- The push continues. We now have five weeks left to finish Astronomy Hacks. Actually, less
than that, because I want the book ready to go from our point of view
on 1 April. The actual deadline for 100% completion is 10 April. The
book goes to O'Reilly's production folks on Monday morning, 11 April. I
plan to spend those last 10 days doing final clean-up work, writing a
few more hacks, and so on.
The first 40 hacks (in the order we wrote them, not the order they'll
appear in the book) are posted on the Subscribers' Page. We'll knock
out another 15 or 20 hacks this month, which takes us well beyond
O'Reilly's minimum of 50 hacks per Hacks book. We're close to 80,000
words now, so making the target page count shouldn't be any problem
I'll be very busy between now and the completion of the book, so my
posts here will be even sparser than has been the case lately.
- The march to 100% completion continues. As Jerry Pournelle is
so fond of saying, it's a great life if you don't weaken.
A lot of the hacks I can just sit down and write, perhaps shooting an
image or two to go with them, or adding a couple of screen captures.
For others, I actually have to do something, like tearing apart a
scope. I haven't done any of the latter sort yet, but that starts this
I'll also probably spend some time this week or next writing the
Preface. That may turn out to be easier than usual. Last week, I asked
my editor if he could send me a Preface from another Hacks book to
serve as a template, to make sure I didn't leave out any required
sections. I was expecting to get just a Preface from some other random
Hacks book. What I got instead was an actual template with boilerplate
text. For example, here are the first paragraphs in the Preface
This should be the
first A-head in a Hacks preface. The first paragraph of this section
should be the following unedited boilerplate:
The term hacking has a bad reputation in the press. They use it to
refer to someone who breaks into systems or wreaks havoc with computers
as their weapon. Among people who write code, though, the term hack
refers to a "quick-and-dirty" solution to a problem, or a clever way to
get something done. And the term hacker is taken very much as a
compliment, referring to someone as being creative, having the
technical chops to get things done. The Hacks series is an attempt to
reclaim the word, document the good ways people are hacking, and pass
the hacker ethic of creative participation on to the uninitiated.
Seeing how others approach systems and problems is often the quickest
way to learn about a new technology.
standard hacks boilerplate, you can add anything specific to how this
book in particular understands hacking or contributes to hacking the
particular subject at hand.
So, the next few weeks are going to be very busy, with scopes
disassembled on the basement floor. Oh, well.
- Same old same old. Write hacks all day. Take dogs out. Eat
dinner. Take dogs out. Read books. Take dogs out. Sleep. Take dogs out.
Get up and write hacks all day.
The most frustrating thing is not having time to respond to things I'd
really like to respond to, such as Fred
Reed's most recent attack on science. Fred's a very bright guy. I
generally agree with him to the extent a libertarian generally agrees
with a conservative, but on this subject he's blinded by his
irrationality. I wish I had time to rebut him, devastatingly and in
detail, but I take solace in the fact that Fred's arguments have
already been dissected and shown to be false many times by better
scientists than I.
- We're in the final phase, one month to go until the drop-dead
deadline when the book goes to O'Reilly's production folks on 10 April.
My personal deadline is 31 March, by which time I want to have the book
essentially 100% complete. That means we have 21 days left to write
hacks, write the preface, shoot images, etc. O'Reilly also wants me to
get three or four hacks into finished form in the next few days so that
they can print up a promotional package with them.
Things have run pretty smoothly until now, with the usual expected
interruptions. Last night, Barbara got home from the gym with her 4X4's
power steering failing and something leaking onto the ground. We took
it out to our mechanic this morning. Sounds like a bad hose may have
been dripping onto the power steering belt, so it should be fixed today.
She has my 4X4. Last night, we weren't sure how long she'd have to
drive it, so we hauled the Dob out of the back and set it up
downstairs. I'll be tearing it to pieces and shooting images for hacks
like tweaking the focuser, balancing a Dob, installing cooling fans,
installing an edge mask, center spotting the primary mirror, upgrading
the altitude and azimuth bearings, etc.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All