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Monday, 31 January 2011

Using the iPad in legal practice — Part 5

Previous posts
1. Setting up
2. Applications for the iPad
3. Getting information on and off the iPad
4. Using the iPad in Court


This post
5. Other uses and miscellaneous stuff
5.1 Video out — connecting to court AV systems?
5.2 Skype
5.3 Email
5.4 Sync
   5.4.1 iTunes
   5.4.2 Over the air
5.5 Find my iPad
5.6 Accessories
   5.6.1 Stylus
   5.6.2 Skins
   5.6.3 Cases
   5.6.4 Stands
5.7 Justifying the iPad over other options


5. Other uses and miscellaneous stuff


This is the final post in my series about using the iPad. If you've been following and wondering when the next installation was due, sorry for the delay: real life occasionally gets in the way!

As the title says, this is just a miscellany of information that you might find interesting or helpful, but doesn’t really fit anywhere else.

In addition to my suggestions below, check out 25 essential resources for your Apple tablet from Mashable.

5.1 Video out — connecting to court AV systems?


It’s possible to connect an iPad to a video display, but not easy with current court room setups. To start with, you need a dock connector to VGA adaptor, which provides a standard computer VGA female plug for connection to the video display.

That's great for computer monitors, but no good for older traditional TV-style connections. I was in a Magistrates' Court venue last year that had a small LCD screen with multiple inputs (HDMI, VGA, DVI and others), which is perfect for this. Sadly, that’s not yet common.

The County Court has a practice note PNG 1-2008 Audio and visual standards for material presented in Court, which details its AV equipment. The County Court uses LG combo DVD-VCR machines, specifically the LG V8824W. It’s a fine machine — I bought one for my Mum, and it’s still going strong — but a bit dated, and only takes analogue connections like composite video. (Remember the old single yellow plugs we used to put in the back of the tele from the VCR? That’s composite video.) It can’t take digital connections at all, such as from an iPad or many modern laptop computers. Given how quickly technology is changing, it’s difficult (and expensive) for the courts to keep purchasing the latest equipment, so I don’t expect things will change until there’s enough demand to warrant it.

The other thing to realise is that unless you jailbreak your iPad, you can’t mirror your display and only certain apps will output video over the VGA adaptor.

The short version of all this is in Victorian courts you’ll probably need to consider a BYO projector or flat-panel, unless your particular court venue has something suitable.

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5.2 Skype


Skype is a free app that allows free calls from one device to another when both devices have Skype installed. The newest version allows telephone and video calls over the 3G networks, as well as wireless internet.

The current version of the iPad does support Skype, either using the built-in speaker and microphone, or earphones with a built-in microphone (like those on the iPhone). Personally, I find the call quality variable when calling landlines, but great to other Skype users.

The current iPad doesn’t have any video cameras, so you can’t make video calls on it. But the internet is awash with rumours about a new model likely to be announced in February, with cameras on board. I don’t make too many video calls, and when I do, I tend to be in front of a computer. But, if this is important for you, you might want to wait for the next iPad model.

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5.3 Email


The iPad uses Apple’s easy to use Mail app. It can’t create HTML signatures, but other than that does everything I could want.

You can add a huge variety of email accounts, including Microsoft Exchange, gmail and most IMAP and POP email providers — which means most consumer ISPs.


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5.4 Sync


Sync — short for ‘synchronising’ — lets you put all your calendar entries and contacts on your iPad, and then make sure the latest changes on either device are updated on the other device.

I won’t show you my calendar and contacts, but have a look at Apple’s calendar and contacts screenshots to see what they look like.

There are two ways of keeping this all up-to-date with your iPad.

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5.4.1 iTunes


The first way is to sync over iTunes. To do this, you need to connect your iPad by USB cable to your computer with your contacts and calendar on it. You can sync with Outlook 2003 or 2007, and OS X.

This method is reliable and won’t cost you anything extra. The downside is that you have to be physically next to your computer to do it. This might not be any good to you if your calendar changes while you’re out of the office.

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5.4.2 Over the air


The other option is to use an over-the-air (OTA) update service. This updates changes on any devices over the internet almost instantly, meaning you’re always up to date. A change made on your calendar on the office computer is reflected on your iPad, and vice versa.

Apple sells Mobile Me, an OTA service. It’s generally pretty good, but occasionally some folks find problems. I use it, and reckon it’s pretty good. (But, I have experienced hiccups. I just spend a few days tinkering with my two iPhones, iPad, iMac, two MacBook Pros and MacBook to get some calendar sync problems sorted. Grrr...) The other benefit with Mobile Me is to sync all your web browser bookmarks to your iPad.

