A problem finally solved.

Well, that was rather unexpected. After posting about using Chrome and the problem I was having with iCloud in regards to removing an alias that would keep reappearing. Well, I came home tonight after work and thought, “might as well see if I can remove that alias” and amazing enough it actually was able to be removed and it hasn’t come back. With that success I am back to using Safari – as much as a ‘flirt’ with Google, I keep coming back to what I feel happy using – for all its faults, it works.

New uBlock Origin released, Chrome and the ongoing saga of using the Twitter app.

Another day and a new uBlock Origin release – although I can install it via the Chrome extensions store the problem is that the Chrome extensions store always seems to lag behind so instead what I do is download the .zip file and side load it (going to the extensions page, enabling ‘developer mode’ then clicking on ‘load unpacked’ where you point the browser to the directory created when one unzipped the .zip file). The only downside is if you’ve for multiple devices (or a large installation such as a school or workplace) then it needs to be done per machine (and kept up to date manually) but if you’re like me who just has 2 computers then it is pretty much a non issue.

I made ae recent post on twitter about the on going saga about removing an alias on icloud.com – it should be relatively easy, you log into icloud.com, you then click on mail, click on the ‘cog’ then ‘Preferences’ then click on ‘Accounts’ the click on the email, the click on delete. Now, in theory that should be removed however it disappears off the list but if you refresh the page and repeat the same steps the email address reappears. It’s been a 3 week saga and at this point I’m wondering whether I should cut my losses and instead just go with Google Workspace instead just to avoid the drama. Sure, if I move to Google Workspace I give up the unlimited disposable email addresses one gets with iCloud+ but on the good side I do get 30 aliases that I can use.

If I go down this route then I might as well go ‘all in’ with using Chrome (I’m using it now but the reason for using it is unrelated to the issue I’m having with iCloud) given at the moment I’ve given up using the macOS Twitter application. I honestly gave it a try but the problem is that Twitter Blue does’t work properly, the spelling and grammar are atrocious or they throw off false ‘that’s incorrect’ squiggly lines. There is also the issue of frequent crashes, not opening up the default browser I have chosen etc. It is a good attempt but we’re getting to the point that as much as I’d love to a native application the reality is that the world is moving to PWAs whether dinosaurs like me are happy about it or not.

The ongoing saga of Manifest V3 and browser choice.

Ah, the ongoing saga that is Manifest V3 with the current schedule (link) continues as Google insists on pushing forward with it’s schedule:

Even in the light of the growing list of issues that need resolving (link) not to mention unhappy developers who are trying to keep their new projects moving forward while they liaison with Google to get problems sorted (link) it is doubtful they’re going to get MV3 to a position (before the 17 January 2022 cut off where they stop accepting new MV2 extensions) where developers of new extension(s) will find that the framework is suitable. Sure, if you look at the timetable as an existing developer then you’ve got year up your sleeve when you keep updating your applications as you wait for issues relating to MV3 are corrected but that leaves new developers stuck having to deal with MV3 and trying to hurry along Google to get problems blocking ones extension from operating properly.

Below is a video that goes into detail why they’ve made the changes they have:

The issues that were raised the video, I would hazard to guess, are issues that most extension developers would agree are issues that need addressing but the problem is that, like Apple, there was no consultation with the extension developers who maintain the ecosystem. It is a situation of a software company developing something without first asking whether it is suitable for the primary customer who will be using it – in this case the lack of consultation has resulted in parts of Manifest V3 that are not fit for purpose.

With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised that we’re going to see Manifest V3 serving as the basis of the future work being put out by the ‘WebExtensions Community Group’ – even Apple with the release of Safari Technology Preview 136 (link) has been updated to support manifest_version 3 and service_worker background scripts along with man other features (there appears to be a flurry of activity from Apple regrading the Webextensions API which increased the declarativeNetRequest filter rules from 50,000 to 150,000 (per extension, Adguard gets around it by treating each filter category like a seperate extension – I’m unsure whether there is a hard global limit like how Chrome has) however hopefully they’ll bring it inline with Chrome 89 at a later date (Google sets it to 300,000 global limit – limit is shared amongst all the extensions installed)).

Side note 1: The interesting part has been that the global static rule limit has been set to 300,000 with Chrome 89 however it appears that Google don’t want developers relying on a fixed number as they have said developers should use getAvailableStaticRuleCount to find out how many rules they have left. What that indicates to me is that we may see that limit rise in the future – I assume that’ll happen when they develop a more efficient way of dealing with large numbers of filters to ensure that there isn’t a performance hit. With that all being said, at the moment on Safari I have 256512 active filters through Adguard. Although I have heard people with must larger sets of rules I’d say in the long term the limit will be addressed through a combination of the limit being increased while optimising the filtering rules.

