Almost there…one more day

One more day to go and it’ll soon be the weekend – time to get things sorted out at home. Looking back it is funny how I haven’t had soft drink for the week but what I also thought about is how much money has been saved by not buying soft drinking. When it comes to my much needed caffeine fix I’ve been able to ween myself off coffee with milk and I’ve been drinking coffee black (no milk) – a great way to get that caffeine hit at work without the price tag. Could I give it up? Sure, but it would hell on earth and little real benefit giving up a caffeine based beverage for zero health benefits other than the moral high ground of “I’m an all natural person who doesn’t need stimulants because I’m high on life”.

There are two big events coming up in the next month or so with the first being the ‘World Mobile Congress’ where it is rumoured that Samsung will launch the Galaxy S10 with three models that closely mirror the Apple product range of iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max. It’ll be interesting to see whether there are other products released – I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing a refresh of their wearable line up but I doubt we’ll see Samsung embrace wearOS especially when you also consider that Samsung uses Tizen in their televisions instead of Android TV. It is interesting to see the growing relationship with Apple with the inclusion of iTunes Store with the range of Tizen televisions which makes me wonder whether this is part of a much more long term goal of moving away from Google in terms of a reliance on on their ecosystem resulting in what Samsung wanting and what Google wanting not always lining up.

Towards the end of March there is a rumoured event regarding a subscription news service along with a greater focus on cloud services so it’ll be interesting to see what Apple deliver. What will also make for an interesting discussion is the work being done on 10.14.4 particularly with the work being done with Webkit and the regular Technology Preview’s being pushed out which has done a lot of work in the area of HTML5 compliance especially in the area of web applications given how there is a general trend in that direction with Spotify being the most obvious example but also Twitter doing the same thing when they retired their Twitter desktop based application in favour of a PWA (Progressive Web Application). By getting Webkit to support those technologies it will hopefully translate to vendors at least allowing users to install PWAs on their computer without having to haul along the Chromium baggage. Hopefully the added support for those technologies will allow end users to benefits whilst taking advantage of the inherit efficiency that comes from Webkit when compared to Chromium.

With that being said, it’ll make for interesting discussion given that 10.14.4 comes with added biometric support from within the browser which makes me wonder whether Apple has taken time to backporting those features back to the current stand version of Safari or whether they just said “bugger it” and branched and stabilised a technology preview then crowned it with a stable version number. There is also iOS 12.2 in the works so I’m looking forward to see what that also delivers.

Back to work tomorrow

Well, laying in bed as I chill out before heading off to sleep but I thought I might as well ‘spill my guts’ on what I’ve done today. Well, I slept in this morning until 11am and got up to have a cup of tea and work out what to do. So basically I farted around for a few hours – went out and bought a buttered chicken pie and a banana/sultana/salted caramel muffin – brunch of champions.

Tonight I went along to the local Green Party meeting – the first one since becoming a member over a year ago but it was a productive one and it is great to see the many people from different walks of life and their impact on the local community in which I live. Next month one of the MPs from central government will visit and answer a variety of questions which will hopefully also illuminate how the government operates – hopefully that’ll give me some hope that a lot of work is occurring behind the scenes but it isn’t being reported on.

I’m giving Chrome 72 a try with Chrome 73 coming out with dark mode support in macOS along with Progressive Web App (PWA) support which will make for an interesting situation given that the mobile Twitter page is practically a PWA. I’m looking forward to WWDC this year particularly when you consider the major improvements in Safari that have been in the works (as seen with their technology previews they’ve been putting out since the programme began). I think the big announcement or at least I hope doing something about their iCloud service especially for those users who depend on using the web based interface.

One more day to go: Saturday is lamb day

I’ve been feeling bloody horrible for a week so I’ve been pulling things out of my diet – the first thing I did was pull out dairy for my diet. No more ‘Up and Go’, no more ‘instant flavoured coffee’ (which include powdered milk)  in favour of black coffee etc. and that alone has really helped. The other part has been getting rid of bread – stripping out carbohydrates to the absolute bare minimum and that has also helped as well so I am unsure why I am feeling better but it appears to be working so I’m going to continue on my merry way with this programme. Btw, it has been one hell of an arduous task because I love chocolate and I really love ice cream but I’m not going to go back to having the really bad stomach pain that I had if the end result of eating a tub of ice cream is 10 minutes of bliss followed by two days of absolute agony (imagine someone crushing your stomach whist stabbing it with a thousand knives).

