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Tips for your mobile life and work
Updated: 13 min 15 sec ago

JAMA Network Reader

Wed, 2014-09-17 06:00

Interested in reading JAMA articles on the go? You’ll be happy to know that because UCSF Library is a JAMA subscriber, our patrons have access to the latest year’s worth of content from all 10 JAMA journals on the JAMA Network Reader.

The Reader works across all devices — phone, tablet, and desktop — to give you free, instant access to the research, reviews, and viewpoints in all JAMA Network journals, including those published online first and with embedded video. It’s browser based and available as a Chrome app or Safari extension to allow for offline article viewing (articles are only available for online viewing on Mozilla and Internet Explorer through the Reader website). The option to read either online or off saves storage space on your device and gives you the ability to easily access the article later.

Additionally, there are no manual updates needed, and Online First articles and new issues appear automatically.

To take advantage of this benefit to UCSF’s JAMA subscription, you will need to access the JAMA Network Reader while on the UCSF network or click through to the JAMA Network from the library catalog if you’re off campus. Look for the link to the Reader on the top of the right sidebar of every article page. For more detailed instructions, please visit the JAMA Network Reader website and see the section “How to access through your institution.”

Also visit the Reader site to learn more about installation and offline reading.

Image from JAMA.

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Categories: Mobilized

Automatic backups with Box Sync

Wed, 2014-09-10 07:40

Given San Francisco’s history of earthquakes, I should be better prepared.
My earthquake kit has a flashlight, portable radio, first-aid kit, and enough dehydrated food rations to last a few weeks. I’m probably better prepared than most, but I’m still lacking an adequate supply of water, spare clothes, cash, street maps, and emergency contacts. In terms of earthquake preparedness, I’m woefully short of ready. Emergency preparedness is a great analogue for data disaster recovery. Investing some time in being prepared could potentially pay huge dividends later on; preparing yourself for the worst is often easier than dealing with disasters as they unfold.

If you’ve owned a computer in the past decade, chances are you have either experienced a hard drive failure or know someone who has. Data from Backblaze –– an online backup provider –– outlines how failures can occur due to manufacturing defects, as well as wear-out failures. Wear-out failures unsurprisingly increase with disk age. Unlike traditional spinning hard disks, the increasingly popular solid state drives do not have moving components and thus are less likely to fail mechanically. Solid state drives, however, are not immune from wear-out. Regardless of the kind of drive you own, having a secure, automatic, online backup is a great practice.


If you’re staff, faculty, or a student here at UCSF with MyAccess privileges, you already have access to UCSF Box. Box is one in a crowd of cloud-based storage providers, competing with Dropbox, Mozy, Skydrive, SugarSync, Amazon Cloud Drive, and many others. UCSF Box provides 60 gigabytes of personal storage with a file size limit of 5 gigabytes. You can use Box to store, access, and share data.

Cloud vs Network Shared Drive

Box, like many other cloud services, offers some advantages over traditional storage on a network drive. (Note that a network drive is not the hard drive on your computer — it’s backed up storage space provided on your school or workplace server. Typically, you must be on-site to use it.)

  1. Access from anywhere. Once your data is up in your Box account, you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. That includes directly via their website, through mobile applications on both Android, Phone/iPad, and Windows Phone.
  2. Share files easily. In Box, you can share files and folders quickly with anyone. You can generate a hyperlink to share your data, then customize the access settings according to your needs. Find out more about sharing files with Box.
  3. Add tasks, discussions, and comments to files.

There are a few drawbacks with using Box at UCSF, most notably that it cannot be used for FERPA or ePHI information. Also, if you have data exceeding 5gb per file, or 60gb in total, traditional network storage would be more suitable. Otherwise, the benefits of portability between devices and the enhanced suite of features make Box a great option.

Box Sync

Box Sync is a great feature, similar to other cloud storage offerings, that integrates a folder on your Mac or PC with your account. Anything added or modified within this folder is automatically backed up. You can modify the contents of the folder while you are offline and the changes will be applied the next time you connect to the internet.

To setup Box Sync, follow the instructions below.

  1. If you haven’t setup your Box account yet, do so by visiting UCSF Box (or if you are not part of the UCSF community)
  2. Download the Box Sync client from here
  3. Follow the install instructions for your operating system here
  4. When you first launch Box Sync, you can choose a custom location for your Box Sync Folder.

In my case, I’ve setup my Box Sync folder in my User Directory (the default location). I’ve added a folder entitled “PowerPoint Presentations” as well as a sample document entitled “Sample Word Document.” The Box Sync application has syncing turned on.

