Before heading into the weekend Apple released the release candidate (of what will eventually be released to the public, assuming there are no show stopper bugs) of iOS 14.3 and macOS 11.1 (along with all the other Apple platforms). If they are going to release it next week then it’ll most likely be on Wednesday New Zealand time (Tuesday California time). So far things have been pretty stable apart from a really weird quirk on macOS 11 which will have playback hiccups when playing YouTube videos but it doesn’t occur on any other service. Oh, and another interesting thing is on tvOS with is that with vp9 for the video CODEC it uses the Opus CODEC for audio but on macOS 11 it uses vp9 for the video CODEC but AAC for the audio CODEC.

It is interesting to see how things are working out post M1 release with Qualcomm talking about the release of the M1 being the start of a transformation within the IT sector. Personally, I think that Qualcomm could develop something that gets close to what Apple offers in that it would beat Intel but will be behind Apple Silicon but the big problem is Microsoft. If Microsoft really want to make the ARM market mainstream then they need to get their software sorted out and they can do that by launching a legacy free version of Windows but don’t call it that.

What I mean by that is that Microsoft should take Windows 10 and strip out all the legacy – hardware accelerated scroll bars have no place being inside a kernel. So after stripping the kernel back to the essentials I would then replace the win32 user land with a BSD subsystem that is made fully UNIXv7 compliant – yes, with pthreads and all that wonderful goodness with the icing on the cake being that it embraces LLVM’s libc++ with a long term goal to replace the BSD libc with the llvm libc that is being developed along with using the LLVM tool chain and converting from PE (which is a derisive of COFF) to ELF. On top of that you gradually migrate technology over like DirectX, WinUI in much the same way that Apple sits its higher level layers on a BSD core then eventually get it to a point where it is a ChromeOS alternative but called EdgeOS. The difference in name to denote that it isn’t compatible with Windows as to avoid a repeat of Windows RT.

Then over time Microsoft can build on top of BSD/UNIXv7 a more sophisticated higher level set of frameworks that take parts from Windows 10 which make sense and being them over to EdgeOS with the benefit of fixing those frameworks of their limitations due to concerns in the past regarding backwards compatibility. During this time Microsoft should be bringing their software over so that it is native then get EdgeOS to the point where it is highly optimised for ARM without hauling around legacy and since most applications that businesses use to custom write as being pushed into the cloud the underling operating system within large organisations become less important.

The benefit of such a system, rather than starting to scratch, you’re using time tested code while also enabling the platform to move forward. Getting rid of win32 gets rid of irritating limitations like the MAX_PATH limitation, embracing an open standard like UNIXv7 would open up a huge array of open source software and the embracing of LLVM would open up a large ecosystem that Microsoft could tap into where Microsoft can focus on delivering a top notch IDE, contribute work around debugging to the LLVM and developers get a great experience which will give a clear path forward rather than the current situation of stagnation which is resulting in the rest of the industry suffering as a result.

Regarding what is happening in my life, this week coming up I’m going to pick up the last of the presents for the holidays and the following week I have the whole week off to relax at home, spend time with the family and maybe finally get around to giving the house a good top to bottom clean.

Well, my muffler on my scooter has been getting noisier and noisier, and I could quite work out what had caused it. I had a closer look at the muffler and it appears that there is a crack at the joint between the end part and the pipe that feeds to it. I bought some muffler tape (tested to withstand 2000°F) and I’ve sighted it up using some hose clamps – the net result is that it has been super smooth and super quiet. Long term I’m not sure what I’ll be doing but at the moment it is pretty sturdy:

There is a second part that needs to be repaired which I’ll do tomorrow but with the first repair it cut down on the noise by at least 80% and repairing the second hole will make it more or less what it was like 12 months ago. One of the benefits of removing the noise is being able cruise along listening to music – before it was impossible but now it is possible although I tend to be really cautious when I go right into Wellington – I turn off the music because I want to have 100% concentration on the road given the crazies that are on the road.

