It has been a crazy week at work – new customers signing up, old customers coming back and wanting to reset their passwords and confirm usernames etc. then add to that the usual drama over Christmas, my life has been up, breakfast, off to work then back home for a shower and jump straight into bed. I think it might be a little bit more crazy for the next few weeks as each person has their Christmas/New Years break. I had my nine days off (based on how Christmas fell this year and where my weekend sits (Monday and Tuesday) I ended up with 9 days off but only needed to use 4 days of my annual leave) but I’ll be keeping it for later this year around June when, hopefully, there will be a WWDC conference but that is assuming that the US gets the whole COVID situation under control.

The COVID vaccine is coming to New Zealand but I have a feeling that the first people to receive it will be those on the front line (those working in the quarantine facilities) and those who are most at risk of having an adverse outcome if they contract COVID. The vaccination is a two step process with the final shot increasing the effectiveness to 95% – just for some context, a February 2019, CDC interim report estimated the vaccine effectiveness to be approximately 47% against the 2018–2019 flu strains. So when viewed in that context you can see that a 95% of effectiveness is pretty good.

I did some grocery shopping this week – I was able to pick up some nice meal sauces from Barkers (link) where I bought the Tomato with black bean and Mushroom with red wine. The tomato one was very tasty which worked well with the Nachos – on the subject of Nachos, although I couldn’t find the Lewis Road sour cream at my local Countdown I did find that they were selling Tatua Sour Cream (link). Unlike the cheaper brands, the Tatua Sour Cream actually tastes like real sour cream rather than the bland cream plus gelatine concoction but without the cultured sour taste tastes when the sour cream is prepared properly.

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.

I’ve been reading up on the Samsung S20 range with the Exynos 990 SoC that was bundled with it – the pitch forks are being bought in bulk as the gap, in terms of performance, between Qualcomm 865 and Exynos 990 grows and customers (who don’t have access to the Qualcomm 865 model) voice their frustraction online. When you’re selling an inferior product for the same price as a superior version that is only available in certain countries (South Korea, USA, Canada, China, Japan and Latin America) then it shouldn’t be surprising that there are customers who are angry at feeling as though they’ve been shafted by Samsung.

With all that being said, it’ll be interesting to see what happens towards the end of the year when Samsung release the next SoC for next years Samsung smartphone given that Samsung has announced that they’ve cancelled their custom CPU development (link) in favour of licencing ARM CPU designs then tweaking the design rather than building one from the ground up. There is also a new agreement between AMD and Samsung (link) which points to the future SoC being designed around Samsung’s own custom modem (which performs well in the real world) coupled with a GPU from AMD (probably based on the new RDNA architecture).

The other product I’m excited about is the Microsoft Duo – the folio style smart phone with two screens running Android. What attracts me to it is firstly Microsoft’s reputation for long term software support (when compared to other Android OEMs) but the interesting part will be the integration between Microsoft’s services and Android along with seeing what the customised Android experience will look like – will it have a fresh but unique look or will Microsoft attempt to bring the WinUI/Fluent design language so that there is a consistent look and feel between the the Windows 10X (Microsoft Neo) and Android (Microsoft Duo) devices.