Many years ago, I came across a small local company producing online gift boxes that contained a wide variety of gifts based around various themes. The company name was Pamper Parcels. As Christmas was fast approaching, I wanted to get my stepmother a gift and this was the perfect solution as I’m not a natural shopper and despite knowing what my family likes and doesn’t like, I still struggle to buy anything suitable. So having somebody pack and present gifts nicely is a massive bonus in my view. My step mum was delighted with it.

Based on the feedback, when they produced a men’s pamper gift pack, I thought I’d give that a go. The box and packaging were excellent, and the contents were a perfect mix of edibles and smellies. Alas, Pamper Parcels doesn’t appear to be with us anymore, but while they were operating, they were a very good option for those looking for gifts.

That was 2014. Fast forward to 2020 and we’re in a pandemic. The company I now work for usually do something at Christmas time for us, but given that I and most of my fellow colleagues have been working from home for nearly a full year now, that wasn’t going to happen. So they kindly gave us all a very generous allowance to spend at Bookblock.com, another company that specialises in gift boxes, along with personalised stationery and cards.

I’m a big sucker for stationery, but I can barely read my own handwriting these days, so it’s wasted on me. But I’ve only just gotten around to picking and choosing my own gift box (Christmas was a busy time of the year, not much time to stop and think about things.)

I decided to stray from the curated boxes and go for some of the crafted beers and wines – along with a mug (you can never have enough mugs). The whole lot was paid for by my employers and the thing was delivered by DPD in under 24 hours.

I look forward to celebrating Christmas 2: Electric Boogaloo over the next few weeks – when I’m not on-call. I’m certainly very impressed with Bookblock’s presentation and speedy turnaround. And I’ve bookmarked them as I’m sure I’ll use them again in the future – either for family, friends, or myself again.

Everybody:

“SHHH! OOH! OOH! SHHH! AHH!”
“SHHH! OOH! OOH! SHHH! AHH!”
(beat)
“SHHH! OOH! OOH! SHHH! AHH!”
“SHHH! OOH! OOH! SHHH! AHH!”

That, apparently, is the sound a woman makes while riding a pushbike when she’s in a hurry and must get across town before the sun goes down, looking pretty as she’s pedalling along, singing that song.

Well, there must be a lot of hills wherever she lives to make those kinds of noises. Or she’s really, really out of shape.

The Pushbike Song is a bit of an oddity in the history of music. It’s bubblegum pop meets skiffle. It’s catchy, but can you really dance to it? The main chorus sounds like somebody’s either pleasuring themselves or an orangutan enjoying a really good fizzy drink (but wouldn’t that be ook! ook!?) Or possibly both (an orangutan drinking a fizzy drink whilst pleasuring somebody? The mind boggles.)

And while it’s already gone past its birthday (December 1970), on the 31st January 1971 it reached the number 2 spot in the UK charts.

And yet (incoming pun alert), many people mix up the original band, The Mixtures, with Mungo Jerry. Mungo Jerry’s In The Summertime came out first, and The Pushbike Song was a kind of answer to that. There’s a tonne of information about it over at Jon Kutner’s blog. Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry eventually covered The Pushbike Song back in 1990.

For me, I first heard it back when I was about 5 or 6 years old. And it wasn’t The Mixtures version either. There have been a number of covers over the years, and I had a green tape of various singles that either my mum or dad had put onto tape of various pop tunes. After many years, I found out that these were from a series called Top of the Pops and employed session musicians to cover popular songs at the time.

