Looking at the alternatives: Android

And so that time of year rolls around where the major vendors come out and offer refreshes of their Android product line ups – be it Samsung with the Note 9, Google with its Pixel 3, Huawei with the Mate 20. As I’ve said in the past, I always like to have a look at what the alternatives have to offer but each time I’m routinely disappointed in what is on offer. For me I place a huge importance on the software because at the end of the day it is the software that makes the hardware usable, it is the the software that integrates (or doesn’t) the device not only into the cloud but also the other devices I have around the house.

When it comes to Samsung, their abysmal track record of updates – months behind on Google security updates and even worse when it comes to software upgrades between major releases which can span up to 6 months result in a device that quickly becomes dated very quickly and with each update and upgrade the performance keeps getting worse and worse as Samsung is adamant that end users just love ‘Touch Wiz’ even though I’ve never heard anyone say, “yeah, I’d love to get an iPhone but it really lacks Touch Wiz…that is a must have feature for me which is why I buy Samsung”.

Is Huawei any better? Past behaviour predict future behaviour and in the case of the Huawei P9 they’ve demonstrated their willingness to throw their customers under the bus. For example in the case of the EMUI 9.0 release (which will come with the Huawei Mate 20 by default and the Huawei P20) won’t be coming to the Huawei P9 – in slightly over 2 years since it’s launch and things aren’t all that much better for the Huawei P10 either which is slightly over a year old and that too has been thrown under the bus – not a good way to treat your loyal customer base.

The Pixel 3 appears to be a great phone but it is hobbled with 4GB RAM which wouldn’t be so bad if if Android weren’t so inefficient but unfortunately the net result is that 4GB is the absolute bare minimum. The 4GB wouldn’t be so bad if this was on an entry level device but we’re talking about a NZ$1799 including GST for the Pixel 3XL which is the same price of the Samsung S9 Plus 256Gb when it was on sale 4-5 months ago. Then there is the biggest problem which is, once again, Google refusing to sell it in New Zealand – sure, I could go out of way to buy it overseas then bring it to New Zealand but then I’d be stuck with a device with no after market support not to mention the drama of getting it to New Zealand through a remailer.

Something that all the devices fall down is when it comes to integration with macOS, the Chrome browser still isn’t as optimised for macOS and one can’t help but get the feeling (as seen with the UI refresh not coming to macOS until version 70) that macOS is an after thought for Google. Then couple that with the half assed synchronisation tool known as ‘Android File Transfer’ – really, if you’re going to sell a phone for $1800 the least you can do is buy out Mac Sync so then it is possible to synchronise my iTunes music library to my phone rather than having to manually drag and drop it across. There is also the lack of integration when it comes to services with iMessage, answering phone calls on my Mac and sending messages from my computer – I can’t expect iMessage integration but it would be nice if Google got their act together and at least merged Allo with Messages so then out of the box customers would be automatically signed up for Allo thus making it as wide spread as iMessage.

Having have a look at the iPhone XS Max, it is very tempting but I’ll see how it all pans out but so far I’m pretty happy with the iPhone X and hopefully the launch of iOS 12.1 soon will smooth the rough edges.

Back to work tomorrow, delivery arrived and departing soon

Good news, the delivery from Amazon has arrived at YouShop (a re-mailing business run by New Zealand Post) – four orders in four separate boxes have been consolidated down into a single box which will be shipped to New Zealand resulting in 7 CD’s arriving hopefully within the next week or so. As much as the rest of the world has moved to downloadable music and music subscriptions, I still prefer the psychologically satisfying feel of having a physical product in my hands – the order, the excitement of waiting and the satisfaction of having waited and then receiving it rather than the instant gratification that comes with ordering a virtual product. It probably explains why, even with the birth of ebooks that I still prefer to buy physical books – the satisfaction of holding a book, the feel of the pages, the smell of the pages, the text on the page, make the whole experience of reading a more satisfying experience.

I was sceptical at first that the 64bit version of XLD would make it but it has been officially launched – a pure 64bit version of XLD then the work it appears that is taking place when it comes to ‘dark mode’ compatibility will mean that by the time macOS 10.15 rolls around next year that we’ll see XLD 64bit full mature and ‘dark mode’ compatibility in a mature state. With all that being said, I’ve used it and it is working perfectly – I rip the CD’s I buy using XLD secure mode, encode them to FLAC format for archival purposes to back up the CD then after copying it to my hard disk I then encode those FLAC files to AAC format then import them into my iTunes library (which I also back up). So far I’m pretty happy with how things are going but it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Apple’s own Compressor given that it is still a 32bit – whether we’re going to see a 64bit version of that soon but so far I haven’t heard much talk about that.

Work is starting up on Wednesday, so I’m back to work but on a good side I got my fortnightly shopping out of the way – all stocked up with heavy food for the next couple of weeks so I’ll be looking forward to yummy meals at work.

