Remuxing old FLVs to MP4, without re-encoding!

I’d routinely download YouTube videos for playback on my FreeBSD tower back in the late 2000s. Playing in the browser required Flash, and I didn’t want to run the Linux compat libraries just to play video. I fear we’re treading down the same path with DRM now officially part of the HTML specifications, but that’s for another post.

Today I stumbled across stacks of these FLV videos in my backups, some from channels long since past. I contemplated converting them to MP4 before putting them onto Plex, and so I could get previews in file managers:

$ ffmpeg -i "video.flv" "video.mp4"

But this log output caught my eye:

Stream #0:0: Video: h264 (Main) ...    
Stream #0:1: Audio: aac (LC) ...
  httphostheader  :
  encoder         : Lavf58.29.100

Sure enough, many of these videos already had MP4/H264 video and MP4/AAC audio; they were just in an FLV container. So it was just a matter of recontainerising/remuxing them by using ffmpeg’s codec copy feature:

$ ffmpeg -i "video.flv" -c copy "video.mp4"

A loop of a hundred videos took my HP MicroServer less than 20 seconds.

Not all of these videos could be processed this way; I saw a combination of fl1 and vp6f codecs reported in the video streams. Still, it was an fun exercise in nostalgia.

Stream #0:0: Data: none
Stream #0:1: Audio: mp3 ...
Stream #0:2: Video: vp6f ...
  metadatacreator : Manitu Group FLV MetaData Injector 2

That’s You, to the power of Us

Photo of glass doors, with Knock Down the Walls written across them

An Australian university has been putting these ads on video streaming services:

It’s a human equation.
That puts you at the heart of everything we do.
It means knocking down the walls that limit us.
That’s You, to the power of Us.

Unfortunately that paradigm-shifting, synergistic dynamic doesn’t extend beyond their marketing department’s expansive cliché unit. Such is their penchant for manufacturing fluff, they’ve succumbed to knocking down their own walls to generate sufficient storage capacity. Why they couldn’t merely condense or compress the fluff is perhaps a question best suited to their physics department.

I long for honest messages with substance, even in advertising. Probably I’m still too naïve, Professor Bayes.

RSS is more than plumbing

Last year I wrote about how Twitter threads were the latest symptom of a web so desperate to silo thought into a few ephemeral sites that only see you as a slab of attention to sell. I’ve used Twitter for a decade and a half, but any serious thoughts go onto sites I control, and are linked to instead.

Discussions around RSS are another way I’ve seen this play out. We’ve had to click past plenty of stories predicting the death of the syndication format ever since Google Reader closed, presumably given the dominance of the service and the fact people only associated RSS with Google Reader. It reminds me of how Internet Explorer became dominant when Microsoft labelled early versions of it in Windows 95 as The Internet; and we all know how well that turned out for the web.

But I’ve been especially dismayed at how weak and uninspired the defence of RSS has become. The web likes a good Gotcha! or Turns Out story, and the narrative around RSS now is that it’s still ubiquitous in the form of web plumbing you don’t see. “You might not use RSS or care about it anymore, but it does this ancillary task, so it’s still important!”

RSS was important for so much more than that. Yes it was a technical specification for transmitting and parsing information, and it’s still used in that capacity today, albeit depressingly as a funnel to just a few social media sites. But it was also the practical implementation of a bigger idea: that anyone could publish information and have it shared and aggregated by any service that could read it. It was one of the great equalisers, along with being able to host your own web server.

I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with what the modern web has become, from tracking to overengineered frameworks and poor design. But this wholesale sweeping aside of one of the web’s best ideas has been equally destructive. I’d say it’s being done intentionally I were more conspiratorially-minded: the best way to prevent change is to tell people something isn’t possible.

eBay Saved Search emails ignore geography

eBay’s saved search emails are almost—though not entirely—useless. Saved Search emails ignore any geographic parameters you defined in the initial search, filling your inbox with regular, irrelevant junk. Just like my RSS feed! :)

This is a problem for a few reasons:

  • Shipping costs aren’t worth it half the time if you’re in a geographically-remote place like Australia. Worse, in our current global situation it could add months to shipping times, and I don’t want to burden overseas sellers with uncertainty about whether I’ve received their stuff.

  • Some results explicitly say they don’t ship to where you live. So what was the point of showing them to us!?

  • North American voltages are incompatible in Australia for a range of Hi-Fi gear and electronics.

