May
02

FrozenQueRy – the engineering of a freezer inventory app




As a young family, having meals together mean a lot to us. In Southern California where the pace is fast and the cost is higher, we turn to batch cooking to enable us to eat like a prince on a peasant’s budget, and save time on those busy days that spill into evenings.

Making extra portions and freezing them for lazier-to-cook days is relatively straightforward. However we quickly found it harder to remember what we had ready to heat/eat, which occasionally left us scrambling when we had one less portion than needed for a whole dinner, or forgot all together and succumbed to take-out or dine-out in our hunger-weakened decision moments.

Mitigation attempts had left us desiring more. The paper list taped to the freezer got messy with scribbled out tally counts over time, and only helped us when we looked at it at home. While we may have known there were 10 burritos floating around, we didn’t know when each were created. Combine that with the laziness on our part to hand-write dates on sticky notes for each item. Although we hadn’t yet encountered unidentifiable blocks of frozen blob, the potential certainly was there.

…As with anyone with legitimate engineering cred, this would not be tolerated for long without a sustainable solution.

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Sep
09

Why you don’t buy Asian from Whitey

The one from the Asian store is bigger




Our family here recently got into drinking Aloe Juice.  Aloe Juice in itself isn’t that new, but its a recent addition to our pantry.  Already knowing its not the best value, we were getting our hit from Trader Joe’s.  As a Southern Californian, we really do like TJ’s and they do have good prices on a lot of quality products that would otherwise cost more at other more elite and snobbish places.  Alas, most of those “quality products” refer to their produce, milks (cow, almond, coconut), some cheese and definitely wine ($2 chuck!!).  But value priced Aloe Juice??  Forget about it!!






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Jul
21

Make vs Buy: dish washing




Between commuting and working at an offsite office, entertaining spouse and kid, home projects, misc errands, bathing, putting the kid to bed, working on potential ventures,…, as well as sleep, the time spent on activities becomes scrutinized. In this case, how much time does all that dish washing take up? Can I “buy” out of at least some of the dish washing? Is it worthwhile to do do?






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Nov
28

Expanding Freezer Storage




For all that I can remember, there’s always been cheap hacks for expanding storage capacity, Be it punching a hole into a single sided floppy to “upgrade” it to a double sided floppy or creating compressed volume mounts. In the less technological word of storing foods in freezers, theres an ever growing need for organized capacity.

Our chest freezer has convenient upper and lower tier bins that slide across a set of rails. Unfortunately, our “bread products” bin is constantly stacked over the rim and consequently spills over below.






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Oct
19

Warning: FIFO Buffer Underrun!




Grocery stores are full of inefficiencies, but the operators do realize it and try to balance performance with operational expenses. It costs a lot of overhead to have all-lanes-open, and the non-food-value added cost gets added to the price of food items. In a way to improve checkout efficiency, lots of stores employ checkout conveyor belts that allow customers to load the carefully selected items to be checked-out while the attendant is moving items along at the front. This enables the “workload” to be buffered for the checkout attendant (“the processor”). The FIFO buffer approach ensures that the workload is ready for operation when the cashier is able to pull it. If not for the conveyor belt, checkout throughput would be severely limited by the rate at which the customer can directly transfer items up to 2-3 at a time from cart/basket to cashier. See system diagram:






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Oct
15

Unemployed Electronics




We at Engineering A Family are sensitive to today’s challenging environment brought on by the global recession. The financial crisis here in the US and abroad has dampened the economy and has taken unemployment as collateral, presently at ~9.1%. In that stripe, I want to personally assist three fully functional electronic devices get back on their feet, plugged in (or juiced up with Alkaline cells), and earning their worth by contributing their operations as originally designed by their creators. These fine devices are eager to work and aren’t loafing around in the Occupy Waste Bin.






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Oct
11

Requirements vs Design Specification for Instructions




Recently overhearing (or..casually over-shouldering) my wife dictating instructions out to a friend reminded me that in our 3.75ish years of marriage I’ve come to learn that outside of a few exceptions, we each tend to give instructions differently. Not necessarily in regards to amount of detail, but rather the scope of details for the instructions. Its a good thing too, since both the approaches we lean towards serve the right purposes.






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Oct
08

Custom Baby Food Solution




Baby food is an interesting industry in civilized Western First-World society. In this market, prepared food mush is jarred or otherwise packaged in special containers and advertised as food items to feed your baby. The product is shelved in its own aisle separate from the produce and meats that typically perimeter the grocery store as if to say this food is different than anything else. Think about it, we don’t have a separate food aisle for kids, adolescents, adults, or seniors. (but there is a pet food aisle).






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Oct
06

Encrypting Parental Communication

Rather Weak Encryption Algorithm...




Welcome to EngineeringAFamily.com, where our objective is to document the engineering practices used to raise our family based on various requirements and metrics.  The EAF website itself doesn’t serve any sensitive data, and is transmitted “through the air” in plain text without any encryption. Recently, Mom and I (Dad) had a brief experience of trying …

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