This Week in Mobile Tech Manor #78: Joy of Hearing

The end of the week is here bringing another chance to share the happenings in my world. That world is Mobile Tech Manor, my home office, and it’s a happening place with a revolving door for cool gadgets and technology. This week the gadgets were small, and when I wasn’t playing with them I was experimenting with a cloud file storage method. In between the gadget sessions I had some amazing personal experiences, including what felt to me like a modern miracle.
Playing in the cloud
I am a firm believer in living in the cloud and having all of my “stuff”, files, documents and the like, available 24/7. I play with work with too many notebooks and other cool gadgets, so moving this stuff around when I switch devices is not practical. Storing the stuff in the cloud makes sense, as it is then accessible from any device I use, if it is a good service.
I have been playing with the free version of Dropbox for a long time. Dropbox lets you upload files to your account in the cloud, and then keep any device of your choosing synced in real time. The free account is a generous 5 GB of storage, but to get serious about putting all of my stuff there I needed to upgrade to a bigger account. The Pro account is $9.99 per month ($99 per year) and bumps your limit up to 50 GB. There are bigger account options but I decided to go to 50 GB and see if that was enough. I can always upgrade to a bigger limit if needed.
My past use of Dropbox was limited to just copying certain files to the cloud for remote access. What I wanted to do now was more substantial, I wanted to have all of my documents available through Dropbox. I have 25 GB of documents on my main desktop system, the MacBook, and I have 19 GB of music files on top of that. What I wanted to do was leave the files on the MacBook, but also have them in the Dropbox storage for access from other devices. It would also serve as a back up of the files with this method.
With this goal in mind I copied the documents to the Dropbox storage. This took a good while as expected, but was faster than I thought it would be. When you install Dropbox on a system, it creates a Dropbox folder (Mac or Windows) that can be accessed just like a local folder. The documents began appearing during the copy procedure, and I was getting excited by how easy this was happening.
Once the documents were finished copying I intended to copy my music files the same way. Unfortunately that was not to be. My MacBook (s aapl) had 42 GB free on the hard drive when I started this process. That free space included the documents and music files already stored on the local drive. Much to my surprise when the 25 GB of files were finished copying, my local hard drive only had 17 GB of free space.
I investigated the space issue and now I know what happened. While the Dropbox folder on my local hard drive represents the cloud storage, it is also a local copy of the files. Dropbox syncs the cloud storage with the local Dropbox folder, so in this case there were two physical copies of the files. I had created a copy of everything, when I only wanted to copy them to the cloud. If I continued on with the music files the same way, I would have almost no free space left on my local hard drive. That wouldn’t work at all.
I realize now that if I had moved all of the files in my Documents folder to the Dropbox folder, then I would only have the one local copy of them which is what I want. This would work fine except I wanted to keep my existing Documents folder tree intact, as that is where programs look for them. I can probably still do this with some sort of symlinks back to the original Documents folder tree, but I haven’t had time to explore this fully.
I will be futzing around with this for a while to see what works best for me. I’d like to keep my original file tree in place as I’ve indicated, yet have it synced with the Dropbox storage. I have to figure out the best way to get around the fact that Dropbox automatically copies files in the cloud to the local Dropbox folder on every device it is installed. This is a lot of different devices for me, and I don’t really want many copies of the same files all over the place. If you know of an easy way to accomplish what I want, please drop a comment explaining it.
Gadgets
This week I continued to play with the UMID mbook bz and found myself constantly impressed with how useful the little gadget is. While I normally don’t care for devices with keyboards too small to permit touch typing, I found lots of times when the UMID was sufficient to get things done anyway. It is so easy to bring along for any kind of outing, yet have a full WinXP computer at hand.
I love to read e-books while out for lunch during the week, and the UMID has turned into a surprisingly good e-book reader. I can fire up eReader on the UMID and read my book while eating. What makes the UMID so good at this simple task is the clamshell notebook form. It is in effect a book that can prop itself up at a good reading angle. I can read hands-free while eating at the same time, pressing the arrow key in the lower right of the keyboard to turn the page. It works great for this.
I’m not saying that it’s worth running out and buying a gadget just for hands-free reading. I wouldn’t do that and neither should you. But it’s an unexpected use for such a device, and a pleasant one at that.
The Motorola (s mot) Devour just showed up yesterday and I’ve been banging on it for hours now. I am surprised how much I am liking this phone. I didn’t think I’d like it before it arrived, but I am enjoying using the phone. The performance is impressive, it is as good as any Android phone I have tested. The Motoblur technology is better than I thought it would be, and it runs with no impact on the system performance. I’ll be shooting a video of the Devour to share, perhaps later today.
