WiFi Smart Connect is not so smart

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

The exact description of the feature from my device is:

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

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

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

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

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

Buggy Video Games = Frustration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming a Rough Work Day

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

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

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

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

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

Interested in a Pixelbook Go and Chrome OS

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

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

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

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

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

Xbox Series X Impressions

I was very fortunate to have been able to pre-order an Xbox Series X from the Microsoft Store in Australia and have it delivered; one day later than the release date but I was not too fussed about that (thanks DHL by the way). Now that I have spent some time with the Xbox Series X I have some impressions that I would like to share and maybe if you are considering in picking up a next-generation (or current generation now I guess) console I can help in some way.

Black, dense, matte and unassuming

If there are several adjectives that I would use to describe the Xbox Series X, I would say the console is matte, black, dense, and unassuming. Microsoft has basically created the most “boring” and unassuming console I can remember to date; and that is not a bad thing either. The Xbox Series X sits on the top right of my TV entertainment unit and really it is nothing too flashy or eye catching. There are no flashing lights or other effects – the only light you will see is the Xbox logo power button on the front of the console.

When you take the Xbox Series X out of the box you will notice one thing very quickly, it is a heavy console. Microsoft must have packed everything in there very neatly and in a way to save as much space as possible but also ensure that there is enough airflow so the console will not overheat. The console is just a solid rectangular prism. None of which is a bad thing. The console feels very premium and for the price the expectations are set and met.

Originally I had the console laying horizontally but the base does not come off and it looks a little weird in my opinion as the base is one large circular dish. I wish that Microsoft allowed the base to be removed if the console was laying down because it does look a little weird. So now I have the console sitting vertically like much of the marketing material showing the Xbox Series X. The entire top of the console is one massive vent with small circular holes too. If you look at the top of the console from different angles you will find a green color outlining the inner perimeter of the circular vent holes; nice touch.

The black color and matte finish is great if you do not mind having fingerprints on the console if you continually touch it; so I say set it and forget it. I am happy it is not any other flashy color or white as it would look a little odd next to all my other black electronic devices in my entertainment unit. Overall aesthetically I feel the console is perfect for me; it is not trying to do too much, it sits there doing what it is supposed to do and nothing more. Microsoft has done a great job in creating something that will just blend in the background.

Fantastic performance across the board for old and new

During the couple of weeks I have been playing games on the Xbox Series X I have noticed that all the games look amazing, load extremely fast and play very well. One of the first games that I did try was Gears Tactics which is optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. With the game installed on the internal solid state drive it loads insanely quick and it looks amazing. I never noticed any graphical issues, pop in or other framerate issues when playing the game; the Xbox Series X handled that game really well. I did have the game crash on me once when I reloaded from a checkpoint but it never happened again so :shrug:

I have also been playing Apex Legends with my friends and that too loads and plays well with little to no issue. The game has not been “upgraded” for the new consoles as far as I know so that is saying something on the upscaling and performance bump the console provides naturally with its raw power. Two other games that were also not optimized that I played were Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal. Both of which I may add were installed on the external hard drive I have attached to my Xbox Series X. Again I found no framerate or graphical issues in either game, plus even loading from the external hard drive I felt was fairly quick. Doom Eternal I would like to point out in particular played buttery smooth and looked absolutely amazing; kudos to the developers.

Recently Vermintide 2 got an update to be optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Previously the game took a very long time to load and played in what felt like 30 fps with some harsh dips in frames when there was a large number of enemies on the screen. With the update however the framerate looks to have been bumped up, the game loads insanely fast and there is no framerate dips when the action picks up. So older games when updated play significantly better and if they are not optimized still benefit from small boosts in performance from what I can tell. Again Microsoft has gone above and beyond in ensuring that old games play better and new games play great.

I did test out Destiny 2 because that game on my Xbox One X took forever to load and would only play at 30 fps. When installed on the external hard drive the loading time is faster on the Xbox Series X than on the Xbox One X but there is no framerate improvement unfortunately. If you do move the game to the internal solid state drive then you get an even greater crazy increase in loading performance but again no framerate improvement, so I’ll need to wait for Bungie to optimize the game for the Xbox Series X. I look forward to that.

