WWDC 2017 in review…be it a week late

I was going to make a podcast regarding the WWDC 2017 but since coming back from Australia I’ve been coughing up phlegm which I have recently found that I have bronchitis (yay) so rather than struggle through a podcast I decided to do a written article instead. First thing I have to say is that I am well and truly wowed by what was put together for WWDC 2017 year – no annoying third party companies appearing on stage showing off gimmicks few people care about in favour of a non-stop back to back keynote. The keynote was so packed that many got the feeling that Apple had to trim back some areas to make room for the improvements being bought to the iOS, macOS and tvOS platform not to mention the across the board refresh and announcement of products that are going to be shipped in the future – something that Apple never does. So rather than doing a essay like form I’ll just write out some bullet points regarding those aspects of WWDC 2017 that interested me/excited me etc.

1) iMac Pro and Mac Pro – a great addition to fit into that middle ground between the top end iMac and the entry level Mac Pro. The problem is that in the past there was always a gap between the PowerMac and iMac but it was small enough to make the PowerMac a lot more affordable for those who wanted more power but without a high workstation price attached to it. The iMac Pro fits that middle ground and to be perfectly honest if you’re a person who tinkers then buying a Mac isn’t for you but if you’re a person ho wants to get things done then most people stick with the configuration that came with the computer rather than doing piecemeal upgrades – I am talking about people working in a large organisation where there is a professional IT department who takes care of the fleet of computers.

I say that because when workstations are sold by large OEM’s are certified out of the box to work with software titles because the drivers, hardware, and software have all been tested to work together with the idea that when the customer receives it that they can assemble it, switch it on and start using it out of the box without having to deal with incompatibility issues. When you purchase a Mac from Apple the idea is that you can take it out of the box and know that what ever you throw at it that the net result will be a reliable experience – be it playing games or getting work done. Now, when it comes to the modular Mac Pro that was mentioned a 1-2 months ago ( link ) it will be interesting to see how they navigate the ‘after market’ upgrade and whether Apple will sell to customers or whether authorised third parties will step up along with ensuring that the drivers are merged in with macOS to ensure that if one has to do a clean install that it is possible (today you have to put back the old card, clean install, install the driver then shut down and put the new card in the machine).

2) The MacBook Pro and MacBook were updated – I’m pretty happy with how things are going with my MacBook but then again I tend to remember two rules of thumb; Firstly, a laptop is designed to be first and foremost a computer designed for portability (maximum battery life, cool operation etc) and everything else comes second. Secondly, when Apple introduces a technology they tend to go ‘balls to the wall’ and in the case of USB-C that is the situation but eventually in a few months USB-C devices will become more common and the whole ‘donglegasm’ that USB-C haters seem to have such an issue with will cease bing an issue (assuming it was an actual legitimate issue in the first place). For me it was great that Apple had the balls to make the decision just as they did with removing the floppy disk, the removing of legacy plugs by going 100% USB and Firewire etc. At some point you have to stand up, make a decision and then stand behind it rather than apologising to a small minority make a lot of nose on Mac Rumors and the /r/apple subreddit on Reddit that try to make out as if their noise equals the major. The simple reality is that Apple made the change and millions still went out to buy their new laptop and still received positive feedback for their latest product line.

3) The focus by Apple on the under the hood improvements in IOS and macOS give me confidence that Apple is focused on ensuring that they’re not only delivery great features that consumers want but are also focusing on ensuring that those features are reliable and optimised rather than like the Windows world where they stay perpetually incomplete (the UWP Music application and lack of MTP synchronisation of ones music library). My main interest is on the macOS front, in specific, the development of Metal 2 and moving the whole WindowServer across to Metal 2 which should hopefully mean that the experience for those with multiple screens hooked up that they’ll no longer see the major CPU spike due to the improved optimised nature of Metal 2 over the OpenGL stack that it used to rely upon along with many other improvements ( link ).

