Category Archives: Data loss

The poor are failed by the loss of obsolete medical procedures

The following rant comes courtesy of a speaker to a group of volunteer developers working on OpenMRS, who recounted her experiences of volunteering as a doctor in India.

Naturally, when you go under the knife for a surgical procedure, you’d want the surgeon using the latest, most advanced techniques, as demonstrated by empirical evidence.  Health systems want the surgeons to use the most efficient technique, expressed in positive outcomes per money spent.  You’d expect that in today’s world, you’d get one of the two, or perhaps somewhere in between.

Say that the latest technique uses robo-surgeons. Let’s call that technique Z.  It was pioneered in a university teaching hospital at enormous cost, because they’d never built one before; there’s no commercial provider of the equipment yet, so technique Z hasn’t percolated to wider practice.  Most other hospitals use techniques X or Y, one requiring more, highly trained staff, and the other requiring fewer staff but a couple of expensive pieces of equipment. Techniques X and Y are variations on T, U, V and W, some of which date back to the early sixties, and stem off from technique S.  If you look at textbooks, S is mentioned by name, and T, U, V and W have one- or two-sentence descriptions because while major leaps forward at the time, they’re now obsolete in the era of X and Y.  The medical textbooks describe how to do X and Y in detail.

In developing countries, you don’t have either the many staff, the highly trained staff or the expensive pieces of equipment.  U, V and W are all unavailable because of this. T uses equipment that can’t even be procured any more and certainly isn’t lying around waiting to assist with surgery now.

The developing world needs medical and surgical texts that don’t demand powerful diagnostic tools, expensive equipment or highly specialized staff.  A competent surgeon can do their work without any of these; they’ll get worse expected outcomes, but those outcomes will be better than inaction.  There are no textbooks currently available to instruct a surgeon with limited resources.  Even battlefield surgeons expect to stabilize their patient and ship them off to much better hospitals.

The ongoing progress in medicine is leaving behind the poorest and most vulnerable on our planet; our indifference to the preservation of these old methods are affecting us now, in ways I would never have guessed at.

Google Chrome on Linux: slow, memory hog

I’ve run the Google Chrome on Linux beta since it first become available, and my impression is: slow. I might be unusual, in that I typically have dozens and dozens of tabs open, and that may break Chrome’s model of shoving each page into its own process, and this PC has “only” a gig of RAM, but it’s slower than FireFox for the same task. Things were a lot worse before I loaded AdBlock and FlashBlock for Chrome. Now my CPU isn’t pegged at 100%.

Embedded JavaScript is affected by this performance hit, so that particular tools that I have help do my stuff, well, don’t anymore.

Most annoyingly, it seems, although I haven’t confirmed it, that the back button causes a page reload: it doesn’t come out of the cache. Or the slowness could make it look that way. But how long can it possibly take to render a page anyway?

On the upside, it hasn’t crashed, and I would have expected FireFox to mysteriously die without any explanation by now (a sign that Firefox is going to die soon is that tab-swaps/page loads become very slow, indicating a similar root cause which I’m guessing is memory exhaustion). Firefox has always done the mysterious death thing, and I was hoping that upgrading to 3.5 would fix things, but no dice.

I’m trying to decide whether it’s preferable to have my browser snappy, but occasionally fall in a big pile and get back up again, or a laggard that rolls with the punches. Perhaps I’ll split my browsing between them simultaneously; vital stuff on Chrome and throw-away stuff on FF, but that’s going to be a bit tough on my brain.

Well, it turns out that Chrome is a memory hog. I bought another gig of RAM, and wouldn’t you know it, the PC is flying. My suspicions were tripped when all of the RAM was in use, most of the paging file and the little orange disk activity light was slowly burning a hole in the wall on the other side of the room.

Tell me how to fix the problem!

It timed out, or I closed something, or something. Then I tried typing, and Writely figured out I couldn’t prove I was me anymore:
Not logged in - fine. What do I do about that?
Not logged in – fine. But you’re meant to tell me how to fix the problem, or better yet, fix it for me.

Eventually I brought up the login screen in another tab, logged in, and all became good again.

MySql woes

We’ve got MySql problems here at Geekrant central.

MySQL said: Documentation
#1016 – Can’t open file: ‘wp_comments.MYI’ (errno: 145)

Doesn’t sound good, does it? The ISP is looking into it.

Nothing else seems to be AWOL, but I’ve taken a backup of everything just in case. Wouldn’t you know it, the backup I have of wp_comments isn’t particularly recent. Hopefully the ISP has a newer one, but if not, I’ve grabbed a bunch of comments via Newsgator’s cache. Gawd knows how I’d restore them though.

Update: Fixed. May I just say, the support guys at AussieHQ hosting are deadset legends.

Why your life shouldn’t be completely online

Why your life can’t be completely online yet: Cameron Reilly on what happens when the only copy of your flight details are in your Gmail… and Gmail goes down. (Hey Cam, look on the bright side — assuming you knew you weren’t flying out of Avalon, there’s only a handful of possible airlines you could have been travelling with, and their terminals at MEL are pretty close together. Are you a fast runner?)

Proximity sense travel cards are vital; processes support falible memory

I lost my train ticket the other day. My monthly. A hundred bucks worth. I recalled that I’d validated it on the bus to get home (because the bus was there; I don’t wait for it if it’s not there – the timing’s a little vauge and I’m not that adverse to exercise). I remembered left in my back pocket along with a bus timetable. And I knew it was lost, because I have processes to deal with a decaying memory. I lock the car with the car keys now, because the car can be locked without them and I know that I can and have left the keys in the car; so locking it with the key means I can’t do that. I knew that I’d only recently walked in the door, and that I’d only been in a limited number of places. I knew that there was only one place it should have been, where I leave all my pcoket stuff – phone, wallet, MP3 player, keys, coins, ID lanyard and travel ticket. And it wasn’t there. Because I was in the process of trying to put it there. But the other stuff was. It wasn’t in any of my pockets.

I concluded that the only remaining explaination is that I had dropped it, which seemed ludicrous. How could that have happened? It was in my pocket! I retraced my steps back to the bus stop, and halfway there I found the bus pass. Another hundred metres and I found the ticket. During the walk home it had worked its way out, sliding up against the bus timetable and onto the footpath.

Now, the reason I had it in my back pocket was because it was a Friday, and on Fridays its casual day at work and as such my shirt didn’t have a pocket in it. So, there was process failure there, but it was to be expected. Little I can do about casual day.

I’ve had scares like this in the past. The reason I keep my ticket in my pocket is because I need it easily accessible, for feeding into the barriers to let me in and out of the train stations. There are most secure locations I can keep it, but they are less accessible. So I’ve left it in the pocket of the previous day’s shirt and not realised until I’ve arrived at the train station.

But the crux of the matter, the reason this is a GeekRant article, is because if the damn ticket was proximity detect I could keep it in my wallet or on my ID lanyard and never lose it and also have it ready to validate at a moment’s notice. The lanyard would be best, because then I couldn’t get to work without taking my lanyard with me, which would remove another thing I could forget and would inconvience me. And this is all the more important now that I’m lugging a thousand buck yearly ticket around with me. It’s not like it can’t be done either – all the validating machines have proximity sense detectors on them. At least the yearly tickets are plastic and will survive a trip through the washing machine.

Stupid MetCard.