James Garrett's Blog

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Google Voice — Why it’s AWESOME!

About 2 years ago, I registered for Grand Central, which was at the time a free way to get a local Orlando phone number for my apartment gate call-box, since they didn’t allow long distance numbers.  At that time, text messaging was too expensive on my plan, and I never really used it.  Since then, I’ve gotten a work phone with unlimited texting, and I’ve gotten a text messaging plan on my personal phone.  Keeping 2 phones on me at all times just seems silly, especially after 7pm, where unlimited calling is free on my work iPhone….well Google has a solution for that.

The basic idea behind Google Voice is that you’re given 1 phone number, and it then forwards to virtually unlimited other phones.  This is very handy for people like myself, as I can give out 1 number to all my friends, and then after 7pm forward it to my work phone, and during the day forward it to my personal cell phone.

A few handy features

  • You can set “Emergency Contacts” as a group and during work hours, set the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that no phone calls come through except a few close friends/family who you can trust to only call you at work if it’s an absolute emergency.
  • You can text via your computer keyboard if you’re at the computer and someone txt’s you.  Much faster than using the phone.
  • You can call your own phone number and then use that to make a call to avoid long distance fees.
  • You can forward calls to the FREE Gizmo In, so that you don’t pay for minutes use when you’re near any computer with a high speed connection.
  • You can block certain callers.
  • If your minutes are running low, you can add your Google Voice number to your “My Circle” or unlimited calling plan, and all calls from this number won’t be charged for if you have Verizon or Tmobile’s free calling from xx different numbers.su
  • Supports call screening.  This is where you answer, and it says “__________ is calling, press 1 to receive, or hang up”.  It forces callers to leave their name, so if it’s an unknown number, you know who it is before you talk to them.
  • Voice Mail To Text – Converts voice mails into a text message so that you don’t have to listen to them. It’s not 100% accurate, but I almost always get the point of the message and don’t listen to them.
  • Emailing Voice Mail – Voice Mail’s will be emailed to you in mp3 format so you can save them if you wish.

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 9:29 pm. Add a comment

Stripping Luxfer AL80 Scuba Tank (Stage Bottle)

With the spare time I have due to the holiday break (no school or work!), I decided to strip one of my AL80’s that I’ve had sitting around so I can finally stick the MOD decals on it.  I guess I could have just put the MOD stickers on it, but the clear coat put on from the factory was starting to yellow, and just didn’t look good, so I didn’t want to spend any money on stickers for it that would just end up coming off as soon as I had the free time.  A friend recently sold me a cheap Halcyon AL80 stage strap as well, so I guess that helped motivate me…

The Procedure

  • Purchase paint stripper from Home Depot. (Click here to see what I used)
  • Put an old yoke valve, or something you don’t want on the tank to ensure nothing gets inside it, and you don’t ruin a good valve if you spray any stripper on it.  I had an old OMS H valve that was of no use to me, so I used that.
  • Cover the tank in paint stripper.
  • Use a scraper to get the foam-y paint stripper off the tank. (Wear gloves and do *not* get this stuff on your skin!)
  • Rinse the tank.
  • Scrape off all the paint you can scrape off easily.
  • Coat the remaining painted areas with paint stripper and let it sit for 15 more minutes.
  • Scrape the remaining paint off.
  • Rinse cylinder.
  • Put the new valve on it.
  • You’re DONE!

Pics-

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 7:20 pm. Add a comment

Oleno State Park aka River Rise State Park

Got off work a few minutes early and decided to use whatever daylight was left to go for a quick hike in Oleno State Park with Whitney.  We took the suspension bridge across the river and hiked the obvious trail (not sure if it has a name).  After walking about 1/4 mile beside the river, we encountered several deer having their afternoon meal.  Each time I head to Oleno, I see deer, but with the brush, it’s often hard to get a decent shot at one, always sticks and trees in the way.

Posted 7 years, 11 months ago at 8:25 pm. Add a comment

Looking Back…my best courses at UCF

Well, my final semester is fast approaching at UCF…amazing how fast that went.  Filling out the intent to graduate was an interesting tidbit, it really makes you think about what you learned!  I thought it would be a neat blog post to link to when some friends who are up and coming at UCF ask me “Which courses should I take!?!?”.

