Colin C. Williams https://colincwilliams.com Musings, ideas and observations Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:13:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://static.colincwilliams.com/wordpress/wp-upload/2017/01/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Colin C. Williams https://colincwilliams.com 32 32 AWD and Winter Driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/awd-and-winter-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=awd-and-winter-driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/awd-and-winter-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=awd-and-winter-driving#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 01:39:20 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2464 Last week I wrote about how winter tires will make any vehicle good for winter driving. A reader wrote in noting that I was quite dismissive of the benefits of All Wheel Drive (AWD) in winter and that a vehicle with AWD is objectively better if it has winter tires. He’s correct; however, I understated the benefits for a few reasons. In this follow-up post, I want to go over the benefits of AWD in winter driving, and then explain why I understated those benefits in my initial post.

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Last week I wrote about how winter tires will make any vehicle good for winter driving. A reader wrote in noting that I was quite dismissive of the benefits of All Wheel Drive (AWD) in winter and that a vehicle with AWD is objectively better if it has winter tires. He’s correct; however, I understated the benefits for a few reasons. In this follow-up post, I want to go over the benefits of AWD in winter driving, and then explain why I understated those benefits in my initial post.

First, let’s go over what AWD is. AWD is a feature that enables power to be sent to any of the four wheels without user intervention (this is one of the primary differentiators between AWD and four wheel drive). Direction of power can be done purely mechanically or with the control of a computer depending on the system used.

The obvious benefit is accelerating in slippery conditions. By having the ability to send power to all wheels, you are able to capitalize on the traction at all four corners of the vehicle, greatly decreasing the likelihood of getting stuck or spinning tires. This is emphasized when trying to go uphill. Note that the total amount of traction the vehicle has isn’t increased; it’s just better utilized under power.

A more subtle benefit is revealed once the vehicle is moving. If the driver maintains some amount of throttle, an AWD vehicle’s superior traction under acceleration may enable the vehicle to maintain stability when being pushed around by slush or snow; rounding a slippery corner; or powering out of a slide.

These are great benefits, so why did I understate them so severely in my original post?

My first and primary reason was to hopefully influence the conversation about what makes a vehicle good for winter driving. While a vehicle with AWD objectively has the potential to be better than one without, it can’t capitalize on that potential without winter tires. I’ve had many people comment that my truck would be awesome for winter driving without knowing what tires I have. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding, or confused prioritization, of what makes a vehicle great in winter.

I stated the second reason in my original post, albeit without explanation (emphasis added): “Four Wheel Drive (4WD or 4×4) or All Wheel Drive (AWD) [isn’t] a replacement for good tires because they don’t help with braking.

As stated above, AWD helps with distributing power to the wheels. When braking, no power is distributed to the wheels as the goal is to slow the vehicle. All vehicles have 4 wheel brakes, allowing all available traction to be utilized when combined with ABS and stability control systems. The only way to improve braking performance is to increase the amount of available traction by getting by getting better tires.

The gains in braking performance due to winter tires cannot be understated. To quote just one test, performed by Tire Rack (emphasis added):

[W]e measured the distance it took the tires to bring the Civic to a complete stop from 12 mph (20 km/h). The car’s speed was stabilized and the driver fully applied the brakes to engage the vehicle’s four-wheel disc anti-lock braking system (ABS) until the vehicle came to a complete stop.

When equipped with all-season tires, the car’s ABS engaged relatively easy and it took an average of 53.6-feet to stop the Civic. The Studless Ice & Snow tires provided more grip and actually squealed against the ice whenever the ABS activated. The Studless Ice & Snow tires brought the Civic to a stop in an average of 35.1-feet, representing a 34% improvement. Their 18.5-foot shorter stopping distance was over a car length improvement compared to the all-season tires.

Finally, my third reason is the amount of understanding and experience needed to fully reap the safety benefits of AWD. Being able to go forward is a safety benefit only in the respect of not being stuck somewhere undesirable (middle of nowhere, unsafe location, etc). Other than that, being in a non-moving vehicle is inherently safer than being in a moving vehicle.

When moving, I want to quote what I wrote above with emphasis added: If the driver maintains some amount of throttle, an AWD vehicle’s superior traction under acceleration may enable the vehicle to maintain stability when being pushed around by slush or snow; rounding a slippery corner; or powering out of a slide.”

All wheel drive’s slide prevention is notable, particularly when combined with winter tires. However, once a slide begins, unless the driver is experienced with slides and understands the benefit, maintaining throttle is the least intuitive response. The most intuitive response is to slam on the brakes, at which point the AWD system is rendered irrelevant. This incorrect response is significantly more likely, even with experienced drivers, when the slide is encountered during an evasive maneuver or while the driver is distracted, resulting in the slide being entirely unanticipated.

In conclusion, if you are regularly driving in winter conditions or you can easily afford it for the few times you are, I would highly recommend getting AWD when purchasing a new vehicle. The benefits are significant. Just make sure you also get a good set of winter tires so you can stop once you get moving and truly unlock the performance of your AWD system.

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The Best Vehicle for Winter Driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-best-vehicle-for-winter-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-best-vehicle-for-winter-driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-best-vehicle-for-winter-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-best-vehicle-for-winter-driving#respond Sat, 14 Oct 2017 14:00:35 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2146 Over the course of winters past, I’ve been asked numerous times by acquaintances, friends and family whether a certain vehicle would be a good choice for driving winter roads. I want to cover the topic once and for-all with this post. I will go over what makes a vehicle good for winter driving and then go into detail about what makes winter tires different from all-season or summer tires.

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Over the course of winters past, I’ve been asked numerous times by acquaintances, friends and family whether a certain vehicle would be a good choice for driving winter roads. I want to cover the topic once and for-all with this post. I will go over what makes a vehicle good for winter driving and then go into detail about what makes winter tires different from all-season or summer tires.

Driving technique, drastically more important than the vehicle you are driving, is something I will cover in a future post.

First, I want to define what I mean by winter driving and winter roads. I’m referring to maintained roads, highways and freeways. This includes getting around town, travelling between cities (potentially over mountain passes) or going to ski hills in winter. This advice does not apply to travelling on unmaintained or remote winter roads where snow depths can become excessive.

Following from that, the road conditions I’m referring to are dry, wet, icy, slushy, compact snow or limited amounts (rough maximum of 12 inches) of fresh snow, all in cold temperatures.

With that context out of the way, let’s get into what makes a good vehicle for winter driving.

The answer is simple: any vehicle is good for winter driving if it has good winter tires.

If you read nothing else in this post, take that answer to heart. Your tires are the only things holding your vehicle to the road, so no other part of your vehicle matters more for winter driving.

Note that I didn’t mention Four Wheel Drive (4WD or 4×4) or All Wheel Drive (AWD). Neither system is a replacement for good tires because they don’t help with braking. Their benefit comes in making the car go forward and, to some extent, keeping it straight on the road.

Because of those benefits, I do recommend a vehicle with 4WD or AWD if you drive in the snow regularly, but they are by no means a requirement.

(Update: I’ve expanded on my thoughts about AWD and winter driving in my next post.)

Other factors I’ve found people regularly associate with a good winter vehicle include vehicle weight, tire size and ground clearance. Let’s run through those.

  • Vehicle weight can help somewhat with vehicle stability in snowy conditions, allowing the vehicle to push through the snow rather than be pushed around; however, the benfit isn’t nearly great enough to bias vehicle choice.
  • Larger tires only matter in extremely deep snow, a situation which I’m explicitly not covering as mentioned above.
  • Ground clearance only matters in extremely deep snow, a situation which I’m explicitly not covering as mentioned above.

So what separates a winter tire from all-season or summer tires? There are a number of factors, but the largest is the tire compound or rubber.

Rubber hardens in colder temperatures. Soft rubber has more grip, exactly what you want in slippery winter conditions. Winter tires use rubber compounds that are significantly softer than other tires so that as temperatures drop, they remain pliable and sticky. Because of this, a winter tire will have significantly more grip than an all-season or summer tire in cold temperatures even on bare, dry roads.

If softer rubber gives so much more grip, why don’t we just use winter tires year-round? Mainly because of longevity and fuel economy. Softer rubber wears significantly faster in hot temperatures and reduces fuel economy due to increased resistance to rolling. Additionally, if the rubber becomes too soft in extreme heat, it can actually have less grip than a harder rubber.

There are a couple of additional benefits to winter tires beyond tire compound:

  • Significantly increased siping. When you look at your tires, particularly winter tires, you’ll see what look like cuts across the tread blocks. These cuts are called sipes and increase the number of surfaces gripping the road.
  • Strategic packing. Snow-on-snow grip is actually quite high, so winter tires are designed to strategically pack with snow to utilize this benefit.

If you’re going to be driving in the snow this winter, or just live in a city that gets very cold, grab yourself a set of winter tires this year. The cost will be infinitely less than that of your life or someone else’s.

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Identity Theft, Credit Reports, and You https://colincwilliams.com/writing/identity-theft-credit-reports-and-you/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=identity-theft-credit-reports-and-you https://colincwilliams.com/writing/identity-theft-credit-reports-and-you/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=identity-theft-credit-reports-and-you#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 03:54:07 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/identity-theft-credit-reports-and-you/ Patrick McKenzie, someone passionate about credit reports and the industry, has some good advice in light of the recent Equifax leak:

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Patrick McKenzie, someone passionate about credit reports and the industry, has some good advice in light of the recent Equifax leak:

You should never call a CRA, ever. They have phone centers staffed with people whose only job is getting you off the phone. They have very limited availability to help, for the same reason that the phone center for Walmart does not have anyone who can help a shoe. You will deal with CRAs only in writing.

And:

Banks deal with lots of angry people, and are optimized to treat this like a customer service problem. Some do better and some do worse at this, but you never want identity theft treated like a customer service problem. Their CS department is scored on number of tickets resolved per hour, and each rep’s incentives are simply to classify you as something requiring no followup and get you off the phone.

