Thursday, 2 April 2020

Nutri-Q 35650 Twin Omelette Maker

We were looking for an omelette maker as we hadn't had one for years and found this one which has turned out to be excellent! It's a bit like a sandwich toaster machine with two 'troughs' in each of two 'plates' which close together, then cook what's inside.

In this case, omelette mixture of eggs, a dash of milk (I'll come back to that), pepper, a dash of olive oil. Turn it on until the green light on top goes out, indicating that it's ready to cook. This took about 3mins. Open up the clamshell by pressing in the button on the bottom to unlock it, pour the mixture into the two 'troughs' close the lid, clicking the lock, let it cook away for about 6-7 minutes. Lift to check and see when it's nicely browned. They say 3-5 minutes but in our experience, that's not long enough.

We cooked a couple of variations with cheese and chopped-up bacon pieces and they came out beautifully. The ceramic marble-flecked 'plates' are totally non-stick and as long as you use plastic utensils, they'll presumably stay that way. The finished omelettes slip out easily on a plastic spatula ready for the plate.

You can either cook two at a time or just one. We learnt the hard way about ignoring the advice to not fill the 'troughs' too high up as on the second attempt, we filled them too much (to use up the mixture) and it spilled out and onto the worktop. No worries though, as the overspill created scrambled eggs for us! We did also wonder if it might have been because we use a dash of milk - next time we'll not add that.

Only problem was the cleaning. If it hadn't spilt over, we'd have been reporting easy wipe-clean with a fairy-liquid and water soaked cloth - but actually, the spill went into some of the housing between top and plates which we had to use something plastic and pointy to clean out. A toothbrush would do it. So care needed - and unlike us, follow the instructions! If you want to cook scrambled eggs, you just leave the lid open and stir as it cooks. Fried eggs? No problem - crack it in there and whip it out when done!

Dare I say that it's a cracking little machine?! And at only £17 from AmazonUK it's a bargain - and the resulting omelettes taste delicious! Recommended!

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The PodHubUK Podcasts for March 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!

Whatever Works
Episode 102 - Stream Dining!
Sunday 1st March 2020
Aidan, Dave and I are back once more with another show to thrill your weekend with another collection of Whatever Works for us and the Group Members here - from text tricks to treadmills and much between!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 541 - It Just Works...Most of the Time!
Sunday 8th March 2020
Steve and I welcome back Xerxes Hodivala to chat for an hour about all things mobile phone and where we all are on the road to the perfect solution!

The Phones Show
Episode 389 - Samsung Galaxy S20
Thursday 12th March 2020
Join Steve as he puts the latest Galaxy through his usual testing routines and finds out if this is going to better his S9+ or even iPhone!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 542 - Underwhelmed
Saturday 14th March 2020
Steve and I are back this week with our initial thoughts on all things Samsung - the new 20's and the old 10's - along with a whole other bunch of mobile stuff as always.

Whatever Works
Episode 103 - Virtual Venetian Vision!
Sunday 15th March 2020
Aidan, Dave and I are back again for our fortnightly look at Whatever Works for us and the Group Members and to have a dig and a poke at what doesn't! From clever rings to ghostly things - there's something for everyone!

Projector Room
Episode 58 - Korean Cabbie
Wednesday 18th March 2020
Gareth and Allan join me once again for our fortnightly look at what's interesting to us and for the Group Members here in film, cinema and TV. The usual mixed-bag of goodies to tempt you, from Balloons to Black Spots and much more!

The Phones Show
Episode 390 - Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Saturday 21st March 2020
Join Steve as he takes a look at the rather large big brother of the S20. Is it the phone to tick every box and blow our socks off? Tune in and find out!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 543 - The Age of Ultra
Saturday 22nd March 2020
Steve and I chat with Zachary Kew-Denniss about the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, some new Nokia phones on the way and a look at our new logo, thanks to Steve Heinrich!

