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

Nov 2008

Vol. 7, No. 4


  • MacNotes »
    Mac security and the law office.
  • SurvivingEmail »
    How to look like an absolute fool on mailing lists.

  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Find out where to shop for new hardware.
  • ProductNotes
    Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Mini Stick, The Chillow and Sound Oasis Sound Systems, and Sony’s eReader and Amazon’s Kindle.
  • DivisionNotes »
    Cost Recovery, Call for 2009 Solo and Small Firm Program Awards Nominations.



Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Mini Stick

Pinnacle has created a nifty little USB plug-in that turns your computer into a television. Why would you want to do that? Maybe you want it because you find yourself waiting for a delayed flight at the airport. Maybe you want it because you find yourself in need of a break from whatever else you happen to be working on at the time. Maybe you find yourself working on something and want to keep track your favorite sports team in the background. For whatever reason, Pinnacle’s HD Mini Stick gives you the ability to do it on your computer. The hardware package comes with the USB connector, an antenna, and a connector for a cable connection. Pinnacle also includes a mini remote control. The whole package takes up very little space, allowing you to easily take it with you. To make it easier for you, the package comes with a small cloth bag to hold the hardware and keep it together in your brief case. The package lists for $130 for the Mac. The Windows version costs $120.

The Mac disk comes with El Gato’s Eye TV Lite. The Windows disk comes with Pinnacle’s own TV Center Pro. The software installs easily and immediately recognizes the hardware. The picture I received was quite decent (better with a cable connection than without) and, quite simply, my computer worked about as well as a television as a portable dedicated TV would work, with one exception. I found that if I had my laptop multitask, it occasionally slowed down and appeared to lose the signal for a fraction of a second, then recover it. A minor annoyance, but certainly acceptable as opposed to carrying a television around in addition to the computer. In addition to converting your laptop to a television, the software also converts your computer to a video recorder, so that you can record a show for later viewing if you don’t have time to see it when it airs.


Screen shot(s) are of Pinnacle TV for Mac HD mini Stick(c) Copyright 2008 2008 Pinnacle Systems, Inc., reprinted by permission.

Better Sleep for Better Living: The Chillow and Sound Oasis Sound Systems

Sound Oasis
The older I get, the more sleep I need and the less ability I have to function without good solid sleep. From time to time, I have found it hard to sleep because my mind continues working, even though my body wants a break. I have found that sound generation systems help me blank out my mind so that I can fall asleep. Sound Oasis makes several models of sound generation machines. They all basically do the same thing: generate white noise to help you relax. The three models have different features to distinguish them, but all work well.

S3000©2008 Sound Oasis™. Images reprinted with permission.

S3000 Deluxe Sound Therapy System. The top of the line system lists for $149.95 and includes a three-speaker system, AM-FM digital radio, backlit, dual 12.23-hour alarm clock with three alarm sounds and a digital calendar, voice memorandum recording, and a headphone jack/CD input jack. The S3000 generates 120 sounds (20 main sounds and 5 mix sounds create 120 sound environment possibilities).

S850©2008 Sound Oasis™. Images reprinted with permission.

S850 Traveler. The S850 lists for $89.95 and was designed with the traveler in mind. A small unit that easily packs in your overnight bag, the S850 combines high-performance digital sounds with a full-featured travel/alarm clock. The S850 generates 18 digitally recorded sounds, an exclusive jet-lag reduction sound, and has a voice memo feature. It runs on four AA batteries or with power from the included AC adapter. The built-in sounds include: ocean surf, north woods, thunderstorm, white noise, night train, spring rain, island surf, bonfire, stream, hidden cove, wind, asian garden, song birds, harbor swell, bamboo chimes, summer night, cooling fan, and rain forest.

S650©2008 Sound Oasis™. Images reprinted with permission.

S650. The S650 uses a sound card system that allows the user to swap out sound cards and get additional sound themes. The sounds come 12 to a card. Currently, four cards are available. The first card, Sleep/Relaxation/Wellness, comes with the system as part of the package. The other three that you can add to the package (at a supplemental cost) are Ear Therapy, Spa Retreat, and Nature Journey. The S650 runs on four AA batteries or AC power. The S650 lists for $99.95.

The good news for you is that one of the vendors has offered a discount. The Complete Sleeper ( has offered a 10% discount on the S3000 through December 25, 2008. Use the coupon code “ereport” to get the discount.

The Chillow. The Chillow works off of the principal that water will absorb heat and in the process, cool you down. The Chillow consists of a vinyl bag with an airtight seal. When you get the Chillow, you activate it by filling it with water and swishing it around a bit and then letting it sit for a while. The extra air gets removed. Then you stick the pad into your pillowcase over your pillow so that it lies between you and the pillow. When you lie down on it, it feels somewhat cool to the touch, and it helps lower your body temperature, making you more comfortable. It offers welcome relief on a hot night.

The Chillow comes in two sizes and three models: the Original, Mini, and Plus. The Plus is a bit softer than the Original. The Original and the Plus measure 21" x 13.5" and about a half inch thick when filled with water. The Mini measures 14" x 10" and about a half inch thick when filled with water. The Mini lists for $21.95, the Original $29.95, and the Plus $49.95. I have seen the Chillow Plus on sale for $39 online at the Comfort Store ( ).


The War of the eReaders: A Comparative Review of Sony's eReader and Amazon's Kindle

For the last several years we have seen various manufacturers offer a variety of portable readers that allow us to carry a good-sized library in extremely little space. Imagine going on a trip with a full bookcase of classics, novels, and other reading materials in a small package that takes up less space than a single paperback book and doesn’t weigh much more than a paperback book.

