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Over the last couple of days Israel has been in the throes of a major dust storm; this is usual for us around this time of year (actually it is normally a little later on). We refer to it in Hebrew as Sharav and in Arabic they call it Hamsin (I believe this refers to the 50 days this weather can last).

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It is typically very hot, dry and extremely dusty, effectively a sand storm. This weather plays havoc with visibility but is dangerous for asthmatics and anyone who suffers from other breathing disorders. This is also often an issue for the elderly and pregnant women.

asthma1Most of us know someone with asthma or with a child with asthma and we have seen them taking their medications via inhaler (often called a puffer). These can be for either maintenance of their condition or what is known as a Rescue Inhaler for when they have difficulty breathing and need to take medication to resolve this rapidly and safely.

The problem is that if you are someone who needs to manage your asthma and extreme weather or air pollution is obviously a problem then how do you know in Real Time?

Most of us are registered with our respective health funds and with specific Doctors. Many of us have cellular phones.

The Ministry of Health in Israel does issue warnings of this nature that are normally broadcast via TV or Radio but why not have the respective Health Funds send SMS/ Email or pre-recorded messages / alerts to the phones of people registered in their databases as at risk?

This is not rocket science but it would probably save lives, reduce overloading of the hospitals and emergency services and reduce sick days. Preventative medicine is cheap, effective and easy to implement.

I discussed this with a Doctor who is considering if he can implement this. Probably there are issues of privacy and patient permission but logic does seem to dictate that this is a good idea.

What do you think?

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Technological progress is a great thing. We want our devices smaller, faster with longer lasting power and so forth but what do we do with the stuff from before the great techno-leap?

One example is the jump from IDE to SATA Hard drives and the changes in the motherboard and connectors.

Pragmatically when I upgraded my PC several years ago I didn’t really think about being able to mate my old IDE Hard drives to the new, speedy-fast SATA PC.

With time the older PC sat around and as the little guy came along I found it necessary to do away with what became excess hardware. The only thing I really kept from the old PC was two 80 GB IDE Hard Drives.

What’s the problem? I can’t connect them to my existing PC as it is SATA technology and my external hard drive is a generic box with IDE to USB .. Windows XP just can’t recognize it and handle the driver.

So I was left with a dilemma; either disassemble and destroy the old disks or get creative and find a solution.

I was in my local PC store to get a RAM upgrade and happened to mention to the owner about this and he smiled and rummaged in his desk. Laughing about he had just had the same problem himself he hands me an 80 NIS ($20) printed circuit board with two connectors IDE and SATA.

It was very similar to something I had found online for sale off a website for a PC hardware company in Taiwan (if I remember correctly).

Anyway, tomorrow I will be hooking up at least one of the old IDE Hard Drives to format and subsequently use as additional storage space. Results to follow installation and some testing.

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A hearty cheers to my brother in law who just returned from the US of A and offered to bring me a few goodies back.

Knowing that space and weight are an issue I was somewhat restrained in my purchasing but I am gleefully eye-ing: –

  • James Rollins latest novel, The Last Oracle. I can’t get enough of his writing as one of my favorite authors and never get to put the book down once I start reading it.
  • Cynthia Shapiro’s best selling career guidance book as recommended by Penelope Trunk.
  • The Columbia River Get-A-Way Driver. I have been after this forever since I read about it online somewhere. This is a totally useful toolfor anyone who constantly needs a screwdriver/ flashlight etc but wants it super small and due to travel constraints can’t carry a tool with a knife on. 
  • Tadgear have been having this T-shirt online and sold out several times. I’m going thru a period where having a couple of neat or funny T-shirts in the closet puts a small smile on my face so I figured why not? Oh yes, the image appeals somehow too.

  • http://coffee20.joffreys.com/ – Probably the smartest marketing idea I have seen in a while; Joffrey’s offered to beta testers the chance to receive samples of coffee and to give suggestions for their ultimate brew if they blog about the bean. Tomorrow morning we shall meet for some serious testing. Results to follow but confidence is high.

Well now to finish preparing for my interview, get some sleep and enjoy my swag tomorrow.

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Today I popped down with my wife to our parking space just to check the water and oil on her car.

I had borrowed the aging Renault Megane  several days ago and for some reason suspected the radiator was a little low.

One popped bonnet/ hood later lo and behold the water level was showing a dire need for refill.

The Megane has a nice little plastic reservoir that feeds into the radiator but the cap would not open. I looked at it, the cap was plastic with six large teeth, if I tried to use a wrench it would probably snap off or at least get damaged .. what to do?

Inspiration struck and I whipped off my leather belt, looped it over the cap so that the steel belt buckle locked over one of the teeth and the leather loop provided a nice contra and with very little effort I was able to open the cap and have my wife on her way; all the while whistling the tune to MacGyver.

Feeling suitably pleased with myself I went back upstairs to finish my coffee and start the day.

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If you haven’t guessed it I’m a tools guy. Not gadgets but tools. Like the blog name says, it needs to be practical.

I’ve written in the past about folding tools like Leatherman, SOG et al and different tools for the PC but I was at the tool store, Home Depot the other day to pick up a few things with my wife and I took my nearly 3 year old son for a trawl around the tools section.

