A good weekend

Well, that was a good weekend. There was the Australian election and Labor (yes they spell Labour as Labor for the centre left party in Australia) won although they’ll need to work with independents and the Green Party to get things moving. What I hope is that not only do they setup an ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) they also work to break up media concentration in Australia – break up News Corp, Channel 9, ban cross media ownership and more. If Labor failure to deal with media concentration then it is highly likely that they’ll be a one term government. They have been able to take on the Murdoch empire and win but I wouldn’t get so sure that it can be repeated.

Chrome 102 was released recently so I updated the Chrome installation on my devices. Although I keep oscillating between Safari and Chrome, I keep coming back to Chrome because a) the content blocking extension is available b) I don’t have to deal with the constant website breakages such as video playback not working properly, the ability to use the payroll website that I used for it and lots more. Google does a pretty good job at delivering a stable and reliable browser which is another reason why I keep using it.

Another tragic shooting has occurred in the United States and call me cynical but nothing will change (legislatively) as a result of – the congressman representing the area is Tony Gonzales (a Republican) and a strong 2nd amendment advocate so there isn’t even the political momentum within the community for change given who they voted to represent them at the federal level. I’ve seen this occur time and time again, the wailing, the crying, the gnashing of teeth then 12 months later the event becomes a distant memory with the gun reform legislation dying in some committee somewhere on capitol hill because no one has the stones to do what is required. At this point I’m numb to it all – at some point you stop holding out hope that things will change when it is clear that those involved and those who enable aren’t interested in pushing for change.

On more positive news, four more days until I start my long annual leave. That first week I’m finally going to get myself organised and drop my laptop off to the Apple repair place in town to get the keyboard sorted out. While I’m in there I might pick up a few things – New World on Willis Street is an wonderful bakery which is where I’ll want to pick up a few tasty goodies while I’m in there – I might even pick up some fish ‘n chips too while I’m there from ‘The Chippery’ (the Thorndon one being the easiest to access).

Chilling out: Bosch Legacy, Severance and lots of reading.

Finally got some time to start watching Bosch Legacy – first episode so far has been pretty good and now onto the second one. I’d suggest that anyone getting into watching it, a lot of what takes place makes a whole lot more sense if you’ve watched Bosch (all the seasons). It’s very much like with Better call Saul only makes sense after watching Breaking Bad. It’s not like a Law & Order show where everything is neatly tied up at the end of each episode, the stories will carry on for several episodes so if you’re wanting something that is a new story each episode and at the end of each one everything is resolved then it probably not the sort of show for you.

Just as I was typing this blog the update for iOS/iPadOS, macOS etc. was released today – there was a mother load of security updates as well (link) so it is probably best to update as soon as you can. Safari 15.5 is a whole lot less buggy than 15.4, for some unexplained reason AdGuard 1.11.4 is doing a better job blocking ads.

My take on the Google I/O Keynote.

I decided to have a duvet day today (Thursday 12 May) and stayed home to watch the Google I/O – all warmly wrapped up in my duvet:

What I liked: There appears to be a greater focus on developing what they already have and making it better rather than brand new features that get a lot of attention then eventually wither and die on the vine. A good example of an improvement is Google Assistant being able to pick up that you’re looking at the device then being able to ask a question without having to start with ‘Hey Google’. The really cool part they then showed is the ability for Google Assistant to work even with broken sentences – the natural language capabilities are surpassing Apple even when it comes to on device processing – no doubt by creating models based on huge sets of data collected over the years.

Google Wallet (link) got a mention in the keynote however information was provided further on 9to5Google where it appears that it pretty much falls into what I expected – Google Wallet then inside Google Wallet you’ll have Google Pay, ID’s, drivers licence, travel cards etc. so basically it is what it should have been from day, what Apple Wallet is today.

Although mentioned that the old GPay will be side by side with the new Google Wallet in the US and Singapore, I could imagine long term that they’ll eventually merge that functionality into the Google Wallet and in India the merging maybe a much longer term project assuming that it is worth merging or whether long term they just keep it seperate application given the features that are unique to the Indian market – an app for the Indian market then Google Wallet for everywhere else.

