Ask the techie: What are the benefits of using multiple monitors for court reporters?

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

I am always searching for new ideas and trying to be productive in my court reporting work so I can get my work out the door as quickly and efficiently as I can, so that I can go about my day and tend to my family and personal life. I’ve been contemplating the idea of using a second monitor, but I’m not sure the cost is worth the possible benefit. Some insight on whether I should move forward with my purchase would be helpful. Thanks! 

Tuckered from Texas

G. ALLEN SONNTAG, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Do you two screen? Should you?

I use two screens: One screen is for my CAT and what I’m working on, editing, and so on. The second screen, I keep e-mail, newspaper, Facebook, and bank account open. So it’s just click to do what I need to do.

Some people prefer Dell screens with a device that holds two of their screens on a single pedestal. There are cheaper brands on Amazon; for example, VIVO Dual LED LCD Monitor Free-standing Desk Stand. Others of us like two independent screens, as I do. I have two screens, each of them is 24 inches. You need desk space to do this, which I hope everybody has.

If you’re an overachiever, try three screens. Yeah, it’s possible. The limit on what you can do is the number of ports your computer can use to support screens. Check the screen resolution for your system. A quick Google will bring up the answers: 800 x 600 or 1600 X 1200, or even bigger. The difference is the size of the number of pixels on your screen. The bigger the numbers, the smaller the pixel, therefore, the smaller the text on your screen.

As we all get older, we need bigger letters… at least, I do. There is a function in Win 10 to allow you to increase the size of the resolution, i.e. the pixels, which makes the letters in text and menus larger. No, you don’t have to continue to squint to see the small letters!

So now that you’ve fixed the two screens and the text size, let’s move on. Most of us grew up with the full-size box, sitting on the floor. Now most use a notebook, where the screen gets smaller: It’s great that it’s lighter to carry around, but the text is smaller and the keyboard is puny, to say the least.

There are small units available with a lot of power; for example: Intel’s NUC, Next Unit of Computing. These have been available for quite a long time and do the job quite well, with more than enough ports for what you need. Try 5.5 inches by 8 or so inches, which will probably end up being approximately an inch thick. It contains multiple SSDs, hard drives, 16 or 32 megabytes of RAM, a fast processor, etc. 

Now put it all together, get that new, super-small computer, two or three screens, a mechanical keyboard, and you’ve got editing glory! Enjoy shopping!

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR:

Multitasking is a way of life for many of us. Your desktop can multitask, too. Multiple monitors enable the user to have two completely separate programs running, making it easy to glance back and forth between, say, your CAT software and your .pdf exhibit, which was read at lightning speed into the record.

It’s easy to set up! Here are instructions from WikiHow:

Ask the techie: How to incorporate briefs for parentheticals

Dear Techie:

I am an aspiring realtimer and love to learn from more experienced and awesome realtime court reporters. My focus is on how to use briefs for parentheticals that explain to the attorneys what’s happening. I would love to have specific and easy-to-learn examples that I can incorporate into my dictionary.

Realtime Briefer

Dear Briefer:

Myrina A. Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, has some tips and briefs that you can start using today! She writes:

I like the briefs for parentheticals that explain to the attorneys what’s happening. It always distracts me when I see an attorney staring quizzically at my realtime feed. So writing a quick note releases my concern, and I can get back to focusing on the job. 

VAIR/VAIR – (Reporter Note: All quotes will be verified later.) I use this when I know I didn’t get quoted material accurately.

CLEAR/CLEAR – (<<<<Momentary transmission lapse. Stand by.<<<) I use similar wording to this when I really mess something up and I don’t want them to see it on my screen. The < are paragraphs so add as many as you need to clear the screen.

SPEL/SPEL – (Reporter Note: All spellings will be confirmed after the depo.)

SLOE/SLOE – (Reporter Note: Slow down, please, especially when reading from documents.)

BREAK/BREAK – (Reporter Note: Reporter would like a bathroom break when convenient.) Write this when you see an attorney is viewing the screen; usually then that attorney will interject and ask for a break for our reporter.

CLAIR/CLAIR – (Reporter clarification.) I use this when telling attorneys to speak one at a time, or whatever I am asking them for, because I cannot write myself talking. I may leave the parenthetical in for the final, or put in my actual words if I have the audio and feel it’s better to change the wording.

DRAFT/DRAFT – (Realtime Draft Transcript – Not for Official Use.) I add this throughout the day whenever I remember to do so. Good reminder to them that it’s just a draft. You can also use this when you know something didn’t translate correctly just as a reminder to them that it’s simply a draft.

Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, has some great options as well. Check them out!

Here are a couple of parentheticals I use almost every day when writing realtime.

SMAOT – <New Page><Parenthetical>ERROR CODE: ERROR #224, MAX SPEED INPUT EXCEEDED!! TEXT/STENO DROPPED TO COMMENT LINE – CHECK<New Line Paragraph><Colloquy>(Simultaneous crosstalk interrupted by the reporter.)<Colloquy>THE REPORTER: One at a time, counsel.

This automatically dashes the last speaker, clears the realtime screen (it helps get their attention), and then puts in the steno error code. Counsel don’t know that I’m the one that put the “error code” in the transcript, and I can stop them and blame the software for not being able to keep up with how fast I’m writing because of how fast they are talking. It’s great, and it works every time!

