Goodbye National Rugby League

I generally look forward to the start of the National Rugby League season in March and I enjoy most of the matches that are played in a round. As someone who watches not only the team I support, St. George Illawarra Dragons, but also most of the games played throughout the rounds on Fox League, I am starting to lose interest in the game. This wanning interest in the game I feel is boiled down to a couple of factors. It does not help when the team I support has been extremely disappointing the last five seasons or so, having trouble making the finals. But that is not the main reason why I am losing interest in the sport.

The main reason is the absolute inconsistency and what I feel is bias or favoritism by the referees towards certain teams. Now I do not believe that the referees are fixing or being paid to referee a game a certain way, but there is no doubt that there are certain preconceptions that referees have towards certain teams and players. One example I will give is the sheer amount of wrestling and ruck control that the Melbourne Storm can get away with compared to other teams. Along with this I also find that there are several issues with the standard of referring where forward passes (which for some unknown reason cannot be ruled on via a video ref), incorrect play the balls, offsides, and more all go missed which leads to huge momentum changes and swings in the outcome of the game. I know it is a fast game and there is a good amount of pressure on the referee who by and large get the calls right but there are still a large number of missed calls collectively in a round which could have an impact in a game.

The second reason which is closely tied to the main reason are the constant rule changes and interpretations of the rules. Last weekend was 2021 โ€œmagicโ€ round and there was nothing magical about it. There was a greater focus on ensuring head high contact (neck and above) was penalized. While I whole heartedly agree with ensuring the safety of the players, rugby league is a contact sport and with most contact sport like rugby league there is going to be contact with the head. All of a sudden, the governing body of rugby league in Australia believed now it was time to crack down on it. I personally believe this was not entirely due to the safety of the players but because the governing body does not want to be sued (or limit how many individuals will sue) by former players when CTE and other head issues arise later in life. This crackdown is part safety and part financial. Two rounds in after the crackdown and some players get put on report and penalized only, while others are off for ten minutes while in magic round there were complete send offs. On the same day, only hours between games, one high shot will only be a penalty while another will be ten minutes in the bin. This is all because different referees see high shots differently. Not all high shots are the same, but you would think that if a player who got hit in the head and cannot return in the game the player who contacted him would be off permanently and not just penalized or sent for ten.

I can continue with more reasons but the final reason I will post here is the milking and the acting that is being done by players to fool a referee in giving a penalty away and now even getting a player sent off the field for ten minutes. A prime example which really annoyed me was when the Cronulla Sharks player Will Chambers was falling in a tackle and got collected in the head by St. Gerorge Illawarra Dragons player Paul Vaughnโ€™s arm which was at his own side. Chambers stayed down before getting up and stumbling a little which gave enough time for the referee to review it. Paul got put on report, penalized and sent for ten. Chambers gave a cheeky smile, played the ball and went back to his center position. If the governing body really cared about player safety, then Chambers should have gone off the field for a head assessment. In my opinion if you stay down or are collected in the head and motion that you got hit in the head, you should be off for an assessment.

Rugby league, with all the refereeing issues, constant knee jerk rules changes and no transparency in why certain decisions are done by the governing body, I will be not watching any more rugby league until there are some changes back to normality and common sense is introduced in the game. Just like no player is above the game, no governing body individual is above the game; I am looking at you Peter.

Bluetooth Connectivity Issues with Wear OS

I have been meaning to write about this for at least a month or so, but I wanted to make sure that I had exhausted all avenues and that it was not an issue that happens once or twice. Since the last Wear OS update to my Fossil Gen 5 and the January Android security update for my Pixel 3 I have been having horrible Bluetooth connectivity issues. Looking at the Wear OS subreddit I appear to not be the only one too.

The situation is that every week or so at no particular time or particular day my Fossil Gen 5 appears to completely forget that it is paired to my Pixel 3. A notification will appear on my Pixel 3 to pair my smartwatch and I will need to confirm the pairing PIN on both my Pixel 3 and Fossil Gen 5. At first it was not a major issue but now it is starting to get a little annoying. Sometimes the pairing itself will completely fail and I will need to either turn off and turn back on the Bluetooth on my Fossil Gen 5 or restart the Fossil Gen 5.

