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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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.

Wood Pellet Grilling and Smoking with a Traeger Ironwood 885

Throughout most of my entire life I have experienced BBQ either by cooking with gas (natural or propane) or charcoal. I have never really experienced wood pieces/chunks or wood pellet BBQ until now. As someone who BBQs nearly every weekend all year round I need to have a reliable and versatile BBQ that can cook a variety of foods across different weather conditions. Unfortunately my gas BBQ that had served me well for an extremely long time had finally run its course and I need a new BBQ.

Deciding what type of BBQ to get was the next big question. I could go for another gas BBQ or get a charcoal BBQ. As an avid Joe Rogan listener he constantly talks and ravs about his Traeger wood pellet grill and how once you BBQ on one of those you will never go back to a conventional grill or another smoker again. I did a little more research on the Traeger products, watched a large number of YouTube videos and decided to give it a shot. I was not disappointed one bit after my first cook with it and will most likely never go back to a gas or charcoal BBQ again, and if someone asks what type of BBQ to get I would highly recommend a Traeger.

Initial Impressions

Once I got the new Traeger Ironwood 885 home and assembled I was extremely impressed by the build quality and finish (hell I was impressed by the product overall). Nothing on it looked or felt cheap or of poor quality which is hard to find in Australia in regard to a BBQ. Most BBQs in Australia I find no matter the fuel (wood, charcoal, gas) seem to be built from cheap or thin metal and are a little flimsy. Sure you can get some really nice ones but compared to the price of the Traeger they are significantly more expensive. I guess you can say that you get what you pay for.

Along with the Traeger Ironwood 885 I also picked up four different types of wood pellets; apple, mesquite, hickory and cherry. One thing I noticed when I was watching various YouTube videos was that to get the best sear and grill marks a specific grill plate was used, so I also picked up a GrillGrate suited for my Traeger (it came with a bonus GrillGrate Lifting Tool for easy movement of food). As I am not going to be storing my BBQ inside after usage I also needed a cover for it so I picked up an official Traeger cover which should protect it from the weather, and I also picked up a steel “cut proof” rope to tie it to my balcony fence to make sure no one steals my new grill.

WiFIRE and Mobile App

One thing that I really like about the Traeger Ironwood 885 is the ability to monitor the temperature of the grill, the temperature of the meat probe, the and approximate percentage of wood pellets remaining in the hopper all through WiFIRE (WiFi) and the official Traeger app from the Google Play Store.

Setting up the Traeger Ironwood 885 to communicate with my WiFi network was not difficult but to get the actual Traeger app to “see” and register communication with the Traeger Ironwood 885 was a little painful to say the least. To start the pairing and connection process for my grill to the app I just needed to scan the QR code under the hopper lid (nice touch). The onscreen instructions were all easy to follow but the app would fail to communicate with the grill. The first time it failed, it would just not register my WiFi network so I had to restart the process again. The second time it failed, it failed to communicate back to the grill after connecting to my WiFi network. When I tried the third time I had to factory reset the Traeger Ironwood 885 WiFi settings and clear the cache/memory of the Traeger app; but once I done that it worked perfectly. So setting up the official Traeger app and Traeger Ironwood 885 can take some time but it is worth it so bare with it and get connected.

The mobile app is extremely handy as I can monitor the grill from different parts of the house and get notifications when certain actions have been completed like reaching the desired temperature or if the timer I have set has expired. You can also easily increase or decrease the temperature of the grill without having to actually go to the grill. The Traeger Ironwood 885 also has the ability to Super Smoke and can be activated through the app (more smoke flavor for your food), along with the ability to keep the food warm using the Keep Warm setting. Once I am done cooking I can also easily shut the grill off incase I forget to turn it off after I have taken the food off the grill. If you want to get some recipes for various food products then there are numerous ones to be found in the app with all the information you need to get the desired results and you can even set your grill to the settings needed for the recipe.