Whatever Works
Episode 104 - Nothing But Plugs!
Friday 27th March 2020
We're back again to help relieve the lockdown boredom as Aidan and I have a look at Whatever Works for us and in the lives of our listeners. We natter for an hour about all sorts of stuff - including ideas to pass the time.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 544 - 10 Days, 6 Phones, One V60
Saturday 28th March 2020
Steve and I welcome back Matt Miller to PSC (and podcasting)! We natter about what he's been up to and enjoy his take on all things mobile phone for an hour.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 545 - The Astro Slide
Tuesday 31st March 2020
The first of our Beat the Blues C-19 Mid-Week Shows! This mid-week Steve Litchfield and I welcome Aidan back to join us as we take a look at the newly announced Astro Slide from Planet Computers. Is the 3rd Generation even better?

The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Friday, 27 March 2020

Moto G8 Power

Here's the brand new Moto G8 Power (8 Power in the USA). A low-price handset with some very positive key features. Motorola will be hoping that their budget-conscious customers will value these features over some missing ones that their friends will have!

This is going to be one of those for-the-price reviews again, I'm afraid! I'll try not to say it too often, but please fill the phrase in for yourself as we proceed and consider what's on offer here. The big selling point is clearly the 'power' in that the unit has a 5,000mAh cell. There are a few phones creeping up into this post-4000mAh territory now, including one or two from Samsung. A couple of years ago, we'd have wow'd by that, but maybe not so much now. However, with Moto's clean approach to phone software perhaps their claim of 'up to 3 days' of life will have some validity. We'll find out here.

Box Contents
In the box, there's a clear TPU (becoming a standard for Moto these days), USB-A to USB-C cable, 3-pin UK Plug with USB-A port, a few papers and pokey-tool - and that's it! The TPU fits snuggly, as you'd expect - and offers perfectly good grip and coverage for most of us who don't go off-road or hang-gliding!

On the left of the phone we have the pokey-tool hole for ejecting the SIM Card Tray and inside, an option for two SIM Cards or one and a microSD. The tray looks sturdy enough and fits very firmly in place with what appears to be a rubber-seal to keep out the elements. On the right is the volume rocker above a knurled power button, both of which are plastic but look hardy enough. Up top is the 3.5mm audio-out socket and at the bottom, USB-C port and the first of a pair of stereo speakers, this one downwards-firing.

Tour Continued
The plastic back houses the four cameras, very much like others in the G-range, top-right in landscape, with the bigger top camera on its own being the wide-angle and the other three on an island for normal shooting, macro and zoom. Alongside is the LED flash and about 75% of the way up, central, is the capacitive fingerprint scanner with the usual 'M' logo inside. The back has a very faint lined pattern, there's reassuringly no 'give' in it at any point as it curves very slightly round to meet the edging. Edging which feels very much like plastic, but is, apparently 6000-series aluminium.

The front glass is flat and there's no boast about Gorilla Glass or even Panda King, which Moto have recently been using on some models. So I guess it's a case of taking great care - or even applying some sort of screen protector so the glass doesn't get micro-scratched up. The panel is an IPS LCD "Max Vision Display" at 6.4" in the ratio 19:9. It's 1080p and returns a ppi of 399. It looks bright, colourful and sharp to these old eyes and it is brighter and whiter than the Pixel 3 (which I happen to have at hand). The OLED of the latter survives better, the more the screen is angled away - at which point the Moto's LCD becomes warmer and less bright. Face-on, however, I have no complaints, even out in sunlight. The screen's colour can be switched in settings between Natural, Boosted and Saturated but they don't seem to make a huge difference and the default is set to Saturated. There's a bit of a forehead bezel and a bit more of a chin, but for most of us we'd say that the screen goes out to the edges well enough to consider that it is using the whole front of the phone. I really don't think that a millimetre here and there makes any difference to usability. In fact, one could argue that small bezels are helpful under Android 10 for Gesture controls. The 'corners' are rounded nicely and there's a Selfie hole-punch top-left (portrait) Samsung-style, that really doesn't get in the way.

Big and Heavy
The phone is fairly weighty at all-but 200g, is fairly big in the hand and offers a "water repellent design". I'm guessing this means the usual nano-coating of components, ports and buttons - but nothing IP-rate-able. It's almost exactly the same size as the Motorola One Zoom except a little fatter for that extra 1000mAh of battery.

