Stuart Breckenridge

stuart.micro.blog

Owning your own short-form writing sounded like such a good idea that I supported Manton Reece’s Micro.blog project on Kickstarter months ago and it’s all now coming together: I started my own micro.blog yesterday at stuart.micro.blog.

My initial plan is to use Micro.blog for those times when Twitter isn’t enough and a full blog post is unnecessary.

Initial impressions:

  • the iOS app, still in testing, is a winner
  • the password_less_ login is strange and takes a bit of getting used to (I’m not quite sure that I am a fan of it)
  • I like the available designs for hosted micro blogs1
  • I need more time before I form a full opinion of the service
  1. One of the designs, Hyde, is related to Lanyon, which is the base design for this site. ↩︎


Scorpio

Richard Leadbetter at Eurogamer:

In 2005, Microsoft launched Xbox 360: a piece of hardware at least a year ahead of its time from a technological standpoint, introducing multi-core CPU processing and state-of-the-art advanced graphics technology. PlayStation 3 arrived a year later - an absolute age in technological terms - but the Xbox 360 still shone through. It was the product of a company determined to do everything it could to create the most powerful games console ever made. After the media missteps of Xbox One and the loss of performance leadership, Project Scorpio is a return to that fierce determination to produce the best possible box. This is the result of an Xbox team with something to prove - exactly the reaction we hoped for.

I cannot begin to describe the degree of magnitude with which I agree with this opening paragraph. The Xbox 360 remains, to this day, my favourite games console. The PS4 Pro follows, and the Xbox One is a distant fourth, behind the original Xbox.

Excluding Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Horizon 3, and, Gears of War 4, my opinion of the Xbox One is almost entirely negative. It’s a big, underpowered, black box, with a dashboard that is, in comparison to PS4 and PS4 Pro, an unresponsive mess. Thus, as long as UI is, well, fixed, I am delighted to see Microsoft get back in front in terms of raw power. Competition is good and I’m looking forward to increasing my gamerscore.

Here is a comparison of Scorpio against Xbox One and PS4 Pro:

  Project Scorpio Xbox One PS4 Pro
CPU Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz Eight custom Jaguar cores clocked at 1.75GHz Eight Jaguar cores clocked at 2.1GHz
GPU 40 customised compute units at 1172MHz 12 GCN compute units at 853MHz (Xbox One S: 914MHz) 36 improved GCN compute units at 911MHz
Memory 12GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3/32MB ESRAM 8GB GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 326GB/s DDR3: 68GB/s, ESRAM at max 204GB/s (Xbox One S: 219GB/s) 218GB/s
Hard Drive 1TB 2.5-inch 500GB/1TB/2TB 2.5-inch 1TB 2.5-inch
Optical Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray Blu-ray (Xbox One S: 4K UHD) Blu-ray

New Mac Pro, Pro Display, and Pro iMacs

Apple held an on-the-record discussion with several technology journalists in which they announced that they’d be launching a completely redesigned Mac Pro, a Pro display, and Pro iMacs. What I found interesting about this discussion was that none of these products are ready to be shown. Apple doesn’t announce the release of products that are still in development.

It has to be asked, though: what choice did they have?

The Current Mac Pro

The current Mac Pro has been criminally neglected: no updates whatsoever since its release in 2013. Today, though, Apple are making minor tweaks to the configuration. Phil Schiller, transcribed at Daring Fireball:

In the meantime, we’re going to update the configs to make it faster and better for their dollar. This is not a new model, not a new design, we’re just going to update the configs. We’re doing that this week. We can give you the specifics on that.

The CPUs, we’re moving them down the line. The GPUs, down the line, to get more performance per dollar for customers who DO need to continue to buy them on the interim until we get to a newly architected system.

This is a welcome move, but it strikes me as a bit cheap. I feel as though the price should have been dropped a little as well — it’s also been the same since launch.

