Archive for the ‘Personal Life’ Category

Amazon Alexa Skill – Electric Price

July 26, 2017 3 comments

I was sick of opening up my phone to check the ComEd hourly price of electric supply, so I decided to make an Alexa app for my Amazon Echo!

It took about 2 hours. It was strange I had to set up both an Alexa skill and the AWS Lamda function, then link the two. I ended up copying most of the code from someones reference code on checking stock prices. Changed the regular expression function which found the stock price to a substring of the ComEd API returned text. Works pretty well! Only problem I’ve had is when the ComEd API is down. If it happens too much, I guess I’ll have to update it with some error handling.

Alexa Skill: Electric Price

Ask: “Alexa, ask Electric Price for Current Price.”

The logo is crap, I know.  And I couldn’t use the ComEd company name in any of the program details/functions, so its a bit generic.  But pretty good for my first try if I do say so myself!

Raspberry Pi CTA Tracker Kiosk

February 9, 2017 Leave a comment



I purchased a Raspberry Pi 3 about a year ago and finally got around to creating a fully functional CTA bus/train tracker out of it.

Parts Needed

Raspberry Pi 

Micro SDHC Cards


Cable (Cable that came with screen was defective)

Keyboard and Mouse (any will do, but I like this)

CTA Tracker URL:

Create your specific CTA Tracker URL and save it for later

Read more…

My Three Favorite Windows Add-ins

October 21, 2016 Leave a comment

I love having multiple monitors!  However, one problem with multiple monitors is that Windows doesn’t extend the task bar very well onto the second or third monitor.  It by default doesn’t extent it at all, so to select applications/windows to make active, you have to go to the other monitor.  There is an option put the same task bar on both monitors, but with that, I don’t know which program/window is on which monitor.

ZBar to the rescue. ZBar adds a task bar to the other monitor(s), and displays only the applications/windows on that monitor. It also removes the applications/windows on the primary monitor’s task bar. I love it.

WizMouse imitates a really nice MacOS feature; it makes the window under the mouse scroll when the user scrolls.  Windows by default only scrolls the active window/frame.  With WizMouse, I can scroll the list of emails in Outlook, and then move my mouse over to the preview, and scroll that, without clicking in the frame!  I can also move my mouse over an Excel document which is open in the background, and scroll it, even though the Excel window is under a bunch of other windows.  What a fantastic program!

ArsClip keeps track of my copy-paste activity and allows me to past something that I copied before the most recent copy. I’ve set mine to give me the history menu when pressing ALT+V.  The program also allows me to “paste values” with a keyboard shortcut; I’ve set mine to CTRL+SHIFT+V.  It saves me so much time!

Freezer Lightbulb

December 9, 2015 Leave a comment

I recently had to replace my freezer (KFFS20EYMS) light bulb and thought it would be an ideal time to switch to an LED bulb. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to replace the bulb!

The bulb had no markings on it, other than the voltage and wattage. I had no way of knowing the socket size. I reviewed the manual, which was no help (it actually gave me a good laugh telling me to use the correct size, but didn’t tell me the size to use):

Not all appliance bulbs will fit your refrigerator. Be sure to
replace the bulb with an appliance bulb of the same size,
shape and wattage.

Replace the burned-out bulb with an appliance bulb(s) no
greater than 25 watts.

I contacted Whirlpool, makers of my fine KitchenAid appliance, and they couldn’t tell me the socket type, but they were more than happy to pass me on to their 3rd party parts retailer which would sell me the incandescent light bulb for way more than it was worth.

I tried a standard Candelabra bulb (size E12), but it was too small.

I took a trip to my local Home Depot; none of the bulbs there looked right.  I almost took a bulb from a floor model, but I thought I didn’t want to steel from them. So I turned, again, to the internet.

Apparently Whirlpool decided to use a non-standard light bulb socket size. From some deep digging and assumptions I guessed that the socket they used was a European socket size E14; no wonder I couldn’t find a replacement bulb at Home Depot.  Funny thing, that E14 socket is supposed to be for 220 volt European power, and this light was 120 volt. That doesn’t make any sense to me at all. What was Whrilpool thinking?

I ordered this lovely E14 to E12 adapter at amazon that would let me use any standard candelabra bulb! Problem solved.

…Now to get an LED bulb that will fit in the protective housing.

Poor general contractor: Design Build 4U Chicago

June 10, 2014 Leave a comment

I have been going though a renovation project for the past 1.5 years in Chicago IL.  The contractor, Design Build 4U Chicago, has been an absolute nightmare.  More details to come on that.

If you find this page looking for details on the following, please add yourself to this google group.

