Personal · Technology

So I caved in.

I’ve tried avoiding Meta for years but I had to give in because none of my family was willing to move to Signal. Ideally we’d all be using iMessage except my sister has disabled it because her and her partner share the same iCloud account which apparently causes them problem, I have a Nothing Phone, brother and partner use iPhones, mum has an iPhone – basically the only unifying messaging solution is WhatsApp. In a perfect world I would have preferred to stick with Signal but unfortunately a messaging application is kind of useless when all the family is using WhatsApp. It’s one of the reasons why the “just stop using xyz platform” because for many the platform is the only means given the reluctance by so many to consider alternatives.

Personally I think the best thing that could happen would be for Meta to be broken up into four separate companies: WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and AR/VR Metaverse with Facebook and Instagram required to implement the ActivityPub protocol so that the ‘walled in’ problem of society networks can be undone by forcing them to federate thus allowing people to use alternatives while still being able to communicate (regarding the Metaverse and WhatsApp (along with Twitter – assuming Elon Musk doesn’t run it into the ground before it is regulated), if they can be federated as well then then that would be great too).

Almost a week and Android 13/Nothing 1.5.2 has been a solid update. As someone who keeps track of Android development, being the first isn’t always the best and I’ve seen my fair share of early releases only for end users to quickly upgrade then get angry that the update has broken something or there are numerous bugs such as the OxygenOS 12 for OnePlus 9 series. There is an old saying, you only get one chance to make a good impression which is why I would sooner wait a few months for the long hanging bugs to be addressed so when it does release if there are bugs they aren’t show stopper bugs that makes ones device next to unusable or so unreliable it cannot be trusted.

What has been interesting regarding Android 13 (and even Android 12) is how Android (like iOS) has moved from making giant leaps to now the focus is on under the hood improvements and quality of life improvements in the area of user visible changes (link). There hasn’t been a blog post for Android 14 over on but that is most likely due to the first developer previews being pretty light on details – sometimes Google likes to hold back on big features when they make the official announcement particularly those that are still up in the air regarding whether they’ll be ready in time to make it into Android 14.

Politics in New Zealand is a nightmare and it appears that the National/ACT are doing the same old four step tango: 1) Tax cuts 2) Deregulation 3) Privatisation 4) Build a road. We’re in a climate emergency and this isn’t the time to give tax cuts to the top end of town when we need ‘all hands on deck’ to deal with not only cutting with GHG emissions but also dealing with the consequences that are already baked in due to past GHG emissions put into the atmosphere. Although on the left there are politicians fighting the good fight, on the right they’ve pretty much given up trying to deal with GHG (not that they ever put any real effort into it in the first place) in favour of “prepare the best we can and hold tight” which fails to address the fact that things will keep getting worse the more GHG emissions we put in the atmosphere. Sigh, adaptation is not a substitute for action but it appears that for some it allows them to keep their corporate masters happy while giving the unobservant voter the feeling that the care.

Personal · Technology

One more day to go.

One more day to go andd then I can chill out and enjoy my day off but in meantime I’ve uploaded the contents of my external SSD to Google Drive – always best to keep an off site backup just in case. It is something I learned many years ago where I had around 130GB of rare MP3s but because I didn’t back it up, when I had hardware issues with the external hard disk I ended up losing the whole lot of audio files with many of them I couldn’t replace since the source of the MP3 no longer exists (they were out of print vinyl rips). Long story short, I learnt my lesson. The one thing I do like about Google Drive is that the uploading is a lot faster – I’m unsure as to the reason but given that they are working on a New Zealand based data centre, hopefully it’ll translate to improved performance goin forward.

It appears that the downfall of Twitter continues – for weeks it was hovering around 300-400 new accounts per hour and then with the recent changes that were made to the algorithm then followed up with the changes regarding 2FA where non-Twitter Blue members would have to start paying with the only other option being the use of Google Authenticator.

Personal · Technology

A giant leap forward.

I wasn’t expecting it but it has occured – Ubiquiti released UniFi OS 2.4 for UDM and UDM Pro which is the start of the long migration from 1.x to 2.x and eventually bring it in line with UniFi OS 3.x. So far it has been absolutely rock solid with the CPU running cooler, using less memory, lower CPU utilisation – a great experience overall. Unifi AP are going to receive an update soon – they’ve just released 6.5.28 however is is currently only available for a subset of APs where as 6.5.33 is still in beta testing which supports a wider range of APs so I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next month or so that it is released for all APs.

