Apple updates all its platforms and information about Microsoft Duo 2 leaks online.

Apple released iOS 14.7 and tvOS 14.7 on Tuesday (Monday US time) and on Thursday (Wednesday US time) for macOS 11.5 and iPad 14.7 – a last minute bug found in the macOS 11.5 release candidate necessitated a fix followed by a new build being made available to ensure that there were no regressions. Both bring a lot of bug fixes as well as security fixes (link) but keeping in mind that when Apple list bug fixes the list isn’t always exhaustive given that you can find many of the improvements are also listed in the Webkit blog, LLVM project website and others. Long story short, when you see the changes you’re seeing ‘these are the most visible ones’ – as noted at the last update of macOS included big improvements from the Webkit project which addressed the issue I was having with the videos not playing properly (skipping, video pausing but the audio playing and vice versa).

macOS 11.5 has upgraded the system firmware to 429. from 429. and on iOS 14.7 it upgraded the modem firmware from 1.71.01 to 1.80.2 – I haven’t noticed any difference but I have a feeling the improvements bought about by the modem firmware will be relating to 5G since it is still very much a technology that yet to mature so there is a lot of room for optimisations to make it as efficient as prior generation technologies. Keeping in mind that the system firmware also includes microcode updates – I wouldn’t be surprised if it included the June 2021 microcode update.

The next version of macOS, iOS, tvOS etc. are being developed however there are no firm dates on the release – when it comes to macOS the release date could be anywhere from a week after the release of iOS all the way to mid November (macOS 11 was released 12 November 2020) so as much as I’d like to get a week off work and have fun I have to wait it out until there a formal release date. I’m still deciding whether I want to make the switch on day one or whether I should hold out until the first update is released – I guess it is something that will need to be made based on how the beta testing goes and whether, by the time it becomes ‘golden master’, that the general mood from those who participated in beta testing give it a thumbs up.

Some good news coming out regarding Microsoft’s Duo 2 – there are leaked photos of the Duo 2 with system specifications (link) and thank goodness they’ve finally added not only NFC but also a decent SoC as well (Qualcomm 888 w/ 5G). IMHO What I’d love to see is an even closer relationship between Samsung and Microsoft, merging Microsoft Pay and Samsung Pay then work to it adopted by as many banks as possible so then at least consumers can have an alternative to the Google hegemony today. I also say that regarding the Galaxy store – Samsung has an opportunity to hitch their wagon and work with Microsoft to provide an integrated alternative to the Google ecosystem – maybe create a Samsung exclusive Office 365 ecosystem where, if you have a Samsung device, you can register for a email address, access to 1TB storage, Office along with lots of other services thus growing both Samsung and Microsoft.

Tomorrow I might write something about the recent moves the United States regarding the ‘right to repair’ movement and those in power signally that their willingness to take on the challenge. I’ll cover that along with the general trend within the technology sector to push trends that don’t benefit customers – wireless mice and keyboard on a desktop computer when a wired one would be perfectly fine or this resent obsession over wireless earbuds resulting in a tonne of batteries being wasted – again, what is wrong with a wire? Anyway, I’m starting to rant already – I’ll leave that for the next blog entry.

The day of reckoning for big tech has finally come?

There is a great discussion on ‘The WAN Show’ regarding the 36 states in the United States that are suing Google in regards to their Play Store and anti-trust violations.

If you’re more inclined to read an article then here is one from Bloomberg (link). Some of the biggest complaints that were made regarding the Google Play store can also be applied to the Apple AppStore as well – these include:

  1. The inability to use a third party payment provider – either exclusively by the developer or simply as an option along side the one that Apple or Google provided. What makes the situation even worse is lets assume that the company says, “ok, we’ll only allow it through our websites so then our application is only to logon to existing accounts” then provide information in an FAQ, “to change payment methods you need to log in through the website” then you wouldn’t be allowed to do that either.
  2. Google requires, as part of being able to get the Play Store preinstalled on your phone and many of them cannot be uninstalled by the customer along with Google applications take prominent on the Home Screen of the phone.
  3. Trying to strong arm Samsung into ditching its own store and instead ship a rebrand Play Store but with the Galaxy branding.

There are other complaints but these are the main ones that come to my attention at the moment. I have to prefix this by saying that not all monopolies are bad – for example, we have electricity and telephone line monopolies because of the impracticality of duplicating infrastructure due to the high capital costs and how having two competitors each with their own infrastructure results in higher prices because there are fewer people in which those costs can be recuperated from due to the fragmenting of the marketplace – or what they say in the world of economics, ‘natural monopolies’. As a result of that, there can be a legitimate reason for maintaining a monopoly but that ability to continue existing in the current always comes with restrictions/regulations to ensure that said monopoly position isn’t abused.

