Google Chrome VS Microsoft Edge (Chromium Version) Initial Impressions

Google Chrome is my go to stable browser at the moment for my Google Pixel 3, my Surface Book 2, my work Macbook Pro, and my Windows gaming desktop. Previously I used Microsoft Edge but like I had posted about previously there were website compatibility issues but it came with far superior memory and battery management. Now there is a change in the wind with the Microsoft Edge browser.

What Microsoft has done (it appears) is to finally accept the open source Chromium project and modify their Edge browser to now support and be built off Chromium. Absolutely amazing news if you ask me (but not according to Mozilla). When they announced that they will be releasing canary (daily updates) and dev (weekly updates) channels so that people can try out their early builds I jumped right in. As of 25/05/2019 the macOS version of Microsoft Edge only appears to have the canary channel available whereas the Windows version has both canary and dev channels.

If you are on Windows 10 then you can go ahead and download the in-development Microsoft Edge Chromium version from here.

If you are on macOS then you can go ahead and download it from here.

On my Surface Book 2 I have been using the dev channel as my daily driver while on my Macbook Pro I have been using the canary channel. Initial impressions are positive (except for an update that happened mid week that caused my Edge browser to not launch at all on my Macbook Pro – but that did get fixed quickly).

Complete Compatibility

One area that I was critical of the original Microsoft Edge was that some websites were not compatible with the rendering engine that was used, so some sites either failed to render content correctly, or render at all. Other browsers like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox rendered the content perfectly fine.

Using the Chromium version of Microsoft Edge gives an extremely positive first impression. All the websites render their content correctly and there has been no website that fails to render at all. It is on par with other browsers I would say from my usage so far. It is off to a good start for the in-development browser.

Fast Performance

Microsoft Edge was quick at loading some sites but was slow at loading other sites (or not at all). Other browsers were generally fairly consistent and loaded most sites quick. Obviously the loading speed of the site will depend on the content that is trying to be loaded. Comparatively the speed is on par with Google Chrome.

At the moment I found no speed or performance issues when loading various websites. So not only is the website compatibility good, the speed at which the content is displayed is quick. Navigating around the settings and just generally using the browser is also a fairly smooth and quick experience.

Solid-ish Resource Management

For a portable machine like my Surface Book 2 and Macbook Pro, managing my systems resources (including battery) is extremely important. I don’t want to travel around with my charging adapter; a good laptop should last a full business day under normal use for me.

Google Chrome has gotten better at managing the amount of system resources it uses (it also depends on what extensions, etc. you have installed) but it is still a resource hog. Battery drain has also gotten better but it can still be a problem. I don’t notice it as much on my Surface Book 2, but on my Macbook Pro it is definitely noticeable. Note that even without using Google Chrome my Macbook Pro has extremely poor battery life compared to my Surface Book 2. Overall though Google still has room to improve here.

Microsoft Edge has always been good at making sure the battery drain is minimal and even the management of your system resources is balanced and efficient. The Chromium version is good but still does not match that of the non Chromium version of Microsoft Edge. The battery life is slightly worse and seems to be using more system resources. I need to spend some more time here but from what I have seen it is slightly better than Google Chrome, but not by much.

The underlying problem could be Chromium itself. Hopefully now that Microsoft is going to be contributing more to the open source project, it can help Google and the other developers in ensuring that Chromium provides the most efficient browser for all devices. I am hopeful that this is the case and look forward to the improvements that will be made.

Trimmed and Slim

Right now Microsoft Edge (Chromium) does not have all the features of the non Chromium version of Microsoft Edge. This is expected as it is not fully released and is still in early development, not even beta, at the moment. You do miss some of the features like setting tabs aside, etc. but Microsoft did say that they will come to the Chromium edition.

On the plus side being on Chromium there is greater extension support and availability. You still cannot have all the extensions that Google Chrome supports at the moment and it will get better with time as both will be using the same underlying engine so that is a plus.

