Strategic Informatics

A blog about the strategic application of technology

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WWDC… The long, long, wait

Waiting in line is one of the many memorable events at WWDC. I’ve met several people from all over the world.

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Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2013

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In less than 24 hours, the first Apple event in at least 6 months will be underway.  There are a lot of eyes on Apple given their incremental product releases.  Rumors abound about what will be unveiled however it seems a safe bet given the signs that are posted in the Moscone center that Apple will focus heavily on the OS X and iOS.  Apple has released the innovative MacBook Pro with Retina Display and manufacturers have yet to really catch up with the design or hardware specs of this product so it makes sense Apple innovates in the software in their portfolio.

Follow-me on Twitter @cary_brown for updates…

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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. 

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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.

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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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Apple’s Tablet iBook?

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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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Synergy How To For Mac and PC

Working in an environment with multiple OS’s can be challenging when you have to shuffle between multiple keyboards and mice. A KVM only offers a single view of one device at a time, which is challenging when you need to switch between them frequently. I’m a huge advocate of virtual machines but you are still often limited by the available screen real estate of a single workstation. I’ve toyed with the idea of using the open source application Synergy for a while but have never taken the plunge until recently. What is Synergy? Synergy is an application that allows you to setup individual workstations, either Mac, PC, or Linux with their own dedicated monitors and utilize a single workstation’s keyboard and mouse to move among as many different Operating Systems as you need. You still need dedicated monitors for each of your individuals PC’s but a single mouse and keyboard will allow you to easily operate each OS on their respective monitor(s).

Synergy consists of a client application that runs on the workstations you want to control and an application that functions as a server to which you have a keyboard and mouse you want to use. In the scenario I’m going to present I have a MacBook Pro and and a Desktop PC running Vista. I will show how you can use the keyboard and mouse of the Mac to control the PC. I’ve also configured the Vista as a server which required a little additional effort. If you are interested in seeing this configuration then leave a note in the comments.

Using the Mac to Control the PC.

On the PC
You need to install Synergy on the Windows workstation you want to control.  You can get a copy from Sourceforge.net.  When you start Synergy just make sure you select “Use another computers’ shared keyboard and mouse (client)”, and in the “Other Computer’s Host Name” field enter in the IP address of Mac which we will configure as the server in the next step. Note if you need to find the IP address of your Mac click on the Apple icon in the upper right corer of your screen and select System Preferences…

Note: if you need to find the IP address of your Mac click on the Apple icon in the upper right corer of your screen and select System Preferences… Select the network card from the list on the left and you will see the IP address listed under “Status:”

On the Mac
You can download the latest SynergyKM binaries (.dmg) file for the Mac from Sourceforge.net. The one used here is 1.0 Beta 6.

The installation installs a configuration icon in your System Preferences folder. Open your System Preferences folder and select “Share my keyboard and mouse” radio button.

Now we need to configure the clients that will connect to the Mac’s keyboard and mouse. Click the + button to add another client to the list. In the Name: field enter the actual name of the workstation that will be connecting to your Mac. In my case, my Vista workstation was aptly called “VistaDesktop”. If you have other PC’s in your configuration you simply repeat this process. Now the beauty of the SynergyKM on the Mac is the ability to move the icons of the clients you have added to mimic the physical location of the monitors on your desk. If you have a monitor with one on top of another then you simply arrange the icons in the Server Configuration tool in a similar fashion. In my simple configuration my laptop was to the left of my Windows monitor.

Select the General Tab again and select the “Turn Synergy On” button.

When you start the Synergy server on your Mac you will see an Green and Blue circular Synergy Icon appear in the Menu Bar.


Now you should be able to control use your mouse to switch between both desktops in the order you configured them. If this was helpful then leave a comment or if you are interested in using Vista as a server then leave a comment.


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HealthVault Connection Center Beta 1.2

Microsoft has just released HealthVault Connection Center Beta v1.2 which is a desktop utility that helps people upload data from health and fitness devices to their HealthVault account.  This is a good step in bridging the gap between a patient and physician between visits.  Having an updated list of blood pressure, weight, peak flow measurements, heart rate, among others is a great way to arm your physician with information germain to a patients health, especially for physicians trying to track and monitor chronic diseases.

The interface is pretty straight forward and matches the already easy to use HealthVault web based interface.

Once setup and configured for your device data can be uploaded automatically.
Microsoft has gone out of its way to ensure the SDK for HealthVault can interface with a wide variety of backend platforms by providing Java API’s and allowing others to communicate via standard web services based interfaces.  With all this cross platform communication whats lacking right now is a Mac version of the application.  With the integration of Nike+ with the newest version of the Apple iPod Touch it seems like a logical progression for easily allowing patients to send their exercise data to their PHR.

