Black Friday Deals: Recommendations from the Tech Committee

​ ​​Black Friday is just around the corner — Nov. 29! The Technology Committee has rounded up some links and has done the research for NCRA members to make it easy to find the best sales that will be happening for the holiday season. What will be on your shopping list this year?

​​​​​​Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Anchorage, Ala., starts off the list: “​​​​I recommend the Apple Watch 4 with GPS and Cellular. It’s at Best Buy for $349. ​​Recently I was called out to a deposition in the morning because another reporter wasn’t feeling well. I was assured that I would be out of the depo at 3 p.m. so that I could make my 4 p.m. hair appointment. At 3, I texted my stylist from my Apple Watch that I had to cancel my appointment, and I was able to add two more hours to my parking space without interrupting the deposition. I also received texts reminding me to pick up the dog from the dog sitter on my way home and for my assignment the next morning. My Apple Watch also reminds me to breathe, that I haven’t reached my ‘stand goal,’ or that I haven’t filled out my exercise rings. (Guilt – no charge!) I’ve even seen it light up with fireworks when I have reached those goals. The GPS is great for getting to jobs and not taking my hands off the steering wheel. It’s cellular-enabled, and I love that I can go for a hike or a run without having to bring my phone with me. It’s a device that you don’t know how much you need until you have it.”

Kelli Ann Willis, RPR, CRR, a freelance court reporter based in Hutchinson, Kan., offered the following as her pick of the Black Friday deals: “I recommend the Amazon Dot for a convenient, portable way to keep track of many things. I connected mine to my Verizon hot spot, so it connects to that while I am traveling. ​​It is helpful to access local weather and have my Spotify playlists handy! The clock is helpful as well to set an alarm without having to figure out the hotel alarm clock. ​It further integrates Ring, Audible, and, of course, Amazon Music.”

​​​​PCMag shows the deal listed through Kohl’s.

​​​​​​Lauren Lawrence, RPR, of Kansas City, Mo., recommended the Instant Pot Duo Nova 7-in-1 6-quart, which PCMag indicated will be available through Kohl’s. “I’m obsessed with my Instant Pot. The one thing we use it constantly for: Boiled eggs. My boyfriend and his kiddos love hard boiled eggs and deviled eggs. We’ll do a carton of 18 eggs (or more) at a time, and they’re always easy to peel and so fast and perfectly cooked. We also use it for other things we’d normally do in a crockpot, but it’s a million times faster and gets meat just as juicy and tender. Corn on the cob is another fast favorite! When you’re busy, whatever helps; right?”

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Portand Ore., said, “I’m a Dell person. I think their deals are worth checking out. Dell Online has deals going on at 10 a.m. (Eastern) on Thanksgiving and 8 a.m. (Eastern) on Black Friday. The best deal I saw was the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Laptop, estimated value of $749.99, and the doorbuster deal is $499.99 (Doorbuster 8 a.m. (Eastern) on Nov. 29. PCMag has the link to this deal.

“I also saw good deals on iPads at Walmart — 10.2-inch 2019 32GB iPad for $249 (save $80),” Nodland continued. “And I love to shop the bargains. NewEgg will have 50 percent off items from their certified refurbish outlet – desktops, laptops, iPads, more.”

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Mobile, Ala., shared his favorite deal: “I would recommend the Apple AirPods (with charging case). They are on sale at Walmart for $15 off of the regular price. The Black Friday price is $144. These are expensive for sure, but they are by far the best. They set up easily with any other Apple product you have. And even if you don’t have Apple products, they work perfectly with your computer’s Bluetooth system. So, it’s a great way to scope on breaks or while sitting at the airport. The battery life is great. It charges quickly, and it lasts all day long. You can double tap to answer your phone using the built-in microphone. Or if you’re just listening to music while exercising, you can tap to rewind or jump to next song in cue. They are light and fit perfectly in your ear. The case is sturdy and can be thrown in your machine case without damaging the device. I strongly recommend using these for the quality of sound and the ease of use.”

