But you must solve the customer’s problem. You have to get it right. Somehow this gets lost in the current scheme of customer service training. Nice is good, but listening is better. The win is solving the problem. To understand the problem, you have to listen to the customer.

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