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A plain language post about fog computing (that anyone can understand)

Is fog on the ground? Or can fog be on the ground AND in the clouds? Just when you got used to the term “Cloud Computing”, we now have “Fog Computing”. Hang on! Before you bounce, let me explain how this is important for lawyers (or others that are not into tech). My goal is to get people to understand the concepts first, and then fill in the concepts with the techno-terms, which are listed in parentheses.

But I explain things simply by testing concepts on my 6-year-old son. If I can explain things to him, I can explain it to most anyone.

When I talked about cloud computing to my son, he said, “Clouds are up in the sky.” To illustrate cloud computing, I mimed the act of taking something in my hands (data or information) and throwing it up into a cloud.

But this is only one part of cloud computing; the second part is where the data sent up comes back down to another computer. Conceptually, cloud computing is a rocket ship blasting off and then return to earth.

I asked my son if he knew of any problems with all of this up and down. Other than crashing (which dovetails nicely into computing issues), he mentioned the time it takes to make the trip. True! That travel time causes a delay from when data is sent to when it is received. (latency)

Next, I asked my son what fog is. “Clouds that are on the ground,” he said. Yes! But again, it’s not this simple for fog computing. When we say fog computing, it really includes cloud computing. A better way of understanding what fog computing is to change “fog computing” to be “anywhere-along-a-continuum computing”. Seriously, though, fog computing sounds much nicer.

Fog computing is a continuum; it’s a range that goes from the cloud to the ground-level, where our computers and devices are located. The main reason for this continuum is because not everything should go up to the cloud.

fog computing

Fog computing is a range from cloud, to edge, to a device.

Fog Computing is a continuum or a range of computing that goes from the cloud, to the edge, to the devices. 

  • Sometimes, we want information sitting within a smart device. Or maybe we want our devices talking to other devices. (device computing)
  • Sometimes we want information just above the device but not quite at the cloud-level. (edge computing)
  • Sometimes we want information shooting up to the cloud. (cloud computing)

Fog computing includes cloud computing, edge computing, and computing done at the device level. And this is the next push that is going to affect lawyers in many ways.

But let’s get back to what is mainly happening now, which is cloud computing. In cloud computing, we are sending information from a device up to the cloud and then down to another computer to process this information.

The big problem is, as stated above, latency issues. Delays. And not everything NEEDS to go up to the cloud. This is becoming more and more of an issue because our things are generating more and more data.

What is creating this data? Computers, smartphones, smart devices (IoT), cars, airplanes, basically anything with a computer in it.

Future tech developments like driverless cars (autonomous vehicles) will produce so much data that it is impractical to send it all up to the cloud. The data needs to be aggregated closer to the car to avoid delay (latency) issues.

Connected devices used in our homes don’t need to send all their data to the cloud either. If Alexa talks to your toaster and fridge and television and hair brush and personal assistant (seen at the recent CES show), this talking could remain at a lower level. Terabytes of data where the devices say,  “I’m ok”, could be compressed at the lower level and batch sent to the cloud. Or only abnormal data could be sent to the cloud.

Fog computing has other benefits like:

  1. Data security: If you’re not sending as much information up and down a network, the data is more secure. This is a topic that many are aware is important yet most do not address or feel they are ill-prepared for breaches.
  2. System reliability: If you’re not sending information up and down a network, there are fewer chances of the data becoming corrupted so the system is more reliable.
  3. Less power needed to run devices: Fog computing includes the sharing resources at or near the edge of a system. By sharing resources left to right versus up and down, we need less power in each device as the devices work together.

Now, where do lawyers come in?  If lawyers understand the concepts behind this technological movement, they can drill down to addressing the practical legal aspects. Here are some nuggets to get you started:

There’s the obvious topic like data security. What data is being sent where? How will the data be stored?

In terms of liability issues, who is legally responsible if a product gets hacked? Who pays for damages?  Who is responsible for patching devices? Consider that a product could be as simple as smart hairbrush (Iot) or as huge as a driverless truck. (autonomous vehicles) Who has liability for failures in these very complex meshes of computations?

