Was Microsoft Edge really ready for prime time?

Over the past few days I’ve made a full switch to Microsoft Edge being rebuilt on top of Chromium, a Google-based solution that you, the consumer, may know as Google Chrome.

Chromium is an open source web browser. As the words “open source” states any individual or entity can fork the code and do whatever they want with the source code. Microsoft decided to ditch away all the efforts they have done for Microsoft Edge and adopt Chromium. Up to this date I feel like they shouldn’t have done this but I completely understand on the why would they head that route. It’s actually quite genius when you think about it.

The first days using the new Microsoft Edge has been…. weird and I have complained about it in the past but this time it has become an on-going nightmare to really keep using it. All the issues starts when I unplug the AC adapter from my laptop… sadly I’ve seen the problem reproduce itself even with the AC adapter plugged and battery setting on Best Performance.

The issues I’ve had so far have been the following:

  • When watching a stream, it might lock-on into a frame. It causes the stream to look like it has frozen, but they audio continues.
  • When you are switching tabs and a video or stream is playing it might go completely black to the point you have to reload the tab.
  • When a video is being played, similarly to the previous problem above, instead of going black it creates colorful noise, not just to the video but the whole screen. If you try to minimize or maximize chrome it might affect your whole screen.
  • If in battery mode, the “smooth scrolling” is completely gone. It’s not like Safari, where you have that sleek user experience whether you are using battery or not… the experience with Microsoft Edge while the battery is in use degrades greatly to the point that it is noticeable to the user. You can see the scrolling around the pages “feels rough”, it loses that smooth slide.
  • And now, that one thing that led me to switch back to Firefox: I am a bilingual person. I know Spanish and English. I use the spellchecker of the browser for both languages… but for Microsoft Edge it literally chokes when clicking on a word it has identified as wrongly written. The behavior? I click on the word, to select the correct spelling… and the browser completely freezes for some time then displays the right context menu. As to why? I have no idea.

These issues, some of them are minor and others are glaring issues… lastly this is a fresh install. A fresh Windows 10 install. I willingly upgraded Microsoft Edge to the new chromium one… and honestly on paper it looks great, and it looks fantastic but was Microsoft Edge ready for prime time? I guess… I would say yes, but no? Maybe not enough time for testing on different laptops/computers?

I would love to come back to it when it’s more stable. I’m not writing Microsoft Edge off. I’m looking for it to mature because I know I WILL become a Microsoft Edge user eventually. Perhaps the right way to being more pro-active is to see how can I help the team test this and report back? Who knows.

GPU woes with the Dell XPS 9500 – A weird case of power saving issues affecting browsers like Microsoft Edge

Recently I’ve become forcedly aware of the existence of an on-going issue with my laptop. This issue, I believe is being caused by the power saving features in the drivers/software side. Or by Windows 10 but I find it hard to believe Windows 10 as an OS would meddle with the driver’s power saving decisions.

I could be wrong. The many times I have been wrong isn’t even funny sadly.

So, to begin with let’s look at the symptoms, they could be the following:

  • It could be a combination of my laptop starts exhibiting colorful noise or black screen while using Microsoft Edge.
  • Or Microsoft Edge video stream goes black while I’m watching a stream on Twitch or YouTube.
  • Or the stream freezes but the audio continue while using Microsoft Edge.
  • Or the while I’m playing a game the screen freezes, but the audio continues.

Honestly, Microsoft Edge has a weird thing going on with the GPU and power saving features more than any of the other browsers. Mozilla Firefox has never exhibited this behavior when it falls back into “Better Battery” profile. I very much doubt Google Chrome is impacted.

This leaves up with the following:

The Power Management features in the Intel and NVIDIA drivers are causing issues. If NVIDIA is set to Optimal Power, the software will do its best if it detects that program or game is idle. It re-uses the same frame, thus it causes the “screen freeze”.

Initially I thought it was just the NVIDIA GPU, but I noticed that the NVIDIA GPU wasn’t being used and it was the built-in GPU (Intel). Now, how these two are managed in modern time I do not know.

All I know is that the screen freezes and a stream going black or showing noise is itself a faulty driver issue. Something that either Intel or NVIDIA must investigate.

I do know that NVIDIA has these issues even on its desktop products. And I like to think that most of the problems are being caused by NVIDIA drivers. But at the same time, I cannot discard that maybe Intel GPU drivers are also wreaking havoc somewhere.

Dell XPS 15 9500 experience so far

Ever since my MacBook Pro gave in and I couldn’t find a proper repair shop for it I had to sell it and look for options that gave me the freedom to open up my hardware and do the repairs myself.

