Polling to manipulate political outcomes

Just watching the latest ‘Real Time’ with Bill Maher and one of the changes that has occurred in the United States is the FCC banning robo-calling unless that individual has either explicitly provided permission or it falls under one of the limited number of exemptions such as a doctor ringing you up from a hospital to tell you that your great aunt Suzie was hit by a steam roller. One of the issues that was raised was ‘researching voting patterns’ aka pollsters would be made more difficult – but is that a bad thing? if it means that there is no accurate polling information then will it mean that politicians will actually have to come out with ideas and win people over rather than licking their finger, putting it in the air then tweaking their policies for maximum populism. The end result? we might end up getting politicians who have lived in the real world who understand what real people want rather than those who have been bought up in an elite environment divorced of what actually needs to happen in the real world. There is also the double edge sword with polling – it can and does influence outcomes of people voting.

Take Nicky Hager for example and the latest book called “Dirty Politics” where the negative ads put out by the right isn’t there to push more of their own out to vote but what it ends up doing it is more likely to persuade those on the left to not come out. Then lets add on top of the cycle of media coverage where poll after poll pretty much said that it was a shoe in for National to win the election so many didn’t come out to vote (compare the number who can vote vs. the number who registered to vote vs. the number who actually turned out to vote) and the net result? “Why turn out to vote, the out come is a full gone conclusion” and thus you have the self fulfilling prophecy where outcomes can be shaped by the constant barrage of polling. One thing to always remember, you may think your vote doesn’t matter but elections have come down to a matter of a few votes – Bernie Sanders for example was elected mayor on a majority of 10 votes. Imagine if 20 people who would have voted for Bernie decided to stay home – so your vote does matter and when it is extrapolated over larger numbers especially considering the latest election, if they turned out and voted for Labour the election outcome might have resulted in a Labour-Greens government with NZ First assistance but because people decided to stay at home we are now in the situation we’re in.

Market fundamentalism and something too good to be true

Just having a look through at the latest scheme cooked up by the party in charge today – promise stuff whilst not raising taxes and balancing the budget. The latest grand scheme that the National Party has, besides their privatising off of state houses to charitable organisations (the big ones have turned it down because the scope of what needs to be provided cannot be done not to mention the lack of specific skills in said organisations to manage such a large property portfolio). I can’t help but feel as though this is a situation of “if it is too good to be true then it most likely is” as with the latest scheme called ‘social bonds’ where it appears the government is trying to deliver services on the cheap in the belief that some how, through the miracle of divine intervention and the pixie dust of the free market, that the government can deliver on all their promises without having to raise taxes or increase borrowing. So I ask, “what is the catch” because I’ll guarantee you that there is a catch, there is some fine print down at the bottom that’ll come back to bite us (society) in the ass when long after John Key is gone there will be a gotcha clause but by then he’ll be long gone in a comfortable diplomatic posting. I can’t help but feel as though politicians just don’t have the guts to front up to the public that if you want more ‘stuff’ then it’ll cost more money – that you cannot magically make things appear without it costing money and that part of being a civilised society is actually paying taxes to ensure that the most vulnerable within society are taken care of so we don’t end up being like the US – a model on how a society shouldn’t function.

I’ve been watching and reading a lot of content of a political nature over the three weeks and it astounds me as to the irrational reverence, almost cult like worshipping of the free market, as if it were an academic discipline whilst ignoring that as far back as I remember taking economics you learn about market failures, the role of government, merit goods, demerit goods etc. where market failures you learn about goods that society need such as healthcare and the role of government to intervene directly in the market such as a single payer healthcare system where all citizens get access to it regardless of their income level. Such ideas aren’t ‘radical’ or ‘socialist’ but basic economics that you learn from the moment you start taking economics at high school. Friedrich Hayek even writes about how best natural monopolies should be regulated – that a natural monopoly exists because the capital expenditure for initial start up is so high that it acts as a barrier for competitors to enter the market and the period of return on investment is so low that it would be impractical to have illusion of competition that ultimately ends up hurting the consumer with higher prices – a natural monopoly with regulation is the better option (something that the United States did for make decades where AT&T was given a monopoly status but in return it was heavily regulated so that it made a modest return of the shareholders whilst ensuring the consumer wasn’t ripped off – the net result was also it allowed them to invest into breakthrough ideas at their Bell labs that led to the development of ADSL technology on which many rely upon for high speed internet).

