Product Notes

Interwrite Software Meetingboard/Pad

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

 The InterWrite MeetingBoard looks like a traditional whiteboard set up in a portable mode. A more careful investigation, however, establishes that it is far more than just a portable whiteboard. Certainly, you can use it as a portable white board, but if that is all you do with it, you spent good money that you shouldn’t have and you give up a great deal of functionality. The MeetingBoard offers you considerable flexibility. In addition to working as a common white board, you can use it as a projection screen. If you use it as a projection screen, you can project an image onto it and then “physically” mark up the image using standard dry-erase markers. If you put the dry-erase markers inside the included holders, and connect the MeetingBoard to your computer, the built-in electronic sensors track movement of the marker on the board and the software allows you to save the marked up information to your computer where you can overlay it on top of the original image.

The MeetingBoard ranges in price based on size and the additional features you add to it. The most basic series is the 3000 series, which comes with the board, two electronic pens, power supply, wall mount brackets, pen tray, RS-232 and USB interface, and InterWrite Software (for both Windows and Mac). Pricing starts at $1,595.

 The InterWrite MeetingPad is a Bluetooth wireless tablet allowing remote wireless mouse operation of a computer. It also provides a writing surface. Commonly used with computer and LCD/DLP projector, the MeetingPad’s cordless pen acts as a wireless mouse with buttons for left and right clicking to control any software program from anywhere in the room. When you use it with InterWrite software, you can use it for highlighting, markup, and annotation over any screen image. The MeetingPad and software works with current versions of Windows and with Mac OS X software. There are two models: a Bluetooth and serial version. The Bluetooth version (Model 400) costs a bit more and provides the Bluetooth interface and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which allow approximately 40 hours of use between recharges. The Bluetooth-enabled version of the pad weighs less than two pounds and costs $585.

The MeetingPad contains an electronic grid that senses the location of its cordless pen on its surface. It transmits this information wirelessly using Bluetooth technology to the associated Bluetooth-enabled computer. Moving the pen over the MeetingPad’s surface moves the computer’s cursor, allowingwireless mouse control of the computer.

InterWrite software comes with each package. InterWrite is an easy-to-use annotation program that allows you to highlight, mark, or make notes over many applications, including PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents, CAD drawing files, website pages, and any other files or documents. InterWrite allows you to create blank note pages for idea generation and note taking in up to 16 different colors. You can combine those pages with other annotated materials generated from the Web, spreadsheets, or other applications. The software allows you to annotate directly over an electronic document, picture, or other screen image. InterWrite treats the notes and annotated content as a sequence of images, then saves the information in a single file for easy distribution, archiving, and further use. The InterWrite software works on the Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows platforms.

A presenter using InterWrite software with the MeetingBoard or MeetingPad can focus the audience’s attention by annotating or highlighting over a document or a slide in a PowerPoint presentation. The annotations can be saved and printed for further use by the court or the jury, if necessary.

InterWrite designed the MeetingBoard and the MeetingPad to work together in an educational environment and in an interactive mode. As a practical matter, the MeetingBoard can be a handy device to have around in the office for planning meetings, strategy sessions, depositions, arbitrations, or mediations. You can get it with a stand that has wheels to allow you to move it around the office fairly easily (although the one I had for testing was sufficiently high that when on the mobile stand, it would not fit through a standard door. Moving it from one room to another required partial disassembly). While the MeetingBoard could certainly prove helpful in some trial situations, its size makes that level of portability somewhat inconvenient. On the other hand, the extremely portable MeetingPad, used wirelessly in conjunction with a projected image, can prove quite handy and convenient in a courtroom situation. The extended range of the newer Model 400 (nominally up to 300 feet) facilitates such usage.

Nikon Coolpix S4 Camera

Reviewed by Bruce L. Dorner

It has been several years since I felt the need to update my digital camera. After all, 2.1 megapixels is adequate for a 4" x 6" inch print. However, I always felt constrained by the 3x zoom lens. I had come from the 35mm world and simply slipped on a larger zoom lens to better frame my shots.

After much hemming, hawing, and trepidation about spending the limited funds of a solo attorney, I ventured into the current crop of digital cameras. Heck, it’s hard to find a camera with only 2.1 megpixels unless it’s part of a cell phone! Everything has at least 4 megapixels or more. However, mexapixels is vastly over rated as a measuring device in my view. More crucial is the quality of lens and the sensing devices within the camera.

I also knew that I really wanted a camera with at least a 5x optical zoom. I was tired of running out of lens length when I needed to zoom in just a bit more. However, my research also indicated that the greater the optical zoom, the more likely the camera was going to approach the size of my 35mm film camera, and break my piggy bank—not a compromise I was willing to make. I wanted small. It had to fit in a suit coat pocket.