I guess the first thing that I wanted out of a laptop was reliability and good hardware that could push through the things I would do professionally. Most importantly, a laptop that I could open and do the changes or fixes that I wanted without being dependent of the manufacturer.

Honestly, the biggest issue for me on all of this was Apple not haven’t proper repair services where I live. And furthermore, Apple not providing you any options for repair. Their store has no problem shipping you new products to where you live, but when it comes to repair, be ready to struggle a lot.

If you live in the United States this might not even be an issue for you. But those outside the states may run into bigger issues.

Spending two weeks with this laptop has been eye-opening. Like any device it has its pros and cons, but it has so far exceeded my expectations in many areas. The build quality is remarkable for the price. The hardware provided, for the price, feels too much and I’m a bit disappointed in the camera and keyboard quality. But overall, I feel like they nailed all the things they were set out to do with this laptop yet.

It’s a bit awkward that in 2020 there hasn’t been many laptops that have had the formula down of what constitutes a reliable laptop. Manufacturers like Acer leaves much to be desired most of the time. In fact, anybody I have discussed about laptops I just tell them to avoid Acer as a brand altogether. They are poor laptops with bad chassis, cheaps out on almost everything for the price they are asking.

Dell is a bit on the same note with the XPS. The market it as a high-end line, and to be quite honest the hardware in XPS is really good, but they do cheap out on things like the camera or providing a more satisfying keyboard experience. But in terms of having a reliable hardware? I’d say they have nailed it good.

But honestly, what is the perfect laptop? For me, it’s all about balance, but most important a laptop must always be reliable, and with a considerable amount of battery life. If you see that a brand cheaps out on battery, then it’s a brand you might want to skip. A laptop is meant to be portable, always with you. No matter if you are in or out of the house. If a laptop cannot last more than 8-10 hours turned on by just browsing the internet, or having an IDE open, or doing casual usage of it, then it’s not a laptop that’s worth taking a look.

And I feel like it sounds incredibly harsh criteria… maybe. Like, if you are affording this much for a laptop then you must ask yourself if the laptop fits the bill and your belief of what a laptop should be. If a laptop cannot last longer than I expect then the money they are asking is probably not worth it.

If you need to rationalize it into “but, I don’t travel a lot or I don’t use my laptop in a portable scenario” then I guess the first thing I have to say is why bother buying a laptop when you are going to remain stationary in one spot? You might as well just go for a desktop.

Now, this is at the absolute best just a “review”. It’s an opinion, like all reviews out there are opinions once they leave out the realm of hardware specifications where they lay out what makes a laptop technically great.

But the thing is that even if you had the best specifications you can still fail at delivering a good laptop. A device is more than just the components, and by components, I mean more than CPU, RAM, or GPU. Is the fingerprint sensor secure and reliable? Is the display screen crisp, color accurate, and doesn’t flicker or leaves artifacts around?

Is the keyboard good? Is the touchpad great? Are the ports used for USB-C/USB-A/Audio/etc of quality and reliable? There’s a lot more going for a device than just the main components.

And I guess that’s why there’s no perfect laptop out there. You could argue that MacBook could be perfect. And if someone said that to me I would say I disagree with your point of view and say that MacBooks are awful in general because they are overpriced. Apple’s anti-consumerism has forced me to change my mind, and ultimately if you have to depend on the manufacturer for repairs even after out of warranty then you might have to reconsider your point of view. Apple at the end of the day is anti-consumer, an

At the beginning

As someone that spent almost two-three weeks without a laptop I can easily tell you this was one of my most anticipated deliveries of the year. My work literally revolves around working with computers as a programmer. Not having one was very refreshing yet a bit… unsettling at the same time.

The package was very heavy. I would say it was around 8-9 pounds. A black box with the Dell logo imprinted at the front of the box. I felt like a kid in Christmas about to open his gift.

I opened the box and was presented by a very sturdy box that protected the laptop inside. It was packaged similarly to Apple’s MacBook Pro. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did that to just emulate that “premium feeling”. Whatever it is that they get when they open up a laptop. In the box the first thing you could see was, shockingly, the laptop itself wrapped in plastic. I lifted it and saw a black envelope, quite sturdy itself too with some instructions on how to use your new Dell XPS 9500 laptop. Basically, a handbook.

I took out the rest of the cables and proceeded to turn on my Dell XPS 9500. At first, I got scared a bit. I don’t know if it was because it needed to detect power, or I didn’t press the button with a lot of pressure, but it didn’t turn on. I just stared at the black screen like an idiot. I plugged the AC Adapter just in case, and proceeded once again to press on the power button, which is also the fingerprint sensor.

