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08/21/12
How Would You Get Your Life Back?
Filed under: General, Healthcare, Electronic Records, Personal Information, Mobile Solutions & Smartphones, Contingency Planning & Disaster Recovery
Posted by: Tom @ 2:09 pm

Are you prepared to cope with the next disaster that comes along?  Even when there is no loss of life, it can be very difficult for anyone to fully recover mentally and physically.  Having electronic records and well thought out contingency plans could make a big difference in recovery.  They help even in the best of times. 

Imagine coming home from work one day and seeing what was left of your home surrounded by fire trucks and rescue workers.  Or you smell gas and start through the front door just as the entire place explodes.  Or there is a damaging storm, flood, forest fire, or earthquake.  Every one of these things is not likely to happen to any single individual.  However, over a person’s lifetime, probabilities add up, something serious could happen and we could lose everything.  Some people are luckier than others.  In addition, many people experience nuisances such as lost or stolen wallets, passports, credit cards or car keys at one time or another.  These loses can happen away from home and in a foreign country.  Although minor by comparison, until we get caught up in any situation, it can be difficult to understand their impact and realize the trouble and inconvenience they cause.  It wastes a lot of time. 

A woman in Missouri lamented as she stood in the ruins of her home.  It had been rebuilt after being destroyed in an earlier storm only to happen again.  She had just moved back in the week before.  Someone else had a laptop stolen at a business conference and did not have their files backed up. Between Acts of God, carelessness and deliberate acts, many disruptive things happen.  Imagine the bureaucratic nightmares that occur along with the pain and suffering.  Being better prepared gets lives back together faster and easier.

Facing reality, if it were necessary to evacuate a home and never return to it again, it is highly unlikely that anyone could take along everything that would be needed.   Without records it would be virtually impossible to substantiate insurance claims or establish a person’s identity.  What if someone needed to be taken to a hospital and get help from a doctor who was not familiar with their case.  How long would it be before they could be assessed and treated if they did not have a health record?  Delay costs lives.  Wouldn’t it be better if records were electronic and fit in someone’s pocket rather than in boxes of paper that had to be left behind?

People often lose everything they own when homes, neighborhoods and even whole towns are destroyed in fires, storms, earthquakes and floods.  The recovery process is often long and painful.  The last thing someone needs is bureaucratic red tape when they have already suffered enough.  Nevertheless, minor discrepancies in paperwork invite bureaucratic nightmares.  Whether information is missing, incomplete, inaccurate or simply does not match, even a typo that was made many years ago can be hard to change.  The rules of the game have changed, and we need to be able to substantiate who we are and everything about us.    Digital records that we carry with us or are backed up in “the cloud” make data available when and where it is needed. 

Even if paper records are not destroyed, they deteriorate over time.  Sorting through a shoe box for something and finding that it has become faded and is no longer readable can be pretty frustrating.  Conversion to electronic records is a big improvement. Although it takes time, gradual steps make a difference right away and not everything will need to be converted.

We recommend the following.

1.   Start by preparing basic contingency plans.  When calamities strike, being ready to address them is essential.   Plans can always be improved.

2.    Collect and save electronic files instead of paper ones, whenever possible.  Digital records provide convenience and portability.  Electronic records are easy to create when work is done a little at a time.  They are easy to search.  For example, include a list of phone numbers to call for help, a copy of a driver license or passport, a list of account numbers and instructions to access them on-line, copies of family photos, receipts, certificates, wills, powers of attorney, insurance policies, deeds, and tax returns.

a.   File records chronically by subject.  They can always be reorganized.

b.   Use file types such as PDF that can be read by anyone’s computer, tablet or smartphone.

3.    Create and include a consolidated, organized, digital summary of your health history.  It will help you to get in the habit of keeping electronic records, provide peace of mind, and enable professional caregivers to get up to speed quickly so they can help you when it is needed.  Use Lifelong Personal Health Record software (http://www.lifelongphr.com/) to store your data and create the summary.

4.    Backup Important Files.  In addition to having master copies on a personal computer where you can control and protect your data, backup electronic files using an encrypted Internet service and put copies on small portable devices such as smartphones, flash drives, tablets, bracelets and medallions for easy access.  Security is important to avoid worry about what someone else is doing with your data.

Not a Do-It-Yourselfer?  Contact us for assistance.

