Some random stuff

So it appears that a new cryptocurrency has been launched and it is called Libra (link) which, from my understanding of it (having done a quick browse of the website), will act as an intermediary currency for online transactions so the idea isn’t that you go, buy the currency, then spend the currency but rather it is used as vehicle on which transactions can take place. It is interesting to see that both Visa, MasterCard are in on it so it’ll be interesting to see whether it is ‘being at the table’ for the sake of being at the table or whether there is an intention long term to integrate it into their payment network, replace their existing technology with it or some other plans.

ASB Bank had resisted for so long to support other payment solutions but eventually they caved and result was that a couple of months ago they started to supporting Apple Pay. At that time though ASB was still pushing their own which, at that point, that ASB would end up being like Westpac and keep their own payment solution for Android since it’ll mean keeping a larger cut of what the bank receives for each transaction. Anyway, I woke up this morning to check my Twitter and feed – lo and behold ASB replied back to a tweet I made earlier and ASB is now offering Google Pay along side Apple Pay.

Screen Shot 2019 06 19 at 1 37 20 AM

At first I thought it was surprising but then again it goes back to what an executive at one of the major banks said about pushing their core banking system into the cloud. Part of that speech was talking about the fact that the focus of the bank is providing financial services – the technology I merely a means to an end as so far as achieving that goal with the assets being the human capital that provides the financial advice through sales channels and other means. So with that being said it goes back to what Steve Jobs said reading Apple selling products that are outside the core focus of the business – unless the point of differentiation benefits the consumer in some material way then let someone deal with it. When it comes to banking – how does it benefit the consumer having a bespoke solution vs. taking advantage of Google Pay which integrates into the larger Google ecosystem which would benefit consumers as so far as being able to take advantage of the services that Google provides.

Regarding my YouShop experience so far – pretty damn happy with the experience particularly when you combine the free shipping to the remailer and then the remailer sends it to New Zealand. I’ve got two more deliveries to the remailer and then I’ll consolidate them all together as a single shipment to be sent to New Zealand and while I’m waiting for that to happen I’ve got 3 already shipped and on their way so hopefully they’ll be here in the next couple of days. I’ll be a happy lad once those CD’s arrive since I’ve been searching for them for ages and I’ve finally got them. Gradually building up my music collection – one CD at a time.

WWDC 2019 Reflection

It’s been a week so I’m ready to write my report on WWDC 2019 – and my conclusion is that it was awesome. No gimmicky features, it was all under the hood improvements, bug fixes and optimisations particularly in the area of the use of Metal given the launch of the much promised Mac Pro. I was particularly pleased about iOS being split into iOS and iPadOS given that for too long the iPad had been treated like a jumbo sized iPhone/iPod Touch rather than being treated as a unique product requiring its own category and thus its own dedicated operating system that builds upon the foundations in iOS. For those who want to view the videos, they’re available via the WWDC 2019 schedule (link).

1) The new Mac Pro is exactly what the professionals wanted – a box with as much power crammed inside with maximum expandability. Is it a computer designed for people like me? No, and for the vast majority of people it is a massive overkill but for those who do need that power it is a great deal particularly when you look at the work done with developers to get them to take advantage of the afterburner card particularly when doing real time 8K video editing where as today it requires a number of steps to make it possible.

2) People gasping at the price of the monitor ignore the fact that a reference monitor can set you back $17,000 or more so the idea of being able to get a 6K monitor that is of reference quality but 1/3 to 1/5 the price of an actual reference monitor – it is an absolute steal. Is it an overkill for most people? Sure it is but nothing is stopping you from doing what you always do – buying a Mac Pro then jumping on Dell to order a 4K display off them.

3) All the feedback so far when it comes to iOS and macOS has been how fast and responsive it has been which is probably a byproduct of the work they’ve done with Metal along with moving more of the UI over to being drawn using Metal. Something that Microsoft has promised for years and failed to deliver (as seen by their continued use of GDI 7 years after introducing DirectWrite/Direct2D) it appears Apple is full steam ahead with a fully hardware accelerated GUI. MacRumors has a good video giving a nice top level overview of macOS 10.15:

4) iOS 13 is looking good with my favourite feature being dark mode which I’ve been holding out for. On my desktop and laptop I stay with the standard light theme but with reduced transparency but on the phone my preference is dark mode – which is particularly useful when using the phone in bed. Once again MacRumors does a quick overview of iOS 13:

5) Apple Sign In is one thing that has gotten me excited in the hope that we’ll see some of the big sites make use of it – it’ll be also interesting to see if a number of the big players, such as Google and Facebook, will offer Apple Sign In as an option for when one is setting up a new account. At the moment I keep seperate logins for each of the websites I use since I prefer it that Google and Facebook cannot traverse my the websites I use to mine more data than what is absolutely necessary for me to be able to use their services.

