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Free Perl script for removing duplicate contacts in Microsoft Outlook.

If you have a PDA, it's certain you've had this problem when synchronising the same PDA on more than one PC. The Perl script I wrote (I’m no expert) will locate all contacts whose field containing the names are duplicated and remove all copies except for the one that has the most characters in all its fields (address, phone #, etc).

To use the script, do the following:

1.      Install Perl 5.8 or higher, reboot your PC. In Outlook, File->import and export->export to another file->comma separated values (DOS)->contacts->[your path]contacts.csv

2.      Copy the Outlook created file contacts.csv to the same folder as the Perl script and double click the script. It will create contacts_.csv.

3.      In Outlook, delete all your outlook contacts (if large, must be done in sections), as well as other contacts (my contact) such as pocket mirror. Very slow operation!

4.      In Outlook, File->import and export->import from another program or file->comma separated values (DOS)->[your path]contacts_.csv

Use at your own risk; keep a copy of the contact.csv created by Outlook as insurance - you can always import it back into Outlook. 

Note: to download the file, right click the hyperlink, change the name to and save - so the formatting is not messed up.

Home Made UHF antenna for over the air HDTV

With plenty of over the air digital HD signal kicking around, I took 30 minutes to make a simple UHF antenna, using 2 bow ties and a mesh. The bow tie segments are 7 inch long on a side, 90 mm from the mesh, and the pairs are 7 inches apart. The mesh ends are folded to offer more vertical stiffness. A 300 to 75 ohm transformer finishes it off. I use a USB receiver to view the channels on my PC. Before the DIY antenna, few channels could be viewed and badly at that, with it the channel list filled up and at 100% reception on most. Not bad for parts I found in my basement.

Google map of Watch Observatory's 4 meter dome


Time lapse movies of the dome in motion

A Canon Rebel SLR was controlled by a Canon TC-80N3 programmable remote timer to snap long exposures [70 seconds] at fixed intervals. The lot of them were put together to form a timelapse movie (click play button twice). The TC-80N3 is not compatible with some Canons, so you might need this patch (or make it yourself).

Snow Melt

Uncorrected exposures with a Canon Rebel 300D, strung together with VirtualDub. Next year I'll do better!


The A380, tail number 007, visits Montreal

The Airbus A380 began and ended it's November North American tour through Montreal. She was slated to circle the city and land at 12h35 on November 12th. I was driving onto the island from the west at 150 kph and saw her over the Saint-Lawrence river toward the south, low and slow. As I neared the airport, she was on the base leg of the circuit far in the east beyond the city center - it was going to be a close one! Within sight of the runway, the highway and service roads were at a stand still. Cars and semi-trailers were parked on the emergency lanes, up grass slopes to overpasses, people were out of their cars and on overpasses. Folks were backing up to parallel park in spots on the highway! I muttered expletives while at a crawl I reached my exit, the A380 was 30 seconds from passing over me - what luck! I followed the sheeps, got out of my car, readied my camera and snapped away. It was all over in seconds, amidst applause and whooping. Montreal is not particularly significant for large carriers, but the second largest French city on the globe atfer Paris and perhaps that is why she came here. I had seen my first A380 in Hong Kong 1 month prior.


How to convert a PC power supply into an auto-start supply

The observatory is mostly used remotely; I power it up from a switch in the basement. Most PCs require depressing a power switch to start them up, which is not compatible with a remote facility. Although a PC can be powered up via network cards and such, I chose to bypass the power feature as shown in the image below. Sparing you pinout #s, on the 20 pin power supply connector [note latch for orientation]; cut the fourth wire [front row from left - green wire here], stow it, and connect the floating end to the wire next to it [front row, third from left - black one here]. Voila! 

Note that most mother boards today have a BIOS setting which will do the same trick by setting the 'power management' feature to 'start up when previous loss of power' - it has the added benefit that with a shutdown, the fans quit, unlike the wiring change shown here. Of course the conversion I supply below is for older mother boards.



What happened on flight USAir 12 from Madrid to Philadelphia on July 24th, 2006…

I had polished off two movies on the A330; the cabin was dark and my sardine neighbours were mostly asleep. I proceeded to the nearest lavatory. I had excruciating pain for minutes which would not subside, my heart grew faint and loss of consciousness was eminent. I sat on the seat, lowered my head, and yet it kept coming. I managed to open the door and passengers alerted the staff. Within seconds, three flight attendants and a passenger doctor converged on me, bless their hearts. By this time my vision was mostly gone (see below); I could only see a bright off white scintillating view and a faint outline of a human head, eye sockets, nose and moving mouth. Lisa was prodding me to stay conscious; I could hear her questions in the distance and I answered her, but I wanted to drop. They got me on the floor, raised my legs, provided oxygen, and things slowly came back. My blood pressure had dropped below 60/40. Seems it was a vagus nerve response [Vasovagal syncope], benign save for the potential of injury during a fall. They put me in first class for the remainder of the flight - not that I wanted it! The crazy retinal image reminds me of buggy software I’ve written over the years. We are indeed machines, complex at that.

A Spanish Coffee!

Tenerife, February 2004: the lovely Maria del Pino introduced me to the Spanish 'cafe Bon Bon', a shot of espresso dumped over an ultra thick condensed milk syrup, sinful as can be. It is served in layers in a glass cup where the condensed milk, espresso and crema contrast perfectly. I soon got into espresso, purchased four espresso makers, and have been drinking Cafe Bon Bons ever since. I ventured further by roasting my own coffee beans with the iRoast2. You can't beat roasting your own coffee, it does not taste like anything you've had before, and it's sublime! Roasting is fun too - strangely the beans smell like popcorn as they heat up.

Sin in a cup - Spanish Cafe Bon Bon

Birds of the Watch Observatory

A Robin family's nest perched on the observatory

My yard has many red robins pecking at insects, and they are most interested in my presence, hopping closer toward me. A family had nested in '98 on the liquid cooler drum, jamming the pump. I displaced the nest and all were happy: see here! 9 years later, another robin built a nest on an exhaust fan louver (louvers on right side of observatory). I had removed the unfinished nest only to find another 2 days later. When the little ones had left the nest, I removed it, and one month later, yet a third nest was built - I gave up! Too many robins now, and they seem to like my car, hoping all over it, pecking at the wipers...

Yet another nest a month laterA Blue Jay in the green thickness