All posts by EdwardM

Developing Android apps using App Inventor 2

Front Page | Explore MIT App Inventor.

App Inventor is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to develop custom Android applications. App Inventor uses a graphical programming model in a cloud-based development system. Sounds complicated, but its not at all. It’s easy.

App Inventor 2 is a significant update to version 1.

Application user interfaces are constructed using a WYSIWYG drag and drop style interface (similar to many such UI designers). Components are added, properties are edited.

Switch to the “Blocks” view and behaviors are attached to events by assembling program blocks that look like this:



Use of App Inventor 2 is presently free (its run by MIT) and uses a Google account for log in. Apps under development can be run in an emulator on your computer, or loaded into your actual Android phone using a Wi-Fi link, a USB connection, downloaded from a web site URL, or download the .apk file to your computer for transfer to your Android phone (USB or email it to your phone).

App Inventor was originally started by Google. MIT later took the project over and has made some very nice improvements to the original.

Can you do everything you would want to do in an app? No, but it is pretty amazing how much you can do in App Inventor. In some cases,  you could implement much of your app in App Inventor, and then special custom code that cannot be done can be written as a separate activity. Your App Inventor code can then launch your code to perform the required functions.

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The challenge of health information data normalization

Different facilities and doctors use different terminology to describe the same things which makes the exchange of patient data difficult:

Until the data is normalized, the true potential of HIEs will be stunted. That potential lies in the ability to instantaneously act on the exchanged information. Ideally, two doctors sharing the same patient will be able to automatically absorb each other’s separate patient data.

via Health Information Exchanges Lack Standards – Healthcare –.

Providers used to jot down their diagnosis on a paper chart. Today, diagnoses are entered into an electronic medical record (EMR) and then may be transferred between providers – where the method of encoding the data is different. This problem is far more challenging than it seems on the surface (having studied graduate medical informatics, I have been introduced to the complexity).

Google Merchant Accounts: How do you change your business address?

Update: Multiple updates, below. Today (November 11) I received a reply from Google that says in order to change my address, I have to set up a new merchant account for my Android apps by setting up a new Google account, pay another $25 fee to Google, and then upload all my files, again. All because Google is incapable of changing the address of an account. Good grief.  Apparently no one at Google has ever moved in their life.

I am trying to submit both an app (to Google Play) and an e-book to Google Books/Play. They require that I set up a Google Merchant Account to receive incoming payments. Okay with that.

However, when I go to set up the account, Google pre-fills my old address in to the form and there is no obvious way to change the address. The page has a dead link for “Why Can’t I Edit My Address?”. Clicking it (in multiple browsers on both Mac OS X and Windows) displays nothing.

There’s no way to change the address.

I have not been able to find anything online about how to change my Google Merchant account mailing address – except, a strange Google help text that says clearly that I should delete my Google account, request a refund of the developer program fee, then create a new account – with a different name or change the name of my old account – and start uploading my stuff all over again. Google really says that on their support page. Insane.

The rest of the page implies it is impossible to do a change of address once an account is set up and you must start over and create a new account. They do give an option to change a “support address” but there is no way to get rid of the original mailing address.

Again, has anyone at Google ever moved?

I thought Google had smart staff so I am a bit surprised to encounter this obtuseness in their account setup process.

Any one? Any thoughts or ideas how to change this address?


Go to, click on the “gear” icon at upper right and then click on this icon for “Settings”. Go to bottom of the page and there you can edit your actual address. This is pretty hidden, to say the least, when you encounter the wrong address in the Play developer web site as there is no information there on how to change the address.

Update: Well, I did that but it still fills in the old address. Will try again tomorrow and see if the new address needs to propagate to the other servers first.

Update: Still does not work. Wallet now has my updated address. However, when I go to the Merchant account creation page, it still pre-fills in my old mailing address and further fills in a public business address with a mashup of my old and new postal addresses! It’s hopeless!

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Why does Android’s Google Maps need access to your personal contacts list?

Google has updated the Maps app for Android. The update says the app now requires access to your contacts list.


To share with their business partner, the NSA? Who knows? I can only guess that they now wish to alert you to the locations of your contacts, on the map, based on their location, or something.

