Complaints and Grievances

Reading through the /r/apple subreddit and it is always amazing when I see people complaining about the latest MacBook because it cannot run Firefox or Microsoft Office 2011 badly (in fairness to 2011, it is old and poor optimised so I’ll be fair to Microsoft). Firefox has always been a horrific mess because it pretty much recreates a large portion of an operating system all for the sake of portability so the net result is a piece of software so abstracted that you end up with what you have. If the software is designed to be multi-platform then the platform it is running on will always be an afterthought rather than a deliberate plan from the outset that the operating system was targeted from day one. The net result is that you have an application that runs but never going to be optimised or well integrated – it’ll always feel like a ‘fish out of water’ but all is good when you’ve got a grunty piece of hardware that is able to mask the inefficiencies in the software because “well fuck it, lets just throw more memory and processing power then eventually it’ll run acceptably”.

Now, the problem is that you’ve got super low power low clocked CPU in a fanless super thin notebook design which means if you have a well written application that is optimised and takes advantage of the built in operating system technologies then it’ll run well but if it is a piece of software written with your operating system as an after thought then it’ll be a crappy experience. The rumour has it that Apple has hit a wall – the ability to throw more hardware at a problem isn’t going to make up for inefficiencies in the operation system so in recent days the rumour has been going that the next release of OS X and iOS will be focused on optimising and bug fixing, a ‘Snow Yosemite’ that’ll hopefully give developers at Apple some breathing room to sit back and go back through the code to clean up some loose ends which will hopefully mean a more reliable experience not to mention those devices with low power CPU’s such as the newly launched MacBook will provide a new lease on life.

Making progress

Making progress bit by bit – contacted Spark to notify them that I have cancelled the UFB installation given the amount of fucking around required to get it installed it just wasn’t worth it for the modest speed improvement given that today I’m already getting connected to the exchange at 45Mbps down and 10Mbps upstream which is close to the maximum one can get at this distance from the exchange using a VDSL connection. Sure, if I purchased UFB I could download things faster locally but since most of what I download is from overseas I doubt I would get much higher. Most of the time if I’m download off a big name like Apple or Microsoft I’m hitting close to 1-2MBps (mega bytes per-second as apposed to the connection rate which I provided as mega bits per-second). I’m very happy with my service and given that the price of wholesale copper is going to drop over time there will be the added benefit of cheaper prices. I have looked at alternatives such as the Vodafone Cable network which is already installed but their crappy customer service, crappy speed, crappy billing system and just wall to wall crappiness pretty much necessitates me staying with VDSL for the foreseeable future. I am tempted though to get a power line networking and working out how to disable the ‘night store’ setting on the power board so then I can use the circuit that used to be used by the heaters and instead use it as a dedicated loop for networking – have a good stable connection from my desktop computer in the office to the router in the lounge room sitting on top of the bookshelf.

I’ve finally sorted out my banking with everything moved back to ASB Bank – Visa Debit card arrived but I’m going to pick up my EFTPOS card tomorrow as a back up to the Visa Debit then in the next couple of days the Visa Low Rate will arrive. On the Kiwibank side I’ve closed off my credit card and once that is confirmed I’ll contact them to close off my account. As for my ASB account I’ll get them to delete my two old accounts that I kept open just incase a friend of mine sent some cash from overseas but what I’m going to do instead is have a multi-currency account so then it avoids the conversion fees from Yuan to NZ$. Paying down that GEM Visa but I’m in now hurry since it is is interest free but I’ll have at least half of it whacked off by the time I go on holiday although at the beginning of June I’m going to take my scooter in for a 6 monthly intensive servicing and telling the guys at the workshop to replace anything that needs replacing or doesn’t look right along with tightening any screws, bolts and nuts that they see.

I finally used my oven and cooked some nice home cooked meal but I’ll be purchasing a roast chicken tomorrow for dinner along with some salad – something healthier than the fast foods I’ve become accustomed to at work. To be honest I am tempted to purchase some Complan (mix it with some Benifibre) and a shaker cup so then I can bring dinner from home to gradually ween myself off of fast food and get healthier. One of those things I noticed is that I’m becoming too reliant on eating quick food and god knows it can’t be doing good things to my long term health where as at least with Complan plus Benifibre I’ll get my vitamins, minerals and fibre required whilst also controlling calories which will help in reducing my weight over the long term and bring it to a happy medium middle ground.