Google has released two updates in quick succession over the last few days which update it from x.77 to x.96 to x.100 – it might have something to do with the recent update that Apple pushed out as part of macOS Ventura 13.2.1 due to Blink (the fork of Webkit by Google) and Webkit still sharing a lot of code between the two projects. It isn’t all that unusual for a bug to be found in Webkit and for it to appear in Blink or vice versa. If you’re interested in where Chrome is heading in the future there is the ‘Chrome Platform Status Roadmap’ (link) which outlines the big changes that’ll be occuring in the coming months. One thing to keep in mind though not everything is listed – sometimes Google like Apple and Microsoft like to hold back on user visible features so they can do a big announcement such as the rumour of Google making Chrome a more ‘material UI’ look and feel to bring it inline with what appears to be an attempt to create a unified look and feel through Google products and services.

At the moment I’m deciding whether I should upload my music to YouTube Music or just transfer it via OpenMTP (link) with 3.2.10 being the latest version and it supports Apple Silicon. The benefit of uploading it to the cloud means that my music is accessible on all my devices but there is the process of having to upload it to the cloud in the first place but when it comes to OpenMTP it’s a matter of minutes when transferring it from my desktop to the phone.

Ordered dinner from Sabaidee Pah Khao Lao – they make some great food and their servings are very generous, something I found out the first time I ordered but on the good side I had a meal to eat the next day not to mention the fact that eating a whole lot of vegetables and rice feels a whole lot better the next day than ordering pizza. Looking forward to knocking off from work in the next 20 minutes and then relax in front of the television watching news on YouTube.

Personal · Technology

A few months later.

Well, it has been a few months since getting a Nothing Phone and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the best Android phone I’ve ever used – no crapware or adware, prompt updates (link), does not insist on reinventing the wheel in favour of using stock Google/Android default apps. The other benefit with the lack of bloat is that copious amounts of time and money isn’t wasted on not only maintaining duplicate functionality but not having to migrate all these ‘enhancements’ every time a new version of Android is released. Android 13, although trailing behind the official release, I would sooner have stability than being on the bleeding edge after having seen the effects of people jumping as soon as they can only to find that they were bitten by some nasty bugs – I guess without those early adopters that many of the bugs wouldn’t have been fixed for those who take a more cautious approach.

Even though it has Qualcomm Snapdragon 778+ SoC is is incredibly fast and fluid – helped along by the 12GB of RAM which enables more apps to stay in memory so then it is possible to quickly switch between applications without having to wait for the app to load itself back into memory again. The retaining of a largely vanilla Android with some light customisations results in a very responsiveness interface that isn’t weighed down with features that I don’t actually use. It is something I find that with many OEMs that their focus is about filling up with as many tick boxes as possible for the sake of being able to boast about being ‘feature rich’ but in reality it is dubious as to whether what they have added actually benefit the user beyond ‘specification flexing’ between fanboys. When it comes to product development, it is easy to throw features at the wall but it is a lot more difficult to say ‘no’ not to mention the challenge of removing features that aren’t absolutely core essential.

When it comes to Android 13 based Nothing OS 1.5, there was a beta 2 released around a month ago (link) with notes that imply that they’re getting closer to some sort of release. In the past one would get frustrated about missing out on the latest cool changes in Android but over the last few years there hasn’t been the massive changes because as a platform is is maturing with many of the major deficiencies being addressed many years ago such as in Android 7 when ART introduced when Google switched Android’s Java Runtime Environment from the discontinued Apache Harmony to OpenJDK with the recent years less about radical change and more about optimising what already exists. A good example of those optimisations being in Android 9 was to make greater use of bytecode compression and in Android 13 introducing a new garbage collector which will improve memory utilisation, reduce size of the code etc. The wikipedia page goes into good details along with sources (link).

Now, am looking at going back to an iPhone? No, I’m staying with my Nothing Phone because it makes little sense to keep jumping between platforms when it appears to be something that is motivated by the need to ‘scratch an itch’ than actually a genuine list of issues that causing major grief. I’ll also stay with my Chromecast with Google TV because with each update the experience is getting better and better and with the improvements in Android 13 regarding ART (link) then there is a good chance that those memory efficiency improvements will make their way through to Android TV which will help both the 4K and Standard Chromecast with Google TV.