KLAOIF – <Parenthetical>(Reporter <Scanstop Begin>requested<Scanstop End> clarification.)<Answer>

I use this one when I am having to interrupt either the witness or the attorney to clarify what they are saying. I never stop to ask for a spelling, but if they are reading too fast (or mumbling) and I can’t understand what they are saying, I can’t write it down. I do not dig out of the audio for anything I may say on the record; I just use this parenthetical. And I have it surrounded by “scanstops” to alert me to this part of the transcript to review.

B*AM – <New Line Paragraph><New Line Paragraph><Colloquy> (***REMINDER <Scanstop Begin>FROM<Scanstop End> REPORTER: You are viewing a DRAFT transcript. Mistakes will be corrected in the FINAL certified transcript.)

I use this one when I know/feel like the words tranned funny (like Al Gore rhythm instead of algorithm) and I don’t have a chance to fix it quickly. All I have to do is write one quick word (B*AM) and this note populates into the transcript. That way, counsel know that I know of this issue – and to remind them it is not supposed to be a PERFECT transcript. It’s a DRAFT transcript.

Good luck on your journey and happy realtiming!

TechLinks: What is the cloud and how do you restore from it?

In today’s world of technology, everyone knows what the “cloud” is. According to ZDNet:

What is cloud computing, in simple terms?

Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services — from applications to storage and processing power — typically over the internet and on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The adoption of cloud-based platforms is growing in the marketplace and can vary depending on several factors. ZDNet offers an in-depth article about the history and examples of cloud computing available.

Tech Radar Pro suggests: “In 2019, consumers and businesses are continuing the trend of reducing their need to rely on local storage hardware and infrastructure by backing up content and placing files and applications online in the cloud. Google data shows that interest for ‘Cloud Storage’ alone has increased by 40x over the past decade.”

“Given the multitude of cloud storage providers out there, one has to wisely choose a provider who will offer the maximum amount of low-cost storage and bandwidth, while still keeping your data safe,” the article continued.

NCRA’s Technology Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, suggests there are several reasons to adopt the use of a cloud service for court reporters: Security, speed, reliability, backing up, restoration, and productivity.

Ntiva’s blog has some helpful tips on how cloud computing improves employee productivity: “To make the best use of your laptops, tablets, and smartphones, one needs a cloud storage option. The concept of storing files in the cloud may have started as a way for consumers to back up their data in case of disaster, but today’s best services offer so much more. Not only will the cloud back up your files, photographs, and video, but it also gives you the ability to sync your data across all of your devices, collaborate with colleagues, and have instant access at your fingertips! Now you may edit documents and share files wherever you may be.”

Remember, though, that you should also utilize multiple backup methods. Some to consider are as follows: Laptops, external hard drives, Drobo, writer SD card, Synology, and CrashPlan. A blog post by Mueller at Omega Reporting gives additional information about backing up and is still relevant today. 

Mueller also adds: “As court reporters, it is invaluable for us to have access to all our CAT files no matter our physical destination. For instance, if you’re on vacation and a client cannot seem to locate the electronic version of a transcript, simply access your cloud storage app of choice on your smartphone and create a secure link and email it on the go. Happy client!”

There are many, many options for cloud storage today. How to choose the right cloud storage option is dependent on several factors.

  1. What type of files do you wish to store?
  2. How much space do you require?
  3. Do you plan to collaborate with colleagues?
  4. Do you want to share files with clients?
  5. How easy to learn and/or intuitive is the service?
  6. How much is a paid version?

Need options for your particular system?

The best cloud storage services for Apple users

The best cloud options for Android users

If you are using multiple cloud storage platforms, consider CloudBerry Backup Free, an app designed to be useful for users who wind up with data scattered across several online services.

Teresa Russ, CRI, a CART captioner and freelance court reporter who is a member of the NCRA Tech Committee shares her views on Dropbox: “I discovered Dropbox while reading the JCR magazine some years ago. I favor Dropbox because it’s simple to use. I use Dropbox to send my transcripts to my scopist, and I use it to store my photos. I prefer cloud storage rather than using flash drives because I like having my files on my phone so that I can access my documents anywhere at any time. Information stored on a flash drive can accidentally be erased or lost. Dropbox automatically backs up your work online. As far as privacy, this cloud storage has a two-step verification process.”

Mueller provides some additional tips on the various cloud storage choices she utilizes: “As a small firm owner, I am ever mindful of expenses. I use different cloud services for different aspects of my business. My favorites are Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and Stenograph’s cloud backup. There are free versions for all of these resources.”

She provides additional information about these cloud resources:

Box: I use this for my repository. According to their policies, Box is HIPAA-compliant. If you know your client uses Box, add them as a Collaborator so that they can move the files to the folders of their choice without having to download and upload again to a different folder. This will save them time and get them on with their day. 

Dropbox: This is the known storage app for the masses. You can collaborate with colleagues and share links with clients. I can create a special link for the court reporters, proofreaders, or scopists that don’t have Dropbox too! Simply create the link, and they can upload directly to it. 

Say, for example, a client calls you and you’re on a job or on vacation and they desperately need that deposition they can’t locate. Dropbox to the rescue! If you store your transcript files in Dropbox, you can create a link directly from your smartphone (providing you have it on your phone), and send them a secure link on the go.

