Regretting buying the Halo Infinite Season 2 Battle Pass

Oh man do I regret buying the Halo Infinite Season 2 Battle Pass. I knew going in that the state of the game was (is) bad but I did not realize (or want to believe) how bad the game has gotten for me and others after reading thread posts after thread posts on Halo Waypoint and even the Halo subreddit.

I’ll start with the amount of lag and desync that I experience; this is the biggest gripe I have right now and is my major pain as playing the game can be like pulling teeth. The past week I have played a couple of hours, I can count on one hand how many games I played where I had ping less than 20ms. The average ping that I was experiencing, no matter the time of day, was (is) 170ms. On top of the high ping I experience at a minimum:

  • rubber banding and dying around corners
  • grenades causing no damage and bullets causing no damage even though there is hit markers (allegedly)
  • melee trades when they should not happen or melee hits not registering at all

For a PvP arena shooter having these issues is inexcusable. I have played online games for a long time and I have not seen servers and network behavior this bad for a long time. Halo Infinite should have launched with the ability to disable cross platform play (sorry PC cheaters) and a server selection. I remember clearly the launch of Battlefield 4 and the Halo Master Chief Collection which were also abysmal in regard to their online experience.

Before purchasing the season 2 battle pass I looked over the rewards and did like a good portion of what they were offering. I knew how annoying the weekly challenges can be but thought that I could easily complete them. But I do not know if there has been a backend or server side change where the challenges have been changed to be more frustrating to complete. Why are there challenges for game modes that I cannot specifically choose from a playlist? This just causes lop sided games where people quit when they do not get the game mode they want. It makes games worse with an already horrible online experience. Not to mention tracking for the challenges doesn’t work. Kill with the skewer, check. Finish the match and the challenge is not complete, um what.

If I could go back in time I would not have given 343 Industries any more money after the season 1 battle pass. From everything they have shown in Halo 4, Halo 5, Halo Master Chief Collection and now Halo Infinite, they are not the developers for the franchise, there have been too many missteps and issues that could have easily been avoided. I’ll finish the season 2 battle pass (through gritted teeth) but come season 3 there is no way I will be giving 343 Industries any more money even if they fix the game. I know I could buy the season 3 battle pass for free if I complete the season 2 battle pass but I will most likely skip it purely because the game is so bad to play. I’d rather spend the money on another product where the developers actually care about the product they are working on. Developer health is important but when self inflicted wounds cause the game to be in such a horrible state due to constant internal missteps and foolish decisions, why should any player care or play the game? Take all the time off and avoid any form of crunch to keep the health of the team high but don’t be surprised when no one is playing your broken game.

Google Nest Support Hell

I am writing this blog post purely out of frustration and what I feel is the Google Nest support team not being very helpful in trying to resolve the problem or at the very least providing me with information about what the team is looking at or even how to proceed. Right now I feel completely abandoned by the Google Nest team and the more I experience this (along with the bugs and issues) the less likely I would recommend the products to other people (which is unfortunate as I really do like their products). I do not want special treatment or anything like that but just a status update or something to know where my case is at or even how to proceed further.

Over half a month ago my dad came up to me and asked if I could access the Alarm & timers settings page in the Google Home iOS app. I don’t really use that setting so I was like, “I have no idea”, and he showed me what he was seeing on his iPhone. He would open the Google Home app, wait for it to say connected and choose his Google Nest Hub Gen 2. in his room. He would navigate to the Settings page for the device, go to the Audio settings and then finally the Alarms & timers page. The Google Home app would just completely hang and eventually just crash. It is as if there is a bad response coming back from either the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. or Google’s services and the app does not know how to handle it.

I thought it would be best to contact Google Nest support to see what the issue may be and if there is a simple explanation to the issue. Contacting them was fairly easy and straightforward. I feel like the process started very pleasantly but right now I feel completely shafted and lost for what to actually do even though as I will explain I have complete steps in how to reproduce the issue and may explain why the issue is happening.

Much like any good support team member they ask me the standard set of questions:

  • Have you factory reset the device?
  • Have you tried doing the same thing on any other device?
  • Have you tried connecting to the device from another device device?

I factory reset my dad’s Google Nest Hub Gen 2. so there was no alarms and low and behold I could access the device’s Alarms & timers settings. My dad added his alarms back and then the Google Home app once again froze when trying to access the settings. I did the same steps he did to his device to my own Google Nest Hub Gen 2. Same result, the Google Home app just froze. If there are no alarms then there is no issue but as soon as I add a number of alarms the Google Home app completely freezes on the Alarms & timers settings page. I no longer have an Android device that I can readily access but I tried accessing the settings on my iPhone, my dad’s iPhone, my mum’s iPad Mini and my iPad Mini. All had the same result; the Google Home app would freeze on the Alarms & timers settings page. So this is not just an iOS issue now but it also affects the iPadOS version of the app too (unsure if they are identical binaries though).

