This blog is now available in IPv6 where available..

If you’re one of the lucky few to have an ISP that natively supports IPv6, you’ll find that you will now resolve and connect directly to this blog over IPv6 rather than IPv4. Nothing exciting, but I hadn’t realised that cPanel could let me use individual IPv6 addresses with /128 subnets.

It’s nothing exciting, sure, but I hadn’t realised that cPanel could let me use individual IPv6 addresses with /128 subnets.  It’s interesting that when checking over this blog’s stats, there are an ever increasing number of people connecting via IPv6.  So it’s all good news.  IPv6 will play a much more important part in the infrastructure of the internet in the forthcoming months and years, so getting this done now ensures that I don’t have to worry about this too much in the future.

(Sidenote: This isn’t the first time drake.org.uk has been available with IPv6 connectivity; many moons ago when I was putting CloudFlare through its paces, it presented an IPv6 tunnel that connected to the backend – e.g. the webserver, via IPv4.  I’ve also ran drake.org.uk on a Debian nginx server that had native IPv6 out the box too.  But as I deal with cPanel enquiries every day, it makes sense for me to run this blog under cPanel – and up until fairly recently, IPv6 support in cPanel has been rather clunky.)

Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me: MacBook 2016 Initial Impressions

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The long-awaited refresh of Apple’s MacBook Pro series has finally arrived to a mixed reception by the Mac community.  Much praise has been given to its design: the thinness and lightness compared to the previous generation, and a much brighter and more vibrant display (in which reds are fuller reds, etc.).  But much criticism is given to the keyboard – including the brand new addition: the touch bar.

First of all, the 2016 15″ MacBook Pro is a tiny bit smaller than the predecessor. Not by much, but noticeable nonetheless.  Lifting the screen is much, much easier than the previous generation – it always felt a little awkward. Thanks to re-engineered hinges, the lid is effortless and will now start the MacBook Pro without you ever having to press the power button – regardless of whether you’re cold booting or resuming from sleep.

The only ports available are all USB-C.   Any of them can be used for charging, and you’re given a generous 2m USB-C charging cable and charging brick.  I actually prefer this to the previous MacBook Pro’s charger – it’s much easier to carry around and cable is long enough for most people’s needs.  But I do confess that I miss MagSafe.  In terms of #DongleLife, it’s not been a problem.  So far I’ve had to use my Lightning to USB-C cable to pair up the wireless mouse, and a USB-A to USB-C adapter to connect a WD Passport HD to transfer data from my older computer.  Each of the USB-C ports is sturdy, and when a connector is in, it sits there firmly plugged in.  That said, be careful of placing any drinks nearby – I nearly spilt a cup of something when pulling out the USB-A adapter this morning.

They keyboard. I thought I would hate it having tried out the MacBook earlier this year (when I was waiting to replace my iPad Pro bricked by Apple releasing dodgy firmware), but the keyboard on the MacBook Pro 2016 model is lovely.  I love typing on this thing.  The closest I can describe it is that it feels like a combination of the Apple’s wireless keyboard crossed with the iPad Pro smart keyboard cover.  Trust me when I say it’s better than it sounds.  Speaking of sounds, this keyboard is much noisier than previous generations, but it feels satisfying. Imagine you had a room full of 2016 MacBook Pros, and everything was typing at once – now imagine the olden days of newsrooms and typewriters – that’s probably what it would sound like.

The Touch Bar.  It’s nice and useful.  But I’d like to see Apple’s haptic engine paired up with it to get feedback from key presses.  The surface is smooth and glossy, but you don’t get any touch feedback from it.  I can see Apple extended this to the keyboard in general – I imagine one day we’ll see MacBook Pro’s that use keyboards that are essentially a full-size Touch Bar with haptic feedback.  It’d feel like you were typing on the current 2016 MBP keyboard, but it’d essentially be virtual.  This would mean that ANY key could be remapped or changed to suit particular applications – imagine having a whole keyboard dedicated to Final Cut Pro X functions, etc.  I reckon Apple are preparing us for that very thing.  But in the mean time, the Touch Bar DOES give the user a much more usable set of functions that replace the ancient function key row.

