Experiencing the Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation

The Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation are the best Bluetooth earbuds that I have used. Apple seems to know how to provide a user the complete package and offer a near flawless integration with their entire ecosystem. The entire experience has been well thought of, but I do have some minor gripes. What other manufacturers of Bluetooth earbuds fail in is providing a great app or UX and/or good sound and microphone quality. Apple seems to have this nailed down, even Google is no where near as good as Apple with their own Google Pixel Bud line but come very close and are getting better.

My very first Bluetooth earbuds were the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds. In my opinion they produced some really good quality audio and they felt extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. However, the Android app was very buggy and had a poor UI/UX, the earbuds could never truly turn off either and would drain while in the case. Also, after one of the updates to them I would have to constantly keep re-pairing them to my Android phone as it would forget the device. For the price that I paid for them I was very disappointed. The Apple AirPods Pro absolutely destroy these earbuds in nearly category. The only thing that these come close to compared to the AirPods Pro is the sound quality.

The next Bluetooth earbuds that I purchased were the Google Pixel Buds. While they did not produce the same sound quality as the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds, they had a giant leap in overall UI/UX. I never had pairing issues; the battery did not drain when they were in the case, etc. Overall, I was extremely happy with the Google Pixel Buds, but the battery life of the earbuds are not quite what they used to be and now I can barely get through a two-hour podcast before one of the buds dies (normally it is the right earbud). When I switched to using an iPhone, I could no longer use the Google Assistant that the Google Pixel Buds provided integration for, so some functionality was lost (which is a little sad). Between not being able to take full advantage of what the Google Pixel Buds provide and the poor battery capacity now it was time to move on.

Now that I have several Apple products it only made sense to purchase a pair of Apple AirPods. From my friends who do have a pair (either the standard AirPods or AirPods Pro) they all rated them, and when Apple announced the new Apple AirPods Pro 2nd Generation, I knew I needed to buy these. I would have full integration and capabilities with the earbuds and would have a nice pair of new earbuds.

I’ll start with the aesthetics. The case is perfectly pocketable much like the Google Pixel Buds case. I do appreciate that there is a quick access pairing button at the back, a speaker to allow for finding the case when lost, and the ability to charge the case using the Apple Watch charging pad. However, I wish that the case had a more matte finish like the Google Pixel Buds case as I find the Apple AirPods Pro case is far too slippery and having a lightning port for wired charging in 2022 is inexcusable. The wired charging should really be done through USB-C. One more gripe that I have with Apple is that the actual cable they had provided in the box is a lightning to USB-A cable. Now most of the charging bricks that I have only have a USB-C port and even my new Apple MacBook Pro only has USB-C ports. What they need to do is have some port consistency here, especially if they don’t want to include charging bricks with their products or have people purchasing additional charging bricks for “environment reasons”.

The actual AirPods Pro fit in my ears extremely well and I appreciate the different sized ear tips in the box however the medium sized ear tips are perfect for me. The seal is good and very little sound leaks. The stems of the earbuds are not annoying or don’t get in the way either and was a concern that I had as these were the first earbuds that had stems. If there was one thing that I wished Apple would do was provide these in different colours as I would in a heartbeat buy these in black. I mean Apple does allow you to add an engraving to the case (which I did by the way). The different controls that can be triggered on the stems can take some getting used to unfortunately. Right now, I have the left stem controlling the different transparency levels and active noise cancellation while on the right stem I have Siri access. Sometimes turning active noise cancellation on and off does not work, perhaps I am not holding it for long enough; and changing the volume level using a swiping gesture is very hit and miss. I find that I am correctly moving my index finger up and down the stem and the volume does not change all the time. These gestures will take some more time to get used to and I perhaps need to pay more attention to what I am doing when the volume does change. I never had these gesture issues with my Google Pixel Buds though.

The sound quality that the AirPods Pro produce is pretty good. I am not an audiophile, but I have used a variety of headphones (wired and wireless) and some earbuds, so I have experienced the good and bad regarding sound quality. The vocals are clear and crisp, and you can hear all the different instruments. I am impressed how Apple can provide an earbud that can produce such good sound quality. Out of the three different Bluetooth earbuds that I have used these provide the best sound experience followed closely by my original Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds. Regarding the microphone quality, it is passable but not amazing. I didn’t have anyone complain about how I sounded when on Zoom calls and neither when I was taking a call. However, the microphone is no where near as good as any wired headset like the Apple wired headset. The active noise cancellation is good on these and transparency mode also does its job well. I am not a massive fan of the spatial audio feature (when available) currently. Admittedly I need to listen to a little more music to see how I truly feel about the spatial audio feature.

Overall if you are in the Apple ecosystem then you should instantly buy a pair of AirPods or if you want to spend a little more and get some more features then the AirPods Pro are the way to go; you will have no regrets about it. I would not recommend another pair of earbuds. Apple have spent a good amount of time ensuring that the entire UI/UX experience from pairing to switching between your multiple Apple devices is seamless and fluid. Nothing will beat these if you are in the Apple ecosystem; however, if you have an Android device then these would be an okay purchase but there are several other earbud manufacturers out there like Sony, Bose and even Google that offer a better experience with your device (this has been relayed to me from friends and family that have Android devices but AirPods or AirPods Pro).

Smoking Beef Ribs on my Traeger Ironwood 885

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

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

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

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

Is a Dark Mode/Theme necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

Short Term Experience: MacBook Pro 14” M1 Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look and Feel

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

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

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

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

iOS 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Google Nest Hub Radio Alarm Issues

I have both Google Nest Hub generation 1 and generation 2 devices, which seem to have issues consistently in playing a radio alarms. Doing a quick Google search and it appears that I am not the only person having this problem. The dates from the results also suggest that it has been a persistent issue for a number of years unfortunately 😦

I have factory reset the devices, tried a number of different radio stations, etc. and it seems that every other day the radio alarm will not play and a traditional alarm will played instead. I double checked to ensure that the devices only have a single alarm and it is a radio alarm.

Both devices do not have issues with network connectivity and the only thing that I can think of is that there is some software bug that is causing the radio alarm not to play. However the one problem with that is the radio alarm sometimes does play. Generally if it is a software issue then it would either work or it would not work, ie. 0 or 1.

I am a little confused about how to resolve this issue as it seems that Google support know of “an issue” with radio alarms but have given no other information. The troubleshooting steps I have already gone through from the support forums and have not helped. One solution I found was to have instead a routine that is triggered at a certain time and to play a radio station instead of having a radio alarm. But that sort of defeats the purpose of having a radio alarm.

If anyone out there has any solution or steps that I can try to resolve this issue then it would be greatly appreciated. I love both my Google Nest Hubs and with the second generation the new sleep sensing features are fantastic as I have difficulty wearing any watch or ring to monitor my sleeping pattern, etc. while I sleep.

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 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂

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.

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