Smoking and Grilling

For my first grill I wanted to try out smoking and reverse searing some New York strip steak without the new grill grates and see what the searing would be like using the Traeger supplied grates. The wood pellets I had used was hickory. I was not disappointed. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the meat as I was just too excited to start eating to take pictures (sorry). The meat looked and tasted fantastic. The grill marks were barely visible but present and the meat itself had a perfect medium rare interior along the entire steak; I have never cooked meat this perfect before. I had Super Smoked the meat for about 30 to 45 minutes and then cranked up the grill to the highest temperature to sear the meat for about 3 minutes each side. Near perfect results πŸ™‚

New York strip steak with corn and potato from the Traeger Ironwood 885

My second cook I tried using the new GrillGrate grates and also cook some vegetables. I started off by BBQing some corn and potatoes. Did not set the temperature very high and it let it go for around 45 minutes. Both the corn and the potatoes came out great. They had a nice hickory flavor to them. Once I got the vegetables done I turned the heat up all the way to the maximum my Traeger Ironwood 885 would go and placed my GrillGrate grates in there. All it took was around 3 minutes on each side to get the perfect sear marks. As you can see the meat came out fantastic. When I did the meat flip, I put the probe in and made sure that the did meat reach medium rare. I did go a little in the medium territory, but as I get more used to cooking with the Traeger I will get more precise with regard to the temperature to set and also how long to keep the meat on the grill per side.

Now that I had done some steak and vegetables, I’ll try some sausages and hamburger patties next as I do like my sausage sandwiches and homemade cheese burgers. Once I have some more confidence the brisket will be what I’ll be trying and having some family over. Using the Traeger Ironwood 885 has been an absolutely pleasant experience and will enjoy smoking and grilling a number of different foods with different wood pellets for the foreseeable future.

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 😦

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.

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 πŸ™‚

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 😦

My First 30 Days at Atlassian

On February 21st I let my (former) employer know that I was resigning because I had taken a position at another company to grow professionally and expand my technical abilities. Come April 1st I started a new position as a Junior Backend Developer at Australia’s best software company (IMO) and one of the world’s best software companies (IMO), Atlassian. I was going to write this post a little earlier but I wanted to get more settled into my new position at Atlassian and get a better feel about how I was really adjusting working at a new and amazing company, in a new city, with me not knowing anyone at the company. What I can say it has been fantastic πŸ˜€

Previously my commute was a very short walk to the bus stop, then catching the free shuttle bus service our town offers to work (which was the bus’ first stop from where I caught it from). In total the entire trip from my house to my work was generally no more than 15 minutes at the best case. Now I need to wake up early (well early for me) at around 6am, drive to the train station and catch an early train to the Sydney CBD. I could catch a later train but there is no guarantee that there will not be any diversions or delays. In total the trip can take as long as 1 hour and 30 minutes. Thankfully I don’t need to stress on the train trip as I don’t need to change trains (the one I take directly goes to the CBD), can do some light work, listen to some music or a podcast, and even chat with my mates if they catch the same one that day.

One thing I can definitely say is that Atlassian looks after their employees very well. Originally for breakfast I would have an Up & Go and then head to work. Now I don’t have breakfast at home. Atlassian offers free breakfast πŸ™‚ I usually grab a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt, and a small bottle of orange juice. Overall a much healthier breakfast option. For lunch I would generally make myself a sandwich and pack some snacks like crackers, yogurt, muesli bar, etc. Again, I don’t need to worry about lunch because Atlassian has me covered with free lunches everyday. With an assortment of different fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, drinks, etc and hot foods on Tuesdays and Thursday I can safely say that I will never get hungry; oh that is not to mention the assortment of snacks including chips, biscuits, nuts, ice cream, etc. I have already started to put on weight that I need to work off with all the food I am consuming.

One thing that I knew was coming was getting a new Apple laptop, based on all the images I saw of employees with their computers on Glassdoor and YouTube. I have never owned an Apple product until now and I am still getting used to the butterfly keyboard and macOS, but generally moving between Windows and macOS is no different than when I was moving between Windows and Ubuntu at university. On the hardware and workstation front having a super comfortable computer chair, standing desk, and large monitor along with a Macbook Pro that is spec’d out to the gills are all great things to have. If you are in Silicon Valley or work at a startup technology company these might all be common but it wasn’t where I was previously working (including the amount of free food and drinks).

