Chilly outside but ok inside

One of the first things I remember doing when moving into the place I am now as to check the insulation – no use throwing good money after bad if the net result is a cold house because the heat is escaping to heat half the neighbourhood. I’ve got the dehumidifier going and to he honest the amount of electricity used is actually fairly small with the benefit of having a dryer house being a warmer house plus I dry my clothes inside so it avoids a build up of moisture in the air which leads to that yucky damp smell. Hopefully I can hold off from having to turn on the heater until maybe the first of July at the earliest because god knows I can’t afford to have high electricity bills at the moment although I might be able to get some assistance where possible.

Something interesting I came across is Samsung selling directly to the public so if you want to bypass having to sign up for an interest free deal with an open plan or a plan with a phone, you can order ( link ) and get it delivered by 28 April. I’ve had a look into it and I’d be lying to myself if I said that I wasn’t tempted but I’d sooner hold off and sleep on it. The other part of the equation will be setting up a new domain name that I’ll use strictly for email that will be detached from my WordPress webite. Once I have set up my new domain setup I’ll then set up Google Apps and for the aliases I am currently using I’ll use the aliases/mail redirect facility in WordPress. To recreate the same experience it’ll involve moving over to Chrome and buying a copy of HandsFree 2.6.1 so I can send SMS messages and answer the phone from my Mac. The big question after all that is whether I want to go through all that drama or whether I’m too lazy and at this stage although I’m sucked in by the new I am also rather lazy and can’t be bothered going through the drama to get there.

I’ve given the new WordPress 2.3 application a try and it is still a horrible train wreck – when I try to right click on words to bring up the spellcheck (after enabling it and then quitting/relaunching the application, the whole application freezes and I’m forced to force quit the application) not to mention how hugely inefficient it is when compared to a native solution like MarsEdit that can operate offline. Something I love about native applications is the fact that one isn’t dealing with the fickle nature of a Internet connection not to mention ‘web based technologies’ that start to become increasingly inefficient as the application becomes more complex – the WordPress application and Visual Studio for Mac being two examples of that general rule of thumb in action. 

Another day at home relaxing…remembering my childhood

Sitting at home watching the full MASH series – always great, even with a re-run, to have a good laugh and be reminded of when I was growing up as a kid where mum would put it on television to MASH at 6:00pm and we’d eat fish ’n chips on Friday like a picnic in front of the television. It is funny how I am reminded of when my old man told me not to get too hung up on the idea of wanting to grow up because I think he wanted me to real that once you get there you look back at your younger years having not cherished that freedom one has when one is young. I was a kid of the 1980’s and life was pretty simple and the most I had to contend with was deciding whether I would wear the brown or blue corduroys at school and whether mum had made up some fruit and custard to take to school for lunch. Oh what a much simpler time – I can see why many look back at the ‘good old days’ with nostalgia considering what the world has become and how life was so much simpler without the complexity, the familiarity of life not moving at a frantic pace and lack of disconnectedness that one can easily feel about the world today.

A lot of buzz since the pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ got started at 9:00am on 20th April (promised delivery being at 28th April) with a large number of reviewers showering praise on the device although there are concerns. One of the big concerns is the inclusion of Bixby but it is not only currently limited to US English and Korean it appears that Samsung has disabled the ability to remap the Bixby launch button. Yes, I understand that they want to get as many people using the Bixby service as possible given the amount they have invested into the technology but at the same time if it isn’t ready in a particular market, say New Zealand, then who is gaining by behaving like a douchbag in the mean time? It seems rather petty to punish a customer with reduced functionality all for the sake of preserving your brand but ultimately frustrating the customer resulting a bad taste being left in the customers mouth as a result.

I’m going to be waiting this one out – although there is the temptation there I am more interested in seeing what Apple has to offer especially if it means the rumours come true. The rumours so far have talked about something similar to what Samsung has released but the interesting part will be what will come in iOS 11 because iOS at this point is pretty feature complete and mature which leaves very few avenues to make massive leaps forward – maybe that is why there are rumours of AR are becoming more frequent? What ever the case maybe, I am so invested in the Apple ecosystem it would take something drastic to get me to leave the platform any time soon.

