Impression from the July Xbox Games Showcase

To start things off, I am going to say that I am a massive Xbox fan so this impressions may have a little fanboy in it (and I do not apologize for that one bit) but the July 2020 Xbox Games Showcase was what I was expecting and I was not disappointed overall with what I saw and am looking forward to playing these games on my Xbox Series X console and PC in the future. I’ll break down the games that I am looking forward to the most below but the TL;DR is that Halo looked fine, there were so many games coming day one to Xbox Game Pass, and plenty of the titles shown here are not going to be ready for 2020, 2021, or even perhaps 2022 which is a little disappointing. The full showcase can be seen here in 4K 60fps.

Halo Infinite – the Chief is back baby

Along with being a massive Xbox fan I am a massive Halo fan. I have played all the Halo games and completed them all on Legendary difficulty. From what I saw from Halo Infinite I am pleased, and cautiously optimisitc.

Visually the game does not look too bad; but I was expecting a little higher fidelity, especially from a first party title. There were a couple of draw distance issues where noticable pop in was present, some of the shadows in the pelican had jagged edges and were not as clear and crisp in the outdoor environment, and some of the textures looked a little low resolution or lacking in detail such as the flat nature of the assault rifle or the hexagonal prisim environmental structures on the Halo ring. In saying that though, this is obviously a work in progress build and most likely a cut from not the most up to date build. Hoping that visually we see some improvements before the game is released in holiday 2020. So I cannot be too critical but will still call it out.

From an audio perspective, the game sounded like a Halo game. The music was Halo, the guns were Halo, it felt very Halo. I was fairly happy with how 343 managed to capture the “feel” of Halo through not just the musical score but the Grunts, Brutes and Elites voices and audio cues. If the rest of the game sounds much like what the gameplayed showed us then my ears will be happy.

The gameplay that they showed (and I am so happy that they showed us a solid 8 minutes of gameplay) was also what I was expecting from a Halo game. The shooting looks solid, I like that they have re-introduced pick ups in the game too like the new drop wall. The two new UNSC guns that they showed us, the VK78 Commando and the CQS48 Bulldog look like they are going to be fun to use, along with the new Banished weapons the Mangler and the Ravanger. Glad that the Brutes are back in a mainline Halo game. I am still a little unsure how I feel about the grappling hook, but it gives a new means of movement and adds more verticality to the game’s levels. It will be interesting to see how Halo feels being an “open world” game but I am cautiously optimistic about it. Once I get the game into my hands and start playing around with the objectives and shooting the poor alien bastards in the face, I’ll get a better sense if this really does “feel” like a Halo game.

Overall I think what Microsoft and 343 had shown for Halo Infinite was enough to get me more excited for Halo Infinite. I may have to replay the other Halo games to catch myself up with the story and get back into the feeling of stepping into the boots of the Master Chief. Looking forward to the game’s release. You can see the campaign gameplay reveal here.

State of Decay 3 – Winter zombie deers

I played the previous State of Decay games and I generally enjoyed them. I would not call them AAA games but AA games. They looked okay, they played okay, they had a number of bugs which did annoy me sometimes but overall I had fun playing them in single player and multiplayer. The CGI trailer for State of Decay 3 has me curiously asking if there would be dynamic weather or seasons and the potential of hunting or wild life threats. Very interested to see more. I do not know when this game will be released but I don’t see it coming out in 2020 or 2021. You can see the announcement trailer here.

Forza Motorsport – Vroooom…

Turn 10 and Playground Games have IMO developed the best racing games in the last two decades period. Both Forza Motorsport and Forza Horizon are the best simulation and arcade racing games there are, no questions asked. They look, sound, and feel extremely authentic. The in-engine trailer they showed us has me excited to get back into the Motorsport side of the Forza series as it looks photorealistic and running in 4K at 60fps is going to be great. Again, much like State of Decay 3, I want to see more but can see this title being at least 2 years away if it is in early development. You can see the announcement trailer here.

The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon – Mystery! Scandalous Strangers! Thrills! Danger!

The Outer Worlds was a very good RPG by Obsidian. I really enjoyed my time in that universe and am happy to purchase the DLC for this, no questions asked. This trailer was also one of the best trailers promoting a game I have seen in a long time. The voice over and the overlays were hilarious, plus it comes out on September 9th so it is not too far away. Time to reinstall The Outer Worlds and pre-purchase this DLC; bonus discount if you are an Xbox Game Pass subscriber. If the DLC is as good as the main game I will be satisified with my purchase. You can see the announcement trailer here.