I think the first time I heard the original Mixtures version during a spot on BBC’s That’s Life about a dog that likes riding a bicycle. Of course, the dog can’t actually pedal the bike, but he liked hanging on to his (or her) master’s shoulders. In other news:

The Covers

In terms of covers, there have been a few over the years. Some good, some absolutely bloody terrible. Anita Harris produced a version in 1974 – perhaps the second female singer to cover the song after the Finnish band, Toomapojad who bypass singing the chorus completely, and the whole song has to be performed super fast for some reason:

Meanwhile, in Anita’s version, the chorus (ooh, ooh, ahh part) was manipulated to make her voice much deeper – presumably to become male – but ended up sounding like an 800-pound silverback gorilla with a terrible hernia who just learned that his wife is having an affair with a chimp. As one CD cover note mentioned, it sounds as if the backing singers (aka Anita herself) were pleasuring themselves. The producer of that version really ought to have left the creative decisions to somebody else. Anita has a lovely voice throughout otherwise, and it should have been left well alone from audio engineers fiddling with their knobs (ooer-missus).

Anita Harris’ take on the Pushbike Song. Watch out for the gorilla.

But if you want the worst ever version of the Pushbike Song, and it pains me to say this, you need to look at Olivia Newton-John. Yes, she covered it, but then it was put through a blender and out came electronic slop. She has clearly sung some parts of it, but the majority of it is her repeatedly and randomly spewing “hey!”, “shh!” “ahh!”, saying “pushbike”, and in a vocoder/auto-tuned voice, “riding along on a pushbike honey, when I noticed you” over and over again.

One could argue this version is danceable (if having taken a substantial amount of illegal drugs), and maybe even good for working out. But it is an abomination for anything else. It’d have been nice to have heard what Olivia could have done with the original version had it not been turned into a rave (as in stark raving mad) track. Such a pity.

My ears! She’s not the one that you want..

Another band called The Great American Disaster released a version and feels a great deal more traditional skiffle than the original Mixtures version. The washboard comes out in full force (as an accompaniment and as a sound effect), the banjo replaced with a piano, and some beatbox/cymbal punctuation action. Melodically it’s one of the more interesting covers, though it gets the lyrics wrong at one point.

The Great American Disaster’s cover isn’t that much of a disaster to be honest

These are only a few select cover versions, and there are plenty more out there including TV covers (I remember Cilla Black coming out with a version for her Surprise! Surprise! TV show back in the ’90s as part of a “cillagram” – I just remember it being very odd).

But with electric pushbikes coming out in force, there will be no further need to make silly noises while riding bikes. But that kind of takes the fun out of it.

.. because the number of reported problems (condensation and excessive battery drain being the main culprits) makes it feel as though the product was rushed to market and stops me from buying a pair.

The fact that a £529 pair of headphones can’t even be switched off properly is ridiculous. When Sennheiser released their Momentum 3 wireless headphones (I have a pair – they’ve extremely comfortable and I’d highly recommend them), they too had a problem that you couldn’t directly power them off without putting them into a certain position, so you couldn’t hang them on a headphone stand, for example. But Sennheiser eventually did the right thing and released a firmware update that allows you to turn the headphones off when holding down the multi-function button.

Now, why can’t Apple do that with the Airpods Max? Why can’t they release a firmware update that allows you to, say, hold down the digital crown for 2 seconds to turn the things off rather than put up with their dodgy power management system?

But I have bought the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones through EE instead. Their noise cancellation is second to none – better than the Sennheiser for sure. The Sony headphones quickly, the gesture controls are decent (and easy to remember) and you can turn the things on and off at will. Plus the battery lasts 30 hours. It’s great for watching TV (when paired with a transceiver such as the Avantree Oasis Plus Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver) or listening to audio from the Mac or iPhone. My only complaint is that the ear cushions feel like the weak point in the entire system – likely needed to be replaced well ahead of time – and I’d really like to see Sony adopt a similar system to Apple with magnets to allow easy replacement. Maybe we might see this with the WH-100XMM5?

I’ve been quite busy of late – hence the lack of new posts – but you’re about to see why.

I’ve always found online dating to be a massive pain in the arse. It really is a massive, massive pain in the rear end. It’s incredibly expensive, it’s potentially dodgy as hell, and the level of satisfaction is incredibly low.

These sites are rarely well managed by the site owners, who will be more than happy to take your money but provide a substandard service in return. You’re likely to be scammed left, right and centre, and you’ll encounter many, many, many, many time wasters. And when you do encounter somebody, their messaging skills are dire or they just don’t want to be bothered to respond even with a simple, “thanks, but no thanks”.

