Updates released to App Store and grocery shopping.

Well, a fortnight has come and gone and on a gone so it is that time again where I get paid then I pay all the bills, look at the balance, cry and the go and buy groceries. I’ll need to remember to bring my reusable bags to work because I do my grocery shopping after work when it is nice and quiet – devoid of all the chaos during the day and plus since I’m down there it avoids having to take another trip out which saves petrol. I’ll probably get the same Sealord tune meals I got last week – they were particularly tasty at work – the right balance of protein and carbs while not being too heavy on the stomach.

Simcity 4 has come back to the AppStore in a 64bit as promised – it’s an oldie but a goodie, the game is simple, straight forward and without all the complexity that ‘Simcity Complete Edition’. I did have a steam account but I’m closing that off – the Stem client is a complete abomination and whether it is on Windows or macOS it is atrociously unreliable when compared to the Mac App Store where I’ve never had a problem *touch wood*.

Affinity has released an update to their Publisher, Photo and Designer product line up – I’ll hold out to wait for them to put a discount but I’m going to hold off probably until mid year when I decide whether it is worth it when I decide whether I should get into YouTube. I always wonder about getting back into YouTube but for me it comes down to matter of whether I can offer something different when compared to all the alternatives out there – sure, I’ve got opinions like any other person but what ‘edge’ do I have which would make me stand out in an otherwise saturated market and if I do have some momentum and I willing to keep it going or how I’d deal with critics through everything but their kitchen sink at me. It’s the one thing I like about twitter and my blog – I get to voice my opinion while keeping relatively anonymous.


Playing the waiting game.

Well, that weekend went pretty quickly but it was pretty uneventful other than tying up some lose ends – grocery shopping, filling up the scooter with petrol. I was going to finish off the blogpost on politics but I never got around to it – it is one of those things I’ve got to be in the mood to do or otherwise the whole process of updating a blog ends up being a chore rathe retain something that I enjoy.

While doing all that I’ve found a new love for using the block button – in the past I would mute in the belief that block them would be giving them validation, aka “see, he blocked me so therefore it makes me correct” but I’ve come to the point that I just don’t care – I give them my final word and then block them.I’m sitting at 20 people so far but it sure as heck tidied up my notifications area. I don’t mind people who form a coherent counter argument but when someones argument is so bloody stupid then clearing they’re a right wing troll that needs to be shown the door pronto.

Still waiting for the confirmation of WWDC 2020 where it normally is in the first week of June but I’m playing it safe because they might push it to the second week given the first week starts on 1 June – knowing Murphy’s law if I organise time off too early I’ll find out I got time off on the wrong week. iOS 13.4 and macOS 10.15.4 are being worked on – looking forward to WWDC because there are rumours of ARM based Mac’s being launched either the end of this year or next year. If it doesn’t launch this year then I guess it is about keeping ones eyes open for hints of wanting to get developers prepared such as asking developers to submit their Mac applications to the store in bitcode format so then they can test recompiling into ARM binaries behind the scenes.

When it comes to moving macOS from x86-64 to ARM I’ve speculated that I could see the move to ARM but only after Apple had completely closed off the kernel to third party KEXT and then announce the removal of legacy code such as OpenCL, OpenGL – probably not OpenGL given that I couldn’t see Apple imposing two big changes on developers at once but then again anything is possible.

Personal · Technology

Some random thoughts.

About to head off to bed but thought I might as well update my blog before doing so. I’m in the process of selling off the Pixel 4 XL – tried TradeMe and that didn’t work so I’m going to find another way and if that doesn’t work then I’ll give it to my mum as a late Christmas/early birthday present. Don’t get my wrong, it is a great phone and all but someone like me who is heavily invested into the iCloud ecosystem so using an iPhone is pretty much an inevitable.

Oh, and the whole hype about 5G is giving me a good laugh – been following people on twitter who regularly test the latest and greatest technology – the net result? 5G is marginally better than 4G with 5G coverage only really present in built up big cities such as the Wellington CBD. As I’ve noted on an Arstechnica reply I made a while ago, the focus that the carriers in NZ are using it for is in the area of delivering broadband as an alternative to fibre/ADSL/VDSL. At the moment RSP (retail service providers) pay Chorus (or a local fibre company like Enable Networks, Northpower etc) where as the big three want to move as many of their customers onto their wireless network thus leaving business and high demand users on fibre – increased margins and higher profits so the net result is the they see 5G as a way of achieving that.

When it comes to Spark their big obstacle has been their reliance on Huawei which has come under scrutiny from the security services so in the end they had to settle for using Nokia’s own 5G solution (link). Reading through that press release the part that interested me was:

Nokia will also deploy other products and services from across its end-to-end portfolio including digital design and deployment services.

