Letting Go…

Last week I was involved in a brutal massacre. A total of 10 innocuous work shirts were killed off (alright, taken to the local charity shop). In view of the fact that some of us in IT aren’t going back into the office anytime soon – if ever – it made absolutely no sense keeping the offending unoffenders only to take up the wardrobe space. Give everything a purpose right? They have therefore been retired. Forcibly.

Le Victims

What’s next for workplace fashion you ask? No idea to be honest. Polo’s, T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, everything I never thought I could get away with now all normal work attire. Just as long as you’re presentable on video calls you can do it. The dream has be realised. Irons and ironing boards everywhere quake in fear of what happens next.

Ubuntu 21.10 “Impish Indri” Released

This week’s big release has been Ubuntu 21.10 codenamed Impish Indri. This is an interim release with 9 months of support from Canonical.

Very impish, very indri.

There are lots of changes to talk about here. This release brings Linux Kernel 5.13, Firefox as a snap by default, GNOME 40 with horizontal workspaces as well as tweaks to the UI, touchpad gestures and zip password support in Nautilus as a few examples.

I’ve installed this to my Dell XPS 9360 this week. So far I’m really liking the horizontal workspace change. It’s admittedly a feature I’ve never got used to working with for Ubuntu and Windows alike but I’ve decided to give it another go.

The change to Firefox as a Snap app is a controversial choice given the reception of snaps. Personally I’m not noticing much of a difference and so long as security updates come in on time I don’t think I’ll be too bothered about it.

You can upgrade your existing Ubuntu distribution to 21.10 now but if you haven’t tried Ubuntu now’s a really good time to Download Ubuntu 21.10 and see it for yourself. As before if you get the torrents I’ll be pleased to serve you the bits.

Windows 11 Launch Next Week

Microsoft will be releasing Windows 11 on October 5th 2021. The anticipated OS will bring a fresh look and core improvements to the operating system.

I have not yet used Windows 11 myself however initial impressions are that the revised user interface looks smart and overall more cohesive than before. I also hope that the vision for the development of the OS is more complete. I felt that Windows 10 ended up more of an “us too!” project following trends set out by other OSes instead of focused goal to improve the OS that we all work and play on. Let’s not forget release 1803.

This will be the first Windows OS since Windows Vista that I’ve not upgraded to on release. This is regrettable however it’s down to the fact that I’ve not upgraded hardware due to Spectre & Meltdown and then the COVID-19 pandemic and thus have no hardware that can support it. For all the controversy over the TPM and processor requirements I think these are becoming overblown. TPM should be available as part of any recent PC or easily obtainable through an add-on module. The processor requirements increasingly look like it’s a performance question when virtualisation based security is active. Older devices have to emulate the CPU instructions that HVCI needs thus incurring a performance penalty. It is absolutely the wrong timing for Microsoft to push steeper requirements. It’s absolutely not the best time to be adding to e-waste issues by encouraging users to throw out hardware. Fortunately Windows 10 will still be available and supported.

I really do feel that we’re in a different world now. Mine and your primary computer are arguably no longer a Windows machine but the phone that you’ve got in your hand. For that reason I won’t be chasing the latest and greatest Windows release.

I’M STILL ALIVE!!!1!!ONE

I remembered this week that I’ve not posted here for a while so in the interest of (1) confirming I am alive, (2) making some fluff up to prevent the blog from looking “abandoned pending domain expiry” and (3) to get back in some kind of rhythm.

Honestly it’s been busy. Nobody wants to stand still and as we all work out what’s going to be the “new normal” there’s a lot of push for cloud, automation and remote connectivity. That means a lot of work to be done so less time to have a natter on the blog.

Hopefully I will have a new laptop to review pretty soon so watch out for that.

Ubuntu 21.04 Released

Canonical have today released Ubuntu 21.04 dubbed Hirsute Hippo (apparently that means “hairy”). This is a short-term support release with 9 months of updates to be had.

Ubuntu 21.04 Hirsute Hippo
Hairy Indeed

There are a number of changes including support for joining Microsoft Active Directory, support for the Wayland server by default and a visual refresh among other things. Of course you’ll also be getting a more recent version of the Linux Kernel specifically number 5.11.

