General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

March 2008

Vol. 7, No. 1


  • MacNotes
    MacBook Air, Time Capsule, and Office 2008 for the Mac.
  • TechNotes »
    Imagineering, high-speed wireless computing, and predictions for 2008.
  • SurvivingEmail »
    The advantages of multiple online personalities.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Fun and handy reference sites that rock.
  • ProductNotes »
    The HP MediaSmart EX475 and JD Supra.
  • DivisionNotes »
    GP|Solo leadership appointments, more on JD Supra, a solo & small firm caucus, the new law student web page, and a call for nominations on a range of fellowships and awards.


Macworld 2008 and More

MacWorld 2008 has come and gone. Super salesman Steve Jobs did the keynote, as usual. While he had many interesting and evolutionary things to talk about, he did not present anything as revolutionary as the iPhone this year.

Apple used MacWorld to introduce upgraded software for the iPhone and the iPod Touch as well as the expansion of the iTunes store movie department. The iPhone update adds new features to the mapping program, including the ability to identify your immediate location through triangulation, enabling you to get better directions more easily. You can now modify your home screen as well. The new software allows you to send SMS messages to multiple recipients concurrently.

Apple did announce some interesting new hardware at MacWorld. With the MacBook Air, Apple advances its position in the superlight laptop competition. I have seen it, touched it, and admired it. Eventually, I will probably get one, but not for a while.

[Photo of MacBook Air]
Courtesy of Apple.

The MacBook Air reflects the style that we have come to expect from Apple’s products. Its three-pound weight and slim profile will make it easy to pack and a delight to carry. Its projected 5-hour battery life will make it useful on long haul flights. It uses a full-sized keyboard, making it comfortable to use as well. Significantly, you can choose between a laptop with a traditional hard disk drive (80 GB @ 4200 RPM) or a 65GB flash memory drive.

So, why haven’t I preordered one (they have not yet shipped)? Several reasons. My initial concern focused on the lack of an optical drive. Apple, however, has addressed that problem cleverly enough by giving you the option of buying an external drive (slim and svelte itself) for another $100 or of using the optical drive in another Mac through a piece of wireless and software wizardry Apple calls “Remote Disk.” I can live with those options, even though the additional weight of the optical drive pushes the package total closer to the weight of the 5-pound MacBook.

The MacBook Air has a maximum of 2GB of RAM, comes with a 1.6GHZ Core 2 Duo Intel processor (you can get 1.8 GHz for an extra $300) and a choice of an 80 GB 4200 RPM hard disk drive or a 64 GB flash drive. The 64GB flash (solid state) drive, however, will cost you an extra $999.

Apple designed the MacBook Air to function wirelessly. It does not even have an Ethernet port for a hard-wire connection. If you want to connect to a wired network, you will have to get a separate USB-Ethernet dongle. I can live with that too, except for the fact that the MacBook Air only has one USB port. If you need to connect more than one USB device at a time, you will have to attach a USB Hub to that one USB connection.

One expects certain sacrifices in the interest of lightness and size in a superlight computer. The MacBook Air comes stripped of most connectivity options. It has a USB connection, audio out, and a Micro DVI port. That’s it other than the mag plug connector for attachment to a power source.

The MacBook Air costs significantly more than a MacBook which comes with a faster processor, a built-in optical superdrive, and a faster hard drive, but also along with a larger and clunkier-looking case and between 1.5 and 2 pounds more weight.

One other issue with the MacBook Air relates to Apple’s decision respecting the battery configuration. Following its design for the iPod and the iPhone, Apple created a laptop with a sealed in rechargeable battery that the user cannot easily replace. No more popping in an extra battery when the laptop runs out of juice. When it runs out of juice, it runs out of juice and you need to find a power source for it. The only portable option available (other than plugging into a car), an external battery, will likely prove heavier than the difference between the Mac Book and the Mac Book Air.

