Nicholas Whittaker

Static embeds for tweets and videos

2021-03-11 // #site

Tweets and videos embedded in this site are now static, displayed using my own custom HTML/CSS! Previously I used the templates provided by Hugo, but I had a few motivations for going with own approach.

  • Remove third-party iframes and scripts from my website
  • Load content lazily, and without causing page reflow
  • Generate embeds at build time, rather when clients load a page

Embeds from Vimeo and YouTube are pretty basic, with a thumbnail linking to the respective sites. While you can’t actually watch videos on my site, but in return mobile clients can now use their native app for viewing. I think this is more desirable.

Tweets are bit more interesting. They aren’t just plain text, and they can include images and video. The design and approach I use is based on work by Jane Manchun Wong in her own site.

I still have a little more work to do before I’m completely satisfied with these static embeds, and then I’ll write more about how they work. For example, I still hotlink to media files like images and video. Fixing that is work for another day though.

Phones on silent while recording, please!

2021-03-02 // #music

I stumbled upon a annotated release of the soundtrack to the video game Journey. The game was a favourite of mine when I was younger, and I still regularly listen to the soundtrack out of nostalgia.

My favourite song, The Road of Trials, scores a particularly iconic moment of the game as the player character surfs through a valley of sand. However, the most iconic moment to my ear is a note attack from the flute that’s near-indistinguishable from the “email received” notification sound of Apple devices.

So when reading composer Austin Wintory notes about writing and recording this soundtrack, I was surprised to see the musical moment mentioned around 25 seconds into the song.

No, that was not your iMail sound! Apparently, a flute playing F# is very similar, but being an Android user I never noticed! We caught it during the mix and removed it from the game. It remained on the album… perhaps a mistake ;)

So there you have it, a tidbit of musical trivia for your day!

You can also listen to a direct comparison of the two sound bites from Journey’s music editor, Ted Kocher. You can also buy a complete copy of the soundtrack from Austin’s Bandcamp shop.

The phoenix rises

2021-01-19

After recent issues with my laptop, I’ve had to take it in for repair. As an exercise in disaster recovery, I thought it would be good idea to treat the laptop as a write-off when handing it over.

I’ll save the preparation and repair store stories for another day, but the key thing is that I’m starting from a clean slate with this laptop now. Physically, it’s identical to how it was before. I’m running macOS Big Sur now (previously Catalina) with a fresh hard drive.

Previously I called this laptop “Eupho”, in line with my practice of naming my devices after brass instruments. This is a new device in the body of an old one though, so what do I call it now? This time around, I’m going with “Phoenix”, the firebird that dies to be reborn anew.

Hello from Phoenix!

My background is a piece of Rain World artwork from Del Northern!

Screenshot from an Apple computer desktop with a music player, the background depicts a small white creature gazing across a decaying neon pink and blue cityscape at pink lizard atop a tall building

My 2020 dumpster fire

2021-01-08

As a wrap to 2020, the team at Basecamp ran a campaign called Dumpster Fire. The premise was simple: Send an email, and watch a contraption print it and feed it into a fire. It was open to anyone, so I joined in to farewell the year as it passed.

So how does one encapsulate the feelings of 2020? I chose a lyrics from The Rhythm Changes by Kamasi Washington, written and sung by Patrice Quinn. Along with my own snippet, of course.

Our minds, our bodies, our feelings
They change, they alter, they leave us
Somehow, no matter what happens, I’m here

2020 departs, 2021 arrives, and here I am throughout it all

Surprisingly sending the email itself took several attempts, as spam filters caught my personal email. I resorted to using my Google account to make sure it went through. A week later, I was greeted with a video of my email going up in flames.

A sheet of paper of is fed out of a printer onto a conveyor belt, which leads to a flaming garbage dumpster labelled 2020

Along with the livestream of my email burning, the team at Basecamp were kind enough to capture it in a 30 second clip. In a fitting turn of events, my printed email got stuck on the conveyor belt and avoided burning to a crisp.

You can also read about the making of this experiment on the Basecamp blog.

My Favourite Albums From 2020

2021-01-01 // #music

A collage of ten assorted album covers

For me, 2020 was a very quiet year. I spent a lot of time at home, and wasn’t out much aside from when I needed to be out. During that time, I found myself drawn to music listening as an escape.

As a way to farewell the year, I thought I’d highlight some of my favourite albums that have come out in the past twelve months.

You can find links to each album on Bandcamp for easy purchase and streaming. Most of these artists are also on Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube if any of those are your preferred choice.

So now in no particular order, here are my favourite music albums from 2020!

You can read this full post online on my blog. (9 min read)

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