Contractor: Design Build 4U Chicago
Trade License Number: TGC028355
Owner: John Hochbaum
Vice President: Stephen M. Probst (Stephen Probst; Steve Probst)

John P. Hochbaum Jr.


Stephen Probst


Bridget Butler; Property Manager at Kass Management

May 28, 2012 1 comment

I usually don’t rant about things like this on my Blog, but after my most recent Condominium Board meeting, I feel the need to warn other buildings of the advice they may receive from their Building Managers.  I own a condo in a building managed by Kass Management.  Our Property Manager, Bridget Butler, is one of the most ignorant people I have ever met.  I have caught her falsifying information multiple times. Here are a few examples:

  • There are fire doors in our hallway that are not able to close automatically due to the high carpet.  I notified Bridget of the issue and got no response.  I finally convinced the condo board to press the matter.  Bridget Butler came to the next board meeting and reported that she had talked to an Inspector, and that the inspector said “due to the building’s design, fire doors were not necessarily.” This was is in the board meeting minutes, approved by our board.  Since no inspector visited the building, I filed a 311 complaint. According to the city website, we now have building violations against our building for the exact problem I asked Bridget to get fixed.  Minutes prior to the next board meeting I checked and the doors were not fixed.  At the meeting, Bridget Butler said that our violations were closed.  How can they be closed when the problem mentioned in the violations are not fixed?? This is fully documented and I may seek legal action.
  • I was trying to get our board to approve a cost reduction project to insulate our hot water tanks.  Bridget Butler claimed our tanks were “not designed to be insulated” and “they are only warm to the touch.”  The manufacturer sells prefabricated insulation cabinets.  I measured the surface area of the tanks at 126, and 127 degrees with an infrared thermometer; that is hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns.
  • Bridget Butler states that Certificates of Operation for elevators , or copies of, do not have to be placed within the elevator.  State laws say otherwise.  After one year of asking for the certificate of operation to be placed in the elevator, nothing was being done. I finally called the city of Chicago and found out our elevator had not been inspected since 2007.  Isn’t it the management companies responsibility to get that done?  I also blame my condo board for not pressing the matter, but it is not ultimately their responsibility.

The biggest problem with this situation is that our Condominium Board tends to trust Bridget Butler because she is in a position of authority.  In that manner, Bridget’s ignorance is transferred to our Condo Board; safety issues tend to get dismissed until fines by the city of Chicago are threatened.  It should not have to get that far.

I admit I am not the most politically skilled individual.  That is my biggest weakness by far.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t do the research to find the facts and get things done the right way, every time.

With that said, in conjunction with Bridget’s authoritative position, my week political skills are likely why my Condo Board sides on Bridget’s advice rather than my own.  However, when it comes to safety, there is no room for politics, and I astonished that Bridget Butler has gotten this far with her career given her extreme ignorance.  I decided to post this to warn other condominium associations to be wary of Bridget’s advice.

</End Rant>

QR Codes On Your Business Card

May 27, 2011 1 comment

QR Codes have become tremendously popular over the last few months.  Most companies use QR codes as a way to direct users to websites.  Users can scan a code with their mobile phone, and the phone directs the user to the marketer’s webpage.  The process saves the user time by eliminating the need for the user to type the web address into their phone.

QR Codes are two-dimensional machine readable images.  Much like normal barcodes, such as UPC codes, but with a much higher density of information, and significant redundancy/error correction.  Any simple text can be encoded in a QR Code and then read by a machine using a scanner or camera.

When I was doing some research on QR Codes I found they can be used for other purposes such as encoding VCARDs. VCARD files are simple contact or address book files saved as plain text.  Most address book applications can save and open VCARD files with ease.  Many QR scanner applications recognize QR codes with VCARDs as the encoded text.

So, when I was designing my most recent personal business card I though it would be a neat idea to include a QR encoded VCARD on them.

The first step was getting a VCARD.  Unfortunately this was not an easy task. Although there is a standard for VCARDs, most software applications interpret the standard differently, especially as related to the phone number.  It is worth mentioning that if too much information is in the VCARD text, the QR Code will get denser, and thus harder for phones to read.  Through some trial and error, I ended up with this VCARD:


Any decent QR encoding software should be able to encode this.  I used the one available at  Make sure the encoder encodes the text as the QR code, rather than encoding a URL that directs the user to a page displaying the text.

Finally I placed the encoded QR code image on my business card.   Now, when I give my card to someone, they can scan it with their phone, and my contact gets added to their address book.  Not only does this ensure that there are no typos, it’s much easier for the user to enter my contact information by scanning an image rather than typing on a tiny keyboard.