I may have located the ideal device for my specifications. Nikon recently released their new Coolpix S4. Gee, was there any hope I could afford a Nikon? Yes, retail pricing on this device is $399 and street prices ran around $340 when I purchased mine online.

What’s so special about this camera? For starters, it’s a 6 megapixel device with a wonderful Nikor glass lens. The lens swivels from the upright position keeping the overall size down as you carry the camera with the lens in the closed position. It fits easily in a suit coat pocket. It features a 10x optical zoom (roughly equivalent to a 38-380mm lens in a 35 mm film camera). The whole package, with 2AA batteries and a SD card weighs about ten ounces. It’s so small that it comes with a neck lanyard rather than a wrist strap!

Is that too small? As you might expect, the buttons to control the device shrink with the camera size. However, the designers at Nikon have done a great job of using a 5-way rocker switch to put most of the features in one location. Sure, you have to read the manual to get the most out of the camera, but the automatic mode is likely to handle 90 percent of your picture taking needs.

The monitor is a whopping 2.5 inches. The screen is bright, clear and has adjustable intensity. If you want to control the picture there are no less than 16 modes for customizing your shots. They include everything from night lighting, fluorescent lighting, portrait, scenic, macro, and dusk and dawn settings. The Nikon folks have tools built into the camera so you can perform basic editing without a computer. In fact, there’s a nifty utility they call D-Lighting. When you view your picture and can’t decide if the lighting is right, you push a button and the camera produces a duplicate of your shot and automatically adjusts brightness and contrast to optimal settings. You have your original and an enhanced duplicate to compare.

In addition to the multiple specific modes mentioned, the camera also can take movies. They are limited only by the capacity of the SD card. It can also record sound to accompany any desired shot. Oh, for those who hate digital cameras because they don’t go “click” when you press the shutter, this one has a setting to turn on or off the “click” sound so you know you’re taking a shot. The flash should be adequate to handle illumination tasks out to about 10 feet. If lighting is inadequate, the monitor displays a warning. If you zoom out too far and start wobbling, the monitor will also produce a blur warning.

Two AA batteries power the camera. You don’t have to worry about finding fancy button cells in a pinch. The camera has a battery meter that can be set to detect alkaline, lithium, or rechargeable cells. The meter warns you when the batteries are getting low.

The picture quality is solid, as would be expected from Nikon. As with any camera there has to be one negative. It has no optical view finder. I had hoped to find a camera with that feature, but soon realized that with a 2.5 inch monitor I could quickly adapt from my old habits to the current digital display world.

Overall, this is probably one of the best made devices I have handled in several years. Now, all I need are a few good cases where my digital pictures can be used to enhance the recovery of damages on behalf of my clients.

Projecting the Right Image

Review by Jeffrey Allen

Lawyers concern themselves with the image they project. No, this review does not look at PR services for attorneys. It looks at three new DLP (Digital Light Processing) portable projectors recently released by HP/Compaq. Years ago, none of us had such devices; as the technology advanced, more and more of us started using the projectors. As technology advanced more, the size and weight of the projectors shrunk and, surprisingly, the price also shrank. Even more impressively, the power of the projectors increased. To give you a comparative frame of reference, less than five years ago you could not find a projector that weighed less than five pounds, cost less than $5,000, and projected more than 1000 lumens. All three of the projectors reviewed in this article cost less than $2,500, project at least 1,500 lumens, and two of them weigh less than five pounds. As this technology has become less costly, more and more attorneys have added digital projectors to the equipment that they have available in their practices.

In looking at digital projectors, we measure their brightness in a unit of measure called a lumen. As a general guideline, projectors that work well in a large well-lit room (such as many courtrooms) have 3,000 or more lumens to make their images easily seen. Projectors used in smaller rooms or rooms that allow for dimmed lighting can work quite well with 1,500-2,000 lumens. While they have come down in size and price, generally we would not consider a 3,000-lumen or greater projector highly portable, although you can move them from one location to another. When we talk about portable projectors, we tend to mean a unit weighing in at five pounds or less, although some would consider a unit portable if it weighed a bit more than five pounds.

Projectors come in two types: LCD (liquid crystal display) and DLP. The LCD projectors came on the scene first, followed several years ago by the DLP projectors. When the DLP projectors initially came out and started appearing in reasonable variety, the major differences were that DLP projectors came in smaller, lighter, and less expensive packages while the LCD projectors tended to appear a bit brighter at the same lumen rating and display truer color by comparison to the DLP projectors. Although both versions have evolved toward each other (color and brightness on DLP improving while size, weight, and cost of LCD all came down), there are still some differences of this nature between the two. As a practical matter, the quality of the image and brightness of the DLP projectors has increased to the point that only the most critical eye will see a difference; and insofar as the uses that most attorneys will have for the projectors, the differences will not manifest themselves in any significant way. As DLP still remains a bit lighter, smaller, and less costly than LCD, many of us will opt for the DLP projector, especially for portable use.

