Lego Batman Movie Review

Hello peeps!

OK, so it’s been an unforgivable length of time since I’ve last posted anything on my blog so apologies for that!  I guess life just gets away from you if you don’t focus so here I am trying to start posting regularly once again!

My first review of 2017 is the awesome Lego Batman movie, released in Feb 2017 in the UK.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, this is a follow-up/off-shoot of the Lego Movie which was released in 2014 and introduced the Lego Batman character to the movie world (obvs many people were already familiar with the Batman character, even the one from the original Lego Movie, and the character was a favourite for many, including myself).

The movie is pretty fast and furious the whole way through with lots of great one-liners, some delivered perhaps a bit too fast even for the adults in the audience to appreciate.

If you’re a Batman fan, there’s plenty of references to the old Batman TV shows, the comic books and the movies to keep you happy, some of the references literal even (you’ll see what I mean!)

The story is based around the theme of teamwork and family and Batman’s lack of both.  This allows the introduction of the Robin (Michael Cera) character into Batman’s lonely life.  The other relationships in the film are between Batman (Will Arnett) and Alfred (Ralph Fiennes), Batman and Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson) and Batman and The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) – lots of talented actors lending their voices to the movie (and probably a few you won’t pick up on without reading the full cast listing).

There are so many “cameos”, as referenced above, from Batman villains to Justice League superheroes, that it’s hard to take them all in and none of them really get much time for character development, which is something of a shame.

Overall the film doesn’t quite have the pull of the original Lego Movie or the mix of animation and reality (which I thought was nicely done in the first movie), but it’s fast fun and should keep both adults and kids entertained for a while.  I’d give it 6.5 out of 10.  Let me know what you thought of it in the Comments section.

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Movie Preview Network October

If you haven’t already seen this, check out Movie Preview Network’s video for October – trailers and commentary by the funny Alex Zane!

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TestModo4GEE Challenge 6 – 3G vs 4G vs Wi-Fi – Fight!

 

 

Testmodo4GEE Challenge 6 – 3G/4G Download Speeds

For our next challenge (the end is nearly in sight!) we had to test 3G, 4G and WiFi download speeds from different places and doing different things.

I’m in the slightly fortunate position that I recently obtained an HTC One M8 phone at work, on Vodafone’s 4G network. With the lovely HTC One M8 kindly provided to me by EE and Gizmodo UK, on superfast EE4G, I was in a prime position to do some head-to-head testing of these two 4G networks with identical handsets. A bit more of an “apples to apples” test than my previous efforts with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 on EE4G and a Nokia 920 on Vodafone 4G (although that test also proved EE to be faster). You can read my review on that here.

Test One – 4G Reception at my “yard” in Stanmore, HA7

Vodafone 4G 1 or 2 bars signal strength, 9.87Mbps down 0.76Mbps up

Speedtest 1

EE 4G 1 or 2 bars signal strength, 25.64Mbps down 6.67Mbps up

Speedtest 2

My “real world” test was to download a three tracks from 7Digital (under 30MB). Both networks downloaded the same 3 MP3 tracks in under 1 minute over 4G. But, as you see above, EE4G was a lot faster than Vodafone when using Speedtest.

Minutes later I lost the Vodafone 4G signal completely and it went down to HSDPA and then a few minutes later came back with 4G! Come on Vodafone get your act together! For those of you EE haters out there, you should try Vodafone, you might find EE isn’t that bad after all.

Just to be sure Speedtest wasn’t playing up, I then tried the speedof.me website using the Chrome browser on both devices. See the results for yourselves below:

Vodafone:

Speedofme 1

EE:

Speedofme 2

9MB vs 35MB?! No contest! Shockingly bad result from Vodafone either way you look at it.

Round 1 – EE4G!

Signal Problems!

Earlier I mentioned that I had signal problems with my Vodafone 4G switching from 4G to 3G and HSDPA randomly while sat in my front room. I later experienced this again whereas the EE 4G phone stayed consistently on 4G. Take a look:

Signal Strength 1

Signal Strength 2

Round 2 – Test from Soho Square W1D inside office

Vodafone 4G 3 bars signal strength, 7.25Mbps down 4.48Mbps up

Speedtest 3

EE 4G 3 bars signal strength, 11.71Mbps down 11.14Mbps up

Speedtest 4

 

Round 2 to EE again!

4G vs 3G

I tried to test 4G vs 3G on both Vodafone and EE and I have to say, once you go 4G you can never go back! Downloading anything on 3G was extremely painful! I tried to download some songs and gave up and resorted to 4G again. I didn’t even have the patience to try and write some stats on this, it really just wasn’t usable for anything.

