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Ted Salmon
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Ted's Salmagundi


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Hurrah! At last Sony Ditches Side-Mounted Fingerprint Scanner
Cut to the chase..? I've really now had it with £600-£1000 flagships. Or even £400-£600 Mid-rangers. When you can get a device of this quality with this functionality for £269, the writing's on the wall, certainly for many, and as very expensive phones get more so, the more demand will drop off, so the price will go up. And so on. I put this alongside the Moto X4 in terms of market position, that being now £199 brand new.

When considering the XA2 today, however, I shall have it alongside my Pixel 2 as it's a similar size physically, if not in screen size. That's a good place to start as always. The XA2 has a 5.2", 1080p, IPS LCD, 16:9, 424ppi, Gorilla Glass 4 covered front panel. For the first time really, Sony has been thinking about bezels and although it still has a sizeable chin and forehead compared to some competition (though not the Moto X4 or Pixel 2) it has shrunk the left and right down to almost nothing and swept the glass around the edges, just everso slightly.

It's not AMOLED of course, but the screen is bright and vibrant with some software switches to make it more saturated, in terms of colour, available. It's that gorgeous Sony sharpness and lovely black black, even for an LCD, that makes it special. In many ways it looks very much like AMOLED and I've had to keep the brightness on about 30% for indoor viewing which, for me, is on the lower end of other LCD screens.

It's a heavy phone at 171g/6oz but that makes it feel classy in my view. It has some heft and the aluminium band round the edge along with the glass front make it feel premium. The back is plastic, but that matters not one jot to me as it has a case round it! The heft also reflects the size of the battery. Remember the 'compact' Xperia devices from the last few years being well specified but small, like this? Well they had batteries around 2600mAh. They've managed to pack in 3300mAh now in 2018 in a body much the same size. Well, OK, a little bit bigger!

Granted, the Compact Xperias always returned great battery usage life in tests and with real people, but this takes things from great to amazing. Genuine 2 day battery life (for my average use) which is no doubt also helped by the optimisations of Android Oreo which this arrives with (8.0.0.) along with January 2018 Google Security Updates. They've also squeezed in Quick Charge 3 for use with the USB-C socket.

The device doesn't quite have the blazing speed of the various flagships out there, but the Snapdragon 630 has proved with various devices recently that it's a good choice for balance of speed, performance and battery. You have to be really nitpicking to spot the slowdown here and there, in comparison, but I guess a Razer Phone user would cry! There's also 3GB RAM in a world now dominated by 4GB+ but actually, again, it really is ample and multi-tasking is just fine. I can't detect any slowdown switching between Apps.

What might be a show-stopper, on the face of it, for me at least, is the 32GB of storage onboard whilst I've been bangin' on recently about devices needing 128GB minimum and to dispense with SD Cards. So I've had to turn tail on that and convince myself that armed with a 128GB MicroSD Card, it's fine. The read-write times in reality and unnoticeable, but the powers that be have really not helped people by removing Adoptable Storage. It's missing now on a growing number of devices as manufacturers run shy from it, as people report problems. Apparently. I've used Adoptable on some devices with low storage and haven't ever had a problem. Anyway, MicroSD Card it is as I only end up with 40% of the 32GB left after I'm all set up with my c.100 Apps.

A fiendish move (at last) from Sony is to get rid of that stupid side-mounted fingerprint scanner, as far as I'm concerned! It's blighted every Sony Xperia phone since scanners started and it's just a dumb place to put it. I know there are people in this Community who disagree with me on this, but my post is my opinion, and that's it. We've had the discussion 100 times, so we won't rake over it again. Having said all that, there really wasn't any reason, with the large chin here, why they couldn't have made it even better and put it on the front. But kudos to Sony, I say! Well done! Having said that, the scanner isn't very fast. Not sure why and it will be fixable in software updates, I guess, but there certainly is a quarter-second lag after touching before the screen comes on. It is nicely centred and high on the back though, just under the camera lens.

