Updates aplenty today

Today there were some big updates pushed out by Apple, macOS 10.5.2 at slightly above 3GB which includes firmware updates, a sizeable number of security updates as well (link) along with pretty much almost every part of the operating system having been touched in some way by the update. iOS almost received an update to 13.3 with a modem firmware being updated to 2.03.07 and the carrier settings updated to ‘Skinny 40.0 – unfortunately it hasn’t yielded VoLTE yet as Spark has only just started pushing it out to spark customers (Skinny is their cheaper no-frills brand – all the thrills, none of the frills).

Google is/have pushing out a feature update for their Pixel phones which will include memory compression for cached applications (along with other improvements) so hopefully that should mean a more efficient experience (link). It is also good to know that Google is going to be pushing out ‘feature drops’ on a regular basis so hopefully it should build up brand loyalty knowing that as they keep their device that software experience will keep improving over the life of the device.

There is a rumour that Google is going to release an Google branded Android TV 10 (based on Android 10) device sometime in 2020 to cater for the gap in the market sitting between a stripped down device like Chromecast and a high end ‘jack of all trades’ which the nVidia Shield Pro caters for. Google has released the ADT-3 device to developers along with the Android TV 10 code to third parties so that they can get onboard with testing and pushing it out to customers. Personally I long for the days where one could just settle for a television without all the bells and whistle, and if you wanted a smart television you just went out and bought a set top box like an Apple TV, Fire TV or some other device. There is the Xiaomi Mi Box S which is currently testing Android TV 9 (based on Android 9) – hopefully with the foundations laid in Android 9 (project treble) will yield a smoother migration from Android TV 9 to Android TV 10. I’m still umming and arring about getting an nVidia Shield Pro but I am learning towards getting it but in 2020 after coming back from Christmas holidays with the family.

Side note: Chrome 79 has been released for Android, iOS and desktop operating systems (Windows, Linux, macOS) – everything is working smoothly as always. I can now sign into YouTube using my G Suite account – there is a stand down period after creating a new account. After I could sign in I cancelled the Premium subscription on my old account (which is just used for chatting with a friend and for my domain registrations) and enabled it on my new one along with getting my television to log into my new account and migrating the subscriptions from my old account to my new one.

Christmas shopping all complete

Each year I set myself a deadline that all Christmas shopping must be done before 10th December as to avoid the crazy Christmas rush. The last part was bought tonight KMart on the way home – $50 voucher for my niece but while I was there I saw that they had some cheap and cheerful plain black t-shirts so I bought four of them at $7 each. I’ve got the rest of the stuff coming via courier so hopefully that’ll be arriving either next week or the week after so then I can get it all wrapped up for Christmas. The plan is still going ahead to order some desserts from Denheath and have them delivered to my Grandma’s place – my way of contributing something for christmas lunch.

The Pixel 4 XL phone along with all the other goodies has left the United States on 4 December so hopefully next week on Monday or Tuesday it’ll be delivered so then I can sell my iPhone XS Max 256GB and Apple TV 4K where the amount will be enough to offset the original purchase (basically I”m no better off or worse off than before purchasing it). The good side is that I’m now fully back with ASB which supports both Apple Pay and Google Pay. I’m having a look at an Amazon Fire TV Cube assuming that the built in one included with my television becomes too irritating but so far it is holding up well.

Windows 10X appears to be a project that is a lot wider in scope than was first announced with the advertisement of a job to work in the IoT area of Microsoft specifically on working with Windows 10X running on IoT devices. Interesting to see what is happening with Windows 10X and whether long term we’re going to see it offered as a download alongside the standard Windows 10 ISO.

It finally arrived…and off again

The phone has finally arrived at the YouShop warehouse, it has been repackaged with the two other items and will be shipped soon so hopefully if I am lucky it might arrive either at the end of this week (which is highly unlikely) or maybe Monday or Tuesday next week. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs given that the Qualcomm modem included with the 855 SoC is superior to what Apple use in their own phones (Intel based modem). I’ll take some photos of my unboxing and write a preliminary review as soon as I get it then around a month later I’ll do an updated review to add any additional information that cropped up over the month.