Overall I am impressed at the in-development and early release channels that Microsoft has made available. Would I use it as my stable and go to main browser at the moment? No. But once released I feel it will give Google Chrome a good run for its money because if it can perform close/if not slightly better right now in regard to system resource management and battery drain. Good job Microsoft and welcome to Chromium 🙂

Playing with my new Google Pixel 3

My Final Nokia Troubles

Last weekend my Nokia 8’s microphone had stopped working/functioning correctly. It was also not the first time that it stopped working or started to not function correctly. Instead of the individual on the other end of my call being able to hear and understand me, all they could hear was static or white noise. But to resolve the problem before I just blew into the microphone to remove any dust, dirt or anything else that might be interfering with the microphone. This time that did not work 😦 Looking at the official Nokia support forums I am not the only one who has experienced this problem; poor design. You can also see various YouTube videos that show the same thing that I was experiencing.

I could have taken my phone to a repair shop to get them to take a look at it but it got to the point where I was a little frustrated and annoyed at Nokia and my Nokia 8, so I decided instead to take the more expensive option and buy a Google Pixel 3 (not a 3a however); with my friend getting me a good deal on what I purchased and a sale already on the white version of the Google Pixel 3, I feel I made the right choice. Along with the white Google Pixel 3 I also picked up an official charcoal Google Pixel 3 case and a Pixel Wireless Charging Stand too.

I knew the Pixel 3 phones were really good phones even if they lacked some of the features of other flagship and no flagship phones (3.5mm headphone jack, expandable memory, 5G support, etc), and it did come in at a high price point but it has not disappointed me so far.

Solid Hardware Build

The build quality of the phone is really good IMHO. In your hands it feels heavy and well put together. The size of the phone is perfect for my hands and I don’t see any real shortcuts that Google took when I am handling the phone. I did put a case on my phone (as I do with most of my phones I purchase) so I don’t have to worry about scratches to the back of the glass and if I do drop it then it should protect it from any major damage.

The screen is of really high quality and along with the stock Android OS it makes for an absolutely smooth and pleasant experience. The front facing dual speakers are also really good. I prefer to have front facing speakers than a single speaker at the bottom of the phone, or what some phones are now having, in-screen speakers (using vibrating motors behind the screen). The fingerprint sensor on the back is something I have to get used to as the Nokia 8 had a fingerprint sensor at the front.

One area that I want to comment on is the forehead and the chin on the Pixel 3. I am not a fan of a notch or punch hole on phones. I am also not a fan of the various different ways that device makers are adding mechanical and moving parts to the cameras which over time will breakdown or not work properly; no matter what they say, moving parts are prone to breaking. The Pixel 3 has, as some people would say (not me), a large forehead and chin. But I think the Pixel 3’s forehead and chin are absolutely fine. Plus with the “sized” forehead and chin on the Pixel 3 you get dual front facing speakers, which are well worth it.

Pixel Android

I am a super fan of stock or “pure” Android. I don’t want (nor need) multiple email clients, multiple chat clients, multiple browsers, etc. Apps I cannot delete or disable are pure and utter garbage that annoy the hell out of me. As soon as I see that there is a separate skin or over the top launcher added to a phone out of the box with that bloatware I refuse to buy the phone. Most, if not all OEMs do this which is a shame.

The Pixel phones are IMO what I feel Android should be. It is how Google imagines Android should be; stock Android with all the added benefits of Google’s new ideas. If you are not into the entire Google ecosystem and like all the Googleyness that is added to the Pixel phones then the Pixel line up might not be for you; but you can then add other apps to better suit your needs though. I do enjoy what Google offers and having Android setup with how Google envisions the direction Android should go is great.

Crazy Camera Quality

There are countless articles out there from a number of different sites that say that the Pixel 3 phone’s camera is one of the best (if not) the best camera out there on a phone. Does it have ultra wide support? No. Does it have the highest megapixel count? No. Does it have multiple camera lenses? No. But it has some of the best software out there to make sure that no matter what photo you take it is the best possible capture.

I generally do not take many selfies, or photos; unless the time calls for it. I don’t use Instagram or Snapchat so I don’t have a need for a camera to be on the high end, but if I go to an event or place and want to take a picture then I want to be sure that I am getting the best possible photo or video. Knowing I have a Pixel in my pocket makes me feel that I will get the best photo (no matter how much light is present or not).

All the Extras

The squeeze functionality if a little bit of a gimmick. I don’t think I’ll be using that feature much. I’d rather just use my voice.

