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My technical life, day by day.

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Most people keep all their important files in their User File Folder and when your computer takes a dump it’s that User File Folder that they wished that they backed up. Well, wish no more. I am going to show you how to back up your files so that if you ever have to reinstall Windows or reimage your hard drive, all your User Files will be sitting pretty on a removable drive or a FTP server.

NOTE: I am some what sure this same method will work in Windows 7; however I have not used Windows 7 yet, so I am not totally sure it will. If anyone gets this working right in Windows 7 please feel free to comment.

So, what is the User File Folder anyway? Basically, it’s a folder that holds all the pictures, music, documents, downloads, etc for a particular user on Windows Vista. Each user account has its own User File Folder. See the images below, click on them to enlarge them.

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My program of choice to back up my User File Folder is Cobian Backup 9. This program will back up any file or folder you tell it to. It will store the back up on any removable drive you select or even a FTP server, and will compress the back up in .zip file to save space. To back up your user file with Cobian Backup, do the following:

Install Cobian Backup, when asked tell it to install as a service

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Once installed, double click on the mushroom icon in the task bar.

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Right click in the white space to the left and select New Task.

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Under Task Name, put User File Backup. Check off all the check boxes shown and select Full under Backup type. Under Full copies to keep, enter the number of full copies that you want to keep. I keep one.

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Click on Files to the left, under Source, click the Add button and select Directory. You can also click on Drag ‘n’ drop from Explorer to drag and drop files you want to back up into Cobian Backup.

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Select you User File Folder, mine is Omega. Then, select the file folder you want to back up, I will select Documents, then click OK. You could just select the whole User File Folder and click OK to back up the entire folder. Repeat the same steps to add more User Files. Do the same to add the Destination folder for your back up to be stored. I chose my portable hard drive as the destination. 

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Click on Schedule to the left. Under Schedule type, select how often you want to back up your User File.

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Click on Archive to the left. Under Compression, choose what compression format you would like to use. You can choose not to compress the archive if you wish. Here you can also add a password to your archive or encrypt it. When finished, click OK.

Now your User File Folder or the User Folders you choose in your User File Folder will be backed up according to the schedule you selected. When your computer starts Cobian Backup will start and sit idle until its time to backup. I should note that when Vista starts up, it will block Cobian Backup from starting. Vista will notify you that it has blocked the program and will give you the option to unblock it. You will have to do this every time you start Windows. If you want, you can double click on the mushroom icon and double click on the User File Backup icon in the white space to the left to start the backup anytime you wish.

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Notification Vista gives when it blocks a startup program

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Simply right click on the Blocked Startup icon in the taskbar and select Run blocked program and select Cobian Backup.

So there you have it, a easy way to backup your User File. Does anyone have another program or method to back up their files? If you do I’d love to hear about it.

After using the Voyager Pro exclusively for about a week now, I can safely say that this is the best bluetooth headset I have used hands down. I can’t find anything wrong with it! The battery life is great, its pretty close to the rated talk time. However I do have just one quirk, but its more my fault than the headsets. The mic screen grabs my facial hair when there is stubble. I can’t really blame the headset for this, I should keep up on my shaving. I have noticed that once my facial hair grows out it doesn’t grab the hair anymore which is a good thing.

I have to admit that I have used several bluetooth headsets in my day and every one of them always had a few issues, but this one is different. As it stands right now, I can’t find anything that bothers me about this headset.

Just in case your interested, the specs for the Voyager Pro are below:

Engineered for Sound Quality

Reflecting Plantronics’ nearly half a century of obsession with achieving headset perfection, the Voyager PRO represents the epitome of Bluetooth headset technology and design. No other headset has the combination of two noise-canceling mics on a boom to best capture your voice, three layers of WindSmart technology to outsmart the wind, and an adaptive 20-band equalizer tuned to maintain rich, balanced audio at comfortable listening volumes despite the noise around you.

