The Adventures of the Flickr Panda

Flickr has spent the last day offline, moving the rest of their services out of Yahoo’s datacenters. But to keep people involved, they’re holding a Good Panda Photo Contest where you print out the panda from the “Down For Maintenance” page and take a photo of it off having some adventure.

I went a little overboard with getting the panda into whimsical situations! 🙂

I plan on posting the one with the coffee mug as my entry once uploads are working again, but I may post a full album of the panda’s adventures!

No, those aren’t brush strokes. It’s just digital zoom.

After several days not being able to see any of the birds I could hear when I went for a walk on break from work, I saw a whole bunch of them hanging out on a lawn, eating seeds or bugs or whatever it is that these particular birds eat. Of course since I’d been walking to lunch, the only camera I had with me was my phone. No optical zoom, and I couldn’t get too close without spooking them. I figured what the heck, I’d give it a shot (or several) with the phone and see if I got something clear enough to post to iNaturalist.

I didn’t, as you can see, but it’s a great example of something I’ve found fascinating about digital zoom: The way it can make a photo look like it’s been painted with brush strokes rather than captured with pixels.

Personally, I’ve never understood why digital zoom is implemented as a resize instead of just cropping to a lower resolution. Even back when the full resolution on cameras was low, I’d rather have a clear 640×480 image than a blurry 1280×960. The only reason I even enabled digital zoom on an actual camera (rather than just cropping it later on my computer) was because it made a difference to the auto-focus, exposure, etc. choices the camera would make.

I suppose it’s marketing: They promised you however many megapixels, after all!

Yes, Adults Have Food Allergies Too — More Than Previously Thought

Discussion of food allergies tends to focus on children (for a lot of reasons), but a recent study found a much higher rate of food allergies among adults than expected. They found that 10.8 percent of American adults – that extrapolates to 26 million people! — reported a convincing food allergy (based on actual symptoms reported – another 9% reported allergies, but their symptoms didn’t match the diagnosis – presumably at least some of the rest are genuine intolerances). That’s actually higher than the rate among children found by another recent study, which came up with 7.6%.

Now, my first thought on reading this was: Of course! Kids with food allergies who were counted 10, 20, 30 years ago have grown up, and we’re adults now! But it’s more than that: There’s a lot more adult-onset allergies than anyone expected to find.

The JAMA article goes into the numbers. Of those who had a convincing allergy:

  • 48% developed at least one allergy as an adult
  • 26.9% developed allergies only as an adult.
  • 53.8% developed allergies only before turning 18

More than a quarter of adults with food allergies didn’t have them as children. That’s a surprise! And it raises questions: Is there a different mechanism that triggers childhood-onset allergies vs. adult-onset? (Other than tick bites, of course.) What about those of us who had allergies already and added more? Is there some sort of saturation threshold?

There are still a lot of unknowns about food allergies. But we do know that they can be deadly serious, and they affect a lot of people.

Mobile Firefox Frustrations

I’ve been using Firefox for Android as my main mobile browser for a few weeks now. There are a lot of things I like about it. It works well overall. Unlike Chrome, it supports extensions, so I can install (for instance) Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. The share menu option includes the two most recent apps instead of just one. Things like that.

But there are a few things that I find incredibly frustrating:

  • PWAs aren’t as stable as Chrome.
  • Auto-fill is inconsistent and interacts badly with scrolling.
  • It’s slower than Chrome, though I’ve found that turning off web fonts helps a lot.
  • Private mode UI differs only by the color of the search bar, so whenever I use it, I have to double-check whether I’m actually in private mode or not.

Plus I miss a few Chrome UI features that just streamline common actions:

  • When clicking on the search bar, if you have a URL in the clipboard, Chrome offers to load that URL. (This is particularly helpful for opening email links in private mode.)
  • Auto-fill an entire address form at once
  • Clear the last X minutes of history

On the PWA front: These are packaged web applications that can be “installed” locally and used offline, powered by whichever web browser you used to install them. When I switched browsers, I also reinstalled the PWAs I was using on my phone and tablet, switching them from Chrome-powered to Firefox-powered. These amount to a couple of Mastodon instances and Twitter. (I don’t want to install the full Twitter app on my phone so I’ll be less tempted to get caught in infinite scroll.)

On Firefox, Mastodon’s PWA frequently logs me out. Every other day at least. Sometimes it stops being able to load any new statuses, and I have to close the app entirely and re-open it to get back to normal. (Fortunately that’s fast.) Twitter…well, it worked for a couple of days, then it got into a redirect loop where it kept switching between the regular UI and the login screen. I considered reinstalling it through Chrome, but finally decided I was better off without Twitter on my phone anyway.

Despite these issues, I’m going to stick with mobile Firefox for now. We’re entering another period of near-monopoly in web browser engines, and it’s important to keep a viable alternative going to ensure that the future of the web isn’t built on a single stakeholder’s goals.

Taking the Safety Off

Purism’s explanations for removing various safety features from Librem One’s social network sound like someone explaining why they removed the mirrors, brakes, horns, seat belts, airbags and signals from the cars they’re reselling, because they know those cars are only ever going to be driven on a track where they’ll never have to change lanes or negotiate with other drivers.

Even though there’s a bunch of driveways on that track, connecting to the public road system.

If a collision does happen, we can call in the tow trucks and ambulances. But giving drivers tools to avoid collisions or reduce injuries? That would be interfering with their freedom!