26Jan 2021

What apps should musicians have?

There’s a lot more to a musician’s toolkit than simply owning the right instrument. Along with lugging around their instrument, musicians usually have a metronome, a tuner, cleaning supplies, sometimes a stand, and usually music. And while today’s digital age will never truly replace the physical instrument (and why would you ever want that to happen anyway), there are a number of digital apps that are making things easier for musicians. Here are just a few of the apps every musician should have.

A Tuning App

Every instrumentalist should have a tuning app loaded onto their smartphone. Although tuning to the rest of the ensemble is important, you can get a great headstart by tuning against an app like Cleartune.

A Metronome App

A musician practicing against a metronome is about as fundamental as a basketball player practicing his dribbling skills. Yet, it’s important. Instead of hauling around a mechanical metronome or one of those digital noisemakers from the 1990s, just download an app like Tempo.

A music theory App

While this may not be as obvious as a must-have as the prior two apps in this list, a music theory app is particularly helpful if you need a reminder on certain theory topics like Latin musical vocab words that you see in your score. The app I recommend is Tenuto.

A recording App

While this isn’t necessarily a “music” app, you should know that the “voice notes” app on your phone is a very helpful tool for practice and rehearsal purposes. It’s a great way for you to record yourself and then listen to your recording. You”ll be surprised what mistakes you pick up when listening to the recording that you didn’t catch when playing your instrument.

Conclusion

While musicians continue their great work of entertaining and inspiring the world, hopefully, these digital apps will prove helpful. Of course, you do have a handful of purists that are almost like digital refugees who completely abhor the idea of using digital technology to contaminate the authentic music-making experience. And that’s okay. Whatever works for you works for you, and whatever works for them works for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

27May 2020

The Digital Refugee

I once attended a digital marketing conference in Orlando where the keynote speaker talked about “generations.” His message touched upon such things as (1) defining a generation’s starting point, (2) how to work well in a team comprised of multiple generations, and (3) how different generations view the use of digital technology.

He introduced a term that I had never heard before: Digital Native. A digital native is somebody who was born into a digital world (today’s world). Whereas, someone who was born, say, in 1974, in an analog world and saw the advent of digital consumer devices like home computers, cell phones, digital cameras, and now smart phones, would be called a Digital Migrant.

Makes sense, right?

So, what about those folks who would like to return to a world of NO DIGITAL devices? A simpler time with simpler technology. Imagine not being tethered by your smartphone 24/7! Remember the days of the rotary dial? For those people longing for a sans-digital world, what would they be called if they returned to such a lifestyle? I contend, they would be called Digital Refugees. I’m sure the term was coined by someone before me, but I like to think that it is my creation 🙂

While returning to a non-digital world seems like a romantic dream, it would, no doubt, present a host of unintended consequences. For example, in an instant, you would need to go out and purchase the following items that normally are wrapped into the smartphone: a music player, camera, video camera, navigation solution (e.g. maps), a watch, an alarm clock, a TV, and a telephone! When you start making a list of everything included in a smartphone you start to realize it’s a veritable Swiss Army knife!

I recently read a wellness blog called that inspired me to try and simplify my life. I need more balance. I need more peace. I need more happiness. Perhaps becoming a digital refugee is my answer.

1May 2020

The best weather apps

Yesterday, I was reading the news online and saw a weather alert with tornado warnings.  The alert provided a link to another website that supposedly had a radar system to track the weather, but the site wasn’t working.  I then decided to download a weather app on my smartphone so I could track the radar there.  When looking at weather apps, there were a handful to choose from.  They all basically do the same thing, which is, of course, communicating weather conditions.  And they almost always integrate radar technology into the process. 

There are a few apps that are absolutely necessary as tier 1 apps for a phone, and a good weather app is one of them. 

Here is a review of the most popular weather apps

The Weather Channel

Download coast: Free

If free is the name of your game and you’re happy with the basic, utilitarian features of a simple weather app, then The Weather Channel’s free, ad-supported app is for you.  It is supported on Apple and Android devices and does a pretty good job keep users updated through its Doppler radar data. 