In terms of privacy, how will lawyers help draft privacy agreements in an age when surveillance IS the service? Will we get to a time when we, as a society, change the expectations of privacy (the second prong in Katz’s expectations of privacy test)?

There are contractual issues as well; contracts need to be written between all of the players in this system. And the companies that are developing partnerships are not between the same partners in the past.

In terms of intellectual property law, what if I learn new things from your data and patent the findings? Do I really own this?

But let’s not forget evidence! If you have it, lawyers will try to subpoena. And it won’t be in criminal trials alone. This evidence will also appear in civil lawsuits. Think again how ignorant it would be if a lawyer subpoenas “any and all data” from an entirely connected system.

Techno-speak can be off-putting. But so can legal-speak. Hopefully, this article gives lawyers an understanding of the next technological movement, called fog computing, so they can better prepare for the whirlwind soon to come.

Special thanks to Matt Vasey at Microsoft (@mvasey) and with the Open Fog Consortium (@openfog) for helping me out with this article.

If You Can See It, You Can Save it: How to Create a Screen Capture

Update to my original post:

Last night was the second presidential debate between DT and HC. And here, again, the use of screen captures was very noticeable.

NBC Nightly News tweeted this out…

Even NBC Nightly News uses screenshots

Even NBC Nightly News uses screenshots

And this morning, Twitter Moments used “The funniest screen grabs from the second presidential…” as the title to their section.

Twitter Moments announces screen grabs in their Moments section.

Twitter Moments announces screen grabs in their Moments section.

Now I call them screen captures, but screen grabs is good, too. Either way, lawyers need to learn how to do this. So read and re-read my original post on this topic.

Oh and regarding the administrator who made the public Facebook comment regarding a lawsuit he was involved in (see below).. yup, he took down his Facebook post. No matter; because of the many screen captures of his posting, that post is now listed as evidence in the Plaintiff’s Pretrial Disclosures.

Screen capturing a now-deleted-Facebook allows it to be used in litigation.

Screen capturing a now-deleted-Facebook post allowed it to be presented as hard evidence in a lawsuit.

_____________________________________________

If you see it, you can save it, but you have to save it immediately.

At one point during the first debate between HRC and DT, DT said he did not deny that there was global warming. My Twitter feed was soon filled with people tweeting about how DT had stated the complete opposite on HIS Twitter account years earlier (and that the Chinese had created it as a hoax). They even posted a screen capture of DT’s Twitter post.

Twitterverse screen captured DT's tweet, just in case it got deleted at a later date.

Twitterverse screen captured DT’s tweet, just in case it got deleted at a later date.

I had already written a blog post earlier in the day based on screen captures and knew I had to amend it to include this timely example.

The initial reason for my blog article was in reaction to a presentation by attorney Brian Koncius during the State Bar of Michigan’s annual conference. Brian led an educational session on some of the current technologies impacting employment law.

He mentioned two examples/situations that piqued my interest: disappearing apps and digital content that is removed off of a website (for example, deleting a post on Facebook or Twitter).

This blog post discusses how to capture and save these content types.

It all boils down to capturing what someone sees as soon as they see it. Time is of the essence because the material may be fleeting.

Here is the general rule: If you see something on your screen, you can save it to use at a later date, but you have to save what you see immediately.

The method to do so is called taking a screen capture. You can do screen captures with things you see on your phone, your tablet, your laptop, and your desktop computer. Think of screen captures as taking a picture of everything you see on these screens.

A screen capture is a photo, taken at one point in time (so no video screen shots, sorry), that is either copied to the clipboard of your computer or saved as a photo on your phone.

Here is a high-level overview of how to do a screen capture on your desktop computer. For phones and other devices, I’d suggest Googling “how to take a screen shot” along with the name of your device (e.g. iPhone) and see what results. I’ve seen amazingly straightforward YouTube videos showing how to do this.

Back to screen capturing on your desktop computer.

Step 1: View the information on your computer screen.
For attorneys, you will either have to go to a specific website or have information sent to you. Or, you will have to instruct your client that they will need to take a screen capture for any material they see so it can be later used as evidence to support their verbal testimony.

