Interesting thing happened last week, my fibre connection went offline for around 5-10 minutes then came back online – Chorus pushing out a firmware update? Maybe, but everything so far has come back online so I’m a happy lad. There hasn’t been any Ubiquiti updates this week for me UDM or HD AP AC but I think they’re getting close to it – I’m happy that they’re taking their time to ensure that they get it right or at least launch without any glaringly obvious bugs.
I had a wonderful dinner from my local Turkish restaurant – grill chicken, fresh salads, wonderfully puffy rice etc. then to top it up all off a couple of pieces of baklava. This week I grabbed some fish ‘n chips from the local take-away store – one of the few fish ‘n chip stores that really do a good job where large numbers these days try to cut corners and it really shows in the final product.
Something interesting that flew below the radar was the announcement as part of Biden’s tax policy was the idea of a global 21% minimum tax (link) and when I heard it I was wondering how it work but it turns out that it’ll work exactly the way I expected. Lets assume that an US based company makes tractors, on paper the company has an office in a country that charges 15% tax, so what will happen is that the office in the country that pays 15% will ‘sell’ their US based office a tractor at the retail price and then sell it at the same price it was bought in at resulting in no profit being made by the US office which reduces the tax but because the tax is calculated on the world wide profits then things start to get interesting.
It’ll be interesting to see the 21% minimum global tax interacts with the 28% US business tax – will at some point the 21% become the minimum effective tax rate? Sounds like a good start if it did. Janet Yellen talked about having a minimum global tax rate – imaging having a minimum effective tax rate of 21% and tariffs on countries that don’t abide to that minimum effective tax rate. If we really want to fix up the situation of income inequality then we really need to deal with those at the top avoiding paying their fair share – paying taxes in proportion to the benefits that they get from the society they exploit.
Good Friday was a nice day off but I’m excited that I’ve got my annual leave sorted out which will be from 2 June to 16 June – covering the WWDC21 which has been rumoured to be a big year and then add to that the announcement of ARMv9, it will be interesting to see what is announced. I don’t expect any sort of hardware announcement but I could imagine some big software announcements particularly around the macOS underpinnings – closing off the kernel to third party extensions as Apple finish up providing the last remaining username based API’s that developers have been eating for so then they can move their driver out of kernel space to user space.
One more day to go – iOS received an update for a webkit bug but what was interesting is the fact that macOS didn’t receive an update given that both macOS and iOS share the webkit framework yet only iOS received the update – is there something in particular about the iOS implementation that exposed the vulnerability? It’ll be interesting to see the rationale for difference as more information is related in the coming months about the nature of the attack.
It appears that the much rumoured Apple event in March never took place – but as noted in previous posts I always mention it is a rumour vs some websites that resort to clickbait headlines and declaring rumours to be a statement of fact when in reality there is a lot of noise but very little signal. There is rumoured to being on in April but only time will tell whether it results in something. For me, I’m holding off for what will happen with the WWDC in June – whether they’ll do the virtual conference like last year because of the pandemic or whether there is a sufficient number of people immunised that an ‘in person’ conference is doable but given how things are in a state of flux I have a feeling that they’ll go for a virtual conference since it worked pretty well last year.
It appears there are rumours about the next updated Mac will be the 21inch version but that leaves a lot of questions to ask when it comes to the bigger laptops and desktops – are we going to see the relationship between Apple and AMD continue? Keeping in mind that although Apple does prefer controlling the whole widget, we also have to keep in mind that AMD is open (and does) provide full hardware specifications, source code etc. that one would need which would give Apple a decent degree of control – which is why Sony and Microsoft decided to go with AMD for their game consoles. Both Sony and Microsoft obtain a degree of control over the final product that has all the benefits of an in-house ground up product but without the risk – the cost of one vendor when compared to another vendor, when looking at it from a per-unit point of view, is very small so the argument that AMD got their by price alone ignores all the other benefits Sony and Microsoft gain. I could see Apple maybe doing likewise where GPU can be focused on lower power and super efficiency while using AMD for 16” MacBook Pro, iMac 27” and the Mac Pro.
