Microsoft Edge Insider: It's Actually Not That Bad

If you happened to listen to our Introduction Episode of the podcast, you’ll know that Brandi and I are sysadmins who work together in a highly Microsoft-centric environment. Essentially all of the servers we manage run some flavor of Windows, we make heavy use of Office 365 and Azure, and both of us spend our entire day either typing email into Outlook or commands into PowerShell.

You may read that and think, “Wow, they really like Microsoft stuff.” At least for me (John, if that’s not clear by now) that’s not the case. I tend to be extremely critical and frequently frustrated with a lot of Microsoft’s offerings. I’ve poured a healthy bit of salt into the Internet over the years at Microsoft’s expense. I could even share some of my more recent frustration with Microsoft products if it wouldn’t spoil what will likely be content for a near-future podcast episode. Suffice to say, there’s a reason one of my former coworkers threw together this image… that’s my face on the can if you’re confused.

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And there’s a reason why I made this image at one point. Cut me some slack… I didn’t really know how to use GIMP that well at the time.

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That being said, I’m all about trying the new hotness where software is concerned, so I decided to install the new Microsoft Edge Insider build on my work machine. If you haven’t been keeping score at home, Microsoft essentially admitted that the current, production version of Edge that ships with Windows 10 is a disaster. No one uses it according to every metric, despite Microsoft’s attempts at forcing it on users. They also accepted that their rendering engine under-performed. Perhaps the biggest problem, though, was how the Edge browser was inextricably tied to the underlying operating system, meaning that Edge essentially only got updates during Microsoft’s major updates to Windows 10. Going 6+ months between browser updates is a pretty massive blow when competitors are releasing new versions every month.

The new builds of Edge are based on the open-source Chromium project. While perhaps most notably serving as the underpinnings for Google’s behemoth of a browser that has come to dominate the web, Chrome, it’s also come to serve the same function for plenty of other noteworthy browsers, such as Opera and Brave.

So I threw the Insider build on my work PC to check it out. If you happen to be curious, you can install it alongside the current version of Edge. The icon looks the same but has a green “Dev” stamp over the blue “e”. If you fire it up, it looks essentially like what you’d expect to see opening the current version of Chrome. You get the option to sign in with a Microsoft account, though, rather than a Google account. The various options and settings have been changed up in how they appear, but they’re basically all the same. If you’d like to use an extension, you can select from a subset of Chrome extensions that are currently working with this build of Edge in Microsoft’s own gallery; I’ve read that they’re working to make every extension supported by Chromium and Chrome work with Edge eventually. I was just happy enough that I could get uBlock Origin.

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I’ve been running with it as my default browser for a couple of weeks now, and I have to admit that I haven’t run into any issues yet. Everything just works the same as I’d expect, only with a bit of a smaller footprint than with Chrome. I assume this is due to all of the Google services Microsoft ended up removing. If so, it almost reminds me of how Firefox was before the Electrolysis rebuild, where it had become a bit slow and clunky due to bloat. Or how Opera was back in the day when the browser featured a mail client, IRC client, toaster oven, vacuum cleaner, etc. A good feature purge isn’t necessarily the worst thing to happen to some software projects as they expand over time.

Speaking of Firefox, one of the downsides to this is the fact that it means yet another browser is now based on Chromium. Outside of looking as extremely niche browsers, this means that Firefox is now the only non-Chromium-based mainstream browser. That’s a sticky situation since it means that a single project (Chromium) can essentially dictate the growth and direction of the web if they so choose. If that project opted to move away from established standards to do their own thing, for example, no one would be able to ignore that many impacted users. Switching to a Chromium base is a situation that I would describe as good for Microsoft and extremely bad for the web as a whole.

And if you’re one of the three people in the world using the current stable version of Edge with Windows 10 and you’re mad that it will be going away, please just read this article about a nasty Edge vulnerability that Microsoft has declined to patch. Then please stop using that browser.

The Unusually Pink Playlist

Do you want to listen to the dankest collection of music since my 2018 Spotify wrapped post? If your answer is yes (and really… I don’t see a single possible reason why it shouldn’t be) then you’re in luck. We are pleased to introduce the Unusually Pink Playlist. Featuring tracks loved by Brandi and I, most will be more recent discoveries as opposed to old favorites; we don’t really want to start off a brand new playlist with 10+ hours of material right out of the gate… even if it would be really good material.

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Brandi and I have a lot in common when it comes to music, but we also a good bit of diversity and different methods of finding new music. We just start putting this playlist together the other day, but you’ll eventually start seeing plenty of indie, hip-hop, and EDM making the rounds along with some pop.

If you find yourself enjoying the playlist, feel free to give it a follow! Song recommendations are always welcome; hit us up on Twitter @UnusuallyPink.

