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fizzymagic

Major image hosting problem

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I want to be completely clear about what I am saying, because this is a major issue.

  • In the past, when a puzzle depends on exact image data (intact EXIF, use of non-lossy image formats such as png, etc.), the best solution has been to host the images on the Groundspeak server.
  • Recently,  I have discovered that the new server transcodes those images to the JPEG format.  The JPEG format is lossy. The transcoding process destroys information.
  • Any information that required  a non-lossy image (steganography, subtle color differences, etc) is destroyed by the transcoding.
  • The result:  many puzzles are no longer solvable.
  • There appears to be no way to fix this issue.

I am concerned that this issue affects images that pass through the proxy server as well.

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Aye, if this were something, say a change in policy about allowable images, that was being newly enforced from this date moving forward, then a public announcement would suffice (the only anger likely being that new puzzles couldn't employ prior technical strategies), and existing listings would be 'grandfathered' (or given time to change/archive).

But this change is breaking old and existing puzzle caches, with many cache owners being none the wiser.  There is some very bad development/rollout practices being employed here for the sake of silently (relatively speaking) adhering to privacy laws. Things are breaking. People aren't being told, warned, informed. That ain't a good thing.  :(

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45 minutes ago, thebruce0 said:

Aye, if this were something, say a change in policy about allowable images, that was being newly enforced from this date moving forward, then a public announcement would suffice (the only anger likely being that new puzzles couldn't employ prior technical strategies), and existing listings would be 'grandfathered' (or given time to change/archive).

But this change is breaking old and existing puzzle caches, with many cache owners being none the wiser.  There is some very bad development/rollout practices being employed here for the sake of silently (relatively speaking) adhering to privacy laws. Things are breaking. People aren't being told, warned, informed. That ain't a good thing.  :(

 

I'm scratching my head as to why a PNG image has to be converted to JPEG to protect the viewer's privacy. A quick search hasn't revealed anything about PNG privacy issues, but most of my search hits referred to Papua New Guinea's privacy laws and had nothing to do with image formats.

 

It does explain something odd though. Back in November, a new puzzle cache was published here which had a .png background image stored on GS's server as part of the cache gallery. Except the innards of that file weren't PNG but JPEG, which resulted in me spending several fruitless days picking it apart as I thought that was a clue to the puzzle. It wasn't and the CO had no idea how it happened.

 

I've done many puzzle caches that relied on having exact RGB values in some or all of the image, which is destroyed when converting to JPEG. This move would appear to pretty much put an end to a large class of image steganography in puzzle caches. What will be next to go under the streamroller?

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56 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

I'm scratching my head as to why a PNG image has to be converted to JPEG to protect the viewer's privacy. A quick search hasn't revealed anything about PNG privacy issues, but most of my search hits referred to Papua New Guinea's privacy laws and had nothing to do with image formats.

 

I don't actually believe this has anything to do with privacy changes.  Many sites transcode images to save on bandwidth.  This situation may have been going on since last fall; I have been noticing the behavior and assuming it was something with Firefox.  Yesterday I looked a new puzzle and tried every possible way to get it to give me a png file, which it would not.  So I am not asserting that this is brand-new; only that it is a very serious problem.

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31 minutes ago, fizzymagic said:

 

I don't actually believe this has anything to do with privacy changes.  Many sites transcode images to save on bandwidth.  This situation may have been going on since last fall; I have been noticing the behavior and assuming it was something with Firefox.  Yesterday I looked a new puzzle and tried every possible way to get it to give me a png file, which it would not.  So I am not asserting that this is brand-new; only that it is a very serious problem.

 

In this age of rampant video streaming, much of it now moving to 4G, why are they quibbling over a few hundred kilobytes for a PNG file? The more I see now, the more I'm convinced I'm on the wrong planet.

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13 hours ago, barefootjeff said:

In this age of rampant video streaming, much of it now moving to 4G, why are they quibbling over a few hundred kilobytes for a PNG file? The more I see now, the more I'm convinced I'm on the wrong planet.

 

Here's my guess:

  1. They implement privacy features that interfere (intentionally or unintentionally) with externally-hosted images
  2. Due to 1., they recommend that members upload images directly to the cache listing.
  3. Due to 2., more images are having to be transferred from HQ's image storage rather than from external hosts, so bandwidth use is increasing.
  4. Due to 3., costs are increasing.
  5. Due to 4., transcoding is implemented to reduce bandwidth use and costs.

