Monday, July 28, 2008

litsupport summary for the week ending on 7/27/08

A lot of important and useful information is posted to litsupport each week. The following is a distilled summary, in the form of questions and answers.


Q. What are the gotchas of converting .nsf to .pst?
A. One may desire to convert an .nsf (Lotus Notes) to a .pst (MS Outlook) file, most likely because of the wide availability of tools for .pst analysis. However, while the conversion tools may be good for practical use to get most emails, they may be problematic for eDiscovery. Here is a list of possible problems (but see the last item, which offers a viable solution):
  1. Because Lotus Notes actually contain different views of the same message, it is possible to get a large number of duplicates;
  2. Converting to .PST usually increases the size of the e-mail store and thus the charges;
  3. "All Documents" folder does not always contain all documents, complicating the duplicates problem;
  4. You may not get all e-mails and attachments;
  5. The embedded attachments will be lost - no known tool transfers embedded attachments;
  6. If you have a Domino server in house, then you can use the Microsoft Outlook connector for Lotus Domino. Place the NSF back on a Domino server, create all the necessary credentials along with it, download and install the Microsoft Outlook connector
    for Domino (need to have Notes installed also on the workstation since the connector uses the Notes.ini for the server connection information), set up Outlook 2003 with the connector, download the contents of the NSF to Outlook and export to a PST. Yes, it sounds like a lot of work, but if one already has an existing server, it's not that hard.

Q. Can MD5 hash be forged?
A.
  1. It is mathematically possible, but for the purposes of eDiscovery this is irrelevant, because the information that the forger needs is not available to him;
  2. On the contrary, MD5 is not reliable and can be hacked. Its hash collisions have been found using HashClash, a BOING distributed compute project. Fixes have been suggested, but switching to SHA is preferred.
This summary from the Litsupport Group postings created by the wonderful and talented members of the group has been culled by Mark Kerzner (mkerzner@top8.biz) and edited by Aline Bernstein (aline.bernstein@gmail.com).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What is the difference between cloud computing and grid computing or distributed computing or computing-on-demand?

A friend asked this question, and it is a common question, so let us get the definitions straight.


Grid computing has been around longer than all other terms. It implies the technology that allows to combine a number of computers in a system working together. It often include heterogeneous environments, that is, computers of different capacity, configuration, and even different OS.


As an example of grid technology, look at ProActive - anything but simple. It is based on the "Theory of distributed objects" book. I have read it, and it is deep.


Cloud computing is a newer term, and it talks about where you get your computers, that is, from the cloud. You can get just one, and it will be cloud computing, but not grid.


Now you can see how the terms are related. Grid is the technology to organize the work of many computers, and it may be very complex. It may be in the open or hidden, but you hardly ever implement it. You usually build your implementation on some grid technology. Cloud is where the computers are. For example, you may use EC2 cloud. If you want to have a grid computing system, you would need to choose grid technology, and then implement it using your cloud computers.


Another example to consider is Google App Engine. You write your application (currently in Python and using Google BigTable), and place it on a Google network. For you, it is a cloud. You application may need many computers, and Google will take care of that. Internally, they run a grid, but it is hidden from you.


Distributed computing is so similar to grid computing that for practical purposes they are one and the same. However, distributed computing is more concerned with breaking the computations in parts which can run concurrently and independently, or with organizing a system of computations using many components, and is less concerned with computers it runs on.


Computing-on-demand is more of a marketing term. It is very close to SAAS, or Software As A Service. It emphasizes that you do not own your equipment nor your applications. You just rent the computing power, usually for some specific purpose. One example of computing-on-demand is SalesForce. As far as its customers are concerned, it is a hands-off CRM (Customer Relations Management) system, which they just use. However, the internal technology that it uses is some grid technology. And the many programmers who build their applications on SalesForce are treating the platform as a cloud, because this is where they get their computing power.

Outsourcing legal work

A discussion on litsupport asked a question about the viability and legality of outsourcing of legal work. While the summary of the discussion can be read here, the question itself is a part of a general discussion about the security of outsourcing.

