Politics · Technology

Apple releases a bevy of updates.

After quite a few release candidates Apple has released updates for all their platforms – I’ve installed tvOS 16.5 and macOS 13.4. So far the experience has been great, there has been an improvement in Safari performance, sites that were buggy are now no longer an issue, the over all operating system feels more responsive. There were a sizeable number of security fixes that came (link) in particular there are 3 being exploited in the wild according to 9TO5Mac (link) so this is a good incentive to update asap rather than waiting for Apple to do it for you with the automatic update.

The development of Safari is something that I am fond of following because so much progress has occurred in such a small space of time. One thing to understand with Safari is the focus on not just privacy and security but to also focus on making sure that any functionality that is added to it doesn’t result in a slow down aka zero tolerance for performance regressions (link). More good news also comes in the form of Safari Technology Preview 170 being release (link) with plenty of fixes which will hopefully appear either in a macOS 13.5 update (released in the gap between the announcement of macOS 14 and it’s release) or maybe macOS 14 which hopefully will include AV1 support that was mentioned in a previous Technology Preview change notes then quickly redacted a few hours later (as noted on my blog).

The government budget came out this week and on the whole it is pretty balanced although I think they really do need to have a long term plan when it comes to investing into rail or as I noted on a Reddit post I made regarding this subject and the debt levels over all: “…we have a lot more capacity that we could use to really fix up the infrastructure deficit – our railways for example have been neglected for decades and we really don’t have a long term 10-20 year plan of upgrading, expanding and electrifying it (standardising on 25Kv). It appears that any investments are merely patching holes rather than having a long term vision for rail then making sure all investments are orientated in achieving that vision.”

That has really been a legacy in New Zealand regardless of who is in charge which s a lack of long term planning and investing – by long term I am not talking about the three year election cycle but rather 5-10-15 or 20 years and by vision I am talking about what is your objective, what are you trying to get to so then you measure up all the individual policies and whether those policies get you closer to that vision (and by vision I am talking about are a set of measurable objectives that can can be interrogated, not broad waffly statements that cannot be nailed down).

As for what my priorities are, here are some of them I outlined in an earlier blog post (link). As for who I am going to vote for this year – I’ll vote the way I always do, Labour for my local MP and Greens for my Party vote.

Politics · Technology

Bless their cotton socks, they really do try.

I’m back to using Chrome after giving Safari another try – I really want to see Safari as a solid alternative to Chrome but what I keep finding aren’t the major problems but rather a columination of a whole lot of small problems in much the same way that a product needn’t be completely flawed for a customer not to be happy with in. In the case of Safari there is the benefit of being able to select text within images but that doesn’t offset websites either not loading or throwing the ‘Webpage is using Significant Memory’ error even though I have 24GB of RAM on my MacBook Air or 32GB of RAM on my Mac Studio (the error mainly appears on feature rich web apps). There is also the fact that the extension framework is limited resulting in the lack of low level access to extension developers which enable content blockers to intercept content and fully block rather than the situation with AdGuard where even with the same filters that are enabled on uBlock there is content that makes it way through.

Side note: If you follow the Webextensions API meeting minutes it is clear that there is still a lot that needs to be done before Google and many of the other parties involved are not ready to make a public announcement regarding when MV2 will be phased out in favour of MV3. For me I would sooner those parties involved take their time and get it right rather than placing some arbitrary time line resulting in third party developers finding that their extensions laeck the APIs for them to be able to deliver their product. At the moment I’m fairly happy with the status quo and I cannot fathom why reason to change it – if you choose to install extensions from dodgy third parties with no established reputation.

It appears that the Google Cloud division has turned a profit (link) (putting aside questions in regards to how the segment business units when reporting financials) which makes me whether Google is trying to push harder in terms of making itself less dependent on advertising revenue. I don’t ever seeing the percentage of their ad revenue reducing quickly in terms of it’s overall contribution but in the long term if they can make it one component in a wide portfolio of services and physical products (hardware) which will insulate them from the increasingly stronger regulation coming down the pipe from both the European Union as well as the United States.