Like a lot of Apple enthusiasts I have been following all the product reviews and unboxing followed by deep dives into the Apple Silicon SoC (link) ever since the launch of the first wave of Apple Silicon based Macs in their multi year transition that Apple have planned. For me I’m waiting until next year to see the refreshed iMac and MacBook Pro but what I think is interesting though is (as seen in the linked article) the Apple Silicon SoC design and how it compares to a traditional CPU design particularly when you look at how the SoC is made up of a series of specialised chips rather than it being a monolithic entity. I think this is also a reminder to developers why for years Apple have been talking about the need to make use of the built in technologies that Apple provides – each one of those being highly optimised for the specialised chips that make up it. I think the interesting part will be how Apple will use its SoC in conjunction with its built in webcams to get better results in much the same way that Google have used machine learning in conjunction with a fairly basic camera setup to still produce great photos but without the need for having large amounts of hardware.

As for what I am hoping for, I currently have a 27″ iMac so I’d love to see what they did with the MacBook Pro 16″ and that is take the existing form factor and stretch the screen to the edge but in the case of the iMac to have a near bezel-less design which will give a larger screen but still within the same form factor. I’ve currently got a 15″ MacBook Pro and although I probably don’t need as much power as it provides, I prefer having that power there when I need it in much the same way that although I’m happy to settle on a 512GB SSD I always upgrade to 16GB RAM which has pretty much kept me happy for at least the last 5 years (when I built my mum an Intel NUC micro computer I put in 16GB RAM resulting in a machine that has lasted the distance).

Ubiquiti has released UniFi Dream Machine Firmware 1.8.3 which is the first stable update to UDM – everything is going very well and as a result I’ve moved myself over to the stable branch rather than keeping with the beta branch. Ubiquiti are still working on the 5.x series firmware for my UAP HD AC. I’m still deciding whether I’ll move from Skinny broadband to Spark Broadband – I think I’ll wait till next year to make that decision but I’m happy with using Spark especially given the clarity of calling on VoLTE when compared to the old way of falling back to 3G when making a call.

Rumours of the M1X are doing their rounds regarding the refreshed Apple Silicon based Mac’s. Rumour has it that they’re scheduled to be released in the second half of next year. It’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out but I could imagine Apple moving to DDR5 which would give a huge amount of bandwidth when it comes to the more power GPU that’ll he included with it which will required to run a 5K iMac display (not to mention the 16″ MacBook Pro display with support for an external display). I think the interesting part will be what the next version of macOS will bring given that ability for third party kernel extensions to he loaded will most likely be removed and with that I also wonder whether with the tradition to ARM it also marks the beginning of pushing all of Apple’s drivers into user space so that the kernel is a lot smaller than it is today. I don’t see Apple ever getting to a situation of it being a ‘pure Mach kernel’ but I could imagine the kernel getting to the point where only the most essential code is running in the kernel (for the sake of performance and efficiency) with everything else residing outside.

The interesting part will be how the new Apple Silicon based CPUs will perform particularly when it comes to OpenGL games being recompiled for Apple Silicon. Although Apple announced that OpenGL, OpenCL and friends have been deprecated I wonder whether we’ll see OpenCL support removed (it never really caught on) but OpenGL hanging around a lot longer where bugs will be fixed but no new features will be added (yes, I would love to see OpenGL all the up to OpenGL 4.6 implemented on top of Metal API in much the same way that Metal Kit sits on top of Metal API, but I doubt it’ll happen) but if hangs around then at least games such as Simcity 4 might even make its way over to Apple Silicon. Given that the OpenGL stack is based on LLVM (the change occurred around a decade ago) so it’ll be interesting to see whether the complete control over the hardware, drivers and software produces better results than the current situation of having limited access to drivers and hardware specifications while trying to optimise an OpenGL stack that operate in a consistent manner across Intel, AMD and nVidia based GPUs.

Ubiquiti pushed out another update – things are getting better with my UDM with each release – it appears that they’ve listened to the ‘feedback’ they’ve received over the last year and taking in onboard. I’m looking forward to seeing them release their next generation Wi-Fi 6 access points, something I’m looking forward to upgrading to when I upgrade my iMac and MacBook Pro to the new Apple Silicon versions once they come out. Things really are starting to pick up steam around the IT world at the moment.