Going back to the screen for a moment, I'm saddened to see that there is no always-on whatsoever. There's no double tap to wake, there's no lift to wake, nothing. When a Notification comes in you can get it to vibrate/make noises and there's a blue LED at the top of the front, but that's it! You could probably prefix most of these points here with "...for the price..." but I really don't want to - and when you see what Motorola have done in this screen-on intelligence with the Moto X4, you realise that this isn't good enough.

And so, to the speaker. The mono bottom-firing speaker. It's pretty loud. Much better than many out there costing much more than this, but it really needs some taming. Unadjusted it's tinny, with no quality hardly. Fortunately, the phone comes with a range of equaliser tools which can be employed to good effect. As always, the pay-off for such meddling is volume, but it's still loud enough to hear in most non-public situations.

I've tested the 3.5mm earphone socket with my AKG 701 headphones and the sound is sweetness to my ears. It sounds just great and even more equalising is possible. As always, the Sony Music App. shines with a range of album-art and playlist options and provides a great all-Sony solution for OffGrid listening. If you're invested into the Sony way, this will fit right in. Similarly, the Bluetooth 5 provides with bang up-to-date features and NFC supplies for pairing, when not executing Google Pay duties. There's a basic FM Radio (which doesn't record) and seems functional with headphones used as the aerial in the usual way, then a switch to go to speakers once running.

The supplied launcher, like many running Oreo, has got very close to Vanilla Android with many options emulating the standard. There's a right-swipe to get to the Google Feed Cards view if you want it - option to switch off, Notification Dots on Icons if you like, dark theme (amongst many themes available via the Sony Themes section), then some stuff of their own, like sizing the grid for Widgets and App. shortcuts to cram more on or have less, shrink screen down for one-handed use - what?! This is as one-handed device! The only thing that springs to mind which I don't see is the base dialogue to make App. shortcuts into Squircles (and the like) though I'm sure these can be Theme'd in. The App. Drawer can be accessed either by having a button in the Dock or removed and user can swipe-up from anywhere. Sadly, the App. drawer is side-scrolling with no way to change.

So now we come to the stuff that some of us call bloat and others seem to think is 'enhancements'. I consider that anything which is (particularly, but not exclusively) third party as an App. excluding Google's core Apps. is bloat. So I can't see the point of Sony (or Huawei et al) supplying a Calculator App. for example, if they know that the Google one will be there anyway - at least until Google don't insist on core Apps. being included and everything is an App. from the Play Store. Yet another topic which divides opinion (and one which has been aired 100 times here already) so again, each to their own - we don't need to do it again! Sony have done much better than ever before here. There's not many Apps. which are a) not useful and b) uninstallable. Just a handful. And they can be disabled or not used. So, like the fingerprint scanner, Sony are falling into line. Hurrah!

Another area which I don't buy into with Sony is Gaming, but the PlayStation App. is present here, though I understand that the Remote Play and Second Screen Apps. and functionality is a bit underdeveloped and PS4 users are a bit naffed off with it. But what do I know! If it doesn't have Mario, I ain't bothered about gaming anyway! Again, those embedded into the Sony range of services and devices will find cross-over and Sony still working on stuff.

Looking round the device, the only things I've not mentioned are the SIM Card Tray covering up the separate MicroSD Card Tray inside and underneath to the side and separately drag-outable with a nail. What?! Sony continue to make a mess of this. While other manufacturers just have a tray with a pokey-hole and to put the cards on the tray and put it back in, no - that's not good enough for Sony who have to complicate things. It really is a cluster of mess the way they've done it. Anyway, that's on the left. The earphone socket is on the top, volume rocker on the right alongside the usual stylish circular Power Button and - hurrah - the camera's shutter button is still there! Sony, I forgive you all the above-moaned-about as you kept the shutter button! Long-press at any time to start the camera, even if locked.

