Monthly Archives: September 2009

Great new website to find software that works!

I just came across this great website called http://alternativeto.net/ that lists programs that can be used instead of the more popular and sometimes expensive software programs. For example, instead of using Adobe photoshop, one could use Gimp, Paint.net, Pixelmator etc. The other cool feature is that people can vote for their best alternative, thereby making it easier and reassuring for those who are not as experienced to try out these alternative programs.

If you have cool links like this, software picks and discount offers that you think would be useful to readers, feel free to add your comments to this post.

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Get Windows 7 at a discounted price of less than 30 bucks-legally!

Microsoft announced last week that students can pre-order their copy of Windows 7 in the US beginning September 17th and download the OS beginning on October 22nd (general availability). For US students, you need to either have a .edu e-mail address or be attending one of the 158 schools Microsoft lists. Students in the United Kingdom can pre-order beginning on September 30th for download on October 22nd and will pay only 30 pounds for Windows 7.

Students in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Korea, and Mexico will be able to avail of this offer on October 22nd. In most markets, the offer ends on January 3rd (except for Australia, where the offer is open until March 31st).

Note that the offer is for pre-order only and requires that you register for a copy of Windows 7 that will then be downloadable on October 22nd. I tried this out for pre-order and can confirm that it is a genuine offer.

You can preorder the new operating system now- for the US-click here and for the UK-click here
Note that you should have a genuine copy of Windows XP or Vista for this download to work. Microsoft has not specified whether you need the actual CD with the previous operating system or just have the old operating system on your hard drive- but all indications are that you just need it on your hard drive and not on the original CD.

For those who haven’t tried out Windows 7- let me tell you this- it is the best operating system from Microsoft that I have tried in the last 10 years. That is high praise coming from someone who swears by Apple products and uses Windows only because my hospital requires me to.
Windows 7 feels like a breath of fresh air after the disaster that was Vista!

Google Fastflip

Google has a great new way to browse the news. Basically, you flip through the news stories until there is one that you like and clicking on that story will take you to the full text. Google does this by taking a PNG format image (essentially a photograph) of the news story and arranges them sequentially, much like a magazine.
Having used it over the past week, I am very impressed.
It would be amazing if medical journals were able to utilize this technology to enable readers to have a look at the content including the abstract and possibly an image or two to decide whether they want to look at it more closely.
Many older physicians complain that they prefer reading journals in print form as they like to flip through the pages. Well, with the fast flip format, one could do that online. I hope medical editors out there are paying attention and will not miss this opportunity to make the online experience better for busy clinicians and researchers in medicine.

Click here to try Google Fast Flip.

Kindle Dx for the radiologist-is it worth it?

I am the proud owner of  a brand new Kindle Dx. I had a read a lot on Amazon’s website and heard about this on several podcasts including Macbreak Weekly and Windows Weekly.

As in the smaller, earlier versions, the display of text on the Kindle Dx is very good, with clean fonts and several easy-to-change sizes.  This applies to books bought for the Kindle on the Amazon website.

The ability to place digital bookmarks, take notes and highlight  passages may be useful to students and residents, but I do not find myself using these features.  The ability to look up the definition of a word or searching your whole library for a particular word/phrase/quote is quite neat. The other cool thing is the sync capability with the Amazon Kindle app on the iphone. This means you can start reading a book on the Kindle and continue where you stopped on your iphone. Plus, the text to speech feature means you can alternate between reading and listening to a book on the Kindle Dx.

One of the advantages of words displayed in the electronic ink technology on the Kindle  is that you actually read them with the device turned off. When you turn to a new page, the device turns itself on, writes the new page, and then turns itself back off. This change from one page to the next is accompanied by a slightly disconcerting “flash” that takes some time getting used to.  The way the screen works is quite interesting. Basically, there are tiny particles of black and white ink  pigment that are contained in minute capsules within the screen. These particles take up different positions within a capsule when an appropriate electrical charge is applied to them. The pigments rest in their last position without power, and the display only consumes power when it changes.

Images

The electronic ink technology is optimizied for text and the images in radiology books are still not as good as one would like, but it is marginally better than on the Kindle version 1.  Plain radiographs, CT and MRI are reasonably displayed, but ultrasound images are suboptimal.

