Wednesday 17 July 2024

Abigail (2024)

A bunch of lowly hoods are brought together in the typical nobody-knows-each-other style, not supposedly sharing anything about themselves, by a dastardly criminal to carry out a job. Think Reservoir Dogs, Ocean's 11 or even The Lavender Hill Mob. The job in question is to kidnap a rich bloke's 12-year-old daughter, who is a keen ballerina, dump her in a broken down big house for 24 hours and watch over her while the ransom is organised.

As I'm sure you know, if you're reading this, the little girl turns out to be a vampire and the gang of six are lined up one-by-one to be feasted on as she turns the tables on them all! It's a comedy, really. A caper. But with blood, guts, gore and thrills aplenty! There are some twists and turns along the way but most of it is fairly predictable in that respect. All very far-fetched but an enjoyable romp nonetheless!

Alisha Weir (Matilda: The Musical, Wicked Little Letters) plays the title role and is clearly having great fun with it in the midst of the chaos. The 'star' of the show however and person with the most screen time is the very pretty Melissa Barrera (In the Heights, Keep Breathing, Scream) doing a great job holding the cast together around her. The rest of them do a pretty decent job as well, if you take it for what it is and not too seriously. I guess this, for most, was a fun outing between their proper jobs! The late Angus Cloud makes a one-scene appearance right at the death(!) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul's Gus Fring), a couple of scenes trying to be scary in a different way. (He should stick with the genuinely frightening Fring character!)

Sets are great and photography thoughtful and well imagined. There's not a huge amount of suspense, tension or mystery about it, as it does come across more like a comedy, but they have chucked in some shots at jump-scares here and there. The fun bits and laugh-out-loud moments are when various people explode and scatter their bodies over the rest of the cast in a million pieces! Anyway, that's about it really. All good fun and certainly worth a Friday night gander after the pub. Available on various streaming channels.

Sunday 14 July 2024

Motorola MOTOvator Unboxing!

Motorola UK sent over the MOTOvator Welcome Box this week for me to unbox, get stuck into and share my thoughts. It included a sparking new Motorola Edge 50 Pro, pair of Moto Buds+, shiny lapel-badge, travel mug, cloth shopping bag and one of those folding ring thingies that you stick on the back of the phone (or case) to help hold bigger phones with a finger inserted.

It was certainly a nice little bundle of goodies which I shall enjoy reviewing very much in the weeks to come. The phone, supplied in Black Beauty colour with 512GB Storage and 12GB RAM is from the latest crop of non-folding devices sitting between the Edge 50 Fusion and flagship Edge 50 Ultra. The RRP is £599 here in the UK and sits very much within that mid-range battleground. Spoiler alert before the review - I think it comes out, feature-for-feature, pretty much on top. I have a bunch of Motorola phones here to compare this with including the Edge 30 Neo (and comparison with the Pixel 7), Edge 30 Ultra, Edge 40, Edge 40 Neo and ThinkPhone - so it should indeed make for a decent showdown. I am particularly interested to see, for the first time, Moto's new HelloUI front-end after MyUI before. (Links here to previous reviews and coverage.)

The buds, I was not aware of and usually don't go for the in-ear-canal type, I shall indeed make the exception here and give them a good workout as I hook up with Google Fit, FitBit and get out working through my Steps! The Moto Buds+ have a RRP of £129 here in the UK. As for the mug, it looks like it's a double-lined unit with a tightly-fitting lid and slider-opening hole for drinking in a nice blue colour. It has a grippy base to avoid accidents and of course, offers the 'Batman' Moto 'M' logo proudly.

Motorola have in no way dictated to me what to say as I review this swag, leaving it up to my honesty and discretion as to my views. So, watch this space as I put the various elements through their paces and try to remain objective, even though it is well documented that I have been an admirer of what Moto do with Android and their hardware for a good number of years.

Steve Litchfield and I will continue to cover the Motorola hard and software in our weekly audio podcast (Phones Show Chat), now in its 16th year and over 800 shows, including the items from this Welcome Box. Steve has also covered plenty of Motorola stuff on his YouTube channel over the years to, so do head there and search for his great content - long-form videos and Shorts.

Saturday 13 July 2024

Flu (2013)

This is a very nicely structured pandemic/disaster movie from South Korea which is similar in theme to the likes of Outbreak (1995), The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Contagion (2011). We follow a handful of people as they negotiate the outbreak of a virus in their city, which arrives in a shipping container full of illegal immigrants from Hong Kong. Also known as The Flu and originally, Gamgi.

Director Kim Sung-su leads the charge as we spend most of the 2 hours runtime in the company of the key players, fighting the virus, death, the mishandled military/political response to the chaos and the general population in panic. It's mostly thrills, suspense and fast-moving action but there's still time to slip in a bit of a love story, family drama and humorous relief.

We start out with a pandemic-unrelated scene-setter in which a rescue worker is attempting to save a girl who is trapped in a car after apparently it fell into a sink-hole in the road. We get to know the pair and it just so happens that she's a doctor able to work later towards trying to save the people from the virus. He's a happy-go-lucky dude, out for fun, but also very much dedicated to his profession, disgruntled because when she was rescued she didn't even say thanks! Therein lies a plotline for later as he pursues her romantically.

She has a daughter who she loves dearly but seems to be irresponsible in terms of the amount of time and effort she spends with her, prioritising her work first over family values. During the course of the film, we see this swing around and it provide one of the messages of course! As the outbreak takes hold, the daughter gets directly involved because she comes into contract with someone who has the virus. Incidentally, there's no husband as he abandoned them in favour of a life in America before we join the story - which opens the door for our rescue worker.