It’s interesting to see the Xbox is getting the Chromium version of Edge then combine that with maybe in the future a ‘desktop experience’ based on the work being done with Windows 10X and improved mouse/keyboard support, then it appears that long term the Xbox will not only be a great console but potentially a replacement for those who also want the ability to using it as a desktop – imagine a student at university being able to write up an essay then switch over to ‘gaming mode’ when they wish to play a game. It will be interesting to see how Xbox developers along side the development of Windows 10X given its recent pushing back of its release to close to the end of this year with 2022 being aimed for win32 application support which I speculate to being accomplished through a virtual machine with all the focus on encouraging developers to embrace the ‘new’ Windows 10X frameworks while still providing backwards compatibility. It’ll be interesting to see whether long term we see Microsoft replace the current win32 UI on Microsoft Edge with one based on WinUI along with moving away from being dependent on win32 frameworks not supported in Windows 10X.
Another week comes to an end and looking forward for the coming week – looking forward to Ubiquiti releasing a new firmware for my HD AC access point which comes with a new firmware, driver etc. which apparently will improve throughput, add WPA3 capabilities etc. so I’m looking forward to that being released. I’ve decided through that I’m going to keep my old Skinny number and focus on getting my life sorted out and once that is done I’ll move back to Skinny Mobile since it offers the best deal (I’m sticking with Skinny Broadband for the exact reason along with the fact that I don’t have to mess around with VLAN tagging and all the fun that comes with that territory).
I’ve gone back to using MarsEdit – the good side is that it is Apple Silicon native along with all the other applications I have. I was reading an article linked on Reddit to Apple Insider where the author was complaining about how developers aren’t porting their application fast enough – all while ignoring what the migration from PowerPC to x86 was a lot more rocky – I remember how long it took for Microsoft to release a x86 native installer even though the bundled applications were universal binaries, then there were many big name applications that didn’t come for at least 1 1/2 to 2 years after the launch – the fact that we’re getting beta releases even at this stage is a damn site better than what it was back with the last transition..
Things for National keep going from bad to worse and once again they flirt with the hard right, the electorate will reject them and then eventually a moderate person like a John Key will emerge out of the wilderness. With all that being said, lets remember that National only has at their disposal what I like to call ‘the four step tango’ which consists of 1) Tax cut 2) Deregulation 3) Privatisation 4) Build a road – look back at least 50 years and you’ll find that theory is proven time and time again. Lets hope that Labour finally grows some stones and make the necessary investments instead of being a watered down National Party with a leader that loves talking about how much their administration cares.
Google released Chrome 89 recently with much promise made about improved memory and system resource efficiency. It also has appeared that things have calmed down regarding manifest v3 regarding extensions – personally I would like to see Google maintain manifest v2 for those who wish to side load extensions (maybe adopt a ‘notarisation’ like how Apple does with applications sold outside of the App Store for Mac) and have the manifest v3 a requirement for those extensions that developers wish to distribute through the Chrome extensions store. The reasoning behind the change is that apparently it is more secure and more efficient – to be blunt I’ve never had performance issues and to be quite frank the security issues aren’t helped when people just install any old random extension without first finding out who made it. Ultimately I think most content blockers are going to adopt the new manifest standard but it does rub me the wrong way that power users are hamstrung by a company insisting on protecting users from themselves.
Anyway, back to Chrome – so far it has been running pretty reliably and the promises of greater efficiency have definitely lived up to the promise as I’ve checked the system monitor and even with 4K video playback th utilisation is in the low single digits. I tend to swap between Safari and Chrome – Safari being the super efficient but extensions are very much limited when compared to the depth and breadth available on Chrome. With Chrome, the way in which Google is positioning the browser I think it would be fairer to view it as a runtime engine when you consider the comprehensive nature of Google’s implementation of HTML5 technologies (those technologies that have become commonly associated the modern web) when compared to Apple that restricts (for a variety of reasons) what technologies are implemented in Safari (aka, if you can’t do it in a browser then you’re not using the right tool for the job – you should be writing a native application).