Have something in mind yourself that you want to look for? Here are a few links to consider for your own research:

Caution for court reporters – the danger of frayed cords

A blog posted by Kramm Court Reporting on Sept. 13 outlines the fire dangers from frayed cords.

Read more.

Ask the Techie: Transcript Formatting

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’m always trying to learn new, faster, and shorter ways to get my transcripts out the door. Embracing realtime is a priority for me, as I know that will be one of the biggest timesavers, and I’m doing great with utilizing lots of brief forms. Writing short!

Anyway, the next hurdle to conquer is getting as much formatting incorporated into my writing at the time of the job; for example, the setup of the examinations and so forth.

Can you give me a boost to get my dictionary jump-started with those type of brief forms?

Jumping Into Realtime

Dear Jumping,

Congratulations on your journey with realtime!

Kevin Hunt, a member of the Tech Committee, has the following advice and brief forms to get you jump-started to a more perfect transcript at the time of your job.

Single Strokes for designations:

/STPHAO-BGS for EXAMINATION blurb and the Q., similarly:

/SKWRAO-BGS

/KP-EUFPLT

KP-EURBGS

Also for Court/Hearing/Arbitrations:

/TKREBGT (Direct)

/TKR*EBGT(Redirect)

/TPR*EBGT (FurtherRedirect)

/KROS (Cross)

/KRO*S (Recross)

/TPRO*S (FurtherRecross)

And then paired with a speaker designation:

/TKREBGT/STPHAO generates the DIRECT EXAMINATION BY SPEAKER 01: AND the following Q.

Finally, when more than four speakers, the base designation plus alliteration of speaker’s name.

Mr. McCarthy = /STPHAO-PL

Mr. Peterson = SKWRAO-P, etc., on both sides …

Ask the Techie: iPads and realtime setup

Dear Techie:

I’m taking the plunge and am going to offer realtime to some select clients — not just for myself. My realtime setup will include iPads for the attorneys to view the transcript. I will be using an iPad that I use for personal use as well. What tips can the Tech Committee provide to ensure that my data on my personal device won’t be accessed by a client?

Thanks!

Realtime Adventurer

Dear Adventurer:

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Mobile, Ala., and a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee, has the following settings recommendations to use when setting up a new iPad that will be used for a court reporter’s realtime setup.

  • Bluetooth: Off
  • Do Not Disturb: On
  • Display & Brightness: Auto Lock = Never; Auto Brightness = Off
  • Sounds: None for All
  • Messages: Off
  • Passcode: Off
  • iCloud (Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, etc.): Off
  • iTunes and App Store: Auto Download for Apps and Updates
  • Mail/Accounts/Fetch New Data: Off

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Memphis, Tenn., and chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee, has a few more recommendations for the iPad when writing realtime for attorneys.

  • Turn off keyboard clicks
  • Turn off Siri
  • Turn off Automatic Updates and Software Updates
  • Disable Auto Lock
  • Use Guided Access: Guided Access limits your device to a single app and lets you control which features are available.

Set Up Guided Access

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Guided Access.
  2. Turn on Guided Access.
  3. Tap Passcode Settings, then tap Set Guided Access Passcode.
  4. Enter a passcode, then reenter it. From here, you can also turn on Face ID or Touch ID as a way to end a Guided Access session.

Ask a Techie: Using Tablets for Proofing

Dear Techie:

I’d like to explore editing/proofreading on a tablet-style device with a stylus. Questions on forums and to friends have given me a mishmash of information, mostly related to iPads that they no longer use. People are all over the place. 

I want to open a transcript, edit with a stylus, search if I need to within the doc, but not specifically edit as one would in CAT software. I want to hold it as if it is a piece of paper and mark on it with the stylus as if a red pen.  

Prepped for Proofing

Dear Prepped,

First, some definitions of “edit” and “redlining” from our Technology Committee member Kevin Hunt, Buffalo, N. Y. 

