Things are looking better all the time (can’t get no worse!)

Well, so far I’ve had some responses back from people who are interested in interviewing me or at least have an interest in having a look at my resume which is a great feeling – at least I’m in the running of being considered rather than being rejected before even getting a chance to sell myself to the organisation. Hopefully the interview will go well in Monday and in the afternoon I’ll stop by Motorad to get my scooter services – the mirrors sorted out, new tyres and a few other things such as replacing the fuel line so when eventually I start my job that my form of transportation is all up to scratch and won’t cause me any issues.

It appears that the source of the consumer report bad battery fiasco has come down to a bug in Safari which has been fixed in 10.12.3. so hopefully that’ll be out soon but not too soon along with the usual updates for iOS and tvOS not being too far behind. As much as Windows 10 appears to be ‘exciting’ with all the ‘improvements’ and ‘new things’ that are coming in new builds I am reminded that although ‘new’ I exciting it can be a double edged sword of dealing with the byproducts of immature technology that is still having the bugs beaten out of it.

When it comes to Twitter, if you’re given a platform by your employer, your name is well known and by virtue of that your name is associated with that company then it is important to think very long and hard before opening up and giving your five cents on a subject. There is a reason why when I am using a public persona I am very careful about what I say (along with never mentioning where I work or live) – your reputation is all that you have and the moment you open up and say something stupid there are repercussions whether you like it or not. If you want to write something controversial then go ahead but remember that the way you present your argument will have as much impact as what you’re saying. The way you present your argument will dictate whether you come off sounding like an emotionally driven prat whose opinions are lacking coherency resulting in the output sounding something akin to a Alex Jones/David Icke like mentally deranged rant or whether the writing is devoid of emotions and focuses on a coherent will reasoned argument with evidence from reliable sources to back up any claims made.

The promised reply…

Brett Legree says:

OCTOBER 30, 2016 AT 4:21 AM EDIT

We’re in the same boat here in Canada, you can get anything from Apple on Day One, this time from Microsoft you can get the “new” Surface Book but not the Surface Studio (though, I’m not really in the market for one anyway).

Google stuff is often that way here too, either we get it later or not at all in the case of some things (e.g. Android Pay isn’t here yet, there is a LOT of protectionism in Canada when it comes to banking, media, telecommunications… banks and large corporations have a lot of pull with the government, or maybe they pay them off…!)

Our weak dollar doesn’t help with things either, along with hefty import duties, some of this stuff is astronomically priced (I know it is like that for you in New Zealand too, I’ve looked at the prices of a lot of stuff where you are).

With that in mind, I took the Pixel XL off my list (same price as an iPhone 7 Plus but not a nice in my opinion) and went with a Nexus 6P to replace my failing Moto X.

The price was good and it seems to be working well for me.

Now I just need a new computer of some sort.

Yeah, I was hoping that the Pixel would launch and really give Apple some much needed competition but here we are over a month later and nothing has been announced as to whether we’ll see Pixel officially come to New Zealand other than the usual parallel importers bring in the US model. The biggest let down in the case of Apple has been their Cloud offerings, specifically, the bugginess of what they have to offer when compared to more established players such as Microsoft and Google. Personally I’d love to see Microsoft make Edge available on macOS then provide the sort of integration that Google has to offer but I don’t see it happening thus the only real competition that exists for Apple is Google. Although Microsoft is gaining large enterprise usage for there cloud platform it is important to realise that the use of Microsoft is more of a byproduct relating legacy software within the organisation rather than necessarily a ringing endorsement of the cloud platform. I say that in respect to the companies that adopt the Google cloud platform predominantly tends to be younger businesses which do not have the legacy systems that one has to deal with and thus 

Personally I’m just dumb founded about this whole movement to Pixel when the Nexus actually was a great idea and the only thing they really needed to do is expand it to more countries and work on better marketing to inform people what the Nexus is actually all about. I’ve kept flirting with Android because it has the potential to be so much better if only the OEM’s spent time not loading crap and providing a synchronisation application akin to iTune that didn’t royally blow (Kies is horrible on macOS and HTC Sync is only marginally better). The HTC 10, after the fiasco with Samsung, is looking increasingly desirable by many but then again I have to ask whether iPhone has much competition other than in the low end given that even if you spend a sizeable chunk on a flag ship Android phone that there is no assurance of getting upgrades and updates in a timely manner as with iPhone and the iOS upgrades and updates coming along like clockwork.

