Entries Tagged as 'Tech'

Fixing “Send To…” PDF Naming Error on iPad

At some point along the way, Apple introduced “Send To..” as an option for sending media to selected apps for better handling. One place this feature is valuable is the handling of PDF (Adobe Acrobat) files on the internet. Once open in Safari, the user can select “Send To…” and pick an app such as GoodReader or PDF Expert to utilize their features and storage silos.

Unfortunately during the process iOS usually strips the PDF’s actual filename and replaces it with “QL-xxxxxxxx.pdf” (where xxxxxxxx is a seemingly random string of characters).

Authors can save their readers much consternation if they will add a “Title” entry to the metadata. From Acrobat one can edit this metadata by selecting File | Properties , entering something in the “Title” field, and saving the file. Once the file goes to the server, gets downloaded to the reader’s iPad, and pushed to a PDF using “Send To…”, the iPad will replace the PDF’s original name with the Title metadata instead of QL-greekness. For those dynamically creating PDFs on the server side, it looks like Zend can edit the metadata on the fly (though I have not tested this yet).

I don’t know whether or not this is a bug or yet another example of Apple not perfecting the polish on iOS devices. However it is extremely annoying and I wish they would just leave the filename the way the author intended!

Show Us Your Dentrix Patient Chart Layout

ClassicChartFans of the newer versions of Dentrix’s Patient Chart know that the ability to move modules around is a great feature. We have set up slightly different views in hygiene rooms from the views in operative and administrative, and the flexibility Dentrix offers is much appreciated.

With a patient chart view, I want to maximize the space I have. Each operatory has a 24” widescreen monitor at the 12 o’clock position, and without having to click on a tiny icon, I want to be able to quickly see the patient’s existing treatment, treatment plan, and the Clinical Note from the last visit. (I want other modules to appear, too, but that is the subject of another article.) I really want to see more history than that, though, and the default setting for the Clinical Note wastes a lot of space inserting blank lines between each Progress Note item.

I have solved this on most of my computers. I removed unwanted columns from the Progress Notes screen (right-click on any of the column heads like Date, Tooth, Code, etc and select from the menu). Notice that Dentrix puts Notes on a second line in the column headers by default. Simply drag this item up to the first line to the right of Amount, and you’ll see tons of white space disappear. The result is that I can easily Clinical Notes for the most recent 5-7 appointments.

What look have you settled on? Post a link to a screen shot so we can see! (the best way to grab a screen is to use Vista/7’s Snipping Tool. Hit the Windows key on your keyboard, and type in Snipping Tool, and select it from the start menu results. Get a Window snip, then edit it in something like paint to remove personal information. It should take about 5 minutes to complete this portion, but it will be a help for years to come for the rest of us.)

Flagging A Patient Population in Dentrix

flagHave you needed to set Dentrix alerts to a specific portion of the patient population? Dentrix only allows per-person alerts to be set, so there is no way to natively set a large number of alerts to a target set of patients. However with the instructions below, one can set a group of alerts with limited difficulty!

In our office we want to use the email information for each patient more and more. The problem is that at least half of the patients have not supplied this information. We tried to simply look for this information as each patient was in our office, but it is too difficult to remember to check. Therefore we want to set up a patient alert for each of the patients with no email. To do this I set up a Dentrix alert in each chart with a blank email field. Now whenever a staff member opens an appointment card or chart for one of these people, they will know to ask the patient for their email address.

Dentrix requires that these alerts be set on a patient-by-patient basis. So we will have to perform a query, then use AutoHotkey to open each patient’s Family File and set the alert. For our run, it took the machine about 10 seconds per patient to set the alerts, so the entire process only took a couple of hours. This isn’t the most straightforward activity, but it eventually saves the time it would take to either manually enter each patient’s alert or to hunt for this information when they are in the office (if you even remember to look for it).

[Read more →]

Adding TinyURL to iOS

While there are some pros to iOS being an extremely locked down operating system, there are plenty of annoyances. One such annoyance is the inability to add URL-shortening widgets to Safari. The way around this is to create a bookmarklet.

