Oct 04

Toss out your answering machine

(This may be seen as off-topic for some readers, but I’m writing about it as an example of technology simplifying my life.)

I’ve been slowing realizing over the last several months that neither Liz nor I religiously check our home answering machine. This is bad, because there may be important messages.

We both, however, check our email religiously. I was convinced there was a better way for us to manage the calls to our home that we missed. Eventually, I realized that Google Voice would work quite nicely. Here’s what I did:

In Google services:

1. Set up a new Gmail account.

2. Signed up for Google Voice and chose a number that is local for us.

3. In Settings > Phones, I turned OFF all phones (DEselected the check boxes)…so that none of the phones associated with the account would ring when this number was called. This means that all calls to this number would, by default, go straight to voicemail.

4. In Settings > Voicemail & Text, I recorded a new greeting appropriate for our home phone and set it as the default greeting for all calls.

5. In Settings > Voicemail & Text >Voicemail Notifications, I set notifications to be sent to the account’s Gmail address.

6. I also elected on this screen to have voicemails transcribed. These transcriptions are far from perfect, but they often provide enough information to let us know what should be done with the message.

With my home phone service provider:
(Our home phone provider is Time Warner Cable- they have a VoiceZone service you can sign into to manage these settings yourself. Your provider may or may not have something similar- call them and ask!)

I set calls to forward to my new Google Voice number if we did not answer after four rings:

Back to the new Gmail account:

7. Now that this new Gmail account was receiving emails from Gvoice with the date/time, number, the machine transcription of the message and a link to play the audio, it was time to make sure that Liz and I both got them.

First, I set up all emails from this account to be forwarded to my main email account. Next, I set up a filter to make sure all such emails were forwarded to Liz’s main email account.

So now we were each getting the email when someone called our home phone and left a message.

8. Lastly, I wanted to make sure that neither Liz nor I would accidentally overlook such voicemail-containing emails when we received them, so I made one more filter for each of us that slaps on a big red label:

lastfilter

So here’s what it looks like in my inbox when someone calls our home phone number and leaves a message:
inboxview

The email contains a link to a Web-based audio player through which either one of us can listen to the message if the machine-transcription is insufficient (as it often is).

Results:

1. We can’t fail to notice that we have messages (as we sometimes do now with the little blinking red light on our answering machine).

2. We no longer have to worry about whether one of us or the other has heard a particular message and wonder if it can safely be deleted. We can manage our own listening as we would our own reading. It is as if we are both “cc’d” on voicemails left on our home phone.

3. Neither of us can accidentally delete old messages.

4. We can both easily access our messages anywhere.

5. We’re throwing out our answering machine without having to pay anyone for voicemail service.

🙂

Jan 29

MLGSCA/NCNMLG 2010 Slides (#jm2010az)

Perhaps I can write a bit more about my trip to Arizona soon, but for now I wanted to get the slides posted for those who attended.

It was lots of fun and a treat for me to get to leave Syracuse in January and gape at palm trees for a couple of days. 🙂

Mar 19

OCR Terminal

Don’t have an OCR application handy at your place of work to read the text of a scanned page? No problem.

What is OCR Terminal?

OCR Terminal is a free online Optical Character Recognition service that allows you to convert scanned images and PDFs into editable and text searchable documents. It accurately preserves formatting and layout of documents.

ocrterminalhow

Free, requires sign-up.

Feb 11

WebPax.com

I’m not sure what to make of WebPax.com…but at first glance, it seems really cool to have a Web-based service for viewing images in DICOM format. I know at least a couple of physicians who will want to try it out right away for sharing the occasional scan with a colleague from a distance.

I *do* like that DICOM files are anonymized as they are uploaded. DICOM tags are cleared and…

• The year and month are not modified
• The day is set to the first of the month
• The time is set to midnight

The patient’s birth date is set to January 1, 1970

I’ll say this much: If I kept a digital personal health record in an online service, I’d want to be able to view DICOMs in it with this kind of tool. Google needs to buy these guys or build a comparable tool. Maybe that’s what they and IBM can work on next.

Jan 15

More About the Book

So the book is getting some attention!

Internet Cool Tools for Physicians is in Google Book Search

Stephen Francoeur made this little video:

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the MLA mentioned it on their blog.

The MLA’s Taskforce on Social Networking Software posted about it, calling it “…an accessible, illustrated and contemporary guide to online tools in medicine.”

Laika, whose blog has quickly become one of my favorite MedLib blogs, mentioned it, as did Creaky.

I’m watching WorldCat.org with interest to see which libraries are getting it (though Duke’s copy doesn’t show up yet).

