Star Trek Beyond – BRILLIANT!

StarTrekBeyond

NOTE: Spoiler Free Review :-)
VERDICT: BRILLIANT!

Before going to see Star Trek Beyond (in VMax & 3D at Crown Cinemas in Melbourne) I just happened to see one review which was rather negative, so I thought I’d write this one as my (and IMDB & Rotten Tomatoes) experience was pretty much the opposite. The film is GREAT! It’s probably the best of the Abrams reboots (at least as good as the first, and better than the second in my opinion).

With the price of movies (and Popcorn!) these days I’m pretty picky about what I see at the cinema, but the Abrams Star Trek movies need to be seen on a large screen in 3D. Speaking of 3D, I think they got it right as some films have given me a bit of a headache – this one was fine.

As this is a spoiler free review, there’s a lot I won’t cover, except what is revealed in the trailer – the Baddie (Krall) and his force are great, and there’s a clever twist at the end. Jayla is a great new character and hopefully we’ll see more of her. As to the ‘old gang’, well, they’re the crew of the Enterprise and all seem to get pretty even exposure throughout the movie.

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • The graphics in general – no more lens flares ;-)
  • “Gravity Scenes” – obviously a lot of thought put in to them
  • The view of warp from the outside – such a great new visualisation
  • The “Super Star Base” (York Town)
  • There’s a Gay character – obviously not groundbreaking in movies, but at least for Star Trek – and it’s handled well in that it’s “no biggie”, but “just the way it is”

Any Cons? Not really… this movie is not perfect, but it’s very good and moves along at a reasonable pace. You have to “suspend disbelief” to be in the “Star Trek Universe” – I can’t comment on what this film would be like for an “objective person” (who I presume would of never seen anything Star Trek in their life ;) as I literally grew up with Star Trek (my early first memories of TV were Star Trek as it was very (on the edge) scary to me at the time). There was some criticism of “dark scenes”, but there’s only a few really dark ones and it’s used effectively to dictate the mood.

Overall, I think they’ve now got a really good “tone” to Star Trek Beyond (thanks in part also Justin Lim’s (Fast and Furious) direction) which sets things up very nicely for the next movie – seems like they’ve really found their feet. As I mentioned earlier, this is a movie to see on a large screen and 3D. It’s also a movie I’d definitely see again (on DVD) as I’m sure there’s some bits I missed.

Back in Australia

MoranReserve

WOW! I just realised that it’s been a year since I did a blog post. I knew it had been a while, but I figured around 6 months max… Well, I suppose I needed it, and the good news is that I’M BACK!

I’m not going to go in to what has transpired over the past year since an agile adoption, as it’s quite involved and will come out in some successive posts, but will focus on where I am now and what my Posting Plans are.

Near the end of last year we started planning a return to Australia after almost a decade in the UK – what a BLAST! So many lovely experiences, people, places and new friends :-) Eventually though, it was time to return to Australia as it really is my home and although I may have a few gripes about it, Australia really is an amazing place and as the old cliche goes: I now really appreciate how lucky I am to live in this country after being away so long. That shot above is from my local beach which is 3 mins drive, and I can get in to the city (in the distance) in around 1/2h with a walk and public transport – that’s a pretty good lifestyle.

So what’s in the pipe? A much more varied mix than when I started out doing just “software stuff”:

  • Reflections on life in the UK and Europe
  • Observations on life in Australia now I’m back
  • Reviews of gadgets
  • Travelogues as I explore my own country – now I’ve probably seen more of Europe than I have of Australia, so it’s time to correct that
  • Process  – yes, I’m still on the agile path
  • Architecture – looks like that will be my primary area of work still
  • Software – which I’m gradually getting back in to, with the current focus being Clojure
  • Probably the odd bit of music or photography to round things out
  • Anything else anyone would like me to write about…

YachClub

an agile adoption

Tai Chi Statues

My approach to agile* adoptions is based quite a bit around Tai Chi and Taoist philosophy which I won’t go in to as you can search about that on the net. There are a few principles worth noting from these:

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders ~ Lao Tzu – 6th century, BCE

Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless. Like water. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend! ~ Bruce Lee, 1971**

which are a good philosophical summary of my approach to agile adoptions (well, actually life in general ;)

This series of posts is not directly about philosophy, it’s about the day-to-day progress of an agile adoption: The Good, The Bad and The Interesting.

