Some advice from a long time Mac user.

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.


The future of the Windows platform.

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.


Product reviews.

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.


Meal planning.

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.


Getting into a good routine.

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.

Personal · Technology

iPhone rumours and getting back to work.

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 releases beta builds for testing.

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.


Run off my feet at work.

Yeap, another day another pay – three days to go before the weekend again. Before heading home tonight I had to some grocery shopping – thank goodness I had the good luck of having a decent meal before shopping so I avoided the usual ‘grab anything not bolted down’ so I pretty much stuck to the shopping list. Over the few months to the end of this year I’m going to run a pretty tight ship when it comes to groceries and spending so that I meet my financial goals. Long story short I want to be debt free by the end of next year – that is the best case scenario and if I hit that then I’ll be on a good from then on out.

Work has been crazy with the Rugby World Cup but on the good side the extra work means more overtime and I’m making hay while the sunshines – when the overtime is available I take advantage of it because eventually it’ll all die down and it won’t be there any more. The big question is whether I can get time off over Christmas because I had Christmas off last year so it comes down to what is going to happen this year so then everything gets a turn at having time off over Christmas. On a good side though it does offer me the ability to pick up not only some overtime but also working statutory holidays meaning getting paid time and a half for those days along with picking up a day in lieu. Either way I end up coming out on top so I’m all good with standing down in Wellington over Christmas if required.


macOS 10.15 is officially released.

I wasn’t expecting to be released for at least a week or two but Apple released macOS 10.15 Catalina today. I woke up, rolled over to check the time and then my emails plus some top headlines and voila there it is. As noted before, all big upgrades I always do a clean install – wipe the whole of the internal storage clean then do a clean install. I’m not going to write up a big review because I think that Arstechnica does the best job at covering all the nooks and crannies (link) but I will point out a few things that I’ve noticed.

1) Safari 13.0.2 has addressed the issue with Twitter but I guess that’ll become less of an issue once the official Twitter client Applications comes out for macOS hopefully within the next few months. It also fixed up a strange bug that I was dealing with when visiting YouTube using Safari 13.0.2 on macOS 10.14.6 where as on Safari 13.0.2 on macOS 10.15 the bug has appeared to be fixed.

2) The Music application is missing the column browser option so unfortunately when you’ve got a large music library like I do the scrolling through tiles is hugely inefficient. The browsing by artists is slightly better however it still makes the process difficult when there are large numbers of albums one has to scroll through. I hope that this is just an oversight and it will be something that they will roll out maybe in a future update in much the same way they did retiring iPhoto in favour of Photos where the first versions were sparse in terms of features but eventually those gaps were filled in.

3) Both my iMac and MacBook Pro have had their BootROM and SMC updated – not too sure whether it has impacted the performance given that a combination of a new operating system install plus a firmware update has resulted in a more responsive experience. Part of the BootROM includes microcode patches for CPU bugs so I wouldn’t be surprised if it addresses recently found vulnerabilities as well as optimising previous fixes to have a lesser impact on performance. I also wonder whether macOS has adopted Retpoline (link) which has been adopted by Linux and Windows 10 1903.

4) Apple have updated their first party applications, Final Cut Pro X, Compressor and Motion, to utilise a new Metal powered engine along with it being optimised for the new Mac Pro that will be launching soon. The Mac Pro will have an optional expansion card called ‘After Burner’ which uses a FPGA. It’ll be interesting to see what it is like when it hits the market. Rumour has it that with the launch of Mac Pro that there will be a MacBook refresh along with a few other announcements but I guess we’ll need to wait to find out.

5) 32bit compatibility has been removed but so far I haven’t had any issues so far with it – everything appears to be working buttery smooth. The move to a 32bit system along with the deprecation of OpenGL and OpenCL then addition of System Extensions to replace kernel extensions gives the appearance that Apple is preparing the developer community for when they make that change to their own CPU. There has been a lot of speculation so it will be interesting to see whether it eventually turns out to be the case of whether the move to ARM is just wishful thinking by some enthusiastic Apple fans.


The law of unintended consequences.

One of the first things you learn when you take economics is the law of unintended consequences particularly when it comes to policies enacted by government – tax loopholes implemented with the best of intentions, such as not taxing an uncompleted home, so what happens? a sea of half finished houses and the government left wondering, “why aren’t we collecting as much revenue as expected?”.