All Power
To the (almost) USP then and that 5000mAh battery. I've been testing it for about a week now and I'm delighted to report that after initial charging, I only had to do it once again! Firstly though my 10% Reading Test - in which I read/look/use indoors from fully charged (nothing clinical here but a mixture of reading books, looking at news, the odd phone call, the odd video linked to in news, screen on and both display and battery on Adaptive) and see how much time has passed when the battery gets to 10%. The current leader here is the 4000mAh battery of the Moto G8 Plus which clocked up 2 hours and 20 minutes but we have a new record-breaker now at a staggering 3 hours and 10 minutes! It just gets better.

Staying Power
Second, is my average-use-for-me scenario which, as I say, I have now done twice. The first time I was getting a return of 72 hours with 9 hours Screen-On-Time, so yes, 3 days without question, but the second test brought an even better return of just over 80 hours between charges and 15 hours SoT. A fabulous performance all round which will, of course, be less than this if people are caning it watching films, playing music all day, shooting video and the like. In support of my testing methods, the playing field is level across devices and for you, it'll be different of course. By all accounts, a PowerHouse and for some of us, a weekend away might not need thoughts of recharging. The supplied plug is capable of 18W rapid charging and as we'd expect, there's no Wireless Qi Charging on offer. My Qi Receiver plugs in nicely, however, and works a treat for healthy, slow overnight charging. Hopefully, every second or even third night!

Next up is those stereo speakers and how they perform. The true stereo (not faux) output is very similar (if not exactly the same) as the Moto G8 Plus which I reviewed recently. I wouldn't be surprised if the same components were used as the output is just as excellent. It's decently loud in the same way and with the speakers 'tuned by Dolby' with true system-wide Dolby Equalisation available, the quality, richness, depth and separation can be fine-tuned by the user too. Unusually, all the Dolby options are made available to the speakers and not some reserved just for headphones use. Tested with stereo YouTube videos, there's a real 3D effect as the usual fleet of spacecraft fly overhead and speedboats zoom past from behind the listener. With the phone 18" away from the face the effect remains noticeable and the right way up when the phone is turned over (which can't be said for many so-called stereo setups).

Moto Audio
So Moto Audio...tuned by Dolby gives some basic cover-alls (for those who don't want to dig) of Smart audio (it works out the best for you), Music, Film and Game (each of which can be drilled into for individual tweaking) - then the Custom, which has even more, with a Manual Equaliser setup to adjust frequencies across the range. Alongside that, there's more pre-sets of Brilliant Treble, Bass Boost and Vocal Boost. There's always a payoff with top volume as the user starts to play around with theses settings, but whatever you do with the output it's hard to describe it as anything less than a room-filling sound. There's an FM Radio which records - and doesn't even need anything plugged into the 3.5mm audio-out socket to fire it up. Great stuff. Bluetooth 5 is present and connected very nicely to gear I have here, though unfortunately I don't have any top-notch BT headphones or speakers to hand to push it very much.

There are no awards waiting for output via headphones here but the sound is good enough by far for The 95%. It's perfectly loud for my ears even in a noisy environment, deep and bass'y enough, but for the 5% who want their heads blown off (or who can tell the difference) a more powerful DAC dongle can be used. For most people, the inclusion of a 3.5mm audio-out socket will be a very welcome addition. Everything about the sound output is very impressive at this price-point. There, I said it!

Driving Time
The chipset is a SnapDragon 665, so the same as the Xiaomi Mi A3 and Redmi Note 8T for example. Here, of course, there's next to no bloatware - only the few additions which Moto add to enhance the Android experience, which I'll come to, so the 665 is left in peace a lot of the time to get on with serving the user what they ask for (and not attending to 1001 back-end processes which slow down some). This is no powerhouse of course and only coupled with 4GB RAM there is evidence of slight lapses when switching between apps and opening up new ones and processing data when in high demand. There is a setting available for Adaptive Performance now which optimises RAM efficiency and learns the user's behaviour if engaged. Opening up the camera is a bit slow, for example, and running demanding games, but in the real world, the 95% really won't be bothered - it's only us, putting it up against the latest crop of flagships, who are concerned. Mr Average will not even notice for 95% of the time.

