Scott Hanselman

A Call for Good Design - One Guy, an Insulin Pump, 8 PDAs and an iPod

April 10, '07 Comments [7] Posted in Diabetes
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Six years ago, my wife and I went on a wireless trip across the country with my new (at the time) Insulin Pump and 8 PDAs. The pictures from this Planes, Trains and Automobiles across the country are still around.

The trip was written up, lo these many years ago, at The Feature.com and is still available in their archives as "One Guy, an Insulin Pump, and 8 PDAs".

Here's a few bits of that article that I thought were significant or interesting with new emphasis mine:

Now I've got three devices in my pocket -- each with screens, batteries, and buttons, but all alone in the world. Three devices, each with a distinct purpose, provide me with a little bit of information that I give my doctor. It's quite a mess, especially when it's time to change the batteries.

Of course, each of these devices has some interface to the outside world, but each comes with an interoperability catch. The pump has infrared, but it only communicates with proprietary software. The blood sugar meter has a serial port, but it only works with a custom cable and software. My cell phone has some kind of interface on its bottom, but no standard way to hook it up to any of these devices. The PalmPilot has a serial connector and infrared, but doesn't have support from the notoriously slow-moving healthcare industry. [Scott Hanselman writing for TheFeature.com in 2001]

The trip was fun - it was my wife and my first date, and she and I were married three months later, but from a technology perspective it was a huge failure. The technology wasn't ready.

Today, Amy Tenderich has a great Open Letter to Steve Jobs (Mental Note: Write an Open Letter to Someone) up on her blog, DiabetesMine.com and TechCrunch is helping spread the good word.

Apple has sold 100 million iPods, and she points out that 20 million diabetics are using Glucose Meters and Insulin Pumps that smell of 1997.

There's a few issues here that are a problem, Amy's interested in better design and User Experience. She says:

In short, medical device manufacturers are stuck in a bygone era; they continue to design these products in an engineering-driven, physician-centered bubble. They have not yet grasped the concept that medical devices are also life devices, and therefore need to feel good and look good for the patients using them 24/7, in addition to keeping us alive.

Clearly, we need a visionary to champion this disconnect. We need an organization on the cutting edge of consumer design to get vocal about this issue. Ideally, we need a “gadget guru” like Jonathan Ive to show the medical device industry what is possible. [Amy Tenderich]

She's right on. Additionally for me, as an engineer, I want to know where's the iTunes Killer App for my Insulin Pump and Meter? Plugin and sync. Is that so far? I'm personally interested in the other side of the User Experience - getting at the data locked in these little devices. Well, we're working on it, but getting the data out of these meters is like pulling teeth.

Attention: Diabetes Device Manufacturers - Release my Data!

You can download the LifeScan OneTouch Ultra RS-232 Serial Protocol up at the LifeScan site, but the protocol for their flagship device, the UltraSmart (a now FOUR YEAR OLD meter) is hidden, encoded and proprietary. Kind of makes our ClickOnce Diabetes Downloader a little hard to implement, wouldn't you think?

It's very frustrating as we, the technical Diabetic community, try to move things forward that:

  • There's no standard XML format for Diabetes Management.
  • Most meters have a proprietary format.
    • Only the FreeStyle is truly open with all their formats. More companies are slowly following suit. Here's a news flash, meter companies - your meter protocol is not the key to your success. Let it go.
  • There's no standard interface cable.
    • The closest we can get is a headphone jack to serial with a serial to USB interface. Again, only the FreeStyle works brilliantly.

Even my brand new, this year, insulin pump uses a cobbled together cable along with proprietary RF to dump it's data. And where does it dump the data to? A proprietary java-based Applet online that I have yet to get to work.

Maybe future meters will change this, or maybe someone from LifeScan will read this and release the UltraSmart meter protocol.

In the comments on TechCrunch, a Diabetes Technologist teases us with this tantalizing tidbit:

I’m a firmware engineer on a blood glucose meter at a very large, well known company. I agree that this is a great idea. I’d be much more excited if our product wasn’t a solid 5 years behind in design for a handheld device. We do have a product coming out in a couple years and the preliminary designs could possibly be the best looking meter I’ve seen to date. Sorry, I can’t disclose anything else about it!