Tonight have had a wonderful lamb with mint sauce – pepper and Himalayan pink salt, cooked in the oven for around 28 minutes, then left to rest for 5 minutes then got into nice slices with mint sauce. After being at work I didn’t feel like anything else – no vegetables, no rice, no couscous, just some slices of lamb with mint sauce and that has left me a happy lad.

Tomorrow is the last day of the work week where I’ll be starting early and back home early which will mean that I’ll get an early start on Monday to get things sorted for the coming week. I’ve been having a look at my holiday hours that I’ve clocked up and it looks like I have over two weeks of holidays not to mention the days in lieu so it’ll be interesting whether, like my previous job, they will ask me whether I want to go on a break as to reduce the amount of outstanding holidays since such holidays constitute an unfunded liability sitting on the books.

I’m looking forward to this year, finally paying off the last bit of my student loans then working on getting the rest of my financial life in better shape but so far things are going well – it’s a long term project but that is the main focus so that when I get to the end of 2020 that I am 100% debt free and I am in better financial health as well as better physical health.

Demystifying the Samsung Android release schedule

I don’t normally make it a habit to defend Samsung and Android but I thought I might as well put something out there in regards to the release of Android 9 on Samsung phones and the 6 month delay between it being ‘officially’ released by Google and it being made available to end users of Samsung phones. The first thing that is important to understand is that Android is like a ‘distribution’ like how one can see a GNU/Linux distribution being based on multiple projects that are all bought together and then tweaked/customised by the distributor itself to give it a unique look, feel and add features that end users might find useful.

In the case of Samsung though they’ve not only got to bring Android over and test it on their Exynos SoC but also fix up Android bugs that are found as their customisation is integrated back into it resulting an otherwise simple process into something more complex. Yes, yes, I know, in a perfect world we wouldn’t have heavily customised Samsung phones but it is the way in which vendors make their devices stand out from the rest – to give the Android on Samsung a uniquely Samsung experience when compared to what other vendors do.

Here is a good example, GNOME desktop has a particular release schedule but that isn’t necessarily going to line up with the release schedule for the OpenSUSE distribution so sometimes what you have a gap between when GNOME is released and when that updated GNOME rolls out to end users. Then add on top of that the OpenSUSE distribution folks building and testing for bugs – and sometimes the bugs that are specific to that particular distribution meaning that patches have to then be created to address the issues and then pushed upstream to their respective project source tree.

Given the dynamics of what happens in the Linux world one can apply the same sort of logic to Android where the code is released from Google to the AOSP then Samsung gets that code, merge it with their driver stack etc then test it, test it and test it some more then release it once it is ready. In other words, view the ‘release’ of Android as a code drop and follow the schedule set by the OEM (in other words view what you have on your phone as “Samsung Android” which has its own release schedule like how OpenSUSE has its own release schedule) – in the case of Samsung they release upgrades 6-8 months after the Android code drop which places it inline with the summer/spring (northern hemisphere) which is just before the usual announcement of new Samsung phones.

Now, regarding security updates, not every update is going to be relevant to your particular OEM hence it might not be necessary to push out an update for a security issue because your phone isn’t impacted by it. For example, in the latest January security update there are 4 security related fixes for the ext4 filesystem but if your vendor doesn’t use it then does it need updating? There is an update for Dragon BSP support from nVidia so unless your device uses that piece of hardware then your hardware isn’t impacted. That doesn’t even go into the various Qualcomm components where 6 of them are specific to Qualcomm so if you have an Exynos SoC then you’re left unaffected by it.

Then there is the other factor, as mentioned further up, as problems arise the vendor will make patches so there is a good to fair chance that the problem is resolved not to mention that the vendor could also pull down the code up to the latest security patch plus also additional patches that have been made so a ‘January 2019’ update might include more than just that patch thus it isn’t entirely accurate to just look at what patch level it is as it is possible that it could also fix more than just what is listed in the security bulletin for that particular month.

When conspiracy theories start to appear not to be so crazy after all

With the self appointment Juan Guaidó in Venezuela the interesting part of this whole turn of events is how there was a plan of regime change that pre-dates Trump – that the ‘deep state’ (a term that some on the left and the right like to use – a term I try avoid because it undermines ones credibility given the air of ‘conspiracy theorist’ that comes with it) has an agenda already and the most can do is nudge it a particular direction but has very limited scope on changing the over all policy. For example, Elliott Abrams (yes, the same person involved in Iran-Contra) was rumoured to have been rejected for an undersecretary position by Trump  has come back as the COO of regime change (link).

