Oh lord what a train wreck Windows 10 is becoming

Not too sure I do it, a kink for others suffering because the decisions they make or whether it is a form of self confirmation of the decisions I’ve made based off the misfortunes of others but none the less it appears that Windows 10 is pretty much what one expects from a Windows release – nothing more, nothing less. I’m running El Capitan (OS X 10.11) Public Beta 5 on my laptop and things are pretty stable so far with minimal issues appearing. The big change has been the introduction of Metal and moving large parts of the UI stack (WindowServer, SystemUIServer and friends) are being moved over to Metal and it is interesting to note how the architectural changes that AMD introduced with its new GCN based GPU’s are now bearing fruit in terms of strong performance gains against nVidia even when compared GPU designs that are a year old when compared to nVidia’s latest. From what I understand the current crop of nVidia GPU’s are VLIW based which is great if you want straight bat out of hell performance but as games become more sophisticated and developers want more lower level access with flexibility then something like the RISC architecture employed by Intel and AMD are more suited particularly when it comes to utilising OpenCL which is where AMD really has the performance lead over nvidia.

Intel had their conference where they unrelieved the latest CPU code named Skylake and it appears that they’ll remain with the 14nm die size with the introduction of of ‘Kaby Lake’ which will mean three releases based on 14nm and ‘Cannon Lake’ being the move to 10nm in mid 2017 but that comes down to whether they’re able to get 10nm working but also yielding product in sufficient quantity to fill the supply chains for retailers and OEM’s such as Apple. The other big move is the introduction of XPoint 3D which will open up huge possibilities going forward and I could imagine that as Apple gains access to it they’ll eventually kill off all spinning hard disks given that the new technology for Intel is not only faster but also can scale up to larger sizes and longer life span which will hopefully provide that perfect balance that so many OEM’s look for when sourcing parts. The big thing for me is waiting for the iMac 5K refresh in 2016 that not only includes the Skylake CPU but also a new GPU from AMD with a die shrink to 16nm which should mean cooler running, more power efficient and greater performance.

For me the big game changers that’ll convince me to upgrade my iMac and MacBook Pro will be the move to DDR4, XPoint 3D SSD, possibly a Cannon Lake CPU and either a nVidia or AMD GPU die shrink that’ll translate into better performance and less power usage which will mean less heat being generated. Until that happens I think El Capitan will give many people’s computers a new lease on life especially once we start seeing developers doing comparison between OpenGL and Metal in terms of comparing the efficiency of one against the other that’ll hopefully also translate into a combination of better battery life as well as better performance whilst also saving power at the same time – down clocking the GPU and CPU to save power yet still getting very good performance because of how efficiently things can be achieved. 

Retreating from globalisation

With the rise of anti-EU sentiment particularly given the way in which one country, Germany, dominates the European Union there has been a backlash against traditional parties which have held that the EU as being good for not only individual countries but also for EU as a collective entity. The problem with such an approach is the failure to move beyond a monetary union to bring about a fiscal union with a common tax policy, minimum wage, industrial relations etc. so that eventually over time there would be a harmonisation of wages thus you could go from Spain to Hungary and the difference in pay should be relatively small rather than the extremes that exist today. The lack of transfers from rich to poor countries in terms of welfare payments through to economic development mean you have this massive divide.

Then there is the issue in Greece where the cutting of public spending as resulted in a death spiral relating to the fewer people with purchasing power thus creating the mess that exists today. Do they need to reform their government? sure, I don’t think anyone is denying that but to address the fiscal issue you need to address the economic problems and once you’ve got the economy back on track then you can start looking at reducing spending and head count because the economy will be in a stronger position to be able to absorb large numbers of people entering into the private sector employment. That being said, I doubt we’ll get to the point of having fiscal and political union within the EU so I’m even more dumb founded as to why Greece holds onto the Euro like a battered wife convincing themselves that they should keep with their abusive partner because they’re a ‘good provider’. If Greece wanted to solve their problems they would exit the Euro and go back the the Drachma on a 1 to 1 basis including converting all deposits over in the bank and pulling in what Euro’s exist in the system as foreign reserves then float the currency.

Then again this goes back to what I’ve said in the past – the European Union as a free trade zone with each country with their own currency makes sense and it is something that I’m sure most Europeans would support but alas here it is. You’d think for example in the case of the UK, what they did in terms of quantitative easing and other such policies serves as a good example of the merits relating to a decentralised monetary system so that individual states can respond accordingly to their fiscal and monetary ways without having a central body being hamstrung to the ideological whims of the dominant power. Where as Germany needed low interest rates to boost their economy what Spain and Ireland needed were higher interest rates and capital control to deal with their property bubble but because of the nature of a single European currency there was little that they could do to address what was happening in their country. What would also happen is the different currencies would ensure that you don’t have a central economy dumping their products onto the periphery and loaning money to pay for it – Greece’s currency would have dropped in value thus making their own products competitive not to mention businesses being tempted to Greece because of the low cost of doing business due to the weak currency – an equilibrium between imports and exports with the currency value regulating that.

The argument relating to the globalisation through the reduction in tariffs, quotas and non-tariff barriers was the belief that trade is a net positive for both sides, a win-win, I have something you want an you have something I want so we trade thus both of us get what we want. Part of that also included the argument that over time there would be a gradual harmonisation of wages as those in developing countries wages rise resulting in the income gap between countries is reduced (not taking into account currency manipulation but that is an entirely new topic that requires its own post) and the competitive advantage of wage differentiation would close to the point that competitiveness would move from cost of labour to specialisation, natural advantage (aka ‘we have lots of minerals we can dig up’)  and so on. The problem is that for many Americans they’ve found that although NAFTA was supposed to deliver that the problem is that 21 years after it was signed into law (1994 under Bill Clinton) many are asking when is that harmonisation going to happen given that 21 years later the manufacturing sector is still being hollowed out and the wages on the other side of the border still haven’t risen enough which leads many to wonder how long must the US bleed before this hypothetical equilibrium is reached? this is the reason why many are getting behind Bernie Sanders on the left and Donal Trump on the right – because talking about how the average American worker is being screwed by the current trade policies.

