Apple today released today:

  • macOS 11.3
  • iOS 14.5
  • iPadOS 14.5
  • tvOS 14.5
  • watchOS 7.4
  • homeOS 14.5

And because it was such a big update I decided to do a clean install on all my devices – clear off the Google cruft I had built up while I was giving Chrome one of the many second chances I tend to give Chrome in the mistaken belief that “yes, this time Google has addressed the laundry list of….nope, same problems as before”. 

The ‘delta update’ for macOS 11.3 was 5.97GB so the download size wasn’t that far off from a full install – same can be said for the download size for iOS delta update too (unfortunately on tvOS it doesn’t give the download size when you do a reset/update but I’d hazard that it would have been similarly large in size). I decided to do a full clean install which meant formatting my SSD and reinstalling it – that also updated the System Firmware version to 429.100.7.0.0 – the system firmware also includes microcode updates and given that macOS 11.2 was released a week before the latest microcode update from Intel I wouldn’t be surprised if the firmware update bundled with macOS 11.3 was the microcode dated 09/02/2021. On the iPhone the modem firmware has been updated – that’s always a good sign, improvements to the firmware, greater optimisations etc. 

Once fully installed the first thing I noticed is how smooth everything felt – the lag from opening my iPhone to put my pin in no longer occurs. Before I would wake it up and start typing only to find that 3 numbers had actually been pressed but now the phone keypad actually works responsively. On macOS 11.3 – same situation, once fully booted everything was more snappy, I installed all my usual apps such as Twitter, AdGuard for Safari, MarsEdit etc. everything was so much more smoother, applications load faster etc.

I opened up Safari and checked the version number, Safari 14.1, and went to run the HTML5test website to see what had changed – Safari had jumped from 500 to 510 points which gave me hope that maybe I could use the web based Skype rather than having to install the Skype application. I went to the Skype website and logged myself – I couldn’t believe my luck, I was able to log in and everything started to work! I don’t know what Apple and/or Microsoft did but I can now chat with my friend overseas without having to having the bloatful electron based Skype application installed. I couldn’t believe me luck when it all worked – what ever they did it certainly worked – I just hope that they need up the development and keep improving those html5test results because Safari is so much more efficient than Chrome. I hope that as Webkit improves that it is possible to use the electron kit and have it running on top of webkit instead of using Chromium which would make a huge improvement to not only macOS but also iOS and iPadOS user experience.

The more I read about the enhancements that have come as part of ARMv9 the more my choice has been validated to hold off until ARMv9 based Apple Silicon is released. That being said, I always like to keep my feet in both camps which is why I’m keeping an eye on Windows 10X and Windows 10 with the GUI overhaul that has been reported online as a project codenamed Sun Valley.. Although I’ve been with Apple since back in 2002/2003 when I bought my first Mac, an eMac 1Ghz, I always like to keep my options open particularly with the superb work that AMD is doing not only when it comes to the RDNA2 GPU architecture but also their Zen 3 CPU architecture. I think the interesting part is whether Microsoft pushes to start using AMD CPUs/GPUs in more products – future Surface Studio update? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

In the next month or so there are three conferences that are occurring online, Google’s I/O 21, Microsoft’s Build and then at the beginning of June there is the WWDC 21. Android 12 appears to be addressing concerns from users and privacy advocates regarding the ability to have fine grain control over what applications have access to – for me I’m looking forward to Samsung releasing their Galaxy refresh next year that’ll be using an AMD GPU rather than the Mali GPU that one typically finds in a ARM based SoC. I’d love to see how Android 12 will perform When it comes to Microsoft, it’ll be interesting to see whether they announce futher investments into ARM based Windows particularly about bringing their range of applications natively to Windows for ARM – Office 365 being the most high profile example of a flag ship product from Microsoft not running natively on ARM. When it comes to WWDC – my focus will be around Webkit and whether they’re going to complete Webextensions API rather than living it in the half completed state it was launched in back in 2020.

