Monthly Archives: February 2013

Doctors Appointment of the Future?

I’ve stumbled across a number of articles and demonstrations this week that provide an interesting glimpse into the (near?) future of medicine. A lot of this is already possible today.

What will a Doctors Appointment in 2020 look like?

IBM Watson Demo: Oncology Diagnosis and Treatment

Motion and Color Amplification: Heart Rate from a Video

More than anything, these scenarios and new technologies depict what is possible with a high level of standardization in the healthcare environment, with universally available health records serving not only to benefit the patient, but also providing an extensive database for researchers and supercomputers to find trends and recommend evidence-based treatments.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Canada or the UK is able to implement something like this far before we do here in the U.S., at least outside of an academic setting.

It would also take a considerable up-front investment in infrastructural changes, as well as a re-balancing of the duties of primary care physicians vs specialists. In the scenario I linked, the PCP (with the aid of an expert system / “AI”) is also taking the role of radiologist and possibly cardiologist. However, this requires a much longer visit (a couple hours?) with the patient.

While I’m sure such an approach would ultimately be more efficient, the direction we seem to be heading is just the opposite, with PAs and NPs taking more of a role in primary care, and most complicated cases / procedures being referred to specialists.

Category: Medicine | Tags: , , ,

Bluetooth Trigger for Dash-Cam

Last week, I wrote about my experience using an old Droid X as a dash-cam, Russia-style. With Tasker and DailyRoads Voyager, the implementation allowed for completely hands-off operation; recording video only when the car was on.  The only issue was that I had needed to use the power source as the trigger for letting Tasker know when the car was operating.  This was fine until Winter struck here in Michigan, spelling doom for the battery, even with Airplane mode engaged.

I had the capability to run continuous power to the phone from the car’s own battery, but then what would trigger Tasker?  I had thought about trying to make something work with the GPS, or even a relay, but each had its pitfalls or inconsistencies.  Fortunately, Slickdeals offered a solution to the problem when Best Buy held a fire-sale for the Rocketfish Bluetooth Speaker for iPad.  $5 you say?  I’ll take 3!

A bit of dis-assembly later, and I was left with this:

Disassembly required.

Disassembly required.

Now, there is nothing too special about this specific product.  I imagine any Bluetooth audio device – including headsets – would work for the task, provided that it do three things:

  1. After removing the included battery, it must still power up and attempt to connect when USB power is attached.
  2. Pairing settings must be saved when power is removed – despite the lack of battery.
  3. If you decide to leave the battery attached, it must still power down immediately after power is removed, without any button presses required.


I suspect many Bluetooth devices will meet these requirements, but I can only vouch for the one I tried.


Bluetooth audio receiver module, Rocketfish RF-TRSPIPAD

So, once you have the board and are satisfied that it will function properly, it must be connected to a USB car adapter that powers on/off with the car.  Pair the phone up with the Bluetooth device, and create a Tasker profile to start DailyRoads Voyager when a pairing is made.  I have made my profile available below.


And it’s as simple as that.  No more dead batteries, and everything works just as well as before.  I noticed no lag at all in detecting the Bluetooth connection, even after days of it being powered off.  It is also worth mentioning that there has been no noticeable impact on the car’s battery, despite the phone running all the time with the radios on (but screen off).

100% hands-off operation, working flawlessly.

100% hands-off operation, working flawlessly.

Outsource it to Fiverr

Recently, the topic of personal outsourcing made it into the news when a software developer doing security work for Verizon outsourced his own job to China, earning praises for his apparent superhuman productivity while he actually spent his days browsing Reddit and Facebook, and keeping atop the latest lolcat memes.

While the security implications of outsourcing your work to an unknown 3rd party are probably dire enough to get most anyone fired from their day job, there is something to be said for the availability of cheap, skilled labor within a few clicks from a google search.  Arguably the most popular of these sites is Fiverr, offering – as its name implies – almost any service you can imagine for $5.

Some of the unique offerings that caught my attention included:

  • Graphic designers – custom logos, banners and even basic website designs.
  • Proofreading services – Hire a professional copy editor to proof your essay or article of up to 10,000 words.
  • Need a .edu email address?  There’s always someone selling them for those who want Amazon Prime for $10/year.
  • Referrals – Have someone do the dirty work of boosting your free dropbox account to 18GB.
  • Transcription – Google’s voice-to text not cutting it?  Hire someone to type out 15min of dictation for you.
  • Video clips – custom intros for your YouTube channel etc…


One of the great things about Fiverr compared to its numerous competitors is that it really incentivises value for your dollar by capping the cost of everything at $5.  Many of the services simply save time doing a tedious task, but there is a surprising amount of talent out there as well.

