Trying something new here on Ye Olde Blogge: animated GIFs are now served as MP4s in a VIDEO tag. That saves a vast of bandwidth since GIF is literally the worst of all possible video formats. Like, 830MB of images drops to 72MB. Twitter and Giphy and whatnot have been doing this for a while now (though Twitter, since they are dicks, make it impossible to download the original unconverted GIF data, even via the API).

It's actually pretty tricky to convert a GIF to an MP4 in the general case, since GIFs have variable frame rate (really, an arbitrary delay after each frame, which can be different for each one), plus they can be transparent, which MP4s cannot be. You'd think that ImageMagick or ffmpeg would just do the right thing on this common task that lots of people want these days, but no, that's crazy talk. I'm converting them using the all-singing all-dancing image-and-video resizer that I wrote,, which uses ImageMagick to extract each frame as a PNG then constructs an incredibly hairy ffmpeg command to put it all back together with the proper frame timing.

(Seriously, it's insane, it looks like this, and this is for just 6 frames: -vf zoompan=d=0+'24*eq(in,0)'+'24*eq(in,1)'+'24*eq(in,2)'+'24*eq(in,3)'+'24*eq(in,4)'+'24*eq(in,5)',scale=600:92)

Then after that, part of my WordPress theme sees IMG tags with GIFs in them and converts those to VIDEO tags. (I had to go through and indicate the old GIFs that are not animations to make that work. Did you know that people used to use GIFs for things that were not animations? I know! So weird!)

People say that you should be able to do

      <SOURCE SRC="xxx.mp4" TYPE="video/mp4" />
      <IMG SRC="xxx.gif">

and that should degrade kind of like <NOSCRIPT> does, using the SOURCE in browsers that understand VIDEO and falling back to the IMG in older browsers... but from watching the network, I could see that Safari was loading the video, and then loading the GIF as well! So that kind of defeats the entire purpose, so I'm omitting the IMG. If your browser doesn't support VIDEO I guess it sucks to be you. That does make it harder to copy images, though, and that's annoying and dumb.

Let me know if you see any problems.

If things are escaping their boxes or otherwise the wrong size, try emptying your cache and shift-reloading. I ticked the cachebuster number on my CSS but browser caches have been an incomprehensible disaster since 1994, so who the hell knows what they are doing.

I've noticed a couple of weird things. In Chrome, I had to add overflow:hidden to ".widget_jwz_previously a". This wasn't necessary in Safari, but in Chrome it also has the effect of clipping off the border on the left and right sides, which sucks.

I've also noticed that sometimes the AUTOPLAY does not autoplay. Or maybe it's that LOOP stops? No idea why that is. It's doing something inexplicable on desktop Safari and something doubly and differently inexplicable on iOS.

Actually I'm finding that "no autoplay" thing super annoying, and if I can't figure out what's going on there I may just go back to GIFs, even though they are more than 10× larger. Sigh.

Update: I think I see what's going on with Safari: if a VIDEO tag is either above or below the fold at the time that you load the page, it will never autoplay, even after it scrolls into view. I can make videos in the comments here and in the "Previously" sidebar either play or not depending on where the scrollbar happened to be when I hit reload. That's fucked up.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

Posted Fri Oct 13 11:58:56 2017 Tags:
"I am Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht."
The interior secretary's special flag offers clues.

At the Interior Department's headquarters in downtown Washington, Secretary Ryan Zinke has revived an arcane military ritual that no one can remember ever happening in the federal government.

A security staffer takes the elevator to the seventh floor, climbs the stairs to the roof and hoists a special secretarial flag whenever Zinke enters the building. When the secretary goes home for the day or travels, the flag -- a blue banner emblazoned with the agency's bison seal flanked by seven white stars representing the Interior bureaus -- comes down.

In Zinke's absence, the ritual is repeated to raise an equally obscure flag for Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

Responding this week to questions from The Washington Post, a spokeswoman for Zinke, a former Navy SEAL commander, defended the Navy flag-flying tradition as "a major sign of transparency." [...]

Zinke, a Stetson-wearing former Montana congressman who has cultivated an image as a rugged outdoorsman, has come under a harsh spotlight in recent weeks for behavior criticized as extravagant for a public official. The agency's inspector general opened an investigation after he ran up bills for travel on chartered jets and mixed business with political appearances, sometimes accompanied by his wife, Lola. It's one of five probes underway of Cabinet secretaries' travel. [...]

Zinke rode to work on horseback on his first day in office and displays animal heads on his wood-paneled office walls. For a while, he kept a glass-case display of hunting knives but was asked to remove them because of security risks, according to people familiar with the decision.

He has commissioned commemorative coins with his name on them to give to staff and visitors, but the cost to taxpayers is unclear. Zinke's predecessors and some other Cabinet secretaries have coins bearing agency seals, but not personalized ones.