I really want to use Safari 12 but…

I really do want to use Safari 12 on macOS but I’m finding that the inability to have a functioning ad blocker along with filters to stop bitcoin miners (that use javascript) has pretty much forced me into looking at Chrome. I understand the need to move things forward in terms of a new content blocking API but the net result has been making Safari incompatible with the dominant browser extension API resulting in many developers just throwing their hands up in the end and walking away from developing extensions for Safari (uBlocker origin being the most recent example but there are past examples such as the Reddit Enhancement Suite which had quite a strong following). The big gamble that Apple has made is that the uniform API between the iOS and macOS Safari will result in developers targeting iOS and macOS will benefit as a side effect of that but so far I haven’t seen that happen. The problem was made worse by the fact that it all has to be pushed through the app store (Apple argues that it is for the sake of security) which requires one to have a $99 per year developer account – for developers who provide their extensions free of charge. Developers will always target the biggest platform and that is Chrome at the moment (majority marketshare on macOS, Windows and Android) so as a result of Apple changing the API then on top of that charging $99 has left developers deciding “only a few extra lines of code was ok but now you’re expecting me to pay $99 per year? bah, not worth the effort”.

I’m going to give this a go for a while and see what happens – worse case scenario is that I keep Chrome for when I need an ad blocker but use Safari for everything but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  One thing to consider is this, the Content Blocker API still has a limitation of 50K, the average easy list of ad blockers is sitting at 85K, and that doesn’t take into account the 26K malware domains and more. When people think that 50K is enough – they clearly haven’t looked at how big the filters are because 50K certainly isn’t enough.

Side note, it is interesting to see ANZ in New Zealand has moved from their inhouse payment software ‘goMoney Wallet’ so that makes for interesting conversation as to whether other banks fall in line – Westpac has its own payment software but how long will they hold out for? ASB has had its own for quite some time – how long will they hold out for? at some point I think they’re eventually going to fold as the pressure from customers will force a change because if the reviews on the Play Store and App Store are anything to go by, eventually them holding out for a ‘better deal’ from Apple and Google is ultimately going to hurt them in the long run.

Weekend going well, software being updated

Things are going well so far but it is interesting to see how there was a recent story about an ex-Apple engineer talking about how ‘terrible it is in Apple’ and the usual story of ‘how it is gone down hill since Steve Jobs died’. As someone who has worked in a large corporation I always find it funny how a single person working in a specific area of a large corporation can extrapolate their bad experience in that area to the whole organisation. When people go to the media and talk about the tale of woe – remember one thing, you’re getting a snap shot that is seen and interpreted through a particular lens that is distorted by a wish for the ‘good old days’ in a company that has rapidly increased in size of the organisation and a culture that had to change to accommodate the larger organisation size..

That change was bought about to accommodation a more hierarchical structure to accommodate the size so the old way of doing things of going ‘straight to Steve’ is no longer feasible – the CEO who had a finger in all the pies isn’t possible when an organisation gets as large as Apple so Tim Cook delegates – to jump over your immediate boss is to no respect that chain of command and to undermine the authority of your line manager – the only time where you want to jump over your line manager is if he or she is doing something that is illegal or in violation of company policy but even then there are processes that you need to follow.

Personally, I am pretty damn happy with how things are going with the hardware and software – the recent update of IOS and macOS has been the most stable x.0 release in years – infant I’d go so far as saying it is the most robust release and I’ve been using Mac’s way back when I first bought an eMac which came preloaded with 10.2.4 and I’ve bought ever release of MacOS X and installed ever upgrade that was made available through the App Store. In the 15 years I’ve been using macOS, 10.14 is the most stable it has been in years and now that there is a clear time table of removing 32bit functionality combined with OpenGL and OpenCL officially deprecated in favour of Metal/Metal Kit and Metal Performance Shaders.

In the grand scheme of things, there is the on going harmonisation between all the platforms then the UIKit work being done on macOS to provide at least a way to easily move code from macOS to iOS and vice versa. Then there is also the work done on addressing the concerns that developers have had for year regarding the sandboxing, the requirement for App Store apps, which was too restrictive resulting in many companies either pulling their applications out of the store (BBEdit, Panic) or never entering into the store (Microsoft, Adobe etc). For a company that has stopped caring they seem to ben doing an awful lot of work to address the concerns of developers where in previous years they simply ignored. I remember for years and years Apple just simply ignored developers who complained about the sandboxing and yet nothing had been done but now things are happening. Years of half-assing OpenGL and OpenCL development we finally hear a vision put forward by Apple – Metal is the future and OpenGL/OpenCL is being deprecated then removed in the long term – no more jerking around and lack of communication. Again, with all the improvements and work in progress, where is the neglect? Maybe if you define neglect as ‘I’m not getting what I want’ then sure, if you don’t like it, there is always Windows or dealing with trying to get Linux to work reliably.

