Champlain Mini Maker Faire

The Champlain Mini Maker Faire will take place on Saturday and Sunday, September 28, and 29, at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn in Shelburne Vermont. I’ll be showing my Arduino projects. Look for a feast of 3d printers, robots, innovators, science projects, crafts, and you-name-it. See all about it on the web site, and follow the twitter feed of @champlainmaker.

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Posted in Electronic Assembly, Personal Technology, Sensors, Technology, Technology-Enabled Home, Telemedicine

Intermedia: ISP Outage

Intermedia, um….my web and eMail hosting provider, has been down about three hours since early Tuesday morning September 3rd. There was traffic on Twitter, with resellers of Intermedia services worrying about their clients, and especially people whose phone systems are based on the Intermedia VOIP phone service and have eMail based on the Intermedia’s outsourced Exchange services. Most are lamenting a lack of communication from Intermedia about what is going on. One user tweeted a FaceBook post, ostensibly from Intermedia, saying that their east coast (Virginia) data center was down. Now the alternative host providers are piling on, offering 10% discounts to users who switch.

Ok….so we’re irritated about the loss of service. Maybe more irritated about the lack of communication about the loss. I think the natural tendency for any IT person is to minimize communications with the customer until they know EXACTLY what is going on. Having been in this position (downed server, downed cable or fiber connection), I’m sympathetic.

Let’s hope they are able to fix things soon…there is plenty of time for recrimination later.

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Posted in Broadband, Technology, Technology-Enabled Home

Nootropic Video Experimenter: Kit Assembly

They were out of stock with the assembled boards, so I bought the kit for a savings of $10.00.  I followed the instructions on the web, without problems taking probably double the estimated time of one hour, I took two. Here are the kit components.


Video Experimenter components



Video Experimenter bare board



Assembled shield mounted on an Arduino Uno




Assembled Nootropic Video Experimenter Shield

Update: It works!

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Pew Survey on Patients’ Attitude Toward Health & Technology

Interesting stuff.

Here’s the data regarding people with chronic conditions….

People living with chronic conditions:

In order to segment this group, we asked a series of questions to determine if a respondent is living with any of the following health problems or conditions and found that:

25% of U.S. adults are living with high blood pressure
13% are living with asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, or other lung condition
11% are living with diabetes
7% are living with heart disease, heart failure, or heart attack
3% are living with cancer
16% are living with another chronic condition
Fully 45% of U.S. adults are dealing with at least one chronic condition. Of those who are living with two or more conditions, 78% have high blood pressure and 45% have diabetes.

64% of adults living with one or more chronic conditions have internet access.

53% of adults living with one or more chronic conditions have looked online for health information.

People living with one or more chronic conditions are no more likely than other U.S. adults to track their weight, diet, or exercise routine. But they are significantly more likely to track other health indicators or symptoms and this likelihood increases among those living with more than one condition:

19% of U.S. adults reporting no chronic conditions say they track health indicators or symptoms
40% of U.S. adults with 1 condition track
62% of U.S. adults with 2+ conditions track

Full report is here.

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Posted in Healthcare Reform, Patient Engagement, Personal Technology, Technology-Enabled Home, Telemedicine

TVOut: Make your Arduino talk to your TV.

I’ve been trying out the (frankly, brilliant) TVOut library by Miles Metzler which allows your Arduino to talk to a TV using either NTSC (North America) or PAL (Europe) composite video. The hardware setup takes only two resistors, three jumper wires and an RCA plug with cable and an Arduino of course. I tested with an Uno after breadboarding the circuit.

There are two sample programs:

  • DemoNTSC (or DemoPAL)
  • NTSCserialTerm

DemoNTSC produces lines, text, and a bouncing cube.

NTSCserialTerm allows text typed in a terminal program to be displayed on the TV.

The library code for the serial port demonstration seemed to have a couple of infelicities.  Details on these are here, there are a couple lines in the pollserial.h and pollserial.cpp that need to get changed.

I had to open up the .h and .cpp files with an external editor, (not the Aruduino editor….because it wouldn’t open .cpp files.

I tested this first by simply opening a serial port session with the Mac terminal program.

