The end of another weekend but things have gone well – cleaning the house inside and out along with the great weather meaning I can open ever door and window t0 give the house a good airing. All the washing sorted out, a nice home cooked meal of fish, mashed potatoes and baby carrots with garlic butter over the top. Nothing better than after a long week at work to be able to have a nice home cooked meal which can be enjoyed rather than rushed as with the case of when one is at work and having to squeeze it in a 30 minute break time.
My sisters MacBook Air of 8 years has finally died – the SSD storage suddenly died in that it is not detectable by a USB thumb drive, the firmware itself cannot locate the build in storage. On a good side, she was smart and bought the MacBook Air ‘Apple Silicon’ so I had the honour of being able to experience ‘Apple Silicon’ first hand. I installed all the latest updates and afterwards I was able to experience ‘Apple Silicon’ the way it was intended (with most of the teething problems addressed by the updates). If this is any indication of where Apple is going then the future of the Mac platform is going to be awesome.
Ubiquiti is still working on a new firmware for UDM which includes WPA3 support built into the new Unifi Controller along with the Unifi AP AC HD receiving a new firmware update although as I’ve noted before, when I upgrade my MacBook Pro and iMac to Apple Silicon versions, I will upgrade my access point to Wifi 6 and then install my old access point in mum’s house which will help with improved wifi coverage.
Sigh, the incoherent arguments by Mark Zuckerberg and his opposition to a paid for option rears its head in the comment section of technology websites where people fail to read – they skim the article, jumping around trying to pick out key pieces of information and then surprised that they get it completely wrong. The latest part of this drama is the proposal by Twitter to offer a ‘pro’ or ‘premium’ version of Twitter for more features and no ads (link). I always find it funny when I see people on one hand complain about their ‘privacy being invaded’ and yet on the other hand they some how expect websites to sustain themselves off the back of unicorn farts and rainbows.
The reason why personal data is mined is because it is that data that allows them to command a higher price when selling ad space – businesses are more likely to spend money on ads where they have a lot more control over who they can target because time and money isn’t wasted on a scatter gun approach where people who have no interest in said product end up getting the ad. Your person data which powers the advertisement platform are a way of paying for the services provided when you as a consumer aren’t paying anything for it – if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product. Then why introduce a paid for option? for the same reason why software companies have moved from perpetual licences to subscription, why music has moved from the sale of music that one can use indefinitely to one of subscription – because it provides a consistent stream of revenue with the icing on the cake being that it doesn’t include the privacy headaches associated with data mining and targeting ads.
I think Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey can see a regulations coming down the pipe – one way to avoid a potential disaster is to wean itself away from a reliance on advertising revenue in favour of subscription services. Mark Zuckerberg on the other hand is playing this BS game of trying to claim that he is doing something noble aka ‘I’m trying to connect humanity’ then the moment you ask him “will you offer a paid for version that is ad free and privacy respecting” his response is to ramble on about ‘poor people not able to afford a paid for version” even though no one was proposing getting rid of the free tier version. If Mark was really interested in the survival of his platform he would not only offer a premium tier, he would be looking at expanding services – offer a marketplace platform to complete with Amazon where Facebook can position itself as the ‘neutral platform’ since Facebook isn’t actively competing against vendors who are using the platform to sell products. Then there is Facebook gaming which will fit in the niche to compete against Twitch – offer a Patreon like service, buy out one of the merchandise making companies and provide the ability to sell said products through the that platform. It won’t happen over night but Facebook has the ability, if they want, to move away from a dependence on advertising which will help deal with the concerns that regulators and politicians have raise by both the EU and the United States.
Apple released macOS 11.2.1 update which includes a fix for the much documented issue with sudo as well as fixing security vulnerabilities in the Intel GPU driver (link) and addressing the battery issue that has been impacting certain models of MacBook Pro (2016 and 2017) although funny enough I haven’t been impacted by it (link). macOS 11.3 is still in beta testing but it’ll be interesting to see the improvements that come.
On the matter of security, an interesting thing I noticed is that the ARM based binaries are compiled as an arm64e binary which adds and extra layer of security (it utilises a feature built into the ISA itself) when it comes to dealing with pointer based memory attacks (link). It will be interesting to see how this will translate in the real world in terms of picking up and mitigating possible threats. At the moment the A14 (M1 is based on the A14) is based on ARMv8.6-A and if you’ve been following the LLVM project you’ll notice that Apple has been gradually adding support for features found in the ISA to improve security and performance.