As slick as it looks, the cost-to-performance ratio of the MacBook Air will dissuade me from reaching for my Visa card for a while. I expect that the next iteration of the MacBook Air will reflect an increase in the amount of RAM available and an increase in the amount of storage available in the flash memory and in the hard disk options. When that happens, I will bite the bullet, deal with the connectivity issues, and get the MacBook Air. With a better price-to-performance ratio resulting from more memory and a larger solid-state drive, its sleek appearance and light weight will present an attraction most difficult to resist.

[Photo of Time Capsule]
Courtesy of Apple.

Apple also announced a combination wireless N router, storage, and back up device. It calls this marvel the “Time Capsule.” The time capsule will come in 1TB and 500GB memory versions. It looks much like the current routers, and the 1TB version will cost $499. This package will work hand-in-hand with the Time Machine feature built into the Leopard edition of Mac OS X (10.5) to give you mindless, thought-free, and completely automatic back up. This is really cool. Whether or not you have your own backup regime in place, you will want this. I plan to get one for my house as well as one for my office.

Speaking of Leopard, if you have not already upgraded to it, do it! I have a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, and iMac all running on it now and have had very few problems (mostly relating to the Apple Mail program). Setting Mail up again solved those problems. Leopard boasts some 300 new features. The new features Leopard brings to the party make it a good investment.

One of Leopard’s best features, the Time Machine, gives you automatic back up with some panache. As long as you have an external hard drive attached to your Mac and Time Machine turned on, the computer will back itself up on a regular schedule. Once the external hard drive fills up, Time Machine will erase earlier backups and replace them with more current ones. The program works quite nicely and allows you to quickly and easily recover a lost or erased file in a very short time and with very little difficulty. It does so with graphics out of a science fiction movie, showing you moving through time to the earlier version. As mentioned above, Time Machine also serves as the departure point for the connection to the newly announced Time Capsule.

Some of the other new features worth noting include:

  • Spaces, which allows you to have four different desktops that show different things and serve as home to different programs all at the same time.
  • Bootcamp has evolved beyond public Beta. It has official status as a part of the Leopard OS. It allows you to boot your Mac hardware up into the Mac OS or into a Windows OS.
  • Quick Look lets you see a document or picture without actually opening up its application. It gives you an instantaneous view to let you decide if you have found what you wanted. I have found this feature very handy.
  • The Finder evolves with a ”Cover Flow“ concept that lets you browse files as you browse music in iTunes.

For a more detailed examination of the new features in Leopard, go to Apple has put together a pretty decent introduction to its new OS.

Another big piece of news from MacWorld: Microsoft used MacWorld as the stage to introduce Office 2008 for the Mac. Yes, it finally happened—Microsoft released the new version of the Mac Office. Written for the Intel processor, the new version (no longer accompanied in the dock by the little ”R” that means it runs through Rosetta) works much more quickly than Office 2004. It comes with a completely new to the Mac interface. I like the new interface—it has a clean and simple appearance. Once you figure out how to access all the features you have come to know and use, it works very well. In fact, I am creating this column in Office 2008, and the more I use it, the better I like it.

The new version of Office includes new templates, better graphics (including 3D graphics), better interaction between the programs, and, in the Media Edition, exchange server connectivity. It also shifts to the open XML document structure Microsoft used in its Office 2007 for Windows. After we have had the chance to explore it further, look for a more detailed review. First take, however, this looks like a worthwhile upgrade.

Until you upgrade to the new version of Office, you will need to get a converter for your Office 2004 to allow it to use the open XML-formatted documents. You can get it free from Microsoft:

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the law firm of Graves & Allen with a general practice that, since 1973, has emphasized negotiation, structuring, and documentation of real estate acquisitions, loans and other business transactions, receiverships, related litigation, and bankruptcy. Graves & Allen is a small firm in Oakland, California. Mr. Allen also works extensively as an arbitrator and a mediator. He serves as the editor of the Technology eReport and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSOLO magazine. He regularly presents at substantive law and technology-oriented programs for lawyers and writes for several legal trade magazines. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, Jeffrey has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He holds faculty positions at California State University of the East Bay and the University of Phoenix. You can contact Jeffrey via e-mail at .

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