Category Archives: Mobile

early review: MedHelper for Android, a pill tracker application


I’m starting to use MedHelper for Android as a tool to keep track of my medicine. As you get older, it’s more and more likely that you’ll be on some medication, and since I’ve had side effects from previous meds I’m happy to find something that helps me track things.

It’s a relatively complicated program compared to some simple pill reminder apps on the market, but my use is relatively simple. There’s a reminder function to alert you when it’s time to take your medicine, a log that tracks when you actually did take your meds, and a simple comment log that lets you add notes about how it’s going or any side effects you noticed. If you’re doing detailed logging of weight, blood pressure, or a number of other vital signs there’s a place for that.

At the moment there’s no web-based version of it, but the site hints at a “cloud” version, which I suppose I’d welcome.

The test of any software like this is twofold. First, does it help you actually follow your prescription better than a simple alarm or a pillbox. Second, does it help you when you are at the doctor’s office talking about your health. I haven’t tested either, but I’m looking forward to updating this review when I get a few months of actual use in place.


The mobile-only internet

Screen shot 2013-07-30 at 10.42.40 PMI was away from my laptop for a few days, but still had use of a mobile phone to view the internet through. (I also had a beach nearby and a room full of relatives). Here's some observations from the mobile-only internet.

First and foremost, it's a lot harder to type on a tiny screen with one finger poking at the glass. My online composition is sufficiently slow that I can't come anywhere near close to keeping up with my thoughts. So long writing is right out.

I didn't blog during the trip, and I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. There were a handful of occasions where I used Twitter, and I took a few photos that are sharable. Again, because it's so hard to type, it was easy to let the moment go past.

Twitter was too addictive, as a kind of intermittent reinforcement made it possible to repeatedly swipe down the screen, hear a little click, and then hope that the new tweets were interesting enough to make it worthwhile. I followed a few new busy accounts and was treated to inning by inning baseball scores and some random bits of new weather. I'll have to unfollow most of them now – that is one nice thing about Twitter compared to Facebook in that you can get a temporary enthusiasm and then shed it quickly.

Email was hard – I could keep up with a little bit of it, but it was daunting to try to answer messages that were long. I knew I was going to be back soon so I let it pile up. I'll have to try a longer experiment with email to see if I could either shift the context of the emails off to voice or direct message or text message so that there wasn't such a need to follow throug with endless paragraphs.

I could get used to the mobile-only Internet. It was possible to ignore a lot of what landed in my inbox over the span of a vacation, and the few longer or more important messages will be easy enough to answer.

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Some notes from a lunchtime talk on social media

A few highlights, not the whole talk.

My notes for the talk were the four words: novelty, reciprocity, frequency, mobility.

For novelty I spoke to the notion that people are on a perpetual search for the next new thing, and that any solution to any problem has to be revisited periodically in the light of this.

Reciprocity is the notion that people will respond in kind if you act generously to them, and I spoke to how this plays out in social media with "friends" and "followers" and "likes" as the actions often reciprocated.

Regarding frequency, the notion is that communications media have a natural rhythm, and that you need to be aware of how often you post or comment so that you don't either overrun the medium or be so quiet as to be unnoticed.

Finally mobility is the observation that more and more people are coming to the net primarily through mobile devices and if you want to serve them you need to have a solution for your web and net presence that looks good on the small screen.

I was greeted with a fair degree of skepticism about the value of social media for business, especially from someone who cancelled his Facebook account and never has been on Twitter. There was good discussion of how hard it is to simultaneously be brand-conscious and be aware of a professional persona vs. sharing details of a personal life. I think it's harder for people in an agency role whose job it is to make the client look good but who don't have to have a personal public identity in order to do their work.

Some day when I retire I'll give up on social media entirely and just send postcards to people – they are novel compared to the communciations that people mostly get, they're quite portable and mobile, no one expects a frequency of a postcard more than once in a long while, and if you send postcards you're likely to get postcards in return.

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Hurricane Sandy – bookmarks and apps for your mobile phone

My twitter feed is blowing up with people discussing Hurricane Sandy and its likely impact on the East Coast. In the interests of having somewhere useful to drop things that come up along the way, here's a live blog of sorts of the event. I'll put all of my Sandy stuff here, rather than have it go over multiple other entries. The top of this is collected info; the bottom is the blog collecting things without much sorting except chronological. Whenever possible, I'll point to things that work well on mobile phones where screen size and bandwidth are an issue.