The Escape Key.  As a systems administrator, I use the escape key a lot more than most people.  I find it a very odd experience when editing files in vim having to press something that doesn’t give me touch feedback when pressed.  But it works, and I haven’t made any mistakes using it yet.  It will take a bit of getting used to.

I’d like Apple to produce a wireless keyboard that matches the experience of the MacBook Pro 2016.  Not just key travel, but also the Touch Bar.  How you’d do that on a wireless model without exhausting the batteries is another matter – but once you’ve gone to the MBP 2016 keyboard, you won’t want to go back – unless you absolutely hate it – these things are a deeply personal preference, and I’m a very fussy keyboard user.  Thankfully the current Apple wireless keyboard is close enough that I won’t pine for the MacBook Pro keyboard while I’m working at the desk.

I’ve not given the CPU or GPU much of a workout, but I have discovered a few issues:

  • Graphics glitches.  I can confirm that they do exist (I have the 2Gb Radeon Pro 450 – the lowest end model).  Fortunately for the moment it seems to manifest during the post-boot login screen and soon go away once fully booted into MacOS Sierra.  I’m convinced these are just driver / OS issues rather than the hardware – I’ve seen similar issues with my work MacBook Air over a few versions of OS X and it seems to be something that just happens. As these MacBook Pros now use the Skylake architecture, remember what I said about the Dell XPS and display issues?
  • System Integrity Protection was disabled out the box.  On a Mac, the SIP is an important component that helps protect the system from being abused by all manner of nasties.  All new Macs should ship with it switched on, but there have been many reports that new 2016 MacBook Pros ship with it disabled – but equally many reports with it being enabled.  Why?  Only Apple knows.  But it’s easy to enable it – boot into recovery mode, open up a Terminal and type csrutil enable. Then reboot.  

I should mention the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.  It makes the Mac a little more pleasurable to use when waking from sleep,  accessing my 1Password password manager, or installing new applications.  Works just like it does on an iPhone or iPad.  iOS convergence is here!

Apple Pay is now supported, but don’t do what I do.  Given what I’ve just said about System Integrity Protection – make sure it’s enabled before adding ANY credit or debit cards to your MacBook Pro’s Apple Pay wallet.  Having done this and discovering SIP was disabled, I enabled it, only to discover that wiped out all previous cards added to the system – because it’ll think these were added by another user.  I can’t be bothered adding them back in because it will involve another phone call to the banks.

I did give the MacBook Pro the obligatory graphics and GPU performance test: Team Fortress 2.  It detected a stronger GPU over the previous generation MacBook Pro and gameplay was excellent – with the fans barely kicking in.  When they did, the fans on this unit are spectacularly quiet.  TF2 is not a graphics intensive game, but then again I wouldn’t want to run a super modern, highly graphics intensive game on this thing – it’s not meant as a gaming machine.  This is why I have a games console.  The discreet GPU on this thing is there to help along creative tasks performed with Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and so on.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the 2016 MacBook Pro.  Once Apple gets around to releasing bug fixes for the graphics and a fix for the SIP (not a lot of people will want to fix it themselves), this will be a perfectly decent workhorse for many years to come (just as well given the cost).

My next MacBook Pro upgrade will come a few Intel CPU generations later – whatever one supports mobile hexacore CPUs (I reckon mid-2019 or thereabouts).  By then we should be able to upgrade RAM above 16Gb without affecting battery performance and see true hardcore mobile performance in the kind of form that Apple users expect.  But for now, this Skylake beauty is perfectly good enough for my current and immediate future needs.

No, Dropbox, I do not want to upgrade to the Business edition

I pay Dropbox annually for the 1Tb edition of their service.  But they are constantly bugging me whenever I access the web interface to “try” the Business Edition which would cost me £55 per month minimum, and of which I have absolutely no interest in using.  I cannot disable these notices.