4G vs WiFi

I guess the big question then, is if you are stuck with 3G, are you better off using WiFi whenever you can and does WiFi beat 4G?

To test that latter, at home, I downloaded a 118MB file from my Hightail cloud storage via EE 4G and it took a pretty amazing 42 seconds!

I then tried the same file again on my home WiFi and it downloaded in a grand total of 6 minutes 57 seconds! WTF! This may say more about my wonderful home WiFi or internet but there’s no denying that EE 4G trumps my home connectivity. Not a scientific test but with a 50MB BT Infinity internet connection, my money was on WiFi winning this one.

Browsing web pages, you’re not going to be downloading this volume of data so WiFi makes more sense than 4G especially when you’re paying for a limited amount of data usage.

Overall, it looks like 4G wins.

If you’d like to see the edited version of my review on the Gizmodo UK website, click here:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/05/4gee-testmodo-challenge-6/

Baij at home 2

 

 

 

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Testmodo4GEE Challenge #5 – Testing the HTC One M8 Camera

 

 

 

After testing an Android phone (the Samsung Galaxy Note 3) and a Windows Phone (Nokia 1320), I had fully expected the next phone in the #Testmodo4GEE Challenge to be some form of ios device such as an iPhone 5S or 5C. While I was somewhat disappointed when another Android device arrived, I was overjoyed when I saw it was that sexy new slab of shininess that is HTC’s new One M8!

It’s unlikely you’ll get your hands on something as slippery, sexy or shiny as this device, it really is well designed and lovely to behold (now how do I get my hands on the incoming gold version?!)

For this challenge, we were asked to test out the HTC One M8’s camera as much as possible and upload some photos/videos using EE’s lovely 4G bandwidth. Sounded more like fun than a challenge to me and came at a perfect time since I was planning a couple of nights away for my birthday!   Perfect opportunity to get snap-happy!

HTC don’t subscribe to the whole “more megapixels” philosophy and instead adopt a less is more approach with a measly 4MP camera! This sounds somewhat laughable in the light of competitors out there with as many as 41MP but HTC have what they call the “Ultrapixel”. Ultrapixels are larger than ordinary camera pixels in order to let in more light. Therefore low-light camera performance should be better, however, due to the low number of pixels, zoomed in photos may lack detail.

Over the past week I have taken probably a 100 or so photos in various conditions. While I’ve been somewhat frustrated by the lack of detail when zooming into my pics, I’ve been more than happy with the colour, clarity, speed and low-light performance of the HTC One M8’s camera.

Normally I don’t really mess around too much with photo effects and the like as these have become somewhat out of fashion now. However, I found the HTC’s Zoe function quite amusing, and made my photos a lot more interesting and fun to watch.

For those unfamiliar, Zoe was introduced with the HTC One phone. It’s very similar to Google’s Auto-Awesome feature which takes a bunch of your photos, adds music and effects and turns them into little videos automagically. You’re able to tweak which photos comprise the video and which filter effect to apply, which also determines what music track is applied to the video. You can use music from your own music library on your phone but I quickly found that Facebook’s copyright policy doesn’t allow for copyrighted music to be applied to videos that are uploaded (and quite rightly so!)

This is where EE’s 4G service really comes in handy as these little Zoe videos can easily be a few hundred MB in size and uploading these to Facebook or YouTube over 3G could become rather tedious.

I also tested out a regular video recording in a setting where there was a lot of light behind the subject and you can see that here:

http://youtu.be/Rty_zzC6aiw

It’s not bad (if you’ll excuse the singing!) even though it’s a little dark. I refrained from using the dual-LED lights on the HTC One M8 which are blindingly bright (my daughter certainly wasn’t too happy when I took a flash photo of her fairly close up – you’ve been warned!)

The other novel feature of this phone is the dual-camera setup. This allows for depth of field modifications after you’ve take a photo (like a Lytro camera). This allows you to refocus the photo on the foreground or background after you’ve taken the shot. Google have just released a camera app which tries to do something similar with its’ Lens Blur mode but I found it far less easy to use as it requires you to raise the phone upwards during shooting, which just isn’t a natural feeling when taking a photo. Here are some examples of HTC’s UFOCUS feature where I’ve taken a normal shot where the foreground and background are sharp, I’ve then take the same photo and made only the background sharp and then again with only the foreground sharp. A sharp foreground and blurred background really makes portraits look special in my opinion. See for yourself!

