Thursday, March 15, 2018

Smartphones and The New Universal Incompatibility

Smartphones have most definitely been an eye opener. Things I'm used to on a Windows computer are vastly different, largely due to size differences, or just simply not being there. If you have a Windows computer or laptop you have basics like Textpad and Wordpad built in among other basic programs that make it usable right out of the box. Then along comes Android.

Being based on Linux, Android has adopted Linux's most universal feature; a lack of user friendliness. Linux itself is not an operating system but a kernel upon which other open source software is used to build a system. Red Hat, Ubuntu, MEPIS, Fedora, and SUSE are operating systems or distros of Linux. There are hundreds of distros of Linux, most can be downloaded for free to install as an OS, and they vary widely by their bits and pieces included which make up the distro.

Android uses a modified Linux kernel with bits and pieces added to it to make up the OS. What's standard for those bits and pieces I don't know, but apparently the ability to natively edit text files is not. I'm sure Google has a service online you can use to edit text files and documents, which would fit with what seems to be their philosophy (I don't speak for them) of keeping you connected to them so you don't stray. Certainly Android exemplifies this philosophy as about the only thing guaranteed to be included in Android are ways to connect you to Google.

Google is simply a monopoly and they intend to keep it this way as any successful monopoly would. This is not news to anybody. Monopolies will always exist despite the best efforts of some to break them up. This is part and parcel of societies raised on monotheistic theology. We are raised from the time we can utter a word to accept a singular authority. Monotheism was never about any god but was instituted as a way to keep people under greater control. The proliferation of monopolies like Walmart and Google is a result of this as we unconsciously flock to whomever is number one, without reason or rationale.

Android is what it is. It is a shrewd marketing ploy on Google's part that allows others, due to profit for them by using a free OS for their devices, to automatically create shrines with an instant connection to Google. Greed has a tendency to override reason and phone providers have freely optioned to stick with using their phones as Google shrines and as a result we're stuck with either the poor operating system that Android is or the other shrine that is iOS. Both are too freely controlled by their respective and intrusive motherships.

Poor operating system? Android reminds me more and more of Windows 3.1 every time I use it, with the exception that Windows 3.1 was friendlier and better. A lack of multi-tasking, a lack of basic features such as multiple file selection when doing a copy and paste, and no guarantee that you can open a simple text file without having to install software for it. Sure, there are online forums where you could probably go to find a workaround for such issues, but the overriding important part to that is it's not consumer friendly; it should not be up to you to make your phone more usable but to the provider of the phone.

There are apps available for Android that can be used to read and edit text files. Ted Text Editor and Jota Text Editor are among the best choices as they lack the BS so prevalent in Android apps such as ads and are basic and small apps that are easy to run without hogging system resources. And yes, some providers include a note taking app that may allow you to at least read if not edit a plain text file.

What brought about this rant over a lack of a universal way to read and edit plain text files in Android out of the box? I've been involved in a conversation about how we should distribute the bulletin for the indie film site and what file format to use. I found myself asking about the compatibility of certain files with Android and what apps are available to read them. I have come to the conclusion that there is only one file format that you can be guaranteed to be able to read on Android or any smartphone, Android or not, and that is an HTML file. Every smartphone has a web browser.

It should be an embarrassment to Google that Android does not by default have a way to read and write plain, emphasis on 'plain', text files. This hearkens back to the days of 8-bit computers in the early 1980s when even something like a basic text editor was a separate program you had to load from a floppy disk.

Oh sheesh, Google! Really? Your shrines don't even have the friendliness of Windows 3.1? And this is an advancement... how?

As I said, it is what it is and we're stuck with Android if you want an affordable, to be read a 'cheap', smartphone or tablet. With adding apps, and one has to be very careful about those, you can get a lot of use out of an Android device. There's a lot of pure BS out there in the Android marketplace, more than I've ever seen in any one place on the internet outside of a warez site, but there are some genuine and useful nuggets to be found if you don't mind the stench of the trek.

Once again my smartphone consciousness has been upgraded and something I had come to assume with my desktop experience doesn't apply to smartphones. I sometimes do interviews via email and have traditionally sent out questions in RTF format, my preferred document file, so the interviewee can just type in their answers, save it and send it back to me. The assumption was that RTF files were compatible with the basic editor on any computer...


If Android is included in that equation it suddenly changes. Another realization on my part and I have to adjust the way I do things to more accommodate smartphone users. I have never been one to ever suggest someone install software. If I send out a document I want it to be as universal as possible. Adapting to smartphones unfortunately means that file format has to change to HTML and I have to adjust my interviewing to be even more basic allowing the use of the email text itself and even DMs on social media.

Thanks for making that possible, Google (sarcasm).

