I tend to follow things closely but in the case of the Epic vs. Apple law suit (link) I haven’t had much of an interest but I thought it was interesting how Epic has bought up Apple making it exclusive to the iOS platform – I thought I might as well throw my 5 cents worth into it given that almost everyone else seems to have done the same thing. I’m assuming that they’re making the same argument that the DOJ made against Microsoft using its operating system monopoly as leverage to enable them to monopolise the browser space which in turn would enable Microsoft to advance proprietary technologies on the internet at the expense of interoperability and platform diversity.

The argument that Epic is trying to demonstrate (I’m assuming that they’re focusing solely on the United States market) that Apple is trying to leverage its dominance in the mobile space to expand into the messaging space which they would argue that 1) Enable Apple to retain customers because how leaving the platform means giving up iMessages (which would be a big inconvenience) and 2) Win over new customers by iMessage because friends and family use it so one obviously doesn’t want to be the ‘odd man out’ when it comes to being the one that doesn’t use iMessage.

Through that example the attempt by Epic is to show a pattern of behaviour which underpins their argument regarding Apple’s monopoly when it comes to software distribution on the iOS platform – the Apple AppStore is monopoly on that platform and because software isn’t portable (cross grade) between Android and iOS it creates additional friction if a customer wishes to move from an iOS device (as with the case of iMessage) which creates a capture audience and because of that captured audience combined with Apple’s AppStore monopoly, Apple has a lot more leverage over users when compared to a scenario of allowing a competing store or side loading of applications on the platform (maybe employing the notarisation which is employed on macOS. So once the user has sufficient investment they’re locked into the system (they can leave but not without significant a cost of repurchasing all their application again via the Google Play Store) and any avenue for software companies to contact a customer has to be through the store – you cannot even mention something along the lines of, “you’ll need to have an account and subscriptions can be bought through the website” is considered a big no no.

There is a problem with the argument that Epic has put forward which is the fact that Apple outside of the United States the global marketshare that iOS has is only 13% when compared to 87% being android. All Apple has to do is point to the fact that outside of the United States iMessage is minor player when compared to WeChat, WhatsApp and other messaging platforms – in fact making it exclusive to iOS has been more of a hindrance to iMessage growth and for many buying an iOS device iMessage is probably a non-factor when purchasing one since they’ll probably download one of the other messengers anyway. Maybe the iMessage platform might be a larger factor inside of the United States but outside of the United States I don’t hear people even talk about iMessage – it’s always “do you have Facebook messenger” or “do you have WhatsApp”, which is where Epic’s theory falls down.

With all that being said, there are technical benefits to the App Store being the sole distributor but if Apple wishes to maintain it then at the very least they should concede when it comes to pricing – the comparison between physical products doesn’t make sense. The reason why it doesn’t make sense is because Apple isn’t keeping physical copies where they’ve got inventory of the product for the display shelf and thus have to generate sufficient return to not only cover the direct costs but also the opportunity cost of the money being tied up. Governments in the past have recognised that sometimes a monopoly is required but with that comes regulation – power generators and lines companies are two which are regulated since it wouldn’t make sense to have competing lines companies and the cost of creating new power generators is costly which block new entrants so it makes sense to keep them in their current state but regulate them.

The end result maybe that the App Store maintains the monopoly but third parties who want to provide in app purchases can use their own payment provider, another option could be to cap at 10% which would still being in enough revenue to cover the costs while maintaining control over the payment process. The question is whether this is all show, whether Apple will make some sort of move that Epic is happy with or will politicians push forward a solution that ultimately ends up making no one happy – this an opportunity for Epic to consider, if Apple does make changes to their policies whether they’re better off taking the deal and dropping the case or whether Epic is willing to take a chance and possibly end up with a solution that makes neither side happy.

Apple today released today:

  • macOS 11.3
  • iOS 14.5
  • iPadOS 14.5
  • tvOS 14.5
  • watchOS 7.4
  • homeOS 14.5

And because it was such a big update I decided to do a clean install on all my devices – clear off the Google cruft I had built up while I was giving Chrome one of the many second chances I tend to give Chrome in the mistaken belief that “yes, this time Google has addressed the laundry list of….nope, same problems as before”. 

The ‘delta update’ for macOS 11.3 was 5.97GB so the download size wasn’t that far off from a full install – same can be said for the download size for iOS delta update too (unfortunately on tvOS it doesn’t give the download size when you do a reset/update but I’d hazard that it would have been similarly large in size). I decided to do a full clean install which meant formatting my SSD and reinstalling it – that also updated the System Firmware version to 429.100.7.0.0 – the system firmware also includes microcode updates and given that macOS 11.2 was released a week before the latest microcode update from Intel I wouldn’t be surprised if the firmware update bundled with macOS 11.3 was the microcode dated 09/02/2021. On the iPhone the modem firmware has been updated – that’s always a good sign, improvements to the firmware, greater optimisations etc. 

