How on earth do such idiots get jobs in the first place

Just watching a segment regarding the new regulatory policy regarding carbon pollution via the existing EPA mandate in regards to reducing carbon pollution over all:

And really, how on earth did Patrick Morrisey get his position when he can’t even grasp the basic concept that the limits are imposed carbon pollution and in no place in that regulatory announcement did they do as he claimed, that is, to centrally plan the energy mix used for power generation. Once again this is the funny part of the Republicans who worship the free market but when it comes to the creative destructive process that they so readily admire about the market place they seem to want to rescue dying industries for the sake of those who have a vested interest in prolonging the metaphorical buggy whip sales industry because they’re unable to see that motor vehicles open up a whole new set of opportunities in the future. This is why getting involved with politics matters because otherwise you get people like Patrick speaking and making decisions on your behalf that make your particular area look like a pack of mouth breathing knuckle dragging shit kicking yokels that lack the basic grasp of reality.

Mum’s computer, Windows 10 and testing ‘The Captain’

The one thing with having a family that has a mixed computing environment means that I always keep in touch with what the Windows world is doing and having a good grounding of what is happening in the real world as to avoid being sucked into the vortex of some very good marketing by Microsoft. I went around to upgrade my mum’s computer to Windows 10 and also upgrade their installation of Microsoft Office to the latest version available (Office 2013 plus all updates) since I already have an Office 365 subscription. I decided not to do a clean install but rather I uninstalled every piece of software that was installed then cleared out the stuff left over followed by installing it. The installation took around 1 1/2 hours or so but once up and running I tried to configure mum’s email account (through Spark/Xtra which use Yahoo for their email hosting) however the built in application doesn’t support folders in IMAP so I had to setup Outlook 2013 but that required me pulling the contacts of the Yahoo server then importing them into Outlook. Unfortunately there is no way to manually setup a CalDAV or CardDAV account in Windows 10 without attempting to butcher up an iCloud configuration but if you try to replace the IMAP settings with the Yahoo ones then it fails to connect. I would have thought something as basic as setting up CalDAV and CardDAV within the accounts option would be relatively easy but it appears that it is yet another oversight by Microsoft. If you use Gmail, iCloud, Outlook or Exchange then everything will be cool beans but if your host falls outside those 4 options then you’re pretty much shit out of luck.

In terms of the UI consistency unfortunately if you’re expecting major improvements over Windows 8.x or previous versions then prepared to be disappointed – a minor improvement over a previous release in terms of UI consistency and the differences are definitely present in terms of what is a WinRT application, a Universal application and a traditional win32 just by looking at it. For example, the File Explorer is still very much a win32 application with all the throwback cues to previous Windows releases not to mention the disjointed nature the over all theme that is overly ‘light’ and ‘white’ to the point that it is ‘burning white’ rather than a pleasant off white or even grey that you’d find in the case of OS X. I say this in contrast with Edge which is actually a really nice browser with a minimalist GUI design that if File Explorer was re-written as a universal application with the same look and feel as Edge would provide a much more coherent experience could be delivered. Keeping in mind that my whining and whinging isn’t about obscure parts of the operating system or something that a third party invokes but the lack of attention to detail that appears to be Microsoft’s raison d’être in spite of their insistence at each BUILD conference that there needs to be an increasing focus on fit and finish.

In terms of compatibility I didn’t notice any issues but the scalability issues relating to high DPI screens is still there but that is a side effect of having a mishmash of win32 and Universal applications. I honestly wish that Windows 10 is an example of a long term drive towards relegating Win32 to that of compatibility status and the GUI to be totally written around the Universal application platform but alas I’m skeptical whether Microsoft is the will or the stamina to actually carry it through long term or will they eventually loose interest then move onto the next ‘big thing’ whilst leaving lots of loose ends dangling as they’ve done with past UI changes (the control panel and the myriad of different GUI paradigms serve as good example of what happens in the world of Microsoft). That is the biggest problem with Windows when compared to OS X – although OS X does on occasions have the rough edges these rough edges rather than being ignores are seen as bugs and are actually corrected in a timely manner. A good example of that would be the volume overlay when you press the volume up/down/mute where if you enable ‘reduced transparency’ within the ‘System Preferences’ accessibility section there would be black fill ins where the corners are supposed to be rounded off – within 1-2 updates the bug was fixed. When QuickTIme first appeared in OS X it had an atrocious GUI that sounded nice on paper but the idea of having a draw that drops down with volume being round knobs results in something that is highly unusable with the net result was it being quickly fixed with a more traditional approach. When you go through Windows 10 there are still the same issues that existed 15 years ago and unfortunately I don’t think we’ll see these things addressed in the coming 15 years – hopes spring eternal but reality seems to have it that Microsoft have all the consistency of Linux desktops from 10 years ago.

