The 2018 spring semester started last Wednesday. I think I've set up a pretty good free software toolkit for a successful year:
Operating system: Fedora - latest software with stable releases
Documents/notes: LibreOffice - nearly all professors are fine with assignments being submitted as plain text or PDF, only a few want docx specifically. For professors that insist you need to use Times New Roman or fail the assignment - not a single one has noticed my usage of Liberation Serif.
Cloud storage: Nextcloud - I self-host a nextcloud instance that all my school documents are saved to. Additionally I have the Android app on my phone for convenient reading of notes while I'm on the train.
Photos: Shotwell - very simple photo organizer, though I would also like to become more proficient at darktable soon.
Email: Thunderbird - I have filters set up so all my school email gets filtered into a folder that I normally read first.
The MassMessage MediaWiki extension hit 1,000 commits today, following an update of the localization messages for the Russian language. MassMessage replaced a Toolserver bot that allowed sending a message to all Wikimedia wikis, by integrating it into MediaWiki and using the job queue. We also added some nice features like input validation and previewing. Through it, I became familiar with different internals of MediaWiki, including submitting a few core patches.
I made my first commit on July 20, 2013. It would get a full rollout to all Wikimedia wikis on November 19, 2013, after a lot of help from MZMcBride, Reedy, Siebrand, Ori, and other MediaWiki developers.
It's still a bit crazy to think that I've been hacking on MediaWiki for over four years now, and how much it has changed my life in that much time. So here's to the next four years and next 1,000 commits to MassMessage!
I had a blast attending DebConf '17 in Montreal, and presented about my efforts to bring back MediaWiki into Debian. The talks I went to were all fantastic, and got to meet some amazing people. But the best parts about the conference was the laid-back atmosphere and the food. I've never been to another conference that had food that comes even close to DebConf.
The following is a letter I just mailed to the Boy Scouts of America, following President Donald Trump's speech at the National Jamboree. I implore my fellow scouts to also contact the BSA to express their feelings.
25 July 2017
Boy Scouts of America
PO Box 152079
Dear Boy Scouts of America,
Like many others I was extremely disappointed and disgusted to hear about the contents of President Donald Trump’s speech to the National Jamboree. Politics aside, I have no qualms with inviting the president, or having him speak to scouts. I was glad that some of the Eagle Scouts currently serving at high levels of our government were recognized for their accomplishments.
However above all, the Boy Scouts of America must adhere to the values of the Scout Law, and it was plainly obvious that the president’s speech did not. Insulting opponents is not “kindness”. Threatening to fire a colleague is not “loyal”. Encouraging boos of a former President is not “courteous”. Talking about fake news and media is not “trustworthy”. At the end of the day, the values of the Scout Law are the most important lesson we must instill in our youth – and President Trump showed the opposite.
The Boy Scouts of America must send a strong message to the public, and most importantly the young scouts that were present, that the president’s speech was not acceptable and does not embody the principles of the Boy Scouts of America.
I will continue to speak well of scouting and the program to all, but incidents like this will only harm future boys who will be dissuaded from joining the organization in the first place.
Eagle Scout, 2012
San Jose, CA
On this day 48 years ago, three astronauts landed on the moon after flying there in a Saturn V rocket.
Today I spent four hours building the Lego Saturn V rocket - the largest Lego model I've ever built. Throughout the process I was constantly impressed with the design of the rocket, and how it all came together. The attention paid to the little details is outstanding, and made it such a rewarding experience. If you can find a place that has them in stock, get one. It's entirely worth it.
The rocket is designed to be separated into the individual stages, and the lander actually fits inside the rocket. Vertically, it's 3ft, and comes with three stands so you can show it off horizontally.
As a side project, I also created a timelapse of the entire build, using some pretty cool tools. After searching online how to have my DSLR take photos on a set interval and being frustrated with all the examples that used a TI-84 calculator, I stumbled upon gphoto2, which lets you control digital cameras. I ended up using a command as simple as gphoto2 --capture-image-and-download -I 30 to have it take and save photos every 30 seconds. The only negative part is that it absolutely killed the camera's battery, and within an hour I needed to switch the battery.
To stitch the photos together (after renaming them a bit), ffmpeg came to the rescue: ffmpeg -r 20 -i "%04d.jpg" -s hd1080 -vcodec libx264 time-lapse.mp4. Pretty simple in the end!