It’s never too soon to explain to the little guy what each tool does; when I was just a little older than him I started running around the house trying to take everything apart to see how it worked. This was probably the starting point for my career in QA.

As we looked at Drills, Hammers, Screwdrivers, Spanners etc and I tried to teach him how to say each thing I was struck by a memory from childhood; my late grandfather was a very hands-on guy, he built his own house, had a factory and in his split level garage had a large workshop in the lower level.

As a kid this place was the magic kingdom to me; work benches, real cast iron clamps and an assortment of tools and projects he was always working on. One tool stuck in my memory, he had this beautiful, yes beautiful ratchet screwdriver about 60 cm long with a red varnished wood handle and chromed steel parts. I was forever hunting loose screws everywhere just so I could borrow the ratchet screwdriver and pump away at the handle and watch mechanism turn and rotate the screw back into its hole.

A couple of years ago I was on Route 17 in New Jersey near Paramus and I saw an old style tool store, after horse trading with my wife that I would gladly go round Nordstrom with her she agreed to stop, no doubt fearing that I was going to either start drooling over every tool in the shop or want to buy stuff that I would have to schlep back home to Israel.

We walked in and I roamed the aisles taking in everything and I went to chat to the ubiquitous old guy behind the counter. Remembering my grandfather’s ratchet screwdriver I asked him if they had such a thing in stock to which he replied just a little sadly that no-one makes tools like that anymore and if they do then the are made with plastic not wood. If they did make tools like that they would simply cost too much for him to hold in stock and frankly these days everyone uses a Cordless Drill/ Screwdriver.

He was kind of surprised that a guy my age would prefer mechanical over electric and we got to talking about the underlying philosophy of the sheer pleasure of using a tool like that even when an easier option might be available.

Empty-handed but cheered up from the conversation we drove on to Nordstrom where thankfully at least the coffee was superb (frankly they have some of the best Espresso ever); and yes I had a good time shopping with the Missus.

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Several weeks ago I made the leap and made the update to Office 2003. The update was seamless but as a prior user of Office 2003 there was one feature I was determined to keep. Microsoft Photo Editor.

Every other application in the Office suite is markedly improved yet Photo Editor which allows multiple images to be opened and is child’s play to use as a basic editor is replaced with the Office Picture Manager.

Picture Manager is divided into three primary panes: –

    • Left pane: this is a classic explorer tree with view of folder structure.
    • Center pane: the user may see single images, a thumbnail of each image in the selected folder or single picture view.
    • Right pane: this is the Office 2003 goodness – the drop down menu containing primary functionality

The crop feature is undeniably nice in Picture Manager but the lack of paned view or a standard Microsoft -> Window drop down menu was a little exasperating.

I used Photo Editor as my external editor in IrfanView (probably the best free image editor available) and opening multiple images from IrfanView in this manner would open one instance of Photo Editor with multiple images inside.

Picture Manager however opens a new instance of itself each time IrfanView sends an image to it as the external editor – irritating and an excessive use of screen real estate on the system bar.

So I decided no matter what, Photo Editor was going to stay. I searched for the PhotoEditor.EXE and copied it and its sub-folders to a new location prior to the upgrade to Office 2003. Unsurprisingly (Microsoft makes robust applications after all) it ran and is now co-existing nicely with Office 2003 on my PC. Of course, I am sure that if Picture Manager had feelings they would be hurt by all this – this is why when you offer an improved version you don’t drop major features.

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Much of what is written here is as a result of some idea that percolates up thru my brain during the day or an experience I have had.

Of late I have been giving thought to the fact that maybe I am sometimes writing what i want to read and not what you want to read.

To resolve this I am going to suggest this … if you are having a tech problem and cannot find a solution then send me a Comment to this blog and I will try to post you the answer in the blog within 48 hours.

Naturally then the article will speak to at least one of you out there 🙂

So let me know and we will see where this goes from here.
My wife gave up after much convincing on my part and had a look at my blog. She thought the article about the bag was funny but she gave me some very sound constructive criticism; how is anyone ever going to find the blog?

Clanross Concepts was a company we thought about founding several years ago that dealt with the application of practical technology. The idea was, you bought your computer and software – now what?

Most people use about 25% of the potential of their Computer and each individual should be able to use it in their own way. One long-standing friend who gets my undivided PC support attention runs their business off their PC. In addition they are an avid photographer and music lover. Like many of us they have a Yahoo, Google/GMail account and are delving into social networking and Second Life.

Of course all this affects how they use the computer; lest we forget the ongoing issue of security. They need a security solution that pretty much runs itself and like us all familiarity guides their choices.

Needless to say the company never launched for several reasons (mainly a newer, better idea came along … watch this blog and the Startup news) but the name suited my blog concept.

I wanted to write about technology but not the gadgety stuff that seems so great. I wanted to see how technology could be practically employed to provide solutions and improve quality of life or realistically how it impacts on our life.

This allowed me to deal with subjects I enjoy writing on and hopefully in the future to suggest where we are going or are not.

So, if I write about a Coffee Machine or Cordura then this too is a practical technology to me. Perhaps it should be practical solutions?