Apple has released another round of updates – personally I would like to see Apple take as long as they need to ensure that when it is released that as many bug fixes are included particularly around Safari and the regressions that I’ve observed since moving up to Big Sur. AdGuard Safari Extension is developing quickly although the next version isn’t going to be Apple Silicon compliant since it will require them upgrading the version of Electron that underpins their app but an Apple Silicon version has only just become available (too far along in the development cycle to upgrade Electron).
Samsung has scheduled for 18 March a product launch and a week after that there is the rumour of an Apple event where there will be Apple Silicon based Macs being launched along with a refresh of the iPad range and a few other bits and pieces. While the fabrication factories are struggling to keep up with demand, Apple was smart enough to reserve a large amount of capacity with TSMC. When it comes to Samsung, the interesting part will next year with the announcement of the Exynos SoC that’ll include the AMD GPU to replace the current Mali GPU from ARM – die shrink and performance improvement along with the protracted cutting off of Huawei from the Google Play Store ecosystem will allow Samsung to gain back Android market share. It’ll be interesting to see where the Google Pixel will be now that the 5G modem is now integrated into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 where as on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 has the 5G modem as a separate chip so hopefully we’ll see a Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.
Apple has released iPadOS/iOS 14.4.1 and macOS 11.2.3 which includes a security update to Webkit – the size of the download particularly on macOS 11.2.3 lends me to believe that it also includes some low key bug fixes as well given that it was over 4GB and even on iOS 14.4.1 the update was more than 150MB (the framework itself in terms of it’s binary size is only around 1/10th that size). I’ve installed it on all my devices and no problems or noticeable changes – Safari is as snappy as always but I’m looking forward to macOS 11.3 because it includes an updated Safari (it has been updated to Safari 14.1) which will hopefully include a lot of the improvements that have been present in the Safari Technology Preview builds over the last few months.
It appears that the concerns about tracking, third party cookies and general ‘privacy invasive’ techniques employed by tech giants are coming under the microscope with the release of iOS/iPad 14.5 and macOS 11.3 which will require app vendors to ask customers permission to allow tracking beyond the site that is being used. Facebook took in its usual stride of throwing a temper tantrum while resorting to the usual hyperbole by claiming that Apple is destroying their business (they’re worried that, if customers were given a choice, they might not won’t the dodgy big brother privacy invasion?) where as Twitter has said it would have a modest impact but then again it is rumoured that Twitter is looking at offering a ‘premium’ tier of their service which will offer more features and being ad free. Google on the other hand have moved away from tracking individual users in favour of Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) (link) which places individuals into groups so as a result the relationship is abstracted away so that there is no longer that individual tracking.
Yes, some critics have bought up the fact that FLoC ignore what the anger regarding privacy invasion was all about – most people accept that if you use a platform then it makes sense for that platform to then use the information that you provide as an end user to not only make the service better to use (eg. tracking what videos you watch and suggest content that is similar) but also target ads that are relevant to you. The problem were third party cookies, Facebook creating ‘shadow’ profiles so even if you didn’t visit Facebook explicitly there was information being harvested by virtue of a website using Facebook as a vehicle for the comment section of an article.
What is also rather frustrating has been the meme put out there that so-and-so tech giant sells your information to advertisers – no they don’t ‘sell’ your private data to third parties. Firstly because it wouldn’t make any sense as a business model to sell the very data that gives you an competitive advantage so why would you give it away (even if it had a price tag attached to it)? Secondly the advertisement system doesn’t work that that – for example, a third party will go to Google, Facebook or Twitter and give them the target demographic that they wish to target, “I want to target males, between the ages of 23-35, interest in vintage computers and like eating pizza”, and the tech giant then comes back, “sure, and here is the cost of the campaign”. No information is swapped hands, the information is retained by the said technology company
I would hazard to guess that Google has changed to the FLoC system because they’ve realised that a lot of the information they have collected is of very little value – it uses a large amount of storage space, it consumes a lot of power and the extra data retained and the benefits yield from it doesn’t add up. It shouldn’t be surprising that at the beginning a technology company will go all in on something then as time goes on they realise that what they thought was necessary turns out not to be so, that the ‘fine grained’ nature’ of data collection and association is no better than the FLoC system they’re looking at becoming the default way of doing in 2022.
