Monday, January 30, 2017

Why didn't I do this sooner? Oh, yeah....


Transcend Travel CPAP/APAP. 
Image borrowed for fair use from Intertubes.

Sara and I both use CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices. These are small machines that sit by the head of our bed and force air through a hose, into a mask that covers our nose, and down our airway to our lungs in order to keep it open while we sleep. It is a treatment for Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (SOSA) which is a condition in which the airway closes periodically during sleep. We actually use devices called APAPs (Automatic Positive Airway Pressure). Each of us has two APAPs, one for home and one for travel that is smaller and runs easily off a battery.

As a geek, I want access to medical technology that I have to use, and I want data on my usage (my pulmonologist says that I am his poster boy for compliance, and seeing the data is part of that for me). As a pilot, Sara requires data from the CPAP for her flight medical. Both of us want to be able to program the devices to change their pressure parameters as our needs change. To do this, you need special software, and in at least one case, a special piece of hardware and cable for the CPAP. We have all of that. We have everything we need to access data on and program each of the four machines (two types) that we use. I have visited multiple pulmonologists in the 15+ years I've used CPAP, and never has one been able to read data off my machine. But I can. :-)

You also need a Windows machine. The CPAP market is not so large that the manufacturers build great software, and they only build it for Windows. Some of them use outdated hardware specifications (like 9 pin serial ports and 8 pin DIN connectors). Many will write to one or another kind of SD card (some only to original SD, not SDHC, some to micro SD, etc.), but all of them I've encountered require Windows software to extract data and get reports.

Have I mentioned how much I hate Windows? I have an old media PC I bought from someone at Amazon that I run the software on. It's old and crappy and never connects to a network, and only comes out to run this software, but to do so, I have to keep a monitor around and move my keyboard and mouse while I set the machine up somewhere, and it's just a pain.

So I thought, I'll buy myself a cheap old Windows laptop, maybe even with a serial port, running Windows 7 or 8, and it'll be cheap and easy to move around and I can reclaim the cubic yard of office that the current device and monitor and keyboard and mouse occupies. And I did. I went to the local neighborhood computer repair place and bought a used ASUS laptop for $150, and it's just what I needed even if it doesn't have a serial port and runs Windows 10.

I need to install two applications on it. One for each brand of CPAP. And it takes hours. The first app is on CD, and it doesn't have a disk player, so I move one over from my Mac and it reads it but it won't install the software because the software uses a library that isn't included in Windows 10 and won't install off the CD in Windows 10 and I have to research it and find the newer 4.0 version that includes the older 3.5 and 2.0 versions and install it and see if the installer will recognize it and I try to install that software four times before it works. The second piece of software isn't nearly so bad so I only need to install it twice before it works. And then it takes 40 minutes for the Windows 10 system to recognize the USB to serial adapter and find a driver for it, and another 30 minutes to update the Windows 10 system files.

And finally it works. And I have a portable system that I can use to access my own medical data and program my own medical devices.

And this morning when I turn it on to suck data out of my CPAP, it takes 20 minutes to update Windows 10 again. Two days after I last updated it.

Now I remember why I didn't do this sooner...

Cross Posted from Mischievous Ramblings II


  1. I use VMware Fusion on my MacBook Pro. It lets me run any OS I want in its own sandboxed window.

    As I type this I have Windows 8.1 running an update in its own window. And I'm programing in Python in a Debian 8x64 window.

    Then OSX for everything else.

    Of course like any VM, when I don't want it running (almost always for Windows) I simply dismount the VM. It vanishes into its own file which, like any other file, is backed up on & offsite automatically.

    VMware Fusion. Wonderful.

    1. I've got a VM (can't remember which software or version) on my desktop to run RPG mapping software. It's not very stable, but I could update it. But I can't get the CPAP software to work with it. I'm pretty sure it's the special driver for the USB->Serial port adapter, which is ancient and obviously accesses hardware in some special way.