Dropbox or any other cloud storage option is a good way to send those large .wav files to your scopist or to share word lists with colleagues. 

Google Drive: I love Google calendar and have used it since 2010! I upload all of my notices of deposition to Google Drive. Then, when I create a calendar entry for a job, I click on the paperclip and access the notice and attach it to my calendar entry. Everything is stored in one app. (This is a free app and I don’t pay for extra storage.)

iCloud: I utilize iCloud to back up my iPhone data and my extensive photo albums. One of the benefits of using iCloud is that all my contacts may be accessed on my iPhone, iPad, and both of my Mac computers. I enter the data once and, boom, it’s on all of my devices. No need to type in data multiple times. A true time-saver!

I utilize my Mac for administrative purposes: Email, calendar, billing — you get the idea. When I’m on the job and check email during breaks, if there’s a W-9 or an invoice a client needs, I can simply add the attachment straight from my iPhone because I have access to my desktop and all my cloud accounts. The client never has to know I’m away from the desk!

Stenograph’s Cloud Backup: The beauty of our profession is that we can produce a transcript anywhere we are as long as we have our laptop and an internet connection. When I’m on vacation and have to catch up on a little work, I know that I can always access my Catalyst files on the go with Stenograph Edge. 

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

How to start your own Facebook practice group

Daily practice can make a big difference. That’s not new information to any court reporter or captioner. The hard part isn’t knowing you need to practice; it’s making the time to do it.

Some reporters have found that joining a Facebook practice group helps them make it happen. A recent story in the JCR about a group led to others expressing interest in starting groups of their own. Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, a  freelance court reporter from New Brunswick, N.J., who leads a practice group, has some ideas for people who are starting their own group. Germosen’s group is a 100-day group. Members make a commitment to practice 100 days in a row, although some members have gone on longer.

“I’m not sure what made me pick 100 days, but it’s a nice round number,” he said. “It’s more than 50 days. It seems like it won’t be easy to do, and it’s not. It’s a challenge.”

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Caseyville, Ill., joined Germosen’s group to help her practice. “I joined after the [2017] Vegas convention, and I’m on my 536th day as we speak,” Thomas said. “I joined because I need increased accountability to keep up my skills. About a month after I joined, I was installed as president of the Illinois Court Reporters Association, and this is a way to ensure my skills don’t degrade amidst all the goings-on of my two-year term. I’m the type that if I go a day without writing something, I can feel it the next day, and my captioning consumers don’t deserve that.”

Start off with a public Facebook group while you attract members. When you have the right number, you can make the group secret. Too many members will make the group unmanageable.

“If I have 200 or 300 folks participating, it would be a full-time job,” Germosen said. “So if you’re looking to build it up, make it public and they will come.”

Germosen says 100 is a good number of members for the group. That’s a small enough number that the moderator can recognize all of the members, and they can be a close-knit group. He was the only moderator for his group for a long time, but he has recently added another person.

Members of the group are promising to practice every day and post about it when they do. The moderators are paying attention to who is practicing and who isn’t.

“We are on the honor system,” Germosen says. “I take their word for it that they say they are on day X. I do audit folks from time to time just to make sure their days are adding up if I notice unusual numbers in their posts. Some folks drop off at day 3. I’ll keep an eye on them and hope they jump into it by week 6 or so before removing them. There is a way to sort the members list by join date. You can scroll that list and see if a member has been silent or hasn’t been posting because it’ll show ‘three recent posts’ or ‘five recent posts.’ This will show next to the member’s name. I look at this and check on folks with no activity to see if they’ve been posting. Then I may remove them if it’s been several weeks.”

Thomas said seeing the practice posts definitely motivates her. “I thought it would be harder to remember to do daily practice, especially over the holidays,” she said. “But when I see group members post their practice on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, etc., it reminds me.”

Moderators might also want to recognize milestones such as one week, two weeks, 100 days, etc. “I’ll reply with a picture of a funny cartoon on day seven,” Germosen said. “If you’re on day 14, I’ll reply with a pic that says ‘Week 2,’ and same for week three. For day 27, I’ll reply with a Yankees 27 banner. For day 50, you get one of a series of ‘half’ pics; then once you’re on day 90 I’ll post a link to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ song, and then day 100 I’ll post any series of ‘100 Day Club’ pics or banners and put them on ‘the finishers’ list,’ which is a list I have of all finishers going back to 2014 and the date they finished.” 

Germosen said one rule is that everyone needs to be supportive of everyone else in the group. As admin, he likes everyone’s Facebook practice posts and keeps the page free of drama. He said it’s also important for the admin to set the example with practicing. No slacking.

Thomas agrees about the supportive nature of the group, “It’s brought me closer to the individuals in the group itself, and it’s wonderful to celebrate together as they win or qualify for contests around the nation,” she said. “Occasionally someone will recommend a TED talk to the group to practice, and I’ve learned some things through practicing those.”

“What the page does is you see others posting, and you think to yourself that you should be practicing too,” Germosen said. “It’s nice to have a community around you of others doing the same thing you’re doing … trying to improve.”