I was greeted by the Dell logo and my heart was relieved to see it turn on.

I proceeded to do all the mundane tasks you do when setting up Windows 10 for the first time. It was a much as you have guessed, a very soulless, heart-crushing, super boring task.

Performance

I wasn’t disappointed about the performance of the Dell XPS 9500. In fact, I would say the CPU could be as 40-50% stronger compared to the old MacBook Pro I had from 2017. It ran games better, it didn’t choke on anything I threw at it.

Honestly in terms of having metrics in this I would just say look at the performance of the CPU for benchmarks. CPU, while important for me, wasn’t the biggest thing I was worried about.

One thing I did notice however was the McAfee was actually impacting the performance of this laptop. I had to uninstall it for the following reasons: Imagine downloading a WordPress plug-in but when you extracted it with Windows 10’s default built-in functionality it would take longer than usual. It turns out that McAfee was the culprit for this. For every little file being decompressed McAfee would be incredibly intrusive about it. Why not let the compressed archive decompress then check the files as they are decompressed? I do not know.

All I know is that the “performance issues” went away when I uninstalled McAfee. And to be honest I’m a BitDefender user and thankfully has never gotten in the way of performance the way McAfee did.

As for performance, the Dell XPS 9500 CPU and NVMe storage are as good as you would expect from modern hardware. It’s speedy, it’s powerful, it’s incredible in its power saving.

Display, Keyboard, and Touchpad

Dell XPS 9500 definitely feels premium in a lot of areas. I went for the FHD model and was a bit troubled that I might end up with a bad display after being used to the Retina Display for so long. It turns out that my worries were for nothing. The Display is sharp and crisp. One of the biggest issue that Microsoft could fix but hasn’t is improving the overall of the text rendering in Windows 10.

It puzzles me to no end, even with ClearType factored in, that the text rendering in Windows is so bad compared to Apple’s macOS or any GNU/Linux distribution. How is it that they get better text support? What has Microsoft done for this? In 1080p the text rendering remains looking extremely pixelated at times.

Applications may at times take the liberty, given if they use hardware-accelerated GPU features provided by the hardware and on the OS-level, to improve the text rendering.

Microsoft really needs to investigate text rendering as a whole. I know they have done big improvements over the year but it feels like it’s not enough.

On the note of the touchpad and keyboard. I am personally not the biggest fan of the keyboard, but it is miles better than whatever the heck Apple was trying to do with its keyboard.

The touchpad is big, but smaller than MacBook’s increased touchpad I believe. If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, hopefully.

Battery

Dell XPS 9500 biggest strength is in the battery. I’m not going to lie, it’s right now one of my favorite things about this laptop. If you are a developer you won’t be disappointed to know that the battery capacity is huge. Personally I went for a FHD model because I knew the UHD 4k display would probably drain the battery faster. However, as I write this, this laptop has been unplugged for more than 14 hours. I have been using Visual Studio Code to work on my project and browse the web.

The image should tell you that even though I set it on Battery Saver an hour ago. It still tells me that I have 5 hours left of usage for this. I have plenty time to keep writing this post right here.

Let’s take for a second a look at our battery report:

And finally the report:

As you can see, I’ve been using this laptop casually and it can easily tell you the interactions I’ve had with the laptop over in the timeline.

Dell XPS 9500 fits the bill for me in many ways. As a tool for professional usage, and for casual usage.

In conclusion

For the price that Dell is asking for this laptop I still feel the need to say that they are asking for a long given the hardware given to us. Dell needs to improve the camera, and Dell needs to include a better display on the lower models. They could have provided everyone UHD displays and I still feel they would have profited.

If InfinityEdge is meant to be spearheading Dell XPS as a product in the future then I think Dell needs commit to the idea that maybe they should uniformly give everyone a premium display for the price they are asking. If you are lowering a bit the CPU/RAM/Storage I can concede you that it’s in my book okay. But don’t cut corners on the XPS just to offer “lower models”.

The Dell XPS 9500 (2020) is an amazing machine. One that I would recommend if you have the money to spend. It’s still better than going for a Surface. You can open this laptop up, make your repairs, and be done with it.

Development Notes #6 Picking things up from a month ago makes me have temporary amnesia

I have adopted the art of Japanese light novel titles in my titles. I have also made the mistake of numbering my development notes so sometimes I forget which number I’m in.

I started picking up the pacing of continuing the development of my product. Not much is known right now but hopefully when I have everything ready I’ll be able to talk much about it.