When I login to my Box account, I see that both the folder and the document have been uploaded. Anything I place in the Box Sync folder will be uploaded, including documents seeded within other folders.

Go On, Be Prepared

Don’t wait to take advantage of your space on UCSF Box. It could save you enormous hassle and heartache if (when!) your local hard drive fails. If you don’t have UCSF privileges, you can still use a free account or a competing solution, though your amount of space and/or cost may vary. If you take a few minutes to set up some kind of cloud-based file storage, you won’t be sorry.


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Categories: Mobilized

Top 5 Tips for Better Mobile Video

Sun, 2014-08-17 23:00

The video capabilities of smartphones are improving all the time, and the iPhone remains the most-used camera on the planet. Most of us are not trained videographers, however, so we often end up with shaky, blurry video and poor sound quality.The tips provided in this post will help you shoot better looking and sounding videos!

1 – Tilt that phone

The eyes in our noggin are oriented horizontally, as are the displays on our televisions and computer monitors. We are used to holding our mobile phones vertically, though, and you know what happens next… vertically oriented video. Oh nooo! We all make this mistake at least once, and it’s a doozy, because you can’t “fix it in post” unless you want to cut off two-thirds of your video. Just remember – tilt that phone to landscape orientation before you press the video capture button!

And if you need an app for that, Horizon has you covered.

2 – Go to the light

New camera features are added to our mobile phones every year, but one thing remains relatively constant – the small size of our phones. Small phones means small camera sensors, small camera sensors means less surface area to capture light, and that means grainy, blurry pictures in low-light conditions! Have you ever tried to capture mobile phone video in a dimly lit classroom, or in a restaurant? Yeah, good luck! Sure, you can brighten up the video with an editing app, but that will just add more grain to your video. The only solutions are to move yourself and your subject to brighter locations (the preferred option), or to add light to the scene artificially. Some phones have a video light built-in, but those will drain your phone’s battery, and a small, harsh light source like that is not flattering on your subject. Here are a few external LED light options worth considering:

Pocket Spotlight

3 – Mind your audio

Grainy or even blurry video is tolerable for most viewers. Distorted, hissy or unclear audio is definitely not. Just as the size of the camera sensor limits a mobile phone’s ability to work in low light conditions, so does the size of the mobile phone’s microphone limit its ability to capture a wide dynamic range of audio signals. Even in quiet, wind-free environments, mobile phone audio can sound weak and echoey, and in loud environments the audio will be distorted or clip off altogether. Investing in an external microphone is recommended. There are many options, including microphones with their own power source (they take batteries) for producing better sound, and they may connect via the headphone port, the charging port, or via Bluetooth. Small shotgun mics are often preferred choice, but lavaliere mics work better for recording audio from one person… that is, if you don’t mind dealing with a long cable that can get in the way.

Experienced users can record audio with a separate audio recorder and microphone, and then “sync” them together in a video editor:

4 – Steady now

Shaky video that tilts and pans around the scene too quickly is one of most telling signs of an amateur videographer. It is much harder to a hold small camera steady, than it is to hold a large camera steady, and there are no lighter, smaller cameras than those in mobile phones. There a number strategies that will help us capture smoother video, including (a) turning yourself into a human tripod by widening your stance, bending your knees, and leaning against stationary objects, (b) being very deliberate and gradual with your camera movements, and (c) investing in a rig that helps you hold the camera steady.

The Cam Caddie Video Stabilizer

5 – Frame your subject

Another telltale sign of amateur video is poor framing. This includes cutting off people’s bodies in odd places, subjects moving in and out of the frame, or even cutting out the most important part of the scene altogether. The Rule of Thirds is a good technique to start with, which breaks the frame into a tic-tac-toe grid, and states that placing important elements along the lines or intersections of lines contributes to strong composition. For example, it is common to place your subject’s eyes along the top horizontal line. Here are few more framing tips:

  • Never cut off the top of your subject’s head unless you are shooting an extreme close-up.
  • If you’re not shooting a full-body-length shot of a person, cut them off in-between their joints, not at the joints. Otherwise, you introduce the visual amputation phenomenon!
  • If your subject is moving, or not looking directly at the camera, frame the scene so there is more space in front of them, giving them “breathing room.”
  • Anticipate movement by using your peripheral vision, instead of just focusing on the small screen on the back of your mobile phone.
Bonus tips!