Regarding El Capitan, Apple released a third public beta that coincides with the fifth beta that Apple released to developers and so far things are going well in terms of bugs being fixed, lessons seemed to have been learned from 10.10 by not replacing stuff that isn’t broken (discoveryd vs. mDNSresponder being a good example of a fiasco that needn’t of happened). Metal will be interesting because for many years I tended towards the preference of wanting well documented open standards but given the ‘design by a committee’ results I wonder whether there is sufficient advantage in Metal going forward to provide a counter balance to OpenGL especially when one considers the fact that the Demo at WWDC was about showing off how Adobe were taking advantage of Metal which makes me wonder whether we’ll start seeing traditional OpenGL users such as the CAD and creative industry take another look at an alternative especially if better performance can be obtained out of existing hardware with a set of frameworks that are clean, modern and designed for how things are being developed today rather than assumptions on how developers did things 20+ years ago. I’ve given the early previous two public beta’s a go but I’m not really all that gung-ho about the idea of running a beta build – I might have cared for such things when I was younger but these days I’ll let some other poor soul deal with the issues of compatibility and instability. On a good side though 10.10.5 is currently in development so hopefully that’ll translate into it being made available in the next month or so.

All those little things that make iOS/iPhone great

It is interesting to see reviews of smart phones and the focus is always on the ‘big things’ that really stand out when in reality it is the culmination of those small niceties rather than one or two major big things that really draw an end user in. Here are some of the niceties that keep me within the Apple ecosystem, more specifically, the iOS ecosystem:

1) Integration with OS X – my favourite feature is being able to answer the phone on my computer and make phone calls as well. Ring up an organisation and being put on hold but not having to physically have the phone up against my ear the whole time I’m waiting. When thinking about it without having used it the idea seems pretty simple but having used it so many times I feel lost when faced in a situation where I don’t have that option.

2) iCloud gets a lot of flack (and rightfully so in many cases) for its down time but when it does work it works very well – from the email service through to the keychain sync, the use of open standards when it comes to syncing: IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV meaning that you’re never exclusively bound to the Apple ecosystem – if you want to keep using OS X but have some other branded phone you can still sync your contacts, calendaring and email without having to worry about dealing with weird proprietary protocols.

3) When the next version of iOS is released, be it an update or upgrade, everyone receives it rather than having a carrier artificially holding up or the OEM deciding that your particular market isn’t worth supporting for the long term – I’m looking at you Samsung and HTC ಠ_ಠ In this day and age there is no reason why Android is announced then it takes up to a year for an update to finally trickle out to end users – and if you choose to release 100 models and it slows down your Android building then that isn’t the problem of the end user, cut the number of models and focus on a core set of models so then you can deliver a consistent after market support experience.

4) For all the faults that iTunes has when compared to the alternatives for their respective smart phone devices I find that iTunes still does the best job for what needs to be done. HTC Sync Manager and Kies on OS X (and I’d hazard to guess also the same situation Windows) is just plain horrible. It is one thing to maybe relegating OS X users to an after thought but when your primary base uses Windows then you’d think that maybe some care and attention would be spent on making their software polished so that the over all experience is enjoyable. Yes, I have been told that there are alternatives such as uploading my music to some sort of cloud drive yadda yadda yadda which makes what should be a 5 minute sync into a 5 hour clusterfuck that I’m sure no sane person would want to make themselves go through unless absolutely necessary.

5) The focus on delivering the complete widget – software and hardware. Nothing quite grinds my gears more than hearing someone ranting on about hardware specifications but are silent when ever it comes to the software. It is the software that makes the hardware usable and thus it is the software that dictates whether the experience is good or bad. For example, HTC has some great hardware but their camera in the M9 was plagued from day one with immature software and firmware which has since been resolved with 2 major updates plus many individual software updates through the Play Store but the point still remains that the initial immaturity of the software has haunted their perception in mind of many tech savvy people – even those who are long time HTC fans.

