Dangers of Texting and Driving

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.

Curated List of Falsehoods Programmers Believe In

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.

Mountain Biking Mt. Wilson on Echo Chutes and Sam Merrill

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.

New Investments for Xbox Developers and Gamers Kick Off GDC 2017

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.

How to Beat the Robots

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.

Mortgage Brokering is Being Automated

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.

Long Names Are Long

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.