Does Texas Health Presbyterian Survive?

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Thomas Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, has seen a major decline in revenue. The hospital has reported a 50% drop in ER visits, and a 20% drop in daily patient census.

Couple that with a wave of negative reviews coming in, and even full page apologies may not be enough to survive. Earlier reports called Texas Health Presbyterian a ghost town.

Look, whichever hospital was first to receive an Ebola patient was screwed. The CDC had been telling everyone that Ebola wasn’t likely to come here, and even though hospitals have been working on Ebola preparedness for months, the urgency wasn’t there until it was on our shores.

That doesn’t excuse sending Duncan home the first time, but I can understand missing it.

And, the two nurses who caught Ebola from Duncan were apparently following CDC guidelines. Those guidelines have since been revised by the increasingly incompetent-appearing CDC.

If I or a family member were sick or injured in Dallas, I’d probably want to bypass Texas Health for the next available hospital. I can’t question others who do so.

But, if I had been potentially exposed to Ebola, and started to show worrying symptoms, I’d go there in a New York minute. They’ve learned a lot in the four weeks since Duncan walked in their door. If I’m not near a biocontainment facility, I’d like to go somewhere that’s seen the disease before.

Still, the challenges Texas Health faces are big. But then, so is their parent company, which provides deep pockets and a chance at survival.

The apology was a good start. So are articles that show how they’re improving their processes.

I’d like to see some of this happening at a national level as well. Perhaps invite one of the national news television shows in to examine what they’re doing.

At this point, Texas Health has no good will to trade on. Openness and honesty is the only way they’re going to being rebuilding it.

Unethical Behavior by Toys R Us

So, Toys R Us has this neat functionality where a child can set up a wish list. My nephew set one up a few months ago, and it was very useful when deciding what to get him for Christmas.

I simply got on the Toys R Us website, put in his name and location, and up popped a list of everything he wanted. I picked out a couple of items and ordered them.

Very convenient.

Except that this morning (four days after I had placed the order), I received an email from Toys R Us that one of the items I had ordered was not available. As a result, they cancelled that part of the order.

Ok, it would have been nice to have been given an option to back order the item, but it’s not that big of a deal. I can understand not wanting to deal with back orders during the busy Christmas season. I got back on his wish list and began looking for a replacement item to order.

Except that the item I had previously ordered was still there. And was listed as in stock.

But now the price had changed from $22.49 to $29.99.

Wait… What?

It seems clear to me that what happened was that they weren’t able to get that item at the old price. Instead of honoring the sale, they just cancelled the item from my order.

Very slimy, in my opinion.

Feeling burned, I jumped on Amazon to see if they had it. Yep, and it was only $16.00.

Guess who got my order?

Guess who’s going to get my future orders?

SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley

Austin loves a farmers market. There must be a dozen or more around the greater Austin area alone. These markets focus on locally grown, and often sustainable, food and other products.

The Wife and I have been to several of the Austin-area markets and this morning we decided to make the trek down to south Austin for the SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley. SFC also runs the markets downtown (on 4th) and in the Triangle, and is supposed to be one of the largest in town.

Perhaps it was an off day, but we were underwhelmed. It was much smaller than we expect, with maybe twenty-five tents. I think that’s smaller than the one in Cedar Park even. The 4th Street market is much larger.

The vegetables looked ok, but there weren’t any that just screamed out to us to be purchased. That may be somewhat due to the time of year, however.

We purchased a bison tenderloin and some bison rib-eyes (no yak to be found). We’re going to grill the rib-eye tonight.

There were some vendors selling beef and chicken, but we’ve never bought any there. Frankly, it’s very expensive, and doesn’t look any better than what you can get at HEB. I’m willing to pay a premium for local produce, but their prices are a bit high. The bison, at least, is unique and not something you can easily find elsewhere.

SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley
3200 Jones Road
Austin, Texas 78745
Tel: (512) 236-0074

Tech Notes: All pictures taken with my Nikon Coolpix P80.