Interviewing Tips for Medical School

It is another Interview Day here at MSU CHM, which means dozens of anxious, suited up pre-meds wandering our halls, filling our elevators, and occupying our coveted study rooms for their student interview sessions.


Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Secchia campus in Grand Rapids

Having been a student-interviewer with our admissions department in the past, I have a few tips to offer interviewees, outside of all the usual advice.

  • Do some research.  SDN (the Student Doctor Network forums) has a great index of reviews posted by interviewees for most U.S. medical schools.  This is a valuable resource for finding out the types of questions that may be asked, or at least to get a general feel for the atmosphere and structure of that school’s admissions process.
  • Know your application.  This may seem obvious, but have some unique things to add about each portion of your application – don’t just rehash what is there, as we have (probably) already read it in advance.
  • Review your online presence.  Mostly, that means Facebook.  Many student interviewers are not above a bit of investigative work / creeping your profile.  Remember, that unlike the admissions staff, we may only have one or two interviews to conduct, meaning we can spend a bit more time being thorough.   Do a web search on yourself.  If you have public information, make sure it reflects well upon you.
  • Show interest in our state.  For state schools, there is often preference given to those who express intentions to remain here to practice.  Not to say you can’t change your mind down the road, of course…cough.
  • Have some questions for us.  While most interviews require that we ask a number of pre-decided questions (that we may be allowed to tweak or tailor to our own design), they often don’t consume the entirety of the interview.  Rather than allow for the dreaded awkward silence, ask us about our curriculum, what an average day is like etc…  If you’re really sly, ask about something like community service or research opportunities – and use the conversation as an excuse to tell us what an amazing, compassionate and intellectually curious / driven person you are.


In the case of most schools, the fact that you’ve been invited to interview means you’ve already made it through the more objective (grades, test scores, documented experiences) screening.  You’ve distinguished yourself enough from the roughly 6000 applicants reviewed each year to warrant an interview (roughly 1:12 odds), and now you just have to be one of those 200 that are accepted out of the 500 interviewed.  While your stats still matter, your ability to demonstrate a “good fit” during the interview  is probably the best determining factor of being accepted.  Good luck!

Android Dash-Cam DIY


The gadgets in my car have been through a number of iterations, from TomTom running on an old Windows Mobile 6 phone, to a full-fledged, Windows 7 based CarPC complete with touchscreen, GPS and Bluetooth OBD-II data monitoring.  These were fun projects, and may be worth a future post.  Sadly, each had a number of flaws, and have since been replaced with a much simpler android setup.


My current electronics suite: a Droid X and a Whistler XTR-150 Laser/Radar Detector

Having no better use for my retired Motorola Droid X, I decided to re-purpose it as a dedicated Car DVR after watching one too many YouTube videos involving Russian motor vehicle accidents.  Why does a former superpower dominate this genre of video clips?  Surprisingly, Russia does not top the statistics when it comes to fatal motor vehicle accidents (the Middle East seems to dominate that field) and while they place a respectable 4th in alcohol consumption per capita, this by itself doesn’t seem to explain the need for meticulous video record-keeping of one’s daily commute to work.

Of course, the reason most of us keep records usually has something to do with taxes and the law, and it is no different here.  Apparently, the legal atmosphere on Russia’s roads is very much one of guilty-until-proven-innocent.  With widespread corruption, hit-and-runs, and the general dearth of witnesses, the Dash-Cam is a technological last hope for innocent drivers who are tired of being taken advantage of by accident-staging and bullying.

Here in Michigan, its more just for fun – although you never know when having footage on hand may prove useful.  So, how do you turn an old android smartphone into an automated, HD-video-shooting piece of awesomeness?


1) The phone.  Generally, any android phone will do for this, though you will want to be sure the camera placement is in a suitable location so as not to be blocked by the mount.  I’d aim for something that records in at least 720p, such as the Droid X, 1st-gen Galaxy S, or HTC Rhyme/Incredible/Desire.  A MicroSD slot is also highly recommended.

2) Get a mount.  I used this one from Arkon.  It is universal, cheap, and (aside from coming lose on a hot day), dependable.  This may be a better option, depending on where your camera is located.


3) Time to go shopping…at the Play Store.  You’ll need DailyRoads Voyager (free) and Tasker ($6.49).  Optionally, you can add (all free) Orientation ControlNo Lock, MyTracks (and its Tasker plugin), and Quick Boot to log GPS tracks and keep the screen unlocked and in landscape mode.  Rooting your device will unlock some extra functionality with Tasker, but isn’t strictly necessary for the task at hand.