There was an interesting discussion over on Pod Save America particularly when talking about how some people treat politics as performative instead of being interested in politics as a vehicle that can transform society for the better. Unfortunately a good amount of the scolding going online, at least on social media, is about moral posturing for clout and social capital rather than using the platform to build a coalition to push for systemic changes – the regular drama and call out culture being an example of how oxygen is thieved out of the room when someone didn’t say the right thing or had a hot take but not providing context as to the reason why they made that hot take results in energy wasted on something that isn’t particularly important in the grand scheme of things.

Politics · Technology

Looking forward to WWDC 2023, reflecting on Fox News and voter denial.

One of the things I like to do is to go through the App Store looking at the ad blockers that are available so that I can give them a test run then compare them to what I am using today – AdGuard Safari Extension. As good as AdGuard is at smacking down ads and popups it still lets a few through so I like to see what else is out there and whether it performs the same or better than AdGuard. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve given them a try, I’ve provided feedback via feedback in the App Store (but alas those reviews aren’t visible in the App Store which is why in the past I couldn’t be bothered reviewing products if my review isn’t even going to be visible in the first place) and what I have found is that once again AdGuard comes out on top. What I hope is that as MV3 matures that Apple fills in those functionality gaps which would improve the content blocking reliability.

Tucker has been fired from Fox News with rumours that there could be still more to come (based on the number of redacted conversations that haven’t been made public) and of course there have been celebrations outside of the right wing echo system. As enjoyable as it is to bask in the pleasure of schadenfreude it is important not to get complacent because although Fox News is a big player in the right wing ecosystem their primary demographic skews to an older cohort. My concern isn’t necessarily Fox News but the next generation that is being shaped by right wing ‘influencers’ that play into the idea that your friend, that they’re on your side, that because they aren’t part of a big corporation they’re honest actors who aren’t beholden to anyone – the faux authenticity of billionaire backed influencers may end up being more effective are recruiting the young and disaffected than the mass market style media outlets that Fox News operates as.

Regarding the election deniers, Vice News uploaded a video recently regarding a county in California that decided to terminate its contract with Dominion Voting Systems with those who turned up to these meetings offering not evidence other than vibes, feelings and second/third hand information they got off some random website or social network.

What is the solution that some suggest? going back to paper ballots but here is the problem, if they go paper ballots that will take longer and if they take closer then that if it takes a long time to count that ‘obviously they’re fixing the election’ – in other words it isn’t about actually believing the election was stolen but holding onto a belief that makes them feel good that their favourite politician won but it was stolen vs the reality that their favourite politician actually lost because they didn’t deliver the goods on the day when it was needed. For many, they have melded their own identity with the identity of their favourite politician resulting in anything bad that happens to said politician as being also an attack on them, they are living a parasocial relationship .

Why do I also think that they’ll dream up new conspiracy theories? Because they were told over and over again that the mail in ballots get processed after the in person voting was counted and because Democrats are more likely to vote via mail there will a massive uptick in favour of Democrats when the mail in ballots are counted .What happened? such individuals engaged in conspiracy theories because they aren’t interested in listening to reason or facts, they’ve created a narrative to justify why their chosen politician hasn’t won so matter how much evidence you bring, no matter how in depth and dumbed down you explain it they’ll keep denying reality in much the same way that a young earth creationist will keep claiming that the world is only 6000 years old even though a mountain of evidence points to the exact opposite of that claim. Maybe it is the sunken coast fallacy, that they’ve invested so much in the narrative that it is now part of their identity, who they as as a people not to mention created a community around that narrative that many feel boxed with no way to back out of the rabbit hole they’ve gone down.

Joe Biden hoped back in 2020 that the ‘fever would break’ and the the GOP would go back to be ‘normal’ again but the problem with that is the fact that the GOP has been a problem for at least 50-60 years where it first started with the ‘Southern Strategy’ where they coopted the Dixiecrats into their ranks then going into the 1970s and early 1980s there as the coopting of the religious right and so on and so on to eventually we see what makes up the modern GOP today. To talk about the ‘fever breaking’ would be to imply that Trump and the Trumpification of the GOP was a recent phenomenon and if the part are de-Trumpified then the party would go back to normal but the problem is that it is ignores what the ‘normal’ actually was. That ‘normal’ was the fertile soil which bought to fruition Trump in the first place – Trumpism didn’t occur out of nowhere but a byproduct of a party that believed they had a rabid voting base that they could throw meat at, fail to deliver, blame the Democrats for being obstructionist then repeat the same cycle again.

