WWDC 2023 was uneventful…which is good.

It is always interesting hearing the ‘tech dude bro’ press lamenting the lack of a list of new features but the reality is that the we’re at a technology plateau as so far as novel and innovative features that can be added to existing products such ass the Mac and the iPhone. This year was no exception to this with the focus on the established platforms being around fine tuning and improving what already exists rather than revolutionary changes. A good example of that would be the Windows development cycle with the incremental update of the Windows shell through the piece by piece replacement of components in favour of Windows App SDK (link) (link). I think long term the goal will be to have the whole experience based on Windows App SDK which will enable Microsoft to keep backwards compatibility while moving the platform forward.

When it comes to macOS 14 a lot of the discussion has been about the improved performance particular UI responsiveness which is probably related to improvements in AppKit (link) along with the fact that macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS and visionOS share the same underlying display technology and given the need to improve responsiveness in visionOS the benefits flow through to the other platforms. What will also be a big helper to game developer is the work being done in Metal with converter tools to take a DXIL and convert it over to a metal library (link) which will reduce the barriers for developers wanting to bring DirectX games, be they from desktop or xbox, to the various Apple platforms.

After much contemplation I decided to install Ivory for macOS (Mastodon client for macOS (link)) and sign up for the monthly subscription along with moving to Tusky for Android (which has been recent updated to version 22 with lots of great new features (link)). I prefer using the native application because I find it works more reliably particularly when it comes to updating the time line while remaining in the place where I left it. When it comes to the cost of Ivory, the world is changing to subscription based applications and as much as I, one one hand, loath it, on the other hand there are benefits to a business model that is more sustainable and incentives quality of life improvements, bug features, new features etc. being rolled out rather than holding back features for the next big release.


WWDC Keynote and Platforms State of the Union.

I decided in the end that it was so late that I would just stay up to watch the keynote, have a small nap then watch the ‘Platforms State of the Union’. If you’re wanting a live transcript then Arstechnica as always does a pretty good job (link) however what this blog post is all amount is more about collating some thoughts I had regarding the two presentations.

The start of the keynote presentation they announced a refresh of the MacBook Air, Mac Studio and Mac Pro. A new model of the MacBook Air was announced with a 15″ screen and an M2 SoC, the Studio was refreshed with the M2 series and the Mac Pro was also updated to the M2 series. The Mac Pro comes with 7 PCIe 4.0 slots however although it doesn’t support video cards as a means of display there isn’t anything mentioned about whether nVidia may provide user space drivers for their video card so then it is possible to offload CUDA workflow onto the video card while still utilising the built in video card for everything else. It’ll be interesting to see whether nVidia does that or whether it makes more sense that if you want that extra CUDA grunt that you push the work load into the cloud and let their hardware to the heavy lifting.

iOS 17 and iPad 17 were then announced – updates Phone, FaceTime, Airdrop and Messages being at the top of the list which focused on refinements such as a unique poster that appears when a given person rings up, improving search within messages, sharing location when in messages, being able to share contacts via Airdrop. From what it appears this year is about refinement rather than big whizbang features. When it comes to macOS once again the same situation as well, more refinement and improving what already exists rather than in the past where the marketing was all about the x number of new features being added.

I think the absence of new features probably has a lot to do with the big announcement of the Vision Pro running visionOS. Given that all the platforms share a common core I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been a lot of under the hood improvements particularly in the area of graphics performance to hit a graphics latency of no more than 12 milliseconds. I haven’t tried the developer beta of each of the operating systems but I’d hazard to guess that there will be a noticeable improvement in performance.

The announcement of the AR/VR headset was interesting but at the price it was announced I could imagine it being very much a niche product that may grow once a lower price non-Pro version of Vision is announced but even then I don’t see it being a big mainstream success like the iPhone or iPad. I could imagine it being used particularly in the professional field of being able to show off to a client something that is being worked on, being able to view it in the ‘real world’ then making real time updates rather than the length cycle of prototypes, tweaking then making a new prototype etc. Although US$3499 is a lot of money, if you’re a business and there is the ability to speed up the delivery of a product to the customer and giving the customer a better experience when the product is being developed then in the end it’ll pay for itself.

