The Green Shed

The best thing about coming home from a trip is symmetric gigabit fiber. 

Astrophotography Tips & Gotchas with Sony Alpha Cameras

I have a Sony A7r IV, and I like to shoot astrophotography. While I love my A7r, I've run into a number of issues while shooting.

Tip: Shoot in Uncompressed Raw
Sony outlines the differences in their RAW formats in this support document. I was under the impression that "Compressed RAW" was still lossless. That is not the case:
Compressed RAW, also known as lossy compression, is a format that reduces the data in a photo.
This will especially effect you in the very-low-signal situation when shooting the night sky.

Tip: Turn OFF Lens Compensation
This is especially true when shooting your Darks, Flats, and Biases. Sony claims that Lens compensation isn't baked into their RAW files, but my experience tells a different story. If you're shooing Darks & Biases and seeing weird ring-like artifacts, try shooting with Lens Compensation off.

Example of stacked darks with ring artifact on a Sony Alpha camera.

See also this thread on Cloudy Nights about this issue.

Tip: Set one the Fn menu item to Interval Shooting
It always takes a while to get those first few test shots in place and everything dialed in before you start your interval mode. I keep an item on the Fn menu for toggling Interval Shooting so that I can flip it on without having to menu dive when I'm ready.

Tip: Shoot at base ISO
ISO in digital cameras is complicated. Because you can't change the sensor in your camera, you are, in effect, working with a single ISO while shooting. The camera can amplify the signal it receives, but there is no additional data to work with. When you change the ISO, you are telling the camera, "Please multiply the values for each pixel." Now, like I said, it's more complicated than that, but the impact is the same: You are unlikely to get any additional data by shooting beyond your base ISO. Compensate instead via f-stop and exposure time.

Big caveat: the rest of your processing toolchain needs to be sophisticated enough to support this. Experiment with results, because each model is different.

Other caveat: some sensors have multiple base ISO values.

The Joy of the Night

Astrophotography is an interesting hobby. It combines the very technical (the gear, the processing) with the very organic (the outdoor environment), and does so in such a way that every outing seems to render some part of your previous experience moot. 

No matter how many checklists and no matter how much preparation I make, something goes wrong every time, in a new and unexpected way. (And sometimes things go wrong in the banal and usual sort of ways, like dead batteries or unexpected clouds.) You can get hundreds of details exactly right, and miss one that makes the entire session a bust. 

One of the things that separates AP from many computer-driven activities (and AP is very much a computer-driven activity these days), is the hurry-up-and-wait nature of it. You rush to get your gear setup, turned on, pointed, calibrated, cards emptied, etc. But then, you just wait. Hours and hours, often. Sitting in the dark, hoping the gear you setup is doing what it's supposed to. 

You can fiddle with it, of course, and often I do. But eventually you have to resign yourself to the inevitable: you've done what you can, and what will be, will be. 

So, you sit in your chair and bask in the glory of the heavens, and in the dark silence of the night sky. You hear the birds, chatting to each other before they settle in for the night. Then, the critters come out and live the lives we usually never consider. The smells of night are lifted up on the breeze. The heat of the day seeps out of the earth around you. Quiet and unhurried, the world spins, and you must wait. 

All of which leads to one of the great (and delightful) ironies of Astrophotography for me: in setting out to explore and capture the vast and distant universe, it is the sublime of the world around me that leaves me reeling.
I love Drive to Survive. I pay zero attention to F1 during the actual season, and experience the whole thing in these 12 entertaining episodes. As an entertainment product it's fantastic. The NBA should have something like this. I want to catch up on an NBA season in 12 episodes.
Really intrigued by this idea of archiving data on paper. Feels like it could be a great extra backup for a password vault (encrypted, of course). 
I've been tracking my electricity usage since 2007. Since then, I've used 1.25 trillion joules of energy.
A button, ad, product listing, etc for a digital product should only be allowed to say “purchase” or “buy” or “acquire” if ownership is fully transferred and unrestricted. Everything else is renting.
There are going to be podcasts in 30 years about how the early internet was a hoax. No one will believe anything that good could have happened. 
I came across this quote:

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.
— Vincent van Gogh

I printed it out, and I'm putting it on the wall above my workbench.

I Decided to Try Metalworking

It was probably 5 or 6 years ago that I stumbled up on Clickspring, the mesmerizing YouTube channel where Chris builds incredible machines that are both functional and works of art, all in his small home shop. Whenever a new video came out I'd wait until I had a quiet evening, then pour myself a glass of scotch and sit in front of the TV, enraptured by the beauty, precision, and attention to detail.

From there the YouTube algorithm took over, and my feed has been chock full of incredible machinists, both home and commercial. Lathes, mills, presses, grinders, welders, micrometers, and dial indicators have been sparking joy ever since.

At some point I had the thought, "Maybe I should try this." At the time I opted not to; getting into the hobby isn't cheap, and I didn't want to find out after a few weeks that I didn't actually enjoy doing this myself.

Then, two things changed.

First, time passed. 5 years later I was still fascinated by the idea of making something out of these raw materials. I've done a fair bit of 3D printing, so I was familiar with what it took to design an object that needs to exist in the real world. Metalworking would be a major level-up.

