Category Archives: Apple

OS X unstability, Mavericks is just unfinished!

I am really really disapointed by Apple, and for more than just one reason. Here below is my list of  growing concerns with the company and especially how they molest OS X.

First of, when I have a stable running system, the last thing I want to hear is that there is availability of an upgraded OS version which, on top of providing new features, is correcting several security flaws which won’t be corrected on the current stable OS release!!!

Imagine a world where Microsoft would have stopped providing security updates to Windows XP the day Vista was out, even if it had been for free, would you have done the upgrade right away? No! You want to wait that the new OS gets stable enough (in Vista’s case that meant waiting for Windows 7) before you upgrade.

Well bad luck, Apple decided last October to provide OS X 10.9 (a.k.a Mavericks) to everyone without providing further supports (at least in terms of security updates) to previous OS X versions. Giving this upgrade for free was just the sweet juice to cover the bitter poison taste.

I analysed the vulnerabilities in our current OS X version and decided that I could wait for OS X 10.9.1 before upgrading, hoping that Apple would also see that stopping security updates on previous OS X versions was plain stupid. This did not happen and shortly after OS X 10.9.1 was published I did the jump and upgraded.

The upgrade was bug free, but not the use of OS X since then. For the past month we have been struggling with the following problems:

  • Impossibly slow to switch users (my wife and me are sharing the same and unique MacBook, so we do use quite often this feature)…
  • …when it does not simply hang in the process of switching!
  • The screen, mouse and keyboard freezes randomly, often this is related to the insertion of the Thunderbolt network adapter, other times it is out of the blue.
    Note: sometimes pulling out the Thunderbolt plug unfreezes the Mac, sometimes not.
  • Mail App crashes often or the geometry of the window keeps on changing to the weirdest form. I simply stopped using it.
  • Launchpad should support keyboard input to quickly filter the list of application, so that typing “Con” would propose you “Contacts”, “Console”, etc.. But since Mavericks this handy feature does not work everyday.
  • WiFi needs router reboot to get IP address after the computer was asleep. It is a bug from iOS that has been carefully ported to OS X. Now I can also enjoy router reboot because I just want to use the WiFi! Yeah!
  • App Store updates which get lost: I got notified that I had 1 possible updates, I fired up the App Store app and clicked on Update. I saw that Evernote had an update but then the computer froze. I waited 5 min after which I shutted down and restarted. The App Store shows no update to perform (even after search for them) but looking for Evernote shows that it can be updated! That’s a reliable update mechanism!

Giving upgrade for free is no excuse for the unstability and little testing that this OS X Mavericks has received. Take the example of Ubuntu and their Long Term Support release, that is serious work done and they also provide their upgrades for free!

So I really despise Apple for bragging so much about the 200 new features coming along with OS X Mavericks. Well I have seen a myriad of bugs, if they count as new features then yes they probably are not far from the 200 ones. But apart from an application which provides maps (where is the web version of it, I don’t want an app for that!), another one for reading books (like a MacBook is the most handy reading machine, sure!!) there are close to no visible features to the end-users. Ho yeah I forgot tags, like I am going to tag the 1 TiB of data I own just because I can!!!

Really Apple, stop wasting so much of your developers time into just providing what looks like a new skin for iOS 7+ and invest some valuable effort into bringing back OS X to the stable and professional OS it was!

Addendum – 2014-02-05: Today I tried to rate the OS X 10.9.1 application in the Mac App Store, my rate was one star, I clicked on it but got the following message “To rate this app, you must have purchased it from the Mac App Store”?!? Well it is true that I did not “buy” OS X 10.8, it was bundled with the laptop. So I only upgraded it to the “free” version from the Mac App Store using the Mac App Store.You can't give negative feedback ;-) So I did not technically buy it, true, but I own it! You can see a screenshot on the right-end side.

The State of Retina Displays

Since almost a year, I own a retina display device. This type of screen has been so much praised by reviewer that I fell for it. So I got a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro. The screen is indeed beautiful but next time, I will save on the retina display premium cost and buy instead a good external screen.

