Another update avalanche

After many weeks of testing Apple released updates for iOS, tvOS, macOS and watchOS. They were all pretty big updates; iOS was north of 331MB, macOS was sitting at around 2.49GB and tvOS was somewhere close to what iOS was (I could only guess based on the time given that on tvOS it doesn’t mention how big the download is going to be). Lots of security updates have been addressed and on my iPhone XS Max the modem firmware has been updated from 1.01.30 to 1.02.18 – contrary to the complaints on many outlets, the signal reliability for wifi and mobile have been outstanding. I don’t want to sound snarky but almost every complaint about Apple’s new iPhone and reception have been from the United States – maybe the anger should be vented at carriers not building a decent network instead of expecting phone producers to spend time and resources on trying to address what appears to be a uniquely American problem.

Part of the updates has been the release of an update for the Unifi Security Gateway (USG) which updated it from 4.4.29 to 4.4.34 along with a stable candidate that was put out for the 8 port Unifi Switch and Unifi AP AC HD but I’ve refrained from installing those until it is officially pushed to the Unifi update repository which gives the official Unifi stamp of approval as so far as it being a stable release.

Oh, and I finally caved and just paid for the shipping of those things I bought that were sitting in the YouShop holding area – get them back to New Zealand before the the mail service is really under stress not to mention the fact that it’ll be coming from USA so I don’t want the shipment being delay due to snow or some unforeseen weather related event. I’ve still got some more CD’s sitting on my Amazon wish list but I’ll work through that over Christmas and the new year as my bookshelf fills up with more CDs. I am looking forward to the trip up to Auckland – got my sister taking up all the presents and food/drink for Christmas so I won’t have to carry much on the train. Hopefully tomorrow will be as uneventful as today was.

Enjoying the weekend..getting healthy

The week before last week I said to myself that I would go for a walk at least 4 times and I did it which averaged around 8km each day (32km over all) where as this week I’m aiming to go for a walk every night – even if it just a small 4km walk my focus is to get into a good exercise routine so then it becomes second nature. There are the health benefits of going for some regularly exercise but it also a great way to empty ones mind after a long day at work. The last week I ended up going for a walk at least 5 days a week so this week, barring bad weather I’m aiming for a walk each night – I’ve done a measure where the ‘short walk’ is 5km where as the ‘long walk’ is 9km, so hopefully if I can do 3 days of short walks and 4 days of long walks but I’ll see how I feel but the main goal is to at least get moving 7 days a week. I think the whole ‘get moving’ is important because I work in a job where I sit down all day and because that lack of physical it is very easy to gain wake rather quickly without noticing especially during the Christmas time as nibbles are being handed around – lord knows I know that first hand how quickly weight can creep up.

Oh and the other part of this ‘getting back on track’ is having a good night sleep – that is another thing that so many dieticians point to – have a good night sleep because when you’re tired and haven’t had enough rest then you feel hungry resulting in overeating etc.so I’ve been ensuring that I get a good night sleep. 

In the mean time I’ve been looking at all the alternative social networking platforms and I’ve become particularly concerned with privacy and how my personal data is treated particularly when large chunks of it is residing in meta corporations like Twitter, Google, Apple etc. and whether in the long term it is healthy to have such a concentration of personal information in the hands of organisations whose primary reason for existence is profit maximisation for shareholders. I am sceptical though that there will be meaningful regulation given how captured the political process is in the United States and although the European Union can act (and has done so) for a country like New Zealand, unless we enter into some sort of regulatory union with the European Union so that we can piggy back on their regulations along with enforcement mechanisms then Facebook for example will continue ignoring their obligations under New Zealand’s privacy act as they’ve done so already (link). Although I am off Facebook I am looking at getting off WhatsApp and Microsoft’s own platform as well 

One more day to go

It’s spitting outside and I decided to have a rest – Hoki three seed crumbed fish with tzatziki on the side and damn was it nice and tasty. If I had more time I would have loved to have some cherry tomatoes fried with olive oil and Himalayan pink salt, maybe next time I’ll try that. Hopefully with summer coming around the corner that the salads will be become more frequent at home but at in the mean time I’m happy with it. Side note though, it is funny that over the last few months I’ve really gone off chicken for some reason – maybe I’ve been having it too often in the past but these days my diet is mainly revolving around either eating vegetarian or as close to vegan as I can get with the occasional bit of fish.

