The Rogers Communications outage and the need for offline functionality

Image by IO-Images from Pixabay

I recently published a piece about the lessons we should learn from the Rogers Communications outage. The way I see it, the outage underscored two facts

  1. We are incredibly dependent on the Internet. 
  2. The importance of preserving offline functionality

Offline functionality means having devices that are functional without an Internet connection.

What I took away from this outage (I wasn’t affected thankfully) is that offline functionality in my devices is critical.

I’m from a generation (maybe even the last generation), that remembers when personal computers were primarily offline devices. It’s not my intent to scold younger folks, nor am I suggesting that I was born during a better time. It’s just a fact that most home computers from the 1990s – which were generally shared by all family members – were offline most of the time. As a result, our sImage by IO-Images from Pixabayoftware was designed with offline use in mind. Budgeting, word processing, and gaming were all done offline.

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Intel in the news

ARC discrete GPUs. Image courtesy of Intel.

Intel has been in the news thanks to the release of its new i9 desktop processor (dubbed the ‘fastest’ CPU in the world) and its new ARD discrete mobile GPUs. Intel’s i9 CPU is what we’re used to; more watts. What’s most interesting is that Intel is targeting gaming enthusiasts (and possibly esports professionals) in its marketing. That’s a curious move considering how niche that audience is.

The ARC GPUs are arguably more interesting because they represent a significant advancement in mobile graphics. Anyone running a recent Windows laptop with Intel’s Iris integrated graphics have fared well. ARC show some considerable performance gains in games and professional applications. So far, Intel has only rolled out ARC 3 – with the 350M and 370M chips. The story was originally reported by Chaim Gartenberg from The Verge.

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A passwordless future

Authentication diagram fro the FIDO Alliance.
Image courtesy of the FIDO Alliance

The FIDO Alliance recently published a white paper about its plan to replace passwords. Coverage about this paper from Wired and The Register is excellent, and the white paper itself provides some interesting solutions for eliminating the need for passwords. FIDO proposes using secondary Bluetooth enabled devices to transmit cryptographic keys locally, without data being shared over the Internet. Such an implementation would be phishing-resistant, but is its adoption realistic?

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The Steam Deck

Steam Deck
Image courtesy of Valve

Earlier this month, Valve opened pre-orders for its new Steam Deck, a handheld gaming PC built on AMD’s Zen 2APU. This handheld PC runs a Linux-based operating system called Steam OS (v. 3.0). The Steam Deck allows users to play ‘many’ of their Steam game library portably. Tech Radardescribed the Steam Deck as “one of the most eagerly anticipated product launches in recent times, with Valve trying its hand at making a handheld console.”

But the Steam Deck is more than a gaming device. It’s a new PC form factor – what I call the ‘mobile desktop’ – and showcases recent advancements in mobile computing.

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Apple Peek Performance Event: M1 Ultra and Mac Studio biggest highlights

Apple’s Peek Performance event has come and gone. Other blogs will discuss the minutia of the event, so I won’t attempt that here. Instead, I’m going to focus on the highlights – mostly Apple Silicon.

M1 Ultra

M1 Ultra specs overview slide from Apple
M1 Ultra overview: Image courtesy of Apple

As not to bury the lead, the star of the event was the new M1 Ultra chip. This is a professional-class desktop chip that builds on the M1 Max available in the current crop of MacBook Pros. M1 Ultra is essentially two M1 Max chips fused together using a new “Ultra Fusion” process. M1 Ultra provides for 2.5 TB/s interprocessor bandwidth, 800 GB/s of memory bandwidth, has 114 billion transistors, has up to 128 Gb of unified memory, includes a 20 core CPU, and includes a 64 core GPU. Most of Apple’s chips have a combination of high performance and efficiency cores. The Ultra is no different, but the balance has shifted. M1 Ultra has 16 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores because this is made for desktops using AC power.