Second, I had an HVAC unit installed in my garage, which meant I could work out there during the warm months, which is most of them. Without that option I'd either have to work in the house (not an option) or during the extremely brief window of cool weather (too short to be worth it).

So, this holiday season, I decided to finally go ahead with it, and purchased a Sherline mini lathe.

There was a 15 business day lead time on purchases at the time. My lathe arrived in late January, 2024.

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The unboxing and setup process was enjoyable. It took a few hours to get setup, but thankfully I had the required parts on hand. (The biggest unexpected requirement was a board/shelf to mount the lathe tool. Sherline recommends you mount the lathe to a board, not directly to a workbench. I had the needed wood lying about, but that was pretty lucky.)

In the 10 days or so since then, I've been practicing, building little fidget toys mostly. Facing, turning, measuring, and cutting threads.

And I've been loving it!

So far it's been everything I hoped it would be. It's fun, challenging, and a tremendous outlet for creative energy that has nothing to with screens. After sitting in front of display all day, I desperately need an outlet that isn't computer related. Metalworking has been perfect.

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The precision of metalworking was one of the key attractions for me, and I haven't been let down. I was able to turn a little threaded fidget toy that has essentially no visible seam between the two parts. I can't tell you how much I love that. (The accuracy of this lathe has been incredible. I'm so pleased with it!)

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My most recent accomplishment has been this little pen. This was more challenging than the other parts I had built to that point, and required mixing all techniques I was still learning. It's a pretty simple little thing, but I'm immensely proud of how it came out.

I'm only just getting started on this journey. I have a lot of project ideas ahead of me. There's no rush to any of it, of course. That's part of the delight.

P.S. If you want to follow along, I often post my progress on Instagram here
Listened to the latest Stratechery Interview, with Om Malik. One thing I was struck by during the interview was Om's optimism and contagious enthusiasm about tech generally. The narrative around Tech (and maybe everything else?) has been so negative the last ~decade. I've really missed the enthusiasm and excitement I had early on in my career (early-mid 2000s). Tech has plenty of problems, no doubt. But, I want to spend more time finding fun things to be excited about.


Started using NotePlan as my PKS* and I've been absolutely loving it.

  • Native Apps (not electron)
  • Private (And E2E encrypted coming soon)
  • Oriented around the "Today" note
  • Easy to automate
  • Export everything to Markdown any time you want. No lock in.


There is so much good stuff in this article by Alan Jacobs it feels like a failure to target a small bit, but I'm going to anyway.

Technopoly tells us that we own ourselves, and that everything we need to fulfill our own (unchallengeable) desires is available for sale in the marketplace. But of course this is a system that only works if what we desire can in fact be purchased; and since that cannot in advance be guaranteed, the initial imperative of Technopoly is to train our desires, to channel them towards what the system already has for sale.

And the greatest instruments ever devised for such channeling are our internet-connected devices, especially when we connect to the internet through apps. The reason? Because while pens and paper can be used in extraordinarily varied and unpredictable ways, apps can’t: the ways in which we can interact with them are determined with great specificity and no deviation from the designed user-interface paradigm is permitted. You can use a pen to write a poem in elaborate cursive, sketch a tree, play Hangman, or, in moments of desperation, scratch a mosquito bite or skewer a chunk of watermelon. (I am describing, not recommending.) With TikTok, you can … make TikToks. The app is so far the ultimate extension of what Albert Borgmann called the device paradigm.

I think this gets to the heart of something I've long felt, but struggled to articulate.

I love the tactile nature of hand-based UI. The direct-interaction with object-on-screen, the elimination of the indirection of the pointing device, and the thrill of haptics is a computer experience like no other. As others have said, these are the most personal computers we've ever had.

And yet, our interaction with them is mediated by, as Jacobs points out, these apps. These little emotional casinos, begging for our next coin of attention, neutered by App Store rules, subject themselves to protection payments in the way of a platform owner tax on each sale.

Contrast, as Jacobs does, the liberté of pen & paper: unmediated, uncontrolled, unlimited by another. Stark, indeed.

But even within the confines of the constructed edifice of computer interfaces we could have gone another direction with these devices. Openness, flexibility, and freedom were available. The technocrats, however, did not choose Liberty.

Every day if feels like a greater miracle that the Open Web exists at all. One that I don't want to take for granted.

I ❤️ The Web

Jamie Zawinski celebrated 25 years of this week, and there was an article about the Netscape Meteors Throbber which made the rounds as well. Reflecting on it all reminded me of how special a time those early web days were, but also how much I really love the web, even after all these years.

So much has moved to mobile apps these days, and while I've worked on plenty of those, and I'm proud of the work I've done, the web is my true love.

The freedom to do whatever you want, the ability to view your work just about anywhere, the openness of View Source, all with no gatekeepers — it's incredible.

I love being able to make a change to a website and deploy that change in seconds. No review, no 30% tax.

Your ideas, a blank canvas, and infinite possibility. It's a world unlike any other these days, and I don't take it for granted.

New platforms will come and go. The web will always have my heart.