15 minutes a day for Michelle

By Rich Germosen

A few weeks after the NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, in September 2014, I started a practice page on Facebook. My goal was to get more consistent with my steno practice. I would always practice, but then life would get in the way and I might not practice for a week or so. I wanted consistency and accountability. So I started the 100-day-challenge practice page on Facebook where you would report your practice once per day in a post. Members would encourage each other to keep their streaks going.

When I first started, I posted both my exercise and my steno to the 100-day exercise page I was already part of. Anne Vosburgh, a reporter friend who was in the practice group, suggested I make a 100-day page for just steno. She told me: Make the page and they will come. After a year or so, I made the group secret and put in the rules that you will be removed if you’re not participating. We’re now a relatively small group of anywhere between 130 to 140 members.

I felt if I had a page to post my practice to, that it would keep me going so that I would not skip any days of practice. It is so easy to not practice. But, today, it feels strange not practicing. If I have a job at 9 a.m. in New York City, I set my alarm for 3:59 to get my 15 minutes in before catching the train. The rules for the group are simple, or I think they are at least: Practice 15 minutes per day for 100 straight days without missing a day and post your practice once per day; for instance, “Day 1/100: 15 minutes of Q&A at 250,” or whatever it was. If you stop practicing, you are gently removed from the page.

I keep track of everyone’s milestones, and everyone encourages everyone else. We have a handful of students on there, but the majority of the people in the group are working reporters who want to improve. Personally, I feel I’ve improved a lot. Since starting the page, I’ve received three medals total, my first at the Deposition Reporters Association’s contest in 2017, third place in the 190 wpm Q&A; second place in the Q&A Realtime Contest in Las Vegas at NCRA’s 2017 Convention & Expo; and third place in the Q&A Speed Contest at NCRA’s 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans. Likewise, just about everyone who is on the page has mentioned that they see the improvement when they practice, as well as a decline if they take time out from practice.

Michelle Grimes and the 100-day-challenge group

In 2016, one of the members of the group, Michelle Grimes from Chicago, shared with us that she had cancer. Michelle felt safe in sharing with us that she was going through treatments. Through all of this, Michelle somehow kept practicing. It was very inspiring. She completed three 100-day challenges in total. While Michelle was going through treatments, another one of the group’s members, Allison “Allie” Hall, RMR, CRR, started something new by posting an extra 15 minutes for Michelle. It inspired several other people to post “15 minutes for Michelle” in addition to their regular 15 minutes. This means people were putting in a total of 30 minutes per day: 15 regular minutes and 15 for Michelle. We had a lot of members doing the extra 15 minutes for Michelle.

On May 11, 2017, Michelle passed away. She practiced right up until a week or so of passing. The thought on the page was if Michelle could practice through all this, we should practice consistently. Going from 15 minutes to 30 minutes was extremely challenging, especially on days where I’ve been on the record for 7 hours. I find I have to get my practice done before leaving for my 6 a.m. train. It doesn’t sound like a lot more, but 30 minutes is a lot more to do for 100 consecutive days.

I started a countdown of 100 days before the NCRA Speed Contest as a Michelle Challenge. We started on April 24, 2018. The 100th day was August 1, 2018, the day of the Speed Contest in New Orleans.

Nine members participated in the Speed Contest Michelle Challenge. She has left quite a legacy: She inspired us all to never stop improving and to keep practicing. I dedicated both of my NCRA medals — one in 2017 and one this past Convention in NOLA — to Michelle Grimes. She inspired me to practice more and always to improve and get better. Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, received a medal in NOLA and also did the Michelle Challenge prior to Convention, as well as Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC. We had a lot of qualifiers, including Allie Hall and Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC.

I am confident, if it were not for Michelle Grimes and our special challenge to honor her, I would not have gone ahead and done 30 minutes per day for 100 days. I would have had good intentions, but deep down inside, I know it was all Michelle pushing us all to be better writers. I encourage you to start your own practice group and make it a goal to improve a little bit each day.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from North Brunswick, N.J. He also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.








TechLinks: VPNs – What they are and why court reporters should use them

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one of those acronyms bandied about often enough that you really want to know what it is, especially in this era when we keep so much information on our computers and there is the possibility that someone might try to hack into it. The NCRA Technology Committee decided to break down this topic so that you know the basics and can make good decisions about what to use and when.

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A VPN is an encrypted connection over the internet from a device (such as a computer, printer, tablet, or smartphone) to a network. Encrypting the connection lets those on the network send and share sensitive data safely. Also, the VPN prevents unauthorized people from getting into the network. Many companies now use VPN technology in their workplaces both on-site and for remote workers.

The website How-to Geek states: “When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll also be able to use the internet as if you were present at the VPN’s location, which has some benefits if you’re using public WiFi or want to access geo-blocked websites.”

Where might I run across a VPN?

Official court reporters and those who work in courthouses might be asked to use the court’s VPN to access files or upload materials. Firm owners might establish a VPN within their own offices, and freelancers are likely to come across VPNs when they are reporting in a client’s law office.

Why do I want to use it?

“The VPN keeps your computer ‘hidden,’ so you don’t have to worry about getting hacked into or tracked by sites you may visit,” says Technology Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Memphis, Tenn. “It’s like wearing an invisibility cloak!”

Technology Committee member Lisa Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Littleton, Colo., says she uses VPNs “to keep my internet usage private and secure — to protect my online privacy.”  She continues by saying that people should use a VPN “anytime you are jumping onto another WiFi network that is not your own or when you want to surf the web without being tracked.”

Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS, a freelance court reporter from Urbandale, Iowa, another committee member, said: “I’m embarrassed to admit that, while working on transcripts — in, yes, a coffee shop — there have been times when I’ve jumped on a free public WiFi. I tell myself I’ll just jump on quickly, find out what I need, and get off; but then that happens several times while there. That may be all the time a hacker needs. After researching for this article, never again!”

Teig noted as part of her research a May 25, 2018, Consumer Reports article, “What you need to know about cyber safety while traveling.” The article states: “Never use WiFi that isn’t secured with a password. It could be a fake hotspot set up by cybercriminals. And even legitimate WiFi, such as the free networks at airports, can be dangerous if it’s unsecured, because hackers can log on to it just as easily as you can.”

What else do I need to know?

“VPNs can cause a decrease in connection speed,” says Mueller. “But that small drawback is still worth using one. Server load is also a common issue when you are connected to a VPN service.” While speed can be a consideration, you can shop around for VPN services and see what they offer. The additional resources section at the bottom lists several articles that go through the services available. Also, check your computer’s speed at SpeedTest.net.

Knight says: “I always disable the VPN when writing realtime. If you are using cables, the VPN will not affect anything; but if you are writing realtime via LAN/WAN, it definitely will affect it!”

Additional Resources

Here are a few of the links compiled by the Technology Committee in creating this article

The Best VPN

The Best VPN Service

The best VPN service in 2018

The Best VPN Services

The Best VPN Services of 2018

Best VPN services of 2018: Reviews and buying advice

Does VPN decrease Internet speed? Let’s test it

Does VPN Slow Down Internet?

How—and why—you should use a VPN any time you hop on the internet

How to Choose a VPN for Digital Privacy and Security

How to choose the best VPN service for your needs

HTG explains what is a VPN

7 most interesting uses of a VPN

Speedtest.net

VPN explained: How Does It Work? Why Would You Use It?

VPN Speed Tips: Don’t Slow Down Your Internet!

What Is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

What Is a VPN? – Virtual Private Network

What You Need to Know About Cyber Safety While Traveling

Why You Need a VPN—and How to Choose the Right One

Thank you to the following NCRA Technology Committee members for contributing to this article: Lynette L. Mueller,  FAPR, RDR, CRR, chair; Nancy L. Bistany, RPR; Kim Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC; Lisa A. Knight, FAPR, RDR, CRR; Karen Teig, RPR, CRR, CMRS; and Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR.








Ask the techie: How to use a foot pedal to listen to a videographer’s audio while you edit

The NCRA Technology Committee is taking your questions on topics surrounding realtime and technology. Send the questions you want the Technology Committee members to tackle to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

Dear Techie:

Videotaped depositions are being scheduled more frequently for me lately. I’m one of those reporters who likes to listen to the videographer’s audio when proofing my transcripts — it’s so much clearer because of the witnesses and attorneys being mic’d up! I’d like to know how I can easily listen to the videographer’s audio with my foot pedal. I know I can convert the .mp3 file to a .wav file and then associate the audio with my transcript; but I want a simple and easy way to just listen to the .mp3 file. Help!

Playing footsie


Dear Playing:

It’s great to hear that you are getting more work! Congrats! Here are a few ideas on what to look for when you are considering a foot pedal.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn., and Chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, offered the following. 
Backup audio media (BAM) is the term used for any audio recording and can include the audio synchronization tool built into a court reporter’s computer-aided transcription (CAT) software. Here are three best practices related to audio backup:

  1. It is the obligation of a professional court reporter to stop the proceedings when the speed of testimony presents an issue, if you didn’t hear a word, or when speakers are talking at the same time.
  2. One must never rely on the audio backup to create an official record. Readbacks occur often during the proceedings, and you don’t want to play back the audio for your client when a readback is requested.
  3. If audio backup is requested by a client, check with your specific state rules in regard to your obligation to do so. If you do, however, provide a copy of the BAM, be sure to offer the same service to opposing counsel. Ensure that no off-the-record discussions are included in the recording.

NCRA has additional guidelines to help court reporters regarding best practices related to audio recordings. Look on the NCRA website for Section IV: Backup Audio Media in the COPE – Guidelines for Professional Practice.

Vpedal USB Transcription Foot Pedal, 3 Function

There are several options for good foot pedals for court reporters to aid in transcript production for playback of audio. I have used the vPedal for several years and love it! It works with my CAT software for those times I need it and it works seamlessly in conjunction with AudioSync. Look to your CAT software vendor if help is needed to set up the foot pedal for use during edit. Amazon is every court reporter’s friend and you can purchase the vPedal on Amazon.

For videotaped depositions, it’s always great when the videographer provides the audio backup. It’s a great resource for us, for sure! The witness and attorneys are mic’d up, and the audio is clear and crisp. Most of the CAT software requires a .wav file as the backup media. While there are plenty of options to convert the .mp3 from the videographer to a .wav file, sometimes there are occasions where it’s faster and easier to just upload the file to Windows Media Player and you’re good to go! Another added benefit of using the foot pedal is that it saves time because of not having to take your hands off the keyboard during edit. WMP is included in clean installs of Windows 10 as well as upgrades to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 or Windows 7.