The camera on this unit is a 23MP f/2, 24mm unit with stereo sound recording for video and an 8MP f/2.4 selfie unit. As usual for Sony cameras, they're full of bells and whistles and knobs and dials and plug-ins and graphics and AR and all the gubbins - and also as usual for me, I declare the camera to be nothing staggering which people are going to rave about but perfectly adequate for 95% of uses for 95% of users. From what I understand this is no step forward over previous Xperia models for those wanting to pixel-peep and benchmark this and that and the other. I'm very impressed with low light performance. It's no Pixel 2 or Samsung Galaxy S9 but it's just fine, dare I say, for the price. £269 don't forget! Slap the camera into Superior Auto mode and just enjoy!

I got this for £269 from AmazonUK in black, though I notice that the Silver, Blue and Pink ones are £299. Still an amazing bargain for what you get. It's virtually the same physical size as the Pixel 2 but with much more screen, half the price at most, a bigger, better battery and arguably a nicer unit in the hand. The Moto X4 has some functional benefits over this phone but it's not as pretty and nicely stylish. Depends what features you like, I guess, how much money you have and what's important to you. You can get three of these for the price of the latest Samsung.

More chat about this this weekend on PSC with +Steve Litchfield :-)

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A delightfully witty, bitter-sweet Blake Edwards RomCom from 1961 starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, based on a novel by Truman Capote.

Audrey Hepburn shines in this film, as one might expect. She is actually playing a most unlikable character, Holly Golightly, a stuck-up, shallow socialite on the make, sucking the goodness out of anyone around her with honest intentions and genuine values. But through all that, she's an attractive beauty and a lovable rogue to whom the audience can't help but warm.

She carries the show of course, and kudos to her, as most of the dialogue is hers - it must have taken a dedication to learn it all - the quick-fire dialogue with those around her - and the rest of the time talking to herself or her cat! I've had a go at some amateur acting in my youth and learning lines is one of the most underrated skills which actors execute. Particularly back then when scenes were long and shots were short.

Enter George Peppard playing Paul Varjak, the unsuccessful but honest writer. On the face of it, not really on Holly's radar - for someone to use and abuse, as he has little money. But guess what - he falls for her and this sets the film up for the bitter-sweet, the sadness embedded into the characters and the RomCom. Peppard plays his part with just the right amount of control and interest against disapproval and attention. It's a star turn, often overlooked because of the leading lady.

The setting is 1960's New York and the title refers to Holly's love of the jewellery store in New York, Tiffany's - and the breakfast she is eating stood outside one morning window-shopping in the opening scene. Much of Holly's attire, jewellery and accessories are symbolic of the socialite class of the day and of the monied elite. Of course, all the men, depicted as sad, ageing and lonely, are chasing her and, on the face of it, provide a glut from which she can pick and choose as she leaps from party to bar each afternoon/evening.

The lesser known actors around the pair do a super job and are all clearly accomplished. The almost unrecognisable Mickey Rooney turns up in a comic turn as the irate Asian man upstairs in the apartment block, which they all share. The apartment block which has an outside fire escape stairway, on which the cast regularly leap up and down and Hepburn performs the iconic twee version of the song Moon River.

It's a delightful film, a mark in time, a joy to watch Audrey Hepburn at her best and a super feel-good addition to any Sunday afternoon without falling into the unfair category of girlie-flick. It's fabulous for all and recommended highly.

I must mention Hors de Prix (Priceless) here before I finish as a wonderful virtual remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's starring Audrey Tautou. Highly recommended to look at the historic nods.(

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I sat through this last night. Over two hours. I counted the minutes. What a load of claptrap. I sometimes wonder how these dreadful fantasy nonsense films make as much money as they do. I can't imagine anyone under the age of consent enjoying this tripe. In fact, I'll go further, not even a teenager!
This comic book poppycock is just pointless and stupid. Are you getting the idea that I didn't like it, yet!

I can't think of anything to say positive about it, except maybe the appearance of David Thewlis - but even he was wasted as an acting talent, clearly having a laugh with it all, counting the cash he made! None of the rest of them were even half decent actors.

It's a shame that people don't realise what Hollywood is doing to people, stripping them of their cash for badly made, produced, directed and acted balderdash!

