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Education Portables (Apple) Software Apple Hardware Technology

Touch Bar MacBook Pros Are Being Banned From Bar Exams Over Predictive Text (techcrunch.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: When it launched late last year, the new MacBook Pro's Touch Bar was largely reliant on first-party applications to show off what it could do. Since then, a number of other companies have jumped on board, helping the secondary screen grow into something more than novelty. Of course, as with any new technology, there's going to be some unanticipated downside. Test taking software company Examsoft, for one, believes the input device could help facilitate cheating among students taking the bar exam. What's perhaps most interesting here, is that the company's calling out one of Touch Bar's more mundane features: predictive text. "By default," the company writes, "the Touch Bar will show predictive text depending on what the student is typing, compromising exam integrity." It's hard to say precisely how the company expects a standard feature on mobile devices to help students pass one of the more notoriously exam out there, but The Next Web notes that some states have already taken action. North Carolina, for one, has required test takers with the new model MacBooks to disable the Touch Bar, while New York is banning the machines altogether.
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Touch Bar MacBook Pros Are Being Banned From Bar Exams Over Predictive Text

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  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:31PM (#53778291)

    real lawyers are stuck using windows XP on a 8 year old HP, cause its the newest thing that interfaces with the criminal justice system

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What do you mean XP?

      Lawyers are the only remaining people using wordperfect. The legal profession is so antiquated because any efficiency isn't needed. They bill by the hour - so if they worked twice as efficiently - they would have to increase their clients... What a sham of a profession.

      • by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @10:03PM (#53778435)

        WordPerfect is far superior to Word so the lawyers are actually being more efficient. In fact, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS is probably the most perfect word processing program ever.

        Anyone who ever used it can attest to the speed and ease of accomplishing things which in Word require burrowing down through ribbons to find what you need. In fact, once one became even moderately proficient in WordPerfect their hands rarely left the keyboard.

        Imagine being able to figure out why your tabs or paragraphs weren't lining up correctly through the tap of two keys which revealed all the hidden codes. Now imagine being able to instantly control how you wanted things to look rather than be at the mercy of some far off developer who didn't care what you wanted.

        Why pay an exorbitant amount for a bloated, convoluted piece of software when you already have something which is easier and more efficient to use?

        • ^ This.

          WordPerfect is far superior to Word for producing text documents.

          Word is sold by marketing people to marketing people and forced on the rest of us.

          • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

            Word is sold...

            I was about to comment that this alone puts it ahead of WordPerfect these days. But I checked and it's still sold. I guess I learned my new thing for the day already.

        • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
          Yea but how do they get their two dozen plugins loaded in WordPerfect? I was doing some work for a lawfirm and had to load up their default installs of word to read a doc. The screen was 70% toolbars. It was like trying to work on one of those old electronic word processors, one of the cheap ones with a 10 line display.
        • by don.g ( 6394 )

          +1 I am also old and miss reveal codes.

          Maybe we should train lawyers in LaTeX...

          • Most lawyers I know are well versed in using latex.

            They just use it... it's just wrong, ok, let's leave it at that.

        • Who modded up this drivel? WordPerfect is a steaming pile of excrement and its market share was obliterated by Word for good reason.

          The reason people liked the 'reveal codes' feature in WP is that you needed it to undo the clusterfuck WP regularly perpetrated on its own documents. The most common problem was incorrect nesting of code tags ([a][b] must be terminated by [b][a], not [a][b]). And woe betide you if you had a code tag that applied to more than one paragraph of text, good luck finding the matching

        • WordPerfect is far superior to Word so the lawyers are actually being more efficient. In fact, WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS is probably the most perfect word processing program ever.

          So I'd be interested to know if this is so good, has someone created a version for the modern PC?

        • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

          Word Perfect 5.1 was a wretched disaster. You had to have the "reveal codes" option switched on or you'd find your document full of unnecessary control codes. I came to it from Word for Mac and I couldn't believe how fundamentally wrong it was.