Voyager PRO works great in the car

Wherever you are calling from, your voice sounds clear and natural.

The advanced AudioIQ² the advanced AudioIQ² noise-canceling technology in the Voyager PRO, with its finely tuned adaptive 20-band equalizer, makes you sound like you’re in the same room as your caller, not miles apart. To achieve this, AudioIQ² makes use of two microphones–one that’s focused on your speech and the other that picks out distracting background sounds, such as road hum and construction noise–then compares data from the two mics and eliminates the unwanted sounds, leaving your unique voice free to be heard clearly and naturally, as it was meant to be.

The dual microphones are also stacked with three layers of WindSmart technology–stainless steel mic screens, acoustic fabrics, and an electronic filter in the mic circuitry–that aggressively block intrusive wind noise. The adjustable boom, which allows you to wear the headset on either ear, positions the mics where they can best capture your voice, further enhancing the sound quality. So regardless of whether it’s the din of traffic or the whipping wind that you’re up against, the Voyager PRO will ensure that you and your caller will be heard clearly and sound natural.

Stainless steel screen on microphone

Stainless steel screens, acoustic fabrics, and an electronic filter block wind noise.

Extremely Comfortable, Durable Design

The Plantronics engineers involved in the design of the Voyager PRO were arguably a bit obsessive. After all, in designing the Voyager PRO, they conducted no less than two dozen rounds of intensive human-comfort tests, a relentless study of skin sensitivity, and repeated drop-tests.

Comfortable, flexible design

A soft, flexible design keeps the headset comfortable.

The result of this obsession is a soft and flexible, extremely comfortable headset that is durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of today’s mobile professional.

QuickPair and Multipoint Technologies: Easy to Set Up, Easy to Use

Thanks to Plantronics’ QuickPair technology, setting up the headset is quick and intuitive. The Voyager PRO supports Bluetooth 2.1 and EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) and Secure Simple Pairing (SSP), making it compatible with Bluetooth-enabled devices, including phones, PDAs, and laptop computers.

Supports Bluetooth

The headset also features Plantronics’ multipoint technology, which lets you pair and answer calls on two different Bluetooth devices. This means you can quickly and easily connect the headset to two phones, such as a Smartphone and a personal phone, or a phone and a Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a laptop that you use to make Internet calls. Just choose the combination that best complements your workflow and pair both devices with your headset.

Extended Talk Time

The Voyager PRO includes a fast-charging, long-lasting battery that provides up to six hours of continuous talk time and five days of standby time on a single charge. Convenient voice prompts even alert you to battery and mute status.

I often found it hard in the past to plan out things and get things done. I would put things off, or I would just forget because I didn’t write them down or schedule them. This led to all kinds of problems and productivity was never at its full potential with me. I realized that I had to do something to get myself on track and be more productive in my day to day activities. I started to search around on the internet for any kind of tips or tricks I could use that could help me and what I came across was a method of planning activities and projects that really appealed to me. GTD is the creation of David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. I HIGHLY recommend you give this book a good read, and read it more than once so that you really understand how this system works and if its right for you. Once you do, you will find your self more productive and finally being able to get things done!

To implement GTD, I searched the internet for tools that could help me. What I found was a application called Tracks. It pretty much sets up the whole GTD system up for you. You can learn more about it here. As you can see from that link, its pretty difficult to set up tracks on your own and run it from your computer but there is a package you can download that will do it all for you. It allows you to pick the Apache server port and set a user name a password. You can set up the Apache Server so that you can access it anywhere on the web. While I liked this package, which can be found here, I didn’t like the fact that I had to have my computer running 24/7 to access Tracks so I found www.GTDify.com. This place has Tracks all set up, all you have to do is create a username and password and voila! You’re in! Not only that, but it has a mobile site as well, you can’t beat that. I just started using this GTD system, so I haven’t tested it out fully but so far so good.