I’ve just been tweaking my router settings where I turned off all the Conntrack Modules:

Screenshot 2018 11 18 at 2 04 48 AM

Funny enough as soon as I disabled each of them that the issues with streaming videos from openload and a few other services have disappeared and now everything is working great not to mention the improvement in latency. Oh well, it works – and that is the main thing but I’m surprised I hadn’t come across it earlier. Looking forward to finishing work for the week tomorrow so then I can have a couple of days off from work to chill out a home.

Random ideas about Apple: Present and future

Having a bit of a brain fart

“The product lineup was too complicated and the company was bleeding cash. A friend of the family asked me which Apple computer she should buy. She couldn’t figure out the differences among them and I couldn’t give her clear guidance, either. I was appalled that there was no Apple consumer computer priced under $2,000. “- Steve Jobs (1998)

I saw a post on a forum regarding how the product line at Apple has moved beyond the nice simple straight forward 4 square product matrix into what exists today. I’ve got a few opinions I’d like to share – as I usually do on any given matter. When it comes to their portables, the MacBook Air is what the old MacBook used to be (the entry level consumer device), MacBook is what the MacBook Air was and the MacBook Pro is pretty much what it has always been. What they really need to do is fix up the naming convention – entry level consumer, professional and ultrabook. Regarding the MacBook Pro – I have problem with the Touch Bar but it certainly isn’t something that compelled me to purchase the MacBook Pro but it certainly didn’t take away from it. I really have to ask – are there any MacBook Pro users who consider it a feature they wouldn’t do without if suddenly they woke up the next morning and the conventional function keys were there instead?

I’d say though the biggest confusion is their desktop offering – no clear message on what is happening with the Mac Pro. All the professionals I talk to just wanted a traditional Mac Pro cheese-grater design with updated specifications and yet Apple insisted on the rubbish tin design – money wasted on a design that no one wanted or needed. The iMac Pro is a great idea but where is the demand for such devices? a product in search of being a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist? The Mac mini is a great idea but are they going to offer significant discounts to organisations who want to order them in the thousands? why is there an aversion with pushing volumes of Mac mini’s into organisations that want large fleets of desktops that aren’t hobbled with the train wreck that is Windows 10. With all the missteps that Microsoft is making with their own operating system you’d think that this should be a golden age for Apple to come in an offer an alternative – a sane stable operating system and quality hardware without the drama of Windows 10.

When it comes to their cloud offering, there is a niche they could fit – for the small to medium business by getting their act together when it comes to offering the privacy and security niche that Google is unwilling to cater to. I don’t ever seeing Apple competing with the likes of Microsoft or even Google but there is a lot of potential selling fleets of Mac minis to small businesses and providing custom domain hosting by teaming up with WordPress for website hosting. Develop some sort of middle ground turn key solution to grow the services division outside of the consumer space without having to dip ones toe into the controversial areas of original content and so on.

I’d also love to see Apple expand their software portfolio – to serve as a counterbalance to the near monopoly status that Adobe has in the creative market. It isn’t about expanding for the sake of ‘the market’ but because Apple shouldn’t allow its future to be at the mercy of whether Adobe actually get their act together and properly support existing technologies, which they’re failing at, and new technologies such as Metal and Metal performance shaders, Adobe hasn’t even bothered talking about supporting in the near term. When you’re selling hardware and the way in which you show off your hardware is the software and the operating system then being dependent on a vendor who isn’t 100% committed to your platform (as seen via their actions and published books by ex-Adobe engineers regarding how macOS is an after thought in many cases – but then again their attention to Windows has been pretty shoddy as well).