Things you’ll need to get started

  1. Foot pedal of choice. Mine is vPedal, as mentioned above.
  2. Foot pedal installation CD or get the Hot Keys application
  3. Windows Media Player software
  4. vPedal Windows Media Player Plug-in

Steps for Installation of Windows Media Player and Foot Pedal

  1. Connect the foot pedal following the instructions on your installation CD or from the Hot Keys application downloaded from the website. The installation CD will configure the foot pedal to the computer and install a control application from which you may set up shortcuts and commands. Again, if you wish to use the foot pedal within your CAT software, check with your vendor for assistance, if needed. I pinned my Hot Keys application to my taskbar for easy access!
  2. Install the vPedal WMP plug-in from their website. This plug-in has been tested on Windows XP thru to Windows 10.
  3. Here is a detailed list of steps to take once your plug-in has been installed.

Steps for uploading audio files to Windows Media Player

  1. Know the location of your audio file you wish to utilize.
  2. Open the WMP application. (I have it pinned to my taskbar.)
  3. Locate the videographer’s audio, select it, then highlight the file to drag it into the WMP application.
  4. Next, open up your vPedal Hot Keys application. My settings on the application: Back seconds step: 5; Forward seconds step: 5; Release seconds step: 2; Tap Enabled.
  5. Highlight the file you wish to listen to and double-click. The file will start to play.
  6. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to stop playback of the file.
  7. I strike the middle of the foot pedal to resume the audio.

Tip: If you have your audio file associated with your text file, you may want to consider using a text-only file when using the videographer’s audio within WMP. You could get two audio files playing at the same time when using the foot pedal.

WMP supports many different file types.  Learn more about Windows Media Player, troubleshooting problems, and how to customize Windows Media Player with easily installed skins, visualizations, and plug-ins for a new look and extra features.

Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Wayzata, Minn., and a member of the Technology Committee, shared the following suggestions. 
We’ve used GearPlayer by TranscriptionGear for three years. The transcription software we were using before GearPlayer did not allow us to play back audio and view video files — only audio. We specifically switched to this software so that we could have the option of listening to audio alone or listen to audio and view the video — all accomplished with the ease of foot pedal control. With some witnesses it helps to be able to see their mouth while preparing a transcript (slurred speech, mumblers, low talkers, accents). Sometimes I like to verify if the witness nodded or indicated, so the video is also nice for that. If the videographer can give you the full video file(s) versus just the audio, then you have the full advantages of having mic’d audio and video viewing when needed in preparing the transcript.

Infinity USB Digital Foot Control with Computer plug (IN-USB2)

This link is all you need to know about the GearPlayer software. It’s $119 for each computer; so if you want it on two computers, you will need two licenses. You can download a full-feature free trial and test it for five days. I purchased the USB foot pedal from them ($49 at the time – IN-USB-2 Foot Pedal by Infinity). With this program you have the option of using a foot pedal or the keyboard and mouse, so you could try out the trial program without a foot pedal to see if you like it before purchasing.

It’s simple to use. I drag and drop the file into the work space. It figures out the format and will play it back. Some of the audio format files I’ve played on this recently are .mp3, .m4a, and a .wav file. For video format files, I recently have played back an .mp4 and .mov — all drag, drop, and play. The program has a built-in converter so if it doesn’t recognize the format, it will give you an option of trying to convert the file to something it can play. You can play back from the videographer’s video CD or DVD as well, no converting needed. A nice feature is you get audio feedback when rewinding and fast forwarding, sounding similar to the old tape dictation machines. Sometimes when I need to play a file and am not at a computer that has GearPlayer, I realize how much I like the feedback feature. It makes it easier for me to know when to stop rewinding.

Sound quality can be adjusted for soft voices and noise reduction, as well as playback speed. There are other features which I have not used that are all explained in this GearPlayer link.

Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner based in Anchorage, Alaska, uses Express Scribe and offers the following.
I’ve used Express Scribe Pro for many years. A free version is available, but after I used it a couple of times, I made the purchase on Amazon. The Pro version accepts virtually any audio format, including videos.

Express Scribe Pro Transcription Software with USB Foot Pedal

Express Scribe has many features that help you work faster, including shortcuts for starting/stopping the audio, rewinding, forwarding, playing fast speed, and playing slow speed. I like the “auto backstep on stop” feature when scoping a video, allowing you to automatically rewind a word or two from where you left off. I up the speed to about 150 percent when proofreading with the foot pedal, and the audio is still surprisingly clear.

Express Scribe is very easy to use. Once you have it installed, it is just a matter of dragging and dropping an audio file into it, and you can begin listening immediately. A challenge with Express Scribe is that some of its shortcuts interfere with my CAT shortcuts, and those shortcuts cannot be changed in Express Scribe.

Tip: Save your codes when you purchase Express Scribe so that you don’t have to purchase it again when you change computers.








Upcoming live webinar tackles uses of Dropbox for reporters

Kim Greiner

Kimberly R. Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, will offer a live webinar Dropbox: Getting Started, Sharing, and Making the Most of It through NCRA’s Continuing Education Program. The live webinar, which is sponsored by NCRA’s Technology Committee, occurs on Nov. 12 from 8-9 p.m. ET. Register here.

Greiner shared the following about what attendees can expect from this session.

