Velocity Engine Lives

Doing a little network test and ran a traceroute to apple.com:

$ sudo tcptraceroute apple.com
Selected device ppp0, address 172.17.152.110, port 55167 for outgoing packets
Tracing the path to apple.com (17.149.160.49) on TCP port 80 (http), 30 hops max
 1  xxx.xx.xx.xx  12.847 ms  12.899 ms  13.736 ms
 2  xxx.xx.xx.xx  14.734 ms  14.966 ms  16.143 ms
 3  10.255.12.45  14.335 ms  14.712 ms  13.902 ms
 4  10.253.44.242  14.992 ms  14.204 ms  13.693 ms
 5  velocity-engine.com (17.149.160.49) [open]  14.639 ms  17.666 ms  15.295 ms

Check out that last host. Velocity Engine was part of the marketing for AltiVec in the late 90′s early 2000′s. Curious that Apple is re-purposing that.

Steve Jobs On Life

Steve Jobs in interview for PBS’ ‘One Last Thing‘ documentary, 1994 (via Wikipedia):

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.

That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.

I’ve always admired how he pushed the limits. I can’t help but read “… embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it” and think of the “Crazy Ones” ad campaign’s: “because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”.

He was a crazy one.

iPhone 5 Teardown

iFixit posted their teardown and as always it’s fascinating to look at. Chipworks did some analysis as well. Some observations:

  • Easier to repair – Looks to be substantially easier to repair than previous iPhones. Major win.
  • Broadcom nearly expunged? – Apple looks to be moving away from using Broadcom chips. The Broadcom BCM5976 touchscreen controller looks like all that’s left. I’m surprised as the iPad 3 included the Broadcom BCM4330 wireless chip. I assumed that would be in there.
  • New WiFi Chip – Interestingly Apple instead of a Broadcom BCM4330 went with a Murata 339S0171. Murata is apparently based on a Broadcom BCM4334 + Skyworks frontend chips according to Chipworks. Guessing this saves at the very least space. Possibly also power. Apple must be serious about cutting size/weight.
  • Lots of Qualcomm inside – Not a shocker for an LTE device.
  • Got rid of the linear oscillating vibrator – I wonder why this is. It seems in every way superior to keep the linear oscillating vibrator vs the rotational motor with counterweight. No idea why they would have done that. Cost?
  • Easier to repair home button? – The home button is the weak point of the iPhone hardware wise. It inevitably becomes less sensitive, and for some will just die. This appears to be stronger and easier to repair.
  • Sony based image sensor – Chipworks identified the rear camera as a Sony design, but not much than that. The Galaxy SIII uses the Sony IMX145, which the iPhone 4S also used. Presumably this is the next generation based on the specs.

On Apple Maps

Apple switching from Google Maps to its own “creation” is a pretty interesting move. By “creation” I of course mean a mashup of TomTom data and OpenStreetMap data among other sources with their own vector maps and 3D imaging. The 3D thing is a cool effect, but that’s all it is, an effect. I can’t think of many, if any practical uses for it.

The maps from a visual standpoint are quite nice. They look great and are quite readable. At least as good, if not better than Google Maps. The quality of the data however is pretty terrible. The maps are sometimes incomplete and things aren’t placed correctly.

In my opinion the worst offense is the lack of public transit data. For larger cities like New York, San Francisco, London that is a high-profile gap. Given the size of the population in those cities (and how much of the press operates out of those), it just makes the problem that much worse. Given that data is pretty accessible (NY’s MTA even has a website dedicated to it), I can’t see how they let that one slip. Simply showing stations and what trains are there would have been a huge improvement.

The upside to all this is maps is really a web-based service. That means Apple can iterate on it 24×7 without having to release a ton of updates. That means the maps in theory will improve in quality over time without most people even realizing.

That said, cartography is really difficult stuff.

Apple’s A6 CPU It’s Own Design?

Anand Lal Shimpi blew my mind with a report:

The A6 is the first Apple SoC to use its own ARMv7 based processor design. The CPU core(s) aren’t based on a vanilla A9 or A15 design from ARM IP, but instead are something of Apple’s own creation.

I had just assumed Apple licensed the designs as they have in the past. I figured with their interest in silicon designs that they would want more control in the future, but not to this level.