In Store
I've been saying for some time now that 128GB of storage should be considered the bare minimum for people's phones now, but again, it's a for-the-price thing here. The 64GB on offer here will, no doubt, be perfectly good enough for most folk - and for those who need more, there's a microSD Card slot. This is playing perfectly with my 512GB microSD Card and my 2TB SSD too via USB-C, on-the-fly. Yes, OK, it takes a while to initiate the SSD, getting it all read, but once there it works beautifully playing films and any other media I throw at it. Just like the G8 Plus there's no HDMI-Out, but I'd have been shocked if there was!

The Big Omission
The thing that I am shocked about, however, is that there's no NFC! I really am astounded that Moto would release a phone in The West with no means to use Google Pay. They must realise that almost everyone now is expecting to head for Tesco and pay for their grub with their phone. To grab that coffee on the way to work. To pay for your bus fare or Metro. What were they thinking, I wonder. Was this a phone they were expecting to just release in The East then turned-tail at the last minute and decided on a World release after all? I think that very sadly for Motorola, this, for many, many people will be a deal-breaker. There are many cheaper phones which have it. Even Moto's phones. It's just that I can't see who might want to buy it without. People under the age of banking and credit? Maybe it will be a second phone for people. A glove-box backup. A wild and odd decision which sadly can't be fixed in software when they realise.

We've got used to Motorola connectivity aerials working very well and this is no exception. The cellular locks and holds onto calls and 4G data very well, as I said earlier the Bluetooth works fine, seems strong and maintains a good grip over distance in my limited available testing, the GPS works quickly and reliably in Maps and the only fly in the ointment for nit-pickers is that 5GHz WiFi support is missing so users have to make do with 2.4GHz. Can't say it matters much to me, but I do know one person at least who wants the whole home network to be on 5 with any 2.4 on the system dragging the network to a slower place. So for some, to be aware.

Android 10
Still, let's get back to it and assume people will live without NFC! Android 10 out of the box. That's great. I highly approve of the new flurry of phones up and running with it as others wallow in Pie awaiting updates - and even new phones being released, outdated. Well done to Moto here. All the lovely 10 additions are present including system-wide Gesture controls and Dark Theme everywhere. It really gives the user the feeling that they're bang up to date with what's going on. Sadly, we're back to the lag-behind with Google Security and this unit is now 4 months behind on December 2019. This is another of Motorola's non-AndroidOne programme phones so it will, no doubt, once settled, enter the general 3-month update cycle. New phones from Moto which are not AndroidOne do tend to take a while to get that first kick.

Moto Additions
The one that always saddens me most if missing is Moto Approach. They have proved that Approach is possible with LCD screens via the G7/8 Plus models, but like the AndroidOne phones (such as One Vision and One Action) they have chosen to not make it available. Why on earth? However, all is not lost. Instead of waving a hand over the screen to wake up Peek, a tap on the screen will do it here. From thereon in it's the same as any other Peek with Notification icon being swipe-able for quick-peek or opening up for full viewing. It's just that proximity sensor action for Peek which they seem to have saved pennies on. Much of the rest of the suite is present (chop-chop for Torch, 3-finger screenshot, twist-twist for camera and so on) with some additions like Gametime settings to keep interruptions at bay and brightness high, a 'What's new in Android 10' section leading the migrating user through the changes and double-press Power for Google Assistant. But it's really otherwise a clean version of Android with stock-like Home Pages and Google Assistant access and Cards to the left as we've come to expect. Wherever Google Services and Apps are supplied, Moto uses them. No doubling up of anything, no bloat, no deals with FaceBook, LinkedIn or Amazon. Clean as a whistle. You get as close to Vanilla as is possible. Well done Moto.

The fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone is a tad small for my liking but it works perfectly and can be set to swipe-down for the Notification Shade. The setup is straight-forward, quick and opening up the phone it's first time, every time. At least it's not an under-glass mess-up like many others and the user, even though they might have to pick the phone up, knows where they are without hopeful successive stabs at the screen. There's no Face Unlock option but there is Attentive in settings which means that if you have it set up and you're looking at the screen, the screen will stay on and not time out/off.