Police come to Mobile Tech Manor
The week got off to a scary start as the police came calling at 1 am last Saturday morning. It was a raucous event with flashing lights (to the joy of my neighbors). It seems that my stepson, who was staying overnight at a friend’s house, got picked up by the police for breaking curfew. Houston has a 11 pm curfew for teenagers, and the two teenagers snuck out at midnight to go to a fast-food restaurant to get something to eat. They were sitting in his car when the police noticed they were kids.
The cop was a good one, and decided to scare the boys so they wouldn’t do this again. He brought them to our house and came inside to give them a lecture. He explained that he could tell from talking to them that they were both good kids. He also explained that the curfew was not in place to restrict their freedom, it was there to protect them. In a big city like Houston there are a lot of very bad people out after midnight, and that’s why teenagers had a curfew. It is protective in nature, not restrictive.
He went on to explain that the week before the police had a shootout with two rough individuals at the fast-food place where he picked up the boys. Both of the bad guys were shot by the cops. Had something like that happened when they were there it would not have been good. He made a great impression on the boys, by carefully explaining why he picked them up. We were glad he brought them home to explain it to us with the care that he used. I don’t think there will be any sneaking out again.
It’s a miracle
I am a person who depends on my hearing a lot. As a former musician, my love for listening to music is the light of my life. One of my biggest fears is to lose my ability to hear music, and that fear was realized. I noticed a couple of months ago that I was losing the hearing in my left ear. The right ear seemed fine, but the left one started losing it. Over the past two months it got progressively worse until it reached the point that I couldn’t hear at all in my left ear.
I discussed it with my doctor and after a brief exam she referred me to an ENT specialist. Her feeling was that it was likely a permanent hearing loss, with my early music career a negative factor for which I was now paying a hefty price.
Monday I headed to see the specialist. Upon checking in they sent me first to the audiologist for a complete hearing test. I was seated in a sound-proof booth and subjected to a 20 minute exam to define the hearing capability on both ears. On a cool note the audiologist was running the test from a HP 2710p Tablet PC.
After the hearing test I was sent to another room to wait for the doctor. When he arrived I was surprised to see him carrying a Motion LE1600 slate Tablet PC. I was already liking this doctor and his tablet-friendly medical practice.
He used the slate to show me the results of the hearing test. I wasn’t aware of how hearing worked, but he showed me on the slate that there are two types of hearing: the nerve hearing and the physical hearing. The physical hearing is comprised of the inner ear and the ear drum working together to gather the sound. The nerve hearing is how the brain receives the sound.
The good news he had for me was that the nerve hearing in the left ear was working perfectly. The problem was thus in the physical hearing, and that meant that something in the inner ear was preventing the ear drum from doing its job. He confirmed that my physical hearing was zero in this ear, meaning I was totally deaf. He stressed that this was great news, and he guaranteed me I would have my hearing back when I left his office.
The most likely cause of my hearing loss was fluid in the inner ear that was exerting so much pressure on the eardrum it could not move at all. He did some checking and confirmed that was the case. The fluid was either the result of a deep-seated, undetected ear infection, or a side effect of the stroke I had two years ago. The fluid should drain from the inner ear via the Eustachian tube, but it wasn’t happening.
He had to first rule out a blockage of the Eustachian tube, so he sprayed Lidocaine up my nose and ran a scope up there. Yuck. He showed me on the monitor that both Eustachian tubes were open and unobstructed, so the next step was to get the fluid out of the inner ear.
That involved poking a hole through the ear drum, and then suctioning out the fluid. This turned out to be harder than expected, as he said I had what they called “gluey ear”, meaning the fluid was very thick. It took 20 very painful minutes to suction all of the fluid out of the inner ear. He then put a tiny tube in the eardrum to allow it to drain further. This was the same type of tube they put in kid’s ears when they get a lot of ear infections.
The doctor wasn’t kidding, when I left his office roughly 2 hours after arriving, I had regained my hearing. I went from totally deaf in one ear, to 100% hearing. I literally skipped out of the building, it was a miracle for me. I had not been able to mentally adapt to being deaf in the ear, no matter how hard I tried. Listening to music is a great joy in my life, and it had been ripped from it. No more. I can hear you fine. To the nice lady in the parking lot, thanks for your concern but they were tears of joy.
e-Book of the week
I am happily engaged with another of David Hewson’s Nic Costa books this week. I finished The Seventh Sacrament I was reading last week, a great book, and immediately started Dante’s Numbers. This is just as good as the earlier books in the series, and particularly interesting for me as the scene has switched from Rome to San Francisco. Hewson does a great job invoking a mental image with his writing, and it’s great “seeing” events unfold in places I have visited. Highly recommended.
Wrap-up
That’s my week as it happened. A week of gadgets, cops and miracles. How much better could it be? Until next week, be safe.
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