Which indicates that although Nokia is providing the infrastructure for 5G they will also provide a lot more equipment going into the future which raises the question whether we’re going to be seeing Spark move over to a Nokia completing and adopting their SingleRAN solution. 2 Degrees Mobile is another unknown as well because they too are heavily dependent on Huawei but has less cash flow than the big players which make me wonder what their plan is going froward given that Huawei equipment tends to be pretty damn competitive in terms of pricing.

Ubiquiti has released the UniFi Dream Machine Pro but it hasn’t arrived in New Zealand yet but when it does I’m going to replace my USG, UniFi Cloud Key and switch with it but there is no great urgency since the setup that I have is already doing a pretty good job. I have heard rumours that the UDM (UniFi Dream Machine) was going to be ported to the USG but I guess we’ll need to wait and see.


The toasted sandwich maker arrived.

Back from another day at work – day is going quickly, more training so that I can do different jobs around the office but truth be known I prefer the simple life of getting up, going to work and coming back home without having to worry about the drama of management. That is the reason I left my old job in the hospitality sector – I had gotten to the point that the status of being a manager and the stress it caused was never off set by the amount of money I was paid, the gap between being a team member vs. shift manager wasn’t worth it particularly when the opportunity to move to a job where I had the benefit of full time permanent work but without the hassle of being a manager.

The toastie maker is on its way – it’s in Auckland at the moment but I’d say that it’ll come down not eh overnight NZ Post parcel truck and arrive in Wellington by the morning which will mean I can have some toasted sandwiches for dinner when I get home on Thursday night after doing some grocery shopping. I think I might do something fancy tomorrow night and have a roast chicken, brie and cranberry toasted sandwich – I’ve just gotta remember to take the bread out of the freezer before going off to work so then it is defrosted by the time I get home. Fresh tomatoes aren’t too badly priced at $3 per kilo so that’ll be tempting to grab some to go with the Dairyworks sliced cheese which has lots of tasty flavours with the benefit it isn’t that nasty flavourless processed cheese.

Personal · Technology

Excitement for WWDC.

The weekend has come and gone pretty quickly but it has been pretty eventful. The iPhone 11 Pro Max and Apple TV 4K arrived along with the BookBook Vol 2 – all setup and working. Along with all those goodies, I’ve ordered a 4 toastie sandwich maker through Noel Leeming which will help me avoid picking up stuff on my way home – toasted sandwich are always nice ‘warm me up’. This Thursday I’ll be doing some grocery shopping – pick up some loaves of bread and cheese, maybe make fancy toastie with some brie, chicken and cranberry.

There is a rumour of an event in March – maybe some new products being launched but personally I’m more interested in when the final date will be set for WWDC this year – hopefully it’ll be the first week of June (like in the past). Last year I took a week off from work – I’ll do the same thing this year so I can follow the conference with each session hey upload to their website. The main session I like watching is the ‘State of the platform union’ which follows the main keynote – it’s low level enough to be interesting but not too low level to make it tedious. One of the big things will be around KEXT and support being removed – in 10.15 the support was deprecated and Apple included new user land driver APIs with a note that KEXT support will be removed at a later date. The reason I have a focus on it is because I’m guessing that Apple is wanting to make some major kernel changes and by pushing third parties into user space it allows them to make those changes without worrying about breaking compatibility.

Oh well, back to work tomorrow, lots of fun to come in the next few months and lots to focus on too.


Reflecting on the Apple and Google ecosystem.

A couple of weeks ago my Pixel 4 XL arrived and I was ‘umming’ and ‘arring’ about giving it a go given that I was pretty much entrenched into the Apple/iCloud ecosystem as a matter of choice rather than by necessity. My original plan was to sell it via TradeMe or pass it along to my mum whose phone is a bit on the old side (3 years old – keeping in mind it is a very low end phone, a Nokia 5) but I was enticed by a new gadget to see what it was like. As noted on my prior post I talked about all the positive points (keeping in mind that the blog post was written over several days) in terms of not only the phone (link) but also the software and the cloud services (link) but now it is time to talk about some of the negatives and why I am going back to using my iPhone and Apple TV (iPhone 11 Pro Max and Apple TV 4K).

Before going any further I have to prefix this by pointing out that yes, I could download a third party application but for me it is about the ‘out of the box experience’ rather than ‘can you fix up the shortcomings with third party apps’.

The first problem is YouTube Music – my music listening isn’t very advanced other than, “can I up the bass, does it play music and do the basics correctly” and if it does that then the app has done the job. In the case of the YouTube Music app the problem is that for large libraries it appears that the music is re-indexed every time resulting in having to wait for the music library to load where as on iOS you open the Music app and it appears instantaneously. The second problem is that if you have an album with more than 10 tracks then you end up with a situation of 1,10,11,12 etc rather than it being numerical order – the same issue appears whether one views ones music library by artist, album, genre etc. I’m unsure whether it impacts any other format supported but the music I have is encoded with AAC (some call m4a) which should be supported flawlessly out of the box given that it is the industry standard these days.

