We’re critical of Windows because we care, not because we’re haters

I’ll start off with good news (for those who want to see old crap removed from Windows), Microsoft has released a list of deprecated/removed features from Windows 10 Autumn Update ( link ) which has some interesting removals such a the TCP Offloading Engine which is surprising given that it was only just recently that it was ‘all the rage’ for operating system vendors to embrace such as Solaris with its ‘Project Fire Engine’ (it was merged around 7 years ago into the Solaris tree). There are also moves to harmonise the backend technologies which they provide to consumers and enterprise customer such as in regards to Synchronisation of Settings, just as they standardised on the Exchange Protocol as they moved all their consumer facing services over to a Exchange backend. It appears that Windows 10 is taking a gradual step forward with the move to rolling release cycle so lets hope that as time progresses and more legacy gunk is removed from the system that maintenance and improvements are easier for Microsoft to do. 

It may sound counter intuitive to say “we’re critical of Windows because we care, not because we’re haters” but we truly do care be it for the most of selfish reasons, a Windows that has its flaws addressed is a better operating system that forces Apple to improve their own operating system – healthy competition spurs on innovation and making a better product. There is a great article by Christian Cantrell (Senior Experience Development Manager at Adobe) ( link ) that points out the issues that Windows 10 has from a Mac users perspective and it wasn’t surprising that on the Windows 10 subreddit you had legions of ‘butt hurt’ fanboys throwing a temper tantrum because someone dared to write a coherent and constructive critique of Windows 10 instead of doing the usual duck, dodge and dive regarding Windows 10’s short comings by focusing on some obscure feature that ver few people actually care about.

The problems that are outlined in the article are legitimate the problem is that in reality they’re symptoms of a larger problem and that is the lack of any direction by Microsoft to clearly move the platform forward by laying out a firm time line of technologies being deprecated, support for being compiled against it removed, and then eventually the removal of support entirely. The lack of any sort of time line means that Microsoft is forever bending itself into a pretzel as it tries to move forward whilst maintaining backwards compatibility – something that isn’t always doable without risking that something will be broken in the process. Lets assume you make changes to GDI to improve scalability on high DPI screens then it is almost a certainty that some applications somewhere is going to break because the developer has made assumptions on how GDI is supposed to behave resulting in their application breaking when a change is made.

The other problem with a lack of a definitive timeline means there isn’t the ability to go, “ok, we can now break compatibility at X point because we’ll know that it has been removed so lets get things sorted”, it also means that third parties are never forced to update their code. When you’re a programmer and you’re told something id deprecated but given no actual time line then what do you do? Do you spend money on migrating to a new framework only to find that the old framework remains indefinitely thus you’ve wasted resources on something that wasn’t needed or do you focus on other things only to be given a rude surprise because out of the blue Microsoft decides that now is the time to remove that piece of functionality.

On a good side Apple has seeded the forth beta to developers of macOS 10.13, iOS 11, tvOS 11, and watchOS 4.0 – with Apple finally replacing HFS+ with something modern (APFS) it appears that one of the major long standing complaints has been addressed. It’ll be interesting to see the impact of APFS has on the operating system over all but I guess that’ll have to wait till it is released towards the end of this year.

The long decline of Windows and death of Windows on the smartphone

There is a narrative that the downfall of Window started with the missteps that lead to Windows Vista being delivered late but the origins of the problem existed well before Windows Vista – it actually goes back to Windows NT 4 and the decision in Windows NT 4 to dump large amounts of code from user space into the kernel for the sake of speed (context switching on the x86 platform is expensive) resulting in a downward slide from Window NT 4 onwards of quick and dirty solutions rather than well thought out long term permanent solutions. As noted by Jim Allchin, during the heady days of 90s, features were thrown at Windows with no consideration as to their impact on the wider system as so far as security, long term manageability, good coding practices to ensure that a ‘spaghetti code’ mess wouldn’t result from the changes being made etc.

Then rolled along Windows 2000 which was originally geared as the grand unifier of the 9x and NT lines into a single line that would span both the consumer and enterprise space but as the delivery was being pushed back sacrifices had to be made – the priority of the enterprise feature over adding the shims required for backwards compatibility meant that it was pushed off to Windows XP which was released in October 2001 so the original Windows 2000 was behind schedule which then necessitated Windows XP which meant the successor to Windows XP (which should have been the successor to Windows 2000) is then delivered late and half baked resulting in the successor spending it’s time to clean up the loose ends of the previous release thus dropping the development of Windows further behind.