On a retina screen optimised applications look gorgeous, but I am not a pixel junky and applications can look beautiful too on a non-retina screen. However most non optimised apps look dreadful and pixelated, and they are still loads of them. In addition, little application make really use of the extra amount of pixels, so it just looks slicker for fonts but does not really make use of the extra space.

The money saved by buying a non-retina notebook can be used to buy an external display, and with a small addition a 27″ WQHD screen which is not retina but offers an incredible space to work, I got one at work and I love it, better than a retina display.

So if you need to choose, don’t get the retina and get an extra external screen for that price! You will be more productive.

Corollary: don’t follow the advice of these guys here at CNET. An ultrabook/Air device is meant to have a lot of battery life, so a manufacturer that delivers a good screen with incredible battery (10 hours and more) is doing the right choice. And if that means no retina and no touch screen, then be it. We can wait another couple of years to enjoy this little amusement while keeping sustained battery use.

Mobile Security, Not Realy Usable, Not Really Secure

Yesterday I stumble upon a journalist opinion who think that current Yahoo! CEO, Marissa Mayer, is just a twerp when it comes to mobile security. I do not think we should qualify someone, even the CEO of an internet company like Yahoo!, of a twerp just because one does not use a pass-lock for its mobile phone.

Why mobile phone security is important?

It is certainly about money, one could use your phone/data connection, but you can easily/quickly close this gap (e.g. using Apple’s Find my iPhone, or some Android equivalents). The other thing that has value is the personal data within the phone. But this has value either in the numbers (smart phone data from thousands of users stolen could interest spammers and hoaxers, for sure) – but unlikely with one phone theft – or because you are a high-profile person or you want to use those data against its rightful owner (blackmail, defamation, etc.).

So yes, security is important for a mobile device.

Security vs. usability

But the usability and efficiency of the security features on mobile is awful! It gets into the way of quickly grabbing the phone and performing an action (urgent call, photo, etc.).

Which is why I understand that people do not want to use a pass-code or similar mechanism to access their phone. Most are cumbersome, they get in the way of easily/readily use the phone (that’s why I still carry a camera when I want to take pictures!). And their relative security is dubious. The PIN1 or gesture authentication mechanism can sometimes – and with the right tool – be read from the finger traces on the phone and/or could be brute force (I am convinced there are ways to do that automated).

Since a few weeks I have a smart phone. It is not a too old one, neither a brand new one, but it is a good smart phone. I got a Samsung Galaxy S (1st generation). I have tried several pass-lock, there is the ubiquitous 4 digits PIN, the swipe gesture, a password, a simple lock and nothing. Clearly, the two last options are the one usable! Out of the pseudo secure ones, only the PIN code seemed not too difficult to use. This is a great disappointment. I do not trust my phone to protect my data to the same extent I trust my computer. And the worst, it seems that making this better is not on the agenda of most manufacturers/mobile OS providers, unless you count the attempt by Apple to improve at least the usability side with the fingerprinting.

Fingerprinting is not the panacea in terms of security. But when properly implemented it is as secured as a PIN-lock and it does not get in the way of using the phone2. Furthermore, I am sure this technology will evolved and we can hope in the near future to have good-enough fingerprinting-lock technology which can surpass PIN-lock in terms of security.

 

  1. I still do not get why PIN pass-code system do not randomise the place of the numbers on the screen!?!
  2. This is my humble opinion, no hard facts. Others have better expressed their views on fingerprinting on mobile phone than I did.