Avowed – classic RPG

As an RPG fan the new RPG that Obsidian announced has me intrigued. There was not much shown other than the CGI trailer, but it is fantasy based, there are spells, flaming arrows, skeleton warriors, etc. I’ll need to see more but the RPG games that Obsidan has put out are all IMO hits so this one should be a no brainer if you are an RPG fan. Again I don’t think we’ll see this game released until late 2023 the earliest. Plus being built entirely from the ground up for the Xbox Series X means it will most likely not be released on the Xbox One. You can see the announcement trailer here.

Hellblade 2 – we are going to… Iceland

Using Unreal Engine 5 and built for the Xbox Series X and PC means this game is going balls to the walls with high fidelity. I really enjoyed playing the first game and am looking forward to playing the sequel. Wish that they showed us a little more than just telling us the game is going to take place in Iceland or centered around Iceland. Much like State of Decay 3, Forza Motorsport and Avowed I do not see this game being released in 2020, 2021, or 2022 (starting to see a pattern here anyone?)

Destiny 2: Beyond Light – XSX, XGP, 4K 60fps

Bungie to me have really done no wrong. They made Halo. I never played Destiny 1 and got into Destiny 2 from the start and generally enjoyed it. Now that they have split with Activision they can really spread their wings, try new things and experiment a little with their game. I have not played Destiny 2 in a little while because I find the load times fairly long when playing on my Xbox One X and running at 30 fps is not great after playing many games now in 60fps at a minimum. When it does come to the Xbox Series X in 4k at 60fps and on Xbox Game Pass I’ll be looking to get back into it and I know a couple of my friends will be ready to party up and get back together in our usual fireteam. You can see the showcase trailer here.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2 – surprised to see this

I absolutely loved playing the previous S.T.A.L.K.E.R games. I was absolutely surprised to see this game shown off here, even if it was just a CGI trailer that really gave very little away. I look forward to finding out more about this game in the near future with it releasing in 2022 at the earliest. Could this be the S.T.A.L.K.E.R game that has official and proper dedicated coop multiplayer? You can see the official trailer #1 here.

Warhammer 40K: Dark Tide – for the Emperor

As a kid and teenager I played both Warhammer 40K and Warhammer Fantasy. So seeing this game was again a little surprising and pleasing. I am happy that we are not playing Space Marines but the Imperial Guard too as it makes the game feel significantly more dangerous. The CGI trailer looked good and I have enjoyed my time playing Warhammer: Vermintide 2 which was also developed by Fatshark. I would like to see more of this game. It looks like we will be getting different classes based on the characters that they have shown and the Chaos are at their old tricks again. Hopefully this comes out in the next year or two but I do not have my hopes up. You can see the announcement trailer here.

The Medium – rendering two worlds at the same time

I am hopeful that this game is good because what they had shown looked really interesting. Graphically I think it did not look next generation but I guess conceptually what they are trying to achieve requires some of the technology that the next generation of consoles and PC is offering. Unfortunately this game too did not have a release date so I’ll need to wait a little longer before it is released. On the plus side, if it is going to come out several years down the line, they can polish it up and start drip feeding us a little bit more about the game. Happy to see more of this game in the future. You can see the dual reality trailer here.

CrossfireX – a Remedy campaign

Last time I saw anything about this game was the multiplayer and that looked interesting. I am still waiting for a decent military shooter that is not too janky, in early access or Call of Duty. Seeing the footage of what the campaign would look like was another surprise and to have Remedy working on it is a bonus. To me it looks very Call of Duty in regard to the set pieces, explosions and themes. Not sure if this is a day one pick up, but I will be keeping a close eye on this one because if the campaign and multiplayer are any good then bye bye Battlefield (even though in reality I dropped off Battlefield 5 very early on in the release). You can see the campaign reveal trailer here.

Fable – what, you chase chickens?

Finally. I had been waiting so long for another mainline Fable game. Fable 1 was an absolutle blast. Fable 2 was amazing and unfortunately Fable 3 was a little bit of a disappointment and not a great way to send off the series for the time being. To showcase a CGI trailer for such a beloved franchise so early on in the development of the game means that we will need to be waiting a good period of time for this title too. I am more than happy to wait for a new Fable game if they can iron out the lag and issues that plagued Fable 3. Once I find out the release date for Fable it will be a day one pick up on Xbox Game Pass. You can see the announcement trailer here.

