Software Architect at Genzeon Corporation in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Microsoft .NET MVP, Husband, Dad and Geek.
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Geek of the Week: From software developer to urban developer, Liz Dunn rethinks Seattle spaces

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Among other ventures, Liz Dunn created The Cloud Room, a coworking space in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Liz Dunn)

Liz Dunn started her career as a software developer at Microsoft two years after the company moved to Redmond, Wash. She remembers that it was a big deal — in terms of workplace amenities — to have free milk in the mailroom refrigerator, and that she could binge eat cereal in her office late at night.

But even in 1988, she felt like the company was getting big, relatively speaking, and she regarded herself as more of a scrappy small-company person.

“I’d always wanted to do something with cities and buildings. I wasn’t sure what, and for a while I thought I wanted to be an architect,” said Dunn, our latest Geek of the Week. “But it turned out that my experience of leading product development teams made me better suited to be the developer.”

Originally from Canada, with an undergrad degree in computer science from the University of Waterloo, Dunn ditched her first career to eventually start Dunn & Hobbes, her own Seattle real estate development company. In 20 years she’s created such mix-use spaces as Melrose Market and Chophouse Row, as well as the coworking and cultural venue The Cloud Room, all in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Dunn is also a guest lecturer on urban development at the University of Washington and she’s been consistently active over the years on civic issues that affect the trajectory of Seattle. Her vision for the city and urban spaces and what it means to be involved has evolved greatly over the years.

“There’s a conversation going on now amongst civic leaders, real estate and policy folks, about how to get tech workers out of their bubble and more connected to the culture and politics of the city. And by ‘culture’ I don’t mean just brew pubs,” Dunn said. “Right now I’m part of the citizen effort to eventually lid over the I-5 freeway where it cuts through the city, to create more green space and buildable land for affordable housing.

“Tech is having more and more of an impact on how we live our lives in the city, and what the future of cities looks like,” she added. “So it’s more important than ever that tech innovators are ‘living’ their cities on the ground, and getting involved in the design of their own cities, to help inform the future they’re trying to create.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Liz Dunn:

What do you do, and why do you do it? I like making places, and I like connecting people in ways that are meaningful for them. The Cloud Room lets me do both. We’re the only coworking space of any size in Seattle that’s not VC funded and not a chain, so we can’t throw money at conventional customer acquisition. We find our members by telling our story and by referral, and we pride ourselves on providing a work platform for deep-rooted local talent (e.g scholarships for all Stranger Genius winners). We also have a lot of members who are corporate employees but crave that alternative “touch down” space to make new connections, feel more creative, host clients or just get a change of scenery.

I really admire people who are brave and creative and willing to take risks. I’m proud of the fact that of the 35 or so retail and restaurant businesses that are tenants in my real estate projects, over half of those owners are women or people of color or both. That wasn’t an explicit goal; I just think it’s an affinity thing. It’s helped that I have earned a reputation over the years for being an approachable person – it has lead to some great opportunities.. Every single one of these businesses is locally owned, and they are doing AMAZING things. Like The Cloud Room, it’s about providing a platform for talented people to do good work.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? I like to say that being a real estate developer comes with a lot of responsibility, because you’re not just building a building, you’re creating a new piece of city. In other words, it’s about adding to the urban fabric, and you’d better be helping to weave together the other pieces of city around you.

Also, my projects have received a lot of attention for their design, and I think people categorize the stuff I do as “place-making” which is a trendy design term but one that doesn’t really tell the whole story. I do love creating attractive places and I do think design matters, but a place is only successful if it brings people together to interact in ways that are productive and inspiring for them. I feel so proud that we’ve hit that sweet spot with the Cloud Room.

