Author Archive: Jared Padgett

New Note-Taking App: Google Keep

Google Keep banner

Google has launched a new product called Google Keep. At first glance it looks like Google is trying to take on Evernote directly, though the app falls short of Evernote’s offerings currently. Google has drawn a more direct connection to traditional sticky notepads, and when you look at the app that way, it makes sense. Though the app has limited features currently, there is a lot of potential for growth. For more information about Google Apps at Pepperdine, visit http://community.pepperdine.edu/it/tools/googleapps.htm

Google Keep phone screenshot

Google Keep is available as an app on both Android and Chrome, and the notes are stored in your Google Drive. Using the apps, you can display your notes in grid view to keep up the sticky note concept, or move things to a single column. You can change colors for variety, but the app is pretty basic. From Google Drive, the interface feels a lot like the old Google Notebook, which was discontinued and migrated into Google Drive a while back. It is nice to have that functionality back. Unlike Google Notebook and Evernote, notes are not categorized into folders or tags. You will need to use the search feature to find current or archived notes. You can use the grid or list views in Google Drive, though.

Google Keep tablet sreenshot single column

Google Keep for Android Tablet – Single Column View

You can input notes through typing manually, dictaction, or through your camera. At this point it does not look like you can bookmark a website or store snippets like you can in Evernote. To use the Android app, you need to be on Ice Cream Sandwich or above, which is less of an issue these days. Jelly Bean users get an extra bonus that allows them to initiate Keep notes from the lock screen.

Google Keep Input Options

In brief testing, the dication service is pretty accurate. I didn’t have to retype any errors in the transcription. Fellow Law Tech columnist David Dickens also reported satisfaction with the voice feature. We’ll continue to test the app and report any additional findings.

You can use Google Keep for keeping track of your daily tasks, jotting down a phone number, or pretty much anything you would want to store on a sticky note. Since the notes are stored in Google Drive, you can go back and make edits, convert to pdf, or otherwise re-purpose your content as you choose. Evernote has a similar functionality, though Google provides a lot more free data, and if you need to purchase additional storage space, is very reasonably priced.

Though it is still in its very early stages, Google Keep is worth a look. To find Google Keep on Google Drive, go to drive.google.com/keep. You can find it in the Google Play Store here.

Google Reader Shutting Down

Google Reader

Google announced yesterday that it is retiring the Google Reader app on July 1st of this year.  To some, this may not seem like that big of deal, but to others, and from the sound of it there are many of us, this is a big issue.  Google Reader, simply put, is a cloud-based RSS reader.  It syncs across devices and platforms, and is available whenever and wherever you need it.  Though there are some alternative feed readers out there, many of them are powered by Google Reader and will subsequently be rendered obsolete.

I, for one, am among the masses looking for a new home for my RSS subscriptions. Google Reader is (or, I suppose I should say it was) my go-to app. I have an extension in Chrome, and it is readily accessible on all of my Android devices. It is my most frequently used app outside of Gmail, and stores information relevant to my school, work, and personal interests. Losing Google Reader will be noticeable, so a replacement must be found.

Currently, the best bet seems to be Feedly. Feedly is a cross-platform app, available on Chrome, iOS, and Android. With rumors of the end of Google Reader in mind, the developers began working on a way to keep it alive through a project called Normandy. By signing up for Feedly and connecting your Google Reader account, you will experience a “seamless” transition when Google pulls the plug on July 1st. Feedly provides more information on importing your account here.

Feedly

Feedly was quite popular last night when the news about Google Reader picked up momentum, and they have already addressed the server load issues. There were a lot of popular social influencers articulating their dismay, so one can hope that Google will have a change of heart. In the event that they do not, it looks like we will need to find something to fill the void. Feedly appears to be among the better options, so it might be worth a look.

If you know of any other RSS readers we should check out, please let us know in the comments.

Encrypting Evernote Notes

Evernote

If you are an Evernote user, you are likely aware that there was a security breech last week. As a result, users were required to reset their passwords to ensure their accounts were not compromised. While the passwords that were obtained were encrypted, the fact that the data within Evernote accounts is not encrypted has come to light. While you are not able to encrypt everything in Evernote, there is a method to encrypt text notes.

Evernote Encryption Dialogue

The following method should work on your Mac or PC. Within the program, you can highlight the portion of text you would like to encrypt. Mac users would command click and PC users can right click to bring up a menu.  Selecting the menu brings up a new window where you will select your password.  You will be prompted to enter the password twice, and will be  informed that Evernote does not store this password.  You may provide a password hint in case you forget the password, but you will not be able to retrieve the password once it is set.  As with all your passwords, be sure that you do not write it down in an easily-accessible location, if you indeed must write it down.

