Project Blogs on Github vs Central WordPress Set-Up

I’ve been finding that it is easier to keep notes on my coding processes by maintaining individual project blogs using Jekyll on GitHub than keep this central blog up to date.

At first keeping notes in Jekyll required keeping the documentation in a separate branch which I found a hassle. Now GitHub will read a “docs” folder in the master branch as the Jekyll Source. This means it’s easy to jot notes into text files while working on the code without having to switch out of the text editor I’m already using or swap branches.? Thumbs up.

This blog, while languishing, will not become a Jekyll Blog in the near future. I did an initial export, logging into the database directly with a gem, But I’ve realized, with so many images and embeds the whole process will be time consuming and require touching every single post I’ve written. Not hard, just annoying. Also, it will make posting images harder, not easier. So, while I think in the long run shifting over to a static site generator would have a lot of upside that would make me post here more the change won’t come this quarter. It would be possible to use a local WordPress install and copy the files over, but both server installed WordPress and a GitHub pages Jekyll site have the advantage of being able to update from any computer with an internet connection in a jam.

Pros WordPress Status Quo:

  • Its the current setup
  • Decade+ of personal experience
  • Written in language I already know
  • Very good with handling media of all sorts
  • Very customizable, within certain limits
  • One place for everything

Pros GitHub Jekyll Project Blogs:

  • No database
  • No internet connection required during writing process
  • Can write with local text editor, not in the distracting browser
  • Less hackable
  • Less proscribed model
  • Perfect for coding notes
  • More willing to write EVERYTHING down because quality of post seems like less of a big deal when it’s just “project notes”

Pros Self-hosted Jekyll:

  • Still a giant community, bigger than any other Static Generator
  • Total customization if I learn Ruby.


Take Apart Tuesday: iMac G5

Took apart Tod’s old wonky iMac G5 today. ?Might make a little sculpture out of it. It is a nice stand. I think he was hoping it would actually leave the house, but I had a nice little space for it to slide into on my junk shelf.

On a side note my flickr gallery plug-in isn’t working and Flickr itself removed the ability to generate a wordpress gallery… so, that sucks. Why do they have to go and make things less and less usable. I swear.?But here is a lame lamezors looking album below. So unpleasing. What are they thinking?

I’ve kept:

  • The speakers, fan and power supply lined up along the bottom
  • The hard drive
  • The optical drive
  • The wifi chip/antennas
  • The inverter
  • The memory chips

iMac G5 Breakdown

How to Pick a DIY Electronics Project

More testing for the secret project

I’m teaching Introduction to Electronics to a very mixed room of skill levels. To match that reality, I?reorganized the syllabus?around conceptual themes rather than technical topics. ?For each unit, students can either do my default project or pick one of their own that matches the theme. ?For example, the first project I am giving them is a DIY continuity tester, but they can do something else if it meets some basic criteria and matches the?theme of “On and Off as Information.”

That said,?picking a project that matches your abilities is hard to do as a beginner. ?Heck, it can even be hard when you are advanced. Sometimes amazing experiences can come from?taking on something that ends up being harder than predicted. Sometimes, like for a class or for a client, not so much. ?It just needs to get it done.

The below is a list of questions I’ve been working on to get a sense if a project is a match. Some day I’ll turn it in to a rubric?or a worksheet of some sort, but smoothing out how to weight the answers?will actually be kind of personal. For now simply a list of things to think about is a good start.


The first step is self assessment. This set of questions is the “bank account,” an inventory of time, money and psychological energy that you have to throw at the project. The answers to these questions will change depending on lots of life circumstances that have nothing to do with the actual project itself. ?Even the simplest of projects will remained undone if you have too much going on and are doing it because you “should” not because you actually care. ?Intrinsic vs Extrinsic motivation is a hot topic in education. It’s worth thinking about for yourself before getting?started.

  • How much time do you have to work on THIS project?
    • from “It is for a party tonight and I’m still at work”
    • to “Just got laid off with awesome severance.”
  • How much money do you have budgeted?
    • from “I’m eating ramen every night”
    • to “Elon Musk”
  • How badly do you want the end product?
    • from “Someone is making me”
    • to “This has been my dream since I was 6.”
  • How relevant to other stuff you want to do is the project?
    • from “Not transferrable at all”
    • to “This is how I want to spend my life”
  • How do you handle frustration?
    • from “I throw things across the room and never look at them again.”
    • to “Frustration? What’s frustration? I love it when things don’t work! A new challenge!”
  • How confident are you feeling??
    • from “I’ve never been able to do anything like this before and I’m scared.”
    • to “I am a GOD.”


Now that there is a sense of the “budget,” time to start subtracting the things that will drain from it. ? The first set of questions is about the quality of the tutorial or directions. It is much easier to just copy a well done tutorial than invent from scratch something that has never been done before.