Where do you find your inspiration? I’ve lived in cities like Toronto, London and Paris where the physical urban fabric, at least in the center, is very tightly woven. I have always been driven by wanting Seattle to be more like those places, with the missing teeth filled in and a more vibrant street life. And now that we’ve got more of that, ironically, I’m nostalgic for what we’ve lost; certain elements of the Seattle I moved to, which was the more laid back, quirky, soulful Seattle of “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and “Singles.” Back then Seattle was like a well-kept secret. The energy was there but also a certain self-deprecation because we were “small potatoes” as a city. We weren’t all shiny and self-confident like we are now. The Cloud Room is named after the original Cloud Room at the old Camlin Hotel, which was an amazing old-school, slightly shabby cocktail bar where entertainers from the Paramount would hang out after their shows and a couple of my friends were servers there. That reference is pretty much lost on anyone under 40, but that’s OK.

In some weird ways I feel like my career trajectory has been very much Seattle’s trajectory as a city. I’ll probably spend my whole career trying to figure out how a city grows up but doesn’t lose its soul. Or maybe we are all trying to do that!

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? Generally, I have kind of a “take it or leave it” attitude toward technology as I believe that the truly creative part of business (and life) gets done face to face. But having said that, I completely nerd out on spreadsheets. Some people are really good at sports or can play the violin. I tell my friends that if they ever need a spreadsheet, it’s my super power.

The Cloud Room. (Cloud Room Photo)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? I work at The Cloud Room and I love the energy in the room. We uniquely occupy the seam where tech and creative meet, so we’ve got magazine editors, filmmakers and designers working side by side with tech and real estate entrepreneurs. Most days I camp out on the sofas or community farm table, but I like that I can find a quiet desk or even have meetings when I need to without having to leave. I’m also going to brag and say that we have the most diverse membership of any coworking space in Seattle if you look at it across all dimensions — social, race, age, gender. Oh, and we have one of Seattle’s best craft cocktail bars with an amazing outdoor deck to unwind at the end of the day. And a white grand piano in deference to the old Cloud Room.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) Pick your head up. Focused time is obviously important but you can’t sit in meetings all day, or hunched over your laptop. Distractions are not helpful, but breaks can do wonders for productivity — really! Grab a coffee and talk to a neighbor. Go get your hair cut or your feet massaged. We located The Cloud Room at Chophouse Row which is an urban “village within the village” with a bunch of restaurants and services and a park a block away.

Can we talk about dogs? Pat your dog. Walk your dog! I know it’s a cliché but I think it was a positive development when we started bringing our dogs to work. Research shows that people with dogs have lower stress levels and live longer. My company is named after my old (departed) dog; he was named after English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. I now have a dog named Sir Francis Bacon who comes to work with me every day.

Also, when we worked from a smaller office we used to have a “disco moment” every day at 3 p.m. where everybody had to stand up and dance. It might be time to introduce that at the Cloud Room!

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows. I’m very loyal.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Kirk. He was a flawed human being but a great leader.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Cloak of invisibility. I love walking around a huge city, being anonymous.

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … I would try to invent a machine that you could hook up to your brain, and in 15 minutes it would produce the effect of sleeping for 8 hours. I always like to say that I’m funnier, smarter and way better looking when I’ve had enough sleep. But it’s often not possible to get it.

I once waited in line for … Voodoo Donuts in Portland. Season tickets for Seattle’s new hockey team (35 minutes of online torture, watching that little “wait” icon spin). Also I took my entire team to Beyonce and JayZ and can I just tell you, it’s not easy to get that number of seats together!

Your role models: I’m a huge fan of all my badass friends and Cloud Room members who are starting companies or trying out new ideas, and I learn new things from them every day. But I’ll give a specific shout-out to the folks at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who continually study and tackle new problems. They’re always learning instead of assuming they know the answer. As a Canadian I’m also pretty proud of prime minister Justin Trudeau. He’s not perfect but he’s trying. These are examples of good human beings trying to solve hard human problems, in a time where we are desperately short of that kind of leadership.

Greatest game in history: Old school tabletop. Jigsaw puzzles. The original Cranium.

Best gadget ever: I spend a lot of time skiing in the winter, while trying to pretend I’m at work. Last season I got heated gloves so that when I’m on the chairlift, I can take them off, answer emails on my phone, and then put the gloves back and warm up my fingers before they freeze and fall off.

