Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why they are called "Discovery" Health

I love my medical aid. They are so sweet. They deduct money from my account every month, which technically makes me their customer. But don't expect them to actually treat me like a valued customer. That would be too much to ask, most of the time.
Earlier this month we sent through a claim, complete with the required ICD-10 code. According to the Council for Medical Schemes web site, each line item must contain an ICD 10 code. The invoice we sent contained only one line item, and only one ICD-10 code, written between the line item and the invoice total. The claim was rejected by Discovery Health. Even the rejection reason supplied was incorrect.
It's their modus operandi: if the customer goes against their internal regulations or systems, they don't pay. Then they wait for the customer to phone in to "discover" the reason. That's why they're called "Discovery" Health.
Heaven help you if you complain. I complained to HelloPeter and got phoned by an arrogant little twerp who didn't read the complaint and ignored everything I said so he could trot out the "party line" about how the industry was at fault and of course DH did nothing wrong. Of course.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Updated Freebie Software Page

Visitors to the Black and White Inc site have probably looked that the "freebies" page to see what is available for download.
I have just spent a productive Sunday morning updating the list of software that I have installed and use regularly on my PC. Here is the list:
  • 7Zip: (freeware) is largely better than WinZip in the variety of formats it can handle.
  • Access Opener: (myware)
  • Access Runtime Tester: (myware) The simplest way to repair and compact or decompile an .mdb file.
  • Ad-Aware SE Personal: (freeware) is largely obsolete because NOD32 does such a good job.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader: (freeware) displays all the PDF files I use
  • allSnap: (freeware) keeps the screen from getting cluttered.
  • CCleaner: (freeware) keeps the hard drive from getting cluttered.
  • CmdHere Powertoy: (freeware) Useful for getting a command line where you need it.
  • Cool MP3 Splitter: (shareware) Useful for managing large MP3 files.
  • Contig: (freeware) from Sysinternals allows me to defragment an individual file from a batch file. Doesn't replace PerfectDisk, but helps keep the drive tidy.
  • DS Clock: (freeware) Those chimes are just so cool and you get to decide how the time displays on your desktop.
  • eMule: (freeware) with the XtremeMod extras. It's the best way of doing file sharing without all the spam and bogus files.
  • Goldwave: (shareware) is possibly the most useful audio editor available.
  • Google Desktop: (freeware) finds stuff fast, particularly in Outlook
  • Google Earth: (freeware) a great way to look at the world
  • Google Pack Screensaver: (freeware) allows me to view some of my photos when the PC isn't busy.
  • Google Toolbar: (freeware) indispensable for both IE7 and Firefox
  • Hamachi: (freeware) the simplest way to set up a secure VPN
  • Hunter-Killer: (myware) keeps the clutter to a dull roar.
  • Inno Setup: (freeware) incredibly useful setup program
  • ISTool: (freeware) the toolkit that makes Inno Setup so easy to use.
  • iTunes: (freeware) a necessary evil when using an iPod Shuffle.
  • Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8: (commercial) programmable and easy to use most of the time.
  • JGsoft Editpad Pro: (commercial) totally indispensable text editor.
  • LogMeIn: (freeware) great for connecting to remote machines.
  • Microsoft Access97: (commercial) my favourite database application, bugs and all.
  • Microsoft Developer Edition Tools: (commercial) used to make the runtime stuff. Inno Setup does a better job, but this licenses you to deploy Access runtime apps.
  • Microsoft Office XP Developer: (commercial) what a waste of a lot of money. I use Word and Excel, and have yet to write any AccessXP apps.
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2000: (commercial) comes with Office XP and allows me to test the SQL apps I write with Access97.
  • Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 Professional: (commercial) I don't use it much, but it is still a great programming tool.
  • miFiles - My Internet Files: (freeware) a simple, effective FTP program. I love it.
  • Mozilla Firefox 1.5: (freeware) my browser of choice, especially with the following add-ins and extensions:
    • NoScript
    • Google Toolbar
    • Adblock
    • FasterFox
    • IETab
    • DownThemAll
    • ForecastFox
    • FoxClocks
    • PDF Download
    • Print Preview
    • Googlepedia

