Archive for the 'technology' Category

The apple of my eye

There are nerds out there. I know you’re there somewhere. Nerds with macs and iPhones who’ll appreciate this.

Following is a list of (mainly free) stuff I’ve recently picked up off the net via blogs like lifehacker and people I know.

[And I’m obviously a mac user –  i’m sure you can do all this stuff on a PC or simply using your hands just as easy but forgive me this once…]


For those of you involved in any form of academic research or any fellow medics who are trying to keep on top of the medical literature then this program is great.

I was beginning to get a bit befuddled by own filing system for PDFs (there’s over 400 by now) so it’s nice to see someone has thought about it more than I have.

Basically you dump all your PDFs into this program and it tries its best to pull all the meta data (references, authors, abstracts etc…) off PubMed or whatever suitable database and then organise them all into one nice database on your computer so you can actually find them again.

I am an organisational obsessive and as a result this was like heroin to my veins.

I’m still on the free trial and it costs 30 Euro for the full version.

PS there is a built in reader in the program which you can make notes with but I still prefer Preview for the cool annotation tools.

Itunes Remote Control

I’ve had remote on the iPhone for a while which is pretty useful as a remote control for computer I use as a media player but I always wanted an easy way to do the same thing from my lap top. I only got ITRC today. Took me a while to get my mac to connect to it but now it seems to work pretty well as yet another way not to exert calories in having to get up and turn the volume down.


Everyone hates MS Word (don’t they?) – just a bit of a beast of a program. Far too many features for what most use it for. But .doc files are an essential part of life but this free open source desktop app will open and let you edit the vast majority of what you need from a word file.

Free Books and Free Audiobooks

Despite the irony of a free books app costing $1.99 this is a great set of apps. They contain thousands of all the out of copyright classics that any monkey can pull off the net for free – this just puts it all in one place.

It’s companion – free audiobooks –  does the same thing with the wonderful and ambitious Librivox project and gives you access to several thousand fairly high quality amateur audiobooks.


I know there’s lots of others like Evernote out there but I started on this and now i’m sticking to it. Keeps all my notes synced to any possible place I might need them. Plain, simple, free – can’t beat it.


This and simplenote (and i suppose everything google that i touch) has been my first foray into the world of the cloud. And I love it.

If everyone I knew was on dropbox I’d use it a bit more too. Nice favourites feature on the iPhone that lets you store all your errr… favourites on the phone off line.

Join dropbox – if you want I can get you an invite then I get more free storage.

Well I suppose that’ll do me for now, and I didn’t even get started on the joys of Skype, Google Docs or Angry Birds.

I’m planning a blog on aesthetics and functionality in regard to technology but it needs some serious thinking.

Telephone and rubber band – further tips…

Following on from this post it appears I was onto something.

You can thank me later Craig & Phil…

Telephone and rubber band

Following on from Zoomtard’s post on the new iPhone I figured I’d share some tips on how to survive a move from Northern Ireland to The Republic.

iPhone 4 has nothing on this.

It’s all gonna break

Maybe I could start a blog called “things that go wrong with my apple products and how to fix them with common  house hold items”. Max O’Malley would like it at least.

I’ve noticed the trackpad and keyboard on my MacBookPro has stopped working for no apparent reason of late. This leaves a fully functioning computer and programs working but no way of controlling it without plugging in an external keyboard.

Most of the time a hard reset solved the problem.

Until 3am on Monday morning when I got back from work and wanted to read up on all the obscure medical conditions that i’d misdiagnosed in work.

Several hard resets later i was no better off. A quick google search on the phone found lots of people with similar problems all of which were resolved when the people concerned took their computer to Apple and paid 250 quid to have a new keyboard and track pad fitted.

Till I found this guy

I’ll reproduce his fix with photos from my computer here

  • Get a small piece of sticky tape and roll it up
  • With the power on, battery out and machine on:

  • Place the Sticky tape onto the ribbon cable whilst pressing the caps lock key to identify that the keyboard is working

  • Close the screen and turn over your mac book.
  • Replace the battery so that it presses on the sticky tape and ribbon cable

Note the slight dent on the ribbon cable in the photo –  it was there before I even began fiddling. I found I didn’t even need the bit of sticky tape, just a bit of fiddling with the ribbon cable did the job.

If it ain’t broke, break it

Not sure if this is a common problem with other phones but I’d recently noticed problems with getting connections between my head phones and the socket on the iPhone.

It finally gave up completely today and I managed to pull all of this out with the tip of a sewing needle. Now works great.

Remarkably similar consistency to belly button fluff.

Pictures of You

I like technology. I like medicine. I should have been a radiologist. I’m in the wrong career. I realise that now…

In the real world of the 21st century you have computers, most of you do all your work on computers. All your records are on computers.

Not so in medicine, at least not in Craigavon Hospital…

Currently when you arrive a reception, your details are booked onto  a DOS based system (with lovely red, green and black colours) and a dot matrix printer prints them on a triplicate carbon copy sheet that I make my notes on when I’ve seen you. Those of you were there in the eighties will know what I mean by all that.

I make notes with a shaft of plastic filled with ink called a pen. I make odd, uninterpretable symbols with this device that communicate what has happened during your stay.

When you leave, the various bits of the triplicate carbon copy go to various places in the department and are stored in reception in little cardboard envelopes in a big machine that rotates.

If I want to look at those notes then I have to turn the big machine and find your name in alphabetical order and read the piece of paper.