This just shows what sort of cash Apple has in the bank. I can’t imagine anyone other than Samsung possibly going this route, and even Samsung wouldn’t likely do it for just one product of theirs.

iPhone 5 Thoughts

iPhone 5

Some thoughts on the iPhone 5:

  • Design – The black model is a bit of a departure having finally removed the metal ring that’s framed the iPhones of the past. It looks more subtle in white. Otherwise it’s the classic iPhone design, just longer.
  • Dimensions – The larger screen will be nice, I suspect they’ve held the line in dimensions with the 4S to avoid fragmenting the ecosystem too much and upsetting developers (see: Android). Letterboxing makes old apps usable. It’s hardly perfect but a respectable long term move. Unlike many other phones it still seems usable with one hand.
  • Camera – In my opinion one of the bigger features is the improved camera. “The best camera is the one you have on you”. For more and more people it’s their phone. It will never replace an SLR, sheer physics and properties of light limit that. It however is substantially better than previous incarnations. Sapphire Crystal lens is pretty cool too. My lens scratched once before and it cost $30 to swap out the back panel. This means that won’t be likely to happen again. Backside ilumination sensor and large aperture mean better night photos. Something just about every mobile phone stinks at.
  • Panorama – Lots of apps already offer this feature. Apple did mention there’s new “image processing chip”. Curious if some of the algorithms to do panorama’s are accelerated for performance. That would make it a huge win. Also potentially better quality for the time it takes to process.
  • LTE – About time. I suspect they’ve been playing with LTE for ages, but opted against it because of power consumption. Apple held the line with power consumption. Seems like a win.
  • Dual band WiFi – I’m assuming both the iPhone 5 and Kindle HD include 5 GHz because the chipset offers it. While 5 GHz is fast, it’s got pretty limited range, and isn’t really necessary on a mobile device, especially one that can only process so much data at a time. You’re not pushing 300 Mbps to the iPhone 5. Marketing hype, but it’s not a bad thing to have.
  • New Display – Integrated touch is pretty neat. Rather than 2 layers to the screen it’s now one. Given the previous one generation was glued, this doesn’t really make repairs any more expensive. You had to replace the whole thing anyway. Apple mentions it makes things brighter. I’m betting that means they need less power per pixel to light the screen meaning it’s more energy efficient and thus cuts power needs despite the larger size or at least offsets it.
  • Lightning – New cable isn’t terribly surprising. It sounds like an active cable, but it doesn’t seem 100% certain. I’m betting it will be difficult or impossible to see cheap 3rd party cables like we did in the past if that’s the case. The adapter is ugly, and I’ll likely be using those for a while to keep my old stuff working with it. Budget for a few cables and at least one adapter. Eventually we’ll forget about that migration.
  • New earbuds – I’ll hold judgement. The original ear buds were actually decent sound wise, however it was virtually impossible properly position them in your ear to appreciate it. I ditched the Apple ones long ago for something more comfortable.

Overall the announcement met my expectations. I didn’t expect an all new phone, just a ton of revisions. It makes sense Apple didn’t include NFC. If Apple wants to go the payment route I’d expect them to do so via a Pay with Square like geofencing scheme.

Lastly, it appears AT&T will grandfather existing unlimited data customers even with LTE. Not so for Verizon customers.

SVN In Mountain Lion

This one caught me by surprise. With 10.8 Mountain Lion, installing Xcode doesn’t mean tools like svn will be automatically available via command line. If you want to use svn by terminal for example you’ll have to first open Xcode, next go into Preferences and find the Downloads tab. Then install “Command Line Tools”. After a few minutes you’ll then have all the old tools you know and love available just like before.

Seems SVN is 1.6 what shipped with Mountain Lion:

$ svn --version
svn, version 1.6.18 (r1303927)
   compiled Jun 15 2012, 19:07:58

To bad it’s not 1.7. Lots of nice improvements since 1.6 shipped. Apple tends to be somewhat conservative in what it bundles, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

On Apple’s Lack Of Adaptive Image Support In WebKit

It’s becoming clear to me that despite Apple having a huge chunk of the mobile web, it still treats the web as a second class citizen on iOS and Mac OS X. My latest battle is adaptive images, in particular for use in High DPI devices (“Retina” on the Mac). High DPI displays are awesome. I own an iPad 3, and it’s one of the greatest displays I’ve ever looked at. What I don’t get is why Apple is making it so difficult to take advantage of as a developer.