So stay tuned, check back and drop in if you’re interested as this is just the beginning…


* In this series I’ll use the term agile with a lower-case ‘a’ to indicate “real ‘good’ agile” which I’ll explain as we go, compared to “Industrial Agile”, “Consulting Agile” and “Corrupted Agile” which start with an upper-case ‘A’

**

Swift to Objective C to C

ObjC swift COne of the things Swift promised was interoperability with Objective-C and C/C++. Well, it’s now here – relatively easily…

asciitrek asciiIf you follow me on Twitter (@RiczWest) then you’ll know I was working on an iOS game called ASCIItrek which is derived from Super Star Trek that was written in C. I’ll eventually do a complete rewrite in Swift, but before that I’m taking the existing code and integrating it in to an iOS interface. In order to do this I’ll need to call C code from Swift. The Architect in me however wants to cleanly separate things and use Objective-C as a “bridge”, which as you’ll see later is probably a pretty good idea.

It’s always been “theoretically possible” to do this in earlier releases of Xcode prior to 6.3, but the whole process seems fraught with potential errors and I could never get it fully working. With the recent release of Xcode 6.3 I thought I’d give it a go and am glad I did as it seems to work relatively easily as I’ll describe.

Note: In this post I’ll assume that you’re relatively familiar with coding in Xcode

Firstly, you’ll need to create a project, which is no-brainer – just create a Swift one which we’ll adjust as we go… At the highest level we’ll have some code which acts as a test harness which I just added:
SwiftHarness

where chopper (tribute to American Chopper :) is an Objective-C method and c_chop is a c one which is invoked from Objective-C. First, the Objective-C one which is relatively simple:

OCC

if you just look at the chopper method where I’m basically doing a string concatenation – we’ll get on to the c_chop method  after we’ve examined the C code:

chop

which has one basic method/function called chop that like the Objective-C one just prepends the parameter which is obviously more complex in C. The one thing that worries me slightly is the fact that I’m mallocing memory which is passed to Objective-C which I’m kind of assuming will be deallocated – I’ll probably revisit this later…

If you go back to the Objective-C code above for c_chop you’ll see there is a bit of complexity, which is why I think it’s better to wrap a C call in Objective-C. The stringWithFormat: method is just a concatenation, but notice that you have to convert the Objective-C/Swift string to UTF8Sting before passing and then convert the result back with stringWithUTF8String. To me, this is enough reason to have an Objective-C layer interposed between your Swift and C layers.

Hopefully this post has made it easier for anyone else who is on the same path – the code is on GitHub at https://github.com/RiczWest/swocc – feel free to mail me if you have any questions. Later, I’ll be doing another post on C to Objective-C to Swift (which I also need)

PS Having HUGE problems with syncing GIT, which I have just checked and they are a BUG – I will attempt to fix later…

The End of the Apple Honeymoon?

Note: If you think I’m some kind of “Apple Hater”, read My History with Apple at the bottom

Apple seems to be suffering an all-round lack of quality in their software and some would say hardware – what to do? Before we get in to this, let me tell you my tale of woe…

FlamingHoneymoonThis post has been 6 months or more in the making, but has culminated with the problems I’ve been having with my iPad Air 2 over the past months. It all started so innocently – I was happily using iOS 7 and I’d installed a new App which said “In order to use this, you must use iOS8”. Fine, I thought – it’s been out for a while and there have been a few incremental updates (something like 8.0.3) so I upgraded. From memory, this one was OK, so when 8.1.2 or 3 came out I didn’t really think much and just upgraded, and that’s when my problems started.

Apple Horror MovieIt was a bit like a horror movie – you know, everything is fine, the sun is shining – living the good life (on iOS 8.0.3 :). Then, one day (some time in 8.1), something a bit out of place happened – I was finding it hard to close browser tabs – didn’t really think much of it. Unfortunately over the next few days, things got worse! Typing started either not getting the characters or doing multiple characters and it just got worse and Worse and WORSE! Basically, my iPad was bricked. “Luckily”, 8.2.2 had been out for a while so I upgraded, after checking the forums as some people reported it solving the problem.

Groundhog DayThen, like a groundhog day, all started coming back with the same pathology – first, an error here or there and after a few days – bricked again. 8.2.3 came out so I went to this – same thing – worked for a while, then bricked. I was at the end of my tether and was at the stage of buying a cheap Android tablet to use at work until Apple fixed things on the iPad. Again, as luck would have it, 8.3 is out and I’ve just upgraded today. I’m not holding my breath though as I know that this bug can surface after days or weeks…

 What’s the Problem?

My experience is not unique. In fact, I’m one of the “Lucky Ones” who didn’t have problems with iOS 7. Just Google “iOS problem” and you’ll find there are 194M pages!!! I know there are even more hits for Android (564M) and Windows Mobile problems (264M), but is that really something to compare to? Especially when both those platforms are on a wide range of uncontrolled hardware, whereas Apple is a “closed ecosystem” where they’ve designed every Apple Phone ever made. As a long-time (over 30 years – I started with an Apple II) Apple user I’ve seen an increase in the quality of their software, until the last few years. A bit like my touch problem, they surfaced occasionally, but were not of significance, but now we’re talking about many, releases with the same or worse problems – where will it end? Don’t think iOS 9 will necessarily fix everything as as iOS 8 was supposed to fix the problems of iOS 7!

