Well, it is the big day – Apple releases macOS 12, iOS 15.1 and tvOS 15.1 and after a good night sleep I got to work upgrading all my devices. This won’t be an exhaustive review but rather pointing out some changes that I have noticed after using it for a few hours. Just to prefix this, when ever I move from a major version of an OS to another I always do a clean install – completely wipe my drive and then clean install it or in the case of my iPhone I do a DFU install which installs everything as if it were a blank device at a factory. The reason why I always do a clean install is because although one should (at least in theory) be able to smoothly upgrade between major releases the problem is that it is almost guaranteed that something will go wrong and when it goes wrong you’re never too sure whether it was a bug in the new operating system or maybe something went wrong during the upgrade process.

Here are some of the things I noticed:

  1. When playing videos on YouTube, Safari now supports VP9/Opus playback where as in the past it only supported VP9/AAC playback. This brings Safari 15.1 inline with tvOS which has been doing this since the 14.x release. I’m unsure why it took so long – maybe they wanted to optimise it better for macOS before deploying it? Whatever the case maybe it is super smooth reliability – no playback problems like I experienced in the early days of macOS 11.x ‘Big Sur’.
  2. The system firmware on both my iMac and MacBook Pro were upgraded to ‘447.40.12.0.0’ and a new section in the ‘Hardware Overview’ (found in ‘System Profile’) called ‘OS Loader Version’ which is set to ‘540.40.4~45’. The system firmware is UEFI but it also includes microcode updates from Intel to work around bugs. Regarding the OS Loader Version – maybe it is an abstraction which enables Apple to simplify the support for two platforms? I guess time will tell.
  3. Twitter appears to be a lot more reliable – I guess that has come as a byproduct of the Catalyst framework maturing along with improvements to the Webkit framework. There are improvements across the board with the recent release – where as macOS introduced Catalyst, macOS 12 shows the technology has matured to the point that hopefully the apps that utilise it won’t be as buggy.
  4. The Podcast application on macOS no longer automatically download podcasts you’re subscribed to if you untick the ‘Automatic Downloads’. When I was running macOS 11.6 it would keep downloading them even when you had disabled it – it’s nice that they’ve finally fixed it.
  5. Mail is now recognising the custom domain email addresses and it is now possible to create a disposable email address from ‘System Preferences’ and in the website rather than having to log into the iCloud website which makes life a big easier.
  6. Safari 15.1 has bought back the traditional tabs which has made life a lot easier for me and many other users are happy with the change back to the traditional tabs. It is good that when Apple does receive feedback that they take it on the chin and correct course rather than dismissing it as the rabble not understanding the true genius behind the decision that was made.

I’m still looking around the operation system but so far this has been pretty stable for a fresh release – not strange bugs, no regressions, so far everything is working well. I’ll keep the blog updated when I find things that are interesting.

Today was the day Google announced the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro – since there was already all the information out there the presentation was pretty much confirming everything and once again it isn’t available in New Zealand although Amazon is going to be a reseller so there is always the option of using YouShop or having Amazon selling it directly to New Zealand customers. If that is the price one has to pay to get access to it then I’m happy to pay it given that it is a niche product and given our small size it makes sense that Google focuses on the big markets (although Google could treat Australia and New Zealand as a single market in much the same way that Apple does which means that apart from the original Homepod we pretty much get everything that the Australians do). There is a good overview/unboxing by MKBHD:

The thing is with Google is that once you use Chrome and set up a Google account then you’ve kinda got to go all in – and although you can run Chrome on iOS you’re still saddles with having to use Webkit because essentially Chrome on iOS is only a front end that integrates into Google cloud services but still uses the same underpinnings as Safari not to mention Google Maps, Google Contacts, Google Keep etc are a lot better integrated into Android (it makes sense given that Google controls the Android platform where as on iOS they’re ‘yet another third party’ where Apple has the benefit of deep integration because they control iOS).

For me, I keep coming back to Chrome because it has the adblocker that I know and love, uBlock Origin, because it works a lot more reliably particularly on video sharing sites that are popup crazy. Although AdGuard Safari Extension does a pretty good job it still allows popups to get through etc whereas with uBlock Origin it stops all popups, ads, bitcoin mining etc. resulting in a much better experience. Side note: I disable my ad blocking on websites that have ads but aren’t obnoxious – if I’m blocking the ads on your website then maybe you should take a moment to reflect how you’re repelling people away.