A paper from CDW, which can be obtained here, gives a broader view. Since this paper is somewhat vendor-biased, before you download it (registration for CDW news will be required), here are its main points:
  • Increasingly, high-value intellectual property such as trade secrets and medical records are part of large outsourced IT projects. Legal projects, such as eDiscovery and document review, are not much different;
  • While the cost savings of outsourcing appear to be significant, the complexity of cross-border relationships increases security challenges and as a result, increases project cost. Costs increase again when a company (and its vendor providers) must comply with international breach disclosure, customer privacy or industry-specific laws such as HIPAA and SOX;
  • Decide which IP to outsource. One advice is to outsource non core work, which lowers risk;
  • Intellectual property can be protected with the right combination of network, physical, and contractual protection;
  • Take the time up front to contractually establish effective metrics and clear lines of accountability, and build balanced mechanisms to measure outputs;
  • Adequate levels of security don't happen by accident; they happen because you have given a great deal of that to what you want to protect;
  • Understand all costs.

Monday, July 21, 2008

litsupport summary for the week ending on 7/20/08

A lot of important and useful information is posted to litsupport each week. The following is a distilled summary, in the form of questions and answers.

Q. Does the electronic transmission of data from the United States to a foreign legal services provider waive Fourth Amendment protection with respect to the data that is electronically transmitted?
A. While this question is waiting for clarification in federal court, here is a review of the arguments.
  1. Obviously the big draw for overseas outsourcing is a large reduction in cost, but is it legal and what about the question above? Markets like New York and Chicago have been outsourcing for years, but others are more cautious;
  2. Since we know that the US government is monitoring all foreign traffic, when in doubt, encrypt and overnight hard drives;
  3. The US government has organizations that break almost any type of encryption;
  4. Forget the government: if your case has anything to do with a defense contractor, a financial institution, the auto industry, etc., it is highly probable that someone is actively looking for information on the web;
  5. US government does not have the time or resources to listen to all information flowing in and out of the US;
  6. Physically shipping ESI on encrypted media solves all issues;
  7. If there is a breach of data (Intellectual Property Theft) in a foreign country, what is the client's recourse?
  8. More discussion here.

Q. What is hashing? Does it take into account only the file contents and not metadata?
A:
  1. Hashing can be done on any desired combination of data/metadata, and it is common to run a hash code on email body+attachment file name/content+selected metadata to support deduplication;
  2. For signature purposes metadata should not be included - there may be a question as to which metadata to include - and of its relative natures (such as dates and time zones where hash is computed);
  3. An MD5 or SHA-1 hash is calculated over any set of data. You can have 2 files which contain the same data, but with different file system MAC dates and file names, and they would have identical MD5 or SHA-1 hashes. The hashes in this case tell you that the contents of the files are identical;
  4. One use of hashing is to create an evidence container file that contains a collection of files, including full paths along with the related MAC dates, etc., generate a hash of the evidence container file, and use it to validate the collection;
  5. Here is an article on hashing, though its conclusions are open to debate.
This summary from the Litsupport Group postings created by the wonderful and talented members of the group has been culled by Mark Kerzner (mkerzner@top8.biz) and edited by Aline Bernstein (aline.bernstein@gmail.com).

BYOS - Build Your Own Startup - on the Cloud! - Issue 2

The geek world is aglow, but business world is cool

Ask any geek what is new in the world today, and he may drown you with excitement about cloud computing. But ask a technical manager about it, and he will cool you with his talk about the total cost of ownership. Ask a business man, and you may get a "huh?" We are forced to admit that there is a disconnect between the geeks and the business world. Why is this - that is what we have set out to investigate.


Conversation at dinner

I was recently invited to a dinner with two friends, Bernard, a business and startup veteran, and Pleemo, an enthusiastic geek. They kept discussing the news about cloud computing, but this time Bernard, in exchange for the meal, demanded the basic definitions. He got them. Let us hear.

Pleemo: Well, Bernard, the chicken was delicious. Both me and Mark feel very satisfied and grateful to the host. But tell me please, how did you learn to cook so well?
Bernard: Pleemo, I love to cook, and I love to read about it. I also wanted to make my guests happy. These are the three ingredients. And here is the recipe. Do not get scared away, preparing it took me no more than 10 minutes. If you can manage the cloud, then you can surely manage this.
Pleemo: Very well, perhaps some other
time. But now, Bernard, please tell us how do you want to proceed.
Bernard: As I said, I am very curious about the cloud. But I am afraid that I may be missing some of the basics in the understanding of it. Besides, I have been talking to some of my friends, and I can not even explain to them what I am talking about. They tell me that I loose them pretty fast. So be so kind, Pleemo, and repeat the terms. What is the cloud, and why do you think it is important.