If I was going to start today, I’d seriously consider using Google’s free sync services. This option wasn’t available a two years back, but is now a serious option.

Google won’t sync web browser bookmarks, but you can do that using xmarks (which is also a great service for cross-platform and cross-browser bookmark syncing).

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5.5 Find my iPad


In my first post I pointed out that using online backup provides more security than just a single paper copy of our material. Although that’s true, I gotta admit that the iPad is a much more valuable and attractive item to thieves than paper copies of legislation or briefs! So, it’s important to secure the data on the iPad. Just in case.

Apple makes that easy with it’s Find my iPad service, which is now free to all users.

As long as your iPad is connected to the internet, either by 3G or wireless, this lets you log in to any computer or iOS device and view where your iPad is. You can send a visual and audible message to display on the iPad, and if the worst comes to pass, remotely lock or wipe it so your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

I think this service is invaluable, and an advocate who stores any form of confidential or private data on their iPad must have this enabled.

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5.6 Accessories


You don’t need to buy any more gadgets to enjoy your iPad, but there are a few you should consider which might make it more enjoyable.

5.6.1 Stylus


When I wrote about taking notes on the iPad, I didn’t mention I write them with a stylus rather than my finger: it’s much easier, and also lets me use the iPad in winter with gloves!

The main three to choose from are:


I’ve tried the Pogo Sketch, and the Box Wave. (Right now, with the exchange rate, they’re cheaper to buy and import from the USA than they are to buy from the Australian distributors.)

I much prefer the Box Wave. It has a soft rubber tip that glides across the screen. The Pogo has a spongy tip that needs a lot more pressure to write, and pushes out of shape so I have to turn the styles in my fingers — a bit like writing with a pencil as the led blunts and so you turn to find a sharper edge.

Here’s what they look like, next to my fountain pen for comparison.


They’re a little shorter than a full-sized pen, but quite comfortable to hold. Despite the size of the nib, it’s easy to write and draw with them.

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5.6.2 Skins


A skin is a film that adheres to the iPad, to protect the screen or back, or both.

Take your pick of either Invisible Shield or Bodyguardz. Invisible Shield and Bodyguardz have Australian distributers, and both have excellent customer service and support if you have a problem or fault with your skin.

I’ve tried both, and I think I prefer the Bodyguardz — but there’s not much between them at all. This comparison might help you decide, and also shows you why a skin is a useful purchase.


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5.6.3 Cases


Apple makes a utilitarian, if somewhat bland, case for the iPad, which does a fine job of protecting it.

Other than that, there are so many to choose from that it often comes down to personal preference. If you like the style, Moleskine now have an iPad case. Otherwise, check out the Apple Store, or these suggestions from MacWorld.

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5.6.4 Stands


Having a stand is a great help if you want your iPad standing up in portrait orientation, especially for long periods of reading. There are heaps available, but I reckon you just can’t go past the Twelve-South Compass. I’ve got one, and love it. You can read some other recommendations here, but I still vouch for the Compass.

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5.7 Justifying the iPad


The last thing I’ll cover is about why get an iPad, and why it rather than a laptop?

This comes down to budget, and personal preference, and your needs. I think the portability of the iPad with its unobtrusiveness makes it a great tool. (Try using your laptop while standing in the queue to speak with the criminal coordinator at a Magistrates' Court on Monday morning!)

The battery life, instant-on, low profile and easy ability to pass it around and share with others are all great features.

But its small keyboard, and lack of full blown computing power are negatives. If you’re really pushed you can use something like LogMeIn or iTeleport which lets you control your desktop from the iPad.

But if you consider the cost of legislation alone, it can be a worthwhile purchase. For example, the current Crimes Act is $45.80 in hardcopy; the Criminal Procedure Act, $30.10. The Road Safety Act (in two volumes), $75.35. If you purchase around 20 of the big expensive Acts and Regs, that’s nearly half the price of an iPad right there. Then, if you subscribe to updates, or buy them as you go, you’ve probably paid the balance of the iPad in 12 months. Now throw in the iPad’s ability to store multiple point-in-time versions of legislation, and as many electronic copies as you need, and it’s paid for itself before you even start using any of its other functions.

Coupled with its portability so that you’re more likely to have this information with you when you need it, I reckon it’s invaluable. But then, I would say that, given I bought one!

So, that’s how I use mine at present. No doubt that will change over time, and I’ll pick up new ideas from others. Please feel free to comment and share how you use your iPad.

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1 comment:

Piquet Kruzas said...

There is a recent review by Macworld on 12 stylus (styli?) here: http://www.macworld.com/article/156560/2010/05/touchscreen_stylus_roundup.html

A useful observation is that a narrower tip and heavier stylus makes handwriting on the iPad easier and more legible.