Let’s assume you, the attorney, are viewing someone’s Facebook page on your computer. Be sure to close out anything else on your computer you do not want saved in your screenshot.

Step 2: Take the screenshot.

Your Print Screen button will be on your laptop or desktop keyboard.

Your Print Screen button will be on your laptop or desktop keyboard.

On most laptops and desktop keyboards, there is a key that says something like “PRT SC” in the upper right corner of the keyboard. Press it. For my computer, nothing appears to happen- but I know it has because of the next step…

Step 3: Open up Word and within a new file hit the Paste button. (With the older versions of Word, it was /Edit /Paste)

If you want the ability to further edit the screen capture, open up a photo editing software like Photoshop or MS Paint and basically do the same thing. Open up a photo editing software, create a new file in it, and then do an /Edit /Paste

I use Adobe Photoshop. So the steps for me are to Open Photoshop, hit /File /New, accept the settings the software is giving me, and then hit /Edit /Paste. Whola! There is my screen capture.

If you don’t have Photoshop, surely you have something basic like Microsoft’s Paint software. The same steps apply to Paint… /File /New and then /Edit /Paste.

Step 4: Save your new photo or Word file.

As lawyers, you know that visual evidence can be very effective in court. When the father says, “She never told me she was pregnant,” showing his Instagram post of the mother’s ultrasound and his text below it saying, “My ex claims she’s pregnant” will help your case.

Dennis Armistead

To the press, this administrator said, “No comment.” Then he publicly posted this on his Facebook and Twitter pages.

But it’s not just you who are using these screen captures, so is the press. When a company administrator says, “No comment” to the press and then publicly posts his views on a lawsuit against his employer on his Facebook page, you can be sure that reporter has screen-captured the heck out of the post.

That’s what happened during the HRC/DT debate.  Screen-capturing is becoming a commonly-used verb, like Photoshopping a photograph.

So just to clarify the details a bit more here: Once something is seen on a screen, it can be saved. It just has to be captured immediately.

Photographs as Evidence: How to Work with Print and Digital Images

A re-post of my article at the ABA’s Law Practice Today

http://www.lawpracticetoday.org/article/photographs-as-evidence-how-to-work-with-print-and-digital-images/

It seems like photographs are everywhere, doesn’t it? The advent of digital photography, mobile phones, and social media sites means people are taking exponentially more photographs. Experts predict that within this year, more than 1 trillion photos will be taken.

We are living in a technological time when capturing and sharing images is easy and ubiquitous. People take pictures with digital cameras, smart phones, and tablets. Copiers often double as scanners that allow the rapid duplication of printouts, with an additional conversion of a page of text into an image format.

Not only has the number of photographs increased, so, too has the use of them in litigation for both digital and physical evidence. One reason may be because jurors, being drawn from the general public, are visual learners, so they mainly want to see evidence rather than hear it. People also more easily forget what they hear. With the amount of information that jurors must process, using photographs can help strengthen an argument or issue presented.

Litigators may choose to digitally project photographs depending upon whether the courtroom is capable of displaying the images. Or, as in the case of a federal suit, lawyers may be forced to use digital files. However, when the jurors deliberate, lawyers must consider what happens when they try to print a digital photograph.

What are Photographs, Really?

When a photograph is captured by a digital camera, it becomes a digital file called a “raster file.”  Raster images are resolution-dependent. Basically, resolution is the amount of dots per inch (dpi) when a raster image is printed, or pixels per inch (ppi) when a raster image is displayed on a screen.

Resolution dependency means that the resolution varies depending upon where that raster image ends up. Terms like “lo res” refer to digital images with a resolution of 72 ppi – suitable for website usage. “Hi res” images have a resolution setting ranging from 300-600 dpi or higher – suitable for print use.

Because of these resolution differences, lawyers often experience photos that are in-focus when viewed on a screen, but blurry/out-of-focus when printed out.

The Blurry Printed Photographs Problem

There are two main reasons why an in-focus digital photo becomes blurry when printed:

1. Web images have lo res settings while printed images need hi res settings.

When you print a lo res image that has 72 ppi, there’s not enough data to print a clear and crisp image. Although software, like Adobe Photoshop, allows you to upsample (and simply increase the resolution), do not do it. The resulting image will now be blurry in both digital and printed applications.