Dr. Shock (MD, PhD) gave it a very nice review.

I’m lucky to count as friends people like Meredith Farkas and Michael Stephens, both of whom thought the book worthy of mention on their very popular blogs.

Gosh- Brandi blogged about it way back in August– well before it as released!

I’m pleased to see mention of it in languages other than English.

The President and CEO of Community General Hospital blogged about it.

It has gotten some buzz on Twitter.

We’re anxious to hear any feedback you have about the book- please let us know what you think….and what you think needs to be added or changed for the second edition! 🙂

Dec 08

The Book!

Got my hands on my copies of the book today! How exciting!

Yay!

You can buy a copy from:
Springer Publishing

or here:

I’m looking forward to eventually seeing it in WorldCat. 🙂

Congratulations to Melissa Rethlefsen (who wrote a heck of a lot more than I did)! You should really go email Melissa now and tell her how much she rocks.

Nov 06

UNYOC (CE slides) and NYLA Tomorrow

My apologies to the awfully nice folks who attended the CE course I taught at UNYOC a couple of weeks ago! I’ve taken far too long to get these slides posted:

Also: I’ll be on a panel at NYLA tomorrow (Friday, 11/6/2008) afternoon at 4:00 PM- please say hello if you’re going to be there! As usual at these sorts of things, I’ll know almost nobody. But hey- I might get to meet Polly Farrington!

Jun 19

ContractionMaster.com

Reminder: Liz’s due date is July 10th. Please forgive my one-track mind.

Wanting to track labor (or false labor) contractions, I made an Excel spreadsheet. The first two columns record the time a contraction starts and the time it ends, the third and fourth columns (duration and frequency) calculate automatically.

I thought this was fine until Liz discovered ContractionMaster.com

All you have to do is hit the spacebar when a contraction begins or ends and ContractionMaster will mark the times and calculate the contraction duration and frequency.

My only complaint is that it has no method of output. What if I wanted to take the history it records to the Certified Nurse Midwife? I can’t export the data it records to a file, I can’t copy-and-paste the history from the site to a text file or Excel, and I can’t print without taking a screen capture.

Anyone know of a better option?

May 26

MLA 2008: Plenary Session IV Slides

David Rothman

Amanda Etches-Johnson

Melissa Rethlefsen

Bart Ragon

Mar 14

Emerging Technologies in Nursing and Nursing Education (Presentation)

Patricia Anderson (whose slides I always find worth a look) put up a new presentation yesterday:


Above: Embedded slides. If you’re reading this in an aggregator, you may need to visit the site to view the slides
Mar 12

16 Free Online Tools for Working with PDFs

An email conversation with a medical librarian recently reminded me that I’ve been meaning to make a list of the free online tools for working with PDFs that I’ve bookmarked.

Converting to/from other formats and PDF

  • https://www.pdfonline.com/convert_pdf.asp

    Converts files of the following formats (up to 2 MB) to PDF:
    MS Word (DOC | RTF)
    MS PowerPoint (PPT)
    MS Publisher (PUB)
    MS Excel (XLS)
    HTML (MHT)
    Text (TXT)
    JPG , GIF, TIFF, BMP, PNG, EMF, WM

    Site also has free tools for converting URLs to PDF and for converting PDF to .doc

  • http://online.primopdf.com/

    Will convert to PDF from the following formats:
    123, bmp, cgm, csv, dbf, dif, doc, dot, dxf, emf, eps, gif, hwp, jpeg, jpg, jtd, jtt, met, mml , odb, odf, odg, odm, odp, ods, odt, otg, oth, otp, ots, ott, pbm, pcd, pct, png, ppm, pps, ppt, psd, pts, ptt, ras, rtf, sda, sdc, sdd, sdp, sdw, sgf, sgl, sgv, slk, smf, stc, std, sti, stw, svm, sxc, sxd, sxg, sxi, sxm, sxt, sxw, tga, tif, tiff, txt, vor, vor, wb2, wk1, wks, wmf, wpd, wps, xbm, xls, xlt, xlw, xml, and xpm
  • http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/access_onlinetools.html
    Adobe’s own online conversion service converts HTML or text to PDF, or PDF to HTML/text.
  • http://www.expresspdf.com/

    Converts Word, Excel or HTML files to PDF.
  • http://www.zamzar.com/

    In addition to a bajillion other conversions, Zamzar will convert .csv, .doc, .docx, OpenDocument formats, .ppt, .pptx, .pub, .wpd, .wps, .xls or .xlsx files (up to 100MB) to PDF. Zamzar will also convert PDF to doc, html, odt, pcx, png, ps, rtf or txt
  • http://www.youconvertit.com/ConvertFiles.aspx