Regarding my cloud provider, I am sticking with Google Workspace – for NZ$18 per month the price is pretty reasonable when you consider that iCloud has 2TB option for NZ$16.99. Although I could split between using Safari/iCloud and Google Workspace I decided to standardise on Workspace by moving to Chrome. The recent builds of Chrome have shown a marked improvement (I use it on a regular basis for work since my workplace also uses Google Workspace) in terms of performance, memory usage, compliance with standards etc. and unfortunately Safari suffers from the same issues that were raised for years – it can work fine when it comes to simply web pages but as soon as you move into the area of progressive web apps that make extensive use of web standards then you quickly find that either things break or if they work you find that within a given period of time it’ll come up with an error message about a web page using too much memory with the whole page just hanging there – keeping in mind that I’m running Chrome on either a laptop with 24GB RAM or a desktop with 32GB RAM so one can guess it cannot be insufficient RAM in the devices.

Regarding the recent hype around ChatGPT I think that far too many in the press are getting far to ahead of themselves in terms of the implications of such a technology. Yes, Microsoft has hyped it up and Google’s presentation wasn’t exactly smooth but in the real world I go to Bing and it still makes a pigs breakfast bringing results back that even Google, when operating in ‘Incognito Mode’ meaning it doesn’t have the benefit of learning what my preferences are, still come back with better results. The reality is that if the underlying technology produces bad search results then it isn’t going to matter all that much if you plonk a AI bot on top because it is still a matter of garbage in garbage out. Was the Google presentation pretty rough? sure but lets wait to see what happens in the real world because it is all very well to put on a great presentation but the question is how well it holds up to real world use outside of carefully controlled conditions that a presentation operates in. With that being said, the rumoured cutting investment (link) in Google Assistant has come back to bite them in the backside – this is what happens when you make decisions purely on a spreadsheet without considering the broader implications of cutting investments to save money short term but for the consequences to be disastrous in the long term.

Side note: Android 14 Developer Preview 1 has been released (link) which has a limited number of new features but like what normally happens, the big features will be announced at the next Android developer conference. For those interested, here is an interesting video regarding the Linux kernel and the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

Personal · Technology

A good week so far.

Making changes to my life gradualy – rather than trying to make a large number of changes all at once I started off with something small then worked my way up from there. They say that if you do something consisdtenly for a month it becomes second nature, like muscle memory where you just simply do it without havint to conciously remind oneself to do it. What I’ll do is gradually over the year make small changes so then eventually by the end of the year I will hopefully get closer to my goals. Step by step, making sure that those changes stick.

Samsung announced their refreshed Galaxy range of phones – an incrimental update to their product line up which will probably result in the ‘tech dude bros’ on YouTube whip themselves in a frenzy with the usual ‘doom and gloom’ about how Samsung is no longer innovating etc. etc. The reality is that smartphones are now a mature product range where the features being added appeal to fewer and fewer people where existing features are being refined – customers certainly like those incrrimental improvements but it is doubtful that they’re something that’ll push customers to go out of their way to upgrade their phone before they absolutely need to upgrade their phone.

I’ve opened up a Signal account – encouraging family members to move over to Signal because I flat out refuse to use WhatsApp but not everyone uses iMessage so the compromise being Signal. I have to say, Signal’s app for the phone is stil much better than the clunky WhatsApp. If you’re wondering why I don’t use WhatsApp – consider who owns it and their reputation when it comes to privacy, it is an organisation I would prefer avoiding if at all possible. Yes, I would like to ween myself off Google but given the alternatives are just so horrible, see Bing and the attrocious search results if you live outside of the US of A, the only choice at the moment is Google (see rant on my Mastodon page about this very issue).

Looking forward to WWDC this year although things have been fairly quiet – usually there are strategic leaks with enough ambiguity that it gets the chatter starting online as people speculate what it could all mean for the future of a given product and service. Personally I would like to see a whole lot more work put into Safari, in particular getting it to the point that Webkit/KJS can be a drop in replacement for Chromium when it comes to electron based applications. Sure, in a perfect world we would all be using native applications but alas we live in this world where corporations see providing apps as a cost burden rather than a way for customers to build up brand loyalty through a great user experience hence the emergence of web apps which promise to deliver the ‘write once, run everywhere’.