Samsung is no better when their long lead time between Google announcing a new Android release then it eventually making its way out to the end user where in many cases it isn’t the carrier that holds it all up but rather it is Samsung who does. Reminds me very much of an end user berating Vodafone NZ for not getting an update for his Samsung Galaxy phone but in reality it had already began approved 12 weeks prior and it was Samsung themselves who were holding up the deployment of the update. The worse part with the Android build Samsung provide is all the crapware that end users have to endure – if I wanted drop box I’d go out of my way to actually download it so I don’t need it pre-installed and impossible to uninstall without rooting my device and possibly voiding my warranty in the process.

6) Not being the first but getting it right. Something that people ignore is that it is all very well to boast that you get something first but it is an unworkable mess for 2 years then really the thing one is boasting about might as well not exist in the first place. Take Google Wallet for example and the common complaint about Apple Pay is that ‘Android had it first’ to which I ask, “and how usable was it in the real world?” Apple might not be the first but when they do something they tend to get it pretty much on the mark – Apple Pay was a large undertaking because rather than just throwing something out there then hoping by osmosis that financial organisations gravitate towards it is a plan that is doomed to failure. You have to work with those financial institutions – listen to their concerns and develop it in conjunction where you get what you want whilst also recognising that they have legitimate concerns that need to be take into account. Reminds me very much of Nokia who were last to the coloured screens way back in the ‘good old days’ but when they entered the market they delivered a great product that wasn’t riddled with the problems that other phones suffered from (battery life issues, poor text readability etc).

7) The audio and earphones out of the don’t suck – I have a nice pair of Sennheiser earphones which are great when on the train or when going for a stroll through the mall but when it comes to a good pair of ‘in the ears’ buds for when I’m riding my scooter nothing beats the quality. In the past the in the ear buds were horrible; the lack of bass, major distortion as soon as you push the volume just a smidgen higher than what the earphones could handle etc. but it seems that Apple have really fixed that. Compared to other vendors you’ll find that many still suffer from that very problem with especially when it comes to audio configuration – buy an Android phone then having to run off to the Google store to pay for an equaliser application just so you can boost the bass (yes, there are free ones but they’re all god nagware in them that keep asking whether I’m interested in purchasing xyz from some company I have never heard of nor care about).

Watch this space, I’ll be doing one for OS X and Mac’s.

The next day…

My heart felt thanks go out to the defence force and all those who attended dad’s funeral yesterday ( link ) as the support has allowed the family to work through the avalanche of emotions that have been unleashed after dad’s death. The one aspect of the day I really loved was the fact that it wasn’t a day where people sat around crying, wailing and gnashing of teeth but rather a celebration of dad’s life and what he contributed. Goodness knows I’ve gone to funerals in the past and the focus, rather than being on what the person did, the whole day defines the persons life based on their death rather than what the person did when they were alive. The celebration of dad’s life through more formal tributes at the mass and the more informal banter at the wake has done a lot to help the grieving process – it is what dad would have wanted as well.

As a deist ( link ) I don’t subscribe to the beliefs of my father but I can take appreciation in the tradition and ceremony of the Catholic church service that took place – the ritual provided a therapeutic way in which the grieving process can be expressed through to give it meaning rather than there being a cavernous void of emptiness that is left when someone passes away. I’m looking forward to getting back to work and getting back on track – it is important to grieve but it is also important to get back on track and focus on the future.

Gradually getting there: Could be worse

Funeral for my dad is tomorrow (Thursday) – the formal closing of one chapter but the beginning of a new one. All of the family will be there with the formal funeral being a celebration of dad’s life and then the wake afterwards where more informal speeches can be made by friends and family remembering stories of when he was at Duntroon etc. Although there will be a lot of crying by those who attend I have to admit myself I’m all cried out and have moved onto to accepting the reality of what has transpired. Having seen dad go through what he had to during the treatment, the spreading of the cancer to his lungs and the pain he was in the final days it was heart breaking to see someone whose stature dominated your presence to be a shadow of his former self.