Although not mentioned in the keynote itself the 9to5Google website reports that Google Messages RCS group encryption (link) will arrive in beta form later this year. Although end to end encryption for individual messages was deployed when it came to group chat it fell back to unencrypted. With this move it pretty much closes the functionality gap between iMessage and RCS. The big question is whether Google provides a RCS client for iOS (since it wouldn’t be duplicating the existing SMS it should result in it being rejected) or whether Apple themselves step up regarding RCS support. One thing to keep in mind is that RCS messaging is mandatory for 5G handsets (link) so eventually they’re going to have to implement it by either having a set of servers that take care of RCS (like how Google has done with Jibe) or leave it up to the carriers to implement it themselves.

What I didn’t like: Once again they announce the Pixel and or it to be only available in 13 countries. At this point I really have to wonder whether Google’s hardware division is actually interested in becoming a serious hardware provider, whether this is just a place where smart people can muck around, they’re scared of angering Samsung or they have a gentleman’s agreement with Samsung particularly around Wear OS of not going into certain markets (maybe all of the above?). Yes, there is Samsung and their product has improved immensely since the days of TouchWiz but for many they want the pure Google experience without all the Samsung fluff and crapware such as the pre-installed applications from Microsoft (I’d argue that very few people want and those who do want it are quite capable of downloading it from the Playstore).

One of the other things is the fact in many ways it still behaves like a startup which causes frustration particularly when it comes to the constant upheaval be it in the area of messaging or even their payment solutions. It appears that Google has finally settled on RCS being the future of their messaging platform but it took a lot of painful stops, starts and abrupt cancellations to get here which has created unease in ‘early adopter enthusiasts’ who tend to be the very sort of people who evangelise for your organisation aka ‘the family member/friend who is good with computers’. A similar situation occurred a couple of yeas ago when there was a premature announcement of Google bank accounts then having to walk it back then cancelling the idea. This was part of the much larger focus on a much wider ambition regarding the GPay/Wallet app resulting them falling behind Apple – Apple having a more coherent vision from the outset where, although all the features weren’t available all at once they developed their Wallet app to have the flexibility to accomodate features that’ll be added in the future.

Conclusion: I get the impression at this point that after almost 2 decades and a half of upheaval at Google, the flinging ideas against the wall and then see what sticks, there is a move by Google from having a startup mindset to an established business. Although their hardware devision has been nothing but a major disappointment in my eyes, it appears that from the outside we’re seeing the Google Workspace take over the driving of development regarding their productivity services, YouTube is taking over the Movies side etc. Play Store will probably get rebranded at some point as purely as either an App Store or ‘Google Store’ where apps and hardware can be sold (much like how Microsoft does it) etc. Hopefully this should mean that going forward that any investment into the ecosystem should result in an assurance that long term that Google isn’t going to suddenly pull the rug out from underneath you. With the focus on building on what already exists rather than gimmicky new features it tells me that Google’s focus going forward is about ‘fit and finish’ when it comes to executing ideas so hopefully that should mean many more years of Android 13 like releases. For those wanting a much more exhaustive recap on Google I/O here is a blog that goes into a lot more depth than what I have done (link).

Chip shortage, manufacturing disruptions and inflation.

I’ve been looking at the the delivery times of computers – I was shocked at how much the chip shortage has really hit the sector. For example, if you jump to Apple and check out their shipment dates then for the MacBook Pro has a 7-9 week lead time, a build to order (BTO) iMac will take 7-9 weeks but if you take a standard model then it is available to ship immediately. In the PC world things aren’t too much better with Dell’s lead time being around a month although they have the legitimate excuse that they are dependent on the 12th Gen Intel SoC which is a relatively new chip when compared to the situation with the MacBook Pro which was released in October 2021 (link) and still suffering from high lead times. It’ll be interesting to see whether Apple also start pushing their production outside of China because part of the delays whereas Dell has assembly facilities in Taiwan, Brazil and other countries which insulates them to a certain extent from the cycle of city lockdowns that are taking place in China.

Springboarding off that into the bigger issue of inflation, the frustrating thing has been the way in which the issue has been politicised where those parties out of power try to blame the party in power all while ignoring that the biggest factor is outside of their control such as supply chain disruptions or that the solutions require long term investment not buzz word laiden press releases – see National and ACT talk about ‘value for money’ and ‘reduce waste’ but never give specifics. The other problem is that both parties are beholden to the same neoliberal ideology meaning that for them to do a proper diagnosis it would require them to admit that their assumptions made about trade haven’t panned out – that would create a more open, liberal and eventually a democratic China.