Oh well, what I’m holding out for is 2-3 years time when X-Point is eventually released along with DDR4 and future CPU’s from Intel and future GPU’s from AMD because at the moment things have been more or less incremental upgrades meaning I can pretty much stand where I am for the next three years without too many issues given the current state of affairs. Oh, I’ve had a look at the iPhone 7 but I’m still thinking whether I’m better off waiting for the 7s to get all the bugs get sorted out in the 7 before making the big plunge.

Microsoft and Apple announcement

Well, both Microsoft and Apple have announcements which I’ve broken down into ‘the good, bad and ugly’ rather than a long winded investigation given that if you want to know just the facts, well, the respective presentations are available online to watch. When it comes to the Microsoft presentation the biggest part of the announcement was the Surface Studio followed by ‘the dial’ along with a refresh of the accessories line up that Microsoft has available (keyboard, mouse etc). So I’ll be focusing on the Surface Studio since it was the major focus of the presentation:

The Good: I love the design and great to see that there is an attempt to move beyond just simply being ‘yet another’ computer vendor with zero creativity and racing to the bottom in favour providing a premium experience that shows Microsoft off in the best light. The hardware is gorgeously designed and minimalist along with being innovative. Even though I personally would probably never use the touch screen, other than using the pen to sign documents etc. even without the touch screen it has lots of advantages including the great hinge design which allows a variety of viewing angles and usage scenarios not to mention how compact and space saving.

The Bad: The price tag, the availability outside of the United States and the lack of divulging by the media over the fact that this won’t be actually available until early 2017. I love how people were whining over on /r/apple regarding the lack of an iMac refresh and having to wait till early 2017 yet when Microsoft does an announcement months before the release of an actual product then they’re given a free pass. There is also the fact that there is no pure SSD option. For me, I wouldn’t care if there was an easily accessible way to replace a faulty hard disk in such a device but given that when you have an all in one the best option is to always go for the one with the least number of moving parts as to avoid problems in the future.

The Ugly: Even though it is a great hardware set up the one thing that keeps letting down Microsoft hardware is their operating system that ultimately lets down the over all product but this complaint isn’t new given that even when OEM’s have put together crapware free product lines they’re still never quite up to the ‘fit and finish’ of macOS. End of the day the common denominator is Windows and although Microsoft are putting a lot of work creating gorgeous hardware the reality is that no one stares at the hardware all day, people use a computer and the operating system is ultimately the platform which enables end users to run the applications and games which turns an otherwise nice (but boring) piece of hardware into something useful.

Conclusion: It was a great presentation and great new features but it really fails to address the fundamental problem of the Wintel platform is the operating system itself – Windows. Until Microsoft address the fundamental problems with Windows then you’ll keep seeing the same problems appear where once the customer moves beyond the demonstration and start actually using the device they soon realise that the 15 months that have passed have delivered very little in the way of fixing up long standing UI inconsistencies not to mention having some sort of path forward to replace win32. The problem is that although they have promoted the Universal Windows Platform as the replacement for win32 the problem is that they’ve based it upon win32 which has resulted in a system that has inherited all the flaws and limitations such as the MAX_PATH 256 character limitation that still causes problems with Windows File Explorer and directory structures that hit that limit (which is quite common when dealing with music libraries). There is also the lack of addressing major flaws – where is MTP support in the Music application to allow people to synchronise their music library without having to deal with the current situation of manually dragging and dropping? Yes, it has been 15 months but the ‘improvements’ over 15 months have been few updates of substance nor any sort of road map showing that in the future it will be delivered.

When it comes to the Apple presentation the expectations were high, probably too high, due to the long wait in-between refreshes which unfortunately has left many expecting something revolution but when Tim Cook ultimately delivered on the update there was a feeling of having been ‘let down’ (ignoring the fact that it was the fanbase themselves who created the hype and speculation and not Apple fuelling it).

The Good: They didn’t release something radical and that is a good thing. End of the day the Mac platform has matured and any changes that do come along will be incremental rather than something radical which will mean greater stability, less chances of dealing with a x.0 device so if the price for stability is something less exciting then I’ll take it. When it comes to the hardware one thing to keep mind is the fact that Apple is dependent on the Intel product cycle so is isn’t as though they can magically pull something out of their backside when Intel hasn’t delivered a brand new chip (not to mention the fact that each release the performance improvement when compared to the previous becomes increasingly less compelling for customers to upgrade at the fast rate they used to in the past).