Finally someone got it right regarding 64-bit performance increase:

It seems that the bulk of the A7’s performance gains do not come from any advantages inherent to a 64-bit architecture, but rather from the switch from the outdated ARMv7 instruction set to the newly-designed ARMv8. – iFixit iPhone 5s Teardown

64-bit architecture myths

I should start a video serie “fun with flags 64-bit theories”, but for now I will stick with only this short article. Here is the ironic part:

“There’s no shortage of pundits and self-described experts asserting that Apple’s shift to a 64-bit architecture is either a hoax, a pointless marketing ploy that will deliver no real benefit, or an inevitable shift that everyone will eventually follow anyway at some point, and therefore neither newsworthy nor deserving of any credit.” – for Apple Insider, Daniel Eran Dilger

The journalist then went on citing several Apple statements out of the iOS development guidelines. Considering those statements as true because aimed at developers. I guess that should be viewed as scientific proof ;-) You can read the full article though, it is not all bad, and better than many others I have recently read on the subject. But up to now, the most accurate comments on the new 64-bit ARM CPU for Apple’s iPhone 5s is from Anand. One of those statement is:

“When all apps running on the device are compiled for the 64-bit runtime, iOS never loads the 32-bit versions of those libraries, which means that the system uses less memory and launches apps more quickly,” – Apple

This is slightly marketing terms. A 64-bit apps is likely to use more memory than the same 32-bit counter part, most basic data types have had their size increased. But this is true that the 32-bit stack does not need to be loaded. There is an engineering trade-off to make per app: does the gain in memory consumption when switching to 64-bit exceeds the 32-bit stack footprint? But the author does not get that point and conclude that:

“The company also outlines why it will be beneficial for third party apps to release 64-bit versions of their titles for users, even if those apps don’t in themselves score massive gains from the move to 64-bits: the key result will be lower memory use for the end user.” – for Apple Insider, Daniel Eran Dilger

Lower memory use for the end user when 3rd party apps release 64-bit apps? That would be astonishing. If all 3rd party apps were 64-bit then there is no need for 32-bit stack, but I guess this stack represents a fraction of the overall available/used memory. Apple is also recognising this drawback of 64-bit systems as they state later on:

“Because so many fundamental types have increased in size, the 64-bit version of your app uses more memory than the 32-bit version does. (…) Expect to spend more time optimizing the performance of the 64-bit version of your app.” – Apple

But this is something the journalist blatently ignore.

Note: Moving from 32-bit to 64-bit does not mean you need twice the amount of memory. Not all data types have their size doubled, and apps can be refactor to use less demanding data types.

Then the stunt on the 64-bit memory model (either LP64, LLP64 or ILP64) is also a funny one. Really who cares unless you are a developer which has to use binary data or which needs to optimise an app for memory usage? Unix decided long ago to go the LP64 way (although I do not think all Unix flavour did follow it) after evaluation (performing a trade-off) severa criterias including portability, interoperability or performance. And Windows decided to go the LL64 way, which is not bad either. And regarding performance differences between those models, it only affects the memory pressure and depending on the application this can have no impact or some performance hit. And in this regard, Microsoft choices for Windows would limit the memory pressure when directly recompiling a 32-bit apps for 64-bit.

I am not going on to talk about the journalist speculations on Android move to 64-bit with its engineering and business chalenges. I fully agree that moving to 64-bit has its challenges, and then moving the apps ecosystem is another challenge of its own. But I do not think that moving the core of Android, including Dalvik, to 64-bit is as difficult as the author is implying at least from a pure technical stand. But like him, this is my gut feeling and I have nothing to base this statement on! Hence, I won’t talk about it.

Overall, this journalist, Daniel E. Dilger, is doing a better jobs than many other before him regarding the 64-bit transition which Apple is trying to do for its mobile ecosystem. But this article is clearly biaised towards Apple and in order to be so, the journalist has taken many shortcut and wrongly understood statements made for developers (not journalists!).

Note: I love Apple since many years, I have a MacBook and an iPad (and an iPod lying somewhere). But I am pationate about Linux since almost its inception, and thus I do have an old computer and several VMs running it. I also have an Android phone since recently. The only OS which I do not stand but forced to use (only for work) is Windows. So with this context in mind, I guess my opinions above are rather objective.

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64-bit chips are too much for a smartphone! Really?