This is the first phone I have had that has wireless charging. Right now I am seeing the convenience of it. Nowhere near as fast as charging through USB-C fast charging, but when I come home from work I place it on my Pixel Stand and I leave it there until I need to leave for work the next day. On the weekend I keep it docked while I am at my desk and it shows me the time, etc. I never need to worry much about whether or not I will run out of battery.

Overall I am super happy with the Pixel 3. The screen is vibrant, the sound is clear, the build quality is top notch, the OS is perfect, and it will get constant OS and security updates for 3 years. Hopefully this phone lasts me the 3 years and I will not have to pick up another phone until at least the end of 2021.

No New Nokia Phones For Me

Last week on the train ride home I was talking to my friend about the up and coming Google I/O 2019 event, Android, the Pixel phones and gimmicks/features all these phones are coming out with. With the recently leaked Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL details I questioned whether when the Pixel 4 is announced (at the end of 2019 at the usual Google Pixel hardware event?) that there would be three or four models. Two mid-range models (one for the smaller model and another for the larger one) and two premium models (again one small and one large). The reason I bring this up is because HMD Global/Nokia have again failed to live up to timely updates and I am fed up.

It is now the month of May and my Nokia 8 still does not have the April update. It took until the end of April/beginning or May for HMD Global/Nokia to release the March update or my phone to receive the update. Completely unacceptable IMO, for a company that specified they will be providing timely updates to their devices, and my telecommunication provider not being at fault. I have already blogged about this, but this time I am drawing a line through the HMD Global/Nokia brand when it comes to buying a brand new phone. When my friend’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has the April security update, and Samsung being known to take more time to release updates to their phones it is unacceptable.

It is as if HMD Global/Nokia have completely forgotten their commitment to timely updates for older model phones. This is one of the reasons why I moved away from HTC. Right now the only devices that I feel would be providing timely updates are the Google Pixel line of phones, have the hardware to do what I need (nothing special and I don’t play games) and not fall apart; oh and also not cost an arm and a leg. I miss the days of the Nexus line (I had a Nexus 4 and Nexus 6), all of which had timely updates, did the job they were tasked to do and lasted physically without costing a fortune. I know that the Pixel line is expensive but with the new line of mid-range phones coming from Google perhaps that is what I will go with. Is it so hard to ask for an OEM to provide timely OS and security updates, at a reasonable price point (under $700 Australian dollars) and has specifications that are not turtlish but also not elite. I also don’t need gimmicks with my phone such as the with the LG G8 ThinQ.

Goodbye HMD Global/Nokia, you had your chance to keep me as a loyal customer but you have failed after I gave you a number of chances. The only hesitation I have with the Pixel line is the hardware is not the best such as the lower than what is common now RAM and the durability of the phone. If the Pixel 4 mid-range phone can withstand JerryRigEverything’s durability test, has workable hardware, and is not going to break the bank it will be my go to; otherwise I will need to look elsewhere for a new phone when this Nokia 8 kicks the bucket. My fingers are crossed for the Pixel 4.

Resolving my restarting PC issue

Last weekend my gaming desktop PC started to randomly restart itself. It first did not appear to be after a set period of time or when there was a certain application running, it looked really random. I noted it down and said to myself that I am going to fix the problem in the coming week or next weekend. I was not looking forward to the troubleshooting and diagnosis process.

During the week I was a little busy with other things and I never even got a chance to turn on my gaming desktop PC, so fixing it during the week did not happen. As the weekend came along and I just finished my lunch on a bright and clear Saturday I said to myself that I should probably fix the problem.

Now I have only ever experienced this type of issue before once and have heard a number of different people have the same problem. In my case originally the problem was the PSU and I had to replace it. The issue here was that every single story had a different solution to the problem. Googling the problem will also give you some general and generic answers. The problem could be:

  1. Hardware related – something could be faulty
  2. Software related – some virus or application writing to an area of memory it shouldn’t
  3. Firmware/Driver related – graphical drivers or even deeper problems

I was hoping that the problem was hardware; I had not installed any new software and if I had a virus I would be concerned; Nvidia had put out new graphical drivers but I had not updated any other firmware on my machine. And fortunately enough for me this time around it was only hardware related. My thought process in resolving the problem and narrowing it down to a specific piece of hardware (if it was not hardware related I would have gone through the process of troubleshooting the software, etc.) was to piece by piece remove all hardware component and see if the PC restarts.