Once fully installed the first thing I noticed is how smooth everything felt – the lag from opening my iPhone to put my pin in no longer occurs. Before I would wake it up and start typing only to find that 3 numbers had actually been pressed but now the phone keypad actually works responsively. On macOS 11.3 – same situation, once fully booted everything was more snappy, I installed all my usual apps such as Twitter, AdGuard for Safari, MarsEdit etc. everything was so much more smoother, applications load faster etc.

I opened up Safari and checked the version number, Safari 14.1, and went to run the HTML5test website to see what had changed – Safari had jumped from 500 to 510 points which gave me hope that maybe I could use the web based Skype rather than having to install the Skype application. I went to the Skype website and logged myself – I couldn’t believe my luck, I was able to log in and everything started to work! I don’t know what Apple and/or Microsoft did but I can now chat with my friend overseas without having to having the bloatful electron based Skype application installed. I couldn’t believe me luck when it all worked – what ever they did it certainly worked – I just hope that they need up the development and keep improving those html5test results because Safari is so much more efficient than Chrome. I hope that as Webkit improves that it is possible to use the electron kit and have it running on top of webkit instead of using Chromium which would make a huge improvement to not only macOS but also iOS and iPadOS user experience.

The more I read about the enhancements that have come as part of ARMv9 the more my choice has been validated to hold off until ARMv9 based Apple Silicon is released. That being said, I always like to keep my feet in both camps which is why I’m keeping an eye on Windows 10X and Windows 10 with the GUI overhaul that has been reported online as a project codenamed Sun Valley.. Although I’ve been with Apple since back in 2002/2003 when I bought my first Mac, an eMac 1Ghz, I always like to keep my options open particularly with the superb work that AMD is doing not only when it comes to the RDNA2 GPU architecture but also their Zen 3 CPU architecture. I think the interesting part is whether Microsoft pushes to start using AMD CPUs/GPUs in more products – future Surface Studio update? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

In the next month or so there are three conferences that are occurring online, Google’s I/O 21, Microsoft’s Build and then at the beginning of June there is the WWDC 21. Android 12 appears to be addressing concerns from users and privacy advocates regarding the ability to have fine grain control over what applications have access to – for me I’m looking forward to Samsung releasing their Galaxy refresh next year that’ll be using an AMD GPU rather than the Mali GPU that one typically finds in a ARM based SoC. I’d love to see how Android 12 will perform When it comes to Microsoft, it’ll be interesting to see whether they announce futher investments into ARM based Windows particularly about bringing their range of applications natively to Windows for ARM – Office 365 being the most high profile example of a flag ship product from Microsoft not running natively on ARM. When it comes to WWDC – my focus will be around Webkit and whether they’re going to complete Webextensions API rather than living it in the half completed state it was launched in back in 2020.

I went back to Safari however I still find that even the best content blocker (Ad Guard 1.9.13) still allows ads to come through where as uBlock Origin with Chrome is 100% perfect on every instance I’ve used it not to mention the fact that if you need to temporarily allow ads (for example, you click on a link on a news website and it has a web address as a go between then it is possible to enable temporarily just for that site instead of having to pause the whole content blocking) it is a lot easier. I’m going to keep using Chrome but it’ll be interesting to see whether the macOS 11.3 update includes improvements to Safari or whether we’ll see Apple drag its feet when it comes to supporting standards and generally lacking the will to address the numerous short comings that users have outlined on the numerous threads over on the Apple subreddit.

There is currently an ongoing discussion in New Zealand (like in most other countries) regarding New Zealand walking the tightrope between maintaining a relationship with China while also maintaining a close relationship with traditional allies (link). For over 35 years the United States has been giving New Zealand the cold shoulder (since declaring itself ‘nuclear free’ back in the 1980s) and only now has the United States suddenly started to become ‘concerned’ about New Zealand’s relationship with China. With all due respects to those feigning concern. a relationship takes time, effort and money – most importantly when there is a project such as the TPP you don’t rock up, make a series of demands which screw over patients by jacking up prices on pharmaceuticals only to then go back to their country to then talk about how the TPP was a ‘bad deal’ and how they were ‘bullied into it by foreigners’ then pulling out at the last moment after make demands and all the parties accommodating those demands.