The three of them leap between mini-disasters, helping each other, trying to help the people, getting trapped in awkward situations in makeshift quarantine camps, finding ways through and fighting off any chance of them not making it to the final reel! Meanwhile, we follow the virus as it spreads between people in ordinary situations with the tension building as more and more people get sneezed on, coughed on and touched, to pass it around. We've seen it before in the aforementioned films and it has been done better, but it's handled decently enough here to keep the audience committed.

Then the President turns up and various other authority figures as the fight between themselves, along with the hard-nosed American command team who seem to be present in the country to assist and partner east/west, takes hold. Different values emerge as they see the crisis in various ways and project outcomes based on what they consider to be the best course of action. Think Outbreak, again. So yes, nobody in the mix is really agreeing about how to handle this.

As we approach the second half of the film, things start to get ugly and various special effects are engaged to show harrowing activity as the military and authorities find ways to deal with the masses of dead people whilst still trying to stop the spread. I think you get the idea by now, that's it's pretty well done and certainly keeps the viewer on their toes - more so, the further we get in, away from the lighter and fluffy relationship stuff - which also turns serious.

Kang Ji-goo (Jang Hyuk) and Kim In-hye (Su Ae) play the leads very smartly, as the storyline starts with us disliking the girl, favouring the boy, but leads us to liking them both! The absolute star of the show though is the cute little girl. Played by Park Min-ha, she's on the face of it at the outset a precocious, over-confident little brat who reflects her mum's similar traits, but the girl's acting is just terrific. Like the other two, we warm to her over time and as the heat builds, she becomes much less cocky, more distraught and this is where her amazing ability at that young age shines through. It's almost worth watching the film just for her.

So yes, very well acted, something for everyone, tension, fun, drama, family stuff and at the heart a pandemic disaster movie that is well worth watching if you can track it down. Enjoyed it very much.

Monday 1 July 2024

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of June 2024

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

Phones Show Chat
Episode 804 - Blast it with a Hairdryer!
Saturday 1st June
It's just Steve and I this week as we natter for an hour about all things phone - and beyond! HMD's back with a Lumia, I've been monkeyin' around with a Moto and we're keyboardin', grippin', skinnin' and casin' to Xtreme! Available in and around the usual places, so grab a BlackBerry juice and join us.

Whatever Works
Episode 207 - The Cutler's Calling!
Monday 3rd June
Aidan and I are here again to make sure that your lives are whole, as we invite you to witness us rattling on about all sorts of tripe for an hour. To amuse and entertain. Not sure if that's us, or you! a.k.a. Isopropyl Varilux done Yorwe! Available now in the usual places!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 805 - Audio Special
Saturday 8th June
This week Steve and I dive into all things audio with phones, other hardware, apps and other stuff in the company of Jeremy Harpham. So if you don't know your Aeropex from your SonicFoam, Xiaomi Pistons from Fosi or 1more from HiDiz, then do join us for an hour or so while we pull it apart.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Peeking at Pentax
Sunday 9th June
Gareth and I are at it again. This week some love for Joplin, TubeSync, Samsung Galaxy S-Pen Pro. There's news, Spotify killing Car Thing, Spacetop G1, Pentax WG-8, HealthyPi, Galaxy Ring, One UI 6 updates a new phone from HTC, Bargains in the Basement and oodles more. So once again, we welcome you to join us and tune in via the usual places.

Projector Room
Episode 164 - The Tires Under Paris
Thursday 13th June
Gareth, Allan and I are back once more to natter about film, cinema and TV in our fortnightly Pod. This time we treat on Timothy Dalton, take a Dry Dive Under Paris, Murder Crows and rats with Fat Ethel, travel back to 1962 with William Shatner and get Freaked out with an Autopsy!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 806 - Platforms and Phones in Step
Sunday 16th June
Jon Trimmer is back this week as the guest of Steve and I as we find out about the devices he's been using lately, HyperOS and his thoughts on many topics, mobile. I've been getting into bed with Sammy again(!) and Steve's had a first hands-on with the OnePlus Open. Loads more as always, so do tune in via the usual routes.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 807 - Apple and Samsung Set the Pace
Sunday 23rd June
Steve and I are here this week with a bit of a catchup show as we explore all good phone-related stuff from Samsung, Moto, Apple, Google and more, including some hot Logitech accessories and Spatial Audio. Available via the usual places, so do join us for an hour.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Samsung Galaxy Ulster
Sunday 23rd June
Gareth and I are back to round off your week with another of our fortnightly dives into all things tech. Samsung Galaxy leaks, Rollei compact cameras, Microsoft's blundering with Recall, Galaxy S24 Ultra hitting the Olympics in Paris, Logitech keyboards/pens, Lenovo nailing the budget tablet, HTC’s new phone, Adobe being bastards, ACDSee fixing Adobe’s issues, a new Pixel Watch XL and Alice, what the feck is Alice..?! Available in all the usual places.

Whatever Works
Episode 208 - Infuser Enthuser!
Wednesday 26th June
Aidan and I are back again with a roundup of all things ludicrous to make up yet another hour of clap-trap. If you've got nothing better to do, join us as we talk coffee, Legoland, AC units, Teapots, Torches, Tooth brushes and Travel bags! Plus loads more. As always.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 808 - From Orange SPV to S24 Ultra
Sunday 30th June
...with Special Introduction on Show 808 by Juha Alakarhu. Geddit?! Otherwise, it's Steve and I as usual, hanging out this time with Paul O'Brien of MoDaCo fame. We get connected with new devices from Moto, announcements from Google - and don our Ray Bans for some Noctilucent Moondrop Space Travel!

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

Saturday 29 June 2024

Dumplings (2004)

Continuing with the horror genre, I eventually tracked down this controversial darkly-themed film directed by Fruit Chan and penned by 
Pik-Wah Lee. It's not really a horror, as such, more like a horrific idea, but very well executed. In more ways than one! Spoilers from the outset here, so look away if you don't want them as it's hard to appraise what's going on here without.

