Hi. I’m Duncan Davidson.

I’m an American software developer living in Berlin, Germany. During the day, I work as Technology Advisor at Microsoft for Startups. After hours, I’m a photographer and author. All opinions here are mine.

You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Thursday’s reading

🌮 I’m up to 16 hours of intermittent fasting as of today. I’m not going to lie, the last hour this morning before I broke fast was really tough. Also tough: making the kiddo breakfast and not munching any of it myself. Argh.

🦠 Since the coronavirus crisis started, the Microsoft AI for Health team has been doing a lot of work to help understand its impact. The data has been really useful for internal planning, and I’m really glad to see it published as a set of interactive visualizations to understand our progress against COVID-19.

🌡 Just because there are other things occupying our minds doesn’t mean the climate crisis is going away. June was the second warmest on record here in Europe. We’ll see what July brings as it’s been cool here in Berlin so far this month.

🛫 It’s kind of a crazy idea to use direct air capture of carbon dioxide to make jet fuel, but it’s kind of a beautiful one as well. Net-zero air travel with current aviation hardware would be amazing.

🎲 Randomness has always been something that computers have a hard time with, but Venkat Mansinghka’s group at MIT is going to present a new algorithm called Fast Loaded Dice Roller (FLDR) that may be able to free us from too much determinism and make for better simulations.

👋 Ok, back to work for me. Catch ya later.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monday

🧀 After a few days test driving intermittent fasting at the 14 hour a day level, which isn’t really too much at all to deal with, I’m going to ramp it up this week to 16 hours — leaving an 8 hour a day window to eat. The hardest part for me so far is to control the urge to stuff my face with all sorts of sweets and junk food during the eating window.

😷 Berlin’s transit operator BVG is launching a campaign to encourage people to wear their masks correctly over their nose by asking people to skip the deodorant. Hilarious!

⏰ That feeling where every moment seems to drag, yet the weeks are flying by? Caspar Addyman calls this Quarantime, where being in the same environment everyday means that there aren’t as many new distinct memories being made. This makes time both drag in the short term and almost disappear in the medium term. (Via @katy_milkman)

🤬 We’re really going to have to work on how we think of people who make significant contributions to society, and yet who are still horrible people. One example is Nobel Prize winner William B. Shockley who helped invent the transistor and whose semiconductor laboratory launched Silicon Valley. Yet, Shockley was also a white supremacist and eugenics proponent.

🚙 Speaking of people with complexities, I really really really want my next car to be 100% electric, but I’m hesitant to buy a Tesla. From a fitness perspective, the Model 3 pretty much sets the bar. And, I’m very grateful that Telsa has pushed the industry and state of the art so far. However, I’m really conflicted on supporting Elon Musk in the process. I might have to look more at the Volkswagen ID.3 when it (hopefully) arrives later this year.

☠️ Of course, Volkswagen has Hitler and the Nazi’s to thank for its existence. So, there’s that.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Weekend tidbits and links

🌟It was a lazy weekend in Berlin for Team Davidson. No fireworks, but there was a food truck in the neighborhood selling great spare ribs and burgers.

🍎 What will we see in future Apple Silicon-based devices? Jason Snell speculates on the changes that might be coming to the Mac. Touchscreens are table stakes, in my opinion, as is FaceID for authentication. I’m really interested in seeing what happens.

📦 The recently announced ability to use Azure as a development context for local Docker container development is cool, and is now available with the latest Docker Desktop Edge. This should be a great way to collaborate, test, and, in a pinch, deploy.

🛍 Despite a write-off of almost a half a billion dollars, Om argues that Microsoft had to close its retail stores. The reason? Microsoft is doubling down on its core strength of being a developer and enterprise focused company and is removing distractions.

👨‍🏫 Giving presentations online is a different proposition than doing them in person. Venkat Subramaniam shares his observations about how to be effective online.

🦠 Work continues to establish where the COVID-19 virus came from, and the path may lead to an abandoned mine 1000 miles away from Wuhan. Meanwhile, evidence mounts that the virus lingers in air indoors. I can’t help but think of all the air conditioned spaces where I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma.

🧲 In nicer science news, magnetic fields are amazing. Full stop. They might also answer why the universe is expanding faster than our current understanding of its component ingredients would predict. If, that is, observations of faint magnetic fields a millionth of a trillionth as strong as a fridge magnet’s are a clue.