“Edit” is making a change directly in the original file, with the original text/format changed to something new. The “edit” can be done in a tablet running Windows as described above, just not very efficiently.

“Redlining” is highlighting in some manner a change to be made but the original text is currently unchanged. The “redlining” can be done by converting the text to a PDF and then use an annotation app to redline the PDF text.  That is then used as a reference to correct the actual transcript in the CAT software.

Kevin provides these suggested options to consider for editing on a tablet:

  1. I have a MS Surface Pro with the detachable screen that can serve as a tablet. I can run Case CATalyst on that “tablet” when detached because it is still a PC running Windows, which is what is required to run Case CATalyst (as well as just about any other CAT software I’m aware of).
    1. In tablet mode with the MS Surface Stylus, I can do just about anything the software allows, since key combination commands are also mimicked via menu options. However, having to use menus for everything, such as even the most basic commands of Replacing or Defining something, etc., is not an efficient process.
    2. I created macros that allowed me to (after highlighting the text) tap a button that brought up the Replace or Define dialog, but I then have to bring up the virtual keyboard overlay on the screen to complete the process — again not very efficient.

Kevin also offers this advice: At the current state of technology, I’d stick with the universally readable PDF file format and programs such as iAnnotate and PDFExpert to “redline” an image of the page of transcript that can then be easily sent back to the reporter for corrections.

Kimberly Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, Lenexa, Kan., another member of the Technology Committee, recommends an annotation app called Readdle. She says it works great with the Apple devices and stylus and is user-friendly. Kim mentions that if court reporters wish to use a Windows application for proofreading a transcript, Xodo has a great product and is user-friendly.

Here are links for annotation apps to consider proofreading your transcripts:

Apple Devices

Android Devices

Windows

Then, for stylus options, check out these links:

Best Stylus for Android

Best Stylus for Apple

Ask the techie: Quotation marks

Dear Techie:

I keep struggling with finding an easy way to brief those darn quotation marks, especially when following says or said. Do you have any great suggestions that can lighten my load?

Questioning the quotation mark

Dear Questioning:

Technology Committee member Merilee S. Johnson, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, suggests the following brief forms when dealing with quotes:

I have most of the following strokes defined as:  , “<Cap next>

SA*EUD               defined as           said, “<Cap Next>

SA*EUS                defined as           says, “<Cap Next>

SA*EUG               defined as           saying, “<Cap Next>

RA*EDZ              defined as           reads, “<Cap Next>

TAO*EULGTS     defined as           titled, “<Cap Next>

WR*EU                 defined as           write, “<Cap Next>

WR*EUS              defined as           writes, “<Cap Next>

WRO*ET              defined as           wrote, “<Cap Next>

KWOERBGS        defined as           ,”

KWOEFPLT          defined as           .”

Hope this helps lighten your load and cuts down your transcript editing time!

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:

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.

Ask the techie: What brief forms to use in Federal Court

Dear Techie:

I just accepted a position in federal court, after having been a freelancer for several years. What briefs can the Tech Committee recommend to help the transition go smoother for me when I’m offering realtime to my judge?

Thanks! 

Judicial Briefer

Dear Judicial,

Congratulations on your new position and best wishes on your judicial officialship! Nancy Bistany, RPR, has these great briefs for words and phrases that come up frequently for you to incorporate into your personal dictionary for federal court:

35* – 3553 

35*/A – 3553(a)

A*K – amended complaint

A*US – AUSA

BIF – benefit

BAIFL – basically

SDOFR – discover

SDOEFR – discovery

BAF – on behalf of

STEN – sentence

STENG – sentencing

SMEMT – settlement

S-J – summary judgment

J* – and then first initial of Judge’s last name or a letter; e.g. J*G – Judge Gettleman, J*K – Judge Castillo, J*D – Judge Wood, J*UD – Judge Dow)

Happy briefing!

Court reporters and scanners – win, win, win!

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting posted by JD Supra on Feb. 19 discusses the benefits of bringing small scanners to depositions.

Read more.