I looked at three HP digital projectors for this review: the mp2210, mp3135, and the vp6310. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, but the simple fact of the matter is that all three performed well and any of them would work very well for an attorney planning to use them in an office environment for presentations to clients, in arbitration hearings, or in mediation meetings. None of them bring enough power to make them good candidates for courtroom use, however.

All three of the projectors use DLP technology, have relatively small footprints, weigh little, and can easily move from one location to another without much effort. All three are convenient and easy to operate (plug and play). All three play nicely with both Mac and Windows computers. The mp2200 and mp3135 series both come with functional protective cases. HP also offers a case for the VP 6300; the 6300 has a built in handle, however, making it easy to move it from one location to another. You will probably want the protective case if you plan to move the projector around a lot.

The vp6300 series has the lowest cost of the three; it is also the largest and heaviest. The vp6300 series contains two computers, the vp6310 and the vp6320. The vp6310 has an MSRP of $799.99, generates 1,600 ANSI lumens of brightness, has native SVGA resolution (800 x 600), and through compression will emulate lower and higher resolutions from VGA through SXGA. The vp6320 has an MSRP of $1,299.99, generates 2,000 ANSI lumens, has native XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, but handles the range of VGA through SXGA+ using compression. The vp6300 series projectors weigh in at 7.7 pounds and measure 11" x 10.1" x 4". Estimated lamp life: 4,000 hours.

While not the smallest of the three projectors, the mp3135 has the smallest footprint of the three as it operates from a vertical perspective rather than a horizontal perspective. The mp3135 has XGA (1024 x 768) native resolution (better than SVGA), but can handle everything from VGA through SXGA through compression. It also generates 1,800 lumens. The basic mp3135 costs $2,299, weighs in at only 4 pounds, and measures 2.9" x 9" x 7.9". You can add a wireless kit to the computer for $300, making it about 3" longer and a half pound heavier. The wireless system runs the traditional 802.11b standard (11.0 kbps). Estimated lamp life: 2,000 hours (4,000 hours in economy mode).

The mp2200 series represents the “mini-me” version of the three projectors. The mp2200 has an MSRP of $1,499 and weighs in at only 2.4 pounds. Although it has a larger footprint than the mp3135, that is a function of its horizontal perspective by comparison to the mp3135’s vertical perspective. The mp2200 measures only 8.2" x 6.6" x 2.5", making it the smallest of the three units. The mp2200 has native XGA resolution, but can also handle the range of VGA through UXGA compression. The mp2200 generates 1,500 ANSI lumens of brightness and a contrast ratio of 2,200:1. It has an estimated lamp life of 4,000 hours in economy mode and an estimated average of 3,000 hours overall.

So, we have three projectors. All of them generate good, crisp images, and each represents a different collection of benefits. Which do you get? Here is how I see it. If you will not be moving the projector around a great deal and do not intend to travel with it, look at the vp6300 series. If you do not need the extra lumens and resolution and/or if cost presents a real issue, go to the SVGA 1,600 lumen vp6310. If you need the extra power of 2,000 lumens and the higher resolution, spend $500 more and get the vp6320.

Alternatively, if you do not need the extra 400 lumens and want some portability, the XGA 1,500 lumen mp2200 for $1,499 presents a very impressive package in terms of both value and function.

If you are afraid you may put the diminutive mp2200 down some place and not be able to find it, or if you need a bit more power in a mobile unit, look at the XGA 1,800 lumen mp3135 for $2,299. The wireless functionality presents a nice supplementary feature, but I think HP did us a favor by making it an option. I say that because I do not think that many attorneys will make much use of that particular feature, and those who will use it can spend the extra $300 to get it, while the rest of us can save the money.

As for my bottom line, if I wanted a projector that would live in my office and not get carried around to various places, I would look to the vp6300 series. If I wanted a projector for mobility purposes, I would opt for the mp2200. Although I found the mp3135 very impressive, it takes up more space, is more cumbersome, and weighs almost twice as much as the mp2200 and only generates extra 300 lumens, yet it costs $700 more. The mp2200 fits easily into most of my wheeled computer bags along with necessary files, my laptop and its paraphernalia, and other technology I may choose to take with me (such as a PDA, cell phone, digital camera, digital camcorder, digital voice recorder, etc.). At a list price of only $1,499, I find that a hard package to beat.

Neither the ABA nor ABA Sections endorse non-ABA products or services, and the product reviews in the Technology eReport should not be so construed.

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