We have a woman living in Hong Kong who runs a 'dumpling shop' from her apartment. She is known as Aunt Mai and from the film's outset the audience is encouraged to try and guess what the secret ingredient in her dumplings is, which brings many people, including the rich and famous in one case, to her door to test the claims of whatever it is, bringing enhanced beauty, longer life, good looks and rejuvenation to their human bodies.

Aunt Mai used to be a gynaecologist when she lived in China, which might start to give you some hints, as this film is, partially, maybe, having a poke at the one-child-per-family policy in China in the day. This helps to line up the background for the teased truth/reveal of the magic ingredient! The truth doesn't actually take long to creep out as an ex-actress lines Aunt Mai up to help her remain attractive to her older businessman husband, who has lost interest in her and is instead, bangin' "twenty year old chicks" (their words, not mine)!

So yes, the truth is that she's scooping up unborn babies from the local hospital, following abortions usually, with the 'more potent' ingredient coming the later on the pregnancy has been. In one case, in the plotline here, the most potent of all was a 5 month in foetus which was also a result of incestuous activity! You can see that this gets grimmer and grimmer as we go along, but thematically remains very interesting with the 90 minute runtime flying.

The two leads are Bai Ling (Aunt Mai) and Miriam Chin-Wah Yeung (Mrs Li, the wealthy 'client') and they both hold the film together beautifully by their performances and command of the screen and camera. There's humour along the way too, detracting from the bizarre subject matter and grizzly idea - so it's not all dark and horrific!

The photography and sound should be noted as there are many beautifully shot scenes, close-ups and focus work along with great, comic, sound effects as the dumplings are eaten - especially in one scene when there's much crunching on what's inside!

Laying aside the theme, I guess that it's a film about people's vanity and desire not to age at any cost, as-in Dorian Gray, people's values attached to their partners in life, selfishness, marriage and meanderings, what wealth can bring people, maybe(!) and the depiction in society of the importance of female beauty driven and controlled by men. Some dubious attributes maybe, depending on your view.

It's a great watch though, very colourfully shot, very nicely acted by (particularly) the two leads with a dialogue and script that seem to work nicely. It will be remembered for the grizzly topic of course, but then it's a horror film. Or at least a horrific film. Watch open-eyed, enjoy some of the special effects, nasty scenes with blood, guts and gore, but more importantly admire the filmmaking, acting and production. That is, if you can get hold of it. The DVD is available, though not really from mainstream outlets - look in resellers/used. And it is, of course, not in English so it's subtitles for Brits! Really enjoyed it.

Friday 28 June 2024

The Seasoning House (2012)

Angel is a young deaf/mute girl who is kidnapped in a war-torn Balkans somewhere and forced to work in a house that provides military personnel with sex when not fighting. So yes, a brothel. She has the favour of the ruthless pimp Victor and put in charge of drugging the other girls who provide the service to the soldiers, so they don’t fight back, and cleaning them up afterwards - as the experience was often brutal.

Yes, it’s a horror-filled, nasty film, depicting the wicked behaviour of nasty men towards women in a claustrophobic, violence-ridden house in the middle of nowhere. Almost all of the film is based in the house, inside its walls, roof space and battered bedrooms. The channels that our heroine uses to move silently and swiftly around the house looking out for the abused girls and trying to help them survive their ordeals.

It’s a horror film, basically, with various scenes of violent rape and torture, but eventually it turns into a survival thriller as Angel, played brilliantly by Brit actress Rosie Day (Outlander, All Roads Lead to Rome), flips one day whilst watching one of the nasty soldiers doing what he did (and paying extra to be allowed to be extra violent), leaps out of the wall and kills him. From hereon in, all the aforementioned is left behind as Angel tries to escape the group of soldiers in and out of her maze of walls and tunnels in the house, as they seek revenge and try to kill her.

By this time, yes, there’s a group of soldiers led by their Commander, Goran, played by Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon, Gotham, Cold Feet) in pursuit, and the action eventually spills out into the nearby woods. Angel runs, ducks and dives for her life. So yes, now more of a cat and mouse chase-thriller. There is a twisty turny ending to a degree, so I won’t spoil that for you but yes, for those who don’t want to see all the aforementioned, the second half of the film, though losing context of course, could certainly be viewed in isolation.

It’s not a film for everyone, obviously, but it is very well made, directed and written by ‘seasoned’ horror film creator Paul Hyett (Howl, The Descent) and acted very well by the whole cast. Those who make it to the end (and can stomach it) will spend most of the 90 minutes wide-eyed on the edge of their seat. The audience, of course, roots throughout for poor Angel, hoping that she triumphs over these nasty men - and that they get their comeuppance. But will she be strong enough? A nasty, brutal horror film, available on various streaming platforms.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Motorola Edge 40 - It's All About the Size

Motorola enthusiasts and reviewers in the tech world have now moved their attention along to this year's Edge 50 series of Moto phones from last year's Edge 40 series units. Yes, the Edge 50 Fusion, Pro and Ultra are doing the rounds on YouTube and elsewhere with gusto!

But as is often the case, we at the Phones Show Chat podcast (now with over 800 shows under our belts incidentally as I write in June 2024) quite enjoy taking a back seat, follow the hubbub of course, but take our time, let the dust settle, then take a longer-term view. One of the benefits of this is that quite often various bugs in initial releases have, by then, been ironed out.

Which brings me nicely to last year's Motorola Edge 40 which just arrived for review. That's not the Pro, not the Neo, but the 'middle' one in terms of global releases. It's quite timely too as I was able to buy myself an Edge 40 Neo at a good price quite recently, thus forming a natural comparison here. My Initial Thoughts: Motorola Edge 40 Neo were posted to my blog, but now I shall be able to expand and compare two of the models - which, spoiler alert(!) - look almost identical. But are they?