Currently, there’s no easy way to switch image resolutions based on the display being used. The basis of that isn’t Apple’s fault. Nobody thought of the problem when HTML was first created. All of the methods have ugly tradeoffs. They are hacks. Even Apple.com doesn’t have a great solution. They were doing image replacement (easier to read version here). Apple does however have a solution called image-set which looks like it will be in iOS 6 and Mac OS X 10.8.

That’s several months later. The iPad 3 was announced March 7, which was only about 2 weeks after the initial proposal. Why wasn’t a solution for web authors included when the iPad 3 shipped? It seems silly that there’s no API to properly interface with one of the most touted features of the new device. Of course there’s a way to take advantage of that brilliant display if you build a native app.

You could argue that Apple didn’t want to rush implementing something proprietary without discussing it with the community at large, but Apple has said in the past:

tantek (Mozilla): I think if you’re working on open standards, you should propose your features before you implement them and discuss that here.
smfr (Apple): We can’t do that.
sylvaing (Microsoft): We can’t do that either.

So Apple is pretty candid about reserving the right to implement features without discussion, yet nothing happened. It’s not that such a discussion would have been a “leak”. The iPhone 4′s display would be adequate justification for the feature. In fact it’s mentioned in the first sentence of that proposal in www-style by Edward O’Connor. So not disclosing the new product doesn’t seem to be the reason either. Apple could have done this a year ago without anyone being any wiser about the iPad 3′s display.

I can’t be the only one who’s scratching his head over this. Why didn’t the iPad 3 ship with a browser capable of providing an efficient way to switch images? The cynic in me would say “to encourage native app development”, but then why bother now?

The upside is Apple products have high OS adoption rates. All those retina iPad 3′s will be running iOS 6 relatively quickly. If it were a popular Android device I’d be much more concerned because we’d be dealing with 2 years of devices on a stale OS with no support. This is why we need more competition in mobile. We need web solutions to be a priority, not an afterthought.

As far as I’m aware image-set is also prefixed, but that’s another rant.

Full SPDY Ahead

For those not keeping score, Twitter, and Facebook have both come out publicly in favor of SPDY. Twitter is already using it in production. It sounds like Facebook will be soon. Mozilla implemented it in Firefox. Opera has SPDY. Google, the author of SPDY is using it in production.

This leaves Microsoft and Apple as the holdouts. Microsoft’s HTTP + Mobility is SPDY at it’s core. Microsoft hasn’t started supporting SPDY in any products, but it seems inevitable at some point. They are a holdout in implementation but not opposed to SPDY it seems.

Apple is the last major holdout. SPDY hasn’t been announced for iOS 6 or Mac OS X 10.8. As far as I’m aware Apple hasn’t made any statement suggesting support or opposition to SPDY. However I can’t see why they would oppose it. There’s nothing for them to disapprove of, other than it’s not using their IP. I’d be surprised if they don’t want to implement it.

However given SPDY is a rather backwards compatible thing to support, I don’t see this holding back adoption. Nginx is adding support for SPDY (thanks to WordPress creator Automattic), and Google is working on mod_spdy for Apache. That makes adoption for lots of large websites possible.

While the details of SPDY and the direction it will go are still in flux, it seems nearly certain that SPDY is the future of the web. Time to start digging into how to adopt it and ease the transition. The primary concerns I see are as follow:

  1. TLS Required – While not explicitly required, SPDY essentially builds on TLS and virtually any real world application needs it. This means purchasing SSL certificates for any website you wish to use SPDY with. Some have argued performance and scalability, but Google, Facebook and Twitter use SSL extensively on commodity hardware.
  2. IP Address – Unless you use Server Name Indication (SNI), which almost no websites do because of compatibility, you need an IP address for every hostname that you use TLS with. That means until IPv6 is widely adopted, it will be putting further strain on the remaining IPv4 pool.

Both of the above concerns increase complexity and cost of building websites at scale and for those who are on a very tight budget (the rest of us will manage). Because of this, I don’t think we’ll see a 100% SPDY or HTTP 2.0 web for quite some time. Don’t expect SPDY for shared hosting sites anytime soon.

In a world of increasing surveillance and user data being integrated into everything, the benefits of TLS will be realized. Both Facebook and Twitter acknowledge it’s importance in preventing user data from getting into the wrong hands.

I, For One, Welcome Our New SPDY overlord.