Side note 2: If you’re wanting something to offset the above pessimism then there is light at the end of the tunnel. I suggest you read through the minutes by the (link) many developers working at the organisations which contribute to the ‘WebExtensions Community Group’ because for all the doom and gloom in the tech media, there is working going on behind the scene. When it comes to Google fixing issues and you’re getting frustrated because it is ‘taking too long’ then there is always the possibility that the reason why it is taking longer than expect is because they developer is wanting to bounce ideas off other members to then all members of the ‘WebExtensions Community Group’ can agree on how something is implemented.

Side note 3: Here is some interesting reading:

Who do you trust with your data?

There was an interesting video uploaded by Louis Rossman regarding who consumers trust with their data (link):

It appears that Louis was confused (along with I) regarding how the average person has more trust in Google than they do with Apple regarding keeping their personal data safe. I wonder when the question was asked to people that what people were thinking wasn’t the matter of privacy (stuff that Google collections on them) but rather how secure the service is from hacking etc. I say that because there are still people today who believed that the ‘celebrity leak’ from iCloud had something to do with an iCloud weakness when the reality is that it was people who had weak passwords and failing to implement 2FA. As a result of this misunderstanding of what took place there are people who believe that Google is more secure when in reality something is only as secure as you make it (2FA on iCloud was ‘opt in’ up until recently) – if you have a weak password and don’t turn on 2FA then all the magic in the world isn’t going to make your account secure. I think the second reasoning might be that because Google makes it’s money through collecting information and creating a profile to improve they service while delivering relevant ads that some might conclude Google has greater incentive to being more security focused because it is that information which gives them a competitive edge over the competition and thus they want to guard that edge they have by keeping it secure.

When thinking about the question there is also the matter of what people mean by trust – is it ‘trust’ in terms of keeping data secure? is it trust in terms of not sharing it with third parties? is it trust in terms of using the information they have which will benefit to the end user with a more customised/bespoke experience rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach which fails to meet an end users needs? as Ross notes, it lacks the sort of extended answers which would give a good insight into how the end user interprets the question which leads into why they answered the question in that way.

Where I disagree with Ross is regarding his conclusions regarding Google’s business model – if push comes to shove and they had to ramp up their cloud services, hardware etc. they could easily do it, it wouldn’t be easy but they do have something beyond just ‘hoovering up data’. Compare that to say Facebook – what do they really have in the way of monetisable services that people are willing and able to pay for? If Facebook offered an ad free version for US$9.99 per month would there be sufficient enough numbers to make it worth their while or is Facebook’s only utility is the fact that it is free meaning if it wasn’t free then going without it wouldn’t be a major inconvenience (keeping in mind that one used to pay for WhatsApp which didn’t slow down it’s adoption). According to Google (link) they have 6 million monthly paying companies which is hardly something to be sneezed at. If push came to shove Google could offer a Google One Pro which would be a consumer version of Workspace with additional space, maybe bundle ad free music and YouTube along with making all their other ‘properties’ ad free.

Would it work? In the US they make $256 per year ARPU, on a global scale they make $137 per year ARPU (link – based on 2019 data), so lets assume that their goal is to hit at least the minimum of $22 per month ($256 divided by 12) then they could easily charge US$29.99 (which would work out to be around NZ$49.99 incl GST). Google could move all their devices to start using Samsung based chips for all their devices which would leverage economies of scale, start focusing on a global vision beyond the niche they’ve built out so far etc. and put themselves in a position where although ad revenue would be a large component, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if a regulatory agency started to regulate the ad market or tech giants over all because Google has a viable business path (be it small relative to their ad business).

Maybe this is why users trust Google, because they find utility in using Google services because they choose to use Google when alternatives exist where as with Facebook many people I talk to have noted that they reluctantly use it even though it is a toxic data mining ad riddled cess pit which amplifies the worst that humanity has to offer all for the sake of ‘the click’ or as the marketing folks call it – ‘engagement’. I think that Facebook is, when looking from a long term perspective, in a lot more grave situation than they lead on. Sure, there is the ‘novelty’ of ‘the metaverse’ but given the reputation that Facebook has it is doubtful that there will be a willingness by people to invest further into Facebook. There are also threats coming from outside in the form of competition – the past they could deal with threats by buying them out but given the extra attention they’re given by anti-trust regulators it is doubtful that they can buy out the new platforms which Gen Y and Gen Z are using with TikTok being the most visible alternative. Twitter is positioning themselves as an an alternative, there is wt.social, Bebo has been rebooted and I suspect that if Twitter Blue turns out to be a good little money spinner combined with some crack down on Facebook then I could see emerge more Facebook alternatives – maybe a more decentralised model akin to Mastodon where each instance can specialise based around a region or possibly an interest/hobby/etc by its membership.