4) Metal 2 is now ready for ‘prime time’ is the message that Apple has sent out – Metal 1.x for Mac seemed to me as a ‘let the developers kick the tires and see what it does’ where as Metal 2 has more of a ‘you guys can start taking this seriously because this is going to be the future of graphics on the Mac’. It’ll be interesting to see how Metal 2 compares to DirectX in terms of migrating games across but so far there are two major engines (Unreal and Unity) not to mention the work that Apple is doing with Valve so hopefully that should translate to games in Steam being optimised for Metal 2 going forward.

The other big part of Metal 2 is the focus on encouraging developers of applications to take notice of what the framework can do for them – a subtle hint that long term OpenGL is in maintenance mode but all new development will be occurring on Metal 2? I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time Metal 3-4 comes along that there will be a significant number of developers taking advantage of it, especially Adobe, if it means that those depending on such software titles end up seeing major leaps in performance on the same hardware thanks to the use of Metal. Would I love to see Apple make a last ditch attempt to update OpenGL to bring it inline with the latest specification along with a focus on optimisation of drivers and the OpenGL stack? Sure I would but I can see what their argument would be, “why invest in the past when we can focus on the future and bring developers with us which will benefit customers a lot more in the long run”, to which I would say that I definitely agree.

5) APFS is another big change that I am looking forward to as HFS+ is the last part of the operating system that seemed to have pretty much stayed the same with the move over to Mac OS X apart from a few non-mainstream variants popping their head up such as the case sensitive format that was used on iOS (from what I understand it saves memory – I read that some where so don’t quote me on that). As for the length of time regarding how long it has taken for an HFS+ to finally appear, I wonder to what extent part of al involved not only having to make sure you ‘get it right’ (file systems aren’t something you can muck around with – if the driver crashes or there is a bug then it could mean someones whole storage device filled with precious memories suddenly disappears) and what it also has to do with ensuring compatibility so that when the file system is migrated that everything continues on smoothly. The multithreaded nature of the file system should allow greater performance under a heavy load which should also help reduce the number of ‘spinning beachballs’.

6) Under the hood improvements in terms of optimisation, particularly regarding Grand Central Dispatch, LLVM/Clang improvements, announcing the phasing out 32bit support, the inclusion of HEVC encoding and decoding with hardware acceleration, HEIF support (will be interesting to see whether developers start using it instead of png/ico for their icons if it means higher resolution icons at a small file size), driver optimisations and so much more.

7) The iPad and iOS improvements point to a future where it will be the mass market device for customers who don’t want to deal with the nitty-gritty details of owning a comer whilst Mac and macOS will be kept for the niche market – power users, developers, gamers who want a great Metal 2 based VR experience, the creative sector that rely heavily on Adobe etc. I don’t see it ever replacing Mac or iOS replacing macOS because they’re two different products that are dealing with two different customer bases with different sets of problems that require different sets of solutions. Someone that might benefit from it would be my mum but then again it would involve her being in a mixed environment where her laptop is replaced with a iPad Pro then for the desktop an iMac would do – but the keyboard on the iPad Pro I don’t think she would be all that fond at using having typed on it myself and both me and my mum both known how to touch type so I have a feeling that even though the iPad Pro would do the job it wouldn’t be a good form factor.