Getting ready for Christmas – we agreed not to give presents to each other since it always ends up as a money go around (I give someone $50, they give someone $50 then it comes back to me again) although I have bought presents for my nieces and on Christmas Day I’ll bring alcohol and desert (I’ll order it online from a wonderful desert company in NZ). The big decision is whether I should get the 10 pack or the 20 pack – primarily because I also want to be able to leave some desert with them as kind of a Christmas present.

Well, that was an interesting day – went to work, checked up on some news and out of the blue Apple releases 14.2.1 for iPhone 12 devices – it updated the modem firmware from 1.14.04 to 1.14.06. I haven’t noticed any differences in terms of reliability but then again I guess I was lucky in that I never experienced the issue that people had experienced prior to the update.

With the purchase of the iPhone 12 Pro Max I decided to move from Skinny to Spark (there is only a $3 difference where as 12 months ago the gap was a lot wider). One of the benefits of moving to Spark for my mobile service provide is it’s integration with VoLTE. Unfortunately with VoLTE it requires the carriers to work with the handset vendor to test and get working vs dropping back to 3G mode where if you have a connection you can make a call.

The first round of ARM based Mac devices have made the reviewer rounds which have the M1 chip in it (which has been described as having been built on the A14 chip – which is similar to how Intel will keep a common architectural core that spans from ultrabooks, laptops, desktops, workstation and all the way up to servers) but for me I’m waiting for next year or the year after when they make their first refresh and the 16inch ARM book is refreshed along with a refreshed iMac with an ARM based processor.

Ubquiti has pushed out another beta update for the UDM and UDM Pro, 1.8.3-4 where the focus has been very much on reducing memory usage. Hopefully soon we’ll soon see the UAP 5.x firmware stabilise too – it uses an entirely brand new wifi firmware as well as updated drivers, kernel release etc. In terms of the reliability of the UDM I’ve been pretty happy with it so far. 

Apple released an updated 14.2 of iOS for iPhone 12 devices however it isn’t available as an OTA update – you’ll need to plugin your phone to your computer to update it. I decided to update to see what it offered – I haven’t noticed a difference but maybe later on I’ll trip over something I as I am going about my daily business.

macOS 11.1 beta and iOS 14.3 beta (along with betas for all their other platforms) has been Mae available for developers. It appears that it is full steam head but I wonder whether we’ll see it being released before Christmas or whether it’ll be released afterwards.

Before upgrading to the iPhone 12 Pro Max I decided to revisit the past in my second foray into the world of the Google Pixel 4 XL with the first one being abruptly ended because I had convinced myself that maybe Apple had addressed the short comings of the bundled software included with iOS, mainly, Safari and it’s lack of evolution in terms of supporting web standards. There is a tendency to look at Google services from the outside and jump to conclusions about what the iCloud ecosystem is. A good example would be the view that iCloud services has been a gradual evolution since I opened up an iCloud account but has Google on the other hand moved forward (Apple Maps vs. Google Maps outside of the United States) at a faster pace or are the improvements more widely reported as a result of their services being platform agnostic (accessed via the web browser) vs. iCloud which heavily relies on native applications running on Apple’s various platforms which directly talk to Apple’s servers? How do the Google services feel, when running in a native experience, which will give Google the ability to really make their services shin given that they control the platform?

When it comes to Android I take the ‘iron man argument’ – take the most robust implementation of Android and use that as the benchmark rather than the most popular but less ‘well put together’ implementation of Android. For me, ever since the Nexus 6P (my first exposure of Android direct from Google) the handsets direct from Google gives the most pure Android experience – devoid of the crapware and controlled directly from Google so that the experience you are given is what Google have envisaged Android to be for the consumer. The Pixel being the successor to Nexus but in a more ‘consumer friendly form’ (the Nexus when launched was primarily focused on tech enthusiasts and developers) but none the less what you get is the most pure form of the Google experience – it is the Google experience that Google wishes its customer to experience, to represent the highest ideal of what Google is all about. Unfortunately Pixel phones aren’t available in retail stores in New Zealand but it is available through online retailers such as Kogan who sell in New Zealand (they ship the product from Australia with their logistics company taking care of the GST themselves). Although the Pixel 5 was released I decided to go with the Pixel 4 XL because Kogan had it on special along with the fact that I wanted a bigger screen plus there is still another 2 years minimum (possibly longer assuming that Android moves to GKI 2.0 (link) which will allow piecemeal updates).