Just realised that I’ve run out of spare oil so I’ll need to grab a couple of bottles from the REPCO up in Johnsonville – it’s a premium 2 stroke oil but it really does make the engine purr well combined with good 95 octane petrol the little 50cc beast is humming like a cat. I am tempted though to have a look at a 125cc scooter on Motorad which is the same brand as my existing one except it is a 125cc version of it for $3,799 ( link )  so after I pay down the GEM Visa I’m going to have a look at purchasing by throwing it on the card where I will automatically get 6 months interest free. That’ll double the power of the scooter meaning I can go for long journeys although the cost of the registration and licence is confusing ( link ) because I’m unsure whether the scooter would fall under the scooter/moped even though the cc amount has gone up given that if it falls below 50cc and a scooter than it is in its own category when compared to the exact same size motor but on a motorcycle form factor. There is this one that I’m tempted by because of the cool retro design  ( link ) but really what I want is a place where I can put my scooter that will protect it from the weather – out the back I’d love to put up something like an Archgola so then it provides some covering over the backyard so then I can put my scooter around the back whilst also providing a way where I can dry my clothes outside even on an overcast day – being able to have a decent size clothes horse. That being said, I also need to sort out that gate on the side because right now I’d prefer to have something a little more robust to provide security rather than the rickety lattice work thing that hangs there now. Whilst I’m thinking of upgrades – change the door that leads into the kitchen from having a frosted glass panel to a solid door – something more robust than the status quo today especially when it comes to security and keeping out drafts.

Regarding my current computer hooked up to the television, for some reason it is turning off each night so maybe it is getting to the end of its life – choc full of dust? highly likely so that will be another thing I can add to the ‘must do’ list where I’ll replace that with a Mac mini with a small SSD drive, wireless keyboard and a magic tough pad which should be fun when watching stuff online. I was ruminating over the idea of getting an Apple TV but the problem is that it is so restrictive in what one can do that the lifespan is limited and I’m more likely to get annoyed given that many of the shows I want to watch only show ‘previews’ on YouTube and a link to the full version of their website – PBS Frontline and Charlie Rose being two examples of that. Even if I went out to purchase a Mac mini and pay it all off it will still work out cheaper than having a Sky connection given that I have a flat rate internet connection combined with access to all the shows I want to watch such as France 24 which means I’m able to watch all the news online live but for free – good times and happy days for all.

TPPA and the Democrats

Just watching C-SPAN throw down between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell – it is funny hearing Mitch McConnell quote word for word what Democrats have said in the committee after the Democrats voted not against the fast track bill voted against the very idea of having a debate! How can Democrats in committee claim they’re not interesting in scuttling the bill then turn around and vote against the very idea of having a debate in the first place – the fact that the bill never actually gets to the stage where these issues can be thrashed out and modifications made if need be? What is even more problematic is the narrative surrounding the ‘fast track’ as if it were an automatic approval of what ever Obama negotiates but what it really does is allow Obama to negotiate but the congress and senate still get to vote on the final version. The only gotcha is the fact that the final version cannot be amended – either members vote for or against it. If Elizabeth Warren is so adamantly against it then why not vote against it when it is presented to the senate? If it is such a bad idea then why not vote against it and then Obama go back to the TPPA working group noting the concerns of those who voted against it? Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of misgivings with TPPA but nothing is gained by blocking debate nor nothing is gained if you claim you’re against it and yet don’t have ‘the balls’ to vote against it when it is presented to the congress and senate.

Enjoying my day off from work, looking forward to the long weekend in June

Chilling out at home today and enjoying a game of Simcity 4 on my Mac although I am excited about the opportunity about giving the game ‘Cities: Skylines’ which every reviewer has noted that this is what Simcity 5/2015 should have been – single player, face, responsive, better game play etc. It is available via steam which should be fun to give a go keeping in mind that the price is pretty reasonable, $38.99 for the basic game but with all the add on’s it is something like $10-20 more but given all the positive reviews I’d be more than happy to plonk down the cash.

I’m looking forward to the WWDC 2015 this year and hopefully we’ll see some announcements along the lines of refinement rather than trying to ‘stocking stuff’ another release with a tonne of new features with parts that are broken. At this point looking back I could understand the need for a lot of what was added such as handoff and continuity not to mention the update of the iCloud service to the iCloud Drive model rather than the ‘Documents and Settings’ model which goes back to when iCloud was first made available. I’m hoping that going forward we’re going to see a greater focus on making life a lot easier for developers when it comes to fixing up bugs in the various frameworks but with that being said now that the transition from GCC to Clang/LLVM has been completed for quite some time so hopefully we’ll start to see improvements in optimisation for x86-64 and ARM.