What is the solution to the current situation? I’m no expert however I believe these might help the situation and they don’t require any constitutional changes:

  1. Get the state government out of running primaries – parties are private organisations and how they choose which candidate to run for which position is an internal party matter. That in and of itself would trim back those who participate because “I saw him on television” vs people who actually take politics seriously because they’re interested in advancing workable policies.
  2. The states role is to register parties and candidates, and enforce the rules.
  3. Rank choice voting for both senate and congressional representatives.
  4. De-Gerrymander the districts so that elections are competitive as to avoid extremists from being voted in.

Those 4 points wouldn’t magically create a utopia but it would at the very least result in candidates being run who are being selected based on their electability rather than their capacity to pander to the base, the rank choice voting would result in the winner being the one with the most support along with, and De-Gerrymander districts will result in competitive races rather than the situation being the winner being a full gone conclusion when the primary is run. I don’t see any of the above happening but I don’t see things improving unless there is a systemic change in how elections are carried out in the United States.

Regarding the whole firing of Tucker Carlson, there are a lot of rumours going around regarding the reasoning but I think the one thing most can agree on is the fact that on Friday he said he would be back on Monday which tells me that if there was something bubbling below the surface at Fox News that he didn’t know anything about it. At this point I have to wonder what was the straw that broke the camel’s back but that being said maybe Fox News had wanted to ‘clean house’ for quite some time but they had to wait for the right pretext. Personally I don’t see this whole experience changing Fox News because their brand is pretty much wrecked at this point – if they were serious they would be looking at retiring the Fox brand and relaunch two channels (one business and one news) under the WSJ brand with a traditional centre right perspective but I doubt it will happen.

Politics · Technology

A start of a new week.

Chrome 112 has been released and I noticed it is a bit more responsive. I sometimes wonder whether the improvement in performance is real and if it is real how much of it is due to fixes vs compiler improvements, the websites I use getting better optimised etc. It’s one of those things in the world of IT where there are a many moving parts thus making it incredibly difficult to isolate the cause of something not working correctly or if it suddenly starts working correctly you’re left wondering what just happened so one can learn what to do in future. It’s one of those things in IT which is why it can be frustrating dealing with customers that are adamant that the problem is with you (the provider) when in reality it could be with the ISP (maybe a DNS resolving issue?) or with an upstream provider or one of the upstream providers who provide support for the upstream providers that the ISP relies on. As cheesy as it sounds, the internet are a series of tubes of uplinks and downlinks all working in harmony right up to the point that they’re no longer in harmony.

Politics is becoming rather frustrating which is part of the reason I have been avoiding the commentary on YouTube not to mention the flood of news articles put out. The frustration is more born out of the fact that has become all very much repetitive to the point that it all blends into each other to the point that has become the cycle of a politician doing or saying something stupid, party leadership comes out in damage control, the person who did or said the stupid thing either resigns, apologises or does a half baked apology (aka “I’m sorry your felt that way” or “I apologise that you misinterpreted what I said) only for the cycle to repeat. I sometimes wonder whether politicians need to be reminded that they don’t need to have an opinion on everything, that not everyone wants to hear their opinion and sometimes the best answer to a question from someone trying to provoke you into a response is to actually ignore them (see Marama Davidson response to ‘Counterspin Media’ who were goading her into giving a sound bite).

I think the one thing to remind oneself is this: the internet is not the real world and activists don’t necessarily represent the mainstream of the community they’re advocating for. I say this because so much of the rancor and rage out there is fermented by people using the internet as the barometer of what is actually happening in the real world. The Republicans for example have convinced themselves that people like Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, Michael Knowles etc. represent the mainstream along with activists who keep keep bringing up the usual nonsense about wokeness and LGBTQ+ getting out of control but then you have polls such as these two (sourced from the following Twitter account):

The end result is that when it came to the midterms the ‘red wave’ never arrived because what they thought were important issues to voters was only important to those who are terminally online with everyone else aka ‘normies’ too busy dealing with taking care of kids, going to work, trying to juggle paying bills, trying to make ends meet with high inflation etc. It is highly unlikely that the ‘normies’ are engaging with the terminally online discourse that the Republicans have convinced themselves represent mainstream America – 13% want abortion completely banned with 87% of Americans sitting somewhere around the middle thus making the Republican shtick of using ‘The Daily Wire’ commentators as sources of ‘insight’ into their voting base appear rather ridiculous given the midterms outcome.