My main advice would be to check out rating services such as Trustpilot and Money Saving Expert before you even think of handing over any money for a subscription since almost all of these services will force you into a contract and will make you pay some or all of that contract in the form value compensation even if you cancel for ANY reason within 14 days. Yet, these sites make the free tier almost impossible to use without a subscription. There’s no point in it being free. You can’t do anything. I got caught out by eHarmony (as have many, many, many others) – but the other sites were very reasonable all things considered. Check those terms and conditions like a hawk.

Online dating is not the faint of heart. But I have tried many of the UK’s most popular brands over a three week period to find out which one would likely to attract a long term subscription from me. The answer to that is none of them. These are my notes:

Match.com

Given how prolific this service is, it probably hosts the most comprehensive number of profiles of any service (with the exception of Plenty of Fish), but it’s definitely not without a good number of scammers either.  Within hours, had to report at least one possible scammer.  Can’t stop people outside the UK looking at your profile.  Honoured 14-day refund period.  Problems include uploading photos.  

One thing to note: they really do want you to upload recent photographs, and one way they will check and enforce this is by scanning the EXIF metadata of any photo being uploaded.  They do this to make sure that the creation date of the photograph falls within a one or two year period of whatever today’s date is.  As I don’t take too many selfies and my appearance tends to remain the same, I tend to use a photo I had taken at work a while back which is a couple of years old,.  So when the photo was initially rejected, I manipulated the EXIF data and fixed the date so that it appeared to have been taken the same day as the upload.  I re-uploaded and it was accepted.  I’m not suggesting everybody should do this, but it’s one way of getting around the automated moderation if you really, really want to use a particular photo.

Tinder

Super expensive, especially when “boosting” your profile.  More catered for the younger crowd – too many “pouting” pictures alongside boob shots and women in their underwear – something that wouldn’t be allowed on other services.  User interface is a pain in the arse and unfriendly.  Apple honoured refund.

Plenty of Fish

A very comprehensive number of profiles – possibly more so than Match.com.  But it’s super expensive, especially when you have to pay extra for profile boosts.  But even worse is the user interface which is extremely buggy on the web version, with messages being mixed up with Plenty of Fish’s own mailbox at times – refreshing the page fixes it.  A lot more scamming going on.  Twice I encountered (quite possible the same scammer) with a profile containing photos of a nice lady – except the profile claims to be a 49-year-old man who is blonde (the lady in the pictures was dark-haired).  Plenty of Fish honoured the refund request.

eHarmony

Can’t stop people from outside the UK looking at your profile (though you can stop them contacting you).  Attempted to fix grammar mistake with profile (apostrophes out of place) which was rejected by “customer service” (no additional content was added, and previous edit was absolutely fine.  Absolutely bloody useless customer service as a result.  That said, they have the most stable and better designed UI than the other dating sites.  One doesn’t “boost” the profile to as far and wide, rather you use their algorithm for match compatibility which seems to work pretty well and gets a decent number of views.  Messaging is relatively straight forward – and well designed.  However,  giving “compliments” on parts of a profile are a lot more complex than it seems – what generally should start conversations usually is a massive non-starter.  

The 14-day statutory right to a refund is essentially negated if you pay for Premium Membership which pretty much the only thing you can do to make ANY sense or use of the service (which applies to pretty much any dating service – the free membership is useless).  Even then, they will deduct a further fee for “value compensation” (which is mentioned in the terms and conditions) due to your use of the Premium Membership – essentially charging £130 for the “scientific” match report.  But, at the goodness of their hearts. they will half the fee and deduct the first month’s fee from that.  I ended up paying £65 for a service which did not live up to expectations.  On the other hand, I am no longer tied to the contract.  

