links: the 501 developer manifesto, etc.
Posted on 2012-04-18 13:18:00
- I read The 501 Developer Manifesto and was going to comment on it, and then I read I Guess I'm Not A 501 Developer and it was exactly what I wanted to say, so...nevermind. (the short version: not working long hours = good, but it's OK to program on your own for fun, amirite?)
- Doctors Urge Their Colleagues To Quit Doing Worthless Tests - it makes me sad that it's so easy for doctors to rely on "conventional wisdom" instead of staying up to date on the latest studies on the efficacy of tests/procedures/etc. To be fair, it's a hard problem, but one worth solving!
- On Being Gay In Medicine: A Leading Harvard Pediatrician’s Story - powerful stuff, we've come a long way!
- Calling Radicalism by Its Name - it's general election season, and don't believe anyone who wants to reduce the deficit and cut taxes.
- Poll: Google's More Popular Than Facebook, Twitter, and Even Apple - not too surprising, I guess, but why is Twitter so unpopular?
- Caine's Arcade - if you haven't seen it yet, 9-year-old Caine runs his own arcade made out of cardboard!
- Evidence: Fat People Can Be as Healthy as Thin People - as someone who is overweight but has generally healthy habits (more or less), yay!
- SpaceX on why the US can beat China - whenever I read about SpaceX I feel awesome inside...and not just because they use LabVIEW.
- QArt codes - making art out of QR codes. Very clever!
Marriage Map for #wp7 released! and a Windows Phone dev crossroads
Posted on 2012-04-05 13:26:00
Tags: essay windowsphone projects
First, the good news: a Windows Phone version of my same-sex marriage map is now available! (it's free and ad-free!)
It was tricky squeezing in all of the information on a phone-sized screen, but I'm pretty pleased with the results:
Countdown to the first inappropriate app rating in 3...2...1...
I'm at a loss for what to work on for Windows Phone development next; I was working on a side project but was thwarted by OS limitations last night (grrr!), so it's back to the drawing board. Here are my options, as I see them:
bonus links: xkcd april fools, programming stuff, other stuff
Posted on 2012-04-02 13:57:00
- If you missed xkcd's April Fools comic yesterday, you should check it out. Here's the reddit thread with details.
- An article about being careful how you handle NaN keys in hashtables - his solution is to add randomness to the hash function!
- A discussion of the infamous Girls Near Me app and how the problem is not the app, but having all of that data in one easily-accessible place. Privacy is fast becoming a thing of the past....
- API Design is UI for Developers - as someone who often has to use APIs, there's some goooood stuff there!
- For Windows Phone 7, Back means back. Not forwards, not sideways, but back. Being able to go "back" between applications was a bit weird at first, but I think I like it now and it's mostly consistent.
Random links that got orphaned and now have a home:
- 'What to do with Astrodome?' - hopefully something awesome! It's a neat building.
- A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney - I laughed at the Feynman diagram :-)
- (I was going to put a link here about how Rick Santorum wants to make pornography illegal, but we've all agreed Mitt Romney's going to win the nomination now, right? Right.)
- For the Prosecution, Justice Clarence Thomas
- Why is health care expensive in the US? Well, for starters, our prices are much higher than other countries'.
Finishing up a project (is tough)
Posted on 2012-04-01 16:25:00
Tags: essay windowsphone projects
So I'm "almost done" porting the ol' marriage map to Windows Phone. Sadly, "almost done" means "I put off all the annoying stuff to the end that isn't hard, but is tedious". Here's a list of said things:
- Making sure the app works when coming out of tombstoning
- Adding an "About" page with links to the homepage, to review the app, tips, etc.
- Turning any constants into settings, and adding the UI to change them and persist them between runs
- Making icons for the app (I need four different sizes!)