Apple also admitted to the shortcomings of the current Mac Pro design. John Paczkowski, at Buzzfeed:

“We designed ourselves into a bit of a corner,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering said of the current Mac Pro’s unique arrangement of pro computer innards around a triangular heat sink inside a cylindrical chassis. “We wanted to do something bold and different. What we didn’t appreciate completely at the time was how we had so tailored that design to a specific vision that in the future we would find ourselves a bit boxed in — into a circular shape.”

All the right words…

The Next Generation Mac Pro

It’ll be:

  • modular;
  • with regular upgrades; and,
  • released in 2018 (I assume)

Pro Display

Also coming with the new Mac Pro is a new Pro Display. Not much else is known it would seem.

Here’s a thought to ponder: are the LG UltraFine displays currently on sale nothing more than expensive stopgaps?

Pro iMac

The final tidbit from this discussion: the iMac will get an upgrade this year and it will be aimed at the pro customer.

My late-2013 iMac is beginning to show its age so I have a keen interest in what this upgrade will entail.


Introducing The FFI List v2

For the last few months I’ve been working on a significant update to The FFI List. I had three main aims with the release: migrate from Swift 2 to Swift 3, improve performance while validating saved FFIs, and add some iOS 10 specific features.

The migration from Swift 2 to Swift 3 was mostly painless. The area that required the most handholding was supporting the new NSFetchRequestResult protocol. There were so many cases where the migrator couldn’t infer the ResultType to be used.

The second improvement in v2.0 focusses on performance improvements when validating saved FFIs. In v1.x this process brought the app to a standstill if the saved list contained a significant volume. In v2.0 this is resolved — validation happens in the background and if it doesn’t complete while the app is running, it will save progress and resume when the app is reopened.

One additional new feature on the saved FFI list is when you tap on a saved FFI entry, the app will surface information relating to when the FFI was last validated.

The app has migrated to using the new core data API introduced with iOS 10. As part of this change, support for older ARMv7s devices has been dropped. Supported devices include iPhone 5s, iPad Air, iPad Mini 2, iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus), iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3, iPad Pro, and iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus). (I also had performance concerns with older devices. When The FFI List was released, the database had ~77,000 entries while today it sits at around ~277,700 entries.)

Another iOS 10 feature that has been introduced is the new statistics widget in Notification Centre. Like all widgets, it’s an optional extra that lets you quickly see the breakup of FFI types in the FFI list.

One last thing: the app has a new website at the.ffili.st. All future updates regarding the app will be posted there unless they are of technical nature (in which case, I’ll post them here).


Twitter Considering Paid Tier

From Mitchel Broussard (via MacRumors):

Twitter is looking at providing a professional experience for people on TweetDeck that would pack in advance tools and features not found anywhere else on the service. The premium package would cost $19.99 per month, be accessible on both desktop and mobile, and include the following features:

  • Exclusive news/alerts summaries personalized for you
  • Content management tools like bookmarks, to-do lists, and ‘save for later’
  • Cross posting to other social media platforms
  • Advanced custom trend analysis and alerting tools
  • Exclusive content on social media best practices and strategy
  • Enhanced tools for managing and creating custom audience lists (e.g., by interest, customer, or region, etc.)
  • Exclusive priority customer support
  • The ability to manage multiple Twitter accounts
  • Advanced publishing features (e.g., scheduling, collaboration, drafting, etc.)
  • Advanced tools for sorting or filtering searches
  • An ad-free experience
  • Analysis tools for understanding topics or conversations on Twitter
  • Ability to access this experience on both desktop and mobile devices
  • Ability to securely manage the account across multiple team members
  • Twitter customization such as color themes and layouts
  • Access to pre-populated lists of users and influencers by interest topic (e.g., industry or subject experts)
  • Additional account activity details (e.g., influence scores, account unfollows, or ability to see who is looking at your profile page)
  • Ability to import user lists from outside sources
  • Advanced analytics on my own content performance

Are those features worth $19.99 per month? I’m not so sure.