Would be nice if they would provide an explanation when seeking permission to install the updates. Instead all they say is this permission “Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals.”

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Health Care and Insurance Fees to Consume 1/3d of typical family income by 2022

Look for insurance savings – San Francisco Chronicle.

By 2022, the typical family will pay 1/3d of their income to the health insurance and health industry industrial complex:

It is difficult to see how the U.S. will remain competitive in any economic activity when, over time, all of our income will be spent on health insurance and health care industries.

Individual purchasers of pre-paid health care (aka health insurance) – and only individual purchasers – are required by ObamaCare to purchase a rich package of Federally defined “benefits”.  Corporations and government are exempt from this requirement.

Among the oddities, under ObamaCare, the elderly and women who have had hysterectomies and men who have had vasectomies are required by ObamaCare to purchase maternity care insurance. Those who do not drink, smoke or do drugs are required by ObamaCare to purchase drug abuse counseling insurance.

Those who purchase medical devices – say an Epi-Pen to prevent loss of life due to food allergies – will pay an additional 2.3% tax to fund ObamaCare. (Epi-Pens, which used to be sold individually, are now sold only as a pair. Why sell one when you can sell two for twice as much? Cost: $232 every year.)

In the past two weeks, Sen. Max Baucus who wrote the law, and Sen. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader  who pushed the legislation through, both said ObamaCare looks to be a “looming train wreck”.

What a mess. That certainly inspires confidence 🙂

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HR is often a road block to hiring good workers

Ask The Headhunter: The Talent Shortage Myth and Why HR Should Get Out of the Hiring Business | The Business Desk with Paul Solman | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

At many companies there are layers of HR-related staff and automated resume scanners that pre-screen applications.

But as the author of the linked article points out, the HR staff generally lack the technical skills to adequately evaluate technical applicants, and they are not held accountable for the good people they inappropriately reject.

The author’s recommendation is that HR should not be involved in the recruiting and hiring process – that job properly belongs with the managers who are trying to fill positions. In other words, outsourcing (or insourcing) the recruitment process is not working, he says.


Why my posting here has been light – we’ve bought a home in the Portland, OR area and are wrapping up prep’ing our current home for sale. Plan to call some real estate sales people later today. Anyway, this has been intensely time consuming and blogging fell off the task list.

Self-Published Authors should charge $2.99 to $9.99 for their e-books

Self-Published Authors Say ‘Don’t Overcharge for E-Books’ | Creatives at Work.

Interesting but this conclusion appears to be based on opinion (which I agree with) but there’s no hard data presented. The pricing model is also oriented towards short to mid-length novels rather than all types of e-books.

Still, I think consumers expect a discount for purchasing an e-book. And a lower price point may encourage more people to buy on a whim.

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The difference between software engineering and computer science

Computing Now | Putting the Engineering into Software Engineering Education.

(I have an undergrad degree in computer science and one of my graduate degrees is in software engineering. They are related but not the same thing. Legally, however, it is generally against the law in many states for anyone to call themselves a software engineer unless they are a licensed Professional Engineer – or they work for a company and their state permits an industrial exemption for titles given to internal employees. The first PE exam for software engineering is to be offered in April of 2013; licensure in most states may require passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam covering topics such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, structures and what not.)

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Robotic Snowplows

I dreamed up some ideas about this a few years back: Design and Development: Robotics Teams Compete for Best Robotic Snowplow | Robotics Trends.

In my concept, we only need a small personal robotic snow plow. As soon as it starts snowing and there is perhaps just one inch of snow on the ground, the robot snow plow starts plowing the driveway or path.

It could even use a behavior-based approach, like the Roomba vacuum cleaner, where it seemingly randomly plows the driveway, but due to probabilities, covers everything anyway. Obstacle detection leads to a reverse course – or if necessary, a panic stop.

Since its a robot, it (and we) do not care if just plows all the time to stay ahead of the snow, as long as the battery holds out and an auto charger is available.

There could even be a fleet of little robots to cover larger areas.

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How to Use Contests and Giveaways to Get User-Generated Content

Good ideas! How to Use Contests and Giveaways to Get User-Generated Content.

User generated content contests – and voting polls – encourage users to pass a link on Facebook and Twitter, helping to market the content – for free.

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