Google Pixel Buds Initial Impressions

Finally Google released the Google Pixel Buds in Australia at the start of the week (13th July 2020 I believe). As soon as I found out they were available I ordered a pair from the official Google Store, and they got delivered extremely quick (two days later after ordering). Several days have passed and I have been using them as my primary pair of wireless earbuds, and I have some initial impressions. The TL;DR is that they are very good but not perfect.

First off I want to say that I was using the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds and even though they sound amazing and have an okay battery life the overall experience has been extremely lacking. The phone app is disappointing to say the least (check the Android reviews in the Google Play Store), pairing with my Google Pixel 3 and previously my Nokia 8 was a major pain (I would need to re-pair several times a week), and worst of all you could not turn off the earbuds themselves (even after being placed back in the case). But this is not a post about hating on my previous earbuds, it is about my initial impressions of the Google Pixel Buds.

As usual the unboxing experience with brands like Apple, Microsoft and Google; is premium. You get a small solid box, with some paperwork, extra tips, a decently sized USB-A to USB-C cable (half a meter by the looks of it), the Google Pixel Buds and the case. I ordered the white version of the earbuds as that was all that was available but would have most likely still bought this color anyway. The case has a clean and matte like finish to it. The lip where the case opens has a black trim which is nice and when you open the case the interior is black. There are two lights on the case. One at the front to show the case’s battery and one inside the case which signals to you the battery of the earbuds.

The earbuds themselves have the same matte finish with the “bud” themselves being white and the rest of the earpiece being black. The earbuds have attached to them a stabilizer that holds them in your ear. From what I was reading in various reviews, some people had issues with this as it dug into their ears, but to me it didn’t and I had no pain while wearing these for extended periods of time. Overall they felt really comfortable and I experienced no discomfort. The medium sized tips that came with the earbuds were the perfect fit so I did not need to change the tips to get the earbuds to fit perfectly in my ear.

Pairing the Google Pixel Buds was extremely easy on my Google Pixel 3. I unlocked my phone and opened the lid of the case. A notification came up on my phone, I selected to pair them; and that was it. The earbuds were paired. The touch controls are easy to use and remember. Plus you can use either earbud to perform an action unlike the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless for example. One thing that will take a little getting used to I think and what I am finding is that because the earbud surface area is so small it can be a little tricky to make sure you land on the surface to trigger the touch controls. Google Assistant on these is also super handy to have and trigger which is a bonus for me because I use the Google Assistant a good amount on my phone and have several Google Home/Nest products in my house. If you are in the Google ecosystem then these will fit right in.

The most important part of earbuds next to comfort and ease of use is sound quality. I am not going to say I am audiophile but I like to hear the voices of the podcasters I listen to clearly and the music to be clear with some good bass. Do these sound as good as my Senheisser Momentum True Wireless earbuds? Not really, but they are really close. Some reviewers have said that they hear a faint white noise/hiss in the background but I do not hear this noise with my pair at the moment. I was not expecting state of the art sound quality but what Google is offering is absolutely acceptable to me and for the average user they will be a fine pair of earbuds.

Some of the other features that I really like is having the USB-C port so I only need to carry a single cable for charging my phone and earbuds. The case supports wireless charging, which is a bonus if you have a wireless charging pad. A negative I can find with the experience of the Google Pixel Buds is the app/settings which is extremely bare bones, for example there is no EQ at all (you need to configure this in each individual app if the app has an EQ setting) and the battery life is a little short. If you pop your earbuds in your case for a small amount of time you get at least an extra hour worth of playback, so there is that. One thing I have not tried is the microphone yet, but I generally find most earbuds to be subpar to passable in regards to their microphone; using my voice to ask Google Assistant questions or get stuff done is usable so I think the microphone does it’s job there.

Overall I am super happy with my purchase and would recommend them to someone who is looking for a new pair of earbuds that are not as expensive as the Apple Airpod Pro or the latest version of the Senheisser Momentum True Wireless 2. You can check out the Google Pixel Buds here from the Google Store.

An Unanswered Xbox Series X Question

As the release of the Xbox Series X comes closer every day, there is one question that I am unsure there is an answer to (well I cannot find it anyway and I have not heard anything specific from Microsoft or Phil Spencer).

“Will the Xbox Series X support the same my home console settings as the Xbox One?”

What is the my home console setting you may ask? More information about it can be found here but it is by far one of the best Xbox One features. I am also not the only one asking this question. Over at the various Xbox subreddits the same question is asked multiple times with many individuals assuming that just because the Xbox One has this functionality that it would be available for the Xbox Series X. However that is a bad assumption IMO. Microsoft has been very pro-consumer so it may very well be there, but if they remove the functionality then it will go completely against this pro-consumer messaging.

