May 31, 2015 - Setting up Magic Lantern on an Eye-Fi card for a T3i/600D

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So today I wanted to take a quick detour from my normal software engineering posts and talk a little bit about a problem that I finally re-solved for my other hobby: photography. As many hobbyist photographers know, MagicLantern is an awesome open-source alternative firmware for many Canon cameras. I myself own a T3i/600D and have been using MagicLantern on it for a while now. I also own an old Eye-Fi GeoX2 card to make it easier for me to geotag and sync my pictures.

A couple years ago I managed to do what many said was difficult or impossible to do: get MagicLantern to work with the Eye-Fi cards. And the marriage between the two worked nearly flawlessly for a long time. However, a few months ago, the card had become corrupted and I had to low-level format the card. From this point on, MagicLantern did not want to work with the card. It did not help that I did not note down what I did to get the solution to work. I gave up on it for the time being, assuming that I would get back to fixing it at some point later.

Well, a much longer time passed than I expected and I now had a new need for my camera - and I wanted to be able to use MagicLantern’s features again. So today I sat down in front of my computer & began hammering at it to get it to work. I finally came upon the answer and got it working.

  1. Copy the images that are currently on the Eye-Fi card by connecting the card to the dongle that came with the card, and let Eye-Fi sync the images. To make sure Eye-Fi didn’t miss any images, manually copy the images again to another place off the card.
  2. Eject the Eye-Fi card. Then end the Eye-Fi Helper service.
  3. Plug the Eye-Fi card back in, then use Explorer to format the card. Do not do a quick format - do not select “ExFat” as the file system type.
  4. Open the MagicLantern firmware in 7-Zip, then select all the files and drag them to the root of the Eye-Fi card.
  5. Eject the Eye-Fi card.
  6. With the camera off, switch the camera to “M” (Manual) and make sure that there are no accessories (except the lens, of course) attached.
  7. Insert the Eye-Fi card into the T3i/600D.
  8. Turn the camera on. If the firmware update menu for MagicLantern shows up, great! Otherwise, press Menu and navigate to “Firmware v…”
  9. Click on the “Firmware v…” to update the firmware and enable MagicLantern.
  10. Once the menu mentions that the card has been marked bootable, turn the camera off, wait about 5 seconds (make sure the busy LED is not illuminated), then turn the camera back on.
  11. At this point, MagicLantern should be installed. You will notice the time show up and the free space of the Eye-Fi show up in the bottom-right corner.
  12. Go to Menu > Eye-Fi Settings and Enable the Eye-Fi card to attempt syncing again. Once the sync is complete, you can turn off the camera.

As you can see, the process is not very difficult - it just seems like a lot of steps because I’m a bit verbose. However, from this point, you should be able to take advantage of both Eye-Fi’s syncing and MagicLantern’s features on your T3i. However, don’t rely on this - things can still go wrong, as they did for me. Your results may very.

May 23, 2015 - Know Your Tools

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A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to give a presentation to the dev team at work on Docker and how it could help us from a development perspective. It was a timely presentation as our team recently began transitioning from one version of our flagship product to another, where a lot of the underlying technologies have changed drastically. However, because we will still need to support the currently-released version of the product, it means that our developers would need to reset their development environments in order to diagnose customer issues frequently. The prospect of having to pivot our development environments presented a serious challenge for us, since setup for each environment is non-trivial.

Now, I’ve been a fan of Docker since I first heard about it in 2013, and have actively used it since then. But because of how stable the platform is, and the nature of my job, I never really had many chances to really dive into the more recent updates to the Docker ecosystem. However, when I did some more research for my presentation, I found out about Docker Machine, Docker Compose, Docker Swarm, as well as a number of other Docker-related tools. It made sense that I wasn’t aware of these very useful tools since the containerized-application space has been changing rapidly in the last couple years, but I did not realize how much.

This realization that I did not know about these useful tools made me realize that there are many tools out that I use that I may not fully understand or are not up-to-date with. So, how does one keep up-to-date on developments for some of the most useful tools? I’m not sure, but I would suggest subscribing to GitHub projects, email lists and RSS feeds to be notified of changes. Or, whenever running a tool, check for updates to the tool and reading the changelog, if there is one.

Finally, don’t settle for “that’s just the way it is.” Always look for new ways to do something. For instance, for a long time I used standard Docker --link arguments to link containers, but with Docker Compose, I no longer need to deal with linking containers at runtime.

This post is about 2 weeks overdue. I had the first paragraph written and had a really good post, but I forgot what my point was when I got sidetracked and didn’t return to finishing this post until must later. I’m sorry it isn’t as useful as it could be.

Apr 15, 2015 - My Reading List

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Over the last few years, I’ve amassed a pretty large repository of knowledge of technologies, tools and techniques within my profession. A lot of people have often wondered how I came to know so much, but the truth is, it was actually really simple: mostly I follow and keep up on certain Twitter users, follow a few subreddits on Reddit, and keep an ear out for any mention of cool things in news articles. Obviously, it definitely helps to maintain a natural curiosity in all things related to technology, since inspiration for techniques and solutions can come from a variety of sources, but also trying to apply those techniques in imagined - but likely - scenarios. This point is important, as it helps you answer the questions “What situations is this technology/solution well-suited for?” or “Is this technology appropriate for this kind of problem?”

Anyway, I wanted to share my list of “resources” on the Internet, and I highly recommend taking a look, maybe even adding it to your own bookmarks:

More to come, but these are just a couple off the top of my head.