👋 Have a good week ahead.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Quiet Friday

🤫 It’s a quiet Friday workday for me here in Europe thanks to the fact that all of my colleagues in the States are off on vacation today. One of the things about expat life that continues to be strange is that the pace of vacation days is different. Of course, vacation days this year are stranger still.

🛫 Evidently going a bit stir-crazy from not flying long-haul over the ocean anymore, some of my colleagues in Australia are considering taking one of the Quantus 747 farewell flights this month.

🔐 One of the Internet’s gems is Have I Been Pwned, and I really enjoyed reading TechCrunch’s interview with Troy Hunt about it. And yes, I’m both a subscriber to the service as well as an occasional donator.

🕸 I spent some time today consolidating Azure CDN rules and ZeroSSL certificates for this site, finally getting everything for my website settled fully into Azure. Who am I kidding, nothing is ever truly settled with a website. But it’s good, hands-on practice with the tools that I’m helping startups out with.

🍻 Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Thursday’s tidbits

🍔 After hearing for years about it from friends, and after a recent recommendation from my cardiologist, I’m starting giving intermittent fasting a try this week. And of course, what was one of the the primary topics of conversation on a work social hour call right at the end of a fast period? Food.

📲 Of course, the first thing you need when doing something you need to do as a habit is look for an app. There are a lot of apps out there, however. So far, I’ve tried Zero and Simple. Any others I should try?

😷 How bad is the pandemic where you live? I really like the COVID-19 risk levels dashboard from the Harvard Global Health Institute for coverage across the United States. It uses a zone based system that categorizes regions into one of four color coded risk levels. NPR has a lovely write up explaining it in more detail.

💉 The NYTimes Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker gives an update on global progress to the one thing that will let us return to normal in the shortest amount of time: a vaccine.

👨‍🏫 I’m excited about the Microsoft announcements this week about skilling for the future in response to the economic hit of the COVID-19 lockdown and the greatest rise in unemployment since the Great Depression. I do wish that governments were taking the need to address training as seriously.

⛽️ Kudos to Basecamp for publishing the results of their first carbon foot printing exercise and to their commitment to becoming carbon negative. Every company joining this movement matters.

👋 Stay safe out there. Wear your masks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesday’s musings

👩‍🏫 Is it safe to send the kids back to school? That’s a question that Katerina and I have been grappling with ever since our son’s kita opened back up again here in Germany. It’s a very delicate balance between the risks of COVID-19, mental health, and the amazing things our son learns every day when he’s at school.

🥱 On the other hand, my son and I had a long conversation about why he’s absolutely bored at school while we were on our way there this morning. He’d be happy playing video games all day, instead.

🌥 Basecamp’s Hey is running ~90% of their compute on spot instances via Kubernetes pods, including the entire front-end stack and the bulk of their async background jobs. Very cool.

⛈ May 12th was a bad day at Slack. Laura Nolan has written up the story of how a failure in updating the state in Slack’s HAProxy layer led to progressive deterioration of the service.

🎍Growing trees to sequester carbon is a good idea. Replace trees with bamboo that you can harvest repeatidly, and you get a pretty great idea: the ability to continually grow material for to make engineered construction material for buildings that has the potential to have a sizable impact on our carbon footprint. A great listen from Asim’s Climate Fix podcast talking to Rizome.

🍎 Even though recipients of Apple’s new Developer Transition Kit machines aren’t supposed to talk about their performance, DTK performance test scores are starting to show up. Very little credence should be given to these as applies to the machines that will come as it’s an iPad based CPU in them, but the results look pretty good considering.

💣 Unlike most of the past twenty years, I haven’t immediately installed macOS 11 or iOS 14 on any of my devices. Yet. I’m sure the time will come sooner or later where I’ll bring them up on a test device.

👋 Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Back to work

🌳 My family and I spent the last four days out in the German countryside. Getting a change of pace was so very nice after spending months at home in Berlin, and lovely to spend time social distancing in a place where it’s so easy to have space. Unfortunately, I had a head cold during the first few days, but being in nature certainly helped.

😷 N95 masks aren’t just strainers. In fact, N95 masks leverage some interesting physics to ensure that they can filter out particles smaller than the fibers they are made of. (via @dimsumthinking’s daughter Maggie)

☢️ Sensors in Sweden have detected a rise of isotopes produced by nuclear fission reactions. Cs-134, Cs-137 & Ru-103, to be exact, which indicate active fission reactions. I sure hope we’re not getting an early warning of the next crisis to hit humanity in 2020.

