I don’t usually like making bold statements. As a matter of fact, neither should you, for you might change your mind one day. But here is one: astrophotography will stretch the limits of your patience.
Personally, I’ve always thought patience was one of my strongest assets. That still holds true, but I had underestimated the sheer quantity of such a feature I needed, in order to partake the joys of astrophotography.
My adventure with this subtle union of science, technique and art has not lasted two months yet; you might say it hasn’t lasted 3 days yet, though, because that is the number of times enough light from outer space has managed to pierce the thick coat of clouds that seems to perpetually cover this country, enveloping its lands in arctic temperatures.
Countless things have gone wrong in these hours. Some of them are to be attributed to my lack of experience, and have been superseded by my learning how to cope with them, how to anticipate them, and how to let flawless technique prevail the unexpected. Some others, sadly, are due to factors well outside my sphere of influence.
Perhaps the tone of frustration you read between the lines is due to the sad state of the software industry. Let me elaborate. I have been creating software for the most part of my life: a good two thirds of it. That has effected the development of my brain in a way that I’m not even going to attempt and explain, because, as much as I don’t like to say so, you wouldn’t understand. I see the world with different eyes than most people: I see physical things, mechanical things, as obstacles. I see the very substance of concrete things as a design flaw, something that makes everything awkward and needlessly complicated. I see that every day, every moment, in everything I do with my hands. And I’m not that bad with them.
Software, on the other end, exists purely in my mind. It’s a magical world where everything can happen. Where everything eventually will. Where I’m not bound by the silly laws of physics. And the undeniable fact that the whole software industry is nothing but an utter failure, saddens me deeply.
I hear your gulp. I see your outraged face. The entire software industry? An utter failure? They sound like words a bitter old man would speak. I get it, we have wonderful things. Software has made our world so much different. So much better. But in a day and age such as ours, why would programs ever need to crash? Why would they ever need to be unresponsive? Why would they ever behave unreliably? Why would everything revolving around the world of software and technology seem like a massive plot to frustrate the hell out of innocent people who just want to get things done?
The software I write is buggy too, let’s be clear about it. My coworkers know. And I know very well that writing software is hard. How would you explain, to a person who is completely ignorant of the matters of software, that a typical software product runs a cycle of tens of thousands of bugs before it’s considered releasable?
Managers, as of late, speak of bugs calling them errors. Is a bug really an error, a mistake attributable to incompetence? Will we ever live in a bug-free world? I guess this is utopia.
So, back on the topic of astrophotography, I had actually hardware problems last night. Namely, my five-meter USB extension cords seem to fail when it’s cold. Last night, at -13°C, both my cameras failed to talk to the computer. Of all the things that can go wrong. I resorted to wiring a second computer closer to the telescopes, to avoid using extension cords, just in time to be warmly greeted by the familiar thick coat of clouds. How are you doing? - they said, we missed you. I looked at them and could see that they were troll-faced.
When frustration builds up, little things can be enormously annoying. Like the login screen on this Ubuntu laptop I’m using right now: if you input the wrong password, it will be stuck on Checking password… for something like five minutes. Do you know how long five minutes are when you’re in a hurry because clouds are marching in, because you’re sick of putting shoes on, jacket on, coat on, hat on, gloves on, and then going back inside taking shoes off, jacket off, coat off, hat off, gloves off, and because you just want to get things done but what seems to be a perennial series of minor issues keeps getting in your way?
Luckily, it looks like this extension cords issue is now solved by putting a powered USB hub at the computer’s end. So I got up in the morning and the moon was shining through the morning light. I wanted to try the USB hub idea, so I said to myself: let’s take a picture of the moon..
In a way or in another, something came out. Perhaps not good, but a beginning. The seed of a hope. Something that says don’t give up, it might be hard and a million things can go wrong, but you just have to sort them all out.