You could be forgiven for thinking that they're actually the same phone really. Fortunately, my 40 Neo is Peach Fuzz colour and the 40, black. I actually prefer the former, being not so stuffy, formal and conservative. I'd have made a good hippy, ten years older! So anyway, yes, very similar. Dimensions prove this, any differences being less than a millimetre. Even the third party TPU cases fit both (apart from the odd misalignment of a microphone hole). Using the phones without a case at all is even better. They are beautifully petite in the hand and for the brave folk, unlike ham-fisted me who would no doubt drop them, they'll enjoy a beautifully-crafted experience.

They look the same too, in terms of design and curves, edges and covering on the back - both being vegan leather. It's kind of smooth and velvety - doesn't really feel much like leather - but it does afford more grip than shiny plastic or glass. The 40 does seem less low-end, more ‘premium’, perhaps the 40's aluminium frame helps with that look/feel, but they are both beautifully slim in the hand.

The eco-friendly box it comes in is that standard (now) Moto buff colour and inside it you get a hard, plastic, clear case with sides cut out to allow easier grip and access to buttons. I have to admit that I do still prefer a soft TPU case personally, but I can see the appeal for others. Fortunately, my kind of case is often less than a fiver on Amazon! You also get a 68W charger in the box and decent USB-C to USB-C cable with which to use it. Well done Moto. Keep it up. We'll come to charging later, but I do admire these firms that stick with these old-fashioned ways when most around them drop 'em!

The screen on both is the amazingly bright and colourful LG-sourced pOLED panel, 1080p, 20:9 ratio, with a refresh rate of up to 144Hz, almost the same nits of brightness as the Neo, 1200 vs 1300 peak, and the excellently one-handed, pocket-friendly size of 6.55" on the panel. I used to think that the Edge 30 Neo's 6.28" screen was even better but I'm not so sure now. The latter has a flat panel and these have curves around the sides, making it feel not far off the same. Note that in the auto display refresh rate will peak out at 120Hz - you have to go manual to always get 144Hz.

The Edge 40 was released in May 2023, the Neo in September '23. It arrived with Android 13 on it and it would not give me an Android 14 update or update the Google Security patches, for love nor money! However, Moto provide a Windows-based flashing tool so I headed for that to force the issue! It's called the Rescue and Smart Assistant and can be freely downloaded. Using it via the phone's IMEI number it goes off to check what it can offer, let you download the ROM and then with a cable to the PC, update the phone. The only downside is that it wipes the phone - but as I was doing this very early on in the setup process, this was not an issue. (Incidentally, the Edge 40 Neo is still 'stuck' on Android 13 but the tool doesn't offer me Android 14 yet for that.) So when I'd done all that, I was right up to date with current month security and Android 14 on the Edge 40. I think Moto's rationale is that most ordinary users outside of our tech bubble won't be bothered about any of that so they don't need to hurry. Both of these devices, incidentally, were promised at launch to get Android 14 and 15 and 3 years of security.

The release price in the UK for the Edge 40 in May 2023 was £529 and for that, there's an awful lot of phone here. Obviously, where it can be bought now, a year on, it's significantly cheaper - I've seen it for under £300 here and there - and there's also the used market of course, where bargains can be snapped up. And, as we'll discover, it might well be worth doing so. Especially when the less well-specified (in some ways - we'll come to that) Edge 40 Neo is around the same price new, now, being released later in the year. Along with that, you do get a significant amount of so-called Bloatware, though kudos to Moto for allowing every one of them to either not be installed at setup or easily uninstalled later. I guess this is part of the price-point target for this near-flagship-grade phone, doing deals with app-devs. So, Royal Match, Pinterest, Woodoku, Candy Crush Saga, Temu Shop, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Opera and Weather (by Swish Apps, not Moto’s own). I've seen worse!

The Edge 40 comes with a MediaTek Dimensity 8020 chipset which, under demanding tasks, shows that it has a clear advantage over the Neo's 7030. In day-to-day use, they're both fine but when, for example, setting up the phone, installing loads of apps, copying data from the PC or updating software, yes, the Edge 40 shows that it's more powerful. Those in the know study comparisons with various SnapDragon chips and there are all sorts of tables drawn up and YouTube videos produced. As for me, I go by real-world use. And it's very clear that the Edge 30 Ultra I have here runs rings around both the Edge 40 and (certainly) Edge 40 Neo and, as I say, the Edge 40 is ahead of the Neo. But in reality, for almost all users out there, they simply wouldn't notice (once the phone is set up and running and not being used for demanding gaming/file transfers). This is all testbench stuff for nerds.

The top storage available on either of these phones is 256GB, though in some regions there was/is a 128GB version. Careful with that, as there's no expansion via microSD. One difference between the two Edge 40 units here is the amount of RAM. Just 4 months between the release of the Edge 40 and later, Edge 40 Neo and Moto had decided to stuff 12GB into the Neo's top-end spec'd variation of the Neo and (as far as I can tell for global releases) 8GB across the board with the Edge 40. So yes, the more capable and generally higher spec'd device here without an option for 12GB RAM. Again, not that it really matters. Going forward, processing heavy AI-based stuff on-device? Well, I don't think we're there yet and these phones certainly didn't have that agenda up-their-sleeves last year on release. Moreso, maybe things like running lots of tasks with heavy gaming and the likes of Ready For, Moto's 'desktop mode'.