I started off by removing and unplugging all my audio equipment and disconnecting my PC completely from the network; not too important and I would not have thought they were the culprit but I need the space and room to work. The first hardware component I removed and test was my GPU. I was hoping that my GPU was not the culprit (it wasn’t) as buying a new GPU right now is out of the question for me. Once my gaming desktop PC restarted with the GPU out I also uninstalled and removed any driver and Nvidia software. Sometimes updates to the graphic drivers causes problems; it has done that to me a number of times. Still the issue persists.

With the GPU removed and all the accompanying software/drivers removed with the issue not resolved, the next logical piece of hardware to remove is the RAM. I have configured 2 8GB RAM sticks, and I first removed the RAM stick that is in Channel A but #2. Issue still unresolved. I replaced the first RAM stick in Channel A #1 with the one I removed first. Low and behold the restarting issue could not be replicated.

To verify that it indeed was the RAM stick, I changed them over to see if it would restart but it didn’t. I was a little confused. After talking to my dad and a couple of my mates on Discord, they said that potentially it was that the RAM stick was just having contact issues and needed to just be reseated. So I played around a little more with my RAM configuration and I could not reproduce the issue. Restarting would normally and reliably occur after at least 10 minutes of my gaming desktop PC being on and logged into Windows 10 when I was testing on Saturday. But now with both RAM sticks (even just having the one identified as the faulty RAM stick alone) installed the issue could not be replicated. This is good news.

I inserted back my GPU, installed the latest Nvidia graphic drivers and made sure everything was up to date, and then just let my PC run a video in the background waiting for it to reboot. It did not happen. Looks like reseating the RAM sticks resolved the problem. Thankfully I do not have to purchase any new hardware and I can still have my PC running with 16GB worth of RAM and not the 8GB if one of the sticks was faulty. So the lesson to be learnt is to methodically go through each of your hardware one by one, noting down any configuration changes and testing to see if the issue can be reproduced consistently. Once the issue has been resolved, see if you can reproduce the issue by reverting the change you had done; once that is confirmed see if your fix when applied again resolves the issue.

Moving Away From Insider Builds

I have been an Xbox and Windows Insider since the two programmes were available. Though I have been more active in providing feedback and taking alpha, and regular early builds in the Xbox Insider programme than the Windows Insider programme. However, it has now come to the point where stability is an issue. I can live with the issues like party chat not working all the time or getting randomly disconnected from Xbox Live. But not being able to update your console is entirely different.

At the start of the Windows Insider programme I was active, much like I was with the Xbox Insider programme. The builds were fairly stable, the features were coming in fast and were generally reliably. However some point at the end of 2017 or early 2018 I felt that the builds had gotten less stable and I experienced a number of update issues. I never ran any of the Windows Insider builds on my regular and day to day Windows machine but the laptop that had been receiving builds was encountering issues updating to the next build and odd system performance and functional problems.

Note: I am well aware that taking early builds is always going to come with problems and being part of the programme is to help find issues, report them and provide feedback on the quality of the build. However when you cannot perform basic functions and update your machine to the next build, it becomes hard to stay in the programme. I commend Microsoft in trying to resolve as much of the issues as possible and getting the community’s feedback on features and functionality. But there comes a point where being part of the programme is no longer viable or worth it.

The issues that I had experienced with the Windows Insider programme, I rarely if ever experienced with the Xbox Insider programme. Updating to the latest Xbox OS version was never a problem (if you have an update waiting then your only options are to update to the new version, stay offline, or turn the Xbox off) and getting access to new features was great. Many of the issues I found with the Xbox Insider builds were mainly cosmetic until recently. Two weeks ago I tried to update my Xbox One X console to the latest Xbox OS build but I kept getting an upgrade error. As I stated above, my options were limited. I can either update the console or not play it.

I tried to update the console again after it failed, but that did not work. I performed a hard reboot and hard restart of the console but that too did not work. Looking at the Xbox support page provided me with an option to perform an offline update (but from what happened it appears that it only considers Xbox OS versions that are not part of the Xbox Insider programme). Updating offline did not help at all. I resorted to performing a factory reset but that too did not help. The error message was also inconsistent and when I went to the Xbox support page to look what the error messages meant, it showed that I needed to give my Xbox to Microsoft to fix it (not going to happen, especially during the holiday period). I was not sure the Xbox Insider build was the problem originally but I unenrolled the Xbox console from the Xbox Insider programme and tried to update it again. Low and behold it updated with no issue, to the current consumer wide stable version.