- Adding Little Watson so I can get an email when the app crashes (although this seems less necessary now that I know you can get a list of crash stack traces from the App Hub...but it's still nice if I need to follow up or tell people that the crash has been fixed)
- Add links to my other Windows Phone apps
It's a good thing actually seeing the app available for download/purchase is so rewarding, because finishing the app is a big slog. I can tell because I'm much more distracted by Twitter/reddit/etc. than usual...hopefully there's not much more to go!
links: FlightPredictor makes a list!, the penny is gone (in Canada), and some robots
Posted on 2012-03-30 15:18:00
Tags: projects links
- FlightPredictor for WP7 is on a top app list in the Windows Marketplace!
Apparently this is by number of downloads as opposed to ratings. (and most of those downloads were trial, not paid. But still!)
- Making big decisions about money - wise words from Seth Godin. And I am particularly prone to this...
- Canada is getting ready of the penny - our neighbors to the north are wise! (although I'm glad to see that Canadian local news isn't immune to some terrible sentences to end a story)
- A day in the life of a warehouse robot - that company Kiva that Amazon bought (not the microlending Kiva) makes pretty awesome robots!
- More robots: Look how high this robot can jump! Spoiler alert: very high.
- An interview with Batman, or at least the Batman of Route 29 in Maryland.
- Finally, a good way to start your weekend: Drunk Man Sings Entire Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody In Police Car - with video!
programming: checking that downloaded maps are up-to-date
Posted on 2012-03-27 15:18:00
Tags: projects programming
I came across an interesting problem when working on FlightPredictor for Windows Phone: ensuring that downloaded airport maps are up-to-date.
This is the first time I've had to deal with this problem when porting FlightPredictor:
links: NH protects same-sex marriage!
Posted on 2012-03-23 15:23:00
- New Hampshire voted down an attempt to repeal same-sex marriage by a convincing margin of 211-116 - and it needed to pass by a 2/3 majority since the governor (a Democrat) had said he would veto it. More than 100 Republicans voted against the repeal!
Unfortunately, there are a bunch more states that are considering repeal - give to the Win More States fund to defend same-sex marriage!
- The Odd Link Between Commute Direction and Marital Satisfaction - bizarre, but I can kind of understand - anything can help you make a connection with someone!
- Ben Bernanke is going around to college campuses...and one of the things he talks about is why going back to the gold standard is a bad, bad idea.
- The Story Behind That 9,000-Word Quora Post on Airplane Cockpits - and here's the original!
FlightPredictor for WP7 gets reviewed! (twice!)
Posted on 2012-03-23 11:51:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
After releasing FlightPredictor for WP7 earlier this week, it's gotten some nice reviews!
All About Windows Phone reviewed it on Wednesday, and today I woke up to find a wpcentral review of it, including a video review where George Ponder had lots of nice things to say about it. Hooray!
If I had two wishes (and they had to be FlightPredictor-related), they would be:
- getting some good reviews on the Marketplace. Right now it doesn't have any ratings, and I'm always super anxious to get one good one. I think this is a big reason that FlightPredictor for Android is doing reasonably well - it now has 7 5-star ratings!
- getting chosen for the [Your App Here] advertising campaign with Nokia & Microsoft. Because the app is US-only, I think I have even longer odds of this than I would normally; but the Lumia 900 is supposed to be coming out next month and it sounds like Nokia will be promoting it extensively, so who knows?
theocracy on the march
Posted on 2012-03-21 11:28:00
Tags: essay gay
|Same-sex marriage in the United States|
|in December 2004||in March 2012|
FlightPredictor for WP7 released!
Posted on 2012-03-20 08:50:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
I'm excited to announce that after almost 4 months of development, FlightPredictor for Windows Phone is now available on the Windows Phone Marketplace! Features include:
- uses advanced machine learning techniques from FlightCaster to detect probably delayed flights hours before the airlines tell you!
- Windows Live Tiles mean you'll always have the latest data at your fingertips.
- Airport terminal maps for over 30 major US airports help you find your gate quickly.
- free trial mode
and much more! Since it uses FlightCaster for its data, as usual it supports US domestic flights only. I'd be happy to answer any questions about the app here!
FitCalendar - the Fitbit data you (I?) care about!