Today I took advantage of the cyber Monday (we had on Tuesday in New Zealand) and bought 12 pairs of undies and 12 pairs of socks which will be arriving in around a weeks time. I’ll be a happy lad once it arrives as I have a whole lot of old undies and socks I’ll need to throw out as it has been over 3 years since I bought new undies and socks.

One more day to go

Last day of work for the week tomorrow (Sunday) so I’m looking forward to getting it out of the way – I’m going to chill out and relax over the next couple of days and enjoy not having to worry work.

The Pixel 4 XL is still on its way so hopefully it’ll be at its destination by Monday or Tuesday next week at which point I’ll combine all three packages together as a single package to New Zealand. With YouShop they collect GST so it should mean that once sent from the United States it will go through customs pretty quickly. I think in future when I buy stuff from overseas I’ll wait till black friday, order a whole heap of stuff and then get it delivered to New Zealand.

Something I have been wanting to write about for a while and that is replying to the accusation which some people have made in the technology media that Google ‘sells’ your personal information. Now, I am no habit of defending multi-billion dollar companies but that being said I do get frustrated when people make disingenuous claims for the sake of getting those all important clicks and views.

Google doesn’t sell your personal information to third parties, what happens is this: for example, a company comes to Google and says, “I am selling widgets, I want to target women over the age of 30 who are married and have an income over $100,000” then Google say, “sure, we can do that, and here is the cost $x”. No information ever changes hands other than the ad buyer wanting target ads towards a certain demographic and Google is the mediator between the ad buyer and the person(s) seeing the ad.

Facebook on the other hand was a different situation – third parties they were able to pull down information from those who directly opted in for an application but also all those who are friends and friends of friends who hadn’t opted into sharing anything . which is why the likes of Cambridge Analytica (along with many other organisations) were able to harvest so much personal information from so few users who had opted into using their application or online service (which linked back to their Facebook profile).

The problem with spreading false information is that it doesn’t help the consumer in the end which result in many just throw their hands up believing that ‘they’re all the same’ thus giving up on the idea on security and privacy. A parallel to that would be the way in which the media portray every politician the same (example in the US where they never mention the politicians party affiliation) resulting in the voting public taking the jaded cynical view that ‘they’re all the same’ and then end up disengaging from politics completely. What consumers need is the truth, no sectionalism, but the truth and through being truthful then and only then can consumers make an informed choice. As Steve Jobs noted an interview, it is about ensuring that the user knows exactly what they’re getting themselves into and for them to make the decision whether any trade offs are worth it.

Went better than expected..

Had a one on one today where the main focus was on the future of the business which worked out good – I’ve got a great boss who is upfront and addresses things as they arise rather than bottling it up. Things are back on track with work with the next few months me being trained up to do different jobs as well as making improvements to the technical support documentation that staff can use when diagnosing issues that customers face when using our service. There are some things that I am working on but I hope that eventually it’ll become second nature to the point I don’t have to actively think – it pretty much becomes muscle memory.

My Pixel 4 XL, headphones and case will all be wrapped up and ready to be sent from the US on Monday next week so hopefully by the end of next week, beginning of next, it’ll be in my hands ready to be setup. It is interesting that I’ve moved back to my Samsung Tizen based smart tv built in software and apart from the lack of 5GHz support it is pretty damn good – a lot more responsive and easier to navigate that my Apple TV.

Things work out for the best in the end

After having the experience with Clove regarding ordering a Pixel 4 XL then finding out that they none in stock I resigned myself to the fact that I’ll probably never get a Pixel 4 XL. Well, as they say, it all works out for the best in the end and in the case of my unsuccessful attempt to buy a Pixel 4 XL it allowed me to hold off and as a result I’ve ended up saving over NZ$600 by buying it from Amazon thanks to the sale that they’ve got running.

I’ve got my domain setup with G Suite along with all my music backups being backed up to the cloud – 1TB total storage available is more than enough for not only now but also into the future as my music collection expands further. Everything is working reliably with the uploading of my music backup being an overnight process which, at the time of this post, has just finished.