    Among lots of other conversions, converts to PDF from a number of file formats. It’ll also convert from PDF to AVS, BMP,CIN, or CMYK
  • http://rss2pdf.com/

    Converts the text of an RSS feed to a PDF
  • http://www.htm2pdf.co.uk/default.aspx
    Give HTML2PDF a URL or a mess of HTML and it’ll output a PDF

Editing PDFs

  • http://www.pdfhammer.com/

    PDFhammer will let you do some lightweight editing online, including appending PDFs to each other, deleting pages, or changing the order of pages.
  • http://bookletcreator.com/

    BookletCreator is a free online tool that allows to create a booklet from a PDF document. It reorders pages so that after printing and folding the pages you get a small book.

  • http://www.pdfescape.com/

    PDFescape will let you add things to PDFs like text fields (for filling out forms), arrows, shapes and “white-out”.
    Screen capture from editing:

  • Sharing PDFs

  • http://www.scribd.com/

    You can think of Scribd as sort of a YouTube for PDFs (and other kinds of documents). You can upload and tag, share, and embed documents as flash objects. The example below is an embedded version of Eugene Barsky’s handy Google “Cheat Sheet”:

    Read this doc on Scribd: Google Cheat Sheet 20060503


  • http://www.docstoc.com/

    Another YouTube for documents.
  • http://www.pdfmenot.com/

    PDFmenot is another way to view a PDF without an installed reader (or to post one online that users won’t need a reader to view). See example (again using Eugene’s PDF) by clicking here.
  • http://issuu.com/

    Issuu lets you upload a PDF and either share a link to a flash viewer (sort of like PDFmenot) or embed it on a Web page. Click on the embedded version will launch the full-screen viewer. The example below was again made with Eugene’s handout.

This is far from a comprehensive list. Do you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned?

Aug 28

Screencast-O-Matic: Easy way to make free screencasts

The screencast below (made with Screencast-O-Matic) shows how to make a screencast…with Screencast-O-Matic.

Viewing the embedded screencast below (and recording new ones) requires Java.

Why should libraryfolk care about screencasting? Let Paul Pival help answer that question.

Jun 28

Freebase.com (alpha) invitations [All gone!]

[EDIT] I’m out of invites- but do check out Freebase when you get a chance! [/EDIT]

So I’m in on the alpha of Freebase.com and have a couple of invitations to give away.

It would be interesting for any Web enthusiast to check out, but would be especially exciting if you’re a developer who likes to play with APIs. Does that sound like you?

The first two people who drop me an email at the address on this blog’s right sidebar will get an invitation.

What’s Freebase.com? Think of it as a Wikipedia for structured data with powerful API tools that’ll let you build applications from it. It appears to be insanely cool.

Free + Database = Freebase
It’s about film, sports, politics, music, science and everything else all connected together. Our contributors are collecting data from all over the internet to build a massive, collaboratively-edited database of cross-linked data. It’s a big job and we’re just getting started.

May 22

SugarStats (Online Diabetes Management)


Built by diabetics for diabetics, SugarStats provides a simple, completely web-based and clean interface to track, monitor and access your glucose levels and diabetic statistics to spot dangerous trends and better manage your diabetic lifestyle.

You input and access your info via a web browser so no matter where you are you have easy access.

With SugarStats you can track your blood sugar glucose levels along with the elements that effect those levels such as medication, food intake and physical activity. You can then easily share this information with your health care professional, family and friends to get further consultation and advice to better your health.

With SugarStats you will be able to:

* Bring your readings online. Get rid of that pen & paper log!
* Track & manage meds, foods and activity
* Drill down into specific timeframes to get a clear picture
* Visualize your progress with easy to read graphs and trends
* Share your statistics with your family, friends or doctor
* Access your info from any modern web browsers
* Have a clear and easy-to-use interface to view your stat

Take the tour to see more of what SugarStats has planned.

How do physicians who treat diabetics like this idea? I have been told that Ob/Gyns generally appreciate that TCoYF/Ovusoft helps patients time efforts for conception and can help provide the physician with detailed charting of the patient’s activities. Would applications like these be welcome by physicians in a number of other specialties?

May 14

BibMe

I’ll bet BibMe will be a big hit on college campuses in the fall.

Welcome to BibMe! The fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It’s the quickest way to build a works cited page. And it’s free.

  1. Search for a book, article, website, or film from our database, or enter the information yourself.
  2. Add it to your bibliography.
  3. Download your bibliography in either the MLA, APA, or Chicago formats and include it in your paper.

bubme2.png

BibMe was developed as part of a Software Development project course in the Information Systems department of Carnegie Mellon University. Team Exibeans worked on this project during the spring semester of 2007, spending roughly 15 weeks building the system. Using a slick combination of Ruby on Rails and AJAX, we were able to create a bibliography generating application and provide you with this great service for free!