With that being said, I’m pretty happy with how things are going – people are keeping their computers and phones longer so the turn over in terms of upgrades has slowed down so Apple is adapting to that new reality with its focus on building up niches with the recent refresh of Mac mini which is a popular hardware for a server along with the refresh of the MacBook Air. As much as the noise makers on the Apple subreddit and Macrumors try to make out as though their opinion is some how the majority, the cold hard reality is that all their complaints fall on deaf ears – customers are still buying Mac’s, they’ve still got the highest satisfaction rate and as for the phone if you choose to live in the middle of no where resulting in next to no coverage but apparently that is Apple’s fault and Intel’s fault too (regarding their cellular modem that Apple use) yet the average person rants and raves about how great it all is. Maybe, just maybe, the noisiest wheel doesn’t represent the vast majority of customers.

iPhone XS Max Review (aka iPhone X to iPhone Xs Max with a slight detour on the journey (Part 3))

So keep this in mind when one thinks of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus when used in a setup that is primarily orientated to using macOS and tvOS – the integration is woeful, the Samsung bloat – yes they have reduce but Samsung still hasn’t cottoned onto the fact that Samsung cloud is a solution in search of a problem and their own re-invention of the wheel when it comes to critical applications such as Phone, Messages, Contacts and Calendaring isn’t something anyone is demanding. Then there is the lack of integration between Google, maOS and Android in the form of client side applications to make management and synchronisation of music a giant chore. Then there is the issue of Chrome and G-Suite – no matter how much of a second chance I gave it, it always felt out of place and none of the G-Suite services integrated well with macOS especially when it came to the email service with its butchering of IMAP standards when it comes to the use mapping creating directories to the use of labels that Gmail is based upon.

With all that in the background I returned the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and bought an iPhone XS Max 256GB (I was tempted by the 512GB version but it would be a major over kill for what I needed it for) along with an Otterbox flip case (link) which I picked up from Noel Leeming. I prefer going with the flip case because I use it to replace my wallet so then I only have one thing that I need to carry around which has my phone as well as my EFTPOS cards, ID for work along with my drivers licence (it is a requirement in New Zealand that when you drive that you have your licence on you).

Side note: I’m not going to focus on every feature but rather talking about the things that other reviewers haven’t talked about regarding the iPhone XS Max.

The first time you’ll notice when coming from an iPhone X is how substantial the phone is in terms of not only the build quality but also the the weight and size. It wasn’t until I got home and opened up the box when I realised just how big it was – not that it is a bad thing but visually it isn’t until you see a device the same dimensions as the iPhone 8 Plus but having a edge to edge display when you realise just how much space on the old ‘classic’ iPhone design was wasted once the scree is taken full size. Going from the iPhone X love the screen size especially with the screen configuration set to zoom. The screen quality appears to be better – I can’t empirically prove it but based on my experience it is an improvement in the areas of of brightness, colour accuracy and vibrancy, it is better than the iPhone X. When I say better I am not saying that it is hugely better but the improve is noticeable to the naked eye.

When it comes to responsiveness and over all performance, I updated it to iOS 12.0.1 – when it comes to operations such as taking photos with great detail, compressing video and so on the performance is outstanding but I think the biggest factor has been the under the hood performance improvements with the biggest improvement is improvements in the auto layout framework not to mention whole new frameworks which should make life easier for programmers. That being said, as I’ve noted in the past, you can keep throwing more hardware at a problem but eventually you’re going to hit a brick wall in much the same way that Microsoft hit a prick wall – throwing more hardware at a software problem is only going to compound the problems further than the demands placed on it by developers increase thus make the problems exponentially worse. The Verge has a great article going into detail and some benchmarks regarding (link) and I’d hazard to guess that with the launch of iOS 12.1 that we’ll see Group FaceTime will be merged back with iOS 12.1/macOS 10.14.1 along with more performance improvements.

When Apple made a switch to Intel modems (Intel having bought Infineon Technologies which were the original suppliers of cellular modems to Apple before moving to Qualcomm) there was a lot of noise made about the fact that the Intel XMM 7480 was lacking in areas such as download/upload speeds, reported issues when in spotty coverage areas, along with it’s die size many generations behind the Qualcomm counterpart which results in higher power usage. With the lunch of the XS and XR models, it now includes the new Intel XMM 7560 modem which supports both GSM/W-CDMA/LTE/CDMA2000 and other technologies which means a standardisation on a single modem suppler. There have been reports of issues with wifi and modem but my experience so far with my phone has been very positive – the signal is stronger than my old iPhone X (which had the XMM 7480 modem) and the wifi experience has been rock solid. Keep in mind that I’m located in New Zealand and use Skinny (which uses the Spark network) which operates 3G on 850/2100MHz and 4G/LTE on 700/1800/2300/2600MHz – it all works very reliably for both wifi and on the mobile network. There have been reported issues in the United States customers but for me everything is working well so I wonder whether this is an example of a niche situation given the abysmal quality of American mobile networks where ‘one dot’ is the norm where in most other countries ‘one dot’ would indicate a lousy connection.