Oh a more brighter note I’ve moved my ‘Cloud Service’. from iCloud to Google because of the increasingly unreliable nature of iCloud over the last several months – something that started out as a ‘once in a blue moon’ has become a regular event and to be honest for someone like me who utilises ‘the cloud’ for work I cannot afford not having a reliable email service or quirkiness when it comes to their service. Don’t get me wrong, I love using my Mac (iMac and MacBook Pro) but god knows it has been a war of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ between me and iCloud. Oh, and to wrap it all up I traded in my iPhone 6 for a HTC One M9 which was only marginally more – threw in a 128GB microsd card and synchronised my music via HTC Sync Manager although I have inquired about getting Syncmate at 50% off since I have an old version – connect it up using MTP and it works but the free version doesn’t allow one to sync but simply connect. I’ve ordered an Otterbox Defender which is a ruggedised case for the HTC One M9 – I’ll write a more extensive review in a few weeks after having some real world experience to show for it. Oh, and still waiting for Chorus/Spark to sort out the whole contacting Wilson Hurst to get the installation of fibre – hopefully get it installed in my office then maybe mount the router on the wall to get maximum coverage then use the power line networking for a good connection between the router and my Apple TV.

At least something is working well

In a week of shitty news at least there are two bright spots – Firstly I’m finally able to make the final payment on the interest free deal for my iPhone so my Spark account will finally be free of that debt, Secondly I’ve organised Spark to upgrade me from VDSL to UFB 200 (200Mbps download, 20Mbps upload) which will mean once it is installed all the improvements going forward are going to be centred around fibre and copper will be more or less on life support – I wouldn’t be surprised if some time in the future that Chorus will request that they phase out copper lines in favour of going pure fibre. I’m going to ring up Wilson Hurst, the contractors for Chorus (who do the installation) and I’ll see whether I’ve got all four letters line up so that I can hit the ground running straight off the bat so hopefully by the end of next month I’ll have fibre fully installed and sorted out. The big question is the installation location which I’m tempted to put in my office but equally if they can put it in the lounge room using the old power outlet of the old heater then it means I can run an ethernet cable from there to my router sitting on top of the the bookshelf then maybe I’ll get a power line adapter so that I can get a good stable connection to the router from my iMac. As for my existing VDSL router/modem combination – I’ll probably pass it along to my sister who is having issues with her own wireless in terms of getting good coverage so that’ll help her out as well given that the Huawei HG659b that comes with a Fibre 200 connection is a pretty good modem/router/gizmo.

Gradually coming to terms with what has happened

I’ve had a couple of days by myself to reflect on the information I’ve been given and slowly coming to terms with the new reality – I needed to have that time off from work to consolidate my thoughts and deal with the emotions or otherwise I think I might have broken down at work. It isn’t until one is faced with such a scenario in real life when honest questions regarding priorities are confronted particularly when I have my day off making a greater effort to spend time with my father given the limited that that is left. I’m going to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday because those are the days that are the most difficult to cover but next week I’ll see if I can have Monday and Tuesday off next week then work a four day week then hopefully everything will get back to normal again – well, as normal as things can get given the circumstances.

Dad has known since March that he has had at maximum 2 years under his belt but I think that given the circumstances he realised that the 2 years was optimistic and thus any time, any new day where he wakes up in the morning is seen as a blessing and cherished. For me it has come as a shock not only to hear about the 2 years but how quickly that 2 years has suddenly become a matter of months – I’m hoping and praying that dad can stay with us for as long as he can so that we can hopefully spend our last Christmas together.

Bad personal news regarding dad

I went into the hospital yesterday (Tuesday) for a meet with mum and my sister to sort out what is happening with dad and it appears that the cancer is a lot worse than we had been told. The cancer is rare, aggressive and spreading where he was told originally he had maybe 1-2 years to live he has now been told that it has been reduced to a few months – and that is being optimistic assuming that the fluid build up in the lungs can be addressed and the cancer progression can be slowed via moderate chemo therapy. Both my mum and sister cried, I fought back the tears and trying to be the strong male role in the family – I had a good cry when I got home but I’m trying to take on the leadership required to help mum and my sister get through this time.

At the moment it just doesn’t feel real because the news is so shocking – I keep hoping that something will happen, that through some miracle he is able to pull through and walk through the door all cured but having read through an email he sent to the local parish priest it all came crashing down on me then. Dad has always been there for me, the ability to stand back and look at the bigger picture and never getting hysterical about problems – a deep breath, sober analysis and acceptance of what has happened then looking at the possible solutions to the problem I was facing at the time. Having read through the email he sent, he has accepted that this is the end of journey for him on earth and a beginning of a new one – the time we have on earth is incredibly precious and we should cherish each day that we have. After reading it, I couldn’t even make it half way through – I broke down in tears, maybe the suddenly realisation where intellectually I had accepted what the situation is by my emotions hadn’t caught up yet.