4) Power.  You need a power source from your car to charge the phone.  It must only supply power when the car is on (most outlets do this).  A cheap car adapter will do, or you can get a bit more creative and splice in the wiring so as to conceal the wiring and make things look more professional.

5) Configuration.  Set up DailyRoads to automatically record (I like 5min clips) when launched.  Make sure to go through the rest of the settings and tweak them to your needs and the capabilities of your device.  Ensure the GPS data is logged in .srt format, as this will allow it to be overlayed on the video as subtitles when playing back on your PC with VLC or similar.

For Tasker, you’ll need it to launch DailyRoads (and MyTracks) when the car is powered on (charging), and kill it when power is removed, as well as switch to airplane mode to conserve battery.  Tasker can be a bit daunting the first time you open it up, but there are many guides online that walk you through its array of functions.  In addition, I have shared my profiles here, an you may import and modify them to suit your purposes.


That’s it!  Your Android Dash-Cam will now start and stop recording in tune with your driving, no input required.


car_lower_dash Having had this setup running for a bit over a half of a year, my biggest issue remains that of battery life.  Despite the power savings afforded by Airplane mode, I still find myself having to charge the phone manually about once per week, especially in the winter.  Ideally, I’d just run a cable to the phone that is always powered by the car’s battery – the small drain shouldn’t pose a threat to the car.  However, the issue here is that Tasker depends on the charging status to know when you’re driving. One idea is to use the GPS to measure speed, and have that trigger Tasker.  In my set-up though, the GPS is turned off with the car to save power, and even if I were to leave it on, I’m not confident that it would reliably maintain a fix for days on end.

That leaves Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as the only other input options.  I’m thinking of using a Bluetooth device  powered by the car to trigger the event when it connects to the phone.  When the car turns off, it will lose power, disconnect, and thus Tasker will know to stop the recording.  I’ll try to give both these options a fair shot in the next few weeks, and will report back if successful.

Category: Technology | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My perspective on Automation

Have you ever worked or studied in a building with automated motion-sensing lights?  The kind that turn off after an absurdly short amount of time, forcing you to get up and make wild gestures, like some Native American performing a rain-dance; begging for electricity to make its return to the cold, fluorescent lights above?


How about using the “thermostats” in similar industrial settings – the kind that are conveniently placed in every room, yet seem to do nothing when you actually try to use them.  The ones at my school go as far as to paradoxically disobey commands, blowing a cold, air conditioned squall as soon as one dares to increase the setpoint to something above frigid.

Although I have since thwarted both of these sources of daily ire, finding the manufacturer’s  product manuals and methodically crippling the settings of the occupancy sensors that were at the root of their willful disobedience, the behavior of these “smart” appliances epitomize all that can go wrong when implementing Automation of any sort.

My Take

Automation is meant to save time and money, but should NEVER do so at the cost of convenience.  If you find yourself having to perform new or additional tasks after implementing a “smart” system, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.  As with most problems involving three different-but-related factors, you can pick any two to improve at the cost of the third. Want something that is both convenient and saves you time?  Expect to pay for it.

Using the automated lighting example, this solution would involve using a motion sensor to turn the lights ON only.  Thus, you would never have to use the light-switch – saving you time. The lights would never turn off when you didn’t want them to, maintaining convenience   Your electricity bill, however, would skyrocket.  It’s just not a perfect world.

Practically, the solution involves balancing the three factors, rather than pursuing just two of them and completely sacrificing the third.  Set a longer delay on the occupancy sensor before it turns off, and crank up the sensitivity to the point at which it can practically see you exhale a deep breath, or blink an eye.  It may still screw up, but not nearly as often.  The electric bill will still be higher, but only slightly.

Category: Technology | Tags: , ,

Crappy MI Weather

VFR pilots in western Michigan have one more reason to hate Winter than the rest of the populace.

Translation: the weather sucks.

Everyone complains about the fickle weather we experience here in the Midwest, where it’s 50F one day, -2 the next with a foot of snow, and then a warm front comes up from the southwest and turns everything into a brown quagmire of slush, rain and misery.  For pilots however, our spite is divided between the dismal conditions on the ground, which threaten morning commutes on the highway, and the impenetrable wall of low-lying clouds that obscure the skies, keeping our boots – and the soggy socks within – firmly grounded.  It really comes to me as no surprise that MI is leading the nation in average number of cloudy days during winter.

Places in the US with more than three out of four days during winter when cloud covers over three-quarters of the sky –

The weather in Muskegon is representative of the entire west coast of Lower Michigan, and looking at the above statistics, it’s not hard to see why I’ve been unable to find a suitable day to take a much needed break from classes and the endless studying they demand to go flying for a couple hours.

Category: Flying | Tags: , , , , ,