I’m sure there legitimate reasons one could possibly come up with regarding why the Apple AppStore and Play Store have monopolies on their said platform – security knowing that what you’re buying is ‘the real deal’, consumer trust knowing their payment is being handled securely and so on. If they are going to make that argument than fair enough but at the same time that will open themselves up to be regulated like a monopoly – and what will require both sides disclosing the cost of delivering services so then a ‘fair return’ can be calculated by what ever the equivalent is of the Competition Commission.

If the companies don’t like that then there is an alternative model which is the one that Microsoft is advancing at the moment which will offer the payment and content distribution services that Microsoft can provide but equally if a vendor, such as Adobe, prefers to use their own content delivery network and payment solution then they can use that to (personally I think Microsoft should have an option for a customer to pay to unlock their Xbox (the amount the device is subsidised by) so then they can install games from Steam etc maybe include an option to install ‘desktop mode’ and turn an Xbox into desktop computer so then you can install Microsoft Office).

When these issues are bought up (along with many others) the usual refrain is “if you don’t like it, just buy something else” but the problem is that firstly we’re in a duopoly (it would have been nice for Windows 10 Mobile to be successful but alas here we are) but the best argument against that would be what took place during the DOJ vs Microsoft trial when Microsoft tried to make the same argument when claiming that they had competition in the PC operating system market and then pointed to macOS but like the situation (which was raised by the DOJ) with smartphones, it requires having to invest into a whole new device not to mention if it is moving from android to iOS (or vice versa) requires the repurchasing of software (assuming it is available) not to mention dealing with a subpar integrated experience (Android not supporting iCloud’s CardDAV, CalDAV etc). Such obstacles do not making moving between platforms frictionless – the longer one has been investigated into a given ecosystem the more difficult it is to move out of it and with the role of cloud computing and the integration of the device into the cloud then it makes it all the more difficult to move (I’m trying to move my password saved in Keychain over to Chrome – over 40 passwords, think of the average person, I doubt they have the patience I do).

Part of me wished an investigation was also done between Google and its used of it’s services as leverage to maintain Android’s monopoly on ‘generic’ smart phones through their refusal to provide their applications for the Windows Phone/Windows Mobile – Imagine if application vendors were more forth coming with providing their software on the platform then consumers would have a viable third option. Imagine if it were take step further, you buy an Android but change your mind so instead you hook it up to a computer via a USB cable, download an application from your handset vendor then within an hour you have Windows 11 Mobile on your phone ready to be used. Sigh, yeah, I rage about the application vendors not supporting the platform but it wasn’t helped when Microsoft reset the platform multiple times till eventually even Microsoft were confused as to the direction they wanted to take it in.

On a side note, there is an interesting article on Computerworld regarding the death of Software as a Service. commonly known as SaaS, where the author talks about the launch of Windows 11 and the return to yearly updates signing off on the fail ‘release early, release often’ approach that Microsoft took with Windows 10 (link) which has left a bitter taste in many users mouths. I think the idea in principle sounds good when applied to applications but operating systems aren’t applications – if you screw up something in an application it is a pain in the backside but generally everything else keeps on working. When it comes to an operating system, not only are you ensuring that the operating system is internally robust but also robust when it comes to third parties such as driver vendors, application and game developers etc. the impact of a small mistake has massive consequences where as with an application the impact is limited. The focus, from what it appears, is that Microsoft will release a feature update every 12 months and each month customers will receive the usual security updates.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the developer builds turn into a rolling release where new features are pushed out to, receive feedback in terms of bug reports and where things need to improve, then when they’re considered ‘ready’ they’re included in the next feature update of Windows. I think the move back to more of a traditional model is going to help them in the long run – provide a stable foundation and keep things moving forward in a coordinated fashion.

Wow, it has been ages since I posted something on my blog – so many things occurring at work as well as home such as getting myself better organised to cook meals at home, taking public transport rather than my scooter because the weather is absolutely atrocious or just plain cold (most nights getting down to 2-3 degrees celsius) along with buying my groceries online once a fortnight which funny enough, even if you include the cost of delivery works out cheaper (since I am not tempted to purchase things I don’t need – I go to the website, create a list, buy it and that’s that).

Lots of rumours are starting regarding Pixel 6 and the rumoured of a return of the XL model along side the smaller non-XL version. The other question is whether they’re going to start offering it in more countries – it is rather befuddling that a great product is deliberately undermined by, what appears to be, a management team at Google who haven’t seemed to grasp that there is a world outside of the United States (not to mention realising there is a country outside the borders of California).