2. Web images that are stretched or scaled to fit a page will also result in blurry printouts.

Facebook and Twitter photos are not only lo res, they are also small in physical size, like postal-stamp sizes when printed out. This is not an effective way to present them as evidence.

Many a savvy lawyer will take a downloaded Facebook photo and stretch it to fit a printout size. Or, they will look in the print dialog box and click “Scale to Fit Page”. Both are also problematic because the result is a blurry printout.

So what can you do?

Solutions

Here are two possible solutions to achieving an in-focus printout from a digital photograph.

1. If possible, you may be able to resize an image.

Resizing an image is different than resampling it. Resampling changes the resolution. Resizing allows for a swapping of size and resolution settings.

If you have a large photograph in terms of width and height, but it is lo res (72 ppi), you can resize it to be smaller in width and height, while increasing its resolution.

Where do you get digital photographs that can be resized?

They are photographs taken with a camera or smart phone and sent directly to an attorney – not  photos that are right-clicked and saved off of someone’s social media profile and then sent to an attorney.

After you have the resizeable digital photo, you will need software to resize it. Two good options are GIMP and Adobe Photoshop. GIMP is free and offers many of the capabilities of Adobe Photoshop.

Here is a step-by-step tutorial to resize an image using GIMP

  1. Open GIMP
  2. <File <Open and find your digital image
  3. <Image <Scale Image
  4. Increase both your X and Y resolution (and they are probably linked by default) and GIMP will automatically decrease your width and height. You may want to change the dropdown button next to the width and height values to inches so you see the size of the image when it is printed out.*
  5. Hit “Scale
  6. <File <Print to print your file
  7. Now be sure to Re-save your new, resized image as a JPG by
  8. <File <Export As
  9. In the Name box at the top, rename your file something like “hi_res.jpg”. Unless you make other changes, be sure to add/keep the .jpg or else your file won’t save as a JPG. Also, pay attention to where you are saving your file!
  10. Hit the “Export” button
  11. You can now close out of GIMP because you have already saved your new file.

*When you are changing the resolution in step 4, you may wonder what number to change the setting too. Remember, printed images normally need a resolution between 300-600 dpi. So try 300, then 600. Whatever prints out in focus and is the width and height you want is the winner.

Resizing is a powerful solution for most, but not all, digital photographs. Some digital photographs are too small in resolution and size to be resized. These are the digital files that mainly appear in a person’s Facebook or Twitter profile.

Social media sites optimize photos to be displayed digitally and to fit on Facebook’s or Twitter’s servers. The photos are not intended to be printed out. So these companies automatically downsample all photographs that are uploaded to their sites.

What can you do if a client sends you an image they downloaded off of a social media site? If you want to print it out, not much. However, you may be able to get a better digital image if you get a screen capture of it.

2. Take a screen capture of a digital photograph.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter display user-generated photographs in many ways. Sometimes images are embedded into a tweet; sometimes you can click and see the image by itself. Try to find a way to view the photo as large as possible on your computer screen. Get it as large as you can on the screen, and then take a screen capture of it by doing the following…

Taking a screen capture with a Mac:

  1. Press Command and Shift and 4 together
  2. Move the crosshair pointer to where you want to start the screenshot
  3. Drag to select an area
  4. When you’ve selected the area you want, release your mouse or trackpad button
  5. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop
  6. Open the file in GIMP
  7. <Image <Scale Image
  8. Try to see if you can resize this lo-res image into a hi res one. If your image is larger in width and height than what you need, increase the x and y resolution (see step 4 from the above section about resizing).

Taking a screen capture with a PC:

  1. Press the Print Scrn button
  2. Open Gimp
  3. <File <Create from Clipboard
  4. Crop down the image to the photograph you want by going to <Tools <Transform Tools and selecting theCrop tool
  5. Drag to select the photograph only
  6. Hit the Enter button on your keyboard
  7. <Image <Scale Image
  8. Try to see if you can resize this lo-res image into a hi res one. If your image is larger in width and height than what you need, increase the x and y resolution (see step 4 from the above section about resizing).

