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Stuart Breckenridge

Made with ones and zeros.

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Introducing do|try|catch

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-17 14:14

do|try|catch is my new blog dedicated to my software development antics. This website will keep going but will have a more general technology focus.

The launch of the site also coincides with the release of DetailedProductsKit: a new open source library I’ve put together that enables fast and simple access to the Franklin Templeton Detailed Products API.


Apple Isn’t the Only Casualty of China's Slowdown

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-03 06:30

Angus Whitley, for Bloomberg:

FedEx: The U.S. delivery giant slashed its profit forecast in late December – just three months after raising it. While FedEx Corp.’s woes weren’t limited to China, the company cited trade tensions, especially between the U.S. and China, among its troubles.

Starbucks: But last month, Starbucks Corp. said sales growth in China could be as low as 1 percent in the long term. That’s slower than the 3 percent to 4 percent growth seen for the U.S. and the rest of the world. It’s not clear how much China’s economy or trade tensions are to blame – or if China is just losing its taste for caffeine.

Tiffany’s: China’s economic woes are more of a headache for the jeweller outside the country than inside. In November, Tiffany & Co. reported weaker-than-expected sales and highlighted a “clear pattern” of Chinese shoppers cutting back on spending when they’re overseas.

Daimler: The German maker of Mercedes cars was among the first global brands to blame escalating trade tensions when it warned in June that retaliatory tariffs in China on car imports from the U.S. would hit sales on the mainland.

Trade wars: good for no-one.


Apple Expect Revenue to Miss Guidance Due to Poor iPhone Sales

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 22:04

Tim Cook, in a letter to Apple investors:

Today we are revising our guidance for Apple’s fiscal 2019 first quarter, which ended on December 29. We now expect the following:

  • Revenue of approximately $84 billion
  • Gross margin of approximately 38 percent
  • Operating expenses of approximately $8.7 billion
  • Other income/(expense) of approximately $550 million
  • Tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent before discrete items

[…]

Lower than anticipated iPhone revenue, primarily in Greater China, accounts for all of our revenue shortfall to our guidance and for much more than our entire year-over-year revenue decline. In fact, categories outside of iPhone (Services, Mac, iPad, Wearables/Home/Accessories) combined to grow almost 19 percent year-over-year.

The revenue shortfall is $5bn – $9bn less than the $89bn – $93bn guidance provided around 60 days ago. The iPhone makes up nearly 2/3 of Apple’s revenue, so this is a striking miss for their most important product.

Other factors that contribute to the anticipated miss:

While Greater China and other emerging markets accounted for the vast majority of the year-over-year iPhone revenue decline, in some developed markets, iPhone upgrades also were not as strong as we thought they would be. While macroeconomic challenges in some markets were a key contributor to this trend, we believe there are other factors broadly impacting our iPhone performance, including consumers adapting to a world with fewer carrier subsidies, US dollar strength-related price increases, and some customers taking advantage of significantly reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.

  • Other emerging markets: Hello, India 🇮🇳. A market where growth hasn’t so much stalled as it hasn’t started. iPhone’s high pricing remains a problem in a market where the majority of smartphones are sold for less than $250.
  • iPhone upgrades: I’m not convinced the iPhone Xs and Xs Max high prices contributed significantly to a smaller number of upgrades. More likely is that the iPhone X is good enough for the vast majority of users to keep it for one more year.


The 2019 Refresh

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-02 07:48

2019 is here and I’ve made a few changes to my website.

Simplified

Full posts have been replaced by short excerpts on the homepage. Blockquotes and the Carbon advert are no longer filled squares with rounded corners. Instead, blockquotes have a left side border and a clear background while the Carbon advert has an all-round border and clear background. Post dates have been moved around to improve the flow of each page.

Colour Scheme

The pinks have been replaced by blues (#479CED).

Newsletter

As a trial, I’ve enabled a Newsletter sign up. (I’m not sure how long this will last.)

Typography

Whitney has been replaced by Verlag (headings) and Ideal Sans (body). Both are available via Typography.com.


Fortnite Asia Servers for Xbox Players

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-30 07:07

Since Sony decided to allow cross-platform play for Fortnite, I’ve found myself playing more and more on Xbox One X. I find the overall Fortnite experience on the Xbox One X to be the best available.

