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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.