Category Archives: Information Technology

smartphone with home screen showing various apps

Tools for Remote Communication

With the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, more and more we are looking for ways to communicate remotely with clients, colleagues, family and friends.  Below is a list of free video conferencing options.  We are also sharing information for you and your clients about expanded internet service and no or low-cost smartphones for low-income persons.

There are many great free video-conferencing applications, but none of them work with each other. This means that both you and the person you are video-conferencing need to be using the same application. Most, however, work on any platform, Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android.

“Browser” means any supported web browser on a PC or Mac

Zoom

A professional, full-featured product that allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. Meetings with more than 2 people carry a 40-minute time limit. Mobile Screen sharing is also available for Android and IOS. Also available on phone and tablet.

Key functions: video and screen sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: 40 minute limit if more than 2 people. No simple chat option.
Available: Browser, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
Download: https://zoom.us/download

 

Skype

Allows unlimited free video calls to other Skype users. No download is required as it can also be used in your internet browser. A good choice for group videoconferencing as it allows up to 50 people on a single call. Also available on phone and tablet.

Key functions: video sharing
Pros: free
Cons: Complex. No simple chat option.
Available: Browser, Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android
Browser: https://www.skype.com/en/features/skype-web/
Download: https://www.skype.com/en/get-skype/

 

Google Hangouts

This service boasts the most features and integrates directly with your Gmail and Google calendar for simple and easy use. Allows you to hold larger conferences (of more than 2 people), record meetings, and has no time limit. Sign up requires a Google account.

Key functions: video sharing, phone calls, chat, desktop sharing.
Pros: Free. Very functional. Designed for mobile.
Cons: Must have a gmail account.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android
Download: https://hangouts.google.com/

 

FaceTime

A popular application that comes pre-installed on all IPhones. It is only available to IPhone users. Allows group conferencing of up to 32 people. Contacts can be reached through their phone number or Apple ID.

Key functions: video sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: No simple chat. Only works on iPhones and modern Macs
Available: Mac, iPhone

 

Google Duo

Google’s version of FaceTime, that comes pre-installed on all Android devices. It is also available for Iphone. Duo’s controls are very simple and the streaming quality is terrific. Allows group calling of up to 8 people. Calls are always encrypted and secure.

Key functions: video sharing.
Pros: free
Cons: Not many users
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android

 

Facebook Messenger

Offers free video calls over wifi. It supports group chat and has simple, easy-to-use controls. Contacts can be reached through Facebook, so there is no need to exchange phone numbers.

Key functions: IM and video
Pros: free, simple, pervasive due to Facebook use
Cons: Facebook. Very simple. Must have a Facebook account.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android

 

WhatsApp

Owned by Facebook, this app allows you to send messages and make audio or video calls. It only requires a wifi connection and offers end-to-end encryption, meaning the information you share is safe. Also allows seamless document sharing.

Key functions: IM and video and phone calls
Pros: free, simple, pervasive globally
Cons: None
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android

 

SnapChat

Key functions: Video Calling, Text Messaging, Video Messaging
Pros: free, popular
Cons: None
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android

 

Signal

Most secure messaging app. More secure than any on this list.
Key functions: Texting, messaging, file sharing, voice notes
Pros: Very secure
Cons: Voice and videocalling is one-to one, only. No groups.
Available: Browser, iPhone, Android

 

FreeConference or FreeConferenceCall or FreeConferenceCalling

Conference calling services. Create the account online using an email address and use the service with a phone.

Key functions: Voice conference calling.
Pros: free, easy
Cons: Heavy traffic, as with the crises, has put many of them offline and inaccessible. Can be unpredictable in availability. Voice only. No video. If phone plan doesn’t include unlimited long distance calling will be charged a fee.


Expanded Internet Service Now Available from Many Carriers

Recently, many of the top telecommunications companies took measures to alleviate some of the burden of the current need for remote communication.  Though most aren’t going so far as to waive home Wi-Fi bills, depending on your provider you may be receiving added benefits to your existing plan. You don’t need to do anything special to receive these benefits; most were rolled out this past weekend.  These expanded services can be particularly helpful for our clients, who may have very limited phone/internet plans.

  • Comcast, AT&T, and Charter customers can receive free access to their many public wi-fi hotspots for the next two months. All you need is a valid account.
  • If you do not currently have a Charter subscription, they are offering free broadband to households with K-12 and college age children.
  • Comcast and AT&T are also lifting data caps for smartphone plans.
  • Verizon has announced a moratorium on late fees and disconnections.
  • T-Mobile and Sprint proving unlimited smart phone data to all current customers.
  • Cox is increasing speeds on low cost broadband plans.
  • Assurance Wireless by Virgin mobile offers a free phone and subscription plan to qualifying candidates. Enrollment is available to individuals who qualify based on federal or state-specific eligibility criteria, including those on certain public assistance programs, like MassHealth or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Individuals may also qualify based on household income.