6) WatchOS 6.0 will be less dependent on other Apple devices which will be great for those who want to get into the ecosystem but might not have any other device. The stand alone native applications using SwiftUI will make for interesting discussion in regards to the adoption of the Swift language and whether we’ll see other platforms also provide Swift support such as Android and Windows.

7) tvOS 13 gains Xbox and Playstation controller support which will be interesting to see whether that will translate to more Apple TV 4K devices being sold now that it is a good fill in for those who want to do some casual gaming but don’t want to have to spend close to NZ$600 for a gaming console when most games could easily run on a Apple TV 4K device without too many problems (as long as they’re optimised for Metal).

Relaxing at home on a stormy night, birthday just around the corner

So I saw a special with a local carrier around two months ago that came with a free television – my existing television was getting old on the tooth so I jumped at the opportunity to get a 4K television to go hand in hand with the Apple TV. So far it is going really well – love the 4K experience and it appears that it doesn’t suffer from the problem where with my old television it would randomly turn on at night for no reason. I upgraded it to the latest firmware for my old television but it still didn’t address it so ¯\ _(ツ)_/¯ not too sure what is happening.

While all that was happening I gave the Google Suite another try through their free consumer offering and although their Podcast application is an improvement it is very much based on Google indexing meaning that either episodes are missing or they only appear well after they’re published. Although I keep coming back to iCloud each and every time I feel it is my ‘duty’ to always have a look at what the alternatives are even if it means at the end of the experience it only ends up re-enforcing what I already thought. It reminds me of what my old man said about reading books – remember to read books from people you don’t agree with so then you can see what the other side of the argument is like.

What did I learn? As much as Google appears that they’re making progress the reality is that there is a lack of co-ordination, it reminds me very much of how Microsoft conducts its development process where it appears that none of the teams actually communicate with each other. The lack of communication is self evident even at the most superficial level such as the lack of a consistent look and feel between the applications, the fact that they demand users to access their services through the web browser if one wishes to get a good experience yet funny enough with the push for developers to adopt the PWA model it appears that Google is dragging their feet.

I guess even with all the push by Google to get people to view web applications running in a browser as the ‘new normal’ I’ll never be able to move from wanting native applications interacting with cloud. As much as I tried to get used to using WordPress through the web browser I still very much prefer using MarsEdit. That being said, I am very happy so far with dBpoweramp – given that nothing had happened with XLD for the last 8 months I’ve decided to shell out money for a commercial product with support. So far it has done a pretty good job especially when it comes to ripping CD’s and ensuring that the end result is error free.

My music box set for Rachmaninov, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky CDs have been damaged pretty badly due to past mishandling so I’ve had to search high and low for the Naxos white box editions which are out of print resulting in having check Discogs and Amazon for second hand or old stock. Part of that I’ve also bought two CDs I’ve been longing for from Woody Herman and Charles Mingus. I’ve got them going to the remaining service in the United States where by I’ll get them boxed up together and then sent to New Zealand since those individual sellers don’t send directly to New Zealand.

My birthday is 1 June so I’ll be spending time with the family – getting ready for the motorcycle practical test which will then require an written exam 21 days after the test which will give me a learners motorcycle licence which will be valid for 5 years which then I’ll get a restricted then a full licence but I’ll need to upgrade beyond a 50cc since the restricted and full licence require the ability to drive at an open road speed.

Oh, and as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve gone back to my old style – too much white background made the site too sparse and simple.