Posted on 2012-03-17 19:55:00
I've had a Fitbit for a while now, and it's been motivating me to get my 70,000 steps a week. Unfortunately the Fitbit dashboard page is nice, but it's not easy to tell how many steps I'm ahead/behind for the week, or if I've made my goal in previous weeks.
So I decided to roll together FitCalendar to fix that. Here's my report - a quick view of whether I'm ahead or behind this week (and by how much), and whether I made my goal or not previous weeks.
For now, it's just a Python script and it doesn't run automatically or anything. I'm considering whether to make a whole app out of this, but I'm not sure I'm going to bother - having a live tile with this data would be nice, but not that much nicer given the effort it takes to make an app...
links: Goldman Sachs, Santorum v. Romney, rubber ducking
Posted on 2012-03-16 09:55:00
- Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs - written by a guy who was high up and seemed to really believe in the company. As Lawrence Lessig points out, this is not surprising given the market incentives - once Goldman Sachs went public and a bunch of regulations were removed, it's a race to the bottom. Related: Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader.
- A cool triangle viewer of who voted for Santorum and Romney - most of this stuff is fairly obvious (rich people tend to vote Romney, "true conservatives" tend to vote for Santorum) but it's a neat way to visualize it.
- Rubber Duck Problem Solving - at NI we call this "lamp-posting", and it works. Is there something about programming in particular that makes this work, or does just saying other sorts of problems aloud help too?
- The Browser You Loved to Hate - Even Microsoft is making fun of old versions of IE now! (and, yeah, IE9 and 10 are definitely steps in the right direction)
- What America Sells To The World - a lot of stuff!
- Flying people over NYC! That is some clever marketing.
Republic, Lost review
Posted on 2012-03-13 20:47:00
Tags: reviews books
Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It by Lawrence Lessig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lessig makes the case that Congress is corrupt - not in the "directly taking money for votes" way, but just the fact that Congresspeople are desperate for money so they can get reelected, so lobbyists who can provide more campaign fundraising get more access. This is not a hard case to make.
He also talks about possible solutions, but it was depressing how out of reach these seem. The most likely one is a Constitutional convention, so...yeah. Good book, but fairly depressing.
View all my reviews
Posted on 2012-03-09 13:25:00
Good crop today! In descending order of personal interestingness:
- 6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying - a bit over the top (and NSFW language), but I mostly agree. The one that annoys me the most is when people talk about "punishing success", as if taxes are imposed punitively to piss people off as opposed to, you know, paying for things the government provides. Wait, no, the one that annoys me the most is "If I Can Do It, So Can You!", implying that the only reason rich people are rich is that they're just better/work so much harder than the rest of us. Of course, many rich people did work hard, but so do lots of people that aren't rich and weren't as lucky. Wait...well, they're all pretty good.
- The story of Keep Calm and Carry On - the poster was never actually publicly seen during WWII! Nice short video, though.
- Four Reasons to Root for the Windows Phone - yay Windows Phone! (do yourself a favor and ignore reason #4...)
- A cool visualization of entitlement spending across the US over time, broken down by type. That unemployment insurance view is kind of depressing.
- Looking for new webcomics to read? I am not, but if I were I'd do it through Just the First Frame, which is exactly what it sounds like.
- Pretty charts of where NBA players score the most points from - interesting that there is a "low-point scoring gap" between very close to the basket and further away.
- Amusing ad for DollarShaveClub.com.
- How I Helped Destroy Star Wars Galaxies - mostly for destroyerj, but I have some fond memories of SWG...
FlightPredictor for Windows Phone - looking for beta testers!
Posted on 2012-03-07 10:04:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
FlightPredictor for Windows Phone is in beta! If you're interested in beta testing it, contact me (twitter/facebook/email me at email@example.com/leave a comment here) with your Windows Live ID, which I need to give you access to the app. I'll email at that address with instructions on how to get up and going.
It's a good app and I'm proud of it, but with your help I can make it even better!
Posted on 2012-03-04 13:00:00
Tags: reviews books
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good book - the first part I found to be very creepy. The whole thing seemed more or less realistic - turns out the author has an MS in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon. Recommended!