Switching To Squarespace

If you happened to see this site around the time when the first post went up, you might notice that:

  1. The site looks very different now.

  2. A lot of what’s in that first post no longer seems to be true.

For example, this is not the Rusty theme for Hugo. Those technically savvy would also notice that the site no longer has the same DNS record value as laifu.moe where things were originally hosted. That’s because the site is no longer running on my own web server and is not created using Hugo. There were a few reasons for this. The main was just that I’m really bad at web design. The Rusty theme in Hugo is pretty light on imagery, which I’m cool with. Once we decided to actually make Unusually Pink into a thing and do a podcast, though, we had our amazing logos made by the uber-talented JPFDesigns. Integrating those into the Rusty theme for Hugo was a bit more than I was up for; CSS is legitimately the final boss of my life, and my life is (apparently) an NES Contra game; I couldn’t do it.

The other reason was just that it allows for much better reliability. The site isn’t beholden to my ability to not mess up my web server. Not that it’s particularly likely for me to do something to brick it (I’ve been using Linux and Nginx for my web servers for ages now), but it’s possible. I was also responsible for backups, which I’d prefer to take off of my own hands if possible.

The last reason was that the site really needed to be divided from one main section (e.g. the blog I originally planned just to do something with the domain) to two sections: a blog and a list of podcast episodes. While I was able to just dump a /podcast directory into my static folder for Hugo, it meant that posting podcast episodes and summaries was now an entirely manual process rather than something assisted by a CMS-esque system like Hugo.

Swapping to Squarespace allowed me to let someone far smarter than me figure out all of that within a theme; all I had to do was upload some images (Squarespace is awesome at scaling images for me, even when it needed to make one tiny for the favicon) and then swap around a few of the colors in the theme to get something unusually pink. I was also able to simply add two blogs to the site; one is a normal blog and the other will have posts for each podcast episode. In this way, both sections of the site are managed by a CMS rather than being done manually. Doing it manually may not seem like too big of a deal at first, but once you start to get too many posts for a single page, creating and manually updating the pagination after each new post would be enough to drive someone insane.

As for choosing Squarespace, it’s the one I’ve heard the most about through various avenues on the Internet. Their pricing was reasonable, and I figured it seemed like a safe bet since I know a few other people who have experience with them. The other recommendation I got was Wix, which I admittedly had never heard of previously. Looking at the pricing for Wix compared to the pricing for Squarespace, though, I think it’s clear that Squarespace is a better deal. The Wix $11 USD per month package is pretty lackluster, especially when you look at 2 GB of bandwidth and 3 GB of storage. To get something more comparable to Squarespace’s $12 per month package that includes unlimited bandwidth and storage, you’d need the $14 per month plan from Wix… and that still doesn’t give you unlimited storage.

Expect the site to still go through a few minor changes as we continue to tweak the layout, colors, and everything else. Feel free to drop any feedback to our Twitter profile!

The Accidentals Show

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pretty big fan of music. I link my Spotify account to Last.fm for all of the juicy statistics, and I feel like I’ve been a complete loser if my weekly report doesn’t have at least 24 hours of listening on it. One of the things I’ve never really done much of, though, is live music. I’ve wanted to start attending more events, though a bit of social anxiety can make that challenging (though it helps that many of the shows I’d want to go to are at bars… drinking making social anxiety more tolerable.)

The final push, though, came a few weeks ago when I got an email from Spotify about an upcoming show. I’ve received a few of these emails before where Spotify finds upcoming shows (relatively) close to me and recommends them. While the other shows I’ve seen before weren’t particularly enticing, the most recent email was for a show by The Accidentals. Despite the fact that they’ve been together for quite a long time, I never discovered them until late last year when a friend and I were trying to find a bunch of songs to add to our BlizzCon-themed playlist we were creating in preparation for our trip. I stumbled across their track Earthbound and immediately fell in love. Since then I’ve been through their entire library more times than I can count.

My friend graciously agreed to go with me, so yesterday we got to experience The Accidentals live. The show was nothing short of incredible; I feel like I should’ve paid more for the tickets given how amazing the experience was. All three members of the band are such talented and passionate people, playing an insane variety of instruments and doing songs in a swath of different styles.

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While they didn’t perform Earthbound, I was stoked for them to play both Heavy Flag and Crow’s Feet, along with a completely acoustic version of Sixth Street at the front of the stage. I also got to experience some brand new songs they’re trying out in preparation for the TWO (!) albums they’re planning to release this year. The first will be a live album coming out in a few months, and the second later in the year will be a fully produced studio album. The show was definitely the high point of my 2019 thus far. Any music fans who happen to get the chance to see The Accidentals live should definitely jump at the opportunity and support some amazing live music.