Battery life has been superb but then again I never had issues with battery life given that what I most likely used it for didn’t require the screen on for long periods of time (aka listening to music) helps given that it is the component that has the biggest impact upon battery life – hence the move to AMOLED helped with battery life (I wouldn’t be surprised if in the long term that Apple moves away from LCD for all their products especially portables). It will be interesting to see what the battery life is like in the future as there will most likely be a baseband update included in iOS 12.1 – the die shrink for the modem down to 14nm (half the size as the one in the iPhone X/8) which should help with power consumption and with a more mature baseband and driver it will become more efficient overtime. Rumour has it that from 2020 onwards that Intel won’t be a modem supplier to Apple but then again the same sources said that Intel’s modem team had been abandoned then the next day they reported that Intel said that no such thing had taken place so I guess it’ll be a situation of ‘watch this space’.

Regarding the case that I bought, normally I buy a TwelveSouth BookBook but unfortunately for some reason they have decided not to ship then yet so I needed up buying a flip phone cover from Otterbox (I never realised they made such cases since I typically associate them with big chunky ruggedised cases). The one aspect I do like is the magnet latch which keeps it closed but other than that, it does a great job for what it is designed.

iPhone X to iPhone Xs Max with a slight detour on the journey (Part 2)

Getting back to Pixel 3 and Google in general, the big problem that I have is that Safari no longer has the power, flexibility and range extensions where as Chrome has all that which opens me to using Chrome instead. With the latest release of Chrome 70 the experience is a lot smoother – the look and feel integrates into macOS a whole lot better along with the look and feel of Google’s own applications. With the improvement of Chrome has lead to my embracing of Chrome and in turn Google services which involves setting up a domain and then signing up for G Suite subscription – the benefit of that has been the ability to consolidate around a single provider where I can have multiple aliases which I use for different purposes so it keeps my main email address free of spam and I can manage the inflow of emails from various sources.

With that move onto Google in services has also changed what I use for my mobile phone, I have moved to an Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Lilac Purple (256GB) for my primary phone (it came with a free watch which I’m going to sell off since I’m not interesting in wearing a watch) and I’ve also bought the Xiaomi Mi Box S with 4K HDR Android TV Streaming Media Player and Google Assistant Remote which comes in around NZ$93 (US$59.95) from Walmart – given that it comes with a wall wart that works with both 110/120V and 220/230V I ordered it which will hopefully mean that it’ll arrive not next week but the week after next week if everything goes according to plan.

I ran with that configuration for a week and as much as I tried to give it a chance there were some major downsides with the biggest being the absence of iMessage and the integration that exists between my iMac and MacBook Pro to my mobile phone. For someone like me, I love the ability to make telephone calls when I’m on either computer and send text messages from the Message application which isn’t available when using a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. In a perfect world Samsung would use the standard phone, messaging and contacts application but they insist on re-inventing the wheel and channeling its user base to the Samsung Cloud service (the reason for its existence is still mystery to this day given how half assed it is given the limited functionality and devices that can synchronise with it).

The bigger problem is that everything is linked together so it isn’t as though you can drop in Google Contacts and Messaging because when you invoke the Phone application (that cannot be replaced with Google’s Phone application) it invokes the Samsung version of the application. Lets assume I could replace the Samsung software whole say then I could message friends via Chrome using the Google Messaging but I’d still be stuck not being able to make/receive telephone calls and it would also lack the integration between activation codes coming through on SMS and Safari being able to pick it up on Messages so that I can autofill those details into the browser.

