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.

Healthcare reform in the US: The dumpster fire of dumpster fires.

So once again we have the Republicans, after having 8 years to come up with an alternative healthcare policy, have delivered a mess called ‘The Better Care Reconciliation Act’ which not only fails but what makes the situation worse which is compounded further via the dishonesty by Republicans regarding the ‘Affordable Care Act’ aka ObamaCare – side note, I personally prefer a single payer healthcare system like we have in New Zealand but take from that you will:

1) It fails to explain to the American public why there is an individual mandate in the first place. It has nothing to do with ‘big bad Obama’ taking away your rights’ and everything to do with ensuring that a system that doesn’t discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions are able to get coverage without risking a death spiral in the health insurance market. You need enough young and healthy people paying into the system so that cost of those with pre-existing conditions can be offset.

2) The death spiral isn’t the result of ObamaCare but the result of Republicans getting rid of the ObamaCare Risk corridor stabilisation fund which would help during the transition as all Americans get into the insurance system. The first wave of people signing up being the sickest thus their costs would be immediate and need to be offset by the stabilisation fund whilst the healthier customers come in and buy up policies which will eventually balance out the initial amount of money that went out to cover the first wave of people who signed up.

3) The stabilisation fund was to bridge the gap (the period between sick people entering and then healthier people entering in later on) as to ensure that it didn’t go into the death spiral but thanks to Republicans cutting it (the stabilisation fund) the net result was a sharp rise in premiums and insurance companies leaving states but then again this has always been part of their (Republican) play book: “[policy] doesn’t work and we’ll make sure that [policy] won’t work by taking away the central plank that holds up the said policy”.

Are there issues that need resolving? Sure but what have the Republicans proposed other than the same reheated ideas that simply don’t work because healthcare is one sector of the market which the ideas of market forces cannot be applied – increasing costs don’t reduce demand (simply put, health is a need not a want so people generally cannot hold off until a ‘better deal’ comes along) and due to the highly regulated nature of the market (for good reason) the sorts of innovation that drive down costs take years to make it market not to mention the requirement to make back not only the initial investment but the costs of getting it to market in the first place (reduction in delivery is undermined by the cost of the final product due those inputs I talked about).

How does one deal with it? government intervention which ensures that a social good like healthcare is available in sufficient enough volume at an accessible price point hence government intervention; either directly such as directly providing healthcare by owning hospitals, clinics etc or indirectly through a single payer with strong regulations to keep costs under control. There is also invention in the education sector to also ensure that sufficient enough nurses, doctors and trained specialists are entering into the profession through subsidising education through lower fees and interest free student loans. Then there is bulk negotiation of pharmaceuticals from companies – horse trade over the prices and drive down the cost per unit, the company gets a secure customer who pays on time and the customer (aka ‘the tax payer’) receives value for money. At different points in the health sector the government can and does intervene to bring down the cost of delivery and you’d think with over 70+ years of national healthcare systems from around the world that America could learn from, they (America) still insist on re-inventing the wheel.

Feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck

When I went to the doctors on Monday and oh god I felt like death warmed over; I was coughing up phlegm, light headed, running a temperature – basically feeling 50 shades of horrible. I got some antibiotics and they seem to have dealt with the worst aspects of it but I still have a dry cough which I’m taking some Formula 44 for but I’ve sent an email to my local medical centre as to whether it is something I should do a follow up consultation along with a prescription refill or whether it is something that should be just ‘soldiered through’ and allow nature take its course. Right now the temperature is 8 degrees celsius although in reality it feels a whole lot colder primarily because we’re in a valley meaning the cold air lingers around for a lot longer so I’ve got the heater going to keep me warm.

On a good side I’ve put out some job applications and fine tuned my cover letter given that the one I was using before appeared as ‘too generic’ and if read by someone it really didn’t give the reader the impression that I was sincerely interested in a job given how cookie cutter it actually was in nature. Hopefully over the next few months I’ll get some replies and opportunities to be interviewed because although I enjoy the job I have the problem is the fact that it is seasonal work with long stand down periods where as I’d prefer to have something that has more stable hours so then it is easier to budget and plan for.

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.

