Mnemonics Ruined 
My new favorite hobby is ruining useful mnemonics.

Which is correct? I'll never tell. :)

How to tell the difference between the docile King Snake and the venomous Coral Snake?


Red on black, deadly attack. Red on yellow, bite is mellow.

or...

Red on black, venom lack. Red on yellow, kill a fellow.


How do sailors/fishermen know when it's safe to go out to sea?


Red sky at night, sailor's delight.
Red sky at morning, sailor heed warning.

or...

Red sky at night, sea shows its might.
Red sky at dawn, safe to net prawn.



How do chemists remember what to add to what when mixing acid and water?


Acid to "watuh,"
Just as you oughta!

or...

Water to acid,
Solution is placid.


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Patent 
My first patent was awarded back in December. Here is a link!

Systems and methods for mobile activity monitoring

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Backup Batch File Scripts Using Networked Truecrypt Volumes and XXCopy 
keywords: backup, free, automated, incremental, encrypted, truecrypt, xxcopy, batch, script, scheduled task, system, project, files, network drive, byte-level verification, hidden files

UPDATE! - (02/27/08)

Hopefully I won't need to keep updating this.

Improvements:
- Added optional support for using net paths directly
- Better print statements
- Added download link for scripts (backup_scripts_2008_02_27.zip)

Also, an observation:

You can actually use the freeware version of XXCOPY with my backup scripts! I tested it with XXCOPY Freeware Version 2.95.3. Since this script copies to the mounted TC container and not a net path, XXCOPY thinks it's a local drive and doesn't error out with an advertisement for XXCOPY PRO. Normally, you must purchase the PRO version to mount network paths/drives (I already purchased it a while back for this very purpose). In any case, please abide by the XXCOPYs licensing terms for the freeware version.


UPDATE! - Fixed a minor problem with the script (2/26/08)

Here is the latest version of my daily backup scripts for backing up important files on my development computer that others might be interested in using themselves. Terms of service, and more detailed comments are in the batch file script code.

In a nutshell, my method is to copy local files to a Truecrypt container hosted remotely on a network file server. I use XXCOPY to do the actual copying. XXCOPY is nice because it is a command-line tool similar to the old DOS XCOPY command and allows some useful features including copying hidden files, doing incremental copies (only copy to destination if destination doesn’t already have the exact same file), doing byte-wise verification of copies, and allowing user prompting to be turned off. Admittedly I started using XXCOPY for simple backups years ago because it was free. Then the author started charging money for the network capable version. So unfortunately this is not a completely free solution I am providing. This IS a free method of doing backups (with caveats). See update above. To automate the backups I have a Windows “Scheduled Task” that runs my script each night (computer stays on all the time).

I realize there are much better commercial and open source solutions out there, but this batch file method has been working for me for years and I have been slowly improving it as needed. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to get an Apple Mac Pro and then I’ll use Time Machine. I am also interested in getting an Infrant ReadyNAS NV+ in which case the included ECM Retrospect backup software could be a better backup option than my script for MSFT Windows machines.

The batch scripts follow...or download the zip file:
backup_scripts_2008_02_27.zip

Read More...

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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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