The bad: I’m disappointed with the move away from the magsafe connector but at the same time it does mark a move way from proprietary connectors would would be great if they actually did it across the board such as replacing the lightening connector with USB-C as well but unfortunately they’ve decided to half ass it rather than doing what really needed to be done way back when they were designing the iPhone 7. It was a squandered opportunity and I think it was made doubly worse with the neglecting of the Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro along with the MacBook Air – unless of course we’re going to hear something next year?

The ugly: Apple failing to take advantage of this announcement to do a re-organisation of the product line up to also refresh much neglected product lines.

Conclusion: The presentation was underwhelming but I think that is due in part to the enthusiast community and blogosphere whipping each other into a frenzy about some major earth shattering change and Apple failing to live up to the hype that we, the enthusiast community ultimately created. With that being said though there is a rumour that there will be a refresh next year before the WWDC conference (which lucky enough I have off from work for 2 weeks so I can watch the WWDC sessions at home on the comfort of my couch) which will have improved CPU’s from Intel plus an ongoing rumour that Nvidia might be back as an option although I very much doubt it given that there has been a lot of time and money invested in Metal which probably include a lot of work basing their Metal API on their GCN which sits underneath it all.

After the event Phil Schiller noted robust sales and keeping in mind that as an executive they cannot just ‘make things up’ without legal consequences so if Phil is stating that they’ve got strong sales then it is fair to view it at face value. End of the day the big battle ground appears to be in the area of GPU and taking advantage of the leaps in performance so with Apple’s release of the MacBook Pro refresh there was also a slew of updates for Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor optimised to take advantage of the new 4XX series GPU from AMD. Another thing that is important and needs to be noted – for the vast majority of people they’re actually happy with the update and it is important to keep in mind that the screaming and whining on Reddit and Mac Rumors do not in anyway represent the average user just as all the screaming about the lack of a 3.5mm on the iPhone 7 doesn’t represent the average iPhone user. Sure, I like to bitch and whine but I always remember that I don’t represent the average user but unfortunately contributors Reddit and Mac Rumors fail to grasp that basic idea so thus forums are spammed with whining and I’m sitting here face palming thinking, “OMG when is this stupidity going to stop” (keeping in mind that it never actually ends…it just quietens down).

Your Windows 10 feedback is bad, and you should feel bad

Really, this is the sort of crap that Microsoft has to sift through just to finally get some useful feed back?

StupidFeedback

“Please fix the email” yet no explanation of what is actually wrong with the email client. How do these people actually expect Microsoft to fix something when they fail to provide even the most basic information such as what is actually needing the attention? Then there is the comments about the start menu – again, how are they remotely productive in terms of giving Microsoft feedback to improve their product? If they are going to provide feedback – how about providing useful feedback rather than using it as a platform for them to whinge and whine about all of life’s problems.

Oh god OneDrive sucks and so does Windows plus other Microsoft products

Every time I have a fit of optimism about Microsoft and think that maybe I should give them another shot I trip over yet another stupid design flaw that should never have existed in the first place. The latest fiasco being that my mum’s hard disk is on the verge of dying so I’ve taken it home and was able to recover all the files and had planned to upload it to the OneDrive since it would be better for it to sit in the cloud rather than on her hard disk thus avoid having to worry about backups and ensuring those backups are working. The problem is that the same idiotic limitations that plague Windows also plague One Drive – path length cannot be longer than 255 characters in total, that is, the full path including the parent directory. What a stupid limitation but this limitation also plagues Windows which I experienced the last time I used it – trying to organise my iTunes library and persistently hitting that limitation. Btw, for anyone wondering this is the message I received

“A file or folder can’t be uploaded because the path is too long.”

So In the end I just gave up and installed Google Drive which has 15GB of storage which is more than sufficient for what mum wishes to achieve.  Really, this is but one of many problems I have with Windows and years of having this known still hasn’t forced Microsoft to fix up a stupid limitation like this.

Microsoft SQL on Linux and future development

Just out of left field Microsoft is in the process of making Microsoft SQL available on Linux with a full stable version that’ll be ready by 2017 ( link ). I believe this move by Microsoft has two matters worth considering:

1) Windows Nano Server is an on going project by Microsoft to dismantle Windows and rebuild it in a way which avoids the spaghetti code mess. The work started out over 10 years ago with min-win but as time has gone along it appears that all the components have been given a clean make over with the most recent being the Universal CRT that brings the standard C and C++ library into compliance with the open standards that exist. Part of that probably also involves decoupling the lower levels of the operating system so that the core consists of the kernel, C and C++ library and all the other libraries only dependent upon either the C/C++ run time library and the kernel interfaces that are exposed to user land. In other words the sort of system that results from it is something akin to FreeBSD mini iso or the ArchLinux basic core where you build up from there.