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Movie Review: Never Leave Alive (2017)

Never Leave Alive (2017) - USA - Action - Not Rated (PG13)
Directed by Steven LaMorte
Written by J. Amanda Sabater
Starring John Hennigan, Michelle Taylor, Eric Etebari, Joseph Gatt, J. Michael Evans, Alistair McKenzie

Despite a good cast, they can't rescue this script lost on Gilligan's Island.

Rick Rainsford is an international celebrity, of sorts. He is a big game hunter who gets his face on big magazine covers, and often gets his foot stuck in his mouth while using it as a vodka chaser. While on a cruise with a close friend the ship is bombed even worse than Rick resulting in him and a reluctant female companion being stranded on a remote island only inhabited by two strange Russian men. Rick finds himself not being the great hunter this time, but rather the game being hunted.

If the setup in the plot summary I have laid out does not spell out The Most Dangerous Game, perhaps the production company that made this calling themselves The Most Dangerous Game or even the poster invoking those very same words will tell you exactly what this story is; the umpteenth hundredth remaking of The Most Dangerous Game.

Another wrestler I'm not familiar with, being not a fan of the sport, John Hennigan does succeed in bringing a charismatic presence to the screen. What most works for this film is the cast. It probably doesn't hurt that it's a small cast. And also interesting in Hennigan's role is that despite being a wrestler, unlike the usual wrestler becomes movie star transition, his role does not depend on his physical prowess nor is his character a powerhouse in confrontations.

Despite Hennigan's and the rest of the cast's success in their roles, especially Eric Etebari as an obsessed villain, what does not work for this film is the script becomes as lost as our wayward castaways. The idea of playing off the charismatic and awkward pairing of Hennigan and Michelle Taylor as frictional survivors is understandable and the two of them do a fine job at that, but the script lingers on this and paints our pair as noisy, clumsy and accident prone and makes one wonder how in the hell they could have survived the suburbs let alone a tropical island.

The production is a mixed bag from very good to lame. Story elements and contraptions straight out of Gilligan's Island do not help it with its lingering script to boot. This may strike someone as humorous but the story is not played for humor even if our castaways at times are. The contrast between the villain playing it straight and Burns and Allen castaways remind me more of the Gilligan's Island episode where Rory Calhoun plays a strictly serious big game hunter hunting Gilligan than The Most Dangerous Game.

The script and production bring this down to 2 Fingers for me. The cast gives it a boost. Not enough for me to recommend the film, but enough to say it might be worthwhile viewing just for the cast.

My Rating: 2 Fingers Plus; that's 5 out of 10 for IMDbers.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Getting Back on Track and Other Thoughts

I had said in a conversation with Lisa on Twitter that getting back on a roll is akin to going through physical therapy. Not including the painful part of it some complain about but the 'use it or lose it' aspect of life. 

When we do something regularly we don't have to think about it, it's just routine behavior. Interrupt that routine and getting back on track can be a challenge. Unlike work, life doesn't have a timeclock that reminds us when it's time to clock in, take lunch and clock out.

I was just hitting a stride when my internet got interrupted. I had already been running behind, especially on movie reviews, with working on the new indie film blog, developing a shared indie film review blog, and the usual stuff I do on social media such as picking on... err.. I mean promoting filmmakers... ahem.

Everything was thrown out of whack by my temporary loss of internet, and looking at my laptop screen my mind just goes blank. Additionally having to resort to using a smartphone to connect to the internet, for what little I could accomplish, has also given me a few things to think about concerning presentation; unfortunately despite that latter sounding like some clarity may come with it, it has only added to the fog of my mind that was already thickening.

This article may actually succeed is having no point. It really is just trying to write something to get the gears spinning again. Plus it fits my usual style anyway of not having a plan, I just make it up as I go; yes, occasionally there are bodies to clean up after the fact.

What's this dang thing called a smartphone?

Despite appearances I'm not a complete novice concerning smartphones. I don't use one myself, for a phone, as I find them inconveniently large; I prefer something I don't have to remove from my pocket or belt to sit comfortably and what I do use is the smallest 'sort of' smartphone available with a 3.2 inch screen I keep in a clipcase on my belt, and it's about the size of a pack of cigarettes, 100s that is, case and phone.

I did consider a smartphone. I actually bought several different models of Android phones to test them out, being as a chain grocery had some killer deals at the time with their shoppers' card which put them around $10 each. I even looked around online and ordered one after researching different models. I settled on one of them and activated it, and what followed was not a love affair I tells ya.

Somebody, probably several somebodies, once told me I have a problem accepting things. Of course the response, more a rant, that followed along the lines of not being told what to do and not marching to the same drummer that would have likely made Saul D. Alinsky proud might have been a little over-the-top for them.