And then there’s the sense of excitement turned to frustration at seeing something you’ve been waiting for years to appear, only to be inaccessible, incompatible, or just flat-out wrong.

Until eBay decides that a Saved Search is a Saved Search with all the parameters we defined, I’ve set some email filters to delete any eBay email that doesn’t include AU or NZ in the body. It means these searches now have to exist in two places and be updated concurrently, but it’s a start.

eBay, please fix your Saved Search emails!

NetWare IPX/SFX slides

I’ve started including silly, pointless easter eggs in webinars and conference calls. Without having the visual and social cues from live events, I’ve found them a fun way to engage and get immediate feedback. I’ve done it a few times now and thus far I haven’t been called out for it… cough.

Today we were talking about network security, so I named one of the demo networks IPX/SFX. I searched Wikimedia Commons for a graphic to go with it and found this by someone with the username Diaper via Flickr:

Picture of NetWare boxes in the rubbish.

Someone had strong opinions!

IoT, and Hypponen’s law

Security researcher and gentleman Mikko Hyppönen tweeted this in 2016:

Hypponen’s law: Whenever an appliance is described as being “smart”, it’s vulnerable.

My favourite response was from @naranek:

It’s probably time to start calling “dumb” appliances “safe” instead. Would you want a smart fridge or a safe fridge?

It also reminds me of Geroge Neville-Neil’s comment at AsiaBSDCon 2018:

The S in IoT stands for security

Conflating implementation with intent

I’ve been seeing a resurgence in this line of reasoning lately:

  1. A need is identified
  2. A flawed implementation is developed
  3. Anyone questioning (2) is accused of dismissing (1)

I’d say this isn’t so much shifting the goalposts as much as a deliberate case of misdirection. Once you identify it, it’s impossible not to see it absolutely everywhere, from political press conferences to social media and journalism.

Take the various COVID-tracking applications being released around the world. There’s a legitimate case to be made for their necessity, and their advocates are—arguably—coming from a place of good faith. That doesn’t excuse the serious privacy and functional issues with the current software which render them entirely ineffective at delivering on their stated goals. Pointing these out is not a judgement on their necessity.

State-based Internet filtering, encrypted communication backdoors, Keurig coffee pods, there are so many examples of this.

We can’t live in good intentions, as Ned Flanders opined on The Simpsons. Nor can they be used as a shield to excuse broken tech. Like when I say this is the greatest blog of all time, it’s fundamentally dishonest.

Ministers not wanting the COVID tracking app

An Australian politician in the ruling coalition have said he won’t be installing the COVID tracking application, because he treasures his privacy from the Government.

Social media and the press have been making jokes about his sudden interest in privacy, given he’s on TV seemingly every day espousing his views. At least, when he’s not advocating to “protect” the sanctity of marriage from homosexuals while having children with his mistress, then having a public and unnecessary TV special describing the lurid details that fortunately didn’t include pears.

Barbaby Joyce with some pears.

I understand it’s tragically hilarious and makes for a great sound bite, but it’s a smokescreen all too many news organisations and social media tweeps have been falling for. For once I’m in agreement with Barnaby Joyce… whoops, I said his name. This government has done nothing to earn our trust with our data, especially after their bungling of My Health Record, and the predicted scope creep and inappropriate use of stored metadata.

Which leads to the inevitable question: if Mr Joyce is the Government, does he not trust himself? And more importantly, why does this logic not extend to metadata retention and encryption backdoors, for which he enthusiastically voted for both times? Why isn’t the press covering this glaring, transparent hypocrisy? Why are these politicians continuously let off the hook for this?

I suspect the answer is because he’s under the misapprehension that only this tracking application would affect him personally. Which says more about his priorities as a representative than perhaps he realises.

Photo of Mr Joyce by Apple and Pear Australia Ltd. I thought it was oddly-fitting.

686 pages

Rubenerd is up to 686 pages, which is a palindromic number. I took great pains to only mention the number, as the phrase itself isn’t palindromic in English. Delightfully though, segap means good in Malay (IIRC), so I like to think someone up there thinks reaching that number was a positive thing.

The next time this will happen, and the last time before 700, is 696. I can see those years of university discrete mathematics set me up well. That was a quality pun.

Official Hige Dandism - 115万キロのフィルム

Play Official髭男dism - 115万キロのフィルム[Official Audio]

It’s Music Monday where I etc. I heard this at the Japanese Gram pancake house in Chatswood while getting takeaway, and couldn’t get the tune out of my head. I especially love the piano.