The report fee is not mentioned in the terms and conditions which is publicly available on the site and is sent as a PDF to you after you placed the order (which brings down your subscription costs too).  They claim the £130 *is* mentioned prior to placing the order, but I do not recall this, and when pushed to prove that it’s there, I got no response.  I’ve filed a complaint with the CMA (Competition Markets Authority) over eHarmony’s lack of transparency.  Visiting Trustpilot will show many, many, many people have been caught out by this fee, and even eHarmony’s very own Facebook page has scores of people following up their own posts complaining about the value compensation fee.  This suggests to me either the company is deliberately hiding behind it, or are completely bloody useless and doesn’t give a toss.  eHarmony were forced to pay a $1.2 million fee and $1 million in restitution after a variety of renewal related chaos:

https://mynewsla.com/business/2018/01/09/dating-site-slapped-with-big-fine-for-automatic-renewals-denied-refunds/

and here in the UK, eHarmony got in a lot of trouble with the UK Advertising Standards Agency for their adverts:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/03/online-dating-ad-banned-scientific-claims-dismissed-fake-news/

Encounters Dating

This one is very much up front about refunds – you pay and use the service immediately, you remain in contract.  No refunds.  So I signed up for one month only to get a feel, then can let the thing run out.  I feel it’s fine to compensate a dating site for at least one month’s of service if they really insist on it.  

Problems included one “fan”‘s subscription running out and not being able to contact me, but would write when she renewed her subscription – either it was a scheme for me to “gift” a subscription to her, or just to tell me to bugger off (which would have been simpler).  Another fan, I’m sure, was merely a mistake.   Then there was another that had locked her profile down so much there were too many non-negotiable elements that it made it impossible for me to contact her.  All pictures were hidden and you’d have to ask.  So she was immediately blocked – why waste somebody’s time like that?  There’s no method of boosting a profile, but they seem more relaxed with photographs and profile statements versus others.  

I  noticed that Encounters Dating seem to cater for the more mature side – given its association with the Telegraph you can expect plenty of people 45 years and up and with a more conservative view.

Overall / Conclusion

Each site needs to introduce stricter verification processes to deter fraud and scamming.  If this means a credit check against the account owner, alongside manual verification of ID, so be it.  A few of these sites offer a phone verification which is displayed alongside a user’s profile, but not everybody does this – it’s entirely optional.

The cost of subscriptions is pretty damn outrageous with the likes of Tinder. Match and Plenty of Fish charging eye popping fees to pimp (maybe the wrong choice of word there) your profile to everybody.  To give some context, I pay Google £15.30 a month to access their *Enterprise* email and workspace (Docs, Drive and Presentation) product.  I have 24/7 round the clock support for business critical outages or problems.  I also pay £11.99/month for YouTube Premium which does away with adverts and provides downloads via the YouTube app for offline viewing.

£15.30 + £11.99 = £27.29

This is still CONSIDERABLY cheaper than any of the monthly (or even of the many other quarterly, bi-annually or annual) subscription costs for dating sites.  The support will be considerably worse off.  You’ll more than likely get scammers.  And if you don’t like it – especially after 14 days – you’ll either to pay off the remainder of your subscription or a hefty value compensation fee.

My general thinking is maybe we need to stop with all this algorithm nonsense and go back to the old fashioned match making systems of old – e.g. humans behind the matching process.  I was amazed when watching an unlikely dating show, The Undateables, just how *nice* it would be to have that human contact when setting up a profile and throughout the whole process.   Plus it gives a sense of security and verification to the proceedings.  But this would come with even high costs than what is on offer now (I estimate around £600+ a year) – and, of course, trying to deal with hundreds of thousands of profiles would be impossible.  

Another issue I have with these online dating services is that most of the women I have some conversation with just can’t go beyond the length of simple text messaging.  I’m fine with talking of course, but I need to engage and get a sense of the person through their writing first.  I was complimented once, long in the distant past, by somebody who said that I had at least taken the time to compose my messages which weren’t along the lines of “ugg, urgh, yes, or no.” I understand people want to talk, but I’d like to initially see some form of literacy in a date that goes beyond three or four words.  Is it too much to ask?

