Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Web Secret #108: MacBook Pro

Well it finally happened - my 5 year old decrepit Dell Laptop flatlined. No tech CPR, no shamanic rituals, nothing could make it function again.

Within two hours of the fatality, I was home with the laptop of my dreams, a 13 inch MacBook Pro. I was leaving the PC world, for a better alternate universe. For those of you who are thinking about making the leap to Apple, I give you a recap of my experience: the good, the bad and the ugly.


1. Macs are just better constructed, more reliable machines. How do I know this? I am the tech support staff at my house. This means that when anyone (my spouse, my three kids) has any kind of problem with their computers, they don't call the Geek Squad, they call me. When my kids had PCs, I was called at least once a week. There was always something I had to fix: a virus, a weird error message, some print driver failure, etc. Since my kids all moved to a Mac environment over two years ago, I have NEVER had to fix ANYTHING. I mean NEVER. And this despite the fact that two of them mercilessly abuse their laptops - dropping cookie crumbs on the keyboard, allowing the cat to shed on them, and keeping them on, connected to Facebook, 24/7. Yes, Macs are more expensive - guess what - you more than get what you pay for.

2. When you buy a Mac, have a question about a Mac, need to fix a Mac - you get to speak to, physically meet with, an ACTUAL HUMAN BEING. For real.

3. Macs play nicely with other hardware. After I brought my Mac home, I had an anxiety attack. I had 4 peripherals that I needed to connect to the laptop:
  • A three year old 22 inch Dell monitor that has one of those old screw in, prong type connectors. (The Apple people sold me a $29 adaptor for it.)
  • A very funky, rare, ergonomic Kinesis keyboard.
  • A non Mac trackball mouse
  • A 5 year old HP printer
I had visions of spending hours downloading drivers to make all of this function. Well no kidding, I plugged everything in and 5 seconds later, EVERYTHING worked.

4. Macs play nicely with other software. I thought I would have to use Mac's Boot Camp program to run some of my PC apps. This would create a parallel windows universe, and I would have to shut down and reboot, each time I wanted to run those programs. But actually, I was able to install all of those programs in the regular Mac environment - and never even had to use Boot Camp.


I take responsibility for the bad. I had used my kids' Macs to surf the net and watch YouTube videos. I assumed that made me an expert. WRONG. Now that I was using a Mac for work, there was a learning curve, even for MOI. By the way - my kids were quasi useless, because using a Mac to do homework doesn't mean they can help you with work applications. I had to concede that I needed help. Fortunately, Alex, the brains behind the MyPhone Desktop iPhone App, made a house call and had me up and running in a matter of 4 hours. I strongly urge you to find your own Alex if you are going to be using your Mac for work.


I'm joking - there is no ugly. My MacBook Pro is beautiful. It runs at warp speed. I downloaded Microsoft Office and it functions seamlessly with all of my old pre Mac documents. I am madly in love with it.

PS In addition to Alex and the Academy, I would like to thank the wonderful folks at DropBox. If I hadn't backed up EVERYTHING in my DropBox folder I would have been really f***ed.

As it was, I booted up my Mac, logged on to via Safari, and dragged and dropped all of my saved folders onto the Mac. And that was that. I had all my stuff on my new machine, ready to go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Web Secret #107: Teletherapy

As recently as two years ago I had an elitist, snotty attitude about teletherapy.

Actually, that’s putting it mildly. I thought any therapy that didn’t take place in a bricks and mortar office wasn’t “real therapy.” Well times have changed, and so have I. (If you're curious, I wrote about my “conversion” in an earlier blog post.

Two years is a long time in the rapidly changing tech universe and as I write this, teletherapy is gaining acceptance in the US at warp speed. Why? Because,
“Two–thirds of Americans with a mental illness do not receive treatment due to cost, stigma, inconvenience, and low access, particularly in rural areas.” Connected Care Blog 9/19/09

Definition, please. Teletherapy is quite simply the delivery of mental health services through secure video, phone, and web.