Although at this point the ARM ISA is as feature rich as a CISC ISA, the thing I notice is that any improvement is carefully considered through consultation with the various vendors that depend on the ISA so the end result is when features are added to the ISA it is because it has material benefit rather than, “lets add it and hope for the best”. It will be interesting to see whether Apple adopts the libc project that Google is working on which is a ground up replacement for the various libc implementations – rather than being a mixture of assembly and C, the focus is on a libc library delivered in pure C with optimisations done in the compiler itself rather than the library with the benefit that it makes the code more portable and any architectural improvements to an SoC can be delivered through making the Clang/LLVM toolchain better at producing code with the icing on the cake being all other code benefit from those Clang/LLVM toolchain improvements.
I’m enjoying the start of four days off (2 days off for the weekend and another 2 days off using my lieu days I built up) – relaxing in bed, watching movies, gardening and cleaning up around the house. With all that in mind, I’m also going to take off a week in June when WWDC takes place but I’ll need to wait and see what happens – whether there is a return to it being in the first week of June or whether they’ll have it at the end of June like last year.
Reading through Ubiquiti and it appears that part of the UDM 1.9.0 beta and latest firmware for the Unifi AP AC will be support for WPA3 which will be interesting to see how along with the big firmware upgrade impacts on performance (latency and download speeds). macOS 11.3 beta is still being developed but I am hoping that Safari 14.1 )which is included as part of macOS 11.3 beta) will inherit as many features from the Safari Technology Preview as possible particularly around optimisation. The next version of the Ad Guard for Safari Extension is drawing closer – Chromium backend has been updated, lots of bug fixes and optimisations so that is another piece of software I’m looking froward to.
Affinity is having a 1/2 off sale so I am tempted to buy Photo, Designer and Publisher which, although I won’t use straight away will be useful in the future so it makes sense to jump at the opportunity of a discounted version available for a limited time.
macOS 11.3 Developer Beta has been released and good news – it includes Safari 14.1 which hopefully includes a lot of the improvements that exist in Safari Technology Preview. I’m hoping that what we’ll see, with the move to Apple Silicon based Macs, that there will be more frequent updates of Safari particularly when it comes to the Webextensions API which at the moment the absolute bare minimum. What I’m hoping is that when Apple embraces more of the Webextensions API that any changes make their way back into the other browsers which will make extension developers more willing to target Safari. At the moment I use Ad Guard Safari Extension although it would be nice for uBlock Origin to be made available for Safari.
It looks like the first couple of updates were solely focused on fixing major bugs and security fixes with the next release bring in new features as part of the equation. There is also a corresponding Xcode 12.5 that being released along side macOS 11.3. It will be interesting to see whether, once the transition to Apple silicon is complete, whether they move to a rolling release schedule where major releases are instead replaced with new features, enhancements, bug fixes etc. are rolled out when they’re ready rather than being held back for ‘the big release’.
Apple has released the Big Sur 11.2 – I’ve upgraded my iMac and MacBook Pro, and as noted earlier on today the issue regarding scrolling and video playback on YouTube has been fixed which means I can now go back to use the stable build of Safari rather than using the beta/technology build (although I do hope that Apple get their act sorted and make Safari 14.1 available since the scrolling is buttery smooth and a lot faster than Safari 14.0.3). The update also updated the firmware for both devices – most likely including the latest microcode update from Intel along with any optimisations to the kernel to help mitigate any performance penalties associated with the fix (in much the same way that Google created the Retpoline fix to deal with the Spectre variant 2 fix slow downs related to the microcode fix).
Speculation is building about Apple having a spring release of the next wave of refreshes which will bring Apple silicon to more devices. The technology blogs have picked up on an Apple patent regarding multi-level memory (link) which appears to be pointing to a future where Mac Pro’s for example will have super fast on SoC memory with the ability to expand it further via slots which won’t be as fast as SoC based memory but with enough wizardry in the background of swapping things around in the background, Pros will get the advantages of the new SoC with non of the downsides. I think the big question though is how Apple is going to deal with the GPU given that although so far it has performed great against other similar embedded SoC based GPUs, will they stick with discrete GPU’s as an option so that the system switches between the Apple GPU and the discrete GPU based on system demands? I guess in the coming months we’ll find out.
Next week I’m going to take a couple of days off from work (10th and 11th) since I had some lieu days earned. Normally I would cash them out and pocket the money but alas given what the economy has gone through, the business has had to tighten up – I was lucky that I was able to cash in a week of holidays before the email came out which put an end to that practice due to tough trading conditions. Regarding WWDC 2021, assuming that the vaccinations get off the ground and most of society gets back to normal then hopefully that’ll mean I’ll take a week off in June to geek out watching the various sessions regarding the enhancements to the next version of macOS. I think the interesting part will be the under the hood changes particularly around closing off access to the kernel by third parties as Apple replace the various frameworks in the kernel with a user space extension/driver model. It also makes me wonder wether that move is also an indication that Apple will start moving drivers out of the kernel so that, not that they’re aiming for some Mach purity, reducing the amount of code that needs to be running in the kernel kept to the bare minimum which will help reduce the surface attack area.