I let the support individual know what I tried and they gave me more settings to change. The Assistant language should be changed to English – US (which it already was) and to show them a video of the issue which I could easily and readily reproduce no problem.

After a couple of days I got a response and they asked me to try a completely different Google Home home structure. I was a little confused why this would matter and if this indeed fix the problem I would be completely annoyed because I would need to move a large number of devices. So I created a test home structure in the Google Home app and factory reset (again) my dad’s Google Nest Home Gen 2. plus added his alarms back in. This did not work 😦 A further step they asked was to try setting the device up using a mobile hotspot and boy was this process completely messy. I was getting constant communication issues between the Google Nest Hub Gen 2., my iPhone which was the hotspot device and my wifi. I would also need to factory reset the device once again. None of what they have asked me to do helped so far. I was not completely annoyed or frustrated at this point as I didn’t know what was causing the issue yet.

I did some more playing around with the alarms on the device and the settings in the Google Home app. It was with this I noticed something very odd. With no alarms set on the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. the Google Home app would load the Alarms & timers settings page no problem. Adding one alarm and the page still loads, adding a second alarm and it is still fine, but adding a third alarm and the app completely freezes. Okay this is something to forward to the Google Nest support team. So I did. I could reproduce it reliably on all my devices across all platforms (iOS and iPadOS) that I have access to plus how not to reproduce the issue. I thought finally I would get a response saying they are looking at this in more detail now.

Even more time passed now and I got a response back. I was hoping to read in my email that the Google Nest support team got a hold of a commercial Google Nest Hub Gen 2., the public version of the Google Home app on iOS and attempted to add three or more alarms on the device and check the settings page showing that the issue is present; but nope. Not even a recognition that they attempted the steps to reproduce or even if it was helpful at all. All I got was a response saying to turn on device usage and crash report (was already on) and provide feedback when I navigate to the page. But if the support team member had paid attention to my chat, the emails or the video that I sent, the option to send feedback from that page is not possible as the app freezes and crashes after a period of time. Now I am a little frustrated and annoyed. I still politely mention that I cannot perform the feedback step because (as mentioned in the chat and previous emails plus the video) the app freezes and if there is anything more that I can do and if my steps to reproduce were relayed.

Originally I was not going to show excerpts from the emails but I felt it was necessary. The second last email response I got had

We do understand the issue we’re working on. We just need to send feedback and our higher team needs to capture it. Then, I’ll update them for us to proceed to our next steps.

Let me know once done.

Google Nest support team member

If they know the issue can they not reproduce it locally on their end? I again ask for clarification in how I can provide them with the feedback necessary if I cannot do it through any of my devices as the app freezes completely. The last response I have got from them was

You may try to use another device.

If not, use your voice command to send us a feedback, “Okay Google, send feedback”.Then, say “<case-number-redacted> unable to access the timer on the Google Home app”.

Google Nest support team member

Not only are those steps to try completely useless but I am under the impression that no one on the team understands how their Google Assistant works on the Apple platform and that no matter what device I use the issue persists.

Right now I have little to no hope in them resolving the issue and for the time being accessing the alarms will need to be done through the actual Google Nest Hub Gen 2. and not the Google Home app. It seems like there may be some communication issues and some small quality control problems happening at the moment. Fingers crossed this gets resolved soon but I don’t have my hopes up. If you too are experiencing the same problem as me, please let me know. I also posted in the Nest Community forum to ask if others are seeing the same thing and if they know of a workaround, the post can be found here.

Smoking Beef Ribs on my Traeger Ironwood 885

A little while ago I was discussing the meat that I smoke to my work colleagues and some suggested to do a YouTube video as they wanted to see the entire process. I would normally just show them the before and after photos, but a video was a neat idea (even though there are plenty of videos out there that show how to smoke meat – much better than me I might add too).

With some help of my family I was able to capture the entire process as I don’t have a camera other than my phone to capture everything and I don’t have a stand to hold my phone up. From trimming the fat off the meat (the video was on beef ribs) through the entire smoking process I tried my best to show everything. The one part that I unfortunately did not capture (thanks mom – I should have double checked before I went in front of the camera) was the rub that I made and how I seasoned the meat and what binder I used. I did do an after the fact part when I realized the rub portion was not captured. But other than that the process was captured and uploaded on YouTube.

So if you are a fan of beef ribs, smoking meat or just want to see the process of how to smoke some meat on a smoker then please check out the video – link below and if you do enjoy the video then it would be great if you could like and comment on the video. I will be doing more of these in the future too which will cover brisket and pork butt for example, so if you want to watch more smoking meat videos then consider subscribing. I don’t have a set plan or release schedule. It really all depends on when I can smoke the meat, the weather and if I can get good quality meat as I don’t buy my meat from the supermarket.