Then there is the environmental side of the equation which is particularly poignant when you consider the free trade agreement with China that was signed. It reminds me very much of a representative from the UK boastfully proclaiming about how they’ve been able to reduce CO2 emissions whilst ignoring that they’ve moved most of their manufacturing to China which is powered by mega polluting coal fuelled power plants not to mention the carbon miles chocked up not only shipping the product back to the UK but also shipping the raw materials to China for processing and use in the final product. As noted by Richard Wolff regarding the insanity of capitalism that believes that you take raw ingredients, ship it half way around the globe then import it back into the country then claim with a straight face that it is ‘efficient’ – check out the Hoki fillets some time, you’d be surprised that although they’re caught in New Zealand they’re sent to China for processing them re-imported back to New Zealand. Remind me funny enough of a around 20 years ago an interesting proposition was made regarding the idea alf a ‘carbon tariff’ to offset carbon miles that were accrued.

That being said, I’m not advocating for protectionism or economic nationalism because we’ve seen the negative impact of beggar be my neighbour trade policies but at the same time I don’t know what I should make of the current economic order of things.

Reactionary forces: Nostalgia for a time that never existed

Just getting my daily diet of politics (I’m not particularly fond of the ‘politics panel’ that they have since it turns into a yelling match over who can say something that gets the biggest reaction – in other words it’s no ‘Mclachlan Group’ which I find interesting to watch) and there was an interesting point regarding the regression in social views by the Republicans and the partially informed voter base harking back to the ‘good old days’ when a father could work a 40 hour per week job and support a family with mum being able to stay home with the kids:

Although Jess McIntosh (vice president of communications for ‘Emily’s List’) noted that it would be generous to construe reactionary forces with a nostalgia for better times in the past it is also important to understand that the liberalisation of the economy and destabilisation of the work place occurred hand in hand. For many ‘working class Joe’s’ out there there is the conflation of the economic and social changes as being one in the same – that to reverse the economic you need to reverse the social with Republicans of course giving a narrative that doesn’t even bear the closest resemblance to reality. The narrative they give is that the US economy back in the ‘good old days’ was ‘free market capitalism’ and ‘less regulation’ whilst ignoring the fact that the economy was heavily regulated, AT&T was a government regulated monopoly because of the belief that a single player in a capital intensive industry such as fixed line telecommunications would only be viable via a single player that was regulated (breaking it up simply created regional monopolies so the natural monopoly more or less remained). Then there was the regulation of the airline industry (the industry was deregulated under President Carter so the narrative of him being a pinko commie doesn’t hold water) where there were price floors to ensure that there wasn’t a race to the bottom and destabilisation of the industry over all (once again, a highly capital intensive industry with few players and the government tried to play the fine line between protecting consumers whilst ensuring modest profits for the business and their shareholders) so the airlines tried to compete in other ways such as more generous on flight service (so began the joke about regulators ensuring that sandwich sizes were the same between airlines).

So given that background you can see that the narrative of the ‘free market America of the past’ never existed – it was high protectionist, high regulated and personal income taxes sitting north of 60% not to mention the large amount of transfers from the top to the bottom along with free university at land grant universities, the GI bill for returning soldiers, large public works projects as the government stood up being the employer of last resort during the economic down turn. Then there was the rise of the religious right and Reaganism and some how Christianity and social conservatism got dragged along for the ride so you had this vision of America where the good old days were that of mum, dad, 2.5 kids and a house in the suburbs all made possible via the free market when in reality it was Reagan’s very policies that undid the idealised past that many harken back for. As for the rebellion against the liberalisation of social norms, that happens to be a great distraction that the powers that be use – “don’t be concerned about how you’re being shafted by the 1%, focus on that gay couple over there! yeah! it’s all those liberal social values that are to blame for the break down of society!”. Correlation doesn’t equal causation: don’t conflate social liberalisation to economic liberalisation resulting in the average punter being a royal screw job.

Didn’t see that coming: OS X 10.10.5 and iTunes updated

Just got home from work, boil out along with moving the oil around plus new oil in the vats, then jumped online only to find that not only has OS X 10.10.5 been released ( link ) which includes Safari 8.0.8 but also iTunes 10.2.2. I checked the firmware for both my iMac and MacBook Pro and neither of them addresses the attack on the EFI firmware using the Thunderbolt port but I guess that is probably something that’ll be the focus for El Capitan given the scope and complexity requiring a lot more time to test to ensure that not only is it fixed but that it doesn’t break something in the process of fixing. On a good side Safari seems to be a little more on the snappy side, none of the applications I run have shown to have any issues and it appears that the update itself has touched large numbers of framework and kernel extensions. Oh well, off to sleep and up in 10 hours ready for work to do it all again.

Getting things sorted out

Well it was a successful couple of days off with Sunday spent recovering from the over night on Saturday where I slept in on Sunday I then went in today (Monday) to get my scooter serviced as required by the warranty with the experts at the shop noting that everything was kosher which is nice to hear. I’ll need to top it up with some oil before I head off to work tomorrow.

I’ve finally got a straight answer regarding the UFB installation and hopefully it’ll be all in by 26 August but the big question is whether can get it installed in my office so then my iMac has a straight connection to the internet then user power line networking for my AppleTV in the lounge room with my laptop just sticking to Wi-Fi to achieve what needs to be done.

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.