War in Ukraine, COVID arrives at the workplace.

With the conflict currently going on in Ukraine I’m going to refrain from putting my 5 cents worth in regarding it however I do think it is worth while for people to have a brush up on their history – further back than Putin or the Soviet past – way back to Peter the Great. Long story short, how we got here involves many twists and turns.

One of my work colleagues had a close contact so she headed off home to get tested with the rest of us at the office keeping in an eye on whether we’re experiencing any symptoms. I’ve been triple vaxxed along with all my work mates so we’re ok but we’ll need to play it safe and hopefully we’ll get through this wave with the least number of deaths possible.

I thought I could have avoided it however the keyboard on my MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2017) is starting to show the tell tale signs it needs replacing. Thank goodness though my device is still covered by the replacement programme that Apple has running but I’ll need to duck into Wellington to get it sorted out – hopefully I’ll be able to avoid the protestors who have been causing over two weeks of disruption to normal Wellington life.

Manifest V3 and the future of content blockers.

its all the discussion regarding Manifest V3 I find it refreshing to see that there are developers bringing to the forefront one of the biggest complains regarding the move to Manifest V3 which is one of the big sticking points for content blockers (link). Alexi made a great point in the most recent minutes where he noted the following:

[alexei] Browser vendors seem to have the mistaken belief that they can enumerate all use cases and include that in the design of DNR. Privacy and security extensions need to continue to be able to respond quickly to evolving tracker techniques, which a declarative API inherently does not support. Additionally, when browser vendors talk about improving performance with DNR, these concerns go against real world experience where webRequest-based extensions already make browsing faster and more performant. Browser vendor performance improvement claims seem like solving for the wrong problem.

This taps into what the developer of uBlock Origin pointed out, that the strength of their software comes from the ability to have very low level access and without that low level access the power that uBlock Origin has is diminished and so will the end result of blocking content. I really do hope that the browser developers listen rather than being pig headed and simply pushing ahead even when it is clear that it is going to negatively impact millions of end users.

Experiments in browsers and cloud providers.

I mentioned on my last post that I had moved over to Google Workspace as a trial (the post yesterday was after almost 2 weeks) and although in some areas it is an improvement I am still drawn back to iCloud because even for all its faults the leading benefit is its integration with macOS, iOS and tvOS. It’ll be interesting to see how things improve particularly in the area of Webkit given the recent announcements regarding features that’ll make their way into the mainstream release such as ‘The File System Access API with Origin Private File System’ (link) not to mention the many features that’ll eventually be back ported to Safari (link).

The other big surprise is Ad Guard has been updated (link) with the latest beta builds now taking advantage of the increase in the number of filter rules it can deal with (upgraded from 50K to 150K) along with other improvements. It is good to see that they’re updating but it would be even better if more developers got involved with the Manifest V3 development process because at the moment there is only Ghostery and Noscript representing what one could consider ‘content blocking’ developers. If you are a developer and are unhappy with the direction then the best suggestion I can give is to get involved – turn up to the meeting and contribute as to ensure that your concerns are listened to rather than, “I’ve given up on Chrome so I’ll jut focus on Firefox from now on”. Here is a moment that’ll help shape the direction for all browsers – sign up and get involved.

Google Workspace, Custom domains, Android 13 developer preview.

Well, I’ve decided to move from iCloud to Google Workspace for my custom domain for a number of reasons. The first is the 3 email address limitation is far too low, I understand the potential reasoning behind it but it has become an impediment since I like to have cohorts of email addresses used for specific purposes – one for shopping, one for bills etc. The other benefit is that GOogle Drive is a whole lot more reliable when it comes to uploading large files. I went with Google Workspace Business Standard which is NZ$18 per month which is only $1 more than going for the 2TB option for iCloud storage with the added bonus of being able to create up to 30 email aliases vs the limit of 3 on iCloud+.

Another thing I noticed is that Gmail, even when using Mimestream, is a lot more reliable – when I click to select which alias I am going to send from I find that with iCloud it either works or it does then in which case I have to log out of iCloud then log back in (via System Settings) and hopefully will start working. When it comes to Google, everything works properly the first time everytime. Yes, even using the GMail app on iOS works more reliably.

Google has released Android 13 Developer Preview, so far there hasn’t been any big changes but from what has been going around the rumour mill it appears that this release is about tidying up loose ends, improving privacy and security etc. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly the various OEM’s adopt it but I have a feeling that we’ll probably see Samsung being one of the first out of the gate which will be nice – 4 years of upgrades and 5 years of security updates. That improvement in long term support might see them win some more contracts with enterprise customers which has been quite a fertile ground for Apple to make a lot of its sales to due to its long period of support.

Galaxy unpacked and the ongoing Exynos/Snapdragon drama.

It is interesting to see the wheels in motion when it comes to dealing with the big technology companies particularly in the area of app stores. I’m going out on a limb to speculate that Google will probably avoid the worst of it since they already allow people to ‘opt in’ to be able to side load but I don’t think they’ll go unscatched – they’ll probably demand that developers can go through third party payment solutions, maybe cap the percentage that the app store take as a cut. Regarding Apple, they could easily allow side loading and keep it relatively secure using notarisation like they use on macOS – put it behind some sort of setting where you have to enter your pin; agree to a warning then get an activation code sent to the phone that is entered which confirms you wish to go ahead.