The reality? well, the reality has been that China has gone backwards rather than forwards, that given the dependency that many countries have on trade with China that access to the Chinese market is being used as leverage, that there has been an emergence of a cult of personality around Xi along with the ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’. The greatest issue though has been the creation of China as the ‘workhouse of the world’ which has driven down the cost of living (at the expense of the environment, health and welfare of workers in China) but at what cost? it has created not just a dependency but single point of failure within the supply chain, when there is a lock down in China the consequences reverberate through the global economy.

What is the solution? reduce ones dependency on trade when it comes to core or strategic essential products or commodities where possible, trade compacts with countries of like minded values and most importantly a focus on an economy that is centred around resilience rather than simply centralisation at all costs for the sake of economies of scale. Take the US meat processing market – heavily centralised meat processing plants resulting in a situation of one person getting sick then it spreads like a contagion through the abattoir only to find it is closed down and now the supply chain for meat is disrupted. The result? limited inventory is then bidded up resulting in inflation – supply based inflation not demand based inflation, something that isn’t going to be fixed by jacking up interest rates. The argument regarding demand based inflation would make sense if there were low rates of personal debt but given that any money injected into the economy is used to pay off debt, it isn’t a situation of people are flush with cash and the vast majority of people are ‘living it up’ because if it were the case then how do you explain 12 years of low inflation numbers even while running large deficits with most of it being monetised (or as the kids say these days ‘money printer go brr’)?.

Yes, we can do things in the short term such as half price public transport (I’d prefer it to be permanent but that’s just me I guess) but longer term there needs to be a plan to make the economy less dependent on oil, to ask what appears to be the blatantly obvious which is, “is it really all that smart to catch fish in New Zealand, ship it to China for processing and then importing it back to New Zealand?” putting aside the carbon miles associated with the whole process, does it really make sense at least from a food security point of view? losing the capacity to manufacturer our own food all for the sake of saving a few cents?

My move to Mastodon and future of Twitter.

I’ve finally motivated myself to setup a Mastodon account – I’m keeping my Twitter account but I wouldn’t be surprised that when Twitter is officially owned by Elon Musk that it’ll open the flood gates to the less than salubrious characters coming back to the platform in the name of ‘freedom of speech’. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “hang on, if the concern about freedom of speech is so widely felt then how come the right wing alternatives to Twitter have failed to gain mainstream adoption even with all the rich right wing sugar daddies bankrolling them?” good question and the answer is that far too many have equated noise by the rabble with the size of that rabble. The net result of this conflation? a lot of noise with very little momentum except from the most noisiest of MAGA devotees who numbers are incredibly small. Take Gab for example, how many accounts on there are actually active vs. people wanting slowly drive pass the train wreck to see what horrors are on show? in the case of gab there are 4 million accounts but only 100,000 active users.

I believe that in the long term if Elon Musk doesn’t play his cards right then he will find that in a couple of years time his $44B investment will be valued considerably less than what he bought it for particularly if he allows Twitter to turn into a toxic pit of depravity because he values free speech over creating a healthy community with clearly defined rules. How do I know this? because I’ve been a member of various internet forums (precursor to ‘social media’) and see them start off with utopian dreams of ‘freedom of speech’ where there was a light hand of moderation when it came to the rules which resulted in dishonest actors hijacking the forum and turning it into a place that repelled people away. The result of the ‘light on moderation’ created a death spiral of people leaving, advertisers stop advertising on said platform as key demographics that the advertisers wish to target leave the platform or choosing not to be associated with that particular online community.

The other concerning part are those who are involved in funding the buy out may not actually care whether or not it is profitable if it means that they have a platform at their disposal which they can leverage in the projection of soft power – Saudi Arabia has weighed in to provide funding (link). There is also Larry Ellison who has weighed in with his own $1 billion investment (link) – given the closeness he had (and might still possibly have) with the Trump administration (link) then you can imagine the political benefits of having a heavy influence over a large social media platform. Those involved will see it merely as a cost of doing business, that the benefits will materialise itself in other ways thus being a net positive for them when viewed holistically vs. just looking at the investment in Twitter in isolation.

Getting the scooter sorted and 4 days of chilling out.