Foreground and background in focus:

All in focus

Background in focus, foreground out of focus:

Foreground in focus

Foreground in focus, background out of focus:

Background in focus

I definitely enjoyed playing with this feature and think I’d use it a lot as I like the results.
Interestingly, I found myself in situations where my wife was asking me to take photos instead of her taking them as she felt the HTC One M8 camera was superior to that of the iPhone 5S. Since I was using EE 4G too, I was also able to upload photos and Zoe videos far faster than my wife could (result!)

Overall, I’m sold on the benefits of the dual-camera and Ultrapixel technology but I would still prefer a few more Ultrapixels in there! Perhaps in the HTC One M9, or is that HTC Two M8?!

If you’d like to see my edited review on Gizmodo’s website, take a look here:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/04/4gee-testmodo-challenge-5-the-readers-test-the-htc-one-m8-camera/

 

Baij at home

 

 

 

 

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TestModo4GEE Challenge 4 – Using Windows Phone Apps

 

The Windows Store has around 245 thousand apps compared to the Apple and Google Play stores which both have over a million apps each. While this still sounds like a lot of apps, you may actually find that some of the apps you’re used to using on ios or Android devices don’t exist on the Windows Store e.g. Instagram only recently introduced a beta app for Windows Phone. Before you take the plunge and move to Windows Phone 8, a great resource to use to see if your favourite apps exist in some form on Windows Phone 8 is this:

http://xyo.net/lumia/?country=GB

With this website, you can choose which mobile o/s you have now, which country you’re in and which app you love and it will tell you the Windows Phone 8 equivalent. Very useful if there are some apps you just can’t live without!

Having used Windows Phone before, it hasn’t been too much of a shock to the system to go back to it until I try and swipe down from the top of the screen and nothing happens. I then remember this isn’t Android anymore Dorothy! Simple gestures you get used to in Android don’t exist in this magical land of Windows Phone (along with numerous apps you might have expected to see too!)

On the plus side, I’m pleased to hear that Windows Phone 8.1 (which is a free update for all Windows Phone 8 devices) is due imminently and introduces a whole raft of features. A couple of the ones I like are:

  • Put a photo on your homescreen and your Live Tiles (see my Testmodo4GEE Challenge 3 for more info on Live Tiles) become transparent so you can see your homescreen photo through them. A minor cosmetic change but a nice option.
  • Previously you could only have a third column of Live Tiles on devices with a 5 inch screen or bigger but now this feature will be available on all Windows Phone 8.1 devices.
  • Lots of big hoo-hah has been made in the press recently about “Cortana”. This is like Apple’s Siri meets Google Now and the name is taken from the popular game Halo. This is basically a digital assistant that tracks stuff for you throughout the day and tries to provide answers to questions before you’ve asked them! Looking forward to trying that out at some point.
  • Action Centre, hopefully activated by swiping down from the top, lets you see notifications and quick settings. Another simple change but about time Microsoft!
  • There’s a Swype-like keyboard at last for those of you, like me, that struggle to type on a touch-screen phone with any speed.

One thing I’ll say for Nokia, they sure do try their best to support Windows Phone 8. There’s a whole bunch of Nokia apps you can download for your Lumia, some of which are pre-loaded. Here are a few of my favourites:

Nokia Trailers:

Working for a film company, I watch a lot of film trailers and this app is a great way to keep up-to-date on the latest movies and either stream or download the trailers as well as look at the one-sheets (posters for the movies). The huge screen of the Nokia 1320 is perfect to watch trailers on and coupled with EE 4G I can speedily download as many trailers as I like (well, until I fill up the meagre 8GB of internal memory on this device!) You can also add upcoming movies to your watchlist to be reminded of when they’re out or when the premiere is on and you can share trailers with your social network. Streaming quality tends to be SD but downloads can be set to HD and they’re a pretty good way to show off the screen on your phone to others!

Nokia Trailers App

Nokia Trailer App 2

 

Here Drive:

Nokia gives away the excellent Here suite of apps for free with the Nokia Windows 8 Phones and Here Drive is their really excellent navigation app. All maps can be downloaded for free and used offline so you don’t have to run up roaming charges when using the app abroad. I’ve used this app in the US and UAE and it’s really excellent (again the 6” screen on this device comes in handy here as well as the speedy EE map downloads). I used to love CoPilot on my Android device but the amount you pay for maps on that app is ridiculous especially when you get World-wide maps for free with Here Drive.

Here Drive

Finally, you can’t talk about Windows Phone without talking about the excellent MS Office app. Office has been available on Windows Phone for some time now, unlike the Office suite that Microsoft just released for ios last week. If you use Office apps at work, it’s easy to copy Office documents to your OneDrive cloud storage and then access them on your mobile device. It’s reasons like this that more and more businesses are moving away from Blackberry to Windows Phone, but more on that another time!