Pleemo: I will be happy to. Cloud computing is a nice term. Many claim to have invented it, but it was most likely thrust into the public light by Amazon, who called their offering Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2.
Bernard: Yes, I agree, it sounds very futuristic.
Pleemo: Okay, then, let us talk about the EC2. As you probably know, Amazon has a few hundred thousands of computers. Companies keep their ammunition numbers secret, but I
think that they are all nearing or surpassed a million. They call those computers servers, or blade servers, but this simply means that they are made 1-2 inches high and can fit on a rack.
Bernard: I can imagine these racks, and in fact I have seen them in some magazines.
Pleemo: Imagine then that you got access to a number of these machines.
Bernard: I can't! What would I do with them?
Pleemo: Okay, your programmer got access to them. You see, before you had to buy a computer, wait for it to arrive, then select a place to put it - usually a hosting company - and then put the computer on a rack there. By the end of this process you would have been out of a few thousand dollars and of a couple weeks worth of time.
Bernard: But this only some time and some money.

Pleemo: Yes, Bernard, but let us take the next step. When you want an Amazon computer from the EC2 cloud, all you need is your credit card. The same one that you use to buy books on Amazon. Your programmer accesses the computer remotely, in the same way as he already gets to most of the other computers that he controls. Furthermore, you pay only 10 cents per hour for the computer you use, and we you do not need it any more, you should it down and stop paying.
Bernard: Okay...
Pleemo: So instead of a couple weeks and a few thousand dollars, you can try something out in 1 minute and for 10 cents. You may say that the programmer still needs to crank out the code - and we will talk about this another time - but can you imagine what industrial creativity fountain would if you could build factories in one minutes, pay for the time you use them, and freely destroy them when you do not need them anymore?

Bernard: I begin to see. I would still need creative engineers, but if I had them, or could hire them, then I could give them access to these virtual factories. Then I could watch them create and destroy worlds, and the process of evolution would speed up enormously.
Pleemo: Now I have to cool you
in turn. This has not happened yet. In fact, a latest review of IT directors tells us that most of them are putting cloud projects on the back burner. But some say that this is because they do not know what cloud computing is.
Bernard: now I see at least your point of view. It is the education that is lacking, and this is what you are providing for me today.

Pleemo: Right. And once we educate the business people and the entrepreneurs on the advantages of fast prototyping of business ideas with the cloud, we are going to see a revolution.
Bernard: Let us summarize then, so that I do not forget till our next meeting. Cloud computing is a nice term, but I will not be confused by it. It simply means that I can rent computers with my credit card. I will still need programmers to help me try out my ideas, but they can be anywhere in the world, and I can provide them with computers for their work in no time. I need to think of what business ideas I had but thought impossible.
Pleemo: Yes, Bernard. There are other forms of cloud computing, and we will talk about them later.
Bernard: Please, Pleemo, give me at least two weeks to get used to what you have just said.

Pleemo: And do not forget to think of a new recipe. I am less ready to start cooking than you to start programming.
Bernard: Very good, for now. But tell me, Pleemo, how do you know all the news. You see to know what happened any day. You can not be reading the news all, you must also do you programming!
Pleemo: You are right. I have a source of information called RSS. It collects all the news that I am interested in and serves them to me on a single screen. If a news source is silent for a week, I do not get any feed from it, but when it publishes anything newsworthy, then right away I see it in my reader.
Bernard: And that too is very interesting, my friend. I will have a few questions about it next time. For now, adieu!

Pleemo: It is getting late indeed, adieu!

Summary

I did my fair share of reporting, and I had my fair share of a wonderful chicken. What I heard reminded me of a book a read lately, "The Big Switch" by Nicholas Carr. There the author was comparing cloud computing with electricity as utility. Regardless of how you viewed the comparison, just as a fountain of creativity was opened by the availability of electricity, so too the multiple fountains seemed to be in sight for cloud computing. Besides, I liked the meal. I decided to keep researching and to join the friends for the next meeting. I hope my readers will do the same.

If you have your own questions or answers, leave your comments or join the discussion. Sign up for the BYOS newsletter here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bernard's Recipe of Yemenite Chicken

Zhug mix

1/2 cup chili peppers
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1.5 tbsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp found cumin
2 tbsp olive oil

In a blender, first add peppers, then herbs, garlic, salt, and dry spices, then oil. Homogenize into paste, and you got ZHUG!