Here's what I was hoping, in 2001, would have happened by now:

I imagine a world of true digital convergence -- assuming that I won't be cured of diabetes by some biological means in my lifetime -- an implanted pump and glucose sensor, an advanced artificial pancreas. A closed system for diabetics that automatically senses sugar levels and delivers insulin has been the diabetics' holy grail for years. But with the advent of wireless technology and the Internet, my already optimistic vision has brightened. If I had an implanted device with wireless capabilities, it could be in constant contact with my doctor. If the pump failed, it could simultaneously alert me, my doctor, and the local emergency room, downloading my health history in preparation for my visit. If it was running low on insulin, the pump could report its status to my insurance company, and I'd have new insulin delivered to my doorstep the next day.

We're not there yet. Thanks, Amy, for helping move the ball forward and cast some light on this problem. Medical devices lack 5 to 10 years in usability. We need updated UIs and updated and open Protocol Specs.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Email Signature Etiquette with Outlook 2007 - Appropriate Flair

April 10, '07 Comments [9] Posted in Musings
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A while back we had a nice discussion about Email Signature Netiquette. How much flair was too much?

I talked about creating more dynamic and customized signatures in Outlook 2007...

Getting HTML (or FeedBurner) Dynamic Email Signatures in Outlook 2007

My signature is generated by FeedBurner, using their Headline Animator feature (that I love).

<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/ScottHanselman">
<img border="0" alt="Scott Hanselman's Blog"
src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/ScottHanselman.gif">
</a>

This works great, except in Outlook 2007, which no longer lets you edit your email signatures directly in HTML in their UI. Plus, because there's three kinds of email in Outlook, text, RTF, and HTML, they autogenerate all three formats for you and put the files deep in the bowels in:

C:\Documents and Settings\Scott\Application Data\Microsoft\Signatures\

I don't use txt or rtf-based email if I can avoid it, so I just open the named html file in that folder and edit the part in their auto generated section '<div class="Section1">' like this:

<div class=Section1>
<p class=MsoAutoSig>Scott Hanselman<o:p></o:p></p>
<p class=MsoAutoSig>Chief Architect - Corillian Corporation<o:p></o:p></p>
<p class=MsoAutoSig>
<a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/ScottHanselman">
<img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/ScottHanselman.gif"
style="border:0" alt="Scott Hanselman's Blog"/></a>
</p>
</div>

I'll get a nice signature every time I start a message, and I can, of course, configure Outlook to include this signature on new emails and another, smaller one, on replies.

Making it Consistent

Barry Dorrans reminded me of the old USENET Standard for Signatures:

It's interesting to note you forget the "standard" signature prefix, two hyphens, a space and a newline which the better email clients (read "Not outlook") use to strip a signature when you hit reply. And of course there's the old usenet standard of no more than 4 lines (unless you're Biff). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signature_block for details

And this whole thing got me thinking about which kinds of Signatures I would need. I came up with three.

First Message

This is my standard signature when it's the First Message in a thread. It includes the standard double hyphen, my Name, Title and Company, and currently an animated gif with my picture and my last few blog posts. As a public-facing person at my company with a largely work-appropriate blog, this is reasonable for me.

The picture, while it might seem self-serving, in my opinion makes work and personal email more personal. Folks like those we're currently merging with know my face before they meet me. I've started to notice others doing the same thing, especially in MSN Messenger.

--
Scott Hanselman - Chief Architect - Corillian Corporation

Scott Hanselman's Blog

All Replies

For replies, the picture is removed, and the standard sig is just two lines via the USENET de-facto standard.

--
Scott Hanselman - Chief Architect - Corillian Corporation

On my Blackberry the signature looks like

--
Scott Hanselman - Chief Architect - Corillian Corporation from my BlackBerry

...so folks know I'm on a mobile device and realize that I won't be able to see some embedded rich content.

Replies including Free/Busy Information

This FreeBusy signature is one I use optionally when folks are scheduling meetings or helping schedule meetings across companies.