The flag ritual is unique in President Trump's administration. The White House does not raise the presidential flag when Trump alights at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. There is no Defense secretary's flag atop the Pentagon.


Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Posted Fri Oct 13 08:49:43 2017 Tags:

, literacy, and democracy. Via Mary Meeker at Presumably subject to some pretty fuzzy definitions ("democracy"), but I think it's fairly honest.

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, if you have highly motivated, engaged, efficient people with not too many deadlines, you don't have to solve this explicitly: just let people do what they think is "important" and it'll work out. In small companies, probably like early-day Google, this informal system works out great. Once you have formal systems, you have incentives, and once you have incentives, you have to have high-level people (who are further from the actual problems being solved) make decisions about what to incent and disincent. Unsurprisingly, those decisions end up being mostly about "strategic direction" and not about day-to-day manageability, because executives don't have to do any day-to-day management. Instead, they just see the technical debt slowly build up and the teams slow down, but nobody can quite tell how it happened.

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, but it's pretty great. As usual he comes across as a bit unrealistic about what's possible in the short term, but he still tells a pretty compelling story. I especially like the idea of underground car tunnels vs flying cars. ("I sure hope the people up there have kept up with their hubcap maintenance" was a pretty funny understatement.)

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

I've been thinking a lot about "overnight success" lately. Check out how long it's been taking for Tesla to achieve theirs! [Data collected by combining various public data sources. I might have screwed it up, but I think I'm mostly right.]

Of interest:

  • Wow, they really didn't sell very many Roadsters.

  • Recent increase in units/employee, probably due to better factory automation

  • Miles driven since the last (reported) autopilot fatality is more than 2x as many as before; they're either getting luckier or the software is getting better.

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

. Well that's not what I expected."

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, such as "What is this?" when the meeting invite has no detailed description :)

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

keep posting about. But my deep dark secret is... I mostly got it from reading books in the first place.

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, around the time GFiber started (2011-2012) to last year. The right strategy for an ISP certainly does change over time. (From Mary Meeker at It's filled with awesome.)

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, I measure time in units of Bachelor's degrees. For most impressive results, I simultaneously measure life experience in units of Bachelor's degrees.

Happy 1.5 billion seconds, everyone :)

Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

, Apple frittered away its dominance of the music industry. Perhaps this is old news to everyone but me, but the story is something like this:

  • "Nobody" wants to buy music anymore. It's all streaming.

  • In case you do download music, everyone long ago gave up on DRM and switched to watermarking. So you can carry your music away from whatever store you downloaded it from (including iTunes) and even switch platforms easily.

  • Even Apple wants you to switch to streaming: Apple Music. Perhaps because streaming is still DRMed.

  • Streaming apps (at least some of them) now work great with "offline mode." You can just pick entire albums and mark them offline, which downloads them to local storage, straight from the Internet.

  • That means you don't need iTunes to load music on your iPhone anymore.

  • Because you already bought a monthly subscription to the streaming service, you aren't making an "in-app purchase" when you do this, thus you bypass Apple's 30% cash grab on in-app purchases.

  • Most streaming apps are cross-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac) so there is no vendor lock-in. And they store all your settings in the cloud, so you can switch devices seamlessly. (Incidentally there's not much vendor lock-in to particular streaming services either. With a few exceptions, they all basically have all the music.)

  • Spotify has ~2x as many users as Apple Music.

  • Tidal is smaller than Apple Music, but has better sound quality.

Goodness, how quickly things change. It wasn't so long ago that Apple was shutting down devices which tried to fake their way into auto-syncing music from iTunes. I wonder if they're actually worried about all this, or just don't care that much about the music market at this point. (It looks like the whole business is about $4B/year[1], and most of that presumably goes to the record companies. Not sure if that's US-only though.)

They still have the power to make things miserable for all these other music services, but they're not using that power.


Posted Fri Oct 13 03:44:40 2017 Tags:

The US Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers are running ads presenting "ordinary people" advocating tax cuts for the rich.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

People in Puerto Rico are getting sick from bacteria and molds that are spreading. FEMA is offering people forms to fill out, instead of food and water.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

The US lost employment due to the recent hurricanes. This is a taste of what global heating will do in the future.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Teenagers have an additional reason to become activists: it helps them get good jobs.

That's in addition to the contribution to the world of the activism itself.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

The UK has made a habit of jailing refugees who were tortured, unless they were tortured officially by a state.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

The real purpose of US military spending is mainly not military.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

US citizens: tell Congress not to cut medical care to pay for tax cuts for corporations.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

US citizens: call on Congress to reject tax cuts for business; increase their taxes instead.

Posted Fri Oct 13 00:00:00 2017 Tags:

Planet Debian upstream is hosted by Branchable.