What was the net result of this continuous cycle of dropping balls? The net result was that with each release Windows fell behind, what should been released in the form of Windows 2000 should have been the great unifier, when Windows Vista was released it took another 3 years to deliver Windows 7 to clean up the mess – what was released as Windows Vista should have occurred 3 years after Windows 2000 was released so then, what was Windows Vista, was ultimately released would be Windows 10 meaning that by the time 2007 rolled around with the iPhone that Microsoft would have had Windows 10 Mobile as a competitor to iPhone straight off the bat and the UWP framework that would have acted as the grand unifier across its platforms. In total around 8 1/2 years was lost fixing up monumental cockups resulting in more damage done to the Windows platform than any DOJ anti-monopoly settlement could do in a prosecutors wildest dreams.

We’ve seen recently in the latest Windows 10 build that the phone related components have been removed resulting in a branch being maintained based on an old code base providing updates to existing Windows 10 Mobile customers but no new build based on the current line that 16241 is based off of. One has to ask whether Microsoft has more or less thrown in the towel and decided that they’re better off on playing to their strengths and provide middleware for Android and iOS along with pitching their services to businesses including their MDM cloud based capabilities rather than trying to spend hundreds of millions on a failed attempt to win what would be minuscule marketshare with minimal benefit but at a great cost in terms of time, resources and money. One aspect I like about Nadella is the fact that he isn’t sentimental – it’s all about the hard facts of life and whether it makes sense fighting battles that were lost long ago or whether the money and resources are better spent on seeking out new opportunities and ensuring that Microsoft is at the forefront, being the ones setting the agenda and shaping that future instead of following merrily along as a ‘me too’ player in the industry.

Anti-ACT groupies throwing a temper tantrum in lieu of a well thought out critique

So the Twitter hit the fan and once again the fake outrage machine goes into overdrive thanks to a post that was made by the deputy leader of the ACT Party (for the sake of disclosure, I was a member 9 years ago and ran as a candidate in Wigram but I’ve since left the party and haven’t voted for them since running in 2008) regarding the ‘controversial’ idea that one should live within ones means by only making lifestyle choices that you can afford ( link ):

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So you expect that people would post rational replies such as pointing out that circumstances can change over long periods of time, that the lack of access to affordable contraception, abortion and comprehensive sex education isn’t something that is universally consistent around New Zealand, that punishing children for the stupidity of parents seems cruel and unusual punishment etc. then you would be wrong. Nope, rather than talk about the tonnes of legitimate issues that exist with the ACT Party policies and philosophy you had the usual screaming and complaining from the ‘emotions first, rationalism and logic on the back burner” with screaming about how the rich can only have kids but fail to see how ‘poor having more poor people to be chewed up like a commodity in the capitalist grinder for the benefit of the rich’ apparently doesn’t sound repugnant to one person:

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Then followed by the same stupid nonsense of complaining that the ACT Party want to eradicate those with disabilities:

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Even though on the actual policy website ( link ) they note the following: “Continue to advocate for continued and more generous state support for those with physical or mental conditions who require support, including improved access to supported living arrangements for those with serious mental illness.”. Again, there are loads to attack the ACT Party on without needing to make shit up. Then there is this chap:

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Want to know what is really repugnant, the fact that you couldn’t even be bothered to sit and reflect on what was actually posted before firing off a reply because if you had you would have realised that what Beth was talking about and the scenario you laid out are not the same situation. Again, there are legitimate issues regarding their policy such as the time limit on the Job Seeker or solo parent support benefit that you could rip apart but I guess mischaracterising what someone posts as a Segway for your tirade seems to be your de rigueur. Then there are people who just pull stuff out of their backside like claiming what was posted as a ‘puritanical moralism’:

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Because making sure that you can affordable a lifestyle choice that you make is apparently the hallmark of puritanical moralism according to this chap – really? The only person who seems to be doing puritanical moralism seems to be your and your interpretation of being a responsible adult – feeling guilty about some choices you’ve made in life?

The rest of the posts on that thread? A clear indication that they never read the ACT Party policies ( link ) so instead they use it as a venue to projectile vomit the poorly digested information they gleamed off their friends, family and an almost pavlovian response when ever the name of a centre right party’s is heard within earshot. As noted the beginning, there is a lot one can be critical of in regards to what the ACT Party actually say in their party manifesto – you don’t need to go around inventing new things to be outraged about just as Democrats don’t need to whip themselves into a frenzy over Russia when there are so many horrible things the Republicans are doing already – be it the EPA, Education, the repeal of ObamaCare etc. How about people focus on what is actually real rather than making stuff up or am I expecting too much?