First computer: My high school had an ancient Hewlett Packard with a paper card reader and we would write programs in BASIC by filling in the little bubbles with a pencil. Then my dad brought home an Apple Lisa from work which was a whole new world — you could focus on debugging your code instead of whether you had put the little pencil marks in the wrong place.

Current phone: It’s an iPhone. I don’t know which one. I’m constantly smashing them or dropping them in the toilet accidentally, so I’m not allowed to have the most expensive one.

Favorite app: I can’t pick just one. Google Street View. IMBD. Wanderlist. I’m kind of obsessed with list making. Blok24 (full disclosure — I’m an investor and on the board).

Favorite cause: The BLOCK Project, an amazing solution to housing formerly homeless individuals and families in tiny economical backyard homes in supportive neighborhoods. It’s not a solution for every homeless person, but it will be an amazing solution for many. The Cloud Room has supported the effort from the beginning and is now raising money to put a Block home in one of our member’s backyards on Capitol Hill.

Most important technology of 2018: OK, this isn’t a new technology thing but I’m excited that the conversation took off this year about a couple of transformative future projects: getting a high speed train from Portland to Vancouver, and putting a lid over the freeway in Seattle. These are engineering feats that won’t be easy, but the impact will be incredible.

Most important technology of 2020: It seems like there’s a whole bunch of development activity around three- or four-wheel electric urban vehicles that are somewhere between a scooter and a car. I’m excited about getting something that won’t tip over, has a bubble to keep the rain off and a platform that’s big enough for my fat old dog to ride with me.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Get out and volunteer on city issues. It will inform your work in all kinds of ways you can’t imagine.

Website: The Cloud Room

LinkedIn: Liz Dunn

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alvinashcraft
3 hours ago
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West Grove, PA
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Thanks, HockeyApp. Visual Studio App Center Will Take It From Here

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Reposted from the HockeyApp blog.
 
One year ago, we announced Visual Studio App Center as the future of HockeyApp. During this journey we listened to you and have continued to improve App Center in every way. We started out with the next generation of your favorite HockeyApp services: distribution, crash reporting and analytics, and added new services exclusive to App Center: Build, Test and Push Notifications. But we didn’t stop there. We continued to build new features that make you even more productive.
 
Today, after months of work and refinement, we are announcing that HockeyApp will complete its transition fully to App Center in one year on November 16, 2019. We know you are busy building amazing apps, so we have focused on making this transition experience smooth and seamless for you.

Making the Move to App Center

The best migration experience is no migration experience. To make this transition easy, we’ve already started continuously syncing your apps between HockeyApp and App Center. We’ll help you complete the rest of your transition to App Center over the next year:
 
Today
Get started in App Center right away to start exploring the next generation of HockeyApp services. In App Center, you'll find your HockeyApp apps ready to go: you can get your work done in App Center through the side-by-side experience, or continue using HockeyApp as you normally would.
 
Early 2019
While your apps have been migrated to App Center, your data is still tied to HockeyApp. Starting in early 2019, you will be able to complete your migration by moving all of your apps fully to App Center. This will remove the syncing with HockeyApp, and will give you full control of your apps in App Center. You’ll be able to finish moving all your apps whenever you’re ready until November 16, 2019.
 
November 16, 2019
After this date, all HockeyApp customers will use the next generation of Distribution, Crash Reporting, and Analytics services in App Center and HockeyApp will no longer be accessible. We’re excited about HockeyApp’s future in App Center, and can’t wait for you to experience all the new features in App Center that will greatly improve your ability to quickly deliver high-quality apps!
 
Follow our transition plan for the latest updates.

The Future is Familiar

Our focus since we launched App Center has been to not only bring you the same great experience you had in HockeyApp, but we strive to exceed your expectations. Every day, our team has been focused on delivering on that vision. Today in App Center, you can not only continue distributing your builds to testers, dig into crash reports and view user download analytics as you do in HockeyApp, but you can also utilize App Center’s new Build, Test and Push services.
 
