10 August 2011

Dentist wants my money, so how can I trust him?

Much of dental treatments and examinations in BC and Alberta (Canada) are paid for in a fee for service model of business.  Increasingly, when I see a dentist, I notice they seem to be fairly eager at recommending me things that cost me money.  This issue has been bugging me for a long time.

For example, I'm told I should consider getting an electric toothbrush.  Incidentally, the dental office sells electric toothbrushes.

Another example: I'm told I grind my teeth at night and should get a night guard, even though my previous dentist, who saw me not months earlier, never diagnosed me as needing one.  When the dentist realized that my insurance doesn't cover getting their super expensive night guard, and that I'm unwilling to pay out of pocket, the dentist suggested I get a cheap one from a drug store, but to make sure to come back to the dental office to get it fitted by them (presumably the fitting will cost either me or the insurance company).  Incidentally, the previous dentist was older and probably had no debt, but the new dentist is younger and probably has debts to pay off.

There are other examples of these kinds of up-selling type behaviour, and I'm growing increasingly skeptical.  How can I know whether my dentist is telling me X because he really has my best interest in mind, when I know X will line his pocket with my money?  Worse is that I'm not even remotely qualified to know whether X really is in my best interest or not.

I don't want to get into a debate about what health delivery and payment system is best.  I just wanted to note that in the current system of dentistry, it's hard to ever trust that the dentist is thinking of me instead of my money.

Of course, this latest research suggests that there's no question: the doc is thinking of my money.

05 August 2011

Stop Skype Auto Gain Control of the Mic on Mac OS X

Skype has got to introduce a GUI element to turn off the Automatic Gain Control (AGC) of the Mic on Mac OS X. I'm not sure if the newer versions of Skype has this feature, but I'm using Skype 2.8.0.866 on Mac OS X 10.6, and the way to stop AGC is as follows:
  1. Open the folder ~/Library/Application Support/Skype (this is in your own user folder's Library folder, not the whole system one).
  2. Open the file shared.xml
  3. Find the text string <VoiceEng>
  4. Underneath that string, add a new line with the text <AGC>0</AGC>
  5. Click on the Apple logo in your menu bar
  6. Open System Preferences...
  7. Click on the Sound preference pane
  8. Click on the Input tab
  9. Find the Input volume slider and drag the slider all the way to the right (or to wherever you desire)
  10. Done!
 If you keep the Sound preference pane open at all times while using Skype, you should be able to monitor whether the Input volume slider (representing the mic's gain) moves around automatically or not.

(edit: I was asked to provide a screenshot, but then the screenshot would be just all text anyway, so I'll show a bigger snippet of what the shared.xml file should look like here.

Originally, it may look like this:

... various text ...
<VoiceEng>
   <MicBoost>
... various other text ...

Change it to look like this:

... various text ...
<VoiceEng>
   <AGC>0</AGC>
   <MicBoost>
... various other text ...

Hope that helps.)

I can't believe Skype never thought to include the option to set the gain manually.  Sometimes, when the user finds the other party can't hear them talk (e.g. when there is a lot of background noise), they will talk louder into the mic, since doing that on a real phone will increase how loud the other party will perceive the user's voice to be.  But with AGC on, speaking louder into the mic causes it to automatically reduce the gain, making it impossible to compensate for a noisy environment!  Very frustrating...

03 August 2011

Presentation Mode on Mac OS X

Need to make sure your Mac computer doesn't go to sleep or dim screen when doing a presentation? I used Caffeine, and it was excellent. Did exactly what it was supposed to.

In addition, I suggest you turn off automatic Software Update in your System Preferences to make sure no random dialog box pops up during your presentation.

02 August 2011

LaTeX Beamer package: dual screen mode incompatible with Textpos package

Took me a while to figure out that when using the Beamer LaTeX package, the "show notes on second screen" dual-screen option and the Textpos package cannot be both used together simultaneously.

See this bug report.