One of the effects of leaving code for a while is that when you start looking at things again you are a bit “disoriented” you are just looking at your code and wondering “…what was I doing… here?” Turns out that over the years I have learned to be explicit of the things I’m doing. My code isn’t perfect and will never be. I have made peace with that. That however doesn’t stop me from doing the following: to be always explicit of my actions.

If you write clear, explicit code then eventually even if you leave the code for six months it should be less of a struggle versus being implicit and not knowing why you are doing the things you are doing in the code.

It raises a lot of questions both professionally, and on a personal level.

Such as “What the heck was I thinking?” or “Why did I make set these things implicitly?” or “I’m not really clever… this just delayed me for a week.”

Honestly, any thoughts that makes you question your situation is fair.

So honestly, being clever at times is great but if you are clever all the time is it really cleverness or foolishness.

Beyond password managers and into a passwordless era ramblings

Now that I have caught your attention I should start by saying that no, password managers aren’t useless, in fact I want everyone to get a password manager as soon as possible. Do away with the repetitive passwords and insecure passwords. I personally use 1Password and have been 3 years with it now. It’s one of my most used services of all time, without it I don’t know how I would have secured all my credentials to be unique and ready to take on anything.

I think the world is moving into a passwordless era. We have seen the slow adoption of YubiKeys which are quite passwordless themselves. The key itself, to be redundant, is the key. It’s all you need to unlock things. It has no password, but internally there’s a lot more going on that meets the eye. In a sense it doesn’t mean explicitly that you need a password to use it.

I personally don’t own a YubiKey myself. I’ve been on the fence for a while for one of them but at the same time I have found myself that I am okay using my fingerprint or face recognition. I think what I fear the most is losing the physical key and not knowing what to do.

Microsoft and the Windows Hello team are also moving into a passwordless era. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple also be the first ones to fully go passwordless in a near future just for the sake of being the “first bringing the real change”, even though things like YubiKey have been around for a long time. But, Apple provides the influence and that’s the key for everything. The sooner people realize the importance of going passwordless, the better.

Things like using your smartphone’s NFC to unlock your computer, using whatever YubiKey with NFC to unlock things is becoming more common now. Have you ever thought about the contactless credit cards so you don’t have to go take the risk of swiping your card into a questionable card reader or a card reader that has been tampered with?

Of course, all these changes takes a while. These changes will take a decade to actually take place and I think that’s the most depressing part of this. You can have Apple and Microsoft innovating and change things but the reality is that not everyone is going to have the money for the latest technology.

YubiKey needs to become more accessible than $50-$70 bucks. Devices that provide access to these technologies also need to become more widely accepted and provide secure chips that can secure fingerprint/face recognition functionality and not compromise anything else.

At the same time this technology is also for people that manages important data. Servers of any type, sensitive documents, sensitive audio, sensitive videos, any archive that has any sense of confidentiality all falls into the need of passwordless solutions. Why? Because bruteforcing password is becoming easier or will become easier.

Because all the sites and applications all around the world does not do security the same way.

All things security are not equal. I could create an application right now and use md5 to store my passwords and in a month have a leak and get those passwords cracked.

In security, everyone is involved. Security teams, server administrators, database administrators, network teams from all different departments and yet it’s really hard to keep things secure.

I’m actually still waiting for Equifax to have any accountability for the massive leak. But everyone has forgotten. 147 million people were affected, and Equifax got away with a slap and that’s it.

Anyway that’s enough of my ramblings. Do dig more into passwordless solutions if you are interested! I’ll probably bring more entries related to that.

Upgrades: Hello, Ubuntu Server 20.04 LTS

It’s been a fairly busy day of multitasking on my end. I’ve been waiting to upgrade the servers to 20.04.1 once it was out and today I felt like it was the best decision to do this.

Maybe because I don’t have a lot going on my servers it was just easier for me. The thing that really stuck out for me were the configurations I have done, you don’t really want to go around overwriting things with the maintainers configuration. Not because they are “bad” but because they will return things to its vanilla form.

I think the only thing I’ve been disappointed so far has been the PHP 7.4 performance. It’s been said that it was a huge leap over the previous versions so I thought that once I upgraded to that version everything would be lightning fast… but that’s not really the case… things aren’t lightning fast they are just… normal fast and not really different from PHP 7.2.

That said, there are some things I want to do but it requires networking knowledge… and that’s something that I don’t really have sadly because I just suck at networking.

Anyway, here’s to future-proofing!

Development Notes #5 Getting organized a bit more for execution

Over the three weeks there’s been a lot of questions on my mind on how to execute and do the presentation on some things. These things, they take time, because first impression is at best one of the first thing I have to focus on.