When you cannot update your console to the latest version, but need the update to have your console function properly it is a major issue. Should I have been part of the Xbox Insider programme with my main Xbox One X console? Probably not, just like I kept my main desktop Windows PC on a stable version of Windows 10 and my Windows laptop on an insider build, I should have done the same with my Xbox consoles. As it is noted by Microsoft when you join the programmes, the builds can be problematic and you may not use your machine because of the update or the update my brick your machine. With that in mind now and having issues I don’t feel it is worth getting access to new features when the builds are less stable no matter which ring (alpha, beta, etc) I am in. Once I learn that these issues are resolved or happening nearly not at all I may re-enroll my console.

Living with a Google Home Hub

Some Background

When Google announced the Google Home Hub at their Google Pixel event in October, I was intrigued. Do I use Cortana? Yes. Do I also use the Google Assistant? Yes. The more I watch Microsoft’s assistant play in the consumer space, the more I get attracted to Google’s offering. I’m sorry Microsoft, I really like you and your products but your play in the consumer space is not great (non-existent really). Not only is the Google Assistant superior to Cortana on Android, it feels far more complete and functional. Cortana on Android has been of a little bit of a mess for me anyway (you can read my post on that here).

Looking at what the Google Home Hub can do and what some of the smart device offerings are on the market currently really made me decide to pick one up. I did not decide to pick up a Google Home or Google Home Mini because they did not have screens. I have never considered picking up any of the Alexa enabled devices such as the Echo or Echo Dot either. Having audio only results presented is not ideal in all situations, for example if I ask the Google Assistant what the weather is going to be like for the remainder of the week it shows me the next several days, the highest and lowest temperature and what the expected conditions will be. Another bonus of the Google Home Hub compared to other smart devices with screens is the distinct lack of a camera.

Unboxing

When I went to my local JB Hi-Fi and asked for the Google Home Hub in charcoal, the box that it came in was small as is the actual device. I originally thought that the device was going to be a little bigger, but it being this size has really not bothered me. If it was a little bigger then placing it on my bedside table (where it currently sits) would make it look out of place and too big. When you open the box you get the device, some paperwork and the cable that connects to the wall. Overall it was a pleasant experience (clean and there was no wasted space or materials), much like other premium device boxing like the Surface Book 2.

Setup and Configuration

I commend Google in making the setup process of the Google Home Hub so easy. Downloading the Google Home app on my Android phone and then following the prompts on the Google Home Hub and the Google Home app made it seamless. As someone who is security conscious with access control enabled on my wireless router and my wireless network does not broadcast its name, having the Google Home Hub connect and then allowing it to communicate on the network was easier than some other wireless devices that I have connected on my network. The Google Home app on Android has all the settings that you will need to make sure that your Google Home Hub is properly configured. From the downtime options to alarms and the brightness of the screen when the room is dark. Everything is there for you to configure and is clearly laid out when you select the device on the Google Home app. Simple and easy to use which is always a nice to have for a device that can do so much.

Clear Display with Decent Speakers

With a smaller display than the other smart devices on the market you would think that the quality of the screen and resolution would be poor. But I find that it is just about right. Images look acceptable, they are not the best I have seen but they are also not the worst. The screen can also go really bright and really dark, plus the ambient light sensor at the top makes the brightness change accordingly and it works great.

For a device this small I would have thought the speakers would be worse. But I am pleasantly surprised at how loud and how clear the speakers are. They don’t have much bass to them, but that is to be expected. Overall the music, radio and standard alarm that get blasted through the speakers is acceptable, but don’t expect it to be amazing.

The Google Assistant Shines Bright

With no other smart devices purchased currently the main use of the Google Home Hub for me is to use it as a bedside clock, alarm and informational device. As a bedside clock, the Google Home Hub does a very good job. I have a clock displayed when the hub is idle (not cycling through my Google Photos) and depending on the ambient room brightness the display on the hub changes brightness. At night it is not bright at all and I can easily make out the numbers and during the day it is just like any other clock.