The day I received the handset Google pushed out the November security and bug fix update, and just like in the iOS world it was received on time rather than the long protracted weeks of ‘rolling it out’ such as Samsung releasing updates a month in New Zealand after Google makes the security update available to their own phones. So far things are going very well – stable and reliable.

Side note: I thought it was interesting that when I put in a Vodafone SIM it didn’t work ‘out of the box’ yet when I put in my Skinny SIM (which uses the Spark network) everything auto configured and worked as it should. So keeping in mind that when I tested it I was using a Skinny SIM and using G-Suite as well.

When it comes to the hardware itself, even after a year, it is still very snappy to the point that I think that although there are improvements that can be demonstrated via a benchmark, the improvements really aren’t that noticeable when it comes to every day use. When compared to the Pixel 5, it has a slight lead in performance over the 765G, but the main benefit of the Pixel 4 XL is the bigger screen When it comes to the amount of RAM, 6GB, I didn’t experience any issues of applications having to be forced closed by the system to free up memory. The feel of the hardware is great in the hands but keeping in mind that I always put my devices in a leather flip case from Snakehive (link).

Android 11 has very much moved in the direction of being more ‘privacy focused’ – not as much as say iOS but they have introduced a more fine grained control such as the ability to allow the application only to use GPS when you’re physically using the application or enable an application to only be able to access the microphone and/or camera only when you’re directly interacting with it.

Although Chrome is installed by default it is still disappointing that even after all these years that they haven’t provided the ability to install extensions – yes, it is possible to install a third party browser but part of benefit of going with Android is being able to leverage the Google cloud service as a ‘one stop stop’ (I tend to prefer only having to deal with one provider rather than multiple providers if I can avoid it) along with the fact that the alternatives don’t run well on macOS (Firefox for example still very much lags behind Chrome when it comes to taking advantage of macOS’s underlying technology such as webrender isn’t fully implemented on macOS when compared to Windows).

The bundled applications are still lacking; the phone application I was hoping to make an answer calls in much the same way I can do with the iPhone and my Mac but it appears that it is a service that Google is only allowing for their Google Fi customers. When it comes to Google Messages, the RCS service (via the Jibe platform (which Google owns)) does allow one to send photos etc without the added expense of normally associating with sending photos (since RCS uses Jobe platform servers rather than the traditional text messaging system provided by ones carrier) however it has limited utility. Outside of the US Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are king there is limited benefit of Google pushing out an RCS service – particularly one that doesn’t provide end to end encryption which makes it lack the sort of privacy protection that for example iMessage has.

YouTube Music is limited when compared to the old Google Play Music application particularly when dealing with albums that have more than 10 tracks which result in the number getting out of order, the limited options when it comes to the built in audio equaliser (I prefer to have bass booster enabled). I can’t help but get the feeling that although it can play music that is stored on local storage the main focus is it’s integration into the paid service Google provides.

In terms of the battery life, the battery life is pretty good – about the same as my experience with my iPhone 11 Pro Max but keeping in mind that I am a very light user (I don’t play games, play videos etc. as I primarily surf the net, read reddit, send messages via WhatsApp, listening to music etc) so your mileage may vary. The quality of the connection to the mobile network was better than the iPhone 11 Pro Max due to Qualcomm being the more mature modem but if you’re using an iPhone 12 Pro Max (like I am) which uses the x55 modem then you’ll find that the iPhone 12 Pro Max has a slight edge over the Pixel 4XL particularly when it comes to areas which have weak coverage.

Would I buy I buy the Pixel 4 XL when compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max? it depends on how deeply ingrained into the Apple ecosystem are in terms of your reliance on the frictionless integration (in my case, my security camera setup integrating in with Home Kit which enable me to view what is happening at home whether I’m on my computer at home or out and about with my mobile phone) – keeping in mind that if you buy the Pixel 4 XL at this stage then you would be looking at another 2 years of support. That is one of the benefits of the iPhone where you’re receiving almost 5 years of support so if you’re the sort of person who keeps their phone for more than 2-3 years then the iPhone is probably more suitable. When compared to the new Pixel phones that were announced which were based on the Qualcomm 765G SoC the performance gap between that and the Qualcomm 855 is small but it depends on how keen you are to have 5G support.

