I always find it funny when I see people talk about wanting smaller phones – that is right up until I have to deal with them at the call centre by giving them instructions but they’re unable to navigate their phones and/or read what is on the screen because the screen is too small. Moral of the story – buy a phone that is practical, don’t buy a phone because it is ‘cute’, ‘compact’ or ‘cool’ because otherwise you’ll find yourself bitterly disappointed with a very expensive mistake. It is something I see far too often – people who buy technology because of the novelty only to either lose interest once the ‘honey moon’ period has worn off or they recognise the glaring limitations that they deliberately overlooked when looking at which piece of technology to buy.
Last night my Unifi Dream Machine couldn’t connect to the internet so I decided to throw caution to the wind, tether my MacBook Pro to my iPhone then download the firmware to the test firmware then upgrade my router to the latest version. The router accepted the upgrade and everything rebooted with a working router connected to the internet within a couple of minutes. Although the UbiOS for UDM is in beta it is very stable so I wouldn’t be surprised if either in an 1.8.x or future update to see it stabilising and being made available through the release channel.
macOS 11 Big Sur Beta 3 was released around a week ago and it is appearing that Apple is making quick progress at addressing the known issues along with taking on board feedback such as the battery icon in Preferences. The latest release notes (link) goes into more details but so far things are looking pretty good so hopefully Apple will release it while I’m on holiday at the end of September – get to enjoy a week of doing a clean install along with all the fun of playing with the new features and enhancements.
You’ve probably notice that I am not very active on my blog at the moment and that is due to the fact that I was waiting to pick up my glasses on Monday (today). I picked them up as well as getting a eye test to ensure my eyes are healthy – a clean bill of health which is always good. The glasses are working great but it does take a while to get used to them but that is the same situation as my hold one – keep in mind that it has been 10 years since my last new pair. It is amazing how improved my eye sight is with these glasses – riding my scooter is a surreal experience now and I’m sure the other drivers appreciate me now having 20/20 vision when I wear my glasses.
I’ve finally got my annual leave sorted out which will go from 19 September through to 29 September. I was planning to have time off over the Apple WWDC however with the restricting at work and the whole COVID-19 lockdown I thought it would be best to wait it out and see what happens. I generally try to take a week off some time during the year and maybe have some 3-4 day weekends where possible because given the job I am in I like having at least some time off so I can unwind rather than holding it in until the end of the year – assuming I can get Christmas off.
Next year will be the start of things getting interesting in the world of Apple with Apple pushing out Apple Silicon based Macs – I’m waiting out for the second generation as to avoid the first generation bugs, limitations and quirks where as by the second generation they would have gotten enough feedback and my Mac’s will be old enough to justify being upgraded. Will I sell them? not worth it, I’ll send it to Apple and get them to recycle it – if I do all in then I’ll order an iMac, MacBook Pro and if they have upgraded the iPhone and Apple TV I’ll go for that plus upgrade my television (I might as well go ‘all in’ if I’m going to upgrade my setup). I’m looking forward to see what happens with Apple closing off the kernel to third party drivers – could we see a kernel where all the drivers sit in user space? given their recent support for PCIe devices it makes me wonder whether we’re not too far away from Apple moving their display system into user space especially now that ARM isn’t saddled with the costly context switching that Intel based CPUs have courtesy of the x86/x86-64 ISA.
Apple released some big updates today/yesterday for their various platforms (macOS, watchOS, homeOS, iOS, iPadOS) and in those updates were a health dosage of security fixes as well (link). One of the biggest things ai noticed after installing the macOS 10.15.6 update was that the Boot ROM on both my iMac and MacBook Pro were updated to 4220.127.116.11.0 which makes me wonder what else was updated in regards to microcode updates being deployed. In the security update section I found this to be quite interesting:
Which probably explains why it was 2.65GB in size because of the need to recompile code to address the pointer authentication codes not being properly enforced at compile time. It would be interesting to see how many of the flaws that were reported to Zerodium were due to that flaw in the compiler.
I think the interesting part is the firmware update where I ran the following command sysctl -a | grep machdep.cpu and what stood out at me was machdep.cpu.microcode_version: 214. I think did some Googling and and found this article over at Red hat (link).
On the topic of security, it is interesting seeing the type of security features that ARM64 has as part of it’s ISA and how Apple will leverage those features to create a more robust system. I also wonder, as part of the move to close off the kernel to third parti extensions that Apple will move its GPU drivers out of the kernel into user space which would then open up the possibility for Nvidia to make an appearance on macOS given that in such a scenario the divers would sit in user space and only would require notarisation. The next couple of years with the transition to Arm combined with Apple continuing to rearchitect the core of their operating system.
