Apple releases updates, taking time off from work.

Good news – Apple has released macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS updates yesterday (Wednesday US time, Thursday NZ time) which included a large number of security fixes including a fix for the IndexedDB leak which has been left unfixed since November – better late than never I guess. Those updates also included firmware updates – no noticeable difference but things are going well (many times the firmware includes microcode updates which addresses issues in Intel CPUs), Safari is a lot snappier with its upgrade to Safari 15.3 (if it were purely a bug fix then I’d hazard to guess that it would have just been labelled 15.2.1 instead of bumping it up to 15.3) which probably includes improvements along side bug fixes. It appears that the bad old days of poor video playback hasn’t reared its ugly head so I’m happy with the end result.

One thing to keep in mind with Apple is that that they don’t provide an exhaustive list of all the changes they have made. What Apple lists tend to be the really big obvious changes that people will notice immediately but that isn’t to say they don’t fix up issues people report as noted in a previous post where I outlined a CSS issue that was causing problems on YouTube resulting in unreliable video playback back due to high CPU utilisation when scrolling through/loading comments section, that fix made its way into Safari without any fanfare. In this case I also notice that websites are loading quicker, less memory being used however it appears that if I am on YouTube and want to press ‘back’ to go back to the main page the main page will reload rather than going back to the previous state. What I find interesting though is how secure Apple’s own drivers are when compared to the third party ones they rely on – is that due to market penetration thus making hose drivers more prone to being hacked or is the benefit of lacking legacy has allowed Apple to write secure code from the ground up by baking those ‘secure code practices’ into them from day one.

I’m taking time off work today due to having a sore throat – depending on how I feel I might need to have the next day off. I think it is the result of ‘burning the candles at both ends’ – some rest and home cooking will help me feeling better soon.

Rumours regarding Samsung’s next flagship Exynos SoC.

After Exynos 2200 disappeared from their website it suddenly appeared with an accompanied press release (link) followed by the Twitterverse and Reddit subreddits speculating over why it disappeared then reappeared, why there is no longer the clock rates stated on the specifications page etc. My speculation when it first occurred was that it was going to rebranded to make it stand out from previous Exynos – they appeared to have rebranded slightly with the emphasis being put on the GPU. The other speculation I’ll throw out there is that Samsung is de-emphasising the clock speed in favour of the ‘complete experience’ in much the same way that Apple themselves don’t give out specification of SoC clock speed etc. for their iPhone. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing a lot less focus on specifications in the announcement and more on what can be done when compared to previous generations.

It’ll be interesting to also see what the Android 12 build will be like given that as part of “Project Mainline” that optional components that can be updated by Google directly will now be mandatory to new phones running Android 12 along with moving away from the current fiasco of having forks of forks of forks then trying to juggle the security patches as they’re backported. If the end result is the full embracing of GKI 2.0 (generic kernel image) (link) then it should ao make life a lot easier for Samsung given that they’re now pushing Android upgrades to 3 years with 4 year of security updates.

Anyway, here is a good video that gives a bit of an overview based on what is known however we’ll need to wait for more in depth analysis once the phone is shipping in volume.

Another beta, another security bug and Manifest V3 drama.

Another week, another beta release by Apple of the next macOS update, macOS 12.2, unfortunately there is nothing listed in the release notes but that could because the fixes are security focused (the details of those security fixes get made available after the update is released). Regarding whether not Webkit has been updated, I’ve checked the Webkit and it appears they haven’t made available a new build – that could be due to people still waiting to get back from Christmas and New Years break but I guess as we get closer to February that we’ll eventually get to see the updates roll out.