FaceTime Wishlist

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 07: Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates FaceTime video conferencing on the new iPhone 4 as he delivers the opening keynote address at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Jobs kicked off their annual WWDC with the announcement of the new iPhone 4 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

FaceTime is Apple’s video calling solution for the iPhone 4. My buddy Paul G. and I have been testing it over the last week or so. The high video quality has been fairly consistent, even when downloading and uploading files on the same network as the phone call.

The delta-based compression creates artifacts if the subject or background are moving, but that is to be expected.

Overall, we were both impressed, especially considering it is a first generation product. We did, however, have the following wishlist of items to be improved or added:

1. No equivalent MacBook, PC, etc. app for dialing for those of us who do not have an iPhone 4? This could go a long way towards making FaceTime an industry standard.

2. The phone needs some kind of stand. Long conversations get wearisome and I want to free my hands.

3. I want a 3G ‘unrestricted’ version of this (say hello to hax0r), so I can use Facetime WHERE EVER I am…not just on a WiFi connection. Not offering this is just stupid. It would increase usage which would increase the revenue from AT&T’s data plans. Fring is attempting to fill this niche, so Apple had better hurry.

4. Fingers & hands: if you hold the top and bottom you are killing the microphone and speaker…and don’t give me that Steve Jobs answer.

5. This is a female-centric comment: the fish-eye lens adds 10-15lb. And will not be adopted readily by the female community. Fix it or add some feature to change aspect.

6. No ‘pinch’, no zoom?!?

7. Would be nice if it could be coupled with some sort of text messaging system, so that links and such could be sent.

Initial Thoughts on the iPhone 4

This week, I upgraded from the original iPhone to the iPhone 4. I ordered using the Apple Store app on June 16th (the second day of pre-ordering). It shipped from China on July 1st and was delivered into my hands July 6th. It set at the FedEx office in Austin for three days due to the holiday.

The packaging was the usual minimalistic Apple, with the phone, a set of headphones, a USB cable, a charger and a bit of documentation.

Converting over to the new phone was amazingly easy. I plugged it in to my MacBook and iTunes asked whether it was a new phone. I told it “no”, and it copied over the settings from my old phone. It remembered which podcasts, apps and playlists I wanted on the phone, and even copied over my background image.

Other than re-entering passwords for my email accounts and a couple of apps, it was pretty much seamless. Apple truly excels at this.

Syncing Bluetooth with my MINI was easy and has been very stable so far.

The phone is much faster than my old phone, but I did jump over two generations entirely. Apps also seem much more stable.

GPS in the phone is wonderful (yes, I was on the original iPhone). Yelp and GoSkyWatch are particularly improved.

It seems like the max volume is lower than on my old phone. Generally that wouldn’t matter, but the podcast version of NewsHour is often sampled at a very low volume. It was a bit hard to hear in the gym yesterday.

I’ve only had one call drop so far, and I’m not sure if that was my end or the other. AT&T seems to work decently in Austin, fortunately.

The problem with having to avoid holding the phone in a certain way is truly goofy, although I’ve managed to avoid the problem, and now I have a set of the bumpers that fixes it. Apple should fix this at their own cost. It can’t be viewed as anything but a design flaw.

This is really the only negative I’ve discovered so far. It’s an attractive phone, that is easy and comfortable to use. We’ll see if I get as much use out of it as I did the original iPhone.

Intel Does Not Understand New Media

I get most of my news from podcasts. They’re very convenient; I can load them up on the iPhone, and listen when I’m driving, walking the dog, riding the stationary bike, whatever.

One of my favorites is PBS’s NewsHour. They break up each of the news segments in an individual file. It really fits with how I want to consume news.

Over the last few months, Intel has started advertising on the NewsHour podcasts. A short commercial is run before each segment begins.

I applaud Intel for supporting podcasting, but they’re doing something very stupid. The commercial is simply one of their television advertisements. Unfortunately, these are not video podcasts, so the ads often make no sense with just the audio.

C’mon, Intel. Crack a little out of the budget to rework the ads in audio only versions. Or better yet, create new ones just for this media.

One Week with the iPad

Paul Groepler reports in on his first week with the iPad.

Okay I’ve had this iPad for seven calendar days, and took it with me on an international trip. I have figured out a few things, discovered a few more and have been stonewalled by a few. My end-of-the-week rating is a B – (B minus).

