My dissatisfaction with the licence changes in New Zealand.

After much moaning and groaning by me regarding a poorly thought out law change pushed through over 7 years ago by the National government it appears that the Labour government has come come to sanity and reversed the decision (link). What was the poorly thought out decision that I am referring to? the decision to put a 2 year limit on learner/restricted licence on the along with the erroneous basis on which the decision was made. The erroneous decision was based on the notion that allowing people to say permanently on learners or restricted would serve as a disincentive to move to a full licence – and what basis did they make that? feedback by those who benefit from making an easy profit off people being pushed to have a full licence (regardless of whether they needed it or not) and ‘feel facts’ (‘which aren’t technically facts but feel true’, a term I borrowed from SNL (link)) made up by lobby groups whose narrow focus blinds them to the many possible scenarios that they haven’t considered.

The frequently asked questions pretty much goes into detail addressing why people never actually move on beyond either a learners or a restricted licence with the question: Why don’t licence holders progress to a full licence?

  • the cost of theory and practical tests
  • the cost of renewing the licence
  • no adequate supervision/training
  • no access to a road legal vehicle to be trained in, or to take to a practical test.
  • only needing a learner licence to ride a moped
  • only wanting a driver licence for identification
  • having other transport options
  • no access a vehicle to learn to drive
  • in the case of a restricted licence, only needing to transport children or a spouse.

When it comes to ID, there is the 18+ card now known as the Kiwi Access cad but the problem is that identity verification requires it to be used in conjunction with a birth certificate where as a drivers licence in almost every case is sufficient enough for ID. Then there is the scenario of given in the public submissions, for example on page 7 one submitter said their 78-year-old Grandmother has had her restricted for a long time and complies with conditions as she only drives by herself. (link) There were submitters also felt they should not be required to retake a theory test upon renewal for a licence they have already passed – a test would have to be reset every 5 years if one wishes to simply renew a learners licence. Then there is the biggest group I would say which are many university students, young adults and others who only have an interest in riding a moped and we can do so with a standard learners – so why force them to move to a full licence? thank goodness the government made the right decision in the end that’ll go back to the status quo.

Does the quality of drivers need to improve? yes, but limiting the length of time one can remain on learners or restricted doesn’t benefit anyone and certainly won’t improve the quality of drives. If these organisations were serious about improving the quality of drivers then I suggest they put their ‘feel facts’ to one side and focus on an alternative to the current model that focuses on ‘can the person put on a good show to pass a test’ in favour of a more exhaustive regiment over a set number of weeks. The goal with such a change would result in a restricted licence issued based on a regiment of the first week being the base line and the last week being an indicator as to whether the mentoring that the instructor has provided has been taken on board by the student via a visible improvement 6 weeks later (thus demonstrating a degree of humility by demonstrating that recognise they’re a student and take on board the feedback the instructor provides) vs 6 weeks later there is no improvement thus indicating they need to remain as a learner for longer (thus also demonstrating that they’re not willing to take on board advice and improve – they’ve convinced themselves that they’re already the expert and don’t need to improve thus it is doubtful giving them a restricted licence will result in them improving long term).

The ongoing love/hate relationship I have with Android, Google and their attempt at getting into the hardware market.

I’ve been a big fan of Google’s hardware line, specifically, their Pixel phones due to their ‘crapware free’ implementation of Android when compared to other big OEMs that bloat up the standard Android install with crapware because the said OEM has been paid by software vendors aka ‘partners’. Samsung is doing a lot better than before but they still insist on preloading their phones with Microsoft Software. It is something I wish Android OEMs would get through their thick skulls – if I want something I’ll download it myself otherwise don’t second guess what I want by preloading things that I’ll never actually use.