There are several sites showing how to add these, but apparently tinyurl.com has changed their API since these sites published their directions. So, the current way to install a tinyURL shortcut on an iPhone or iPad is:

  1. Add this page to your bookmarks.
  2. Edit the bookmark.
  3. Tap the address portion to edit the bookmark’s address.
  4. Delete the entire url that is currently in the text field and enter the following: JavaScript:window.location.href=’http://tinyurl.com/create.php?url=http’+window.location.href
  5. Change the name of the bookmark to “Shorten with TinyURL”

While TinyURL is not in vogue, it is the one shortener with which I could get a bookmarklet to work. The current instructions for bit.ly out there only send the browser to a blank bit.ly page.

How Microsoft is Failing (Ballmer Must Go)

ballmer_steve_headshot It is really hard to decipher what Microsoft is doing these days, and it is really hard to watch them screw up as badly as they are. Microsoft, a huge conglomerate, proved at CES that it is so far off track and so sluggish, that it cannot and will not deliver what consumers want. It is for this reason that Microsoft should be split and Steve Ballmer should go.

If we look back to the early part of the century, Microsoft was a company putting together some exciting components and creating an accessible ecosystem in response to Apple’s initial successes with the iPod. PlaysForSure worked on multiple devices, Media Center was a growing DVR platform, and the XBox was an impressive gaming system. It looked like Microsoft was well on their way toward growing components of a strong, powerful system. Then Zune happened. It was difficult to see Microsoft abandon PlaysForSure and screw over so many partners when they developed the Zune platform. However it seemed like a good move at the time to do a copycat to iPods/iPhones, just so long as it was part of something bigger. The hardware and software are as good or better than Apple’s and they offer subscription music. That isn’t enough, however, as the Zune needed some drop-dead advantages over Apple’s system. That never happened. Microsoft followed this past year with a copycat phone platform that has gotten good reviews, but honestly, it doesn’t offer that killer advantage over Apple, either, and is doomed for obsolescence, unless…

Microsoft has the pieces, has the chops, and has the money to do something extraordinary with its excellent parts, but it doesn’t. The tragic failure of Steve Ballmer’s Microsoft is that they have no clue, NONE, about what consumers want. It is 2011 and the economy is anemic. We don’t want innovation, we want innervation. We want all of these growing branches whose adoption requires much energy to mesh to make our lives easier. We don’t want to go further out on that proverbial limb. We want those limbs to get stronger. We want this technology to have soul, to know us. I’m sick of working my life around the technology. I want the technology to work for me. Is that so hard to understand?

I am the customer, and I am the boss. It is 2011 and there is no reason I cannot:

  • Record an obscene number of TV shows
  • Consume recorded, purchased, and rented programming from any device in my domain.
  • Execute mundane chores from anywhere in my domain.

I should be able to record premium content from my cable system and send it to a hard drive in my car for my child to watch on a trip. I should be able to watch anything I record from my phone. My phone should recognize that I am coming home after dark and automatically turn on the outdoor lights. My house should know what time I get up, and set the temperature in the house appropriately. I should be able to program my DVR from my phone. I should be able to listen to any subscription music from any approved device in my house. My house should recharge my car with new music every night while it sits in the driveway. My car should be constantly recording video in case there is an accident. My kitchen should have an easy to manage inventory system like I have in my dental office. I should be able to track that inventory with my phone from the grocery store. All of my home’s phone messages should be easily accessible from my cell phone and all of my TVs. Caller ID should appear on all of these devices. I should be able to rent movies from my TV or phone. My car should have full control of the apps on my phone. Finally all of these tasks should be easy.

Some of these actions are currently available, but most of those require difficult setup and management. For example, my CableCARD enabled Windows Media Center system is the best DVR on the planet, but it doesn’t “just work”. Setting up home automation in this era should be relatively cheap and easy to setup. I shouldn’t have to become a home automation controller expert in order to turn on the spotlights from my car when I get home at night.

Some of these actions are being blocked by lawyers. However Apple, Zune, Rhapsody, and many others have shown that DRM can work. They register hardware and software to your group account, and that data is safe.

Microsoft has some of the best pieces to this puzzle that exist today.