And so I return

I never thought I’d return to Facebook but with so many work mates and friends around the world taking advantage of Facebook I’d be crazy not to be signed up and taking advantage of it. I originally deleted it because I really couldn’t stand the morons so these days I have a strict ‘no morons’ policy so that the only people I have as friends are those people who I’ve met in the real world and want to associate with rather than the ‘well fuck it, I’ll add them because why the hell not’ resulting in hundreds of people put as friends whom I really had no association with other than saying ‘hi’. All signed up and sorted out and things are going well – nice to see that Facebook has seen fit to fix up their interface and their settings page isn’t a minefield of confusion like it was in the past.

El Capitan 10.11 Developer Beta 2 has been released along with the second beta for iOS 9.0 as well but I’m more interested in what is happening with 10.10.4 and iOS 8.4 and when they’re going to appear. Hopefully the’ll be all ready for download before 30 June as to avoid a massive download traffic jam as everyone tries to update their operating systems whilst also updating their music application at the same time resulting in really slow download times. The feedback regarding El Capitan is as expected – not everything is feature complete given that it is a developer beta so I’d hazard to guess that many promises features are in a state of flux either to be fully implemented or receiving feedback from developers to ensure that new frameworks such as Metal/Metal Kit are actually useful in the real world.

Oh, and my scooter was stolen a couple of days ago – I reported it to the police but the chances of actually finding it are pretty slim given that I have the steering wheel locked so they would have had to wheel it out on the back wheel along with pretty much destroying the steering column to get it unlocked. Basically, it would have been unusable by the end of it meaning all it’ll be useful for are scrap parts and even then I doubt there would be much value in it. This is the first time it has happened to me having lived in this area for almost two years so I doubt this is a trend but rather just an opportunistic prick trying to make a quick buck or something.

Btw, rumour has it that Apple will be moving ‘Reminders’ and ‘Notes’ iCloud synchronisation from using a butchered/hacked usage of IMAP in favour of moving it to CloudKit which should hopefully mean a lot more reliable synchronisation. To be honest, when you hack up a protocol to do something that it was never designed to do then it is hardly surprising that things go pear shaped on occasion which will hopefully mean that the over all IMAP experience will be a lot more reliable. There is also a development of what is called JMAP which is an IMAP replacement that is based on JSON which would fit well into the JSON based CloudKit framework they were talking about – such a replacement for IMAP would address many of the concerns particularly around scalability as well as having a standardised way of push notifications where today they use a tweaked XMMP protocol which unfortunately isn’t a documented open standards for third party developers to implement.

What part of ‘developer preview’ are you having difficulty understanding? Oh, and scooter was stolen!

I was reading through the various forums regarding the next release of OS X in terms of reading feedback regarding the changes compared to 10.10 at this early stage particularly around the area of performance and responsiveness. When I read through these posts I don’t expect stories of major changes but it is nice to hear from developers that issues that they’ve been facing have been addressed or that the features announced by Apple at WWDC have allowed them to do certain things that were difficult to achieve using the existing frameworks that are in place. Keep in mind that this is a developer preview, it isn’t feature complete and it has only officially been provided through the official channels to paid developers – in other words, to people who know what the hell they’re doing and not enthusiasts who are as thick as two short planks but feel the need to be on the ‘cutting edge’. The net result has been, thanks to the easy of sharing via bittorrent, we have people who shouldn’t be running it end up running it with the forum filled with idiots bitching and whining about how certain things don’t work or how the ‘Disk Utility’ which has a new GUI (the GUI in 10.10 has been with the operating system since OS X 10.0 was first released) is lacking features. Really, unless you’re a professional developer offering constructive and useful feedback to Apple through the appropriate channels they provide to developers then don’t flood the forum with stupid shit and wait till the official public beta is made available.

Regarding Office 2016 for Mac – the June update I’ve been running since it was made available and so far I’ve been pretty happy with it. It has the same issues that I’ve listed in the past such as Microsoft’s obsession with setting up the language for the suite by detecting the keyboard instead of simply setting the language based on what the ‘System Preferences’ localisation language is being set to. The Outlook application is pretty much crippled and only supports the absolute bare minimum of functionality (IMAP and POP3) so at this point Outlook is merely a conduit for people to access Office 365 Exchange hosting in the cloud or Exchange server hosted on site for their organisation – maybe a tacit acceptance by Microsoft that there isn’t much point trying to push the old proverbial up the hill when there are already a bundled applications that comes with OS X which do the job which pretty much means that Outlook has to carve out a niche.

