Strategic Informatics

A blog about the strategic application of technology

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Recovering a hard driving using SpinRite on a Mac using VMWare Fusion

I recently found myself faced with a 2.5″ NTFS formatted laptop hard drive from a 5 year old laptop that wouldn’t cooperate and would constantly fail so I decided to try and recover what I could from the drive by running SpinRite, a great application from Steve Gibson of Gibson Research that I have used successfully many times in the past to recover damaged or unreadable magnetic based media.  The last time I actually used it was about 12 years ago over the course of several days to recover a failing HD.  Computing and hard drive technology has changed a lot since then but they are still very much part of our day-to-day IT lives.  When I encounter a problem that needs extensive evaluation I would just run SpinRite on the x86 based PC from which the hard drive came.  However, after creating a bootable CD and USB key with SpinRite for use on the 5 yo laptop neither one would work so I decided to take a different route.  Without another PC handy I decided to assess my options…  My daily laptop is a MacBook Pro, doesn’t (thankfully) have an internal 2.5″ SATA bay and is sealed tighter than the sub in the Hunt for Red October…  So what’s a Mac user to do with an NTFS formatted magnetic HD that can’t be read, an old Laptop that won’t boot SpinRite, and no other PC’s within easy reach?  Try to run SpinRite from a Virtual Machine on a Mac of course….

Now for those of you who don’t know SpinRite was written in assembly and does very low level reads and writes against a computers magnetic mass storage drives.  FreeDOS has been incorporated into SpinRite distribution to allow it to boot to a bare-metal PC and mount any connected drives so you can exercise the individual bits of 1’s and 0’s stored on the drive, exercising it enough to get a magnetic drive in as good a working condition as the physical hardware will allow.  With any luck it will operate just well enough to get your information to a readable state and backed up before you have complete hardware failure…   Running SpinRite from a VM was a bit more involved to configure via VMWare Fusion on a Mac and I wasn’t completely sure it would work… so I thought I would share my experiences.

 

I created a spinrite.iso file from another Windows VM I use.  I then created a new MS-DOS based VM mounting the SpinRite.iso created from the SpinRite.exe file.  It booted to a familiar screen without any issues.

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

Now the challenge was to get the physical hard drive mounted to the VM…  Looking through the settings there was no way to get RAW access to a physical HD.  I used a SATA to USB adapter and had to connect the drive to my Macbook Pro ensuring it was mounted to the Mac not the VM.

I needed to create a Raw Disk vmdk to make the RawDisk accessible to the VM so I did the following:

From a Mac terminal (I prefer iTerm) type:

diskutil list

In my case the 160GB HD came up as /dev/disk2 but your particular configuration may be different.

1__bash

 

Next from the terminal run the following command to list the partitions that rawdiskCreator can see:

/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-rawdiskCreator print /dev/disk#

Note: Ensure that the last entry /dev/disk# is changed to the drive you are targeting for raw access.  In my case it was /dev/disk2

1__bash

What you should see next is your drive partitions…  My particular drive was split into two partitions (#1 was very small and #2 made up the bulk of my 160G HD)

With your partitions known and visible by the rawdiskCreator tool you can create the vmdk file that refers to the physical hard disk you are trying to mount and make it available to the existing SpinRite VM you created earlier.  You will need to know the location of the Disk and the partitions you want to mount from the previous command, which in my case is /dev/disk2 1,2 which says it’s disk2 and both partitions 1 & 2.  You will also need the path to the actual SpinRite .vmwarevm Virtual Machine that you created earlier (in my case ~/Documents/Virtual Machines/SpinRite.vmwarevm/rawDiskFile).  Now I used rawDiskfile but this is the name of your vmdk file and can be called whatever you like.  Make sure to include the ide designator at the end so the VM knows how to mount the drive.

/Applications/VMware Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-rawdiskCreator create /dev/disk2 1,2 ~/Documents/Virtual Machines/SpinRite.vmwarevm/rawDiskFile ide

After you execute this command successfully you can option click the SpinRite.vmwarevm file and choose Show Contents.  Here you should see the files that makeup the .vmwarevm file including the new .vmdk file (if that’s what you named it) for each partition you listed above (1,2).  In my case it was rawDiskFile.vmdk & rawDiskFile-pt.vmdk