The standard troubleshooting process that Google offers is to uninstall the Wear OS app on my Pixel 3 and factory reset my Fossil Gen 5. One major problem with this is the setup and update process of the Fossil Gen 5 and getting it configured again with Google Pay, uninstalling several unwanted apps, etc is not easily done and takes some time. It also appears that the only way to connect your Wear OS smartwatch to your smartphone is to use the Wear OS app too and it cannot just be paired like any other Bluetooth device.

I am not having Bluetooth issues with any other device connecting to my Pixel 3 like my Pixel Buds or my PXC 550 headphones. I believe this is not a hardware issue with my Pixel 3 and I am hoping that this is not a Bluetooth hardware issue with my Fossil Gen 5; if it were, I would imagine that it would fail to pair completely. Seeing as it only started to happen after I had some updates, I believe this is software related. Crossing my fingers that either Fossil or Google will fix this problem in the future, but I have little hope as Google appears to have all but abandoned the Wear OS platform or are keeping it on life support.

If Google was serious about wearables, then it should back the Wear OS platform by adding their own first party apps to the platform. Right now, you cannot even get the Google Authenticator on the platform anymore. This to me shows that Google is not serious about wearables even with the recent purchase of Fitbit recently and will always play second fiddle to Apple, watchOS and the Apple Watch. If Apple allowed the Apple Watch to be supported on other platforms like Wear OS smartwatches I would buy one in a heartbeat and not look back at another Wear OS device.

Four Years of Android OS and Security Updates as Standard, Finally

As someone who likes to keep their mobile phone for as long as possible when Samsung announced that they will be supporting their line-up of Galaxy products with updates for four years from initial release it was great news. I know that Samsung are one of the device makers that do update their phones (security and OS) even if it might take them longer or in longer intervals than Google or Nokia. Officially supporting your product for at least four years is a must if we are to start reducing the amount of e-waste we keep producing.

Google currently only supports their Pixel line-up officially for three years. I am using a Pixel 3 and by my calculations I will be on my last year of support and will most likely need to purchase a new mobile phone if I am to get any further new OS or security updates. This is a little disappointing because not only do I really like my Pixel 3 but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the device. Everything is working like it was since I purchased the device. Sure, the battery might not be as good as it was, but it still gets me through the entire day even with heavy use. I like to get new features and security updates to make sure my device is protected, but why should this be limited to only new products after three years even if the old product is still functioning, working as intended and can support these new features?

The question is will Google also be officially supporting at least four years of security updates (and fingers crossed OS updates)? Qualcomm and Google did announce in December 2020 a collaboration to extend Android OS and security update support for four years which is amazing. When I read the Qualcomm press release I saw that it will officially start with the new Snapdragon 888 Mobile Platform. What I was not sure of was will it only be supported on high end chips? This is critical as Google in their Pixel line currently is not using the flagship Snapdragon chips anymore. If only the flagship Snapdragon chips will support this new four year update support, then it is a little kick in stomach.

Thankfully reading the Android blog post about the same announcement, the chips that will be supporting this four-year support will be any SoC launching with Android 11 and later. So that will mean that any device launching in late 2021 that has Android 11 will support this new four-year cycle. That would mean that the Pixel 6 will fall into this category. I am going to try and hold onto my Pixel 3 for as long as I can and that it stops officially receiving security updates. Perhaps 2022 will be the year that I need to upgrade my mobile phone. What Samsung announced seems to indicate that will be support phones already released while Google/Qualcomm will be supporting future devices. If you are in the market for an Android device then it may be wise to wait for an Android 11 device to get the full four year of support.

Returning back to BJJ in 2021

Last week on Thursday (14/01/2021) I went back to my local MMA school that I was going to for a around 2 years; if you are in the area and are interested in going to a great MMA school with fantastic training partners and knowledgable teachers then check out Reflex Mixed Martial Arts Center. I highly recommend them not only for BJJ but MMA, boxing and just conditioning/fitness in general. The facility is extremely high quality and so is the experience too.

Originally I had not wanted to leave the school and continue training in BJJ but getting a new job in Sydney and commuting to and from work I would not be able to commit to training BJJ to the fullest. It is my belief that you should commit 100% when doing anything and not half ass it. So it would be a complete disservice to the teachers there and my training partners as I would not be able to commit 100% mental and physical effort. Plus I would be doing a disservice to myself.