Configuring the Google Home Hub to have an alarm is super simple and you can also set a radio alarm. On the Google Home app on Android you can check to see what alarms you have but you cannot modify them which is a little unfortunate (maybe in a future update); the volume of the alarm appears to be the only thing you can change. The actual Google Home Hub cannot modify the alarm volume with the volume rocker that is on the back right of the device, that seems to just adjust the media volume level.

One of the first things I do in the morning is turn my alarm off and then say “Ok Google, good morning”. The morning routine that I have set for my Google Assistant provides me with the information to see what is on my calendar, what tasks I need to complete, what reminders are set, what the weather is going to like, how my commute to work will be and then it plays my favourite radio station while I get ready for work. I love this feature because it gets me ready for the day and I know what I need to do.

Asking the Google Assistant information such as the weather, travel time, locations of certain shops, etc is really easy too. You don’t need to yell, as the hub can easily pick up your voice from the other side of the room (my bedroom is about 5 meters by 5 meters). I find that the Google Home Hub’s Google Assistant performs near identically to the one on my Android phone. A bonus here is that information from the Google Home Hub can also be relayed to your phone, for example if you ask for departure times or how to get someone, the information will be presented to you ready for Google Maps.

Well Worth It

Overall for $220 Australia dollars, I feel that I have gotten my money out of it. I got a brand new bedside clock, a new radio alarm, and also a little assistant I can get to let me know in the morning what I need to get done before I go to bed and also ask it any information that I need to know without touching a screen.

Issues with Cortana on Android

Until very recently I was using Cortana on my Nokia 8 Android phone, but I have been noticing some odd behaviour. Previously when I would ask Cortana for something like “will it rain tomorrow?” or “what will the weather be like for the remainder of the week?” I would get a visual representation of what the weather would be like, along with the metrics I am after. Now all I get are web links. What happened?

I decided to turn Google’s AI assistant on again and use that for a little while to see if that works as per my expectation. Low and behold, Google’s AI assistant is working far better. When I ask the same questions that I ask Cortana to the Google AI assistant, I get a pleasant response without me having to click on various result links to get the information I want. The usability and overall experience is far better.

What Microsoft has done to Cortana on Android has me confused. Is it a bug? Is that how Cortana is going to be behaving on Android from now on? I even tried using the Cortana assistant that comes with the Microsoft Launcher. The same issue still occurs. Right now I have it uninstalled Cortana and am using Google’s AI assistant. Until Microsoft has resolved this functional issue, Cortana will remain uninstalled from my Android phone and will be used even less now on my main desktop PC and Surface Book 2. Google’s assistant has now taken its spot.

Revisiting Google Chrome VS Microsoft Edge on my Microsoft Surface Book 2

Just under a year ago I wrote about the my experience using Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge on my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (it can be found here). Several months later once I purchased my Microsoft Surface Book 2 I did a very similar comparison between the two browsers (it can be found here). Now I am revisiting my experience using Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge on the same Microsoft Surface Book 2. The good news I can tell you is that Google has caught back up to Microsoft in my books.

With my original Microsoft Surface Book 2 (and Microsoft Surface Pro 3) experiences blog posts there were two areas that I was fairly critical of Google’s Chrome browser when comparing it to Microsoft’s Edge browser and why I chose to use Microsoft Edge over Google Chrome. Those were (and I am not the only one to notice these pain points when using Google Chrome):

  1. Negative impact on the device’s battery
  2. Resource usage and management

The current version of Google Chrome that I am using on my Microsoft Surface Book 2 is version 68.0.3440.106 (Official Build) (64-bit). With this build I can say for 100% certainty that Google has made some improvements in regard to battery life (well I notice better battery performance). Using Microsoft Edge I could easily get 8 hours (1 full work day) of battery life no problem (this includes browsing the web, consuming different media, etc). With the version of Google Chrome I am using now (and the ones in between), I can get roughly the same amount of hours, performing the same tasks. I tested this over a couple of weeks and made sure that I was having my device fully charged before use and browsing roughly the same sites and watching similar content. So kudos to Google in fixing this. If you have a mobile device like a laptop then battery life is very important. The difference between using an application that drains the battery faster than another application that does the same tasks could be whether or not you need to bring your charging cable. I can safely say for me, I don’t need to bring my charging cable with me when I am now using Google Chrome.