A damn good whinge and moan about life

I’ve been watching a few documentary ( link ) and it makes me wonder about my current situation with the balance between wanting material gains vs. living the ‘good life’ by being satisfied with a few essential items and being satisfied with where I am. Unfortunately as a civilisation we’re now stuck in a cycle that predicated on the idea of ever expanding demand to keep the economy growing to keep people employed so even if people on mass wanted to walk away from the system the disruption would be so great that it would end up collapsing – what then would it be replaced with?

I’ve been having a look Skinny’s fixed wireless broadband which is $52 per month for 100GB which will save me $28 per month but as we speak they don’t have the 700MHz LTE sorted out in my area but I’ve been advised that it’ll hopefully be done by the end of this month. Although the amount saved isn’t a lot it is $28 that I’d sooner spend on something more productive.

Watched yet another video of someone whining that an Apple Mac laptop is actually a laptop rather than a mobile workstation – shock fucking horror, a laptop that is designed for portability doesn’t have the level of expansion that a desktop or workstation has! In other news, water is wet and grass is green. I sometimes wonder whether these videos are actually by actual people because the level of bitching and whining sound more akin to a salty competitor grasping at straws or a jealous PC user who is hell bent on trying to justify their own purchase by appealing to an audience to further bolster their position.

In typical Reddit fashion, someone posts a meme ( link ):

Dvq3REu

Then followed by the resident idiot who posts in response to the person who posted the meme that “so you’re saying that only rich people can have children? You’re conducting eugenics against poor people!”. When people jump to such idiotic conclusions you know that the education system is failing to teach people how to think rationally and logically, when the emotions are in the drivers seat rather than their rational faculties.

Weekend begins, television is horrible, binge watching Netflix

Damn it is cold and according to the news item I read a few days ago the situation isn’t going to made much better in the coming weeks because apparently it’ll be getting colder. One saving grace is that the former owner of the place I’m in did a really got job at installing insulation in the ceiling, walls and floor so as long as I close off the kitchen over night (4 big glass windows and no curtains not to mention a glass door) the place keeps fairly warm. I’m not a fan of having a house so warm that I can walk around in my underpants but I do like to at least have it warn enough that I can sit in my pants, a short sleeve shirt and a pair of socks on fairly comfortably. Long term the ideal situation is getting some double glazing put into the toilet/bathroom which will help hold the heat in because curtains are not viable (condensation and mould being a concern) so with that improvement the house will be kept a lot warmer – yeah, I could close off the toilet at night but imagine having a call of nature at night and an uncomfortable cold experience it would be.

The quality of television is really gone off the cliff with he usual sources of entertainment run dry so apartment from Darkness and Orphan Black it appears that when the US goes into ‘summer mode’ the rest of the world suffers with substandard shitty television – first world problem I guess. I’m gradually working through the series “13 Reasons Why” and it is turning into a pretty good series so hopefully once that is out of the way I can have a look at Narcos on Netflix and see else there is to entertain myself over the holidays.

Been following the improvements that are coming through on iOS, tvOS and macOS but what I am hoping for is eventually SkyTV start offering an app for the tvOS platform because that would be the ultimate killer if they started to offer all their channels online rather than depending on a satellite so then it is possible to watch it on any device as long as it has the application or a web browser that supports HTML5 video tag, encryption extension for media plus HEVC support.  The other tit bit that I came across via the ‘Accidental Tech Podcast’ ( link ) and Hetzel ( link ) was the inclusion of Opus in CAF container support on iOS, macOS and tvOS which makes of interesting reading whether we’ll eventually see iTunes re-written so that it can take advantage of the modern frameworks which would expose support for Opus/CAF along side AAC? Maybe the long term play as part of providing support for WebRTC? If so, where does VP8/VP9/AV1 fit into it going forward or it a matter of VP8/VP9 being inferior to h264 or HEVC and AV1 is too immature and the hardware support isn’t there to make playback and encoding power efficient by taking advantage of the GPU.

Still looking for a new full time job but the biggest problem I find is that when I do apply for a full time job that the job actually turns out to be a job that only guarantees 8 hours per week so effectively there are businesses passing off part time jobs as full time so I’m having to think of alternatives. One of the alternatives is to get a part time job to coast me over the holidays (down time) to make ends meet which isn’t an ideal situation or the alternative being that I have a chat to my boss about seeing whether there are hours in other sites that the company operates at to bridge that gap especially over the end of the year/Christmas period. For me, I enjoy what I am doing and I’d be more than happy if I could get more stable hours so that I had employment 52 weeks per year without the down time.