What has been interesting is the discussion about ARM64 and the long term ‘dream’ by some in various quarters of the idea that Apple will eventually move to their own ARM design somewhere along the lines. In a certain light I can understand the rationale given that they’ll be re-using their existing core design and building upon it so in terms of developing, maintaining and furthering the basic design they have it wouldn’t exactly be an additional load other than scaling up and adding the sort of processor features that desktop, workstation and server CPU’s have. If they were ever to move I doubt they would split it between the MacBook and keep Intel for the rest in much the same way that when they moved to Intel they moved the whole line up over a period of around a year to the point that the whole line up was complete Intel based. Assuming they didn’t go down that road then it would involve pretty much the status quo design and in the case of an iMac 5K and Mac Pro the use of a discrete GPU from nVIdia (who have the best power/performance ratio) so in the end it would pretty much resemble a ‘normal’ computer but with a ARM processor.

As for whether Apple would go for it – I doubt it, why give up the ability to focus on the differentiation and let Intel focus on the drudgery where as brining the line up over to ARM will mean needing to bring all those functions in house with little in the way of any sort of benefit (one of the major benefits of moving away from PowerPC to Intel was that Intel and Foxconn made the boards, provided the chipset and Apple created the firmware with the necessary code to allow OS X to run on the device) – as for developers, there simply using the huge difference between ARM and x86 which necessitates the harmonisation to the point that even Microsoft is giving up on the ARM space beyond phones and small form factor tablets because the justification just isn’t there. Honestly, I don’t see it happening because unlike Steve Jobs, I get the impression with Tim Cook that he is a lot more conservative – the fusion drive for iMac being a good example where as Steve Jobs probably would have said, “fuck it, we’re going flash all the way!”. In the case of the Mac line up, it is working well, Intel is more or less sticking to the schedule and any problems that affect Intel will affect everyone else so they’re not in the same situation where they were before with Motorola and IBM where they were perpetually behind Intel every step of the way – Intel is the biggest player and worse case scenario Intel can put out a refreshed line up of CPU’s to deal with the demand until the new release is ready.

Regarding Intel, one of the things that annoys me is the half baked crap of people going on about Intel’s ‘unable to deliver’ and ignore the fact that Intel has been on the edge of chip product for years when it comes to the adoption and widespread use of technology which justifies Apple moving their Mac line up to their ARM design whilst ignoring that Apple is fabless and relies on third parties who are at best 1-2 steps behind Intel when it comes to die shrinkage. Intel not only has an architectural edge but they also have the manufacturing edge as well – then throw on a more sophisticated CPU design (assuming Apple went ARM) then I could imagine the sort of problems that Samsung/TSMC would have to deal with where as the exiting ARM design is pretty basic and isn’t something that has a high likelihood of being cocked up easily. For the foreseeable future Apple’s future is with Intel – the benefits of staying with Intel far outweigh the so-called ‘benefits’ that so many ‘ARM cheerleaders’ like to ramble on about whilst ignoring the larger picture which is what really dictates whether making a change is worth while.

Another updated beta build of OS X 10.10.4 has been released along with another iOS 8.4 beta as well which hopefully will mean a release before the WWDC 2015 and the conference being focused on iOS 9 and 10.11. I’m looking forward to also seeing what happens with Microsoft Office 2016 particularly around the move to 64bit for their OS X version given that they’ve put higher priority on their iOS build given that Apple has issued a deadline when applications need to be 64bit by. After that has been met it will be interesting to see what happens when it comes to Microsoft Office 2016 and when it’ll eventually happen to the OS X build – whether there is a long weight because they’ve still got a tonne of legacy code to deal with – which makes me wonder why they just don’t run the Visual Basic backend as a separate process so the it can remain 32bit and move everything else forward without too much drama but that being said I would have thought at this stage they would have at the very least moved to a point where 99% of the code is shared between Windows and OS X as to avoid these sorts of issues.

“I work here because being homeless would suck a lot more”

Finished work, picked up some breakfast and headed back home to watch ‘The Blacklist’ then maybe I’ll watch Law and Order SVU maybe tomorrow night but it’ll have to be after I wash down the lobby floor which should be relatively easy given that we have a hose extension which joins two hoses together.

Amazing how the moderation system of points is so regularly abused by people who use it as a way to promote ideas they agree with rather than the original intention which was to promote posts that added to the discussion regardless of whether one agreed or disagreed with the post. Trolling is bad enough when a conversation is completely derailed and a flame war starts because some smug prick believes what they did ‘for the lulz’ was oh so funny but what is even worse is when a insular circle jerk is created where dissenting views are missing from the conversation because those posters can’t be bothered dealing with their post down voted then disappearing from public view together not to mention that their contribution isn’t taken seriously. Reminds me of the usual trope about how Facebook encourages ‘bubbles’ where individuals will insulate themselves from alternative view points but such ‘bubble’ has become all too common on the net where individuals will seek out narratives that confirm there own bias – “I believe in xyz already so therefore I’ll seek out stories and forums that re-enforce what I already believe so then I feel even more secure about my position”.