If you boot the VM now you won’t see the additional drive so you have to manually edit the configuration file for the VM to recognize the drive.  With the VMWare file contents still being displayed in finder you need to edit the .vmx virtual machine configuration file.  In my case it was called SpinRite.vmx because SpinRite is what I named my VM…  You should probably back up this file incase there is a problem and you need to start over.  Use your favorite editor (BBEdit, TextWranger, TextEdit, etc…) to edit the .vmx configuration file.  You want to insert the following lines to your configuration file being careful not to duplicate an existing ide#:# entry:

ide0:1.present = “TRUE”
ide0:1.fileName = “rawDiskFile.vmdk”
ide0:1.deviceType = “rawDisk”
suspend.disabled = “TRUE”

If the VM already has in its .vmx configuration ide0:1, use another port such as ide1:1.  It is also possible to use scsi#:# or sata#:# if the VM is somehow configured to use a SATA or SCSI controller.   The suspend.disabled=”TRUE” entry prevents the VM from suspending and being out of sync with the attached HD.  Important since most of SpinRite’s scans can take a long time to run.

The last step is to power on the VM and select your HD…  You may be prompted to enter your administrators password to get RAW access to the HD as the VM powers up.

Screenshot_4_30_15__4_12_PM

If you run into trouble it may be necessary to unmount the HD from your Mac by ejecting or un-mounting from Disk Utility prior to turning the VM on.

I won’t go into detail on how to use SpinRite as the tool is pretty self explanatory but the 160GB HD partition did appear in the interface ready to begin SpinRite’s operations.

SpinRite

SpinRite_and_Blank_website__Blank_site__Nothing_to_see_here_

SpinRite

 

Again this certainly isn’t an ideal setup as SMART access to the HD wasn’t available from within SpinRite menu options because, and I’m guessing here, of the SATA to USB setup but it might work in a pinch.  Hopefully it proves useful to your IT Toolkit and helps you extend the life of your SpinRite license which is worth every penny…

Update:  I tried a couple of drives and while it worked for one drive there was an error that completely stopped SpinRite and the VM in it’s tracks…   It only occurred on a specific section of the hard drive where there was clearly an issue…

SpinRite

SpinRite

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2014 Consumer Electronics Show

While I can’t attend CES 2014 myself this year the blogosphere is awash with updates of the new and innovative consumer electronics on display in Vegas this year.  I’m fortunate to have colleagues there who are live sharing some amazing pictures and video’s from the floor so I thought I would share…

IMG_3695

I anticipated a huge uptick in the number of health conscious iDevices….  but CES appears to be overflowing with new “wearable” devices that track every aspect of your daily life.  Hope their security is good so no-one knows when you go out of town or out for a long run and decide to steal your 105 inch curved OLED 5k display?  (see below)


IMG_3704

 

Just when you thought you had 4k televisions understood manufacturers start promoting a wider aspect ratios like 21:9 and add another 1k pixels to the screen and create 5k Televisions…  Television is such a dated term…  Why don’t we call them retina-searing monstrosities…  I can totally justify one of these in a network operations center… and by corporate network operations center I mean my living room…but really!?!

Head over to Engadget for the play-by-play or GeekBeat.TV 

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Doctors embracing iPads as a clinical tool

Wendy Rigby with KENS 5 News San Antonio just finished an article on iPad use in clinical settings and focused on the effort of our WellMed physicians.

Credit: Wendy Rigby / KENS 5
Dr. Robin Eickhoff of WellMed uses an iPad as she consults with her patient

The article highlighted our EMR and Care Delivery Platform development efforts and our President, Dr. Carlos Hernandez, mentioned something quite profound during the video interview this afternoon that wasn’t captured in the article or on the video and that is the “need to develop tools built around care delivery not delivering care around a tool” which is precisely what our application development efforts have focused around.

Our Service Oriented Architecture has enabled us to quickly embrace change in the mobile space.  The iPads have not been out an entire year yet we are able to quickly consume the core secure EMR services built into our flagship Care Delivery Platform and push data into the hands of providers using a very connected, very mobile device with a fundamentally different user interface.  By taking the time to develop and invest in a service oriented architecture we’ve prototyped this iPad app in a fraction of the time it has taken to develop our RIA (Rich Internet Application) EMR.  This has been a long and often exhausting journey to leverage and get to a state of reusable services but the goals of being more agile and leveraging on top of what is already built is a refreshing feeling and enabling WellMed Medical Management with opportunities to remain agile in our ability to deliver on strategic decisions and changes that benefit care for our seniors.