View all my reviews
Independence Day links!
Posted on 2012-03-02 11:52:00
(Texas Independence Day, that is)
- Ze Frank (of The Show with Ze Frank) just launched a Kickstarter project to do another show! It's already met its goal, but the more supporters the more awesome it will be. I'm very excited, and hooray for Kickstarter!
- Right versus Pragmatic - I am very much a pragmatist. (although I agree with Andy Ihnatko's complaint about the sense of entitlement...)
- The White House's Economic Case for Reelection in 13 Charts - or, politics + charts = linkbait for me.
- The Power of Being Pulled Over - pulling over drivers affects their behavior for a long time!
- Sprinkles Cupcakes Explains Its 24-Hour 'Cupcake ATM' - Houston's going to have round-the-clock access to cupcakes!
- Giant Prehistoric Penguins Stood Nearly 5 Feet Tall
Debugging Windows Phone scheduled tasks
Posted on 2012-02-26 14:43:00
Tags: essay windowsphone projects programming
I was about ready to release a beta for FlightPredictor, and then I realized that the scheduled task that updated the flights that are pinned to live tiles (a key feature of the app) was horribly, horribly broken. The reasons I'd been putting off dealing with this are:
- I have a WiFi only device, and so whenever it wakes up from sleep it has to reconnect to the WiFi, and I assumed this was why the tiles didn't update very often. But this is a pretty poor excuse, and turned out to be a little true but didn't account for many of the problems.
- I had trouble finding good ways to debug the scheduled task to figure out what was going on.
So, here are the three things I did to make debugging scheduled tasks a snap! (or, at least, possible)
1. ScheduledActionService.LaunchForTest: One thing that makes dealing with scheduled tasks difficult is that they have pretty tight restrictions - the PeriodicTask that I'm using can't use more than 6 MB of memory, or take more time than 25 seconds, and it only runs every 30 minutes. This last point would make debugging unbelievably annoying - luckily, you can call ScheduledActionService.LaunchForTest in a debug build to make it launch in a minute, or however much time you want.
For some reason, after a while of debugging on an emulator instance this call seems to stop working for me, and I had kinda forgotten that it ever worked at all, so I used it early in development but not since then. But it really does work, and if it stops working, just close and relaunch the emulator! This is a great way when you absolutely, positively have to step through code and see what's going on.
2. Little Watson - Andy Pennell blogged about this, and I had had it recommended to me but hadn't bothered to include it until a week ago. If your application crashes, you can capture the call stack, and then the next time the app is launched you can give the option to email you the stack trace. This is awesome for hard-to-track-down crashes, although I wish the call stack had a little more information. What Andy didn't talk about is the fact you can use this to capture call stacks if your scheduled task crashes! I turned this on yesterday and have already tracked down a few crashes I didn't know were happening - I was hitting the memory limit and not even realizing it...
3. ScheduledTaskLogger - This is my own creation - it's basically a way to log a bunch of data while your scheduled task is running, and then view it later in the main app. This helped me to find a glaring error in my update code (note to self: always look up the return value of CompareTo(), as I've gotten it wrong at least five times now...), and I'm hoping it can help me catch any other issues that arise.
Here are the code files for ScheduledTaskLogger:
- ScheduledTaskLogger.cs - This logs data while the scheduled task is running. You can set how many logs to keep, and also whether it writes out to file after every log message - probably not a good idea for release, but useful if there's a problem that's causing a crash. I also try to save the log in ScheduledAgent_UnhandledException.
- ScheduledTaskLog.xaml and ScheduledTaskLog.xaml.cs - these are the views in the main app that you can use to view the logs. There's also a button to email a particular log to support, although I need to add one that emails of all logs.
Edit: I added this code to the Nokia Developer Wiki.
Anyhow, I've squished a bunch of bugs and am on the lookout for more. I was kind of dreading trying to figure out what was going wrong, but good tools make everything easier!
Posted on 2012-02-24 14:53:00
It's Friday! It is Friday, right? TGIF.