The G8 Power is equipped with what should look like a great array of camera options. A 16MP f/1.7 main camera, a 2MP f/2.2 macro lens with 2cm focus distance, an 8MP f/2.2 wide-angle snapper and lastly, an 8MP f/2.2 telephoto with 2x optical zoom. There's a 16MP f2 Selfie round the front in support which offers a quad-pixel binning setup to grab 4MP shots, unless you specifically set it to 16MP to make use of the full sensor, unimpaired. There's no OIS to be seen anywhere, but regardless, this camera setup produces fine, fun shots in good light and for those not pixel-peeping. At this price, it can be given a pass on that level, I think!

Camera App
The App is laid out in a similar way to others in the range with a tap-button to move between wide, normal and zoom, a grid icon to launch all the modes including that so-called Macro, Spot Colour, Cutout, Portrait and so on. Some more useful than others but nothing much new from what we've seen before. Auto-everything with AI, Smile Capture which fires when everyone is smiling, Manual mode (with control over everything except focus, bizarrely), RAW option, Portrait mode (which works surprisingly well), Google Lens is built-in, all sorts of video options including electronic stabilisation and so on and so on. Tons of stuff to play with but the best fun for me has been the Macro Mode where photos can be taken pretty close-up. Yes, of limited use for most people, but great fun. And that's what photography on this phone is, I think. Probably out-performed by an awful lot of other phones out there, but I'm guessing that people buying/using this phone at this price won't care about that stuff - they'll happy-snap for memories and social media 'til their heart's content!

The phone is £219 in the UK on launch (in Smoke Black or Capri Blue) which will no doubt mean it will end up being £189 or less in time. If the user can live without NFC/Google Pay then it's actually a bit of a bargain. With eyes fixed on the giant battery performance, super stereo speakers, system-wide Dolby, fun camera and a near-Vanilla Android experience bang up to date with version 10, the user could do an awful lot worse. It's a popularly big phone so might suit people with less than perfect eyesight and the Moto additions make the whole package a tidy one for the money. Yes, there's stuff missing and maybe some would veer towards the Moto G8 Plus to plug those gaps, but for others who don't care and love the mega-powerful cell, it'll be a good choice.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Trois Couleurs Trilogy

Three Krzysztof Kieslowski films from the 1990's interweaving beautifully to pull off a delightful arthouse treasure, considered here by guest reviewer Ahmed Bebars.

Three Colours: Blue

Blue, the first of the trilogy, takes place in Paris. It stars Juliette Binoche (who can be seen as Hanna in "The English Patient") as Julie, the wife of prominent composer Patrice de Courcy. She finds herself having to deal with an unwanted liberty when an automobile accident claims the lives of her husband and her daughter Anna. Her initial reaction while recovering in the hospital is to kill herself, swallowing a handful of painkillers stolen from the medicine lock-up in the hospital, but she cannot. From that point on, she is devoted to carrying out a 'spiritual suicide', in which she dissociates herself from the memory of her past-- she sells all the furniture and the family home, moves into a small flat in Paris, and destroys her late husband's last musical composition, a piece for the festival of European Unity. Along the way, she befriends Lucille, a prostitute/stripper that lives downstairs from her; falls in love with Olivier, her late husband's aide; and helps Sandrine, the mistress of her late husband who is carrying his child.

It is a slow-paced film, in the typical French atmospheric style-- a textured piece of cinema. It is an excellent example of what is described in "Film Art" by Bordwell and Thompson: "every component functions as part of the overall pattern that is perceived... subject matter and abstract ideas all enter in to the total system of the artwork." Given its name, "Blue", you cannot help but look for that colour in the film's carefully-sculpted scenes. Of course, the trick that Kieslowski has pulled on you is that he is forcing you to pay attention to what is happening on the screen. And because your awareness has been heightened by this trick, you begin to notice the clever tapestry of form and function in this film.

Visually, Kieslowski uses many techniques to convey the sense of loss and the internal conflict in which Julie finds herself. There are many shots from a first-person perspective; extremely tight close-ups of mundane events, such as a sugar cube slowly absorbing coffee, which convey the mind-set of catastrophic loss, where the significance of even minor events is heightened by the introspective mind. Julie is in a trance-like state, trying to shut out the world around her... so that she can break free of the pain she feels.