With the COVID pandemic sweeping the world my current employer allowed us to work from home and this looks to be far more permanent than it being a temporary policy too. And with the COVID situation being far more under control here in Australia and appropriate safety measures and protocols in place by the NSW state government and school I felt it safe to return to continue my training. I am taking a risk going and training several times a week, but it is a calculated risk where there are little to no community transmissions in the area and there are little to no active COVID cases locally; the odds of me catching it while I train are very small and is just as likely if I was to go out and grab a coffee or shopping. I am not going to let COVID control my life in this way.

What I can say after returning back for my first training session of the year and after around 1.5 years away is that my body is still slightly sore and I was extremely rusty. The good news is that I did not forget or lose the muscle memory I had learnt with basic sweeps, escapes and moves like shrimping; but when it came time to rolling I was severly outmatched. I was out of shape and gassed very quickly and made some fundamental mistakes causing me to get locked in an armbar, triangle and rear naked choke across multiple opponents. I did not get a single submission and I tapped more than once. But submissions is not my ultimate goal so being submitted several times is not a major concern for me.

Was I happy with my performance? Absolutely not because I know I am better than what I had shown on the mats on my first day back; plus I was so exhausted after several roles I could not finish the last roll. I know I need time to get back into shape and get to where I was before with the hope of getting my blue belt in late 2021. Taking everything one step at a time and trying to get my conditioning right first which will then help me in certain situations and then back to making sure my fundamentals are right before I go back to submitting people like crazy. I am super happy to be training BJJ again ๐Ÿ™‚

Transferring digital content between storage devices

This morning I was trying to move some applications from my internal solid state drive to a USB thumb drive so that I can install the applications on my Surface Book 2. I found it a little odd that during the entire transfer process the progress stayed at 0%. A small Windows “error” message appeared but in my haste I did not read the message and selected “skip” for all the applications. This was my first mistake.

When inserting the USB thumb drive into my Surface Book 2 and copying the applications locally it went extremely fast. I was a little surprised by this and was even more shocked when I opened the folder on my Surface Book 2 that was supposed to have all the applications from the USB thumb drive be completely empty. Perplexed I went back to my desktop PC to see if the applications were still there and they were. I tried to move the applications to the USB thumb drive again. This time paying more close attention to any message that would appear.

When I started the move of the applications to the USB thumb drive again progress showed 0% for an extended period of time and a small Windows “error” message appeared again, most likely the same error message that I ignored the first time. But this time I read the message and the critical information from the message that I gathered was “has properties that can’t be copied“. Doing a very quick Google search for that specific phrase led me to double check the format of my storage devices that I was transferring the digital content between.

Low and behold when comparing my internal solid state drive of my desktop PC where the applications had originally been downloaded to and that of the USB thumb drive; the formats were different. The internal solid state drive was NTFS while the USB thumb drive was FAT32. I had originally used this USB thumb drive as a bootable Linux distribution but no longer needed it and must have reformatted it to FAT32 instead of NTFS.

So if you get an error message when transferring any digital content from one storage device to another ensure that they are formatted the same otherwise your transfer may not occur successfully. And also ensure that you correctly read and comprehend any messages that appear during this process ๐Ÿ˜›

Cyberpunk 2077 on the Xbox Series X

I have now been playing Cyberpunk 2077 on my Xbox Series X for over 65 hours. Overall I feel the experience has been extremely enjoyable. I have opted to play the game not in performance mode but to have better visuals and effects at 30 fps purely because the game is not really a twitch shooter and having the game run at 60 fps is a nice to have but not really necessary. Also from what I have played there have been minimal framerate drops that I have noticed and it is fairly stable and consistent at 30 fps. If I did find that playing it at this setting unplayable then I would have changed to the performance mode to get back all those lost frames. Also note that the game is not yet officially released on the Xbox Series X but is “ported” over from the Xbox One so it is not optimized for the new console.