Conclusion

Whether printed or projected, lawyers will probably use photographs in litigation. It’s crucial for lawyers to understand how to use them correctly and effectively.

Understand that resolution varies depending upon where these photographs will be used. Print photographs require a higher resolution setting than digitally displayed photos. But sometimes, if a lo res digital image is large in width and height, it can be resized to be a hi res image.

Resizing a photo allows for an increase in the resolution while decreasing the overall width and height of the photo. So litigators can have both an in-focus digital image and an in-focus (albeit smaller in width and height) printed image.

But if you can’t resize a digital image, try to view it as large as possible on your screen and take a screen capture of it.

These are some solutions to address working with lo res digital images. Sometimes, though, no workaround helps. In that case, hope for a courtroom that is wired so you can present the digital images to the jurors or judge on a screen.

Are lawyers the only true experts on family law matters?

Like many Americans, I have gone through both a divorce and having to litigate family law issues in a court of law. I have spent enormous amounts of money hiring lawyers to represent me, and have often represented myself.

Unlike most Americans, while I was going through the litigation, I decided to enter law school. So my approach to family law is also intersected with my academic life of being a PhD in Technology. Yes, I like to learn. That is obvious. And it is upon this nexus of real-world experiences/law student/academic that I’ve started blogging.

Recently, I pitched an idea to a legal website about the potential use by family law attorneys of the Ashley Madison data dump. My idea was quickly rejected; I was told that I could not write about substantive law because I was too junior of a lawyer. I found this humorous because I’m not yet a lawyer at all! However, this dismissal was telling.

Do lawyers really believe that only other senior lawyers are qualified as experts in family law?

Are lawyers the only experts of family law?

Are lawyers the only experts of family law?

I beg to differ. First and foremost, a JD or bar-passage does not make anyone an automatic and well-rounded expert in every legal sense. Many lawyers I know believe the degree means you’re ready to start practicing law. It’s the same thing in many colleges… students learn the most after they receive the degree.

Secondly, being dragged through litigation almost forces a party to compile and acquire legal knowledge.  My knees were skinned with the “real world” applications and twists of the family law courts. And I was able to see the disconnection between what I was experiencing within the courts as compared to the beautiful theory of the law. Law school taught me the law and what the ideal process should be. My experiences as a defendant taught me the applications and realities. Additionally, most of my law professors would answer my questions with, “Family law has its own rules”, which gave me the impression that this area of law truly needs people who have practical experiences gained in more ways than by being the attorney of record.

On that same note, the fact is that many people are litigating without the assistance or representation of legal counsel. It’s incredibly expensive to be involved in a lawsuit. A surprising fact is that 2/3rds of California family law cases are filed by a self-represented litigant! So whether it is by choice or by default, people going through the system are learning in a way that is experiential.

Additionally, the State of Washington has started a program where, surely, these non-lawyers will claim expertise in family law matters!

Some lawyers are taking note of these changes and reacting in a flexible way. They may be offering non-traditional services like limited scope representation (ala Julie Tolek) or teaching people how to represent themselves without an attorney (ala Jason Levoy)

Based upon my experiences, the changing fee structures offered by flexible attorneys, and the emerging programs to license non-lawyers in the area of family law, I think that the belief that senior attorneys are the only family law experts is, well, antiquated. We become experts in various ways.

Are appellate court rulings helping most of the people in family law matters?

As Joshua Lenon, Go Clio’s lawyer-in-residence tweeted recently, 2/3 of California family law cases are filed by a self-represented litigant.

With that in mind, I wonder how many of the 1/3 who can afford representation at the trial level can also afford to file an appeal to their suits!

As a law student, I have learned that we only read appellate cases because they have written legal opinions.

As someone who has been a defendant in a multi-year family law dispute, I know the thousands of dollars it costs to being a defendant in trial. And that is just for trying a case at the lowest level without continual representation by a lawyer.

The majority of all civil litigation happens at the trial level, yet these rulings are minimally studied by law students. We focus on the reasoning made by the higher-level courts.