Get to the answers you care about faster with the beautiful improved analytics dashboard. Stop having to manually manage iOS provisioning profiles every time a new tester is added to your app. With auto-provisioning we auto-magically handle it for you. We’ve built tons of other new features to help you build better apps faster - from integrations with the public app stores, to handled exceptions and crash event breadcrumbs, to CodePush hotfixes and so much more. We’re excited for you to join the thousands of HockeyApp developers already experiencing the future of app development in App Center!

We'll Be With You Every Step of the Way

 
 

 
 
In the last eight years, a core part of our journey with HockeyApp - and now App Center – has been the close relationship with our customers and fellow developers. As you begin your transition, we’ll be with you every step of the way. Our engineers are standing by in App Center and are ready to help answer your questions or assist you with a smooth setup. We’ve built App Center with some great features so far, but this is only the beginning. Please keep sharing your feedback and feature requests so we can continue building the future of App Center together. We’re excited about HockeyApp’s future in App Center and look forward to having you join us on this journey. See you in App Center!
 
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alvinashcraft
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Microsoft Bot Framework v4 Node #6: Creating a Knowledge Base with LUDown and QnA Maker

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From: Codepunk
Duration: 13:44

Microsoft's Bot Framework and the LUDown CLI give you the ability to design, spec out, and create a knowledge base component for your chatbot right from the command line, allowing you to deploy it to the QnA Maker web site.

This video shows you how to use the LUDown syntax and CLI to create and parse a QnA Maker file, while also showing you how to use the QnA Maker CLI to create, deploy, and test a knowledge base or FAQ bot.

The Microsoft Bot Framework is a framework for building chatbots that can be integrated with various AI services, and deployed to channels such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Messenger, and Slack.

If you like this video and want to go deeper, check out https://codepunk.io, or subscribe to our newsletter at https://botsandbeer.com

To stay in touch, following me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/szul.

You can also follow Bill: https://twitter.com/neurothustra.

Don't forget to subscribe to this channel for updates:
https://www.youtube.com/c/codepunk?sub_confirmation=1

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Razor support in Visual Studio Code now in Preview

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Earlier this week we released a preview of support for working with Razor files (.cshtml) in the C# extension for Visual Studio Code (1.17.1). This initial release introduces C# completions, directive completions, and basic diagnostics (red squiggles for errors) for ASP.NET Core projects.

Prerequisites

To use this preview of Razor support in Visual Studio Code install the following:

If you already installed VS Code and the C# extension in the past, make sure you have updated to the latest versions of both.

Get started

To try out the new Razor tooling, create a new ASP.NET Core web app and then edit any Razor (.cshtml) file.

  1. Open Visual Studio Code
  2. Select Terminal > New Terminal
  3. In the new terminal run:

    dotnet new webapp -o WebApp1`
    code -r WebApp1
    
  4. Open About.cshtml

  5. Try out HTML completions

    HTML completions

  6. And Razor directive completions

    Directive completions

  7. And C# completions

    C# completions

  8. You also get diagnostics (red squiggles)

    C# diagnostics

Limitations and known issues

This is the first alpha release of the Razor tooling for Visual Studio Code, so there are a number of limitations and known issues:

  • Razor editing is currently only supported in ASP.NET Core projects (no support for ASP.NET projects or Blazor projects yet)
  • Support for tag helpers and formatting is not yet implemented
  • Limited support for colorization
  • Loss of HTML completions following C# less than (<) operator
  • Error squiggles misaligned for expressions near the start of a new line
  • Incorrect errors in Blazor projects for event bindings
  • Emmet based abbreviation expansion is not yet supported

Note that if you need to disable the Razor tooling for any reason:

  • Open the Visual Studio Code User Settings: File -> Preferences -> Settings
  • Search for "razor"
  • Check the "Razor: Disabled" checkbox

Feedback

Even though the functionality of Razor tooling is currently pretty limited, we are shipping this preview now so that we can start collecting feedback. Any issues or suggestions for the Razor tooling in Visual Studio Code should be reported on the https://github.com/aspnet/Razor.VSCode repo.