Evernote Encryption Password

Once you have set the password, you should see an indication that the text has been encrypted. You will be unable to read your text until you decrypt it, whether for a single instance or for the duration the app is open. Provided you remember your password, you may also permanently decrypt your note.

Evernote Encrypted Text

Evernote Decrypt dialogue

It is important to note that you will have to go through this process for each note you wish to encrypt. There is currently not an option for encrypting a folder. It is also interesting to note that when using the web-based version of Evernote, the password is not transmitted to the server. This is designed to further secure your encrypted file.

Evernote Web Password Dialog

When transmitting any information to the web, it is always good to be careful. Check for https connections with sensitive data, and be sure you trust the network you are on before submitting personal information. Public Wi-Fi access is not secure, so please exercise caution at your local coffee place if you are browsing the internet or using web-based apps. If you have any questions about Evernote, or about being safe on the web, be sure to ask one of us on the IS team. We’d be happy to provide additional information. You may also view some helpful tips from the Information Security folks here.

School of Law Calendar

EventsCalendar-homepage
Pepperdine School of Law is a pretty busy place. With student organizations, events, and academic or financial aid deadlines, there is a lot to keep track of. Fortunately, we have a convenient web-based calendar to help you keep track of all the things happening at the school of law. We have posted this calendar in a variety of places, so whether you are browsing our website or walking around the law school campus, you can quickly find out what is going on.

In the above image, you can see three forthcoming events featured under the Events column of the law school home page. This is updated automatically as the events occur, so be sure to check back to see what is coming up next. Clicking on the link called “Events” at the top of the events column, or the “Calendar of Events” link at the bottom, takes you to a larger calendar.

EventsCalendar-eventspage

The events page pictured above provides a larger view of upcoming events. There is a calendar that lets you select a specific date to look for, or to jump to a future month and see everything for that month. There is a sorting feature where you can select a specific event type to look for, such as a workshop or conference. Academic calendar listings are also available. Once you find something you like, you can either subscribe to that event, or to the calendar as a whole. There are options for subscribing by to an iCalendar feed, download an iCalendar file, subscribe to RSS or Atom feeds, or receive a weekly email. EventsCalendar-subscriptions

EventsCalendar-digitalsignage In addition to the web-based options, the various digital signage screens around campus also provide quick information about upcoming events. The most prominent of these is the At A Glance vertical display on the first floor of the atrium downstairs. It provides the event title, date, and location of the upcoming week’s events. Smaller versions of this feature are located on the other screens around campus, including the Welcome screen on the second floor of the atrium, and the cafeteria screen. There is another full-sized version featured on the LLIB Board in the law library.

We’ve looked at how to access the calendar in a variety of ways. We also offer the ability to add events to the calendar. If your student or professional organization is hosting an event on campus, be sure to submit an event inquiry at community.pepperdine.edu/law/events/. If your event is approved, it will be added to the calendar. If you would like us to create a slide for the digital signs, you can use the form at lawtech.pepperdine.edu/service-request and select the “new or updated digital signage slide” option. If you have already created a slide, please send it to margaret.barfield@pepperdine.edu for approval. Once it is approved, it will be added to the slide rotation.

This has been a quick look at the law school calendar. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, feel free to contact anyone in the Information Services department, or in the Law Library, and we’ll make sure you get the information you need.

Java 7 Security Threat Patched

On January 10, 2013 the Department of Homeland security issued a warning that users should disable Java in their web browsers.  A security threat was discovered that presented a risk installation of malware which could lead to the loss of personal financial data.  The details of the Homeland Security warning may be found here.

By January 13, Java announced a patch for the vulnerability, and posted details here. As a precaution, Oracle, the firm that owns Java, is setting Java security on high by default, which should assist in protecting users unfamiliar with computer security. It also, as of Java 7 Update 10 made it easier to disable Java from within a web browser. This feature carries over into Update 11, which is the patch that was released to address the current vulnerability. Homeland Security has continued to recommend disabling Java, as there are other threats that still need to be patched.

Firefox and Chrome are being recommended over Internet Explorer for internet browsing. Java plugins need explicit permissions to activate on these browsers, which helps alert a user to a potential threat. You can learn how to disable Java in your browser here. The Information Services team will be happy to assist the Pepperdine School of Law community as well.

As always, it is important to be careful when browsing the internet, as there are numerous threats out there. Before entering any personal or financial information, be sure that the site is secure, which will be indicated by an https at the beginning of the address. Some browsers add color codes to indicate when a site is secured, and most offer a padlock icon. You should learn what your specific browser offers so you can safely transmit information.

The Information Technology department at Pepperdine features a number of useful security tips. Be sure to bookmark their site to stay up to speed with current security issues.