Instead, you want to communicate with the bank in a manner which suggests that you’re an organized professional who is capable of escalating the matter if the bank does not handle it themselves. You do not yell – not that you’re ever verbally speaking with anyone, but you wouldn’t yell in a letter, either. You do not bluster. (“I will tell on you to my attorney” is, generally, bluster, and that’s bluster that is common to people who do not actually have attorneys.) You instead present as if you’re collecting a paper trail.

Actually, that last bit is great advice if you need to handle any problem with any company. Acting professional will get you much further than not.

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Public Service Announcement: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS or Android https://colincwilliams.com/writing/public-service-announcement-you-should-not-force-quit-apps-on-ios-or-android/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=public-service-announcement-you-should-not-force-quit-apps-on-ios-or-android https://colincwilliams.com/writing/public-service-announcement-you-should-not-force-quit-apps-on-ios-or-android/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=public-service-announcement-you-should-not-force-quit-apps-on-ios-or-android#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 05:33:51 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/public-service-announcement-you-should-not-force-quit-apps-on-ios-or-android/ John Gruber at Daring Fireball has the definitive post on why you shouldn't force quit apps on your iOS device (double-pressing the home button and swiping them away):

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John Gruber at Daring Fireball has the definitive post on why you shouldn't force quit apps on your iOS device (double-pressing the home button and swiping them away):

The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The idea is that apps in the background are locking up unnecessary RAM and consuming unnecessary CPU cycles, thus hurting performance and wasting battery life.

That’s not how iOS works. …[U]nfreezing a frozen app takes up way less CPU (and energy) than relaunching an app that had been force quit. Not only does force quitting your apps not help, it actually hurts. Your battery life will be worse and it will take much longer to switch apps if you force quit apps in the background.

The only reason you should force quit an app is if it is misbehaving, such as not responding. All of this reasoning and advice applies equally to Android, which operates in a similar way.

If you force quit apps to keep the app-switcher clean, know that you are hurting your phone's battery life and your experience. At the time of writing there is no alternative way to keep the app switcher clean.

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What Football Will Look Like in the Future https://colincwilliams.com/writing/what-football-will-look-like-in-the-future/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=what-football-will-look-like-in-the-future https://colincwilliams.com/writing/what-football-will-look-like-in-the-future/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=what-football-will-look-like-in-the-future#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 14:00:36 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2348 I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I highly recommend reading this story put out by SB Nation about what football will look like in the future.

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I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I highly recommend reading this story put out by SB Nation about what football will look like in the future.

It looks at the future of football…in the year 17776. Very creatively written and presents a number of philosophical ideas about the future of humanity. It also presents a future for humanity I hadn’t considered before.

Forewarning: it’s long (25 chapters), so I recommend reading it over a number of days. It was originally released one chapter per day.

Found via Daring Fireball.

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Put down that cellphone; distracted-driving law is here https://colincwilliams.com/writing/put-down-that-cellphone-distracted-driving-law-is-here/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=put-down-that-cellphone-distracted-driving-law-is-here https://colincwilliams.com/writing/put-down-that-cellphone-distracted-driving-law-is-here/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=put-down-that-cellphone-distracted-driving-law-is-here#respond Wed, 26 Jul 2017 03:36:53 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2437 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.

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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.

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Overland: WABDR Section 2 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/overland-wabdr-section-2/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=overland-wabdr-section-2 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/overland-wabdr-section-2/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=overland-wabdr-section-2#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 13:00:47 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2346 A couple of weekends ago, a buddy and myself took our trucks and went exploring in the southern Cascades. To say the trip was more than I was expecting would be an understatement.

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A couple of weekends ago, a buddy and myself took our trucks and went exploring in the southern Cascades. To say the trip was more than I was expecting would be an understatement.

We met up in Packwood Saturday afternoon, then headed to a secret dispersed campsite for the night. This was my first time dispersed camping so it was great to truly get away from civilization.

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Sunday morning we hit the dirt, aiming to complete Section 2 of the WABDR from Packwood to Ellensburg.

For context, the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route, or WABDR, is a route across Washington state from the Oregon border to the Canadian border, almost exclusively on dirt roads. It was originally mapped out by adventure motorcyclists, but can also be completed by ATV’s and full-size trucks. Consisting of 6 sections, the route takes about 6 days to complete if done continuously, but it’s common to do sections individually as we did with Section 2.

The first part of the drive is a climb up to Bethal Ridge. Along the way, you must traverse across the side of a mountain, with a beautiful valley below. There is one spot in particular that offers an incredible photo opportunity.

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The high point of our trip (literally) is Bethal Ridge at 6200 feet of elevation, offering stunning views of the surrounding valleys and Mt. Rainier in the distance. This is the best view I’ve ever had while eating lunch.

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You can see the rest of the pictures in the slideshow below. This route was moderately technical, but my stock F-150 (including running boards!) with good tires was able to complete it with a bit of thoughtful tire placement and some spotting through the narrow spots.

If you do the WABDR, or any backcountry exploring, make sure you travel with a buddy or have lots of experience before venturing out alone. In the latter half of the trip we helped out someone on an adventure bike who had crashed and was struggling to re-orient his heavy bike on a steep grade. If we had not showed up, his options weren’t great as I don’t think he had communication options while he was far away from cell service.

This was arguably my first true overland adventure and I can’t wait to do more. It was revitalizing and a ton of fun.

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Introducing “Mixer” https://colincwilliams.com/writing/introducing-mixer/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=introducing-mixer https://colincwilliams.com/writing/introducing-mixer/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=introducing-mixer#respond Thu, 25 May 2017 18:36:37 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2329  

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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.

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iOS Storyboards Tutorial https://colincwilliams.com/writing/ios-storyboards-tutorial/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=ios-storyboards-tutorial https://colincwilliams.com/writing/ios-storyboards-tutorial/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=ios-storyboards-tutorial#respond Fri, 12 May 2017 05:55:40 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2316 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.

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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.

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Federal government to test ‘name-blind’ recruiting process https://colincwilliams.com/writing/federal-government-to-test-name-blind-recruiting-process/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=federal-government-to-test-name-blind-recruiting-process https://colincwilliams.com/writing/federal-government-to-test-name-blind-recruiting-process/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=federal-government-to-test-name-blind-recruiting-process#respond Thu, 11 May 2017 05:35:48 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2246 The CBC:

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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.

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Player Spends A Decade Polishing Epic Theme Park In Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/player-spends-a-decade-polishing-epic-theme-park-in-rollercoaster-tycoon-2/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=player-spends-a-decade-polishing-epic-theme-park-in-rollercoaster-tycoon-2 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/player-spends-a-decade-polishing-epic-theme-park-in-rollercoaster-tycoon-2/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=player-spends-a-decade-polishing-epic-theme-park-in-rollercoaster-tycoon-2#respond Mon, 08 May 2017 16:19:18 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2306 loved playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 as a kid, but I never put this kind of effort into it. Impressive.

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loved playing Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 as a kid, but I never put this kind of effort into it. Impressive.

This is a good reminder to grab OpenRCT2 to start playing again.

(Via 512 Pixels.)

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Pixar’s Tribute to Cinema https://colincwilliams.com/writing/pixars-tribute-to-cinema/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=pixars-tribute-to-cinema https://colincwilliams.com/writing/pixars-tribute-to-cinema/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=pixars-tribute-to-cinema#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 01:25:06 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2139 Pixar has made some incredible films over the years. Here’s some of the tributes they made to past classics in their films. It’s interesting to see where they pulled inspiration from.

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Pixar has made some incredible films over the years. Here’s some of the tributes they made to past classics in their films. It’s interesting to see where they pulled inspiration from.

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Dogs With Their Tongue Out a Little https://colincwilliams.com/writing/dogs-with-their-tongue-out-a-little/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=dogs-with-their-tongue-out-a-little https://colincwilliams.com/writing/dogs-with-their-tongue-out-a-little/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=dogs-with-their-tongue-out-a-little#respond Wed, 03 May 2017 01:17:47 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2123 Of course there’s a Tumblr blog dedicated to it. Just go ahead and look at the adorable pictures; you know you want to.

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Of course there’s a Tumblr blog dedicated to it. Just go ahead and look at the adorable pictures; you know you want to.

Sleeping dog with tongue sticking out just a little bit..

 

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What made Xerox PARC special? https://colincwilliams.com/writing/what-made-xerox-parc-special/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=what-made-xerox-parc-special https://colincwilliams.com/writing/what-made-xerox-parc-special/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=what-made-xerox-parc-special#comments Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:43:44 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2252 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.

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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.

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Shania Twain Releasing New Album Soon https://colincwilliams.com/writing/shania-twain-releasing-new-album-soon/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=shania-twain-releasing-new-album-soon https://colincwilliams.com/writing/shania-twain-releasing-new-album-soon/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=shania-twain-releasing-new-album-soon#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 22:30:34 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2250 CBC News:

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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

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You People Make Me Sick https://colincwilliams.com/writing/you-people-make-me-sick/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=you-people-make-me-sick https://colincwilliams.com/writing/you-people-make-me-sick/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=you-people-make-me-sick#respond Wed, 12 Apr 2017 01:01:21 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2111 A rant like this is exactly why the internet exists. Posted in the Grilled Cheese subreddit:

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A rant like this is exactly why the internet exists. Posted in the Grilled Cheese subreddit:

A grilled cheese consists of only these following items. Cheese. Bread with spread (usually butter). This entire subreddit consist of “melts”. Almost every “grilled cheese” sandwich i see on here has other items added to it. The fact that this subreddit is called “grilledcheese” is nothing short of utter blasphemy.

Go read the whole thing, have a laugh and learn not to mess with people and their grilled cheeses.

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The Case of the 500-Mile Email https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-case-of-the-500-mile-email/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-case-of-the-500-mile-email https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-case-of-the-500-mile-email/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-case-of-the-500-mile-email#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 01:16:29 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1902 I came across the story of the 500-Mile Email quite some time ago, but it’s an absolute classic:

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I came across the story of the 500-Mile Email quite some time ago, but it’s an absolute classic:

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated. “A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.”