To check out the article and photos of physicians using the iPads within the clinic check out the link on KENS5:

http://www.kens5.com/news/Doctors-embracing-iPads-as-a-clinical-tool-115957794.html

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What makes a successful mobile device?

I typically don’t title my posts with a question but it begs to be answered with the imminent release of Apple’s iPad.  Frankly… I’m frustrated with all the media fanfare around how tablet based computing is “now” going to revolutionize the industry.  Tablet PC’s have been around for for 10-15 years.  It’s not the hardware in as much as it is the software running on these devices that have been the problem with adoption.  Software also being inclusive of the operating systems that power the devices.  Initial incarnations of the slate based devices tried to take a desktop OS like Windows, and with the help of some task bar utilities (and who doesn’t love more of those cluttering your interface) would create a platform for mobile professionals.  The result was that year over year software vendors continued to make their mouse and keyboard driven desktop applications function in the confines of a cumbersome keyboard and mouse driven OS by pecking at a temperamental resistive touch screen display on a mobile device.  And we wonder why software solution have a hard time getting used by providers and clinicians.

What was needed was a truly mobile and touch driven OS and SDK like Apple provided in their iPhone to help developers conform to building applications that did not rely on technologies that didn’t exist on the hardware like a mouse.  This was needed because no one had stepped up to the challenge in a market dominated almost exclusively by Microsoft.  Linux was in its infancy in the mobile space back then but today the Android OS has certainly stepped up to the challenge the iPhone has presented in the mobile device space and is providing a competitive platform against which Apple may have a hard time competing if the innovations in the open source world continue to leapfrog apple.

My issues with mobile computing in healthcare revolve around technologies that get in the way of providers and clinicians doing their core job which is attending to patients and not fumbling through hundreds of check boxes and interfaces designed to be used on a desktop.  Vendors need to realize just because you can run your application on a tablet PC doesn’t mean you should.  Let me repeat….Just because you CAN run your application on a tablet based device DOESN’T mean you should.  If an application is architected properly then there should always be a layer of abstraction between the interface and the underlying core enterprise services that drive that interface.  I’m not hating on Microsoft for providing Windows Tablet OS as I think they have considerably innovated in this area to help vendors use their legacy applications on mobile slate and convertible based platforms.  Multiple modalities for inputting data such as handwriting, voice, and predictive text recognition are all very good tools.  I think they were smart to merge these functions into the standard Windows 7 build and not offer a separate OS as they have in the past.

More interesting is the total rewrite of their mobile platform with Windows Mobile 7.  This ground-up initiative from Redmond is akin to becoming more like iPhone and Android operating systems but paves the way for more svelte hardware with mobile chip sets that can extend battery life without sacrificing performance.  Microsoft is bringing XAML to the mobile platform and leveraging their gaming SDK for development which eliminates any backward compatibility with pre-Windows Mobile 7 apps but I don’t view this as a bad thing.  New platform new apps…  Microsoft has long since reached the breaking point at which they need to support legacy applications and this new direction and outlook toward supporting the mobile user should be a refreshing change for developers.  A lot of our new development revolves around innovating in the user interface with Rich Internet Application (RIA) technologies such as Silverlight.  It makes us think differently about how applications are used and more importantly how it enables our users (physicians and clinical staff)  to do their job more effectively not insert yet another technology that gets in their way.

It has been a while since I posted an entry but my entire team and I have been hard at work maintaining existing applications and plugging away at UI and WCF service development.   Stay tuned…as we plug through our iterations and get ready to deploy our app I’ll share with you some of what WellMed is doing to “change the face of healthcare for seniors…”

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Installing Windows 7 on a Mac OSX Bootcamp Partition


So I’ve been running Windows 7 since early September when the release to production copy was opened up for MSDN subscribers.  I can honestly attest that this is by far the best relese of Windows to come out of Redmond to-date.  The ugly duckling known as Vista has shed its skin and what has emerged is an efficient and capable operating system that performs well on relatively underpowered hardware.  I’ve created a few posts in the past that outline how to install Vista on a MacbookPro via bootcamp and also how to install at 500GB hard drive and maintain both partitions.  I’ve done all of this including the initial Leopard upgrade from Tiger without a total rebuild.  This is an amazing feat considering the number of trips to Apples Genius Bar desk to replace faulty video controllers for my now aging and out of warrantee Macbook Pro.  So I decided since I had been testing Windows 7 for a while now on a Dell XT and XT2 that I would tempt fate and perform an upgrade to the Bootcamp partition currently running Vista.  The other installations of Windows 7 on Intel hardware have been clean installs so this would be my first upgrade.  An upgrade, mind you, that has a significant amount of software installed. 

