Monday, February 19, 2007

Windows Vista continued: Rage Against the Machine

"Ain't it funny how time slips away" - Western philosopher Willie Nelson

Sorry to have been away so long, wish that I could blame it all on the PS3 I claimed to have been purchasing when I first commented on Windows Vista. Turns out that one of you ratted me out to my wife, who threatened to use the prospective PS3 in an unsafe manner not in line with its original design and further threatened to use said device in a method not otherwise intended by the manufacturer. So I served my time in the doghouse, but put the time to good use by camping out in front of the local movie theater to be the first to get tickets to see "GHOSTRIDER". Oh Happy Day!

Back to work.

Keeping in mind that many of the Vista features are already available in various forms and from various sources, the reported ease of use of these features may be a boon for Microsoft shareholders but will cause many a litigant to develop a case of the "vapors" in due time.

Vista allows user level encryption for files and folders. For you and I, this means that two people might be share one computer, but those users can encrypt the data such that the other users are blocked from accessing it. From a discovery standpoint, if Party A has access and ownership of a computer running Vista, but cannot access responsive data that has been encrypted by Non-Party B, does Party A have "constructive" control or possession of the data?

The encryption also has some centralized features found at the administrative level. Administrators can set up keys to access encrypted files through the use of smart cards. (Taking this approach to the next logical step, can the day be very far off that I have to swipe my credit card through my computer at the office, and pay my own way while at work?).

More intriguing is the administrator's ability to block the use of removable storage, such that rogue information thieves cannot slip their sushi-shaped USB drives into the office and steal all the payroll files. Assuming, as I have, that document retention policies will become just as important to bankruptcy practitioners as will an accurate disclosure statement, this raises all description of potential traps. In the event a debtor or litigant has adopted a document retention policy forbidding the use of removable storage, has the administrator taken sufficient action to prevent such use? Are there exceptions to the rule, and if so, why? And how is the data being protected off site? This time next year, I expect that $69.99 at your neighborhood Best Buy will buy a Ginormous-o-byte removable hard drive powered by a flux capacitor and the radioactive goo scraped from a million old Timex watches. Whether that data constitutes "books and records" of the estate, or property of the estate, it might make sense to have someone commit to flipping the "no removable storage device, even for the CEO's idiot son who was recently names as Vice President for External Environmental Loss Control and Albanian Multi-National Development" switch.

Another "new" feature of Vista is its Shadow Copy. The Shadow Copy feature makes periodic point-in-time copies of a file as it is being used. In the event that the file is deleted by mistake, Shadow Copy makes it much easier to restore the file after the fact. Shadow Copy is the built in version of Delete Does Not Mean Deleted 2.0.

Anyone who has ever upgraded to a completely new computer knows the heartache of trying to transfer all those programs, addresses, favorite songs and personal avatars from the old machine to the next. Vista has an Easy Transfer system, which is a tempting equivalent to the do-it-yourselfer's version of the Easy Bake Oven. With just a USB cord, all those recipes and old girlfriend's phone numbers get passed from old computer to new. Even though I am a huge fan of the DIY crowd, a dangerous notion that Jack Seward is patiently trying to disabuse me of, Easy Transfer ought not be considered an appropriate substitute for cloning a drive.

My favorite new goodie is Windows Meeting Space. Meeting Space is a multi-user, peer to peer "collaboration" work horse. The real world equivalent is me and 9 of my closest friends squeezing around one table at Starbucks and working on an etch a sketch until we have completed a draft Disclosure Statement. Meeting Space allows users to work on a file/presentation at the same time, from different computers. When session changes are saved, each participant automatically has the saved changes on their document.

It is frighteningly easy to conduct a Meeting Space session, without the need for internal server infrastructure. Meeting Space works off of wireless local area networks, or even ad hoc PC to PC networks. The NEW real world equivalent means that me and 9 of my closest friends can lounge around Starbucks and replace the etch a sketch with laptops or other portable wireless devices with enough uuumph to support the program.

When I grow up, I wish to be a litigator, for I smile with glee at the endless universe of preservation, privilege, and disclosure issues this arrangement provides. Can changes and drafts be saved and tracked? If so, does the document retention policy address how and when? What is the practical effect of a "litigation hold" on Meeting Space users? Assuming some real time chat/IM option is available, can a chat log be kept by some users without the others knowing, and if so, who is tracking attorney-client exchanges? What if a participant drops out of the session early, and other users make subsequent changes to the file. Will the earlier version be drifting around in the ether, just waiting for a sanctions motion?

In case the point was missed in the earlier post, or even at the beginning of this post, many of these features, if not all, are available pre-Vista release. Tomorrow is Now!

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