There has been a quick to and fro on Twitter regarding this very issue and one of the biggest problems has been that the labour shortages have been in areas with unpredictable or seasonal work. Due to the way in which the welfare system is setup, if you apply for the unemployment benefit they calculate a stand down period based on what you were earning and then extrapolate from there the theoretical basis on which one could support oneself on the assumption that one would have saved a certain amount of money. In other words, a means tested system to sift through those who need help immediately vs. those who can wait based on their individual circumstances.

The problem with such a system is that there are a lot of baked in assumptions. The first assumption is one of the person being able to save money from a job with an unpredictable schedule such as a seasonal worker or even if they a fair amount of hours the assumption that they went into the job on a strong financial footing. Let’s assume the person had been unemployed for 6 months, building up debt and bills are in arrears so what is the first thing you do when you get a job? you start throwing as much of your money onto the bills and debt to get yourself in a good financial situation. Lefts assume after 6 months of seasonal work is it unreasonable to expect that maybe the person has saved no money?

The second assumption is modelling a cost of living on anything but what the client is actually spending to support themselves. As someone who has gone into WINZ, they never asked me what my rent or mortgagee is, what my power, telephone, internet or any other obligations. If you’re going to means test a system to calculate a stand down period then wouldn’t it make sense to find out what their outgoings are? sounds kind of strange if you’re trying to work out when and what kind of help a person needs given their circumstances when you disregard the most poignant questions that need answering.

The third assumption is the abatement system where a person can earn up to a certain amount before they start losing part of their welfare payment. Right now it is sitting at NZ$83 before tax but seriously, who is going to hire someone to work 4 1/2 hours per week? when the cost of getting to work and getting back home (assuming that day care isn’t required) pretty much wipes out any benefit gained from the job. So you’ve got a situation where employers aren’t going to hire someone who is restricted to 4 1/2 hours per week and someone desperate to get experience along with getting some extra money to make life a little easier. Given that situation does the abatement system as it current stage encourage of discourage people on welfare to seek job opportunities when they arise?

The forth assumption is when it comes to emergency assistance where assistance is only provided when you’re about to get evicted from ones house or when they’re about to turn off the power. The problem with that? there are many jobs these days where a credit check is part of the employment background check and when WINZ allows people to get to that state then it limits ones options when it comes employment. So when one is faced with a destroyed credit record and dealing with WINZ or taking ones chances with a loan shark then is it surprising that many find themselves into financial dire straits?

So in conclusion we have a situation where assumptions are made which don’t fit reality, parts of the economy with unstable jobs cannot find employees because the welfare system hasn’t adjusted to that new reality in the job market and those who do depend on the welfare system are stuck in a ‘catch 22’ between receiving assistance, trying to get experience plus some extra money on one hand then balancing it up with the cost of that experience such as reduced welfare and the additional cost of getting to and from work each day (not to mention organising day care if one has children).

The solution is to firstly get rid of the stand down period and where possible automate the payment system to avoid needless visits and utilise the existing online services that WINZ currently has when it comes to reporting income. What I mean by automated system is this, I worked as a seasonal worker which tracked the university year so why not plug the dates in when the universities holidays are then send me on my merry way where unemployment kicks in when I don’t have work and when I do pick up extra work I can report it via the website? People will be more willing to take on seasonal or contract work if they know that when there is down time that they can receive assistance without the hassle and drama associated with the current situation. There is am army of willing and able employees but the question is whether WINZ is going to be there to support or punish.

When it comes to abatement, triple or quadruple the amount one can earn before abatement kicks in – it is a quick financial stimulus into the economy because low income workers spend all their money (as was seen back in the 1990s in the US where the majority of the tax relief went to the low end up which kick started the economy) as well as giving individuals opportunity whilst ensuring that there is a safety net if the job doesn’t follow through which is particularly important given the unstable nature of employment these days. If employers are worried that employees might limit themselves then be better employers – offer stable hours with better conditions and pay as an inducement to move from being on welfare to working full time. The motivation to move off welfare needs to be provided by the employer not WINZ trying, through making life as difficult as possible, to get people to take up full time employment.

When it comes to emergency assistance – the focus should be on ensuring that assistance is provided before it turns from a manageable situation into a full on crisis. It is like finding cancer early – the earlier you find cancer the higher the likelihood of survival because the disease is manageable in its early stages where as if you leave it until too late then it would pretty much require a miracle. Same situation when a person falls behind on rent or power – the time to deal with financial hardship is when it is manageable. Also, they need to stop with this nonsense that someone who is asking for a grocery assistance is doing so because they’re bad with money – all the ‘budgeting advice’ in the world isn’t going to change the reality that if someone has next to no money they cannot magically make more money appear out of nowhere no matter how much the policy wonks at WINZ try to make it out be so.