Ready For
 has now formally morphed into Smart Connect and is a great addition to the Motorola devices. It's great to see here that they are including it in even the Neo line of devices, making it more accessible to more people, for less money, down the range. My Edge 30 Ultra and ThinkPhone have HDMI-Out support as well, but these two Edge 40 variants don't - only wireless. I do wonder if, going forward, that might be a thing as Samsung DeX is now not always cable-available with some hardware and even NexDock (the LapDock makers) are favouring wireless hardware over wired. The world is going wireless and we have to keep up! My concern always with this was latency when watching video or gaming. When hooked up to my TV by cable with the Edge 30 Ultra or ThinkPhone, there was none of that. As you'd expect. But with wireless-only arrangements, you did, under Ready For, have to be a little careful about compensating for that, depending on apps. Some apps, for example, allowed control of 'delay' to audio/video so that it can be matched, some do that automatically. Some better than others. Streaming, of course, shouldn't be an issue where the feeds are not being sourced from local media, but I guess I'm old-fashioned and want the best of both worlds! But with the change to Smart Connect this seems to have been almost eradicated - at least, working with my home network and router - but also with local files. Lip Sync issues are almost undetectable. So perhaps Moto's clever engineers have caught up with the demands of not only our fast-moving online/streaming world but also locally held file streaming/transfer in the mix.

Laying aside that issue, the Ready For, er, Smart Connect experience is great - and in some ways, better than Samsung's DeX. Certainly in terms of rendering screen resolutions on different monitors it feels like Moto just get that right and DeX sometimes doesn't - which may be a problem if you have a low-re or high-res monitor and expecting the PC-based software to just work it out for itself. Furthermore, Samsung seem to have just lost a bit of interest in developing for DeX whereas Moto are in full-swing with it, initially, clearly, trying to catch up with Samsung, but now taken the lead. In some respects. Another one being the vertical app-scrolling on-screen against Samsung's horizontal (though Samsung fans will be used to that), the user-friendly front-end on Ready For with big buttons, easy to use for non-geeks, non-business-people, the UX and UI is just, well, more friendly.

One fail for Ready For, er, Smart Connect compared to DeX is using it with my NexDock, incidentally. The trackpad, keyboard and touchscreen simply don't work with the cabled-up Moto devices I've tried, like my Edge 30 Ultra. Motorola wants the user to clearly attach a bluetooth keyboard, mouse and use the trackpad on the phone to move the mouse around. Whereas, with Dex, all that just works on the device itself. I asked NexDock about this and they replied saying that they have not tested their NexDock Touch (which, to be fair, is getting a bit older now) with Moto phones, only Samsung. But in any case, my NexDock Touch doesn't have wireless functionality, so the two Edge 40 phones can't be used with it anyway! I'm sure it would work with a wireless model, but suspect strongly, with the same limitations. I have asked NexDock to send me one to review but they didn't reply, even!

Battery is 4400mAh
(so less than the Neo’s 5000 but) good for over 2 hours on my 10% Reading Test and all-day with general, average use is no problem at all. Yesterday I used 3 hours of SoT and 14 hours later it was still on 80% in the tank. As usual with Moto phones, particularly with no AoD as-such, they do really well on ‘stand-by’. As always, YMMV depending on how it’s caned. A b
ig difference between the two (at least, for me) is that the 40 has Qi Charging and the Neo doesn’t. Only 15W but it’s fine for overnight routine charging. It’s a shame that Moto dropped Qi Charging between the Edge 30 Neo and Edge 40 Neo. Maybe Moto concluded that their target audience for that model are not bothered about it, especially with fast charging. There's the usual bunch of battery-saving options available for the user to engage or not - I haven't felt the need.

In terms of device access security, we have an under display, optical fingerprint scanner and face unlock. The fingerprint scanner is thorough in setup and works pretty well, though I think not quite as well as the ultrasonic of some Samsung models and certainly not physical, capacitive ones. But the technology/software does seem to be getting better. The Face Unlock is even more thorough. The combination of both of these is excellent.

Moving to the software experience, the usual set of Moto features and gestures are onboard here with chop-chop for torch, twist-twist for camera, 3-finger screenshot, Lift to Wake, tap to wake, Attentive Display (stays on when looking at it), flip for DND and more. The excellent Peek Display has gone now on all new, updated to Android 14 models (and some that haven't). They've gone instead with the 'standard' lock screen arrangement, so when notifications come in you can set it to wake up and offer either a summary of the messages, buttons to tap or bubbles, which take you through to the lock screen and/or dive in for the full item in question. At first I wasn't convinced, but it's grown on me now and, well, maybe they were right!

You get the personalisation options of layout, font, colours (like Material You), choose Icon shape, system theme and more. This is well thought out and in keeping with what Google are doing on Pixels. Edge Lighting is another great Samsung feature which is present here. This gives the user a choice of 5 colours to 'glow' the edges on notifications from a list of options. Another way Moto is getting more Samsung-like, I noticed, is with App Drawer 'folders'. Yes, you can now arrange your App Drawer in the same way you can as if it's on the home screen, thus becoming another home screen, I suppose! The Backup/Restore works pretty well phone-to-phone using Google's tools - either wirelessly or by cable.

have some special settings to enhance their enjoyment with a dedicated Games front-end (app) where installed games are automatically included. Launching from inside that wrapper then sets things going and Moto presents an icon on the left which brings forth a little gaming control panel, with controls for volume and brightness, blocking buttons for calls and notifications, a dedicated screenshot button, share, touch sensitivity and even one to launch live Twitch streaming, for those who want to do that! The software experience is otherwise very close to Google, to Pixel, to AndroidOne in many ways and not veering off into a multi-layered virtual OS of its own, like Samsung. Some will see this as positive, while others will appreciate the bells and whistles of the latter. For me, it feels like a good balance between the two and I end up liking, very much, the Moto approach.