Although Apple is improving it support for the Webextensions API the more important thing that they need to do is talk to the big players in the extension community – it is the developers in the extension community that make use of what you provide them, if what you provide them is 9/10ths of useless then it won’t matter how much you hype up your support for xyz if the end result is something that isn’t fit for purpose. uBlock Origin has over 10 million users – maybe listen to what the developer has to say since it appears that the product he is putting out is pretty popular with end users so he obviously must be doing something right. Listen to the developers and take onboard their suggestions – don’t say “we know best” then act surprised that you can’t create an ecosystem when you haven’t bothered to speak to the very people who will be creating that ecosystem.

Well, that’ll be a shortest flirtation with Chrome now that Apple has reverted back to classic tabs by default on Safari in macOS 12 and leaving the new tabs limited to compact mode which will be ‘opt in’ (link). I originally thought the satisfaction was limited to me and a few people online but it appears that it was a lot wider because rarely does Apple do a U turn unless there was a significant backlash. macOS 12 will be released on 26 October New Zealand time The timing was exactly as expected, both iOS 15.1 and macOS 12 will be released at the same time next week which makes me wonder whether we’ll see macOS 11.6.1 released before the end of this week for those who wish to stick with macOS 11.x because some of the software they rely on isn’t compatible with macOS 12.

I watched the replay of the presentation – the naming of the CPU was a bit of a surprise with the M1 Pro and M1 Max but what wasn’t surprising that rumours of Apple maybe using discrete GPUs in the pro devices has been put to rest. It is interesting how well the GPU has scaled not to mention all the specialised hardware that Apple includes with their SoC such as their image signal processing, video encoding and decoding etc.

The end of another week and a beginning of a new one with the Apple even scheduled for tomorrow – heaps of speculation online regarding what will be launched followed by the usual ‘reading of the tea leaves’ with people analysing the marketing material in search of some sort of ‘hidden clue’ about what will be announced. For me I’m still waiting for the ARMv9 Apple computers to come out since it’ll include SVE2 which will have a big boost to performance so I might as well hold onto my Intel based Mac’s until that day arrives – when it arrives it’ll be pretty awesome to experience the massive jump in performance.

The Pixel phone is going to be announced in the next couple of days and what I’ve decided to do is wait until I go over to Australia so then I can purchase it (along with a Chromecast with Google TV) while I’m over there rather than going through all the drama of trying to import it back into New Zealand – if I can purchase it from JBB Hi-Fi then that would be even better because I’ll be able to get support in New Zealand if I need to get it repaired under warranty.

The competition appears to be hotting up in the ISP (Internet Service Provider) market with the big players adjusting given the rumour of Vocus Australia and the owners of 2 Degrees in discussion to merge (link) then maybe in the long run they’ll list the newly merge company on the New Zealand stock exchange. It’ll be interesting to see what the competition will be like with three really big players offering a nationwide mobile network, wireless broadband and fixed line internet. Chorus has announced that their 100/20 has been placed with 300/100 which leaves me wondering whether I should wait until December to see what is on offer – at the moment I am on 950/450 but I never flood my connection even when connecting my iMac up via an ethernet cable – at best I maybe hitting around 8-9MBps which is around 64-72Mbps (although that may change when Google open up a data center in New Zealand which should allow higher uploads to Google Drive).

I’ve avoided talking about the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand because it is becoming frustrating that there are a small number of New Zealanders who can’t seem to grasp that no man is an island, that they’re a member of society and as a member of society they have rights but they also have obligations, they have responsibilities, that one should have sense of duty by virtue of being a member of society. When you do something stupid the consequences don’t impact just you but also all those who were dragged into it as with the case of the ‘influencer’ party up in Auckland on the North Shore (link). This isn’t the first something like this happened which is why COVID-19 keeps spreading, because people aren’t abiding by the rules, because people have convinced themselves that “but I’m an exception because I have a really good reason why the rules don’t apply to me” with the result is something that could have been containable has resulted in a lockdown going on for 2 months.