Still trying to sort out the whole UFB installation so I’ll take another crack at chatting to the neighbours on Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday (my days off) and hopefully get that sorted out with the landlord/owner signing permission for the contractor for Chorus to come in and install the fibre optic cable into my premises. Regarding the location, I’d be ok if they did it on the wall where the single seat is given that there is already a dedicated power outlet there that I don’t use for anything else and then have an ethernet cable that can go from there to my modem/router that its on my shelf which gives good coverage for the whole house. That being said, I am tempted to upgrade it to 200Mbps since they’ve made that speed available as well as getting a power line networking device so that I can go wired from my desktop to the router so then I can get maximum performance and throughput particularly when uploading videos to Vimeo or playing back videos. I’ll be excited once it is installed because it is the future – any sort of speed/performance improvements will be all focused on UFB going forward so once I’m on it then it is all smooth sailing from there.

Back home and almost ready to go to sleep

I’ve got work tonight from 9:00pm to 6:00am which should be fun but on the good side I made another deposite and I’m $240 away from closing off the credit card then closing off the Kiwibank account once the Kiwisaver has all been confirmed to move I’ll close off my accounts with KIwibank. I’m all set for the extra day off next week then on the 27th with excitement I look forward to the break in June where I can chill out at home, watch the WWDC keynote and sessions videos – the first time I’ve had an extended time off where I don’t have to deal with anything interrupting my break. Oh well, off to sleep and up in around 9 hours.

Chilling at home

Relaxing in bed watching ‘The Last Ship’ that I heard about on a tech forum (unfortunately Helix has apparently been cancelled) and so far it has been pretty good but then again I’m not one of these fussy assholes who go, “OMG it is so lacking in constructive juxtaposed critique of modern society through a post modern lens!” or some other crappy comment that I generally see on review forums – attempts by people to make themselves appear to be more sophisticated than they really are. Bought a couple of pizzas from Hell’s and sat back to relax watching some trashy television on my day off. I’m not one to go out and to be honest it is so bloody cold it is something I’d prefer to avoid not to mention that the cost of going out and the ‘pleasure’ experienced would be uneven – or am I thinking of money spent/pleasure received in a too much of a clinical way lol.

Regarding my experimentation with Soundcloud, I decided to kill off the account but also delete the whole ‘pod cast’ idea and instead focus my attention on writing for my blog with the occasional video upload to Vimeo to cover subjects best left to video commentary but text will be the primary form of communication. I’ll be uploading a video to Vimeo to talk about my MacBook Pro 13.3inch and iMac 27inch hopefully tomorrow now that I’ve given both computers a decent work out and can provide feedback that is useful and constructive.

On a good side, next week I’ll have an extra day off on the 13th, the 27th then in June for 2 weeks and a couple of days from the 8th so I can sit back and watch the WWDC keynote address plus the many sessions that Apple will have available to educate developers about the upcoming technologies in their next version of iOS and OS X. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing Vulkan (in particular how it relates to iOS and OS X to bridge the divide between the two platforms), OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 2.0, improvements in the graphics subsystem and hopefully a lot more under the hood improvements particularly around the area of the filesystem, threading and process management, memory usage reduction etc. I haven’t had a holiday for a long stretch for at least a year when the last time I did I went down to Christchurch to visit my brother so a long extended break would be nice and enable me to relax.

My iMac has arrived and more build stuff

So my iMac arrived in Friday, well before I was expecting it so it was a nice present before work – too bad I was so zonked out after having stayed up all night that I needed to get to bed and be up before 8pm so I could get to work at 9pm that night so I’m hoping that with Monday and Tuesday off from work that I’ll get to fiddle around with the computer more and maybe upload a video review (I tried before but I was s buggered from work tonight I ended up rambling deliriously without much of a point to anything I was saying). So far I’ve got OS X updated, all my applications installed and iTunes configured to my Drobo 5D device hooked up and is performing well.

The BUILD 2015 conference has been interesting – Windows was mentioned but most of the sessions I’ve seen have been more focused on getting developers focused on Azure and taking advantage of services provided by Microsoft but also talking about a less Windows centre future but rather a future where you use Microsoft technologies such as the upcoming .NET 5.0 to target iOS, Android, Windows 10 and OS X. I think there is a realisation at Microsoft that if you don’t support more than just Windows with your technology then programmers will simply using another technology that is compatible with the platform they’re developing on. The net result is that you’ve seen an explosion of development for Java, Python, Ruby on Rails, php and other technologies which has left Microsoft out in the cold – the move away from Microsoft technologies ultimately lead to a move away from Microsoft’s platform and ultimately making Azure less and less tempting because of that.