Conclusion: All in all I have pretty damn excited about the direction of Apple. Although I have heard doom and gloom merchants throwing their five cents worth into the ring what I end up hearing in reality are commentators unable to grasp the basic concept that because something isn’t marketed to them it doesn’t mean that Apple has thrown in the towel when it comes to the future of the Mac platform. If you look at what was done on the macOS platform in terms of the underwood changes, the including of VR capabilities plus the support for external GPU’s, then it is clear that Apple certainly see a future for the Mac platform be it platform for those who want/need a Mac vs. getting an iOS device. Regarding the commentator opining on the latest MacBreak Weekly podcast (episode 564) in reference to upgrading ones Mac – what is the alternative to the Mac? Has he run Windows 10 recently? The disjointed incoherent mishmash of a UI, the mountain of problems that plague users on /r/Windows10, the lack of any direction as it appears Microsoft’s main focus recently has been on their middleware and server side of the business with the client seeming to get minimal investment at best given the half assed updates so far that fail to address issues such as the lack go MTP sync in Music, the lack of consistent high-dpi behaviour, the lack of a consistent UI experience or at least some sort of public roadmap to reassure the customer base that Microsoft is actually doing something? Why would I or anyone for that matter want to give up the coherent and integrated experience with Mac all because I have a childish temper tantrum because Apple didn’t add some whizzbang bullshit feature like a touch screen merely to keep the ADD inclined impulse buyers interested in the Mac platform considering  such such features add nothing of any value to the average persons productivity on said devices?

So personally it appears that with the reorganisation taking place recently at Apple, the best days are ahead with no signs that Apple is going to give up on the Mac platform – need people be reminded once again, Apple has stated numerous times that they have no interest in making a clusterfuck hybrid design that is a compromise between the two worlds and ultimately sucking at delivering what traditional computer owners want in terms of power and delivering what traditional tablet users want which is an appliance like experience out of the box. If Apple says something flat out that they aren’t going to do xyz there is a pretty good chance that they’re not going to do it so lets strop trying to make themselves happen simply by posting rumours – touch screens on Mac’s aren’t going to happen.

Another lovely day of rest

Chilling out at home but having gotten up late then heading off to my mum’s for dinner then lack back home I decided to hold off from creating a podcast least my podcast comes off sounding like a rambling mess due to my body being ok but my brain wanting to go to sleep or doing something less strenuous. Had a nice dinner; chicken Alfredo with garlic, onions and mushrooms then I served it up with some pepper and cajun seasoning sprinkled on top – the cajun seasoning really kicked it up a notch with the combination of cajun seasoning and the creaminess of the Alfredo sauce.

I’m watching the MASH episodes online again to fill in some time but on a good side I’ve just finished watching 12 Monkey’s with the next season being the last season which will wrap everything up – the last couple of episodes of this season was a bit of a head turner as it turned upside down many of the assumptions that one had originally about who the witness actually was in the end. House of Cards is said to be returning 30 May 2017 with The Strain having its final season being season 4 and will return 16 July 2017 then combine that with the great shows on already, why waste time going out to movies with a hastily constructed story that tries to fit into 1 1/2 to 2 hours and leaves the audience wondering what happened to all the loose ends left over.

On a good side I’m excited about the coming WWDC 2017 that’ll get started on 5 June and go through to 9 June with the announcement of the next version of macOS which will transition the operating system from HFS+ to APFS thus retiring the last unaddressed legacy component of macOS that has hagged onto its dear life all these past years. I’m looking forward to seeing more work being done under the hood – call me old fashioned but I’d sooner this release be an under the hood improvement because feature wise I’m already pretty happy then combined that with sorting out their iCloud service wit maybe some more free space then it sounds like a good match up going forward. As much as the media love coming along to her about the ‘300 new features’ that are coming to macOS or iOS, I would sooner the focus be on under the hood changes such as optimisations, bug fixes and taking advantage of the hardware I already have through compiler improvements or moving more of the UI over to utilising Metal/Metal Kit.

Sore stomach and delays

I had a horribly sore stomach so I ended up having next to no sleep last night until maybe around midday when my stomach got tot he point that it was no longer sore when laying down (it was still sore but not as sore as earlier in the day). I’ll be heading off to sleep in the next couple of minutes but tomorrow I’ll try to get the podcast out and establish a more regular schedule for the podcast although on occasions I might do two podcasts at a time; one for politics and the second one for technology, as to avoid wading through listening to things that one might not be interested in.