Good luck, and please add your own suggestions to the comments area below this post!

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Categories: Mobilized

Lock It Up: Encrypting Your Mobile Phone

Tue, 2014-07-22 05:00

Your smartphone might be the most powerful portable computer you own. It can also contain a lot of personal information. With photos, financial apps, passwords, and email stored on the device, a lost or stolen phone in the wrong hands can be catastrophic.

With smartphone thefts on the rise, it’s no wonder that the FCC recommends that you set up password security on your phone, yet one third of all U.S. users still do not have a four digit PIN lock. If your phone does ever fall into the wrong hands, encrypting your phone this way will add a layer of security.

Do It Now

Before making any upgrades on your phone, it is best to back up all the data on your device. Your contacts, documents, and photos can be synced and stored on your computer through your iTunes or Android software.

All iPhones 3GS and later, and all iPad models have hardware encryption, so protecting your iPhone or iPad (iOS) is simply a matter of turning on your passcode through the Settings > General > Passcode Lock.

Encrypting an Android device requires a little more effort and is done through Settings > Security. You can also encrypt your SD card from this menu, if you have one. Note that this process might require an hour or more to fully encrypt your device, so be sure it is fully charged or plugged in. Once your Android device has finished encrypting, remember to power off and restart your phone for the changes to take effect. If you want a higher level of Android security, you can install encryption software like SecureMe, which uses a military-grade algorithm that can encrypt and hide individual notes, photos, and messages.

The Bottom Line

The reality is that a growing number of organizations are now requiring that mobile devices be encrypted before allowing access to their email systems. Even if you are not required to do it, neglecting to encrypt exposes your personal information to unnecessary risk. As I’ve outlined, encrypting your mobile devices is a fairly simple process and once completed will provide a crucial layer of security, in case your phone is ever lost or stolen.


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Categories: Mobilized

Will You Have a Kill Switch When You Need It?

Wed, 2014-07-09 00:30

Today’s smartphones carry an unprecedented amount of personal information. Not just contacts and email, but web history, social network applications, cloud storage, photos, financial applications and more are at risk, if your phone is lost or stolen. Add integration with your work servers (e.g. email, contacts, remote desktop) and your phone becomes a potential risk for leaking business information as well.

Cellphone theft is sharply on the rise, and Consumer Reports estimates from its national survey that 3.1 million Americans were victims of smartphone theft in 2013. With the likelihood of cellphone theft rising, alongside the ever-growing amount of data these devices store, the time couldn’t be better to take steps to protect yourself.

Legislation is moving forward in California which would require cell phones sold in the state to come equipped with theft-deterring technology, commonly referred to as a “kill switch.” Minnesota already has a law in place slated to require this technology on any smartphone manufactured and sold after July 1st, 2015. Kill switch technology would empower a smartphone owner to remotely disable and wipe the device. A major feature release in Apple’s iOS 7 in 2013 was “Activation Lock,” a typical kill switch feature that implemented lock and wipe functionality. In the first five months of 2014, thefts of iPhones in San Francisco dropped 38%, in New York by 19%, and London by 24% compared to the previous year. Proponents of mandating this technology argue that it dis-incentivizes would-be thieves and gives users peace of mind.

The good news for iPhone and Android users is that you don’t have to wait for the mandate! The sections below outline Apple’s offering for iPhone, Google’s offering for Android, and my personal favorite for Android.

Apple’s Activation Lock

Activation Lock requires an iCloud account to remotely manage your phone. Activation Lock works on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 7 or later. Like other iCloud services, you’ll need an Apple ID to use the feature, but chances are you already have one if you own an Apple Device. More information about Apple ID can be accessed here.

Activation Lock is set up automatically, when you enable Find My Phone on your iOS 7 device. To do so, follow these steps on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Tap iCloud.
  3. Sign in with your Apple ID, if necessary.
  4. Turn on Find My iPhone.

Lost Mode is a great option included with Find My Phone. Login at and activate Lost Mode on your iOS device if you think it may be lost or stolen. Set an optional custom message (e.g. “Hey! You found Ben’s phone! Please call his roommate at 555-123-4567 and he will reward your handsomely”). Lost Mode protects your phone with a four digit passcode. Even if you wipe your device, your custom message and lockscreen will remain active, preventing unauthorized users from using your device.

You can find more information about Activation Lock and Find My Phone here.

Google’s Android Device Manager

Android Device Manager is Google’s implementation of kill switch technology for the Android platform. To use Android Device Manager, you’ll need to have already connected a Google account to your tablet or phone.