I have yet to get my trusty XPS 13 out to commence an update but if you get the torrents you’ll be served by yours truly from my NAS whilst I go visit the pub for the first time in about 5 months.

Lick Of Paint

Speaking to a lot of people right now everyone’s at the stage where they’ve not much to talk about seen as they can’t leave their homes and…you know…do interesting things. I am looking forward to being back swimming and for a pint at the pub (not together though).

In the meantime I put a fresh lick of paint on the blog. Enjoy.

Patch Time

If you’re in the SQL Server world you should be aware of this by now however for those who’ve been busy getting stuff done this week Microsoft have released a security update for SQL Server described in full in KB4583459.

Data can be sent over a network to an affected Microsoft SQL Server instance that might cause code to run against the SQL Server process if a certain extended event is enabled. To learn more about the vulnerability, see CVE-2021-1636.

Patches are available for SQL Server 2012 and above with currently supported service packs. As it’s most people’s best interest to maintain a SQL Server that doesn’t allow this to happen it’s a great idea to get this patch installed now. If you are intending on ruining someone’s day with this exploit I wholeheartedly apologise for spoiling your fun.

I anticipate quite the majority of my clients will “accidentally” end up with this patch through Windows Update which is probably for the better (exceptions given if it somehow kills the SQL Server).

There’s Not Much To Say!

(Well there is but you know what I mean.)

In the UK we have gone into Lockdown 3: The Winter Crisis so there’s not much Round Tabling, swimming or pubbing to be done until the COVID-19 virus is brought under control. Fortunately consultancy is back in full swing so the bills are getting paid.

Priority number one and two for 2021 will be to stay safe and get the vaccine respectively. As a child my parents would always tell me to play outside and avoid any drugs especially needles. In 2021 they’re telling me to stop inside and get a jab as soon as my turn comes up. How times change.

Over Twixmas I did try my hand at building a PiHole on a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B that has been lurking in my drawer but I scrapped it after a week. I felt the omission of DNS over HTTP/TLS by default is too important to overlook. I plan to build a WiFi 6 core network at my house sometime in 2021.

Meanwhile I’ve been discussing PC builds with some good friends of mine as we’re enjoying Cyberpunk 2077. I’m currently drawing up a parts list for my next custom build I’ve provisionally called Build-V. Yes that is indeed because it’s the 5th custom build I’m intending to put together and yes that’s where all that petrol money I’ve saved is going.

Work Hard. Play Hard.

Recently with work I’ve been on a lot of customer maintenance jobs: patching our cloud systems, upgrading Making Tax Digital add-ons and also tidying up with a few ongoing projects that are about to go live. It’s strange because I’m used to being booked by clients for a full day and now I’m often working a couple of hours a day per client. The (electronic) paperwork is good fun.

I was eager to play a certain title from a certain Polish studio that has certainly been the most anticipated game release of the year and also probably the reason there’s not been much going on in IT this week. I decided I would order a physical copy and it’s still progressing through the Royal Mail’s network which is very overstretched right now.

No matter because that gave me enough time to finish another game I had recently started:Ion Fury developed by Void Point and published by 3D Realms.

Ion Fury is a First Person Shooter (FPS) built on Build Engine that powered Duke Nukem 3D. As such don’t expect photorealistic 3d graphics. Sprites and old fashioned 3d levels are in here. It’s a very nostalgic and overall very fun shooter. You play as protagonist Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who’s on a mission to destroy Dr Heskel’s laboratory after his goons interrupt her night on the town and spill her watered down and overpriced beer.

The game is pretty much a back-to-basics shoot ’em up. As such there is regenerating health or shields so health and armour must be replenished by fighting through the level. I know a lot of modern FPS games favour a regenerating health system however I feel this sacrifices tactical gameplay where the player must plan their attack out accordingly. Fortunately with Ion Fury I found this was a really fun and refreshing game to play.