Radar Scope

Download cost: $9.99

The name says it all for this one.  Radarscope is all about radar technology.  The entire user experience is focused on the incredibly-detailed radar interface made available in this app.  The radar is optimized for users in North America, so if you’re looking for radar in Europe, maybe you should steer clear of this one.  Otherwise, this tricked-out radar app is a not-to-be-missed addition to your weather toolkit.

AccuWeather

Download cost: Free

Another basic, yet robust-enough, weather app serving up daily and multi-day weather forecasts.  It also provides a “MinuteCast” feature which gives localized forecasts for the next two hours.

Dark Sky

Download cost: $3.99

Out of all the apps on this list, Dark Sky is my favorite. And it seems I’m in good company because Apple was impressed enough with Dark Sky to purchase it . . . which presents bad news for Android users because it will no longer be available on Google Play beginning this July. 

Carrot Weather

Download cost: $24.99 annually

Apparently, some people want entertainment and humor served up with their weather forecast.  If this describes you, then you should probably check out Carrot Weather.  The app pulls weather info from Dark Sky and then injects it with sarcastic humor to (according to another reviewer) “cushion even the gloomiest outlook.”

For a weather app, though, it is quite expensive with a $24.99 per year cost.

Mixing old technology with new technology

Humans have had a necessary interest in weather patterns from the dawn of time.  Today we can track weather events with phones.  In days gone by, our ancestors tracked weather by daily observations and measurements using thermometers, weather vanes, precipitation gauges, and barometers.  Like many in his day, Thomas Jefferson recorded weather readings in a weather notebook.  I still think it is a great exercise to keep track of weather readings in a notebook, using the assistance of a smartphone as the tool for taking those measurements.  I use a flexible leather journal book available from retailers like Melaleuca, Barnes and Noble, and Staples.  The Melaleuca reviews for my journal book were solid enough that I went with them.  However, a journal is a journal.  Pages are pages.  Just buy one and enjoy the process of merging old technology (a journal book) with new technology (a weather app).

6Feb 2017

Best Medical Billing Services: Our Recommendations

Medical practices rely heavily on the effectiveness of their billing operations. Healthcare might be the top priority, but your medical practice is still a business and needs to make money to survive. As any healthcare professional knows, billing is complicated process with a number of opportunities for things to go wrong. From coding errors and processing delays to dealing with insurance companies and trying to track down unpaid patient accounts, billing departments have to balance a number of tasks and complete them all perfectly; otherwise, you might not get your money for already-rendered services on time, or at all.

In-house medical billing vs. outsourced revenue cycle management
If you opt to have your own staff cover medical billing, you’ll need practice management software to keep track of your patients’ balances and send bills to payers. You’ll also need a certified medical coder on staff to oversee the operation, and the practice will be responsible for responding to any rejections or denied claims.

It’s also crucial to stay on top of the ever-changing regulatory framework and new policies; for example, ICD-10 coding has largely been implemented across the industry. Keeping billing in-house is often cheaper and gives you more control over the process, but for a small practice that already needs its staff to wear many hats, billing can be time-consuming and complex. Worse yet, if the proper time and attention are not given to the billing process, you might end up losing out on a substantial amount of money.

Medical billing services can help alleviate that burden, but it might end up being more expensive. Often, for a percentage of your collections or a subscription fee, a medical billing service can take over your revenue cycle management and free up your staff to focus on other tasks. A good medical billing service will increase your collection rate, reduce rejections and denials, and even provide an analysis of your accounts receivable. You’ll typically be able to generate on-demand reports and view your day-to-day finances through the company’s software as well.

How to choose a medical billing service
When selecting a medical billing service, there are a few things to keep in mind. Of course, you’ll want to know what the costs of the service are, but you’ll also want to know exactly what you can expect from a billing partner.