Some new beta builds for iOS 10.3.3, macOS 10.12.6 and tvOS 10.2.2 were released this week which will make for interesting speculation as to when it will be released but that being said there is still a regression relating to Time Machine and Grand Central Dispatch ( link ) which hasn’t been addressed. With the long lead time between when it first appeared (it might have existed before then) it makes me wonder whether it hasn’t be corrected because some sort of underlying architectural issue but there has been no word yet whether the issue appears with macOS 10.13 ‘High Sierra’. It’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward with APFS, Time. Machine, and the other parts of the operating system given how closely related the design of many of these components are to HFS+ limitations. When looking at how those various components worked around the HFS+ limitations one is therefore asked how much of a difference APFS will make to the smooth operation of macOS going forward – Time Machine no longer having to use a jerry-rigged solution but instead use the ‘baked in’ snapshot functionality of the filesystem. The other interesting part of APFS is the fact that it is designed from the ground up so that features can be added without breaking compatibility so although it doesn’t have all the features that many power users wanted one has to remember that those most requested features can be added at a later date, everything isn’t set in stone. The future is looking bright and as long as you’re not blinded by the doom and gloom merchants over at MacBreak Weekly then you too can see that the Mac platform is alive and well even without the gimmicky features like ‘touch screens’ that get demanded by a few noise makers in the peanut gallery.

Healthcare reform in the US: The dumpster fire of dumpster fires.

So once again we have the Republicans, after having 8 years to come up with an alternative healthcare policy, have delivered a mess called ‘The Better Care Reconciliation Act’ which not only fails but what makes the situation worse which is compounded further via the dishonesty by Republicans regarding the ‘Affordable Care Act’ aka ObamaCare – side note, I personally prefer a single payer healthcare system like we have in New Zealand but take from that you will:

1) It fails to explain to the American public why there is an individual mandate in the first place. It has nothing to do with ‘big bad Obama’ taking away your rights’ and everything to do with ensuring that a system that doesn’t discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions are able to get coverage without risking a death spiral in the health insurance market. You need enough young and healthy people paying into the system so that cost of those with pre-existing conditions can be offset.

2) The death spiral isn’t the result of ObamaCare but the result of Republicans getting rid of the ObamaCare Risk corridor stabilisation fund which would help during the transition as all Americans get into the insurance system. The first wave of people signing up being the sickest thus their costs would be immediate and need to be offset by the stabilisation fund whilst the healthier customers come in and buy up policies which will eventually balance out the initial amount of money that went out to cover the first wave of people who signed up.

3) The stabilisation fund was to bridge the gap (the period between sick people entering and then healthier people entering in later on) as to ensure that it didn’t go into the death spiral but thanks to Republicans cutting it (the stabilisation fund) the net result was a sharp rise in premiums and insurance companies leaving states but then again this has always been part of their (Republican) play book: “[policy] doesn’t work and we’ll make sure that [policy] won’t work by taking away the central plank that holds up the said policy”.

Are there issues that need resolving? Sure but what have the Republicans proposed other than the same reheated ideas that simply don’t work because healthcare is one sector of the market which the ideas of market forces cannot be applied – increasing costs don’t reduce demand (simply put, health is a need not a want so people generally cannot hold off until a ‘better deal’ comes along) and due to the highly regulated nature of the market (for good reason) the sorts of innovation that drive down costs take years to make it market not to mention the requirement to make back not only the initial investment but the costs of getting it to market in the first place (reduction in delivery is undermined by the cost of the final product due those inputs I talked about).

How does one deal with it? government intervention which ensures that a social good like healthcare is available in sufficient enough volume at an accessible price point hence government intervention; either directly such as directly providing healthcare by owning hospitals, clinics etc or indirectly through a single payer with strong regulations to keep costs under control. There is also invention in the education sector to also ensure that sufficient enough nurses, doctors and trained specialists are entering into the profession through subsidising education through lower fees and interest free student loans. Then there is bulk negotiation of pharmaceuticals from companies – horse trade over the prices and drive down the cost per unit, the company gets a secure customer who pays on time and the customer (aka ‘the tax payer’) receives value for money. At different points in the health sector the government can and does intervene to bring down the cost of delivery and you’d think with over 70+ years of national healthcare systems from around the world that America could learn from, they (America) still insist on re-inventing the wheel.