What’s even worse, the “Crappy Quality Virus” seems to of infected the Mighty OS X. Touch wood and 3 Hail Mary’s I’m actually OK – running Yosemite 10.10.3 and no problems. Again, Googling “OS X problem” gives 264M hits – more than iOS! For both OS’s, there’s now a huge industry around documenting and fixing the various problems – all on platforms that Apple has total control over – THERE IS NO EXCUSE!

What’s the Solution?

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not an Apple Hater. In fact, I’m an Apple Lover – I used to have the attitude of buying Apple for anything personal. Unfortunately, I’m now in the situation where if this doesn’t improve I’ll be replacing my iMac with one of the many all-in-one PC’s, and my Tablet with an Android or Windows one. I already have an Android phone as I was about to get a 5, but the company I was working for got pre-release devices and they kept (physically) breaking.

Apple JobsTo the solution: I believe this malaise set in with the passing of Steve Jobs. For all his faults, the amazing thing about Jobs was that he got understood the Business, Design, Hardware and Software of making “Insanely Great Products”.

What have we now? We have Tim Cook who’s background is in Sales and Manufacturing and Jony Ive, the reclusive yet internally influential and widely acknowledged design genius (although I do question the “new blue folders” on Yosemite and the Apple Watch). What’s missing?

        Hardware & Software

Name the people associated with those… There’s a hardware guy who we see in their videos, but I can’t find him on Google. For software, there’s Craig Federighi and I must admit I thought Phil Schiller was until I looked up Google and found he’s VP of Marketing! Therein lies the problem – there’s no outstanding person across Hardware and Software. Although the ideal would of been to find another Jobs to replace them all, I don’t think that would ever happen. What is needed is someone responsible for “Integrated Design” who can work with Ive, ensure the highest standard of hardware and software is produced to go in to the Objects of Desire that Apple makes and has the same visibility as Cook and Ive.

Why did I write this?

Probably mostly to get all this off my chest and also as a warning of what may happen to Apple if they don’t get back on track. We’ve seen so many companies like IBM and Microsoft fall so far when they lost their way, it would be a pity to see the same happen with Apple…

Finally, I have the tiny hope that someone at Apple sees and relates to it – I’d love to continue the conversation…


original-apple-logoMy History with Apple

As mentioned at the beginning, before anyone thinks of criticising this piece (which you’re free to do after you’ve read this :) here’s a brief history of my (hopefully ongoing) time with Apple products:

  • Started with an Apple II
  • Used a Lisa – a rich friend had one when I was in my senior school years
  • Got caught up in the “PC Revolution”
  • Shipped some of the early NeXTs* to Australia, did the Australian product launch, taught NeXT programming, created software for NeXT, attended most NeXTworlds and met Steve Jobs
  • Got caught up in the “Java Revolution”
  • Employed by a company in the 90’s who used Apple gear, got my own and went to a few WWDCs (before they were hip)
  • Have continuously bought Apple products again since the 90’s
  • Currently have an iMac, Mac Mini, iPad 2, iPad Air, two Apple iPods and an Apple TV

* For you young’ns, NeXT was what Jobs created after Apple fired him and NeXTstep was the operating system which became Cocoa – all those NS prefixed classes stand for NextStep

The 100 (93) Brands at Baselworld

HYT_SkullGreenEyeAnyone who knows me, knows I’m an Amateur (cheap ;) Horologist. At the moment, Baselworld, which is one of the most exclusive watch events in the world, is on. There are many resources out there (which I’ll include in another post) but a key one which I’ll be using is the “100 Brands at Baselworld” by watchpro.com. Although it’s a great watch site, technically it’s not a great site as the search is broken and it’s clear the pages were  manually made rather than generated from a database. As a result of this, there’s no index for the 100 Brands! :-(

With a bit of “site: Googling” I’ve captured all this in to a spreadsheet which I then sorted and tidied. Below is an index for the 93 Brands at Baselworld – I don’t know why, but there are a few missing. Enjoy :-)