        • And when writing in LaTeX, using vim, I can shave off those two keypresses required to reveal hidden codes. (Though way-back-when, I did use, and like WP51, except for one annoying bug which would insert an invalid character in a document, causing the document afterwards to jump to the start. That was when typing up A-level coursework against a deadline, and having learned to use a hex-editor, thanks to the joy of hacking savegame files, I figured out that you can edit the corrupted WP51 file in said hex-ed

          • And if you're using vim (or any other editor that has scripting), you can shave off a lot more keystrokes. I have F2 bound to a script that inspects the current word and replaces it with a template if I've defined a matching one, or if it doesn't then replaces it with a begin / end block with that words as the argument. Things like itemize, description, enumerate, table, and figure all expand to a skeleton with a single keystroke.
      • Better than Word at least.

    • real lawyers are stuck using windows XP

      Yes, but the ones who would otherwise fail the bar exam are using MBPs

  • Wait? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:33PM (#53778303)

    Why are professional level tests being taken on a personal laptop? Shouldn't these tests be taken on the test company devices? Sort of like, I don't know... the SAT, ACT, GRE, and every other test?

    • Re: Wait? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:34PM (#53778305)

      Remember, this is a notoriously exam.

      • Also,
        Of The Lawyers
        By The Lawyers
        For The Lawyers
        • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
          Yea but shouldn't the By The Lawyers want to make it as hard as possible for the For the Laywers to pass so they can keep all of the Of the Laywer to themselves?
    • Because there is no test company. The written portion of the bar exam is written and administered by the state bars, who do not have the budget or the facilities to keep the thousands of computers at the ready for an exam that is only given twice a year.
      • seems like a problem of their own making.

        They could just have a few computers set up here and there and then schedule access to them and do testing year 'round.

        I would think that a lawyers association would have enough operating capital to maintain a few hundred or fewer computers...

        • How would they do that without divulging the test questions? To offer more than twice a year, they'd have to write quite a few more test questions, which they don't have staff for. The exam writers and graders do it as a temp gig.

          They also don't have permanent test location facilities. I took the exam in the basement of a convention center. Keep in mind that most states write their own bar, and especially with smaller states, the number of takers may only be in the hundreds. Also, it may take an entire day

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Why are professional level tests being taken on a personal laptop? Shouldn't these tests be taken on the test company devices? Sort of like, I don't know... the SAT, ACT, GRE, and every other test?

      It's an interesting situation. What happens is you, the test taker, downloads a piece of software that contains the test. It's keyed to you, and you can only download it once. You don't run the application until its test time, and the application asks you questions and you answer them. I'm not sure if answers are

  • Useful... (Score:5, Funny)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:36PM (#53778313)
    "help students pass one of the more notoriously exam out there..."

    Perhaps if the author had a MacBook, they would have made a less notoriously error.
  • AS IANAL, I've not taken a BAR exam; having difficulty envisioning why this is a problem, or why laptops of any kind were previously allowed. If such a simple feature like this is enough to cheat on such an illustrious exam, then how can any faith be placed in the hands of lawyers that have passed the exam in the last 10 years. Or if this was merely a tool for already intelligent people that deserved their PASS, why do we care? ATM, i am imagining an 80 year old lady with a large ruler walking between ai
    • by edjs ( 1043612 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @10:56PM (#53778623)

      The testing software takes over the computer ("securely" according to the instructional video, FWIW) and doesn't let you switch out to other programs while you are in the test environment. It looks like the TouchBar bypasses that restriction.

      • It looks like the TouchBar bypasses that restriction.

        It looks like they're too lazy to learn the API and turn it off. Software updates are for startups. Surely the program in focus has control at the OS level, right? You'd want the same for the rest of the keyboard (mostly).

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Updates to software like this are likely to be quite an involved process. The actual code is easy, it's the need to get it re-certified and then released, and documentation listing the correct version to be used for each exam updated.

          It's a common problem with software that requires certification. Simple fixes and updates are so time consuming that it's often necessary to issue guidance for a work-around while it's happening.

      • by meloneg ( 101248 )

        Seems a VM would be even better at bypassing the system. [obligatory lawyer slam] I suppose if they could figure that out, they wouldn't be taking the bar exam.

      • I thought allowing people to bring their own devices to work with critical company data was insane, but this takes the fucking cake.

        BYOD is one of the most insane concepts the IT industry has come up with, which given their track record is pretty damning.

      • The testing software takes over the computer ("securely" according to the instructional video, FWIW) and doesn't let you switch out to other programs while you are in the test environment. It looks like the TouchBar bypasses that restriction.

        Oh, if there's any justice at all in the world all the exam software will do is pop open a window that reads, "You let someone else load software onto the same laptop you use to work on client cases? YOU FAIL!"

