Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Migrating to new iPhones

When we do upgrades, we have to do them family wide which is four devices at any given time. This time we all settled on the iPhone 7 in varying colours. Naturally, I got the jet black variant. I also realised that I didn’t need the form factor of the Plus sized phones – quite simply, my jeans pockets aren’t that deep, and I end up fraying the earphone 3.5mm connector quite regularly (I’m on my third one now and its almost giving way in a span of about 2 years). Smaller phone might also allow me to spend less time looking at it, and if I wanted to consume, more time on the iPad.

Anyway… one phone migrated in a jiffy. Sure, after an iTunes encrypted backup, it wouldn’t restore automatically since the iOS version of the phones were too old. A bit of a tedious un-Apple like process, but the correct document to read and follow is: Restoring from an iTunes or iCloud backup when a later version of iOS is required.

Another phone had an encrypted iTunes password that just could not be remembered. So the arduous task of turning on iCloud Backup and then doing a restore (so while no fault of Apple, this I’m sure is a common scenario).

My phone had quite a few apps that required me to login again. Google Authenticator did not have all the two-factor logins migrated for some reason, so I had to manually add a bunch back. Maybe this should have been the key to move to a 1Password vault? I’ll leave that for next time.

Most of the social apps I use required some form of verification. WhatsApp had an easy process. WeChat was by far the most complicated. LINE had a password I didn’t know anything about.

Apps you would think would just automatically restore from the iTunes backup? But no, a lot of them end up downloading again. In addition some user hostility from apps like Audible and Overcast – imagine having to re-download all your content!?!

I had to also remember about my Apple Watch, fortunately again, another good guide: Switch your Apple Watch to a new iPhone.

Why isn’t this process more seamless? Android gets this done really well – enter your Google login details, and you’re good to go. Why is this not the case with Apple? Am I forced to then use an iCloud Backup to make magic happen?

Do I care that I’m not having a dual-lens camera with some “software” bokeh effects? No.

Why don’t more apps support 3D Touch? Its been quite sometime and most don’t seem to care to support it, which I find quite odd.

I don’t consider myself an “app-holic”, but spending about two hours of time to switch things over seems rather ridiculous. There has got to be a better way.

(What about the fourth iPhone? I’ll find out tomorrow if it has any surprises for me; here’s hoping things “just work”.)

Cleaning up the Mac, backup edition

A while back, I realised that com.apple.bird was getting too large and it was easy to purge it. I had to do this again.

The app I use to see where my space is going is OmniDiskSweeper. Its free, and I highly recommend it.

I use Arq to handle backups (in addition to Backblaze, and CrashPlan), and today I noticed that ~/Library/Arq/ had a huge (32.7GB) Cache.noindex. Apparently it is safe to delete, so that’s what I have done.

I also notice a large /Library/Backblaze.bzpkg – 8.1GB – and apparently you can’t delete it. The penalty you pay for keeping offsite backups?

Anyway, I suddenly have a lot more free space. Its annoying that I’ll have to keep track of all this from time to time, as one has to occasionally perform some housekeeping of one’s Mac.

com.apple.bird getting large?

I was wondering why my disk space was reducing pretty quickly on my Mac, and it turns out my ~/Library/Caches/com.apple.bird/ directory was 92GB in size! Inspecting some of the larger files, I notice that it has a WhatsApp header, which suggests that these are my WhatsApp iCloud backups.

There obviously seems to be some kind of bug as I have files, one per day, from sometime in April. They all start around 800MB and grow to 2GB in size. Each.

It seems like there are other files there too, and I wasn’t sure if deleting it would just make sense. The solution? System Preferences -> iCloud then toggle iCloud Drive off. There is a warning about how it will delete all iCloud documents from your Mac. Its all good considering this is supposed to be saved in the cloud right? Restart it, and voila, you see the directory go down to 0 bytes.

Something up with the bird daemon? I don’t know if brctl would help in any way, so I’m happy there’s an easier way to recover lost space.

Apple’s problem – lacking roadmaps

I’ve been an Apple Mac user for a very long time. I didn’t buy the first iPhone (still believing in Nokia and loving the idea of the open Android, and the second phone was the BlackBerry) personally getting on the bandwagon with the iPhone 4. I did buy the first iPad, at a huge 64GB, because it was the only one available on day 2 of the launch.

In recent times, my main Mac has been the MacBook Air. I have a retina iPad Mini and an iPhone 6 Plus. I also sport an Apple Watch. I am generally satisfied with the Apple ecosystem.

However, I’m in the market for new hardware. I’m quite satisfied with the iPhone 6 Plus, so I have no idea if I’ll get the next iPhone that gets released in 2016. Pricing does play a role – a 64GB iPhone 6s Plus is RM4,199! When I bought the 64GB iPhone 6 Plus, the Ringgit-USD exchange rate was a lot better and it only cost me RM3,149 (really on the upper band of what I’d want to pay for a mobile phone that gets about 2 years of use; the 64GB iPhone 6 used to cost RM2,749).

So what do I want? An iPad Pro with a keyboard is likely something I will grab in due time (probably the 9.7″ version since I’m OK with the old size). Do I buy it now, considering its got a different release cycle compared to its bigger brother?

