Other writing: March 2024

What have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

Other writing: February 2024

What have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

  • Fork yes: embrace forks of your project — If you’ve done what you can to make your community a great place to contribute, then you can feel free to embrace any forks that happen.
  • Keep your bug tracker unified — When your bug tracking is scattered across different platforms, you make it harder for your users to file reports.
  • Semantic versioning in large projects — SemVer can work for large projects, but it’s not a fit for every case. Whatever you pick, document it clearly.
  • Grow by delegating — Don’t hoard responsibility. Give new contributors a sense of ownership so that they’ll stick around your community.

Other writing: January 2024

What have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

Docker

Replacing the flash spring on a Canon EOS T1i

On Christmas morning, I put my Canon EOS T1i DSLR camera on the tripod to take a family picture. But it didn’t work: “Err05”. The built-in flash didn’t open, so the camera refused to…camera. It had done that at Thanksgiving, too, so I’d used manual settings and some additional lighting to make it work. This time, changing the ISO from automatic was enough to convince the camera to take a picture, but I didn’t want to keep fighting it. Search results suggested that it could be dirt in the flash housing. Makes sense: I took the camera to the beach this summer and we all know that sand is coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere.

I found a great YouTube video that went through the process of removing the housing and cleaning the flash. Just from loosening the screw a bit, the flash popped up when it was supposed to. But I figured “since I’m here, I might as well keep going and make sure I have everything cleaned out.” That was my mistake.

When it came time to reassemble everything, I couldn’t figure out how the spring fit. The guy in the video just said to put it back and his fingers blocked my view. I couldn’t find anything else, except for a few forum posts that were impossible for me to decipher. I spent what felt like an hour trying different things and growing increasingly frustrated. But at one point I turned the camera just right and I figured it out.

Replacing the spring

Close up of the flash housing on a camera with a circle drawn around the slit at the base of it.
The circle shows the slit where the short end of the spring goes.

It turns out there’s a slit on the interior part of the housing where you can slide the short end of the spring. It will hold there firmly after you bend the long part back to install the screw.

Close up of a hand pulling on the long end of the camera flash spring.
Pulling back the long end of the spring to get the screw in place.
Close up of the reassembled spring with the flash closed
The screw and spring replaced

One the screw is back in (note that the head is smaller than the coil of the spring), you can hook the long end under the tab on the forward part of the housing.

I hope this helps anyone who stumbles across this post in a fit of desperation. The YouTube video is very helpful otherwise, so I won’t repeat the rest. I’ve only tried these instructions on one model of camera, because that’s the only one I have, but it should be the same for similar models.

Other writing: November 2023

What have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

Technically We Write

Other writing: May 2023

Where have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

Fedora

Book review: Sapiens

I just finished listening to Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuvah Noah Harari. It an interesting look at the history of our species as viewed through the lens of thee revolutions: cognitive, agricultural, and scientific.

Harari takes a detached — and sometimes cynical — view of history. He does not place humanity at the center of the story. Instead, he talks about humans and human systems as part of a broader evolutionary process. For example, he says “we did not domesticate wheat; it domesticated us.”

There is no inevitability

It is a mistake, he argues, to ascribe intent to evolutionary processes. Humanity is not the end goal. It follows, then, that there is no underlying purpose of human life. We exist because we exist. Whatever meaning we give life is a shared myth, as is all of human culture. Our economic, political, religious, and all other systems exist and have power because we agree they exist and have power.

For me, some of the more interesting parts of the book were the descriptions of how various economic systems influenced — or even necessitated — historical outcomes. European colonization and empire from the 15th century to today is not because of any innate nature of Europeans. Environmental factors and accidents of invention gave Europe’s leaders the ability and motivation to conquer the globe. Were we able to replay history a hundred times, how many times would western Europe become the home of global empire rather than, say, the Middle East?

Are you better off than your ancestors?

