Is Apple software isn’t getting worse?

I’ve been using Mac’s since 2003 when I bought my first Mac when living in Australia – it was an eMac (link) and through this time I’ve upgraded between releases over many different devices (iMac, iBook, PowerBook, eMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro) and the one thing to keep in mind is that, no matter how much the chorus online like to repeat it as if it were a natural law or something, the software Apple is shipping is no worse than they shipped in the past (in fact, I would argue in some cases it is actually better in some areas).

Lets go for a walk down member late, anyone remember the 10.2.x days where if a SMB mount would disappear off the network resulting in the whole Finder hanging resulting a ‘force quit’? Anyone remember when in 10.2.8 the ethernet support was broken where they had to quickly pull the update? Then there was 10.3.x where a bug resulted in file system corruption on external devices that used the Oxford chipset – anyone remember that? Then there was 10.4.x with fast switching bugs, poor optimisation for the transition from PowerPC to x86 – remember those? Anyone remember when 10.5 was released and on Macrumors there were numerous people claiming that 10.4.11 was the most rock solid version ever? Anyone remember discoveryd in 10.10.x? As someone who has gone through all this before, for the loud voices on the internet to scream about how ‘the software is worse than ever’ either are looking at the past with rose tinted classes or are large ignorant of Apple and macOS from the past because they’ve only just started to own a Mac.

Long story short there is far too much time spent by too many people claiming each year that “Apple’s software has gone down hill…back in [x date] the software was far superior but now they’re ignoring [product category] for the sake of [conspiracy theory]”. Put ‘apple declining software quality’ into Google and you’ll see the same articles going back over a decade – each year another journalist (or even the same one) declaring that this year software has declined whilst looking back at the prior year with “but last year things were good” but ignore the fact that the prior year the author made the same claim about the software for that year.

With all that being said, how does one reduce the problems one might experience when upgrading ones operating system (between major releases vs. incremental updates which are bug fix up dates (going from 10.15.0 to 10.15.1)?

1) Wait at least 1-2 weeks after the release of a new version of macOS – many times Apple will release a supplementary update and then ‘slip stream’ (to borrow an old Microsoft term) those changes back into the the installer from the store. For example, if you have a look under ‘Version History’ on the macOS Catalina page where the oroginal 10.15 release 3 weeks ago then the 10.15.0 release was updated 1 week ago. When you see that it means that Apple has updated it since the original version was released.

2) Always do a clean install – back up your files (not applications, just your files) then download, create a bootable USB stick so that you can do a clean install, reboot and reset PRAM and SMC, boot off the USB stick then run the installer, format the drive and then install it. Will that result in a perfect system? No but what it will do is remove all possible variables that might influence the outcome – if you start with a clean slate with nothing carried over for the last installation means that if there are issues then you know that since you started with a clean slate it is solely down to macOS and not because of something carried over from what existed on the system before. Yes, in theory all upgrades should be smooth but going back to my Linux and Windows days I never trusted upgrades – I always did a clean install between major releases which is how I’ve avoided so many of the problems that people are facing today. When in doubt clean it out.

Side note: macOS 10.15.1 was released today and installed – it was a huge update weighing it at 4.59GB. I had a check through ‘System Information’ and it appears that pretty much everything, from kernel extensions through to frameworks, has been updated which explains the large size. I haven’t noticed any major changes other than things appear to be snappier especially Safari, Finder etc. there have been big under the hood changes the have come with this release but I’d say that as things calm down and there is probably another update released just before Christmas – 10.4.2 was released 5 December 2018 so I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a release around the same time.