Power outages

My power outage map collection is a good point of reference. It's organized by state, with phone numbers and twitter feeds for utility company news and information. It loads relatively slowly because of all of the graphics, so you'll want to bookmark your utility's pages and save their phone number before the storm hits.

On Twitter, I'm following a list @vielmetti/poweroutage with about 40 utility company feeds all in one place.

Weather maps and forecasts

There's a lot of excellent coverage of the storm from weather sites like the Weather Underground, which has a Hurricane Sandy page with a comprehensive set of forecasts and weather details. The mobile site compacts the information down as far as it can go, omitting all advertising and extraneous text display.

Saturday, October 27

Emergency alerts for New York City: Notify NYC.

New Jersey traffic:

New Jersey: Coastal evacuation route maps. Check these ahead of time, they are large (megabyte plus) PDF documents not suitable for tiny screens.

How much will it rain? A 5 day QPF (quantitative preciptation forecast) from HPC.

How much did it rain? Precipitation analysis from AHPS.

Connecticut's preparations for the storm are on the hash tag #ctsandy.

WNYC's Storm Surge – Flood Zone map covers New York and New Jersey.

Is the Federal Government at work? Check the Office of Personnel Management site.

Friday, October 26 has news for New Jersey; a mobile site is at

Windfinder has global, detailed wind forecasts for wind speed, direction, and wind gusts. Their mobile site is, and there's also an iPhone, Android, and Windows Mobile apps.

Reuters: 41 dead in Caribbean from Sandy.  11 in Cuba, 26 in Haiti.

The Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center shows a chance of flooding in the Susquehanna Valley.

The National Flood Outlook map shows a chance of flooding from coastal North Carolina north all the way to upstate New York, including the entire state of New Jersey.

Weather Canada's mobile site. An alert has been issued for Quebec.

New Hampshire: PSNH Outage List (for mobile).

Bangor (Maine) Hydro's mobile site.

Connecticut Light and Power has an outage report suitable for mobile phones.

FEMA's mobile app is available for iOS, Android and Blackberry. It contains "disaster safety tips, interactive lists for storing your emergency kit and emergency meeting location information, and a map with open shelters and open FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs)." The FEMA mobile web site is

The Red Cross hurricane application is available for iOS and Android. "Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out – a must have for anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane may strike or has loved ones who do." 

Pepco has a mobile app for iOS, Android, and Blackberry.

The Wall Street Journal's Twitter list @WSJ/weather is a good collection of feeds. has a full set of hurricane forecast information, with a compact hurricane forecast mobile site that's worth bookmarking on a mobile phone.

Typepad on iPad, edited elsewhere

No support for rich text editing in safari, but otherwise performant. Kind of nice.

I’ll need to really learn markdown for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it descends from setext.

Ann Arbor

A2B3 lunch is Thursday as always.
Ann Arbor Parks did trick or treat today, Sunday, noon to 4pm on the Huron River.

Arborwiki makes a good companion as you go for errands around town.
Ann Arbor City Council elections and a millage are coming up. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has characteristically thorough coverage of the League of Women Voters forums.
Some project, not yet identified, has North Main torn up at Catherine. A second project has North Division down to a single lane. Expect delays.

No one was hurt in last week's fire on Harpst.
I'm trying a neighborhood LinkedIn group to see what kind of density I need to get enough people to make a group worthwhile; it might make sense to grab people closest first and then out by distance.

Metro Detroit

Tigers lost in the ALCS, and I’m looking forward to spring training.

Power outages from the Saturday windstorms were worst in Warren.


Occupy Chicago has had a lot of protest, via the Chicago Tribune which was on the scene.

Occupy Wall Street took over Times Square.


I am tracking steps with a pedometer again, thanks to Paul Resnick and a research group at UMSI.
Statler and Waldorf have taken over the Muppets twitter account. New movie due for Thanksgiving. Cue the Muppets.