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Dangers of Texting and Driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/dangers-of-texting-and-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=dangers-of-texting-and-driving https://colincwilliams.com/writing/dangers-of-texting-and-driving/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=dangers-of-texting-and-driving#respond Sat, 01 Apr 2017 18:43:56 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2238 The CBC:

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The CBC:

A witness says the driver of a pickup truck that collided with a church minibus in rural Texas, killing 13 people, acknowledged he had been texting while driving — highlighting the dangers of sending messages on smartphones while behind the wheel.

A stark reminder that whatever the text message may be, it is never more important than the road around you while driving. Pull over and stop if it’s urgent, or save it until your destination.

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Curated List of Falsehoods Programmers Believe In https://colincwilliams.com/writing/curated-list-of-falsehoods-programmers-believe-in/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=curated-list-of-falsehoods-programmers-believe-in https://colincwilliams.com/writing/curated-list-of-falsehoods-programmers-believe-in/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=curated-list-of-falsehoods-programmers-believe-in#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 00:12:25 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1377 On GitHub there is an entertaining collection of falsehoods that many programmers believe in:

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On GitHub there is an entertaining collection of falsehoods that many programmers believe in:

Falsehood articles are a form of commentary on a particular subject, and are appreciated by the developer community at large for their effectiveness and terseness. They’re a convenient written form to approach an unfamiliar domain by dispelling myths, point out common pitfalls, show inconsistencies and subtleties.

In a sense, Falsehood articles are a suite of wordy unit-tests covering extensive edge-cases provided by real-world usage.

I’m personally a fan of the date and time falsehoods.

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Mountain Biking Mt. Wilson on Echo Chutes and Sam Merrill https://colincwilliams.com/writing/mountain-biking-mt-wilson-on-echo-chutes-and-sam-merrill/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=mountain-biking-mt-wilson-on-echo-chutes-and-sam-merrill https://colincwilliams.com/writing/mountain-biking-mt-wilson-on-echo-chutes-and-sam-merrill/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=mountain-biking-mt-wilson-on-echo-chutes-and-sam-merrill#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 03:36:15 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1846 I consider myself comfortable on my mountain bike, and capable of covering fairly technical terrain. Even if I can’t ride it, I know I can walk it. This video by BKXC, however, shows a trail I simply would not take a bike to.

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I consider myself comfortable on my mountain bike, and capable of covering fairly technical terrain. Even if I can’t ride it, I know I can walk it. This video by BKXC, however, shows a trail I simply would not take a bike to.

A narrow trail along sheer drops means the pucker factor is high with this one.

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New Investments for Xbox Developers and Gamers Kick Off GDC 2017 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/new-investments-for-xbox-developers-and-gamers-kick-off-gdc-2017/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=new-investments-for-xbox-developers-and-gamers-kick-off-gdc-2017 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/new-investments-for-xbox-developers-and-gamers-kick-off-gdc-2017/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=new-investments-for-xbox-developers-and-gamers-kick-off-gdc-2017#respond Wed, 15 Mar 2017 06:33:38 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1904 I generally avoid posting about topics that are specific to Microsoft, but there were some big announcements from Xbox at GDC this year with a couple in particular that I want to call out.

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I generally avoid posting about topics that are specific to Microsoft, but there were some big announcements from Xbox at GDC this year with a couple in particular that I want to call out.

The Xbox Live Creators Program:

…empowers anyone to rapidly publish Xbox Live-enabled games on Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs, in a totally open way. With the Creators Program, anyone can integrate Xbox Live sign-in, presence, and social features into their UWP games, then publish their game to Xbox One and Windows 10. This means their title can see exposure to every Xbox One owner across the Xbox One family of devices, including Project Scorpio this holiday, as well as hundreds of millions of Windows 10 PCs, and millions of folks using the Xbox app on mobile platforms.

Starting today, we encourage developers to download and start using the Xbox Live Creators SDK at https://developer.microsoft.com/games/xbox/xboxlive/creator, where they can learn all the details of the program. The Creators Program is currently in preview, so the program will pilot with a select group of developers initially. We will be opening store publishing submissions to all developers soon.

For context, currently only approved developers can release games on Xbox and at significant cost. While the ID@Xbox program makes this both easier and cheaper, it is still a significant hurdle. The Xbox Live Creators Program makes Xbox Live available to all game developers for just the cost of a Windows developer license ($20 USD at the time of writing), with some restrictions on the Xbox Live services they can utilize.

Xbox Game Pass:

…is a new gaming subscription service that gives you unlimited access to more than 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 backward compatible games on Xbox One – all for $9.99 USD per month.

Xbox Game Pass can be thought of as “Netflix for gaming”.

Congratulations to the folks in Xbox that are a part of making these possible. These are significant steps forward in the Xbox business and I’m excited to see them become a reality.

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How to Beat the Robots https://colincwilliams.com/writing/how-to-beat-the-robots/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=how-to-beat-the-robots https://colincwilliams.com/writing/how-to-beat-the-robots/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=how-to-beat-the-robots#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 01:34:48 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2075 The New York Times has published an interesting and detailed look at possible ways to address the job market being automated:

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The New York Times has published an interesting and detailed look at possible ways to address the job market being automated:

Maybe the automation of jobs will eventually create new, better jobs. Maybe it will put us all out of work. But as we argue about this, work is changing.

Today’s jobs — white collar, blue collar or no collar — require more education and interpersonal skills than those in the past. And many of the people whose jobs have already been automated can’t find new ones. Technology leads to economic growth, but the benefits aren’t being parceled out equally. Policy makers have the challenge of helping workers share the gains.

That will take at least some government effort, just as it did when the United States moved from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, with policies like high school for all or workers’ rights.

Whether there’s political will for big changes remains to be seen, but here are some policies that economists and policy experts think could help now.

They cover many of the same theories I did a few weeks ago in my post on The Information Revolution, including improved education, basic income and infrastructure investment.

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Mortgage Brokering is Being Automated https://colincwilliams.com/writing/mortgage-brokering-is-being-automated/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=mortgage-brokering-is-being-automated https://colincwilliams.com/writing/mortgage-brokering-is-being-automated/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=mortgage-brokering-is-being-automated#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2017 20:00:50 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=2094 The CBC at the end of February, 2017:

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The CBC at the end of February, 2017:

Tory Shoreman thought she was safe.

As far as career choices go, working in mortgage financing at one of the country’s top banks seemed like a solid bet.

She figured there would be more job security than many other professions and plenty of opportunities to climb the corporate ladder in Toronto.

That was back in 2010.

Over the next seven years, she says she had a front-row seat to watch automation — most often intelligent software — take over nearly every aspect of mortgage processing.

As I stated in my post on The Information Revolution, all repetitive jobs will be automated at some point in the future, regardless of whether they are considered blue-collar or white-collar.

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Postmortem: Nearly an Accident https://colincwilliams.com/writing/postmortem-nearly-an-accident/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=postmortem-nearly-an-accident https://colincwilliams.com/writing/postmortem-nearly-an-accident/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=postmortem-nearly-an-accident#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 07:21:15 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1913 Last weekend, driving back from the ski hill, I came extremely close to getting in an accident. This is a postmortem of what happened so that I can improve my driving and others can learn from my mistakes.

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Last weekend, driving back from the ski hill, I came extremely close to getting in an accident. This is a postmortem of what happened so that I can improve my driving and others can learn from my mistakes.

What Happened

I was driving a 2-lane mountain road with a speed limit of 55mph. There was a line of traffic, with me in it, going approximately 55-60mph. The roads were a bit wet, but it wasn’t actively precipitating. The temperature was well above freezing.

After going across a bridge, there was a moderately sharp right turn. I slowed to 50-55mph to make the turn but, due to the sides on the bridge, I couldn’t see around the bend. As I completed the turn, I was faced with the car in front of me making a sudden right turn onto the shoulder where there were other vehicles already stopped. That left two completely stopped cars in front of me, with the right shoulder filled with vehicles. The front-most car was stopped to make a left turn.

I emergency braked, but knew I didn’t have enough distance to stop. After seeing the shoulder filled with cars, I looked to the oncoming lane. A car was just passing the two stopped cars. Looking farther down the road I saw another oncoming vehicle, but it was still some distance away.

I took the opportunity and went into the oncoming lane, maintaining enough speed to quickly pass the two stopped cars before getting back into my lane. I didn’t get into an accident and the rest of the drive back was uneventful.

What Went Wrong

I am firmly of the belief that most accidents are avoidable, particularly with defensive driving, and this encounter was no exception. This close call should never have happened.

I generally am extremely good at driving defensively, but my judgement lapsed in this instance and I almost paid the price. These are the parts of defensive driving that I failed to follow:

  • I was driving exclusively based on the car in front of me, not the road ahead. This lead to the next two failures.
  • I was following too close for the speed I was traveling. I should have had more distance between me and the car in front of me, hopefully giving me more time to realize what was happening and come to a controlled stop.
  • I was traveling too fast for the sight lines available. Due to the bridge blocking my view of the road ahead, I should have slowed down significantly more for the turn so that I was prepared to stop if needed.

The last one is of particular importance. If I had not made that last mistake, I would have come to a quick, but controlled stop.

What Went Right

Since I didn’t end up in an accident, obviously I did some things right. In fact, I would say almost everything went right once I was in the emergency and had to react:

  • My hands immediately went to “10 and 2”. While you are supposed to drive with your hands at “10 and 2”, this is unfeasible for long drives. Instead, I drive with one hand at either “10” or “2” and the other on my knee, ready to react as they successfully did in this instance.
  • I acknowledged the stopped vehicle ahead of me, but didn’t lock my vision. Instead, I scanned for escape routes, finding one in the oncoming lane. I then focused on that escape route, allowing me to avoid the vehicle as opposed to driving into it; you always go where you look.
  • I braked successfully. As I started to look for escape routes, my foot hit the brakes. I felt ABS activate and started threshold braking. Once I had my escape route, I fully released the brake, maximizing grip when turning.
  • Once in the oncoming lane I didn’t brake again so that I could maintain speed and get back into my lane as quickly as possible.
  • I minimized the amount I turned, purposely coming close to clipping the back corner of the stopped car, but ensuring I didn’t. This contributed to my truck not feeling out of control through the entire maneuver, minimizing the risk of a slide or rollover.