Teletherapy is:
  • Effective: over fifteen years of research confirm that telemedicine is as effective as in–person treatment.
  • Convenient: 50% of therapy clients drop out after a few sessions, but research shows teletherapy can boost retention to over 90%. Because clients can hold sessions anywhere with phone or internet access, they are much more likely to stay in treatment.
  • Affordable: telemedicine sessions can cost 10 to 50% less due to reduced overhead, travel time, and staffing needs.
  • Accessible: research shows the fit between clients and mental health providers is essential to positive outcomes. Most people will not travel to a provider beyond fifty miles, but telemedicine lets clients work with the best licensed provider regardless of location.
  • Confidential: 80% of therapy clients worry about the stigma of treatment. Telemedicine’s earliest adoptees were in Asian countries where psychotherapy carries a very negative stigma.
  • Legal: Teletherapy is legal and expanding, and regulated by state–specific guidelines. Government and licensing boards are also rapidly evolving legislation to expand teletherapy access. Currently providers only “see” clients in states where the provider is licensed. Providers can typically apply for licensure in multiple states, either directly through state licensing boards or third–party services that streamline the application process.
  • Reimbursable: Teletherapy is reimbursable. Since 2004, Medicare and the AMA have issued CPT codes to identify and reimburse teletherapy services. A list of eligible services and codes include:
    • Individual psychotherapy: CPT 90804 – 90809
    • Consultations: CPT 99241 – 99255
    • Office or other outpatient visits: CPT 99201 – 99215
    • Pharmacologic management: CPT 90862
    • Psychiatric diagnostic interview examination: CPT 90801
    • Neurobehavioral status examination: CPT 96116
    CPT code descriptions can be found on the American Medical Association's CPT directory. The modifier GT may be necessary to identify that services were delivered via telemedicine. More details on reimbursement are available through the American Telemedicine Association.
Other teletherapy resources:

Want to publicize that you offer teletherapy? Post your services on

Want more information on teletherapy ethics and best practices? Learn more about the Online Therapy Institute.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Web Secret #106: LISTSERVs

Back to the future.

A long, long time ago - 1986 to be exact - one of the earliest social networking softwares was invented - the LISTSERV.

And 20 years later - when you talk about instant, simultaneous communication with like minded amigos or colleagues - there is nothing cheaper, faster, or better. Should I add free and easy to set up (provided you pick the right provider)?

For those of you who have forgotten, (or never knew in the first place,) a LISTSERV is an electronic discussion board. It consists of a mailing list program for communicating with other individuals who have subscribed to the same list. Using e-mail, you can participate in the listserv. When you submit a message to the server, your message is immediately relayed to all those on the listserv. The recipients can e-mail back and everyone sees the back and forth of these communications.

LISTSERVs can be powerful and effective tools for obtaining and relaying information. For example, interested in Alternative Medicine? You can join the Alternative Medicine Forum, read archived messages on a variety of topics, or post a new message with your questions.

Creating your own LISTSERV is a snap. I recommend YAHOO! Groups. It's easy to set up and use. Trust me, as someone who has created numerous LISTSERVs for a variety of groups, ease of use is important, or you will be flooded with e-mails and calls from clueless individuals unable to figure out how to sign up, post, or unsubscribe. True, your YAHOO! group is hosted on YAHOO! But guess what? Unless you are a large corporation, nobody cares.

For several years, an organization I know about hosted a LISTSERV on YAHOO! Then, they wanted to be cooler, so they spent several thousands of dollars on Lyris proprietary LISTSERV software. It's been a nightmare every step of the way. Hideously complicated to set up, very difficult to use, glitchy. Many users NEVER figure out how to sign up, and the LISTSERV administrator has to manually enroll them. It's ugly.

Meanwhile it took me exactly 5 minutes to create a brand new listserv for a local association on YAHOO! groups.

