I like books. I collect books. But my small house cannot hold very many, so many years ago I resorted to buying a Kindle and buying my books electronically wherever possible. I now have over 400 books in my Kindle library and it’s constantly growing (in part due to many Kindle cheap deals).

Previous to the Kindle Paperwhite, I had the 2018 Kindle Oasis – fully tricked out with the free 4G connection. It was meant to last me for several years. But alas, as I wasn’t doing as much reading as I had hoped and that I needed the money instead, I had to sell it.

The Kindle Oasis was a great e-reader. It had a 7-inch screen, small bezels, but with an overhanging edge with two physical buttons which allowed for easy handling. The downside was that the 7-inch display was big enough for easy reading, but not as portable enough for shoving it in a jacket pocket.

So I had to replace the Oasis after selling it, and the obvious choice was the Paperwhite. It has pretty much all of the features of the Oasis, but with a 1″ smaller screen and bigger bezels. The screen itself is, I think, a little less bright than the Oasis, but not by any significant amount.

The Paperwhite 2018 introduces a couple of features from the Oasis, including IPX68 waterproofing – this means it can be immersed in fresh water up to 2m deep for 30 minutes without damage. The other feature is the ability to play Audible books directly – though you’ll need a pair of Bluetooth head/earphones for this.

I bought the official waterproof case to go with it, and it doesn’t look at all bad if I do say so. It keeps it nice and safe, and the overall size also ensures that it fits in my jacket pocket just fine.

Currently reading: The Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

I opted for the 32Gb version to ensure that I have a significant number of books at my disposal if I am ever outside the reach of easy Wi-Fi access. I’m not entirely convinced the free 4G option on Kindles is entirely worth it if you’re not moving outside of common travel routes – many phone companies offer EU and US/Canada roaming included. The Amazon free 4G is incredibly slow in the UK, that’s all I can say about it. And it can drain the battery if it’s left on.

I’m very happy with the Paperwhite – perhaps more so than the Oasis. I’m getting my reading groove back, and even starting making use of my Goodreads account again (which is also a feature within the Kindle OS).

Netflix has confirmed that it is removing AirPlay support from its iOS application due to ‘technical limitations’.

My concern with this is that it’s taking away one very useful feature – the ability to stream Netflix shows on TVs that have built-in AirPlay (and subsequently AirPlay 2) support. If you’re doing a lot of travelling – whether for business or pleasure – this can be extremely useful.

You could argue that a lot of TVs have a built-in Netflix app already? Yes, this is true. But many hotel TVs don’t. Will Netflix look to make up for potential connectivity problems by attempting to sell dongles or TVs with Netflix built to hoteliers?

I don’t want to have to provide credentials for my Netflix account to completely strange TV setups. AirPlay ensures that my credentials stay secure on my phone (though I’d use a VPN if I was on a hotel Wi-Fi – which could cause problems with Netflix’s policy of using VPNs – another problem Netflix has got to sort out because using a VPN has legitimate uses).

What next, Netflix? The ability to output content from Netflix via Lightning/USB-C to HDMI (which would enable you to hook up Netflix from an iPhone or iPad to a TV or monitor)?

Netflix is becoming awkward on the iOS platform because its app doesn’t support the interactive features that are present in the Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch. And this means other planned titles are unlikely to work either.

The Netflix app on Sky Q is becoming a big problem too. I frequently find that the app on the Sky Q box keeps crapping out, forcing me to switch over to the Apple TV 4K. The Netflix app on the Sky Q can handle interactive features but given that I consider the Sky Q app to be unstable, it’s not

Is the once durable and available everywhere Netflix app becoming a liability and non-consumer friendly? It certainly looks like it. And if Netflix continues on this path, and increases the subscription price, it will be a streaming/cable service like any other and I’m going to stop subscribing.

In the distant past, as a Mac user, I’ve been somewhat ambivalent to using anti-virus/anti-malware due to MacOS’ methods of supposedly going above and beyond to stop the user from running potentially harmful programs by accident. But as time has gone on, these methods haven’t been terribly effective and, as we have also seen, due to bugs within MacOS, it would be fairly trivial to do extensive damage to a Mac system. So it’s essential that all MacOS users have some form of anti-virus/anti-malware protection in place.

For the past few years, I’ve been running a mix of ESET Cybersecurity Pro, Bitdefender, and most recently, Sophos Home Premium. I found ESET to be painfully slow when accessing files via WebDAV or network file stores, and BitDefender’s main window keeps popping up whenever the Mac is started – which is very annoying. That said, performance wise, Bitdefender has been excellent across the network and local filesystems.

I’ve put my dad on my personal Bitdefender license (he runs Windows) because I have an unlimited device license which expires in two years time. He can manage everything easily within the application, or if I am ever needed, I can log into a central cloud based interface and take a look from there.

At work, I was tasked at finding a replacement for ESET which at the time was managed through a server application that was hosted on the Active Domain controller. I find ESET’s user interface to be a bit of a pain in the arse. So I explored a number of options, one of them being Bitdefender’s enterprise product. But I settled for Sophos Intercept-X Advanced with EDR because of its ability to drill down processes on endpoints to determine how malware gets into the network. We can enforce a number of policies relating to threat assessment, web browsing, device encryption, and along with how external devices are used. My only complaint with this system is that:

  • Device encryption is limited to OS support – so this includes Windows 10 Pro or better for BitLocker, and MacOS for FileVault. On the other hand, Sophos Central makes the management of BitLocker massively easier – including managing recovery keys and letting users set their own BitLocker passwords.
  • Firewall management is limited to Windows Group Policies. There is no support for the Mac. The system does not include any kind of third-party Sophos firewall which I feel would make it much easier to unify firewall policies across estates like ours which utilise Mac and Windows machines.