I know what I want in a phone and smartphones were not providing it. Of course I'm willing to adapt... a phone to my needs that is. My first cellphone was either a flip-phone or candy bar phone (slightly longer than a flip-phone with the keypad on the front). This one company I worked with years ago provided their managers with Blackberry style phones; put a keyboard on the front of a phone and people go crazy with texting. I would call them back after receiving a text, on my phone with only a numeric keypad, and say something along the lines of "here's a radical concept, it's a phone, call me!"

Trying to deal with people texting me I checked into other phones and found a Samsung slider phone; it's basically a candy bar style phone with a keypad on the front but also has a slide out keyboard for texting. I loved that phone. It eventually started having issues after several years of use and I had to look for a replacement, and quickly. Another slider phone was not an option anymore and I started looking at smartphones and their on-screen keyboards. 

Do I need to tell you how much hate I developed for an on-screen keyboard?

Were on-screen keyboards made for children? They must have been. Type... nope wrong letter. Backspace... what the hell did I just do? Oh geez... I just wanted one letter. Wait... that's not a period, the screen's dirty. And on top of that holding the dang thing to the side of your head while you're building up a sweat then pulling it away and... ewww, that's disgusting! Obviously smartphones come with their own etiquette, that must unfortunately be discovered.

Being I have always used a pay-as-you-go phone I'm used to having my days and minutes left featured on the screen. Not with a smartphone. Oh, in order to be able to check my minutes I have to install Google Services updates, set up and account on Google Play for my phone, and now stuff is constantly running in the background and what seemed like a good phone has become crap. Lovely!

Amazingly, the smallest smartphone, sort of, I found had the easiest to use on-screen keyboard. I don't know why. You'd figure a 4 to 5 inch screen phone would have a better keyboard than a 3.2 inch screen phone, but I found this small model to be easier to use for texting. It also displays my minutes and days left right on the screen, and I don't have to regularly clean the screen after using it. It doesn't use Android but the same type of Java based system that my slider phone used so lots of things you can do on a smartphone can't be done on this. The main thing is, though, I can make and receive phone calls and text people with it and it doesn't fall off my belt or require me to take it out of my pocket to sit in my van.

With all of this testing of smartphones, what happened to them? Well I still have them. They make great alarm clocks. Some of them are even handy for a power outage to use for watching videos. One even came in handy when I lost my internet as a way for me to go to the other side of the house where I could connect to the neighbor's wifi with it. Interestingly that model was one I specifically bought as a portable media player with no intent to use it as a phone, especially as it is locked into Verizon and can't be changed to a different service.

"Well I don't take advantage of smartphone sales because if I don't have the service it's no use to me."


One thing I found out early on with Android phones is that you don't need to activate phone service to use them as an Android tablet. When you first turn one on, after charging it for twice the recommended time of course, it is going to prompt you to set it up as a phone. At this stage it will either give you a 'skip' option, or just use the 'back' icon/button (the U shaped arrow) to back out of it and just set it up as an Android device. Now you have an Android tablet. If you pay attention to sales at places like Kroger you can get one pretty cheaply with your shoppers' card. Net10 and Tracfone models are easy to disable the phone service on them.

Not having been a smartphone user I was not aware what's involved with using the internet on one. I have used an Android tablet for internet, but keep in mind it has a 9.7 inch 4:3 ratio screen that's actually bigger than my netbook with its 9 inch screen; I bought it for a pdf reader because the active screen is the same size as a hardcover book and I can read it in vertical format like a book. But the little smartphone screen by comparison feels like being trapped in a box, yet this has become a standard for how a lot of people are using the internet.

Weirdos! ;)

Like learning to use a computer, using a smartphone or Android tablet is its own learning curve. I got used to using a laptop, but exploring the internet on a phone and tablet is both a different world and one not too different as I'm finding out. Certainly a smaller working window and an on-screen keyboard are the biggest differences. 

The layout of a mobile website versus its desktop counterpart is starkly different at first. I would not say they are the same where features are concerned as what I have been discovering is that some features of a desktop are simply missing because they probably are not very practical on a mobile device. Getting used to the different layout I have come to learn that a lot of the features for, say a social media site, are there, they are just setup differently.

Yes, some websites I've seen are a joke being a mobile site. Sure, they'll fit your screen, but they want to try to load as much crap onto your mobile device as they want to on your desktop, and mobile devices don't even come close to the capacity and capability of desktops. This is most evident on a tablet, or I guess an HD phone (I don't know as I don't have one), when websites without a defined mobile site decide for you whether you'll get a mobile or desktop site.