I hope you enjoy the video and maybe it will inspire you to smoke some meat too 🙂

Is a Dark Mode/Theme necessary?

Dark mode or a dark theme is generally fairly common in most reputable apps or websites. I am a big fan of using a darker theme no matter the time of day because I find it puts less stress on my eyes and I can continue doing what I doing for longer on my device plus it looks way better. My blog even uses a dark theme 🙂 If a product I use does not have a dark mode I find I use it less or if I have to use it for longer periods then my eyes get much more irritated.

However I know a number of people who are the complete opposite. They always use a lighter theme and swear by it. Some of these are developers too which have all their development tools using a lighter theme. To them they find using a darker theme more difficult to read and puts more stress and strain on their eyes.

Everyone has their own personal preference it would seem and I have read a number of different studies that will say a lighter theme is better for you while another study will say that a darker theme is better for you. So trying to figure out which is the optimal theme for your health can be a little difficult. Perhaps the best theme to use is one you personally prefer if there is so much conflicting information out there.

Something I feel is critical for all current apps and websites is the ability to allow the user to choose the theme they would like to experience their product in. If each individual person has a certain preference on the theme they would like to use then it would be in the best interest of the team working on the product to ensure that their users are happy and use their product for longer. Many software teams are big on including as much accessibility options for their users and I would consider having an option for a darker theme an accessibility option just like having a color blind mode, toggle icons showing on/off indicators and bolder text.

What is your opinion on having a dark mode or theme and how does having the option of choosing a light/dark mode/theme influence your decision on using the product or service for longer periods of time?

Google Home iOS/iPadOs App Device Networking Issues

Sigh, I really do hate writing negative blog posts but sometimes it’s a good way for me to vent my frustrations with software and hardware when there is a lack of consistency and synergy. Consistency here being the main pain point.

For some time now my hidden wifi network has been split between both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands (different SSIDs). Originally I was using the Netgear SmartConnect functionality to juggle the devices between the two. However I was getting constant switches, network dropouts, etc so I turned the feature off. It was not so smart and was causing constant frustration for me 😦

For the time being I have all my high volumed traffic devices like my laptops, tablets connected to the 5Ghz band as they are all used to consume media and are all extremely close to the router. Every other wireless device I have is connected on 2.4Ghz which is mainly my Google Nest hubs, Chromecasts, etc. and spread across the house. Each of the devices connected on the network can communicate with each other.

Recently I bought a Google Nest Hub Max and used my iPad Mini to connect it to the network. The wifi that it connected to originally was my 5Ghz band. This was all fine as all my devices like the tablets are all on that same band. However I don’t have my iPhone 13 Pro connected on that band, it is on the 2.4Ghz band and this is when I started to notice a glaring problem.

If I open the Google Home app on my iPad (connected on 5Ghz) I can see the new Google Nest Hub Max and can modify the settings for it. If I go to my Google Home app on my iPhone 13 Pro (connected on 2.4Ghz) I can see the device in the list of devices in my home but I can’t modify the settings. All I see is a message that read:

Disconnected device

Connect to your Wi-Fi to cast

Check that Disconnected device is online and your phone or tablet is connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Additionally, make sure local network is enabled in your phone or tablet’s privacy settings.

Google Home app for iPad

So this message makes perfect sense I guess if the devices were not on the same underlying network. If I change to the 2.4Ghz band on my iPad Mini then I can see the device and modify the settings. However there is one big glaring problem with this. If I change back to the 5Ghz band and then try to change my bedside table Google Nest Hub Gen 2. settings I can. Even though *drum roll* the Google Nest Hub Gen 2. is on 2.4Ghz. This also applies to my Google Nest Hub Gen 1 in my kitchen. I moved the new Google Nest Hub Max to the 2.4Ghz band with the other devices for consistency.

To summarize what I am seeing:

  • The iPad Mini is on 5Ghz and can see:
    • the Google Nest Hub Max (connected via 2.4Ghz) but cannot modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 2 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 1 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
  • The iPhone 13 Pro is on 2.4Ghz and can see:
    • the Google Nest Hub Max (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 2 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings
    • the Google Nest Hub Gen 1 (connected via 2.4Ghz) and can modify the settings

I am not sure what is going on. I don’t know if this is a software bug with the iOS/iPadOS versions of the Google Home app or if this is an issue with the actual Google Nest Hub Max (a restart and reset also did not help or fix the problem). I contacted Google support but they just ran through the usual support troubleshooting process and could not come to a resolution.

Is anyone else having this issue?