Sparking joy in ones blog

So as part of my mid year refresh and tidy up of my online and offline life I have decided to spark some joy into my blog by adopting a fresh, clean and simpler design for my blog that is less dark and dingy and more inviting to read (and hopefully follow). I’m also going to make some more time for myself to update my blog rather than the sporadic posts. In the next few weeks I’m going to do a review of the Samsung S10 Plus (128GB), movement to G Suite with Chrome on macOS then I’ll even out the technology with a critique of what happened in the Australian elections and what Labour in New Zealand can learn from it all.

When it comes to the Australian election, God knows the election in Australia didn’t occur in a vacuum when you consider that the Murdoch empire still very much pulls the strings behind the scenes not to mention the various linkups between television and radio stations along side newspapers. Lets remember where it all started – under the media liberalisation that occurred under the John Howard Liberal government. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out many times – there are few differences between the two major parties but where the differences are can have a huge impact. It is easy to whinge about how Labour aren’t left wing enough but when the Overton window has shrunk to the point that what Labour promote is the furthest left that can be done given the circumstances the best one can hopeful is a gradual nudging of that Overton window to the left over the long term. By nudging rather than expecting giant leaps there is the ability to build support within the populace so even if the capitalist class try to push out reactionary tripe in the media outlet the impact is minuscule because the masses are already experiencing the benefits and won’t want it taken away (see paid maternity leave that was introduced with much wailing and gnashing of teeth by the capitalist class only to have it baked into what the masses expect thus National didn’t try to undo it when they were office for 3 terms). I’ll go into greater detail in an upcoming post.

For dinner tonight I might buy some lamb or venison because I’m feeling like I need a meal of substance rather than the piecemeal grazing or processed convenience food that never leaves one satisfied after eating it. I’ll grab some kumara and mix it with some potatoes or pumpkin along putting some garlic butter. Yummy dinner, perfect for a Sunday. I’ll be off from work in around 10 minutes so it’ll be off to Countdown and then back home for a home cooked meal.

Progressing nicely…

So I’m gradually re-ripping my CD’s again with much progress. I had one stubborn CD that I gave a good cleaning with a chemical cleaner and a microfibre cloth resulting in a completely error free ripping (along with passing the AccurateRip test for each track). That being said, I need to deal with some classical music CD’s that have scratches so I’m going to see what scratch repair tools exist out there.

Side note: I think I’m going to use OGG Vorbis rather than AAC since it’s dealing with gapless playback is a lot smoother than trying to get it to work with AAC. I’ve got lots of space in in my Google Drive but the big question is whether I move to a higher speed plan – maybe move to a gigabit package? if so what I might have a look at maybe power line networking or some sort of plan where I can install cabling for my desktop and television so that I can get the most out of the network connection. I’m going to research to see how one can feed ethernet cable under the house back to the ‘networking room’ where my switch is located.

Looking forward to a week off in June where I can chill out and unwind – watch movies, check out the WWDC announcements of which my main focus is macOS (I’ve got a Samsung 4K TV and an Android phone with G-Suite at the centre of this all) so I’m going to spend my time enjoying the age old past time of doing sweet bugger all. I’ve got YouTube all setup and the experience has been pretty good – high resolution which probably points to Tizen supporting VP9 which is the CODEC that Google uses for streaming.

Big Samsung TV? yes please!

So Samsung it’s thing of offering different bundles with different carriers – Vodafone has the Samsung Galaxy S10 and a Samsung smart watch, 2 Degrees has the Samsung Galaxy S10 and a Galaxy Tab A 10.1 tablet and Spark is offering a Samsung Galaxy S10 with a 49 inch television. That television is calling me – the latest updated version of Tizen which will also include updates in the future for Apple own streaming services along with support for YouTube and other platforms. Truth be known I am not particularly wedded to the tvOS platform other than having bought a couple of movies (that can be easily bought from the Play Store) so as long as the smart television has access to YouTube then I’m a happy lad not to mention the fact that Tizen comes bundled with a browser as well.

It is interesting that the more exposure I have gotten to Chrome and helping customers with their iPhone the more I recognise the limitations of the iPhone platform. For example, the inability to update parts of iOS in a piecemeal way which has impacted customers at work where our website isn’t compatible with iOS 9.3.5 but because Apple doesn’t provide a separate update for Safari/Webkit the end user is stuck with a device that is perfectly adequate for what they want to do but alas they’re unable to load another browser because Apple prohibits third parties from loading their own interpreters, virtual machines or run time engines which means that any browsers that do exist also dependent on Webkit meaning that installing a third party ‘browser’ (which is merely a shell sitting on top of Webkit) won’t address the underlying issue.

