James Mead by James Mead

Week 368

IR35 Tax Assurances

Early in the week we heard back from Egos Consultancy about our IR35 situation regarding our work for GDS. As expected they confirmed that the combination of our contract and working practices fall outside IR35.

They also suggested some small changes to the Working Practices Questionnaire that we’d completed in the previous week. During the course of this week Chris & I collaboratively addressed these changes to the questionnaire in preparation for sending it to GDS.

Smart Answers

I started work back on Smart Answers this week. I only managed to fit in 1.5 days and I ended up spending the whole time reviewing the backlog of pull requests that had built up while Erik was working on Smart Answers single-handed.

The most urgent one involved the removal of some functionality in the State Pension Calculator, so I tackled that one first. I also reviewed updates to the Child Maintenance Calculator and to the Benefits Cap Calculator.

Then there was the inevitable bunch of pull requests for the Marriage Abroad Smart Answer which needed reviewing:

I also reviewed a pull request upgrading the version of Ruby used in the app to v2.2.4 and another which tweaked the maximum size of one of the caches.

Lastly I closed a pull request which was simply a demonstration of how to reproduce a bug. Having recorded the bug in Trello, I didn’t think it was worthwhile keeping the pull request open.

Hookline

Google Chrome Bug

I continued my investigation into why a number of MP3 tracks wouldn’t play in Google Chrome. I had previously noticed that ffprobe (part of FFmpeg) gave an error when trying to parse the problematic MP3, whereas it correctly parsed the MP3’s which play OK in Chrome. At around this time I also discovered that Chrome uses parts of FFmpeg to play audio files, so this seemed to be highly relevant.

I emailed the FFmpeg mailing list and asked for help. One of the developers said that it was a bug and raised a ticket in their system. Not long afterwards the bug was fixed, although there was some scepticism from other people that this was a sensible fix and/or that the “probe” code around MP3’s with ID3 tags is very robust.

There’s been no real explanation of what the problem was other than the commit which fixes it. I hoped that there would be a way to work around the problem by changing the ID3 tag on that MP3 and asked about this on the mailing list. I wanted to avoid having to wait for FFmpeg to release the fix and then for Chrome to include the release in a release of Chrome, all of which would probably take ages. However, at this point I raised this problem as a bug report for Google Chrome to try to hurry them along.

Rather than waiting for the Chrome bug to be fixed, I then had a go at working around the problem. I used ffmpeg to re-encode the original WAV file to MP3, but this time I re-tagged it with the artwork and other metadata (using taglib-ruby) to closely match the original MP3. Some combination of doing this seemed to (magically) avoid the bug and so I replaced the original problematic MP3 and the track played OK in Google Chrome. Yay!

I then wrote a simple script to use ffprobe to check all the other tracks in our database for the same problem. Fortunately it seems to be a real edge case and I didn’t find any other problematic tracks.

Ordering Tracks in Playlist

Later this week, I finally got round to merging some work I’d done back in November 2015 on allowing the user to control the order of tracks in a playlist.

I used a combination of jQuery UI’s Sortable and the ranked-model gem to implement a progressively enhanced drag-and-drop UI for changing the order of tracks within a playlist.

The work wasn’t complete, but at least I got a bunch of local changes merged into the master branch and deployed to production.

Anyway, apart from the usual company admin tasks, I think that’s everything we got up to.

Until next time.

– James

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