There is the, pretty much all but officially confirmed, next version of Samsung Galaxy S series will include an AMD GPU with the early benchmarks demonstrating that the CPU on the SoC keep up with Qualcomm quite nicely and trounce the Andreno GPU in benchmarks. I wouldn’t be surprised if, with the sunsetting of CDMA2000 networks in the US and else where (the markets they use the Qualcomm SoC) that Samsung eventually standardise on shipping their Exynos based phones everywhere.

The other big win has been the consolidation of Wear OS an Tizen and quite frankly it had to happen. The idea of having multiple OS vendors in the wearable space is pretty much a nonstarter and even at this stage Apple struggles to get software vendors to write applications so getting developers to write for two other wearable OSs is pretty much out of the question. It makes little sense creating fragmentation so hopefully the Wear based devices from Samsung with the One UI 4.0 to give it a unique Samsung look and feel while being able to leverage the Wear ecosystem and integration into the Google cloud services.

There are rumours regarding the net refresh of Apple’s ARM chip being the M1X which will result in a refresh of the 13.3″ notebook into a 14″ one (13.3inch chassis but having the screen take up more space so that it is almost bezel-less) – I wouldn’t get to excited since it’ll be a incremental improvement over the M1. For me, I am waiting for the next refresh which will upgrade the processor to ARMv9 which will include SVE2 – the bigger winners I believe will be the 27inch iMac and Mac Pro users who want the extra grunt that SVE2 will bring for those work flows that were dependent on taking advantage of SSE/AVX technologies present on Intel based processors.

At this stage I am pretty agnostic regarding what my next computer will be – but my focus on this year is getting all the other parts of my life in order, lets hope that I have better success this year than I did last year.

I have to prefix this post with an apology – my aim was to get it up last week but I ended up losing track of time, lots of stuff happening at work, wanting to get into a good routine by going to bed early – I find that with the earlier starts due to taking public transport rather than using my 50cc scooter I have to get up earlier but funny enough if I were to start work at 11:30 am (getting out of bed at 10:00 am) then I’m fine with 8 hours sleep but if I start at 9:30 am (getting out of bed at 8:00 am) with the same amount of sleep then I am even more tired. I have to admit, I’m more of a night owl – in my previous life working in hospitality I worked the night shifts such as 4:00 pm to 1:00 am meaning I wouldn’t get home until maybe 2:00 am so my body was used to such a schedule. Ideally I’d love to go back to at least to being able to get up at 10:00 am but oh well, at least I have a job which is the important thing.

The much proposed reaction to the launch of Windows 11 – both the mainstream ‘livestream’ followed by the more developer centric live stream (the Microsoft equivalent of the WWDC keynote followed by the platform state of the union) – although they had problems streaming it (according to one of Brad Sams recent videos on YouTube the streaming platform crashed), the event eventually got off the ground and the public was rewarded with an optimistic vision of the future being offered by Microsoft while still remaining familiar.

There was a strong emphasis by Panos Panay (chief product officer) of moving the platform forward while still keeping it familiar. The emphasis being made to arrest concerns that this was going to bet a disruptive change, that there were going to be changes to the UI that would anger long time users, that compatibility will be broken etc. After Windows 8 I get the feeling that Microsoft want to reassure its user base, particularly the enthusiast community who are very much influencers (of friends and family) where they’re commonly referred to as ‘the one whose good with computers’) who can have an impact on whether there is wide spread adoption – fail to win them over and feel the consequences (see Windows Vista and Windows 8).

Part of what has been shown off is the new UI language which is very much inline with where I think Microsoft is wanting to take WinUi 3.0 (Project Reunion being the large project which WinUI 3.0 fits under) in the future. It still very much has the legacy UI visible given that the transition from Control Panel to Settings is still very much underway, the gradual componentisation of the Windows Shell (the Windows start menu is in its own process which has improved performance) so we could eventually see (based on the promotional material) a new shell using WinUI 3.0 but in the mean time Microsoft is wanting to make the UI a lot more visually pleasing.

The system specifications have increased since Windows 10, WDDM 2.0 is the minimum required thus making DirectX 12 the minimum supported, TPM 2.0, a relatively modern 64bit CPU etc. is an indicator to me that Windows 11 is a starting point by Microsoft to start pushing Windows 11 in a direction where future releases will take advantage of those higher specifications (Microsoft also have probably modelled future sales on Windows 11 being primarily through it being distributed through OEM channel as people upgrade their computers with a small number upgrading their their existing devices). For example, if you have a look at project unity, the work that was taking place with Windows 10X, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing win32 support pushed into a virtual machine (hence needing CPUs that support virtualisation) and the new native API becomes not necessarily a ground up clean room replacement to win32 but rather, taking the various components to give Microsoft developers the freedom to break compatibility in the process of modernise the frameworks so then eventually Project Reunion comes a modern framework that can span various version of Windows as well as various devices (see Xbox).

