Archive for April, 2008

My Food Aversions – And How They Came to Be

I have never eaten gulf oysters, raw oysters, or cooked (that I know of). That is one of those things that has freaked me out. Growing up, I have always had an aversion to fish and seafood. I have taken a liking to mild seafood and fish like shrimp, shark, and tilapia etc. This aversion has probably stemmed from three sources, not liking the flavor of drawn butter, not liking “Old Bay” seasoning, and the couple times I have gotten sick from seafood. As I have learned what to avoid, I have started finding fish and seafood that I enjoy. Till this day, I still avoid raw and seafood that I had prior issues with. There was a time that we made lobster and scallops on the grill and my stomach ejected them. There was another time that I had shark marinated in soy sauce that I had an allergic reaction to the soy. Then there was a trip to Baltimore that I had a food reaction, I’ll tell you that story in the video below. The moral of the story is that education is key. If you educated yourself on how food is properly handled and prepared, you can avoid food born illness. One site you can learn more about proper handling of oysters is – check it out.

Prototyping Boards

I ordered some prototyping boards from SparkFun the other day. I am hoping to find some time to actually work on a few of the projects that I had started. One of which is a remote temperature controller for my home brew setup. Using some one-wire Dallas temperature probes, I was hoping to hook up switched circuits for controlling whatever heating or cooling device is on the other end. One of the problems I was running into, was I had to program the pic micros off my parallel programmer, which was in the basement hooked to a desktop and I was working on the program on my laptop. So it was just too much back and forth – and too much gear on the kitchen table. So I ordered a pre-made JDM style serial programmer and an 8, 18, and 40 pin prototyping board for each of the style of chips I am working on. The boards have a socket for the chip as well as a db9 serial port connector. They even have the serial driver chip on the board pre-connected so all you have to do is program the chip and pop it in.

Don’t Overlook The Obvious When Launching Your Website

This really simple point is often overlooked. Quite often customers would tell me that their new website that they just launched was not receiving any traffic, and they would ask how they could be found online. Did you put your website address on your business card, your letterhead, and your marketing materials? I would ask. That is good advice, but those marketing pieces are already seen by people who know about your company or organization.

Funny that I mention that, as I look here at the grocery bag next to me and it lists that company’s website address. Don’t stop doing that, but now step it up a notch. Give me and the other viewers a reason to go to the website. Give me a discount, give me a prize, offer me information that I might be searching for (“For great recipes… visit our website”). Now you are engaging the viewer. If you are trying to raise money for charity or non-profit tell me how I can help your cause by donating through your website. The local public radio channel does a fine job of this. They state “to keep this great show on the air..” donate through our site.

If your company or organization is location based, think about hanging a sign in a well traveled area. Maybe your aunt Linda lives next to a busy street. You could put your message on a yard sign. Want to spread out further, mobile advertising works too. Try a car magnet. Now your ad goes wherever you go. These ideas are simple and fairly inexpensive. Not sure where to get a sign or magnet. Check out this site to design and order magnetic signs. If you are considering the yard sign, check with your local municipality before ordering. I heard of one company whose signs were yanked by the police, and they were nice enough to dispose of them rather then return them.

Looking For My Email Address?

You won’t find my email address posted on this site. Why not? It is very simple for spammers to grab email addresses found on your public website. I choose not to display it for that reason. What do you do if you have a need for people to contact you through your website?

You have a few options without hanging your email address out in plain site.

  • You could put the email address in an image (without a link). This would allow humans, as apposed to robots to see your address. It would not have a convenient link on it, so keep the address short and easy to type.
  • You could setup a separate email address with a free email service like Gmail or Yahoo, etc. Then at least you can keep the junk out of your normal inbox
  • A contact form on your website is another option. This would allow you to ask for other specific information at the same time as allowing the site visitor to contact you. Tip: don’t ask for too much information, otherwise people will be less inclined to use it.
  • Custom Programming: You could also put a custom sever side script on your website to do a bot test. These bot tests are often seen as the disfigured letters in an image (also known as a captcha). A program that would be used to systematically grab email addresses off of websites would not be able to enter in the letters found in the captcha image. To configure something of this nature, I recommend consulting a pro.

Fundraising Idea – How About a Car Magnet or Silicon Bracelet

Looking for a new idea for a fundraiser for your school, church or organization? Ever think of creating and selling car magnets or a silicon bracelets? They are still popular and people tend to display them proudly. They like to show they supported a cause. ARC Marketing offers a free online service where you can submit information to them via a few short online question form (free mock up). They will then email you a digital sample of what the car magnet could look like. Pass it around the office and see what people think. You may be on your way to being the hero for brining this great fund raising idea to the table.

Microchip PIC Programming – Initial

I started putting together some initial information about programming the Microchip PIC. I am writing it in the perspective to those who are new to the subject, and really just looking for a primer. When designing a robot, you obviously would want to make educated decisions of which it is difficult to do with the wide array of different manufacturers of electronics components and proprietary micro controller units. This tutorial will hopefully become an interesting reading to those out there looking for information of just where to begin.

I originally started out in my post-secondary schooling in the course for component level electronics. One particular course really attracted my fancy, and that was digital electronics, but more specifically op-code (operation code) programming of microchips. In my courses we wrote and tested instruction sets on a Motorola 6800 development kit similar in nature to this heathkit. I had a blast. There is nothing better for the brain then good analytical thinking. Pretty much you have to write your program in assembly code and then enter the opcodes for those assembly instructions in through the keypad. This does in no means make me an expect of micro controllers. I just mearly wanted to express my the origin of opinions and the experience that I draw upon.

First Paid Posting – For Charity That Is

In my previous posting, I stated that I was donating the $20 to the Alzheimer’s Walk. If you are wondering if I am pulling your leg… Here is a screen shot to add some credibility.
Pay Per Post - Approved Screen Shot
Squint harder, you can see on the right hand side under Charity/Savings it notes AW. It doesn’t stand for Alex’s Wallet. It does stand for Alzheimer’s Walk. If you are wondering why I didn’t just take the $20 and go buy something. I could have, but if you stop and look around at your situation and you realize how good off you have it, maybe you’ll understand.

Pay Per Post – Approved

This blog just got accepted into the Pay Per Post blog network program. What does that mean? Well it means that intermittently I will be choosing topics from their website to write blog posts about. I plan to keep this site in the same style as it has been, however they will feed me topics to write about. Oh yeah, and they’ll pay me in return. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it. If you are offended by this, so be it. If you dig it… read on.

What am I gonna do with all that cash you may be thinking? Some of the posts only pay five bucks, so don’t worry boss – I don’t think I’ll make enough money to quit my day job ( At $5 per post I would have to do 28 post each day every day of the entire year – not that I did the math ). My thought is, if I’m going to be posting to this site anyway why not make a few bucks at the same time. Often times I find myself at a loss for a topic to blog about, and would go weeks on end without posting. This program should help me with that issue. I plan on using the part of the extra coin to help launch my virtual volunteer initiative. [more to come on that] P.S. I am donating the $20 for this post to the Alzheimer’s Walk.

I found their site while researching another topic. I didn’t realize how big of an operation they had over there until I started checking into it in greater detail. This does not appear to be a shoddy company. As far as I can tell it looks like they run a professional online service where internet advertisers can pay the members of the site to write and post content on their own web-blogs.