Google Chrome is known to be a resource hog as well, and I make note of this in my original experience blog post (there are plenty of memes out there that make fun of Google Chrome and how it handles RAM and CPU usage; this one here is one of my favourites). Has it gotten better with the later releases? Yes, sort of. When I see what processes and services are taking up what resources, I can see that Google Chrome is sitting high on this list compared to Microsoft Edge (even now with the build that I am looking at). However comparing it to the last time I was monitoring my resources, Google Chrome is no where near consuming as much RAM (even with the same extensions, websites, etc running) and the load on the CPU is smaller. Microsoft Edge still uses less resources so in the long term you will get slightly more battery life than if you used Google Chrome (but not by much), and you get slightly more heat generated on the device but nothing that makes it difficult or uncomfortable to use on your lap.

Google Chrome now performing very similar to Microsoft Edge in regards to battery life and resource management, there is very little reason to stay on Microsoft Edge. Google Chrome is leaps and bounds ahead of Microsoft in regard to:

  1. Extensions – so, much more options. You just get a large number of options. The popular ones are appearing on Microsoft Edge but even the ones that are there, the Google Chrome ones are updated more frequently and seem to be treated like first class citizens compared to the Microsoft Edge counterparts. The situation here is just like any app on the Windows Store in general.
  2. Rendering web pages – Google Chrome has no issue rendering if not all but most web pages (probably 99.99% of them) whereas Microsoft Edge I find sometimes does not correctly render web pages correctly and I either have to refresh or switch browsers for it to load. I am not the only one to experience this with Microsoft Edge, I have found some friends say the same thing to me when using Microsft Edge.

So in the end, Google Chrome is being used as my primary web browser on my Microsoft Surface Book 2 again, until something breaks the Google Chrome build that returns it to the battery draining and RAM usage hog of the old days. I’m sorry Microsoft, but Microsoft Edge is just not worth using anymore even with all the improvements and changes made (which I really like too). There is nothing wrong with changing what products you use, what products you like, etc. as they are always changing and your situations also change. I constantly switch what Android apps I use and on my Windows PC this is no different. I will continue to use products that help me be more productive, and for longer periods. In this case Google Chrome is that browser. Let me know what you think. Have you seen improvements in the same areas with the later Google Chrome builds? Let me know in the comments.

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 AI  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.

Moving to Visual Studio Code

I performed a clean install of Windows 10 on my Surface Book 2 recently and I have not installed my default go to Java IDE, which is IntelliJ. Instead I have now moved to using another tool, which I am finding is much more versatile and beneficial; Visual Studio Code. I have previously used Visual Studio Code but mainly as a way to edit my various data files such as XML, XAML, JSON, etc. and not any of my source code files like Java, C# or C++. I treated VS Code as a text editor only previously.

Visual Studio Code comes with a crazy amount of extensions which is great because that gives you options. To get started with Java, the extensions that I suggest you get is:

  • Java Extension Pack – this comes with all the necessary Java dependencies for Visual Studio Code such as proper language support for Java, Debugger for Java, Java Test Runner, Maven for Java.

On top of that extension you will need a JDK installed. If you want to know how to setup the environment for Java then have a look at the comprehensive page that Microsoft has created here. Microsoft also has a pretty sweet tutorial about how to build a Spring Boot application that can be found here.

One thing that IntelliJ made super simple was the compilation of Java code and managing all the dependencies, not to mention providing some really convenient debugging tools and project management. This makes it a really powerful development tool. When I was at university I primarily used a terminal or command console with a basic text editor for developing software, but as I moved towards writing commercial software for the company I work for I relied less and less on the terminal and command console and more on the IDE for the heavy lifting. Now that I use VS Code I am using the terminal and command console more again, and all of the necessary information such as the class path, dependencies, etc to ensure everything complies correctly is critical. Looking at this now, I really appreciate what the IDE does to simplify development process but realise how important it is to know the fundamentals.

I wrote about a similar scenario a month or so ago regarding Git (this can be found here) and how important it is to actually be really familiar with the Git commands through a terminal and/or command console because it is cross platform but it allows you to truly understand what is going on. Using a GUI is fine but all that does is issue the same commands you would use if you were using a terminal or command console. Using VS Code and the terminal to compile and execute my Java applications has allowed me to really appreciate what the IDE does to simplify the development process but also familiarise myself with the fundamentals and important concepts that can be carried between platforms.