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Occasionally Relevant Insights from a Software Builder

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Setup Emergency Alerts !important

I’ve compiled a list of important emergency alerts that should be on your cell phone and Twitter accounts. These can be found on the EmergencyInfoBC web site, but I summarized the important data to use with your devices for receiving these alerts. Two of these are geared towards BC and Canada residents, but the other two are suitable for the rest of the people on this planet.

The mobile alerts are setup by texting the message (i.e. follow NWC_NTWC) to the number 21212. Don’t include the double quotes (“) in the text message. You should get a confirmation that you subscribed to the service.

BTW, the !important word in the subject title is not a mistake. Anyone who knows CSS would know what this means. 🙂

 

Tsunami Alerts

National Tsunami Warning Center
Twitter: @NWS_NTWC
Mobile: text “follow NWS_NTWC” to 21212

 

Earthquake Alerts

Natural Resources Canada
Twitter: @CANADAquakes
Mobile: text “follow CANADAquakes” to 21212

U.S. Geological Survey
Twitter: @USGSted
Mobile: text “follow USGSted” to 21212

 

Other Alerts

EmergencyInfoBC
Twitter: @EmergencyInfoBC
Mobile: text “follow EmergencyInfoBC” to 21212

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A Terse Guide to Big Numbers

When I started my adventure in computers in school in the 1980’s, we were using Apple II’s and Commodore Pets which had around 64K of memory. My first computer in 1984 had 128K memory and a 360K floppy disk drive, which seemed like quite a bit of storage for the tiny apps that were built back then. Over the years, memory and storage sizes have increased greatly. In the 1980’s at the University of  Alberta, a friend of mine showed me a 500 MB hard drive which was the size of a large garbage can. Today, my iPhone has a 32 GB of storage space and it fits in my pocket.

Disk/memory storage and computer speeds are increasing rapidly over the years. 1 TB hard drives are common today and soon we’ll be using multi petabyte drives. I should note that the following numbers are not referring to bytes (as my post may suggest), but to decimal numbers, so kilo is 10^3 and not 2^10. That could be another post …

BTW … when I say 10^3, this means 10*10*10 = 1000, 10^6 is 10*10*10*10*10*10 = 1 000 000, etc. That’s enough math lessons for today.

10^3    kilo
10^6    mega
10^9    giga
10^12    tera
10^15    peta
10^18    exa
10^21    zetta
10^24    yotta

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The MIT Licence

The MIT License is my favourite license for publishing free and open source software. Its simple and short which makes it easy to embed in source code. This license basically tells the user that they can do anything they want with your software and your not liable for any damages that may result from their use of it.

 

The MIT License (MIT)

Copyright (c) <year> <copyright holder>. All rights reserved.

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy
of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal
in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights
to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell
copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is
furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in
all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR
IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY,
FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE
AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER
LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM,
OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN
THE SOFTWARE.

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The Ultimate Error Message

I recently spoke with a user who was having problems with one of my web sites. He claimed to be getting an error message that said, “it doesn’t work”. Of course, Apache and IIS do not return messages like that and there is no custom message on my sites that say this, but it got me thinking.

This would actually be an interesting universal error message for web sites and apps. It doesn’t help the developer narrow down the problem, but its straight to the point that a feature failed. Fortunately, no developer would use an error message like this since it makes our lives more difficult in identifying a problem and replicating it.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that when a user claims to get an error that’s impossible, we need to remain polite when speaking to them. Keep customers happy by solving their problems and don’t make them feel like fools when they make mistakes, don’t use features correctly, or find bugs. Our customers pay our bills, so be nice to them. 🙂

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B.C.’s First Scramble Intersection

The City of Richmond recently opened the first scramble intersection in the province. A scramble intersection will allow pedestrians to cross the road in any direction, including diagonally. The $600,000 crossing can be found at No. 1 Road and Moncton Street. I go to Steveston frequently and never really understand what this intersection was until it was pointed out to me.

CIMG0045

There is just one button to press to stop all traffic to cross the road in any direction.

CIMG0044

There are more plans for scramble intersections in B.C. They are definitely a great idea since it makes crossing roads considerably safer for pedestrians.