Remember the Trump promise of no more regime change? No more foreign wars? No more nation building? I think about this in the light of Obama where his slogan was ‘no more stupid wars’ and ‘no more nation building’ and what happened? The United States went from 2 wars to 7 wars, then there was the Arab spring and given what is known about the Venezuelan opposition the obvious question is how organic were those protests in Syria for example or was it the dirty tricks department within the government doing some off the books shit stirring to necessitate the actual government to officially do something or say something what is happening in said countries.

What is also interesting is the degree in which Jair Bolsonaro was supported by outside actors particularly when you consider that the United States support far right paramilitary groups within Ukraine that carry paintings of Stepan Bandera at their rallies – branding him as a ‘nationalist patriot’ when in reality he was a NAZI collaborator. The media of course branding all these rallies as ‘Ukrainians yearning for their freedom from the yoke of Russian oppression’ whilst spending zero time investigating the man in the painting that any given participant was carrying at the front of the rally.

Anyone starting to see a pattern here? Supporting the far right – be they the far right fascist organisations I Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela etc. or militant Islamic fundamentalist groups that the United States supported in Syria whilst the mainstream media labelled these vile groups as ‘freedom fighters’. When it comes to the heavy lifting about researching into the background of these groups it is left up to the alternative media, primarily left wing, to do the necessary heaving lifting to find out what these so-called ‘freedom fighting’ groups are actually about – we quickly find that they do a lot of fighting but they do very little in the way of advocating for freedom other than the freedom for multinationals to screw over the bottom half of the population. It goes back to the troubling practice of supporting groups that happen to be the enemy of Americas enemy (aka the enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine) whilst ignoring the blow back that can occur  Here is a great book on that very topic (link) where the author outlines that this strategy is hardly new and yet it appears that nothing is learned – either that or that the powers that be in the United States don’t care about the blow back.

Microsoft Office is now in the App Store

As promised at WWDC with the changes around sandboxing, under the hood changes along with Apple changing how much of a cut they received from subscriptions that were paid through the App Store from within the application downloaded off the store vs. the customer go to said organisations website and doing it manually, Microsoft has finally delivered Microsoft Office to the Mac App Store (link). What that will mean is that each application is downloaded as a separate piece of software and all updates will be distributed through the store rather than the situation of having to have a ‘Microsoft Office Update’ daemon running in the background. I’ve given it a try and everything is working well – no differences as far as I see it when compared to Office 365 that is downloaded from the store.

Apple and privacy

Just before I start, I’m going to put some ideas out there – not in a ‘here is a grand unified theory’ but rather a collection of observations that I’ve come across and I’ll let you decide what are worth considering vs. worth throwing away.

Not too long ago I wrong an article (link) and I was heading back home tonight having an internal debate in my mind regarding the issue of privacy particularly when you consider how businesses like Facebook, Twitter, Facebook and others rely on collecting user telemetric data to then use it to deliver services, target ads etc. Just before I start I have to disclose the fact that I use separate logins for all my services with the only link existing between accounts are between this WordPress account and Twitter so that when I make a post on WordPress that it is automatically syndicated to Twitter so all my followers can also see what I’ve just recently blogged about. Other than that sort of arrangement I keep all my accounts separate which stops the sort of situation in the case of Facebook and third party access hence the reason why Apple doesn’t allow such integration with iCloud and why Microsoft stopped doing it a few years ago back in the days of Microsoft Passport.

Apple have carved out a niche for themselves over many years as the company that cares about your privacy (side note, I’ll be writing a blog post tomorrow about Apple and their sales decline and what their new direction appears to be vs. what direction they should take) as a point of differentiation when compared to an organisation such as Google whose primary source of revenue is the collection and monetisation of data. Apple talking about privacy isn’t new given that Steve Jobs talked about the importance of asking the customer for permission before getting access to sensitive data and for the customer to know what they’re signing up for ‘in plain English’.

From a pragmatic point of view it is easy for Apple to play the privacy card as a point of differentiation given that the primary engine of their business model isn’t the accumulation of data and the monetisation of that data but rather selling physical products along with services such as Apple Music, upgrades to iCloud storage along with sales of software and subscriptions via the App Store where each transaction Apple takes a cut so there is no need to do what Google or Facebook does.