Well, I’ve enjoyed my 4 days off (two day weekend plus two days annual leave) – being able to catch up with rest, relaxation and being able to disconnect from work to allow the brain not to worry about what is happening in the world. I took my scooter to the local motorcycle store to get the back tyre repaired for a puncher and deal with the oil light coming on (it appeared that it was the service light that needed to be reset). I’ll take my scooter in June for the regular servicing since I’ll be off from work for around two weeks so there will be no great urgency to get the scooter back quickly. Oh well, off to bed, if I have time tomorrow (today I guess) I’ll make a follow up post.

Microsoft advances forward and a reminder that not every product is designed specifically for you in mind.

I’ve been reading through the various projects that Microsoft has on the go such as .NET MAUI is the .NET Multi-platform App UI, Windows App SDK and many more. It is amazing how in a space of 22 years Microsoft has gone from ‘protest Windows dominance at all cost’ to now ‘we’re not going to sacrifice the rest of Microsoft to prop up a product that is declining in relevance’. The big focus these days are on hardware, cloud services, middleware software, providing software for both Android and iOS plus much more. Windows is now a vehicle but if customers prefer to drive another vehicle then Microsoft will provide their software for that vehicle – being it Android, iOS, macOS or even Linux for that matter.

I’ve also been following along the development of Windows 11 – the ‘move fast and break things’ associated with Windows 10 development left a bitter taste in the mouth for many end users who frequently found that their installation was messed up even when not operating on the insider builds. I haven’t run Windows 11 code on my MacBook Pro but all the feedback appears that although they are moving the platform forward they’re doing it in such a way that it doesn’t isn’t as disruptive and willing to hold back on a feature before merging it into the pre-release version. The other lesson Microsoft learned is “don’t throw away code that works…renovate it” and that is what they’ve done with Notepad, Media Player and progressively with Explorer.

Another great video by Rene Ritchie regarding the whole meme that the ‘iPad is broken’ as put out there by the Tech Bros on Twitter, YouTube and Reddit:

The big problem as far as I see it are the number of people online who have convinced themselves that ‘Pro’ still means ‘Professional’ (and in their mind ‘Pro’ means ‘replacement for my Mac’) given that it hasn’t literally meant ‘Professional’ for years. The use of ‘Pro’ these days pretty much means ‘this is the ultimate version with all the bells and whistles’ just as you could buy Microsoft Office Standard then Microsoft Office Professional (does the inclusion of Access really magically make the suite of applications more professional than the standard version?).

The iPad is designed to be the appliance for people who want to get on the net, watch videos, email, maybe update their blog, tweet something then turn it off. They want an device that is an appliance that they turn on, use it, then turn it off – the complexities of a traditional disappear. Yes, that does mean that the iPad is simplified, there are certain things that cannot be done or if they’re done it isn’t as flexible as a traditional computer but that is the point – the more powerful you make the OS the more complexity you have to introduce where as the iPad isn’t that, it’s an appliance. As or why it is called an iPad Pro – it is a description of the hardware, “this is the best hardware you can find on an iPad” is the point that the ‘Pro’ is trying to get across, it isn’t saying that it is suitable for a professional (how many of those who buy the MacBook Pro do so because they’re professional vs. someone who just wants the best laptop money can buy from Apple?) but rather that ‘this is the top of the line best in class iPad’.

Apple TV+, the future of Apple Silicon and benchmarks.

Another busy week has come and gone. Last night I got into the Apple TV series called ‘Severance’ – did a bit of a binge last night and watched the whole of the first season. It is one of those shows you really need to have your full attention when watching it because otherwise you’ll miss subtle clues that help you understand what happens in future episodes. I’m looking forward to season 2 to come out but the release date is unknown but on the good side, the end of April the final episodes for the final season for Ozark will be coming out soon along with new series in the pipe line. It is interesting that in the past I used to be really into movies but these days I would sooner binge watch some of the great original content being put out there by Apple, Amazon, Netflix etc.

I’ve been checking out the recent Safari Technology Preview over the last few months and it is great that so much progress has been made. Part of that also getting educated about the ARM ISA and other associated technologies that Apple implement in their own silicon such as the Neon ISA (link). Although there is a lot of focus on SVE2 being part of the ARMv9 ISA there is still a lot of exciting improvements in ARMv8.5-A (which is what Apple’s latest SoCs are based upon) that really open my eyes to seeing why Apple has embraced ARM.