             TomR@OutcomeImprovement.com

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03/07/12
Error - Sorry, This Video Can’t Be Played (on your smartphone)
Filed under: General, Mobile Solutions & Smartphones
Posted by: Tom @ 12:08 pm

This is the message that my son got when he tried to download and view one of my vacation videos on his new Android Motorola Razr smartphone from Verizon.  It had worked fine on my laptop.

I tried to duplicate the problem on my own smartphone.  It worked perfectly.  Same thing on my Amazon Kindle Fire.  However, my wife’s Motorola Atrix had the same error message.  Could this be a Motorola problem?

I debated whether to contact the carriers or the manufacturer, but decided instead to put the error message into my search engine.  That saved me considerable time.  I found that many other users had gotten the same error message.  Unfortunately, no one seems to have an answer for it.  With all the different variations of Android, this is probably understandable.  Hopefully, software updates will come along that fix problems like this.  In the meantime, if you have the same problem, try a laptop or home computer, especially one that has sufficient power and bandwidth to handle streaming media.

By the way, if you are curious about the video that triggered this post, you can try it, too, especially if you are interested in iguanas.  (www.Rockwood.com/100_0078.MP4)  If you do, please be patient.  The download is a little slow, and quality is not up to Hollywood standards.  Taking videos in bright sunlight is tough with a little camera that only has a small LCD and no viewfinder.  Reflections made it especially hard for me to follow the action.

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I Gave My Smartphone a Stress Test
Filed under: General, Mobile Solutions & Smartphones
Posted by: Tom @ 10:29 am

For awhile, I have read that smartphones will replace laptops. This might work for many users, but I doubt that it would be adequate for me.  I have found that smartphones may do a lot of things, but they have trouble keeping up with high powered machines and special purpose devices, especially with current displays, batteries and input/output capabilities.

My latest laptop has the same capabilities that I enjoy in my office except I miss being able to multitask using two desktop machines.  Although I miss the two displays, I have gotten much more functional than when I traveled with my first 20-pound laptop and its heavy bag of accessories.  Today’s four-pound laptop does much more, but is still heavier than I would prefer especially when I bring along a Bluetooth keyboard, wireless mouse, 4-port USB hub, cooling pad, datacard, external hard drive, card reader and assorted cords and cables.  Everything does fit in a small carryon bag, and I no longer need multiple bags and a foldup handtruck.  However, I am always afraid that something will get lost especially when I take the laptop out of my carryon bag for airport security.  On my most recent trip, I saw someone almost lose their laptop itself.  Without a laptop, everything could stay enclosed in the carryon bag and cut the risk of loss.

I look at smartphones the same way that I look at Swiss Army Knives with one key exception. They’r both pretty good when they are only expected to do one thing at a time.  The Swiss Army Knife forces the user to stay in control and accomplishes this.  Contrast this with the smartphone as it bombards users with calls, text messages and email while they are trying to check GPS, watch movies, order something online, check bank balances, and a host of other things.  My life is stressful enough without all that going on.  Smartphones need smart attendants to manage the traffic!

I thought that maybe using a smartphone for messaging and a laptop for other things would work just like my two office computers. I decided to find out.  Before setting off on a recent trip, I set up my smartphone to collect email from my four most important email accounts.  I thought that as long as Microsoft Outlook did not download messages in my office, incoming messages would stay on servers and could be viewed on the smartphone and could be deleted manually if I chose to do so. 

The first few days, everything worked fine.  I must admit, I was a little sorry that I hadn’t done this sooner.  It saved me the trouble of going to the computer to check for email.  The only problem was I needed to recharge the phone more often.  Unfortunately, this situation got worse and worse.  After two weeks, it was necessary to recharge the phone every couple of hours.  Occasionally, especially during the night, the battery ran down completely and the phone shut off.  The battery nemesis had hit me with full force.

What surprised me was that I seemed to be getting all my emails, and the number on the phone did not seem excessive.  I deleted messages on the phone and the number of new ones was fairly constant.  The load did not seem to account for the problem, but I could not find and other reason.  However, unbeknownst to me, almost 2,500 emails had been building up on the servers for Outlook to ultimately download when I got back to my office.  After doing so, the excessive battery drain returned to normal.  Even though I deleted messages on the phone, the phone apparently continued to look at all the files on the servers before deciding which ones it needed to download.  This became an intense task requiring lots of battery power.

Although I read regularly about battery issues with smartphones and how battery technology continues to lag user needs, I had never seen a discussion about what I had experienced.  However, after using email for over 30 yers, I get a lot more of it than anyone else that I know.  I must have given my smartphone a real stress test!!