The process was actually fairly straight forward but I thought I would share none-the-less since the how-to posts seem to get the most attention. 

Step 1:  From either OS X or Windows open up the bootcamp manager and select the Windows partition. 

 bootcamp

Step 2:  Reboot to ensure that the default setting loads windows

Step 3:  Insert USB or Windows 7 CD into drive (I’ll post how to create a USB version of the Windows 7 Install Disk in a separate post)

Step 4:  Run the setup.exe from the Auto Run dialog box or manually via Windows Explorer.   From the initial setup dialog box run the compatibility testing tool (not shown in the image below) to ensure you meet all the minimum requirements and your software is compatible.  I had an issue with Windows OneCare to which I had to uninstall prior to installing.  Ironically it states there is an issue with the bootcamp software loaded on the Vista OS along with iTunes.   I proceeded none-the-less with the installation by clicking Next>after the check was complete.

windows7setup

Step 5: Setup of the OS is about as straight forward as it can possibly get.  Nothing special to do here just follow the instructions for an upgrade and enter in your key when prompted.

Step 6:  You will eventually reboot your system at which time you get the initial boot screen for windows indicating which Windows OS you want to boot into.  Keep the default Windows or Windows 7 (not Vista) and proceed with allowing setup to configure your system.

Step 7 (Optional):  Open up bootcamp setup and configure your default boot OS.  Either Windows or OS X

The setup depending on the software you have installed will take quite a while but for the most part it is a hands-off process.  Enjoy…

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Motion Computing Brings New Upgrades To Their Tablet PC’s


It has been a while since Motion Computing updated their slate style Tablet PC’s.  Since then Panasonic has creatively borrowed the unique and “healthcare oriented” design to their line of rugged devices also targeted at healthcare professionals.  The new upgrades include a new black exterior and more interesting outside of aesthetics are the support for Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO network and built in 802.11 a/g/n network connectivity.  The Core 2 Duo CPU is a nice bump in performace but I will wait for the real-world affect on battery performance before making a determination if this is a worthy upgrade.   I’m sure to get a hands on at HIMSS next week with both Panasonics new entry as well as Motion’s upgraded slate PC’s.

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Apple’s Tablet iBook?

aaplnetbookmock

If we are to believe Apple then there is no intent on offering a slate based tablet platform.  However as evidenced by recent Chinese-language financial newspapers this week it is claimed that Wintek has been selected to manufacture touchscreens for a device targeted at the netbook category.  I’ll be the first to admit that I think Apple is poised to offer a device that picks up where Microsoft’s third-party device manufacturers left off.  It is clear to me that the capacitive touch screen on the iPhone/iPod is a great interface to a large screen slate based device.  While the above picture is surely a fake it does draw my attention to the fact that Apple’s recent Beta release of Safari has some very “Touch Friendly” features including the “Top Sites” at-a-glance preview of your favorite websites and Google Chromesque tab management which is uncharactaristic of Apples typicaly UI design within OSX. 

Safari 4 web browser demonstrating Top Sites feature
I became the recent receipient of Dell’s capacitive touch 12″ tablet and can assure you it does not compare to the iPhone’s interface.  Time will tell what Apple does in the coming months and if this rumor has any traction but for my work in developing applications I would love to see some well crafted UI’s sitting atop Apple’s hardware.  As novel as it may sound…”Flicking” through medical records using cover flow would be a pretty neat feature for managing a stack of patient medical records.

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Blackberry Storm First Impressions

Like most large enterprises we have our fair share of smartphones in use.  While IT tries to keep this limited to a select few, I did recently get a hands-on with the new touch screen Blackberry Storm from Verizon.  Being an iPhone user myself I can certainly say it was a different experience and RIM while taking advantage of the now popular touch screen enabled devices has set themselves apart from the iPhone.  For better or for worse the phone appears to be solidly built and well designed.  Several side-by-side comparisons with my iPhone revealed the Blackberry Storm to be a little shorter and thicker but weight was about the same and I would certianly have no problems carrying it in my pocket.  The higher-resolution camera would be a welcomed addition to my iPhone but my real test was trying to use the clickable touchscreen.  Being and iPhone user for the past year and a half didn’t help my experience as the Storm functions more like a tablet PC where the focus is constantly changing as you move your finger around the screen to select different options.  When you have moved your finger over the menu item or area you want to select you simply press down on the screen.  The feedback was intuitive enough but I made the mistake of using it in portrait mode where the web browser presented me with a condensed set of keys (two letters for each key).  Turning the unit sideways revelaed a full single letter per key layout which was better for writing messages.  I enjoyed the iPhones predective text features more and having the pop-up visual keys appear when you type on the iPhone.