“Dropbox is an important tool I use to ensure I have everything I need at my fingertips,” Greiner explained. “My desire is for attendees to walk away with a complete understanding of how it really works, where your files are, what should be synced, and how this cloud storage can best function for you.”

Dropbox can be an important tool for managing your files, whether you like to share with your scopist as you are working on the files or you need a place to upload your backup before you leave your workplace.

In addition, Greiner explained: “I will walk through this cloud storage from the beginning, show you how to share files, manage your storage, backup or retrieve files, and how to collaborate with a scopist using a shared folder. I will also cover Case CATalyst Work Units using Dropbox so you can see and understand, before you need to use it, what you and your scopist can expect, and setting suggestions.”

Register now for this live webinar to earn 0.10 CEU.








Disaster Preparedness and Evacuation Tech Essentials

By Christine Phipps

Were you prepared for last year’s emergencies? Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may now be behind us for the most part, California has started to rebuild from their wildfires, and innumerable other areas have worked through dangerous weather conditions, and during that time many of us discovered how ready – or not – we were to deal with these impending crises.

A disaster tech kit that you can get ready in advance will help you be prepared in the event catastrophe strikes — be that rioting, terrorist threat, breakdown somewhere, or natural disaster.  Your mission in preparing your tech kit is to ensure that your basic needs are met if you’re forced to evacuate your home or leave a dwelling or abandon a vehicle. The kit should include nutrition, water, medical supplies, and some way to communicate with loved ones and stay up-to-date on crisis alerts. Of course, your smartphone is the number one piece of technology to help with the latter, but the following apps and gadgets are also essential for a bug-out bag should you ever need to cut and run.

Motorola Consumer Radios MT352R
Should phone networks get overloaded with cities full of people trying to reach each other, a long-range walkie-talkie set could help you connect with your loved ones. The Motorola MT352R walkie-talkies can work over a 2-mile range in an urban setting through buildings, 6 miles over water, and up to 35 miles if nothing is in the way. $74.99 at Amazon.

 

Kaito KA550 emergency radio
If phones, internet, and electricity are all down, you’ll be glad you have this hand-crank multifunction AM/FM and shortwave radio to get updates on breaking situations and access to the Emergency Alert System. It doubles as a portable lamp with a 5-LED reading light, a flashlight, and an SOS beacon mode. It can be charged by a NiMH rechargeable battery pack, 3 AA batteries (not included), hand-crank generator, solar panel, or AC/DC wall adapter/charger (not included), should you have access to power; the radio also has a USB port to charge other mobile devices when you’re on the move. $49.99 from Amazon.

Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter
“Society is three square meals away from complete anarchy” suggest researchers — but with the Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter, you can hold off hunger-fueled rioting by rubbing together a ferrocerium rod and metal striker to make a nice big meat- (or portobello)-grilling fire. It comes with a waterproof storage compartment for tinder, as well as an emergency whistle and a pocket survival booklet with instructions on attracting rescuers’ attention. $13.30 from Amazon.

 

GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and Bottle
If ‘they’ have gotten to the water supply, filtering your H20 will be crucial for survival until order is restored. Fill up the GRAYL with water from any fresh or tap water source, then push the purifier like a French press to remove 99.9999 percent of viruses and bacteria, and filter out particulates, chemicals and heavy metals. Bonus: It’s also handy for travelers who want to avoid the eco-impact of buying bottled water. $59.50 from Amazon.

 

ThermaCell Heated Insoles
In addition to the head, the feet are one of the greatest areas of heat loss in the body. Should a freak heavy rain or snowstorm come your way, these rechargeable heated insoles will keep your toes toasty, saving your energy for figuring out an escape plan. From $60.21 at Amazon.

 

 

Luci EMRG solar-powered light
You can’t overestimate the fundamental human need for light. In disaster scenarios, reliable, solar-powered and portable lighting like the Luci EMRG can reduce stress simply by providing illumination for your community to come together. The EMRG has long-lasting, solar-powered LEDs that can be used in four intensity settings, including flashing SOS alert. It’s also inflatable and collapsible, so you can pack several into your bug-out bag. $14.95 from Amazon.

 

VividLed rechargeable headlamp
If you have to brave a flooded cellar when the power’s out, this rechargeable headlamp keeps both your hands free for fussing with the fuse box. There are five light modes, including a strobe for getting attention and a red light, which helps you see your surroundings while keeping your eyes adjusted to the dark — handy to avoid feeling temporarily blinded when you look away from the lighted area. $12.97 (on sale from $29.99) from Amazon.

 

ThruNite TN4A LED Flashlight
A flashlight is an essential for any emergency kit, so pick a long-lasting LED one like the ThruNite TN4A, which has a lifespan of over 20 years. You can use it in one of five brightness settings, going up to a hyper-bright 1150 lumens with a range of up to 450 meters, or put it in strobe mode to attract attention. It’s also waterproof to 1.5 meters and impact resistant to 2 meters. $49.95 from Amazon.

 

Gold Armour Camping Lanterns
Brightest LED lantern for its size: Latest technology Chip-On-Board LED technology illuminates more area with more light than the commonly found 30 LED camping lanterns. Its light is also warmer in color than the competition’s 30 LED lanterns, eliminating that cold, harsh feel. The warm light also leaves your sleep rhythm intact, helping you to avoid the insomnia that other brands might cause. Dependable build: Each of our premium LED Camping Lanterns are hand-built with military-grade, water-resistant plastic — making them extra durable wherever you may be. The lantern is built for both the indoors and outdoors. Advanced collapsible design: Superior design and construction allows our lantern to be super lightweight and compact. It is also collapsible with a simple push. $35.99 on Amazon.