Quick Facts with Google Guru

With the growth of Google Voice Search and Apple’s Siri and with Google Now for newer Android phones, quickly accessing information on the go is less of a challenge.  Additional tools keep emerging to help us get information while out and about, or while at our desk and multitasking. One of these is the guru tool within Google Talk.  Guru provides a pretty basic preview for Google Now, for those of us without Jelly Bean.  To use guru, add guru@googlelabs.com to your contact list from Google Talk.  Once it is in your contact list, select guru as if you were going to have a conversation with a friend.  Simple queries will be responded to with pertinent information and a link to find additional resources.  This works both on a personal computer and a mobile device.

Ask guru about the weather, sports, or run a web search, and you will get a prompt response.  You can ask guru to translate words or phrases too. Guru is pretty flexible in the query structure.  Typing “weather: Malibu” or “Malibu weather” returns the same results.  The translation function does not require you to select the language, though you may choose to do so. Typing “translate olas”, for example, returned the translation of the Spanish word for surf.  I tried this with the basic European languages and had no problems. It even translated words to Irish. Since Google Translate is a pretty big product, it would seem likely that many different languages are supported. To translate a sentence, try “translate to Spanish:” and then your sentence.  The images below illustrate some simple queries within Talk embedded in Gmail.

Guru Screenshot

Guru Screencapture

Guru on Android
One added benefit in using the mobile device is that you can choose to speak your queries instead of typing.  This can be convenient on the go, where you don’t have time to type and walk.  If you want something more specific, or to open a program or get driving directions, you can use the standby voice search in Android.  For the simpler questions guru can be pretty useful.

Whether you choose to use guru or stick with the tried and true features on your mobile device, information is becoming easier to access. Consistently accurate electronic assistants are coming that much closer to reality. Until then, we can use the tools at hand to make our lives just a little easier.

Update All Your Android Apps in One Place

As we increase the number of personal electronic devices we interact with from day to day, it can become increasingly challenging to stay organized. Some organizations have helped ease the burden in one way or another, from AppBrain to Amazon, and now finally Google. Last year Google added a feature in what was then the Android Market, where you could install apps from the website onto your device. As part of the ever-improving Google Play Store, Google has gone a step further. You can now install or uninstall apps from the website. and can also see all of your connected devices in one place.

As you can see in the image above, all my devices are listed, and I can selectively update apps by device. Every app I’ve installed in the past is there as well, in case I want to re-install anything. This is a feature that was quite useful in the Amazon App Store, and is even more so now that Google has a version too. I have used the website to install, update, and delete apps on my Google TV, current and former phones, and my tablet. The best part is that I don’t have to have the device in front of me. This could potentially set the stage for improved remote management features, which are highly-desired in the enterprise arena.

The one issue I have encountered with the device is the presence of a phone I no longer use. I connected to the app store from a demo unit I received from Sony Ericsson a while back, and it is prominently displayed among my other devices. Adding a device management element will help propel an already useful feature that much further. At the moment I am unsure whether Apple offers a similar feature, but I don’t anticipate Apple will lag too far behind on matching or improving upon this.

If you are an Android user, hopefully this can help you keep all your apps organized. I already enjoyed updating my phone contacts through my Google account, and now I can manage my apps. My devices span from Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich, so if you are on Eclair or earlier you might need to confirm this works for you. If any iOS users know of a comparable feature, be sure to let us know in the comments.

Computing for a Cause

I purchased a Sony Vaio Ultrabook recently (which for students or faculty currently comes with a free PS3 or PS Vita), and I discovered a new community service project called World Community Grid. I was asked during the setup process whether or not I wanted to participate in the grid. Participation means allowing their server to use my computer when I am not using it in order to create a supercomputer to address global issues. According to the website, some of the current projects include finding a cure for malaria; sustainable water; curing schistosomiasis, and more.

World Community Grid brings people together from across the globe to create the largest non-profit computing grid benefiting humanity. It does this by pooling surplus computer processing power. We believe that innovation combined with visionary scientific research and large-scale volunteerism can help make the planet smarter. Our success depends on like-minded individuals – like you.
World Community Grid

So far the project has 595,556 members, using 2,089,443 devices. This number is likely to continue growing, as more people learn about the project. The completed project list includes: influenza antiviral drug research; clean energy project; nutritious rice for the world; African climate; help cure muscular distrophy; genome comparison; help defeat cancer; and human proteome folding. The World Community Grid website features details for each of these projects, as well as the current projects.

As I write this (on my desktop), my Vaio is working on the Help Cure Muscular Dystrophy 2 project. The program runs as a screensaver and allows me to determine when it runs, and for how long. There are settings for processing capacity and for power conservation, so you are not inconvenienced by the program. I am looking forward to seeing what comes of this project, and I encourage you to participate. You can download the program from the World Community Grid website. This is a really easy way to be involved in global solutions, and can make a big difference.