Why is this question so important though? As I noted above it is IMO one of the best Xbox One features because it makes going digital if your household owns multiple Xbox One consoles extremely beneficial and you can save money on a subscription. The scenario in my household currently is that I own an Xbox One X and my brother owns an Xbox One X; I have set my brother’s Xbox One X as my home console, and he has set my Xbox One X as his home console. What this allows us to do is:

  1. Share my Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription – I pay for the subscription but my brother gets the ability to play on Xbox Live and any game on Xbox Game Pass on console. The only thing that my brother cannot do is play any Xbox Game Pass game on PC.
  2. Share all our Xbox digital games – if I buy a digital game, my brother can play the same game whether I am online or offline (as long as my brother is connected to Xbox Live); and if my brother buys a digital game then I can do the same.

If Microsoft does remove this functionality then my brother would need to buy his own subscription and we both would lose part of our very large digital library. Generally we both buy games digitally when they launch at full price, and if we cannot share our digital games then I for sure will not be buying as many digital games and will be waiting for massive sales. So Microsoft, Phil Spencer, it would be great if you could let the Xbox community know whether or not you are axing this functionality.

Google Authenticator Broken and Unavailable on WearOS

For me, one of the reasons why I wanted to pick up a Google WearOS smartwatch was because I use 2FA and being able to quickly open the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch and enter one of the 2FA codes is so convienent. The keyword here is was.

Google recently (first half of 2020) updated the Google Authenticator app. The UI got an overhaul and there was now the ability to transfer your accounts. All great things. However with this new update it would appear that Google “broke” the Google Authenticator app on WearOS. Well broke is partially correct. Essentially the Google Authenticator app is no longer present on WearOS.

One morning I tried to use the Google Authenticator app on my smartwatch but all the app would do was load. A white background with a blue spinning circle would appear. I would close the app and re-open it but nothing changed. I went into the settings and force stopped the app, re-opened it but the results stayed the same. Stupidly I uninstalled the app from my smartwatch thinking I’d just redownload the app from the WearOS app store. That was a big mistake.

If you use the Google Authenticator app on your WearOS smartwatch then do not uninstall the app. You cannot redownload it. It is not listed in the WearOS app store.

It would appear that Google has (for the time being I hope) removed the Google Authenticator app from the WearOS app store. If you search for it, it does not appear. If you go to the Google Play store through a web browser and search for the app and try to install it on your devices you may notice that your WearOS smartwatch is not a compatible device. I can see my Android devices where I am logged in but I can’t install it via the browser for my smartwatch.

Going over to the support forums to see if there is some way to fix this or what is going on shows others have and are experiencing the same problem with most accepted answers being to file a bug report in the app. Now if someone has uninstalled the app then this can’t be done. Fingers crossed the engineers at Google see the forum posts and are aware of the issue (most likely they are). Hopefully the issue is resolved soon as now if I want to use my laptop in the living room and leave my phone in my bedroom I can, but I can’t log in to most of the sites and services I use because I have 2FA enabled where available. I am back to moving my phone room to room again ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Using a Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse

While working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic I was in need of a new mouse to use. My work laptop is a Macbook Pro 15” and for extended periods of time using the mouse track pad is not great, even though the large size makes it easy to use. At the office I would use the Apple Magic Mouse (which I am not really a fan of) and right now using the mouse track pad long term is not an option with my current working from home setup.

Using a USB connected mouse (corded or receiver) is a little difficult, as most USB connected mice are not cabled with USB-C or have a receiver that is USB-C which is the one of the only ports my Macbook Pro has. I could buy a dock or a dongle but I’d rather get a wireless Bluetooth mouse to keep my ports available if need be and would not want to spend the extra money on a dock.

Seeing as I was going to be using this mouse for extended periods of time I was thinking of getting an ergonomic mouse and I watched a number of different YouTube videos discussing the types of ergonomic mice and good Bluetooth mice, and read a number of articles covering a range of Bluetooth enabled ergonomic mice. At the end of it all I found that the mouse which covered everything I was after was the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse.