Dry spice mix

1/3 cup caraway seeds
1/3 cup cumin
1 tbsp cardamom seeds
1 tbsp whole black pepper
4 whole cloves
3 tbsp sea salt
3 tbsp ground turmeric

On a preheated heavy pan put the first five spices, fry them until they exude the fragrant aroma , stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. Let it slightly cool. In small portions, grind till fine powder consistency in a mortar or a mill. Move to a cup and mix well with salt and turmeric. Store in a tight container.



Chicken preparation. Chicken should be well washed and dried. Salt inside and outside. Mix 2 tbsp of mayonnaise, 2 tbsp of zhug, 2 tbsp of tomato paste. Spread the dry spice mix on the inside of the chicken, then place the chicken on the holder, lavishly spreading the zhug mix on the outside. Bake on 375°F for 65 minutes.

Bon appetit!
Eet Smakelijk!
Приятного аппетита!
Buon appetito!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

litsupport summary for the week ending on 7/13/08

A lot of important and useful information is posted to litsupport each week. The following is a distilled summary, in the form of questions and answers.

Q. What are the respective advantages of working in the IT department versus the litigation support department in a law firm?
A. For litigation support: avenue to education in specific areas, including Concordance/CPL, Opticon, Summation, Introspect, JFS, iPro, Trial Director, Case Central, EnCase, Attenex, LAW 5.0, Ringtail, Stratify, Kroll, Caselogistix, dtSearch, Federal Rules handbook, and thus arguably more rewarding and stable job opportunities; challenge of dealing with the most random, obscure requests and having the best possible customer service attitude; potential pressure/challenge of having billable hours;
For IT: more in-depth technology understanding, thus arguably more comfortable environment; "techy, dirty geekdom" - if you enjoy it; may cap off in position/salary level, but may transition easier outside of law world; potentially more stable budgets because you are supporting multiple practice groups.

Q. How to advance a career in Lit Support coming from the IT side of lit support?
A. Learn Concordance, Opticon, Summation, IPRO, LAW, and some say SharePoint in any case.

Q. What are the advantages of the Litigation Support group being part of IT in a law firm?
A. Litsupport gets more credibility as technical professionals; litsupport becomes better consultants in eDiscovery; IT gets better educated in discovery/forensics requirements; litsupport gets more network privileges and can do its work easier. Potential disadvantages: litsupport gets dragged into non-litigation projects; litsupport finds it easier to communicate with IT, but lawyers are less close to litsupport.

This summary from the Litsupport Group postings created by the wonderful and talented members of the group has been culled by Mark Kerzner (mkerzner@top8.biz) and edited by Aline Bernstein (aline.bernstein@gmail.com).

Monday, July 7, 2008

litsupport summary for the week ending on 7/06/08

A lot of important and useful information is posted to litsupport each week. The following is a distilled summary, in the form of questions and answers.

Q. What's are the techiest legal IT trade shows?
A. ILTA, ABA Tech Show, Legal Tech, CEIC, TechnoForensics

Q. Software to index documents for search for company-wide use (example - scan and index case files and employee document folders)?
A. X1, ISYS, Autonomy's Desktop (high-end), MS Indexing Servers (with free edition), CaseMap, Google Desktop - but check the privacy concerns.

Q. Auto coding software for litigation document coding projects?
A. ALCoder, Syndex.

Q. How to copy large productions (millions of pages) to different media?
A. EvidenceMover, SafeCopy, ROBOCOPY, CYGWIN (using cp or tar), Beyond Compare, Windows copy :)
This summary from the Litsupport Group postings created by the wonderful and talented members of the group has been culled by Mark Kerzner (mkerzner@top8.biz) and edited by Aline Bernstein (aline.bernstein@gmail.com).

Friday, July 4, 2008

BYOS - Build Your Own Startup - on the Cloud! - Issue 1

The geek world is aglow, but business world is cool

Ask any geek what is new in the world today, and he may drown you with excitement about cloud computing. But ask a technical manager about it, and he will cool you with his talk about the total cost of ownership. Ask a business man, and you may get a "huh?" We are forced to admit that there is a disconnect between the geeks and the business world. Why is this - that is what we have set out to investigate.