The problem is that Google only ships their hardware to a limited number of markets and at first the excuse was because they had just bought HTC’s handset division, that they were building out the distribution network but at some point one has to accept that it’ll never be coming to New Zealand. At some point you have to ask what is the real reason why they haven’t gone beyond those small number of markets and then suddenly you see the big announcement Google and Samsung – replacing of Tizen on their watches with WearOS then there was the recent announcement of Android 12L for large screen devices which marks the possible death of ChromeOS on tablet devices.

I think the long term issue is that Google cannot risk upsetting one of their most important partners particularly when you consider the breadth and reach that they have into markets that Google doesn’t have any presence in and would take years for them to build up the infrastructure not to mention years of losses. I also think that when it comes to Samsung, they’ve got a limited set of options when one considers the abysmal quality (see study from a couple of years ago where 40 zero day security holes were found not to mention the numerous security researchers who haven’t exactly praised the security worthiness of it) of the software when Samsung tries to go off and ‘go it alone’ resulting in the market having very little appetite for Tizen smartphones when it is offered (see also Huawei crash and burn outside of the US via the lack of Google Services being preinstalled on phones sold outside of China).

I’d also argue that long term I could eventually see Android TV making its way into Samsung televisions as well – it makes sense at this point to cease re-inventing the wheel and use what is on offer particularly if that partner is willing to pick up a lot of the development moving forward. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing Samsung selling tablets loaded with Android 12L, ChromeOS on laptops etc. What I am holding out for is the rumoured S22 with the AMD GPU running Android 12 natively.

On a good side regarding Android 12, project mainline has bought two new modules, ART and Device Scheduling, to the Play Store (link). It appears that Google is choosing the modules that are most prone to security issues and bringing the maintaining of that inhouse. Hopefully in the future we’ll start to see more modules so that eventually the OEMs maintain their kernel drivers, use public APIs to customise the look and feel of their Android build then Google themselves take care of everything above the kernel. It’ll be interesting to see whether Samsung will distribute GPU driver updates via the Playstore like what Qualcomm provides or whether they’ll continue shipping it as part of a monthly maintenance update.

Reviews of the new MacBook Pro 14″ and 16″ are out and the plague of disposable products resulting in an ewaste mountain.

I’ve been watching videos reviewing the new MacBook Pro 14″ and 16″, even after all this time I am astonished at how well the Apple GPU is scaling given the tendency of GPUs designed for lower power tend to have an upper limit in terms of scalability (architectural decisions made to reduce power usage can inhibit the ability to scale) so I was expecting them to maybe work with AMD on a discrete GPU but it appears I have been proven incorrect (keeping in mind the post I made in the past was pure speculation rather than making definitive statements facts). It’ll be interesting to see the performance in the upcoming larger iMac and Mac Pro – rumour has it that it might end up scaling up 2 x M1 Max in lieu of putting more on a single SoC which will result in a 20 core SoC; 16 high performance cores, 4 efficiency cores. What I hope is that because they control the hardware and software that we’ll see a better graphics experience – greater use of Metal optimisation as Apple moves more of its underpinnings from OpenGL to Metal.

The other part of the equation is where the Windows world will fit into this when one considers Qualcomm’s recent purchase of Nuvia which will hopefully give them to people power along with their expertise to bring about some silicon that can cater for the laptop, tablet, desktop and workstation market that Microsoft appears to be hinting at having an interest in moving Windows for ARM from merely a box that needs to be ticked to taking it seriously particularly when one looks at the investments being made by MIcrosoft to bring their middleware to the platform.

On Another topic given the recent discussion about ‘right to repair’ and dealing with the amount of electronic waste that is building up, if we’re going to get serious about the environment such as using electricity more efficiently and reduce our e-waste then we need to, as consumers, demanding products that prioritise convenience over all things else.