The third problem is that for some reason either the ‘Android File Transfer’ or Android doesn’t support long file names resulting in me having to rename all my files as to avoid ‘Android File Transfer’ throwing a wobbly when trying to copy files – I would have thought at the very least that Google would include the ability to truncate or substitute characters if it were incompatible with the MTP protocol or the file system on the Android device itself but whatever the case maybe it should be something that is handled transparently to the end user rather than facing a weird error message followed by the ‘Android File Transfer’ going belly up. Can it be done? Well, that is how Apple copied music from ones computer to ones iPod (the old classic variety) – in the process it would be renamed down to a file conforming to the 8.3 file formatting (8 character name followed by a three character extension).

Chrome is the default browser on Android but unlike the desktop version of their browser, which includes an extension framework with a vibrant third party ecosystem, Chrome for Android however doesn’t have that extension framework. For someone like me, I use content blocking which is particularly when viewing websites which can become laden with obnoxious ads along with autoplaying videos which end up using valuable mobile data and at times can slow down the page responsiveness.

Google Pay, although is very fast and reliable, I do find it rather concerning the fact that one can make a payment without unlocking the phone. When I presented my phone the first time I thought I might have accidentally unlocked it but the next time I made sure I left it unlocked – went through again. I then went online to see whether there is a way to opt in to ask for a PIN number but it appears that there isn’t an option. It is rather concerning that if one loses one phone that before one can cancel ones card that a lot of damage could be done in that window.

The lack of integration with macOS – sure, I can send or receive messages from within the web messages interface but there is the lack of answering/making phone calls which is one of major reasons one stays within the Apple ecosystem. Could Google provide an integrated experience? Sure, a web based WebRTC front end which works with a bundled version of Avahi or use the one bundled in with the operating system to locate an mini WebRTC server on the phone which integrates in with the phone application – the WebRTC in other words would act as the protocol between the computer and phone over the local network with the website being the front end which utilises the built in support for WebRTC which comes as part of the browser itself.

The move back to the Apple ecosystem wasn’t difficult in the end – updating all my online accounts back to my iCloud email address, doing a clean install of macOS 10.15.3 to remove any remnants of Chrome having been installed on the computer, Everything is all linked up together with iCloud at the centre. When it comes to the iPhone 11 Pro Max I’ll write up a report in the next week or two but so far I’m very happy with it – it is slightly thicker and heavier but at the same time it feels likes more of a premium device. The camera is awesome, iOS is rock solid with iOS installed right off the bat (I did a DFU restore which did a clean install of iOS 13.3.1) but details will follow in a future blog post.


Chasing up loose ends.

Preamble: This is written over several days rather than all at once so 

Well, it took a month but it finally arrived – it appears that when parcels are sent over the Christmas period that customs are a lot more intense in their random checking – I guess when people try to smuggle things through the post they send it through during Christmas time in a hope the with the urgency of getting things delivered will mean that corners will be cut so then even if 10 parcels were sent through and 2 are found then 8 will at least make their way through. It appears that customs in New Zealand have cottoned onto that not to mention the introduction of charging GST on all imported stuff (there used to be an allowance) – making sure that what people declare in terms of value actually corresponds to the actual value. The two occurring at the same time during the Christmas season results in the delays – I only wished that NZ Post/YouShop would communicate that better.

Before I could do anything on the phone I first had to get my G-Suite account up and running again; setting up the DNS settings in WordPress so then I can start using G-Suite with my custom domain. Part of that also involves moving data from Apple’s iCloud over to G-Suite while also re-organising emails into a more coherent order. One fo the site effects of the Apple mail is the fact that even though you can create a label and then drag and drop it in Apple Mail (labels are seen as directories on Apple Mail) on the destination the label isn’t being applied to the message resulting it all being dumped into the ‘All Mail’ directory thus necessitating the process to be done in batches then reorganising after each batch. I’ve got with G-Suite Business which gives me 1TB of storage – enough space to back up all my music (both original back ups in the form of FLAC and the compressed version I copy to my phone to listen on the go).

