My Pixel 4 XL arrived yesterday – I’ll write up a review on my day off but what I thought was funny was how the Vodafone SIM I had laying around didn’t automatically configure my phone so that I could send or receive messages but when I put in my Skinny SIM (Spark’s ‘price concious’ brand) everything started working without me having to configure anything. I opened up Google messages, went to settings and enabled chat functionality (using Google’s own Jibe RCS servers since none of the carriers in New Zealand support RCS). Today I went to work – no problems, then went to the store after work to give Google Pay. Long story short – I’m a happy lad.

My Chromecast with Google TV arrived today and although I am waiting for my Google Workspaces to hit the 30 day mark so that I can use YouTube I was able to set everything else up. On the first boot up I went through the process of configuring the settings including voice control which I set to English United Kingdom (which funny enough was able to work with a New Zealand accent without an issues). After configuring and getting it hooked up to wifi (thank goodness it supports 5GHz) it downloaded a sizeable update and got that installed. I then went to the Paly store and downloaded all the applications I use on a regular basis – Bloomberg, DW, France 24 and Al Jazeera.

The first thing I noticed, after getting everything setup, is how the whole experience is not only faster/more responsive than the Tizen based operating system that Samsung uses in its televisions, it is also faster than the Apple TV 4K where I found there was constant lag between pressing my remote and the device responding. There is also the issue of the remote control – the Apple TV one is just horrible, it has been with us for 2 generations (maybe more) and it really hasn’t gotten all that much better where as the Chromecast with Google TV comes with a fairly traditional remote with clicky buttons and it works perfect.

This coming weekend I’ll do a more comprehensive review of both of them but for now I’m pretty impressed with how things are going.

It’s labour day in New Zealand today so unfortunately, although my package from Australia (well, one out of the two) is sitting in Auckland it has been delayed so I might not get it until either tomorrow (an unrealistic earliest assuming it comes down on the overnight truck from Auckland to Wellington the courier service during the day) or the most likely scenario being later on in the week.

Work is going well and I’ve put in an application for leave over Christmas, 23-27 December, which will give me 9 days off (5 days annual leave and four days weekend). Regarding Christmas presents for the family, I’ll start having a look around in November but I think I’ll keep it pretty simple; money for my eldest niece, a toy for the youngest two nieces, and some goodies for the rest of the family (although I’ll need to get a virtual gift for my brother, his parter and their baby since sending it from New Zealand to Australia will be costly and liable to be broken knowing my luck).

My UDM (Unifi Dream Machine) received an update to 1.8.2-8 however there was an international user who has an UDM device connected to his ISP which uses VLAN tagging and ipv6 (which is what most ISPs in New Zealand use) but he was experiencing issues so before I take the dive of maybe moving ISPs I want to make sure what issues he is actually having.

The craziness of another election is over and Labour won a majority as expected but the biggest shock was the Auckland Central Candidate from the Green Party, Chlöe Swarbrick, won the seat which is the first constituency seat won since Jeanette Fitzsimons won the seat in the Coromandel. Not only that but the Green Party ended up over performing resulting in winning 7.6% of the party vote. Not only was there a Labour win but a political shift to the left with the icing on the cake that Advance NZ and New Conservatives ended up splitting in the reactionary right wing vote resulting in NZ First leaving parliament.

Oh a good side today I received two lots of confirmation, the first being that Kogan is sending me the Pixel 4 XL that I ordered which will hopefully arrive by early November. The second good news is that my brother tested the Chromecast at home has sent it so hopefully that too will arrive by early November.

Along with that I am looking at the possibility of moving to Vodafone for both my broadband and mobile connection. They’ve got a $300 credit over 12 months (which works out to be $25 per month which translates into $78 per month for 900/500 broadband. I’ve first got to find out how much notice I have to give before I make up my mind.