The output from the stereo speakers is very similar to that from the 40 Neo, but I do think that the Neo devices for some reason have just been given a slightly better-sounding pair. There's not much in it, but side-by-side testing reveals that both the 30 Neo and 40 Neo take the crown in the whole of the Edge lineups from 30 and 40 series. I have yet to have hands-on with a 50-series Edge, so will be keen to see how that compares. (I shall also be keen to see if a Neo version of the 50-series will be added at some point to the Fusion, Pro and Ultra - but that's a topic for another day). I've been comparing the output with the Sony Xperia 1 Mk.IV too and yes, the Sony nails it over the Moto, but that's probably not surprising given its audio-centric nature. Still, both Edge 40 devices here have good volume and decent quality with options to play about with the Dolby. 

The Dolby Atmos settings are the extended set, so lots of control over speakers as well as headphones - including full manual sliders - and yes, they really do make a difference with the right combination. They also continue to make available the Surround Virtualiser which, again, makes a significant difference to the stereo impact with both music soundstage/width and video/film with decent soundtracks. Placed 18" in front of the head and the listener can appreciate some clever software-driven speaker output enhancement going on, which is most impressive and enjoyable. This unit is equipped with Bluetooth 5.2, but the 40 Neo, again, released just 4 months later, seems to have v5.4 which is quite a leap. Having said that, to the casual user, I'm not really sure what difference that makes with 
A2DP and LE in the mix. I don't notice any difference with latency, as mentioned earlier, nor extended range/reliability. I do think that these incremental upgrades are probably just that. Particularly on this level of hardware. But I guess that depends on what you attach it to.

I have tested the phone with the Pixel Watch, FitBit and other Google-based supporting software installed as well as simply using Google Fit instead and it all works beautifully well, as if it's a Pixel phone really. I also have a Samsung Galaxy Watch here and once all Samsung's supported health and fitness software (that isn't exclusive to Galaxy phones) is installed. It's similarly perfectly functional (just without some of the higher-end functions that only Galaxy bring like Blood Pressure Monitoring and some of the fitness stuff talking to their Cloud services and so forth). But yes, you pays your money and takes your choice. There are, of course, other wearables out there - loads actually - but these are the two that I have some experience of using, so focus on commenting on them.

Connectivity is good. The Bluetooth range seems to be solid, depending on quality of connected equipment of course, NFC for connecting to other gear seems to work as it should along with Google Pay - and cellular connectivity seems very good indeed. I have had various phone calls and it didn't flinch, the whole time. When it comes to WiFi, Moto have equipped both these phones with 6e (for those who can make use of it). I have not noticed anything wrong with my connection, good and fast with no hitches or blips. There's 5G connectivity on the phone of course and it's blazingly fast where I live and GPS locks on and holds on to tracking-related stuff very nicely.

is Moto's version of Samsung's Knox, I guess. Lenovorola claim business grade security for the users' data. 
It features secure boot and tamper-resistant hardware to protect your device from physical attacks, a clean version of Android which helps to reduce the risk of vulnerabilities, a variety of security features such as malware protection, phishing protection, and remote device management - so yes, a security solution that can help to keep your Motorola smartphone safe. Or so goes the blurb! In practice there are some security clean-up tools which the user can invoke and trust, I guess, that somebody's looking out for you in the background!

I've always quite liked what Moto do with their Camera software and this is no exception. There's a 50MP f1.4 main camera on the Edge 40, which drops to f1.8 on the Neo, both have OIS and the 13MP f2.2 wide-angle unit with autofocus looks to be identical on the two models. The latter is good for close-focus and as with most modern Moto phones, because of this, the so-called 'macro' feature is really quite impressive. There's a 'Macro' badge present in most modes on the main view next to '0.5' and '1' and it seems to switch to the wide-angle lens when you get close enough. There are plenty of manual controls to override this and use it how it suits. The difference with the wider aperture on the Edge 40 makes for better/more light-gathering of course and a shallower depth of field with, for example, portraiture. I was dubious about this with these tiny optics and sensors so did some testing for myself and discovered that there is certainly a difference under the right conditions.

In my tests I think that all the cameras shoot fine pictures, certainly in good light, and the wide-angle at 0.5x too. 
The Night Vision seems to work very impressively - you are led through that 'hold still' procedure, then watch as a photo appears - with subjects in the frame that even the human eye can't see! The shots are just great (so long as you don't zoom in and pixel-peep)! The portrait mode seems to do a decent enough job with controlled depth of field - and you get that fun Spot Colour toy to play with along with a bunch of other modes too. You can edit which modes you want to see on the main view and dive into settings for a bunch of other tweaks and adjustments. There's 4K (30fps) video shooting available in the main camera and the same via the Selfie.

One visible difference is with that camera island as the 40 has two LED lights and the Neo, one. (A dual LED flash consumes more power but emits twice the light a single LED flash does. So faraway objects can be easily captured. The two LEDs are of different colours. By adjusting their ratio, the camera can adjust the colour of the flash for suitable white balance according to the surroundings. Apparently!) The two lenses on the Neo’s island look like they are exactly the same size, but on the 40, the lower one is smaller than the bigger. I guess that this is because unlike the Neo, the 40 has an f1.4 aperture on the main shooter.

There's no optical zoom here on either phone but there is a half-decent 32MP f2.4 selfie shooter at the top of the screen. For a deeper dive on the camera setup with samples and more informed opinion, I'll point you those good folk at GSMArena and the camera coverage starts hereDo please support them by visiting their site for the latest mobile news and to tune into their excellent phone reviews.

The Edge 40 is a fine phone are in keeping with original pricing, more capable in most ways than the 40 Neo. The modest chipset in both phones gets the job done for 98% of users, no doubt, but won't please gamers particularly. Most people will be very pleased with the sound output, slightly more so with the Neo in fact, the access to Ready For functionality albeit wireless only, good storage (at least in this region) at 256GB, the lovely bright and colourful p-OLED panel, the 68W charging with brick in the box and quality, premium build/look/feel - and more importantly, a year on, the price with still a promise of Android 15 and security updates to May 2026.