The Inexcusable State of Halo Infinite

It has been a good while since I had done my initial impressions on Halo Infinite. Now I have completed the campaign (which I enjoyed for the most part) and have played a very good portion of multiplayer (I played daily for about 3 hours each day at a minimum). The taste of potential and fun has been completely washed away by the taste of disgust and disappointment. The entire leadership team at 343 Industries needs to have a real good look in the mirror and ask themselves “can we provide the Halo community with a game the fans actually want to play and can we lead the team to deliver it”. Right now, no one at 343 Industries should be happy with the state of Halo Infinite and someone at Microsoft should really be looking at the quality of the team there because it is not up to the standard for a franchise like Halo. This pains me so much to write too because I love Halo so much.

Halo Infinite is supposedly called a “live service” game. Nothing shown by 343 Industries has shown the game to be “live service”. Having cosmetic events every other week that is recycled or offering minor cosmetics is not a “live service” IMO. I have been extremely patient with 343 Industries and Microsoft too. The last patch however to address the issues with being matched into lobbies with high ping and desync has made the game worse for me. I have not played Halo Infinite after I completed the last event and got all the items. Right now, I have absolutely no plans on returning to the game unless there is an event on and when I have all the event gear, I am not playing it anymore. There is no content to work towards as I have done the season pass, the game is not in a playable state here in Australia with the poor selection of player pool. The game is essentially dead to me.

Before I progress any further, let me back up a little. During December, the Big Team Battle playlist was completely broken, and you were still being assigned challenges. I understand completely the team needed to have some time off and spend quality time with the family. I would not want the entire team working on the game to not have a break and want them to enjoy their holiday. However, in saying that, in what way is it smart at any capacity to launch a brand-new game (knowing that there will be bugs and issues all over the shop) during the holiday period without some form of skeleton crew that has the capacity to deploy hotfixes for bugs that will arise? That was the very first red flag. I may be completely wrong in my assumption here, and they did have a team, but what did they do for over 4 weeks while the issue was not fixed? I completely understand how difficult it is to troubleshoot software issues but at the very least they could have removed the BTB challenges from the list. Not only that, once the patch was deployed it fixed nothing and BTB was still broken (a second patch was needed to address BTB).

The second red flag was the deflection, “multiplayer networking code is hard” and “it is not us” posts we got from the team working on the game to address desync and networking issues. I have never (ever) experienced this type of poor matchmaking, lag, desync, and other networking problems in previous Halo games nor in any game where I have a ping less than 20. I do not understand how even in LAN games there are disconnects and desync issues. To me that speaks volumes of the quality of the game’s net code and that there is a serious underlying issue somewhere. If the team at 343 Industries are not sure how to resolve the issue or figure out what the problem is, then they should hire someone or a team that can fix the issues. To deflect and say that the problem will always exist and there is nothing they can really do about it while also saying that geo-filtering is the main culprit is poor on their behalf. Do not treat the community like idiots or ignorant fools and expect us to accept whatever you say as the absolute truth and correct.

The final red flag was the delay of the roadmap. I am completely baffled how the roadmap could be delayed. The team clearly then from the outside looking in has no goals or objectives that they are working towards. If there was some goals or objectives, then share this information with the players. I feel by holding this information back you are saying to the community that “we have nothing to share in the future and you will not be looking at any new content”. We know season 2 got delayed and as such so did co-op campaign and forge mode. I am okay with the delay (if) the features are not complete and would be half baked. Knowing the quality that 343 pump out in their games I feel that they should probably be delayed again because they will not work when they are released. I’m sorry but I have little to no faith in the features working as expected when they are released.

Here is a couple of easy steps 343 Industries can make to better rectify the disappointment and loss of trust from the Halo fans:

  1. Apologize for the current state of the game. Mention the expensive microtransactions and Halo store which seems to be the only thing that is functioning as expected (weird right), the cosmetic gear that is poorly delivered like Jorge’s untextured shoulder pad and the misaligned helmet effects (come on really), the diabolical armour coating system, and the networking of the game. There is probably more they should be apologizing for but that is a start. It needs to also not be a blog post but a video where they look right into the camera and say it to the fans. We need to see if there is actual disappointment in what they have shipped or if they are just giving us crocodile tears.
  2. Make available a public bug tracking system that the entire Halo community can see, follow, and contribute to. Let us have some visibility into the bugs that the team is addressing and help us to help you resolve the issues. We want to play a game that runs and plays smoothly with little issue, and this can go a long way to not only help with this but create better visibility. Let us upload our clips showing the issues. Let us create tickets that express what isn’t working correctly or as expected.
  3. Get the PR and community team to post meaningful content about what is actively being worked on or even do the live streams again. The bug tracking system would help here, but let us know what features are coming, what maps or weapons may be added, etc. Give us something to get excited about. If we hear radio silence, then we can safely assume that nothing outside co-op campaign and forge mode is being worked on (and that is what it feels like right now).
  4. Give us a data center selection option. I find it completely baffling that in 2022 you would provide a multiplayer game without being able to select the closest data center to you to provide the best online gaming experience. Most multiplayer games have an option to select which server you will connect to, I am unsure why Halo Infinite does not have one.