For more information please follow any of the links below:

Comcast: https://corporate.comcast.com/covid-19

AT&T: https://about.att.com/pages/COVID-19.html

Charter: https://corporate.charter.com/newsroom/charter-to-offer-free-access-to-spectrum-broadband-and-wifi-for-60-days-for-new-K12-and-college-student-households-and-more

Verizon: https://www.verizon.com/about/news/update-verizon-serve-customers-covid-19

T-Mobile: https://www.t-mobile.com/brand/ongoing-updates-covid-19

Sprint: https://www.sprint.com/en/landings/covid-19.html

Cox: https://www.cox.com/residential/internet/connect2compete/covid-19-response.html

Assurance:  https://www.assurancewireless.com/


How to Send an Encrypted Attachment

We will need to email confidential information to clients and others more and more from now on.  It is best if you can send confidential documents as an encrypted, password-protected attachment. Microsoft Office allows you to send an encrypted, password-protected attachment to ensure an unwanted or inappropriate party can’t open it.

Remember: The receiving person must have the password to open the file.
However, never give them the password in the same email in which you attached the encrypted, password-protected file.

  • Send the password separately or phone the recipient to communicate the password.
  • Also, don’t make the password too easy to guess, and don’t continually reuse the password.

Here are instructions on how to password protect and encrypt a file:

For Office files (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), follow these instructions:

  1. Click the File
  2. Click Info
  3. Click Protect Document, and then click Encrypt with Password.
  4. In the Encrypt Document box, type a password, and then click OK.
  5. In the Confirm Password box, type the password again, and then click OK.
  6. Save the file.

For a PDF using Adobe, follow these instructions:

  1. Open a file in Acrobat and choose “Tools” > “Protect.”
  2. Select whether you want to restrict editing with a password or encrypt the file with a certificate or password.
  3. Set password or security method as desired.
  4. Click “OK” and then click “Save.”

For a PDF using PDF Pro, follow these instructions:

  1. Click View in the toolbar, then Organizer Panels and choose Security
  2. Security panel will open (typically to the right)
  3. Click Password Protect
  4. Enter the password you want and save the document.

CPCS Training & IT, 3/20/2020

Supporting an Open Data Standards Approach for MassCourt Data*


The following is an open reply to the Massachusetts Trial Court’s call for comments regarding its Proposed Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records. It is the joint comment of multiple organizations and individuals. CPCS is a signatory, and this post is meant to provide some context explaining why. For a complete list of signatories, visit http://ma-court-comment.github.io/


Given that the adoption of a common data standard for the Massachusetts legal community offers the promise of increased efficiency, lower information sharing costs, and improved access to courts, we propose that the Massachusetts Trial Courts adopt a set of data standards to facilitate sharing information between the Trial Courts and other stakeholders, and that all data deemed publicly available be made accessible in a machine readable format consistent via an application programming interface (API) overseen by the courts. This would supersede the need for the Courts to create multiple, disparate portals for various stakeholders, as described in Rule 5. It would also simplify the procedures described in Rule 3 as the use cases envisioned could be conducted over the API.



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CPCS In Court App

THE IN COURT APP IS CURRENTLY BEING REDEVELOPED.

WE ARE MODIFYING IT TO MAKE IT SIMPLER TO NAVIGATE AND EASIER FOR DIVISIONS TO UPDATE (so we don’t have ‘dead’ links).

There is no current ETA for completion. An announcement will be made when it has been redeveloped and all content has been updated.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services, is pleased to announce the launch of its first web app, “In Court.” See http://www.publiccounsel.net/incourt.

incourt

The app acts primarily as an aggregator, collecting links to various resources in a single mobile-friendly location. These are tools attorneys have found helpful to have on-hand in court.

A list of most content sources along with an “updated on” date can be found by clicking on the information button (i.e., info ) found on each section’s navigation bar.

The resources are divided into seven sections, and you can filter content based on whether it is relevant to criminal or civil practice. Selecting “All” in the menu at the top of the home screen will show all content. Selecting “Criminal” will show only content relevant to criminal practice (e.g., PD, PC & YAD), and selecting “Civil” will show only content relevant to civil practice (e.g., CAFL, MH). The sections include:

  1. Duty Day Resources. A collection of quick-reference resources commonly helpful to have on hand at arraignment, including: judicial assignments, access to the MA Master Crime List and DYS grid, a tool for calculating indigency, and links directly to statutes for bail, dangerousness et al.
  2. Practice Guides. A collection of guides and case notes for adult and juvenile criminal practice, child and family law, and mental health litigation.
  3. Statutes, Cases, Rules et al. Links to commonly referenced rules and statutes along with tools for searching statutes and case law.
  4. Tools and Guesstimators. A collection of general tools that might prove helpful, including a duration calculator, historical weather data search, language translator, and sentencing calculator.
  5. Tables, Lists & Glossaries.  Includes: a list of judicial assignments, MA Master Crime List and DYS grid, and commonly used disposition codes to name a few.
  6. Directories. Includes: attorney lookup by BBO number, court directories, CPCS staff directory, Mass Legal Services resource finder, District Attorney offices, DOC facilities, social service organizations, and DMH offices.
  7. Legal App roundup. A list of legal-interest iOS and Android apps.

In Court is a web app. So you will not find it in an app store. All you have to do is visit the In Court page and add it to your home screen. If you’re unsure how to do that, check out How to Add Websites to the Home Screen on Any Smartphone or Tablet.

For those of you interested in the details, the codebase for the app is available on GitHub and licensed under an MIT license.