Working at Atlassian has also been amazing so far. I am on the Bitbucket Server team and it has some really intelligent and talented developers, designers and managers. One thing that I have noticed when I got here was that my team and manager had a plan for me for the next several months and if I had any questions I could approach any colleague whether they were or were not on my core team. After getting through the massive amount of HR and onboarding tasks put in front of me there was just so much to learn. Many at the company say it is like “drinking from the fire hose“. There is just so much to learn, consume and understand. I can say that what they are saying is 100%, based on how much there is to learn and consume. Thankfully for me, I am surrounded by such helpful people that if I need any clarification or guidance about anything I can easily approach them and they are more than willing to help. It can be a little daunting to try and understand everything, see how everything fits together and how to resolve some of the issues. But as any good developer would say, your debugger is your friend as well as the log files. With a very clean code base with plenty of unit and integration tests it makes understanding the product much easier.

To summarise my first 30 days, it has gone very quick. From fun company and team events such as Star Wars movie event for May 4th (we had it on May 3rd as May 4th in Australia is on Saturday) and lawn bowls to resolving customer issues on Bitbucket Server, I have completely enjoyed my time. I am always learning something new every day and am trying to help my team as best I can, where I can. The next couple of months I am going to try and resolve more and more complex problems, try not to break anything (or if I do fix it) and ensure that I am leaving a positive measurable change. One thing I have learnt very quickly is to speak up when stuck, if you see an issue don’t ignore it but proactively do something about it. Everyone at the company I feel breathe Atlassian’s company values. With everything going well so far, I hope to be here for a very long time.

If you are looking for a change the take a look at the Atlassian careers page, we are always looking for talented individuals to grow our ever expanding team.

My New Blue Light Blocking Tinted Glasses

For the past two weeks while I am at work or at home working on a computer, playing video games, etc. I am wearing a pair of prescription glasses with a blue light blocking tint to them. After a number of different articles came out saying how blue light being emitted from our screens is causing harm to our eyes and sleep, I thought it would be best to ask my optometrist about getting a pair of glasses that block out the blue light.

What I have noticed in just these few weeks of using prescription glasses with a blue light blocking tint was my eyes were less tired at the end of the day, slightly less red and irritated looking, and I fall asleep a little easier. Is this just a placebo effect and something that I am just noticing now because of my new glasses? Perhaps, but in my mind I would rather have “healthier” eyes and an easier time falling asleep with a better sleeping pattern than the opposite. With so much negativity in the world, having something positive is essential.

My original pair of glasses were fitted with transitional lenses (they get darker depending on the amount of UV light detected) and unfortunately I could not get them equipped with both transition lenses and blue light blocking lenses. So now while I am indoors working on a PC or playing Xbox I wear my new glasses, but when I do anything outdoors I wear my older pair of glasses with the transitional lenses.

If you stare at a computer or screen all day then I suggest you take a look at getting a pair of blue light blocking tinted glasses, either with a prescription or not. Previously I believe the glasses lenses that were available had a yellow hue to them, but now (well mine anyway) are clear and depending on the angle you hold them you can see a blue fade to them. To me the eyes are one of the most important body parts and I would absolutely be devastated if something seriously injured them if I could have prevented it. These glasses are one type of protection and prevention that I am more than happy to have obtained.

Microsoft or Google’s Productivity Apps

My original post was going to be about the two different AI assistants that Microsoft and Google offer, Cortana and Google Assistant respectively. However while writing and reviewing the post the theme of productivity and how the two assistants are making life simpler kept appearing. So instead I discarded that post and started this one. I try to streamline and make my life easier by looking for ways to automate, digitally organise, and remove redundant or boring tasks while taking advantage of applications on both mobile and PC to keep everything together.

As someone with an Android phone and has/is still using Google’s products on a number of platforms it would make sense that I lean towards Google’s ecosystem and productivity apps. But, Microsoft’s own products are just as good (if not better IMO) than Google’s. Are there other productivity products out there that do the same job or better? There could be but I generally only like using first party products because I don’t like giving other applications access to my account information. If others have suggestions about other apps that are useful let me know in the comments and I’ll potentially take a look at them and break my rule.