If you’d like to see the edited version of my review on Gizmodo’s website, take a look here:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/04/4gee-testmodo-challenge-4-three-readers-test-nokias-winpho-apps/

Baij at Rio 2

 

 

 

 

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TestModo4GEE Challenge #3 – Moving to Windows Phone

 

 

 

 

The third TestModo4GEE challenge is to move to the third most popular mobile o/s platform (behind ios and Android), Windows Phone 8 (sorry Blackberry I’m writing you off!)

To help with this challenge, Gizmodo UK and EE have provided me with probably the biggest mobile “phone” I’ve ever had my hands on – the Nokia Lumia 1320 with 6” display!

To give you an idea of the size of this mahoosive “phablet” – the device is 16cm tall and nearly 9cm wide compared to an Apple iPhone 5S which is 12cm tall and nearly 6cm wide (i.e. 33% taller and 50% wider!)  In the photo you can see me holding these two devices side by side.  While it’s a bit too big in my opinion, battery life is astonishing and the screen real estate is pretty awesome.

Nokia Lumia 1320

The other “shocker” of switching to this phone is the Windows Phone 8 o/s…

First impressions are that it’s actually a very clean, colourful and fast interface with everything in neat little boxes, or “Live Tiles” as MS likes to call them.  Live Tiles are little square/rectangular icons representing your apps and can surface little snippets of info automatically on your home-screen, so the screen is “live”.  For example, the “Me” Live Tile can provide updates from any social services you decide to connect such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  The amount of data these tiles use is tiny, so this shouldn’t really eat into your data allowance or battery life, but you can turn this functionality off on a per-tile basis if you wish.  This is one of the unique features of this o/s that I really like and which Android does its’ best to replicate using Widgets.

Windows Live Tiles

The initial setup process is straightforward, although it helps if you already have some form of MS account such as an Outlook.com email address, as this is used to save and synchronise device settings between all of your Windows 8 devices (for example your work PC and your mobile phone) and up into the Cloud on Microsoft’s OneDrive service.  If you haven’t got any of these accounts, you can sign up for a free OneDrive account and get 7GB of free storage here:

https://onedrive.live.com/about/en-gb/

This space can also be used to automatically back up any photos you take on the phone, similar to Apple’s iCloud service, so it’s worth signing up.

Setting up the Nokia 1320 was less of a chore and a shock to the system than I thought it would be, but it was still a minor shock trying to figure out how to get all the apps on it that I wanted, but more on that in the next challenge!

The next thing you’ll probably want to do is get your music, photos, contacts and email over to it the Windows Phone 8 platform.

The easiest way to do this, assuming you have a Nokia Windows Phone, is to use a program that’s been made to help, you can find a good one here:

https://www.markspace.com/welcomehome/nokia/wp8/indexdl8.php

This will allow you to pull all the data off your old phone and then transfer it your new Windows Phone (via your laptop/PC).

Since I’m a bit old-school, and an IT geek, I like to do things a bit more manually.  I have a Windows 8 laptop at home and I keep my music on my laptop in MP3 format, so I just manually copied the songs I wanted onto the Windows phone by physically connecting the phone to the laptop.  This can be done via an app or you can just drag and drop using Windows Explorer.  If you have all of your music in iTunes, you can transfer the whole library to your Windows phone fairly easily using the Windows Phone for Desktop app, more details on that here:

http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/how-to/wp8/music/copy-my-itunes-music-to-my-phone

Photos can be transferred manually as above, or using the Markspace program I linked to earlier.  Alternatively, you can upload photos from your PC to the OneDrive website (for backup purposes) and these can then be synced back down to your Windows Phone.  You might find the 7GB free space is insufficient for this purpose however, but you can always buy additional space fairly inexpensively. 

Contacts and email transfer is pretty easy regardless of which email platform you use as you can add a Microsoft, Gmail or other email account in Settings and these then sync up.  You can use the People hub to add multiple accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Outlook and filter the contacts you wish to appear in your address book.

In summary, getting up and running on Windows Phone 8 needs a bit of work but it’s made easier by the tools that are out there and the end result is pretty nice.  Next time, where are my apps?!