Of course, then there's the next step:

      6. Due to 5., puzzles that rely on the exact format and content of images are broken.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/1/2020 at 11:49 PM, thebruce0 said:

Aye, if this were something, say a change in policy about allowable images, that was being newly enforced from this date moving forward, then a public announcement would suffice (the only anger likely being that new puzzles couldn't employ prior technical strategies), and existing listings would be 'grandfathered' (or given time to change/archive).

But this change is breaking old and existing puzzle caches, with many cache owners being none the wiser.  There is some very bad development/rollout practices being employed here for the sake of silently (relatively speaking) adhering to privacy laws. Things are breaking. People aren't being told, warned, informed. That ain't a good thing.  :(

 

Someone just reached out for help on one of my caches, it involves using a background image hosted on a photo hosting site...

Originally in the source code the background image appeared as such:

<body background="i.imgur.com/0u38bBj.jpg" class="cache details page">

 

But now it's this monstrosity: 

<body background="https://imgproxy.geocaching.com/9660e2daac2e9e8461ceb68de1b8f1c378eb7ed1?url=https%3A%2F%2Fi.imgur.com%2F0u38bBj.jpg" class="CacheDetailsPage">

When did this change? Anyone find a work around? 

Edited by STNolan
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I went to look at a puzzle that used a png today, and it came through without transcoding!   So whatever it was appears to be fixed.   Thanks, HQ.

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On 4/3/2020 at 10:14 PM, fizzymagic said:

I went to look at a puzzle that used a png today, and it came through without transcoding!   So whatever it was appears to be fixed.   Thanks, HQ.

 

No, it is not.  I tried to upload a png for creation of a puzzle cache yesterday and it cam back as a jpeg.

 

Could somebody from HQ pleasepleaseplease comment on this issue?   Hundreds of puzzles have been ruined.

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On 9/2/2020 at 7:27 AM, fizzymagic said:

Could somebody from HQ pleasepleaseplease comment on this issue?   Hundreds of puzzles have been ruined.

crickets.....

 

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3 hours ago, lee737 said:

crickets.....

This forum really needs a "Sad" response...

:sad:

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Could I pretty please get some kind of response from HQ?   With the new hosting requirements, will png files continue to be converted to jpegs?  Why?

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In a perhaps related issue, images have disappeared from several of my cache description pages:  this includes the multiple images tiles used as a background image and pictures embedded cache description.  Doesn't seem to be any pattern:  I open a cache page and they are either there or not and if not there are no longer in the "edit" section.  Weird.

edexter

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1 hour ago, edexter said:

In a perhaps related issue, images have disappeared from several of my cache description pages:  this includes the multiple images tiles used as a background image and pictures embedded cache description.  Doesn't seem to be any pattern:  I open a cache page and they are either there or not and if not there are no longer in the "edit" section.  Weird.

edexter

 

Four of my mystery caches had the images included in the cache page description, and loaded as images on the cache page.  The loaded photos url had changed.  Not easy for this dolphin to figure out how to copy the url from the photo to copy into the edit of the cache page.  But I got them to work.  My other mystery caches had the same changes in the url, but the cache page included the new url into the page, and did not need anything to be done.  Very strange and inconsistent.

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I'm wondering what might be required to have your personal domain added to the whitelist for hosting your own images. Agreement? Verifiable in/out of any public data to ensure you're not doing anything 'malicious'?  Maybe HQ could setup a process whereby users who know what they're doing and deemed trustworthy can host their own images on an approved domain.  How do flag counter websites become approved? SImply because of mass use? Or are they in communication to provide verification that the images are as provided with no under-the-hood actions going on?

It's not about file type, since other hosts can provide PNGs and unedited JPGs. It's not about dynamic content since flag sites and like are being allowed. So what might one need to agree to to have a personal domain approved for image hosting?

*wishful thinking*

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4 hours ago, thebruce0 said:

I'm wondering what might be required to have your personal domain added to the whitelist for hosting your own images...

*wishful thinking*

 

It probably is wishful thinking - but I would "apply" to use my own personal domain for image hosting.  All my images (until recently) are hosted on my own domain server.  I have a folder for caches (and hubby's caches as well) so all our image files are easily located; I enjoy having control over the server where they are hosted.  I'd probably be willing to sign or agree to verify whatever needed verifying, or go through whatever "process" is needed to continue hosting my own images.

 

All of our images seem to be intact (cache page backgrounds, puzzle images, etc) so far, but recently created caches have had to use GC's upload options.  It would be nice to get it all back in one place, on my domain!!

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