--
Scott Hanselman - Chief Architect - Corillian Corporation
NOTE: My Calendar is at (small private URL here)

The "small private URL" is a redirect from my site to the Microsoft Office Free/Busy Service that lets folks see my availability for meetings.

 

You can easily publish just your Free/Busy information to any WebDAV server or to Office Free/Busy. Consumers, either publicly or invited, can subscribe to your ICS calendar (see my recent podcast on this subject) or just view the calendar and schedule appropriately.

The signatures are easily interchangeable using the new Signature dropdown in the Outlook New Message Ribbon. Signatures are actually swapped out rather than appended; that's a very nice usability touch by the Office team.

All of these things combined means considerably fewer headaches for me in my everyday Outlook life.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Windows Vista and the Uniden Win1200 Live Messenger Dual-Model Phone

April 9, '07 Comments [8] Posted in Reviews
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I've been trying to get the Uniden Win1200 Phone to work. FYI - It doesn't work on Vista. It so totally doesn't work on Vista that you need to email Uniden and exchange the phone. No firmware upgrades on this one. Bummer.

Uniden is aware of the problem, and they are willing to exchange your phone free of charge for one that does work with Vista. If you send email to Uniden at e-scanner@uniden.com and provide them with the following, they’ll email you a prepaid Fed-Ex voucher so that you can ship them your phone to be replaced.

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Serial # of Win1200
  • Date of purchase

The serial number information can be found on a sticker inside the battery compartment of the handset and on the bottom of the charging base.

It does work pretty well, however, on Windows XP (while I wait for the RMA label to send in this one for a replacement).

When you plug it in, a quasi-familiar dialog pops up.

This is the kind of dialog I'm used to seeing when I put in a Removable Device. Other than the very poorly anti-aliased phone icon and the odd overlap with the text it seems straightforward, although I don't know what exactly I'm doing here. I'm granting the phone permission to call? OK. Granted.

Ah, another Tray Icon. That's all I needed. Even better, one with out a menu or right click option that serves no purpose at all. Good stuff.

Ok, let's dig. Looks like it shows up as it's own USB Controller? Odd. I was kind hoping it would show up as a standard audio device. Let's see if it does by running Skype - another phone calling service, one that I dig greatly.

Looks like the phone DOES show up, oddly enough, inside Skype as a device with the potential to send and receive audio...this could be promising if I can use this phone for multiple things.

But, alas, no. It doesn't work. Folks on the other end of the Skype call couldn't hear me. The phone didn't ring or grunt when a Skype call was placed or received.

As a Windows Messenger specific phone, it works exactly as advertised. Some nits - the screen is color, but very dim. No real reason for it to be color because it's not color with cool graphics, it's washed out color with, like, two graphics. As a regular phone - this IS a dual mode phone - it works just fine. It's a passable POTS phone. Nothing bad and nothing interesting.

As a messenger phone, for me, it's unusable. I have over 300 folks in my Messenger List, and no way to scroll down fast, so I ended up calling folks whose names start with "A" and "B" if you know what I mean. Sorry Yohannes and Zach, I can't call you. Takes too much time. This phone is a good attempt, but it isn't fast enough, isn't generic enough - it's a messenger phone, from what I can tell, and little else. It does seem to install a lot of drivers and appear all over the audio device sections within Windows so my gut tells me that it IS possible to get this to work with Skype or as a generic audio device, but I haven't figured it out.

For now, chalk this one up as a curiosity.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 58 - Synchronizing Internet Calendars

April 9, '07 Comments [7] Posted in Podcast
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My fifty-eighth podcast is up. Scott and Carl chat about the pain of the DST change and how they manage their calendars over the Internet with things like SyncMyCal and Google Calendars, and the mysterious ICS file format.


UPDATE: An interesting comment in the comments of this post leads to me to add one little bit of extra info. The comment was:

"However I couldn't help thinking that you can purchase great calendars in Borders and other places which with a "version control" pencil and eraser you can write in all your important family events for the month / year and hang on the wall in the kitchen. Lets face it you can even create your own with some software and use family pictures for each month. No data corruption issue, no battery issues and no synchronization issues and its a pleasure to look at."