The LISTSERV, an oldie but goodie.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Web Secret #105: The Internet Is Rotting My Brain

In 2008, the Atlantic Magazine published perhaps the most widely read and influential article on the impact of the web on cognition - the infamous "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", written by tech writer Nicholas Carr.

Carr wrote about a wide spread realization that many had lost their ability to fully concentrate on long, thoughtful written works. He eventually concluded that heavy Internet usage was to blame.

Carr has now followed up his original piece with a book "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains", expanding on the points he made in 2008. In her review of the book, "Yes, the Internet Is Rotting Your Brain", Laura Miller writes that since 2008, neuroscientists have performed and reviewed important studies on the effects of multitasking, hyperlinks, multimedia and other information-age innovations on human brain function - and indeed, "The more of your brain you allocate to browsing, skimming, surfing and the incessant, low-grade decision-making characteristic of using the Web, the more puny and flaccid become the sectors devoted to "deep" thought." Time to shut off the computer.

Personally, after reading all of this, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I grew up pre-home computer. By any standards, I am well read - in three languages. I excelled in academics and attended Ivy League schools both as an undergrad and a grad student. And I will admit that I often joke with my twins, that had I been born in 1993, (like them), there is absolutely NO WAY that I would be as well read, or as broadly cultured as I am today. Given my geeky tendencies, and my love of gaming - I would probably have spent all the time I devoted to books playing World of Warcraft, trolling Second Life, and trying to hack into - well - someplace I shouldn't. I probably would never have achieved the grades, or the SAT scores to get admitted to Yale. I would be a social embryo.

On the other hand, I am old enough to remember myriads of "TV Rots Your Brain" articles that predicted not only the extinction of all intellect, but the downfall of Western Civilization. Yet somehow, while I watched the "The Brady Bunch", "Mission:Impossible", "Dark Shadows", and the like for hours on end - I still managed to read "War and Peace", "Les Miserables", and "Don Quixote", in English, French, and Spanish.

So maybe I am not giving myself enough credit - and even with the availability of the net, I would still have read the classics and engaged in other deep cognitive pursuits.

And then, I have still another thought. Do you know how to hunt with a spear, and skin your kill? Of course not. Do you know how to hand sew a needlepoint sampler, or write a letter using a quill pen? Probably not. As technology and the world evolves, skill sets become extinct, replaced by others. Would you like to live in an era where sewing and hand calligraphy were valued? But wait - in the 18th century there was no anesthesia, or antibiotics. No way to phone home, or hop a plane to Paris.

No one yet has measured what I have gained by being able to instantly access and read Carr's original article on The Atlantic's web site - two years after it was published. Couldn't do that in 1980 - 0r 1990 - or even in 2000.

I'll take my chances on the Internet rotting my brain in the 21st century.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Web Secret #104: CNET

The other day I heard about the Solio Universal Solar Charger - essentially a battery, powered by the sun, that could charge all of my portable electronic devices in a pinch.

It sounded great. It sounded like I should immediately shell out $79.95 and buy it.

But the economy sucks so I no longer buy cool gadgets on impulse unless they cost under $10.00.

Time to read a review.

I like to get my reviews from experts, not my next door neighbor. And there are endless gadget review sites. So - who to consult?


Why CNET? Well for starters, my brother Philip, who owns his own successful TV production company and was a pioneer in HD TV, says they're the best. (Did I mention he is VERY successful - in part because he has always been on the cutting edge of TV production technology?)

But then there is CNET itself, and their exhaustively thorough reviewing methodology. Don't take my word for it, watch the video "How We Test Products":


Here is CNET's review of the Solio Charger.

I decided against buying it after reading "Opening the Solio is a simple process: All you need to do is swivel the panels outward so that they resemble a windmill. We found the mechanism a little loose, however, and the panels didn't snap securely into place."

I don't like things that don't snap securely into place.