Samsung is having their Unpacked today (at the time of typing this I have the video playing in the background):

It appears that some of the rumours are paying off – they’ve consolidated the Note and Ultra line into a single product which will mean the Ultra will include an S-Pen. It makes sense given that Ultra was essentially a Note but without an S-Pen. Then is the Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra – they’ve really leaned into the tablet, particularly when it comes to DeX mode (which teamed up with the Samsung equivalent of a ‘Smart Cover’) which turns it into a full on convertible laptop – based on the video demonstration it will definitely give Apple a run for their money particularly when you consider the expandability, memory and not to mention the long term software support (which was lacking in the past).

They’ve announced that the Google Assistant will be coming to the Galaxy Watch 4 which makes me wonder whether we’re going to see Samsung gradually move away from Bixby in favour of moving to Google Assistant over the long term.

Samsung has also made an interesting shot across the bow to Apple when it comes to talking about balancing security with openness, focusing on privacy not just being able what is and isn’t shared but also when something is shared that it is kept secure. Keeping in mind that this is based off the Unpacked presentation but it is interesting that it was raised – as a point of differentiation where I think that Samsung is hoping that it might win over some Apple users but I think the greater focus is winning over users from other Android OEMs. At the moment the impression I get from Samsung is that they’re trying to win the ‘bang for your buck’ – privacy, security and long term software support. If they cannot compete on price when compared to the Oppo and Xiaomi then it appears they’ll argue the case that paying a little bit extra is worth the price in the long run.

Something else I noticed is the lack of specifications when it comes to the SoC – no details given other than it being very fast and using the latest 4nm technology but nothing mentioned about which markets will receive the Exynos 2200 or the Qualcomm 8 Gen 1 (there have been rumours that Samsung will be going with Qualcomm 8 Gen 1 globally but I guess it’ll be a situation of ‘wait and see’ given how regularly rumours can be wrong). They are offering a $500 online eVoucher and 5% Samsung Rewards, I’ll hold off from making any judgements until they come out with the specifications of the SoC. The other thing that’ll be interesting is the software given that Samsung sometimes introduces changes when they introduce new hardware – it’ll be interesting to see whether there will be fewer apps of their own that use their own cloud offerings vs. utilising Microsoft’s or Google’s cloud services.

Edit: Spark has updated their website and according to the website the phone range use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 895 for their entire range in New Zealand – it includes a new modem, all manufactured on their latest fabrication (4nm).

Chrome 98 released, what I’d like to see in Safari/Webkit.

Google has released Chrome 98 (link) and so far everything is stable on macOS – a fair number of security bugs have been fixed. On the topic of Safari though, just when you thought that the issue of IndexedDB had been resolved (the security issue) it appears to have reared its ugly head with reports that the fix may have broken compatibility with websites.

Apple really do need to stop treating Webkit/Safari as some sort of tickbox “yeah, we have a browser” and actually dedicate the people power to bring it up to the same support for open standards as Firefox and Chrome. Yes, in a perfect world people would write their apps in native code because native code gives the best experience for the end user but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, we live in this world and part of that involves accepting the world as it exists and work to make it suck slightly less. Electron applications are never going away (infact, all evidence so far shows that its use is expanding) so at the very least Apple should focus on getting Webkit to a point where it can be a drop in replacement for Chromium so that when developers do use Electron on macOS, iOS, iPadOS etc. that it takes advantage of the heavily optimised Webkit rather than hauling a whole web engine everywhere the app goes.

Back to Chrome, rumoured information regarding Samsung Galaxy S22 series.

I tried to give Safari a try, I really did but I’m back using Chrome once again – if it isn’t content blockers that break websites (I only enable the non-problematic filters) it is Safari not working properly with the websites I use such as the Affinity payroll (the website doesn’t work properly, for example, viewing ones payslip for the week), Sammobile doesn’t work properly with Ad Guard but works properly with Chrome running uBlock Origin. On a good side, Chrome is working smoother on macOS 12.2 than it did on 12.1 so I wonder whether the ‘memory leaks’ that have done the rounds on social media are gradually being fixed which will result in a better experience for not only Apple’s own first party apps but also third party apps as well.

I’ve been keeping track of the official Samsung S22 announcement which will be in the next week or so with many rumours still circulating regarding whether Samsung will ship Snapdragon based phones beyond the United States, Canada, China and Japan market where the S21 Snapdragon was being sold in. In GSM Arena (link) they’re recirculating the rumour which is based on the analyse of the firmware that is in development.

The existence of clues within firmware can mean a lot of things including the possibility that it means nothing at all – just like the much rumoured ‘last Intel Mac’ based on people looking through beta updates to macOS. Many times people find a mention of something but end up making the mistake that it means something when in reality it doesn’t mean anything particularly if it is third party code which will include code in the driver for not only the hardware in the device shipping but other devices the drive supports since the driver is based on a set of code that is shared across multiple platforms. Long story short – wait for the official announcement and for goodness sake don’t label leaks as definitive statements as some YouTubers do.

Regarding Google Podcasts – still using on my iPhone and Mac because the Apple podcast app is just a giant mess given that nothing synchronises from the desktop version of the app to the cloud so then those changes are reflected on the iOS version. For example, marking all the unplayed podcasts for a particular show as ‘played’ but that is never reflected on iOS. The other issue, re-install macOS, open up the podcast app, ‘automatic downloads’ is enabled by default and if you disable it then the app will still keep downloading the podcasts even after telling it not to. I mean, come on, something that basic should be something that will take a whole 5 minutes to fix up the code and yet it has been a bug ever since the podcast app was made available on macOS.