Apple released another update to macOS in the form of the 11.2.2 update although it appears that Apple haven’t gotten around to uploading a updated version of their macOS installer. I have a feeling that since Apple were happy to push out the 11.2.2 update gives me the impression that macOS 11.3 and iOS 14.5 it is still a month or two away – iOS will probably be released first with macOS 11.3 probably being released when the rumoured product refresh occurs in the next couple of months. Just this week Apple has released beta 3 – keeping in mind that any release notes only has the most high profile fixes and generally excludes any security fixes since disclosing those involve disclosing vulnerabilities that need to be kept hush-hush so that the baddies don’t get a hold of that information and start exploiting them.
Ubiquiti has released the UDM 1.9 firmware which includes support for WPA3 but keeping in mind that the firmware on the access point has to support it as well although I think I’ll stick with WPA2 until most of the bugs are hammered out in both the standard and the implementation. I’m happy that things are picking up in the world of Ubiquiti and I’m looking forward to the 5.x firmware series for my Unifi AP AC HD (although, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m looking to upgrading to a Wifi 6 AP when I upgrade my iMac and MacBook Pro to the new Apple Silicon). For all the issues experienced in the early days of owning a UDM, it was the best investments I ever made when it came to networking equipment.
The one thing I always remind people when it comes to buying something – yes, you an go for the cheaper option but 9/10 in the long run you end up spending more than if you went for the slightly more expensive option straight off the bat. In the world IT the general rule of thumb ‘you get what you pay for’ very much applies – although there are exceptions to that rule (high price but low quality but high market share due to inertia within the market when it comes to changing vendors. For example, see how long it took for the Microsoft Explorer monopoly to be undermined) but most of the time the general rule of thumb ends up being true. If you buy decent quality networking equipment it’ll run for years – set and forget with the occasional software update keeping the network secure.
The end of another weekend but things have gone well – cleaning the house inside and out along with the great weather meaning I can open ever door and window t0 give the house a good airing. All the washing sorted out, a nice home cooked meal of fish, mashed potatoes and baby carrots with garlic butter over the top. Nothing better than after a long week at work to be able to have a nice home cooked meal which can be enjoyed rather than rushed as with the case of when one is at work and having to squeeze it in a 30 minute break time.
My sisters MacBook Air of 8 years has finally died – the SSD storage suddenly died in that it is not detectable by a USB thumb drive, the firmware itself cannot locate the build in storage. On a good side, she was smart and bought the MacBook Air ‘Apple Silicon’ so I had the honour of being able to experience ‘Apple Silicon’ first hand. I installed all the latest updates and afterwards I was able to experience ‘Apple Silicon’ the way it was intended (with most of the teething problems addressed by the updates). If this is any indication of where Apple is going then the future of the Mac platform is going to be awesome.
Ubiquiti is still working on a new firmware for UDM which includes WPA3 support built into the new Unifi Controller along with the Unifi AP AC HD receiving a new firmware update although as I’ve noted before, when I upgrade my MacBook Pro and iMac to Apple Silicon versions, I will upgrade my access point to Wifi 6 and then install my old access point in mum’s house which will help with improved wifi coverage.
Sigh, the incoherent arguments by Mark Zuckerberg and his opposition to a paid for option rears its head in the comment section of technology websites where people fail to read – they skim the article, jumping around trying to pick out key pieces of information and then surprised that they get it completely wrong. The latest part of this drama is the proposal by Twitter to offer a ‘pro’ or ‘premium’ version of Twitter for more features and no ads (link). I always find it funny when I see people on one hand complain about their ‘privacy being invaded’ and yet on the other hand they some how expect websites to sustain themselves off the back of unicorn farts and rainbows.
The reason why personal data is mined is because it is that data that allows them to command a higher price when selling ad space – businesses are more likely to spend money on ads where they have a lot more control over who they can target because time and money isn’t wasted on a scatter gun approach where people who have no interest in said product end up getting the ad. Your person data which powers the advertisement platform are a way of paying for the services provided when you as a consumer aren’t paying anything for it – if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product. Then why introduce a paid for option? for the same reason why software companies have moved from perpetual licences to subscription, why music has moved from the sale of music that one can use indefinitely to one of subscription – because it provides a consistent stream of revenue with the icing on the cake being that it doesn’t include the privacy headaches associated with data mining and targeting ads.