UDM updates, Apple display rumours and political wrangling in the US.

Starting into the first week of the holidays and Ubiquiti has release an firmware update for their UDM 1.11.0 which introduces bug fixes, optimisations such as improved PPPoE throughput, making WPA3 available for mainstream adoption and lots more (link). A nice little early Christmas present which, as of the time of this writing having used it for a few hours, is absolutely rock solid so far with setting up the UDM (I did a factory reset as part of the upgrade to 1.11.0) going a lot smoother than in the past. The big upcoming update will be when the Unifi AP AC HD firmware moves from the 5.x series to the 6.x series which has a whole new wifi firmware ‘binary blob’ that it’ll be using hence all the testing, testing and more testing that has occurred in over the 6 months or so.

There are rumours that Apple is going to get back into the display market (link) which will be at a more mainstream accessible pricing. When thinking about this rumour and the lack of a 27inch iMac I am wondering whether we’ll eventually see a 27inch iMac or do Apple see the market for the 27inch iMac being the more power user and/or enthusiast area where maybe a Mac mini Pro or even a Mac Pro mini combined with an Apple display would fill the gap between the mainstream 24inch iMac and the Mac Pro at the high end. Although I have an iMac 27inch I am strongly looking at getting maybe a Mac mini but maxed out as my next device with either an Apple display one one from Dell particularly if the price is a lot better than going with an iMac 27inch (or what ever the size screen Apple decide to go with – assuming they ship a bigger iMac with Apple Silicon).

I’ve been following US politics regarding the whole ‘Build Back Better’ with the media pointing out how Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are the source of why Biden’s agenda is blocked but let’s remember it wasn’t too long ago where a report came out that there are 10 senators who oppose it. The reason why it hasn’t passed is because there are more Ethan just those two who want to upend build back better, it just so happened to be that it is Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema turn to be ‘villains of the week’ which will provide the other 8 senators plausible deniability. For me, I’ve pretty much turned off from US politics because really is depressing how very little has been accomplished within a year due to the lack of discipline within the Democratic Party.

Getting back to New Zealand politics, it is one thing for the opposition parties to critique the government in areas where they believe they have a weakness but what amazes me is how the rest of the world is having a fifth wave yet journalist are inward looking navel gazers demanding the borders be open. What this goes to show is that the media in New Zealand is the embodiment of the phrase “the media is the mouthpiece of the capitalist class” – god forbid the New Zealand media remind the New Zealand public that there is a pandemic raging overseas and maybe the focus is should be on keeping in New Zealand rather than fetishising the potential to make a few extra dollars (at the expense of human life).

The future of ARM, Samsung and Apple.

Almost at the end of the week and looking forward to next week when I have time off from work – using three days of my annual leave but getting 9 days off in total due to my normal week being Wednesday to Sunday (Monday and Tuesday being my weekend) so I end up with two statutory holidays then three annual leave days thus making 5 days then the two days at the beginning of next week followed by two days at the beginning of the following week.

I’m not spending up big this year as I am looking to see what Samsung brings next year with the launch of the Samsung S22 range which will include an AMD GPU and hopefully the CPUs will being ARMv9 which will have all the neat stuff that ARM talked about in a recent presentation.

I’m still holding out for the ARMv9 version of Apple Silicon but equally I’m waiting for the platform to mature as earlier adopters are dealing with the usual teething problems that one faces with code that has been recently ported to a new platform so there are probably still a lot of optimisations and bug fixes that need to take place (which will occur over time). There is also plenty of optimisation that needs to take place – Chrome for example, although compatible, is gradually getting the optimisations that the Intel version had.

On the issue of Chrome, there have been some waves made recently with the announcement of a roadmap for Manifest v3 of the extension framework which Google promises will bring a more secure experience as well as improved performance (link) but critics have pointed out that the limited nature of the new APIs mean that extensions will not provide the sort of low level access which enable effective content blocking (link). There is a year before the Manifest v2 support is fully removed from Chrome so it’ll be interesting to see whether Google listen to developers and making the necessary changes – given how Google had pushed back the release of ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’ (FLoC) (link) due to concern from consumers to regulatory agencies as well as researchers, it is possible that Google may make some concessions. I don’t think that Google will abandoned Manifest v3 completely but I could see them making some concessions in the form of adding back functionality that is lacking in Manifest v3.