Note: Some links just go to pictures and others to a short article

What’s your favourite, most intersting etc..? Please post in comments below…

1 – Blancpain … 32 – Breitling … 63 – HYT
2 – Auguste Reymond … 33 – Storm London … 64 – Bentley …
3 – Ball Watch … 34 – Wolf 65 – Luminox – WatchPro
4 – Breguet 35 – Nixon 66 – Ebel
5 – Longines … 36 – Ice-Watch … 67 – Juicy Couture …
6 – Aviator 37 – Oris 68 – Bomberg …
7 – Ernest Borel … 38 – Linde Werdelin … 69 – Le Rhone …
8 – Claude Meylan … 39 – Guess Watches … 70 – Caravelle NY …
9 – Mido 40 – Bulova Accutron … 71 – U-Boat
10 – Speake Marin … 41 – Girard-Perregaux … 72 – Hublot
11 – Victorinox … 42 – Salvatore Ferragamo … 73 – Junghans …
12: Cuervo y Sobrinos … 43 – Mühle-Glashütte … 74 – Cat Watches …
13 – GUCCI 44 – Versus 75 – Artya
14 – Tissot 45 – de Grisogono … 76 – Bering
15 – Chopard … 46 – Bell & Ross … 77 – Sarpaneva …
16 – TAG Heuer … 47 – Swarovski … 78 – N.O.A
17 – Movado … 48 – Gc 79 – Eterna
18 – Harry Winston … 49 – Superdry … 80 – MCT Watches …
19 – Maurice Lacroix … 50 – Karen Millen … 81 – Mauron Musy …
20 – NOMOS Glashutte 51-Tonino Lamborghini 84 – Festina …
21 – Bausele … 52 – Swiss Military … 88 – Tom Carter …
22 – Alpina 53 – Roamer … 89 – Clerc
23 – Burberry … 54 – Versace … 90 – Albert Riele …
24 – JeanRichard … 55 – Raidillon Watches … 91 – Kairos
25 – Frederique Constant … 56 – Rado 92 – Junkers …
26 – Citizen 57 – Hamilton … 93 – Zeppelin …
27 – Georg Jensen … 58 – Dreyfuss & Co … 94 – Meccaniche Veloci
28 – Mondaine … 59 – Omega … 95 – Rosenthal …
29 – Zenith 60 – Bremont … 96 – Swatch …
30 – Emporio Armani … 61 – Pierre DeRoche … 97 – Patek Philippe …
31 – Christophe Claret … 62 – Calvin Klein … 98 – Faberge …

 

Apple, where for art thou?

Apple where for art thou?I was “doing stuff” on my iMac and got a Notification saying “Why not try the new Memory efficient and Fast Safari?”. Fine – I thought – I’ve just upgraded to Yosemite, so why not give it a go?

Boy, was that a mistake..! The first hint was Safari “Not Responding”

safari - Not Responding

Well that’s probably OK as it’s the first time Safari is staring up in my account, so it’s probably doing a few things…

safari - getting Memory

That’s a bit of a worry – a browser, which should be 2-300M in memory is not only consuming 3G Virtual Memory (I only have 4G real), but it’s now causing other programs like DropBox to “Not Respond”. That’s a serious load on the system!

safari - Memory Pressure

and it peaked at 5G memory consumption – that’s for a browser!!! The Yosemite image comes on less than that! There is a serious memory allocation bug here, however it’s leveled out, so I decided to just let it run… No difference though, it just stayed at 5G so I had to kill it (after about 10 mins)safari - kill

and of course everything went back to normal. To be fair, when I restarted it, Sarari, it was consuming less than Mozilla

safari - Normal

but there’s only 69M difference… Hmm… What to choose? A stable browser I’ve used for many years, or a “psycho browser” that chewed up 5G of memory on a whim? The choice is obvious!

Anyone who knows about the Broken Windows Theory of Software Development will realise that this is not a good sign. I’m not talking about some obscure utility that I had a problem with, this is the System Browser!

If I was Apple, I’d be worried about it… and I’d posit to say that if Steve Jobs was at the helm, this would of never happened. Unfortunately, the two people that seem to be “running” the company are Tim Cook (who is a classic Delivery Manager) and Jonathan Ives (Absolute Design Legend) don’t seem to understand one critical component to the whole “i-experience” – Software!

Yes, Jobs was a tyrant (I’ve met him and seen him meter justice to others for no good reason) but he did have an understanding of Software Quality, which is something that is sadly lacking with the current management…

This is just a small example of Apple “losing the plot” and anyone who has “upgraded” to the various bad versions of iOS or OS X will know what I’m talking about…

Why did I write this? Because I love Apple products! I’ve been using and programming them since before they were “cool” (2002 – actually 1993 if you count NeXT) and don’t think it’s too late! Apple are starting to go down a slippery slope… If they pick up their game they can still produce “Insanely Excellent” products, but that’s to be determined. If they don’t, then people like me will switch to Windows (which is becoming “not that bad”) or Linux (which I can handle) and everyone else will switch to something else about 5y after…

PS For those who don’t know me, this was written on an iMac and I have an iPad 2 Air, so I’m not an “Apple Basher” ;-)

PPS Another “broken windows” tip – who wants a calculator that has a translucent background on the display???

apple Calculator

what if I had a light background behind it? That’s just crazy… Again, broken windows