Sophos Central, the cloud based management system, makes managing all this very easy – and to keep an eye on who uses each machine and to identify any potential dodgy program or file. The endpoint client tends to keep itself maintained pretty well.

And all this has lead to Sophos Home Premium. Thanks to two beta programs I have been using a free license (which expires in February 2020) and it’s generally been pretty good. For the longest time that I can remember, Sophos never had a consumer product. Now we have something that shares a common core with its commercial brethren, including advanced ransomware protection.

Sophos Home Premium web interface is clean and elegant, yet lacking

There are a number of issues, however:

  • The Mac version of Sophos Home Premium is lacking some features from the Windows version. It’s also behind a number of point version releases.
  • The entire user interface is almost entirely controlled from a web front-end in which you’ll need internet access. You cannot add additional users to the account to allow them to manage their own machine (unlike Bitdefender).
  • Web filtering does not let you see the sites that it’ll filter – only by category. Neither can you add sites to be blocked, only exceptions.
  • Lack of options for Ransomware, along with other related functions – you can only provide exceptions to volumes and paths. Microphone and webcam blocking doesn’t allow for exceptions.
  • New activity is difficult to clear away. It gets a bit overly zealous whenever anything happens – good or bad.

Sophos Home Premium is quite pricey given the lack of control and everything being handled through the cloud (unlike the commercial version we use which has a number of offline options). While I appreciate the average consumer isn’t going to need a tonne of bells and whistles to tinker about with, having an advanced mode (online or offline) would be highly beneficial if anything needed to be whitelisted.

I’m sticking with Sophos Home Premium on my own Mac for now, and come February next year I’ll decide whether to remain with it, or move back to Bitdefender which has been my go-to anti-virus/anti-malware for the past year.

All of the following apply to MacOS Mojave 10.14.4, iOS 12.2 and mid-2018 MacBook Pro and late 2018 iPad Pro.

  • Facetime on the MacBook Pro. On my work Mac Mini, if I open Facetime to make a phone call via my iPhone, I can type the number directly into the Facetime app and it’ll dial it. On my MacBook Pro which I primarily use with the lid closed, I can’t – since Facetime expects the camera to be active and will stubbornly refuse to show the entry field. I have to use Contacts app instead. Additionally, Facetime tends to get the audio devices wrong, leaving me with the person I’ve called unable to hear me.
  • I have 150Gb worth of 4G data with EE across my iPhone XS Max and iPad Pro devices. If I want to download an app on the iOS app store that’s over 150Mb in size, iOS stupidly insists I connect to Wi-Fi. Let me use 4G if I want to. Don’t nanny me.
  • Wi-Fi performance needs some serious tweaking under both MacOS and iOS for modern devices. Performance is seriously underwhelming in 2018/2019.
  • Time Machine backups under MacOS when using an encrypted USB 3 disk is unbearably slow. If you backup weekly or monthly, the time it takes for Time Machine to complete backups is stupidly slow. 11 hours to backup 99Gb worth of data? Even if the throttle limit has been removed (via sysctl).
  • Remove user selection when using FileVault – stick with a username and password prompt because this has the ability to leak user info before the Mac has even booted. I understand the reason behind this, but it’s time to change things up a bit.

This weekend I wrap up the pain in the arse Nighthawk X10 router and send it back to Amazon. In its place is Ubiquiti Networks’ Amplifi HD, a wonderful boxy router that actually looks good wherever it’s positioned.

It’s interesting to note that Wi-Fi performance isn’t spectacular. I’m still trying to figure out whether this is a Wi-Fi thing, or whether it has to do with single-thread performance (not necessarily to do with Zen Internet).

I can absolutely max out my broadband’s 141Mbs download speed from the iPhone if I launch multiple downloads from iTunes (single download lands around 100Mbs). Speedtest.net shows around anywhere between 35Mbs-80Mbs (multi). Across the network (with MacBook Pro acting as server, connected via ethernet), it’s around 195Mbs.

The Mac, like the iPhone and iPad, can also saturate bandwidth on Wi-Fi if multiple threads from the likes of Steam and iTunes are running – but single threaded operations aren’t great. And I’ve never understood why this 2018 MacBook Pro keeps reporting back that the link speed is 54Mbs. The iPhone too seems to report back a poor receive rate of just 6Mbs from looking at the client stats via the Amplifi iOS app.

I’ve also not ruled out that the latest iPhones and Macs simply just have exceptionally poor Wi-Fi transceivers in them. Hooking the Mac up to one of the Amplifi’s HD 4 gigabit ethernet ports yields 141Mbs speedtest.net download results every single time. So I’m keeping the Mac on ethernet for the foreseeable future despite a bit of cable management bodge work.

Bodge job on the cable management here – but it’s to stop pressure on the USB-C port

That said, there have been no problems with the Hive home network since installing the Amplifi, and quite frankly, it looks good sitting in the middle of the room:

The LCD display can display time & date, total amount of data transferred, current speeds and port status.

Speaking of the Hive home network, they very kindly sent me a signal booster which sits in the middle of the room and ensuring – hopefully – a strong signal is sent between the thermostat and the Hive hub.

It’s tiny! Just plug it into an electrical socket, add it as a new device to your app and job done.

This weekend I’ll be adding a mesh point to the set-up. It’ll be located in the master bedroom and hopefully, will give me the strongest signal there. I have an Apple TV HD (3rd gen) which is connected via Wi-Fi. It’ll unlikely improve single thread performance again, but at least there will be no more Wi-Fi dead spots upstairs. If that works, I might need one more mesh point at the back of the house to ensure all over coverage.