The criteria I had (in no particular order) for the ergonomic mouse that I personally bought had to:

  1. Cost under $200 AUD. I am not in the market for a gaming mouse and do not really want to spend a fortune on a mouse I would primarily be using for work. There are suitable mice for under $20 AUD so :shrug:
  2. Bluetooth enabled. As I stated above, it is critical that this mouse not have a dongle to connect to my laptop as my only wireless means. Happily the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse can connect to a computer via a USB cable, a USB dongle or Bluetooth. So many options which is great.
  3. Rechargeable battery. I do not want to have a wireless mouse that takes removable batteries, and I do not want to buy some more rechargeable batteries.
  4. More than two buttons. Having the option to navigate pages, go between lines of code that I previously visited and jump across different class files helps in my day to day work.
  5. Horizontal and vertical scrolling. All mice that I pick up in the future must have this option. Not being able to scroll in all directions with the mouse wheel is a massive pain and should be standard in 2020.
  6. Comfortable for extended periods of time. This is really subjective, but what I found was among the ergonomic mice there was a general consensus whether the mouse was comfortable to use for extended periods of time and did not cause strain in the forearm and wrist.

I was a little hesitant to get this mouse even with the stellar reviews because to move the mouse cursor, you move your thumb on the trackball and the mouse stays where it is. Once I started using it though and adjusted the speed to be a little faster, it was really easy to use and I had no problem performing my daily tasks. So the learning curve is really (IMO) fairly low. Some people may take some time to adjust to not moving your arms and wrist to move the mouse cursor but long term I think it is far more beneficial for you. Plus there is a button that allows for fine grain movement if you really need precision which is a nice bonus.

The Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse is fairly heavy (which is good as it will stay put when placed), does not slide around, has the ability to be tilted at a slight angle to change the position you hold it (does not go completely vertical), and is built extremely well i.e. does not feel cheap or poorly made. The time I have spent using the mouse I have not been able to fault it. If I could change some things on the mouse I would have it support USB-C for charging as the port for charging the mouse is micro-USB, and I would support a number of different angles instead of just the two it currently supports.

There is special Logitech software that you can install which allows for greater customization of the buttons and other special features. But out of the box the mouse does everything I want it to and I do not need anything more. Having the option to pair across two devices is nice, so if you have multiple devices that could use a Bluetooth mouse this is a bonus. Overall I am please with my purchase and I hope that my right wrist and forearm will thank me for not putting more strain on them. If you are in the market for an ergonomic mouse, or a Bluetooth mouse then this mouse may be the one for you. I have not tried it to play games with but for working day to day, it does the job really well.

Self Isolation and W.F.H during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world has led many to self isolate and work from home. I have been extremely fortunate that the company I work for (Atlassian) acted swiftly as I have been working from home for four weeks now. The only time I have gone out has been to pick up groceries or medicine, and I only do that once per week. Right now trying to “flatten the curve” is really important and we should all be doing the right thing and our part by following our respective countries rules, regulations, laws and recommendations; which for me is following social distance measures, only travelling when essential and staying home as much as possible to reduce the spread.

I really do miss going out and practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, having dinner with family (the ones not living with me) and friends, going to the local pub for lunch on a Sunday and watching the UFC events with friends. On a professional level, not being able to have lunch in person with my teammates, go out and grab a coffee together and just ask questions or chat in person has been difficult to adjust to. I imagine I am not the only one who is taking some time to get used to the new social distancing and isolation measures that are in place. Right now it is the small physical social interactions that I am missing the most.

To keep myself sane and not go stir crazy I have been trying to get together (virtually) with my friends several times a week and either chat for an hour or two discussing life and work (but staying away from the topic of COVID-19 altogether) or play some online games to relax and unwind. I work with an amazing team and getting together on Zoom is super easy so making sure my co-workers are in good spirits during this time has been painless but collaborating online is something that I am only now starting to adjust to. I don’t think I could be a full time remote worker without learning and changing some of my habits.

With no commute anymore, I have been trying to be a little more productive too such as working on personal projects and read some more. Along with trying to be a little more productive I have been watching more TV series and movies, obviously due to the amount of time I am spending indoors. Two things I have not been doing much I have noticed is exercising and getting some sun; but I am trying to change this slowly. Afternoons if the weather permits I have been trying to work outside and am starting a strength and conditioning program at home to at least keep a little fit.

Hopefully in the coming months normality returns and we can begin to return to our regular routines. But until then we need to all do our part, keep each other safe, make sure we check up on our loved ones or the people we care about and make sure they are all staying healthy both physically and mentally. Only together can we overcome this horrible pandemic and maybe, just maybe we can learn from this and make sure that it does not happen again or at the very least can stop it from spreading and affecting the people we all care so much about.