If you’d like to see a link to the edited version of this article on Gizmodo UK’s website, check this out:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/03/testmodo-challenge-3/

If you’d like to buy one of these devices from EE, go here:

http://shop.ee.co.uk/

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TestModo4GEE Challenge 2 – Samsung Apps

 

 

 

 

For the second #Testmodo4GEE challenge, I’ve been asked to test out Samsung’s “S Pen” (as good a name as any, I guess, though not that inspiring!) and the various Samsung “Air Command” apps that leverage the S Pen, as well as some of the other pre-loaded Samsung apps/bloatware such as My Magazine, S Note, Easy Clip and Multi-Window.

S Pen

 

The S Pen is a stylus that fits nicely into the bottom right-hand corner of the phone.  It’s made of black plastic with a nice, fake, silver, grooved-metal (probably plastic) piece at the top which gives it some grip when you need to extract the stylus from the holding slot with your nails/fingertips.  It’s quite a nice little stylus and despite my absent-minded chewing of the top, it seems pretty sturdy.  Why some tablet manufacturers can’t manage to fit their styli into their tablets (which are often huge beasts of a device), I don’t know (ahem, Surface Pro anyone?!)  I think Samsung have done quite a nice job slotting this into the phone although a spare stylus in the box would have been a nice idea (but they did see fit to include spare nibs and a nib extraction tool) in the box.

On extracting the stylus, you get some nice haptic feedback and a little “swooshing” noise and a little pen icon appears at the top of the phone in the status bar.  This icon, quite handily, stays there even when the phone is put into standby and turned on again, so it reminds you that the stylus is out and should remind you to put it back in again at some point, hopefully preventing loss of the stylus.

 

S Pen 2

 

If the phone was already unlocked at the time when you withdraw the stylus, the Air Command pop-up menu appears automagically. 

 

 

Air Command

 

The Air Command pop-up is a semi-circular list of 5 apps and the act of hovering the stylus over each of them tells you what they are (which is pretty clever).  This hovering of the stylus over apps/icons is used to good effect in many programs to pop up a little tooltip to tell you what that function is.  I found this quite useful on occasion when an icon’s function was not obvious.

The Air Command apps, from left to right, are Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S Finder and Pen Window.  If you accidentally close this menu, you can bring it back up again by pressing the grey button on the side of the stylus and pointing the stylus at a blank area of the desktop screen.  Pressing the button again closes the Air Command menu. 

If you hover over one of your app folders, the folder is exploded slightly so you can see which apps are inside.  This is pretty cool except the icons don’t spread out quite enough to make it obvious what’s inside and I suppose you could just touch the folder to open it anyway.

So what do all these wonderful apps do or are they just a waste of time and memory?  Read on…

 

Action Memo

Action Memo

 

This presents you with a yellow Post-It Note-style blank space within which you can write with the stylus.  There are a number of icons at the top for selecting pen colour, erasing, changing the background colour and so on.  The most useful icon here is the Link To Action icon.  This allows you to do something with whatever note you’ve scribbled on-screen.  Pressing it causes a rectangle to automatically appear around the writing along with some further icon selections for actions you can take such as Phone, Contacts, Messaging, Email, Browser, Map and Task.  It’s quite a neat way to take down someone’s name and number and add it to your contacts and the phone does a good job of interpreting even the most dodgy “chicken-scratch” writing!  It’s arguable whether it would just be faster to go into Contacts and manually type in the name and number rather than scrawling it however.

 

Scrap Booker

Scrap Booker

 

This lets you grab a section of whatever is on-screen and insert it into a OneNote/Evernote-style app along with some hand-written notes and typed tags.  While the selection tool seems to grab more than you’ve highlighted, the app cleverly tries to translate to text anything it can from the selected area.  This content can be shared via a multitude of apps and either as a scrapbook file (.scc) or as an image and text.  In the example I grabbed an image from the EE website, added a hand-written note and a tag called EE.

 

Screen Writer

Screen Writer

This is an annotation/highlighting app that grabs a screenshot of the current screen and allows you to use various pen styles to add comments or highlight parts of the image and then share this.  I can see this being useful to highlight locations or a route on a map for yourself or to share with someone.

 

S Finder

S Finder

As its’ name implies, S Finder is a search utility which cleverly looks for content on your device based on any keywords you type in, when the content was created, the type of content and any tags you may have saved (for example tags created in the Scrap Booker app).  It also allows you to use various internet search engines if you want to look online instead.  In this example I’ve highlighted (using the Screen Writer app) that I searched for the word “test” in the last 7 days of content and you can see it turned up a tag called “test” along with 1 Scrapbook item where the tag was contained.  Of course you can just use it to search for apps on your device too.