  • When I took the bar exam I had to use pen and paper, and we LIKED it that way!

    Honestly though, I think there comes a point when if you want to test a person solely based on what they're able to keep in their head, you'll have to exclude most technology.

    • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )
      At some point, testing what's in their head would become pointless. If every practicing lawyer had access to an instantly searchable database of case law, then what's the point of testing them on their ability to memorize them?

      I would say the majority of existing tests are testing knowledge rather than aptitude, because aptitude is very hard to test. How do you test whether the lawyer can make a convincing argument in front of a jury? How do you test whether they can find that one email that implicates t
      • Multiple choice type questions are of course easy to put on a test. There are many other choices, though. Cisco does a reasonably good job of testing skills on their certification exams. Even the entry-level exams include simulations and questions that require you to understand how and why things are as they are. Cisco's most advanced certifications *combine* a computerized test with in-person interviewing.

        • Multiple choice exams are among the hardest to write, unless you expect everyone to get close to 100%. It's easy to write a question and work out what the correct answer is. It's hard to pick 3-4 other answers (distractors) that look as if they might be the correct answer, if you misunderstand one particular thing. For the big exam boards, multiple choice exams typically take at least 3-4 times as long to prepare as ones with free-form answers (they're popular because the preparation costs are a one-off
          • I took an Oracle Certified Professional test once. The general idea seemed to be that they'd say what you were supposed to do, and then provide four ways to do it that you'd never write in real life, three of them with more or less subtle problems.

  • Would you hire a lawyer that doesn't use computers as part of their practice? I am a pretty good programmer, but if I don't have all my resources in front of me I have a hard time talking about it (ie don't interview well)
    • The justification for the bar exam being closed-book is that a lawyer making an oral argument or in trial will, at some level, have to memorize the law. Also keep in mind that the bar exam doesn't necessarily reward rote memorization so much as internalizing the concepts. You don't need to memorize the law verbatim- you just have to be able to be able to recite and apply its meaning.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "It's hard to say precisely how the company expects a standard feature on mobile devices to help students pass one of the more notoriously exam out there"

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    Ignoring the whacky sentence grammar... If you're asking how it helps students, it's easy- you can edit a list of substitutions in Mac OS X (sorry, OS X- nope, sorry about that too, MacOS- erp, no, I guess it's macOS now) and assign substitutions to various words of your ow

  • Just cause it has a touch bar doesn't mean it'd help students taking the bar exam.
  • If anything... the built in predictive text app is going to be a nuisance because it's trained for common text, not for latinglish that is legal text. For example.. if I type in "quid pro q" on my iPhone, I'm prompted with "q" "quality" and "queen" (I'm assuming that the iPhone and the Touchbar use the same predictive engine). It also fails "ad infinitum" and "de jure" and several other phrases that have made it into common vernacular. There's no chance that it's going to predict terms used on bar exams.
    • I am a lawyer. I agree that autocorrect can be a huge nuisance when typing legal documents. I suppose if the Mac predictive text app has a good learning algorithm, it's possible that it could help a text taker remember the exact wording of a statute, but I find it hard to believe it would be a material benefit to a bar exam taker.
  • Some of the software is crappy and it's lock downs act like spyware and other junk ware that does stuff to make it hard to quit out of it / force quit other apps / lockout alt-tab / task manager / etc.

    What will happen when windows defender flags it?

  • When I took the Florida bar exam back in 1996, you could only use a typewriter on the essay portion, and that typewriter could have no memory. I find the predictive text issue to be fairly minor compared to other abuses that could result from people being allowed to use their own laptops.But, hey, these are future lawyers we're talking about, so I'm sure they're all 100% trustworthy.
  • I wonder if they also noticed, that right next to the touch bar is another screen with the same capabilities!
  • Is there no predictive text app for non-touchbar macbooks? Or PC laptops? Really? Is Apple paying them to say that to make touchbar macbooks sound special or something?

  • So they're being barred?

  • ...that you are allowed to use only use certain models of calculators for SAT tests and math courses as opposed to just using a scientific calculator app on your smartphone. What I don't get here is 1) Why they don't force students to use the school provided computers 2) they are only targeting touch bar MacBooks when any laptop can be loaded with software to help with cheating, and be much more secretive about it. Sorry, but this is an epic fail on the school's part.

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