  • Zune – Zune hardware and software is quite comparable to iPods. The advantage is its subscription music service. However as a stand alone ecosystem, Apple dominates this space and the only way to win here is to offer things that Apple can’t; leveraging the other items in this list.
  • Windows Phone 7 – The phone is outstanding, but lacks a mature app market. It will never catch the iPhone App store and Android Market. It has to be able to do things these phones can’t. That key is innervation with the other items in this list.
  • Windows Media Center – Everyone passionately hates their cable provider’s DVR. Many would agree that Media Center is the best in class here, and it isn’t even close. How can Microsoft pull people away from their easy, loathesome DVRs? Make it easy and reliable, and leverage the items in this list.
  • XBox360 – This and Windows 7 are currently the only bright spots in the company. The XBox and Kinect make the best gaming platform available, and the box is powerful enough to be a great point of entry for control of other items in this list.
  • Ford Sync/MyFord Touch – Microsoft and Ford have put together a very impressive first generation car system. Others are coming from behind, but Microsoft can do what others can’t, leverage the other items in this list.
  • Home Automation – Currently this is an area that is extremely difficult for DIY consumers, and every option is expensive. However people do want these controls, and are willing to spend some money on getting basic controls in their house. This is a wide open field that can easily be dominated, especially if Microsoft can leverage the other items in this list.

Unfortunately Microsoft seems to have absolutely no intent of ever getting these components to work together. This could be a unified brand that makes our live easier. Instead Microsoft seems intent on running another copycat down our throats (Windows Phone 7), offering a 3D chatroom (Kinect neat, but really, Microsoft?), forcing Windows 7 on tablets, and partnering with video content providers for content we already can access.

Steve Ballmer’s vision is severely flawed. Apple’s renaissance came not with its computers, rather their ability to make our cumbersome, annoying music collections easy. We hate our DVRs. We hate managing groceries. We hate closing and opening blinds in our house. We hate walking in the dark. We hate having to listen to the radio in our cars. We hate listening to voicemails in a cumbersome audio stream, We hate being tied to watching content we’ve watched or recorded to one setting. Instead of addressing any of those options, Microsoft has spent the last three years trying to wow us with things that don’t make our lives easier.

There can be great advantages to having a large company. Multiple sources of research can exist and a wide platform can be created under secrecy. However if Microsoft refuses or is not able to manage these sectors adequately, they then become a liability. Microsoft is a blind lumbering dinosaur that needs to be broken up because they will not use any advantages they have. They are doomed for many, many more failures to go along with Kin, PlaysForSure, Zune, WebTV, Live Mesh, Windows Mobile, Home Server, and many more.

2011 feels like an ominous year for the company. After only 9% stock growth in a 5-year period, stockholders are getting antsy and want results. Apple enjoyed great success with the iPad, but the second year for that device will be enormous, and will represent yet another space where Microsoft will be too little too late one day. The key is to make an ecosystem that works. However it is clear that with Ballmer at the helm, the company will not do what it takes to make our lives easier. They can choose to ignore Joe Consumer’s needs, but it won’t be long before someone else comes along and gets his attention.

2011 Predictions

crystalball 2010 was an excellent year in tech. Windows 7 became the first widely-adopted OS in 9 years by Microsoft, Apple shook up intermediate computing by introducing a large version of a current product, Microsoft introduced the first device-free controller in Kinect, eBook readers finally gained traction, Android operating system exploded, Microsoft released a strong OS for phones, 3D TVs hit the shelves, Google TV and Apple TV launched, and much, much more. Here’s a look at what will happen from 2011