💸 Tim O’Reilly thinks that venture capital is starting to do more harm than good and is no longer as focused on finding small companies that might one day change the world. I agree a zillion percent. One of my pet peeves at the day job is that we use VC terms like “seed” and “series-A” too much when we’d be much better off talking about startup phases in terms of where their product development is.

🕵️‍♀️ If you embed videos, like I do sometimes, Dries Buytaert shares a tip that serves YouTube videos without Google’s tracking cookies. I’ve updated my embeds to use the GDPR compliant youtube-nocookie.com server. (Via Gruber)

Friday, June 26, 2020

It's Friday, again

🤣 The weeks keep speeding by. Every Friday, Katerina and I look at each other and ask “Wasn’t it just Friday a day or two ago?” If we keep this up, it’ll be 2021 before we know it. Hopefully, we’re on fast forward to a better world.

🦠 The New York Times interactive of the spread of COVID-19 is sobering, including this: Up to 22,000 deaths in New York City could have been prevented if social distancing had been started a week earlier.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 10 to 20 percent of infected people may drive 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases. I don’t know about you, but even though I don’t want to be a hermit, I’m planning on skipping in-person conferences and events until there’s a widely deployed vaccine.

⛅ It’s amazing how much the cloud providers have built out so far during the pandemic. Azure added 110 terabits of bandwidth to its fiber optic network in two months. I’m looking forward to seeing even more data like this from all the cloud providers.

🤖 Turning the focus away from the pandemic, I was excited to see that Github’s Dependabot now performs version updates, keeping dependencies managed by several popular packages managers nicely up to date. All you need to do is set up a .github/dependabot.yml file in your repository (see docs) and the system takes care of the rest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Middle of the week reads

🛫 As an American living in Europe who hasn’t been home and hasn’t had family visit since last December, the news that the E.U. may bar Americans as it reopens borders hits hard. Logically, I expected that. Emotionally, however, it still has impact.

🕵️‍♀️ A new feature in iOS 14 reports when apps open your pasteboard. As a result, we’ll all be able to see how many apps take a look at the last copied item, when they don’t really need to. I assume that the various social/adware SDKs in many apps are using this to make a hash key that can be used to track your movement across apps. Tricky.

🦾 Steven Sinofsky tweeted up a thread on Apple’s remarkable product engineering over time using a fearless multi-year strategy with clear and unified planning and execution. Someday, I’d love to see the heavily guarded room that has the whiteboards where they plan these things over years and then adjust over time.

🃏 Playing blackjack is like building a startup, says the new General Manager of Microsoft for Startups (i.e., my new boss). I still haven’t met Jeff face-to-face, and don’t expect to for a while to come, but I’ve already learned a few things from him and look forward to where he leads the group.

👩🏿‍💻 Steps Microsoft is taking to address racial injustice, including using the balance sheet to increase the spending with black-owned suppliers and requiring top 100 suppliers to disclosure of diversity profile information. I’m glad to see my employer doing this. #BlackLivesMatter

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

It goes to 11

🍎 It’s official. Apple is switching Macs to it’s own silicon, starting this year. The way they’re doing it makes total sense based on their previous transitions. And stuffing an iPad CPU inside a Mac mini case as a hardware prototype for developers to use before final hardware ships is a pretty cool trick. It doesn’t let anything out of the bag on what Apple is planning for hardware, but gets the job done. Barring accidents, the Macs I have now will be the last I own with Intel chips.

💪 If I get a Surface Pro X, or a future version of it, for my day-job work, there’s a chance all of my day-to-day devices could be ARM-based. That’s a really interesting future to consider. And yet, Intel stock price is up today.

❌ The new version of Apple’s desktop OS is dropping the X and going to be called macOS 11. The X has been around for two decades, and while I’m not sad to go, it deserves a moment of nostalgia.

📧 Hey and Apple found a temporary truce just before WWDC kicked off. It’s nice to have some resolution, even if it’s temporary, and not have this hanging over the week. I have a feeling that this won’t be the last we’ll see of this particular negotation in public. And I, for one, hope that the results lead to a better outcome for all developers.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Microsoft Teams is starting to go personal. The ability to log into Teams using a personal account in addition to an organization account will be rolling out across Android and iOS versions of the app.

🧑🏿 The Information reports that only 2.7% of top roles in big tech are held by black executives. White execs, along with the rest of us white folks, in those companies have a lot of work to do on implicit biases.