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British Columbia prescription drug price comparison tool

Pacific Blue Cross, a health insurance company, has released an online tool called the Pharmacy Compass:

Pacific Blue Cross Pharmacy Compass

The Pharmacy Compass is a price comparison tool for prescription drugs in British Columbia. Basically, you type in the drug name and your location, and it returns you a list of pharmacies and the corresponding price per pill, dispensing fee, and generic or brand name equivalent price. It is straightforward and easy to use, with a clean interface, auto-completion on fields, and a map view.

It makes business sense for Pacific Blue Cross to offer such a tool, since the less their customers have to pay for drugs, the less Pacific Blue Cross has to pay! And of course they have access to all of this price data through all the reimbursement claims submitted to them.

Huawei Ascend G312 review: a practical Android phone

The Huawei Ascend G312 is a so-called “middle of the road” smartphone that does what it is designed to do very well and provides good value.


This review is written from the perspective of someone who wanted a smartphone in order to take advantage of various apps (French dictionary, weather, games), use a small amount of data, play some music, and be content with the phone’s performance for at least a few years. It would be most often used for normal calls and text messaging. Battery life and reliability are important, and the phone needed to be intuitive. She was willing to spend a small amount to purchase the phone, but not several hundred dollars for one of the higher-end phones.

Her previous phone was an iPhone 3G, which in all fairness is 4 years old at the time of this review, but had always felt slow and never had good battery life.

Phone specifications

The Huawei Ascend G312 is currently available from Wind Mobile (released in October 2012) for $249 outright, $99 on the lower monthly plan ($25/month) and $0 on the higher monthly plan ($40/month).

Technical specifications of the phone are: 4 inch LCD screen, 1.4Ghz processor, 1gb RAM, 4gb of internal memory, and a 5.0 megapixel camera. The operating system is Android 4.0 aka “Ice Cream Sandwich”.

Huawei Ascend G312 front

The Ascend G312 is also called the MyTouch on US-based T-Mobile, although that phone had Android 2.3 aka “Gingerbread”.

Form factor

The phone is comparable to other smartphones in terms of size and weight. The back cover is more “grippy” compared to the Huawei Ascend P1.

One advantage of the Ascend G312 is that the back cover comes off very easily, so you can easily swap out the battery, the normal-size SIM card, and add a microSD card to add more storage.

Huawei Ascend G312 back

The screen is more than clear enough. Reportedly, there is no anti-scratch coating, so you might want to buy a case or apply some other type of protection if you will be carrying it alongside keys for example.


Battery life is better than expected. On normal, non-heavy data usage, it needs to be charged only about every 3 days. Continuous talk and/or data usage would cause it to last only 1 day or less, although we have not specifically tested this.

The camera is adequate; the photos appear somewhat washed out and you certainly wouldn’t call it close to print quality. However, it is good for ad hoc usage, capturing text detail quite well.

If you think that Apple’s iOS provides a good user experience, the Android is arguably as good or better. The Android operating system is intuitive for all basic tasks, as well as app settings and management. Texting is accurate and the spell-check functionality is useful. As well, many features considered “extra” not too long ago are now the norm, such as a flash light, GPS and mapping, and FM radio.

Data speed is not what you would call good, but it is not painful. The speed of actual rendering of pages and app screens is good.

Side note: Migrating contacts from an iPhone

Transferring contacts from the iPhone 3G was not easy. The iPhone has no copy-contacts-to-SIM functionality except if it has been “jailbroken”, at which point you can use an app such as “SIManager”. You might have to manually re-create your contacts.

Comparison to other smartphones

Compared to the Huawei Ascend P1 and Huawei Ascend D1, the G312 is quite a bit cheaper but might pack more value. For example, the G312 only has a single-core processor, whereas the P1 has a dual-core processor and the D1 has a quad-core processor. For basic tasks, however, there is no noticeable difference in performance, except that the D1 is slightly “snappier” when swiping through screens (which might not matter in practice!). In theory, if you are multi-tasking on your phone or watching a high definition movie you might notice a difference. In practical terms, the G312’s specifications are still powerful.

If you don’t need to be on the cutting edge of technology, the G312 still provides more than the basics. The G312 has no NFC or LTE capabilities, but if you don’t know what those acronyms mean, you won’t be missing out on anything.

The Huawei Ascend G312 met all of the important criteria for a non-technical user who still wanted the features of a smartphone, and we would recommend it!

Testing HTML e-mails: use Microsoft Word to test Outlook

Just like testing websites across browsers, you also have to test HTML e-mails across e-mail clients. Most e-mail clients map well to specific browsers; for example, you can test Thunderbird in Firefox, Apple Mail in Safari, and various webmail clients in whatever browser is being used (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and so on). The free Windows Live Mail (the successor to Outlook Express) uses Internet Explorer’s HTML rendering engine. Outlook is an exception, as you might think that it uses IE’s rendering engine, but it doesn’t. As of Outlook 2007, it uses Microsoft Word’s / Office’s rendering engine.

Viewing an e-mail in Microsoft Word as rendered in Outlook

If you don’t have access to Microsoft Outlook (or Word / Office) you can download Word Viewer, which gives you read-only access to Word documents but will also render HTML for testing purposes!

WordPress automatically adds slashes to all POST data

Since WordPress 1.5 (released in 2005) and up to and including WordPress 3.5, WordPress has been effectively forcing the “magic_quotes_gpc” setting to be on. Such behavior is currently implemented in wp-settings.php by calling the function wp_magic_quotes(), which does the following:

function wp_magic_quotes() {
    // If already slashed, strip.
    if ( get_magic_quotes_gpc() ) {
        $_GET    = stripslashes_deep( $_GET    );
        $_POST   = stripslashes_deep( $_POST   );
        $_COOKIE = stripslashes_deep( $_COOKIE );

    // Escape with wpdb.
    $_GET    = add_magic_quotes( $_GET    );
    $_POST   = add_magic_quotes( $_POST   );
    $_COOKIE = add_magic_quotes( $_COOKIE );
    $_SERVER = add_magic_quotes( $_SERVER );

    // Force REQUEST to be GET + POST.
    $_REQUEST = array_merge( $_GET, $_POST );

You might discover this if you’re dealing with POST data, have long vowed to never turn on the “magic_quotes_gpc” setting (which is deprecated in PHP 5.3 and removed in PHP 5.4) and are manually escaping data with specific-use functions such as mysqli_real_escape_string(), only to discover that items are being double-encoded and/or you are being forced to use stripslashes (or the WordPress-specific stripslashes_deep).

Despite the resulting frustration and surprise to many developers, WordPress has reasons for keeping this seemingly odd behavior, and you can read about this here and here. In short, WordPress is trying to protect its millions of users from the onslaught of basic vulnerabilities that removing this behavior would cause. These vulnerabilities would be exposed in its huge database of publicly contributed plugins of varying qualities; some plugins don’t properly escape outside data.

At some point, this will need to be resolved, but if you’ve run into this problem when developing something in WordPress, now you know the 7+ years of history behind it!

Burnaby City in the Park / Stride Hill / Edmonds Town Centre South profile

City in the Park map. Click to launch the neighbourhood profile.

Here is a text, picture, audio, and picture profile of the Burnaby neighbourhood “City in the Park”, located south of the Edmonds SkyTrain stations and built partially on top of a landfill. The Stride Hill garbage dump was closed in the 1950s, becoming Edmonds Town Centre South, and later City in the Park, with high rise condominium developments, Taylor Park, and an elementary school.

This project was compiled and recorded by Melissa in June 2012.

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