  • Mustang: (betaware) Mustang 4.x is the basis for the Miami applications I develop every day. No longer available.
  • MyMail: (myware)
  • NOD32 Antivirus: (commercial) keeps my PC virus-free and safe.
  • PerfectDisk: (commercial) keeps my hard drive in order
  • PerfOpt XP: (freeware) allows me to tweak some Windows settings
  • PKZip Command Line: (shareware) used with Zippy to make backups
  • Plaxo Toolbar for Outlook: (freeware) helps keep my contacts up to date
  • PsShutDown: (freeware) from Sysinternals allows me to shut down or Reboot from a batch file
  • Putty: (freeware) the Telnet client I use when I need to talk to my Ubuntu Linux server.
  • PrimoPDF: (freeware) is the best way to create PDF files.
  • Radmin Viewer 3.0: (commercial) indispensable for keeping client PCs organised and operational.
  • RealPlayer: (freeware) for playing Audible books
  • SafeXP: (freeware) tweaks Windows XP to make it a bit more bearable.
  • Search and Replace 2.87: (shareware) I bought this ages ago and its still a quick way to find and replace things across multiple files.
  • Skype: (freeware) great for long distance conversations
  • Snadboy's Revelation: (freeware) useful to test security and find lost passwords
  • SyncToy: (freeware) great for making backups
  • Total Recorder 6.0: (commercial) Standard Edition used to convert Audible books into MP3s and for recording Skype calls.
  • TrueCrypt: (freeware) keeps confidential data safe and secure, especially on laptops.
  • TweakUI: (freeware) helps control Windows.
  • UniBlue Registry Boster: (trialware) Compacts the registry, and supposedly finds registry errors. CCleaner works better. Not worth the money. Uninstalled and replaced with Auslogics Registry Defrag.
  • UniBlue SpeedUpMyPC: (trialware) removes miscellaneous files and allows me to monitor hard drive activity. The Memory Boost option is completely bogus. Not worth the money.
  • United Devices Agent: (freeware) Uses spare processor cycles for scientific work at
  • WavePad: (freeware/commercial) has a great Automatic Gain Control and is useful for converting audio books to my personal MP3 standard format: 32kbps, 22050Khz.
  • WinAmp: (freeware) plays most of the media files on my PC
  • WinZip 9: (shareware) the best ZIP file program, but I won't be spending more money for version 11. See 7Zip.
  • Zippy: (myware) makes backups of my work. Has saved me days of lost work over the years.
Digg it if you like it

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Keeping your PC clean and efficient

A while ago I found an article called Top 12 Ways to Degunk Your PC, which explains how the Windows registry gets cluttered with unnecessary data, old program references, and so on. One of the products mentioned by the article was Registry First Aid. I've found a better one: CCleaner.
It's better in two important respects: firstly it's freeware, and secondly it cleaned up a whole load of entries on my PC that Registry First Aid didn't find. Also, removes temporary files, cookies and other miscellaneous bloatware. It's fast and efficient. One of the nice features is that you can add a menu item to your "Recycle Bin" that either opens or runs CCleaner, so it's right there when you need it.
This is a screen shot of the program, showing some of the cleanup options available. It's also aware of browsers like Opera and Firefox, and can clean out the cache from those programs too.
Another program I have been evaulating is Uniblue's Registry Booster, which claims to be able to defragment the registry, and costs US$29.95. The jury's still out on whether Registry Booster is worth the money or not, or even whether it is posible to defragment the registry.
Update: It's not worth the money. Rather use NTREGOPT and PageDefrag.

Download CCleaner from their web site or from | Get Disk Cleanup to work faster

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vista Anytime Ripoff

Before we bought a machine with Microsoft Windows Vista on it we did "all" the required research: which devices we use are compatible (HP printer, IBM Scanner, MP3 Player, Digital Voice Recorder, Digital Camera) and ended buying a new scanner since the old one doesn't work.
We also read the reviews of Vista, particularly Paul Thurrot's exhaustive reviews, and so when we went to the Cresta branch of Incredible Connection we could look at all the laptops on display, and check out the different models and products.
The laptop Penny liked was pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Basic edition, and seemed to be OK. After all, the laptop comes with a Fax Modem and a DVD drive, so one would expect it to be able to send faxes and watch DVDs. If not, we could easily upgrade to Vista Home Premium or whatever in order to get the "missing" pieces. After all, the "Windows Anytime Upgrade" icon was right there in the Control Panel. Wrong! Microsoft lied to us, and continues to mislead its South African customers. The "Windows Anytime Upgrade" facility is not available in South Africa. The icon in the control panel is misleading, because the facility isn't available in South Africa.
Phoning their call centre didn't help. The person who took my call told me I'd have to buy an upgrade and reinstall Vista from scratch. Wrong. The upgrade install does not wipe out all existing applications. At least in theory, anyway. We'll never find out, because of the inexcusable cost of the "upgrade": R 2370 for Ultimate (US$320), R 1821 for Business editions (US$245). "Windows Fax and Scan, available in the Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista". Notice how none of the Home editions are mentioned, in spite of the fact that most homes don't have fax machines, but offices do. And you thought the marketing boys at Redmond were brighter than average. I think not.
The Microsoft SA person I spoke to on the phone said I should have asked for a different version to be pre-installed. That's a bit like telling a car owner he should have chosen the 3litre version instead of the 1600: it sucks. The damage is already done.
Now if we need to send faxes we use my Windows XP Professional machine. I guess we'll have to find a $30 faxing program to send faxes if my laptop stops working. I'm certainly not increasing the cost of a R6999 laptop by another 30% or so just to be able to use the fax modem.