That being said, it is interesting how Chrome keeps coming back as the gateway into the Google ecosystem given that I grow annoyed by the lack of extensions for Safari that can hold a candle to the likes of uBlock Origin or Reddit Enhancement Suite. Even basic things such as if I have Ad Guard installed on Safari it either results in websites failing to load properly and even when I whitelist certain websites such as YouTube I find that the videos keep pausing as if there was a spike in CPU usage resulting in playback being interrupted. Even if that weren’t occurring then there is the 50K rules limit which can easily be hit given that if you install uBlock Origin and stick with the standard default filters then it is pretty easy to hit 150K. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that Ad Guard has to do some wizardry in the background so that the filters can be translated into content blocking rules and in that process the filters aren’t as accurate as when is running uBlock Origin on Chrome.

Anyway, back on track again, I’m going to head into Spark tomorrow before work (assuming I get up with enough time to spare before work) to find out how long the special is going for and then sleeping on it so then I don’t make a rash decision that I might later regret. All that being said, I’ll setup a G-Suite account, move my email over there, setup Google Pay and I’m a happy lad. Oh, and on a side note, I had a look at Nokia 9 but given the negative reviews not to mention the reputation for instability that ‘code fresh from Google has’ in regards to Android, maybe trailing behind Google in terms of software releases aren’t such a bad idea after all especially when you consider that Android 9 on Samsung phones is pretty damn mature with new releases being small refinements rather than major changes.

As for my carrier, Skinny is a value sub-brand to Spark, but the gap between Spark and Skinny have narrowed so much recently – when it comes to broadband it used to be an ‘all or nothing’ where you were forced into Netflix and Lightbox but now they’ve launched the unplanned plan whose price scales up and down based on usage – for a single user like me I have a feeling that it’ll either work out cheaper or pretty much the same. On the mobile front – if I choose to upgrade I’ll trade in my existing one thus leaving on a small amount left over to be paid (probably around $500 or so).

Anyway, off to bed I go so I’m all bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow for work.

Google I/O ’19: Done on the device

Google has uploaded its keynote to YouTube as it always does:

What I found interesting is that from start to finish there has been three major themes:

1) Refinement

2) Security

3) Privacy

It appears that with the focus Apple has placed on privacy and the all by Tim Cook for there to be regulation, Facebook with it’s F8 conference Mark Zuckerberg talked about privacy (IMHO I’ll see it when I believe it) and each of the speakers at the keynote talked about it. For example, when it came to machine learning there is still the use of the cloud to create models to improve the user experience on the device but the majority of the processing is now taking place on the device. When it came to work regarding voice to text translation it is now done on the device itself, when there was talk about the use of intelligent organisation of emails etc. it is kept on the device.

There is also a greater focus on refinement – getting the fundamentals nailed down such as faster updates for not only bug fixes but also security fixes as well. The big push is Google will ring fence part of Android Q where by the updates will come directly from Google themselves. It is interesting that Samsung is once again on the onside when it comes to the Android Q beta where as Huawei along with Nokia plus others are working with Google to ensure that it arrives on their product range in a timely manner.

As a side note: For me the issue of updates has less to do with wanting to gt the latest and greatest features but rather that the OEM is actively pushing out security updates and fixes. I can live with not getting Android straight away especially when you hear the horror stories of Pixel users getting Android straight out of the gate only to find there are things that are buggy, broken or what have you. If the price to pay for stability is getting Android upgrades 6 months after the official release but instead OEM’s like Samsung really focused on pushing ou regular security and bug fixes on schedule every month then I’d sooner have that.

With that all being said, there is one major benefit that Android has over iOS and the is the modular nature of it meaning that even if you are running an older version of Android you can still upgrade your version of Chrome up to the latest version. At work our website doesn’t work with iOS 9.3.5 which wouldn’t be such an issue if it were possible to upgrade the browser but because the browser is embedded in the operating system and to upgrade the browser you have to upgrade the whole OS but Apple no longer supports said hardware then users are stuck in a situation of perfectly good hardware finding themselves unable to navigate many websites. With Android you can upgrade to the latest version of Chrome and keep on rocking.