Another day, another pay – busy at work but one of the perks of being busy is that it makes the day go faster. Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m going to get up early so I can head over to the polling booth and cast my vote for Chris Hipkins for my local MP but I’m going to give the Green Party my party vote. I understand that the Green Party aren’t going to get everything they want but if they can focus on where their strengths are such as the environment, championing public transport etc. then hopefully as a country we can get closer to our ‘carbon neutral by 2050’ (IMHO, I think we could get their quicker if we banned importing ICE vehicles by 2025, banned ICE vehicles completely by 2030, and use that time to build up an electrified rail network to provide competitive long distance transportation so then air travel is left solely for overseas transportation – I guess that is why I’m not involved in politics, I’d annoy too many people).

The Chromecast with Google TV arrived while my brother and his partner were out so they went and picked it up. For some known reason Toll insists on having a pin when picking up – because, you know, ID that matches the name on the parcel itself isn’t good enough. Well, if there is one thing I have learned and that is, when there is the option to ‘upgrade’ to courier I should stick with the standard Australian Post because there is a whole lot less drama that way. As noted in the past, if I do ever get ‘tempted’ by Google’s product launches, what I’ll do instead is schedule a holiday to Australia where I can wrap up my purchasing in with a holiday and enjoy a holiday along side some retail therapy.

I found this amazing piece of software called ‘Mimestream’ (link) which uses the GMail API which means it properly deals with labels, it uses a push based API which means you get notified when new mail arrives rather than the mail application having to poll the server in the background which should help when it comes to battery life on laptops. So far, even at 0.7.0c it is very stable with new releases being made available on almost a weekly basis (sometimes quicker than that). It’ll definitely be at the top of my ‘to buy’ list once it is released but even at the beta stage it is very reliable (keeping in mind I’m not a hardcore email user). There is work on adding address and calendaring functionality so it sounds like the long term goal is to turn it into something akin to Outlook but for GSuite/Workspaces.

I’ve been following UDM (UniFi Dream Machine) firmware development and I have to admit that at this stage I am pretty disappointed. The standard firmware that comes with a UDM (1.5.7) doesn’t support my ISP out of the box which necessitated the need to upgrade it to the latest beta version which introduces its own set of issues regarding bugs relating to memory leaks etc. At this point I am very tempted to looking at getting three Google Nest Wifi routers then daisy chaining them together using ethernet cables under the house which would give a strong coverage for the whole house. The big problem is about getting the ethernet cables installed – I wouldn’t be able to fit under the house but I’d be more than happy to pay someone $100 cash in hand to get under the house thread the cables through because once it is threaded through it’ll all be sorted. That being said, I’ll wait and see what Ubiquiti ends up deciding to do because it is a great kit but it really isn’t living up to its full potential at the moment.

I’m looking forward to the Chromecast with Google TV to arrive because at the moment I’m using my televisions built in software (Tizen since it is a Samsung television). It is ‘ok’ in terms of ‘it does the job’ but the responsiveness is bad not to mention that it doesn’t support 5GHz wifi so I have to enable it on my access point. Looking at all the videos on YouTube it appears to be as fluid as Apple TV (maybe they’ve migrated over to Flutter for the UI?). I’ve sold my Apple TV, bought the Chromecast with Google TV and I’m $150 up which will enable me to pay for my new tyre so I’m a happy lad.

Well, I came off my scooter yesterday due to a puncher in my back tyre so I’ve had to rest from work – I’ve been taking it easy but in moments where I’m feeling better I plugged up 4 punchers in my tyre. I think long term I’m going to have to replace the back tyre but at the moment it’ll get me through to the end of the week.

Welp, got that all sorted out – I couldn’t order a Chromecast with Google TV via best buy however on a good side I realised it is available in Australia so I’ve ordered it so that it is delivered to my brother and then he’ll send it to New Zealand. I think going forward that once this whole COVID-19 is under control I’m going to turn October into the ‘upgrade my phone and gear while I head over to Australia for a holiday’ which will enable me to get Google gear without the stress of dealing with retailers in the US who apparently are keeping tabs of addresses of remailing services.

On the Google front I’ve setup my Google Workspaces which will give me all the Workspaces applications plus 2TB of storage for NZ$18 per month and combine that with YouTube Premium which is NZ$15.99 the total cost is NZ$33.99 which isn’t too bad given that I’ll be backing up my whole music collection that I’ve backed from my CDs in FLAC files (currently sitting on an external SSD but it is always good practice to have an offsite backup) as well as making extensive use of YouTube Music since I’ll upload my whole FLAC collection to YouTube Music and let Google do all the encoding required so then I can access my music from all my devices – laptop, desktop or mobile phone. I’ve jut finished uploading the contents of my external drive which is around 160GB but given that it comes with 2TB it is pretty much unlimited.