Windows 10X and the future of Windows

As most of you know already Microsoft made a big announcement at their latest Surface event and part of that was the announcement of Windows 10X (link) which made two interesting mini announcements as part of that which were:

  1. Win32 applications would run in a ‘container’ (probably not the best term to use) to keep the underlying operating system in a pristine condition so it is possible to uninstall software without having random files left over and it ensures that those applications don’t cause a mess to the system because they’re not well behaved. It addresses one of the biggest sore spots for Microsoft in the past – every attempt has involved expecting developers to start with a clean slate and growth was lacklustre because the software wasn’t there and the software wasn’t there because the user base wasn’t there – a chicken and egg scenario.
  2. There is an adaptable UWP based shell being developed based on WinUI (as seen in the mock ups and screenshots) along with bundled applications either utilising WinUI, UWP and/or being PWA but with a WinUI appearance.
  3. WinUI 3.0 is being setup to allow a mixture of WinUI and WinForms/MFC/etc which will allow developers to gradually migration over WinUI not to mention the fact that WinUI has been decoupled from UWP so that it can run older versions of Windows 10 and limited support for Windows 8.1 (which will be coming close to its end of mainstream support soon).

Although Microsoft has made much to promise ‘power users’ that things aren’t going to change but I’d hazard to guess that over the long term once the ‘desktop’ version of the UWP desktop is ready they’ll push it out to desktop users and the experience will be more or less transparent. Basically Microsoft don’t want a repeat of Windows 8 all over again so they’re trying to reassure the ‘tech bros’ and ‘power users’ that their 72 button mouse and glow in the dark keyboard that Microsoft isn’t going to ram something down their throat which radically alters they way they use their computer.

I’d say that a Windows 10 release in 2021 (H1 or H2) will probably include the option of downloading the Windows 10X ISO for the desktop and then maybe in 2022 there will be a switch over to this new WinUI/UWP based Shell will become the default going forward. Little by little I can see Microsoft wanting to move the shell over to the new frameworks with the old frameworks being kept around purely for backwards compatibility. Maybe sometime in the future, like on Windows Server has for 32bit compatibility, Microsoft will allow people to uninstall backwards compatibility to lighten the load where it is installed on demand when required rather than installed by default.

Not a fan of the doom and gloom brigade

I oscillate between pessimism on one hand and yet on the other hand a vibrant optimism that ‘yes, tomorrow can be a better day’ but most of the time I try straddle the centre where I attempt to be realistic but trying not to fall into the trap of being some cynical edge lord. Why do I try to avoid that trap? Because in large enough doses the ‘cynical edge lord’ makes life pretty damn miserable, where no matter how good something is you’re constantly trying to find the negative in something otherwise pretty need, constantly trying to find the downside rather than just enjoying the moment.

Something I notice in far too many cases, especially in the tech world, is this obsession with being cynical for the sake of being cynical, an attempt to make out as if they’re ‘above it all’ and they’re some ‘truth teller’ that ‘the man hasn’t gotten to’ when reality they’re contrarian attempting to define themselves in opposition to what ever is happening in the mainstream, the sort of person who will give up something because it starts to become popular because god forbid liking something that other people like.

As someone who has reviewed hardware and software myself, any product that is released will always have bugs and most of the time those bugs are later corrected with a software update. Yes, it is important to be realistic in terms of informing the reader, viewer or listener of the pitfuls but it is also important to be realistic – yes, here are some bugs but keeping in mind that these are bugs that can be corrected in software. It is also important not to exaggerate as well – if there is a bug is the bug in a critical area of functionality or is it just a PITA which would be nice if it worked properly?

For example, I’ve been watching reviews of the Pixel 4 regarding the dynamic nature of the screen refresh which ramps up to 90Hz when scrolling then scaling back to 60Hz to save battery power – the ramping up and down isn’t as smooth as it should be but that can be addressed through a software update. Is that something that should have been perfect on day one? sure, if we lived in a perfect world no software would have bugs and thus there would be no need to even review products because the products would already be perfect. It reminds me of when people complain about security holes in Windows – the question isn’t whether there are security holes (there are security holes in all software) but how the parent company deals with them which at least in my opinion the important part.

This is also one of the reasons I don’t like reviews with conclusions being reached on a newly released product – there are always going to be bugs but the question is whether the vendor is willing to address those bugs through software and firmware updates. This is one of the reasons I tend to wait 2-3 months after a new product is launched so then I can see how it stands up in the real world, getting reviews coming in after x number of months usage, talking about bugs they originally found but had been corrected in updates that have been released etc.