Thanks to a very kind poster in this MacRumours forum, you can get the three month’s free Fitness+ trial (rather than the one month offered despite having bought a new Apple Watch after September 15th) simply by unpairing your Apple Watch after upgrading to iOS 14.3 and WatchOS 7.2 and re-pairing them again. Then go to the Fitness app on the iPhone and click the Fitness+ tab – you’ll then get the 3-month offer.

This does mean that you’ll have to do some setting up of the Watch again, but I tried this myself after spending over an hour on the phone to Apple Support trying to fix this thing and getting nowhere with them. Thankfully it worked, and I’m now going to put it through its paces over the next few months because I bloody need to get into shape.

The whole experience of trying to get this trial was incredibly frustrating. Apple demanded I give them proof of purchase despite this being a Series 6 watch which only launched after September 15th. It was activated by me on the 17th September and I bought AppleCare+ for it on the 19th. Besides which, this is a Watch provided by a carrier so I don’t have proof of purchase as such – but EE weren’t helping by not updating the plan page with the correct device – they seem to think I still have an Apple Watch Series 4.

Honestly, Apple’s quality control is slipping again.

.. because Apple has introduced what appears to be a bug whereby you can’t change refresh rates. My BenQ EX2780Q monitor has been working absolutely fine with my MacBook Pro 16″ Core i9 since I bought both earlier this year. It worked fine with Catalina, and it worked fine with version 11.01 of Big Sur (the first full public release of Big Sur).

ALAS!

After updating to 11.1, I was in full resolution with the external monitor, but I couldn’t set the refresh and it enabled HDR mode. Rebooted. Couldn’t get full resolution no matter what I tried. Rebooted again. Bingo. It worked, but subsequent reboots only ever bring the display down to 60Hz – way down from 144Hz. Unplugging the monitor and plugging it back in again seems to fix the issue, but this isn’t a very elegant solution.

This appears to be a bug brought forward from the 11.1 betas.

One thing I’ve found that helps – start the MacBook Pro without the monitor turned on. When the system boots into Finder, switch the monitor on and close the MacBook Pro lid. As this bug seems to randomly change resolutions, you may be in a much lower resolution than expected – but you should find that you can change the resolution and the refresh rate.

However, if you leave you MacBook Pro on and switch the monitor off to have a bit of a break, you’ll come back to find that the monitor has changed resolution and refresh rate again, possibly requiring a reboot.

You’ll also find that it takes much longer for the MBP or monitor to switch resolution versus Big Sur 11.01 or even Catalina.

This is by far one of the worst bugs I’ve encountered with macOS in over a year – and I sincerely hope that Apple fixes it soon. I’ve already filed a report with them via Apple Support and if you’re experiencing this same issue, I strongly suggest doing the same.

Oh, they look nice.

Poddy? Perhaps. But to the Max? Definitely.

*Clicks on the buy button to see how much they are*

Nope.

I remember when you could buy an entire Hi-Fi unit + more for that price

I take my headphones very seriously, but even for Apple, this is a spicy meatball of a price tag. I’m glad it features their Spatial Audio technology which really does work extremely well with the AirPods Pro (we have a naming convention problem here, I feel). But the biggest concern I have with Spatial Audio is that it only currently works with iPhone and iPads. Not Macs, not Apple TVs.

I recently watched a video the other day of a headphone system that provides full Dolby Atmos surround sound:

Looking up the price, it’s around £1,000. And you’re limited to the equipment it’s connected to. Apple has the chance here to give JVC a big massive headache and implement its Spatial Audio (which is Dolby Atmos compatible) on the Apple TV and Mac – so that people can enjoy music and video content in comfort rather than watching something on their iPhones up close, or on their iPads. You’re not getting the best experience there. A big TV is where it should be.

What I also like about Apple’s approach to their own headphones – removable earpads/cushions. Their Beats 3 products were utter crap, with the earpads deteriorating over time. I also had to replace one set of headphones after it stopped charging – all the way in Edinburgh. So much for portability and reliability!