The clickable test is not a show stopper but I imagine, that while effortless, a long session of typing would cause your thumbs to become a bit tired.  Granted these devices aren’t meant for long diatribes but should certianly meet the needs of most quick e-mail responses.  I think I’ll stick with my iPhone for now and hope that Apple continues along their roadmap and includes some needed enhancements to the existing software like landscape typing of e-mails, status screen separating unread messages into multiple accounts, more alert options for new messages.  Some of this may come about with the release of the push-messaging agent Apples been promising but if history is any indication I shouldn’t have to wait too long before Apple sends out another enhancement release.

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Panasonic releases new slate based Toughbook

 

The  ruggedized healthcare targeted slate is built on a 1.86 GHz Intel Atom CPU, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB SSD, a 10.4-inch 1024 x 768 resolution LCD display, and 802.11a/b/g/n which is very similar to current netbooks. Available in January of 2009 for $2,999.  While the price is steep its ruggedness typical with most Toughbooks will ensure you aren’t replacing it anytime soon.   The video below give a good overview of features and options specific to a healthcare enviornment and you will probably get a laugh at the actors trying to recreate an actual clinical environment which in my experience requires much more chaos…  The wireless features are pretty valuable for mobile professionals who require seamless access between WiFi networks and cellular data networks.

Specs:

* Genuine Windows Vista® Business with Service Pack 1 (with Windows XP Tablet downgrade option)
* Intel® Atom™ processor (1.86GHz) Z540 with 533MHz FSB, 512KB L2 cache
* 1GB standard RAM configuration
* 80 GB 1.8-inch shock mounted hard drive
* 10.4” XGA sunlight viewable 500 NIT Dual Touch LCD screen (1024 x 768 resolution), InPlay Technologies digitizer
* Anti-reflective screen treatment
* Integrated 2.0 megapixel auto-focus camera with dual LED lights
* Fingerprint scanner
* Contactless smartcard reader
* RFID reader
* Fully rugged
o MIL-STD-810F and IP54 compliant
o 3 foot drop approved
o Magnesium alloy chassis
o Sealed all-weather design
o Rain-, spill-, dust- and vibration-resistant
* Intel® WiFi Link 5100 802.11a/b/g/draft-n
* Bluetooth® v2.0 + EDR
* Integrated docking connector
* Integrated options:

o Optional integrated WWAN / Gobi™-enabled mobile broadband (EV-DO and HSPA)

o Global position system (GPS) receiver
o 2D barcode reader (also reads 1D barcodes)
* 6 hour battery life
* Twin Hot-swappable batteries
* 3.4 lbs (with batteries)
* 10.4” (W) x 10.6” (H) x 1.3” – 2.3” (D)

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Alcatel-Lucent Announces TikiTag RFID Reader and Tag Kit for Developers

An Alcatel-Lucent backed product called Tikitag is an RFID tagging system set to go live on October 1st . Much along to the same lines as my last RFID post this product has a lot of applicability for linking physical tags with websites. The first thing that comes to mind is the use of such tags for identifying patients during check-in and allowing emergency room physicians easy access to vital patient records during an acute care visit. Anyone can pick up a reader and ten tags for $50 on October 1st.

At this price point creating a simple application to match an RFID tag to a specific patient portal entry point would not be to difficult to implement. Access can be location based and limited to certain functions such as check-in or emergency access by a physician to critical medical information in an ER.

In terms of providing ease of patient interaction with a clinic the applications seem endless. The tags appear small enough to apply to a card or stand alone as part of a keychain. Patients can keep their demographic information current via a patient portal and have the information validated when the patient presents with their RFID tag at the front desk. If the patient has several locations to go to the tag can be used at a wayfinding kiosk to guide the patient to their next appointment. The tikitag utilize passivie RFID technology and active readers to activate the 13.56 MHZ signal within the tag which is also compatible with the Near Field Communication standard beinging implemented in several Nokia mobile phones. While I think the US is far behind Europe in implementing such integrated features from cell phones it is not out of the realm of possiblity that a progressive clinic could implement such tagging technology to ease patient flow or provide a valuable service to their patients.