We hope that you will find this account to be interesting and helpful.  Please do not hesitate to comment.

                                                                       

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01/28/12
Apple’s “Knowledge Navigator”
Filed under: General, Technology - Other, Mobile Solutions & Smartphones
Posted by: Tom @ 9:07 am

Twenty-five years ago (January 1987), Apple Computer released a visionary VHS videotape entitled, “Knowledge Navigator.” What it depicts is amazing, and over the years, I have viewed it a number of times. It lasts 5 minutes, 45 seconds and shows future expectations from 1987. Many features have been validated by the direction technology has taken since then, but others, including ones that are important to me, have yet to be realized. Recently, I found that the video is available on the Internet.

The entire video takes place in the quaint office of a fictional college professor.  We watch him perform tasks and deal with distractions, such as a call from his mother.  To help him, he interacts with a remarkable device sitting on his desk.  It’s the Knowledge Navigator, a truly impressive, collaborative and analytical tool that operates proactively as it adds value and anticipates needs.  It could almost be mistaken for a tablet computer, but it must be one on steroids.  He talks to it, uses its touchscreen, sees and listens to voice responses, and gets intelligent input.  It also manages his communications and schedules appointments for him.

The Knowledge Navigator does some things without consulting the professor and adds value that he likely does not expect.  It is especially wonderful how fast it accomplishes things.  The Navigator barely receives a command before it provides a response.  Although I am truly grateful for my progress to date, a Knowledge Navigator would never-the-less make a big difference in my life by taking care of a growing number of time consuming, repetitive tasks.  For starters, it could manage my email, do research on the Internet, analyze data and create reports for me.

I see the vision of the Knowledge Navigator gradually being fulfilled, and believe that it will not be too many more years before we have true Knowledge Navigators.   Already, it is possible to take advantage of many of their capabilities by building solutions from commercially available hardware, software and services.   Numerous functions and apps are being created for increasingly powerful and functional smartphones and tablets.   Linking their capabilities will gradually provide seamless solutions to problems, enable computers to perform a wider variety of tasks with little or no supervision, and turn into true Knowledge Navigators.

                                                                                   

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07/22/11
Smartphones - What to do with one
Filed under: Mobile Solutions & Smartphones
Posted by: Tom @ 5:02 pm

Back in January (2011), I got a letter from AT&T that my cell phone would no longer be supported after May.  Not a concern or priority for me in the beginning, but ultimately, this triggered quite a learning experience.  I will probably report more about my experiences later, but right now, suffice it to say, I delayed action until mid-May.  After all, the service that I already had was meeting my needs and I was thinking of switching to a smartphone.  I was not sure which one and new, better models were coming out regularly.  Ultimately, I replaced my plain vanilla flip phone with a Motorola Atrix Android.  I decided that it would be perfect to use for testing software that I was working on.  It would give me an alternative to phones that others also are using to help me.

Most of them either have a Blackberry or an Apple iPhone.  Some have even upgraded more than once since their first smartphone.  They use them for voice calls, but mostly for texting and email.  They also like to share pictures, listen to music and play games.  In fact, our daughter’s three and five-year-old sons are quite proficient with Angry Birds, Bejeweled and a number of other games on her iPhone.  Some games are recreations of ones that were popular years ago. They were found in arcades or early computer or television games or on special purpose hand-held devices.  In our daughter’s case, when the iPhone is in use or both boys want to play, they have the same games on an iPod Touch.  How times have changed.

My choice of the Atrix was largely influenced by its replaceable battery and memory card and the internal WiFi hotspot that I can use to connect my laptop to the Internet.  Normally I use a cellular datacard with the laptop, but it is always good to have an alternative in case of service problems.

Just like the multitool that I have carried in my pocket for years, smartphones have a lot of interesting features and capabilities in one package.  Little by little I have tried out the GPS navigator, weather forecasts, airline reservations and used the camera and tried out a movie.  Most important, I am gradually puting some inportant information on the phone in PDF format since there is a free copy of Adobe Reader for my Android phone.  My Emergency Medical Card was first, but I plan to add more things.  Before I do, I will decide how best to protect the information in case the phone is lost or stolen.  I already downloaded a program that will scrub information off the phone if it is lost.  I am also looking into applications that use the phone’s camera and facial biometrics to unlock an encrypted partition on the memory card.

The way I look at it, having the capabilities of a smartphone brings peace of mind.

Please stay turned for more of my experiences and report ones that you would like to share.

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