'House' episode helps doctor diagnose rare cobalt poisoning

When a patient in Germany stumped his doctors with a strange combination of severe symptoms including heart failure, vision and hearing loss, acid reflux, and enlarged lymph nodes, Dr. Juergen Schaefer was called in to lend his expertise. Turns out the doc isn't only gainfully employed solving medical mysteries at the Center for Undiagnosed Diseases just outside Frankfurt -- he's also a fan of the TV show "House."

Schaefer had recently seen and lectured about an episode in which the fictional Dr. Gregory House sees a patient with the same symptoms. In the episode, the fictional patient had been on the wrong end of a botched hip replacement and was suffering from cobalt poisoning. Schaefer told The Associated Press that, thanks to the show's well-researched script writing, "After five minutes, I knew what was wrong."… Read more

Snap cholesterol selfies with new smartphone app, device

New tech being developed at Cornell University aims to bring cholesterol testing to smartphones to make the numbers both more specific and easier to track.

Home cholesterol test kits have been around since the early 1990s, catering to those with high cholesterol levels -- which puts them at a higher risk of developing heart disease -- who need to check their numbers more than once every few years.

But the majority of home tests take total cholesterol readings only, without separating out the "good," high-density lipoprotein (HDL, which helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the arteries) from … Read more

Painless microneedle patch could test for TB

Today, one of the standard tests for tuberculosis involves inserting a hypodermic needle into a person's arm using a very precise angle and depth -- thereby requiring a certain level of skill on the part of the tester and chutzpah on the part of the patient.

Researchers at the University of Washington hope to replace this test with a painless, near-automated alternative -- a microneedle patch that they say is more precise and even biodegradable.… Read more

What's My Computer Doing?

At the end of a sweltering wedding season, many of us may be familiar with that drunken guest who falls asleep at dinner and is startled awake later, exclaiming "What's going on? Where am I? ... Where are the cookies?"

Those hazy, existential queries of the inappropriately inebriated aren't much different than the plaintive cries of modern PC users. Amid a shifting landscape of services, processes, modules, add-ons, plug-ins, drivers, BHOs, and DLLs--new Windows and Mac users trying to learn what the operating system is actually doing as their boxes suddenly whir can often feel overwhelmed. Here … Read more

Delphi keeps track of your car

GM brands such as Chevrolet and Buick, along with most luxury automakers, offer their customers telematics services enabling connected features such as maintenance alerts, vehicle tracking, and even remote door unlocking. If you want these features, you don't have to buy a whole new car -- Delphi and Verizon have partnered to offer Vehicle Diagnostics, a plug-in module for adding advanced telematics to existing cars.

The Vehicle Diagnostics module, a little black box about 4 inches long, plugs into a car's OBD-II port, and comes packed with a GPS chip, a wireless data connection, and the ability to … Read more

Q&A: MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a feature in which I answer Mac-related questions sent in by our readers.

This week, readers asked questions on how to fix a problem with the system crashing whenever printers are accessed, how to get custom or manually installed fonts to appear in Microsoft Office, and where the wireless monitoring windows went in the system's Wireless Diagnostics utility.

I welcome contributions from readers, so if you have any suggestions or alternative approaches to these problems, please post them in the comments!

Question: Printer access crashes the system. MacFixIt reader jmackane asks:

When I try to print … Read more

A new way to predict breast cancer survival

A researcher who used to work in digital television has just led a team of Columbia University engineers to win the Sage Bionetworks / DREAM Breast Cancer Prognosis Challenge.

Dimitris Anastassiou, who is now a systems biologist (meaning he investigates interactions within biological systems), reports in the April 17 issue of Science Translational Medicine that his team's winning computation model is extremely predictive of breast cancer survival.

Before the challenge, Anastassiou and his team identified what they call "attractor metagenes," which are genetic signatures expressed in almost the exact same way across many types of cancer. Their new … Read more

Test your RAM with Windows Memory Diagnostic tool

RAM sticks, known for their chip creep and random failures, are among the more annoying pieces of hardware to pinpoint as the source of a technical issue. Before you start digging around in the tower, it's best to start with a quick and free memory check via Windows. This way, you'll know whether or not it's worth swapping around sticks of RAM to see which one is the dud.

Here's how to get started:

Step 1: Open the Start Menu and type in mdsched.exe, then press enter.

Step 2. A pop-up will appear on your … Read more

Advanced Systemcare delivers as a cleanup tool

All it takes it a single visit to a compromised Web site to snare a nasty piece of malware or to pick up cookies that track your every browsing move. And there's nothing worse than a computer that is bogged down so much that it impedes your ability to work or play games. Advanced Systemcare aims to remedy whatever ails your computer by not only cleaning up junk files, malware, and invalid registry entries, but by giving your computer a boost to optimize your PC experience.

Advanced Systemcare's interface is broken down into four maintenance categories so as … Read more

Advanced SystemCare 6 gets Simple

iObit's previous version of Advanced SystemCare was the second most downloaded program on Download.com in 2011, and there's little suprise why: the free Windows utility packs a bevy of optimization tools for cleaning out malware and junk files, along with an "Internet Boost" tool to configure your system based on how you are using it. Despite aggressive upselling of its Pro version, ASC and its comprehensive set of free features clearly impress Download.com users.

New version 6 promises improved performance, faster program launching, a lighter installation, and more efficient scanning, but the most obvious … Read more