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).

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).

Chrome 100 and WWDC rumours.

Chrome 100 was released today – many bug fixes and security fixes so best to get updated to the latest version as soon as possible. So far on my MacBook Pro it has been going well – no strange memory leaks, the uBlock Origin extension is running well, no website compatibility issues etc. so I’m fairly happy so far.

Rumour has it that WWDC 2022 will either come in the first or second week of June but I guess we’ll need to see when it will be. For me the big focus is what will happen with macOS, specifically, getting those improvements that appear in Safari Technology Preview to be migrated to Safari ‘mainstream edition’ that comes with macOS. For most people (including myself) the web browser has become the most important piece of software on their computer, it is the first thing one opens after lifting the lid, it is the run time engine that is delivering what Java promised to deliver but never did with reasonable performance and/or responsiveness – write once, run everywhere. Safari has been lagging behind in terms of embracing standards or have broken implementations which has resulted in some web developers getting rather frustrated as they balance up targeting Chrome/Edge and Firefox but finding Safari a rather painful experience.

Work was good today, working on standardising the standard operating procedures – something I’ve put forward is having a place where we put clean boundaries as to the scope of technical support that we provide out customers. The reason why I say that is because at some point you have to draw a line in the sand between what we can provide assistance with vs. something that they’ll need to speak to a technician about. For example, if you’re a bank and provide internet banking then there is a fine line between resetting a password, teaching someone how to use the service etc vs. having to step the customer through the process of upgrading their browser or updating their operating system so that their software is compatible with your service. There has to be a line in the sand or otherwise your help desk moves from providing support to customers on how to use your product into a general purpose help desk where people get their technical issues solved which are well outside the scope of what you’re employed by the business to do.

Laptop keyboard, Australian election and hypocritical self righteous indignation.

Another week has come and gone – getting closer to the couple of weeks off I’ll have in June but so far the weeks are speeding up with time feeling as though it is flying at lightening speed. I’m still deciding whether I should wait until June to take my laptop in to get the keyboard replaced or whether I should take it in now to get it out of the way – I’ll make that decision I guess when I get there, when I wake up and feel in the mood to ride my scooter into Wellington.

There was a South Australian election recently with Labor sweeping to victory but it’ll be interesting to see whether that’ll translate to success for Labor in the federal elections. As much as I want to be hopeful for the Australian Labor party I can’t help but feel that the Australian public will be once again be duped into voting Liberal thanks to the carefully tuned BS manufacturing that the Australian media has – if it isn’t the outright distortion of Labor’s track record then it is game of false balance aka “both sides are as bad as each other” nonsense.

Regarding the election here, there is still 18 months which can be an eternity in politics and many things can occur between now and then especially when one considers the fact that there is a pandemic still raging. That being said, Labour cannot rely on it’s COVID success, they need to take control of the narrative by putting forward a bold long term vision for New Zealand that focuses on key areas and how, when all combined, they work together to reading the end goal. A long term vision for New Zealand isn’t just about ‘winning elections’ but about setting a level of certainty to the business community can plan around, in particular around training a new generation of skilled tradespeople so that they can engage in what I call nation building.

Chris Wallace, a leading anchor on Fox News decided to leave Fox News back in December 2021 but apparently it was the election and Tucker Carlson’s monologues on a variety of subject matter that broke the camels back:

Really, after 18 years and the train wreck of propaganda that he finally drew the line then? I’m sure many people remember the egregious stuff said by various other presenters in the past but he has only just decided to leave? Maybe I’m too principled for my own good but I tend to want to work for an organisation where I can lay in bed at the end of each day knowing that what I did at work wasn’t damaging society.

Windows 11, vaccine boosters and manifest V3.

Sigh, I really need to get my act together because almost every week I’ve said to myself, “this week will be the day I take my laptop in to get the keyboard replaced” but each week the weekend goes so fast and then I find I’m back in the office working again. At this rate it’ll be next year before I eventually get there…well ok, maybe not that far away but I really do need to get my act together.