Microsoft developer and enthusiast outreach is second to none

The one thing that Apple could really learn from Microsoft which is the correspondence either via their blogging or MSDN videos regarding not only the new features that they are working on or added to the operating system update they just released but also giving background into home grown technology and explaining why certain decisions were made and how those decision impact users and end users today. There is a great article regarding Edge and the improvements to the DOM implementation ( link ) and how Microsoft is working to improve it as well as a brief trip down memory lane as to give context to its original design decisions. There are similar examples of this in the Apple world but it tends to be spread out and not formalised to the same degree in which Microsoft does it which doesn’t really do Apple’s engineers justice for the work they actually put into macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS.

The ‘Xeon iMac Pro’ or what ever it is going to be called

So there are rumours buzzing around Mac Rumors, 9to5Mac, Apple Insider plus others that Apple is going to create an iMac Pro, for the lack of a better term, which will fit in the middle ground somewhere between the top end iMac and the entry level next generation Mac Pro that is currently in development (that was disclosed in the recent ‘round table’ with a number of key journalists in the Apple blogosphere). As soon as I heard about it I was reminded of the HP Z1 G2 which took the best of both words – an all in one design but a flip top screen where you can orientate the screen so that it is flat (like how you can do with the the Surface Studio) and then open up it up like opening up a bonnet on a car thus giving you full access:

FrontView

FlipTop

Like the Z1 G2, there is a rumour that this Mac will include a Xeon class CPU – possibly a Xeon mobile class CPU ( link ) then pair that up with DDR4 ECC and some fast NAND flash then I could imagine it being a good fit but it will be interesting to see whether Apple adds ‘something extra’ to really put a line in the sand which makes the ‘iMac Pro’ different to a regular iMac by way of expandability and upgradeability or otherwise it’ll end up being a slightly faster iMac with little in the way of a qualifiable difference outside of having some faster internals. It will be interesting to see whether it is unveiled at WWDC 2017 due to it being geared towards the professional segment or whether it’ll be held back until they do a refresh of the iMac consumer line later on in the year – the die shrink on the AMD GPU’s should also do wonders when it comes to no only power consumption, performance but also operating a lot cooler. The part that still disappoints me has been the lack of optimisation in their OpenGL and OpenCL frameworks resulting in performance that is worse than on Windows along with the lack of any sizeable uptake of the Metal and Metal Kit frameworks that have been marketed as the successor to OpenGL and OpenCL going forward (the presence on iOS and macOS being a major selling point to developers).

On good news though, Apple has announced that iWork (Pages, Keynote and Numbers), GarageBand and iMovie are now available to old computers that missed the cut off date when the original announcement was made that all new computers will get automatic access to said software. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the world of iWork when you consider the fact that for the vast majority of people the suite of applications do what the vast majority want but without the major price tag. True, there are those who will want and at times need Microsoft Office but for many iWork will suit them and be a better fit than LibreOffice which is still very rough around the edges when it comes to it running of macOS.

Oh, and in other news I’m getting back onboard the podcast train and hopefully it’ll be the start of something that’ll be around for the long term but I’ll play it by ear before making any sort of promises.

Enjoying the holidays…lots of fun in the world of Apple

Television seems to be pretty dead these days so I’ve decided go to back to watching MASH from start to finish – sometimes the classics are the best when one is in dire need of some entertainment. I wish that these episodes were available to purchase online – it amazes me how these old episodes are made available given that I’m sure there are many out there who would be more than happy to pay to get access to these shows.

When it comes to how my day was – went down the road for a quick meal at the local sushi place and had a look around at the store where I had a look at the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ‘Special Edition’ – each time I’m not convinced that the hassle of moving is worth it in the end which makes me wonder how many are in my position in terms of iPhone users and whether Samsung is aiming their products to win over iPhone users or are they hoping that a growing market and them getting more of that growth for themselves.

Side note though, with the Samsung S8 and DeX it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the whole Windows 10 vision – ok, they’ve scaled back Windows 10 Mobile to a niche where your phone is like a mini-computer and now that Samsung has done something similar with the bonus of a huge selection of software then where does Windows 10 fit in all of that? What does it say about the larger UWP vision that Microsoft has put forward especially now that it appears that the UWP of Microsoft Office is now on the back burner? Then there is the larger issue that if DeX ends up getting back ported back into Android then could you imagine the eventual creeping of Android into the laptop market then desktop then workstation? More frameworks being added to fill in the gaps such as a full on OpenGL stack combined with Vulkan which will make it a strong competitor to Windows when you consider the large software portfolio that is available to anyone interest in using Android as their main operating system of choice.