Both of these phones are cracking devices. The Neo punches way above its weight, but for that bit more power and quality, with many boxes ticked, it's the Edge 40 for me. As I said at the outset, it's all about the size! In a world that's gone 6.7" mad, it's so nice to have a smaller phone that is still capable, nay, near-flagship quality/featured. The 6.55" screen with those curved edges, slim too, feels smaller than it is, so suits me fine over the giants around it. Both of them highly recommended.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Dentistry - Look away if you're queasy!

I said I'd feed back after my dentistry, so I am now. It all happened yesterday. Wuss that I am, I found it all very traumatic really though the dentist chappie, Ivan Sasu, was very nice, but it would have been terrible without the Diazepam I think.

Two gaping holes in m'gob now, very, very clean 6 teeth at the front and a seriously numb gob! I was in the chair for over an hour. 
Hopefully that will be the end of the big work now though. Being fitted for dentures will be a breeze at my next appointment in August after these extractions (and severe cleaning). I have 7 teeth left for the dentures to anchor.

I took 40mg in the end. I tried 30mg but 45 minutes later into the waiting hour, it didn't feel like enough, so I took 10mg more. Glad I did. I got local anaesthetic (even) on the sites where he was going inject. When he pulled them, I really didn't know they'd gone. That's what I call numb! And I was numb for 8 hours after!

It's a lovely dentist though. The nicest ever seen. And all the people there are just lovely. It's more like a plush office suite really with soft chairs/sofas, loads of space, big rooms, tall ceilings - not the usual nasty, pokey, claustrophobic places one usually faces.

They said no alcohol for 24 hours but after a day like that, bollocks to that! Ha! I took the risk! This morning, I feel sore, yes, but with a huge sense of relief. The dangling sword of Damocles has been cut down. £285 charged, which, for the way I was treated, I thought to be a bargain. Arch Dental of North Wales recommended.

Saturday 1 June 2024

PodHubUK Podcasts for the Month of May 2024

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

Phones Show Chat
Episode 800 - Eight Hundred!
Friday 3rd May
How time flies. Was it 2008 or 2009 we started? Can't remember. But we muse on this week's show with special guest Juan Carlos Bagnell about how many other Tech Pods have notched up that number! Regardless, it's always great to have Juan on the show and he's always welcome with Steve and I. And I'm sure you, too. We nerd-out for an hour, so do join us.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 801 - Private DJ
Friday 10th May
Steve and I chat with Kai Barry this week, from one side of the globe to the other. We find out what tech he's using with a focus on privacy and de-googling Android. All interesting stuff, so do join us for an hour.

Tech Addicts Podcast
...with a hint of Mint
Sunday 12th May
Gareth and I are back again this week with a dig through all sorts of tech stuff (and intimate moments) that have caught our eye in the last fortnight! Smart Rings, dumb Sharks, Spatial audio, water-powered cars, AI Warplanes, side-bars, snapping and all manner of bargains in the basement. Be there or be square!

Whatever Works
Episode 206 - Sloppy Seconds!
Monday 13th May
Aidan and I are here again to declare Whatever Works for us and you. Why not join us for an hour as we whack weeds, visit Vsitoo, Beko our Moko, let Harry shave us and allow The Oracle to play in the company of a Ninja!

Projector Room
Episode 162 - A Reindeer Massacre
Thursday 16th May
Gareth, Allan and I are here at last! Sorry about the delays, but our bumper show will make up for it, now available in the usual places. We Monk(ey) about with apes and all creatures Jurassic, indulge in the work of Dennis Hopper, cook up Sweetbitter stuff in a huge Microwave oven and hit The Road as Knox Goes Away. Plus loads more as always. Enjoy!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 802 - OnePlus Open and AI
Sunday 19th May
Steve and I are back this week with a deep dive and interesting insight into AI with Mike Warner. Plenty of chat about other stuff too of course including the Sony announcements, Nokia Bygones, prime Pixel, Moto musings and even a brand new Launcher for your Android phone! Available in the usual places, so do join us. POTW @Ian Furlong

Phones Show Chat
Episode 803 - Never Ending Tech Addiction
Saturday 25th May
Steve and I are back this weekend with Jeremy Harpham as he talks folding, flipping, wearables, Microsoft InTune and loads more. I get first hands-on with a new/old Moto and Steve's soldiering on with Sony, in hope.

Tech Addicts Podcast
Something has come to the Surface
Sunday 26th May
Gareth and I chat this time about being a YouTuber (or not!), Logitech MX Keys Mechanical, Microsoft's plans for Copilot Plus PCs at the Surface event, screenshotting your personal information, UGreen's latest portable station, the forthcoming Moto G85, a WD 6TB 2.5" portable HDD, the HMD T21 and loads more! So do join us and make your day complete!

Projector Room
Episode 163 - Furiosa Fall Guy
Wednesday 29th May
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another chinwag on film, cinema and TV. In the lens this time is Abigail's Atlas in the After Life, Wicked Little Letters from The Innocents, a Sleepless Red Dragon at Chernobyl, Bodkin's Corpse Bride and oodles more, including what's Coming Soon and a focus on Emily Watson.

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

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Headless (2015)

Blimey! Hold onto your hats - well, heads, actually. This is not one for the faint hearted for sure. A gore-fest from start to finish in which a man randomly, mostly, selects women in order to get them back to his den where he lops their heads of, cuts various other bits of their bodies apart, copulates with the severed head and eats their eyeballs! I warned you!

You have to wonder why people would make a film like this really. I guess it must appeal to some. I tend to watch films like this out of fascination to see how low everyone can stoop. And this one's pretty low. Diabolical acting, low-budget, hardly any dialogue - just this fruit-loop doing the above.

There is a backstory of course, which gets flashed back to, involving him being locked up in a cage as a child by the female members of his family and fed raw rabbit's heads, and the appearance of some boy, who appears as an (I think) imaginary friend - then comes back later in this film to direct the grown-up boy's antics and validate his actions. Well, to him at least!