I’ve been giving iCloud+ a go with the custom domain hosting – I love having an email address that is uniquely mine but it is rather frustrating that they’ve limited it to 3 email addresses per domain which ends up with me resorting to using using the ‘hide my email’ where an email made up of random words and numbers are generated. It maybe all very well and good but the problem is this – what happens if I want to apply for a job? giving someone an email address like nobbly_nipples09@icloud.com isn’t exactly a professional email address for applying for a job now is it. On Google Workspace there is 30 aliases per email account which is more than sufficient not to mention the fact that the spam filter for Google is so much better than what iCloud provides. I guess it is on of the benefits when you control the whole stack (Google) vs. relying on third party software (Apple) it allows you to create solutions specific to the needs of your customers rather than going out to licence software that does the job ‘kinda ok’ but never as good as a bespoke solution. It would be nice if Apple had maybe a Apple+ Premium that allowed for more than 3 email aliases – if they’re trying dissuade businesses not to use it then I can kind of understand but equally if you’re a business that you’re so super tight that you’re using a consumer grade email service then any problems you do experience is on your own shoulders – not Apple’s (maybe there is a higher licence fee for the software they use if the customer uses it for commercial purposes?).

It has been pretty chilly for the last couple of days with some days even falling below 8 degrees celsius, I was hoping by this stage I wasn’t having to turn on my heater but it appears that the cold weather snap is still coming through. I’ve got my heater set to 18 degrees celsius so when I wake up tomorrow it’ll be a whole lot easier to get out of bed. I had a check of the 7 day forecast:

Although the weather will improve for the next few days unfortunately the improvement will be short lived and the temperature will go back down.

On a good side, there are some neat things coming up in the next week. On 18 October 2021 (US Time) Apple will be having a feature presentation (link), on 19 October 2021 (US Time) Google will have their feature presentation (link) then lastly Samsung on 20 October 2021 (US Time) will have their feature presentation (link). Lots of unknowns at the moment but I do hope is that Samsung announces a release date for Android 12 for existing flag ship phones, Google will announce a refreshed Chromecast with Google TV that’ll include an updated SoC so that it supports hardware accelerated AV1 playback and Apple finishes off rolling out the migration from Intel to ARM so that all that is left is migrating Mac Pro over to ARM along with giving a release date for macOS 12 and iOS 15.1 (unless they do something strange such as shipping the ARM based Macs with macOS 11.6.1 then not release iOS 15.1 and macOS 12 until November sometime).

It appears that Google is recognising that users may love Google devices but they want Google apps that run on iOS to behave like iOS apps rather than Android style apps that just so happen to run on iOS (link). I can see why they made the choice in the first place if one views It from the perspective of:

  1. Consistency over the platforms that they support – the same look and feel so that the same experience is provided on all platforms rather than having to deal with each platforms quirks.
  2. Not having to maintain two UI codebases – use the same Material for iOS framework for all Google applications then move the platform forward with all the applications that use it automatically inheriting the benefits (and the framework itself is updated with each version of IOS to take advantage of the improvements that particular version of iOS brings).

Like many attempts by developers to abstract from the underlying platform, the experience ends up being subpar and the amount of man power saved doesn’t offset the non-native feel. For me, it is the reason why I’ve never been a fan of Firefox because it always feels as though as a Mac user that I was an after thought when compared to the experience Firefox delivered on Windows or Linux. Many years ago there was Camino which was a Cocoa frontend to the Gecko web engine but it never gained official support so it was always a project that struggle to build mindshare resulting in bugs not being fixed etc.

Long story short, we’re Apple customers first and you provide us with the service and software that runs on out platform of choice so as a result it should look the part. If you want to try something different and innovative then that is what Android is for and if it means that certain features are only available on Android then that might act ass an incentive for people to migrate to Android in much the same way that iMessage is a ‘must have feature’ which entice people to the iOS platform.

On a side note, Apple has released iOS 15.0.2 and it appears that the IOMbileFrameBuffer, graphics stack and kernel have been getting a good work out in terms of receiving bug fixes over the last few months (link). It isn’t surprising given that such an area is fraught with complexity resulting in nasty bugs appearing where you really don’t want them to appear. Looking forward to macOS 12 and I’ve still got it marked on the calendar that iOS 15.1 and macOS will be release around the same time – probably a week or so after the Mac refresh that is rumoured to be happening soon.