I’ve been doing a bit of research lately for a project I’m working on at my day job. The project is a program to help law students learn how to effectively do legal research. The program is call the "Legal Research Record". The first version of it was written in Java, and runs on Windows (I haven’t tried it on a mac). As alpha software it is quite buggy, but it serves a valuable purpose as a proof of concept. I personally would like to see it moved over to a web interface, and it sounds like I’m not alone in that setiment. Much easier to maintain and update that way, and for students, they can use it on which ever computer they happen to be using at the moment (in the computer lab, on their laptop, or at home).
The draw back to this is, that any practicing lawyer would not want to host any client research information on a 3rd party web server. A couple of options I’m exploring to get around this problem are XAMPP, and UniformServer. What both of these software packages allow you to do is to install a LAMP, or WAMP software stack on a computer or even a thumb drive, and run the web application on a desktop PC. This stores the data on the PC or USB thumb drive, getting around the reluctance of lawyers to use 3rd party services.
From the UniformServer web site:
The Uniform Server is a WAMP package that allows you to run a server on any MS Windows OS based computer. It is small and mobile to download or move around and can also be used or setup as a production/live server. Developers also use The Uniform Server to test their applications made with either PHP, MySQL, Perl, or the Apache HTTPd Server.
It will be interesting to see how well this works in practice. In particular, I’ll be interested to see how easy it is to upgrade the web application, and maintain the data in the database. For the record, XAMPP will run on Linux, Windows, and Mac OSX computers.