After today’s Apple event, the press is on ebullition to report on it. One journalist at Gigaom has written an article on “Apple’s new 64-bit chip is too much for a smartphone, but great for a MacBook“, he explicitly stated the following:

For chip nerds the idea of 64-bit chip inside a smartphone is overkill. The benefits of a 64-bit chip is that is can take advantage of 4 gigabytes of addressable RAM, but most smartphones are barely hitting 2 or 3 GB of RAM today.

First, let’s correct his statement and then I will tell why I think that a smartphone can benefit from 64-bit chip.

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Got a new computer

My old rusty thorsmork couldn’t play flash HD video any longer. Although I do not plan to retire it yet, I needed a new computer.
My wife was not that happy to have another ugly PC in our apartment, and thus she offered me an iPad! Not really open source, but she chose well as there is no satisfying foss solution for a tablet PC yet, IMHO.
A tablet cannot replace a complete PC, but I use my PC much less now, it can be a week without using it. And it would be even less if I would have a real keyboard for the tablet!

Testing DNS response time

Since Google released its Public DNS, I was curious about how it would really perform. Thus, I have looked around and I have found a script on the internet that I ran at home, here are the results:

+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| Domain           | My ISP | Google | OpenDNS|
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| lifehacker.com   |  17 ms |  68 ms |  68 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| facebook.com     |  18 ms |  69 ms |  68 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| manu-j.com       |  19 ms |  79 ms |  70 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| reddit.com       |  58 ms |  88 ms |  66 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| tb4.fr           |  16 ms |  64 ms |  67 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| bbc.co.uk        |  55 ms |  65 ms |  67 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| lemonde.fr       |  58 ms |  63 ms |  78 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| dailymotion.com  |  58 ms |  66 ms |  68 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| faz.de           |  57 ms |  65 ms |  99 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+
| gmx.de           |  56 ms |  62 ms |  68 ms |
+------------------+--------+--------+--------+

Google Public DNS and OpenDNS performed quite similarly. However, my own ISP is still quicker to respond, a possible answer is that Google DNS in Europe are located in Frankfurt, Germany.

N.B.: these tests were performed on a wireless link under Mac OS X Leopard in Toulouse, France. If you want to run the script on a Mac, you should change the first line of the script to #!/bin/bash

Update 2009.12.10:

Re: Why I love Windows 7, hate Linux, and think the Mac is lame

Source: ZDNet.com | IT Project Failures

The article on ZDNet is about why Michael Krigsman (CEO of a IT consulting company) loves Windows 7, hates Linux and thinks the Mac is lame. The article is pretty short and gives 3 reasons to be satisfied by Windows 7, by presenting an old screenshot of Linux to present it in a miserable way and displaying a fake version of Apple Mac vs. PC advertisement. All a good laugh if it was not serious.

After reading Michael’s post, I cannot help but remember this: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

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What about a Pretty Pidgin on your Feisty Fawn?

Pidgin 2.0 logoRecently, I have been configuring Avahi on my laptop and desktop computers and I wanted to evaluate its possibilities. The first obvious choice was using Rhythmbox to share music within the two computers. But that was too easy, basically once Avahi was configured, I had nothing else to do, it just worked…

Thus, I wanted another challenge and I was remembering that Gaim (now Pidgin) should support the Bonjour protocol. Bonjour is an implementation of Zeroconf made by Apple and release as open source. Avahi is another implementation of Zeroconf and is readily installed on Ubuntu by default, though not activated. However, the installed Gaim on Ubuntu 7.04 cannot create a Bonjour account. That was just the excuse I needed to take some times getting Pidgin and installing it.

The installation will describes how to install Pidgin with support for Bonjour and Avahi on Ubuntu 7.04, and I will try to keep it the easiest possible. However, you will have to use the command line. No worries, though, as I will try to make it easy! :-) A second little chapter will explain how to activate Avahi. This guide has been validated on both the 32bit and 64bit versions of Ubuntu.

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