It also doesn’t help when a large portion of the US population is largely ignorance of the impact that voting for a moron (Donald Trump, George W Bush, Ronald Reagan being the three most recent examples) as the United States president has on the rest of the world – when the average American gets a bee up their backside and votes in a moron then it is we (the rest of the world) who have to deal with the fall out of it. While they get to live in their nameless town in the middle of Idaho the rest of humanity have to deal with the fall out of climate change not being addressed, trade wars that lead to real wars, where trade and foreign affairs are intertwined resulting in the lack of the US being in TPP has resulted in China’s ability to throw their weight around being left unchecked because the US has exited from the world stage.

Anyway, back to more enjoyable, on Wednesday New Zealand time will be when Apple will have their spring product release. For me, I have no expectations beyond the usual refresh because the rumours have been all over the place and in some cases not making any sense what so ever such as the recent Geekbench benchmark that was uploaded – need one be reminded that benchmarks can be faked. Personally I think there will be a product refresh for the MacBook Pro, maybe an updated iMac, refreshed iOS devices and that being about it. For me, with the release of ARMv9 by ARM, I’ll wait fo Apple to release their ARMv9 products before upgrading my setup. The interesting part will be the SVE2 extensions (successor to Neon) that come standard with ARMv9 and when Chrome is optimised to take advantage of it when running on Apple Silicon.

Well, we’ve found out that Apple is having their ‘Spring Loaded’ event for 20th April with lots of rumours swirling around about what that might entail in terms of new products and/or services. The big rumour along with the usual refreshes is the launch of a new slew of ARM based Mac’s although there are rumours of maybe an iMac refresh, if it is going to happen it’ll probably be the 21inch version but then again they might also wait until October when they usually announce an iMac refresh as they’ve done in the past. I think the most interesting part, at least from my point of view, is how Apple will address the demands regarding higher end laptops and whether they’ll keep with their own GPU design and scale it up or whether they’ll focus on their GPU on being super efficient and utilise AMD for the high end in much the same way that Samsung has been working with AMD on a GPU for their SoC which will be available in next years Galaxy devices.

I gave Chrome a try to see what it is like and although I did enjoy some of the benefits such as a great selection of extension it does come at a price in terms of memory and other source usage. On a good side, during the time Ad Guard extension for Safari related a new version, 1.9.13 which had a major update to its electron backend. What I am hoping is that in the next few months with the next version they’ll upgrade to the latest Electron build which has support for Apple Silicon which will mean that it will be made available natively on the new ARM based Macs. What I hope is that with the release of 11.3 of macOS that will also include an upgrade of Safari with all the improvements that they’ve put into their technology preview – they’ve made some big improvements to Safari in the technology preview and I wish that Apple were more willing to push out these enhancements to users because having used both I think most users would benefit from the improvements particularly in the area of performance and efficiency.

A while back I talked about how it would be great if Apple released a replacement for the Apple TV which built on the idea of Home Pod by including a HDMI output so it becomes a set top box and speaker all in one – a great set top box experienced matched up with a great great surround sound like one is a at a theatre (particularly if you get more than just the one speaker). It appears that Apple maybe looking at doing what I theorised (link) – it does make sense though given it is a natural evolution/convergence of devices in much the same way that JBL launched a sound bar and Android TV all in one. For me, I’ve got a Chromecast with Android TV – it is the best investment I made particularly given that my primary video service is the Apple TV and I find it works a whole lot better on that than on the Google Chromecast with Android TV because of its integration with the Apple ecosystem that is already heavily invested in.

The rumours regarding Google developing a custom ARM SoC with Samsung is growing louder with a recent rumour that this year the Google Pixel will be using this new SoC (link). If the rumours are true then it appears that it’ll lack the X1 core (as part of the SoC) that exists in the flag ship devices put out there by Samsung, OnePlus, Xiaomi etc. but even without the X1 core the SoC is going to be more than fast enough for the vast majority of people and if paired with an AMD GPU then it’ll have a good point of differentiation (particularly for games that are written to take advantage of Vulkan). I think at this point it is going to become increasingly more difficult to push expensive flagship when for the vast, vast, vast majority of people the mid range devices that are come out (particularly when you consider the long term software support that both Apple and Samsung are providing) that the gap between the mid and flag ship have to eventually close. In the case of Samsung they dropped their price on average of US$150.