There is the bigger issue of updates, Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is stuck at Android 8.0 even though Android 8.0 was released 21 August 2017 months ago, Android 8.1 was released 5 December 2017, a full 5 months before the phone was released and yet it shipped with Android 8.0 with Android 9.0 released 21 August 2018 and rumour has it that if it is released then it won’t be until early next year at the earliest. It is almost like Samsung is a child that quickly gets bored and reluctantly does the least amount humanly possible at maintaining the existing product in favour of focusing on the next big exciting thing – the new product that is to be launched.

iPhone X to iPhone Xs Max with a slight detour on the journey (Part 1)

I had originally convinced myself that I should wait until next year to upgrade but silly me – I went window shopping which turned into actually shopping after having given the iPhone XS Max but what I did was give the Samsung S9 Plus 256GB for a week (I could return it if I wasn’t happy) – I was open to Pixel 3 but given the hoops one would have to jump through just to get it along with the ‘you’re on your own’ approach to warranty support (something I’m not happy to live with on a NZ$1800 device). With this blog entry it is more looking at the journey and considerations – thinking out aloud put into blog format.

Over the last month or so I’ve been following some high profile reviewers of the last couple of weeks given the launch of the Pixel 3 and the disproportionate outrage that the said notch seemed to attract. When the Pixel 3 was launched, I was frustrated by the fact that it wasn’t available in New Zealand but what was more frustrating was the abysmal quality of the reviews where the focus was either on the notch or the camera as if nothing else mattered on the device which left me, the viewer, with more questions than I had answers. Before you ask, these were actually reviews that I was looking at – not unboxing videos but putting that aside for a moment, it is difficult to find good video reviews of products these days particularly when it comes to reviewers who fixate over certain aspects – both of positive and negative.

When comes to the Pixel 3 I was disappointed because I had expected that maybe the third year of having built the Pixel that maybe it would arrive in New Zealand but it did but that being said I was going to purchase a Pixel 3 via the online Google store until I saw the specifications. For starters it includes 4GB memory, which, in the case of iOS would be more than sufficient because the applications running on iOS are running in native code where as in the world of Android the applications are running on still have the overhead of the Android Runtime. Yes, it has improved hugely from way back in the day when it was interpreted then they moved to Just In Time (JIT) then added Ahead Of Time (AOT) which improved performance and efficiency at the expense of longer installation times and with the launch of Android 9 (aka ‘Pie’) they have introduced the following (link):

Android 9 brings performance and efficiency improvements to all apps through the ART runtime. We’ve expanded ART’s use of execution profiles to optimize apps and reduce the in-memory footprint of compiled app code. ART now uses profile information for on-device rewriting of DEX files, with reductions up to 11% across a range of popular apps. We expect these to correlate closely with reductions in system DEX memory usage and faster startup times for your apps.

But even so, there is a price to be paid for supporting many different SoC’s (Qualcomm, HiSilicon, Exynos, MediaTek) so it is necessary to abstract. Reminds me of the discussions regarding latency, throughput and scalability on Solaris – if you increase scalability to improve throughput then latency increases and responsiveness decreases. If you make something more responsive then you sacrifice throughput in the process – something that was the underlying decision when it came to designing APFS where the design of it was on latency at the expense of throughput hence it wouldn’t be an ideal file system for a massive server where as ZFS was designed to be run on a massive server with huge amounts of memory where the focus was on massive throughput at the expense of memory usage. So when you design systems you make decisions – sacrifice something to achieve something that you might consider more important – in the case of Android it is giving up squeezing peak performance and efficiency for the sake of greater compatibility across different SoCs that utilise Android.

Getting back to Pixel 3 and Google in general, the big problem that I have is that Safari no longer has the power, flexibility and range extensions where as Chrome has all that which opens me to using Chrome instead. With the latest release of Chrome 70 the experience is a lot smoother – the look and feel integrates into macOS a whole lot better along with the look and feel of Google’s own applications. With the improvement of Chrome has lead to my embracing of Chrome and in turn Google services which involves setting up a domain and then signing up for G Suite subscription – the benefit of that has been the ability to consolidate around a single provider where I can have multiple aliases which I use for different purposes so it keeps my main email address free of spam and I can manage the inflow of emails from various sources.

With that move onto Google in services has also changed what I use for my mobile phone, I have moved to an Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus Lilac Purple (256GB) for my primary phone (it came with a free watch which I’m going to sell off since I’m not interesting in wearing a watch) and I’ve also bought the Xiaomi Mi Box S with 4K HDR Android TV Streaming Media Player and Google Assistant Remote which comes in around NZ$93 (US$59.95) from Walmart – given that it comes with a wall wart that works with both 110/120V and 220/230V I ordered it which will hopefully mean that it’ll arrive not next week but the week after next week if everything goes according to plan.