  • Is there a tutorial for exactly what you want to build?
    • from “Yes, identical down to the color.”?
    • to “Tutorial? What tutorial? All I saw was a picture on tumblr.”
  • Has the author of the write up has done many other tutorials?
    • from “Super Pro-Published Author. Like on Paper and everything.”?
    • to “looks like one Instructable 5 years ago.”?
  • Do you fall within the target audience for the tutorial?
    • from “Actually, it was written for me specifically. Seriously, my mom wrote it out for me.”
    • to “I’m 5 and it’s a SpaceX training manual.” (meaning no disrespect to 5 year olds)
  • Is the tutorial?complete?
    • from “It’s from a kit that comes with all the parts, a?tools list, a Bill of Materials with?manufacturer?part numbers for reference, a schematic, a github link for the?code, illustrations/pictures of every step and a toll-free customer support number.”
    • to “Again, like I said, just?a picture on tumblr.
  • Is the?tutorial?posted somewhere with an active community?
    • from “Yes, it is on, lots of other people have made one, and the author is active in the discussion thread. “
    • from “It is in a book that was written in 1917 that I found in a barn and Google Books hasn’t even scanned it in.”


Doing unfamiliar things costs time and energy, even when they don’t cost money. If you don’t have a lot of time and energy, try to limit what percentage of the project will be totally unfamiliar to you. For example, use a familiar circuit in a new enclosure, or a new circuit encased in a material that you use frequently.

  • What percentage of the?electrical?components have you worked with before?
    • from “100%. I have worked with these exact part numbers before in exactly the same application.”
    • to “0%. Not a one.”
  • What percentage of the non-electrical component materials (for the enclosure, etc) have you worked with before??
    • from “100%. I have made pretty much the?enclosure?before, but now I’m just adding LEDs.”
    • to “0%.?Not a one.”
  • What percentage of the physical tools have you used before?
    • from “100%. I have made pretty much this before, but now I’m just wiring it up.”
    • to “0%. Not a one.”
  • What percentage of the software tools have you used before?
    • from “100%. I use them all every day?the same purpose.”
    • to “0%. Not a one.”
  • If there is programming, have you written anything like it before? Used the libraries?
    • from “100%. I use them all every day the same purpose.”
    • to “0%. Not a one.”

Step 4: Are you?ready to roll?

Every item you don’t have on hand is a speed bump. Every piece of?software that needs to be installed is a speed bump. If you care about the project, you’ll push through. If you don’t, this will be time you start playing Two Dots… oh, that is me… ?This group of questions can be thought of as more points into the bank account for everything that is ready to go, or more points out for everything you’d have to figure out how to source.

  • What percentage of the parts/materials will you have to buy/source?
    • from “0%, Nothing. Got them all right here.”
    • to “100%. Everything. And international shipping by boat will be involved. “
  • Of the parts you have to buy, what percentage of the parts/materials have you bought before?
    • from “0% No clue what package, what tolerances, what?specifications will matter to this project at all.
    • to “100% Still got my invoice from the last time I made it and everything worked great.?
  • Do you have the tools on hand? If not, do you know how to get them or get access to them?
    • from “I have NONE of the tools. Not sure even what I’ll need by the end. “
    • to “I have ALL?of the tools, and they all live?easy reaching of my work station.”?
  • If there is software or development environments involved, are they installed and loaded?
    • from “Nothing is installed and I’ve never done an install of the software before.”
    • to “I use it every day, with custom keyboard shortcuts all set up.”

These questions are a starting point. ?No amount of planning can prevent all surprises. In none of the questions do I ask if you have a?cat, and they will meddle with everything. ?Hopefully though, by identifying what you are prepared?to handle, there will be?one less half finished project around the house.

Today I Learned: Gold Embrittlement is a Thing.

A new semester has started at PCC and I am fortunate to have some seriously awesome already professionally employed Electronics Tech’s in my sections. It is so nice to have them. I have come to discover that adjunct teaching in a small (myself + one other adjunct)?department is one of the loneliest things to do, pretty much ever. ?It is a relief to have them, especially in my second section, when I’m tired and my memory and ability to think definitely starts slipping. One of them even caught a could-have-caught-it-with-5-minutes-of-thinking mistake in the PreTest I gave them. ?Doh! (No Carlyn, gold is not more conductive than copper. You knew that).

We talked about soldering yesterday and one of them asked me about if he needed to do anything special to solder to gold (like you have to do to connect copper to aluminum). Honestly, I had no idea. Seemed reasonable that you might.

So this is where I ran into?“gold embrittlement.” ?When Tin- Lead (PbSn) solder is used to connect to pads or leads that have been protected from oxidation with gold, that gold can mix in with the solder, form crystals and make the solder joint prone to fracture. I haven’t experienced that, to my knowledge, so this was pretty fascinating to me.

According to the IPC link embrittlement is the wrong word to use, it is more about the formation of crystalline structures. ?Maybe they are right, because the phrase made Tod (@todbot) think of the gallium invasion of aluminum. ?I wonder if the?phenomena?are related?