I’ve got a new scooter.

Writing this on Sunday 12 December I’m looking back at the week that was. I took my scooter in on Monday and have found that the cost of fixing the big moved from, “oh, maybe a couple of hundred dollars” to “you can pretty much buy a whole new bike for that amount” which I ended up deciding to do. I was annoyed at first but then I remember I have had the old bike for 7 years so I realised that it had a pretty good run. I decided to replace my Aprilia Motard SR 50 with a Lambretta V50 Special.

It is roughly the same size as my old bike but a better engine, a new stylish retro appearance etc. so I’m looking forward to picking it up on Monday or Tuesday next week. Although I do like taking the bus back and forths from work it does limit me in what I can do on my day off so the first thing I might do is go for a ride into Wellington on my scooter then cruise down Oriental Parade enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

On Saturday I was coughing up a lung at work so I decided to take Sunday off which required me to get a COVID check – swab up the nose is a little uncomfortable but it’s one of those things one has to play ones part in keeping the community safe. It’s probably just the run of the mill cough and sore throat but because people are on high alert for the new strain while trying to contain the existing outbreak everyone is on high alert.

I was reading through the AskReddit subreddit where someone posed the question about whether something that is ubiquitous today but will be looked back at with the same shock as one does today regarding how widespread smoking was in the past. My contribution was this: People who want something for free then act surprised when there is a tonne of data mining going on the background for ad targeting.

What I am hoping is eventually people will recognise that just because something is delivered via the internet doesn’t mean that it isn’t without cost – people are paying for Netflix, Spotify etc. what I also hope is that businesses move to a payment model because ad supported model is too politically risky given the sort of scrutiny many businesses are now under across the globe. The result: “Gee, it’s amazing how people thought that they could get something for free without there being a ‘cost’ being paid for in the form of data”.

The usual retort is ‘but what is to stop them violating privacy even if they do pay’ – my reply to that is this, the current system only works if you have economies of scale to generate the user data which in turn enables you platform to become a viable platform for businesses to advertise on which creates the revenue to pay for the services you’re providing. In other words, you need the capacity to run for years making a loss before (hopefully) you will eventually reach that critical mass and start making a profit. Compare that to a scenario where paying for a service is the norm – it would be possible to create a business model around paying customers where you would be a lot closer to making a profit and you can compete based on protecting your customers privacy as a point of differentiation.

This coming week the rumour has it that macOS 12.1, iOS 15.2 and tvOS 15.2 will be released to the public (at this moment it is currently at RC2 so it is close to release but they want to test to ensure that there are no nasty surprised for early adopters when it is released). Last week there was also the release of Safari Technology Preview 136 which has a lot of changes in it – it’ll be interesting to see whether there will be a change in pace in Safari releases once the transition for the Mac from x86-64 to Apple Silicon is completed so then they can focus 100% on Apple Silicon rather than having to check whether something that work well on Apple Silicon works well on x86-64.

The ongoing love/hate relationship with Chrome and Safari.

Back to using Safari – Chrome has its benefits but I think I’ve got things nailed down with Safari and Ad Guard. I think the problems I’ve had in the past is that I haven’t gotten it setup properly before I started ‘surfing the net’. What I’ve done this time is when I installed Ad Guard rather than enabling it straight way in Safari I first of all cleared all cookies, cache and history so I start with a clean slate, I then open up Ad Guard, enable all the filters I want, update the filters to the latest version, add the allowed websites then enable the extensions in Safari. Taking those careful steps has resulted in websites not breaking (the ones I’ve added to my allowed list) and those that have the filters applied to are consistently having their ads block along with blocking other nasties so I’m a happy lad.

As I get closer to the festivities and end of the year I am drawing up a list of things I want to do with the first, which is the easiest I can do, is move from Spark to back to Skinny Mobile – I’ll probably do that before then but that depends on when Apple starts to ship iOS 15.2, tvOS 15.2 and macOS 12.1 which are all currently in beta testing at the moment. My big focus on 2022 is getting myself focused on getting in a better state financially as well as in terms of health. Yes, I could start today but I’d sooner get the crazy season out of the way which will remove any distractions rather than trying to start now, get distracted by the festivities then trying to get back on track again.