What I am happy to see is Microsoft’s willingness to get rid of complexity and features from the operating system such as removing Cortana, simplifying search so it is no longer the glorified mess where even the most basic searches turn into a disaster (see the many years of complaints regarding search in Windows 10) – I hope that it is a trend in the long run to eventually strip non-core features out of the system, push them into the store and upgrade them gradually over to a modern look and feel (with he benefit of users saving storage space by not having to install features they don’t need).

The developer preview that Microsoft has made available is still missing features such as Android application support along with Teams integration plus a few other features but there has been a cleaned up Explorer which I love:

Improvements like this along with rumours regarding the Pixel 6 and Android 12 make the idea of ‘jumping ship’ a lot more tempting given that the gap between Windows and macOS are closing the combine that with the great hardware being put out by Microsoft (the surface range of devices) along with the improved integration between Windows and Android devices via the Phone Companion application which enable one to send/receive text messages as well as make/answer phone calls in much the same way that one can do on macOS with an iOS device. There is a great video from Zac Bowden from Windows Central where he goes into detail showing off the visual changes.

To get a good incite into where Windows 11 is heading then check out ‘Windows App SDK’ over on github (link) where you’ll find a lot of the future development taking place when it comes to the frameworks Microsoft is working on for app developers. There is also plenty of discussion over on the Chromium developer mailing lists as well as the checking out the ‘What’s next with Microsoft Edge’ page (link) which covers Microsoft only features that Microsoft is working on, when they’ll come available – many of the features linking back to the Microsoft cloud or what they’re working on which will require new hardware such as ‘Control-flow Enforcement Technology (CET)’ which is an important feature for Windows 11 which is why the minimum specifications have been increased.

There has been some backlash regarding the increase in minimum specifications but in my not so humble opinion I think that Microsoft just needs to weather the storm and ignroe the noisy ‘enthusuasts’ – if Windows was designed by the incoherent demands of enthusiasts it would en up resembling something like the car Homer designed when he bet his long lost half brother. When you have a look at the security reasoning (link) along with reports of up to a 40% performance hit if you enable said features in Windows 10 on devices that don’t support said features in hardware mode then you quickly that Microsoft is doing it for the good of the customer as to avoid a fiasco like Vista again where those who had ‘Vista Basic’ badged devices had a horrible experience.

It’ll be interesting to see how the two competing platforms perform because at the moment I can’t help but find that the whole WWDC 21 this year was pretty depressing – and this is coming from a long time Mac user (20+ years) with a modest set of things that I would have loved to see Apple deliver on but haven’t done so for many years. For me what I would have loved to see is Apple implement the Webextension API so that at the very least it has feature parity and compatibility with Firefox (which would open up a huge market for developers to target Safari), to improve HTML5 compatibility so the I can use Amazon Connect (Amazon’s cloud based PBX solution) if I have to work from home because right now I have to go out of my way to install Chrome when ordinarily I prefer using Safari due to it being light weight.

When I mean depressing, what I saw was time and energy being spent on what I’d consider gimmicky features given that there are a laundry list of issues that Apple should be focusing on. I’ll give you that they have finally bought custom domain support as part of their Cloud+ platform which is good because truth be known I was expecting Apple implementing the Webextension API to feature parity with Firefox before they would ever get interested in adding more sophisticated features to their iCloud service (given that no one is directly paying for it I was never expecting it to get to the level of sophistication as what Microsoft or Google provides) but I tolerated it because it was ‘good enough’ to get the job done.

As for my hardware, at the moment I think I can squeeze another 2-3 years out of it which would make them 5-6 years old by the time I get around to replacing them and when I do it’ll be interesting to see but assuming that Microsoft use Windows 11 as a springboard to advance Windows forward and AMD/Intel keep fighting the good fight on improving their product line (and Microsoft making great Surface) it appears that Apple has some much needed competition. Oh, and Samsung offering 4 years of long term support for their Galaxy S line? *chief’s kiss* particularly when you consider that next year the next Galaxy will use an SoC which makes use of an AMD GPU. I have to admit – I’d be tempted to build my own rig but for a laptop I’d go with Surface.

But that being said, Apple has joined a consortium called ‘Webextensions Community Group’ (link) that will hopefully move the API set forward resulting in Apple a set of APIs that all the in-dusty agree with which will ensure that developers can ‘write once, deploy everywhere’ rather than the current situation of having to deal with browser quirks and API differences – this matrix is a good way to keep track of those differences (link) which can range from something that is implemented but differently all the way through to a feature not being implanted at all with no intention by the browser vendor of ever implementing it.