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Microsoft Developing Its Own App Store for Windows Mobile?

It appears that Microsoft, noticing the success of the App Store from Apple, is set to launch its own app store for windows mobile platforms given a recent job posting on computerjob.com. The description states the senior project manager will ead a team that will “drive the launch of a v1 marketpace service for Windows Mobile.” The success of the iPhone App Store is a sure way to drive traffic from a mobile platform. I must agree that searching the app store is far simpler than scouring the Internet in search of an applicaiton for your mobile smart phone. While I’ve certainly had my fair share of issues with the iPhone v2 firmware at least Apple has recognized and actively fixing issues which is a far cry from the issues I’ve experienced on Palm, Windows Mobile, and yes even Blackberry Mobile Operating Systems.

I’m seeing a steady increase in the use of iPhone’s in physician hands. With apps like ePocrates hitting the Apple App Store it won’t be long before more and more physicians take advantage of the quick search capabilities offered by Mobile Safari and reference tools such as ePocrates. At the Microsoft Health Users Group meeting this past week I would say I noticed about 1/3 of the users were iPhone owners. I spoke with the CIO of a healthcare portal company and he is actively developing an application interface for his product. If healthcare application developers would focus more on the interface of their apps I think physicians and clinicians alike would adopt the iPhone as a valid platform. The sheer number of developers for Windows Mobile is tremendous and Microsoft has made it very easy to develop in this platform regardless of your programming language of choice. The iPhone has several enterprise related issue to address before IT managers adopt this as a platform worthy of supporting in larger organizations.

Source: CNet

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iPhones-Macintosh Computers Are Now Targeted by More Hackers

It was only a matter of time before the popularity of Apple’s OS X and iPhone attracted hackers.  Security specialists said Saturday that hackers are taking increasing aim at iPhones and Macintosh computers as the hot-selling Apple devices gain popularity worldwide. Hackers have historically focused devious efforts on computers using Windows operating systems because the Microsoft software has more than 90 percent of the global market.  Apple is now going to have to deal with all the “Enterprise” issues that Microsoft has gotten flack about in the past several years.  This is not going to be an easy road for Apple and many senior IT leaders are going to be watching this closely.  Apple has already gotten some flack for their “misuse” of the word push in their recent MobileMe announcements.  Enterprise IT professionals attribute the word “push” to mean something altogether different than the semi-push features brought about in MobleMe’s latest incarnation.  Apple will certainly have to stay on top of their game if they are to quickly address the sundry of security issues their OS assumes with its increased popularity.

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Microsoft and Apple strategies

I’ve started to take notice at the different business model approaches behind both Apple and Microsoft. Microsoft has a long history of providing backward compatibility with it’s software which, I believe, is one of the primary reasons why it has developed such a huge market share. Apple on the other extreme has complete control over the OS as well as the integrated hardware that it runs on top of. This, for many reasons, provides a fabulous method for managing the entire user experience. Having a limited and hand-picked chip set allows Apple to tweak and pull as much performance out of their hardware as they can. Microsoft has done a pretty good job at maintaining backward compatibility across many decades of releases, but they remain constrained by the breadth of commodity hardware that exists in the market and have been burned, unfairly, on many occasions due to “driver” issues that cause stability issues in the underlying OS. Apple is able to quickly resolve and address any issues that may come up rather quickly without having to go through so much regression and QA testing.


Many years ago Bill Gates was quoted as saying that software will never catchup to take full advantage of the software. What this translates to is the concept of efficiency in software design is moot as the hardware will be so powerful that software applications will find it difficult to keep up with the speed changes. While this concept was visionary it leads to the eventual outcome we see Microsoft in today with Vista which, in my own option has become a bloated piece of software that can’t possibly scale to the needs of multiple platforms like *inux or even OS X can. I can appreciate Microsoft’s efforts with their Windows 7 initiatives and think this is the right approach they need to take. Apple meanwhile is enjoying the rapid adoption of its OS and the stability they can provide by offering both HW and SW. Microsoft isn’t alone in this as Linux has this same approach but the open source community and early adopters don’t have the history or legacy application issues that Microsoft does so changes on this platform are accepted as norm. Looking from the perspective of an IT Director you want a stable platform that is supported and application that run atop of these systems that are also supported through multiple iterations of security updates, and OS enhancements. Many times in my career I’ve seen this lone server running in the back of the data center running some version of OS2/Warp that hasn’t been supported in years but runs this one small but important application… This is an IT managers worse nightmare and the motive for many enterprise development projects.


Apple, in many respects, has to function as sheep herders, but as their flock grows it will be much more difficult to wrangle their heard of consumers which is probably why Apple has stayed out of the Enterprise application market which is where Microsoft and even *nix variants to some extent have excelled.