- Mitt Romney's Tax Plan Is a Mathematical Disaster - you mean cutting everyone's taxes by 20% won't help the deficit? I'm shocked!
- Aside from the recent dustup with Planned Parenthood, the Susan G. Komen foundation has a nasty habit of "blaming the victim" when it's pretty clear that, while mammography is better than nothing, it's definitely not a panacea for the quickly metastasizing cancers that tend to be more fatal.
- Rick Santorum Wants Your Sex Life to Be 'Special'...and I want Rick Santorum to stop talking about my sex life. (of course he's not talking about me, he wants my sex life to be nonexistant, I assume)
- Why Do We Still Care About the Dow? - even just as a stock market index, it's pretty terrible.
- Contraception’s Con Men
Less serious links:
- What Jeremy Lin Teaches Us About Talent - spoiler: it teaches us that sports teams are terrible at predicting it!
- Now George Lucas says that Han never shot first, you were just confused. Le sigh.
- How Much Would it Cost to build the Death Star? - it would cost a lot.
Taxes done! (and best IRS instruction ever)
Posted on 2012-02-18 14:08:00
We just finished our taxes! This year's vital stats:
Hours taken: around 5 (basically 8-midnight last night, plus an hour for copying/getting ready to mail)
Number of pieces of paper in my return: 13 (including Schedules A, C, D, and SE)
Best line seen in the IRS instructions: As I was looking for the rules on charitable deductions, I discovered this gem:
Certain whaling captains may be able to deduct expenses paid in 2011 for Native Alaskan subsistence bowhead whale hunting activities.which is doubly awesome because I was just reading along about general charity stuff and them Bam! Whaling captains. (
FlightPredictor for Android was reviewed! (and I respond)
Posted on 2012-02-15 20:06:00
Tags: projects android
Thanks to the magic of Google Alerts, I saw that FlightPredictor for Android was reviewed by Android Tapp! Excerpts and my comments below:
The app provides some of the basics you would expect, such as the ability to search for flights by either the flight number or by the route information, and you can search up to a day prior and six days ahead. It would be nice to be able to add flights booked further in advance so you have them entered and can forget about them until it’s time to travel, but that’s a minor complaint overall.Interesting - you should be able to add them 90 days ahead. I noticed she tested it on a Galaxy Tab 10.1, while most of my development was on phone-sized screens, so I'm guessing either she didn't notice that you could scroll the spinner dropdown, or it's somehow broken on the Galaxy Tab.
I do like that you can access overall airport delays in a dedicated screen, so if you just want to take a quick look to get an overall picture of how on time the system is overall, or if there are any major issues you need to be aware of as a traveler, this is a quick and easy way to do it.Yay! I added this feature mostly just because I thought it was cool.
Where this app separates itself from the flight tracking pack, however, is in the maps. When you travel, most of us will have to spend at least some time wandering around an airport waiting for boarding time. Having the full airport maps at your fingertips, without needing a Wi-Fi connection to access them, is a really, really nice thing. My only complaint is that right now, the maps are limited to a few of the major U.S. airports, although the developer has posted that more are going to be added in time.Yay again! To be fair, there are more than 30 airports that have maps, so I think this hits almost all of the major US airports. (users: if there are airports you want to see, let me know!)
I did find that occasionally the maps themselves were a bit slow when moving between various sections, but the convenience of having them outweighed the wait.Interesting - it's using a standard WebView to render the map images (easy way to get panning, zooming, etc.), so I guess it's not too surprising it can be on the slow side.
The app claims to use the Android notification system to let you know about delays, but to be honest, I found this part of the app a bit sketchy. This was the only thing that didn’t work well for me, with the app either not notifying me at all, or notifying me long past when the flight landed and the information was no longer relevant. I had a good network connection, but I can’t rule that out completely, so keep it in mind when you grab this one.That makes me sad. I thought I tested the notification system a decent amount, but it's hard to test all situations...
Note that the free version allows for six flights before requiring an upgrade, so you should be able to get a good idea of whether it will work for you before you buy.Woohoo. I'll probably do a similar thing for trial mode in the Windows Phone version.
