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A tale of cascading open source tasks: MacPorts documentation

Posted by on 30 Apr 2022 | Tagged as: software engineering, web technology

All I wanted to do was to add a mention of Github changeset links to the MacPorts documentation.

I like contributing to free software projects. One way I pick which specific contribution to make, is that I recall something which was an obstacle for me. I come up with a change which would reduce that obstacle. I look through the project’s open source for how to make that change. Then I make a pull request, or submit a patch, which contains that change.

Sometimes, in order to make the change, I need to learn the tools or languages which that project uses for its code or documentation. That can lead to a cascade of subsidiary tasks or related changes. This is a story of that happening to a ridiculous degree, about 20 months ago.

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I adopted Unicode character U+5B57 「字」!

Posted by on 28 Feb 2022 | Tagged as: Japan, language, Unicode, web technology

The Gold Sponsor of U+5B57 「字」

One fun thing I did, late in 2021, was to donate a bit of money to the Unicode Consortium to sponsor U+5B57 「字」, my favourite of their more than 144,000 characters. It is a silly thing, but also a bit noble, and a bit useful, and a bit interesting if one peels back the cover and looks at the mechanisms to which it connects. In other words, it is the sort of thing I like to do.

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StackOverflow 10K

Posted by on 31 Jan 2022 | Tagged as: i18n, Python, software engineering, technical support, Unicode, web technology

I have been active on StackOverflow for more than twelve years. StackOverflow is a phenomenally successful question and answer website, aimed at software developers seeking technical answers. Part of what makes StackOverflow successful is that it gamifies “reputation”: your reputation goes up when you write good answers, and ask good questions, and otherwise help. On 23 December 2021, my StackOverflow reputation rose past 10,000. This is a gratifying milestone.

I am user Jim DeLaHunt on StackOverflow. I apparently posted my first question there on 23. November, 2009. I asked if anyone could point me to “an XML language for describing file attributes of a directory tree?” I did not get a good direct answer. I did get a reference to the XML-dev email list, which I follow to this day. My first answer was to my own question about the XML language. My first answer to someone else’s question was about three weeks later, and it was about detecting a character encoding.

Over twelve years, I have written 133 answers, most of which languish in obscurity. Three have earned particularly many upvotes (and, between them, over 40% of my reputation):

  1. How to escape apostrophe (‘) in MySql?” This is a pretty simple answer. I suspect that it gets a lot of upvotes because many people ask this question. My answer also has the virtue that it quotes a specific clause in the official documentation to prove that the answer is correct. Not all StackOverflow answers cite reliable sources. This answer has earned 226 votes to date, bringing in over 22% of my total reputation.
  2. Is there a way to pass optional parameters to a function?” This too is a simple answer to a frequently-asked question. I cited an official source in this answer also. This answer has earned 116 votes to date, bringing in over 11% of my total reputation.
  3. What exactly is a “raw string regex” and how can you use it?” I think this is the best answer of the three. It finds a way to clarify a particularly murky area of the Python language, which often baffles people. I think it is easier to understand than the official documentation. This answer has earned 108 votes to date, bringing in over 10% of my total reputation. I think it was a vote on this question which put me over 10,000. I like that.

StackOverflow turns the reputation score into a variety of rankings. They put me in the top 4% for reputation overall. This sounds very impressive, until you learn that I am only 24,308-ranked among all participants. Mind you, there are over 16 million participants. I imagine there is a long, inactive tail, compared to which my small activity looks great.

In a similar vein, StackOverflow ranks me among the top 5% in the topics of “Python” and “MySQL“; the top 10% in “Unicode“; and the top 20% in “Internationalization“, “UTF-8“, and “Django“. That reflects some combination of effort on my part, and flattery due to the long, inactive tail.

I put a lot of work, 8-10 years ago, into answering questions and building my reputation. Now I find that upvotes trickle in for my existing 133 questions. My reputation rises surprisingly steadily, even if I don’t contribute anything new, giving me a kind of StackOverflow pension. But I still get satisfaction from plugging away there every now and again, trying to find a good question and write a clear answer. Maybe, in less than 12 years from now, I might reach StackOverflow 20,000.