Once I’ve finished my YouTube Premium on my old account I’ll start up the subscription on my new account then upload all the FLAC files to YouTube Music so that they can be converted over. One of the cool things is that YouTube Music can be ‘installed’ as a PWA so it ends up acting like an application.

Side note: It is interesting to see that Google is heading in the direction that I thought they would in terms of consolidating around key brands such as using the YouTube brand for bringing together music, movies, linear television and so on. Another side note: If you have a Workspace/GSuite account, you may find that you cannot access YouTube – you’ll need to wait 30 days and have spent at least US$30 in terms of paying your subscription – that can either be in the form of a deposit or just paying for a couple of months. I found it out the hard way in the past – pulling my hair out wondering why it wasn’t working. On a good side, my Pixel 4 XL won’t arrive until November, and my Chromecast with Google TV will probably arrive towards the end of October after it is received by my brother and his partner in Australia then mailed to New Zealand – from what I understand there is a bit of a backlog between in Australia and New Zealand so it might take longer than usual. Oh well, all looking good. When it arrives I’ll give both a review including lots of photos and stuff.

Around 6 days ago Google had an event entitled ‘Launch Night In’ where they launched the Pixel 5, Pixel 4a with 5G, Chromecast with Google TV plus a few other product refreshes (link). Most of what they were about to announce had been leaked out but it was interesting to see a confirmation but I was disappointed that there was no true flagship. Although they had only leaked news about the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a with 5G, I was expecting maybe a single high end model with a big screen (maybe even just on one colour to reduce inventory costs) but unfortunately I was disappointed. There was the mention of a Chromecast with Google TV (the rebranded Android TV) which has a fresh new interface and great hardware but unfortunately it isn’t available in New Zealand. One thing to keep in mind it has only has just been announced – I’m sure a retailer in New Zealand will distribute it just as they’ve distributed Google stuff in the past such as Kogan or one of the big box vendors (truth be known I prefer buying my stuff online and avoid the crowds – I was social distancing before it was cool).

I then did some comparisons with the Pixel 4 XL and interesting enough it still holds up strong against the 765G SoC and although Google talk about not launching a high end flagship this year as being a deliberate choice I have a sneaking suspicion it had to do more with wanting to push out a 5G phone and deciding to go with the 765G SoC to offset the extra power consumption and cost that the 5G modem uses (not to mention pressure by carriers who are hyping up their 5G network (don’t get me started on mmwave and how it is pretty much snake oil at this point). I have a inkling that next year we’ll see the return of a ‘traditional’ flag ship as the cost of 5G technology drops in cost so that it is integrated into the SoC like the modem was with the 855 series or maybe Google drops support for mmwave altogether after Verizon finally comes to its senses and realises that a technology that cannot penetrate a raindrop probably isn’t all that good even if the hypebeasts at network equipment manufacturers promise multi gigabit speeds.

Another weekend has arrived and I’m looking for some relaxation at home. So far the new kitchen is looking good although I have to get the floor covering installed but that being said I’m in no great hurry since there is plastering and panting yet to be done. With all that being said the kitchen does look a lot bigger now that the shelves on the wall are removed along with the divider which made the kitchen feel boxed in.

Rumours are still making the rounds that Apple will still have an iPhone presentation on 14 October (13 October US time) along with maybe announcing the release date of macOS 11.0 ‘Big Sur’ along side the release of the first ‘Apple Silicon’ based Mac (rumoured to be the MacBook ultrabook which would enable Apple to show off it’s architectural chops on the form of great battery life in a thin and light form factor).

The weather is improving and with that I think I’m going to get back on track. I’ve been pretty lazy over Autumn and Winter so this Spring and Summer I’m going to start going for a small walk each night – some fresh air along with getting the body moving. Tomorrow will be a start of a fresh new day – lets see how it all turns out.