I was also intrigued by early discussions of the relative quality of life and later discussions of human happiness. For all of the hardships we imagine our ancestors faced, Harari argues that our hunter-gatherer forebears may have had a greater overall standard of living than their post-agricultural-revolution descendants. Nevertheless, the agricultural revolution prompted changes in our societies that made going back all but impossible.

“Happiness” is a difficult concept to explain, let alone measure. Nonetheless, it seems plausible that we are no more happy than our grandparents’ generation, or their grandparents’ generation, or… If happiness has not increased, what was the point of the millennia of changes? Why do we try to increase our wealth, expand our understanding, and conquer disease? What, truly, is the point of anything?

The questions to ask

“What, truly, is the point of anything?” is a question to ask. But it’s a mistake to think any answer find is universal. What we consider as fundamental human rights are only fundamental because we think they are. Perhaps societies many thousand years ago that had little concept of individual well-being and instead focused on the well being of the collective were right? Ah, but what does it mean to even be right? Rightness depends on the cultural context, which in tend depends on the shared myths in that place and time.

Sapiens ends with a look at the future and how our technology puts us in a position to render ourselves obsolete. We are forced to confront the question of “what do we want?” for our future. But that’s not the most pressing question, Harari says. We should be asking ourselves “what do we want to want?”

Should you read this?

Although I found much of the latter part of the book less interesting, the book overall was well worth the time. It was thought-provoking in ways that I did not expect. I may end up re-reading it with the intent of putting it aside to explore the thoughts as they arise.

Sapiens was first published in English in 2015. Although that was less than a decade ago, some parts of it feel out of touch. Harari describes a move away from nationalism. While that may be true in the broader sense, the last few years have bucked that trend — in the US and elsewhere. Similarly, he says that no state can “declare and wage war as it pleases”, yet Russia has done just that. Although it faces international retribution, and indeed may prove to be worse off as a result, it nonetheless is very much waging a war against Ukraine.

It’s a mistake to assume that history is a smooth line. Only time will tell if recent events are the start of a long trend or a ripple in the trajectory of history of homo sapiens.

Other writing: November 2022

What I have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

Duck Alignment Academy

Fedora

Stuff I curated

Fedora

Other writing: October 2022

What have I been writing when I haven’t been writing here?

Stuff I wrote

The Pragmatic Programmers

Duck Alignment Academy

Fedora

Stuff I curated

Pragmatic Bookshelf

  • Designing Data Governance from the Ground Up — I was a tech reviewer for Lauren Maffeo’s book. Lauren provides an excellent framework for implementing data governance for leaders at any level of an organization. It gives real-world guidance that’s easy to understand and apply, whether you’re a data expert or not.

Fedora

Book review: Why Fish Don’t Exist

I found Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by accident. Someone had shared a screen capture of a Tumblr post which talked about how trees aren’t a thing, taxonomically speaking. How weird. And then I saw that fish are also not a thing. Mindblowing. Somewhere in my searches to prove to my girlfriend that I was not making this up (although she can be forgiven, because that is very much the sort of thing I’d make up), I found Lulu Miller’s 2020 book.

I checked it out from the library as an audiobook so that Miranda and I could listen to it together. We were prepared to learn all about how fish are a lie. But we did not learn that.

Well, we learned it eventually. But only in the last chapter does Miller actually touch on the subject. The rest of the book is a mix of her life and the life of David Starr Jordan. Jordan was a famous researcher in his day, credited with discovering a fifth of the fish species we know today. He was president of Indiana University and later was the founding president of Stanford University. Oh yeah, he was also a eugenicist and may have been involved in murder.

Miller does an excellent job of tying the ups and downs in her life to Jordan’s. He serves as both inspiration and…whatever the opposite of inspiration is. The book is a fascinating and engaging tale. Had I not been waiting to learn about the fish, I would have loved it. Instead, I found it frustrating. I might read it again, knowing what to expect—and what not to expect.