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Greg

[ website | gregstoll.com ]
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Goodbye LiveJournal, hello WordPress! [Jan. 15th, 2017|02:46 pm]
Greg
[Current Mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

After reading about some shady things LJ has been doing (the worst of which is disabling HTTPS everywhere - very sketchy!) I've decided to move on to WordPress. You can find my new blog at

gregstoll.wordpress.com

where I've imported all of my LJ posts. (after writing a handy script to do so :-) )

It's exciting, but sad! My first post was almost exactly 12 years ago and while I've been writing less lately (and just posting links), maybe this will turn things around.

See you on the other side!
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My 2016 in review [Jan. 2nd, 2017|04:57 pm]
Greg
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |thoughtfulthoughtful]

Well, globally 2016 was pretty terrible, between Trump getting elected, all the celebrity deaths (Carrie Fisher, Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Muhammed Ali, Alan Rickman, John Glenn, Ron Glass, and many more...), and Brexit.

But personally it was a pretty good year. Here are some highlights:
- After announcing that we were expecting, our daughter Vanessa was born in September, with all the life upheaval that you would expect! She's great, even as she's having a cranky day as I post this. Both of my sisters also had children, so now Vanessa has even more cousins :-)
- As a babymoon we took a short vacation to Universal Studios and Disneyland!
- Because the time when we could easily do such things was running short, David and I did a bunch of escape rooms around Austin. Some of them were really good!
- I went back to India for work for two weeks with a day layover in London. This time I see an insanely exciting cricket match in person!
- My baseball win expectancy finder got mentioned in an article in the Washington Post!
- I got promoted at work to Principal Software Engineer!
- I released Know Your States for Windows 10. It's a good app if you desire to know your states :-) It also got featured by a few Windows app sites.
- I released Airport Guides for Windows 10, and later for Android. (they're free apps, check them out if you travel!)
- I also released Bridge Scorer for Windows 10.
- I went on a bit of a React kick this year, updating my floating point to hex calculator to use it (and show a nifty visualization of what the bits do!) as well as my Clue(TM) solver.
- I opined about why I don't like Uber.

Here's to 2017!
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The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb review [Dec. 31st, 2016|02:56 pm]
Greg
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |thankfulthankful]

The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic BombThe Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very well researched and interesting book! I thought I was going to have trouble keeping up with all the Norwegian names, and...well, I did, but it was still a very enjoyable read.

It also got me to thinking about how tough it must have been to be an undercover agent after the Nazis took Norway. They knew they were on the side of right, but they also knew they could be captured, tortured, and killed, and they were also putting their families and friends at risk. (the Nazis would retaliate if they found saboteurs) They also knew that they were probably going to kill civilians who had done nothing wrong but were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet it was still the justified thing to do, as Hitler getting the atomic bomb would have been catastrophic.

Anyway, for some reason it made it hit home about how they really had to be strong and brave to do the right thing and not collaborate with the occupying Nazis.

(I am desperately hoping this does not have any lessons for the coming years...)

View all my reviews
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Airport Guides is now available for Android! [Dec. 30th, 2016|10:37 am]
Greg
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |happyhappy]

I'm happy to announce that Airport Guides (now with terminal maps for over 90 airports worldwide) is now available as a free app for Android! (the Windows 10 version is still available, too!)

Now that Xamarin is included for free with Visual Studio, I thought it would be fun to try it out. Xamarin lets you make apps for Windows/Android/iOS by writing code in C#. Usually you have to then design your UI in the appropriate language (Java for Android, Objective-C/Swift for iOS), but with Xamarin.Forms you can even write a cross-platform UI in C#!

Since most of the work in the Airport Guides app is maintaining the maps themselves, the app is pretty small so I thought it would be a good candidate for porting as opposed to something like Bridge Scorer which has a ton of custom UI. The experience was pretty good - writing the UI in Xamarin.Forms is a lot like writing it in UWP for Windows 10, except all the keywords are different :-)

I did run into some frustrations along the way. One was not realizing that you can't test in-app purchase stuff without a real device. (although in retrospect the documentation does mention this...somehow I missed it) Another was that while the Android emulator for Visual Studio is literally 10x faster than the default emulator, there's at least one bug that doesn't show up in the real emulator. For the record, it was fetching a particular web page that would always timeout...I still never figured out why! Pinch/zoom was also tricky to get working until someone pointed me to MR.Gestures (which I always pronounce "Mr. Gestures" in my head :-) ), but I still am disappointed that every platform doesn't have an easy builtin way to make pinch/zoom on an image work. Shoutout to Alan Clark from Xamarin for helping me through some of these!
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merry Christmas linked list: squashing trolls, Prince, Google Translate [Dec. 22nd, 2016|02:57 pm]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |happyhappy]

- What GitHub did to kill its trolls - see, it is possible to deal with trolls! You just need the will to do so...

- Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories - these are pretty good. If you haven't seen it, his part in the performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is pretty amazing (and here's an explanation why!)

- The Great A.I. Awakening - impressive work by Google on Google Translate, and the article has a pretty good description of neural networks, too!

- Uber said it protects you from spying. Security sources say otherwise - wait, are you telling me Uber isn't trustworthy? *drops monocle in surprise*

-
Now you can fact-check Trump’s tweets — in the tweets themselves - this is cool, although I doubt the people who will install the extension are the ones who need it. (maybe a good idea to install it on your relative's computers?)