I went back to Safari however I still find that even the best content blocker (Ad Guard 1.9.13) still allows ads to come through where as uBlock Origin with Chrome is 100% perfect on every instance I’ve used it not to mention the fact that if you need to temporarily allow ads (for example, you click on a link on a news website and it has a web address as a go between then it is possible to enable temporarily just for that site instead of having to pause the whole content blocking) it is a lot easier. I’m going to keep using Chrome but it’ll be interesting to see whether the macOS 11.3 update includes improvements to Safari or whether we’ll see Apple drag its feet when it comes to supporting standards and generally lacking the will to address the numerous short comings that users have outlined on the numerous threads over on the Apple subreddit.

There is currently an ongoing discussion in New Zealand (like in most other countries) regarding New Zealand walking the tightrope between maintaining a relationship with China while also maintaining a close relationship with traditional allies (link). For over 35 years the United States has been giving New Zealand the cold shoulder (since declaring itself ‘nuclear free’ back in the 1980s) and only now has the United States suddenly started to become ‘concerned’ about New Zealand’s relationship with China. With all due respects to those feigning concern. a relationship takes time, effort and money – most importantly when there is a project such as the TPP you don’t rock up, make a series of demands which screw over patients by jacking up prices on pharmaceuticals only to then go back to their country to then talk about how the TPP was a ‘bad deal’ and how they were ‘bullied into it by foreigners’ then pulling out at the last moment after make demands and all the parties accommodating those demands.

It also doesn’t help when a large portion of the US population is largely ignorance of the impact that voting for a moron (Donald Trump, George W Bush, Ronald Reagan being the three most recent examples) as the United States president has on the rest of the world – when the average American gets a bee up their backside and votes in a moron then it is we (the rest of the world) who have to deal with the fall out of it. While they get to live in their nameless town in the middle of Idaho the rest of humanity have to deal with the fall out of climate change not being addressed, trade wars that lead to real wars, where trade and foreign affairs are intertwined resulting in the lack of the US being in TPP has resulted in China’s ability to throw their weight around being left unchecked because the US has exited from the world stage.

Anyway, back to more enjoyable, on Wednesday New Zealand time will be when Apple will have their spring product release. For me, I have no expectations beyond the usual refresh because the rumours have been all over the place and in some cases not making any sense what so ever such as the recent Geekbench benchmark that was uploaded – need one be reminded that benchmarks can be faked. Personally I think there will be a product refresh for the MacBook Pro, maybe an updated iMac, refreshed iOS devices and that being about it. For me, with the release of ARMv9 by ARM, I’ll wait fo Apple to release their ARMv9 products before upgrading my setup. The interesting part will be the SVE2 extensions (successor to Neon) that come standard with ARMv9 and when Chrome is optimised to take advantage of it when running on Apple Silicon.

Well, we’ve found out that Apple is having their ‘Spring Loaded’ event for 20th April with lots of rumours swirling around about what that might entail in terms of new products and/or services. The big rumour along with the usual refreshes is the launch of a new slew of ARM based Mac’s although there are rumours of maybe an iMac refresh, if it is going to happen it’ll probably be the 21inch version but then again they might also wait until October when they usually announce an iMac refresh as they’ve done in the past. I think the most interesting part, at least from my point of view, is how Apple will address the demands regarding higher end laptops and whether they’ll keep with their own GPU design and scale it up or whether they’ll focus on their GPU on being super efficient and utilise AMD for the high end in much the same way that Samsung has been working with AMD on a GPU for their SoC which will be available in next years Galaxy devices.

I gave Chrome a try to see what it is like and although I did enjoy some of the benefits such as a great selection of extension it does come at a price in terms of memory and other source usage. On a good side, during the time Ad Guard extension for Safari related a new version, 1.9.13 which had a major update to its electron backend. What I am hoping is that in the next few months with the next version they’ll upgrade to the latest Electron build which has support for Apple Silicon which will mean that it will be made available natively on the new ARM based Macs. What I hope is that with the release of 11.3 of macOS that will also include an upgrade of Safari with all the improvements that they’ve put into their technology preview – they’ve made some big improvements to Safari in the technology preview and I wish that Apple were more willing to push out these enhancements to users because having used both I think most users would benefit from the improvements particularly in the area of performance and efficiency.