Unusually Pink Peripherals: Razer Quartz 2019

Given the name of this site and what I said in the first post, you can probably guess that I’m a fan of things which are unusually pink. That’s why last year when gaming peripheral maker Razer announced a line of pink products under their new Quartz branding, I was stoked. I immediately ordered both their keyboard and their mouse. The Quartz products generally aren’t brand new; they’re a pink take on existing products. The first keyboard was a Razer Blackwidow Tournament Edition with Razer Green switches (their equivalent of Cherry’s MX Blue line of clicky, tactile switches.) It’s great, and I still use it daily:

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The mouse was a bit less exciting as it was a pink variant of the Razer Lancehead. The Lancehead isn’t a bad mouse, but it’s not what I’m really looking for as far as gaming goes. It’s a relatively flat mouse with small, squishy side buttons. I used it for a while but eventually switched to a different mouse.

I was happy with my purchaes, but just last week Razer announced updates across their Quartz lineup. I once again had zero self control and immediately purchased the new keyboard and mouse.

Razer Huntsman Quartz

This keyboard was exciting because, along with being pink, it’s based on the Huntsman. That’s Razer’s first keyboard with their new optomechanical switches. Rather than being completely mechanical, these switches use the same mechanical feel to allow a beam of light to pass through it and be detected by a sensor on the opposite of where it is generated. That light hitting the sensor triggers the actuation of the switch rather than a metal contact. I’m not pro gamer, so I can’t honestly say if I feel any difference in the speed or accuracy of actuation, but I do have to admit that the whole thing is cool as hell. On top of that, every single switch has a metal stabilizer to ensure each key gives a solid, consistent press. That’s normally something you only see on larger keys like the spacebar, Shift, Enter, etc.

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The keys aren’t embedded into a base for the Huntsman; they sit flat on the board. I really like this style, and it looks great. The keys all have a beautiful, smooth, soft pink finish that looks great. The board itself has the same finish, which is a welcome improvement from the Quartz version of the Blackwidow Tournament Edition. That board had the same key finish but something that felt like a soft-touch powder coating on the board itself. While it had a decent texture, it also seemed like something that could scratch off in an accident. My board actually came with a tiny nick in that coating above the function keys.

I was a little leery about spending so much on a keyboard when I didn’t even know if I’d like the switches, but typing on them is a downright joy. Every key stroke just feels good. Their actuation force of 45 grams is a little lighter than Razer Greens that clock in at 50 grams. I was surprised, though, that after a weekend of gaming on the optomechanical switches, typing on Razer Greens actually felt heavy to me. 45 grams feels like the sweet spot where the switches are easy to press, but not so easy that you could do it on accident. The tactile feedback also removes any doubt of whether or not the switch actuated. On the whole, I adore these switches.

I do wish there was a TKL variant since I don’t really need the number pad on my gaming keyboard. I had to move the keyboard further left to keep the same amount of space on my mat for the mouse, but it’s still comfortable to keep my left hand on WASD.

Razer Basilisk Quartz

The mouse was also a very nice improvement for the Quartz line. This variant is based on the Razer Basilisk, which is an FPS-centric mouse. I appreciate the fact that it has a very large hump behind the buttons, meaning that even with my relatively large hands I can palm the mouse without my hand touching the mat. The rubber grips around the sides are super nice and have a good feel to them. The scroll wheel features adjustable tension, handled via a small wheel on the underside of the device. You can go all the way from extremely rough, tacticle clicks for each scroll to free scrolling. I found a very low amount of tension to be the best for me.

The side buttons have a good feel to them, though the true boon for this mouse is the DPI clutch just in front of them. The clutch can be configured to decrease your DPI if you need to be precise. For example, you might want to hold in the clutch while sniping in a game to avoid things feeling too twitchy. The button for it is a bit large for my taste, extending just a bit over the first side button. Luckily, this button is removable and comes with a smaller button you can swap in that I greatly prefer. If you have no interest in the clutch, you can also replace it with a pink rubber plug that simply fills the hole and matches the rest of the mouse’s exterior.

Given that Overwatch is my game of choice at the moment, the Basilisk feels like the perfect mouse. It pairs nicely with the Huntsman, and I’ve been really enjoying these preferals across a variety of games like Overwatch, Diablo 3, and Elder Scrolls Online. To be perfectly honest, I’d have kept them no matter what just because, well… they’re pink. I’m actually extremely happy with both of them, though, as they’re high quality products that deliver a high quality experience. Many pink computer accessories are pretty much hot garbage because the gimmick of being pink is the selling point, not the quality. With these two devices, though, you absolutely get both the performance and the color. If your battlestation needs a little more pink and you’ve got the spare money, you can’t go wrong with the current Quartz lineup.