Mobile web browsers are just as responsible for that as the sites themselves. As I've been learning a bit about mobile browsers and testing several of them, many have a 'force desktop' option, but not necessarily a 'force mobile' option to prevent a desktop site from loading. Though many of them do have an option to customize the user agent; a string of text a dynamic website uses to identify your browser and connect you to an appropriate version of the site for your browser. I used to play with the user agent a few years ago on a slower netbook to force a desktop or mobile site to load. I need to investigate user agents for mobile browsing more.

Years ago when I was working on my own websites and blogs, and when mobile sites were still called wap sites, one of the features I would try to incorporate into my sites was a mobile option. I don't bloat my sites. Not just for mobile users but I live in a small town where we're not even up to the bottom rung of priority for ISPs, so internet service at its best leaves a lot to be desired. So I try to make my images I use as light as I can and I don't use much if any of an image for headers or background.

The speed of a site loading is one thing. The other thing I had not considered though is content. I did have a mobile counterpart site to this blog just a year or two ago, but the service went down. I would post short reviews and quick articles on it. Things really did come to light when I followed a link on Facebook to an article. The site loaded just fine, but the article was so long that I gave up reading it. It would have been obviously fitting for a desktop, but on a mobile device it was finger flipping hell.

I'm sure this article is not mobile friendly. Since I had a mobile specific blog not long ago, I've decided to set one up again, but I'm just simply using Blogger this time. It'll have an even lighter weight template than this one, I'll re-institute my short review format for it (reviews in 2 to 4 paragraphs strictly), and use it for my shorter pop culture posts. It's called A Little Less Toxic. It's just a template right now. I'm not aiming to go all mobile on my blog, but rather to be more mobile friendly in some form; not only in designing a site to be more mobile friendly but also writing the content for that goal too. Yes, seems odd saying that in an article this long. ;)

Things are still slow on my side of the internet. I have a connection for now, but it is very slow. I'm using mobile sites where I can on my laptop to speed things up. Other than what I have already downloaded, I do not not have reliable enough of bandwidth to download movies for review, so my reviewing days are effectively on hold.

This also affects working on the new indie film site. Yes, I'd love to get more done on it, but it is time consuming to do screencaps and upload them to film listings. Especially being that this is something filmmakers can do themselves and  that is the point of the site is to have a way for filmmakers to be able to promote their films without it costing them anything. 

But I can't light a fire under someone's ass so I'm trying to get film listings posted with what I have available to set as an example of what can be done with the site. Any help in getting films listed would be greatly appreciated. It's not to be mean, but the point of film listings on the site is to provide a useful resource page that can be used as a presskit for promotion. Without links and posters/stills, it's not that and I won't publish any listing that's not complete at a minimum level.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Movie Review: Paura Tutto (2014)

Paura Tutto (2014) - USA - Horror Comedy - Not Rated
Independent Short Subject - Mordacious Films - 11 minutes
Directed by Mykee Morettini
Written by Peter Dorman and Mykee Morettini
Starring Mykee Morettini, Kelli Alden, Peter Dorman, Matt Kormanik, Mia Morettini, Rae Erin Walsh, Jagar Davis

A different animal for sure (the film) Morettini succeeds in bringing our worst nightmare to life... resurrecting the 80s.

It's 1985 as a high school outcast teams up with a psychic with no name (I believe there was a song about her) to track down a physical manifestation of fear that is killing off the senior class in alphabetical order.

Paura Tutto is its own original animal. It tells a story, but not in the usual fashion. Parodying Italian horror movies of the 80s, complete with made-up screen credits to fit the theme, it proceeds as an extended trailer, as though for some lost film of the time, yet tells its story via the parts and narration of the trailer ..err, film ...err, trailer ...err, something.

True to its roots Paura Tutto is presented complete with film grain and deterioration. Washed out frames abound, as does out of sync dialogue. And bad fashion trends? Oh yeah, it's got it too. If you were to view it without any knowledge this is a contemporary parody you would probably think this was the genuine article from the 1980s.

Through its stylizing it is not the most coherent presentation of a story, humorously that is very much inline with the very films it mocks. From an opening scene that sounds like it fell out of Doctor Butcher M.D. to headbands, boomboxes, and gaudy gore effects, the 80s are alive and well... but not for long. ;)

Being its own unique animal it's not easy to rate a film like this. Certainly there's no contextualization for comparison. The only way really to rate it is in looking at what it aims to accomplish and how well it did at that. Paura Tutto does have the advantage, in the way Morettini has done this, of anything that could be perceived as a failure or weakness on the part of the film could just as much be intentional as it certainly would fit with its subject matter. Complete it is, even though it its presented as a promotional piece for a film. Any lows it falls to are also its high points. In that respect it accomplishes apparently what it set out to do... confuse the hell out of a movie reviewer trying to rate it. So I'll give it an extra notch for that.

My Rating: 4 Fingers

Watch Paura Tutto on YouTube

Find Mykee Morettini on Facebook and Twitter