[Updated: 03/29/20] Experiencing slow Microsoft Store game downloads and updates

Update 03/29/20: It has been about 2 weeks and after changing my Xbox One X and my gaming PC’s DNS settings I can safely say that my game download and update speeds have been consistently faster. With the whole COVID-19 pandemic happening at the moment some services are slowing down their customer’s downloads speeds or reducing their bitrates, see here. Your mileage during this time may vary if you were having download/update issues from either the Xbox Store or the Microsoft Store.

Update 03/15/20: I have been playing around with the DNS settings on my Xbox One X after doing some reading, and found this page and this page. After making some changes to my DNS I can confirm that I am getting significantly better download speeds.

Instead of the several Mbps I was getting, I am now getting speeds in the high 80s. Whatever CDN I am connecting to is allowing me to download the games and patches much faster ๐Ÿ˜€

On Saturday (03/14/20) I tried to contact TPG support to see what is going on but after waiting for over 30 minutes just to talk to someone I gave up. As of right now I am not recommending anyone to use TPG as their Australian ISP and look at another provider (perhaps Aussie Broadband – seem to fairly good reviews, Australian customer support, and do not suffer from this issue). I will be checking back again in a week or so to see if this change solves my problem, and if it does then bye bye TPG.

Original: I pay for a 100Mbps download and 40Mbps upload internet connection through TPG. Generally when I do a speed test I achieve download speeds in the area of the high 80s and low 90s which is fantastic (even during peak times). But when I am trying to download an Xbox One game or update an Xbox One game I get speeds in the very low 10Mbs but mostly fall under 2Mbps. It is even worse if I try to download a Windows game through the Xbox app on my PC, where I get speeds less than 1Mbs on average. Just this morning I wanted to download Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary on PC, but was getting speeds under 1Mbps and just cancelled the download in disappointment.

What is really odd is that this has only been happening recently, I would say in the last two months. My home network configuration has not changed at all, the same devices are connected and there have been no intrusions in my network (so I know there are no unknown devices taking up my bandwidth). I am a little perplexed.

Some of my troubleshooting steps I have taken are:

  1. Restart my modem and my router (multiple times)
  2. Restart my Xbox One X console (both hard shutdown and restarting)
  3. Restart my PC (full shutdown and restart)
  4. Restart the Xbox app
  5. Cancel my game download or game update
  6. Restart my game download or game update
  7. Change from a wired connection to a wireless connection for my Xbox One X (and then back to a wired connection to a wireless connection)
  8. Change the DNS that I am connecting to for my Xbox One X (from my ISP provided DNS to Google, and then back)

None of the above troubleshooting steps have seemed to have solved or identifiy the problem ๐Ÿ˜ฆ What is really odd, when I check my network connection status and results on my Xbox One X I see download speeds of 90Mbps, upload speeds of 20Mbps, Open NAT, and ping of 100ms. If I try and stream video content in 4K I have no issue. Watching YouTube videos in HD I have no problem. Even downloading games and game updates on other platforms like Steam and EA Origin seem to be downloading at speeds I would expect for what I am paying for. I verified that on Steam I achieved speeds of 79Mbps when downloading Vermintide 2 the same morning as I tried downloading Halo CEA.

Navigating to the Xbox Support site is in my opinion pointless. To actually get in contact with an actual person that works at Microsoft is near impossible, which is a shame. I do not want to talk to another Xbox gamer, I do not want to post in the forums and hope for a response (looking at the support forums, much of the posts are unresolved and unanswered). The customer support AI that they have looked promising. The steps asked by the AI to help narrow down the problem are what I have performed, but in the end it could not fix the problem and asked if I wanted to talk to a real person; but that person would not be a Microsoft employee but an Xbox gamer.

I’ll be keeping this post updated with any new information that I find or experience. Hopefully this is not going to be a long term issue, because I download all my games as I have gone in all digital and there are a number of games coming out that I will be picking up soon like Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal. If you have experienced this problem, are having this issue, or have recently resolved the problem then please do leave a comment below.

Who steals vehicle licence plates?

After a long and hard work week, I was hoping to have a relaxing weekend. Planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday, play some video games, do some side project programming, maybe go and do some jiu jitsu and then on Sunday watch UFC 248 with friends. But after leaving the train on Friday evening and walking back to my vehicle, I noticed something was a little off. My front (and then as I walked to the back of my vehicle) and back vehicle licence plates had been stolen.