How to fix table contents turned to “0” in LibreOffice

Posted by on 30 Apr 2021 | Tagged as: robobait, software engineering, technical support, web technology

Well, that was a fright. I was editing a large report with the LibreOffice word processor. I had a table of results. It consisted of a placeholder table — a header and a couple of rows — with Table Styles applied to get the rows formatted right. I pasted in dozens of rows of content from a spreadsheet. I saved the file for the night. The next morning, I opened the document, and to my horror, found that text values in many of the columns had been turned to “0”. This is LibreOffice bug 131025. And here is how I recovered from the error, and got my table contents back. I hopes it helps others who encounter this bug.

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Link from Trac to GitHub using changeset links

Posted by on 30 Sep 2020 | Tagged as: robobait, software engineering, web technology

There is an elegant way to link from the wiki and bug tracker called Trac to GitHub by means of changeset links. Unfortunately, Trac’s documentation on WikiFormatting and on TracLinks does not currently describe this. But one project which I use, MacPorts, uses Trac to track MacPorts bugs and to host wiki documentation. They prefer that contributors use these changeset links rather than URLs when referring to MacPorts on GitHub. So, this is the documentation for these changeset links, in a form which I wish was in the main Trac documentation. It is here to remind me. Maybe it will also help others searching for how to do this.

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FFmpeg’s fps filter, documented

Posted by on 30 Apr 2020 | Tagged as: FFmpeg, robobait, software engineering, web technology

The FFmpeg media editing software is a valuable tool, but its documentation is only barely adequate. It certainly does not answer all the questions I have, as a user trying to understand why FFmpeg is not doing what I want it to do.

Fortunately, FFmpeg is open source, so when the documentation fails, one can read the source. I wanted to learn about presentation time stamps and time bases. The fps video filter source code, in file libavfilter/vf_fps.c, was an instructive read.

I took what I learned from reading that source, and did a complete rewrite of the fps filter documentation. It is longer than the original fps filter documentation (as archived in April 2020 — you can check if the present documentation is any better). I believe the rewrite is more complete and more accurate. I contributed the rewrite to the FFmpeg project. I submitted it as a patch to the ffmpeg developers list. Discussion continues. I don’t know if this contribution will ultimately get accepted.

So, for the benefit of FFmpeg users who are web-searching for answers, here is my documentation of FFmpeg’s fps video filter.

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Top Posts: How to escape apostrophe (‘) in MySql?

Posted by on 28 Feb 2019 | Tagged as: robobait, software engineering, web technology

I post on various forums around the net, and a few of my posts there get some very gratifying kudos. I’ve been a diligent contributor to StackOverflow, the Q-and-A site for software developers. I’m in the top 5% of contributors overall. Here’s my top-voted answer in StackOverflow currently.

The question, How to escape apostrophe (‘) in MySql?,  was asked by anonymous user4951 in March 2012 (and copy-edited by someone else). In abbreviated form, it was:

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Email addresses and domain names are NON-latin! Now what? (IUC41 tutorial)

Posted by on 28 Feb 2018 | Tagged as: i18n, meetings and conferences, multilingual, Unicode, web technology

Last fall I attended the Internationalization and Unicode Conference. That year was the 41st conference, or IUC41.  In addition to a presentation (described in a blog last October), I delivered a tutorial: Email addresses and domain names are NON-latin! Now what?  I should have blogged about my slides last October, but better late than never. Here are my slides. Continue Reading »

How to add an SSL certificate to LiClipse to permit EGit access to a git repo

Posted by on 26 Dec 2017 | Tagged as: robobait, software engineering, web technology

I was contributing to the FFmpeg project recently. They keep their source code in a Git repo, accessed via SSL. I had an awkward error message:

SSL reported: PKIX path building failed:
unable to find valid certification path to requested target

The problem was that my tool handling the SSL communication lacked the SSL certificate which validated the communication with the project. I could dismiss the error and proceed without validating the SSL security. The better solution was to supply the right SSL certificate to the communication tool, so that it could validate the SSL security with no awkwardness. Here’s how I accomplished that.  This post is offered as search engine fodder, in hopes that others will benefit from these instructions. Continue Reading »

Universal Acceptance of non-Latin email addresses and domain names: how does your framework rate? (IUC41 presentation)

Posted by on 31 Oct 2017 | Tagged as: i18n, meetings and conferences, multilingual, Unicode, web technology

One of my treats each year is to attend the Internationalization and Unicode Conference. This year was the 41st conference, or IUC41.  As I often do, I made a presentation. This year, the title was, Universal Acceptance of non-Latin email addresses and domain names: how does your framework rate? I’d like to share my slides. Continue Reading »

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