I’ve finally organised my time off in June, from 31 May 2023 to 13 June 2023 I’ll be relaxing at home, looking forward to the WWDC sessions, the keynote and my favourite being the ‘Platforms State of the Union’. For those unfamiliar with WWDC there are two keynotes, there is the keynote in the morning which is for the media, the tech enthusiasts etc. which gives a high level big picture overview with a focus on a small number of key areas which give a general vibe to the public about where their focuses are going forward. The other keynote is called the ‘Platforms State of the Union’ where it it is still very much a high level overview but with more technical details but not as much as say a session which narrowly focuses and dives very deep into that area. For example, in the keynote they’ll talk about how they’ve improved media performance, the ‘Platforms State of the Union’ will talk about how the media frameworks are optimised using xyz technology and then the sessions will go into detail regarding what they did on the backend and how as developers they can take advantage of it.


The role of the media to inform the public.

To follow on from my previous blog post, part of being in a political party is to develop policies then advocating those policies to the public – if you’re in opposition then you’re the government in waiting so your job is to convince the public that if you were in government that what you’re advocating are the policies you would pursue if you were in government. When it comes to the government, there job is to not only education the population so that people know what policies there are how they will benefit from it but to also educate potential voters of their track record in government – “if you like the policies then vote for us at the next election.”

So where does the ‘mainstream media’ fit into this? In a well functioning world or at least a world where the media does it’s bare minimum of informing the public but so far what I have seen is the ‘focus on horse race politics’ of who’s in front, who’s behind with next to no time spent dissecting policies and doing a deep dive into the details of what makes x politicians policies different from y politician’s policies. The reason why that is important is because political parties are all about showing their policies in the best light which involves emphasising the good aspects while either downplaying or ignoring altogether the rough edges for example replacing the working for families with a tax free threshold will involve some who will be better off while others maybe worse off depending on the circumstances. The role of the media is to step back and provide an impartial analysis so then voters get a better picture of what is on offer by the different political parties.

Why is it important for the media to do a deep dive? in a well functioning world the media would conduct a deep dive into these policies and look at it from an impartial point of view. Politicians may try to spin the focus by the media should be to go into details, talk about the good, bad and the ugly, the winners and losers from such a policy, the cost of that policy and whether it’ll require tax increases to pay for it, what are the risks in terms of its implementation, the likelihood of it actually getting passed etc. The politicians do the spin, the media are meant to unspin and be the ones who go into detail on what is on offer. The usual complaint is that people aren’t interested in long form interviews or discussions to which I say “Joe Rogan” – he isn’t someone I listen to but given that his podcast goes for sometimes up to 2 1/2 hours yet has millions of listeners so if Joe Rogan can get and retain listeners then there is no reason why a lively discussion about policy with a few jokes and witty remarks can’t get a few million tuning listeners to as a podcast and maybe a cut down 1 hour version for television (40-45 minutes if you exclude ad breaks).


Elections are slowly building up.

Once again the media is in a frenzy with claims that Trump will be soon be indicted (link) but given how often Teflon Don has been able avoid being prosecuted in the past so I have rather hesitant to pop the champagne cork given past experiences. Assuming it all goes ahead and Trump is charged resulting in him leaving the GOP presidential primaries, will that result in the current candidates toning down their rhetoric in the culture war knowing that Trump and Trumpism are not a factors to worry about or will one of the candidates step into Trump’s position to be the ‘Trump candidate’. Personally, I think the sane Republicans in blue states in positions of governance who are looking on – they should wait it out, allow Trumpism to crash and burn in the election then bring the party to it’s knees so then it gives the ‘adults in the party’ the leverage to go “ok, we tried your childish thing, now it is time for the adults to take back the party” then purge the party of the freedom caucus and take greater control over who runs in which district rather than the current free for all.