For me the two devices I’m interesting is the new Samsung Galaxy S11 that’ll be released next year which will be using the Exynos 980 SoC which does away with the custom architecture in favour of utilising the standard ARM ‘off the shelf’ process design. The modem in the new SoC delivers 5G (sub 6GHz bands) as well as supporting LTE all the way down to 2G which then combined with Verizon won’t allow any new CDMA2000 devices on their CDMA2000 network since they’re going to eventually retire it (I wouldn’t be surprised if Sprint isn’t too far behind) which opens up the possibility of Samsung delivering a single model globally rather than the Exynos/Qualcomm split. There is also the announcement that Samsung was working closely with AMD regarding their GPU and although Samsung says that Mali-G76 MP5 will be in the new SoC it’ll be interesting to see whether the relationship with AMD yields some benefits in terms of GPU performance.

The other device that’ll be interesting to see will be the Microsoft Surface Duo. Although the idea of a dual screen device is very interesting, what I think is more interesting is Microsoft embracing Android by using it as an operating system one of their products. I am hoping that as part of that embrace it will translate into the sort of long term software support policy that will result in end users not only getting a great piece of hardware but getting software updates and upgrades in a timely manner which will make up for the premium price that the Surface platform has.

Tasty but frugal

So I’ve decided to have a look at new types of meals I can have which are affordable and yet easy to put together which has been due in part of wanting to reduce my grocery bill as well as getting better value for money. Right now the average food per day works out at around $8 per day which is due in part to purchasing ready prepared meals such as those sold by Naked Cuisine and Pitango. Don’t get me wrong, they’re very tasty but can become a big costly so I’m going to mix it up a bit by preparing Diamond Vegetable Pasta Spirals the night before by cooking them then putting it in the fringe so then I can take it to work the next day in a container along with the flavoured canned tomato mixed in. The canned tomatoes around around $1.50-$2.00 per can and the pasta is around 20 cents so for around $2 (give or take a few cents) I can a healthy and filling meal at work.

During the summer I’ll have more salads, maybe make some interesting pasta ones involving tuna, sun-dried tomatoes plus a few other ingredients which will be nice on a hot day. At home for dinner on my days off I’ll start to mix it up a little bit more – part of that might involve investing in a new toasted sandwich maker (link) since the last one I had few a few years broke. It is always good to have a few cans of tomatoes on the shelf, toast bread in the freezer and some cheese in the fridge so when you get the munchies it is possible to throw on some toasties and satisfy the hunger.

Next week I’ll get paid so I’ll need to refill my fridge and shelves so what I’ll need to do is rather than just do the scatter gun approach of ‘buy stuff, sort out meals later’ I’m going to make a conscious effort to try and at least have a rough plan on the meals I want for that week as to avoid frittering money away and instead have an end goal for what my purposes are going to do. That reminds me, I need to buy some chicken because I’ve got some stir-fry vegetables but I haven’t used them but they would work well in a honey soy chicken stir-fry – I’ll lay off the noodles and just have it as just vegetables and protein.

Oh, and this week I had some wonderful wraps that I might repeat this week – chicken strips, coleslaw, cheese, red onions, and a tasty sauce. There are some recipes I do want to try but I’m going to have to wait till winter comes around – things like chicken lasagna – given it is such a heavy meal it is more suited for winter when there is a cold miserable night and you’re wanting some comfort food. I’m hoping that getting better organised will allow me to do more home cooking – I can cook but the problem is that I’ve just been so lazy so hopefully that’ll laziness will be a thing of the past or at the very least I’ll be a lot less lazier.

Back to work tomorrow

Well, I’ve enjoyed my two days off but I’m back to work on Wednesday with all the fun and excitement that entails. As much as I enjoy my weekends I also recognise that for me to enjoy those weekends I have to work but I am hoping that as I start getting myself in a better financial position then there will be a lot less pressureI’ll be putting on myself to do overtime. Things are going well and I think I’ll get to a good position towards the end of the year especially if I stay down in Wellington and work overtime on New Years, Boxing Day etc. where I can get paid time and a half – all of that put towards my objective.