Oh, and just when I thought, “you know what I need…a nice hot cup of coffee to warm me up” so I head outside and noticed my scooter missing – my scooter had been stolen! I locked it up to the car port pole and locked its steering wheel so that it cannot be moved unless you have it pushed on the back wheel. I’ve reported it to the police and will be dealing with the insurance company tomorrow but it is yet another thing that I really don’t want to deal with at this stage.

Republican Ayn Rand worshippers: Gargling at the fountain of objectivist knowledge

I was watching the ‘Last Week Tonight’ with John Oliver and they have a segment called “Why is this still a thing?” where weird and archaic practices that are still carried out with that particular episode focused on ‘Why is Ayn Rand still a thing’ ( link ) and how that relates to the many Republican politicians coming out of their ‘Ayn Rand closet’ to speak of the virtues that are found in her writing – too bad they chose wade in the shallow end of the paddling pool (fiction) rather than diving into the deep end (non-fiction) resting in receiving half the story and failing to understand the terms being used as defined by Ayn Rand not to mention the underlying arguments relating to volunteerism in every transaction.

The basis of capitalism in the model that is explained Ayn Rand is the voluntary exchange of goods and/or services for money (or something else in the case of barter) and the transaction that is mutually beneficially to both parties. No force has taken place during the transaction because both have mutually benefited from that transaction and thus that forms the basis of all relations between not only between citizens but also between the citizen and the state hence the rally cry ‘taxation is theft’ on the basis that the government by its definition is the embodiment of ‘force’ and the argument of a percentage of the population through the use of this ‘force’ doesn’t make that act any less of an act of violence against the individual than for example an individual robbing me at gun point. This goes to the second point – the size of government being small by virtue of its role being that of protecting private property, maintaining law and order, and protect the nation but how this is funded would have to be through some voluntary means such as a lottery, possibly an import tariff – as long as the payment is voluntary (the practicality of that she never really goes into detail other than emphasise that it cannot be funded via the traditional means).

At the centre of this is the individual and the argument that the individual owns their own body and the wealth that is created through the exercise of that boy in the marketplace of transactions that are carried out voluntarily – the exchange of labour for money, the exchange of money for product and so on. The only legitimate reason for the government to take property and/or your life from your is because it violated the rights of another other than that you an guess what that means. When it comes to property, unless you’re impacting someone else negatively through what you’re doing on your property – pollution from your factory violation the property rights of others near near by then those impacted can sue.

A lot of what can be understood can be read in her various books including the Objectivist Epistemology, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution (collection of essays), The Romantic Manifesto, For the New Intellectual, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and Philosophy: Who Needs It. I’d start with Objectivist Epistemology the work onto the Virtue of Selfishness then pretty much any book from then on. If you’re Ted Cruz who only read Atlas Shrugged then you’ll be sorely disappointed that if you’re a religious wing nut like Ted Cruz that Ayn Rand doesn’t have many positive things to say about you.

I’m not a objectivist supporter but I find it troubling that her name is bandied about and name dropped by certain politicians to carry favour with libertarian leaning Republicans and Tea Party folk – “look, I read the same book as you! we’re on the same page” when in reality if journalists weren’t so lazy then they would ask some obvious questions that would undermine the a lot of what they say and their claims of having understood objectivism and what arguments were being put forward by Ayn Rand. Oh, and Republicans might want to acquaint themselves to the ‘Fallacy of collective rights’ in ‘The virtue of selfishness’ given how often they love to invoke that chestnut in the name of social conservatism. Whilst they’re at it they also might want to acquaint themselves to Milton Friedman’s argument against those who try to separate ‘social rights’ from ‘economic rights’ as if some how the two were interrelated. Anyone get the feeling that the Republicans are like those who claim to be believers in a particular religious book but haven’t really studied the book they claim they’re devoted and influenced by?