Back in New Zealand it will be interesting to see what the election will result – I’ll vote my usual combination of Labour for my local MP and Greens for my party vote (they’re as far left as one can get in terms of being a viable party with representation already in parliament). Let me start off by saying that Labour has been a huge disappointment – rather than focusing on maybe 5 key areas they tried the scattergun approach with the end result being that very little was actually achieved as a result. The other problem is the lack of a big vision of where Labour want to take the country “here is our vision, and here are the 5 policies that are going to get us there” vs what appears to be meandering along, a bit here and a bit here but not overarching coherent strategy to address the myriad of issues that need addressing. What I would like to see is the following:

  1. Full electrification of the New Zealand rail network, standardisation on 25kV and expansion of the rail network:
    a) Expand the Melling line down to the Kennedy Good Bridge
    b) Bore a tunnel for both a rail connection as well as a road connection to Wainuiomata which will open up opportunities for further development as well as improving connectivity between Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley/Wellington.
    c) Tunnel bore a connection in Auckland from the CBD to the airport and connection to north shore. If there is money and time then replace the Auckland harbour bridge with a tunnel instead.
    d) Rebuild the long distance passenger service by upgrade the rail track ballast along with investment into depot to depot small goods movement, mixed passenger/small goods for low traffic lines etc.
    e) Invest into intercity rail in the south island particularly from the north of Christchurch to the heart of Christchurch where a good portion of the development is occurring as well as investment into light rail particularly out the airport with a focus on grade separation along with ‘cut and cover’ where required.
  2. Investment into renewables – focus on making greater use of geothermal particular through using closed loop systems where heat is transferred via a liquid being pumped through a closed loop with a low boiling point to heat water to run a turbine.
  3. Rebuild the ministry of works so that the government has the means by which large scale nation building projects can be executed without constant stopping and starting resulting in the building up of knowledge being lost as teams that completed one project are only on temporary short term contracts rather than long term stable employment where the knowledge can be built and passed down as new employees join and older employees leave or may continue on in a more casual/contractual basis.
  4. Turn Kāinga Ora into the primary provider of rental accomodation by engaging in a massive house building project – that includes replacing existing houses on large sections and subdividing them with efficient dense housing so that more houses can be provided using the existing land holdings that Kāinga Ora already own. The way to decomodify housing is to make it unenticing for it to be an investment – set Kāinga Ora rental prices based on 25% of a single persons income if they’re a couple or 12.5% if they’re a single person living by themselves (maxing out at $500 for a couple, $250 for a single person). Provide enough housing at that price it would drive landlords resulting in house prices going down not to mention the ability to stay long term in public housing results in buyers being able to be more picky. Long story short the masses would rent from Kāinga Ora, the private sector would build houses to own and what little private sector rentals remain would be to cater for niches that Kāinga Ora would cater for aka rich people wanting to lease a luxury home because they don’t want to have their money tied up in a house they’re living in temporarily.
  5. Reform the welfare system so that it encourages rather than punishes people who take the initiative and take a chance with a part time or casual job.
    a) Completely removal of the stand down period and streamline the process for those who work in seasonal jobs and may find themselves off work for short periods (I worked for a catering company that followed the university calendar resulting in breaks between terms and found I wasn’t eligible for any assistance from social welfare- the problem the business had is that they couldn’t retain staff for that very reason).
    b) Increase the level at which abatement kicks in – on a solo parents benefit you can earn up to $160 a week before tax before abatement kicks in (link) which works out to be 7 hours per week. Let’s be realistic, how many employers are going to employ someone for 7 hours a week? at minimum the abatement level needs to be doubled which would give someone a realistic chance of getting a casual/part time job when receiving the benefit.
    c) When means testing ask more questions than just “what is your pre-tax income” because in all due respects asking someone what their pre-tax income is tells you nothing about what the financial situation – the purpose of means testing is to find out how much they’re living off once tax, student loans, maybe fines payment plan etc. are taken off the income. It is also important to ask them what their outgoings are or otherwise you’ll end up in a situation of a person owning a business, running all their costs through the business then paying themselves a small stipend so it makes them eligible not just for assistance but their kids can qualify for student allowance etc. If you asked people what their core essential outgoings are such as rent, electricity, gas, petrol for the car or cost of public transport, groceries etc. then you’d seperate those who genuinely need help vs those who game the system through accounting trickery.