My music collection is gradually expanding but I am rather frustrated that a request for a tracking number for a CD I ordered resulted in Amazon cancelling and refunding an order – does anyone at Amazon actually read the messages or do they just read the subject line then guess what the customer wants? How about this novel idea – stop treating me like an idiot with drop down boxes and I’ll write the subject line not you thank you very much. Well, we’re in the process of getting that debacle sorted out but I’m happy because it gives me a few things to aim for over the next few months – I’d sooner spend the money on something substantial than frittering it away each night on impulse buys. Now it is a matter of re-organising my shelves so I can fit everything on but on the subject of shelves, I noticed that I had a boxed music set that I hadn’t ripped yet so I’m going to do that when I get up – finishing off the ripping process. The big question when it comes to my FLAC backups is whether I pay for a storage on iCloud (NZ$4.49 per month for 200GB, NZ$15 per month for 2TB) which makes the backup/restore integrated and easy or whether I should use the Microsoft One drive that I have as part of the Office 365 family pack which includes 1TB of storage.

Pay day: Pay bills, order music and relax

Pay day has arrived so it was all about getting those bills sorted out – one of life’s lesson, always pay you bills in level of importance: Rent followed by power then mobile then internet then what ever is left over you live on/save/use to pay down debt. On a good side, getting into warmer weather means I no longer have to worry about using my heater which will save me around $100 per month but hopefully next year when I do go into winter that I’ll have retrofitted double glazed windows that’ll keep the heat in a lot better.

I jumped online to check out my wish list/saved cart – there were a few CD’s that were low in stock and given the niche nature of such CD’s the likelihood of them being out of stock for a long period of time is pretty high.

Screenshot 2018 09 28 at 12 58 38 AM

Unfortunately they’ll have to be shipped to a remailer operated by NZ Post (YouShop) which will then be sent through to me in New Zealand but the cost is inline if it were sent direct to New Zealand given that since it is operated by NZ Post then all the cost is rolled up as part of operating a courier operation rather than the other remailers where they have to get their cut and then send it onto another organisation where they’ll get their own cut. What I will do is wait till the YouShop depot gets all four CD’s then get them to bundle them up into a single shipment to New Zealand which will save money in the process. The one that I am really looking forward to is Demon Fuzz – a awesome mix of jazz, funk, rock, some aspects of ska and reggae – a great album, one of those gems that you find when on YouTube which goes into the larger behaviour I take issue with and that is the crack down on record companies that crack down on people who upload music – do these record companies actually realise that YouTube allows people to get exposure to new music and if they like it then they’ll go and purchase it? I know that is what led me to many of the music titles that have bought – sharing allows greater exploration of music. Oh well, off I go to bed so I am rested and ready for my next day at work.

macOS ‘Mojave’ is out!

It arrived at a few minutes past 5:00am this morning (New Zealand time) – clean install on all my iMac and MacBook Pro where I wiped the SSD clean then doing a clean install of a USB thumb drive (link) then I quickly installed it. I instantly put it into dark mode however one thing to remember is that the ‘tone’ of the dark mode is going to be very much impacted by the background that you choose so in the case of me I chose a background with a purple flower which softened the darkness’ so that it is more of a muted grey/black rather than the darkness that is seen with the Mojave desert background that is installed by default. So far things have been very stable although I did notice a small quirky on my MacBook Pro where there was some stuttering if two videos were playing at once (one in the background ground – playing but no audio on my twitter feed, one in the foreground being a YouTube video) but then again that is just niggling x.0 bugs that’ll always appear and I’m sure with feedback that those imperfections will be addressed pretty quickly (funny enough, the issue doesn’t appear on my iMac which makes me wonder whether it has something to do with the Intel GPU since IIRC macOS prefer to use the Intel one where it can as to improve battery life).

Arstechnica has once again done a great article going into the details and changes that might get overlooked if one were to just upgrade then jump in (link). When ever anyone says that ‘Apple is neglecting macOS’ I’ll use that as my goto document – that should shut down the conversation pretty quickly.

Only another two more days to go

The CD I ordered, The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan album, finally arrived but I’m still waiting on the other CD I ordered but given that it was ordered from the UK and shipped on 3 September although the estimated delivery date is between 24 September and 16 October so I’ll keep an eye out for that. I’m still building up my wish list – rather than frittering my money away each week I’d sooner put it aside for savings and purchasing something that has long term tangibility rather than stuff that I’ll consume and they’re gone in 5 minutes.

Next week, on Tuesday, macOS Mojave will be released so on that day what I’ll be doing is a clean install on all my devices so that they all start off with a clean slate – create a USB boot drive then do a clean install for all the devices. Looking forward to Tuesday next week when it happens.