That all being said, there is still a long way to go in regards to filling in the functionality gap between Webkit vs Blink (Chromium engine). There is work being done on the Manifest V3 – although there is a lot of controversy, I’ve been reading through the mailing lists and it appears that all the various players in developing the standard are coming together, listening to feedback, ensuring that all the different browsers are happy with each feature as it develops. The disappointing part of Webkit has also been the latest security hole found in Webkit (it appears to not have been fixed in the latest beta release of macOS, iOS, iPadOS etc. based on the chatter occurring on reddit and twitter):

And to make matters worse it was reported to Apple in November last year. It’s all very well and good to boast about your privacy policy but if your software is like Swiss cheese then it kind of undercuts the idea of being a privacy focused business. As a side note, I really do wish that Apple fans would stop spouting the nonsense that ‘Google sells your data to third parties’ when in reality they don’t – an advertiser says “I want to target…” then followed by a list of demographic information, Google gives them a quote and then runs the ads targeting those people, no data changes hands. With all that being said, why would any business voluntarily give up data they’ve collected which gives them a competitive advantage? this is one of the reasons I unsubscribed to the Apple subreddit – I’m all good when it comes to differences of opinion but that being said we must agree on the same set of facts or otherwise having a discussion in the first place is entirely pointless.

Still using Chrome although I tend to have a love/hate relationship with the Twitter app for Mac (which is based on the iPadOS version which utilises the ‘Catalyst’ framework on Mac ro bring it over with minimal recoding). Unfortunately the integration with macOS is pretty horrible – it isn’t as buggy as it was when they first introduced it but even now really basic things don’t work properly. Take the spelling which is iffy reliability – either missing words completely or putting a red squiggly line under words that are actually correctly spelt. Long story short, although there is a novelty element associated with having those applications on macOS, the problems start to arise when you expect them to behave like macOS applications for example respecting the system defaults (if you click on a link it opens up the link in Safari even though you might have set as the default another brother in ‘System Preferences’.

Android 12L, Microsoft Duo and avoiding toxic subreddits.

The end of another week of work – hopefully as we drift further from the new years holiday that things will get back to normal as people return to the office. I’m keeping an eye on the technology news with the latest rumours being that Microsoft is going to release Android 11 soon for the Duo 2 but the big focus is on shipping Android 12L. I have a feeling that Android 12L makes a lot more sense since the multiscreen improvements will be baked into Android natively rather than Microsoft having to merge their own enhancements into Android as they did with the initial release (the customisation making the process costly in terms of manpower when compared to Android 12L where those features will come ‘out of the box’ for Microsoft).

Hopefully by mid-February I can finally get rid of the ‘interest free’ deal with Spark which will give me a few extra dollars in the pocket so then I can focus on my long term goals of upgrading my two Macs to Apple Silicon based on ones – although I’m going to play it conservatively to see how Windows 11 plays out along with what AMD have on offer. What I am looking out for is their greater use of WinUI 2.6 such as the recent revival of Windows Media Player with a new modern UI, Notepad has also been updates along with a few other components. The benefit of WinUI is the ability to retain win32 code but put a fresh front end on it which avoids the costly mistake of re-writing something from scratch. In the case of Windows Media Player, that is going to be replacing the Groove Music application and eventually the old classic Windows Media Player as well. Long term I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually see all the components either upgraded WinUI 2.6 based versions or just simply remove them completely because it has been replaced with something new as with the case of Microsoft Management Console being replaced with Windows Admin Center.

I’ve decided to leave the /r/apple subreddit – it has gradually turned more and more toxic – god forbid you post an opinion that doesn’t hold up Apple has God’s gift to humanity because prepare yourself of a torrent of downvotes and abuse by the self appointed ‘swiss guards’ aka online keyboard warriors bending over backwards to ‘protect’ a trillion dollar company from some mild criticism. For me I see reddit as a place to hang out and shoot the breeze, if the said subreddit is filled with people who cause trouble and abuse the up/down vote system then I don’t see much point being part of that subreddit in the first place. The problem could easily be solved by allowing moderators to see who up/down voted then keep track of those who brigade, use sock puppet accounts etc then ban them off the website thus leaving the productive non-toxic contributors left on the website. Funny enough the Android subreddit has open and frank discussions about the shortcomings of Android as well as iOS without people reacting as if you had just slapped their mother.

AMD, Microsoft Pluton and Intel.

