Monday, March 26, 2007

Cardiologists Using MP3s for Training

In the same vein [nice pun, eh] as my posting about the $30 heart monitor comes this Newsweek story about medical students using iPods to learn the sounds of unhealthy hearts. "Rocking out to 'aortic regurgitation.'"

Which reminds me, if anyone knows what is up with the heart in this clip my friend would love to get a second opinion.

Treo 650 Dying? No shift! Treo 680 review coming soon

Alas, my beloved Treo 650 is sick. Apparently, a recent fall injured the Shift key which jams in the shifted position. This has had a ripple effect on the keyboard and functionality. I am off to England to do some consulting and will have to manage with the 650 until I return, by which time my 680 should have arrived. As they say, shift happens, sometimes too much.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Terabyte Storage Slips Under $400: Western Digital on sale at CompUSA

I blogged about the domesticated terabyte a while back, and now you can buy one for under $400 at CompUSA. As I understand it, there are two drives in the box and you can use them as a single volume or have a 500 megabyte volume drive with RAID backup/redundancy on the other. Maybe the Easter Bunny will bring me one.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Clock Update

Finally getting over that whole DST thing with the US/EU offset. Here's a nice applet that lets you set a bunch of clocks for reference based on a bunch of world city listings. And My Google has a nice clock for tracking a couple of time zones at once.

Oh, and here is how you set the clock on my JVC KD-G720 car stereo. Took me ages to find this.

Free to the World: Cobb's $30 heart sound monitor

Okay, here's a nice way to combine some simple tech items to get high value results at a low cost.

The Challenge: Doctors need a way to listen to the heart beat of patients who are experiencing episodes of irregular heart beat. Past technology has focused on recording heart beat for extended periods of time hoping to catch the episode, useful for some things, but not this intermittent, periodic problem. Plus they are costly and inconvenient to use.

The Solution: Provide patients with a small and convenient device that records heart beat on demand in a format that is easy to transmit to the doctor.

Background: A few years ago my heart started beating funny, not all the time, just sometimes. No, let me re-phrase that: A few years ago, this friend I have, his heart started to beat funny (you never know when the insurance companies will start spidering blogs for evidence of health conditions that could justify even higher premiums).

This friend went to a cardiologist whose nurse wired him [my friend] into a harness that listened to his heart and was supposed to fit under his shirt (like the kind of 'wire' you might see in a crime caper comedy). After 24 uncomfortable hours my friend reported back and a reading was taken from the listening device. But not much showed up and my friend was finding it hard to time his visits to the doctor with the odd heart beat.

So I invented a cheap portable patient-operated heart sound reporting system. I bought a $30 Wombsong foetal monitor at Walmart, the kind you use to listen to your baby before it is born. Then I connected an audio recorder via the monitor's headphone output socket.

When my friend felt his heart beating 'funny' he could lay this thing on his chest and record the sound. This setup could record the sound digitally, with an iPod, a Treo, or any number of digital recorders, so this friend could then, theoretically, email the file to his cardiologist (if his cardiologist would only read his email).

In Practice: It worked like this. We recorded an episode on a pocket tape recorder then transferred that to the computer, reduced the background noise with Gold Wave (a terrific shareware audio editor) and saved it as an mp3. At his next visit with his cardiologist my friend pulled out his Treo and played the recording to a very impressed doctor. Much medical enlightenment was gained.

Of course, he could also have blogged the recording like this (click arrow to play, or click the song title to play in your default player):

Heartbeat recorded on $30 device

Now, after that fleeting moment in which I dreamed of a multi-million dollar IPO of Cobb's Cool Cardio Kit [NASDAQ: CCCK] the right thing to do reared its beautiful head: share this with the world for free. Now anyone with $30 and a little bit of tech-savvy (or a friend thus endowed) can take the sound of their heart to the doctor. Hopefully some lives can be saved, as well as a lot of money better spent on other things.

But woe betide anyone who seeks to cash in on this invention, with the possible exception of the people who already make the foetal monitors and can easily re-purpose them for this (add the instructions for recording to an iPod or rework design to include an mp3 recorder and/or USB connection and/or removable flash storage).

Tech Notes:

Recording--direct to digital makes a lot of sense but a lot of digital recorders don't record to mp3 (I have used Sony and Panasonic devices that record in their own formats) and this means you often have to do some sort of conversion so that the file is in a format accessible to the doctor or the playback device. Dumping the recording to a PC/Mac app like GoldWave makes conversion easy and allows clean-up. GoldWave has this great filter that lets you select a 'silent' section and filter based on that, in other words, a moment of space between explicit sounds will show the background noise and that can be filtered out in one step. , or play the sound back from the recording device, which is easy enough to do with an iPod or Treo).

Foetal monitor--is used for the recording because it is already designed to make internal body sounds audible. There is no great rick to this, just a properly tuned pickup at the narrow end of a cone-shaped, sound-focusing opening on the bottom surface of the unit that lays on the patient's body (over the heart when used in this invention). I used a WombSong, so named because it also allows you to play music to your unborn child (a scary notion given the musical tastes of some parents). These are now available for quite a bit less than $30 and since you can get a cheapr recorder for about $10, you can still make the whole thing for around $30.

Note that this is NOT your fancy "medical quality" foetal monitoring unit. It does not need to be. Check the recording above and you will hear that this is exactly what the cardiologist needed to hear, and would probably not have heard if "my friend" had not recorded it.

Did You Survive DST? The difference in US/EU time difference is the one to watch

Hopefully everyone's technology handled DST okay last night. I got a last minute reminder to update my Treo 650 which was handled very smoothly.

I already blogged the US/EU disconnect elsewhere, but it is worth repeating here, especially for people working trans-Atlantic, which I happen to be at the moment.

I am working on a security project for a fairly large UK company, together with someone from California, as part of a team based in London. The "DST offset" makes figuring flight times and setting up conference calls tricky.

This particular project will be over before the Autumn, but check out the time lag that happens in October of this year. New York goes six hours behind London, and of course that puts LA a full nine hours behind...which is darned inconvenient. When you have a London office meeting at 4PM and that is 7AM for LA, some folks are going to be sleepy from a hard day's work and others will be dozy from a hard day's night.

So, has anyone calculated the supposed energy savings of this whole fiasco, versus the technology upgrade costs?