Computer Science 2 (COP3502) – I won’t even lie, I struggled in this one.  If you’re not a Computer Science student, stay away!  The course is currently being taught by Ben Douglas, and focuses on algorithm analysis.  The course starts off really easy, and after the first exam it gets incredibly hard.  The course is designed with a recitation, and I really think that most people who fail it, do not attend.  Ben is one of the most knowledgeable professors I’ve had at UCF, but sometimes that comes at the expense of him talking over your head in class.  If this happens, be sure to have the TA go over it in recitation, as topics build on each other, and the tests are near impossible to guess on.  Topics in the course include backtracking, sorting algorithms, brute force, object oriented programming, graphs, and many more.  All tests and assignments are Java based.  Tests are closed notes & closed book.  The course does not have a set grading scale, the final grades are determined by the overall class average after the final exam.

Digital Investigative Technologies (CET4885) – (Click for syllabus) This course isn’t terribly difficult due to the fact that Dr. Philip Craiger has really taken his time to produce a very thorough selection of course materials (no book required), but it does take a lot of your time to complete the projects.  The course begins by teaching you how to take a digital clone of a hard drive to avoid messing up the “evidence”, and explains data collection methods to ensure that your investigation will hold up in court.  After that, the course will teach you how to modify the access dates of files and recover deleted files in Linux by hand using only tools freely available online. Once you understand how these tools work, the course then introduces a few professional tools that you will need in order to complete the final project.  One of the most hands on courses in the UCF Information Technology curriculum, I recommend this course to any student.  One final word of advice…do not ask a question answered in materials already given to you, and don’t ask something that’s easy to find out with a Google search.  Dr. Craiger really forces students to seek out answers on their own as a first option just like you will have to in the real world when you get a job.  He’s not someone who got a PhD and never had a real job outside of teaching, so his methods are different than professors you might have had before.

Database Concepts (CGS2545) – Database Concepts is taught by Robert Koeneke, but the most useful portion of the course (the lab) has projects and slides developed by Dr. Mark Llewellyn.  The slides teach you all of the basics on creating a Microsoft Access database, starting from modifying existing databases, creating queries, reports, new tables, and eventually developing your own database.  The step by step instructions are great, and the pace is very good as well.  A final project in the course is worth a large portion of your grade.  This course is very hands on as well, and after completing it, I feel that I have the knowledge to create a database for anything that I currently have a need for.  My only complaint is that the course spends a bit too much time on database planning, and too little time focusing on combined/advanced queries, as these felt very rushed to get in before the final exam.

Posted 7 years, 11 months ago at 1:31 pm. Add a comment

Manatee Springs State Park – p1900 beyond Friedmans Sink

Breathing Gas– 32% Backgas / 100% Deco
Max Depth
Avg Depth
Visibility– 25-30ft
Water Temp– 72F
Dive Time:

Notes:

Met up with Brian Richardson at Extreme Exposure in High Springs around 8am since he needed some Halcyon stuff, and then headed towards Cave Excursions East to get fills.  Talked with Rich about our dive plan, and was given the advice to just scooter through the buoyancy changes that we would encounter in this cave.

Upon arriving at Manatee Springs State Park, we were told by a park visitor that there’s now a courtesy cart that divers may use to carry their gear (it’s a long hike from the parking lot to Catfish Sink).  This is a REALLY nice upgrade since I had dove there last. With 2 stages, deco, and a scooter each, it would have taken several trips with the dolly.  The air was cool, which made the walks back and forth much easier than it typically is during the summer months.

Once in the water, I ran the primary, as you have to go a ways here before reaching gold line. Brian had offered before hand to “tidy up” the line behind me.  Since we had so much crap on us, and the flow really is bothersome at this site, teamwork is the best way to get a primary into this system.

The flow was up, and visibility was down.  This cave is so dark, with this poor of visibility I felt as if I were scootering and blindly following a line in hope that the cave would clear up somewhere and I could actually start to see something.  Because it was cloudy, we couldn’t even see light come through at Sue Sink or Friedmans.  About 1900ft beyond Friedmans, my 21w HID decided to fail!  I swapped to my Halcyon Scout and began the near 4000ft journey back home.  Having trouble keeping my eye on the line due to the particulate reflecting Brian’s light in my face, I had Brian go to his Scout as well, amazing how fast things escalate!

In the end, we exited via Catfish with an uneventful deco.  While packing up, we did get a pleasant surprise, 5 deer decided to visit us in the parking lot!

Posted 7 years, 11 months ago at 11:41 am. 2 comments