Category Archives: Gadgets

A case for the humble iPod

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The other day, during a cleanup of my office, I came across an old iPod. Well, to be fair, it is only 6 years old. The engraving on it reminded me that I gifted this to my wife in 2007. As I recall, she and I switched over to the iPhone after that and an iPod has been the device I would gift to a young niece or nephew too young to handle an iPhone.
I decided to give the new found iPod a second chance and started using this to listen to audiobooks. And over the last week, I came to a realization. There is a certain advantage of having a device without an internet connection and phone capability. It helps you to concentrate on the job at hand and “unitask”. The same goes for reading on the Kindle. Without the distractions of the “always available internet” and multiple applications at one's fingertips, one can get a lot more done.
So, I would not knock that humble iPod just yet. There may be more to learn from the lowly iPod than you might think…

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Retina display MacBook Pro- it is here!

Hallelujah! The Retina display MacBook Pro is here! I have been holding off on updating my late 2009 MacBook Pro and eagerly awaiting the new updated version of this Apple notebook. And it is finally here! I had written about this in March and had wished that in addition to the high resolution display, this notebook would have dictation built in to the operating system. Looks like someone at Apple was hearing my prayers and the new updated MacBook Pro has both these features.
In addition to this, the ability to cram in 16 GB RAM and high end graphics make it ideal for my advanced image analysis needs. And having used the dictation feature on my IPad for writing emails and short notes, I can see how this would be a good feature for radiologists to dictate reports.
And the ability to AirPlay from the Mac using an apple TV means that creating an audio-visual room set-up in a meeting room will be child’s play. No more fiddly cables, yay! Give me a high resolution LCD screen and an apple TV, and I will be all set. Using screenflow and keynote, I can deliver my talk and make a screencast at the same time!

I will post a detailed review here after playing with this new gadget. I am hoping to get it in my hands by the end of the week, if my IT support team can get its act together!

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Macbooks with retina displays coming soon?

Rumors that Apple may be working on a Retina Display MacBook laptop have emerged. As per Ars Technica, indicators based on Mac OS 10.8 X Mountain Lion suggest that Retina Displays will soon become the standard within majority of Apple’s product ranges.

The Retina Display on the new iPad, iphone 4 and iphone 4S have introduced this screen style to the mobile market and it is only a matter of time before this is part of the MacBook range. I think that initially this may be introduced for the Macbook Air range followed by the 13 and 15 inch Macbook Pro line. This pixel-packed display on a laptop will be Apple’s “next big thing” followed by large touch screen iMacs.

Presence of double resolution icons feature in the beta version of the Mac OS update, indicate that devices with higher pixel-density screens will be part of the Apple product range. Currently the 17 inch MacBook Pro has a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution screen. While this is nothing to be scoffed at, it falls short of the retina display on the new iPad.

Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is expected to launch at WWDC in June. I would like to see the new Retina Display laptops released around that time. I am hoping that imaging studies will look great on these screens. And if Apple could add the dictation button on the keyboard to go with this, this will my idea of a perfect laptop to view scans and generate radiology reports on the fly- no wires!!

The New iPad- is it really a game-changer?

The new iPad is here! After I opened the box, I was worried that it looked just like my iPad 2 and I had been conned by the good folks at Cupertino into buying another device!
After using it over the weekend, I think that I was wrong… The new iPad is truly “resolutionary”!
And here is why- once you start getting used to the beautiful retina display and read books or play games on it, other “high definition screens” start looking pixelated. Text on web pages or in reading apps like ibooks is so crisp and sharply detailed that you will not want to go back to reading on another device like the iPad 2 or the Kindle. Movies and photographs reveal sharp detail and amazing sharpness.
As an illustration, I was on call this weekend and when I looked up from my ipad at my HP monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1200, I can immediately see the difference in resolution.
Looking at radiology images on the new iPad screen is absolutely amazing! Chest radiographs project well and in the right lighting conditions, I can definitely see one using this to check scans on the go.

And here is why I think this will be a game-changer-
Once you have used the retina display at this size, there is no going back. I cannot wait for the next MacBook Air with the retina display- and believe me, that day is not far off!
I predict that with the increasing sales of the iPad, we will start seeing a demand for devices to have the higher resolution for tablets, laptops, desktops and phones. Manufacturers of Android and Windows tablets like Samsung, Amazon and Acer will have to step up to the plate and provide devices with the retina display to compete in the market.
Television manufacturers now have the challenge of delivering higher resolution on the large screen monitors at a reasonable price, although one could argue that at the distance we watch televisions, the resolution increase may not be appreciable. I cannot wait for the 60 inch television with iPad like resolution! This will also mean that content providers have to provide more 1080p content for tablets and more importantly, the Shylocks of the cable Internet and wireless provider world like Comcast and AT & T have to stop throttling heavy data users and improve their infrastructure and rethink/change their delivery model.

Needless to say, the other features of the iPad pale in comparison to the retina display, but are worth mentioning. The ability to dictate emails (sort of Siri lite), better rendering of the graphics within games and the battery life that is as good as ever even when you use LTE are note worthy features.
I only wish Apple could make the bezel transparent- that will make walking around with your iPad and looking around you with the 5 megapixel camera making videos a more immersive experience.

So- bottom line- I give the new iPad a thumbs up and cannot wait for everything that I look at to come in a retina display flavor!!

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Macbook air review

Having spent time with the new Macbook air, this is my opinion-

If you are a current Apple user, who hates carrying a bulky Macbook pro to every conference or trip, then the Macbook Air is definitely for you. It has to be your second laptop, as it offers most of the functionality of the Macbook pro, but most importantly, not the same power. The advantage is obviously, the reduced weight and more friendly size.

If your use of the Macbook is for email, surfing and iphoto, you should be fine with the Macbook Air. But if you do heavy video editing and you want to do this on the road, you cannot rely on this as your only laptop. Also, it is important to remember that the lowest end model will not suffice for most people who carry this on a trip or conference. You’ll want to upgrade and that will cost you- and it will cost you a lot. Getting the 256 GB hard drive and 4 GB RAM particularly, if like me, you want to run parallels to run Windows will set you back $1699 (without the educational discount for the academics amongst us).

Another thing to remember is that this is not a netbook- its cost and its capabilities are different from a netbook.
Also, if you’re shopping for a standard notebook, don’t buy this. Get a Macbook Pro or better still, a Windows 7 computer- you will get a lot more for your money.
However, everyone is different and if you have the cash and the urge to buy a very slim MacBook and wow the people around you, then go for it!
For others who need a full-fledged laptop, I would look elsewhere.

Apple’s magic mouse- it will transform the way you use your computer

I bought a new magic mouse from Apple today. And my God, it is amazing! My Imac has become a new computer just by replacing the Mighty Mouse with this new Gizmo. Scrolling pages, moving between websites and zooming in and out is effortless. The cost was 74 dollars (including tax)- so it was not cheap. But I do not regret buying this expensive piece of equipment.

If you have a Imac or macbook, get one of these and believe me, you will love it!

Click here for apple’s website to have a look at the MagicMouse

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.

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.