I would love to grab a MacBook and a Mac Mini, but I want to see if there are new updates to the MacBook Air or if that line gets killed (major reason: retina display). And as of this writing, the Mac Mini hasn’t been updated for 655 days. I’m mixed between that and an iMac to be honest. Its all about the fact that I will get more storage out of these machines (512GB on the MacBook Air/MacBook just isn’t enough!)

The MacRumors Buyers Guide states that everything is either a don’t buy/caution/neutral, with the exception of the MacBook (which as I said, has a retina display but brings other pain over my MacBook Air that I’ll have to price in).

NYT says Apple’s iPhone Sales Drop Again, but Services Are a Bright Spot, while Business Insider says It’s time to take a serious look at Tim Cook’s leadership of Apple. The WSJ reports In China, Apple’s Local Competition Takes a Bite Out of Its Revenue. Bloomberg reports Apple’s China Problem Is That Local Phones are Good — and Cheap.

Which brings me to the main point of what I’m after: clear roadmaps. We need modern hardware and predictable release cycles. Because everyone wants to buy the latest, greatest, piece of hardware since these prices don’t go down and Apple doesn’t discount. I think I’m not alone in wanting this, enterprises want this too (in addition to amazing turnaround times for warranties).

I hope Apple goes back into some cycle of predictability even if they don’t release roadmaps. Like we all know we get a new iPhone in September. I’d like this replicated for Macs as well as iPads. This will ensure they probably start churning out better quarterly results as people start planning their purchases.

Ad blocking

I know I run ads here, but I really don’t think Google AdSense is bad. What is really annoying me? Video, animated graphics, heavy ads, even on sites that I’m paying subscriptions for to read. I’m happy with a subscription and AdSense, but they’re not doing just that! They are consuming my CPU cycles, ensuring that when I’m working on the battery, these tabs are just taking away precious power.

I thought of using AdBlock Plus, but I recall there were some issues with it in the past (maybe around being paid to be whitelisted). So my solutions of choice in the Chrome browser now:

I’m whitelisting some sites, logging into some others (e.g. Forbes), or finding out that some extensions like Buffer is broken (easy fix: on the first site that you try to use the extension on, just whitelist it in Privacy Badger and things will “just work”).

I’ve been on the Internet for over 20 years, and this is the second time I’ve decided to use ad blocking software. Maybe when we’re respected as readers (see: going back to Google AdSense), I will disable the above extensions. Till then, I’m more productive on a battery for just that little longer…

Notes from Config Management Camp 2016

Config Management Camp is becoming a great addition to the post-FOSDEM crowd. Short train ride away from Brussels to Ghent, lots of good content for an overnighter in a hotel (2d/1n). It routinely sells out (the cost is unbeatable, free ;)), so go early. Some quick notes:

Jonathan Boulle – CoreOS – etcd @baronboulle

  • /etc but distributed with a clustered key-value store with GET/SET operations
  • Support SkyDNS, Kubernetes, etc.
  • CoreOS mission is to “secure the internet” and they like to provide automatic updates. Updates = rebooting. They didn’t like ZooKeeper so much.
  • etcd: strong consistency guarantees, simple/fast HTTP API, OSS
  • Uses the Raft consensus algorithm (replicated log to model a state machine; append only log). Concepts: leaders, elections, terms
  • Written in Go, statically linked – etcd daemon and etcdctl cli

Service discovery using SmartStack – John Billings – billings@yelp.com

  • http://nerds.airbnb.com/smartstack-service-discovery-cloud/
  • Load balancing was done via something called create-lb-config and it was a lot of manual stuff which was deployed via puppet. Very labour intensive.
  • They created something called PaasTa as a Paas (https://github.com/Yelp/paasta). And they found out about AirBnB’s SmartStack
  • HAProxy allows you to re-dispatch on connection failures and easy to add connection logging as well. Each HAProxy instance also has a status page
  • http://engineeringblog.yelp.com/2015/04/true-zero-downtime-haproxy-reloads.html
  • Originally Nerve & Synapse made a Zookeper connection per service so it would make Zookeeper slow. Modify Nerve/Synapse to multiplex all operations over a single Zookeeper connection
  • Use Zookeeper + AWS without issue for service discovery
  • etcd would probably also work and supported by SmartStack but they already know Zookeper. SmartStack is conceptually similar to consul/consul-template

Platform Orchestration with Kubernetes and Docker

  • Julian Strobl – julian@endocode.com – experts in linux/OSS dev, trainers, consultants located in berlin
  • They have a 4-node Raspberry Pi cluster that one of them made
  • There used to be a Master/Minion relationship, but now its a Master/Worker relationship when you are dealing in the Kubernetes world
  • https://github.com/saturnism/gcp-live-k8s-visualizer

How CoreOS is built, modified and updated – Brian “redbeard” Harrington, Principal Architect, CoreOS

  • @brianredbeard / brianredbeard.com
  • repo sync – allows for managing many git repos at once
  • cros sdk is used to build Chromium OS, but its truly an SDK (lots of bash scripts that do things the way you want them)
  • OMAHA protocol created by Google to handle updates to desktop applications (eg. ChromeOS, Browser, etc.). There are OSS bindings provided by CoreOS in Go.

i