I do think paid verification would net Twitter some incremental cash, however.


Overcast 3

A significant update to my favourite podcast app, Overcast, was released today. Via Marco.org:

My design goals for 3.0 were:

  1. Update the style from iOS 7 to today: More affordances, more curves, thicker fonts, less translucency, more tactility. App-design fashion doesn’t stand still, and many iOS 7-era designs now look dated.

  2. Bring all functionality into the open: Add visible controls and affordances to anything that was previously hard to find or behind a hidden gesture, such as table-cell swipe actions and actions that first require tapping corner “Edit” buttons.

    You wouldn’t believe how many customers have asked me to add features that were already there, or couldn’t find basic functions like deleting episodes, because they weren’t apparent enough in the design.

  3. Adapt to larger phones: Enlarge touch targets and make one-handed use faster and easier, even when only part of the screen is within easy reach. I also wanted to reduce the potential for (and effects of) mis-tapping, especially around the lower left and right screen edges, which I believe will become increasingly important as future iPhones presumably get thinner side bezels.

    Overcast 1.0 was designed for the iPhone 5S. Some fundamentals needed to be revisited now that the vast majority of my customers are on 4.7- and 5.5-inch screens.

In addition to widgets and rich notifications, it’s a great update to the app. (I realised today that I’ve been using Overcast for over two years. It’s quality software.)


Lyft Availability in Singapore

Is Lyft no longer available in Singapore? It was available through the Grab partnership in 2016. However, this appears to no longer be the case:

Lyft is not yet available in Singapore
An attempt to use Lyft in Singapore

I can’t find anything that states that availability has ceased, so I’ve enquired with @AskLyft:


H.R.861

The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.

That’s the entirety of the Bill.

Shameful. Watch Planet Earth.


WWDC 2017 Announced (Already)

WWDC 2017

A very early WWDC announcement this year. (I assume because it’s in San Jose for the first time in 17 years.)

Technology alone is not enough. Technology must intersect with the liberal arts and the humanities, to create new ideas and experiences that push society forward. This summer we bring together thousands of brilliant minds representing many diverse perspectives, passions, and talents to help us change the world.

San Jose, CA, June 5 - 9

Is it just me or is the artwork quite horrid?

Update 2017-02-17: Apple Moves WWDC Back to San Jose via Daring Fireball.


Yahoo's 2013 Data Breach Expanded to 2015 and 2016

The timing and frequency of Yahoo’s announcements in relation to their myriad data breaches makes it extremely difficult to follow just what’s going on. I’ve tried to summarise the history below.

Date Details Links
December 2016 Yahoo announce data breach of over one billion accounts. These accounts were compromised in August 2013. Link
September 2016 Yahoo announce data breach of 500 million accounts. These accounts were compromised in 2014. Link
August 2016 It was revealed that details of 200 million Yahoo accounts were being sold online. These accounts were compromised in 2012. Link

Today, in relation to the December 2016 announcement, the Associated Press is reporting:

Yahoo is warning users of potentially malicious activity on their accounts between 2015 and 2016, the latest development in the internet company’s investigation of a mega-breach that exposed 1 billion users’ data several years ago.

Yahoo confirmed Wednesday that it was notifying users that their accounts had potentially been compromised but declined to say how many people were affected.

There have been data breaches each and every year from 2012 through 2016, affecting over 1.7 billion accounts. In December of last year I wrote:

While Yahoo are taking steps to invalidate forged cookies, invalidate unencrypted security questions, and forcing users to change their passwords, I am of the opinion that having an account with them is somewhat of a liability. As such, I’ve taken the decision to terminate my account and have it deleted. If you wish to do the same, simply log in to Yahoo and then visit edit.yahoo.com/config/delete_user and follow the instructions.

I’d just go straight ahead and delete your account.