PIAA Silicone Windshield Wipers 
Over the last few years, I occasionally have heard good things about PIAA Silicone Windshield Wipers. However, for the longest time I could never quite pull the trigger on a purchase due to the price premium over conventional wipers. Well, a couple months ago I finally ordered a set and I can say that they definitely work as advertised.

So what’s special about silicone wipers? Well, the main benefit is that as the wipers wipe across your windshield they deposit trace amounts of silicone oil. For comparison, silicone is the active ingredient in RainX. So as you might guess, these wipers maintain a water-repellent coating on your windshield just like RainX. Ironically, RainX brand wipers are NOT silicone! (Perhaps due to a patent.)

I can say that PIAA’s wipers are as easy to install as regular wipers. The only extra step is to use a special wet-wipe on the windshield before using the wipers. I presume this is an initial application of silicone oil to bootstrap the silicone application and perhaps reduce initial wear on the wipers by providing lubrication.

I did experience a “break-in” period of sub-par performance. The first few times I used the wipers in the rain, I noticed a few annoying smudges forming on the glass. It appeared that there were a few “hot spots” where too much mechanical pressure was causing the silicone to be deposited too thickly. However, after a couple weeks the wipers “broke in” and the smudges are now gone.

As for the water repelling, the wipers do a great job of maintaining the silicone application. It’s essentially as good a continuous fresh RainX application, yet without the annoying halos at night that I have experienced with RainX (though that could be from over-application on my part). Raindrops bead up nicely and quickly blow off the glass at highway speeds.

One interesting observation is that the wipers don’t wipe quite the same way as rubber wipers. The silicone wipers seem to leave a slightly noticeable film of water on the glass as they wipe. However, this very thin film immediately evaporates. I’m not sure what causes this. It’s noticeable, but not annoying and it doesn’t have any significant effect on visibility.

So in summary, I can definitely recommend the PIAA silicone wipers. At this point the only thing that could sway my recommendation is the longevity of the wipers. However, I haven’t been using them long enough to evaluate that aspect. I recommend ordering them online to save money.

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BlueCross / BlueShield of GA Website 
Worst. Website. Ever....

BCBSGA has got to be the worst website I have ever had the misfortune of using. I needed to get copies of a couple EOBs for my health insurance plan. The usability for the personalized pages is absolutely horrendous (I can only assume the rest of the site is similarly bad). First of all, I had previously made an account on the website, but recent security upgrades required that I go through a "security upgrade" process. The problem is that I just tried to login before doing the security upgrade. A good website would allow the login and immediately initiate the upgrade process. Unfortunately, BCBSGA decided it would be better to have a generic login error with no indication of what the problem is. Instead, you have to go back to the front page and click a link to upgrade.

Next, the upgrade process forced me to create a new login name when I already had a perfectly good one. Why? (There was no indication that I COULDN'T reuse the old login name, BTW. ) When I finally did get to the claims section, all the links to my EOBs were broken. Also, the summary version of each EOB was wrong. For instance, deductible for all claims was listed as zero when I know for a fact that I have to pay ~$300 per family member per year. Ridiculous.

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Restarting Explorer (the right way) 
I never knew this! How incredibly useful. :)

Restarting Explorer

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Ubuntu (7.10) on Dell Laptop 
I put Ubuntu 7.10 Desktop on a spare laptop at work (Dell Latitude D400). I immediately notice the hard drive clicking problem discussed recently in the media regarding Ubuntu (Slashdot).

More specifics:

Ubuntu Bug Report

For fear of killing the drive prematurely, I decided to apply one of the suggested fixes. I used the "99-hdd-spin-fix.sh" method described in the bug report above. That definitely stops the clicking. Unfortunately, it totally disables auto parking of the head/spin down (or whatever actually happens during a LOAD_CYCLE). This is confirmed from running:

smartctl -d ata -a /dev/sda | grep 193;

I'm guessing that 99-hdd-spin-fix could be less aggressive by using a lower value for "hdparm -B". However, one individual that posted to the bug report had difficulty mapping actual behavior to the 0-255 possible values.

Finally, I decided to leave it as is but I enabled ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE in /etc/default/acpi-support. I think this is a nice solution because I normally have the laptop plugged in and don't need the aggressive hard drive power management. However when unplugged I like the idea of having more power as well as keeping the hard drive head parked nearly as often as possible (for fear of bumps/drops that might crash the drive). Seems to work so far and queries with smartctl seem to confirm everything.

An unrelated problem I ran into was that the laptop could NOT hibernate or go into standby. This was solved by disabling compiz under: System->Preferences->Appearance:Visual Effects.

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Definition: Schadenfreude. Noun. German origin.

: to derive pleasure from the embarrassment of those who don't know what 'schadenfreude' means when used in casual conversation.

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