Follow these steps to set up Android Device Manager on your Android tablet or phone.

  1. Download and install the Android Device Manager application in the Google Play Store.
  2. On your Android device, open Google Settings from your Application Menu and open Android Device Manager settings. Note, Google Settings is distinct from Settings in your Application Menu.
  3. Turn on Remotely locate this device
  4. Turn on Allow remote lock and erase

From the Android Device Manager webpage you can locate your device in Google Maps, lock it with password and optional alert message, erase data, and send a ring command. For the location feature to work properly on Android 4.1 or higher, you’ll need to have location access enabled. You can define location access settings to employ any combination of GPS, cell tower, and wireless access point information to determine your device’s location. Note that GPS is more accurate, but will negatively affect battery life.

AndroidLost –– like Android Device Manager, but better.

AndroidLost is a feature-rich kill switch application for Android users. It can be installed alongside Android Device Manager and has some additional functionality you may desire. Like Android Device Manager, it also requires a Google account to be setup on your device.

In addition to erasing data, setting a password lock, and sending ring commands from a webpage, AndroidLost allows you to remotely take photographs and audio recordings with your device’s camera and microphone, fetch call list and SMS logs, set a custom alarm, back up photos, start a phone call, and more.

Unlike Apple and Google solutions, you can also send all these commands to AndroidLost via text message from another phone (at your approval, of course.) You could, for instance, send the text message “androidlost alarm 60″ and your phone would sound an alarm for 60 seconds. Or you might send the “androidlost erasesdcard” command in a text message in dire circumstances to keep your phone operational, but wipe the contents of the SD card. Sending these commands from a trusted phone might be useful if you are unable to access a computer after losing your device.

Another great feature is being able to remotely turn on and off the GPS. To save battery life, I keep my location access disabled on my Samsung smartphone unless I’m using Navigation features. It is very likely that if I lost my phone I would be unable to locate it using Android Device Manager. Using AndroidLost, I could enable location access on my lost phone and begin tracking it.

AndroidLost’s website is a bit lackluster and the software is still technically in beta, but the majority of features and commands are available free-of-charge. With that price tag, and the ability to run it in-tandem with Android Device Manager, AndroidLost is a great tool to consider including when setting up your phone or tablet.

Secure your AppleID and Google Account

While all three options above can help protect your data, they all come with the risk that persons with unauthorized access to your AppleID or Google account password could also remotely wipe or lock your device. Whatever application you decide to implement for your device, you must protect the account that can authorize the kill switch with a strong, secure, unique password.

Another consideration is two-step authentication. Two-step –– also known as two-factor –– authentication is an excellent way to keep your important accounts secured. The first factor is a username and password (something you know,) while the second factor will oftentimes be a one-time code (sent to something you have, like a phone.) This second step is an added layer of security that can prevent unauthorized access, even in the event that your password is compromised. It is becoming more common that the second factor is delivered to our smartphones. Your AppleID sends a 4-digit code to your phone as a second authentication factor, while your Google Account uses an Android application called Google Authenticator to generate codes.

If you do use Apple or Google’s two-step authentication, and you lose your device, logging into iCloud or Google Device Manager to manage your device will be more complicated. Apple users should refer to the frequently asked questions for two-step verification and read up on the 14 digit recovery key you should save. Google users similarly can employ backup codes to login to accounts and manage devices.

Be Ready to Report

Lastly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC for short) has a list of guidelines and recommendations on how to safeguard yourself against wireless theft. A great tip they offer is to document your device’s make, model, serial number, and unique identifier (either the International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) or the Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID) number.) You can give this information to police when you generate an official report, and it could be helpful in identifying your device if it is recovered. The FCC also has a useful list of carrier contact information that you can consult to report lost or stolen devices.

We hope you will never need to remotely wipe your device or report it stolen –– but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take a few steps to prepare for the worst, and you can rest easy.

photo credit: dumbledad via photopin cc

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Categories: Mobilized

Task Management Apps Revisited: Part 3 –

Wed, 2014-07-02 00:31

In this post, I’m following up on my previous reviews of task management apps with another look at When I last looked at task management apps, I was committed to using Google Tasks, and I concluded that the GTasks app offered me the best mobile experience (as Google doesn’t offer a mobile app for Tasks). Although I had seen great reviews of and liked its clean design and gesture-based interface, I didn’t want to order my task list using loose deadlines like This Week and Later. I also noticed that Google Tasks did not always sync reliably with

Also, at that time there was no web interface for, and I wasn’t consistently using Chrome (there was and still is a browser extension for Chrome). Recently, the web app was finally released. In general, the web interface works well. It looks as nice as the mobile app and just feels like a logical extension of it:

Since I’ve already been using the app on my phone, the time seems right to revisit for Mobilized.