Portable battery pack
Murphy’s law dictates that when you need your smartphone most, its battery will be nearly empty. Sidestep this by keeping a charged-up portable battery pack in your bug-out bag, and you’ll be good for at least 72 hours. We like the Anker PowerCore, which can fast-charge an iPhone 7 or Galaxy S8 around three times from its 10000mAh battery. Or if you need more power, try the three-USB RavPower Portable Charger, whose 22000mAh, can hold about a week’s worth of power (or charge an iPhone eight times). Anker PowerCore $25.99 (currently on sale from $49.99) from Amazon. RavPower Portable Charger $39.99 (currently on sale from $109.99) from Amazon.

Birksun solar backpacks
Get maximum use out of your bug-out bag itself by using a solar-powered, charge-packing backpack. Bags in the Birksun range cannot only store all of the above survival essentials, but also charge up your gadgets so you can access critical updates and communicate with others. Every two minutes of sunlight provides enough energy to charge your phone battery another 1 percent. The waterproof, scratch-resistant solar panel can juice up your tech for up to 20 years, with a 3000mAh battery that stores around one full charge for a new-ish smartphone. When you get back to civilization and power sockets, you can also charge the bag from the mains. From $109 at Birksun or from $99 on Amazon.

For your smartphone

First Aid app by American Red Cross
This app has step-by-step advice for everyday first aid for issues from asthma attacks to strains and sprains, as well as instructions on handling out-of-the-ordinary scenarios such as hazardous chemicals. It’s integrated with 911, so you can call emergency services directly from the app. It also has safety tips for dealing with extreme weather, from severe cold to hurricanes and tornadoes, and includes addresses of the nearest hospitals. And in case of a power loss or evacuation off-grid, all this content is available offline. Free, Android, iOS.

Life360 Family Location app
In the event of a disaster, it can be a vast relief just to know where your family members are. Get your loved ones to download this app, and you’ll be able to view their location on a map — either whenever they make it available or continuously if they so allow. You can add emergency contacts to alert others on behalf of anyone in your family group, or press a panic button in the app to alert each member of a group that you’re in trouble. Other handy features include the ability to save “Places” so you can be notified when one of your group arrives at home, school, or another designated location. The paid-for Plus service lets you save unlimited places, while the Driver Protect add-on can detect a car accident, then call for an ambulance, and raise the alarm within the app. Free, Android, iOS; from $2.99/month for Plus; $4.99/month for Driver Protect.

bSafe
An app designed for personal safety can be well-suited for emergency use. bSafe lets out an audible alarm that can aid in rescue attempts and will also broadcast video of your surroundings, along with your GPS location. Outside of emergency situations, the Follow Me Timer can automatically send an SOS message to your chosen contacts if you don’t check in before a preset time — handy for staying safe if traveling alone. To receive this info, however, friends and family also need to download the app.

 

Dropbox
Dropbox truly is the easiest way to back up your entire life, from court reporting note and wav files to pictures of generations of family members.  This was probably the number one thing I heard during these disasters: massive scanning going on and putting pictures into Ziplocs. Endeavor to get all those pictures scanned. (Perhaps the court reporting firm you work with would work out a financial arrangement to have their production department perform the scanning for you.) Make sure you have your most important documents that you keep in a safe like birth certificates, estate planning documents, and insurance policies scanned to a folder stored on Dropbox also.  Be sure to download the app to your phone so that you can easily access the documents as well.

As we begin hurricane season, take advance precautions while there are no threats to protect your loved ones and the irreplaceable photos and documents.

Christine Phipps, RPR, is CEO of Phipps Reporting in North Palm Beach, Fla., and Vice President of the NCRA Board of Directors.








TechLinks: What you should know about the GDPR for your personal information

Attorney Mona Ibrahim, who advised several clients about how to comply with GDPR on their websites, wrote in the article “Why you should be reading the privacy notices choking your inbox” on polygon.com that it is useful for people to pay attention to the emails and notices with the changes. Although the rights are mostly for residents of the EU, others will benefit because so much of what takes place online is global. She lists a number of rights granted by the GDPR, including access to your data, asking to have your data deleted, the ability to restrict certain third-party activities, and more.

It’s all about consent. Ibrahim notes: “Consent must be specific, concise, easy to understand, and freely given. Individuals in the EU must also have the ability to withdraw consent in a manner no less difficult than it is to give consent.” Consent is even required if you want to continue communicating with people already on a list you’ve created — whether by email or mail.

A lot of the changes haven’t come to full fruition, so it’s likely that there will be attention directed toward this issue for the next few months. According to Ibrahim, “companies have plenty of incentive to pay attention to you moving forward if providing end users data protection solutions makes a company more attractive to you.”

The GDPR also offers a number of tools for consumers, including a way to download all of your data. Check out Gizmodo for more information.

Here are additional links:

TechLinks: What you need to know about privacy issues and the GDPR

TechLinks: What you should know about the GDPR for your business