However, there’s a huge problem: there are no Asia or South-East Asia servers for Xbox players. None! This means that auto-matchmaking will sometimes connect to Oceania servers (Sydney) or NA-West (Northern California). When you’re connecting from Singapore this results in high pings ranging from 150ms to 250ms. Sometimes it’s just playable; sometimes it’s clearly unplayable.

Two things make this all the more irritating. First: if you play Fortnite on PS4, Switch, iOS or Mac/PC, then an Asia server is available, with exceptionally low pings. Second: there was a very brief period over Christmas where Xbox had an Asia server and it was superb, but then it disappeared.

I’m hopeful that the Asia server for Xbox players will return soon.


■ Singapore Transit v2.1.0

Permalink - Posted on 2018-12-01 14:31

Today, I released the first major update to Singapore Transit since it hit v2.0.

Since that release, I’ve solicited feedback on Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. Two major requests have surfaced:

  • Themes
  • Siri integration for a specific service at a specific stop

v2.1 deals with the latter. You can now add a Siri Shortcut to request arrival information for a particular service at a selected bus stop.1

In addition, since v2.02, I’ve renamed the app from SG Transit to Singapore Transit. It makes it easier for non-Singapore residents to find on the App Store and, I’m pleased to announce, it ties in nicely with my next project, London Transit (coming 2019).

  1. v2.2 will cover themes. ↩︎

  2. Actually, 1.x. ↩︎


Google Assistant Meets Siri

Permalink - Posted on 2018-11-21 14:25

This is the best opening paragraph on Macrumors:

Google has updated its Assistant app for iOS to support Siri Shortcuts, enabling users to invoke Google’s virtual assistant using Apple’s virtual assistant, without even having to launch the app.


■ SG Transit v2.0.0

Permalink - Posted on 2018-10-07 13:16, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

At the end of August, I started rewriting SG Transit with the following goals:

  • Better Performance
  • Siri Integration
  • Apple Watch Support

As I progressed, the following goals were added:

  • Rich Notifications
  • New UI
  • Additional LTA Data Mall API Functionality

All of this is now available in v2.0.0, which was released today.

Better Performance

SG Transit now uses Core Data instead of parsing large amounts of JSON each time the app is launched. This has improved performance of nearby bus stops, bus arrivals, and bus routes.

Siri Integration

SG Transit integrates deeply with Siri. You can add any bus stop to Siri, using your own voice command, ask Siri for the latest arrivals at that stop, and the results will be presented by Siri without opening the app.

Similarly, if you regularly check a bus stop at a particular time of day, Siri will learn about this behaviour and surface this as a suggestion to you via the lock screen.

Apple Watch Support

SG Transit Mini — SG Transit’s little brother — supports bus arrivals either using nearby stops or favourite stops. More features will come in future releases.

Rich Notifications

MRT & LRT service alerts and traffic alerts are delivered to the app as rich notifications. Simply pull down on the notification to see details like traffic incident locations.

Traffic notifications are configured by type (e.g. Heavy Traffic) and time (e.g. Afternoon 12:00 - 17:59).

New UI

The look-and-feel of the app (and icon) is completely new. It’s minimalist. but at the same time shows more information. For example, in v1 you could only see the the wheelchair, load, and bus type of the next bus, but in v2 you can see this information for the next three arrivals.

The tab bar has also seen some small changes with the introduction of haptics, animations, and, well, the removal of text.

Finally, you may have noticed from the screenshots above that the app has a brand new typeface: Hermes Maia.

Additional LTA Data Mall API Functionality

v2 introduces a brand new traffic tab. This includes traffic incidents, traffic cameras, and car park availability.

Bonus - Ad Removal

Ads have been removed from SG Transit. Instead, I intend to support development through in-app purchases. The first of these is cosmetic: the Alternative Icon Pack.


Chrome 69 Removes Trivial Subdomains

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-07 05:11, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

The recently released Chrome 69 inexplicably hides “trivial” subdomains, e.g. “www”. It’s such an ill conceived change that it will likely confuse end users. For example, https://citibank.com.sg and https://www.citibank.com.sg are not the same website, though in the address bar they look the same.