Beats 3 Solo Wireless (white) and Beats 3 Wired (blue) headphones and the lacklustre earpads. Lousy 2-year warranty too.

I’d want to see at least a 3 – 4 year warranty with the AirPods Max, but alas the buggers only provide a 2-year warranty – but it’s likely to be better than their Beats branded crap. The same applies to iPhones – Apple only allows for an extended two-year warranty on a device that should last much longer than that. Even more outrageous when you consider the self-repairability factor with these devices. Well, let’s hope that any replacement cushions are reasonably priced because if not, *slaps Apple firmly around the Cox’s Pippin*.

Just look at it – all smug and trying to be useful. But it has other plans..

Apple are well known for being stingy buggers under the guise for doing their bit for the world, but their new MagSafe Duo is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY taking the Michael. Extraordinary so.

It can also charge a wireless AirPods/AirPods Pro case too.

Not only is this an expensive accessory, but for a charger, you don’t even get the charging brick included. Just a cable. AND THAT FRIGGING CABLE IS TOO SHORT. I can’t run the thing from my desk because the desk height is greater than the pathetic 1-metre cable supplied by Apple. So you had better make sure that your desk comes with built-in power sockets, or use a third-party USB-C to Lightning that’s the right length. Apple does sell a 2 metre Lightning to USB-C cable, but that’ll cost you £35. They can seriously go and do something unmentionable. If Apple weren’t so frigging up its own arse about Lightning, I could have used a spare USB-C to USB-C cable from an old Apple laptop (at least I’m trying to recycle), but I have no Lightning to USB-C cables that are longer than 1 metre.

Apple, you’ve mucked this up.

There be magnets, but they’re still weak so it’s a still a pain to find the right position, negating any benefit of MagSafe.

In terms of charging and overall use, I found it rather difficult aligning my iPhone 12 Pro Max with Apple silicone case against the MagSafe charging coils. The magnets aren’t very strong, but even so, I did find it a bit of a challenge removing the phone FROM the base when I needed to pick it up. You do kind of need to touch the charger unit itself to gently pry from the charger.

But I have also discovered that my Deep Navy Apple silicone case is getting a touch of the MagSafe burn-in on the back; a circle matching the charging coils that surround the Apple logo. Apple has gone on record to say that this is normal if you leave the phone in a case. Why wouldn’t I keep it in the case while charging? Who the hell is product managing this crap?

Well, as I’ve just found out, wiping the case with a microfibre cloth reduces the visibility of the circle – but it’s still present, albeit it very faintly.

Ring-a-ring o’ MagSafe, a pocket full of Mysterons..

Will it be useful when travelling? Oh yes, undoubtedly. As a desktop charger, without a longer USB-C to Lightning cable included, it’s a seriously taking liberties. Even more, so is the lack of the charging brick.

My score: 3.5/10

As somebody whose responsibilities including looking after the work laptop fleet, I must occasionally risk boldly going forward to find out how well a brand new operating system fares within our ecosystem. In this case, I’m using my own MacBook Pro 16″ which shipped with macOS Catalina.

Catalina was a buggy mess, but it was well supported. It was the last of the macOS X line of operating systems. We’re now on macOS 11, and Big Sur is the first of its kind to support both Intel and Apple Silicon M1 processors. Which is just as well as I expect to use this Intel MacBook Pro for another three to four years at least. But with a major new operating system release comes a tonne of problems, and macOS Big Sur is no exception.

I had to fire my firewall, Little Snitch. It’s a very useful application for determining what network traffic is coming in and out of my Mac, as well as being able to block any suspicious traffic from potentially rogue applications. I had been using version 4, but because of architectural changes within Big Sur, it wouldn’t work. So it’s a paid upgrade to version 5. But there is no trial. I’d have liked to have had a trial to be able to get used to Big Sur and ensure the effectiveness of Little Snitch, but it’s an all or nothing approach. So I kicked Little Snitch to the curb, for now, and rely on Big Sur’s own internal firewall.