And this is just the emergency department. You should see the main hospital notes –  a chaotic mass of dog eared cardboard and paper filled with poorly timed and dated illegible nonsense about physicians rubbing their hands over whether to give you 2 or 4 litres of oxygen a minute.

This is current practice. It shows little sign of changing.

However when it comes to the fancy pictures we take we have moved on somewhat. Someone decided that perhaps digital storage and display of the images produced by small doses of something similar to what pours out of Chernobyl, would be a good idea.

In many parts of the western world, and many parts of Northern Ireland this is already happening.

Our wonderfully effective and always sensible devolved assembly decided that they would make a ton of money available into implementing digital radiology over the entire province. All so that I, in Craigavon can see the x-ray of your big toe that you had done in the Royal Victoria Hospital 2 weeks ago.

One would think this is simple.

It has required employing full time staff to solely dedicate themselves into working out how to do this. It means lots and lots of hi-res screens and computers being installed and lots of negotiations of where to put them, and lots of arguing on whether or not we’ll be allowed to show World Cup matches on them…

I was at my first implementation meeting today –  lots of people asking lots of really useful and important questions about what we do when the computers crash (not if but when), are we going to keep a printer somewhere as back up? What do we do with all the locum doctors who come – are they going to have log-ins to use the system?

We go live – or dead – March 29th. It’s like the day the new doctors start – stay away from the hospital.

Sounds of summer

Some of you come here for bitchy posts about medicine and the NHS. To be perfectly honest we’ve had a pretty decent summer. Everyone buggers off to Spain and the Balaerics for two weeks and get sick in other countries or fall over and break their arm in Portstewart and end up in other hospitals apart from mine.

People don’t come to this part of the world for their hols. They used to come in huge numbers for a bit of a riot around Drumcree but we seem to have moved on some what.

Swine flu has had a bit of an impact. We have lost our paediatric area to become a swine flu isolation area where we have to wander around dressed up like someone from the moon landings just to take a history from a very well looking patient.

Despite huge amounts of coverage telling people NOT to turn up at A&E or their GP but to ring first, people still keep turning up. We shout at them mainly when they do. Tis the caring profession.

Despite seeing a good 10-15 patients with flu and my own family getting it I’m still going strong. Be it chance or the rigorous immune system that goes with working in A&E I’m still fighting fit. I’m all for getting it to be honest. The idea of a week or two of enforced isolation with nothing but some paracetamol, some DVDs and shelf of books fills me with great enthusiasm. In my fantasy I’ve blanked out all the flu-symptoms that come with having flu. I’ll keep the fingers crossed for some fevers and arthralgias.

There have been times in the past few weeks where there haven’t been any patients in the department waiting to be seen. People have been seen promptly and thoroughly, often getting the time, dignity and grace that they deserve. Without the doubt the whole place and system runs so much more smoothly and better at times like these.

So how do you measure quality of care? How do you measure it genuinely and honestly? And do we really want to pay for it?


But it’s hardly all work. I was at U2 being blown away by the sheer scale and audacity of the thing. Feeling slightly bad that I’d prefer to be leaning on the railings at the sound desk in somewhere like Vicar St or the Empire.

I have seen U2 in Croke. That was box ticked. If I see Bruce then I’m not sure what else there is to live for so I’ll put that off for a while.

I saw Potter at a 1030am matinee. I liked it. Though it’s been about 3 or 4 years since i last read the book so I’d forgotten half of it. Despite running to three hours it felt very, very rushed. Too many disparate parts that seemed to have no discernible link.

I had a ride on the train from Sligo to Dublin and found some theses throughout the train:


I’m not sure Translink are quite with the program yet.

I’ve been working my way through Subverting Global Myths, with my black biro underlining virtually everything and scribbling little comments of approval in the margins. There’s sections with titles like “rediscovering Christian integrity” that get me all excited. There will be more quotes no doubt. If the gospel is not socially, politically and relationally radical then I want none of it.

I had some time on call in work and learned that when trying to put an IV in a child that’s fitting then it’s generally best to use the half of the child that’s not fitting.

I made a kick ass roast dinner for a stack of people and we ascended to new levels of interpersonal communication by requesting songs off spotify by texting knoker sitting by the computer in the corner.

I became intimately acquainted with the inside of a 2002 VW polo and realised that if the car stereo isn’t working then it’s cheaper to but a 15 pence fuse that a 70 quid new stereo. Every day’s a school day I suppose.

Everything in its right place

I find technology deeply satisfying. Disturbingly so. That these fascinating little pieces of silicon can bring such order and peace to our otherwise chaotic existence.

This is of course nonsense. Technology is more like an alcoholic – they promise you the world and live up to none of it. I don’t really blame them, they’re just computers, it’s not really fair to force moral standards upon them.

iPods and computers and phones and address books and usernames and logins promise to bring final closure and nirvana to our lives. That dashboards and time machines hold the key to life.

Like Rob’s great re-organization in Hi-Fidelity, it seems deeply comforting. That if we can only get our shit in order then somehow we’ll not have to it all reorganize again later.


I have so far spent the past 3 hours installing Apple’s new OS on my computer. Mostly very simple, and point and click and idiot-proof for muppets like me. It needs to be.

It’s telling me it has roughly 2 hours remaining in indexing the contents of my computer. It’s making a history of everything I have in this box, so if I give it one word it’ll go and retrieve and file containing or associated with that search term.

To some of us that gives a warm fuzzy glow inside.

I used to think there were more important things in life. I suppose I still now, just not right now…

It’s the type of mood that makes me want to buy an iPhone and live in a Starbucks.

Don’t worry it’ll pass.


August 2022