I was thinking about video from a few days ago regarding the benchmarks which compared the Intel 12th generation to the available Apple Silicon. When the power consumption was pegged at 45 watts for both then the result was similar performance but that isn’t the interesting part since most people use their computer in such a way that bursts performance are needed rather than long sustained number crunching since most of the time the processor is either idle or at the lowest clocked speed. That is where the power savings really kick in because of Apple Silicon’s ability to scale down really low and maintain that for long periods of time with the power consumption measured in low single digit watts (and sometimes even lower). The part about benchmarks (not this specific one but others) is the tendency to ignore power consumption – end of the day it is pretty easy to keep throwing power at a problem because given enough cooling and power it is pretty easy to make the CPU perform better but at what cost? Apple’s focus is about performance per watt – if you remove the wattage cap, double the power consumption but the performance difference is only slightly better then I think most customers would sooner benefit from the more efficient yet slightly slower SoC if it means a whole day worth of productivity time.

AMD vs Ryzen vs Apple Silicon, and WWDC.

I was watching a benchmark video last night which compared an Intel Core i7-12700H to an Apple M1 Pro:

I think what it goes to show is that for most people when it comes to performance the idea of putting a device under constant strain don’t really resemble how most people use their computer. Most people use their computer in such a way that they don’t stress their CPU and when they really do push the CPU to its max then it tends to be short periods of time – small bursts of processing required then the speed ramps back down to as low as it can or in the case of the new SoCs from Apple and Intel the load is moved over to the high efficiency cores until extra grunt is needed. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the Apple Silicon SoC is great but I think it is also important to understand your workflow before running off to buy something that is the fastest but will throttle during a long work load. One of the common pieces of advise is not to waste ones time getting an i9 in a laptop form because the amount of heat it produces means that you can’t run high work loads for extended periods of time because there is a thermal limit thus you’re better off just buying a laptop with an i7 instead.

The reason why I raise this issue is because of the amount of hype around the Apple Silicon SoC. The other point that I have to make is what Scott McNealy (former CEO of Sun Microsystems) said years ago – the world runs on GET – Good Enough Technology. Yes there have been more elegantly designed, theoretically superior, engineering marvels that have appeared but even with the promises the dominant processor today is still derived from the x86 in the form of the x86-64 even with it all is warts in much the same way that even with IBM’s own POWER processor the big Iron mainframes still depend on CISC based z/Architecture SoCs.

WWDC has finally been announced, the dates are 6 June to 10 June which will be great because I’ve got my holiday from 30 May to 15 June although I’m looking at doing some work around the house – cleaning up organising, getting the back and front tyre on my scooter sorted out since it appears that there is a puncher (at the moment I’m pumping it up each day since it s a slow leak). It’ll be interesting to see what Apple announces particularly in the area regarding Webkit given the gap between what is merged into the Safari Technology Preview vs Safari ‘mainstream release’ appears to be getting wider each day. Ideally what I’d like to see is Apple take a more aggressive approach to getting those improvements out there even if the release is on a 6 week cycle and the Webkit that Safari depends on is seperate so that after 6 weeks of end users using it, if the developers at Apple feel confident they can update the Webkit that comes bundled with macOS. What I am also hoping is that they embrace more of the open standards and royalty free codecs such as AV1 which Google has been pushing as the successor to the VP9 codec – at the moment VP9 is supported by Safari but AV1 isn’t.

Giving Safari 15.4 a second chance.

Back to using Safari 15.4 because a new version of AdGuard Safari Extension has been launched, version 1.11.3, which has improved the ad block experience immensely when one considers the changes that were made with Safari recently such as the increase to the number of rules up to 150,000 not to mention all the improvements that have been made for manifest v3 support over the various technology previews. With AdGuard each category of rules is its own separate extension which means each category has up to 150,000 rule each which enables a lot more rules to be made available and hopefully will result in a more secure experience (the big feature I like is the security rules which block websites that try to mine bitcoin). So far things are going well, it’ll be interesting to see what appears in WWDC in June given all the work going on so far around Webkit particularly in the area of implementing the browser agnostic Webextensions API which will allow developers to target the API and as a result target multiple browsers.

I updated Unifi’s built in controller software to 7.0.25 however there appears to be a UnifiOS update in the works for the UDM as well as firmware update for the Unifi AP AC HD.

Got work tomorrow – looking forward to the weekend (Monday and Tuesday).