To help us diagnose any reported issues please provide the following information in the GitHub issue:

  1. Razor (cshtml) file content
  2. Generated C# code from the Razor CSharp output
    • Right-click inside your .cshtml file and select "Command Palette"
    • Search for and select "Razor: Show Razor CSharp"
  3. Verbose Razor log output
    • See instructions for capturing the Razor log output here
  4. OmniSharp log output
    • Open VS Code's "Output" pane
    • In the dropdown choose "OmniSharp Log"

What's next?

Next up we are working on tag helper support. This will include support for tag helper completions and IntelliSense. Once we have tag helper tooling support in place we can then start work on enabling Blazor tooling support as well. Follow our progress and join in the conversation on the https://github.com/aspnet/Razor.VSCode repo.

Thanks for trying out this early preview!

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Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car

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Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car

I was really excited recently when I purchased somewhat of a dream car for myself. I've long been a 'car person' but having a car that I really, really wanted is something new for me. Wanting to look after my new p̶l̶a̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶y̶  mode of transportation was high on my priority list and a GPS tracker felt like a good idea.



The car

As I said, I've been a car person for a long, long time and I've had quite the selection of cars and motorbikes throughout my life, especially in my younger years! More recently I picked up something truly fantastic and easily the best car I've ever owned.



There have been a few tweets about it over the last few weeks and those who follow me on Twitter will have noticed that!



I make no apologies for feeling and acting like my 5-year-old boy on Christmas morning! This is not just about me buying a new car that I am thoroughly excited about, but the realisation that years of hard work are paying off. Just listen to the thing!



Being a hacker at heart, both in the security sense but also the more traditional sense of tinkering and playing with things, I couldn't resist having a little poke around my new car too.



Tinkering with a few options here and there is great fun and one of the things I came across in the menu system was the ability to disable remote features linked to the app, including GPS location. Like all good things these days my car comes with an app that allows me some basic level of remote control and information, but also the ability to locate the car.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


This is great, and I love the idea of being able to reliably locate my car, especially in the event that it was stolen, but this is more of a convenience feature and not a security feature. If someone were to steal the car, I'm sure they'd disable the GPS capability, rendering it useless. I wanted my own, reliable solution.


Android GPS Tracker

I've used Android phones for a long time and for my last few devices I've been using OnePlus. I started on the 1 and have moved through the 2, 3, 5 and am currently on the 6. They moved away from Cyanogen as their OS and now have a very lightly modified version of Android called Oxygen. I get security patches fast and am generally only a matter of weeks behind the latest Android patch level, which is important to me. One of the other things I like, and iPhone users will have the same thing, is the ability to locate devices that I own. When I looked at GPS trackers, they could be expensive, really expensive, and I couldn't quite justify the cost in my head. I figured why not give it a try myself and see how reliable a tracker I can build with basic components. All the device needs are GPS capabilities, a mobile data connection and software to handle the logistics of reporting back location data. It sounds like a smartphone is the perfect fit! It doesn't need to be expensive as it's not going to be used for any phone features, but I did want a device that would be running a modern version of Android and would receive updates. I found a perfect fit in one that ran Android GO, Google's cut-down version of the Android OS for less capable devices.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


At only £52.99 ($67.78 USD) the phone fit the bill perfectly and had everything I needed including a good battery, GPS and mobile data connectivity. It also had a load of stuff I didn't need like dual cameras and a good screen, but hey!


Setting the phone up

I powered the phone up and signed in to my Google account and the first thing after that was device updates, let's make sure this thing is current. After this the only app I needed to install was the Find My Device app from the Play Store.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


This is the only thing that we will need to locate the device remotely and if necessary, lock the device down and even remotely erase it. After that I needed to make sure the battery would last as long as possible during periods where it had no power. There are quite a few things you can do to extend the life of a battery on a phone.


Turn off WiFi.