“Your lifeblood as a medical practitioner resides with this function,” Montana said. “If medical billing isn’t working, not only are you not getting paid, but you won’t make payroll, and you can get in so much legal trouble with the insurance companies. You need to know what you’re getting.”

Costs:
These are highly variable based on the size and specific focus of your practice. You’ll need to contact a sales representative for hard numbers, but some billing services’ websites offer a general estimate of what they charge. Companies most commonly charge a percentage of your monthly revenue as payment, often between 4 and 9 percent. It’s important to consider what the costs in time and money would be to keep billing in-house versus what the financial cost would be to outsource relative to the potential increase in revenue.

6Feb 2017

Tiny Satellites to Make Big Contributions to cloutet technology

Tiny satellites, some smaller than a shoe box, are currently orbiting around 200 miles above Earth, collecting data about our planet and the universe. It’s not just their small stature but also their accompanying smaller cost that sets them apart from the bigger commercial satellites that beam phone calls and GPS signals around the world, for instance. These SmallSats are poised to change the way we do science from space. Their cheaper price tag means we can launch more of them, allowing for constellations of simultaneous measurements from different viewing locations multiple times a day – a bounty of data which would be cost-prohibitive with traditional, larger platforms.

From proof of concept to science applications
When thinking about artificial satellites, we have to make a distinction between the spacecraft itself (often called the “satellite bus”) and the payload (usually a scientific instrument, cameras or active components with very specific functions). Typically, the size of a spacecraft determines how much it can carry and operate as a science payload. As technology improves, small spacecraft become more and more capable of supporting more and more sophisticated instruments.

These advanced nanosatellite payloads mean SmallSats have grown up and can now help increase our knowledge about Earth and the universe. This revolution is well underway; many governmental organizations, private companies and foundations are investing in the design of CubeSat buses and payloads that aim to answer specific science questions, covering a broad range of sciences including weather and climate on Earth, space weather and cosmic rays, planetary exploration and much more. They can also act as pathfinders for bigger and more expensive satellite missions that will address these questions.

Funded by NASA’s Earth science technology office, HARP will ride on the CubeSat spacecraft developed by Utah State University’s Space dynamics lab. Breaking the tradition of using consumer off-the-shelf parts for CubeSat payloads, the HARP team has taken a different approach. We’ve optimized our instrument with custom-designed and custom-fabricated parts specialized to perform the delicate multi-angle, multi-spectral polarization measurements required by HARP’s science objectives.

HARP is currently scheduled to the International Space Station. Shortly thereafter it will be released and become a fully autonomous, data-collecting satellite.

SmallSats – big science
HARP is designed to see how aerosols interact with the water droplets and ice particles that make up clouds. Aerosols and clouds are deeply connected in Earth’s atmosphere – it’s aerosol particles that seed cloud droplets and allow them to grow into clouds that eventually drop their precipitation.
This interdependence implies that modifying the amount and type of particles in the atmosphere, via air pollution, will affect the type, size and lifetime of clouds, as well as when precipitation begins. These processes will affect Earth’s global water cycle, Energy balance and climate.

For now, size still matters
But the nature of CubeSats still restricts the science they can do. Limitations in power, storage and, most importantly, ability to transmit the information back to Earth impede our ability to continuously run our HARP instrument within a CubeSat platform.

So as another part of our effort, we’ll be observing how HARP does as it makes its scientific observations. Here at UMBC we’ve created the Center for Earth and Space Studies to study how well small satellites do at answering science questions regarding Earth systems and space. This is where HARP’s raw data will be converted and interpreted. Beyond answering questions about cloud/aerosol interactions, the next goal is to determine how to best use SmallSats and other technologies for Earth and space science applications. Seeing what works and what doesn’t will help inform larger space missions and future operations.

The SmallSat revolution, boosted by popular access to space via CubeSats, is now rushing toward the next revolution. The next generation of nanosatellite payloads will advance the frontiers of science. They may never supersede the need for bigger and more powerful satellites, but NanoSats will continue to expand their own role in the ongoing race to explore Earth and the universe.