Go on holiday….comeback sick

Unfortunately I went on holiday to my brothers wedding them come back sick – sore throat, sniffy nose and feeling dehydrated so I’m resting at home, drinking lots of water, and keeping warm. I was going to create a podcast regarding the details surrounding WWDC 2017 but every time I started to talk I would end up with a build up of phlegm in my throat and the whole experience wasn’t exactly all that enjoyable. That being said I might write up an article talking about the WWDC 2017 and repudiating some of the critiques that were made which quite frankly don’t hold water. Anyway, off to bed I go and to have a good night sleep so I can recover ready for work when I’m better.

Back from the wedding

Arrived back from the wedding and my brother seems to have enjoyed himself with the new life that is ahead of him – no word yet on whether they want to have kids. Enjoyed the wonderful food and a great new Riesling that was very sweet – almost like a Moscato:

IMG 0005

All vegetarian food and a tonne of naan bread makes the meal perfect. Then for desert there was Gulab Jamun with ice cream plus a piece of wedding cake – I was so full I could barely move and putting on the safety belt in the car was a mission and a half lol.

This is why technology journalism is heading down the shitter

Yet another half baked article from our ‘friends’ over at ‘The Verge’ ( link ), now don’t get me wrong I have no problem with ‘Joe’ or ‘Jane’ random posting his or her 5 cents worth on a given topic on their own blog but when ‘The Verge’ gives someone a platform then there has to be standards – half baked drivel consisting of bitching and whining that Apple doesn’t provide you with a product you like (therefore Apple sucks) is hardly something that is even close to what I would consider hitting a professional standard. What do I mean by a ‘processional standard’? If you’re going to talk about a product or company then evaluate the company based on what it actually says and what it does rather than complaining that said company or said product doesn’t do what you want it to do.

1) If you’re reviewing a ultrabook then don’t bitch and whine about the fact that you cannot upgrade the RAM or that the performance is ‘wanting’ when you try to play some super duper graphics laden shoot ‘em up – it was never designed to do that nor has the hardware vendor ever claimed that it was designed to do that so why are you evaluating the said product on a set of criteria that the OEM never designed the product to meet? Evaluate the product based on what the vendor promised – it fails to meet what was promised then by all means rip the OEM a new one.

2) Apple develops for the middle 66% of people; the 17% at the bottom end are never going to buy unless it is dirt cheap and Apple isn’t interested in a race to the bottom nor is Apple interested in catering for the 17% at the top who want a super duper gaming machine because the market simply isn’t there – those who want to game already build their own or already have a Mac but have a Playstation or Xbox when they want to do some gaming.

3) When you have a computer you just don’t stare at the hardware mindlessly but actually use the hardware and how you use it is via the underlying operating system and the software that runs on top. If you preference is Windows because you want to run Solidworks for your job then it makes sense to have a Windows PC just as if a game that you like is only available on Windows or the best performance is achieved on a Windows PC because the software vendor has spent more time optimising for Windows.

4) The iMac Pro isn’t a replacement for the Mac Pro, the Mac Pro has already been scheduled for next year as noted by the ‘We’re Sorry’ round table discussion that occurred a couple of months ago. There is a market for such a device which is why Apple is developing it in the first place – the middle ground between a top of the line iMac vs. an entry level Mac Pro with the iMac Pro hitting that middle ground. Is it something that I would personally buy myself? Nope, I’ve got the cash and I could easily buy it but it would be a massive over kill for what I want to use the computer for but I’m sure there are creative types out there who want something more grunty and the iMac Pro would fit that nicely. Now, the only thing I would have loved to see would be something similar to the HP Z1 G3 which has a removable back so that you can take it off then get access to the components to upgrade:

HP Z1 G3 Worlstation 03

That would have been a real game changer but like I said, I’m sure Apple did their research and realised that the number of people who wanted that level of aftermarket customisability sits between bugger all and sweet fanny Adams.

5) There are those of us, like myself, after working all day simply want to come home to switch on a computer to play a game, surf the net and watch a few videos without dealing with the sort of bullshit that dominates the /r/Windows10 subreddit of people dealing with yet another automatic update that has broken something, yet another driver update that fixed one thing but broke 1/2 dozen other things etc. The net result? People like me are happy to pay a premium if it means we can be shield from that bullshit and can enjoy our free time instead of spending that free time trying to work out why something has gone pear shaped.