Regarding software updates and what is taking place – one resource I like to read through is the difference between Xcode 14.3 and Xcode 15.0 beta 1 in the documentation area (link) which outlines the API changes – additions, subtractions, modifications. One addition that stood out to me was the MediaExtension API that has been added to macOS 14 (This framework provides a means for developers to create format readers and video decoders for media that the system doesn’t natively support) which will hopefully mean that ffmpeg could get ported to the MediaExtension API which in turn will enable various bundled applications (Safari, QuickTime etc) to take advantage of the ability to playback formats not natively supported in the OS.

Another way to get an insight into the future direction of Apple, both hardware and software, is to check out the WWDC 2023 sessions (link). It comes as no big surprise that the visionOS and Vision Pro is at the centre but also many videos heavily pushing Swift and SwiftUI (the technology that unifies the development process for all the platforms) to heavily imply to developers that it is the technology of the future and that they need to get on the Swift train now in much the same way that XCode was pushed and pushed. Apple didn’t come out and say “move to XCode because in 2005 we’re moving to Intel” but instead Apple heavily push a particular technology for a reason, they may not give the answer but what is implied is that in the future that particular piece of technology or collection of technologies will form the basis of the products in the future.

Metal is getting pushed in a way I didn’t think it would – in the past there was lip service being made regarding gaming but it appears that this year they’re actualy taking it seriously with the introduction of the Game Porting Toolkit which includes support to bring DirectX games over to Metal 3, the Unity game engine is optimised for Metal 3, the addition of ray tracing etc. If you want to keep up to date with how users are finding the beta versions along with the new features then you can check out these sources (link) (link).

Regarding AI – the focus by Apple isn’t about tick boxes but rather making use of AI by integrating it into applications to improve the experience for the end users. This is the reason I was rather ‘meh’ about the whole AI launches by Microsoft and Google, it is one thing to put on a good dog and pony show for the passes but it is a different thing entirely to transform something from a cool public demonstration into something that is actually useful for the average end user.


WWDC 2023 is almost here.

I’m all excited about WWDC 2023 as the keynote draws closer – 5am on 6 June New Zealand time. I’ve decided to do the smart thing year and go to sleep at 8pm on Monday night so then I get up at 4:30am on Tuesday then watch it either on the big screen in the lounge room or on my laptop – depending on how I feel. Lots of rumours are whirring around particularly about the announcement of a new product category, hardware refresh, new operating system for the new product category. What I am hoping is that the announcements regarding their platforms is more a focus not on new features but rather focusing on improving on what they already have to make the platforms more reliable.

There is a rumour about the Mac Pro being refresh however there is also rumours that the Mac Studio will be refreshed thus making it potentially the Mac Pro replacement. There was a patent application regarding having a two level memory model where you have an SoC with RAM on the packaging then having off SoC RAM that can be upgraded by the customer with the kernel I assume being smart enough to swap between the RAM on the SoC and the RAM that is user upgradeable so that the performance critical stuff is always in the fastest type of memory. It will be interesting to see whether it may even open the possibility for a nVidia video card to be added for CUDA hardware acceleration with support being provided through a user space driver rather than installing a kernel extension due to Apple phasing out kernel extension support.

Windows App SDK v1.4-experimental1 was released last week. Although I don’t use Windows I like to keep myself up to date on what is happening in the Windows world. It appears that the long term plan is gradually moving Windows components over to Windows App SDK which enables Microsoft to decouple the application API layer from the underlying operating system in much the same way that Google has decoupled the Android platform from the underlying kernel and user space which is allowing OEMs to stick with the same kernel and time tested drivers but upgrade what is sitting on top (Android platform). I could imagine some time in the future where there is a stable Windows base that that is super stable with the Windows App SDK on top being regularly upgraded along with the bundled applications in much the same way it occurs on Android through the Play Store.