Throughout my time playing the game so far I have only really experienced a handful of bugs and minor inconveniences. For a game of this size and scale I think it is expected unfortunately. Some of the bugs that I have encountered off the top of my head include:

  1. Appearing nude in the mirror or missing my hair and headwear while looking in the mirror – this however seems to have been patched ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. Not being able to loot some of the world’s items or items from dead enemies especially the robots – still persists and can be a major pain when you see a rare icon on the map but you cannot loot it ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
  3. Falling through the world – this has only happened once and happened when I tried to jump a fence with my double jump.
  4. Voice audio not playing when accepting a phone call – unlike Control, Cyberpunk still plays the subtitles just not the voice audio for the individual that was calling me. A simple restart of the game solved this for me though.
  5. Items and enemies clipping through the world – this can be an enemy clipping and glitching into physical items in the world or my car clipping into other cars when summoned.

Other than the above mentioned bugs and issues the game has been rock solid. I have not had any crashed to the Xbox system dashboard *touch wood* or I have not had any instances where I had not been able to complete a quest. In my total time playing I believe I have only restarted the game twice to fix an audio issue and not being able to interact in the world. It has also been able to be quick resumed with absolutely no issue, so loading in and out of the game is crazy quick.

What CD Projekt Red have crafted is a super immersive world. The environment is a marvel to look at and the atmosphere is absolutely dare I say breathtaking. I have been enjoying the side jobs and police activities scattered throughout the world. All of the main characters I have interacted with have also been played really well, except (which may be controversial) Keanu Reeves. I feel that his delivery on his lines are a little stiff and bland especially when compared to Jackie and the female V voice actress.

My current playthrough of the game is with a hacking and ranged character. The various ways to complete a missions is great and the combat is satisfying too. I have not had much experience with the close combat and melee side of the combat except for the fist fighting side quest, but if the close combat when there are more enemies around plays very similar to that then I think my second playthrough will be with a tanky close combat character.

Overall the game looks amazing, it sounds brilliant, the story from what I have played is gripping, the side quests and odd jobs are enjoyable fillers, the characters you interact with are all unique in their own way, and most importantly the gameplay from the combat to the hacking is extremely fun. I know you will read plenty of impressions and reviews where they talk about the bugs and performance problems which is absolutely fine to discuss but I feel they do not take away too much from the overall package. Again I have not nearly experienced the amount of issues as others who have played the game so that may be the reason why I feel this way. I know CDPR will patch their game and support it very well as they had done an amazing job with The Witcher 3. I still have so much of the story to go through and a good portion of the side jobs but I am looking forward to even more content once the game is more stable for every single player out there.

WiFi Smart Connect is not so smart

I use a Netgear WiFi router as an access point and there is one feature that I had enabled since the day I set the device up. Smart connect sounds like an extremely useful feature so you do not have to choose to connect to either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands specifically; the WiFi router will choose the best one for you.

The exact description of the feature from my device is:

Let the router intelligently select the best WiFi band 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz for your WiFi connections. Smart Connect requires the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks to use the same WiFi network name (SSID), security options and password.

I was like great, this is going to save me the hassle of configuring the 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections. Little did I know that the “smart” connect feature does not work as advertised in my opinion. It is down right broken causing a range of issues.

For starters nearly all of my devices would connect to the 2.4GHz band and not the 5GHz band when I examined how each of my devices were connected to the WiFi router. Not sure why this was the case, but even my laptops which were in the same room as the WiFi router would not connect to the 5GHz band.

Along with not choosing the 5GHz band for connections, I had experienced a crazy amount of disconnects to my Google Home devices (Home Hub and Home Mini) and Chromecast Ultra. About 2 to 3 times a week I would have my devices disconnect for a period of time from my network and then reconnect or disconnect and then completely fail to reconnect requiring me to hard restart the device. Recently as well my Traeger would refuse to reconnect to my WiFi until I turned off smart connect because “a valid IP address could not be obtained”.

With the smart connect feature now completely turned off and configuring each device individually to which band to connect I get the speed that I want through connecting to the 5GHz band, absolutely no disconnects to my Google Home devices including my Chromecast Ultra, and my Traeger has had no issues connecting to the wifi whenever I start it up. I would highly recommend you turn the “smart connect” feature off if you are experiencing not acceptable or desirable speeds and connectivity issues. If all else fails you can go ahead and buy a new wifi router ๐Ÿ™‚

Buggy Video Games = Frustration

I really did not want to write about this but I got extremely frustrated with one game recently that I was playing. No the game is not Cyberpunk 2077, surprised reader? The game in question is Control. Which if you do not know recently became available on Xbox Game Pass for the Xbox consoles.