As all of this happened extremely quickly, over a period of just a few seconds, these actions were instinctual. The only thing I technically did wrong was not looking in my rearview mirror before emergency braking, but I consider this a minor fault as nothing I could have seen would have changed my actions.

Lessons Learned

This was a strong reminder to always drive defensively. While the cars in front of me made similar mistakes, those mistakes would not have propagated to me if I had been driving defensively. Specifically, I should have:

  • Been looking farther down the road to be aware of the change in sightlines earlier on.
  • Lowered my speed given the reduced sightlines.
  • Maintained a greater distance to the car in front of me.

From that, a more general lesson can be learned or reinforced: always assume there is a stopped vehicle or other obstacle just beyond your line of sight and ensure your speed is low enough to be able to stop in time. Increase your line of sight by looking past the vehicle in front of you, if possible.

A large part of the reason I evaded the accident was that my instincts reacted appropriately. A reason for this is that I always practice the behavior I want to see in emergency driving in my daily driving. For example, I always take my foot off the brake when turning; have practiced hard braking in safe, snowy conditions to understand how my truck behaves at the limit; and am always looking for escape routes as I drive, just in case I need one.

Drive safe out there and remember to always drive defensively. While you may get there a few minutes slower, it’s better than risking not getting there at all.

 

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Sherlock: How To Film Thought https://colincwilliams.com/writing/sherlock-how-to-film-thought/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=sherlock-how-to-film-thought https://colincwilliams.com/writing/sherlock-how-to-film-thought/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=sherlock-how-to-film-thought#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 00:54:17 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1314 Fascinating look at the filming techniques in the excellent BBC TV Show Sherlock:

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Fascinating look at the filming techniques in the excellent BBC TV Show Sherlock:

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Long Names Are Long https://colincwilliams.com/writing/long-names-are-long/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=long-names-are-long https://colincwilliams.com/writing/long-names-are-long/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=long-names-are-long#respond Thu, 02 Mar 2017 01:34:34 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=628 Bob Nystrom, on identifiers (e.g. variable or method names) in code:

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Bob Nystrom, on identifiers (e.g. variable or method names) in code:

What I want to talk about is something I see in a lot of code that drives me up the wall: identifiers that are too damn long.

Yes, names can be too short. Back when C only required external identifiers to be unique up to the first six characters; auto-complete hadn’t been invented; and every keypress had to be made uphill, in the snow, both ways; it was a problem. I’m glad we now live in a futuristic utopia where keyboard farts like p, idxcrpm, and x3 are rare.

But the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. We shouldn’t be Hemingway, but we don’t need to be Tennessee Williams either. Very long names also hurt the clarity of the code where they are used. Giant identifiers dwarf the operations you’re performing on them, are hard to visually scan, and force extra line breaks which interrupt the flow of the code.

While the algorithmic part of programming is a science, writing readable, easily understood code is an art.

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Internet Marketing Blogger https://colincwilliams.com/writing/internet-marketing-blogger/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=internet-marketing-blogger https://colincwilliams.com/writing/internet-marketing-blogger/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=internet-marketing-blogger#comments Tue, 28 Feb 2017 02:06:56 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1856 If you are interested in making money online, you should check out the Internet Marketing Blogger, written by none other than my good friend Tati Meyer. She’s documenting the lessons she’s learning in setting up a business online so that you don’t have to learn them the hard way.

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If you are interested in making money online, you should check out the Internet Marketing Blogger, written by none other than my good friend Tati Meyer. She’s documenting the lessons she’s learning in setting up a business online so that you don’t have to learn them the hard way.

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Furiosa’s Cat Feeder https://colincwilliams.com/writing/furiosas-cat-feeder/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=furiosas-cat-feeder https://colincwilliams.com/writing/furiosas-cat-feeder/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=furiosas-cat-feeder#respond Fri, 24 Feb 2017 01:01:23 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1318 Apparently automatic cat feeders aren’t all they’re cracked up to be:

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Apparently automatic cat feeders aren’t all they’re cracked up to be:

If there’s one thing I learned in this odyssey, it’s that automatic cat feeders are the equivalent of giving a piece of dental floss to someone serving life in prison. With infinite time, you can escape anything, and (it turns out) break into almost any robot.

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Making Facebook Productive https://colincwilliams.com/writing/making-facebook-productive/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=making-facebook-productive https://colincwilliams.com/writing/making-facebook-productive/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=making-facebook-productive#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 03:02:43 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=724 After years of avoiding Facebook for a variety of reasons, it became impractical to avoid it any longer due to a variety of groups and events I was both joining and wanting to create.

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After years of avoiding Facebook for a variety of reasons, it became impractical to avoid it any longer due to a variety of groups and events I was both joining and wanting to create.

Once I added my first “friends” (who are not exclusively close friends, but also acquaintances and co-workers that I share a group with), joined a few groups and signed up for some events, I noticed that my news feed was absolutely useless. Despite being in groups and events with focused activity, it was being drowned out by the noise of random activity from my Facebook friends.

After some time spent looking around, I discovered the solution to cleaning up the newsfeed and making Facebook a productive group and event management tool:

  1. Unfollow every person you are currently Facebook friends with. This can be done directly from their post in the newsfeed.
  2. Continue to unfollow every new person you friend on Facebook when you see a post from them in your newsfeed that isn’t associated with a group or event you’re involved with.
  3. Productivity!

The first two steps prevent any posts that aren’t made in a group or event you’re participating in from appearing in your newsfeed, meaning your newsfeed consists of more signal and less noise. Of course, the exact ratio depends on the activity in your groups and events.

I’ve been using this method for the past few months now with great success. I check my newsfeed daily and it contains relevant, focused information. As for keeping up with the happenings of my close friends, I still utilize the old-school methods of phone, text and spending time with them in person.

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Rediscovering Happiness https://colincwilliams.com/writing/rediscovering-happiness/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=rediscovering-happiness https://colincwilliams.com/writing/rediscovering-happiness/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=rediscovering-happiness#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:00:38 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=881 ]]> If you are considering suicide, please reach out for help. The phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Below, I share the story of my depression as I’ve experienced it so far. I’m choosing to share it for a variety of reasons:

I share my story as a form of therapy for me, being able to document the broad series of events and lessons leading to where I am today.

I share my story to provide hope and the lessons I learned to others who are working to conquer their depression.

I share my story to help educate those who have never been depressed, both in understanding what depression is and how they can help those in their lives who are depressed.


Elementary School

I was a happy child, enjoying life. Then some kids in elementary school decided I wasn’t “cool”. I was about ten years old at the time, in grade 5, when the bullying started. A few years of bullying in elementary school and I had lost my inner happiness. With the clarity of hindsight, I now know that was the start of my depression.

Doubt replaced my inner happiness. Even when I felt happiness, there was always doubt. Doubt that the happiness was real. Doubt that I deserved it. Doubt that others wanted me to feel it. Doubt that it was worth feeling happy about something so small. My base state of mind was doubt; my self-confidence was demolished.

I could always put on a happy face. I knew how to express happiness, even if I didn’t know how to embrace it.

High School

Being from a smaller city, my high school peers consisted of many of the same kids I had attended elementary school with, including those who bullied me. Even though the bullying largely stopped in my first year of high school, I can’t say when exactly it stopped as I had come to expect it. I couldn’t help but assume other kids were critiquing and criticizing me behind my back, even if they weren’t. I interpreted satirical comments as attacks.

Of course, none of the kids knew this. I would put on a smile and roll with it, so I didn’t show signs of weakness.

While I struggled in high school, it was also when I started the long road to recovering from depression. With the eternal love of my family and working closely with a counsellor at my high school, I was handed the tools I needed to find my way out. It would take years of experiences for me to learn how to utilize them.

While depression is persistent, I did have some bright spots in high school, each of which gave me more knowledge I would use to overcome my depression.

In high school, I discovered my passion for technology and programming, a passion that still burns strong today. Finding a passion allowed me to experience happiness, albeit on my own. My computer became my trusted friend, programming a source of joy. I learned the value of finding joy on even the darkest days when I felt the most alone.

In grade twelve, I experienced my first taste of a fresh start. As part of a program called Encounters with Canada, I joined over 100 high school students from across Canada in Ottawa for a week. I knew not a single person going into it. We spent time exploring Ottawa, learning about Canada’s history and government, but for me the trip meant much more. That week, I experienced true happiness. For the first time since I was a young child, I could define myself in front of others, rather than being defined by the bullying of my past.

That trip sparked a fire inside me. I had been wanting to leave both high school and my hometown for a while, but now I needed to. I needed a fresh start.

Towards the end of grade 12, I started dating my first girlfriend, whom I had first met on my trip to Ottawa. It was a long-distance relationship, which meant it was separated from my normal anxieties at school. While we weren’t meant to be together, I learned the value of a close friend; someone you know is always there for you. With her I experienced true happiness, even if I still found anxiety and fear around my peers.

University

University gave me my first fresh start. I headed to university in another province, away from the kids I grew up and graduated high school with; away from the kids who had bullied me. Like on my trip to Ottawa, I was given the chance to define myself around my new peers on my own terms.

In my first year of university, I joined the school of engineering and lived in dorms. Both of those drove comradery and I felt my depression lift significantly. I started making new friends and experiencing happiness through the slog of first year engineering lectures and homework.

I headed back home after my first year at university to work for the summer for the City of Vernon doing general labor. Thanks to a bad boss that summer, I learned that while I my depression had lifted some my self-confidence was still low. By the end of summer, I had become mildly depressed.

Going back to university for the second year was different in many regards. In addition to being mildly depressed, I was no longer staying in dorms. Instead, I rented a basement suite off campus with a friend and fellow engineering student. This meant the comradery I found in first-year dorms was no longer as strong, requiring me to go out of my way to be social.

