Monday, September 27, 2010

Medical Apps To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Stethoscope

The latest downloadable apps have made existing smartphones double-up as something else, but can a medical app be used to make your smartphone double-up as a stethoscope or other viable medical diagnostic instrument?

By: Ringo Bones

Unfortunately, we don’t yet have X-Ray capable light-emitting-diodes that can allow current smartphones to double-up as portable hand-held medical X-Ray machines. But given that the built-in microphones in a majority of smartphones made by leading-brand manufacturers are supposedly as sensitive as the diaphragms of the medical doctor’s / general practitioner’s stethoscope; can downloading certain medical apps really make our smartphones double up as a medical-grade stethoscope?

One advantage that a mobile smartphone has over a traditional run-of-the-mill medical stethoscope is that the resulting medical data or diagnoses can be e-mailed to a certified medical doctor. Converting your smartphone into a viable and reliable medical diagnostic instrument can certainly be an advantage if you live in an area when a visit to a doctor involves a 3-hour – or longer – travel time.

Though smartphones with medical apps – if you don’t even have the most basic of medical training – is certainly no match to a well-trained medical doctor wielding a traditional stethoscope, it can be very useful in providing relatively inexpensive real-time medical diagnosis. Very useful if your pre-existing heart condition demands constant real-time monitoring without the prohibitive costs of dedicated hospital-based medical diagnostic gear.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Much Ado About Blackberry Circa 2010

Slated to be banned in some countries due to still unresolved security concerns, will this eventually make RIM’s Blackberry to be consigned to the mobile phone / computer’s dustbin of history?

By: Ringo Bones

Ever since Research in Motion (RIM) rolled out their first generation Blackberry back in 1999, early adapters hailed it as the mobile telecommunications revolution for the new millennium. Security and privacy concerns – including the odd Y2K bug issue or two – back then were more often than not, relegated to the backburner. Fast forward to the scheduled August 5, 2010 launch of the latest Blackberry model called the Torch, will security concerns cited by conservative Gulf Region Islamic states eventually relegate the use of such devices to more libertine locales?

The first high-profile row over the security concerns of RIM’s Blackberry got major press coverage when several units were eventually found out to been used in the tragic November 2008 Mumbai Terror Attacks. Then the issue inextricably was forgotten once again. Fast forward to July 2010 when once again the UAE government – specifically the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, UAE - threatens to ban the use of RIM’s Blackberry on their home soil unless RIM allows their local law enforcement agencies access to the heavily encrypted instant messages being trafficked by such devices. Saudi Arabia too threatens to ban Blackberry use by Friday, August 6, 2010 if their local law enforcement agencies were not allowed access to the encrypted instant messaging data. But are the concerns of UAE and Saudi Arabian law enforcement agencies over encrypted Blackberry instant messages warranted?

Given the conservative nature of such states which rank adultery and premarital fornication about as serious as armed robbery, the encrypted nature of RIM’s Blackberry’s instant messaging feature has long been the thorn in the side of the various Gulf States’ local “morality police”. It is because – more often than not – Blackberrys and similar devices – were often used as private messaging systems that enables some to engage in clandestine adulterous trysts. Given the local police in conservative Gulf States don’t have access to heavily encrypted Blackberry data, which are the sole corporate property of Research in Motion, the Saudi and UAE governments are crying foul over their inability to penalize widespread acts of adultery committed on their home soil.

When it comes to the individual user’s security issue, Blackberry is widely used for some years now in China, Canada and the United States – all are very security conscious countries who has yet to find major security concerns for such devices. A lot of high-profile government officials also use RIM’s Blackberry including US President Barack Obama and as of late, they seem to find the security of their Blackberry adequate. Even though this can be use as proof that on a global level Research in Motion’s Blackberry are one of the world’s most secure mobile phone providers, this does pose a problem to governments who want’s to play a more “Big Brother” role over their citizenry. Dubai may plan to ban their local Blackberry’s instant messaging (IM) and e-mail services, but it could prove devastating to their supposedly business friendly territory when corporate entities reliant on such devices may leave in droves due to the inconvenience. An inconvenience that’s not economically viable in the already fiscally austere post global credit crunch climate of 2010.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Can We Still Send Our e-mails After A Nuclear Attack?