The sound and visuals for the game are also fantastic. Shelly drops the occasional Duke Nukem-esque one liner (although nowhere near as sexist) and Dr Heskel (voiced by John St John who is the voice of Duke Nukem) periodically contacts Shelly through monitors at various points in each level to offer put downs and threats of annihilation. The enemies are a mix of cyborgs, cultists, spider-like heads things and augmented rats each with their own unique sound effects. The world of Ion Fury really comes alive through the headphones.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing through Ion Fury. The end-game boss posed a significant challenge and I had an approximately 11 hour play through which feels just about right for an FPS. I’d recommend it to any old-school FPS fan for Christmas.

Will Acorn End Up Winning the PC War?

We’re probably all aware by now of a certain fruity tech company has decided to jump the Intel ship for their laptop and desktop lines after pleasing results in the phone and tablet markets. Mac fans, reviewers and interested tech peeps have been receiving the first machines powered by the M1 chip and the initial reviews have been intriguing to say the least.

Remember this?

There was a lot of hype around the Apple event on November 10th, 2020 and then a lot of scepticism around the performance claims. Performance numbers were missing and comparisons were made to older Mac hardware running previous generation Intel processors. When the store went live the concern was voiced regarding memory topping out at 16GB. I understand you creative types need a lot of it. The memory and storage upgrade prices are also absolutely appalling to my delicate Wintel eyes. It costs £200 to double the storage from 256GB to 512MB or 512GB to 1TB. 2TB will set you back £800. Not a completely fair comparison but you could have yourself two 2TB NVMe SSDs for that price.

Initial reviews suggest that the hype is actually real. I’ve been skim reading reviews and Apple has apparently delivered. This news has made me happy for a number of reasons. The PC market needs a shake up and the Wintel stranglehold in both the PC and server market needs challenging. But there’s also another nostalgic reason I’m reminiscing about.

Some of you may remember the old Acorn computers at school. Back in my day we had one Acorn computer per class of around 30 kids. I don’t exactly remember what model of Acorn they were but it was the first computer I got to use. There were many crude drawings made in the paint program and there was a cool game about setting sail as Christopher Columbus to try and find America which nobody beat mostly due to crew mutinies and inclement weather leading to a sinking (should anyone remember the name of the game and have a link please comment as I would love to play it again).

Eventually by the time I reached year six (age 10) someone found some spare pennies in the budget and so the venerable Acorns were replaced by Intel powered Windows 98 machines at my school. Acorn computers eventually disappeared from the market but their ARM Holdings subsidiary lived on to become the dominant designer of CPU architectures in the world. Although not owned by a UK shareholder any more I am thrilled that a home grown company has reached the top in the tech world.

The long term question will be how this affects the PC from this week. I have had doubts about the Microsoft ecosystem both consumer and business when it became apparent that the mobile strategy was being abandoned and eventually when the “next” Windows (i.e: Windows 10) was sold to the market as a service and not a product. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in the store and UWP is met with arguable hostility as well. Microsoft’s focus under Satya Nadella has been cloud and Windows is looking very much vulnerable to a changing world. People’s main drivers aren’t their PCs or laptops any longer. It’s their phones and Microsoft decided to abandon that race long ago.

I was considering a new Ryzen based PC build to replace my ageing Intel Core i7 6800K, GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition, 32GB DDR4-2400 RAM, 1.75TB SATA SSD system but current events conspire against me as things seem to be in short supply. With Apple bringing ARMageddon (sorry) however what does that mean for PC Gaming builds anyway? There’s a cool video been posted* with someone testing editing a 144 track Billie Ellish song in Logic Pro fully loaded with plug-ins on both a basic M1 Mac Mini with 8GB RAM and a 10-core i9 iMac with 64GB RAM. I don’t fully understand what I’m looking at but apparently it’s surprising that the M1 Mac Mini can handle it at all. If Apple gear can also deliver similar value for gaming well what do I need this tower for?

There’s not a lot of sense in jumping to conclusions about all this yet but the shake-up appears to have happened and it would appear that Acorn is going to win the PC war after all.

*I won’t post the link as it’s hosted by a company I don’t like for tax evasion, privacy, lobbying and many other reasons.