This strict approach however, as some have argued, has resulted in Siri lagging behind the competition because it restricts the ability to use large data sets stored in the cloud where as Apples approach is to do as much of the processing on the device itself and keep the least amount of data in the cloud. In the case of Google it allows the AI system too not only learn from the information for that specific user but to also use learn using data from all the users that use the particular service which allows the AI to be refined by feeding it more information. Then with that more information then you have demographic such as sex, age, location etc. that can can be used to predict not only based on your own patters but also the patters of people of similar backgrounds and behaviours as well.

So at the moment there is a tug of war between sticking firm to the idea that AI can be completed locally without compromising user privacy but will it always lag when compared to an AI system sitting in the cloud that is able to suck up huge amounts of data and learn at a faster pace simply by the share volume of information? I ask that because customers have a strange habit of saying in surveys that they care about something but when push comes to shove, what they say is important isn’t necessarily translating to a change in behaviour. For example, scandals surrounding Facebook where in the United Stats the number of daily active users has flatlined at 185 million users and in Europe there has been a modest decline from 282 million down to 279 million but that doesn’t include its other ‘properties’ that it owns such as WhatsApp and Instagram, so if there is a concern about privacy it certainly isn’t translating into a major drop off in users (disclosure: I’m on WhatsApp – I’d prefer to use something else like iMessage but my brother and mum use Android phones so here we are). I guess only time will tell to see whether it pays off in the long run – will consumers be happy to sacrifice the the strengths of Google’s approach to AI learning for the sake of privacy or is the whole concern over privacy something that is created by the media (clickbait, column inches and headlines on television) rather than genuine concern beyond “I’m shocked but I’m going to go back to what I was doing before”.

With that being, things may end up start tipping in favour of Apple especially if governments start cracking down on the very behaviours that impact their business model but are concerning to privacy activists. Personally I think that in the case of Google, the impact would be disruptive but Google does have the benefit of having something beyond simply collecting data to serve up ads to provide a given service. For example, there is Google Cloud platform (aka ‘utility computing’ as it was referred to back when Sun Microsystems was talking about it being the future of computing) which recorded a 29% growth in the most recent quarter then add on top of that there is G-Suite, YouTube Premium, the newly launched Google One and I’m sure if Google wanted to then I could imagine them turning other services into subscription – $50 for a wall to wall ad free experience from search through to video etc. would make for an interesting conversation as to how far users on the internet are willing to pay for services if it means zero ads and companies collecting less data for the sake of monetisation. There is also the various other divisions such as selling physical products such as the Pixel phone, tablet, laptop etc. with the capacity to push sales harder than they are especially with the availability to run Linux applications on Chromebooks which opens up the possibility to third party applications thus making them more widely useful.

Facebook however is going to have a tougher time – yes, they have a corporate collaboration platform called ‘Workplace by Facebook” that is $3 per month per user but I don’t see it gaining much traction in the enterprise marketplace. That being said, as of November 2017 there was a filing with the SEC that Facebook was generating $5 revenue per user so that makes me wonder whether there is the capacity for Facebook to offer a privacy centric ad free version for maybe NZ$10 per month butMark Zuckerberg, when asked by members on the Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees  about the idea of having a paid for ad free version – he avoided answering the question by making a statement that was irrelevant to the question  then later admitted that it could be possible. The Washington Post claims (link) that the cost would be closer to $18.75 which is even more stupid because it assumes that a paid version would have the same overhead costs as a free version where the platform service is not only delivered but also all the cost of delivering ads along with the analytics that occur behind the scenes. Wouldn’t it be better to generate less revenue but at a higher margin from regular paying customers than higher revenue with lower margins involving the very things that’ll bring your company under scrutiny and make life for you more difficult in the long run?

Tim Cook has talked about delivering more services this year so it’ll be interesting to see what they are and whether they’re going to be services that are open to all platforms or whether it’ll require an entry point to the platform via owning an Apple device of some sort (such as in the case of setting an iCloud account with an email address). It’ll also be interesting to see how Apple monetise them – will they be happy by having a small subscriber count if it means that it is a more profitable venture (see Apple Music and the direction of preferring paid only options rather than the ad supported model that Spotify use as a gateway to pump up the user base numbers) without the privacy worries? Time will I guess.