What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

Daily writing prompt
What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

It is probably best if we first define what ‘having it all’ actually means, ‘having it all’ at least to me can be understood as having all your wants and needs taken care of. Is ‘having it all’ attainable? the reason why I believe it isn’t attainable is because it presupposes that ones wants (and needs – many debate over what could be classified as a need vs a want) are finite and thus when you obtain all the wants on the list that the desire for want will cease – the reality is that it won’t. The question is how do you deal with that insatiable appetite of want. I don’t think it is feasible to deny it’s existence or engaging in asceticism but rather acknowledge it’s existence and what drives it forward. In my opinion I believe it is compelled by ones innate drive of the ‘will to live’ by having meaning and purpose to ones life, to set goals and work towards them thus giving oneself meaning and purpose to continue driving forward.

This drive could manifest itself in the form of reproduction so then your focus becomes raising offspring thus driving your will to live on the basis on ensuring your children survive and thrive or the desire to meet materialist needs with the accomplishment of the goal being the primary focus and the byproducts such as profit being then outward demonstration that one has achieved that end goal. If you know the source of the drive for want then there is the ability to be consciously aware and not allow it to be in the driver’s seat in much the same way that the stoic philosophy wasn’t about denying one’s emotions thus turning people into the equivalent of the Vulcan but instead acknowledging that those emotions are real but not allowing them to be in the ‘driver’s seat’.

What can be done if you can’t have it all – learn how to triage and be willing to differentiate between what is an absolutely must have need vs. a want that would make life better in some way vs. it would be nice to have but if it didn’t happen then it wouldn’t be the end of the world. If you ultimately try to do everything then eventually something will have to give – it’s like creating a product or a service that tries to be everything to everyone and the end result is a product or service that is so compromised that it ends up making none of your customers happy in the process. In the case of trying to ‘have it all’ the price you end up paying is a lower quality of life, stress related health problems, etc. I used to see it at Christmas time when I worked on the checkouts at the supermarket where people whip themselves into a frenzy about how they must have this or that when preparing Christmas lunch/dinner because of their inability to say no, trying to be everything to everyone and in the process make a time of the year that should be enjoyable into something that one dreads coming around each year.

Personal · Technology

Almost ready for holidays to begin.

Only another three days to go before I am officially on annual leave for two weeks. I’ve decided that this year rather than waiting up until 5am then try to watch WWDC as a complete zombie resulting in almost 90% of what was said ended up being forgotten (assuming I didn’t fall asleep while it was streaming) I decided to have an early night in bed then get up early so then at least I’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for not only the keynote but also ‘Platforms State of the Union’. Personally I don’t see any major occurring other than maybe a preview of the Mac Pro, incremental improvements to the various platforms rather than anything revolutionary. I personally find the more interesting part of WWDC are the individual sessions where there is a focus on deep diving into the various under the hood changes – maybe this year they’ll fully close off the kernel to kernel extensions in favour of user space drivers.

I’ve been giving Safari a try with the recent update that came with macOS 13.4 but so far I find the functionality of Safari’s extension framework to be rather lacking which is why, even with the best of attempts by AdGuard, that various ads still make their way through along with popups etc. that uBlock Origin wipe off the map fairly quickly. Workspace is going well – I’m on the rapid release cycle but I have a feeling that the roll out of the AI features that Google talked about at their I/O conference will looked at by early adopters and Google One subscribers then once they get sufficient feedback then they may offer it to Workspace subscribers.