I was so optimistic about Safari 15.4 until things started to break – I went to YouTube, searched for a video and found that none of the thumbnails were loading. I have the Adguard extension installed however I have YouTube on my ‘Trusted Websites’ so it shouldn’t have interfered with the loading of the website but I decided to uninstall it anyway. After uninstall Adguard I thought I would take it safe by also clearing all cookies and cache to ensure that I start with a clean slate. Went to YouTube, logged in and then tried to search – same thing happened again. I have also found that it keeps falling back to low quality playback even though I’ve got plenty of bandwidth (gigabit connection) and the issue doesn’t occur with Chrome. What that tells me is that the issue isn’t related to the operating system itself but instead something in Safari itself which is causing the problem.

There has been a lot happening in the world of Windows 11 (link). There is a lot of changes that are occurring ‘above the hood’ with the ‘under the hood’ pretty much at a state that the heavy lifting changes were more or less complete by the time Windows 11 was released. That probably explains why Windows 10 was such a rollercoaster in terms of reliability when compared to Windows 11 where all the changes so far has been about keeping the same ‘backend code’ but replacing the ‘classic’ UI frameworks with a single unified one, WinUI, which now forms the foundation of Windows going forward – after years of stopping and starting with various ideas it appears that MIcrosoft, with the leadership they have in place, know where they want to get to and how they’re going to get there. I think the big lesson that has been learned is not to re-invent the wheel, take what you already have and build upon it because otherwise you’ll find yourself in a world of hurt and many unhappy end users unhappy that you’ve re-written an app from the ground up but is missing features that the old version had.

Work has been chaotic all this week with people having to stay at home due to being immunocompromised along with those who have COVID but are well enough to work from home. It’ll be interesting to see what the upcoming opening of the border will result in considerable increase in infections or whether it stays on the same course. It’ll also be interesting to see whether the government will go for a 4th booster shot although strange enough they’ve got 10.72 million units of Novavax on order (link) – are they going to shift over to Novavax with a booster shot being the start of a Novavax regiment? I guess time will tell but I’m hopeful that the work being done to bring about the second generation vaccines (link) will result in decreased transmission and higher numbers of antibodies resulting in a longer period of protection. If in the long term we can get to the point that COVID vaccination becomes a once a year or once every two years regiment then that’ll go a long way to getting things back to normal – we’ll still need to be smart about protecting ourselves and others but it should result in a flattening of the curve.

When it comes to Manifest V3 the discussion regarding the WebRequest API (link) so it’ll be interesting to see whether eventually see the major parties realise the foolishness of ramming something through that will detrimentally impact millions of end users. Hopefully they can get this all sorted out by January 2023 (the date when Manifest V2 stop being distributed by the Google extensions store).

Positive COVID test and Apple releases updates.

Well, after planning to drop off my laptop I tested positive for COVID so I ended up having to isolate myself for a week – it wasn’t too bad given that I’ve experienced a whole lot worse in my life. I’m hoping that I’ll eventually have the time to head into Wellington to get the keyboard repaired – the spacebar is already rather iffy along with many other parts of the keyboard. If I get another 2-3 years out of this then I’ll be a happy lad.

Apple released macOS 12.3, iOS 15.4 and tvOS 15.4 (along with others), the system firmware remained the same but the loader version has been updated from 540.80.2~11 to 540.100.7~14. In terms of Safari it has been bumped up from Version 15.3 (17612.4.9.1.8) to Version 15.4 (17613.1.17.1.6) which includes 70 new enhancements (link) not to mention various updates to drivers such as the AMD driver being updated to fix up a security issue along with many others security fixes being shipped (link). There were all plenty of fixes for iOS and tvOS (link).

Over all, after updating all my devices, I’ve found that they’re working slightly faster, Safari had it’s fair share of fixes which has resulted in it being a lot more snappy particularly when it comes to websites that that have a reasonable level of complexity. Hopefully the improvements coming through is beginning of a much required improvement in translating the improvements appearing in the Technology Preview and for those improvements to make a timely appearance in the mainstream build of Safari.