Screen size

The larger screen size of the Dx is definitely better, but is it worth the extra 200 dollars over the smaller version? Depends. If you use the device to read your own pdfs like journal articles and textbooks, then probably. If you are reading books optimized for the Kindle, then I would say, go for the smaller, less expensive model.

Wireless access

Amazon offers free wireless access on the Kindle Dx that enables easy downloading of books from Amazon’s website. Further, there are several newspapers, magazines and blogs that one can subscribe to. I have subscriptions to the New England Journal of Medicine, Lifehacker and the New York Times set up and I am finding this a useful feature.

Negatives

It is almost too easy to click a button and buy a book! I find myself tempted a lot to buy a book after looking at a sample or if I need a page to refer from a book that I do not readily have at hand.

The other problem I have is that the font size on PDFs that I load on from my collection cannot be zoomed up as is possible with the books bought through Amazon. And as mentioned earlier, images are displayed only in black and white, rendering illustrations in books useless in most cases.

Another feature that needs improvement is that one needs to press the ALT key every time you wanted to type a number. This is a problem when one wants to go a specific page in a book etc.

If you leave the rotation feature on “Auto” when you are not using the device, it drains your battery, so you must remember to turn the feature off when you stop reading.
The inability to store files in folders and the lack of search-ability makes it a nightmare to scroll through the 3500 books that you could store on the device, sortable only by author, title, and “most recent first”.

Overall: Good device, definitely a harbinger of change to the world of book reading. But needs more improvements before it can challenge and change the world of books similar to the change brought about by the ipod to the world of music.

If you haven’t shelled out the cash for this, I would suggest waiting until the end of this year, when a number of companies are expected to release e-book readers for the holiday season. Of these, Apple may be the one to watch out for, as rumors suggest that Steve Jobs will be releasing a tablet in January that will be a e-reader, computer and large ipod all rolled into one cute package. Will Amazon make improvements to the Dx to answer the challenge posed by these new e-readers? I sure hope so!

I would love to hear comments, suggestions and other experiences that you may have had with this device.

Optimizing use of pubmed for the radiologist’s desktop.

My first tip for anyone starting out to improving the use of the web for use in searching for information at the reporting station would be to register for a My NCBI account on the pubmed site http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/. The second step is to customize the view of articles on NCBI to include the link to your university/hospital/Athens/Ovid library to avoid looking at the screen that tells you that you have to purchase the full text of an article. This is part of a feature of the NCBI website called filters, but is not widely known to users. Yours filters and linkouts appear whenever you are logged in to My NCBIwebsite.

Here is a video explaining this feature on the NCBI website. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/viewlet/myncbi/filters.html

New 5th generation ipod nano review

Got the new ipod nano today. Why is it of any relevance to the radiologist? Well, quite a few of us like to listen to music either in background or in some cases, while we are reporting. Plus, a number of us would never go to the gym if it wasn’t for the cool music or podcast that we wanted to listen to on the treadmill.

The new ipod has some cool new features. It is not just a music player now. The added features –  a video camera, a stand-alone voice recorder, FM radio and a pedometer- make this a sort of Swiss Army knife. It has a 2.2″ screen that is noticeably taller compared to earlier models, and the click wheel is slightly smaller, and closer to the bottom of the case.

The video camera is the noticeable  addition to the Nano, and now makes this a tiny music player with a tiny camcorder, and provides some competetition to the low-cost small size handheld video cameras such as the Flip. Although on paper, this appears to be the case, in practice, the video capture is at best, a bonus feature. I found using the camera a little awkward as my hands tended to cover the lens, which is placed on the rear of the device and close to where I am accustomed to holding a ipod of this size.

After a couple of attempts, I got the hang of it and I was able to shoot some passable video that is possibly okay for youtube, but I would not say it was better than my Flip UltraHD camera.

I  bought  an Incase sports armband to go with the new nano.   It has an adjustable velcro strap and an waterproof clear front cover that enables clear visualization of the ipod screen and ease of manipulation of the clickwheel.

Click here for the cool new ipod nano ad.