Overall, no matter if the game is old or new, Microsoft has found a way to squeeze some form of performance improvement being either faster loading or better framerate. With no true Xbox Series X exclusives out that I am interested in playing at the moment (or am aware of) and allowing older games to just perform better on the new console is a massive bonus. If you want to play the best Xbox versions of current games released then you should consider picking up the Xbox Series X; however if you are waiting for a killer game like Halo Infinite then wait for a bundle as I feel like the Xbox One X is more than capable of playing anything out now just not as good as the Xbox Series X.

Along with playing games very well it does so super quietly too. I can barely even hear the Xbox Series X when I am playing games. Sometimes I have even gone up to the console just to see if I can hear the fan spinning. There was no game that I played that caused me to actually hear the fan or console making any noticeable sound. Along with it being whisper quiet the console does gives off a good amount of heat from the top vent. This is to be expected as the top vent acts much like an exhaust. Is it very hot? No not really, but there is a good increase in ambient temperature increase around the top vent. Would it cause the room to get very hot like some “journalists” have noted – no and it also will not cause any discomfort to your hand if you leave it on the vent for a period of time. I am not too concerned about the amount of heat the console emits as it looks to be putting out the heat instead of keeping it inside the console. Only time will tell if there will be another red ring of death scenario and fingers crossed there will not be.

Quick resume and Xbox Game Pass

If you are like me and play two or three games at a time then hopping between games can be a pain. I could be playing Control and then be invited to an Apex Legends or Gears 5 online match. Saving one game and then loading the new game on the Xbox One X could take a long time depending on where I am in the first game as saving or finding a checkpoint is not always possible so quickly. But with quick resume I do not need to worry about that anymore. I have not experienced any game that I have played at the moment that has had issues in loading quickly with quick resume or failing to load with quick resume. I can turn the console off and then the next night I can boot it back up and pick up the game right where I left off; no menu loading or game save loading. I can jump between games and it takes at most 10 seconds compared to the several minutes it would take previously. I do not know how Microsoft has done this but it is fantastic.

Microsoft has bet big on Xbox Game Pass and I love it. From Doom Eternal to Control; paying full price for games is now a distant memory. If you are in the Xbox and Windows ecosystem then it makes the most sense to pick up Xbox Game Pass and if you have a PC then having Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the best option out there. I would never have picked up Crusader Kings 3 but with it being on Xbox Game Pass on PC I gave it a whirl. So while there is no killer exclusive you benefit so much from trying the buffet that is the games on offer with Xbox Game Pass. There really is something for everyone. This is one offering that is available for both previous generation and current generation of Xbox consoles though but I am mentioning it here as there are a good number of optimized games on Xbox Game Pass for the Xbox Series X.

Overall it has been very pleasant

I tip my hat off to Microsoft. From a pleasant aesthetic that does nothing special but does everything right to the great performance in loading and framerate, I am super happy with my day one purchase. I have friends who are still waiting to receive theirs and when I tell them how great the console is performing they are getting more eager and excited to get their own console. I hope you console comes in soon Logan.

Would I recommend the console? Yes with some catches. If you absolutely must have the latest and greatest Xbox console then you would have pre-ordered or have already considered picking the console up when it is available to be purchased again or there is new stock. The Xbox Series X does everything the Xbox One X does but better and with some nice tricks up its sleeve like quick resume. You can wait for a killer game to come out before you pick up the Xbox Series X and you will not really be missing out on anything.

Again if you are in no rush then wait for a small price drop or bundle with a game that you are truly waiting on. Microsoft has done an amazing job in crafting a console that does everything great but in 2020 there is nothing forcing you or screaming out that says you must pick up the new Xbox Series X. If you are on the fence I say wait and save your money but if you want to play the games out now in the best way then what are you waiting for pick up the console.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Impression from the July Xbox Games Showcase

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

Halo Infinite – the Chief is back baby

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

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

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

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

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

State of Decay 3 – Winter zombie deers

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

Forza Motorsport – Vroooom…

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

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

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

Avowed – classic RPG

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

Hellblade 2 – we are going to… Iceland

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

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

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

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

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

Warhammer 40K: Dark Tide – for the Emperor

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

The Medium – rendering two worlds at the same time

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

CrossfireX – a Remedy campaign

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

Fable – what, you chase chickens?

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

Google Pixel Buds Initial Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unanswered Xbox Series X Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Authenticator Broken and Unavailable on WearOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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