Access97 Tab Control may cause your application to crash

I love Access97. It's probably the best version of Access that Microsoft ever released, bugs and all. It works on Windows 98, NT, Windows 2000, and WinXP; and it runs fast.
One of the things I like about it is the Tabbed Control facility for forms design. I use it a lot, allowing me to put lots of fields on a form, but not having to display all of them at the same time.
There is one small hiccup: if the form gets "too complex", then woe betide anyone who tries to recompile a form that was previously compiled. Access97 just doesn't like it, and crashes.
Fortunately, there is a solution: don't compile the form twice. If you edit a form with a tabbed control, quit from Access once you're done. Then do a "decompile" with the shift key held down, and then a repair and compact for good measure.
This process is made easy with my AccessOpener utility, and seems to be a reliable means of fixing the problem. When I create an MDE version of the application, I always do a decompile, followed by a repair and compact, and then open the MDB file with the shift key held down. Then it is safe to make the MDE, knowing that it is only the MDE process that will be doing the compile.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Finally! Access97 Runtime installs correctly thanks to Inno Setup

If you've ever struggled getting an Access97 Runtime installation to work correctly, you'll know what a black hole it is. First you have to buy the ODE Tools, and then the Setup Wizard uses files from your current system installation (not good) and even then the installation is incomplete.
As a result, a lot of Access 97 installations end up having unlicensed copies of Access97 Professional installed, simply to get the darn thing to work. This is no longer necessary, thanks to the brilliance of free software called Inno Setup. I downloaded the "QuickStart Pack" that has an incredibly useful utility called IStool. Then I found a German script for Access97 Runtime, and used it to learn how the whole things works.
Finally, I tried it out on my own software, and added in some additional features. Firstly, it had to install the Visual Basic 6 runtime libraries as well, along with the MouseWheel.dll and MyWeb.ocx files that I use in all my Miami applications. Next, it had to be able to display GIF and JPEG files correctly in Access, something that is left out of the ODE Setup wizard completely. It also had to create shortcuts that work, and install the required fonts if missing.
The end result is a 14.7MB install file that correctly installs the Access97 Runtime libraries, the associated graphics display files, ODBC drivers, some ISAM drivers (not tested) and the Graph display drivers. I went to a lot of trouble to get the correct versions of each of these files, so as not to mix Windows XP files with Windows 98SE files. I have completed the testing on a fresh install of Windows 98SE, and will be doing the same test on Windows XP Pro later.
Update: Testing on WinXP has been completed, and the setup program and script adjusted to set the correct permisions on the install directory.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Municipal Lightbulb Joke

How many municipal workers does it take to change a street light bulb?
In our street the answer is six: two to work at the top of the crane, and four to sit around doing nothing. Life is tough when you work for the municipality.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

AmaYeza ousts Princess software for Miami

AmaYeza Info Services provides medical information to various call centres including the Vaccine Helpline. They have relied on software that was developed for them using Delphi, but were unable to get the support they needed when the author emigrated.
The system is quite complex, with numerous many-to-many relationships in the database design, and they need the ability to do unstructured queries on old enquiries to find trends or look for similar cases. I have been working on a replacement program for over 6 months, and finally the program has got to a point where they can use in in place of Princess.
The change to Access97 may seem odd at a time when Access 2007 has just been launched, but there are several advantages for AmaYeza. The most obvious is that they are no longer restricted to using Windows 2000 on their workstations, and can upgrade their MDAC software from version 2.5 to a more contemporary version without their entire database grinding to a halt.
Now that their database is fully normalised, they can extract additional information that was previously much more difficult to extract. In addition, several "merge" wizards have been provided so that the changing face of both the drug manufacturers and the local pharmacies can be tracked. As companies merge or get taken over by other companies, their products can now be automatically updated to reflect the new situation wihout too much fuss.