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This is in addition to the incredibly annoying pop-up when sharing files which prompts people to log in, even though you’re sharing to the world.

I’d happily switch over to my G Suite’s Google Drive service, but Dropbox is still the best in class for online storage.  As such, they have me by the danglies as a consequence.  But it won’t stop me from slapping them around the chops with a wet kipper for this constant and frustratingly annoying spam for their business edition of which I do not have any  desire or need for.

Even if I did have a need to use Dropbox for Business, their constant in-your-face spamming has put me off entirely.

When my annual subscription expires next year, I’ll be seeking alternatives – unless Dropbox reconsiders its position over these glorified spam adverts.

 

Dell XPS 13 (9350) Windows 10 Anniversary Update Bug Edition

Update: Removing the Hyper-V services under Windows 10 Pro seems to fix the issue, suggesting there is some problem between Intel graphics and Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation platform.

When I moved away from the MacOS/OS X platform, I understood that I was more likely to suffer more problems within Windows than MacOS/OS X.  I was right.

While the Dell XPS 13 9350 is a magnificent piece of modern hardware – it appears that its newness is so new, there are issues with the Intel Iris 540 graphics.  After updating to Windows 10 Anniversary Edition when it was released on 2nd August, the screen started flickering on and off, sometimes going off for a second, then coming back on, adjusting resolution with it (always returning to full 4K resolution).

Re-installing the more recent (June) Dell supplied Intel HD graphics drivers has taken some of the edge off the problem.

It sure looks like that the Skylake architecture/Intel Iris 540 has a few problems that still need to be addressed in the drivers.  Intel has released newer drivers, but in an uncannily Apple-like move, you can’t install them directly over the top of the existing Dell drivers because Intel tells you that, “your manufacturer may have made tweaks and optimisations”.  Even then, attempting to bypass all that results in Windows telling me that I already have the latest drivers.

So I need to wait until Dell and Intel get together and update the drivers to fix whatever is causing this issue.  It’s not a huge problem – just annoying.  Often just occurs after booting from cold (I’ve disabled Fast Start in Windows 10 because it was causing more problems than it solved), then for a few minutes.  Then the system settles down and everything is fine.  Event Viewer logs reveal nothing of note other than directly after the Anniversary Update when it logged a request to reinstall the graphics drivers (which I subsequently did).

This issue apparently exists across different Skylake architecture-based PCs judging from this Reddit thread from three months ago.  I present additional evidence to back this up..

With Intel about to release yet another new architecture in the coming months, it’d be nice if they could concentrate on getting this one right first.  Oh, the fun of having new and more powerful hardware – more bugs, more pain.

That said, I’ve suffered from odd screen corruption on my (almost four years old) work MacBook Air for quite a few releases of El Capitan (and Yosemite).  The problem seems to have gone away with the last update of El Capitan, suggesting there was probably a graphics driver problem there (the MacBook Air also uses an Intel integrated GPU).  These kind of issues are not exclusive to Windows/commodity hardware.

No longer just Let’s Encrypt, cPanel offers free Comodo-backed SSL certificates

With the latest release (to the CURRENT tier, which is considered “release candidate” worthy) of cPanel/WHM, you can now obtain completely free 90 day SSL certificates from cPanel themselves (backed by Comodo) for your web site.  This requires version 58 of cPanel/WHM.  These certificates will automatically be renewed.

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This blog is already using them, and long may I do so.  As I’ve said earlier, obtaining SSL certificates for securing usernames and passwords or e-commerce is now the cheapest (e.g. free) it’s ever been.  There’s absolutely no excuse to run a web site that’s not secured by an SSL certificate now.  None.

If you don’t want to use Comodo backed SSL certificates, there will be a Let’s Encrypt plugin for cPanel/WHM appearing soon from cPanel themselves.