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.

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).