Interesting thing happened last week, my fibre connection went offline for around 5-10 minutes then came back online – Chorus pushing out a firmware update? Maybe, but everything so far has come back online so I’m a happy lad. There hasn’t been any Ubiquiti updates this week for me UDM or HD AP AC but I think they’re getting close to it – I’m happy that they’re taking their time to ensure that they get it right or at least launch without any glaringly obvious bugs.

I had a wonderful dinner from my local Turkish restaurant – grill chicken, fresh salads, wonderfully puffy rice etc. then to top it up all off a couple of pieces of baklava. This week I grabbed some fish ‘n chips from the local take-away store – one of the few fish ‘n chip stores that really do a good job where large numbers these days try to cut corners and it really shows in the final product.

Something interesting that flew below the radar was the announcement as part of Biden’s tax policy was the idea of a global 21% minimum tax (link) and when I heard it I was wondering how it work but it turns out that it’ll work exactly the way I expected. Lets assume that an US based company makes tractors, on paper the company has an office in a country that charges 15% tax, so what will happen is that the office in the country that pays 15% will ‘sell’ their US based office a tractor at the retail price and then sell it at the same price it was bought in at resulting in no profit being made by the US office which reduces the tax but because the tax is calculated on the world wide profits then things start to get interesting.

It’ll be interesting to see the 21% minimum global tax interacts with the 28% US business tax – will at some point the 21% become the minimum effective tax rate? Sounds like a good start if it did. Janet Yellen talked about having a minimum global tax rate – imaging having a minimum effective tax rate of 21% and tariffs on countries that don’t abide to that minimum effective tax rate. If we really want to fix up the situation of income inequality then we really need to deal with those at the top avoiding paying their fair share – paying taxes in proportion to the benefits that they get from the society they exploit.

Good Friday was a nice day off but I’m excited that I’ve got my annual leave sorted out which will be from 2 June to 16 June – covering the WWDC21 which has been rumoured to be a big year and then add to that the announcement of ARMv9, it will be interesting to see what is announced. I don’t expect any sort of hardware announcement but I could imagine some big software announcements particularly around the macOS underpinnings – closing off the kernel to third party extensions as Apple finish up providing the last remaining username based API’s that developers have been eating for so then they can move their driver out of kernel space to user space.

One more day to go – iOS received an update for a webkit bug but what was interesting is the fact that macOS didn’t receive an update given that both macOS and iOS share the webkit framework yet only iOS received the update – is there something in particular about the iOS implementation that exposed the vulnerability? It’ll be interesting to see the rationale for difference as more information is related in the coming months about the nature of the attack.

It appears that the much rumoured Apple event in March never took place – but as noted in previous posts I always mention it is a rumour vs some websites that resort to clickbait headlines and declaring rumours to be a statement of fact when in reality there is a lot of noise but very little signal. There is rumoured to being on in April but only time will tell whether it results in something. For me, I’m holding off for what will happen with the WWDC in June – whether they’ll do the virtual conference like last year because of the pandemic or whether there is a sufficient number of people immunised that an ‘in person’ conference is doable but given how things are in a state of flux I have a feeling that they’ll go for a virtual conference since it worked pretty well last year.

It appears there are rumours about the next updated Mac will be the 21inch version but that leaves a lot of questions to ask when it comes to the bigger laptops and desktops – are we going to see the relationship between Apple and AMD continue? Keeping in mind that although Apple does prefer controlling the whole widget, we also have to keep in mind that AMD is open (and does) provide full hardware specifications, source code etc. that one would need which would give Apple a decent degree of control – which is why Sony and Microsoft decided to go with AMD for their game consoles. Both Sony and Microsoft obtain a degree of control over the final product that has all the benefits of an in-house ground up product but without the risk – the cost of one vendor when compared to another vendor, when looking at it from a per-unit point of view, is very small so the argument that AMD got their by price alone ignores all the other benefits Sony and Microsoft gain. I could see Apple maybe doing likewise where GPU can be focused on lower power and super efficiency while using AMD for 16” MacBook Pro, iMac 27” and the Mac Pro.

It’s interesting to see the Xbox is getting the Chromium version of Edge then combine that with maybe in the future a ‘desktop experience’ based on the work being done with Windows 10X and improved mouse/keyboard support, then it appears that long term the Xbox will not only be a great console but potentially a replacement for those who also want the ability to using it as a desktop – imagine a student at university being able to write up an essay then switch over to ‘gaming mode’ when they wish to play a game. It will be interesting to see how Xbox developers along side the development of Windows 10X given its recent pushing back of its release to close to the end of this year with 2022 being aimed for win32 application support which I speculate to being accomplished through a virtual machine with all the focus on encouraging developers to embrace the ‘new’ Windows 10X frameworks while still providing backwards compatibility. It’ll be interesting to see whether long term we see Microsoft replace the current win32 UI on Microsoft Edge with one based on WinUI along with moving away from being dependent on win32 frameworks not supported in Windows 10X.