I stood there for a second, sighed and then was like “my relaxing weekend will now involve me filling in paper work in person and online, following up on my registration, getting new plates, etc”. As soon as I got home and was heating up my dinner I started to Google what I needed to do for stolen vehicle plates in Australia. The list of items was not long, but it would require me to go to a service centre, fill out more paper work, and do some more following up. The life of an adult ๐Ÿ™‚

To begin with I needed to file a police report. Now for something like this I could either visit the specific website (which I did) and fill in the required information. Super simple and easy, but the only downside is that you will not get a Police Event Number straight away (did not know this at the time). You could also ring a specific hotline, or visit the local police station. If I knew that I would not get a Police Event Number then and there I would have just gone to my local station to file the report. This Police Event Number is important if you go to a Service NSW centre the next day to get new vehicle licence plates.

Woke up early on Saturday and went to the nearest Service NSW centre. Thankfully I was the first person in line and was quickly served. I needed to fill out some more paper work. As I was filling out the form I needed a Police Event Number. The number that you do not get straight away if you fill in the police report online. So now I had to either call the hotline or go to the local police station and provide the same information I entered last night. This time I just called up the hotline, answered all the necessary questions, and got a Police Event Number (yay). So for future reference and anyone in New South Wales, Australia I recommend that you either call the hotline or visit your local police station.

After getting this paper work sorted I got some new vehicle licence plates. They were not free though. I had to pay $47 to get new standard vehicle licence plates, even though they were stolen as the RMS will not take the hit for something like this. Thankfully the people at the Service NSW centre were super helpful (as was the lady I spoke to on the hotline I might add) and all the paper work to get my registration and new vehicle plates were sorted out. Now I just have to follow up with my vehicle insurer and make sure everything gets transfered over correctly.

I was also advised by the lady on the hotline that the police will be taking prints from my vehicle, asking a couple of more questions in person and also canvassing the area where the incident occurred as apparently there has been a string of vehicle licence plate thefts in that area. Hopefully these individuals (or individual) gets caught, have to pay back each and every single person they have affected, pay a substantial fine, and do some community service. Unfortunately I do not believe they will get caught ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Microsoft Edge Chromium Browser Release Version Impressions

On January 15th Microsoft released a stable version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser, you can read more about that announcement here.

Before I go into my impressions on the Microsoft Edge Chromium stable release version I just want to state that I used (not as my daily browser) the beta and dev channel versions of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser and even the legacy version of Microsoft Edge. To check out those impressions then you can go here and here, enjoy. If you are interested in trying out the beta, dev or even canary channels of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser then head on over using this link.

Now that I have that out of the way, let’s go into my impressions on the released version of the Microsoft Edge Chromium browser. I tested this on both my Surface Book 2 (my main personal laptop) and my Surface Pro 3 (primarily used to watch videos online). I’m not going to break down this impressions into each device but sort of summarize what I experienced.

Nothing is breaking

As with my original two posts about using Microsoft Edge Chromium and Microsoft Edge Legacy respectively, the Chromium version (in beta and dev) had absolutely no issue in loading up web pages whereas the same pages would take longer to load, not render content correctly or not render at all. I can say that nothing has broken after leaving beta and being released as a stable version. This I believe comes down to using Chromium under the hood. Generally any site that Google Chrome can load, Microsoft Edge Chromium can load too. So off to a good start.

That seemed fast

Microsoft Edge Legacy I found generally (but not always or consistently) tended to load web pages quicker (if it could load the page). Is the page loading noticeably faster than Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge Chromium? Not really, but if you launched both browsers and navigated to a web page for the first time Microsoft Edge Legacy would load ever so slightly faster. Microsoft Edge Chromium loads web pages about as fast as Google Chrome. So again, between beta and release nothing has broken or regressed there. Again, so far so good from the team from Redmond.

Slightly ore RAM available and more battery life

We all know how much of a RAM hog Google Chrome can be. We have all seen the memes and we have all experienced our RAM slowly be eaten away by Google Chrome.

So much like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge Chromium uses more RAM than Microsoft Edge Legacy. However what I did find on both my Surface Book 2 and my Surface Pro 3 it used about 10%-15% less RAM than Google Chrome consistently. So I guess that is a good thing ๐Ÿ˜€

Now to battery life. Much like my beta impressions post, the battery life is about what I was expecting with something running the Chromium engine under the hood. It is slightly better than Google Chrome (I was seeing about 1 hour more battery life on my Surface Book 2), but Microsoft Edge Chromium is nowhere near as battery efficient as Microsoft Edge Legacy. This is especially noticeable on my Surface Pro 3 and less so on my Surface Book 2. You will not get the same level of battery performance on the Surface Pro 3 when running Microsoft Edge Chromium compared to Microsoft Edge Legacy. It mirrors Google Chrome nearly identically in regards to battery performance on my Surface Pro 3.