Regarding Google Workspace, I’ve signed myself up for a years subscription (but paid monthly) which has worked out at around NZ$12.61 per month which is pretty good value particularly when you consider that with iCloud for 2TB of storage the cost is NZ$16.99 with the added bonus on Google Workspace that you can have up to 30 aliases from a custom domain (yes, one could use ‘hide my email address’ but the randomised email addresses that are generated as hardly professional in nature if you want an email address that presentable but can be disposed of if it attracts spam).

As for my iPhone situation, with my goal of going for a trip to the UK and tour around Europe next year, I need to tighten my belt and focus on what is and isn’t important in terms of spending money. The temptation to fritter away money is certainly there but I also had to ask myself whether it was absolutely necessary to upgrade when my Nothing Phone 1 does everything I need, I can upgrade to Android 14 and still receiving bug fixes and security updates for many years to come. The one thing I’m not going to compromise on is making sure I upgrade my seat on the flight to premium – I can’t stand flying but if I have to fly then I’m going to make sure that I’m comfortable.

Regarding the Nothing Phone – it appears that the Nothing Phone 2 will be launched in July (link) – too late for for Android 14 but it’ll be interesting to see whether they stick with the same linux kernel version (5.4.x) for Android 13 running on the Nothing Phone 1 or whether they move to 5.10 or 5.15 which are two of the most recent long term kernel branches which are scheduled to be supported out to 2026 where as 5.4.x is scheduled to be supported out to 2025. It is one of the best thing’s that Google did which was to seperate the Android release schedule from the linux kernel which enables phone vendors to maintain a stable kernel with back porting of bug and security fixes while allowing the Android platform sitting on top to move forward.

When it comes to the Pixel Fold – I’m neither here nor there in the grand schemes given that the whole foldable segment contracted 35% on a yearly basis (link). As I said previously, it is a niche and once the novelty wears off it’ll be like 3d mobile phone screens and televisions – a splash in the pan of gimmicky features to try and jumpstart growth in a maturing market where people are keeping their phones for longer due to a) people’s needs already being met by what exists b) the tight financial position that many are facing in terms of the cost of living crunch. What I think is interesting is how over the last few months there has been the increase in support by Android builds for Pixel phones in more markets in regards to VoLTE, 5G and VoWiFi support. I’m unsure whether this is an indication that they’ll ship it to more countries but if at the very least one can buy one from overseas and it works out of the box in New Zealand then I’ld be a happy lad.

Politics · Technology

Apple releases a bevy of updates.

After quite a few release candidates Apple has released updates for all their platforms – I’ve installed tvOS 16.5 and macOS 13.4. So far the experience has been great, there has been an improvement in Safari performance, sites that were buggy are now no longer an issue, the over all operating system feels more responsive. There were a sizeable number of security fixes that came (link) in particular there are 3 being exploited in the wild according to 9TO5Mac (link) so this is a good incentive to update asap rather than waiting for Apple to do it for you with the automatic update.

The development of Safari is something that I am fond of following because so much progress has occurred in such a small space of time. One thing to understand with Safari is the focus on not just privacy and security but to also focus on making sure that any functionality that is added to it doesn’t result in a slow down aka zero tolerance for performance regressions (link). More good news also comes in the form of Safari Technology Preview 170 being release (link) with plenty of fixes which will hopefully appear either in a macOS 13.5 update (released in the gap between the announcement of macOS 14 and it’s release) or maybe macOS 14 which hopefully will include AV1 support that was mentioned in a previous Technology Preview change notes then quickly redacted a few hours later (as noted on my blog).

The government budget came out this week and on the whole it is pretty balanced although I think they really do need to have a long term plan when it comes to investing into rail or as I noted on a Reddit post I made regarding this subject and the debt levels over all: “…we have a lot more capacity that we could use to really fix up the infrastructure deficit – our railways for example have been neglected for decades and we really don’t have a long term 10-20 year plan of upgrading, expanding and electrifying it (standardising on 25Kv). It appears that any investments are merely patching holes rather than having a long term vision for rail then making sure all investments are orientated in achieving that vision.”