- Trump Isolates Himself with C.I.A. Attack - yay, I guess, although the CIA is apparently eager to please sitting presidents so this may not last long. (thanks David!)

- 99 Reasons 2016 Was a Good Year - hooray!

- Devious Ransomware Frees You if You Infect Two Other People - you got chain letters in my ransomware!

- Alabama Prosecutor Sets the Penalties and Fills the Coffers - wow, that is shady. Glad the guy is on his way out, but still... (thanks Adam!)

- How the Twinkie Made the Superrich Even Richer - man, I understand people losing their jobs to automation, but there is still something seriously wrong here. I'm going to go with the whole company going into bankruptcy -> private group buys it for cheap then doesn't have to pay preexisting pensions.

- DARE: The Anti-Drug Program That Never Actually Worked - whatever, I went through DARE and didn't use drugs. Science!
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 review [Dec. 15th, 2016|08:54 pm]
Greg
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by John Tiffany
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(really more like 3.5 stars)

All in all, it was pretty good. There were parts of it that felt a bit fan-fictiony to me, and I feel like the author of the play (who was not JK Rowling, I guess she wrote the story it was based on?) didn't quite nail the characters. But maybe that's because it's set 19 years in the future and I'm being too harsh.

Also, it has this line of dialog which made me laugh out loud
Your solidarity is admirable, but it doesn't make your negligence negligible
Which, two things:
- No one talks like this. Not even witches and wizards from England.
- "negligence negligible" - seriously? Google results for this phrase only turn up dictionaries and this play.

It's 300 pages but it's literally the script to a play so it's a fast read. Also, I kind of want to see how they stage this thing - there are lots of descriptions of people doing magic, and how would that work?!

View all my reviews
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Stardust review [Dec. 13th, 2016|02:46 pm]
Greg
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |okayokay]

StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Probably because I was tired all the time, but it took me a while to get into this book. I ended up liking it decently enough, but it confirmed my theory that I'm really just not that into fantasy books...

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friday linked list: Democracy isn't losing much support, Daft Punk + Strongbad, normalizing Trump [Dec. 9th, 2016|09:33 am]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |cheerfulcheerful]

- That viral graph about millennials’ declining support for democracy? It’s very misleading. - wow, I saw the original article and it was incredibly misleading, like How to Lie With Statistics bad. Boo!

- Random Access Fhqwhgads - if you like Strongbad (and especially if you also like Daft Punk!) stop what you're doing and take a listen! So good. Definitely worth $1!

- 52 things I learned in 2016 - a bunch of random interesting stuff!

- The case for normalizing Trump: Foreign populists have been beaten by talking issues, not personality - kind of depressing but if talking about issues is the way to beat Trump, I'm on board!

- Inside Jobs is a project from The Atlantic where they interviewed a bunch of Americans about their job. I love hearing about people's jobs!

- If Waffle House Is Closed, It’s Time To Panic - I've read about the Waffle House Index before, but this had some details I hadn't seen before.

- Republicans suddenly discover that Obamacare repeal might not be so awesome, after all - Kind of disappointing that the Republicans haven't figured this out in the 6 years since Obamacare passed...

- Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football - very looooong read, but they think concussions/other NFL problems are becoming a Big Deal(TM)
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friday linked list: Moana, depressing Trump links, space race [Dec. 2nd, 2016|03:40 pm]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

- The controversy behind Disney's groundbreaking new princess (Moana) - the "controversy" here is that one woman thinks that Moana is fat (she is not - look at the pictures!) and:
I think it tells girls that they don’t have to be fit. I think it’s setting up girls for unhealthy lives in the future and also for disappointing romantic lives.
which is so amazingly stupid I just can't even. Anyway, Moana is a good movie and you should see it!

- Depressing Trump links: these are important, but maybe don't read them all one after another? Trump: The Choice We Face, Coping with Chaos in the White House (thanks Andrew!), and Twenty lessons in how to deal with authoritarianism.

- The Time an Engineer Accidentally Started the Space Race and Changed the Course of History - interesting, I didn't realize the space race took such cajoling to get started!

- Seattle Minimum Wage Experiment is Over - they raised their minimum wage to $15/hour and unemployment is down!

- How to Talk to Someone You Hate - some good advice here (thanks David!)

- The Real Reason Women Quit Tech (and How to Address It) - sigh, but at least there are ways to address this (thanks Adam!)

- Quantum physics offers new way to factor numbers - interesting! (thanks Stephen!)

- See Incredible Basketball Shot Set New World Record - impressive!
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happy Thanksgiving linked list: charter schools, prisons, grover on Twitter, robot armies [Nov. 23rd, 2016|10:58 am]
Greg
[Tags|]
[Current Mood |happyhappy]

- It seems like there's evidence that some charter schools can work. (although the ballot measure described in the article was defeated by a wide margin...)

- If Prisoners Ran Prisons: Five Texas inmates say what they’d do differently - good idea, and ones pulled out in the article all seem pretty reasonable to me!

- Grover from Sesame Street had a near meltdown on Twitter - happy to see Sesame Street expanding its horizons. Also, hah!

- Who Will Command The Robot Armies? - another great talk by Maciej Ceglowski, also known as the founder of Pinboard. (I also really like the format of text on one side with the accompanying slides on the other!)

- NASA’s analysis of seemingly impossible engine: it works - extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and we're not there yet, but the EM Drive is pretty exciting!
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