I am going to change things around in terms of my sleeping routine because although I do finish late (2200) and start late (1330) I think it would be a whole lot better getting up earlier so then I go to bed as soon as I get home (after having a shower) and then in bed before 2300 so then I’m asleep before midnight. If I make that move I think it’ll help get into a good routine when t comes to Sunday where I start at 1130 rather than 1330 so that 2 hour difference is quite big especially if you’re used to getting to sleep at 0200-0300. I also notice that when I don’t get enough ‘good sleep’ it makes me more susceptible to snacking especially after work which isn’t good eating food that late at night.

Right on schedule..10.15.1 beta released

Just as I expected Apple has released macOS 10.15.1 beta to developers. At this stage the focus is probably on those low hanging fruit but so far at least for me my experience with macOS 10.15 has been pretty stable. How did I pull that one off? Because I make it a rule that when there is a major release I always do a clean install, never an upgrade because upgrades introduce too many variables meaning it is difficult to peg down whether a problem is due to the new operating system or the result of a conflict between the new and old one. The benefit of having clean install is that you remove all those variables – start with a clean slate and avoid the drama. Have there been bugs? Sure, I had some issues when doing a DFU restoration for some reason but apart from that everything is working smoothly.

Work tomorrow starts at 11am so I’ll be up early but on a good side I’ll have both Monday and Tuesday off from work so I’m going to enjoy a two day weekend. Melbournes cup is going up on 5 November so there will be some overtime I’ll jump at – opportunity to make an extra bit of money and hit my target of getting in a good financial situation by the end of next year.

I’ve been reading rumours about the next iPhone’s, in particular the modem that’ll be used, and I have a feeling that this will be a situation that it’ll be at least 2-3 years before upgrade particularly if the benefits of the updates are minor at best. I think the interesting part will be around 5G and whether carriers in New Zealand will ben deploying it at those lower frequencies and whether plans will reflect the improved spectrum efficiency that it’ll allow higher data bundles. The other part will be how Spark will gear up its fixed wireless broadband given that Spark appears to have thrown in the towel when it comes to Huawei regarding 5G and going with Nokia instead for 5G. Over the long term I could imagine Spark standardising on a SingleRAN from Nokia for the sake of simplifying just as Spark did when they standardised on Huawei after having a mixed vendor model between Ericsson (3G) and Huawei (4G) then eventually moving a SingleRAN from Huawei.

Apple pushes out new betas, new Twitter client on macOS and more

Apple has pushed out another round of betas to developers for iOS and tvOS 13.2, and watchOS 6.1 – yes they have skipped a version when it comes to tvOS, going from 13.0 to 13.2. It’ll be interesting to see what the improvements that are in store. It’ll be interesting to see whether there is going to be a macOS 10.15.1 beta released soon given that on the release notes for 10.15 there were still a number of know bugs in the Catalyst framework that needed to be addressed but weren’t ‘show stopper’ critical enough to hold back shipping macOS 10.15.

Twitter has released a client for macOS which is based on their iPad version code base through the use of the Catalyst. I’ve got it installed on my MacBook Pro and my iMac. So far it has been pretty stable however there are a few bugs such as push updates not coming through thus forcing one to refresh manually which is strange given that the iPad and iOS version of Twitter are receiving updates being pushed rather than having to manually refresh. I’m hoping that maybe as Catalyst matures and developers provide feedback to Apple about bridging the gap that we’ll see the experience improve.

With that all being said, rumour has it that in the long run the goal of SwiftUI is to create a unified UI framework that spans over all their operating systems. If you could imagine a series of circles overlapping with common components shared over all the different platforms then specific features available on specific platforms so it is possible to share a large amount of UI design code to reduce code maintenance. The latest release of macOS 10.15 saw the inclusion of SwiftUI 1.0 so there are many more years to go for the technology to mature but I’d say that their goal long term is to get developers who are starting off to move their code to SwiftUI and those with an existing code base to start thinking of a migration strategy. Long term it’ll be interesting to see whether Catalyst remains or whether it was a temporary bridge until SwiftUI is mature enough where those that depend upon Catalyst can look at moving towards the vision Apple has for the future regarding multi-platform development.