Then there was anti-virus software. As this is my own machine, I’ve been using Sophos Home Premium for a while. It’s very effective, doesn’t use up many system resources – though I thoroughly dislike the need for a web UI – makes it difficult to keep multiple users separate/private and a pain in the arse if you’ve offline. At work, we use the commercial Sophos Intercept-X product. In both cases, at the launch of Big Sur, they were not compatible. But at the time of installing Big Sur (a few weeks after the launch), Home Premium had announced a compatible, but feature-reduced version. Alas, I found problems with it and had to uninstall. Intercept-X has only just opened an Early Access Program, but I’m going to wait until they release a supported build which should be sometime early 2021.

I tried Norton 360 Premium, which seems good value for £50 to support 10 devices and has very good anti-virus test scores. It is Big Sur compatible, but (a) there is no Mac support for the 75Gb cloud storage that comes with the package (that I could see) and (b) the scanning component uses significant resources – it completely froze my machine several times and took up 90% of overall system resources, causing the fans on the MacBook Pro to spin up to full power. It also wanted to install 20 billion Chrome extensions which caused quite a few problems. So that had to go.

I have an active BitDefender Total Security subscription for Mac and PC, but my problem with BitDefender has been that the UI hasn’t been updated in years and still requires Chrome and Safari extensions to be effective when browsing the web – with the changes to Chrome, everything looks horrible when searching with Google. BitDefender is much better under Windows, and I often feel the Mac version is a bit of an afterthought.

I finally settled on a temporary solution until Sophos Home Premium is fully supported – Malwarebytes Premium for the Mac. It provides realtime malware and ransomware protection and doesn’t use any significant resources at all. It’s Big Sur compliant too. There’s a decent Chrome extension which helps stop trackers and adverts along with any other malicious web malarky. It’s definitely a step up from BitDefender’s extension, I must say. Best of all it cost me just £12.49 for a year of protection thanks to a Black Friday promotion.

Then we have VMWare Fusion Pro 12. I use this to run both Windows and Linux. Linux especially because we have a number of scripts which FreeBSD’s built-in shell commands decide to interpret a little differently. Things were running initially fine until I installed VMWare Fusion Pro 12.1, then I suffered a number of network-related issues with the NAT configuration. I could use the Linux VM just fine if I didn’t connect to the company VPN, but if I was connected, I was unable to do several things which are vital for my role. I had to switch to Parallels Desktop 16 which works flawlessly with or without the company VPN being connected. Networking architecture has changed with Big Sur, and it looks like Parallels managed to figure it out before VMware.

In more general areas, I’ve found macOS Big Sur to have problems with image thumbnails. Thumbnails from other images cropped up from time to time, confusing the heck out of me. It’s as if Big Sur is being too aggressive caching system files. I thought that one possible solution to this is would be to delete the .DS_Store file in the directory and let the OS regenerate the thumbnails again. But this doesn’t seem to last long before the problem comes back. This tends to occur when using encrypted APFS-formatted DMG files.

Bluetooth seems to be another problem. I tend to leave my Mac running throughout the day, and on the occasion when I leave it to nap, returning to the machine is fine – but randomly the £150 Apple wireless “Magic” keyboard will stop responding (and occasionally the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse too). The mouse tends to recover fairly quickly, but the keyboard doesn’t. It means that I have to restart the Mac to get the keyboard working again – turning the keyboard on and off doesn’t work, neither does the Bluetooth Control Centre controls.

I’ve also experienced major internet connectivity slowdowns. My MacBook Pro is wired up to the router directly and yesterday I found I was getting only 150Mbs max via the Mac, and 500Mbs with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. I restarted the Mac and everything was fine again.

I’m also not keen on the new menu bar fonts – and spacing between the menu bar icons either. It feels too much like a Linux distribution (I’ve always disliked Linux on the desktop, and fonts have always been a problem for me as part of that) rather than a high-scale Mac desktop.

Do I recommend people start using macOS Big Sur now? Absolutely not. Hold off for a month or two, because this is a very unpolished OS and is absolutely not ready for the prime time if you’re a sysadmin or developer.