The wind on Saturday made farmers market blustery. Squash of all sizes and varieties were there, and there’s nothing like a big old Hubbard squash to keep the corner of a table down. A farmer was doing the frost dance but said they had none at the last full moon. Traditionally, it’s said that the best way to open a Hubbard is to take an axe to it, or to throw it down into the cellar.


It’s hard to have great weird ideas when you are closing trouble tickets.
My new employer Nutshell has an office where my former employer Pure Visibility used to have it's offices.


Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Einar Steffrud.


Books moved recently include Kawabata’s, Snow Country, to be shelved on the Heikki Lunta shelf to prepare me for winter.


Pinboard now supports Gopher urls in bookmarks.


Michigan football lost to State. It was as good an excuse as any to call my aunt who went to East Lansing.


Wow, I have a lot of categories.

Should I ditch my smart phone?

I have a shiny phone with more computing power than the first computer I ever owned.  I also have a shiny brick, because the phone isn't working now, and when I took it back to where I bought it they gave me a phone number to call to fix it.  (I call it my BrickBerry.  It's so bricked, it doesn't even play Brickout.) There's nothing worse than talking on the phone, trying to fix your phone.

Get in touch, free of charge: Just dial 611 from your T-Mobile phone or call 1-877-453-1304. Customer Care representatives are available from 3 a.m. to 10p.m. PT, daily. Automated account help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can either call Toll Free # 1-800-937-8997 or we here in Technical Care web chat can assist you.

I am tempted to go back to the worst possible phone that could possibly work.  I had an old, old Nokia candybar-style phone, which at one point I called my "WAP phone" because I had to wap on the side of it to get it to work.  Yet it did work, and it made lots of phone calls, and it seemed cheap at the time.  And it was cheap – it had a monochrome screen, only the most rudimentary games, no camera, nothing.  Cheap but reliable.  

JVM Error 517

An unrecoverable error on the phone.

T-mobile policy for this error is to ship a replacement phone.

An inconsistency has been detected in the VM persistent object store.

Smart phones aren't cheap, but increasingly they don't seem all that smart either.  Shiny, yes; futuristic and wonderful, sure.  But smart, not so much.  Does your phone remind you of what you need to do, when and where you need to do it, but not so naggingly that you turn it off?  Probably not.  Does that smart phone make you look smarter when you're walking down the street punching buttons on it?  Not so sure. Twittering from the bus to let the planet know which bus has squeaky brakes?  Uh huh.

The trap, perhaps, is confusing "smart phone" with "smart person".  Does a smart phone make you smart?

One possibility is to ditch phones with contracts entirely and go to a prepaid plan, which means that every call would cost something and I've have to be smart about how to use my phone.  That turns out to be easier now that I have Google Voice, which gives me more tools than ever to not answer my phone but still get a message to me.  Google Voice lets me direct any call to any phone, and thus the cell phone simply becomes another selectable destination to originate or terminate calls on the same number.

Other people's take on this:

My monthly bill says buying a dumb phone would have been smarter.

a2b3 non-summary for Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010

Attendance: 19. I had the udon noodles, which are new on the menu at Eastern Accents and quite good.

My list of things to note from the day includes, but is not limited to:

  • Google’s proposed fiber to the home project, and how to get it to Ann Arbor
  • Susan Crawford is back in Ann Arbor from a stint in DC and teaching cyber law
  • I’m not sure that I wouldn’t rather have a Droid phone than a Blackberry
  • There is a super-nifty Droid app which is an exercise tracker w/maps
  • Searching for low RPM motors that run on 2 AA batteries
  • Next Dow Aud. at UMHS a meeting on FDA regs for social media and medicine
  • Census is hiring and training workers, $14-18/hr
  • a2geeks
  • Ignite 3 is coming up
  • Earth Day is Garlic Mustard Day; I need your recipes
  • next Tuesday is Paczki Day, I need your jelly donuts
  • Ann Arbor Government Documents Repository continues to collect local govdocs
  • Gelman Sciences has released some new docs on their pollution plume & cleanup
  • Google Buzz is out
  • the DDA is doing a survey on parking
  • the hot pepper flakes are called “Ichimi Togarashi”

This list deserves hyperlinks; when I get them I’ll go back and edit them in.

Thanks to everyone who came, see you next time.