  • Apple will unveil the iPad2 and it will be an enormous success. It will include a front-facing camera with FaceTime as well as a higher resolution screen, period. Apple doesn’t need to add any more features than that for the device to continue its domination. In fact, in the face of a slew of tablets at the same price point, sales of the iPad2 will actually increase based on the maturity of the ecosystem.
  • Apple’s next foray with iBooks will be an aggressive move to adopt textbooks.
  • Seeing the impressive Ford Sync system, Lexus/Toyota and BMW will join Google or Apple to create an automobile integration system that leverages one’s iOS or Android phone to deliver content beyond A2DP Bluetooth audio to the car’s system. Key selling points will be navigation and Pandora.
  • Nintendo will release a controller-based, HD game console that will play legacy games. In early 2012 they will announce a Kinect-like sensor for the system.
  • Microsoft will still have a phenomenal set of components but still will not connect the dots. Their home DVR, cell phone, Zune subscription, XBox360, Kinect, and Ford Sync systems are all incredible products. Add an inexpensive home automation system and allow all of these parts to talk to each other, and you have a killer lifestyle ecosystem. Unfortunately they will still be tripping over details of the trees instead of selling people on the forest.
  • Yahoo will merge with someone like Time Warner, AOL, or Viacom.
  • Barnes & Noble and Borders will close 25% of their brick & mortar stores.
  • Blockbuster Video will dissolve, but their assets will be purchased by independent, local merchants in vacation destinations.
  • Fuel prices will inhibit the economy so much that many new, innovative products this year will not get off of the ground.
  • Apple’s device division will have an outstanding year, but adoption of OSX will still be slow.
  • There will be no more upgrades with cable companies’ rented hardware. Time Warner Cable will introduce a cloud DVR service that allows fast forwarding, but is so inaccurate that it cannot be used to skip commercials. Hollywood lawyers will require that the shows be set to record up to the episode’s actual presentation time (they will not allow TWC to record 1 instance of our local “Modern Family”, for example, and apply it to subscriber’s accounts as requested. They will require TWC to have one instance per request of that episode on their servers). Subscribers will not be able to request recording of a show the following day, as this constitutes “on-demand” viewing, and is a different legal entity.
  • Time Warner will work with local outlets to carry online access through cable boxes to streams that currently exist on the internet. Local news streams, for example, will be provided in a crappy, slow 10-foot interface.
  • Prices for sheet-fed document scanners will fall, enabling people to easily scan documents and sent them to mobile devices.
  • Apple will release an iPhone on Verizon in March along with the release of the iPad2.
  • Terrestrial radio stations will begin showing a noticeable weakening. XM will be in real trouble in Q4.
  • No improvements will be made with the BCS bowl system.
  • No significant improvements will be made regarding the quality of content available to stream from TV devices. (ie. “cutting” the cord – from cable systems – will still not be a viable option).
  • Social networking specific to food and music will be big trends this year.
  • Environmentalists will protest the ritual of putting up a natural Christmas tree.
  • Violence will break out regarding the actions of the World Bank.
  • Serious discussions will take place regarding dissolution of the ACC Basketball Tournament.
  • Indian food will make its first step toward being America’s next food fad.
  • City officials will discuss separate disposal of styrofoams and certain plastics to landfills.
  • Mobile HDTV units will become ubiquitous, but will be poorly adopted by the market.
  • An Android tablet will have a dock that allows the tablet to be used as a computer monitor. The tablet’s document system will be available as a drive to the computer’s operating system.
  • A very big, new rock band we’ve never heard of will emerge.
  • Tablet computers (and their ability to offer a paperless questionnaire) will be the final step in getting medical practices completely paperless. It will be a 5-year process, but there will be a significant adoption rate in 2011.

So there it is. It could be complete rubbish, could be mostly true. I don’t care. Just one man’s thoughts!

Apple TV: Toy or Game Changer?

appletv Apple presented a new Apple TV at yesterday’s event. While watching the event, I was most impressed by the device’s small size. However last night I was thinking, what is the point of something being small? Up to a point, it really only affects portability. Since this is a settop box, portability is not a factor at all. Since it has to have a network connection to do anything. I’m not going to take it to the beach or on vacation. Therefore this "feature" is a waste.

Perhaps the size allows use in tight places like the kitchen and bedrooms. Windows Media Center has no devices now that fit this essential use case, which is absurd. The $100 Apple TV device works in only one location, though. In order for one to cut the cord for their house, they would have to outfit each room with the streaming-only device. Content rented for one unit cannot be transferred to another family unit, so there is absolutely no “whole-home” aspect to it.

Another feature that presented well was Apple’s imitation of Windows 7’s PlayTo. After 10 months of heavy Windows Media Center use with a PC, extenders, and laptops, this feature is something I never use.

Unless you can deliver live, HD sports, you blew it. Cable sports channels are, at this point, irreplaceable. We aren’t going to cut the cord for this device or any other with the current sports model. ESPN’s contracts with cable companies don’t bode well for change any time soon, either. The Cable companies have ESPN (and HBO for that matter) locked down, and aren’t going to let ESPN shunt content to viewers using new technology for many, many years.

Cable is here to stay and any “game-changer” is going to have to have hybrid abilities as we slowly cut the cord. At this point the upcoming Google TV looks like the best suited device, but still misses the mark wildly. Windows Media Center is the most stunning whole-house DVR, but only one room gets to enjoy streaming internet content. Microsoft is oh-so-close to knocking this one out of the park, but seems deathly afraid to connect a few simple dots. Therefore their system in its current state is a mess.