Damn it’s cold…freeze the balls of a brass monkey

Damn last night was cold – got down to 4 degrees celsius again and I had to crank up the heater just to avoid freezing in my bedroom but I’m hoping that winter isn’t going to be too hard going like last year when it got down to the point that there was some light snow one day. This time around I’m making sure I don’t repeat the same mistakes as last year which was to leave my heater on when I got to work or worse having the heater on when in reality I didn’t actually need it switched on with the net result is higher power bills than they needed to be.

After must frustration with the first day of BUILD 2017 it is great to see that Microsoft hasn’t forgotten about it’s user base and specifically the announcements regarding big names coming to the Windows Store such as iTunes, Spotify, Microsoft Office, and numerous others which will hopefully herald the way for. There is also the .appx format which is getting setup as a replacement for .msi so even if organisations don’t qualify for the store there is at least a move away from what exists today to one where applications are kept seperate from the operating system to avoid the clusterfuck disaster of DLL hell and other nastiness. This is where I come to warn Apple because in the past they could always bank on the irritating nature of Windows to keep people in the Apple fold but now that Microsoft has addressed that issue and adoption is growing strong there will be one less thing holding people on the platform – remember, those who use Mac’s tend to also evangelise for the Apple ecosystem so it would be foolish for Apple to believe that a few people leaving won’t have consequences for their larger businesses such as the iPhone and iPad.

A good week…things will hopefully get better

Things have quietened down with Apple over the last few weeks with the release of the 5th public beta for tvOS 10.2.1 but further public betas of macOS 10.12.4 and iOS 10.3.2 haven’t come yet which makes me wonder whether Apple is going to be releasing it within the next week or two. There are rumours that there will be a refresh with the Mac line up very soon so it’ll be interesting to see what happens especially with the launch of Kaby Lake CPU’s but personally I’m more excited about Cannon Lake which will be a die shrink to 10nm or even Ice Lake which has the rumoured new architecture ( link ) that’ll be delivered in 2019 which is when Ice Lake will be released and rumoured to having a new architecture which would then be followed by an optimisation. The rumour has it that with the new architecture that legacy parts of the ISA will be removed which date back 40+ years in favour of having 32bit ‘compatibility’ provided when in ‘long mode’ (the mode the CPU is referred to when the underlying operating system is running in 64bit mode).

It’ll be interesting to see what happens at the Microsoft Build conference from 10-12 May 2017 which has a lot of speculation about what will be announced – maybe some big announcements relating to Project Centennial and big software vendors getting onboard in the wake of the Windows 10 S announcement. It was interesting to note that Microsoft’s Alex Kipman opined that the smartphone was ‘dead’ and that ‘people haven’t realised it yet’ so does that mark a future direction of the mythical Surface Phone or is it sour grapes by Microsoft for failing to ever get their phone operating system off the ground? Maybe we’ll see hints at Build but that kind opinion held by Alex Kipman is at odds with what Microsoft’s other departments are concluding and that is to not fight the inevitable and jump on the Android train by reselling Samsung Galaxy 8 and 8+ devices with Microsoft software pre-loaded to get customers pointed to Microsoft’s own services instead of trying to do the impossible of getting people to give Windows 10 Mobile a chance. Tomorrow I’ll be working on the second episode of my podcast where I’ll focus on 5 subjects but I’ll try to keep it below 30 minutes for the sake of the listeners sanity but on a good side it has allowed me to collate some interesting titbits. 

Over the next 10 day it looks like the coldest it’ll get will be 7 degrees celsius although that is based on Wellington temperatures where as living out in the Hutt Valley the temperature can be around 2-3 degrees colder in many cases. Tonight hasn’t been too bad – it is around 16 degrees celsius so I didn’t need to put on the heater to keep warm which helps the old bank account. I’m having a look through the part time job section so hopefully with some extra hours – Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday then more available during the university holidays I can moderate out the earning cycle. Although it isn’t the most ideal solution and I’d prefer a more stable full time job, it is better than the current situation particularly when one considers that the university closes down for over a month and during that time I need employment to allow me to keep paying the bills.

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.