Blue light, representing her past, creeps in around her at several points throughout the film, accompanied by her husband's music... but she fights it. Another example would be the scene where the old woman who attempts to put a bottle in a recycling bin is virtually ignored by Julie as she is in one of her introspective trances. As you watch the other two films in the trilogy, this event recurs and you will notice how the different characters react to the old woman and reflect on the themes of the films.

The most noticeable visual technique would be the odd fade-out/fade-ins that occur four times in the film. At each of the four points, Julie is in transition, deciding whether or not to push back the memories of her life before the accident, or to acknowledge them-- jumping between a painful reality and an emotionally devoid trance-like state. The first instance occurs when she is recuperating in the hospital, and the blue light is all around her. A reporter then shows up, who wants to interview her about her late husband. Julie turns down the reporter's request, denying the existence of the past.

The second instance occurs when she meets a boy that found a necklace at the crash site. The boy offers to tell Julie about the moments just after the crash, but Julie does not want him to tell her. The third instance occurs when she is making the realisation that her goal of liberty from the past is a hollow one-- she feels remorse having let a cat kill some baby mice that were infesting her apartment-- a necessary act.

The final instance of the fade-out/fade-in would be when Julie decides to meet her late-husband's mistress. At this point, Julie is well on her way to embracing the past and to continue the legacies which she has so far ignored.

In the end, Julie re-establishes the connections with her past, and like the continent upon which she resides, shifts from a state of liberty into a state of union. She gives the family home and name to Sandrine's unborn child and she completes the composition for the celebration of European Unity, she allows herself to love and be loved by Olivier.

Being the first part of a trilogy, Kieslowski attempts to inject intertextuality into films to show linkage between them. The old woman and the recycling bin is one such attempt. For those of you into cinematic Easter eggs, pay particular attention to the scene where Julie is at the courthouse, looking for Sandrine. She looks around and walks into a courtroom where a trial is in session. The audience is briefly given a glimpse of a divorce trial before a court officer kicks Julie out. Of course, this divorce trial is the opening sequence of the second film, "White". Dominique (Julie Delpy) is seen sitting with her lawyer, and Karol Karol's (Zbigniew Zamachowski) voice is heard arguing with the judge about 'equality'. The significance of this odd scene is revealed in "White", where Julie walks in on the trial in the background.

In conclusion, Kieslowski has done a masterful job combining the disparate elements of film-making together to emphasize his thesis-- cinematography, music, lighting, and dialogue. It is a film that can be viewed again and again and interpreted as many ways. Truly representative of 'film as literature'. "Blue" also serves as an excellent showcase for Juliette Binoche and is a good primer for the rest of the trilogy.

Three Colours: White

White is a very important component to the trilogy. Now it's certainly the weakest of the three, but it is still a great film that works extremely well, giving the audience context and a greater understanding of what Kieslowski was trying to say with the trilogy.

Towards the beginning of the film, we are shown that Blue takes place during Karol's court hearing. This is extremely important because we understand that these films are taking place at the same time and in the same universe. This also helps to set up the ending of Red, in which we are shown the possible conclusion of White as well.

In my opinion this is Kieslowski's most personal film. It takes place shortly after the collapse of the USSR and Poland joining the European Union. Kieslowski was heavily influenced by these events and it really shows in the film. However you don't need to be Polish to enjoy this movie, it's a great transitional piece for Blue and Red and it does exactly what Kieslowski intended.

I personally think that White is looked down upon a little because it is a good film in a trilogy with two other masterpieces in it. It doesn't have the stylistic elements of Blue or the stirring performances and striking cinematography of Red but this is Kieslowski and he knows how to make an emotionally resonant film whilst trying to send a message to his audience.

His concept of equality is wonderfully studied through an allegory of a broken relationship but the photography and performances are just not as strong as they are in the other films. I really adore Julie Delpy but she doesn't have much room to shine in this film and whilst Zamachowski plays his part well, the character isn't as engaging or iconic as the lead roles in Red and Blue.

I also enjoyed the bits of humour in this movie, and I liked the revenge plot line throughout the film. It's definitely the least visually striking of the three, but it still has some absolutely beautiful moments, like when Karol and Mikolaj skate around on the frozen lake. I enjoyed the fact that, after how dark Blue was, White served as sort of an emotional palate cleanser.