What’s worse is that it’s badly implemented.

Comment 5:

Why is www hidden twice if the domain is “www.www.2ld.tld”?

Comment 8:

“subdomain.www.domain.com” displays as “subdomain.domain.com”.

Stupidity in the extreme.


Five Eyes Attorneys General on Encryption

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-04 13:30, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

The Attorneys General of the Five Eyes1 have a released a statement entitled Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption. The outstanding sentence:

The Governments of the Five Eyes encourage information and communications technology service providers to voluntarily establish lawful access solutions to their products and services that they create or operate in our countries. Governments should not favor a particular technology; instead, providers may create customized solutions, tailored to their individual system architectures that are capable of meeting lawful access requirements.

In other words, the Governments of the Five Eyes are encouraging big technology companies to create backdoors of their choosing to weaken the encryption in their products in order to establish a lawful access solution.

This will not work. Bad actors, which the statement fails to mention, will work overtime to exploit such a solution. That, in turn, will put all sorts of data — from financial to communications — at risk.

  1. Which is beginning to sound more like a magician’s guild. ↩︎


Group FaceTime Pulled from Initial Release of iOS 12

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-13 23:02, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

Juli Clover, for Macrumors:

Apple today removed Group FaceTime from the latest iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas, which were released this morning, and has instead decided to release the feature at a later date.

One of the key features of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, Group FaceTime is designed to allow up to 32 people to chat together at one time via FaceTime audio or FaceTime video.

[…]

In release notes for both macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Apple says the feature has been removed from the initial releases of macOS Mojave and iOS 12 and “will ship in a future software update later this fall.”

It’s disappointing that Group FaceTime will miss the 12.0 cut, but if the feature isn’t ready then it should, quite rightly, be held back. That said, looking back at the iOS 11 announcement at WWDC 2017, Apple Pay Cash, Messages in iCloud, and AirPlay 2 were also pulled from the retail release and shipped later. Perhaps it’s time we treat WWDC announcements as feature sets that will be made available throughout the lifecycle of a major iOS release, rather than with the initial retail release of the software.


Sir Patrick Stewart Returning As Jean-Luc Picard

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-06 13:31, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

Sir Patrick Stewart (tweet):

This is fantastic news.


■ SG Transit v1.1.4

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-03 22:07, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

A small patch has been released for SG Transit. It contains minor fixes and accessibility enhancements.

Fixes:

  • Resolved an issue when sorting by Service Number or Arrival Time

New Accessibility Features:

  • Accessibility hints added to bus stop arrivals
  • Dynamic type now supported throughout the app

Performance Updates:

  • Drawing bus routes is a little bit faster

Other changes:

  • The distance a bus is from a bus stop is now localised instead of always being denoted in metres.


Banks Continue to Assist Victims as Fraudulent iTunes Transactions Continue to Appear

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-23 14:28, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

Nurul Aziliah Aripin, for Channel News Asia:

Banks in Singapore said they have responded with measures to assist victims after a series of fraudulent Apple iTunes transactions affected dozens of account holders.

The victims reported that hundreds to thousands of dollars were wiped from their debit accounts and charged to their credit cards from banks including Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), DBS and HSBC.

Even though the focus of the fraudulent transactions appears to be iTunes, at least one person has reported that they didn’t even have a credit card linked to their iTunes account:

“The shocking thing is, I don’t even have any credit or debit card details saved on my own iTunes account,” said Mr Lim. “Apple/iTunes was not even aware of the fraudulent transactions (in my account) until I informed them.”

It’s a worrying breach of credit card security for multiple banks in Singapore, at the same time.


European Commission Fines Google €4.34bn

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-18 12:10, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

The European Commission’s ruling on Google’s antitrust behaviour with regards to Android (via The Guardian):

Google has prevented device manufacturers from using any alternative version of Android that was not approved by Google (Android forks).

In order to be able to pre-install on their devices Google’s proprietary apps, including the Play Store and Google Search, manufacturers had to commit not to develop or sell even a single device running on an Android fork.