The interface is very, very simple. It’s a dark background with lighter text, which was occasionally hard to read, especially for some of the links in blue. This is the one area where it feels like it could be a bit more polished and professional, instead of feeling almost like a “my first app” interface. Not to say it doesn’t work well, just that visually, it’s not the most compelling app out there. It does the basics, and that’s it.Hah! No argument here, honestly. This area is the opposite of my strong suit.
AndroidTapp.com RatingWait - FlightCaster has an Android app of their own? I'm pretty sure that isn't the case, although there are a few other apps that use the FlightCaster API. But they all seemed pretty simple, and I think my app is considerably better than them :-)
3.45 out of 5 stars
Should you Download FlightPredictor? Overall, this is a solid app that does what it says. I like the addition of the airport maps, but with all the real data coming from FlightCaster, which has an app of its own, I’m not sure this brings a whole lot of extra to the table. It’s a good app, but I wouldn’t call it the best of show, especially since you have to pay to track after six flights. If you’re a frequent traveler, however, this is worth trying out since it does do what it advertises with a minimum of fuss.
FlightPredictor for #WP7 - it's getting close!
Posted on 2012-02-13 22:06:00
Tags: windowsphone projects
I've made a bunch of progress since I last posted about FlightPredictor for WP7. Here's the updated list of "stuff to do before release":
make it tombstone-safe (i.e. save state when backgrounded) done!
show airport delays done!
show airport maps done!
will have to download these after app install - figure out how versioning will work! downloading's done, need to implement versioning (but I know how it's gonna work)
about screen (attribution) mostly done, need to add more help
settings screen (necessary?) yes, and done
flight info - add when it was last updated, make sure nothing else is missing - done
make live tile have an image with status/prediction for its background instead of text - done! and they look good!
- TODOs in code (down to 20 or so) down to ~8
show airline contact info done
make reloading flights on main page consistent meh, good enough
send all flights (email/SMS) done
- make real icons for app nope
- decide what to do about trial version and do it nope, although I have an idea of what to do
mutex in background agent for communicating? done
- upload maps to Amazon S3
- prompt when update on Marketplace?
- make "Tap for more info" have accent color
I'm excited that the app is really coming together! Looking forward to starting some beta testing soon - handily, the Windows Phone Marketplace supports it nicely.
monday morning links: wall street, cat parasites
Posted on 2012-02-13 10:14:00
Because I meant to post these on Friday but ran out of time...
- The governor of Washington state is going to sign the marriage equality bill today! Woohoo!
- Loooong article on how Wall Street bankers are no longer "masters of the universe" because of, among other things, the Dodd-Frank legislation. Bonuses are way down, etc. This seems like a good thing, not least of which is the quote:
“If you’re a smart Ph.D. from MIT, you’d never go to Wall Street now,” says a hedge-fund executive. “You’d go to Silicon Valley. There’s at least a prospect for a huge gain. You’d have the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. It looks like he has a lot more fun.”Fun aside, I think Silicon Valley creates a lot more value for the economy than bankers do.
Pictures from Utah
Posted on 2012-02-11 21:49:00
Tags: pictures travel
I finally got around to posting pictures from last week's trip to Utah. Enjoy!
Thinking, Fast and Slow review
Posted on 2012-02-07 21:54:00
Tags: reviews books
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book (yet another behavioral psychology one!) focuses on how we think by characterizing two "systems". System 1 is the automatic system that we can't really control - it is very sure of itself, it generates "intuition", and it is subject to all sorts of biases (overweights low probability events, is more sensitive to changes than states, sometimes substitutes easier questions for harder ones, etc.). System 2 is what we think of as our rational brain - it does tricky math problems and is what we use when we try hard to pay attention to something, but is also very lazy and tries to avoid being engaged.
The book starts off a bit slowly but is a great tour of how System 1 and System 2 interact and the biases they lead to (such as anchoring effects, narrow framing, excessive coherence, and loss aversion). I enjoyed it!
(paper book, available for borrowing)
View all my reviews
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