Works pretty well, though I had problems finding newspaper articles by title.

Apr 24

Bubble Guru Demonstration

(If you’re reading this post in an aggregator, you’ll need to visit the blog to see this work.)

To see a demonstration of what Bubble Guru does, click here.
(Has audio- adjust the volume on your speakers to be appropriate to your environment)

Try it yourself: http://www.bubbleguru.com/

Apr 16

Web 2.0: Tools for Clinical Practice

Resources from Judy Burnham, used to teach her class for the 2007 Medical Association of Alabama Meeting:

These are definitely worth flipping through if you have even a casual interest in the application of Web technologies to medicine. I like to consider myself well-informed on the topic, but a handful of the resources Judy notes are new to me.

Many thanks, Judy!

[Via MEDLIB-L]

Mar 28

Mozy demonstrates the wrong way to talk to users

My friend Saul (not his real name) is a pretty capable computer user on both Windows and Macs, but not a fan of television or pop culture.

Saul recently decided to try out Mozy, an online backup service that I’ve used and liked. He noticed something weird in the EULA, though, and decided to email Mozy’s creators (Berkeley Data Systems) about it. He wrote to BDS:

Hi – I just thought that the highlighted passages in this segment of the Mac OSX beta version’s software license agreement might be of interest to you. FYI – I downloaded this yesterday.

“WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, THE TOTAL AGGREGATE LIABILITY OF BERKELEY DATA SYSTEMS AND ITS SUPPLIERS ARISING FROM OR RELATED TO THIS AGREEMENT SHALL NOT EXCEED THE AMOUNT, IF ANY, PAID BY YOU TO BERKELEY DATA SYSTEMS FOR THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICES. FURTHERMORE, YOU AGREE TO USE THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICE EXCLUSIVELY FOR GOOD AND FOR AWESOME. IF THE SOFTWARE AND SERVICES ARE PROVIDED WITHOUT CHARGE, THEN BERKELEY DATA SYSTEMS AND ITS SUPPLIERS SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY TO YOU WHATSOEVER.

THE FOREGOING LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY SHALL APPLY WHETHER THE DAMAGES ARISE FROM USE OR MISUSE OF AND RELIANCE ON THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICE, FROM INABILITY TO USE THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICE, OR FROM THE INTERRUPTION, SUSPENSION, OR TERMINATION OF THE SOFTWARE OR SERVICE (INCLUDING SUCH DAMAGES INCURRED BY THIRD PARTIES). DO NOT TAUNT HAPPY FUN BALL. SUCH LIMITATION SHALL APPLY NOTWITHSTANDING A FAILURE OF ESSENTIAL PURPOSE OF ANY LIMITED REMEDY AND TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW.”

Saul didn’t get the joke because he’s not an early 90s SNL fan. “Happy Fun Ball” is a reference to a Saturday Night Live parody advertisement in which a product with a bouncy, cheerful name comes with dire, absurd warnings. It is meant to mock consumer safety warnings, EULAs, and our litigious society. You can watch video of the sketch here.

Happy Fun Ball

It’s a fun thing to throw into the license agreement. It is clever and pleasantly silly. It made me chuckle.

But rather than simply explaining the joke to Saul, president and founder Josh Coates wrote:

[saul], thanks for asking.

i’m not an attorney, but here’s my take on things:

the way i read it, it simply means that you are not to taunt (which means to tease or make fun of) happy fun ball. it’s against the end user license agreement. if you do so, you will be in violation of the agreement.

as far as the “for good and for awesome” reference goes, i believe this statement simply means that the user agrees to use the software of good and for awesome, where good means something that conforms to the moral order of the universe, or something that advances prosperity or well-being and awesome means something that inspires awe. in other words, the user agrees to use the software for both good and awesome purposes.

hope that clarifies things for you.

-josh

Josh Coates
President, Founder
Mozy.com, Berkeley Data Systems, Inc.
jcoates@berkeleydata.net

A user who cares enough to take the time to write to the creators is the sort of user who will show the product to his friends. He’s the kind of user who, receiving positive response from the creators, will find his enthusiasm for the product enhanced.

Sending Saul the “ha-ha-you’re-not-savvy-to-my-pop-culture-smartassery” email isn’t just unprofessional and rude. It’s remarkably stupid.

Let this please be a lesson to anyone who receives communiques from end users. This is opposite of how to behave.