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January 25, 2021 4 minutes to read ∙ 1000 words

TAPAs: Technology True or False?

By Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Technology competence is becoming a requirement more and more each year. As a reminder, ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 (Competence) reads:

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

The eighth comment to this rule further clarifies that:

[8] To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.

There is a lot of information floating around, and sometimes it can feel a little jumbled, so this month we thought we would take a look at some technology “tips” to discern which are fact and which are fiction.

Tip 1: True or False: More Cell Phone Bars Mean Better Service

False. It is possible to have a full set of bars but still have terrible performance. The bars you see on your wireless phone are an indication of your signal strength, which depends on your proximity to the nearest cell tower. There are other factors that also influence the quality of service you receive, such as the number of people connected to the same tower, or your service provider.

Tip 2: True or False: Manually Turning Off Your PC by Pressing the Power Button Is Dangerous

It depends (apologies for the cliché). This is true if the drive in your PC uses rotating discs to read or write data. A traditional hard drive (HDD) is essentially a metal plate with a magnetic coating that stores your data. HDDs make around 10,000 revolutions per minute (rpm), and in earlier times, pressing the power button would cut off the power and force the disks to stop moving at that speed, which could cause them to burn. Also, in older hardware, the power button was designed only to turn power to the system on or off. Eventually (around the deployment of Windows 98), the power button was configured to execute the shutdown command, rather than simply cut the power.

But what if your Windows operating system is frozen and unable to respond to the shutdown command initiated by pressing the power button? Computer manufacturers have built in a feature to address this concern as well. If your computer is frozen, you can force it to shut down by pressing and holding down the power button for a period of seconds.

Still not convinced the power button is a safe way to shut down the computer? In current Windows operating systems you can customize how Windows responds to your pressing the power button. To do so, go into your Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options. Here you can customize what your hardware does in response to your pressing the power button, the sleep button, or merely closing the lid (for laptops). You can further customize laptop settings for when your system is on battery power vs. when it is plugged in.

Tip 3: True or False: Incognito Mode or Private Browsing Will Keep Your Information Private

False. Incognito or private browsing may sound like it will keep your information private, but really this just means your web browsing history will not be tracked. You can use it to keep someone in your vicinity from seeing what you are browsing, but the sites that you visit, and your Internet service provider, can still access the information.

Tip 4: True or False: Emptying the Recycle Bin Permanently Deletes Files

False. When you empty your recycle bin, Windows marks the data as “deleted,” which allows the storage space to be written over. However, the data still exists there on the drive until it finally gets written over, meaning it can still be recovered. This possibility exists for a limited time, though. The exact amount of time that you will have depends on how you use your computer and how much empty space you have on your storage device.

There are several ways to recover data that is deleted from the recycle bin. You can use data recovery software such as Stellar Data Recovery or EaseUS Data Recovery Wizard. You can also try to restore your file history without downloading software. To do so, go to your Windows search bar and type “File History,” then search. This will locate your File History in your control panel. However, in order to work, this feature must be turned on.

Tip 5: True or False: Apple Mac Computers Are Always More Expensive Than Windows PCs

False. On the surface, it looks like Mac computers are more expensive than PCs. After all, you can readily walk into a computer store and walk out with a desktop computer for around $300, whereas you will rarely purchase a Mac computer for less than $1,000. So why is this notion false? If you design a PC with similar specifications to those in a Mac computer, you will find the cost is actually comparable. Apple carries a relatively limited product line compared to PCs. For example, if you were to compare the cost of the least-expensive Apple laptop (MacBook Air, from $999) to the least expensive PC laptop (for example, Lenovo IdeaPad, $349), you would find a stark difference. However, if you look at the specifications, the MacBook Air starts with an 8-core CPU and 256 GB Solid State Drive (SSD). The Lenovo IdeaPad at the $349 price point has a 4-core CPU and 128 GB SSD. The basic PC laptop offers half the processing power and half the storage space. Apple simply doesn’t sell a product with lower-end processors or storage.

With all the information flowing through the web, it can be hard to discern the truth from an old wives’ tale. Hopefully, these tips will help improve your technology know-how.

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Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the American Bar Association (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association, and the Alameda County Bar Association. He is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus and Senior Technology Editor of GPSolo magazine and the GPSolo eReport and continues to serve as a member of both magazines’ Editorial Boards. He also serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience magazine. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is a former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Information Technology and the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today’s Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He is on the faculty of California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at [email protected].

Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Macpherson Energy Corporation in Bakersfield, California. Ashley is Editor-in-Chief of the GPSolo eReport and is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division, and the Bakersfield Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs. She may be reached at [email protected].

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 10, Number 6, January 2021. © 2021 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.