25Nov 2016

Healthcare Apps: UI-UX Factors to Enhance your Product

Healthcare industry is growing rapidly and various new technologies are emerging to cater the different target users of this industry in making their life easy. Every user in this industry has different expectations, and to meet their expectations, different systems are developed. In the recent past, most of these systems were web-based; however, with the increase in rate of mobile adoptability, mobile apps are being developed and are getting integrated with the new innovations such as Google Glass, Smart watches, Fitness Trackers, etc.

What do you think is the purpose of developing these advanced systems? A very simple answer is to make these services easily available. When we (as a Healthcare IT product engineering service provider) get a requirement for developing such a system, there are two scenarios:

  • Re-design the existing system with enhancements, or
  • Develop a brand new system

In both the scenarios, the main intention of developing the system is to provide a simple, clean interface with focused action items keeping in mind the different users/roles accessing the system.
First step involved in developing or enhancing any system is to define the user experience. It is to understand the flaws in existing system; evaluate them and then design a solution.

When we talk about different target users, we refer to payers, providers and patients. In brief, payers are the insurance companies who provide cashless or refund services. Providers are the healthcare facilitators like hospitals, doctors, etc. And patients are the people availing such services.

To understand the pain points of the users, User Interviews are conducted. In case of healthcare, Patients and Providers are the major users for whom such interviews can be conducted. Based on these inputs, Personas and Scenarios are created which help to explore the goals, needs, expectations of the user towards the new system and frustrations and pain points towards the old one. It also helps in bifurcating the roles and responsibilities of users.

The system designed should be user-centric such as if the healthcare app is designed by keeping the patient in mind, then everything must have the user experience for the patient. For example, if the application has a form to fetch patient’s details, that form should be well defined or well categorized so it is easy for the patient to understand and comfortable to complete the form. Similarly, considering patients age group, the app interface should be easy to find any information.

When the system is designed keeping provider in mind, it should consider facts like how a provider can be notified about his visits, appointments, surgeries, emergencies, etc.

Creating task flows, block diagrams and wireframes helps to give a structure to the tasks and define the simplicity of the screens. The navigation gets concrete and screen elements are finalized. All the flows are filtered through usability perspective and are structured in such a way that the task is completed with minimum steps. Finally, the branding, colors and typography is defined while creating the UI design. Interfaces are designed to fit various screens and devices.

So, UX plays an important role. Similarly, UI also play a significant role and below are some considerations while designing the mHealth app:

    • Use color for meaning. User might get confused by unnecessary colors. So, define a color system that makes it more meaningful than just a part of style.
    • Think of a very refined typography and hierarchy of information. Patients who are 45+ years should be able to read the information or take any action seamlessly. Therefore, your app should cater all age groups by providing a facility to change the font size as required.
    • For medical issues, users across the globe are seeking for remedies and solutions through their healthcare apps. In such scenarios, the UI should be personal and supportive, which would enable or rather motivate them to provide health data through the app.
    • Ascertain the RWD (responsive web design) are taken care of with elements that suit the app
    • Allow your app to integrate with other features of the phone such as the front camera can be used by the doctor to access the patient. This will also help in expanding the scope of your app.
    • A voice recognition tool can be used by medical staff to input patient data so as to increase the level of interaction with the patients

We see that UI/UX plays a very vital role in developing a system that is more user-centric, provides better usability of the defined functions and tasks to be performed and offers a good interactive and informative platform for different user base.

25Nov 2016

Five apps that make Outlook easier to use

For most us living in a hectic world of enterprise communication, our email client is where we spend most of our workday. It is the application that ties together all the other productivity apps we use on a daily basis. For Microsoft Office 365 users that means Outlook. Outlook is the leader in corporate email communications, as top companies like Melaleuca and others use it to expedite workflow.

While Microsoft has spent a great deal of time and resources trying to improve the Outlook interface, the app could still use some help when it comes to ease-of-use features. Here are five add-ins that could improve your daily interaction with the Outlook email client.