The Commission found that this conduct was abusive as of 2011, which is the date Google became dominant in the market for app stores for the Android mobile operating system.

The fine, €4.34bn, is sizeable1. What interests me the most, however, is the impact this will have on the Android ecosystem. If bigger handset manufacturers create multiple forks of Android it’ll fragment the ecosystem even more than it is now. That wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing for consumers.

  1. It’s the largest fine ever imposed! ↩︎


Apple to Discontinue Photo Printing Service

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-12 23:54, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

Benjamin Mayo, for 9to5Mac:

Apple is discontinuing its Photo Print Products service, which has been integrated into iPhoto since its launch in 2002. The service expanded from simple prints, to albums, photo books, and calendars. It stayed around on the Mac when iPhoto was replaced with the Photos app a couple of years ago, but the service never made the leap to iOS.

Later this year, Apple will stop offering the service altogether. A new message in macOS 10.13.6 Photos app says that final orders for Apple’s built-in service must be placed by September 30, 2018.

This is hugely disappointing. For years I’ve been using the printing service for photo books and birthday cards, complete with custom typography, and they’ve always turned out really well. I’ve not tried any of the other third-party services that are recommended, but it seems I’ll have no choice but to give them a go.


Swindle in Singapore

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-10 14:26, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

I wanted the summit between Trump and Kim to yield something positive. One month later, I’m clutching at straws to find anything positive.

As Max Boot articulates for the Washington Post:

In the month since the Swindle in Singapore, it has become obvious that Kim is arming rather than disarming. On June 29, NBC News reported that, according to U.S. intelligence officials, North Korea was increasing production of fuel for nuclear weapons and working to conceal its activities from the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo then canceled a meeting with the Indian foreign minister to fly off to Pyongyang, presumably to tell the North Koreans that they had better start delivering on their promises.

He continues:

North Korea didn’t even make good on its promise to repatriate the remains of Korean War POWs/MIAs.

[…]

Kim has played Trump like a Stradivarius. He has gotten everything he wanted — sanctions relaxation, international legitimation — without giving up anything in return. Vladimir Putin must be licking his chops. If Trump was fleeced so thoroughly by a tyro tyrant whom he was denouncing as recently as the beginning of this year, imagine how much he will give up to a veteran despot for whom he has had nothing but praise.

Skewered, justifiably.


Retiring Primes

Permalink - Posted on 2018-06-29 23:21, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

I’ve decided to retire one of my older apps, Primes — Numbers Game. It’s been removed from sale as of today.

(If you want an app that borrowed my original icon try this.)


NY Times on the St. Regis

Permalink - Posted on 2018-06-10 13:14, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

Motoko Rich, for The New York Times:

The St. Regis is less than half a mile from the Shangri La Hotel, where Mr. Trump is staying. But while the Shangri La is set on a residential stretch of road, the St. Regis sits on a busy commercial boulevard next to a run-down strip mall with two money changers, a pet store and “Maids R Us,” a hiring agency.

This is a somewhat misleading attempt to portray Trump’s hotel and its location superior to Kim’s.

St. Regis is next to Tanglin Mall, which is an older, Tudor style mall, but it’s certainly not run down. It’s also important to note that St. Regis is a five-star hotel and the Presidential Suite is $10,000-per-night, while the most expensive suite at Shangri-La — the Shangri-La Suite — is $7,000-per-night.1

  1. I priced up rooms for one night on 11th October. ↩︎


WWDC 2018 Predictions

Permalink - Posted on 2018-06-02 14:19, modified on 2018-11-09 12:50

I haven’t blogged about my predictions for WWDC since 2015, but here are three guesses and one warning for 2018:

  1. Continuous Integration will be added to the developer pipeline (remember Apple bought buddybuild?1)
  2. A replacement for Xcode
  3. Spec bumps on the iMac and MacBook ranges
  4. Outrageous Warning: macOS 11

It’s nice going into a WWDC knowning nothing.

Update 2018-06-03: It seems Xcode and macOS 10.x will be around for a while longer.

Update 2018-05-06: I got everything wrong. I still loved what was in the keynote.

  1. Perhaps for an extra fee on top of the developer subscription Apple will build and run test cases for you? ↩︎