I’m not hopeful that something like the above would happen but if it were to happen then it would immensely improve New Zealand by focusing on some core areas then once addressed then building on it. There was a once in a lifetime opportunity in 2016 to lay out such a bold version for New Zealand but unfortunately that opportunity has been squandered.

Personal · Politics

Safari isn’t so bad after all.

I’ve moved back to Safari as my main browser (I still keep Chrome around because my work uses Google Workspace – using Chrome integrates me into work so I have access to the saved passwords, bookmarks etc). The bigger decision is moving back to the Apple ecosystem and by that I mean moving back to the iPhone and AppleTV. The first step will be AppleTV because unfortunately the way in which Google has setup their home software is that I cannot access it from my laptop or desktop along with the insistence of Google Home going through Arlo’s own service rather than providing a hub for the security cameras themselves as with the case of Apple and how the AppleTV acts as a hub which in turn allows me to then open the Apple Home application on macOS to be able to check things out. There are also limitations to the Google Home application, for example, it doesn’t inform the end user of the battery life so one cannot keep track of how low the battery is then being able to guesstimate how much time until one needs to recharge it.

Although I love my Nothing Phone the big problem when reviewers review phones, apart from their obsession over the camera, is the ecosystem in which the device is integrated into. In many cases it is the ecosystem that drives adoption forward of a given device and once a customer has a number of devices integrated into that ecosystem then the customer becomes used to the frictionless integration thus anything that ends up breaking that frictionless integration makes the overall experience more jarring.The big question is whether I wait for the iPhone 15 to appear or whether I just go with the iPhone 14 given that the difference isn’t going to be that extraordinary – we’re in the age of refinement and incremental improvements rather than the massive leaps where moving from one generation to another offered giant leaps but these days most people are updating maybe every 3-5 years (probably closer to 4 years for many people).

Regarding the world of politics, I have to admit I am sitting back and watching the whole Fox News, Dominion Voting Systems saga it is interesting seeing how the various high profile names are dealing with it – throwing each other under the bus to absolve themselves of responsibility. What I find particularly interesting is post 2020 election where Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden saw their view ship move to OAN and NewsMax – then suddenly all the hosts started to change their tune to give the audience what they wanted. Oh to be a fly on the wall and see the discussions taking place, I wonder whether any of the big names were all onboard with maybe pushing the envelop but were concerned with giving ‘the crazies’ a platform resulting in not only Fox News being impact but also themselves given that many have jobs outside of Fox News such as Sean Hannity who has his own radio show.

The reason why I raise this is because if things get a bit spicy then those networks syndicating Sean Hannity’s radio show (along with other hosts that have their own radio shows and podcasts) might be concerned that what is being said on Fox News might make it’s way onto their radio network thus potentially exposing them to trouble some time down the track. This is where I think that maybe some of the big stars may cut their losses and the big question is what is going to happen with Fox News going forward – do they shut down the channel and relaunch a new channel in it’s place with a focus on not repeating the mistake of the past? the reason why I ask is because I think back to people who have gone to the crazy end of town then realising what they had done to then try and back pedal only to find that the audience they lost in their move to the extreme aren’t coming back and those on the extreme will either abandon them by labelling them as a sell out or find people who are willing to go even more extreme.

Side note: Although Fox News likes to boast about being number one cable channel but one thing to remember is that the media in the US is very fractured with Fox News as of 2022 having an average view ship size of 1.996 million – the average house hold size is 3.13 and a population of 331 million meaning that there are around 100 million households meaning Fox News gets around 2% of households watching their channel. When you break down the numbers it isn’t as impressive as the marketing make it out to be. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that the demographics are certainly not on their side with Fox News (their audience skews towards older demographics) along with not giving numbers on the number of subscribers using Fox Nation – their service that is apparently trying to win over Gen Y and Z. If their numbers were great then it would make sense that they would boast about it at almost every opportunity but from what it appears the fact that the only data has been guesses by analysts and the downplaying it as a ‘companion service’ (link) (I’m using a Google Cache link because the original website forces you to create an account):

Fox News had a business model that worked for 26 years but maybe it is past it’s ‘use by date’ with a core demographic dying off and the new generations coming through that are less and less socially conservative and reactionary resulting in the question – what does Fox News do? where trotting out the ‘socialism’ and ‘communism’ boogyman might get the low information voters and those raised during the Red Scare but hardly an audience size that advertisers are willing to spend money targeting.

