Almost the weekend

Three days to go before the weekend but on the good side things are going well; I decided to have a couple of days break but I’ve also taken on another challenge – getting my finances in order. The biggest obstacle aren’t the big purchases but all the money that is frittered away with small purchases here and there – $10 there, $5 there and soon enough you’ve hit $100 and you’re only 3/4 of the way through the week. That is the big focus – focusing on shopping once a fortnight with no spending in between other than topping up with petrol in my scooter. A more disciplined approach will hopefully not only help my waist line but also my bottom line as well – that will be focus on the weeks coming up along with the regular exercise.

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.

Getting back on track

With the wonderful weather I’ve been focusing on getting my life back on track but rather than making big radical changes what I’ve been focused on is making small incremental improvements then once I start getting into a good habit (normally within a week of doing something) I then add another thing that I can do. For example, I’ve said to myself that each night I will go for a walk – doesn’t have to be a big walk but at least one walk a night as a way of unwinding from work and working out any stress which can help to get to sleep without having my mind racing at 100 kilometres per hour. I’m going to keep doing that and then make another life style change when I feel comfortable. Long term what I am hoping that a gradual approach will eventually make these life style changes second nature to the point that I don’t have to consciously think about doing them because they’ll just become part of my normal routine.

I’m looking forward to also the CD’s arriving that I ordered – I’ve finally started taking advantage of the YouShop address in the UK where I’ll get the CD’s I ordered repackaged into a single package and then sent to New Zealand. It works out cheaper in most cases because many sellers will give free domestic shipping to the remailer (YouShop) and then I group all those CD’s into a single parcel for a once off cost that is cheaper than if all the individual CD’s were sent via international post as separate parcels. I’ve got around 33 CD’s sitting in my wish list that I’m gradually working through so I’m looking forward to getting that all sorted but in the mean time what I’m going to do if I have some spare time is to start uploading all my music to OneDrive or maybe look at a network attached storage device which has built in redundancy and can be shared over the network such as a Drobo with the device in the spare room along with the router etc.

Anyway, off to bed now as I’ve got work tomorrow as well as Saturday and Sunday with Monday and Tuesday off as usual.

Trump is a symptom not the cause: Don’t ignore 50 years of drifting to the right

I was watching a video from Vanity Fair (link) and it was a great interview with ex-Republicans but I was disappointed that there was very little time spent on the historical roots of how the Republican Party ended up where it is. Sure, they touched on it but it never really went into any depth – it is like when the media talk about how civility has disappeared in politics but they ignore the Willie Horton ads during the 1980s, the conspiracy theories regarding the Clintons and Vince Foster, the rumours spread by the GWB campaign regarding McCain and an illegitimate child by asking a question that instilled distrust of McCain in the minds of primary voters, then there is the Cadillac welfare queen to which there was no evidence, then there was the work that Lee Atwater talked about in this video (link) and then there is the war on drugs by Nixon which was a way to undermine the anti-war hippies and the black liberation movement like the Black Panthers as noted in this article (link)

Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “War on Drugs” in 1971 and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlich man a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Nixon’s invention of the War on Drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the Drug War is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

So this whole hysteria about the lack of civility is a fig leaf for what the establishment are really pissed off about – not the policies that Trump is doing because they’re quite happy with that as demonstrated by corporations happy to wave the ‘we’re socially aware and inclusive’ then turning around as Tim Cook did and turn up to a Republican fund raiser after 40 years of running on a platform of being anti-LGBT rights not to mention anti-women legislation around reproductive rights. So the complaints but the biggest so-called ‘anti-trumpers’ has nothing to do with the policies but the presentation – if it were a Mitt Romney or a John McCain then the establishment would be happy because there would be a velvet glover over the iron fist – the sweet chaser to go down after the bitter and unpopular medicine that those in the top 1% want passed for their own benefit.

Getting back to the right wing drift – this has been occurring for over 80 years right back to when the modern welfare state (at least in a pretty weak form when compared to other anglophone countries not to mention continental Europe) that was set up by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Ever since the establishment of the modern welfare state in the United States the Republican Party could never accept it in the same way that centre right parties around the world accepted that it is now the reality – that the debate was around the edges on how things could be done better rather than getting rid of such policies in their entirety. The anti-FDR didn’t really start to heat up until the late 1960s with the move of the Dixiecrats from Democrats to Republicans with the dog whistle politics of the southern strategy then add the unholy alliance with the religious right and then there was the ‘Reagan revolution’ that did ZERO during the 1980s as HIV/AIDS rampaged through the LGBT community all whilst white middle America looks back fondly on the very president who allowed a manageable situation to spiral out of control. Then there was the Willie Horton ad – an ad that would never have gain steam if it weren’t for the mainstream media outlets playing it over again over again (Barbra Streisandeffect anyone?) then the super predators by the Clintons to one up the Republicans, then there ‘end of welfare as we know it’ which the unholy alliance between the Republicans and Bill Clinton – all during this time the Republicans moved further to the right and the Democrats followed them.

So this drift to the right and the drift to the extremes isn’t some sort of new creation thanks to Trump but rather Trump threw away the dog whistle and replaced it with a vuvuzela, gone are the code words, the ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ and now it is just up front with it. Where as in the past the Republicans were able to BS around the edge and give themselves plausible deniability in polite company, in the case of Donald Trump there is no filter – what you hear is what he believes and when given the opportunity to walk it back he then doubles down on what he said and says some more. Trump is the Republican Party when what is talked about close doors at fancy dinner parties is bought out into the open and the pretence of politeness is removed. When you hear the mainstream media treat Trump as an aberration what they’re really saying is, “don’t focus on the policy, don’t focus on how Trump’s economic policies are no different than the corporate Democratic side…get angry at how he uses mean words and doesn’t say nice things”. Case in point; Nanacy Pelosi ‘pay-go’ promise (link) which will necessitate one of two choices; reversing the Bush and Trump tax cuts or institute heavy cuts to balance the budget which will put the US into a recession. It appears that where the Republicans go the Democrats are sure to follow under the guise of being ‘moderate’ and ‘bipartisan’ even if the end results are horrific and anything but moderate.

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.