+Steve Litchfield +Gareth Myles

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Episode 55 - Warm Sticky Hands!
Why not join me this time as I chat with +Julie Wills standing in for AWOL +David Rich(!) about Whatever Works for us both. We also take comments from you good Community members too, with special thanks to +Ian Barton for keeping the show going! Available now via the link here or your podcatcher of choice. Enjoy :-)

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Episode 55 - Warm Sticky Hands!
Why not join me this time as I chat with +Julie Wills standing in for AWOL +David Rich(!) about Whatever Works for us both. We also take comments from you good Community members too, with special thanks to +Ian Barton for keeping the show going! Available now via the link here or your podcatcher of choice. Enjoy :-)

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Yes, first time for a rear-placed Fingerprint Scanner - and it works brilliantly. So much better than side-mounted, I don't care what anyone says about 'this is better for this use, that is better for that use'. Claptrap I say! This is 1000% better for all uses and draws me right back to Sony and remains my primary reason for the Razer Phone not being in my pocket. This is the £269 Xperia XA2 and my thoughts will follow soon. Watch this space!
+Steve Litchfield

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On it goes! Whilst waiting for the kind donation of a Verizon USA-only bumper being sent over by +Steve Heinrich I spotted this one (again USA-only) being discussed on a Moto Forum, so sent for it as well. The Armite Moto Z2 Play Case Bumper ( for about £10 delivered.

Initial findings are that it makes the phone feel really much bigger than it is. It's virtually the same size as my Razer Phone! It's solid. Firm but kinda' rubbery so grip around the sides is good. It's tight to fit but on the down side, you have to fight to get it off every time you change a Mod. And on! So good or bad, depending on how often you swap things around.

It fits fine with all the Mods I have here. All the controls are accessible and it seems to have been quite well thought out. The Camera buttons are all out there with the Hasselblad, the projector controls and charging hole are free. Same is true of the TurboPower charger with the USB-C port freely accessible.

It feels like it's been pretty well made and thought out. The only problem is really that it makes a big phone into a beefy lump(!) and of course, we Brits have to import it. Otherwise, it does the job. Not sure if I'll use it though as, for the same reason as I don't use the Razer Phone as my primary phone, it's BIG!
+Steve Litchfield
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HANGIN' AT THE LIBRARY... Abergele, poachin' their WiFi. Not great, but perfectly good enough. And free. About 6mbps down and 3 up.
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This is a strange little film, with the only actors of note involved being Sam Neill and Gina McKee. Unlike the similarly named The Zookeeper's Wife (which I reviewed at based on true events in WWII, this is a work of fiction.

There's a fictitious city in a fictitious country which appears to be Eastern European which is being torn apart by some sort of war going on. Our hero is a Zookeeper and whilst all his mates leg-it, he's left holding the baby. Or monkey, actually! There's no income, dwindling resources and a crumbling zoo.

He's got a past, and we see flashes of his past life and family, but it's not really ever explained fully. Just that he's alone and has removed himself from society. He has poor social skills and is just fine attending to his flock. He writes a journal of poetry and musings on the situation, love, life and the world. As things go from bad to worse in terms of the war, a small boy turns up, followed by his mother, and they form an unlikely trio against the soldiers closing in on the resources they have left in order to feed their comrades.

It's a dark, dour, bleak and harrowing film. Some of the acting at times is quite poor, but the main leads are well executed. I'm not sure why Neill was involved in this as it seems like a strange vehicle for such a well known star of the screen, really rather feeling like an Indie outing with European low-budget constraints. Perhaps time out from Jurassic Park'ing! In a similar way, Om Puri (of Gandhi fame) pops up for a few minutes acting as a Vet.

It's not really even a very interesting story, though I guess it's mainly a character study of one man alone battered by life and battered by war, but at his core, a caring soul. It's also about children and war, to some degree as the depicted destroyed life of the little boy in the cast growing up in amongst war raises the issue of kids and guns.

It feels like a story that didn't really need telling, to be honest. I guess we're used to war stories these days being based in fact, not fiction. If you like gritty and harrowing dramas, then you'll like this unpolished and under-produced 90 minutes. I'm not sure which side of the fence I come down on, but I'm glad I watched it in many ways.
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