The new Apple TV is an improvement over the last version, and the pricing for the device and content is a very welcome change. In the end, the device doesn’t allow most people the opportunity to change the way they watch TV. It allows one a bit more freedom to buy content for a second time. Sure, that does give a consumer a bit more freedom, assuming the content is really there (Big Bang Theory still isn’t available for streaming on CBS’ own website. Will full episodes be available on AppleTV? Will they be available in time for me to watch them before my next encounter at the office water cooler?). Is it really even worth $100 plus rental fees for this freedom? It’s almost like presenting a sexy scooter and saying you "bought some wheels" so you can pretend you have a substitute device for a car.

The Next Frontier for Automakers: The Cockpit

navigation-system[1] There once was a time when the cutting edge of technology for consumers existed with the automobile industry, but those days are long gone. Without a doubt the fastest-changing industry right now is the mobile electronics market. Palm’s Treo brought the “smartphone” to millions of consumers hands about 8 years ago. Since that point, though, the market has dramatically changed with the introduction of the iPhone, Android, and the soon-to-be-released Windows 7 Phones. How much have cars changed in 8 years? As one can see from this 3-year old Toyota Camry dashboard, not much. This is the illogical, poor user-interface that has been a staple for Toyota since the early part of the last decade. Next to the iPhone and the Nexus One it looks downright silly.

Because people are keeping their cars 4-8 years, it makes little sense for auto manufacturers to try reinventing the driver-interaction wheel. By the time their product goes to market it will be outdated. Factory-installed GPS devices stand as shining examples of this. In very little time these expensive systems wind up as outdated relics compared to the continually current offerings on Android phones and the iPhone.

Ford introduced its excellent Sync system by Microsoft which features Bluetooth stereo connections and a fully functional wired iPod interface. However it insists that it do all of the heavy lifting and comes with many strings attached. For example, in order to use the system’s hard disc drive to store music, one must sit in their car and rip all of their CD’s one by one. Didn’t the consumer already go through this laborious process in their house a few years ago when they committed to a portable mp3 player? For’d Sync system can deliver weather and traffic information, but it requires a subscription. Why would I buy these when my iPhone gives me this data for free? Sync also offers integrated Sirius radio, but if I rarely exit 3G wireless coverage zones, why would I buy this when I can get Pandora for free on my phone?

With the turnover rate of portable devices being roughly 1/3 of the turnover time for car ownership, there really is no reason for auto makers to even try to compete on these fronts. With internet access more ubiquitous in the ensuing years, there is no way car makers can continue with their model.

Advanced control systems in cars usually divide their functions into four categories: 1) Diagnostics and controls, 2) Climate Control, 3) Navigation, 4) Audio/Phone. There really is no reason for the car to run these latter two. What should auto makers pursue? They should pursue a large in-dash screen that acts as a capacitive-touchscreen client for a docked mobile smartphone. While the car maker could continue to make their own GUI for the first two sections, the car’s 5-7” in-dash screen should simply be an external display for the iPhone in the other two realms. Let the newer devices featuring user interfaces more familiar to the driver do the heavy lifting.

Of course, safety is a big concern. So, the phone should be aware that it has been docked to a car system, triggering a “Car Mode”. This mode would only enable apps that have been approved for moving cars. The iPod interface should only have large print type, and remain extremely easy to navigate while moving. The phone’s navigation system in this mode would disable most of the NAV controls when the car is moving. Other music apps, like Pandora and Slacker, could work fine in this mode, given that they prioritize button size and function over large album art.

Honestly there really is no reason that the carmaker couldn’t sell or give apps for its diagnostics and climate controls, too. The car’s system could come with a standard UI for non-smartphone users. However the smartphone versions of those apps could feature upgraded and customizable interfaces that run in place of the standard UI in the presence of the docked smartphone.

We are on the verge of some sweeping changes in the auto industry. Auto makers have pretty much mastered safety as well as planned obsolescence. What they have failed to do is excite car buyers in the last 15 years. There are only minor differences offered to consumers in today’s car market. The next frontier in design, though, is in the cockpit. The automaker who makes a driver experience that best leverages already popular and quickly-evolving mobile devices will gain an enormous advantage over its competition.