At first I was having a lot of fun playing the game. The graphics looks and that is without the Xbox Series X|S enhancements (which I will also touch on here as well), the combat is really fun, and the story including all the collectable notes are enjoyable enough. What is not fun though are the bugs. It has caused me to skip large parts of the game and advise Xbox gamers to be wary of this game.

Before I progress further with regard to the bugs I have been encountering in Control I am going to briefly touch the upgrade debacle. Months before the upgrade edition was announced I was going to purchase it along with the season pass, then they announced the ultimate edition. If I did purchase the game at any point before that announcement then I would be pissed right off. What 505 Games and Remedy (the publisher and developer of Control respectively) had done with the upgraded version of the game to the latest Xbox consoles is pure greed and bullshit. In Australia I would have to pay over $50 again to buy the ultimate edition with the enhanced graphics and performance, if I had purchased the game previously. Essentially what they are saying to gamers who bought it previously at a steeper price I may add is; thanks for the money, now pay us again to play it at better quality with better performance. This type of business practice I will never support so I did not pull the trigger to purchase the game. It coming on Xbox Game Pass was just a bonus for me.

Now back to the reason why I decided to write this post. I have rarely encountered graphical issues in Control which is good but I have encountered numerous mission/quest objective issues. There have been numerous times when items are not where they are supposed to be or enemies would just not spawn in based on guides and YouTube videos that I had to resort to using as I was spending a large amount of time looking for how to complete the objective. Thankfully these missions appear to all be side or non main story so I think I can complete the game. But what this is forcing me to do is just completely avoid any of the side missions as I am worried that I will spend time trying to complete them and I won’t be able to. If the developers wanted me to continue to play Control and stay with the game past the main missions then it has not worked because these bugs I have been encountering is just having me skip any side missions now from Pope and the other NPCs.

The other bug that has been infuriating me has been the loss of audio during scenes when characters are talking or a recording and/or other media is playing. Not only do I not hear anything but the subtitles do not show. Like how is this possible? I restarted the game; restarted the console. Nothing fixed this problem. It is not tied to a specific NPC or media either. It can happen at any point when I am looking at the collectable or conversing with the NPC. It is just really weird and jarring just watching your character’s mouth move but there is no audio or subtitles and then the quest progresses and you lose all context.

Generally I do not go out of my way to and advise people not to buy a particular game but in this case I am strongly recommending do not buy this game. I don’t know if this is just tied to the Xbox Series X version of the game if you really do want to play the game then just play it on Xbox Game Pass if you have an Xbox console. It is cheaper than buying the game, and you get to play a whole bunch of other games. On a similar note I look forward to starting Cyberpunk 2077 real soon with all the bugs ๐Ÿ˜‰

Overcoming a Rough Work Day

Not every work day is going to be perfect. You will get some days (like today for me) where nothing is really going your way and it feels like you are fighting every little thing and there are no small wins coming throughout the day. It can be overwhelming and demoralizing, especially in the current climate we are in at the moment.

Today for me I had several issues that I kept running into whether it was my development environment not running or starting correctly, to a unit test that would just not pass and I could not find for the life of me why. It was a miserable day where I felt I was super unproductive and in a work from home world made things even worse.

So the way I tried to overcome this and help me get through my day was to:

  1. Take some deep breaths:
    • I find that trying to calm myself, not get worked up and just settle down some of my frustrations help in clearing my mind, releasing the tension in my body (I did not realize how tense my body got) and just calming me in general.
    • Long and slow deep breaths for a couple of minutes seem to do the trick for me.
  2. Take a step away from the problem:
    • If you are like me you will sometimes find it hard to drag yourself away from a problem. You will continue to think about it, obsess about every little detail, and not feel satisfied until the problem has been solved. This is counterproductive and makes finding the solution sometimes harder or near impossible.
    • Sometimes you need to do another task for a couple of minutes that is completely unrelated. I like to step away now from my desk and try to disconnect from the problem entirely. I either go for a short walk to the beach or grab a coffee or tea and sit on the balcony. I try not to think about the problem and just enjoy the environment that I am in.
    • By taking a step back and not thinking about the problem, when you try to solve the problem again you are looking at it with some fresher eyes and a clearer head which in turn hopefully will help you solve it or at least get you closer to finding a solution. Every little bit helps.
  3. Talk or message someone (it does not have to be about work):
    • I am extremely fortunate that I have some very close friends who I can have a chat to or message at any time of the day. Someone will reply back in the group chat.
    • By me doing this I can disassociate myself from the problem for a little bit and get my head in a state where I am thinking positive thoughts about things I enjoy with people I enjoy being around.
    • By taking this very short break I have found that coming back to the problem I feel more positive that I can solve it and my mood is slightly more lifted.
    • If I was in the office I would ask my coworkers if they would like to go for a coffee run and I would knock two birds with one stone here. Working from home has made this harder and communicating with colleagues over Slack is not the same as in person because I do not know what “state” they are in themselves and if they are open for communication.

Always remember having setbacks, speed bumps and problems throughout your day is not the end of the world. There are way more days ahead for you and the majority of them will be far better that the miserable day you or I just had. I know for myself I have family and friends that care for me, I am healthy, I have an amazing job at an amazing company with some of the nicest coworkers I have ever worked with. Putting all of the day’s problems into perspective, they are insignificant. Will the problem still exist tomorrow? Maybe and most likely, but I know if I go into the next day refreshed, with a clear head and positive attitude then it can be solved or overcome. Never (ever) let the negativity sink in and always reach out to someone if there is so much pressure that you cannot handle it, because more often than not there is always someone willing to lend a hand and help.

Interested in a Pixelbook Go and Chrome OS

For the last month or so I have been watching a number of videos on Chrome OS laptops and what you can actually do with a Chrome OS laptop. The more I watched the more interested I was in actually picking one up. Do I really need a new laptop or even a tablet? No not really but I have some disposable cash and it will be used by not just me but my parents.

There are a number of different Chrome OS devices out there but the one that I am really interested in picking up is the Google Pixelbook Go. However as I am located in Australia the product is not available here. That is a real shame because I would have bought one right now – like right now. I contacted a Google support team member to just verify this information and yep, the Google Pixelbook Go is not available to purchase in Australia ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

What made me decide to start looking at Chrome OS? As much as I like my Surface Book 2 I would like to have a device that runs Android apps and just have a device that is more tied to my smart home ecosystem. You can also write code in Chrome OS so it scratches my developer itch as well. Plus I can also have it as a family laptop that my parents can use without the need to worry about security, viruses and malware like I have to do on a Windows laptop at the moment.

But you might be saying, “Chris, there are plenty of third party Chrome OS laptops from HP, Lenovo, Samsung, etc. Just buy one of them, they are just as good and offer Chrome OS too.”. Well as someone who used to buy laptops from those brands, you will not find the same build quality from those vendors as you would from Apple, Google and Microsoft; plus aesthetically they are not as pleasing. Apple’s Macbook line is known for the superb build quality (ignoring the butterfly keyboard fiasco), the Surface line from Microsoft is rated extremely high with regard to build quality (and I can confirm this as I have a Surface RT, Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book 2), and well Google’s line of products are also generally very well received too (ignoring the mess that was the Google Pixel Slate). I want to make sure that I buy a Chrome OS laptop that lasts, has great support and just overall looks aesthetically pleasing. The Google Pixelbook Go ticks all those boxes.

Perhaps in the future Google will release the next Chrome OS laptop in Australia made by them. I mean they release their Nest line of home products here (yes I know they do not ship all their Nest products like the thermostat and the doorbell but a good portion are released here), the Pixel line of phones, and even the Pixel Buds 2. I have a Google Pixel 3, the Google Pixel Buds 2, a Chromecast Ultra, several Google Home Hubs and a Google Home Mini. My fingers and toes are crossed, but I do not have my hopes up as Australia is such a small market and why would a global company like Google support such a small remote market? Google changed the theme of Android and appearance to be more inclusive but it seems not all departments are on the same page at Google as not releasing a product in certain countries is not very inclusive in my opinion. Google do the right thing ๐Ÿ˜‰