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly:

The Good:

  1. This thing just replaced my iPhone and laptop for in-flight viewing of movies, TV shows and listening to music. I was able to download ALL my music to the iPad and the screen is larger than in at least two airlines’ First Class seating, ha! Give that an A+ !
  2. Magazines and books: Amazon released their Kindle reader for iPad so suddenly all my Kindle library easily ports and follows me. Excellent again!
    Also, an ‘older’ app, Zinio Reader fills in the holes for what you cannot easily get on Amazon, e.g. My Economist subscription, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic are all readable and ‘portable’ in a very easy to read format. This is awesome.
  3. Mail is pretty simple and reliable. I’ve tested three accounts, one SMTP, one IMAP and one ‘dot-mac’.
  4. The battery life is awesome. Yeah, it’s no Kindle but I can wait 9 hours before going to my charger…

The Bad:

  1. File sharing (or lack thereof): I mean, Come on!? No iDisk, no mount-as-disk-on-desktop, etc.. This takes me back to the old AOL ‘walled garden approach of the late 1990’s. Wake up Apple. This thing’s already been hacked, and I for one am jonesing for that release, so get with the program! Third party developers are going to lap you on the functionality unless you step up now.
    There is some kind of ‘beta’ called iWork.com where you can upload MS Word, Excel and PPT docs which are then imported into their Apple iWork equivalents, but that’s still pretty lame. The absolute lamest is the way you transfer files…via iTunes? Down deep into the second tab entitled ‘Information’?! Are you kidding me!? This really should be in “the Ugly” category. Ridiculous.
    Here’s a good diatribe of the whole thing which has more details.
  2. Docking: well, sort of. It’s hilarious that the big-brother white doc connector only fits the iPad when it is NOT in the Apple product case. Really? C’mon. By the way, GET THE CASE. If you don’t your iPad will be scratched, smudged and your forearms will be tired. This is a very handy way of holding the display either portrait or landscape.
  3. Font management: what font management? There isn’t any. You’ll quickly find that out when and if you try to go cross platform with Word, Excel, PPT, etc.
  4. WiFi only…You might want to wait for the 3G version, as WiFi (at least outside the USA) is pretty slim unless you’re in an upscale hotel or airport lounge.
  5. Camera: I want my ‘augmented reality’ apps! The iPhone does it (Yelp, etc.) so why not a really nice, big version!?
  6. Only third-party PDF reader? Really??

The Ugly:

  1. Nope, it’s not for business, not yet. You can show an imported PPT/Keynote presentation, but I have yet to get the USB to VGA dongle to see how that works. The business apps that Apple is trying to force down your throat, e.g. iWork should be called iDontWork.
  2. Display…shiny and glossy may be great if you live in a cave, but for the rest of us GET A SCREEN PROTECTOR. So many smudges it’s not funny.
  3. I already mentioned it but the file sharing is ridiculous, AOL-style and unacceptable.
  4. Application software is pretty light still. This is the end of the first week, and that ‘early adopter curve’ should have been taken advantage of by more developers…
  5. No Adobe FLASH. Again, C’mon! This whole Apple vs. Adobe thing is getting old.

Conclusions:

  1. This will NOT replace your notebook.
  2. This WILL become a very handy magazine, book, TV show and movie tool
  3. I’m waiting for what’s next, e.g. What will Microsoft do?
  4. Hacking? This should be really really interesting…

Once again, office applications are the killer for me. I need to have binary compatibility with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Yes, they all have major problems (especially PowerPointless), but they are absolute standards in the business community. If I can’t trade files with my clients, I’ve got a major problem.

I’m especially concerned about presentation files, especially after reading this review on Keynote for the iPad. If I can’t edit .ppt files, and have them transfer flawlessly to a Windows machine, I can’t leave my laptop at home.

I can’t see purchasing an iPad until it can replace my laptop, for at least large chunks of time.

Perhaps Apple isn’t interested in the business market. Maybe they see this as a fancy media player. If so, they’re missing a huge segment of the market.