Changing Needs

Since my last look at task management apps, my needs evolved somewhat. These changes left me less committed to Google Tasks and more willing to experiment with

  • It became more important to me to create tasks while on the go, or at home but away from my laptop. This made me more likely to add tasks from my phone, rather than in Google Tasks.
  • When I did create a task in Google Tasks, I got increasingly tired of having to pull out my phone in order to add a reminder notification. It made more sense to create the task using an app in the first place.
  • I’ve had a lot of tasks with changing deadlines. I also had other tasks that didn’t have a firm deadline, but needed continual action, and I didn’t want these all lumped together in the “No due date” area where I’d likely lose track of them. Google Tasks — and the apps I was using with it — required too much work to manually revise the deadlines of these tasks. It can also feel defeating to continually push back deadlines, even when the deadlines are just loose targets.
  • I wasn’t using Google Calendar much for deadline management, although I still wanted to see important deadlines on my calendar.
  • I got frustrated with some aspects of the Google Tasks interface. In Firefox, it’s possible to edit an existing task by clicking on the arrow to the right of the task, but this doesn’t work in Chrome. These days, I mostly use Chrome, so I found this annoying.
Experimenting with

I started using on my Android phone (without syncing with Google Tasks) because my Google Tasks list had begun to feel long and unmanageable. provided an easy way to organize tasks for the next few days. I organically began using for casual tasks that weren’t urgent, and Google Tasks for items with firm, important deadlines. has been great for quickly creating tasks using my phone. It offers the ability to create tasks using predictive text and speech recognition. I like the fact that it can automatically add a reminder to return a missed call. You can also create a task in email by emailing

I began to see the benefit of’s organization scheme — Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming, and Someday (Someday contains all tasks that don’t have an assigned date). These simplified categories help me set goals for what I want to accomplish, but if all of today’s tasks don’t get done today, automatically pushes them to the next day — no need to spend time entering new deadlines.

In both the phone and web app, also makes it easy to drag tasks from one date to another, and to put them in any order you like within that deadline group.

The Moment feature, which can be disabled or set to occur only on certain days of the week, reminds you once a day to spend a minute organizing your to-do list. I think this helps overcome one of the biggest hurdles to success with a task management app — simply remembering to use it. makes it easy to 1) create a manageable list of things to get done in the next few days, 2) revisit your task list each day, and 3) postpone tasks without too much guilt (this may be a pro or a con, depending on your style). The minimal design with generously sized type, and the pleasant reminder chime makes it a joy to use — most of the time. I do have a few issues with

Issues with
  • At times, I find the gesture-based interface so pared down that it becomes confusing.
  • Setting up a recurring task

    When adding a sub-task (“note”) in the web app, it’s strange that you have to hit both Return and then Save to save the note.

  • The customization of recurring tasks is something that many users find lacking. You can’t set repeat tasks to occur, say, every weekday. You can set simple recurrences.
  • A minor annoyance, but one that can be turned off: has commercialized the app a bit. Amazon purchasing is integrated for certain tasks that contain the word “buy,” and the app presents you with “rewards” that are basically just advertisements.

But these are minor complaints. My main issue is still that doesn’t sync reliably or automatically with Google Tasks, and I’m not ready to totally give up on Google Tasks. I tried syncing the two and at first didn’t see any problems, but after multiple syncs, I ended up with many duplicate tasks, garbled notes, and strange due dates (e.g., 1969). This issue keeps me from going with as my sole task management app.

The Bottom Line works really well for me for keeping track of tasks coming up in the next few days, especially when I want to create a list of simple tasks while on the go. It’s great for quickly adding tasks like errands, chores, and phone calls. The Someday category, which holds all tasks without a deadline, is a good hold-all for non-critical tasks that I don’t want to forget. But when I want to schedule something with a firm deadline, especially if it’s a few weeks off, I still find it best to enter that task in Google Tasks — and sync it to mobile using either the Tasks or GTasks app.

If you’re not using Google Tasks, and you don’t have a lot of mid-range deadlines to keep track of, may be the task management solution for you. Moment screenshot by Nicole Cozma/CNET.

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Categories: Mobilized