There have been some massive announcements so far this week such as AMD with hits Zen3+, RDNA 2 GPUs as well as Pluton (security processor). AMD will be the first out of the gate to support Pluton – it’ll be interesting to see articles explaining how Windows 11 makes use of it now and what Microsoft has planned for the future in terms of taking advantage of it to bring a more secure experience for Windows users.

Windows Weekly goes into good detail explaining what Pluton is, how one benefits from the development of it etc.

And not to be outdone Intel officially launching their Alder Lake 12th generation architecture with a lot of boasting about how it is faster than the M1 and other competitors but as I noted on Twitter, it is easy to get ‘top performance’ if you throw enough watts at the problem. Sure, based on the slides that have been disclosed it appears that can out perform the M1 but that comes at the cost of considerable power usage – 1.5x more performance at twice the power usage, not exactly a good trade off particularly if one is thinking about mobile workstations.

It’s good to see some competition in the technology space once again after almost a decade of kicking the can down the road but that being said I question whether the relative simplicity of RISC (Apple Silicon being ARM64 from the ground with legacy support jettisoned) gives Apple an advantage along with the fact that Apple is more or less starting with a clean slate and thus not have to be concerned about legacy support (outside of code morphing software like Rosetta).

Oneplus has released a list of specifications for its upcoming Oneplus 10 Pro (link) and although the hardware looks great my main concern is the merging of OxygenOS and ColorOS into a single platform with tweaks specific for Oneplus devices but sharing the backend code. Sounds like a great idea in theory but given the rocky release of Android 12 (link) it will be interesting to see whether the rocky start was due to it being an upgrade vs. being ground up Android based ColorOS. I know I sound like I’m picking on Oppo (the parent company of Oneplus) but Android OEMs tend to be pretty lazy when it comes to timely updates. This is one of the reasons I am attracted to a Pixel phone – because of a regular schedule not to mention the fact that it is free of crapware from third parties. Side note: I wish Android OEMs would realise that their products are merely a platform for people to access Google, anything that gets in the way of customer getting to their end goal of interacting with Google should be removed – be it crapware or the OEM insisting on having its own half baked cloud solution (I’m looking at you Samsung).

Back to work, ARMv9 and Samsung’s future flagship SoC.

The first week back at work didn’t go too badly – it is annoying how holidays go quickly but what I’m going to do (because I have such a surplus of annual leave) is to see whether I can cash in a week’s annual leave (clear off the ‘interest free’ deal I have with my phone carrier) with the focus by me on June this year being the time I take off to chill out and enjoy WWDC. It’ll be interesting to see whether WWDC will go back to the venue or whether the two years in a row Apple has realised that they can save a tonne of money and still get the developer community excited without having to have people physically in attendance.

It appears that the rumours are starting already with the rumour that the transition will be complete by the end of this year (link) – it’ll be interesting to see whether that’ll mark the move to ARMv9 given that Qualcomm and Samsung have moved their flag ship SoCs over to ARMv9. One of the big improvements is the inclusion of SVE2 (Scalable Vector Extension 2) but there are also security improvements baked right into the silicon which, if taken advantage of by programmers and compilers, should make the user experience a lot more secure.

The Verge is reporting that the Exynos 2200 will be announced 11 January 2022 (link) with the promise by Samsung of delivering ‘console level graphics. One of the big benefits of getting a new phone isn’t just the hardware but also the fact that what used to be ‘optional’ Android standards become required standards which should help improve security and speed at which software updates are made available. For example in the case of ‘Project Mainline’ (link) two new modules have become mandatory for new devices shipping Android 12. The benefit of Project Mainline is the ability for Google to ship ‘out of cycle’ updates directly from them to the consumer’s device without having to deal with the OEM. Google generally focuses components that have a high likelihood of security vulnerabilities and/or bugs due to their complexity. There is also GKI 2.0 which provides a stable interface – I could imagine OEMs adopt this rather quickly given that it’ll simplify their long term maintenance in the form of software updates and upgrades.