I think Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey can see a regulations coming down the pipe – one way to avoid a potential disaster is to wean itself away from a reliance on advertising revenue in favour of subscription services. Mark Zuckerberg on the other hand is playing this BS game of trying to claim that he is doing something noble aka ‘I’m trying to connect humanity’ then the moment you ask him “will you offer a paid for version that is ad free and privacy respecting” his response is to ramble on about ‘poor people not able to afford a paid for version” even though no one was proposing getting rid of the free tier version. If Mark was really interested in the survival of his platform he would not only offer a premium tier, he would be looking at expanding services – offer a marketplace platform to complete with Amazon where Facebook can position itself as the ‘neutral platform’ since Facebook isn’t actively competing against vendors who are using the platform to sell products. Then there is Facebook gaming which will fit in the niche to compete against Twitch – offer a Patreon like service, buy out one of the merchandise making companies and provide the ability to sell said products through the that platform. It won’t happen over night but Facebook has the ability, if they want, to move away from a dependence on advertising which will help deal with the concerns that regulators and politicians have raise by both the EU and the United States.
Apple released macOS 11.2.1 update which includes a fix for the much documented issue with sudo as well as fixing security vulnerabilities in the Intel GPU driver (link) and addressing the battery issue that has been impacting certain models of MacBook Pro (2016 and 2017) although funny enough I haven’t been impacted by it (link). macOS 11.3 is still in beta testing but it’ll be interesting to see the improvements that come.
On the matter of security, an interesting thing I noticed is that the ARM based binaries are compiled as an arm64e binary which adds and extra layer of security (it utilises a feature built into the ISA itself) when it comes to dealing with pointer based memory attacks (link). It will be interesting to see how this will translate in the real world in terms of picking up and mitigating possible threats. At the moment the A14 (M1 is based on the A14) is based on ARMv8.6-A and if you’ve been following the LLVM project you’ll notice that Apple has been gradually adding support for features found in the ISA to improve security and performance.
Although at this point the ARM ISA is as feature rich as a CISC ISA, the thing I notice is that any improvement is carefully considered through consultation with the various vendors that depend on the ISA so the end result is when features are added to the ISA it is because it has material benefit rather than, “lets add it and hope for the best”. It will be interesting to see whether Apple adopts the libc project that Google is working on which is a ground up replacement for the various libc implementations – rather than being a mixture of assembly and C, the focus is on a libc library delivered in pure C with optimisations done in the compiler itself rather than the library with the benefit that it makes the code more portable and any architectural improvements to an SoC can be delivered through making the Clang/LLVM toolchain better at producing code with the icing on the cake being all other code benefit from those Clang/LLVM toolchain improvements.
I’m enjoying the start of four days off (2 days off for the weekend and another 2 days off using my lieu days I built up) – relaxing in bed, watching movies, gardening and cleaning up around the house. With all that in mind, I’m also going to take off a week in June when WWDC takes place but I’ll need to wait and see what happens – whether there is a return to it being in the first week of June or whether they’ll have it at the end of June like last year.
Reading through Ubiquiti and it appears that part of the UDM 1.9.0 beta and latest firmware for the Unifi AP AC will be support for WPA3 which will be interesting to see how along with the big firmware upgrade impacts on performance (latency and download speeds). macOS 11.3 beta is still being developed but I am hoping that Safari 14.1 )which is included as part of macOS 11.3 beta) will inherit as many features from the Safari Technology Preview as possible particularly around optimisation. The next version of the Ad Guard for Safari Extension is drawing closer – Chromium backend has been updated, lots of bug fixes and optimisations so that is another piece of software I’m looking froward to.
Affinity is having a 1/2 off sale so I am tempted to buy Photo, Designer and Publisher which, although I won’t use straight away will be useful in the future so it makes sense to jump at the opportunity of a discounted version available for a limited time.