That seemed to be a bit rough around the edges, so I downloaded Cool-Term, and configured it for the USB serial port at 57600. I also turned on the local echo so I could see what I was typing in the terminal window, and it now appears on the TV.

I’ve just ordered the nootropic video overlay shield for this. Assembled kits are out of stock, so I hope I don’t fry the build-it-yourself version. I’m also really intrigued by their EZ-Expander shield, which adds 13 additional digital output pins to an Arduino by a clever method of using shift registers.

Now of course, the Raspberry-Pi does TV right out of the box with on onboard connector.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.  But that is what is so cool about the Arduino and open-source hardware movement.

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Posted in Personal Technology, Sensors, Telemedicine, Videoconferencing

Using Skype for Tele-Psychiatry

The LA Times, this morning has an article about using Skype for tele-psychiatry sessions, something that has been debated  for a long time.  Excerpt:

Dr. Nilesh Shah, director of telemedicine for the VA San Diego, is blunt about his assessment of the method, particularly in helping the growing number of VA patients that need long-term management for conditions like PTSD, diabetes or obesity.

“It’s the future,” he said.

In the past nine months, 240 veterans served by the VA San Diego have had nearly 900 therapy sessions for PTSD using videoconferencing.

In most cases, the patient came to a VA clinic where the technology was already in place to meet with a therapist located elsewhere. For a few patients, like Moreno Garcia, sessions were done in their homes using Cisco Jabber or Skype.

The veterans are spread throughout California. The program is being extended to veterans in Nevada, Oregon and Alaska.

Initial studies about the effectiveness of the videoconferencing approach have been positive, according to Steven Thorp, a clinical psychologist for the VA San Diego. He was the lead researcher in a recent study of 207 veterans enrolled in a 12-week course of PTSD therapy.

The full article is here.

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Posted in Patient Engagement, Personal Technology, Skype, Technology-Enabled Home, Telemedicine, Videoconferencing

Arduino: Newbie Advice

As an Arduino newbie, I’ve now gone far enough down the Arduino road to start making some mistakes. As they say in the prayer, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done” ….

After lashing up the heart rate monitor, I have been loath to disassemble it to test Phase II, which combines the TVout library with some additional hardware bits. It is always useful to work with smaller building blocks of Stuff that Works and then combine them together. So, I trundled back to Radio Shack, with the idea of getting an additional Arduino Uno board. Once there, I was tempted by an Arduino Micro, which I duly brought home, without really paying attention to any deviations from the original Arduino design.

1. The Micro requires a USB “micro” cable or adapter.  I didn’t find this out until I got it home and was ready to plug it in. Back to Radio shack, and the only cable they had in stock cost another $20.00….almost as much as the Micro board itself.  There are a bunch of different USB jacks. Once I got home, and calmed down, I realized that I had a Brookstone USB adapter set, which indeed had a converter; but by then it was too late.



2. Once I got the Micro powered, it seems that the pin-outs are actually different than a regular Arduino. I came to the conclusion after thinking that I wasn’t installing the TVout library correctly in the Arduino development environment on the Mac. Switched to Windows, and thought the problem was solved, but then realized I wasn’t compiling for the correct target platform, but for the Uno. The library compiles perfectly for the Uno on either the Mac or PC. So, rather than take back the Micro, I simply ordered an additional Uno from Adafruit. By the time it arrives, I should have the RCA plugs soldered up and ready to go for the TV interface.

So, if I’m giving advice to Newbies… (i.e. self), it would be Eschew Experimentation and Avoid Temptation. Start with what works and build from there. It worked fine as I went from the “pin 13 blinky light demo” (the equivalent of “Hello World”) to interfacing the heart rate monitor to a seven segment display.

Other temptations:

1. Sparkfun has a Labview+Uno bundle for $50.00.
2. Adafruit has all kinds of Arduino sensors and parts.
3. As does MCM, but they really have a lot of Raspberry Pi stuff.
4. I think it would be really useful to build an Arduino from scratch parts to really understand the design. Here is an Instructable which claims you can do it for $8.00.

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Posted in Personal Technology, Sensors, Technology, Technology-Enabled Home