When it comes to my finances – things are going well particularly now that ASB have finally realised that, “hang on, we’re a bank so why are we getting involved with our own payment platform” so the net result has been not only ASB supporting Apple Pay but also ASB also supporting Google Pay as well. Along with that ‘change of heart’ they’ve also finally modernised the app on Android so it no longer looks old and out of date look which is a nice change.

Regarding the Pixel 4 XL – the case, earphones and phone will arrive next week some time which is around the same time that the new GST rules kick in. What I will find funny is whether retailers will get the expected ‘windfall’ after claiming for years that the reason why they’re struggling is because overseas retailers have an unfair advantage because stuff bought from overseas slipped under the allowance (the allowances’ removal comes in effect on 1 December 2019) so it was artificially cheaper because no GST was charged (the rate of GST in New Zealand is 15%). I’m sorry to say this but they aren’t going to see a sizeable uptick because those who buy things from overseas fall into one of two categories 1) The product is considerably cheaper when buying it from overseas even if you were to include the cost of postage and packaging along with the GST being charged as it has come through customers and/or 2) The product simply isn’t available in New Zealand such as me having to order a Pixel 4 XL from Amazon because no New Zealand retailer sells it.

A more pragmatic Microsoft is emerging…and I like it.

I’ve started giving the Chromium based Microsoft Edge on macOS a trial run and the first thing you’ll notice is how much of an improvement it is when compared to Chrome – I don’t know what Microsoft has done but it is more responsive, it feels a lot more light weight, It appears that Microsoft are really putting in the sort of effort that I wouldn’t have expected to see if it were the Microsoft of the past. An interesting part of the move to Chromium has been the recent announcement by Microsoft that they’re also going to provide Microsoft Edge on Linux as well which makes sense given Microsoft is offering Linux cloud hosting on their platform. It appears that Microsoft have finally realised where their strength resides – not in Windows (although that is an important part) but their middleware, services and cloud – something that the new CEO Satya Nadella has really honed in over the last few years.

Satya Nadella has had his critics such as the enthusiast crowd getting up ‘n arms because of the over culling off of products Microsoft as there was no longer the business case to further investment into it. For example, the never ending amount of money being thrown at Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile that never gained traction even with the millions thrown at at some point you have to admit the the opportunity to establish a platform of ones own has gone and one has to deal with the new reality that exists. The two platforms that exist are Android and iOS – let the two side beat each other up while making money from both sides of the conflict resulting in being able to come out on top regardless of who ends up winning.

There is also rationalisation of Microsoft product and service line up – Cortana for example is being scaled back to focus exclusively on the productivity portfolio rather than trying to be the catch all ‘everything to everyone’ that it has attempted to be ever since it was launched. Cortana is in the same situation where Windows Phone/Windows Mobile was, more or less, there was an opportunity earlier on to get in early but they were too late but Cortana, unlike Windows Phone/Windows Mobile still has value within their productivity portfolio. Making Cortana the AI front to allowing people to manage large amounts of data so that people can be more productive is a whole lot more effective goal than trying to be everything to everyone. When you narrow the goal of a product then you have a greater likelihood of success – you can hone in what you want to achieve and discard those which lay outside of that scope so then what you do focus on delivered without a laundry list of compromises in an attempt to please no one (but in reality no one ends up being happy)

It appears that there is a cycle in the IT world where businesses spread themselves really thin in a hope of being the ‘one stop shop’ but then quickly realise that in the process of trying to be everything to everything one the end result is a half baked experience for all concerned. This also manifests itself in the form of various parts of the business pulling the organisation in opposite directions in many cases resulting in an incoherent unfocused product line up and customers end up losing confidence in the business over the long term because the perception is that the business doesn’t have a coherent vision. Although Elizabeth Warren (presidential candidate for the Democratic Party) has talked about breaking up big technology companies, I sometimes wonder whether the market will do the job more effectively – Facebook is losing young people in favour of WhatsApp and Instagram, both of which are Facebook companies but over the long term the move away from the primary platform might force them to change their business model. There has been a new platform launched by the founder of Wikipedia which is a paid service – it might not get everyone but for those who are happy to pay for a service if it means that their privacy isn’t being invaded I could imagine fhat for some it would be a wealth refresh from Facebook and their monetisation model.