 

Pen Window

Pen Window

 

Pen Window allows you to draw on a section of screen and then pops up a selection of apps that you can drop into that window.  This allows for the placement of various apps side by side.  The choice of apps is somewhat limited and it’s unclear how you add to them (initially you can see Calculator, Clock, Youtube, Phone, Contacts, ChatON, Hangouts, Internet and Whatsapp).  Here I have Internet in the background (so I can get these windows into landscape mode – see my comment below) and then I’ve opened Clock and Phone using Pen Window.  Useful?  Hmmm….

One somewhat frustrating thing with all of these Air Command apps is that they want to work in portrait mode.  If you want to force them into landscape mode, you must first open an app that can work in landscape mode, e.g. Internet, rotate the phone into landscape position and then open one of the apps from the Air Command menu.  Not a big deal but if you did want to have two apps open side-by-side, it would make sense to be able to do this as easily in landscape as you can in portrait.

So that’s the Air Command menu. What about the rest? 

 

S Note

S Note is Samsung’s take on OneNote and Evernote.

There are a number of template designs to choose from blank pages through to baby diaries!  Random…

S Note 1

S Note 2

 

Once you’ve selected your template you can then choose to insert various things such as voice memos, images, videos, charts and clip art.

 

S Note 3

 

Of course you can also add hand-written notes or typed text.

 

S Note 4

 

Once finished the note can be shared as an S Note file, an image file, a PDF or as text only via a plethora of apps or exported to Google Drive or My Files.  Pages can also be tagged, indexed and printer.  One thing this app has over OneNote is that you can’t handwrite in the Android version of OneNote.  That’s a real shame.

 

Easy Clip

Easy Clip

 

This is a tool to allow cropping of images from any page.  Simply press and hold the button on the S Pen while drawing around the object you wish to crop.  You will then be presented with various sharing options and additional cropping tools.  Pretty quick and easy to use and could prove useful.  Normally you’d probably end up taking a screen-shot just to potentially capture a small area.

 

My Magazine

Samsung recently made a fair bit of hoo-hah about this app.  It’s basically Flipboard for Samsung devices and it’s developed in conjunction with them.  It’s accessed by pressing the home button briefly.  You can choose from 3 overall channels to display, News, Personal and Social and within each of those you can choose sources but there’s minimal configuration or option to add additional unlisted sources. 

It works very well but note you can only read in portrait but photos can be viewed in landscape.

Oddly, at times the app takes you into Flipboard and you have to sign into this the first time this happens.

The app can be opened by a single press of the Home button although you can switch this off.  I’m not too sure I would use this over Flipboard as I can’t see any obvious benefit to doing so.

 

Multi-Window

Multi Window

 

Multi-Window can be switched on and off from the setting drop-down at the top of the screen.  Once it’s running, it can also be temporarily switched off and on by holding down the back button (which is useful if seeing it at the side of the screen bugs you!)

Switching it on causes a small arrow to appear to the left or right of the screen over the top of any app you have running (you can drag this to the left or right depending on your preference).  Touching the arrow causes a small tool-bar to pop out from the side and this shows a bunch of apps which you can use in multi-window mode and you can scroll up and down through these.  Selecting one of the apps causes it to appear on-screen.  If you then go back into the toolbar and select a second app, that will also appear on-screen alongside or above/below the first app.  If you wish to choose which half of the screen the second app appears in you can drag it from the toolbar rather than clicking on it.

You can also add and remove apps from this list by touching the arrow at the bottom of the tool-bar and selecting Edit, or, you can create new window combos by selecting Create (you need to have two apps open in multi-window mode first).  This latter feature is useful if you regularly like to have two apps open on-screen at the same time in order to copy and paste between the two.

It’s nice that this works in both portrait and landscape mode and is somewhat easier to use than Pen Window.  You can easily resize the windows by grabbing the blue window-edge and dragging it across.  Touching the blue dot in the middle of the blue window-edge pops up options to Switch application, Switch window, Drag and drop content or to close the app. 

 

Multi Windows 2

 

Switch application pops up quite a nice concertina-style view of running apps you can flip through and switch into the current window.

Drag and drop allows you to select images or paragraphs of text from the highlighted window and drag and drop over to the other app window.  In the example I’ve cut some text and graphics from Gizmodo’s website to an S Note page.

 

Multi Window 3

 

It’s a pretty clever app, I think it just requires a bit of thought on useful combinations of apps to have up on-screen at the same time. 

 

A final note on S Pen

I found it to be a culture shift in terms of how you use your phone moving from a regular touch-screen to one where you’re encouraged to use a stylus.  I found myself using it more and more even if it was sometimes just to hear that little “swoosh” noise as I took the S Pen out!  I like that the S Pen gives you functionality that you just don’t get with other phones and an example of that is shown here.  I use the Touchdown email client and quite often you can’t read the full subject line of an email until you open it.  With S Pen, it seems that hovering over the subject causes the whole subject line to be popped up.  This is even more useful when in portrait mode.