Protecting Your Mac

Though Windows users have become accustomed to regular malicious attacks, Apple’s Macintosh users have remained largely untouched. There are a number of reasons for this; ranging from the inherent security of Mac, Linux, and Unix computers to the fact that until the last few years Apple presented a relatively small target to hackers. Regardless of the reasons Mac users have enjoyed a mostly virus-free existence, the events of the last few months have shown us that things are changing.

Several malicious programs have infected Mac computers in recent months. First was the Flashback trojan, called Flashback.K. It was quickly followed by SabPub, and Flashback.S. Apple has released security updates to address these issues. If you have not installed your Mac security updates, it is highly recommended that you do so quickly. There are links to Apple’s descriptions below, but you should be able to simply use the system update to take care of things.

Flashback.K

This trojan infected computers through a Java vulnerability. Oracle issued a patch, which Windows users received in February. This trojan was particularly challenging, as it was written in a custom programming language. Over 650,000 Mac users were infected. To see if your Mac is infected, you can follow the instructions provided by F-Secure. Apple has since provided a patch and a security update, which may make this fix obsolete.

Apple’s support page provides a link for OSX Lion users that don’t use Java here. Users of OSX Lion 2012 – 003 can find the Java patch here. Users of OSX 10.6 Update 8 can get the Java patch here.

Flashback.K altered the way users viewed the web, and exploited Google Ads to generate revenue. It created a means of artificially clicking on ads. It does this by altering search results pages on a user’s browser. You can read more about Flashback.K here.

SabPub.a

Shortly after the Flashback.K patch, a new Mac virus hit the press. This one used a Microsoft Office vulnerability. This vulnerability also included Java. There have been a few variants of this trojan as well. You can read more about the SabPub trojan here.

Flashback.S

Flashback made another pass at the end of April with a variant named Flashback.S. It, like its predecessor, used a Java exploit. There are several other variants of this trojan out there, largely targeting the un-patched Mac computers. As with Flashback.K, this does not need an administrative password to install. You can read more about Flashback.S here.

What Now?

Though these infections spread quickly, there is no need to panic. By being careful during web browsing and paying attention to program installation requests you can keep yourself relatively safe. Apple provides a page with useful tips on keeping your computing experience virus and malware-free. Check out their security tips here. In general, only follow links to trusted sites, don’t install unknown programs, and make sure you keep your security updates current.

Are Tablets Suitable for Academic Use?

With the launch of the iPad a not quite new industry was given a fresh clean look. Tablet computers have been around in various forms for years, but it took the iPad to bring tablets to the mainstream. This raised an important question for businesses and educational institutions. Can a tablet be effectively used in an educational setting? Many schools sought research grants to determine exactly how well a tablet fit into a student’s academic toolbox. Pepperdine tested iPads in various settings, and the School of Law even tested a hybrid tablet/e-reader in a classroom setting.

The SOLIS team had a chance to test the iPad with common accessories, including the keyboard stand. I typed a blog post both with and without the keyboard to determine the viability of replacing a traditional laptop or netbook with a tablet. At the time I did not think it would be worth the effort to have to bring all the accessories everywhere one went simply to be able to have a laptop experience on a cool new toy. As time has passed, I have begun to reconsider.

I recently took my Android tablet to an academic seminar. Part of the reason I bought my tablet was to have a lightweight, internet-capable device with which I could take notes, check email, or look up any relevant websites presented in a lecture. I have been using a netbook for conferences for the last couple of years, so this seminar was my first chance to field test a tablet.

With one minor issue regarding available power outlets for recharging, the tablet performed exactly as needed. I did not use any accessories, and typed my notes using the on-screen keyboard. The pace of the seminar allowed me to take short-hand notes, with varying levels of detail. I did not need to write copious notes, as there were online resources available. In the specific context in which I was using the tablet for taking notes, it performed quite well.

This field test, along with tests during most of my meetings this year have helped convince me that tablets can be useful both in an academic and business setting. That being said, I would still recommend keeping the netbook or laptop on standby in case you need some extra power or a handy attached keyboard. There are times when a tablet simply cannot provide the support you need.

As tablets are continuing to improve, they can be useful in an academic setting. We are not quite to the point of using them exclusively, but the option looks good in the not-to-distant future. I was quite satisfied using my tablet to take notes in an academic seminar. Tablets have certainly come a long way in a short time. I look forward to seeing how the industry grows over the next few years. Until then, test out your own tablet, and see if you can use it effectively for notes, research, or other academic use.