If there’s one thing I could say is very taxing is the user experience. The first impressions, the never-ending testing of things and the sheer insecurity and impostor syndrome that develops along this journey. I want my project to be successful, like anybody else. Sometimes it drives you a bit crazy on I hope I hope that it’s a hit around the world because who doesn’t want to slack off a little bit and get some vacation. Of course, technically speaking we can’t…. really do much about vacation with the COVID-19.

Truth is, developing a product is itself a gamble. No matter how much you study you can’t quite penetrate the market as you would hope because either the presentation is done poorly or the execution of the project is done poorly.

Documentation and presentation are keys that I have identified. I need to prepare a lot of documentation or a modest amount of documentation for the people to develop software.

I honestly don’t know how things are gonna go. But, we’ll see in the future. For now I’m just continuing working on this and hoping for the best.

Today I was able to finalize the environment for development on my new laptop. This wasn’t really a slow thing to do but bringing my laptop up to date and preparing everything did take a while… or most of my evening.

Now that everything is ready I think I can finally proceed on what to do next. There’s been a lot of things that I’ve been setting up in the background… working slowly through the items.

In a weird sense… I did complete a major portion of it. Now I’m just making sure that the following items are represented well enough.

Now, I know I haven’t said what I’m working on. It’s too abstract to understand at the moment but eventually I’ll be able to talk more about it.

Development Notes resuming

My MacBook Pro broke down and I switched over to a Dell XPS 9500. I didn’t go over for the 4k screen because I prefer having a better battery life overall and I mostly do programming with a side of gaming. The thing that I mostly miss about the mac is having good font support it seems that on Windows 10 if you are on 1080 or 1200 it means that fonts gets pixelated a bit.

The font being pixelated a bit doesn’t really bother me much. This machine is a bit of a bit. Anyway, I’m happy to say that I’m back on Windows 10 and I’m back to continuing my development.

Development Notes #4 Refactoring & Hitting the milestone feels so good

This week I did get to a milestone, one that really makes me feel pretty proud of the work I’ve poured into this. Initially the idea was to do a simple website with simple community tools that I would give to users.

This idea grew into something else.

The idea remained the same. I would provide said tools to all the users, however the methodology of that idea drastically changed because I wasn’t thinking of just “my site” but something else that ocurred to me.

I think, once everything is done I hope to talk a lot more because right now a lot of things are being refactored and changing and yet the idea remains the same.

This week I hit a milestone which left me with the best feeling ever because it was one of the core components I was working on, it was also one of the most convoluted pieces that I had to standardize and normalize because if I didn’t it would bite me back.

So, overall I’m pretty darn happy. The refactoring actually took me 1-2 hours to do because it was a constant struggle of how to manage some things without altering the default capabilities.

Hopefully all this hard work pays off. If not, I can assure you that I’ve hit one item off my bucket list and that is to release a product out in the open.

Development Notes #3 – How easy it is to fall into the “oh, this will be easy” pitfall.

Photo by Trung Le

Actually I never fell for that when I started. Sorry to disappoint you! (Jokes on you though, things can be seemingly easy, sadly, they will still consume a rather large portion of your personal time).

Truth is after doing this for so long you get ideas of how long things will take. Some will require a lot of time, and some will require more than time, it will require a will and motivation to burn through.

Truth is, it’s really, really easy to fall into hype and excitement of things that you are doing. You’ll start to notice that 2-3 weeks later things are still being worked on, and that in truth that idea you had didn’t account for a dozen of things that site owners may require and you have to refactor a lot of code to accommodate to that.

This, to me is the biggest challenge in software development. Starting a product by yourself is not really a joke. It requires a lot of determination, will, if you may, to power through a lot of the things.

And the same goes for theme development has become insanely complicated with an array of devices with different resolutions they have to re-adjust and re-test their things over and over.

There has been a lot of progress regarding development of the plug-in I’ve been working on. I don’t want to say I’ve had to rework the things I’ve been working on. Rather I’ve had to refactor a lot of the code to accommodate future code so that it’s easier to extend. That itself is rather different than reworking because reworking would be something along: “I had to rework X feature because not only it didn’t work as expected or the implementation didn’t work out.”

So, there’s been a lot of architectural changes, if you want to call them that. When it comes to organization PHP is a bit messy. For me, this time I just decided to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t want to get overly crafty. I just want to get things done. Less classes, less overhead, less useless organization.

If in the future I think of reorganizing it I’ll just work on that but I’m not gonna focus on that.

My mindset is about getting things done. Getting to where I want. No more Mr. Fancy. I love being organized, but I also waste a lot of time on said organization because when it comes down to it maybe the architecture you did for it wasn’t quite well-thought out and you see yourself wasting even more time to have a fancy structure.