Then again this has always been my ‘conspiracy theory’ regarding the direction that Nadella would like to take the company where the focus is on the middleware, cloud and servers with Android/Chrome taking the low to middle and the Mac taking the middle to high end with enterprise pretty much by the short and curls until there is a move away from the legacy win32 applications that many rely on. On the issue of legacy, it is interesting to see how new businesses are more likely to be using Google Apps and other non-Microsoft technology than more established businesses which have to taken into account legacy capabilities meaning we might find Microsoft in the same sort of situation that SUN and then later Oracle find/found themselves in where they’re maintaining the status quo but little or no growth other than moving customers from one kind of service to another, from one kind of product to another kind of product.

I’m personally looking forward to WWDC 2017 with the announcement of macOS 10.13 and APFS coming to the Mac platform which signs off on the last part of MacOS 9 to finally be replaced with something better, modern and plain well ‘not sucking’ as many have complained about for years. So as one of the last pieces of the old operating system is replaced it’ll be interesting to see what is opened up in terms of improvements going forward particularly how Apple will deal with fusion drives which, I suspect, is going to be the more difficult aspect of dealing with when compared to the iOS world which is a base flat partition structure.

I guess the Mac Pro isn’t doomed after all

The full transcript of the meeting that took place at Apple HQ has been mad available ( link ) and numerous podcasts, such as Accidental Tech Podcast (atp) giving their five cents worth on the subject. On the accidental tech podcast one of the commentators speculated that due to products being cycled that normally what happens is that as a new product is released the next product is already in development. When one considers that factor I’m not convinced by the argument that some have put forward that Apple had given up and then suddenly started to develop a new Mac Pro only after much complaining by the unwashed masses.

The workstation market one has to keep in mind is a slow moving market – yes, workstation users want the fastest but at the same time they want their workflow to continue flowing without things breaking so that means hardware that is certified by big name software vendors, drivers for the graphics card are tested to ensure there aren’t compatibility issues between the big name software that workstation customers will use and the underlying graphics card drive and the OpenGL stack that is provided by the video card vendor. In other words when there are refreshes of a workstation they don’t occur at the same speed as the consumer class – just check out Dell and HP regarding how frequently they update their workstation line up for example, it isn’t something they do at rapid speed like they do with the consumer class products. Stability, security and support are the keys – the premium paid for a workstation isn’t just for the fact that you’re getting a metric shit ton of power but you’re also getting a massive multinational to provide you with long term support.

Keeping that in mind it isn’t surprising that Apple didn’t start it straight after the release of the ‘trash can’ Mac Pro because given the long refresh cycles why would they need to? Personally for me I saw the mess coming from a mile away and could never quite work out what they were trying to achieve – yes, have the razzle-dazzle for the consumer but for the pro-market the only thing a workstation buyer cares about is the most amount of people at a reasonable price and is well supported by the company who sold it to them – whether it looks ‘cool’ or ‘sleek’ or ‘innovative’ doesn’t enter into the equation when the focus is using it as a vehicle to earn a living.

Getting back on track again, I wouldn’t be surprised if they put the Mac Pro on the back burner for a while in the belief that when there was the die shrink coming with the new AMD GPU’s along with more efficient CPU’s from Intel that it would be just a matter of updating the components then everything works as it should. I know it might come to a shock to many but companies are nothing more than a collection of people so it shouldn’t be surprising that Apple cocked it up by leaving it to the last minute based a set of assumptions that never materialised and now they’re having to back peddle to deliver something that is more conventional which caters for the needs of the professional market. In my not so humble opinion they should have stuck with the ‘cheese grater’ design and just upgraded the internals with a more efficient power supply along with updating the Thunderbolt Display with a 5K panel then call It a day.