Another week comes to an end and looking forward for the coming week – looking forward to Ubiquiti releasing a new firmware for my HD AC access point which comes with a new firmware, driver etc. which apparently will improve throughput, add WPA3 capabilities etc. so I’m looking forward to that being released. I’ve decided through that I’m going to keep my old Skinny number and focus on getting my life sorted out and once that is done I’ll move back to Skinny Mobile since it offers the best deal (I’m sticking with Skinny Broadband for the exact reason along with the fact that I don’t have to mess around with VLAN tagging and all the fun that comes with that territory).

I’ve gone back to using MarsEdit – the good side is that it is Apple Silicon native along with all the other applications I have. I was reading an article linked on Reddit to Apple Insider where the author was complaining about how developers aren’t porting their application fast enough – all while ignoring what the migration from PowerPC to x86 was a lot more rocky – I remember how long it took for Microsoft to release a x86 native installer even though the bundled applications were universal binaries, then there were many big name applications that didn’t come for at least 1 1/2 to 2 years after the launch – the fact that we’re getting beta releases even at this stage is a damn site better than what it was back with the last transition..

Things for National keep going from bad to worse and once again they flirt with the hard right, the electorate will reject them and then eventually a moderate person like a John Key will emerge out of the wilderness. With all that being said, lets remember that National only has at their disposal what I like to call ‘the four step tango’ which consists of 1) Tax cut 2) Deregulation 3) Privatisation 4) Build a road – look back at least 50 years and you’ll find that theory is proven time and time again. Lets hope that Labour finally grows some stones and make the necessary investments instead of being a watered down National Party with a leader that loves talking about how much their administration cares.

Google released Chrome 89 recently with much promise made about improved memory and system resource efficiency. It also has appeared that things have calmed down regarding manifest v3 regarding extensions – personally I would like to see Google maintain manifest v2 for those who wish to side load extensions (maybe adopt a ‘notarisation’ like how Apple does with applications sold outside of the App Store for Mac) and have the manifest v3 a requirement for those extensions that developers wish to distribute through the Chrome extensions store. The reasoning behind the change is that apparently it is more secure and more efficient – to be blunt I’ve never had performance issues and to be quite frank the security issues aren’t helped when people just install any old random extension without first finding out who made it. Ultimately I think most content blockers are going to adopt the new manifest standard but it does rub me the wrong way that power users are hamstrung by a company insisting on protecting users from themselves.

Anyway, back to Chrome – so far it has been running pretty reliably and the promises of greater efficiency have definitely lived up to the promise as I’ve checked the system monitor and even with 4K video playback th utilisation is in the low single digits. I tend to swap between Safari and Chrome – Safari being the super efficient but extensions are very much limited when compared to the depth and breadth available on Chrome. With Chrome, the way in which Google is positioning the browser I think it would be fairer to view it as a runtime engine when you consider the comprehensive nature of Google’s implementation of HTML5 technologies (those technologies that have become commonly associated the modern web) when compared to Apple that restricts (for a variety of reasons) what technologies are implemented in Safari (aka, if you can’t do it in a browser then you’re not using the right tool for the job – you should be writing a native application).

Apple has released another round of updates – personally I would like to see Apple take as long as they need to ensure that when it is released that as many bug fixes are included particularly around Safari and the regressions that I’ve observed since moving up to Big Sur. AdGuard Safari Extension is developing quickly although the next version isn’t going to be Apple Silicon compliant since it will require them upgrading the version of Electron that underpins their app but an Apple Silicon version has only just become available (too far along in the development cycle to upgrade Electron).

Samsung has scheduled for 18 March a product launch and a week after that there is the rumour of an Apple event where there will be Apple Silicon based Macs being launched along with a refresh of the iPad range and a few other bits and pieces. While the fabrication factories are struggling to keep up with demand, Apple was smart enough to reserve a large amount of capacity with TSMC. When it comes to Samsung, the interesting part will next year with the announcement of the Exynos SoC that’ll include the AMD GPU to replace the current Mali GPU from ARM – die shrink and performance improvement along with the protracted cutting off of Huawei from the Google Play Store ecosystem will allow Samsung to gain back Android market share. It’ll be interesting to see where the Google Pixel will be now that the 5G modem is now integrated into the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 where as on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 has the 5G modem as a separate chip so hopefully we’ll see a Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 XL with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888.