It’s nifty little tricks like this that have sold me on using the S Pen.

Touchdown

 

EE 4G Speed

As I didn’t manage to test the Samsung Group Play functionality (which is only useful if you have friends that have a Samsung phone) I didn’t really get to utilise the EE 4G network much on this challenge.  I did however manage to compare the signal strength and download speed of Vodafone 4G and EE 4G at different spots throughout my house (in North-West London), which typically has a very poor signal strength.  This isn’t a very scientific test since I was using two different phones so antenna size could have played a part in this but I thought the results were interesting anyway.  The first pic is the EE network on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the second pic is Vodafone on a Nokia Lumia 925.  Make of this what you will – to my mind EE looks a lot better although the signal strength was pretty poor on both networks.  If I manage to get the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 unlocked I’ll try the Vodafone sim in there to see if there’s any difference from the EE sim and I’ll post the results on my blog

EE Speed  Vodafone Speed

 

Here’s a pic of me looking pleased with my new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 courtesy of Gizmodo and EE #TestModo4GEE

 

Me

See the link to the edited Gizmodo article here:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/03/testmodo-challenge-2-three-readers-test-the-samsung-galaxy-note-3s-features/

 

 

 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and EE 4G Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

I was recently fortunate enough to win the chance to review 3 brand new SmartPhones connected to the EE 4G network courtesy of those lovely folks over at Gizmodo and EE (and many thanks to my friend Guy Nash who gave me a heads-up on this competition!)  I get to keep each phone I receive, and in exchange I have to write a 500 word review of the phone, based on a specific element of the phone and I also need to cane the EE 4G network as much as possible!  All in all, an absolutely fantastic opportunity for a gadget-lover like myself since I tend to blog about SmartPhones, amongst other gadgets, on my own blog site and part of my role as IT Director at Twentieth Century Fox is also to look at new technology such as SmartPhones.

The Challenge!

The first challenge I’ve been set is to look at the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 since it’s a pretty large phone and therefore has a pretty capacious battery (3200 mAh – to give you an idea, that’s DOUBLE the iPhone 5S 1560 mAh!)

The challenge takes two forms; day-to-day use of the phone to see how battery life performs under normal circumstances, and secondly, an intensive streaming of an HD movie (courtesy of the fabulous Netflix service) over the EE 4G network with the device display set to full brightness.

Day-to-day Usage:

Typical usage for me during the day would be checking emails in the morning and evening on the device and intermittently checking social feeds and calendar during the day.  I would probably only have the display at about 40% brightness during the day unless I needed to use the phone outside.

I found that I could easily get through a full day without charging the phone, if I had started the day on a full charge.  While most people tend to plug in their phones overnight to charge, I prefer not to unless really necessary, in order to maximise the life of the battery by ensuring I do full charge/discharge cycles when possible.  This means I usually end up plugging it in at work during the day.  Whilst this is not an issue, it definitely is a headache that Samsung have decided to go with a proprietary power connector on the bottom of the phone instead of the standard micro-USB.  This means I have to bring my one Samsung charging cable to and from work until I can pick up another cable.  This cable can be plugged into a standard USB charging plug at least.

Intensive Usage:

For my intensive test I chose the movie THOR, mainly because I love superhero movies but also because I thought it would be a good way to test the Note 3’s wonderful 5.7 inch 1080p display!  Wifi and Bluetooth were off and the screen brightness was set to maximum during the test.

The film is 1 hour 53 minutes long and I streamed this over the EE 4G network.

Interestingly I could get 2 bars signal strength on 4G in my office and the film streamed without a flaw or pause.  Normally on my work mobile phone (an LG G2 on the Vodafone 3G network), I can barely get a decent phone signal in my office and have to use a Vodafone SureSignal to boost reception even though I’m smack in the middle of Central London!  Something to be said of EE’s 4G signal strength and coverage I think.  The Speedtest.net app showed that I was getting 28MB download and 10mb upload speeds on EE 4G compared to 3MB download and 1MB upload on Vodafone 3G!  I think I am becoming a 4G convert!

I started the movie stream on 100% battery and by the time I had finished, I had 61% percent of battery life remaining which is pretty impressive in my opinion.  The device was also downloading typical background data such as email, social updates etc, during movie playback.

Overall, I would say I’m impressed with battery life and I’m seriously considering flogging my LG G2 (even though it’s considered to be the top Android phone out there right now) and keeping the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as my main device!