And I totally agree. We use the Boone "Week over Week" Rolling Whiteboard Calendar" for our kitchen refrigerator for most large-scale life planning. It's SO much more useful than a Monthly Whiteboard. You move each week - Week Over Week - so you don't have to update it every month. We have two, so we've got 8 weeks of life on our fridge.

To be clear, the electronic version works famously. Perfectly. We're always traveling and distributed, and being able to schedule each other with ICS Meeting Requests is a fantastic way to stay in touch. We've done more family events and visited more friends in the last month since we started this system than in the previous year. We each know when we're free and when we're not. It's brilliant.
The Boone board is for "big picture" stuff.


Links from the Show

SyncMyCal (nmz)
Sync Google and your Smart Phone (nn3)
The Holy Grail of Calendar Sync (nn6)
Google Calendar (nn0)
Another PocketPC to Google Calendar (nn4)
Outlook 2007 and iCal (nn7)
OggSync (nn1)
RemoteCalendar (Sync Outlook 2003 to iCal) (nn5)
Syncing Google and Outlook (nn8)
Plaxo (nn2)

ACTION: Please vote for us on Podcast Alley! Digg us at Digg Podcasts!

Subscribe: Feed-icon-16x16 Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Do also remember the archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Our sponsors are Telerik and /n software.

Telerik is a new sponsor. Check out their UI Suite of controls for ASP.NET. It's very hardcore stuff. One of the things I appreciate about Telerik is their commitment to completeness. For example, they have a page about their Right-to-Left support while some vendors have zero support, or don't bother testing. They also are committed to XHTML compliance and publish their roadmap. It's nice when your controls vendor is very transparent.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

  • The basic MP3 feed is here, and the iPod friendly one is here. There's a number of other ways you can get it (streaming, straight download, etc) that are all up on the site just below the fold. I use iTunes, myself, to listen to most podcasts, but I also use FeedDemon and it's built in support.
  • Note that for now, because of bandwidth constraints, the feeds always have just the current show. If you want to get an old show (and because many Podcasting Clients aren't smart enough to not download the file more than once) you can always find them at http://www.hanselminutes.com.
  • I have, and will, also include the enclosures to this feed you're reading, so if you're already subscribed to ComputerZen and you're not interested in cluttering your life with another feed, you have the choice to get the 'cast as well.
  • If there's a topic you'd like to hear, perhaps one that is better spoken than presented on a blog, or a great tool you can't live without, contact me and I'll get it in the queue!

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Vista BOOTMGR is Missing and the Importance of the UPS

April 7, '07 Comments [4] Posted in
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Some folks are passionate about Power. I know that Power Supplies for PCs vary greatly in quality and I could buy smoother/more powerful/quieter supplies, but that's more effort that I'm willing to expend. Now, Uninterruptible Power Supplies, that's a whole other things for me.

Mo's machine died last night, in the middle of a complete power outage that lasted about 1 minute. It apparently happened "between heartbeats" on her computer because now it says "BOOTMGR is Missing."

Hers was the only machine that didn't have a UPS connected. We were watching a show at the time and the HDTV and DVR - connected to a UPS - didn't blink. My mistake, and that's what I get, eh? Time for the every-3-years refresh of UPS's and Batteries for the Hanselman house. I like APC, they are inexpensive and have replaceable batteries. Off to Circuit City.

Now I've got a UPS for every computer in the house, our TV setup and DVR, and the Network Wiring Closet.

  • Mo's small computer and LCD - APC 550VA
  • My beefy computer along with the Cable Modem and Vonage Router - APC 750VA
  • Home Server running headless with 3 external drives - APC 550VA
  • Router and Wireless Router - APC350VA
  • LCD HDTV, DVR and Stereo in the Living Room - APC 750VA

I'm less interested in a super-powered UPS that will keep me running and working for hours, and more interested in one that will keep spikes down, clean up power dips (brown-outs) and deal with complete power outages that last less than 10 minutes.

Do yourself, and your parents, a favor, and go get UPS's for all.

Oh, how did I fixed that BOOTMGR thing? I booted off the original Vista DVD, selected Repair and was guided through a VERY slick and intensive repair process that worked famously. Kudos Vista FIXBOOT team.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.