It is a completely bonkers blood-bath, not terribly well made, though they seem to have shot it in the style of a 1970's underground movie - there's even a Coming Soon/Feature Presentation (Tarantino style) at the beginning, like you'd see in a cinema outing back then!

Oh yes, and the 'highlights' of the action, for some reason, are all pretty much flashed-forward to in the first few minutes of the film. So you don't really need to watch it! Anyway, if anyone fancies the challenge, it's currently being screened for free on the Plex directory. Bonkers!

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Wicked Little Letters (2023)

This is a delightful British comedy/drama which could have been in danger of meandering off into Last of the Summer Wine territory in a tired old BBC kind of way but doesn't, because of the way in which it's been produced, written, directed and shot. It's ended up instead a decidedly large cut above that drivel of yesteryear.

Apparently based on truth and a book written by Christopher Hilliard entitled The Littlehampton Libels: A Miscarriage of Justice and a Mystery about Words in 1920s England, the story takes us back to the 1920's and the south coast of England seaside town of Littlehampton (which I happen to know well). It's the tale of two families who live next door to each other, one headed by a wild and fiesty immigrant from Ireland following WWI and the other a puritanical religious bunch, not sure whether or not they can cope with those next door or not!

Edith Swan, the ageing daughter in the latter of the households, keeps getting letters through the post packed with obscenities and insults. Rose Gooding, the foul-mouthed Irish girl is squarely nominated by anyone who knows about the events as the guilty party and responsible for the deeds. Edith is played by Olivia Colman (The Night Manager, Tyrannosaur, Empire of Light) and Rose, Jessie Buckley (Men, Fingernails, I'm Thinking of Ending Things).

The local incompetent police force don't quite know what to do about it, under pressure from some of the townsfolk and Edith's father to arrest Rose for the 'crime' of libel! The boss is trying to hold the force's actions together, staffed by the buffoon Constable Papperwick, played by Hugh Skinner (The Romanoffs), with rookie 'woman police officer' Gladys Moss, played by Anjana Vasan - seemingly the only one with a brain between them! In the end, they give into social pressure and arrest Rose, throw her in jail, only for the women townsfolk to club together to raise the bail and get her out whilst she awaited trial.

Gladys isn't happy and thinks she knows that Rose is innocent, so heads off, with no permission, to investigate. This gets her suspended, but also presents her with a golden opportunity to team up with the women of the town in order to investigate and clear Rose's name.

In the midst of all this, we get an insight into the racist and sexist behaviour and attitudes of the time and place, around the era of the Suffragette Movement, raising awareness in enlightened circles of things to come regarding value-bases and equality of human beings. The filmmakers may have taken this a step too far, perhaps for further emphasis of those issues by placing people from ethnic minorities into key roles in the story/film, like Gladys and the judge in the court, particularly, which was very highly unlikely to be the case in that prejudiced era.

Timothy Spall (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street) plays Edith's father, Edward, ruling his household, centred around religion and alleged moral high-ground, with wife Victoria, played by Gemma Jones, under his thumb alongside Edith - their individuality well and truly stamped out. It is clear that the women of the house don't dare step out of line, do as he says and what is expected of them - or face his wrath and punishment/correction.

It's actually a very funny film partly because of the profanities in the letters which are read out aloud by the most unlikely people in the mix, the characters shocking themselves that they could even utter such words. The biggest laugh out loud moments are centred around this and, yes, that runs out of steam eventually. But there's enough else too, as the comic antics of the ladies swinging into action to uncover what they think to be the truth, gets underway.

The mainly British cast do a fabulous job, every one of them. Jessie Buckley is hilarious throughout and Olivia Colman similarly, but dark and eerie when she needs to be. They're the two leads, but Timothy Spall is quite superb in his nasty character's role, Hugh Skinner convincing as the numbskull and there's other actors popping in and out who you will, no doubt, recognise - such as Jason Watkins (The Last Honour of Christopher Jefferies).

The sets are delightful as well, with fine attention to detail for the town at that time in history, the vehicles, clothing and muted colours. Director Thea Sharrock brings the very best out of the cast - they all look like they're having great fun with the project - and keeps the visuals interesting - and somewhat artistic. It really is a lovely film. Hopefully the new kind of British entertainment, so that we can put the old and tired to bed. Highly recommended.

Saturday 18 May 2024

Pixel USB-C Earbuds

Remember these? The ones Google used to bundle with the Pixel 3? I think it ended there. I was amazed to learn that the UK Google Store still stocked them, forget Amazon et al..! 20% Voucher and £24.

They sound great. Plugged into all sorts of USB-C devices here - phones, Chromebooks - anything really - and I'm having a whale of a time. No batteries to charge, plug 'em in and listen!

In-line control gets the Google Assistant, Notifications, track forward/back, volume up/down, mic for calls answer/end... and they sound great! (Especially with my PixelBook!)

XtremeSkins Skin for the PixelBook

Thanks to Lee from XtremeSkins for sending over a couple of samples to transform this 2017 PixelBook. Kudos to them for still stocking these. £18 for the full set, which, compared to a phone's set is good-looking value as there's loads of it for pretty much every panel and cutout, which work perfectly.

Sticky enough to stay in place but not too sticky to be a problem removing.

They even have covers for the trackpad if you want to use the whole set - and it works right through it!

This is White Marble, but there are loads of colours to choose from.

This is my opinion only and I really am impressed. Do head over and support XtremeSkins for skins for all sorts of devices for us here at the Tech Addicts and Phones Show Chat podcasts.

Highly recommended. Love this look!

Abigail (2024)

A bunch of lowly hoods are brought together in the typical nobody-knows-each-other style, not supposedly sharing anything about themselves, ...