Over the course of my 5 years at university, I slowly fell back into full depression. There were many ups and downs throughout, but looking back I can see the downward trend. I slowly became more isolated, skipping classes to stay home instead and spending more time in my room alone. Additionally, I became angrier with the university and school system.

While I still take issue with my schooling and how the system is designed, that anger became all-consuming in my mind. It was a vicious cycle, the anger driving my depression and my depression driving my anger. In university, I learned how emotions can affect depression.

In the latter part of university, I started dating my high school girlfriend again. I have many incredible memories from that relationship. While at first it helped to lift my depression, my downward trend continued. I left university still dating and depressed.

The Summer After University

While in that relationship, just after the end of university, I hit rock bottom. Unfortunately, this showed me how much my depression could hurt those around me, as I know I hurt my girlfriend at the time. She struggled to comprehend the turmoil and darkness in my mind that even I couldn’t understand. We broke up shortly thereafter as I also learned that while others could help me handle my depression, the true fight must come from within.

It was around this time I had my first thoughts of suicide. I never did get to the point of desiring suicide, but I started wondering if I was headed down that path. It simultaneously peaked my curiosity and scared me. The mind can be a dark place, sometimes.

As I hit rock bottom, I confided completely in my Mom. While she was aware of some of my struggles, I had never used the word “depressed” before. I had done some research on depression and, based on how I was feeling, was confident I was depressed. At her suggestion, I visited my family doctor to explore options for help. This was one of the best decisions I could have made.

In that visit, my doctor evaluated me and confirmed that I was depressed. He was realistic about the options, being sure to explain both medication and counselling. After discussing things with him, I chose to try a mild amount of medication, and he also referred me to a counselling program provided by the British Columbia health care system. The program consists of a series of phone calls with a counsellor where they both evaluate your condition, as well as provide constructive feedback and ideas for how to move forward.

I can’t say exactly how effective the medication and counselling were individually, but combined with the fact that I was out of the stress of university, I started to feel my depression lifting. As summer continued, I looked forward to getting another fresh start when I moved to the United States to start work at Microsoft.

Microsoft and Rotaract

Coming down to Microsoft, I didn’t know what to expect. I was still feeling depressed, though significantly improved compared to the start of that summer. Things started to click for me, though, as I set up my new life. I loved the place I was renting, was on a team at work with people I’m fortunate to be able to call friends and was loving my job.

The one thing that concerned me in the back of my mind was forming a social circle. Due to the bullying, I had never truly experienced forming and maintaining a circle of friends. Usually I had one or two people I would call close friends for a period, and everyone else I thought of as an acquaintance. I wouldn’t let myself get close to them out of fear of being hurt.

At the suggestion of my step-dad, I joined Rotary International through a local Rotaract club. It would be a chance to get involved in the community and meet other young professionals like myself. Not long after joining I became the president of the club, with two other new members, Tati and Mike, forming the rest of the officers. The next Rotary year the three of us worked to revitalize the club and, in the process, I made my two closest friends.

With them I could be honest about myself and my past, while simultaneously looking forward to the future with them in my life. It gave me hope, and kept me busy outside of work hiking and just hanging out. Even if they didn’t know it, Tati and Mike were teaching me how to create and maintain a social circle bigger than one’s closest friends. I saw how they made new friends and maintained relationships with existing friends. They invited me along to social events they were going to and hosting, showing me how to be social with a variety of people.

Having two close friends, and being incredibly busy with both work and the Rotaract club, distracted me from my depression and I was enjoying life for a prolonged period. The downs I had over the course of my first year and a half in the United States felt far less daunting than my downs in the past.

Perhaps it was because I wasn’t watching the little things since it felt like my depression had lifted, but I made a small mistake in my social life about a year and a half ago. For most people, they would have been able to correct it, if they even noticed it. For me, it slowly turned into an all-consuming issue in my mind. All my social anxieties came flooding back. One night I hit rock bottom again and broke down. The same curiosity about suicide came back, albeit briefly. Thanks to the lessons I had learned throughout my life so far, I knew I needed help.

I reached out to an assistance line provided through my healthcare at work. They were quick in setting a path forward for me, including going to see a counsellor in person. A week or two later, I had my first session with the counsellor. Working with her, I could better understand the roots of my depression, as well as gain more strategies for how to handle my social anxieties. Even though I had crashed, thanks to the tools I had gained over the years, I started recovering much more quickly than in the past – a matter of weeks rather than months or years.

Coming out of those counselling sessions, I started working proactively to build a circle of friends around me, and to be more social in my life. Seeing how easy it was to fall back down, I paid closer attention to the little mistakes I made in my social life and corrected them when they happened, rather than letting them manifest into something bigger.

My work started to pay dividends, and as I made a healthy circle of friends that I spent time with regularly, my self-confidence also rose. While I had hit rock bottom, I had come back stronger and healthier than before. Beyond having a comfortable circle of friends, I started having the confidence to host social gatherings that weren’t focused on Rotaract.

This leads into this winter, where I wanted to go skiing regularly and wanted people to go with. I set up a group on Facebook and, a bit nervously, started asking people if they wanted to join in. I was nervous because for so many years I had drilled into my own head that people didn’t really want to spend time with me, even if all the evidence suggested otherwise.

Instead of rejecting me, people joined in excitedly and I’ve had many successful skiing trips this winter, with the excitement continuing. My group of friends is expanding further, and my self-confidence feels like it’s mostly normalized. Which leads to a few weeks ago, coming back from a ski trip, where it hit me that I was truly happy.

Through my entire body, into my soul, I felt happy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so entirely at peace in my own skin, comfortable with who I am. I rediscovered my inner happiness.

The Future

Going forward, I know my work is not done. Through the years, I’ve learned that depression is not something I have overcome for the last time, but something I will continue to work on and be aware of in some capacity. I have confidence the lessons I’ve learned and tools I’ve gained will allow me to continue conquering my depression.

I also have a group of friends around me that will make things easier. I’m involved in events that force me out of my house regularly and, when the social anxiety is starting to nag at me, out of my comfort zone in social situations.

I have the self-confidence to know that if I can conquer depression, I can conquer anything I set my mind to, even if it takes more than a decade.

I see light, not darkness in my future, and for that I am thankful and excited. The events in my life, including my depression, have made me who I am, and I am that much stronger for it.


To Others who are Depressed

If you are reading this and either are, or think you may be, depressed, know that you are not alone, regardless of how alone you may feel right now.

I hope the lessons from my story can provide you with some tools to help you conquer your depression. Here’s a few of the biggest lessons I learned.

Always persevere. Depression is something that you won’t necessarily conquer quickly, but persistence will yield success even if it takes many years. And it is worth it.

Seek out the help you need. Confide in friends and family, speak to your doctor, or call a help line. You are not alone.

Don’t rule out medication. Depression medication can carry a large stigma, but if depression is hitting you hard, talk to your doctor about your options. While medication may not solve your depression, it could lift it enough for you to be able to start working on it successfully through other means.

Your doctor may have options beyond medication, too, including counselling. If counselling doesn’t bring you all the way out of your depression the first time, don’t be afraid to go back, potentially to someone different. Persevere.

Find those in your life who love you. Be it friends or family, find those in your life that love you unconditionally. If you think it will help, confide in them. Even if you don’t confide, keep them close.

Find your passions. With passion lies happiness, even if it’s fleeting. Are you passionate about certain types of music? Perhaps it’s an activity? Discover your passions and embrace them. Not only can they bring happiness directly, they can be a source of more people in your life who share the same passion.

To Those Who Know Someone Depressed

If you know someone who is, or you suspect is, depressed, the best advice I can give is to be there for them. Only they can conquer their depression, but simply being a friend or family member who consistently shows they care can make a difference.

Keep asking them to attend social events, even if they deny most of the time. The fact you’re asking can make a world of difference in the long term.

If they choose to confide in you about their depression, listen. If they aren’t confiding, don’t pressure them to.

If they are confiding in you and it feels right, suggest they seek help through counselling or their doctor. Your job isn’t to be a professional health-care worker, but to support them while they get the help they need.

To My Family and Friends

Thank you for being there for me, even if you didn’t know that I was depressed. Simply knowing you love me and were there for me makes all the difference in the world. I am eternally grateful to have a family with so much love in it, and to have met so many wonderful friends over the years, even if I struggled to fully embrace those friendships in the past.

To those I hurt through the years as I worked through this, and I know there’s been some, know that I am sorry. It was never my intention to hurt anyone, but I wish you the best going forward.

To my two closest friends, Tati and Mike, thank you for welcoming me into your lives, and teaching me how to be social and live a healthy life. I will forever be indebted to you.

To My Mother

I want to call out my mother specifically, as she has been the bedrock in my life from day one. She has always supported and loved me unconditionally, always there to listen whenever I called.

She always asked the right questions, causing me to think about things a different way, or confide a bit more than I was intending, but also allowing her to better understand what was happening in my life.

She encouraged I seek out help and, when I did, was there to help monitor my mental health and ensure that I was making progress.

She has devoted more time and energy to me than I could ever have asked for.

Thank you, Mom. You have a heart bigger than the world, and I will forever aspire to be even half the person you are.

In Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my story, and taken something away from it. This has been a long-time coming for me, and I’m excited to go forward in my life. I’m excited to have freedom from depression.

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Lane Splitting and Safety https://colincwilliams.com/writing/lane-splitting-and-safety/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=lane-splitting-and-safety https://colincwilliams.com/writing/lane-splitting-and-safety/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=lane-splitting-and-safety#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 03:33:54 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=694 As a driver who has never ridden a motorcycle on the street, I’ve never understood the frustration many motorcyclists show towards laws against lane splitting, so I took it upon myself to learn about the other side.

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As a driver who has never ridden a motorcycle on the street, I’ve never understood the frustration many motorcyclists show towards laws against lane splitting, so I took it upon myself to learn about the other side.