Conversation between friends

I recently overheard a conversation between two friends, Bernard, a business and startup veteran, and Pleemo, an enthusiastic geek. I joined them and what transpired was of such common interest that I decided (with their permission) to share it. Here it is then, and I wonder what you would say in such a situation.

Bernard: Please, Pleemo, I beg you, do not talk to me anymore about the cloud!
Pleemo: But why? It's all people are talking about. Google has initially opened their App Engine to 10 thousand developers, then to 75 thousand - and I got it then! - and now to everybody. Obviously, cloud computing is going to change the world!
Bernard: Okay, I see our friend Mark has joined us and is listening. Let us discuss it and see if we can agree on anything. Tell me again, what is this cloud computing that everybody is talking about?
Pleemo: Okay, Bernard, I accep
t the challenge. Cloud computing means that practically anybody can get any amount of computing resources fast and cheap, or even free. For example, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud allows me to start any number of servers in a minute, then pay only 10 cents per hour while the machines are running. When I am done, I shut them down and stop paying. With Google App Engine, you run your application for free, until you reach 5 million page views a month, and then you are already on the way!
Bernard: You must be having a lot of fun with it, Pleemo.
Pleemo: Yes, and I can run my projects with a credit card, the same that I use to buy books on Amazon. And I know that if I need it at work, then I can use other offerings: SUN, IBM, Microsoft, you name it, all either have a cloud offering or are getting into it.
Bernard: So has your boss asked you to write something for the cloud?
Pleemo: Well, actually, not yet.
Bernard: Why not?
Pleemo: It would be a long list, an
d you could guess it yourself. He says, this is technology that is not proven, that he does not want to be locked into a particular platform, that there are few programmers proficient in the cloud, and so on.
Bernard: And you?
Pleemo: I have answers to all his questions, but I have to admit that the rate of cloud acceptance by the enterprise is slow. I need to think more about that.
Bernard: I think you are beginning to see my point of view. Then tell me something else. Is it true that 70% of all started software projects fail, that is, do not come to completion and are not used?
Pleemo: Maybe 50%, but you are right, projects sometimes fail.
Bernard: So I can start a business where an important part of would be a delivered by computers, maybe even in the cloud. But where is the guarantee that the system will work the way I need?
Pleemo: And let me ask you, in turn, is it true that 9 of every 10 startups fail?
Bernard: Well, businesses fail. For example, 50% of all restaurants close within a year.
Pleemo: Then you must accept the possibility of failure for software projects also.
Bernard: I do. All I am saying is that the cloud is no different from how we used computers before. Well, maybe not much diffe
rent. But I was reading an article about Cloud TCO, and the cost advantage isn't clear even to geeks. And if you tell me that new tools allow rapid prototyping, I will answer that you need to learn these tools, and even then my system may not cut it.
Pleemo: Bernard, I see that I can not convince you.
Bernard: No, not to the point of starting a new business with you, just because it is in the cloud.
Pleemo: Alright then, let me do my homework. I will visit you in your home - if you invite me for dinner - (Bernard: you got it!), - and I will try to think in your terms. I will try to prove to you that the whole world is changing because of the cloud. After all, hundreds of thousands of developers on Amazon, tens of thousand on Google and all others do point to something!
Bernard: I am interested myself in what you will invent. I want to agree with you, but I just do not see the return on investment, ROI, you know?
Pleemo: Challenge accepted, see you soon.

Summary

For the first time I saw both sides. Excited Pleemo is burning to do something with the cloud, but Bernard fails to get excited. Bernard has a feeling that something great is cooking and the opportunity may be waiting, but before he is convinced, he is not going to put up his money and effort, which he has already seen going up in smoke. And Pleemo tends to brush aside the objections, as geeks do, but this time he saw that he did not have all the answers. He knows that the rate of acceptance of the cloud is not on par with his excitement. He reads the news and the blogs about the cloud, and they are from his fellow excited geeks.

I was also perplexed. There is no denying that I am on the geek side, but I too did not have good arguments for Bernard. Once I started thinking as he did, I did not want failures just to make some geek happy and have fun.

I decided to prepare my own arguments and to join Pleemo and Bernard at Bernard's house. I hope to get new insights, and plan to report my findings - in two weeks. For now, keep cool.

If you have your own answers to these questions, leave your comments or join the discussion. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.

Thank you.