I’m taking a few days off from work to get myself emotionally together then head back to work for the graveyard shift on Friday and Saturday along with end of week on Sunday. My brother is came around 20 minutes to midnight Tuesday – I’ll catch up with him later on today however from what I understand he hasn’t bough a return ticket so there is no ‘hard and fast’ time table that he is sticking too. I need to keep busy and focused or otherwise I’ll turn into a crying wreck and never get anything done. There is a time to morn but there is also a time to accept that those of us who are still alive to continue on living.

Greece defaulting is something that is hardly new

I had this emailed to me not too long ago regarding the whole Greece debt crisis issue:

I thought you might enjoy this…

As noted by Joshua Brown of thereformedbroker.com, the Greeks may have invented finance but they are spectacularly bad at managing their own financial affairs. In 6BC, for example, many Greek farmers were forced into slavery after defaulting on their debts, having used their personal freedom as collateral. The problem got so severe that the poet Solon was called in to fix the mess, which he did by devaluing the currency, forgiving debts, and buying citizens out of slavery.

Over 200 years later the Shrine at Delphi and its Temple of Delos had to take an 80% writedown on a loan to 13 city states after many of them failed to repay their debts. Indeed, the reputation of the Greek city states was so bad they refused to lend to each other, choosing instead to lend to wealthy citizens from the respective states, who were more reliable debtors.

Unfortunately this poor track record does not end in antiquity.

Since 1830 the country has defaulted on its debts five times. Indeed, the only two countries that have defaulted more often are Ecuador and Honduras. To quote Brown: “To a person with any historical awareness, being told that Greece is on the verge of a default is like hearing Dean Martin is on the verge of a martini”.

More recent Greek history is littered with financial irregularities and fudges, which allowed them entry into the Eurozone but set in motion the crisis that we see today. These include rampant tax evasion, currency manipulation, and misrepresentations of the true debt position in order to pay for the nation’s spendthrift ways.

A Greek default is inevitable and no bailout can prevent that. But so too is the next one after that, and the next one, and so on if history is anything to go by. But is it really anything to be that alarmed about? After all, it appears the Greeks are really good at it.

So it appears that ‘being bad with money’ isn’t the first nor the last time it’ll happen with Greece – maybe Germany should have just held firm and pushed Greece from the Euro rather than providing a bandaid for something that’ll come back in a couple of years time when the same crisis is revised again.

Boring is good and don’t re-invent the wheel unless you need to

Just reading through this article on Arstechnica ( link ) regarding the latest release of Mint Linux (which originally started as a fork of Ubuntu) and how the rest of the industry seems to be enamoured with making a desktop operating system look like a tablet one – basically a wall to wall Windows 8.1 (Windows 10 reverse that but it is still a mess) clusterfuck all because someone gets a brain fart thinking that ‘one size fits all’ is really going to work (even though almost every attempt in every industry to try and be ‘everything to every one’ ultimately results in no one being happy with the end result). The article goes on about how the Linux community went through their own ‘phase’ where Ubuntu developers along with GNOME developers saw fit to take it upon themselves to turn everything upside down because what worked was no longer cool so they felt the need to re-invent the wheel all the sake of being ‘hip’ and ‘at the fore front’ (insert MBA buzzwords as required).

I for one like the traditional desktop and I’ll hold onto it like an hold battle axe because it does the job even if it lacks the necessary buzz words to some how remain relevant to the new screen touching generation. There is still very much a vibrant desktop and laptop market – the upgrade cycle has been pushed out to 3-4 maybe 5 years in some cases but in the case of the Mac most end users have been on that long upgrade cycle for quite some time so whilst the rest of the industry has had to adapt to the new reality of a longer upgrade cycle, Apple was already there and their business model is based around that long upgrade cycle (hence as I’ve always said about the ‘race to the bottom’ coming back to bite the big PC vendors in the ass).

Apple years ago (before Steve Jobs died) had a presentation as to the folly of touch based interfaces on the desktop (see gorilla arm and as Steve Jobs put it, “looks great for demonstrations but horrible in the real world”) and the attempt by Microsoft with their ‘one size fits all’ universal applications that attempt to be everything to everyone but ultimately sucking in all the scenarios it tries to operate in. Where as Microsoft tried the ‘top to bottom all the same approach’ where as Apple has more success with harmonising the frameworks between iOS and OS X with the net result are applications that can share a common code core with the time spent on delivering a unique front end which caters for the specific requirements of each form factor.