See the link to the article on Gizmodo here:

http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/02/testmodo-challenge-1-three-readers-test-battery-life-using-4gee-on-the-samsung-galaxy-note-3/

If you would like to buy this lovely device from those lovely folks at EE, go here:

http://shop.ee.co.uk/mobile-phones/pay-monthly/samsung-galaxy-note-3-lte-jet-black/details

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Movie Review: The Lego Movie

The Lego Movie One-Sheet

Synopsis:

The Lego Movie is about an ordinary Lego person called Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) who is thought to be “The One” (a la Matrix)  that fulfils a prophecy to free the Lego World from the tyrant Lord Business (Will Ferrell in top form!)  Along the way he encounters multiple characters, some of which are hilarious and some are voiced by various famous actors (eg Johan Hill as Green Lantern who crushes on Superman!)

Lord Business has a secret weapon “The Kragl” which he plans to use to freeze all Lego pieces in the world so he can keep order and rules in place.  He is assisted by his good cop, bad cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) and a crew of robots.

Overall it’s a story of how even the most normal, small person can inspire others to overcome advserity (that message might be a bit lost on the kiddos!)

What did I think?

Well, believe it or not, I really enjoyed it!  I actually found myself, half-way through, thinking, “damn, there are still some seriously imaginative writers and film makers out there!”  Not often I catch myself thinking that in the middle of a kid’s movie!

The movie is very fast-paced and there are so many little clever things happening that you can easily blink and miss something.

I particularly loved the Batman character, voiced by Will Arnett, (and his impromptu karaoke session) and I liked the main song of the movie which is annoyingly catchy (Everything is Awesome!)  Another great character is Unikitty (a cross between a Unicorn and a cat of course) who is totally sweet and nice until she implodes!  There are some nice set pieces with some famous film characters in Lego format popping up, I won’t spoil it by saying who the characters are but I was definitely pleased to see them!  Morgan Freeman does a great turn as a Gandalf/Yoda-like Vetruvious too.

I went to see this in 3D at the Regal in Times Square with my daughter.  We both enjoyed it a lot and came out singing the theme tune!  I don’t think the 3D adds a lot but maybe that’s because the effects were pretty subtle.

Well worth finding an excuse to take some kids to see!

Overall 9 out of 10.

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Movie Review – Robocop

Robocop One-Sheet

Synopsis:

Robocop is set in the not too distant future where robots are used around the world as an automated peace-force/army in countries where soldiers lives might be at risk when acting in that same capacity.  In the US, where this film is based, robots are not allowed to police the streets due to a senate bill that says robots don’t have the conscious capacity to decide what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to human lives.

The CEO of Omnicorp (played by Michael Keaton), who owns the company that makes the robots (which in turn are designed by Gary Oldman), hits on the idea of merging a man with a robot and sets about finding a suitable candidate.  Enter Joel Kinnaman (from The Killing – how come he looked so much skinnier and seedier in that?!) who plays a cop (Alex Murphy) looking into some dirty cops in his department.

The rest of the film centres on Alex’s struggles coming to terms with what he is and his manipulation by Omnicorp for their own agenda.

What did I think of it?

I was really looking forward to this as I immensely enjoyed the original Robocop (dammit, I keep typing Robocopy after the well-known IT tool, no pun intended!) directed by Paul Verhoeven and starring the crazily cold, blue-eyed Peter Weller.  I mean, which boy hasn’t dreamed of being bionic, or being like a Terminator and this is kind of both!  So, I had pretty high expectations of this movie and I have to say, I immensely enjoyed it and it lived up to my expectations!

Sam Jackson was great as the OTT TV presenter who coins the great phrase “robo-phobic” and really slips into character at the end of the movie.  He gives us a sort of narration at various points of the movie to comment on World politics and the like.

Joel Kinnaman does a great job too in the titular character and the scene where he tries to come to terms with the extent of his reincarnation in robot form is pretty emotional although the rest of the time he displays very little emotion obviously!)

Abbie Cornish is somewhat relegated to the side-lines as Murphy’s wife. I would have liked to see a bit more from her character.

For me the best scenes are when Robocop is in full-on action mode and the way he uses his internal computer memory to track down criminals and search CCTV footage is very Google Glass-like – you can see law enforcement heading this way in the not too distant future!

Overall, I’m pleased it met with my expectations and didn’t disappoint and I’d quite welcome a more in-depth sequel now that they’ve rebooted it (no computer jokes intended either!)

PS – They made him look very cool too (“tactical” as Michael Keaton would say!)

8 out of 10

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