One point to note is that on my Surface Book 2 is there are no fans, so I do not hear anything when my CPU starts to pick up speed and my machine starts to get a little warm. This is in extreme contrast to my Surface Pro 3 where when I use Microsoft Edge Chromium and watch YouTube videos in anything greater than 720p the fans kick in and it starts to get hot. The Microsoft Edge Legacy browser did not have this issue at all even at higher resolutions as I noted in my original post, so this is something to consider.

Everything else

Much like the beta and dev channel, the appearance of Microsoft Edge Chromium is nearly identical. It looks much like Google Chrome, so if you like how that looks and are comfortable with that, then you will feel right at home.

One area where Microsoft has done a fantastic job is in regard to your privacy settings. You get a very solid choice of options and I feel it gives the user more control of what you share and with whom. Google really needs to update their browser to be a little more restrictive and enforce some stronger privacy policies. But then again it is not in their best interest as they make most of their money from advertising. So I am giving Microsoft a big kudos here in ensuring the right things can be blocked and letting the user decide who has access to what information while they browse the net.

Feature parity with the Microsoft Edge Legacy browser is coming and new and exciting features are also coming down the road; currently you are missing some sync functionality for example. Google Chrome extensions now work on Microsoft Edge Chromium which is fantastic because the Microsoft Store is lacking some extensions that you may use daily.

Overall I feel that Microsoft has made a very good browser that can keep up with the best of them (thanks to running Chromium). And by contributing to the Chromium community not only will the browser get better but so will other browser that run on Chromium like Google Chrome. If you are “trapped” in the Google ecosystem, then it may not be enough to change browsers, but if you use a Microsoft account instead and the current legacy version of Microsoft Edge then this browser can easily replace Google Chrome. Now it is really up to the web developers and Microsoft to ensure that this browser is made compatible with what is out there and ensure that it does not break over time. Would I recommend this browser to someone who does not want to use Google Chrome? Yes, yes I do with no hesitation.

Where to download

You can get the released version of Microsoft Edge Chromium using this link.

React Native: NodeJS and Expo Start Failure

Recently I was looking at doing some React Native work so that I can quickly get some Android and iOS prototypes up and running to help me build the app that I actually want to get onto the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

To help me get a better understanding of what I need, I looked at several YouTube videos. The tutorials/guides were extremely useful, however I encountered an issue that was not present in the videos. When I ran the following command on my computer:

npm start

instead of the Expo DevTools running locally in my browser until I force killed it through Command Prompt, it would crash immediately and my Command Prompt would display an Unterminated Character Class error like below:

C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app>npm start

> @ start C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
> expo start

Starting project at C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
Expo DevTools is running at http://localhost:19002
Opening DevTools in the browser... (press shift-d to disable)
error Invalid regular expression: /(.*\\__fixtures__\\.*|node_modules[\\\]react[\\\]dist[\\\].*|website\\node_modules\\.*|heapCapture\\bundle\.js|.*\\__tests__\\.*)$/: Unterminated character class. Run CLI with --verbose flag for more details.

Metro Bundler process exited with code 1
Set EXPO_DEBUG=true in your env to view the stack trace.
npm ERR! code ELIFECYCLE
npm ERR! errno 1
npm ERR! @ start: `expo start`
npm ERR! Exit status 1
npm ERR!
npm ERR! Failed at the @ start script.
npm ERR! This is probably not a problem with npm. There is likely additional logging output above.

After doing some Googling, I found this super handy StackOverflow page (answer linked) which has several answers that talk about specific NodeJS versions that have this problem and downgrading to an earlier version (I had installed NodeJS 12.13.1, which at the time was the latest recommended version to install) fixed it. Or you could modify a specific JavaScript file that was not escaping correctly.

I decided to modify the blacklist.js file instead of downgrading my NodeJS version. The StackOverflow page linked above outlines what needs to be changed in the file. If you are using an editor like Visual Studio Code then with the syntax highlighting you will notice the difference once the \ is added to line 15 of the file. It basically goes from:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[/\\]react[/\\]dist[/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

to this:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[\/\\]react[\/\\]dist[\/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

Now this issue may only affect Windows due to the nature of how the slashes are escaped and respected (different OS do things slightly differently). So if you encounter this problem, either downgrade your NodeJS version, or if you don’t want to do that then modify the offending JavaScript file. Also it would be worthwhile to go visit that StackOverflow page and bump up the answer. As developers we need to help each other out and share as much information as possible to help make the world a better place.