Anyway, it was delivered (today) and the first thing I did was plug it in to my old Samsung charger which has a USB-C connector (in the box it came with an adapter for the US. While charging up I installed all the updates from Google – thing to keep in mind that Android don’t roll up their updates in a cumulative fashion but instead if you buy a Pixel 4 XL it downloads each monthly update separately thus requiring a reboot after each one. It isn’t a major issue but just something to keep in mind. After updating I completed a system reset (I didn’t register my device, just risked through the setup wizard with no configuration apart from adding my wifi settings) then put my SIM card in from my iPhone where the phone picked it up and was able to achieve a strong 4G 700MHz signal (New Zealand uses Band 28 as part of LTE Asian-Pacific Telecommunity band plan (APT) – which is incompatible with the 700Mhz LTE plan that they use in the United States. One of the things you need to keep an eye out for when importing a phone is ensuring that the frequencies on the phone match up with the frequency used by the carrier that you operate through. 

The Android setup wizard started and the process was completed promptly with updates for the various components downloading in the background – the process is pretty much the same any other Android vendor other than maybe certain OEM’s adding extra steps for their own software and services to get the customers login and configure. The first thing you’ll notice, after everything is setup and updated, is how buttery smooth the whole Android experience is on Pixel when compared to other Android vendors. It is one of the reasons why I am disappointed that Google hasn’t bought the Pixel to New Zealand given that right now the only experience that New Zealanders get when it comes to Android is Huawei and Samsung (the two biggest sellers). They don’t exactly set the best standard when one considers the abysmal lack of after market support such as not only timely upgrades to Android but more importantly the monthly security updates that Google provides but seem to take OEM’s months to deploy to customers – in some cases in New Zealand they’re 2-3 months late when compared to other countries (not that the users in those countries are getting it any better – I guess they’re getting a ‘less worse’ experience).

After updating the software phone (including the software through the Play Store), putting the SIM card and configuring I then put in the leather wallet style case from Snake Hive (link) since I use it to replace my wallet (I don’t carry cards around and instead use Google Pay for everything). This is what it looks like – sorry for the poor quality since I was using my webcam to take the photos:

Photo on 3 02 20 at 1 44 AM

Photo on 3 02 20 at 1 46 AMThe feel of the leather is wonderful, a smooth suede on the outside and on the inside a traditional brown leather with three slots and a slot behind to put some notes or additional cards. The loop is held in place by a magnet and holds pretty firm. The great thing about leather is that if it is taken care of then over time as it ages it remains presentable rather than it looking badly warn it retains a aged character not to mention how well leather holds up over the long term to the rigours of every day life.

The one thing you’ll first notice, when coming from other Android OEM’s, is how all the software integrated are deployed through the store and regularly updated. Where as many Android OEM’s insist on re-inventing the wheel, Google instead uses the bog standard applications – the phone application also give a more reliable integrated experience with Microsoft’s new phone companion application, the messaging application has web based integration (you can turn into a PWA if you want to have the integrated experience without the browser UI) and once RCS has been deployed world wide then it should mean that the RCS service will be automatically made available to those using said application. The benefit of applications getting updated in a piecemeal fashion means that there is an opportunity to push out fixes and improvements when the individual teams are happy rather than holding back or bringing it forward to meet some sort of deal line aka monolithic releases akin to what one observes in the world of iOS.

The battery life is around the same as my iPhone XS Max but keeping in mind that I am not a heavy user of my phone – I primarily use it for listening to music, surfings the net, reddit and twitter, messaging via WhatsApp, watching YouTube videos. With all the latest updates I haven’t experienced any of the issues that the early adopters talked about. The performance and reliability of ones wireless signal is a lot better than with the iPhone XS Max – although I don’t have a benchmark of the iPhone XS Max, I do have the result of the Pixel 4 XL:

Screen Shot 2020 02 05 at 2 08 52 AM

The download and upload speed is around 3 times faster, the wifi speed based on downloading updates and applications is also faster as well – not as noticeable as with the mobile performance. It is good to see that a well tuned modern can produce great results – something that Apple should focus on now that they have their own modem team rather than focusing on gimmicky features with constant promises that ‘this year will be the year that [insert feature] will take off!”.

There are some things that one has to get used to when using a Mac and having an Android phone – Android File Transfer for example is the preferred way of transferring files although if you’re willing to lay out some cash to bring about a more seamless experience there is always Sync Mate (link) which integrates in with iTunes so that you can leave it up to the application to keep your phone synchronised with your music library rather than dragging and dropping. For me I’m happy with dragging and dropping music but there are options there who would like a drop in replacement for the iTunes/iPhone experience.

Regarding the SoC – to be blunt, I don’t care about the benchmarks and they have never been a factor when purchasing a device, be it iPhone or an Android phone, if it is running the flagship SoC then it is plenty fast enough for what I need so unless you’re playing games on the phone then there is more than enough power and memory. The downside is the lack of a microsd slot but for most people they’ll find 128GB more than enough but it is something to be aware of when buying it. Pricing wise, best to grab it is when it is on special, I got it when it was $200 off and given that Amazon and Google like to have regular sales the best thing to do is wait until a special rolls around because at $200 off the RRP it is pretty good value for money.