Pontificating over the purchase of an Apple Watch

So I’m waiting back from my boss whether it is all going ahead with the job I’ve got lined up – HR has to sign off on the letter my doctor sent through to the companies HR just to reassure them that I am not going to go loopy when I am at work. If everything goes according to plan I’m going to get an Apple Watch which will be great for my workouts so then I can keep track of my work outs, how my calories I am burning, ensure my heart rate is in the ‘fat burning zone’ and so on. Anyway, off to sleep I go and hopefully I’ll get good news tomorrow from work or otherwise I’ll need to print out bank statements and pay slips then head into WINZ to get a bridging benefit from now until I go back to the catering job.

macOS, iOS and tvOS updates

It’s a bit of old news but Apple released updates to all their operating systems but what I thought was interesting, and not mentioned in the Apple media ecosystem, was the firmware update that was also included with the macOS update which updated both my iMac and MacBook Boot ROM which, from what I understand, is preparation for the move to APFS that will be arriving in macOS 10.13. Another interesting improvement came with iOS 10.3.3 which adds runtime normalisation to the system which should address some of the issues of compatibility that some have outlined when transitioning from iOS with HFS+ to iOS with APFS (on iOS 11 the file system will be updated to provide normalisation as well (aka when you search for forté and forte the normalisation process will treat the e and é so that if you searched the system for forte it would also bring back forté as well).

On a good side I’m back to doing a 40 hour week so even through I do lose some assistance from WINZ in the process the upside is that I still come our better off at the other end even if the improvement is rather marginal. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with this years election because at this rate I’m probably going to vote National given their tax plan to push the brackets up at the bottom end will help me considerably where as Labour has offered me nothing more than a kick in the face (thanks Andrew Little!) due to the fact that I’m single and not pumping out kids left, right and centre (sorry about sounding bitter but it does piss me off).  

So back to the original point..ah yes, working longer hours will mean more money and hopefully they’ll be able to find my jobs to do elsewhere in the company over the Christmas break since my contract is only seasonal (following the university schedule) but that being said I’m still looking for more permanent full time work. The big problem in New Zealand is the casualisation of the labour force which has resulted in employers parading part time jobs as if they were full having experienced it first hand. What I mean by that is the opportunity is given to me, I go to pick up the contract, read it, and then I find out that the contract only guarantees 8 hours per week but the employer promises that he can give me a lot more in reality – instability and a gentleman handshake (for whatever that is worth these days). So there is unstable employment then to make the situation more ‘fun’ there is a lack of a safety net if you take it upon yourself to get a job but find that for a period of time that you’re getting insufficient hours (and in turn money) to pay for bills but because you’re not in crisis mode then WINZ is unable to help you – your credit record and tenancy reputation basically have to be flushed down the toilet before any sort of assistance is provided.

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.

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.

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.