Squandered opportunities

I find it interesting that there is great discussion at the moment about free trade in the light of the TPP – putting aside that particular discussion for the moment, I always find it interesting how often Americans complain about ‘free trade destroyed our manufacturing’ yet I see a complete lack of discussion of how American businesses have squandered every opportunity afforded to them to make additional money by exporting overseas. Take their entertainment industry and their refusal to provide a global service for a single set price so that no matter where you’re in the globe you can purchase their particular service such as HBO or Showtime (to name a few). Ok, so I thought to myself that I need to get some jeans so I saw some jeans online and it was ‘union approved clothing’, did they ship overseas? nope, well, there is a sale that is just missed. I go onto Amazon and same situation, large number of products cannot be shipped outside of the US – even just a throw rug for my sofa would have required me to go through a re-mailing service just to get it to New Zealand. You see where this is going? how long will it take for American businesses to wake up and take advantage of an increasingly liberalised global economy given that it appears that of 2015 far too many businesses believe that the world stops at the borders of the United States.

Security flaw hysteria: Click bait headline as aways

Just reading through another example of hysteria being whipped up, not by security experts, but rather journalists trying to make out that something that is rathe difficult to achieve can be done merely by flicking ones computer on and pressing a button ( link ). In all due respects, nothing is gained creating hysteria about security problems that almost require all the stars and planets to be aligned just at the right time for something bad to happen, when the offending party trying to exploit a security whole requires the end user to make a series of steps that would first of all require the end user to be a complete moron for allowing the first step to take place. At some point, dare I say, the end user has to stop being an idiot and take responsibility for the decisions they make surrounding what is run on their computer and what they give administration privileges to when running.

Really…did you actually think before posting?

Been reading through Macrumors and the Apple subreddit, and i find it funny the constant whining about bugs or missing features in what is a *shock* *horror* a developer preview. First of all most of these people sucking the oxygen out of the room aren’t even registered developers so where they got it from speaks volumes as to their seriousness of actually providing meaningful feedback to Apple not to mention provide meaningful discussion on the forum. The other problem is that there is this constant avalanche of bitching and whining but nothing in the way of productive discussion either from a programmers perspective or even from a power users perspective – it is endless bitching or worse people posting the same crappy topic over and over again – is it really necessary to have 10 threads taking about how ‘fast and responsive’ 10.11 is? why not reply to the thread that was already started? oh silly me, then you wouldn’t feel like a special snow flake which comes when you start your own thread.

Reading further through there is the constant whining that bugs aren’t fixed – and when I mean by ‘bugs’ I’m not talking about the bugs you and I would be thinking about (a crash that occurs in one release and the next release it is still there or a API regression that has broken compatibility with a particular application) but rather ex-Windows users bitching that OS X isn’t behaving like Windows so therefore it must be a bug. Sorry to inform you but OS X doesn’t behave like Windows because it isn’t Windows, it’s OS X and as such will behave in its own way. Part of moving to OS X is accepting that OS X does things differently and either you learn to deal with the fact that things are done differently or just suck up your pride and head back to Windows. Labelling behaviour that you find uncommon as bugs is just plain fucking stupid but alas I see it far too often by so-called ‘Windows power users’ who are apparently so powerful at running Windows that they’re unable to spend a few hours learning the philosophical differences between the two UI paradigms and thus insist on demanding that OS X is turned into Windows just simply for their comfort.

More good news on the iOS and OS X front

Apple announced with iOS 9 that soon enough end users will have the joy of being able to install Adblocker to avoid the myriad of crappy advertisements that so many ad companies seem to think as the ideal vehicle for promoting their products. As an online citizen I understand that for the content to be provided people have to be paid along with the cost of delivering that content to me – it is a necessary evil to keep the online world functioning but is it entirely necessary to have big obnoxious ads that serve to not only distract but turn off end users from your website? When it comes to advertisement platforms – what I don’t understand is how you an provide an advertising platform but when that platform is being used for phishing attacks you stand idly by as if there was nothing you could do besides, you know, vetting the ads before allowing them to go live on you network.

Reading through it appears that the developer preview of OS X 10.11 is still very much beta/pre-beta where some changes haven’t been fully finished such as Metal is still not fully implemented on certain GPU’s and technologies mentioned to have moved to a Metal basis are still in the process of moving from OpenGL to Metal. It appears that reading through a lot of the documentation that is online that there are more optimisations and changes to come particularly in the light of the public beta that’ll be made available some time in July. Hopefully by then we’ll see a good portion of the movement to Metal complete but the more interesting part will be in the coming years as to what will happen with OpenGL and whether, even though it is proprietary, developers will jump onboard Metal because it offers superior developer expensive even if it means that portability is sacrificed.