Like I said, right now I have no plans on coming back to Halo unless it is for the few events that have cosmetics that I can earn. Other than that, there is nothing that is bringing me to play the game. When it came out, I was having fun playing the multiplayer as it was a pleasant experience. Now the issues I have with lag and desync, I just want to completely avoid playing it. Why should I play a multiplayer game where I get put into a lobby 9/10 with ping greater than 100ms? So please 343 Industries, I really want to like Halo Infinite, I would like to go back to playing it consistently but the number of issues I have with it makes it very difficult. If someone asks me if they should try it out, I will say no. Even with it being free to play, the game is not a fun experience. Maybe season 2 will change all this but I doubt it very much 😦

Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault macOS Missing Feature

As someone who uses OneDrive as one of my main cloud storage solutions for random documents and photos due to having it available with 1TB storage via Microsoft 365; I wanted to take advantage of all it has to offer. That means having access to the Personal Vault. However it appears to be explicitly missing from the OneDrive app on macOS.

Coming from using a Surface Book 2 as my main laptop I never had any issues accessing the Personal Vault through the Windows 10 app. However since I have recently moved to the Apple MacBook Pro 14” with the M1 Pro and installing OneDrive, that feature is completely missing 😦 Looking at the official Microsoft documentation, it appears that the Personal Vault is just not available on macOS.

This is a real shame as it is available on Windows 10/11, Android and even iOS/iPadOS. You can obviously log into the browser to access the Personal Vault but by installing the official app it would make sense to have access to this feature. Unless it is a market ploy to not bring feature parity across different platforms for the app to entice the user to migrate and move to Microsoft’s desired platform, aka move away from macOS and go to Windows.

This is not a big deal for me and only a minor inconvenience, but it really is annoying when companies do this. So now if I ever have to move files to the Personal Vault and I am on my MacBook I need to first store them on OneDrive in a random folder then either log into my OneDrive using a browser or go to my iPhone, iPad or gaming PC and move the file from my OneDrive folder to the Personal Vault. The extra steps could be completely avoided if Microsoft did not play these types of games with consumers. I mean Outlook for macOS looks and functions IMO better than it does on Windows so…

Halo Infinite Initial Impressions

The Halo series has been my favourite first person shooter game by far. From the griping stories that are told to the extremely fun gameplay, it has always been a series that has kept me hooked. It is also one of the only game series where I have a number of the novels and comics.

Halo: Combat Evolved is a masterpiece; Halo 2 had revolutionary multiplayer; Halo 3 was the complete story and multiplayer package where I spent hours playing games with my friends and was really the first time where I was going to LAN parties playing Halo non-stop for hours on end; Halo 3: ODST was such a departure in my eyes that it changed the way I looked at the series, and introduced Firefight; Halo: Reach was a gem that had one of the best soundtracks and knowing what happened to Reach even before I played the game made it feel that much more emotional to play plus was my first experience with Xbox Live; Halo 4 had a story that was adequate but nothing special with a multiplayer that was lacking and changed way too much being very close to Call of Duty; Halo 5: Guardians had an abysmal story that I cared absolutely little for but had a really tight, focused and competitive multiplayer that I loved.

Now with Halo Infinite being out for a little bit of time I have some initial thoughts about the multiplayer. I have well over 500 matches and have played over 120 hours of just multiplayer. I have not started or played the single player campaign yet as I’m saving that for my annual leave during the Christmas and New Year period. I have been thankful that I haven’t seen or read any spoilers and none of my friends have spoiled anything too (thanks for that guys).

So where to start with the Halo Infinite multiplayer? What 343 Industries have crafted is a fine tuned and well-oiled machine regarding gameplay. The grenade, shoot and melee combo is nearly perfect. Adding in the new equipment to the combo spices things up just enough to keep encounters interesting. You must position yourself better on the map because if you’re too close to the edge you may be repelled off but can be saved if you have a grapplehook. I can’t recall how many times I’ve grapplejacked a banshee or have been grapplejacked only to be close to the edge and have the enemy Spartan fall off the map.

The maps that are currently available are not too bad either. Some maps are definitively better than others. Behemoth and Launch Site are my least favourite and should not be on the rotation for Tactical Slayer aka SWAT due to how the site lines are and how easy it is to spawn and get killed instantly which happens way too often. Streets, Bazaar and Aquarius are my three favourite maps because they flow so well and have the best balance IMO. A map that I was not a fan of during the beta was Recharge, but it is starting to grow on me especially in Oddball and Tactical Slayer.