Screen Shot 2017 04 12 at 5 15 29 PM

Whilst all this is going on we had Microsoft announce the arrival of the Surface Studio to New Zealand which s available on pre-order with a rumour that it’ll be arriving 27 April which makes for interesting and much needed competition for Apple given their stagnation over the last few months. There is also the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and it is interesting to see the positive feedback even from seemingly die hard Apple fans recognising the great work that Samsung has done by bringing what they learned from their experience with the Samsung Edge and delivering something that’ll make both the masses happy particularly with how, as one commentator noted regarding the curved screen, that the screen seems to melt in your hands as the borders/bezels disappear thus a full continuous display is seen. It appears that the competition has caught up and in some cases passed Apple in a lot of areas – that tends to happen when you focus disproportionately on iPad at the expense of all the other products as it has been demonstrated by Tim’s obsession with the iPad Pro – no Tim, you conducting a scorched earth policy to the rest of Apple isn’t going to halt the iPad decline in shipment numbers as people keep their iPad for longer.

Getting back on track again – hopefully we’ll see that with the focus on harmonising the ‘under the hood aspects’ of macOS and iOS that features found in iOS will make their way to macOS in the same time frame but more importantly the feedback given to Apple the focus is once again on getting back to the basics. What I talk about the basics; don’t re-invent the wheel, if it isn’t broken then why fix it and more importantly is the fact that it is the software that maketh the hardware rather than just hardware standing alone which means more focus on optimisation and getting developers to utilise Metal particularly in the areas of games and professional applications along with supporting industry standards such as HEVC, AV1, making use of WebRTC with iMessage etc. Oh, and a side note before I go, why isn’t Compressor 64bit yet – built on a supposed ‘modern’ code base and yet it is still 32bit; Apple really need to get their act together when it comes to their first party applications that they themselves create because it is a sad joke when their own software is behind the 8th ball when adopting technology.

Bad weather, leaking house..and procrastination

Well, there has been nothing but bad weather for the two days I’ve had off so far but I’m hoping that tomorrow it’ll be fine enough that I can head down to Bunnings and grab some weed killer and give the cracks between the concrete a damn good soaking to kill anything that might exist between those cracks. Well, here we are on Wednesday and well, it is still raining thus I was unable to head down to Bunnings to do what I want but more joy has befallen me with the leaking on the lounge room which hasn’t been fixed which might call for a complete room replacement not to mention dealing with the ceiling inside which has been damaged by the water.

Apple invited some high profile journalists within the Apple ecosystem to a briefing at their headquarters with John Gruber giving a good run down in a couple of blog posts he has made on the subject ( link ) ( link ) where Apple is reassuring, via the popular media outlets, that Apple do care about the professional customer base along with the Mac customer base over all. I don’t want to sound negative but why did it take until 2017 for them to finally say/do something? For someone like me, I am not going to go anywhere because the alternative to the Mac platform is worse than the Mac platform where it is but I do hope that we’ll eventually see Tim accept that the iPad is going to keep declining until it hits rock bottom but until then the idea of screwing over your long standing base in a hope to move them to the iOS platform is ultimately going to annoy those ‘influencers’ who would have otherwise been the sort who would promote your products to friends and family as the ‘guy who is good with computers’ (check out how effective marketing is vs. receiving a recommendation from a friend or family member).

For work I needed a new pair of suitable shoes so I went into Southern Hospitality, a large hospitality focused supplier, to purchase a good sturdy pair of shoes and I found the perfect pair. They’re not much to look at in terms of the fashion department but but they’re oh so damn comfortable when it comes to arch support (I have a high arch and it is one of the parts of my foot that really hurts after a long day at work). I’ve also got a couple of pairs of those ‘SKINS’ which also help when standing for long periods of time – make life a little easier at work. The biggest benefit with the shoes is the fact that they’re completely water proof so I won’t even up with soaking feet plus the internal sole can be replaced and unlike the skatey shoes I bought not too long ago which had hollow soles that end up being really painful when one puts ones full body weight on it. Oh, and on the subject of shoes, I bought myself a pair of comfortable Birkenstock shoes that I can wear – yes, they sell shoes. They’ll be nice and comfortable.

Regarding my iPhone vs. Samsung journey – it is funny how, when you think about something for a couple of hours you quickly realise that what you were going to do was rather stupid and that holding off till the iPhone 8 is actually the smartest course of action. When that eventually ships I’ll grab the 256GB version that’ll be the one I’ll go for one in ‘matte black’ option in a Twelve South Bookbook wallet format nut that’ll have to wait till November/December towards the end of this year. I’m excited about WWDC 2017 especially with 10.13 and hopefully with the launch of APFS will mean the shedding of the numerous layers of work arounds to achieve things like time machine that can now be done natively at the file system level such as snapshots.