Put down that cellphone; distracted-driving law is here

A new distracted driving law has come into effect in Washington state, making cell-phone, or any other electronic, use while driving a primary offense (meaning you can be pulled over for it). If you drive in Washington state, take note if you've been using your phone while driving.

The Seattle Times has all of the details, but here are the key points:

Q. What is banned?

The law forbids all handheld uses. Not just phone calls, but composing or reading any kind of message, social media post, photograph or data.

Drivers may not use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.

All video watching is illegal, even in a dashboard or dash-mounted device.

This is fantastic. If you are having to hold your device in order to do something, you shouldn't be driving at the same time (including stopped at a light, where people inevitably don't see the light turn green).

Q. What's legal?

Common built-in electronics, including hands-free phones, satellite music and maps, are legal.

Drivers may even turn on a smartphone that's mounted in a dashboard cradle, for limited purposes such as navigation apps, a voice-activated call, or music streaming. The new law allows the "minimal use of a finger."

Handheld phone calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal. […] Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio remain legal.

This is where this law shines. It recognizes that for many people, including myself, their cell-phone is their car's entertainment system. By allowing for "minimal use of a finger", my phone can be my music and navigation center, as long as it's dash-mounted.`This use is similar to someone using the factory entertainment system in their car, which has been legal since cars have had them.

I do question how enforceable this law is, but at worst it is a step in the right direction. We will see over time how effective it is.

Introducing “Mixer”

 

Congratulation to everyone on the Beam Mixer team for the rebrand and all of the new features launching today! Go check it out.

If you haven’t heard of Mixer before, I’ll let one of the co-founders, Matt, explain on the Xbox blog:

Mixer is livestreaming that’s actually LIVE, compared to the 10 – 20 second latency you typically get on other platforms. What’s more, viewers can actively participate in what’s happening on screen instead of just watching from the sidelines. With Mixer, you can influence everything from quest selection to tools to movement, mixing it up with your favorite streamers to create a new kind of gaming experience. The Minecraft team is experimenting with the interactivity that Mixer offers as a possibility for official game integration. And, some Minecraft community members have already created interactive experiences using this technology that allow viewers to do things like spawn in zombies or change the weather.

There’s tons of cool changes coming, including co-streaming, enabling “up to 4 streamers can combine their streams into a single viewer experience”; Mixer Create beta, “a new mobile app that enables self-broadcasting”; and Channel One, an always-on, moderated channel of content that lets you see what’s happening across Mixer.”

I’m working on the Mixer apps for iOS and Android, and can’t wait to help bring new features to the community.

iOS Storyboards Tutorial

I’m starting to learn iOS app development, so I wanted to learn the basics of the latest and greatest for iOS UI development: Storyboards. A quick search online lead me to this great tutorial at raywenderlich.com.

I found it was short, to the point and covered the basics well. It got me introduced to the interface in XCode and the primary concepts of Storyboards. I would recommend it if you’re jumping into iOS development.

Federal government to test ‘name-blind’ recruiting process

The CBC:

The pilot program will involve six of the government’s biggest departments: National Defence; Global Affairs Canada; Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; Public Services and Procurement Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

The project, which will hide applicants’ names from hiring managers during the initial screening process, will compare the results with outcomes from traditional applicant shortlisting. Brison said research has shown that English-speaking employers are 40 per cent more likely to pick candidates with an English or anglicized name than an ethnic one.

Credit to the Canadian government for this initiative. Usually changes like this start in the private, not public, sector. I hope the CBC follows-up with the results of this trial, as I think they will be illuminating.

It’s worth remembering that even if this is successful, name-blind recruiting isn’t a silver bullet when it comes to fighting discrimination in hiring. Once selected for an interview, a candidate still has to make it through an in-person interview where their minority status will inevitably be revealed.

What made Xerox PARC special?

In case you haven’t heard of Xerox PARC before, it’s a research center founded in the 1970’s and, particularly in its early years, provided many vital inventions to the technology community. One of the most visible inventions is the graphical computer interface with point-and-click interaction and windows.

On Quora Alan Kay, one of the original computer scientists at XEROX Parc, answers the question of what made Xerox PARC special:

There was a vision: “The destiny of computers is to become interactive intellectual amplifiers for everyone in the world pervasively networked worldwide”.

[…]

Parc was highly concentrated with regard to wealth of talents, abilities, vision, confidence, and cooperation. There was no real management structure, so things were organized to allow researchers to “suggest” and “commit” and “decommit” in a more or less orderly fashion.

It’s worth reading his whole answer to get an understanding of what was the driving force for the researchers.

Shania Twain Releasing New Album Soon

CBC News:

Twain is charting a return to music after suffering from dysphonia — a vocal cord disorder that she attributed to stress. She has had intensive voice therapy over the past few years to relearn how to sing.

[…]

She plans to release her first new music in 15 years later this spring, revealing she’s been writing new songs that reflect in part on her painful 2008 breakup with husband and producer Robert “Mutt” Lange.

Shania Twain is one of my long-time favorite country artists and I’ve been hoping she would release new music for years, thoguh. I can’t wait for her new album, and am curious what her new sound will be after her dysphonia. She’s been through