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What I love about this system is that I can input all the tasks, projects, appointments that I have and then schedule them accordingly following GTD’s workflow pictured below. Doing this allows me to be much more productive. It gives me a place to see my work flow, to see what needs to be done now, tomorrow or three years from now. It utilizes a Tickler so that I will be reminded to attack the task again later on if I have to defer it. You can read more about Tickler Files here. I use Exchange Server to input all my Tasks and Calendar appointments so that I have the with with me where ever I go.

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If GTD interests, you search the web. You will find all kinds of information on GTD, how to use it, tweaks, and tips on making it fit your lifestyle. I highly recommend Lifehacker, they constantly post GTD tips and tricks.

Like myself, I am sure that there are lots of people who use Windows Live Mail on there Windows Mobile device and I am sure that most people use the mobile site: mobile.live.com to check their mail. But, what if you could circumvent all of this and have your mail “pushed” to your device like Microsoft Exchange Server? Well you can, and I am going to show you how.

First, you need to download Windows Live for Windows Mobile, you can find it here. Or direct CAB download.

Second, transfer the CAB file to your device, and use your favorite file explorer program to open the CAB file, follow the install instructions and when your done. Got to Start, Programs and you should see the Windows Live icon pictured below:

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Tap or select Windows Live, and go to Menu, Settings, Sync Schedule and select As Items Arrive under Sync frequency. Now email will be sent to your device every time a new email arrives.

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If you go to Messaging you will see Windows Live as a new account listed in the Account Picker.

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You can also sync your Windows Live contacts as well. I don’t recommend this if you are using Exchange Server on your device. Under Programs, you will also notice that Windows Live Messenger was installed as well, this is nice if you don’t have a multi messenger client already installed on your device.

I wish there was a way to push Gmail to Windows Mobile devices but alas Windows Mobile at its current state does not support the push feature in IMAP that Gmail supports. I can only hope that Windows Mobile 7 will include this update.

NOTE: It seems the only way to get Windows Live Mail added as an account using Pocket Outlook is through downloading and installing Windows Live Mobile. Also it seems its the only way to get it to “push” mail to your device as it comes. I am not complaining, I like the program and the fact that it installs Windows Live Messenger that is usually missing when you get a Windows Mobile device from a carrier. I would not use this program if you do not have a unlimited data plan with your carrier.

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Up for review for today is the new Plantronics Voyager Pro. I have owned many of Plantronics Bluetooth headsets and I have to say this one by far is my favorite. I previously owned a Voyager 510 and I liked it very much. The sound quality was good and it always kept a connection with my phone unlike other bluetooth headsets I have owned. But with all things, there were some quirks with the 510 that irked me a bit. For one, the power button was very small and hard to press with my fat fingers. Two, the headset had a tendency to fall out of my ear if I turned my head left or right to much, which really annoyed me.

The short comings of the Voyager 510 seem to have been addressed in the Voyager Pro. The power button is larger and easier for me to press, it doesn’t want to fall out of my ear when I turn my head left or right, and it just looks a lot better. As for comfort, I barely even know its there, it fits comfortable on my ear, and I wear glasses mind you, and I don’t have any discomfort after wearing it here for the last 3 hours. The sound quality is excellent, just as I would expect from a Plantronics product. The Pro, in my opinion, defiantly had a better sound quality than the 510 and that is saying a lot considering the 510 had very good sound quality. The pro introduces a new microphone technology, AudioIQ Noise Canceling that uses two mics for better sound reception. The boom features WindSmart screens to shield the mics from wind noise.