Politics · Technology

An interesting week in politics and tech.

An interesting week so far in politics with Jacinda Ardern stepping down from her role as Prime Minister and Chris Hipkins – the fact that it was such a smooth transition makes me wonder whether this had been in the works for a while. It’ll be interesting to see if there is any major changes but so far it appears, based on the speech he gave, that they’re looking at the many policies that are being pushed and pruning them back to the absolute essential ones that need to be implemented.

The three waters, which has become a political hot potato (rightfully or wrongfully) I could imagine them ‘sending it back for more consultation’ with an announcement of a short term funding announcement to deal with the immediate issues that require addressing in an expedited manner then I could imagine either the states quo or consolidation with central government funding for long term infrastructure needs.

When it comes to the merged public broadcaster they’ll push that out but I don’t think they really have the stomach for a merging – what I could imagine is that TVNZ remains as it is with maybe the news and current affairs handed over to RNZ and TVNZ licences it off RNZ a simulcast version of Checkpoint which will reduce TVNZ’s costs and reduce the duplication in the current affairs and new divisions between the two organisations.

Regarding the phasing out of DHBs, that’ll still go ahead because the whole idea of having elected DHBs never made any sense particularly when it comes to a national strategy on health not to mention the very low interest that the public had in regards to the whole DHB election process given that a sizeable number got in because they were at the top of the list rather than it being a conscious choice being made (there was an article from years ago that the top winners were also those at the top of the list as they were printed on the voting form). Even if National were to get in I don’t see them undoing it since they were never onboard with DHBs in the first place and ACT years ago talked about reducing the number of boards from 20 down to 6 – 4 in the North Island and 2 in the South Island.

I could see them maybe having a look at the tax code particularly around adjusting brackets given that there has been almost a decade of bracket creep with wages going up well above inflation but the tax brackets remaining static not to mention the IETC threshold for abatement hasn’t adjusted in over a decade meaning many are missing out on the IETC even though, if one were to adjust for inflation, their incomes had only increased modestly. As much as I would love to see a capital gains tax to transform the tax system from one of being ‘deep and narrow’ in favour of ‘broad and shallow’ which would ensure that the burden of taxation wouldn’t fall overwhelmingly on the shoulders of income tax payers.

Today Apple release updates for all their platforms – so far everything is going well with the new macOS 13.2, no issues with any of the software. Nothing Phone is gradually rolling out the Nothing OS 1.1.8 update which includes bug fixes along with January 2023 security update (link). There is the upcoming Android developer conference then followed by the WWDC in June (I’ll get time off from work when that happens) – many things occurring in the first half of this year so it’ll be interesting to see what is announced.

Personal · Politics

The quiet time of the year.

Around this time of the year although there is the craziness of end of the year festivities (from a variety of different religions) and celebrating the new year in the fields of politics and technology things are pretty quiet but eventually they start to pick up heading into February with Samsung’s new produce announcement then followed by Google’s Android developer conference where Android 14 is announced then in June there is the WWDC 2023 conference (maybe in person this year?). Samsung Galaxy S23 will be interesting but there are rumours regarding the Samsung Galaxy S24 that Samsung will reduce their line up to two models but keeping in mind that they’re just rumours at the moment. There is also rumours in the world of Apple that 2024 is the launch year of Apple’s own Bluetooth, Wifi and mobile modem chip so that their SoC is completely end to end controlled by Apple. It’ll be interesting to see how much of an improvement there will be once they ‘control the whole widget’ and whether Apple removes mmWave support given the complexity of the antenna is and how useless it is in the real world (outside of the US the focus is on sub 6GHz) given that a double glazed window can block a mmWave signal.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens this year in terms of New Zealand politics particularly when one considers it is an election year and inflation hasn’t been tamed yet but that being said if the voter can see that the inflation is coming down then they might give Labour another chance. With all that being said, National ins’t exactly making themselves electable when their platform is what I like to call ‘the four step tango’ which amounts to 1) Tax cuts 2) Deregulation 3) Privatisation 3) Build a road. They attempt to dress it as something else but it always ends up looking the same and the last thing New Zealand can afford, particularly with the goal of becoming carbon neutral, to under invest in rail, to privatise state owned enterprises resulting in the treasury losing dividend payments, deregulation of the economy only for the consequences of that deregulation coming back to bite consumers and the industry in the backside (see ‘leaking homes’), tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich resulting in a decline in the monetary velocity. All in all it is a bad policy prescription that has all the stench of the ‘1980’s guy’ – too bad many on the right haven’t updated their ideology to reflect reality but then again when your ideology is about justifying policies that benefit your donors then nothing should be surprising.