Now on to the areas where 343 can improve on and what they must address before gamers start to move away to other games. Here is a small list of improvements and recommendations that I think would make the game even better:

  • The playlist needs to be expanded; there needs to be a Team Objective playlist. We have a Team Slayer playlist, so it only makes sense to have a Team Object one. I know this will take time to fill in all the missing playlists like Infection, etc. but when you have challenges tied to certain game modes you should be able to queue for that game mode.
  • The 18m radar just does not work plain and simple. I don’t think 343 knows what 18m really looks like. I have several videos of a Spartan running and sliding around the corner and the radar does not even pick them up or they are above a ledge. I can see that the radar “looks” to pulse but even then, it does not match with the enemy Spartan movement. Either make the distance larger to 25m or remove the radar entirely as it just a false indicator that has gotten me killed too many times because it has given me false information. What is the point of a radar if it does not give accurate information to the player?
  • There needs to be some way to earn the Halo premium currency in game. Other games like Apex Legends provides ways to earn their premium currency even at a very slow rate. I am not going to comment on the store in particular or the premium currency too much as I am not going to participate in it other than the battlepass and if there is actually something I feel is absolutely worth it (cat ears is not one of them, sorry).
  • The entire amour coating system does not feel right. Why should an armour coating only be available for the Mark V Spartan but not the Mark VII? I have absolutely no plan on buying any amour coating in the store unless it is available to all current and future Spartan models. I am a little more forgiving for weapon and vehicle skins though, but it would be a nice to have that the same sniper skin is available for the assault rifle or commando.
  • There needs to be a way to completely turn off cross play between console and PC players. I have recorded and reported several people who are on PC that either have aim bots or wallhacks enabled. The way they snap to enemy Spartan’s heads or track them through walls perfectly is infuriating to see. Thankfully all of this is visible in Theatre mode. The reason why I no longer play competitive or PvP games on PC is because of the sheer number of hackers running rampant in games. 343 needs to fix this ASAP otherwise people will get frustrated and leave the game.
  • Server selection. I have very good internet download and upload speeds for Australia. Some games I get 4ms ping while other games I get 200ms ping. For the last week, the majority of games have been 120ms ping or higher. I am not alone in this either as others I play with or know who play in Australia also experience this issue (no matter the time of day either). This is completely unacceptable for SWAT or ranked games. When you are around a corner and are still getting shot or die is rage inducing. I am more than willing to wait several minutes to look for a match that has under 20ms ping than be thrown into a match in less than 15 seconds with 170ms ping. Is the game dead in Australia? Does 343 not have adequate servers available in the region? Is 343 prioritizing for skill over ping? This information needs to be made available to the player so that I know what the issue is.

Overall, I think 343 has a solid game on their hands. I applaud the hard work and effort the team has done to date and encourage them to keep at it. Keep refining and polishing this diamond as if they do that it will only get better. Provide the updates like you have been doing so far and keep the community informed of where you plan to take the game. If you keep communicating to the community about what your plans are then hopefully some constructive feedback and ideas can be brought forward. After Halo 5: Guardians I had little hope in 343 delivering something that is worthy of being a Halo title but so far I have been pursuaded.

The team deserve the break they are having now, but when they get back, they absolutely must address the cheating issues going on and the server issues (be it the high ping, being unable to squad up with a number of people and get into a Big Team Battle, or the random disconnects and crashes). Soon I will be playing the campaign and be enjoying that too 🙂

Thank you to everyone at 343 Industries and Microsoft for so far delivering a Halo experience that right now to me is on par with the original trilogy.

Short Term Experience: MacBook Pro 14” M1 Pro

The MacBook Pro 14” M1 Pro is my very first personal Apple laptop. The MacBook Pro that I have spec’d out has a 10-core M1 Pro CPU, 16-core GPU and 16-core neural engine; 32GB of unified memory and 1 TB of SSD storage.

I was always going to go with the M1 Pro as from what I read, the M1 Max had the same CPU but a much more powerful GPU. As someone who has no real need for a more powerful GPU, the M1 Max was completely unnecessary. Plus there were several videos that I saw where benchmarks of the M1 Max GPU was not reaching its full potential and being throttled. Not to mention there was always going to be a greater chance the laptop fans would spin up and the laptop getting hotter to the touch.

The size choice was also something I agonized a little about originally. My current work laptop is a 15’’ MacBook Pro and that is a little too large to use when on the train and on the lap when on the couch. The 16’’ with the bulky design while probably having better thermal performance than the 14’’ was going to be just as annoying to use when not at table and may be a little too heavy. The 14’’ seemed like the right balance between performance and portability.