Email

Be it personal or for work, I use email a good amount. On my Android phone I have disabled the Gmail app and have opted for the Outlook app. There are several reasons for this. Aesthetically the Gmail app is pleasing and the performance is great, you never see any slowness or lag. Outlook is not as visually pleasing and appears more formal but it too performs well with little to no lag or slowness. If you are on PC then you can use both Gmail and Outlook through your web browser of choice, and if you subscribe to Office 365 (like I do) you can get access to the Outlook application where you can have both your Gmail and Outlook accounts synced up. The features that you get with Outlook on their apps and the web are also far superior than what Google offers. Outlook can be far more complicated and daunting with all your options, etc while Gmail is more user friendly, streamlined but lacks the options that Outlook offers. Score one to Microsoft here with the number of email features on offer when using Outlook.

Calendar

This one is a no brainer. For some reason Google has a separate app for your calendar which is a little bit of a pain. But the calendar app they do have is like the Gmail app aesthetically pleasing. Not only does it look good but it also performs very well. However the major draw back is that it will only sync with your Gmail account (perhaps I have not found the right setting but I cannot sync other calendars to it). Microsoft’s Outlook app has an inbuilt calendar (yay, less apps) and it has all the features the Google Calendar app offers. On the PC you can again use a web browser to access both Google and Microsoft account calendars. The Outlook app to manage your calendar on PC is a power user’s dream. There are a number of features that are either really hard to find in Google Calendar or are not present. So again Microsoft takes the win here by making Outlook such a powerful app on both Android and PC.

Tasks, To-Dos, and Reminders

I decided to bundle tasks, to-dos and reminders together because I generally treat and use all three in a similar way. Microsoft allows you to handle these either through the dedicated To-Do app (would have loved to be able to do this through the Outlook app like everything else unless you use Outlook on PC) or the AI assistant Cortana, plus there is the Microsoft Launcher, but I won’t discuss the details about that app here. I just want to point out that aesthetically Microsoft’s apps on Android feel very corporate and formal, but the To-Do app feels very consumer friendly and welcoming like Google’s apps. Google handles tasks, to-dos and reminders in a much similar fashion. Google has Google Keep and a new Google Tasks app, plus there is the Google Assistant. I previously used Google Keep and it did the job really well, but after moving to Office 365 and Microsoft’s products I found that Google Keep was/is fairly basic. From what I have read about Google Tasks, that product is also basic and has only the very bare minimum features with more coming the future. If you want a number of features for your tasks, to-dos and reminders then Microsoft’s products are the way to go, but what Google offers do the job just fine.

AI Assistant

The AI assistant of choice really depends on which ecosystem you are using. If you are in the Google ecosystem using Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Keep, etc. then the Google Assistant is the one you should be using IMO. If you use Outlook and To-Do then Cortana is the AI assistant you need to use. Google Assistant on Android is integrated so well it is really a shame that Cortana does not integrate as well. If I could identify one area where Google is leaps and bounds above Microsoft is the quality, performance and appearance of the app on Android. I believe Cortana does not look as good as Google Assistant and also is not as responsive. There have been graphical issues when I launch the app at times, there is the occasional lag, etc. However with every new update of Cortana on Android it gets better. Cortana on PC however does not have the same issues as it does on Android in regard to performance and appearance. Both AIΒ  assistants perform very similar when I ask them questions in my day to day use so if you’re worried about not being able to answer or perform a task during day to day use then you shouldn’t. They have their own ways to perform the same task but it is just a matter of getting used to it. Google’s feels a little more natural than Microsoft, but it is not a major issue. If I had to lean one way, Google’s integration with all their platforms, products and services, aesthetics and performance makes this one a win for it.

Overall Google and Microsoft offer a number of products and services that can pretty much handle everything that you throw at them. Google’s products are simpler, easy to use and are very consumer friendly. They perform very well and visually are superior to the ones offered by Microsoft. Microsoft’s products feel more business, formal and professional oriented. The number of features that they have is also far superior to that of the features the Google products have. If you are a power user and really want to streamline, organise and stay on top of all your things then Microsoft has you covered. At the end of the day you cannot go wrong with either ecosystem and it is all about what you want out of your apps.