I decided to do a test with the Voyager Pro, I tested it against the Voyager 510 and the 520. I called several people and during the call I changed headsets starting with the Voyager Pro, then the 510 and finally the 520. From my end of the conversation the Pro and the 520 had the better sound and was loud and clear and not muffled. The 510 had very good sound quality its just that the Pro and 520 were better. Out of all the people I called, which was 10, 8 of them said my voice sounded the best, was clearer and less muffled with the Pro compared to the 510 and the 520. To me, that’s is significant normally I get 50/50 between the 510 and the 520 when performing this test but it was apparent that the Pro won hands down. The quality of the Voyager Pro is superb. It just feels nice in your hands. It feels solid and seems to be constructed well. Its light weight, far lighter than the 510 but heavier than the 520.

Weight Comparison:

Voyager 510: 0.7oz
Voyager Pro: 0.6oz
Voyager 520: 0.6oz

Cost Comparison (from http://www.plantronics.com):

Voyager 510: $99.95 (can be found cheaper)
Voyager Pro: $99.95 (can be found cheaper)
Voyager 520: $99.95 (can be found cheaper)

Even though the Pro weighted the same as the 520, it still felt lighter to me, go figure. What I really like about the Pro is its styling, it screams professional and it looks great with my HTC Fuze! Yeah yeah I know its not that important but I am throwing it out there. Most people don’t like ugly bluetooth headsets. I also like how the buttons are laid out on the Pro. The volume buttons are easy to access when the device is on my ear and, the “connect button” on the boom is easy to find and it doesn’t require me to push too hard to answer it. To be honest, I love this headset. It works great for me and even though its bigger than most other bluetooth headsets, it sure does the job well and in the end that’s all that matters.

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What came in the box, sans HTC Fuze 🙂

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Back.

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Top.

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Comparison of the Voyager Pro and Voyager 510

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Front of the headset.

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Back of the headset.

Do you own a Plantronics Voyager class headset? Do you own the new Pro? If so chime in I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Being a college student and being basically broke all the time has allowed me to be creative in finding ways to save a buck here and there. Times are tough and every dollar we can save can help. Here are some ways I have found that saves me money.

Hygiene: I don’t know about you but I spend lots of money on hygiene products: Soap, Shampoo, Razor Blades, Toilet Paper, Hair Gel, Toothpaste, Toothbrush, etc, etc….

I got to thinking about this and realize that I spend wayyyyy to much money on these things. The first thing is Razor Blades, have you seen how much these things cost?!? It’s ridiculous. So, I went looking for a better way to shave without breaking the bank because $20 bucks for 4 razor blades for a Gillette Fusion doesn’t  cut it anymore for me.  It turns out that there is this nifty way of shaving called “Wet Shaving” and its nothing new. Wet Shaving is the old fashioned way to shave, with a double edge razor, or even a straight of your man enough (or woman). I behoove anyone that shaves to take a look into Wet Shaving, you can by blades by the 100s for $20 to $30 bucks, and a double edge razor can be found for cheep. Instead of using canned goo, get a good quality shaving soap or cream that requires the use of a Boar or Badger hair brush. For more information on this I would check out: www.badgerandblade.com I am a member there too under the nick: OmegaEdge. Hope to see you there!

Another thing that is way over priced is soap. I am talking about all kinds of soap: dish soap, body wash, hand soap, laundry soap, etc. If you bought hand soap lately you probably noticed a new product: Foaming hand soap. Its a good product but to pricey, the non foaming stuff is half the price and even that costs too much for me. My solution? Ivory Dish soap, yes you read it right, Ivory dish soap. Why? Well one, it cleans my dishes very well while being gentle on my hands, two its cheep, and three…well I am getting to that :). What I do with Ivory is that I make it not only my dish soap but my hand soap, and not only that but FOAMING hand soap! How do you do that you ask, its simple. Foaming hand soap is nothing but watered down liquid soap that uses a foaming dispenser. So all you have to do is get a bottle that has a foaming dispenser, fill it about a 1/4 of a way full of liquid soap, take note that it doesn’t have to be ivory it can be any liquid soap, add water to almost the top. Give the bottle a good shake and voila! Foaming hand soap, or use Dawn (if you need the grease cutting power) and then you will have foaming dish soap! You use less and a bottle of Ivory or any other dish soap goes a long way. Just imagine the money you will save. When it comes to laundry soap I find that good ol Purex does just as good a job for me than more expensive detergents. If you don’t like Purex than make your own laundry soap! More info about that here.