Metal on OS X

Just sitting here watching the Metal presentation streaming over the net from WWDC and when I first saw Metal being introduced last WWDC I thought it was just an iOS only technology whose primary purpose was for games given that when they did their presentation the demonstration was a gaming scenario. This year I was expecting that maybe Vulkan will step up to the plate and maybe off the two side by side for those developers who are targeting multiple platforms but so far with the announcement by Google in reference Android M there has been no mention of Vulkan coming to the platform. Then add to that pretty much all the conversation at this point has been around Vulkan being geared towards gaming where as OpenGL is still be developed for the traditional productivity software vendors such as Adobe, Quark, Avid, AutoCad and many others. I’m wondering at this stage whether Apple looked at what was happening with Vulkan and realised that it addresses one problem but does address the fundamental problem that OpenGL has when it comes to complexity when compared to DirectX – lots have been written regarding the shader language and the intermediate form with OpenGL which is a giant mess when compared to DirectX. The net result is that any attempt to move the over all framework forward is fraud with difficulty not to mention the fact that when they do a product line refresh with new GPU’s then that introduces a whole new mess and unfortunately OpenGL always ends up lagging behind the hyper optimised versions put out by nVidia and AMD who have the luxury of being able to optimise and tweak the heck out of their implementations to get maximum performance. That being said, even with that being provided by hardware vendors you routinely hear programmers lament the mess of dealing with OpenGL – not necessarily Apple’s implementation (given that Apple are trying to make the best of a bad situation) but rather OpenGL fundamentally is a clusterfuck.

Metal when shown off at WWDC they used an unlikely candidate, Adobe, to show off their own professional software taking advantage of Metal (and the higher level framework called Metal Kit which which makes life easier for developers), which makes me conclude that they wanted something that is not only low level enough for gamers who want to squeeze out maximum performance (Metal) but also able to replace OpenGL in traditional places where OpenGL would be used (Metal and Metal Kit). They’ve moved over the various Core* components that were once using OpenGL to now using Metal for both iOS and OS X so the feeling is that OpenGL will keep hanging around but the resources now will be spent on developing their own ‘in house’ technology than having to deal with the mess that is OpenGL just as OpenGL ES has been upgraded on iOS in the last release but I don’t think there is a great push by Apple to get developers to use OpenGL unless they really have to because of multi-platform concerns (even in multi-platform scenarios there are ways to work around those issues without writing considerably more code than necessary). Where as Apple has to develop according to the schedule put forward by the OpenGL consortium where as with with Metal it gives Apple a lot more control over achieving what they want. Watching the WWDC session relating to Metal the slide noted that Metal compatible machines are Mac’s 2012 onwards so even those computers that fall before 2012 the feedback on Macrumors, Neowin and Reddit have all posted glowingly regarding the improvement in snappiness and smooth animations when compared to Yosemite which makes me wonder whether the efficiencies isn’t just at the framework level but further down in the graphical subsystem itself.

This remind me very much of Direct2D/DirectWrite where there were concerns that bugs in GPU drivers might result in unexpected behaviour but as some of the benchmarks pointed out, even if  Direct2D/DirectWrite fall back to software mode (which it is capable of doing) it still ended up outperforming GDI even when it was partially hardware accelerated (which came with WDDM 1.1). In light of that it makes me wonder whether the improvements that users have noticed with their pre-2012 Mac’s because it is the result of a more efficient underpinning in much the same way that even when Direct2D/DirectWrite runs in software mode the performance still out performs the partial hardware acceleration employed with the old API.

Just closing up, I think an interesting post in the comment section that was made on ‘Stream Computing Performance Engineers’ website really is telling – Vulkan is vapourware at this point and all the promises aren’t going to mean anything given that Apple needs something to ship now, today, and now waiting for the specification to be finalised not to mention drivers and frameworks to be created. Apple has been bitten in the past waiting for things to occur only to find that they lose their advantage over the competition because they had the chance to strike when the iron is hot by decided not too. I’ll be excited to see what happens in the world of Adobe particularly how the Mac Pro will perform once we see 10.11 shipping and the Metal optimised software make it out the door. I wonder also how this will result in a cooler running Mac which is of particular importance given the iMac 5K and the scorching hot M295X that is on offer.