First, a quick definition. Lane Splitting (sometimes referred to as Lane Filtering) is when a motorcyclist goes between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, usually to get through traffic jams. This is illegal in many, but not all, of the states in the United States and is legal in many places around the world.

I’ve always thought this was dangerous behavior due to the risk of a car suddenly changing lanes or, in the case of a complete standstill, a car door opening.

Over time, I’ve come across a number of videos on YouTube where motorcyclists are lane splitting, sometimes with them being ticketed. When they’re ticketed, it’s always followed up by frustration about how lane splitting is safer for a motorcyclist than sitting in traffic like a car.

I couldn’t understand how this could be the case, given the risks associated with lane splitting. A few minutes of searching showed exactly why: the risk of being rear-ended. Naturally, being rear-ended on a motorcycle is a much more severe accident than in a car. When a motorcyclist is lane splitting, they surround themselves in a cushion of slow-moving or stopped traffic, effectively eliminating the risk of being rear-ended.

New Atlas highlights a Berkely study showing the benefits:

In a recent Berkeley study undertaken with the California Highway Patrol’s assistance, 7,836 motorcycle crashes were examined closely, with some 1,163 of these crashes having occurred while the rider was lane splitting.

Riders who were splitting at the time of their accident were significantly less likely to be injured in every category than those who weren’t: 45 percent fewer head injuries, 21 percent fewer neck injuries, 32 percent fewer torso injuries, 12 percent fewer arm/leg injuries, and 55 percent fewer fatalities.

Of note, this additional safety only applies at low speeds:

The data also shows that the safest way to lane split is to travel at less than 30 mph, and less than 10 mph above the speed of the surrounding traffic. Injury rates leap up in all categories when both of these conditions are violated.

Beyond the safety benefits, lane splitting helps all traffic move faster as it minimizes the number of vehicles in the traffic jam.

If you see people supporting something, but you can’t comprehend why, a little searching can go a long ways. While I previously found lane splitting to be frustrating, I now understand the other side and would support law changes to make lane splitting legal for motorcycles under certain speeds.

 

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The Information Revolution https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-information-revolution/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-information-revolution https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-information-revolution/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-information-revolution#respond Sun, 12 Feb 2017 19:42:17 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1384 A big part of the reason Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016 was his promise to bring jobs back to America. He spoke primarily of manufacturing jobs, but also more broadly. This resonated with many people in the United States as they face the legitimate problem of their jobs disappearing both overseas and to automation.

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A big part of the reason Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016 was his promise to bring jobs back to America. He spoke primarily of manufacturing jobs, but also more broadly. This resonated with many people in the United States as they face the legitimate problem of their jobs disappearing both overseas and to automation.

The issue is that all repetitive jobs are being automated. While bringing work back to the US from overseas will increase GDP, it will have a limited long-term effect on jobs, given the type of work being brought back.

Technology Review has the data behind this assertion for the manufacturing sector:

[T]he total inflation-adjusted output of the U.S. manufacturing sector is now higher than it has ever been. That’s true even as the sector’s employment is growing only slowly, and remains near the lowest it’s been.

TechnologyReview-ManufacturingJobs

The manufacturing sector is arguably the furthest along in automating human labor, but other sectors are quickly moving in that direction:

The fast food industry is starting to see orders taken by machine, rather than human. It’s not a stretch to imagine the entire cooking process being automated with the assembly-line nature of a fast food kitchen.

Restaurants have started placing screens on tables, allowing patrons to place orders and pay for their meal without interacting with a server. Given additional time when compared with fast food, it is also not hard to imagine the cooking and serving processes in restaurants being automated.

All driving jobs are being fast-tracked to replacement by autonomous cars. This includes taxi drivers, truck drivers, delivery drivers and more.

Farming is becoming more automated as machines are fitted with GPS systems so that they can drive themselves.

The list goes on. If a job is repetitive, it’s primed to be automated; it’s what computers are best at. While we don’t know how long it will take for all repetitive jobs to be automated, we do know it’s happening quickly and the impact is starting to grow.

(Note that human involvement will still be needed for the foreseeable future due to machine maintenance, handling errors and luxury industries, such as five star restaurants and hand-crafted goods. These are comparatively low-employment areas, thus not obviating the job problem.)

As I’ve come to realize the scale of the issue at hand, provoked in no small part by the election of President Trump, I’ve started considering possible solutions. I present them below to help clarify my own thoughts, provoke others to think about the problem, and start a discussion.

The most simplistic solution is to preserve the status quo and halt the progress of technology. This seems both counterproductive – we want humanity to move forward, not stand still – and extremely unlikely, as companies are incentivized by the free market to produce their good at a cheaper cost. I present this “solution” for completion’s sake; I don’t believe it will happen.

Government infrastructure investment, a la The New Deal, has been proposed by many as a solution. While it would work in the short-term, once infrastructure is brought up to date many of those jobs will disappear leaving us where we are today. Additionally, it’s not hard to imagine many parts of construction becoming automated over time, further emphasizing the short-term nature of this solution.

Perhaps something more radical, like Basic Income, is the solution. As defined by Wikipedia:

A basic income (also called unconditional basic income, Citizen’s Income, basic income guarantee, universal basic income or universal demogrant) is a form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.

Basic income is a controversial idea for many reasons, so I want to focus on its merits with respect to the job problem. In that respect, I see it as treating the symptoms as opposed to the root cause. While basic income would keep people without jobs alive, it wouldn’t enable them to continue to contribute to the progress of humanity as the same restrictions to creative jobs would still exist.

The previous ideas are based upon two common assumptions: the creative jobs of today will remain inaccessible to a significant portion of the population forever, and creative jobs won’t continue to become more advanced. Instead, I would like to present something different.

I’ve heard many times over the years that we’re now living in the Information Age. I always interpreted this as an over-exaggeration, just a way of recognizing the proliferation of the internet; however, a conversation with a friend the other day caused me to re-evaluate that assumption: what if we are in the transition between ages, at a scale similar to the Industrial Revolution?

Assuming we are currently in a revolution, what needs to happen to complete the transition between ages? I would argue change in education is vital. Currently, creative jobs are inaccessible to many due to the requirement of higher education. The simple answer to this is to get more people into higher education, but that doesn’t scale long-term. As human knowledge continues to increase, ever longer amounts of time would be required in education.

Instead, what is currently taught in higher education should be taught in elementary and high-school. To make room, much of what is currently taught at lower levels of education would be removed.

Looking back over time it can be seen what is regarded as fundamental in education has changed, with increasingly advanced math and science topics becoming standard in elementary and high school. To accomplish this, the finer details and methodologies are eschewed, left to higher education for those pursuing a subject with more rigor. This ensures students leaving high school are well-rounded, having enough understanding of topics to allow for critical thinking in the workplace and their life.

Moving some of the curriculum that is currently taught in higher education into elementary and high school would allow basic creative jobs in all fields to be as accessible as current blue-collar jobs. Additionally, this would make room for higher education to focus on more advanced topics, pushing humanity further forward.

In the new age, the creative jobs of today are the blue-collar jobs of tomorrow.

I want to emphasize that if we are in the Information Revolution, the other solutions I proposed may still occur. Infrastructure investment may be needed as a stop-gap until the education system can be updated and the next generation starts working; entering the Information Age and having a low unemployment rate doesn’t preclude the implementation of basic income.

What do you think? Are we amid a revolution, or is there a less grandiose answer to the job problem?

If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend reading the recent Wired article, Programming is the New Blue Collar Job, that was published while this post was in draft:

Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming? What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?

 

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Comments Enabled https://colincwilliams.com/writing/comments-enabled/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=comments-enabled https://colincwilliams.com/writing/comments-enabled/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=comments-enabled#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2017 06:06:41 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=1629 I have enabled comments on the site for all new posts (including this one). I have some posts currently in draft that I want to encourage discussion on and I feel it would be best to have it centralized on the post itself, as opposed to scattered on social media.

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I have enabled comments on the site for all new posts (including this one). I have some posts currently in draft that I want to encourage discussion on and I feel it would be best to have it centralized on the post itself, as opposed to scattered on social media.

If you have a moment, please leave a comment on this post so that I can ensure the comment system is working. You should be able to comment without an account, or use your WordPress.com or social media account to post.

If you encounter any issues, please let me know.

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2017 Tesla Model S P100D: Fastest Accelerating Car https://colincwilliams.com/writing/2017-tesla-model-s-p100d-fastest-accelerating-car/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=2017-tesla-model-s-p100d-fastest-accelerating-car https://colincwilliams.com/writing/2017-tesla-model-s-p100d-fastest-accelerating-car/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=2017-tesla-model-s-p100d-fastest-accelerating-car#respond Thu, 09 Feb 2017 01:56:39 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=867 MotorTrend:

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MotorTrend:

We all understand acceleration. It’s the rate of change of velocity. This 4,891-pound Tesla Model S P100D does it best, reaching 30, 40, 50, and 60 mph from a standstill more quickly than any other production vehicle we’ve ever tested, full stop. In our testing, no production car has ever cracked 2.3 seconds from 0 to 60 mph. But Tesla has, in 2.275507139 seconds.

The Tesla does not hold the advantage forever, though, because higher speeds give the advantage to horsepower over instant torque. The Ferrari LaFerrari hits 70 mph a tenth of a second quicker; the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 pull ahead at 80 mph, and these hypercars all continue to pull away at higher speeds. But around town, everybody has long since lifted off the accelerator pedal.

When it comes to performance bang for the buck, you simply can’t do better than the Tesla as a daily driver. If you’re going to the track, there are better options. Congratulations to Elon Musk and the engineers at Tesla; that acceleration truly is ludicrous.

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The Largest Trust Experiment https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-largest-trust-experiment/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-largest-trust-experiment https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-largest-trust-experiment/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-largest-trust-experiment#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2017 02:51:28 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=646 Think of the times you have had to put your life in someone else’s hands; trusted them completely. How many times can you think of? A few? Maybe a dozen?

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Think of the times you have had to put your life in someone else’s hands; trusted them completely. How many times can you think of? A few? Maybe a dozen?

What if I told you that nearly every day you trusted your life to others?