A good example of this would be the rise in wireless earbuds where the batteries are dead after 2 years max even with moderate usage then add to the recharging which is wireless which is inefficient – on a small scale that wouldn’t be an issue but on a cumulative basis it would cause a problem in those countries whose power generation is dependent upon burning fossil fuels. Then there is the ‘right to repair’ movement regarding the ‘right to repair’ ones devices by getting access to the information and parts required to do so. I think it is a good start but the biggest component in this war on electronic waste is the issue of planned obsolescence where there needs to be requirements – either the OEM is forced to provide x number of years security and bug fixes (rather than the current situation of Apple not providing all security fixes to old versions of iOS) or the alternative being that the source code for drivers etc. are merged back into a public Android tree that allows people to keep updating their Android phone beyond what the OEM is willing to provide (maybe a third party business model could develop around providing a long term supported version of Android that one can install after the OEM has abandoned it).

This is one of the reasons I get frustrated when I hear people go on about how electric vehicles are the future – no they’re not, the future is better unitary plans that stop and reverse urban sprawl, focus on dense housing, shared green spaces, greater use of telecommuting, greater use of staggered start times, investing into mass transit and fully electrifying the rail network, building more renewable energy generation. Why aren’t electric vehicles the future (in the sense of it being a ‘silver bullet’ to solve all of life’s problems) – consider the full life cycle from start to finish when building a car including the battery, when you consider all that you quickly realise that although it is better than a petrol car it’ll never be as good as mass transit, it won’t fix congestion not to mention all the maintenance costs of supporting and upgrading urban motorways and state highways.

Senate investigating big technology and the role of algorithms in ‘manufacturing consent’.

It is interesting to see the new service that Apple roll out (link) and finding myself recall a year ago (or so) how Apple should add custom domain hosting, that there is an opportunity to focus on small to medium business etc. etc. only for it to all end up happening. Not that I’m saying that I have some insider knowledge but it’ll be interesting to see whether the custom domain hosting for iCloud+ is a precursor to rolling it out for education and Small/Medium businesses. Although there has been a upsurge in Mac sales with the gradual release of Apple Silicon based Macs (due to many holding back from upgrading for years) the long term positioning of Apple is around services – be it the cut they get through the store or simply selling something like iCloud+ which includes custom domain hosting, private relay, extra storage, unlimited disposable email addresses etc.

It appears that in the US there is a bipartisan senate proposal to deal with the algorithms that Facebook, Twitter, Google etc use to ‘increase engagement’ by amplifying content that is known to retain users using their service for longer (link). At the moment what is proposed is an ‘opt in’ system but what I hoping is that in the long run that it’ll become the default setting for not just new customers but for all existing customers to be switched over as well. I’ve also said in the past that Facebook should change the default settings it so that when adding a friend it shouldn’t mean that you’re automatically signed up for timeline – the virality effect only works because of the networking effect of everyone being lined up with everyone else so when one person likes something the impact is reverberated through friends and then when those friends react then the friends of friends then get to see the reaction that amplifying then combine that with algorithms that then amplify based on reaction that is how troll armies make use of the system to spread disinformation.

It is interesting that governments have started taking on the big tech companies – in part due to their realisation that they have the ability to large sways of people through algorithms that increase engagement which ultimately end up undermining the basis on which democracy functions which is an agreed on set of facts so then the debate is based on an greed set of facts but different solutions being proposed to address challenges that need addressing. I have a feeling that we’re going to start seeing a series of bills in the US and elsewhere with the focus on addressing individual issues rather than trying to push through a large omnibus piece of legislation. We’ve already seen countries as South Korea undermine the ‘in app’ payment monopoly that Apple has so expect that to to spread to include Google. I don’t see Apple losing the monopoly that the App Store has for distributing apps to iOS devices but I think it’ll attract a lot more scrutiny and regulation when compared to Android given that you can already side load apps onto Android. As noted in a prior post, there are robust arguments of why a monopoly may benefit a consumer but if you’re going to go down that route then it opens you up for greater regulation – the question is whether Apple see’s the additional regulation is worth the hassle or whether allowing side loading through some sort of two step ‘power user mode’ (to keep regular users safe while allowing side loading for power users) is worth doing if it means having more control over their App Store.