Believe it or not toilet paper cost to damn much too. You use it once and you toss it and not only that, its not the most sanitary way to clean up after using the restroom. My suggestion, get a bidet! Seriously you will wonder how you ever lived with out it! Its sanitary, its easy to use, you feel clean and refreshed and if your sensitive in those areas, it beats rough toilet paper. Bidets are not cheap but they more than pay for themselves when it comes to all the money you will save  from not buying toilet paper and the hygienic befits you reap from owning one. You can find more information about them here. (I randomly choose this company, I have no experience with then nor do I endorse them, this link is given for informational purposes only).

Food and other products: Ah yes well all have to eat but does it have to cost us an arm and a leg? No says I! If you know where to shop and when to get items, there is money to be saved.

When it comes to grocery shopping I have to admit that I have tried all the coupon clipping and the week long specials that each grocery store has put out to only find that I don’t save much money. I am going to keep this simple, if you want to get pretty decent food for cheap, check out your local Aldi. Seriously this place is awesome. I get everything I need and I don’t break the bank. If you have one near you give them a visit, you might be surprised. For specialty items or name brand items that I can’t live without (or being my normal stubborn self, refusing to live without) I do shop the circulars and do clip coupons for those items when I need to, but for everyday basics you really can’t beat Aldi in my opinion. Also, never go shopping hungry you’re almost sure to buy more food then you need or buy things that you just don’t need. Also, make a list before you go and stick to it! Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.

For seasonal items, like pool supplies, fans, heaters or things that are only available during a certain amount of time, try getting them near the end of season. Recently a fan of mine was not working correctly and I wanted to replace it. I wanted a tower fan like the one I had, but noticed that they were way to expensive for what I wanted to pay for a fan. So, I waited to the EOS (retail terminology for End Of Season) for fans to come due, its usually the same for most department stores and earlier for drug stores like Walgreens and CVS. I will give you an example: I was in Walgreens the other day and noticed a tower fan that I like, I also noticed that all fans were 50% off because of EOS. So a fan that cost $40 bucks cost me $20 plus it had a $10 rebate that was still active! Score! A $40 dollar tower fan for $10 bucks, you can’t beat that. I live in Florida so fans are never really EOS for us down here, its always hot.

Eating out is always expensive, why? Because its convenient and the more convenient it is the more you will do it. It all adds up, so I try to eat out no more than 2 times a week but we all know that is hard given our hectic lifestyles.

I don’t know about you but I have noticed (buy actually tracking my expenses and sitting down and doing a budget), that I spend WAY too much on fast food/eating out. Most people eat out because of convenience, they get home from work, they are tired and they don’t want to defrost anything to cook, or even cook what is defrosted. So I thought of a way that I could have my meals pre-made and ready to stick in the oven, or the microwave with little fuss. What I have done is the following: Buy a Foodsaver. Portion your meals and seal them up and keep them in the freezer, that way you only have to take out what you need and cook accordingly. With a little Googling, you can find all kinds of information on making your meals in advance.

I hope these tips help someone out there, I know they have made a difference in my finances.

I am a senior Electrical Engineering student and I use Mathcad a lot for all kinds of mathematical models. Especially RF (like impedance matching and reflection). I was stoked to find out that there is a Windows Mobile app that works just like Mathcad, and it even reads and writes to the Mathcad format! Its called SMath Studio and its completly free! They have a version for Windows Mobile Standard and Windows Mobile Professional. Not only that but they have a desktop version for both Windows and Linux. I really like this program and its free! You can’t beat that.

Image from the SMath studio website

From SMath Studio Website

From SMath Studio Website

Image from the SMath studio website