It has been ages since I’ve updated my blog but a lot of stuff has been in my life. For starters I went to the optometrists last week to get my eyes tested and choose my new glasses:
Although my insurance will pay for one pair, they have a special at Specsavers where you ‘buy one, get one free’ which only covers the frames meaning you will need to pay for the second pair of lenses. I thought it would be best to have a backup pair so incase something bad were to happen with one pair that I would have a backup pair. The only saving grace out of all this is the fact that my eye sight isn’t as bad as I expected although my left eye is noticeably weaker than my right eye.
It appears that sometime this week, assuming there is no show stopper bugs, Apple will release iOS 13.6, macOS 10.15.6 plus updates for all the other platforms. Although everyone is justifiably excited about the next version of macOS, iOS and all the other platforms I think what has generated the biggest buzz has been the move to Silicon Apple. Although it is a big step for Apple there is another angle one needs to consider – the fact that although Apple is a smaller player in the traditional computer market they do have a big influence over the market over all. If Apple demonstrate that it is possible to move beyond Intel, move beyond x86 (something even Intel filed to achieve with Itanium) then it opens up an opportunity for other players to enter the market either shipping ARM based CPUs in Chromebooks (think Exynos SoC with AMD GPU in a Samsung laptop) or maybe Microsoft taking it seriously with the much rumoured Windows 10X which scoops up[ the backwards compatibility into a container with a modernised operating system. That being said, not only would a SoC vendor have to have an interest in wanting to invest into a desktop, laptop and/or workstation class SoC it would also require a big customer like Dell, HP or Lenovo to step forward to given the said SoC vendor confidence that the investment is worse the time and resources. For example, if Dell said, “we need 4 million units of n ARM processor that can bet Intel on price/performance-per-watt then it would given the likes of Qualcomm something to strive towards knowing that the investment at the worst it will break even and at best it’ll be a run away success that’ll open up opportunities for the computer companies to take an interest in Qualcomm ARM SoCs.
So I’ve been thinking about the announcement of Apple Silicon a couple of weeks go along with reaching the commentary of those who have a good reputation within the information technology sphere about the future direction of companies. The one thing I overlooked was how this all fits in with Microsoft and their own future direction given that the future of Microsoft isn’t wedded to the success or failure of on the desktop – it’s all about the cloud and what devices that do exist are going to be light weight with the heavy lifting being done in the cloud.
Windows on ARM has been an abysmal failure but there is an opportunity for Microsoft to either do one of two things (relating to software) running on top of ARM. One option would be to create a rebranded version of ChromeOS in the form of ‘Edge OS’ which is heavily integrated into Microsoft’s own cloud service in much the same way ChromeOS is integrated into Google’s own cloud services (bundle it with low cost ARM based devices – get the device for cheap, make the money back on subscriptions). The alternative is for Microsoft to take Windows 10 and strip all the legacy code out of the system so essentially it is the NT Kernel, UWP, WinUI and then the standard bundled applications (gradually move Windows 10 to Edge OS by shipping Windows 10 for another 2 years then make Edge OS the default with 3 years support for those with Window 10 then eventually end all support with maybe a longer transition, say +5 years to end enterprise support) . Removing legacy support would free up Microsoft to be able to optimise the operating system without consideration for backwards compatibility along with making its operating system cheaper to maintain over the long run due to a smaller code base which is based on modern code (maybe jettison their own C/C++ Library along with compilers in favour of adopting LLVM/Clang (plus adopting libc and libc++), move from PE to ELF (if you’re going to brea compatibility you might as well go all the way) and make LLVM/Clang the details since the value of Microsoft’s developer tools is in the IDE not the compiler (maybe .NET utilising LLVM).
When it comes to the cloud side of the equation – end of the day as long as you’re using their cloud service I don’t think Microsoft actually cares whether it is being accessed from a Windows PC, Mac, iOS, iPadOS, ChromeOS, Android or any other platform (although controlling the underlying platform does give it a lot more leverage to make the experience better for users in terms of integration). Given how Microsoft is opening more data centres around the world with the recent (link) opening in New Zealand, I could imagine in 5-10 years time Microsoft will no longer sell on the premises software and everything will be delivered via the cloud with the barrier of ‘the illusion of control’ being overcome with a new generation of information technologies managers only ever knowing cloud computing thus seeing on the premises data centre being another legacy that can be gotten rid of.
It’s going to be a big culture change – Westpac has already started embracing the private cloud and seeing benefits of lower running costs and being able to get application upgrades to customers quicker. The recent move by Westpac NZ from Hogan to Celeriti along with a whole new internet banking website along with new mobile banking apps (having used it – the experience is pretty good from a customers perspective). I think at this point banks are asking themselves whether it makes sense to be so heavily invested into technology when in reality it a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself. The idea of moving to the cloud is to bring the focus back on what you’re doing as a business – the cloud is there to serve a purpose, to enable you conduct business rather than the focus of the business being on technology.