With the base core and GUI-less stack there is Microsoft working on having to decouple the UI front end from the server software itself given that the software when written always assumed that you had a UI running all the time where as a lot of the work would be done via the UI. Times have changed and Microsoft wishes to make management via PowerShell a first class experience which involves porting PowerShell to Core .NET which is the open source .NET project which is available on Windows Nano Server and can be installed via a package manager which then opens up possibilities for headless management.

Net result? code is being cleaned up so that their whole range of server software can be installed on the nano server so it is only natural that as a byproduct the ‘guts’ of their server software become more platform independent then in the long run I have a feeling that Microsoft will create modern UWP front end that you point to a server or can run locally to control the system itself. Basically it is a piece meal bit by bit clean up of Windows.

2) Microsoft is running where the money is and if that means providing their middleware on more than Windows then I think that is the future they’re looking at. As Nadella noted – they go where the money which is no different to say Oracle who provide their server software on Windows, Linux and Solaris even though they would you prefer that you bought a server off them running Solaris they’re more than happy to sell you a copy of Oracle to run on Linux if it means keeping you as a customer in some form.

Regarding point (1) it reminds me of the sort of work that is being done when it comes to the C++ standard particularly around threading and 2D drawing which makes me wonder whether part of this has to do with the win32 deprecation where the lower level parts of the operating system as replaced with open standard technologies with UWP sitting on top of that open platform so then it is easier to scoop up the UWP layer then transplant it on non-Microsoft platforms and provide the same experience regardless of the platform.

OS X not so bad after all: Swimming in the Windows 10 forums for the last few weeks

It is funny that having read through the tales of woe such as the ‘Core Rot’ over at ‘Mac Performance Guide’ but then I decided to hang out on a Windows 10 forum or two and see how the ‘other half live’, the result of which being that maybe the grass in’t always greener on the other side. I look at what is happening in the Windows 10 world and it is a train wreck – developers heading for the door when it comes to UWP ( link ) along with all the horrible limitations, Project Centennial which sounds great on paper but takes away a lot of the incentive to ever move from Win32 to UWP because it allows developers to get many of the UWP perks without having to move to UWP.

Keep in mind that once ‘Project Centennial’ goes into full swing that there are very few benefits left over by moving to UWP – with UWP you get to target Windows 10 Mobile but why would anyone care? not to mention if one holds out long enough that Microsoft will eventually cave and have win32 support on Windows 10 Mobile via Continuum. How about Xbox? their opportunity to dominate the market was undermined the moment they decided to ram Kinect down the collective throats of gamers – you know, the gamers that like sitting on their sofa with a bag of Doritos whilst hurling abuse at some player half way around the world, yeah, that guy really wants to get off the sofa so he can jump around.

As I’ve said in the past, Microsoft had an opportunity around 20 years ago to clean up the mess that is win32 if for no other reason than giving them the ability to being able to respond to market changes by having an operating system that is flexible, modular and robust enough to adapt when required. The problem is that they didn’t make the move and thus created the mess they’re in today. Heck, their biggest mistake was the Windows NT core and jumping on the UNIX Haters Handbook bandwagon rather than playing it safe and going with a BSD or BSD/Mach core so then at least they could focus  their attention on the value added higher level layers which would be a lot easier to deal with today; eventually win32 would be replaced along with the XOrg server where compatibility would be provided by having an Xorg session sitting inside the main display server in much the same way you can run Xorg applications on OS X. You could maintain the same stable BSD core, update it to UNIX 2008 (being the latest), embrace llvm/clang with a focus on delivering a top notch IDE with Visual Studio.

There was an interesting post by the creator of the Oculus Rift about the lack of GPU power in the Mac’s that are available but it is important to understand one important fact – the vast majority of computers, Mac or Windows PC, do not have the power required to power it. The minimum requirements is a nVidia GTX 970 which is out of the reach of the vast majority of people. The other part of the equation was the ‘computer that is good enough’ quip when in reality if you’re a vendor you have to pick your battles – do you enter into a dick waving contest to try and win the hearts and minds of gamers or accept that it is a niche that’ll never be won so why even try in the first place. In the case of the Mac platform it would never had made sense and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when the Oculus Rift makes it to the market with games available – it’ll remain a niche until an affordable version without such hefty requirements becomes mainstream but that is at least 2-3 years away at the earliest.