Driving is the largest trust experiment humanity has ever conducted.

Everytime we drive our vehicles on public roads, we are piloting a multi-thousand pound, motorized, steel missile, frequently at 60+ MPH. As we do this, there are often other cars with human drivers just a few feet (sometimes inches) away and you must trust your life to the fact that they wish to avoid harm by following the rules of the road.

Of course, this experiment isn’t perfect. There are accidents every day. In fact, driving is statistically the most dangerous form of transportation. Yet, when the accident and death rates are looked at from the perspective of how many vehicles come so close together at speed every day, I consider them remarkably low.

I’ve written previously about how I believe strangers are generally good. I think modern-day driving is the perfect example of that. Of course there are some who express visible road rage and more who make mistakes due to inattention, but when compared with the sheer number of vehicles one encounters on the road, they truly are few and far between.

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The Need for an Exception Process Under Last Week’s Executive Order https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-need-for-an-exception-process-under-last-weeks-executive-order/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-need-for-an-exception-process-under-last-weeks-executive-order https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-need-for-an-exception-process-under-last-weeks-executive-order/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-need-for-an-exception-process-under-last-weeks-executive-order#respond Fri, 03 Feb 2017 01:16:18 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=849 Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer:

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Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer:

In last Friday’s executive order, the President expressly gave to the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security the authority to grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the national interest, to issue visas and other immigration benefits. Today Microsoft is filing a formal request asking these cabinet officers to create a process to grant exceptions that will permit “Responsible Known Travelers with Pressing Needs” to re-enter the country while protecting the nation’s security. The important details for this proposal are included in our formal request and are outlined below.

At the outset, we recognize that this proposal will not and should not end the broader debate and deliberations regarding last week’s executive order. Our company is one among many that has expressed its views, and we will continue to participate energetically and constructively in the public discussions that help define our democratic processes.

I’m proud to work for Microsoft for many reasons, but Brad Smith and Satya Nadella’s reasoned and actionable responses to legal issues is a big one.

 

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Watching Engine Combustion https://colincwilliams.com/writing/watching-engine-combustion/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=watching-engine-combustion https://colincwilliams.com/writing/watching-engine-combustion/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=watching-engine-combustion#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 05:37:47 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=728 Destin, at Smarter Every Day, managed to find some guys who made a transparent, acrylic cylinder head for an old one cylinder Briggs and Stratton engine. Combined with his high speed camera to slow things down, he shows exactly what engine combustion looks like.

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Destin, at Smarter Every Day, managed to find some guys who made a transparent, acrylic cylinder head for an old one cylinder Briggs and Stratton engine. Combined with his high speed camera to slow things down, he shows exactly what engine combustion looks like.

Fascinating.

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APFS in Detail https://colincwilliams.com/writing/apfs-in-detail/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=apfs-in-detail https://colincwilliams.com/writing/apfs-in-detail/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=apfs-in-detail#respond Sun, 15 Jan 2017 18:47:06 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=598 In June of 2016, Apple announced the file system that would be replacing HFS+: Apple File System (APFS). Adam Leventhal wrote a detailed series of posts about what’s coming in the new file system:

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In June of 2016, Apple announced the file system that would be replacing HFS+: Apple File System (APFS). Adam Leventhal wrote a detailed series of posts about what’s coming in the new file system:

Apple announced a new file system that will make its way into all of its OS variants (macOS, tvOS, iOS, watchOS) in the coming years. Media coverage to this point has been mostly breathless elongations of Apple’s developer documentation. With a dearth of detail I decided to attend the presentation and Q&A with the APFS team at WWDC. Dominic Giampaolo and Eric Tamura, two members of the APFS team, gave an overview to a packed room; along with other members of the team, they patiently answered questions later in the day. With those data points and some first hand usage I wanted to provide an overview and analysis both as a user of Apple-ecosystem products and as a long-time operating system and file system developer.

Beyond losing the mass of technical debt accumulated in HFS+, the feature that appeals to me most is encryption becoming a first class citizen. This will be seamless to the end user, but provide for greater security going forward.

Multi-key encryption is particularly relevant for portables where all data might be encrypted, but unlocking your phone provides access to an additional key and therefore additional data.

[…]

APFS (apparently) supports constant time cryptographic file system erase, called “effaceable” in the diskutil output. This presumably builds a secret key that cannot be extracted from APFS and encrypts the file system with it. A secure erase then need only delete the key rather than needing to scramble and re-scramble the full disk to ensure total eradication.

Quite interestingly, APFS will be adding I/O QoS:

APFS also focuses on latency; Apple’s number one goal is to avoid the beachball of doom. APFS addresses this with I/O QoS (quality of service) to prioritize accesses that are immediately visible to the user over background activity that doesn’t have the same time-constraints. This is inarguably a benefit to users and a sophisticated file system capability.

I’m curious to see how much impact this will have in the real world, but conceptually it makes a lot of sense.

I also learned from Adam’s posts that if you want to experiment with prerelease APFS now, there is a bit of humor in avoiding interactive confirmation of the risks associated:

[diskutil] prompts you for interactive confirmation of the destructive power of APFS unless this is added to the command-line: -IHaveBeenWarnedThatAPFSIsPreReleaseAndThatIMayLoseData; I’m not making this up

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The Fallen of World War II https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-fallen-of-world-war-ii/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-fallen-of-world-war-ii https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-fallen-of-world-war-ii/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-fallen-of-world-war-ii#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2017 01:56:31 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=507 72 years ago the bloodiest war of human history came to an end. Since then a lot has changed, including communication. Today we can communicate faster and more widely than ever before, leading to bad news spreading significantly farther and faster. This easily creates the perception that the world is more violent and dangerous than in the past – we hear about violence not just in our town, but around the word.

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72 years ago the bloodiest war of human history came to an end. Since then a lot has changed, including communication. Today we can communicate faster and more widely than ever before, leading to bad news spreading significantly farther and faster. This easily creates the perception that the world is more violent and dangerous than in the past – we hear about violence not just in our town, but around the word.

The Fallen of World War II is a sobering reminder of how far the world has come in such a short period of time. The violence happening today should not and cannot be ignored if we are to continue to improve, but neither should the progress humanity has made.

Never forget.

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Ford Bronco and Ranger Return to US Market https://colincwilliams.com/writing/ford-bronco-and-ranger-return-to-us-market/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=ford-bronco-and-ranger-return-to-us-market https://colincwilliams.com/writing/ford-bronco-and-ranger-return-to-us-market/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=ford-bronco-and-ranger-return-to-us-market#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 03:29:09 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=665 Expedition Portal:

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Expedition Portal:

Ford just made some big waves at the Detroit Auto Show by announcing that two legendary platforms will be added back to the North American lineup. In 2019 showrooms will once again be graced by the mid-size Ford Ranger Pickup, followed closely by the legendary Bronco in 2020. Although we had suspected this might be the case after a United Automobile Workers representative let a rumor slip last year, we’re excited to see the formal announcement by Ford in Detroit.

I believe this is a smart, if not a bit late, move for Ford. While I don’t foresee the Bronco having large sales volume, I expect it to have a halo effect for the brand. As for the Ranger, Ford has the potential to greatly increase their overall truck sales.

While Ford still owns the half-ton truck market with the F-150, the midsize market has been growing significantly in the past few years. GM is making solid headway into the Toyota Tacoma’s significant sales lead with the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, despite Toyota’s sales not decreasing meaningfully year of year. This shows a growing market.

A final tantalizing thought from Expedition Portal:

…one can only hope that they will step up to meet the challenge of Chevrolet’s new ZR-2. After all, with the international success of their diesel Ranger platform, and the popularity of their existing Raptor, it would only make sense.

I’m hoping for a Ranger-sized version of the Raptor.

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The Mill Blackbird https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-mill-blackbird/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-mill-blackbird https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-mill-blackbird/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-mill-blackbird#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 02:49:21 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=493 Have you ever wondered how they make car commercials today? One way is The Mill Blackbird1. It’s amazing how far CGI has come.

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Have you ever wondered how they make car commercials today? One way is The Mill Blackbird1. It’s amazing how far CGI has come.

  1. No, I will not put “Blackbird” in all capitals. I’m not an animal. ↩
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Canada: Internet is a Fundamental Communications Service https://colincwilliams.com/writing/canada-internet-is-a-fundamental-communications-service/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=canada-internet-is-a-fundamental-communications-service https://colincwilliams.com/writing/canada-internet-is-a-fundamental-communications-service/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=canada-internet-is-a-fundamental-communications-service#respond Sat, 07 Jan 2017 03:31:03 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=564 From my perspective this is overdue, but it is great to see Canada making internet a fundamental communications service:

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From my perspective this is overdue, but it is great to see Canada making internet a fundamental communications service:

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today declared that broadband access Internet service is now considered a basic telecommunications service for all Canadians.

It is frequently expected now, including by universities, that you will have access to internet at your home. This will help ensure that is the case for all Canadians, even if they live in rural or remote areas.

Additionally, speed targets were set at “50 megabits per second (Mbps) download/10 Mbps upload for fixed broadband Internet access services”, which seems quite reasonable to me.

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I’m Not Saying It’s a Good Excuse https://colincwilliams.com/writing/im-not-saying-its-a-good-excuse/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=im-not-saying-its-a-good-excuse https://colincwilliams.com/writing/im-not-saying-its-a-good-excuse/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=im-not-saying-its-a-good-excuse#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2017 02:12:05 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=576 Paul Kafasis, at One Foot Tsunami:

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Paul Kafasis, at One Foot Tsunami:

If you’re a little heavier than you were before the start of the holiday season, you can blame it on the fact that there’s apparently an entirely new organ in your body. Scientists have just discovered the mesentery.

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1Password Adds Support for Intel Secure Enclave https://colincwilliams.com/writing/1password-adds-support-for-intel-secure-enclave/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=1password-adds-support-for-intel-secure-enclave https://colincwilliams.com/writing/1password-adds-support-for-intel-secure-enclave/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=1password-adds-support-for-intel-secure-enclave#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 03:00:51 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=567 The great folks over at AgileBits are updating 1Password with support for Intel’s SGX Secure Enclave technology.