That has really been a legacy in New Zealand regardless of who is in charge which s a lack of long term planning and investing – by long term I am not talking about the three year election cycle but rather 5-10-15 or 20 years and by vision I am talking about what is your objective, what are you trying to get to so then you measure up all the individual policies and whether those policies get you closer to that vision (and by vision I am talking about are a set of measurable objectives that can can be interrogated, not broad waffly statements that cannot be nailed down).

As for what my priorities are, here are some of them I outlined in an earlier blog post (link). As for who I am going to vote for this year – I’ll vote the way I always do, Labour for my local MP and Greens for my Party vote.

Personal · Technology

The weekend comes and goes so quickly.

Well, that was a quick weekend but no rest for me – back to work on Wednesday and looking forward to the two week break in around two weeks time but in the mean time I’m keeping busy with all the changes at work. The most exciting part about the change is the potential of a new computer system which will make a huge difference for customers. What might also happen is the company that I work for might end up taking on more work from our partner primarily because the cost of labour in New Zealand is cheaper than back in country where partner operates which may indicate more employment opportunities.

AdGuard 1.11.3 Safari Extension was released which has added support for :has() pseudo-class which has improved the speed of content blocking and made it a lot more reliable. I think gradually over time as functionality is added to the Webextensions API which will hopefully mean moving functionality from having to be provided via scripts etc. to having it baked into the browser itself. It’ll be interesting to see what WWDC has inshore but I have a feeling that, based on the addition of experimental WebCodecs AV1 support being added to Webkit I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing it in macOS 14, iOS 17, tvOS 17 etc. (it also appears that AV1 support will also be added to Webkit’s WebRTC implementation).


Reflecting on the Google I/O 2023 Keynote.

It has been a busy week over at Google I/O with the big focus being on AI or more specifically pushing beyond the novelty factor of “suggest a cake recipe” in favour of focusing on where Google are going to use AI to have a material benefit to end users. Below is the video of the keynote:

One thing to keep in mind is the fact that Google have been using AI for many years before Chat GPT became the darling of the informational technology press. If you’d like the TL;DR version then it goes like this – Google is leveraging their own LLM in the form of PaLM 2 to improve existing functionality (grammar, spelling etc) as well as new functionality such as generating letters etc. I think the interesting part was how they’re able to scale down their LLM so that it is small enough to operate on a mobile phone which will enable more operations to be carried out on the phone. I could imagine future Pixel phones the focus will be around making use of future Google Tensor chips. I also wonder to what extent Google is offloading the work from their data centres to the clients device will reduce the load being put on their servers which will benefit their bottom line – a better user experience and saves a few dollars along the way is something I don’t see Google turning down.

The above video has more of a high level over view of Android (the individual session videos is the place where the subject matter is given a deeper level of explanation). We’ve reached the stage where the platform has matured just as in the case of iOS, the days of massive hyped up features that would grab end users attention is long gone and I for one am happy that the focus is around ‘fit and finish’ rather than features. I’ve had a look at the videos regarding the Android 14 beta that is available on the Nothing Phone 1 and so far it appears that the kernel remain the same (5.4.210) but I could imagine that when the Nothing Phone 2 is released towards the end of this year they’ll probably default to 5.15 or maybe 6.1.28 since both of those are the long term stable branch of the Linux kernel.

Will I upgrade to it? depends on what Google has done with the Pixel but based on Geekzone posts that I’ve been following it appears that Google is adding 5G support along with VoLTE so then at the very least if I can’t buy one in New Zealand then at the very least I’ll be able to buy one from Australia then get my brother to ship it to me or buy it from the United States then get YouShop to send it too me. I’m also looking at replacing the security camera around my place with ones from Google due the ability to attach them up to the power directly rather than recharging them which means for a few hours I don’t have any security cameras going. It’ll also be interesting to see where the next major update for Android TV will be made available for Chromecast with Google TV given that Google and other streaming services are pushing AV1 out due to it being royalty free.