A while back I talked about how it would be great if Apple released a replacement for the Apple TV which built on the idea of Home Pod by including a HDMI output so it becomes a set top box and speaker all in one – a great set top box experienced matched up with a great great surround sound like one is a at a theatre (particularly if you get more than just the one speaker). It appears that Apple maybe looking at doing what I theorised (link) – it does make sense though given it is a natural evolution/convergence of devices in much the same way that JBL launched a sound bar and Android TV all in one. For me, I’ve got a Chromecast with Android TV – it is the best investment I made particularly given that my primary video service is the Apple TV and I find it works a whole lot better on that than on the Google Chromecast with Android TV because of its integration with the Apple ecosystem that is already heavily invested in.

The rumours regarding Google developing a custom ARM SoC with Samsung is growing louder with a recent rumour that this year the Google Pixel will be using this new SoC (link). If the rumours are true then it appears that it’ll lack the X1 core (as part of the SoC) that exists in the flag ship devices put out there by Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi etc. but even without the X1 core the SoC is going to be more than fast enough for the vast majority of people and if paired with an AMD GPU then it’ll have a good point of differentiation (particularly for games that are written to take advantage of Vulkan). I think at this point it is going to become increasingly more difficult to push expensive flagship when for the vast, vast, vast majority of people the mid range devices that are come out (particularly when you consider the long term software support that both Apple and Samsung are providing) that the gap between the mid and flag ship have to eventually close. In the case of Samsung they dropped their price on average of US$150.

Interesting thing happened last week, my fibre connection went offline for around 5-10 minutes then came back online – Chorus pushing out a firmware update? Maybe, but everything so far has come back online so I’m a happy lad. There hasn’t been any Ubiquiti updates this week for me UDM or HD AP AC but I think they’re getting close to it – I’m happy that they’re taking their time to ensure that they get it right or at least launch without any glaringly obvious bugs.

I had a wonderful dinner from my local Turkish restaurant – grill chicken, fresh salads, wonderfully puffy rice etc. then to top it up all off a couple of pieces of baklava. This week I grabbed some fish ‘n chips from the local take-away store – one of the few fish ‘n chip stores that really do a good job where large numbers these days try to cut corners and it really shows in the final product.

Something interesting that flew below the radar was the announcement as part of Biden’s tax policy was the idea of a global 21% minimum tax (link) and when I heard it I was wondering how it work but it turns out that it’ll work exactly the way I expected. Lets assume that an US based company makes tractors, on paper the company has an office in a country that charges 15% tax, so what will happen is that the office in the country that pays 15% will ‘sell’ their US based office a tractor at the retail price and then sell it at the same price it was bought in at resulting in no profit being made by the US office which reduces the tax but because the tax is calculated on the world wide profits then things start to get interesting.

It’ll be interesting to see the 21% minimum global tax interacts with the 28% US business tax – will at some point the 21% become the minimum effective tax rate? Sounds like a good start if it did. Janet Yellen talked about having a minimum global tax rate – imaging having a minimum effective tax rate of 21% and tariffs on countries that don’t abide to that minimum effective tax rate. If we really want to fix up the situation of income inequality then we really need to deal with those at the top avoiding paying their fair share – paying taxes in proportion to the benefits that they get from the society they exploit.

Good Friday was a nice day off but I’m excited that I’ve got my annual leave sorted out which will be from 2 June to 16 June – covering the WWDC21 which has been rumoured to be a big year and then add to that the announcement of ARMv9, it will be interesting to see what is announced. I don’t expect any sort of hardware announcement but I could imagine some big software announcements particularly around the macOS underpinnings – closing off the kernel to third party extensions as Apple finish up providing the last remaining username based API’s that developers have been eating for so then they can move their driver out of kernel space to user space.