Archives For Technology

There has been talk for some time about how Apple devices running iOS are contenders for replacing standard Intel architecture computers, such as MacBook Pros. Since I have a number of Apple devices, I thought I’d install Geekbench 4 (version 4.1) and run it across three of my Apple devices. I’ve put the results in a simple table below, with the results in the first three rows.

MBP mid-2015 iPhone 7 Plus iPad Pro 2016
CPU Single-Core 4462 3457 3017
CPU Multi-Core 16005 5872 5082
Compute 38117 12296 14764
Processor Intel Core i7 Apple A10 Fusion Apple A9x
Max Frequency 2.8 GHz 2.34 GHz 2.26 GHz
OS macOS 10.12.5 iOS 10.3.2 iOS 10.3.2

The MBP I own is a 15″ Retina MBP with 16GB of memory and the 2.8GHz quad-core i7. I wasn’t surprised to see the MBP be the leader across the board, particularly in multi-core scoring. The MBP is certainly the brawniest of the three with its Intel processor and eight times the memory over both the iPhone and iPad. Keep in mind that the MBP is the oldest of the three devices.

What I found rather interesting is the GPU-based Compute score. The iOS version of Geekbench uses Metal, the graphical framework that’s a part of iOS. Geekbench on the MBP uses OpenCL and because I’m too cheap to buy a copy, the built-in Iris Pro on the i7 processor was used instead of the beefier¬†AMD Radeon R9 M370X. So even though I’m using the “lesser” graphics processor and “poorer” graphics software framework, the MBP still scored a solid two to three times faster than either iOS device. Of further note is the sizable performance lead of the iPad over the iPhone, even though the iPhone’s CPU is clocked faster and it’s using a more current Apple SoC.

So, am I ready to trade in the MBP for either iOS device? It all depends on the use case.

For general uses involving reading content and typing, I could easily switch to the iPad Pro. I use it with a Logitech keyboard-and-cover in landscape mode, which, when attached to the iPad using the Smart Connector gives me a decent keyboard with back-lit keys. It’s not as efficient and comfortable as the MBP keyboard, but it’s more than serviceable especially over a period of hours. I can do writing and other types of textual creation, as well as fairly sophisticated graphical content creation and photo/video post processing. There are, however, limits to the iPad Pro.

For the ultimate web experience I prefer the MBP and my selection of browsers, which includes Chrome, Firefox, and Vivaldi. I am not a fan of Safari on either iOS or macOS, and I don’t think I ever will be. What makes web browsing on iOS truly annoying is Apple’s insistence of forcing every other browser to use the Apple web engine used by iOS Safari; it is buggy and poorly performant.

When I need to develop software I much prefer the MBP. When I need to do light code editing on the iPad Pro I use Textastic with Working Copy. I have iOS Terminus that allows me to ssh into machines around my home running Linux and macOS (nothing like that for Windows, unfortunately). Under ssh I tend to use vim with extensive vim customizations and colorizations. And I can use scp and git to move things around that need moving. So the iPad Pro makes a pretty decent work platform when I don’t want to fire up the MBP, especially when I need to put it down due to interruptions.

I haven’t even mentioned the iPhone, but it’s decent enough that it can fill in for the iPad when all I can carry with me is just the iPhone. I use a Microsoft Folding Bluetooth keyboard to type on, and I have an SDHC to Lightening card reader for reading JPEG and RAW files produced by my Olympus cameras. The same apps I would use on my iPad to post process work just fine on the iPhone 7 Plus. And when I don’t want to, or can’t have, my Olympus camera, then the iPhone 7 Plus camera is just fine.

Finally, there’s the truly heavy lifting that the MBP is called upon to do. For example, I have a number of Linux virtual machines I power up to perform testing and development in parallel with work on the MBP. I use Xcode to develop iOS applications, as well as Android Studio to develop Android applications. If I want to develop using a full Javascript stack starting with node.js, then the MBP is the only way to go. If I want to develop in Java or Python or Go or Rust, only the MBP allows me to do that.

And the 15″ screen on the MBP is the easiest of all the screens to read, which is important due to my poor eyesight (20/700 and near sighted).

There is no easy answer to the original question, except to say it all depends. As long as I can choose which to use for which task, I will choose all three based on the work at hand that needs to be done.

But I am impressed with what the Apple SoCs can accomplish. While the MBP rules them all, for single core scoring all three devices are fairly close together, compared to multi-core and compute. This bodes well for Apple’s continued evolution of its ARM-based processors, and if I were Intel, I really would be looking over my shoulder at ARM in general and Apple in particular.

privacy in the trump era

January 22, 2017

Android 6 encryption configuration. Apple’s iOS is automatically enabled when you create a device pin or use biometrics.

I’ve been fighting for my right to privacy for quite a while now, ever since 9/11 and the bad legislation that quickly came out as part of the aftermath, which enabled and legalized broad digital surveillance. I base my sense of personal privacy on the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

My life has for decades extended into the digital domain, through e-mail and remove logins to other systems, and has since at least the mid 1980s when a lot of this was beginning to take shape. There is no hard demarcation between my physical home and its properties and the digital domain. For example I now get many of my bills delivered to my on-line mail account. It makes it far easier to find them, especially if I need to return an item or get it serviced. I can simply look it up on my phone and show it to the store staff. And yet, because of the Patriot Act and National Security Letters (NSL) any and all of my online life and digital “papers” can be made available to the demanding government party. Along with the NSL comes a defacto gag order that prohibits the on-line service from every telling me such a demand was made.

And that doesn’t begin to cover how my information is spied upon by the NSA and GCHQ, looking for whatever they deem important. Swept up in this world-wide dragnet is everything I send across the web. Assurances by the spooks who run those places that essentially if I have nothing to fear then nothing will happen is no assurance at all. And so, to have some sort of sense of privacy in some channels and corners on the web, to protect my Fourth Amendment rights, I’ve taken to doing the following:

  • Where-ever possible I enable encryption on my data at rest. This includes, but isn’t limited to, emails and other personal electronic documents. The devices I own and that have encryption enabled include my iPhone, MacBook Pro, and all my iPads.
  • I use an encrypted email service that isn’t hosted in the US for my data in transit. This service uses end-to-end encryption for the emails (meaning emails from/to me and to/from those that also use this service). Emails that are temporarily at rest on the service’s servers are encrypted. They don’t have the key. The only part of the service that isn’t encrypted is the metadata used to route the encrypted emails.
  • I use an encrypted chat tool for end-to-end encryption, again for my data in transit. Again, the metadata used to set up the connection isn’t encrypted.

I’ve limited encryption, so far, to those few critical areas of my digital life I feel need this level of protection from prying eyes. And just to make sure you, the reader, understand, this won’t always stop the determined spook. Given enough computation horsepower at the NSA, for example, I’m sure they could brute-force a decryption attack if they felt it was needed. My use of encryption in this case isn’t so much to stop, as to slow down the inevitable. And of course if they did crack my encryption I’d never know. Sad times we live in…

It’s a pity I have go to this much trouble, but that’s the nature of the world we live in. The digital surveillance state has been building up slowly since the late 1970s, eroding our basic freedoms all in the name of safety. We’ve now reached a point where there’s little (if any) difference between domestic and foreign security services. Everybody want’s to spy on you. And with the election of Trump as president, domestic spying will only get worse. This carefully crafted surveillance¬† system, built up over decades, is not in the hands of a man whose heinousness knows no bounds, especially if he wants to know, on a whim, what you might or might not know.

via Daily Prompt: Privacy