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2021 MacBook Pro: Classic features with a new engine

Apple’s ‘Unleashed’ event happened on Oct 18th, and the company finally revealed their updated MacBook Pro laptops running on Apple Silicon. Today, The reviews are starting to trickle out. For a full breakdown of everything Apple announced (including updates to HomePod mini, Apple Music, and AirPods 3), I would encourage you to head over to Jason Snell and Dan Moren’s blog Six Colors for the whole scoop. If you want a deep dive video, I’d head over to Rene Richtie’s YouTube channel

In this article, I want to focus on the MacBooks – particularly on the new designs, Apple’s mea culpa on ports, the next-gen Apple Silicon, and what this update might foreshadow for the Mac moving forward. Having watched the announcement and read some of these early reviews, I wanted to provide my takeaways. The MacBook Pro is truly a pro machine, and nobody benefits more from their power than creative professionals. But what about enthusiasts or “semi-pro” users? I only dabble in video, audio, and photo editing, and programming is just a hobby for me. Semi-pro is the best I can hope for right now. What MacBook Pro features will benefit Mac enthusiasts and which features are overkill? In this post, I will highlight what I think are the most practical features for these folks, while also discussing the broader implications of this update.

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Post-PC what?

Photo of a vintage computer
Photo by bert sz on Unsplash

The ‘Post-PC’ era was supposed to signal a shift away from traditional computing (ie laptops and desktops). It was supposed to be the age of the smartphone and tablet. I discuss a recent Asymco post by Horace Dediu and provide my own thoughts on the Post-PC idea.

Now here’s a term that I haven’t heard in a while. “Post-PC.” Horis Dediu discusses the term in his recent blog post at Asymco.

For those not familiar, the “Post-PC era” was supposed to be a societal shift away from traditional desktop computing toward a more mobile world. As Dediu points out, the term Post-PC was popularized by David D. Clark from MIT. Steve Jobs also popularized the idea, as it was in the context of the Post-PC era that he discussed the iPod, iPhone, and iPad (more so the latter two). 

Jobs famously argued at the D10 conference that the personal computer (including Mac and Windows) was like a truck. A workhorse for any given situation. And like trucks, PCs wouldn’t be the favoured vehicle type forever. Jobs theorized that other devices, like the smartphone and tablet, would steal away the more casual users. PCs would still be around, but they would remain the work devices (the trucks) while phones and tablets would be the cars.

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Apple’s M1 chip: Making desktop computing cool again

Apple M1 chip: Image courtesy of Apple

My intention was not for this website to become the Apple blog, but the famous fruit company seems to be dominating much of the news cycle this year.

This past summer, at the World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple announced that it would be transitioning from Intel to its in-house Apple Silicon over the next two years. Apple said the first Macs with in-house silicon would arrive by the end of 2020. Well, here we are, and we have a new MacBook Air, 13 inch MacBook Pro, and a Mac mini.

The form factors of these devices are identical, but the real magic is the new M1 chip inside. Is it as fast as Apple claims? Will it run our apps properly? What does the M1 chip mean for desktop computing generally? In this article, I will try and answer these questions.

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Nvidia buying ARM opens a huge can of worms

Image credit: Fr3d.org/Flickr

The stunning news that Nvidia was moving to acquire ARM Holdings for $40 billion has led many in the tech industry to consider the possible implications of this merger.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the relationship between ARM and the many licensees that use technologies developed by ARM. Currently, Nvidia is the leader in graphics cards (GPUs). Nvidia also has a somewhat poor relationship with Apple, is that a potential conflict of interest? Does Nvidia have the power to sever all the licensing relationships with ARM’s various partners? ARM chips are used everywhere, so any company that relies on ARM licenses would have justification to be concerned.

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Maximum fun: Do graphics matter as much in the next console generation?

Image from Pixabay

The launch of a new console generation is so very exciting. It’s one of the few things that genuinely makes me feel like I’m a kid again. Even if you’re not a gamer, new console generations are important milestones in the computer industry because they often bring cutting-edge and innovative technology to a larger number of people. This upcoming generation is no different from all the amazing new CPUs and GPUs provided by AMD, solid-state storage (SSD), faster memory, and (hopefully) faster load times. Graphics certainly get better with each generation, but does the increased graphical fidelity and realism matter as much in this generation? I hypothesize that it doesn’t. I believe we’re reaching a plateau of “maximum fun” (or fun saturation). What I mean is that more detailed graphics and higher resolution textures won’t necessarily lead to better gameplay at least for the time being. Rather, game fluidity as a result of higher frames-per-second (FPS) and good game mechanics are better indicators of a game’s replay-ability over time.

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