Turn off Bluetooth.

Set the screen to lowest brightness.

Set the volume and vibration to off.

Disable all notifications.

Disable all sync items for Google account.

Disable automatic updates (these will be done manually).


That should help to keep the battery running for long periods with no power and after a recent trip of 7 days the battery lost 43% charge whilst parked at the airport. This means I should have at least 2 weeks of power to track the car if it's been left parked and the phone wasn't charged. For the security aspect on the device it has a very strong password to unlock, a 6-digit PIN on the SIM card and fill disk encryption is of course enabled.


Tracking the phone

If I want to locate the car it's a simple case of opening the Find My Device app on my phone or even through the browser at https://www.google.com/android/find

Just last week while I was away working, I regularly checked in on my car which was supposed to be parked at the airport. It was reassuring to see that it was!


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


If you open the menu at the bottom on the phone app, or at the side on the web version, there are a few more options too.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


You can play a sound on the device to locate it if you've lost it, which I probably won't ever use, but the other two are useful. I can 'Secure Device' which will sign out of my Google account on that device or I can 'Erase Device' which will essentially factory reset the phone. Both could be really useful if the device is lost or stolen.


Installing the tracker

The next piece of the puzzle is actually putting the phone in the car. Any potential thief might disable the built in GPS tracker for the BMW app and if they see a phone in the glovebox or centre console, they're probably going to be smart enough to toss that out the window too. The phone needs to be somewhere hidden and somewhere with power. Fortunately, both of these things aren't too difficult to do in most cars. My M140i and my wife's Range Rover (which also got a tracker) both had ignition live 12v sockets in the boot, which made this easy. Even if your car doesn't have one of those though, all you need to do is find a 12v feed that's only live with the ignition to take a spur off. Behind the trim panels in the back there will be various points to test that you can draw power from and then all you need is a 12v to 5v power inverter. This one is only £5.99 ($7.67 USD) and you can get one with a cigarette lighter socket on the end instead of a Micro-USB if you like.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


If you're not confident fitting this then a good auto-electrician or friend with the equivalent skills could fit this in <10 minutes. I took the feed for my power from the back of the existing cigarette lighter socket in the boot so it's a completely stealth install. With that, all you need to do is position the phone somewhere hidden. Whilst I had the trim panel off to install the power, I also installed the phone behind there. The trim panels come off with a few pop clips but the chances of someone happening to dismantle my boot during the theft to find the phone is quite slim. Perhaps they'd find it at a later stage when they start stripping my car for parts! The device is well hidden, has power and is buried inside the car but the 3G and GPS signal are still strong enough that I can get a lock on the location in ~10 seconds. This is the perfect setup!


Mobile data

The last piece of the puzzle is of course mobile data usage and there are plenty of cheap offerings here in the UK for that. I got a SIM card from GiffGaff (link for £5 free credit), who are a virtual operator built on the back of O2, one of our largest operators here in the UK. They do a plan for 500Mb of data, 150 minutes and 500 texts for only £5 ($6.40 USD) per month. Many carriers offer the ability to link other SIM cards to your existing data plan or perhaps even cheaper offers exist, but this is certainly cheap enough to get started.


Weekend Project: Building a GPS tracker for my car


With a plan active the phone can get a solid 3G signal and I know that I'm never going to burn through 500Mb of data per month, so the tracker will always be available.


Do I need it?

I'm sure many would say that I don't, and I can see that. I hope I don't ever need to depend on it or use it for the purpose I bought it, but it is nice to be able to quickly and easily locate the car. This would especially be the case if the car didn't have a native app to do the same. I also find the BMW app can take a minute or so to locate the car and the Find My Device feature can do this in ~10 seconds. If your car didn't have a GPS location feature, then this would be a nice upgrade to have too. All in all, it was a pretty easy weekend project, I got to tinker around with a few bits of my car and the cost is relatively low.

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Git Tip: Link a Local Project to a Hosted Repository

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How many times have you started a project locally on your machine, initialized it as a git repository, then after ...read more
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