Given that Nuclear Armageddon never went away with the end of the Cold War, can anyone of us still be able to send e-mails after a nuclear attack?

By: Ringo Bones

With increasing tension between North and South Korea over the “apparent” sinking of a south Korean warship with the loss of 46 sailors plus other current geopolitical issues like Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program and the long-term prospects of Taiwan’s independence from Beijing. It seems like the Doomsday Clock at the headquarters of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is permanently stuck at two minutes to midnight. But can the perennial threat of nuclear annihilation ever dampen our desire to stay connected to everyone we love?

The US Postal Service might have had the edge when it comes to legal precedents and procedural guidelines on how to deliver mail after a nuclear attack to American citizens fortunate enough to have survived it; But what about our Internet infrastructure? But first here’s a primer on how the US Postal Service intends to deliver mail despite of the dangers of cesium 137 and strontium 90 rich fallout.

As far back as the early 1950s, the US Postal Service developed an emergency planning manual that outlines procedures to allow mail delivery following a nuclear attack. These plans were regularly updated to cope with what might happen when a real nuclear attack happens and the last complete revision was undertaken back in 1981. In addition, Executive Order 11490 that dates from October 28, 1969, as amended by Executive Order 11921, dated June 11, 1976, assigned the US Postal Service the responsibility for emergency mail service and other duties associated with civil defense programs.

In addition to handling post nuclear strike mail delivery, the US Postal Service at the time was assigned the responsibility of distributing and collecting special change-of-address and safety notification cards to facilitate mail delivery and help other government agencies and family members locate survivors. At the time, some 60 million change-of-address cards were printed and stored at about 30,000 post offices across America – where perhaps they remain. Detailed instructions were also stockpiled, telling people how to fill out forms and account for any missing persons. And for postal officials – how to test the cards and other documents for radioactivity before processing them. Among the actions outlined in the 1981 revisions include the authorization of local postmasters to burn stamps as to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Restricting post-nuclear-attack mail to first-class letters and place an immediate ban on the issuance of money orders for payment in the country that attacked the United States.

At a 1982 congressional hearing, A US Postal Service official acknowledged that a massive attack would at the very least make implementing the agency’s plans very difficult. But he defended them by saying the agency must be prepared. Members of Congress questioned the viability of the post office plans, given the US Postal Service’s reliance on volunteer mail carriers and the likelihood that major road systems would be destroyed and the availability of gasoline sharply curtailed – if not eliminated after a nuclear attack. When it was pointed out that not many people would be left alive, let alone still be willing to read, write and send letters after the nuclear bomb explodes – the official remarked: “But those that are will get their mail.” Fast forward few weeks after the September 11, 2001 Terror Attacks, the US Postal Service experienced first hand their first ever biological terror attack after lethal anthrax were sent via the US Mail. Though somewhat unprepared, they managed to handle and diffused the threat.

But what about are current Internet infrastructure that, it seems, we can’t live without? Unfortunately, the electromagnetic pulse of a sufficiently large enough nuclear explosion can fry every functioning electronic gear hundreds of miles from its epicenter. Especially if its solid-state components are not hardened against EMP. Clandestine nuclear test from rogue nations can still wreak havoc on our fragile Internet infrastructure since they don’t explode their test nukes in those state-of-the-art blast chambers that are equipped with a built in Faraday Cage. Like those used in a typical Nevada underground test site. Unless you have the real estate and the revenue to use vacuum tubes in your Internet servers, your web infrastructure probably can’t survive a nuclear attack. It might be a “Dr. Strangeloveian” prospect, but your e-mail and Internet surfing privileges are probably the first ones to go during a nuclear attack.