Getting back to Nothing, it appears that they’re slowly entering the US market with a ‘beta test’ version of their phone (link) and although the aforementioned linked article has a cynical title (probably for the sake of getting clicks) I personally wouldn’t have bothered entering the US market given the laundry list of regulations one has to comply with when compared to the many other countries they’re making the phone available in. From what it appears, they’re taking the cautious approach to growth which is good when compared to what competitors have done where by there is massive growth then followed by numerous problems appearing one after the other as the organisation isn’t prepared to deal with the increased customer base and the after market support.

Politics · Technology

The slow decline of social media platforms

Well, I have to admit, I’ve been enjoying the decline of the two big players in social media – not the people losing their jobs, I would never relish innocent bystanders finding out the day before thanksgiving that their services are no longer required, but rather the hubris of billionaires believe that they can be like Mary Poppins where at the snap of their fingers that everything falls in place.

Although both Meta and Twitter are declining I would be hesitant about putting them in the same boat given that Elon Musk is a younger version of Donald Trump who considers himself the smartest person in the room and the reason why (in this case) Twitter isn’t successful is because the company is run by morons and only he can fly in like superman with his ‘big brain’ to fix up the platform (all while ignoring that almost everyone of his ideas have been thoroughly investigated by the internal team and found those ideas either never got off the drawing board or if they did found that when they ran small scale tests the idea crashed and burned quickly).

Mark on the other hand is an example of someone who is too smart for his own good – the inability to appreciate the fact that he isn’t the ‘average person’ no matter how much he might wish to talk about his smoked meats. Running a successful business is in part knowing what skills you have but it also requires you to know what your limitations are so then when you confront something your skill set is unable to address you find someone who can. Getting back to Mark, he cannot seem to wrap his head around why people aren’t interested in his Meta version – he can’t work out why his employees aren’t interested in it even after working on it while ignoring that they’re working on it because that is what they’re paid to do not because they are interested in it. The other part of Facebook’s decline has been the ‘vibe’ of the place, people just don’t want to be associated with all the scandals around it with large numbers either going to TikTok or using alternative platforms where it is more reminiscent of the internet of old – chat rooms, dedicated ‘instances’ for particular topics etc. in other words it is the slow and gradual decentralisation of the internet after years of consolidation around a small number of internet businesses. It also doesn’t help when key people within the organisation have delusions of grandeur about ‘taking over the world’.

As for when or if these organisations may collapse – I’m not going to indulge in speculation because there are so many variables but that being said it is possible for these platforms to hang around for years before turning into something else or dying quickly as it becomes apparent that it is no longer a viable business. I remember when Internet Explorer was the dominant browser out there but then Firefox suddenly appeared and gradually its marketshare slipped then Firefox became the dominant browser then Apple embraced KHTML/KJS to create Safari then Google forked KHTML and became blink and replaced KJS with their own JavaScript engine known as V8 and here we are with Chrome dominating the browser market. Point being, there can be long stretches of time where nothing happens and suddenly things start to happen, what was seen as a permanent part of the landscape then suddenly out of nowhere disappears. Netscape Navigator/Communicator was seen as a permanent fixture on the web landscape up until it wasn’t then Internet Explorer took that place which was then quickly replaced etc.