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The great folks over at AgileBits are updating 1Password with support for Intel’s SGX Secure Enclave technology.

You might reasonably think that your data is encrypted directly by your Master Password (and your secret Account Key), but there are a number of technical reasons why that wouldn’t be a good idea. Instead, your Master Password is used to derive a key encryption key which is used to encrypt a master key. The details differ for our different data formats, but here is a little ditty from our description of the OPVault data format to be sung to the tune of Dry Bones.

Each item key’s encrypted with the master key
And the master key’s encrypted with the derived key
And the derived key comes from the MP
Oh hear the word of the XOR
Them keys, them keys, them random keys (3x)
Oh hear the word of the XOR

And that is a simplification! But it is the appropriate simplification for what I want to talk about today: Some of our intrepid 1Password for Windows beta testers can start using a version of 1Password 6 for Windows that will have an extra protection on that “master key” described in that song. We have been working with Intel over the past few months to bring the protection of Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX) to 1Password.

Soon (some time this month) 1Password for Windows customers running on systems that support Intel’s SGX will have another layer of protection around some of their secrets.

Having AgileBits keep up to date on the latest security technologies is one of many reasons I use 1Password to store anything I need kept secure. If you aren’t already using a password manager, I can’t recommend 1Password enough.

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The Price of Cable https://colincwilliams.com/writing/the-price-of-cable/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=the-price-of-cable Sun, 25 Dec 2016 06:53:50 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=555 Ever since I’ve lived on my own, I haven’t paid for cable. Instead, I’ve relied on internet services to provide the video content I desire1.

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Ever since I’ve lived on my own, I haven’t paid for cable. Instead, I’ve relied on internet services to provide the video content I desire1.

The other day, I was re-evaluating my subscriptions to see if there are any I should be cancelling. Note that for my budgeting purposes2, a subscription is, broadly speaking, any regularly occurring expense outside of utilities and rent, including online video services. Here are my current subscriptions (all converted to per month cost):

  • $9.00 – Amazon Prime
  • $7.92 – Backblaze online backup
  • $2.08 – Flickr
  • $15.00 – HBO Now
  • $3.75 – Hover (3 domain names)
  • $12.50 – Linode VPS
  • $6.00 – MotorTrend on Demand
  • $9.00 – Netflix
  • $3.33 – Plex Pass
  • $5.00 – PO Box (USPS)
  • $3.33 – Washington Trails Association
  • $13.00 – YouTube Red

Total subscription cost per month: $89.91.

Looking at that amount, I realized many people pay that much (or more) for cable alone. Taking just the services I’m subscribed to that provide streamed video content (marked with bold above), I’m paying $52.

Of course, it’s fuzzier than that. I originally subscribed to Amazon Prime for the savings on shipping; from my perspective, the video content is free. I pay for YouTube Red to get rid of the advertisements in front of otherwise free videos, not for original content produced by YouTube. Totaling up the services that I pay for actual video content – Netflix, MotorTrend on Demand and HBO Now – I’m only paying $30 per month.

Compared to cable, that seems like a pretty good deal to me. However, there are additional benefits. I can watch shows:

  • on my own schedule, without the hassle and restrictions of DVR.
  • without being interrupted by advertisements.
  • on any device I own.
  • offline with many of the services.

If you live in the United States, there isn’t a better time to drop cable and save some money. If you’re in another country, things are moving in the right direction, albeit at a slower rate. If you can’t switch now, give it some time and I expect things will continue to improve as many of the video services produce their own content, which they are making available around the world.

  1. Technically I paid for cable as part of a bundle with my internet for a while, but I disconnected my cable box shortly after setting it up. ↩
  2. One day I hope to blog about my budgeting system, but that’s for another time. ↩
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We Shall Sail Together – Sea of Thieves Tavern Tune https://colincwilliams.com/writing/we-shall-sail-together-sea-of-thieves-tavern-tune/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=we-shall-sail-together-sea-of-thieves-tavern-tune Tue, 05 Jul 2016 06:30:47 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=532 It’s official, folks: Rare has posted the official version of We Shall Sail Together as a Tavern Tune on their YouTube channel. Listen to it below.

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It’s official, folks: Rare has posted the official version of We Shall Sail Together as a Tavern Tune on their YouTube channel. Listen to it below.

I mentioned in my previous post on We Shall Sail together that this was coming. Now that it’s here, please excuse me while I listen to this on repeat for a while.

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Handling a Dying Router https://colincwilliams.com/writing/handling-a-dying-router/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=handling-a-dying-router Tue, 05 Jul 2016 06:05:27 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=454 My router is dying. How do I know? It keeps dropping my wireless connection. I’ll be away from my home server and, when my router goes down for a few minutes, it loses its wireless connection. Then a bug in OS X results in my server failing to reconnect to the network, leaving it offline until I can get to it.

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My router is dying. How do I know? It keeps dropping my wireless connection. I’ll be away from my home server and, when my router goes down for a few minutes, it loses its wireless connection. Then a bug in OS X results in my server failing to reconnect to the network, leaving it offline until I can get to it.

This has been happening a few times a week for a couple of months. I was kind of hoping it would start happening so frequently it would give me an excuse to get a new router, but alas, the old router keeps hanging on.

To work around this issue, I wrote a script for my server that runs every 10 minutes, checking if there is an internet connection. If not, it logs it, then restarts my server’s wifi connection so it will re-connect. This has let my router live another day.

Logging the disconnects has allowed me to get a handle of just how frequently my network is dropping (on average once per day so far), and therefore properly evaluate when to get a new router.

Below I walk through the script; next time I’ll go over how I automated its execution.


Since my home server is a Mac, I wrote the script in AppleScript. View and download the full script here.

Lines 2-29 redundantly attempt to ping the OpenDNS servers, noting if there’s a connection. I grabbed this code from an answer on Stack Exchange.

set connected to false

-- Ping the primary OpenDNS server.
try
	set pingResult1 to do shell script "ping -c 1 208.67.222.222"
on error
	set pingResult1 to ""
end try

-- Check the results returned and return true or false.
set p to number of paragraphs in pingResult1
if p < 5 then
	-- Ping another Open DNS server for redundancy.
	try
		set pingResult2 to do shell script "ping -c 1 208.67.220.2220"
	on error
		set pingResult2 to ""
	end try
	
	set p to number of paragraphs in pingResult2
	if p < 5 then
		set connected to false
	else
		set connected to true
	end if
else
	set connected to true
end if

Line 31 simply sets the path to the log file. I’m keeping it on my desktop and have named it reconnectLog.txt.

set logFile to (path to desktop as text) & "reconnectLog.txt"

If there isn’t a network connection, line 34 logs the date and time the disconnected state was encountered, using the appendToDisk function defined at the bottom of the script.

if not connected then
	appendToDisk from ((current date) as text) & " Disconnected
" into logFile

Lines 38-40 attempt to reconnect by restarting AirPort, OS X’s WiFi service. To do this, commands must be run in the shell using the do shell script syntax. I inserted a delay of 3 seconds between turning AirPort off and turning it back on to improve reliability. Sometimes it wouldn’t turn back on if the call was made too quickly. I grabbed this code from a StackOverflow question.

	do shell script "networksetup -setairportpower AirPort off"
	delay 3
	do shell script "networksetup -setairportpower AirPort on"

If there was a connection, line 42 logs the date and time the check was performed.

else
	appendToDisk from ((current date) as text) & " Connected
" into logFile
end if

Lastly, the function appendToDisk is defined on lines 47-57. This takes theText and appends it to the file located at thePath, while handling errors. I grabbed this code from an answer on Stack Overflow.

on appendToDisk from theText into thePath
	try
		set fileDescriptor to open for access file thePath with write permission
		write theText to fileDescriptor starting at eof
		close access fileDescriptor
	on error
		try
			close access file thePath
		end try
	end try
end appendToDisk
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Star Shield 6 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/star-shield-6/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=star-shield-6 Tue, 05 Jul 2016 04:52:06 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=516 A previous coworker has moved into independent game development and has released a new game: Star Shield 6.

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A previous coworker has moved into independent game development and has released a new game: Star Shield 6.

I’ve had it on my phone for over a month now and it’s a lot of fun. It requires more thought than first meets the eye, yet games are fast enough to play on the go. It’s even free!

Go get it on your phone.

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Plex Ships Version 1.0 https://colincwilliams.com/writing/plex-ships-version-1-0/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=plex-ships-version-1-0 Mon, 04 Jul 2016 00:18:51 +0000 https://colincwilliams.com/?p=512 Huge congratulations to the Plex team for shipping version 1.0 of the Plex Media Server:

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Huge congratulations to the Plex team for shipping version 1.0 of the Plex Media Server:

One could argue (quite successfully, I think), that the Plex Media Server should have reached v1.0 a long time ago. Millions of people are using it, it’s generally stable, and we release regular updates. We’ve improved our QA process, increased the size of our team, and done lots of growing up in general around our software processes. So without further ado, I’ll skip to the end and let you all know that—with an extreme sense of pride and just a hint of a tear in my eye—we’re incredibly happy to be releasing v1.0 of the Plex Media Server to you today.

I personally use Plex for hosting my music, photos and various videos. In fact, I’m streaming music from Plex as I type this post. Keep up the outstanding work, Plex team; I look forward to seeing what the path to version 2.0 brings!

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Sex with a Snake https://colincwilliams.com/writing/sex-with-a-snake/?pk_campaign=feed&pk_kwd=sex-with-a-snake Sun, 03 Jul 2016 09:17:58 +0000 http://colincwilliams.com/?p=319 Reviews and answers on Amazon are often helpful, sometimes funny and periodically bizarre. This one falls under the last category. I don’t want to know what Jason uses other things around his house for.

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Reviews and answers on Amazon are often helpful, sometimes funny and periodically bizarre. This one falls under the last category. I don’t want to know what Jason uses other things around his house for.

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