With this in mind, I’ve often wondered, how representative are the appellate level cases of the trial level suits? Is the issue being appealed a common one? Or is it a problem that only wealthy people face? (This is assuming that those 2/3rds of self-represented folks are not the one filing appeals, of course.)

As an academic, I’ve used the term “generalizability”. It’s a made-up term and certainly sounds impressive, right? A good definition is here, which is “the extension of research findings and conclusions from a study conducted on a sample population to the population at large”.

Simply stated- how relevant is your research to everyday people?

Now if we apply that concept to my questions from above… one could ask, “How generalizable are the corrections made by the appellate courts to the larger population who litigates family law cases at the trial level only and who most commonly litigates without the help of legal counsel?”

Let’s “plain language” that question…

How generalizable are the opinions of the appellate courts?

How generalizable are the opinions of the appellate courts?

Are appellate court rulings really helping most of the people who are suing over family law matters?

If an appellate court is a corrective court, then they are there to correct the mistakes made by the lower courts. My concern is not with this process (and I’m thankful for it!), but with the generalizability of the their correcting rulings and if they predominantly apply to issues that most people may face within the world of family law litigation.

What do the best lawyers and professors have in common?

What do the best lawyers and professors have in common? They’re expert communicators.

My education and degrees include a Doctorate of Philosophy in Technology (a PhD in Technology) and an expected Doctor of Jurisprudence in the law (a JD) next year.

The profession that has recently shown me the most enthusiasm regarding this combination is the legal profession.

But I am drawing upon my experiences as a professor when I have written for legal outlets about spotting manipulation of digital photographs, audio recording by patients of their medical visits, and the overall need for workshops aimed at advancing lawyers’ software skills.

What I have also realized is that the common thread between what the best litigators do and what the best teachers do is efficiently and effectively communicate to their audience. The lawyers communicate to the jury (or judge, in the case of a bench trial). Professors communicate/teach to their students.

And I teach my students about visual communication. I communicate about communication! My students learn how to make logos, manipulate images, create newsletters.. basic graphic design. I have even begun to teach about 3d printing! Simply put, I teach how to create visual things because we communicate with visual symbols.

Now lawyers are undoubtedly trained in the art of written communication. But they need to be able to communicate to a jury, which is comprised of the general public. And, unlike lawyers, the general public prefers to learn visually, so they mainly want to see evidence rather than hear it.

This has led to the surge in the use of trial evidence of photographs, videos, audio recordings, etc. Given the abundance of visual images posted online, or captured by smart phones, lawyers need to become tech-savvy if they are not using communication technologies already. But I am not throwing shade or pointing fingers at anyone… heck, two years ago, it was revealed that the SCOTUS judges are not that technologically sophisticated. But technological competence is really a skill set that needs to be developed and can be through simple use of the devices and websites. (And if you don’t know how to work a device, give it to a toddler. Seriously, my 2-year old daughter can work my iPhone. And that kind-of terrifies me.)

Lawyers also need to learn how to capture digital evidence, optimize it for presentation in either a printout or a digital projection in front of jurors, or they need to hire people that have these skills (Lawyers, I’d like you to meet graphic designers. Graphic designers, I’d like you to meet lawyers).

Other than the fact that jurors are visual learners, why is using a photograph, or audio recording, or video, so powerful? Because it is hard evidence. It is not someone telling you something; the lawyer is not just telling the jurors, “This is how I think you should rule,” and arguing their side. The lawyer is presenting an audio recording on top of this “I-think-you-should-rule-this-way” method, which allows the jurors to better make up their own minds.

For example, audio recordings have not only the spoken words, but the speed at which the words are said, the tone/volume/pitch, etc. that are communication signals to better convey the true intention of the speaker.

Photos and videos are so powerful at present… Just look at the reactions that happen when they are posted online. The numerous postings of police/public confrontations, like posting a video online, has led to serious offline actions.

So back to the juror, a member of the general public…they will be empowered to draw their own conclusions at trial based on what they see or hear when they see a photograph, when they hear a recording, or when they see and hear content presented in a video. Wouldn’t that make their decision much stronger?

That’s the intersection of law and technology that excites me. Because it is about communication. And I teach about one very powerful type of communication.