C’mon, Apple! There are lots of us business travelers that are tired of running from one airplane to the next with a laptop!

iPad Initial Thoughts

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you know that Apple released the iPad on Saturday. Paul Groepler, the unrepentant, bleeding-edge, early adopter, had to have one, of course. Here are his initial thoughts.

Saturday at 10am the UPS guy showed up at the front door with my iPad. I’ve taken a few wacky photos to show you what’s in the box…not much actually.

Okay, I’ve been thru one day with this thing and a few of you are curious, so here are my initial impressions:

Likes:

  1. Very intuitive.
  2. The Amazon Kindle ‘reader’ works FINE. Which begs the questions…for those of us who already have a Kindle, and already buy from the massively larger library…if I already have books on the Kindle and can move/transfer them FREE to the iPad…why do I even care about the iBook reader thing? Less titles, etc.? Great eReader!
  3. You can ‘lock’ the aspect ratio, e.g. Keep in portrait or landscape with out auto-rotation as you move it around.
  4. Mail works…all flavors, e.g. IMAP, POP and LDAP.

Dislikes:

  1. No easy way to move files around. You are stuck inside (for now) the iTunes ‘walled garden’ interface. That is BS. I’ve tried a few of the iPhone apps, e.g. MbDrive, WiFiDisk, but no idea where the files go!?
  2. iPhone apps are silly 2x sized. That’s crazy. As a matter of fact, one quickly realizes that half the iPhone apps don’t really translate to the iPad (at least not this version without GPS/3G!!)
  3. I could not get my Bluetooth keyboard to work(!?). That’s also BS. This is a recent Apple-brand wireless keyboard. I hate going into the Apple store and dealing with some pimply-faced 20 something who acts like a demi-god…but I guess I’ll give it a try.
  4. Not used to the small keyboard yet.
  5. The screen smudges in a second. You’ll need some kind of frosted screen protector same as for the iPhone.
  6. No GPS features. I want ‘augmented reality’, which means I want a camera and GPS…
  7. No camera

Problems:

  1. The iWork apps don’t easily share files. (see #1 dislike above).
  2. My Bluetooth keyboard would not ‘pair’.

Wish list:

  1. Get reasonable office-style apps. I don’t care if it’s Microsoft, Omni, or OpenOffice…
  2. Allow me to use the iPad as an external disk when I hook up to the Mac, PC, whatever. No easy file transfer?! C’mon…
  3. Where’s the freakin’ camera?
  4. Why isn’t there GPS on the non 3G version? I know that Apples’ implementation of GPS is via the GSM system, but c’mon…

Recommendations:

  1. Get the cover for it ASAP. You’ll get tired holding the thing and the Apple standard cover makes for a very nice stand and protector. This thing can get scratched!
  2. Get at least one of those docking doo-hickys. Unfortunately said doo-hicky does NOT work when you have the cover on. Bad Apple, no biscuit!
  3. Get a screen cover, frosted. The screen smudges and shows ALL the dirt.

While my initial reaction to the iPad announcement was decidedly negative, I’ve slowly been coming around. My PowerBook G4 is both old and high mileage, and is long overdue to be replaced. Processing video from my Flip UltraHD is nearly impossible.

I currently have the 17″ display, so replacing it would cost more than $2,500.

On the other hand, I could get a high-end iPad plus a high-end Mac Mini for about $1,500. For this to work, however, the iPad would have to do the job for me when I travel. The Mac Mini isn’t really portable (unless I took all the peripherals with me), and I’m not carrying both a iPad and a laptop.

The iPad would need to sync tightly with my Mac Mini when I was at home. If that isn’t the case today, it soon will be.

I’m most concerned about the weak office applications. For this to work on the road for me, I need word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps. And they need to be able to create and run MS Office compatible data files, especially for presentations.

Like it or not, Microsoft PowerPoint is the industry standard, and I need to be able to supply PowerPoint files when I speak at conferences or other events. I’m not sure a dumbed down version of iWork is going to do the job.

All in all, it sounds like a decent product, but not one that’s quite ready for my own work environment. But that may be why I rarely buy cutting-edge technology.

Note: All photographs (c) 2010, Paul F. Groepler.