A number of eBook versions have come and gone, and new ones have recently been introduced. The two that stand out at the present time, the Sony eReader and the Amazon Kindle, square off against each other in what I have chosen to label the War of the eReaders. The good news for you is that I like both of them for different reasons, and I think you will see reasons to prefer one or the other, just as I have.

The Sony eReader
In the patriotic blue, red, or silver (well, it’s sort of “whiteish”) metal case, we have the recently updated and improved Sony eReader. The Sony Digital Book (model PRS-505/RC) lists for $299.99. You will not likely find it discounted by Sony (but if you have the original eReader (PRS-500), you can get a $100 credit for it against the cost of buying the new version). You may find some small discounts online. The new version offers substantial improvements over the older version, including a redone library management program that works very smoothly. The Sony currently comes with 100 free eBook Classics titles. You get to choose the 100 titles from the Sony electronic book library available online. The free books consist of classics that have no current copyright issues, such as The Time Machine and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. If you want any contemporary writings, novels, etcetera, you have to purchase them at the Sony eBook Store. The Reader requires an account at the eBook Store to load free or purchased material, and you must connect through a Windows-based computer—Sony has made its eBook Store off-limits to the Mac OS for downloads. You can, however, use a Mac to check out the fairly comprehensive list of available titles at

Sony’s eReader will store about 160 books in its internal memory, but it accepts media cards, allowing for additional storage. It comes with two slots: one for memory sticks and the other for SD cards. You can add substantial memory by using both slots. With both slots filled and the internal memory, you could easily store several hundred books on the eReader. You can also store additional books on memory cards and swap the cards in and out to increase the effective volume of your library.

You can also put your own PDF materials on the cards as well as pictures and MP3 music. Note that the eReader only displays in shades of gray and black, so pictures will not show in color. The Sony eReader runs off electrical current from its built-in battery, a USB port, or an electrical power outlet. It weighs about 9 ounces without the protective soft-cover and is a shade smaller than 7" x 5" x 0.3".

The eReader has a navigation pad that allows you to move around the screen and a series of buttons that you push to make your selection. All in all, I found navigation quite easy. I also like the substantial feel of the case. The eReader also lets you adjust the size of the print to make it easier to read as you age. I found it easy to read text on the eReader, both in terms of size and contrast.

©2007 Sony Electronics Inc. Image reprinted with permission.
Sony Reader Sony eReaderAmazon Kindle Amazon Kindle
© 1996-2008,, Inc. or its affiliates Image reprinted with permission.

The Amazon Kindle
Wearing the white plastic case, we have Amazon’s ( Kindle electronic reader. The Kindle is slightly larger and a little heavier than the Sony Reader (7.5" x 5.3" x 0.7" and 10.3 ounces).

Amazon sells the Kindle for $359. Expect no discounts and you will not find disappointment in your search. Amazon does not provide you with a significant library as part of its purchase price. Amazon has set up a special “Kindle” store as part of its massive website structure. Contemporary books go for about $9.98 in electronic format at Amazon’s Kindle Store. You can also subscribe to magazines, newspapers, and blogs or buy single issues of magazines and newspapers and have them added to your Kindle. You can and add your own documents and pictures to the Kindle as well. While you can connect the Kindle to a computer to add content, the Kindle requires no computer connection to purchase or receive books or periodical/blog subscription deliveries. Amazon has set up a cellular structure it calls the Whisper network. The Whisper network allows you to access the Kindle store and purchase new materials and then download them directly to your Kindle without using a computer. While Amazon has not set up a free Kindle library, with relatively little effort, you can find a number of Kindle compatible books available for download at no cost.

The Kindle runs off of a built-in rechargeable battery or power from an electrical outlet.

The Kindle has a built-in keyboard to facilitate making notes. It also has a click-wheel to facilitate both navigation and menu selections. You turn pages on the Kindle by pressing a panel on either the right or left side of the screen. The right side has a long panel button for the next page and a very short one for turning back to the previous page. On your left hand side of the book, you will find a medium-sized panel for the next page and a longer panel for the previous page. The Kindle has a book cover style case to protect the device and its screen. I found the case somewhat annoying when reading the book, so I often remove it when I am reading my Kindle. Holding the Kindle without inadvertently turning pages takes some practice, but the skill can be mastered. I found it easier to read the book if I placed it on a table and only touch it when I wanted to turn a page or make a menu choice.

And the Winner Is:
The Kindle's plastic case feels somewhat flimsy to me by comparison to the solidity of the Sony eReader. I prefer the navigational features of the Sony as well. I enjoy the classics and liked the fact that it came with a fairly serious collection. All things being otherwise equal, I would pick the Sony eReader over the Kindle. All things, however, are not equal. Amazon's creation of the Whisper network and its ability to allow the Kindle to access and load new material as well as the breadth of the materials Amazon offers for the Kindle move it ahead of Sony's eReader in my book. Simply put, Sony wins on form and Amazon wins on function.

A Lawyer Should Always Have a Good Case!
I have written about the Waterfield (aka SF Bags) [] products several times, as they are among my favorite bag-makers. Aside from computer cases, general carrying cases, and iPhone cases, the Waterfield people have come up with a collection of special cases for the Kindle and for the Sony Reader. All of the cases provide padding and protection for the readers. Some afford more space than others to accommodate accessories. Waterfield has designed three cases, a sleeve ($39), a slip case ($27), and a travel case ($49) for each of the devices. The travel case has the most room and will accommodate the reader as well as its AC adapter.

Waterfield Designs, Inc. Images reprinted with permission.
Sony Reader Travel Case Sony eReader case
Kindle case 1  Kindle case 2
Kindle™ SleeveCase

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 email at Mr. Allen blogs on technology and the law at

© Copyright 2008, American Bar Association.