The technology report has been absent from the Signpost for a few weeks; this is a short summary of the important changes in the weeks of January 4 through January 18. (Contributors to future editions are welcome at the Newsroom).
The past two weeks saw quite a few changes in the configuration of Wikipedia, as repeated attempts were made to launch several new features that have been in testing.
On January 4, a first attempt was made to launch Global Usage extension. This much requested software extension shows editors all the uses of a file hosted on Wikimedia Commons throughout the various Wikimedia projects. It brings the service of the CheckUsage tool hosted on the toolserver to the core of the MediaWiki software. After some initial kinks, the software was fully operational by January 12.
A new server, bits.wikimedia.org, was launched January 10, to host shared static content of all the Wikimedia installations. This content consists mostly of the interface styling and scripts that all versions of Wikipedia and its sister projects use. The server is specifically optimized to host and deliver this content efficiently to a lot of people. The setup required some experimentation however and in the past two weeks this led several times to people finding that their interface had lost all its styling. These issues were resolved on January 15.
GIF image scaling
Due to very large animated GIF images crashing the server that makes the thumbnails, the scaling of all GIF images had been disabled for the past months. This was not optimal of course, and new code to detect animated GIF images and decide whether they were potentially too large, was added to the software some time ago. On January 4, these changes were deployed. For reasons not yet understood, all thumbnails of all animated GIFs became stills. This was not the intention, and on January 13 the changes were undone, awaiting analysis of the problem. See also bugzilla:22041.