More software updates and more fun.

Nothing has released Nothing OS 1.5.4 as an over the air (OTA) update – it’ll be gradually rolling out to customers but there is also the ability to download it directly and side load it (link). There have been some under the hood changes in the form of the kernel version has been bumped from 5.4.197 to 5.4.210 (dated 28 April 2023), Android security updated to 5 April 2023 from February 2023. Regarding the baseband version, I am unsure what the version was before the update but it was most likely updated due to notes about ‘Reduced standby power consumption by optimising 4G / 5G network switching function’ along with the usual optimisations that come with any sort of driver changes. Android 14 Beta 1 is rumoured to be released soon for a public beta but there has been no firm date set for it. On a side note it appears that the software engineers who worked on OnePlus are now working for Nothing where as before the work had been contracted out. It’ll be interesting to see whether there are changes in Android 14 or whether Nothing will keep the peered down minimalist design philosophy that attracted people such as myself to their Nothing Phone.

There are continued rumours about Chromecast with Google TV but given the big improvements in Android TV 14 in terms of memory efficiency I wouldn’t be surprised if Google ends up skipping Android TV 13 in favour of Android TV 14. I think the big challenge is the fact that neither Chromecast with Google support hardware accelerated playback of AV1 (not to mention that AV2 is in early development at this stage). Given how woefully powered the current SoC being used in the current Chromecast with Google dongle I couldn’t imagine seeing it smoothly decoding AV1 where as an Apple TV (the current generation) has more than enough headroom to adequately decode AV1 playback without too many problems. As a side note to this, I always find it funny how businesses will automatically assume that poor sales are automatically due to the price when in the case of the Chromecast with Google came to New Zealand 18 months after it had been originally launched. If you’re not selling enough then maybe it has more to do with the fact that you’re selling it in a limited number of markets and failed to build relationships with internet service provides and retail outlets rather than it being the byproduct of “it’s too expensive”.


Back in the office next week and preparing for annual leave.

I had a chat to my boss today about coming back into the office – I’ve still got long COVID symptoms but I think part of recovery is about getting out of the house, start socialising with colleagues again, get to meet the new team leaders who are coming on board. I also realised that I could get paid by going to meetings where as I thought they were “hey, come along if you want” but didn’t get paid. I can’t believe I could have been picking up easy extra hours just simply by turning up to meetings on my day off.

Getting closer to a two week break in the first two weeks of June – chilling out to watch WWDC, get my scooter serviced, maybe go for a a day trip on my scooter around the area. Hopefully the weather won’t be too bad but having had a look at past weather (link) average the temperature has increased but also the rainfall has also increased (see the graph regarding July rainfall from recent years compared to the historical data).

Did my grocery shopping online – I’m tempted to sign up for the service that Countdown provides because I find that I spend less money when I am buying online vs if I go to the store and wondering around aimlessly looking at stuff that I want but I don’t actually need to buy. Countdown as a service call delivery saver so if I buy 6 months it reduces the cost from $14 per deliver to $4.54 per week which would mean in my case (I go shopping once a fortnight) it’ll cost me $9.08 per delivery. What I’d do is shop on Thursday when I get paid then get it delivered on Friday when I am working at home doing the late shift.

Getting back to the office I am tempted to buy some new shirts for work – my trousers are ok but my shirts have seen better days, I may even get some long sleeved shirts as well. The work environment I am in is pretty casual so I tend to wear Dickies trousers, some betrothal creepers and collared shirt. I am tempted to get something with a bit of colour such as:

So I’m looking forward to getting some duds and getting back into the office. On a good side I have heard they have upgraded the computers being used so hopefully the experience won’t be too jarring – it is easy to get used to a computer that has an overkill amount of RAM installed thus not experiencing the frequent slow downs when using a Chromebox.