I’m still looking at soundcloud but as noted before I want to tie up some loose ends before plonking down $100+ for an account.

Microsoft Build 2015: Keynote and first day

Watching the Build 2015 keynote and the first part of the keynote was focused on Azure which was a not so subtle hint that going forward Windows is taking a back seat for the future direction which will be focused around delivering services and middleware. There was also the introduction of Visual Studio Code for OS X which gives an insight into the future of Microsoft, the change of attitude that if they’re going to get the net generation of business start ups to use Azure instead of the current situation of using Google or Amazon, then it requires Microsoft having to accept that they (Microsoft) will have to go to their platform of choice rather than demanding that the they come to the Microsoft platform. As one article on Arstechnica pointed out not too long ago, go around San Francisco and other hotbeds of start ups and you’ll see MacBook’s and Linux laptops – Microsoft has accepted that developers are open to using Microsoft’s cloud service but only if Microsoft is willing to accept that it will involve supporting for non-Micosoft platforms.

Moving onto Windows 10 the biggest announcement orientates around the delivery of iOS and Android ‘compatibility’ that sound more akin to the sort of ‘Windows compatibility’ that Mainsoft delivers with its WISE SDK where some win32 API’s were provided to allow win32 developers to re-use large amounts of their code and target the *NIX platform. The best example of its use in the real world was the brief appearance of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express on Solaris and HP-UX where it acted as an abstraction layer rather than a runtime such as WINE or a virtual machine – the abstraction required that the programmer had the original source code and modify it then compile it where as WINE allows you to run the applications it is by recreating the win32 API and wine taking care of handling the platform differences such as mapping directories as drives with assigned letters. Hopefully that’ll close the gap between Windows 10 Mobile and iOS/Android but one would have to hold off getting to excited because I’m sure there are little gotchas that might make or break whether some developers will bring their applications to the platform.

Another big announcement was the inclusion of .NET and win32 applications being sold in the Microsoft’s online software store but with a slight twist – the win32 application demonstrated rather than the traditional win32 which requires an installer which meddle around with every part of the operating system where as the win32 applications for the store will be modified to allow the store itself to take care of the installation and updating procedure. Part of that difference also includes the fact that rather than the application sitting ‘natively’ on the operating system it instead runs usual Microsoft’s own virtualisation technology which sandboxes the application in its own little self contained unit where, I’m going to guess, that file type registration (along with other universals that normally require administrator privileges) for example will be registered with the application store application which in turn as as an intermediary between the operating system and the application itself meaning the registry is left free of the usual garbage build up that normally results from frequent installing and uninstalling of applications over time. In the long run I’d love to see Microsoft reduce the ‘cut’ that they take to something like 10% so then eventually the vast majority of end users end up purchasing all their software through the application store which will avoid so much of the drama and heartache that comes with owning a Windows computer these days not to mention the TLC required to keep it running.

There was some small snippets relating to the new name for the next browser which will be called Microsoft Edge which also has its own extension capabilities which will enable the re-use of code used for Chrome extensions where Joe Belfiore noted that with a few modifications it was possible to get an extension working with Microsoft Edge. It is great to see that Microsoft has finally made the split; kept Microsoft Internet Explorer for legacy and enterprise support whilst moving forward so that even I, as a non-Microsoft user, will benefit now that a major player has pushed out a legacy free web browser which a focus on web standards that will hopefully translate to web developers taking advantage of these new standards rather than catering for the lowest common denominator out of fear that they would be incompatible if they joined 2015.

Unfortunately there are still are downsides; the GUI is still an atrocious mix of GUI kits meaning that the scaling on high-dpi screens as haphazard and half-assed at best – having given Windows 8.1 and the latest build of Windows 10 a go, things really haven’t improved all that much and won’t improve until Microsoft go fully WinRT/XAML top to bottom rather than this half assed half baked compromise that results in the shitty experience so far that I, along with many others, experience on the Windows platform. I would really love Windows 10 to succeed but given their reluctance to even clean up Windows tells me that they really don’t have much of a long term platform in terms of maintaining Windows as a consumer facing platform other than kicking it down the road and ensuring they don’t annoy their big name enterprise customers who don’t want another repeat of the Windows 8.x fiasco. I’ll keep an eye on the stuff that is happening – their server work is really interesting but their client is very much ‘meh’ which probably explains why Valve/Steam is covering their base with the work they’re doing on Linux with its partners.