Aesthetically I like the space grey colour, with the black keycaps and black keyboard inlay. The thicker body of the laptop is also something that I like because it means the thermal performance is going to be better even if it comes at the cost of size and weight. I always prefer function over form and the last couple of Apple laptops have favoured form over function. Having a good number of ports available to me is a nice addition too. As someone who has used Windows or Unix laptops exclusively in the past, I was never short on ports.

The keyboard is one of the better keyboards I have used on a laptop and is on par with my Surface Book. My 15’’ has the butterfly key switches and they are just way too loud, have very poor key travel and is just an uncomfortable typing experience for long periods. The tactile feedback and key travel for me is also near perfect for the 14’’.  Having full sized function keys is great and the touch ID button on the top right is perfect. The trackpad as usual is near perfect as with all Apple MacBook laptops. The exclusion of the touch bar is also something that pleases me.

I thought that the notch would be annoying or hard to get used to, but I barely notice it. I have not installed software to “hide” the notch and I don’t exclusively use dark mode, so it is not hidden throughout the day. The menu items for the apps that I use has also not been an issue causing odd overflow problems either. Perhaps I will find an app that will cause problems but for now the notch is a non-issue. Do I think it could have been smaller? Yes, especially because there is no FaceID built it. The notch reminds me a little of the Pixel 3 XL.

I have not really used the speakers much on this device yet as it is not primarily used to consume media, but from the videos and music/podcasts that I have listened to, it has been fine. I know the 16’’ has larger and even better speakers but the 14’’ is entirely acceptable and much better than any Windows laptop I have had in the past, including my Surface products. Apple seems to always have the best sound producing laptops on the market.

The display is also pretty good. The colours seem to be accurate enough; I don’t do any photo or video editing, so I really don’t need anything too perfect. Having a “high” refresh rate screen is also a bonus. I think that the screen is comparable to any other high priced or tiered Windows laptop though. With the M1 Pro chipset I can also have more than one external display so that is a nice addition to have.

Now on to macOS. As someone who has primarily used Windows but macOS for work, the transition has not been too difficult. I do miss not being able to natively snap windows to the left and right and a couple of other Windows nice to haves. Having Unix running under the hood instead of having to run Windows Subsystem for Linux is a bonus, especially as a developer. Regarding battery life and performance, it is impressive. I never hear the fans running, the laptop never gets hot, and I really don’t need to charge it. So, kudos to the Apple engineers to build a chip that performs so well, does not crumble and throttle under pressure and get hot to the touch (unlike my 15’’ MacBook Pro).

I have run into some small issues with macOS though. One of my biggest annoyances is updating any app from the App Store. It is painfully and confusingly slow. I have a 100 Mb/s download and when I do a speed test, I get that, however updating an app through the App Store that is several MB in size takes way too long. I am not too sure how to resolve this issue.

If you are in the market for a high priced yet very high-quality laptop then the MacBook Pro 14’’ M1 Pro is a great choice (if you can find it in stock or are willing to wait for shipping). With the performance being so good, you may not need it all and the M1 may be the better choice. So, before you commit to spending so much cash on the 14’’ consider the M1 options.

iPhone 13 Pro/iOS Impressions from a Pixel 3/Android User

Last week on Wednesday my new Apple iPhone 13 Pro finally came in. I was super excited to get it all unboxed, SIM card inserted (I put my case on and then realized I needed to put the SIM card in, then had to take the case off again :facepalm:) and then put the case back on, ready to use as my next phone for the future (or until Apple no longer supports the device). Below are some of my initial and first impressions from someone who has only used an Android phone consistently in the past and is using an iOS device for the very first time as their main mobile phone.

Look and Feel

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is built like a tank when compared to my old Pixel 3 phone. It is very close in size, with the iPhone 13 Pro being only slightly taller, wider and thicker but it is significantly heavier. I think the combination of the battery, stainless steel frame, and front and back glass make up most of that weight. When I pick up my old Pixel 3 it is like picking up a feather compared to picking up my iPhone 13 Pro. It took me a little bit to get used to the new weight difference. I do like this weight change though as it does feel a little more premium.

I like the way the phone does feel in my hand too. It is not too large and manageablefor single hand use, which is one of the reasons why I moved from Android to iOS. I am sorry Google but the Pixel 6 Pro to me does not look good, I absolutely hate the curved display on the edges and being such a large size makes it a deal breaker for me. The case helps to ensure that the frame does not dig into my hand and slightly protect my back cameras as there is a little lip.

