• Tumblr vs. WordPress

    Before I begin, I don’t mean this to be a hit piece. I love both platforms dearly, and as I’ve been noticing myself spending much more time on one than the other, I thought I’d explain why.

    Let’s start with my old friend, WordPress. WordPress is an open-source publishing platform. It’s software, provided for free and developed and supported by volunteers, that you install on a hosting provider. So you take this free software and install it, your site is entirely self-contained, and that is its biggest strength, something no other platform can claim. You own and can do everything. And I’ve been doing that a long time, since the start. This year, I’ve been using WordPress longer than I haven’t, and that’s mind-blowing!

    WordPress is powerful; it does so much. Its editor can’t be beaten if you want complete control over your posts. If you want full control over how your site looks, the site editor will let you easily reach your heart’s desires. That is power, real power, for free. Is that not enough power? No problem, there are currently 59,271 free plugins available. Don’t want to customize your theme from the default? No problem, there are currently 9,603 free themes available.

    That’s a lot! It’s truly incredible, in many ways freeing, but it’s also a lot. Sometimes, or I guess often these past few years, I need less, and that’s where Tumblr comes in. I’ve been on there for 2 years now, and the more I’m there, the less I’m here. One word can summarize that: convenience. Or, more specifically, convenience by ease of use, and most important, lack of options.

    That’s not to say Tumblr is crippled; it’s not, and far from it. Tumblr’s editor may not have as many options as WordPress, but it’s more than enough, and it’s getting better every day (and now powered by Gutenberg). There are no plugins, and theme editing is limited to editing raw HTML and CSS, but you can still find a theme that’s close enough to what you want.

    You simply get your Tumblr site looking the way you want, then use the app or visit the site and start writing and sharing content you love. And I know what you’re thinking right now; WordPress has an app too, but again: convenience and lack of options, just write and share.

    So, that’s where I am right now. If I have something short to share; a few paragraphs, an image, a video, or an article I love, it will be on Tumblr because I can do that with nothing in the way. But if I’m writing a long post like this, something I’d be happy to know is on a platform where I fully own the content, it’s going to be posted here with WordPress. A long post is by no means a quick process, and the tools here are just more suited for that. This is by no means a character limit thing, just to clear that up. Tumblr is not Twitter. A single text block on Tumblr can have 4,096 characters, and a single post on Tumblr can contain 1,000 blocks.

    So, at the end of this stream of consciousness, it’s all about using the tool that’s best suited for the purpose. Tumblr is quick and convenient, and excessive options don’t get in my way. It’s perfect for short and immediate content creation and sharing. WordPress is powerful; it’s perfectly suited for building longer content that I don’t mind spending time on.

    In short, use the right tool for the job, or perhaps, more importantly, use the tool that feels right to you.

  • About a year ago, I shared how I made GIFs. Since then, a lot has changed, so I figured it was time for an update.

    A few months back, Automattic sent me a new computer, complete with an M1 Max SoC (we’re hiring, btw). If you’ve heard anything about Apple’s new M1 chips, it’s probably that they’re ridiculously fast, but only on apps built for M1, so of course I had to find one for GIFs. It didn’t take me long to find Gifski. It’s free, fast, and the quality is excellent!

    My process for cutting the videos hasn’t changed since the last post, so let’s dive in with Gifski. When I say it’s fast, I mean it. GIF Brewery took minutes to convert GIFs, and Gifski takes seconds. It also estimates the file size first, so you don’t have to waste time repeatedly generating GIFs to get them under your platform’s limit. Just open the video, make sure the settings are good, double-check the estimated file size, convert, and you’re done in seconds.

    GIF Brewery maxed out at 256 colors, but Gifski supports thousands of colors via whatever “cross-frame palettes and temporal dithering” is (hey, I just make GIFs, I don’t understand them). The added colors make a huge difference in vibrancy, and I’ve noticed an especially huge improvement in darker scenes, they’re no longer washed out. Gifski also supports up to 60 frames per second for crisp slow motion scenes. The downside though is that more colors + more frames = larger files. Watch out for green bar artifacts too. The green bars are a problem upstream that can’t be fixed, but you can get rid of them by making sure your dimensions are divisible by 4, which is fine.

    Gifski is free, it’s fast, and the quality is impressive, but it does lack GIF Brewery’s built-in text and sticker features, so I still keep it around for that. With that said, GIF making is more about fun than perfection.

    You won’t learn anything about making GIFs by not making GIFs, so have fun! If you don’t know where to post your GIFs, consider opening a Tumblr or WordPress.com site just for them, and don’t forget to share your GIF’s source. If you’re using Tumblr, they have a special field for that.

    If you’re just getting started with your own GIFs, I hope this helps! All of the GIFs embedded in this article were made with Gifsky, and for more, check out my GIFs from Ultraman Z.

  • Yesterday, Sarah and I went back to the California Botanic Garden. Since our first visit, the garden is now completely open, so naturally I took more photos.

    I’m absolutely in love with this place, and while I expect more photos to come in the future, it felt wrong to let the previous post stand alone with only photos from half the garden. Please enjoy, and I hope you can visit the California Botanic Garden in person some day!

  • California Botanic Garden

    Last weekend, Sarah and I visited the California Botanic Garden, “the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants.” Sadly, they took a beating during the last wind storm, and half the garden was blocked off. The garden is members-only right now, but we are very local, and it’s just a bit more than the price of 4 visits a year for the 2 of us, so we went for it.

    It’s a pleasant and beautiful walk, with nature and artwork all around, so naturally I took some photos, enjoy!

    Update: Now that the rest of the garden is open, please see part 2 for more photos.

  • Must-Have Safari Extensions

    With iOS/iPadOS 15, you’re finally able to install browser extensions in Safari. There are a lot of great ones out there, but now that it’s been possible for a few months, I thought I’d briefly share my favorites.

    One quick disclaimer: My favorites may change over time, but I’m not going to keep this list up to date. Consider this list accurate as of today, and less accurate as time goes on. 🙂

    • Firefox Focus: This private browser extends its tracker blocker capabilities to Safari. It’s not as extensible as other ad/tracker blockers, but consequently, it gets the job done without any bloat.
    • Noir: Dark modes are finally coming to sites across the net, but not soon enough. This extension applies a decently improvised dark mode to any site that doesn’t have one after your device switches itself over to dark mode. No more blown-at eyes at night!
    • Vinegar: YouTube’s player has been becoming messy/noisy lately. This handy extensions replaces all of that with a simple video player.
    • Amplosion: Ever open a link that takes you to a badly formatted mobile page that looks nothing like the original site with “amp” in the URL? That’s Google’s attempt at automatically generating mobile-friendly content, and it’s usually not great (and packed full of trackers). Amplosion says a resounding “No!” to those links and redirects you back to the original content.
    • Mapper: Kind of like Amplosion, have you ever clicked an address or a map on a page only to be sent to Google Maps (which you probably don’t have installed)? This handy app opens those links in Apple’s Maps app instead.
    • Achoo: From the developer of Amplosion, Achoo allows you to easily and cleanly view the HTML source of any site you’re visiting. No more tethering your phone to your Mac just to inspect a mobile page.

    And, for even more good news, all of these extensions (except predictably Amplosion and Mapper) are available for Safari on your Mac too under macOS 12.

    I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!