1: Bing Nearby

Whether it’s an onsite meeting with an important client or a lunch meeting with the team, it is important to get there on time. One of the best ways to keep yourself on schedule is to know exactly where you are going. The Bing Nearby app gives you instant access to Bing’s mapping features from within the confines of the Outlook interface.

Just click the Bing Nearby icon while you are composing a new message or creating a meeting on the calendar and you will see a dialog box in the right-hand pane. Type in an address or the name of a restaurant and the app will give you location choices. Click one of those choices and the pertinent location information will be attached to the message or calendar entry automatically.

2: PayPal

In today’s world, sending someone money can be accomplished with just a few clicks on the computer. However, the PayPal add-in for Outlook makes that process even simpler, assuming you have an account. While in Outlook writing a message, merely click the PayPal icon and you’ll be presented with a screen that will allow you to send a PayPal payment. All you need to fill out is the recipient’s address and your account password. Of course, the recipient will also need a PayPal account to collect the payment. The PayPal add-in is free, but depending on how you structured your account there may be a transaction fee attached.

3: DocuSign

Even in the digital age some documents must be signed—there is no way around it. However, with the help of the DocuSign add-in for Outlook, you can “sign” documents electronically without leaving your email client to do it.

The DocuSign add-in will lead you, and all the other signees of a document, through the process, clearly explaining each step along the way. Once the process is complete, the document will be signed just as well as if you had used a ballpoint pen.

The one catch is that DocuSign is not free. Installing the add-in to Outlook does not cost anything, but using it to get documents signed requires a subscription of at least $10/month—more for business uses. However, DocuSign does offer a 30-day free trial so you can check it out beforehand if you want. The expense is likely worth it for lawyers and real estate agents, for example. It may be worth it for your enterprise too.

4: Find Time

One of the more frustrating activities surrounding collaboration in an enterprise is scheduling a meeting time that works for everyone involved. This frustration goes beyond just finding a time when all the participants can attend, according to their Outlook calendars. People tend to have times during a workday when they would prefer to avoid having a meeting, for example. Find Time can help you find a meeting time that works best for all concerned.

Find Time will create a polling email for you to send to all potential meeting attendees. You can propose a meeting time or several times and the attendees can vote on which times they prefer. Find Time will compile the results and determine a time that the majority of attendees prefer. Problem solved and morale boosted.

Find Time was developed by a team at Microsoft and is a free add-in for Outlook. The service does require that you register an account the first time you use it.

5: IXD Secure Mail

Collaboration with team members about a project is all well and good, but sometimes you need to email sensitive documents that should remain confidential between the parties involved. This is where an encryption add-in for Outlook can come in handy.

IXD Secure Mail adds an extra level of encryption to an email and/or attachment to an email all within the Outlook interface. It does this by storing those documents in an encrypted form on a cloud-based server and coordinating access based on the information you provide.

3Nov 2016

Top 4 Driving Apps For Fall

Walkers got Pokemon Go this year, and they really ran with that app. Practically everywhere in the world people were running into lampposts trying to catch most of ’em. But here’s the thing: drivers really shouldn’t be using apps that run you into lampposts. So then, what? Drivers are just entirely left out? No, we don’t think so. Check out these 5 mobile apps that are ready to spice up your drive even as you use your wipers to clear off that one lone leaf that won’t seem to clear your windshield.

3Nov 2016

Selecting the Best Weather App for Your Phone

Today we are going to speak about something that everyone is concerned about, namely the weather. In the past we had to rely on newspaper, radio and television updates to find out about the weather but the problem with that information is its not current or relevant to your specific location and needs. Aside from the inconveniences associated with getting weather updates via these traditional forms of weather information you were also inundated with

3Nov 2016

Three Smart Home Problems Solved

The smart home has problems. And because it has problems, adoption rates are still low. If only the smart home was perfect, if only it weren’t confusing, if only it worked without issue. For as many problems as people claim the smart home has, there are an equal number of answers. The most common complaints include compatibility confusion, security, and installation. All three have very simple and straightforward solutions.

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