One thing that I do know about Apple products is that generally they make extremely well-built products, be it their laptops to their tablets. Sure, sometimes they make “foldable” devices but by and large Apple does not skimp on using quality materials for their products. Paying for more premium products to get a better finished product is a no brainer for me and is something I am willing to pony up for. This may not be possible for everyone, but I am in a fortunate position where I can do this, so I took advantage of it.

I am a little disappointed in that it has a lightning port to charge the iPhone 13 Pro and I cannot use my many USB-3 cables that I have laying around, but it is what it is. The silent switch on the left-hand side of the phone is superb and I wish more phones incorporated something like this as it is very useful. The massive camera bump is not an issue for me, and I am not too fussed about the notch compared to other people. A single hole punch camera hole is a little cleaner but you lose out on Face ID.

iOS 15

Moving from Android to iOS I knew was going to be a little difficult at the start but there are a number of frustations that I have with iOS when compared to Android.

Less customization is something I knew I was going to lose on iOS. I did generally keep my Pixel 3 stock with what came out of the box, but I did like the ability to change the icon shapes, folder shapes and the ability to keep the icons, folders and widgets at the bottom of my screen and not have them all go at the top. That is my first gripe with iOS. Why does Apple not allow me to have icons, folders and widgets placed anywhere on my screens? I would like to have even easier access to my apps and folders by only using my thumb.

Something I thought I would not get frustrated by was notifications. Now I have to perhaps make some more changes in the settings, but I find notifications are absolutely horrible on iOS compared to Android. I find I am missing more notifications on iOS compared to Android. The notification center is okay but not great. I would like to have a small notification indicator on the top bar to know that “hey you have a message, etc.” instead of looking at the notification center. I am not too sure if it is a bug but there are times when I would get a message and sometimes I would get a notification sound and other times I would not.

I do like the iOS settings, permissions and app management compared to Android. Everything is more clearly laid out and is much easier to manage. Pulling down the control center from the right-hand side is also nice to have, but I found the universal pull down anywhere at the top on Android (notification drawer) to get access to quick settings and notifications is a little easier and more user friendly than how iOS makes you swipe down elsewhere for the notification center. If iOS could adopt something like this then that would be great.

My biggest two gripes are to do with notification/media volume levels and universal back gesture behavior on iOS. On Android you have dedicated alarm, notification/caller/alert and media volume controls while on iOS I found that managing my audio levels a major pain. I have no idea how I can keep my notification/alert levels high while keeping my media volume levels low. If I use the buttons on the side and keep the volume low all my sound minus the caller audio is low, and if I raise it then when I watch YouTube or listen to music, I need to quickly lower the volume. Perhaps I am missing something or have not set something up correctly but why are those volume levels paired? I would like to have all my notifications and alerts at the same level as my caller volume levels but keep my media volume levels low.

Now to the back gesture. This is something that I need to get used to as on Android I would swipe left from the right edge to go back to whatever screen I was on and even to previous apps sometimes. On iOS 15 there is no universal back gesture itself. You can go back to the main home screen by swiping up from the bottom or you need to press the dedicated back button located somewhere on the app which can be either on the top left or the bottom. It would be great to have a single and universal way to go back to the previous screen from any part of the right edge, but I guess that would fundamentally change the way iOS would work and would require apps to be re-worked to allow for the gesture.

All in all, I am not finding iOS very difficult to get used to. I am using many of the native Apple apps instead of my usual Gmail, Google calendar, Gboard apps, etc. But I do have installed Google Chrome and Google Maps as I have all my favourites, etc set up there and it would be a pain to migrate all of these to Safari or Apple Maps (as well as this being my only Apple device at the moment for personal use). All the other apps that I had used for travel, fitness, my smart home are all there so I have not lost anything but I did need to buy new licenses for the iOS app versions which is a little bit annoying but expected.

Final Thoughts

I knew there was going to be some initial teething issues with using iOS. I knew I had to adjust to the way iOS worked compared to Android. I knew that moving from a Pixel to an iPhone was going to require a little bit of mental and physical gymnastics. Overall though I did not find the initial migration and adoption of an iPhone or iOS that difficult. I do miss the ability to perform some customizations, the more accessible notifications and universal gestures. However I gain some of iOS’s handy streamlined, accessible and user friendly features while being housed in what I would again call a mobile tank.

Now I do have an iPad Mini 2021 version coming my way as well so that I can take more notes, read a little more and also watch videos and surf the web a little easier. Plus the new Apple Watch series 7 is also being delivered sometime next month. Did I jump completely in the Apple ecosystem? Yeah. For me to take advantage of everything that Apple offers I need to really start looking at investing in their ecosystem, even if it is for the next 5 years and has a very very steep entry cost. But I feel that in those 5 years (at least) it may be all worth it and I may be a permantely converted Apple user for mobile, tablet, watch (and perhaps laptop).

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