Side note: I’ve now got a iPhone 12 Pro Max which comes with the Qualcomm x55 modem (second generation 5G modem) but keeping in mind that outside of the US the primary focus on the sub-6GHz band rather than wasting time on the mmwave (there have been articles about Qualcomm testing point to point connections using mmwave which IMHO where the best benefits will be yielded). In the case of Spark (the carrier I am with) their 5G frequency is N78 which translates to 3300Mhz to 3800Mhz. Such a high frequency will require Spark to install more base stations but it’ll be more useful to the average person than mmwave that can be blocked by a leaf, hand or a raindrop (thus making the whole ‘anti-5G’ nonsense even crazier than it is given that the mmwave frequencies cannot even penetrate the human body, heck it cannot even penetrate through double glazed windows!).

I’m tempted to write a bit of a grab bag article outlining the new Apple Silicon, Big Sur etc. but that’ll probably in a few days. This took a lot longer than it should have primarily because I’ve been lazy and laying in bed with my laptop where as I really should be a lot more motivated by being at my desk which gives me a lot more focus.

My Pixel 4 XL arrived yesterday – I’ll write up a review on my day off but what I thought was funny was how the Vodafone SIM I had laying around didn’t automatically configure my phone so that I could send or receive messages but when I put in my Skinny SIM (Spark’s ‘price concious’ brand) everything started working without me having to configure anything. I opened up Google messages, went to settings and enabled chat functionality (using Google’s own Jibe RCS servers since none of the carriers in New Zealand support RCS). Today I went to work – no problems, then went to the store after work to give Google Pay. Long story short – I’m a happy lad.

My Chromecast with Google TV arrived today and although I am waiting for my Google Workspaces to hit the 30 day mark so that I can use YouTube I was able to set everything else up. On the first boot up I went through the process of configuring the settings including voice control which I set to English United Kingdom (which funny enough was able to work with a New Zealand accent without an issues). After configuring and getting it hooked up to wifi (thank goodness it supports 5GHz) it downloaded a sizeable update and got that installed. I then went to the Paly store and downloaded all the applications I use on a regular basis – Bloomberg, DW, France 24 and Al Jazeera.

The first thing I noticed, after getting everything setup, is how the whole experience is not only faster/more responsive than the Tizen based operating system that Samsung uses in its televisions, it is also faster than the Apple TV 4K where I found there was constant lag between pressing my remote and the device responding. There is also the issue of the remote control – the Apple TV one is just horrible, it has been with us for 2 generations (maybe more) and it really hasn’t gotten all that much better where as the Chromecast with Google TV comes with a fairly traditional remote with clicky buttons and it works perfect.

This coming weekend I’ll do a more comprehensive review of both of them but for now I’m pretty impressed with how things are going.

It’s labour day in New Zealand today so unfortunately, although my package from Australia (well, one out of the two) is sitting in Auckland it has been delayed so I might not get it until either tomorrow (an unrealistic earliest assuming it comes down on the overnight truck from Auckland to Wellington the courier service during the day) or the most likely scenario being later on in the week.

Work is going well and I’ve put in an application for leave over Christmas, 23-27 December, which will give me 9 days off (5 days annual leave and four days weekend). Regarding Christmas presents for the family, I’ll start having a look around in November but I think I’ll keep it pretty simple; money for my eldest niece, a toy for the youngest two nieces, and some goodies for the rest of the family (although I’ll need to get a virtual gift for my brother, his parter and their baby since sending it from New Zealand to Australia will be costly and liable to be broken knowing my luck).

My UDM (Unifi Dream Machine) received an update to 1.8.2-8 however there was an international user who has an UDM device connected to his ISP which uses VLAN tagging and ipv6 (which is what most ISPs in New Zealand use) but he was experiencing issues so before I take the dive of maybe moving ISPs I want to make sure what issues he is actually having.