Three Colours: Red

The final installment of Kieslowski's master trilogy does not disappoint. We follow Valentine, a fashion model with a few bits of baggage. She sets a chain of events in motion as she tries to return a dog she ran over with her car, this being the third value of ''fraternity''.

The first 40 minutes of the film are somewhat puzzling as there seems to be a few unexplained events, characters and sub-plots blended with massive red symbolism. There's barely a scene in the film in which an inanimate red object is not thrust in the viewer's face. But what comes after is just mesmerising. Kieslowski manages to rope you into a beautiful story, essentially about love but one that almost borders on the sc-fi genre at times, and climaxes in a wholly satisfying last scene that neatly and brilliantly ties in the whole trilogy. The message seems to be that love and belief will conquer all, and again as we see the 7 characters at the end, the theme of fraternity and togetherness is on show. There are strong hints of religion and fate. Recurring themes like broken glass, communication, and windows will probably make more sense with repeat viewings.

My takeaway was how fragile human interactions are and that small choices to engage a little more, or a little less, will have an enormous impact on people. If Valentine were like most people, she'd be nice enough to have given the dog medical treatment and returned to its owner, but instead she also probed into the life of this odd, bitter, lonely man (the judge). Yet when she wanted to do something about the drug-dealer family next door to him, she stopped short when realising their daughter would overhear, choosing to abstain from digging deeper into their lives.

The subtext to the story's double-lives and supernatural elements is murkier (to me, at least). I think regret is at the heart of it, or at least that was the motivation for the characters' actions. In the case of the judge, it's pretty obvious he regrets his past abuse of power and feels the need to atone for it. He's bitter and lonely; and does nothing to prevent Valentine exposing his eavesdropping and silently accepts the abuse hurled at him from the neighbourhood. Valentine seems like she preemptively regrets events that have not happened yet or that she doesn't know about. For example, she senses that at some point her boyfriend will cheat on her. She hates that there are people who enable her drug-addict brother, although we don't know enough about that story to say what she might have done about it.

In the end, there are two things that meaningfully changed but at vastly different costs. The judge is able to leave his house and reconnect with the world because a nice woman showed him some kindness and made the effort to connect with him. And Valentine breaks out of a relationship cycle that was doomed to repeat that of the judge and the young-doppelganger judge, but it took hundreds dying on a ferry to do it.

Red is visually stunning and the best of the three in terms of cinematography, in my opinion. Blue is more subtle in its use of colour but some of the shots here are just so vividly red, and in contrast with the brown and grey city, they make for some stunning scenes.

I have trouble splitting Red and Blue in terms of ranking. They are both fantastic. White is probably one for the Kieslowski purists. If I had to, I'd go: 1-Red 2-Blue 3-White

But that's probably because Red is fresher in my mind. Juliette Binoche's performance in Blue is one of the greatest performances I think I've ever seen on screen. And let's not forget Irene Jacob's portrayal of Valentine, which was fantastic.

Overall, it's probably not a stretch to claim that Red is one of the greatest European films ever made, and that the 'Colors' trilogy is one of the greatest ever trilogies.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Logitech K780 Wireless and Bluetooth Keyboard

Logitech make some lovely keyboards. I type on one of them now - the K380, which I use remotely as it's smaller - and which I've covered on Whatever Works before. I also covered the K480 which had a phone/tablet stand built-in but not this latest addition, the K780.

The Logitech K780 is a bigger keyboard, more suited to a permanent position as it improves on the lighter, more portable versions in a number of ways. First impression is the weighty bulk, substantial heft of the unit. The rubber feet ensure that it ain't going to move once in place unless you're in an earthquake zone! The scissor-keys are beautifully designed, round, like the rest of the 'K' Logitech family, slightly 'reverse-domed' or concave which match the end of fingers! A fiendish idea, eh! And, they're all-but silent in use - no clacking like a 1945 typewriter! This, being the big-brother of the family also has amazingly good spacing between the keys and also a dedicated number pad off to the right, missing in so many more dinky keyboards of course.

There are no 'risers' at the back, so the angle presented is the one you get, to ensure that anything placed in the solid rubber tray is not in danger of tipping forward. Fortunately, the angle has been well thought out and is just right - for me, anyway. The keyboard part of the structure is black and is stylishly attached to the grey/white lower portion which sweeps underneath and back, to form that rubber tray. Underneath, central, and to the back is the slide-open door for the two AAA batteries (which Logitech claim will last 2 years) and the Unifying USB-A plug to put into your device that the keyboard is serving, should you not want to use Bluetooth.

It all feels very well made, solid, heavy, firm and substantial. The rubber tray at the back is good for a tablet in landscape plus a phone, or even three devices maybe in portrait - as there are, like the rest of the family, provision for 3 fast-switch buttons. These work faultlessly as tested here, on-the-fly dancing between various devices - even between Bluetooth and USB wireless (2.4GHz). Just press the assigned button and as if by magic you're typing on the other device. I have my laptop connected via USB and tablet and phone via Bluetooth.

There's also software to download called Logitech Options (prompted at first use) which runs in the background on the Windows PC (and Mac, apparently) and offers further control over the shortcuts and keys, various functions and default assignation for various control-based keys to suit the user, and a backup of settings to Logitech's Cloud if you fancy using it! Incidentally, various control-keys on the keyboard itself are 'split' for multi-OS use. It also flags up on-screen when the battery is low, though I'll have to wait 2 years to see that!

There's an on/off button slider-switch on the side, but things seem to power-down nicely without that used - then power-up after a tap of any key (though actually, there does seem to be a slight delay there as once or twice I've been typing away and after a few seconds it seems to 'buffer' and catch up with me - so maybe not instantaneous - though this only happens after 'sleep' and not switching between devices). If you want to get invested in the Logitech system you can also use various peripherals (like a mouse) to use the same Unifying dongle thingie - as well as buying the dongle separately, but I haven't fully investigated the breadth and implications of this wider system.

It's a super keyboard. I've been nothing but impressed with this range over the years - and this more 'static' addition sets up my 'office' desk nicely. The usefulness of the dedicated number-pad can't be overstated for some of us who work with numbers and spreadsheets, accounts and figures. As you may have gathered by now, this is not a keyboard for the Road Warrior, but for home use, I highly recommend it. I picked it up for £49 at AmazonUK but note that the price seems to fluctuate between retailers and time, so shop around!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Bamboo Desk Storage Organiser

Smart little desktop shelving unit this for about £20, though I got it half price, so look out for bargains at AmazonUK. I got it in to save the bother of putting some shelves above the desk.

It's self-assembly and made of two parts, so the right-hand part 'sits' on top of the left and consequently can be adjusted for any space you might have. It works round a right-angle corner, for example (though access is more limited) and you can pull the left and right apart to make it as big as you like, until the left drops off the right, of course!

The pack comes with a diabolically incapable screwdriver - absolutely useless, so don't even try it! Get your own out. From thereon in it's just a case of doing the usual, follow the diagrams - and Fanny's your aunt!

Seems sturdy enough with handy holes and platforms. Recommended 😁

1home 'Adjustable Curve' Laptop Riser

Here's another addition to my home desktop which has made a huge difference to comfort, looking at my laptop screen at eye-level rather than chest-level. They do say it's much better for posture, regardless of my motivation merely for comfort!

It came in 5 pieces. The 'platter' which has a grid of holes in it to disperse heat, the two 'curves' which attach to the underside of the platter by supplied hand-tightening fat-headed bolt thingies, then the two 'feet' which you slide the 'curves' into. It's much simpler than I'm making it sound!

The last job is to then adjust the 'curves' in the 'feet' allowing for any angle/height up to flat and beyond. The adjustment is very stiff to move, which is a good thing as it won't move from the position you set it. At the front of the platter there's a 1cm ledge which the laptop sits snugly against, held by gravity.

It all works really well and there's also a natural 'cavity' underneath to put what you fancy - I've got my Hub in there with cable going round the side to the laptop's USB-C port.

It's £17 at AmazonUK and well worth it. It's made very well and does an excellent job.

Nutri-Q 35650 Twin Omelette Maker

We were looking for an omelette maker as we hadn't had one for years and found this one which has turned out to be excellent! It's...