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Androo (UK)

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Guilty Gadgets - 10M Metre Male to Male RF TV Aerial Lead Cable Coaxial Extension Female Digital with Coupler
Guilty Gadgets - 10M Metre Male to Male RF TV Aerial Lead Cable Coaxial Extension Female Digital with Coupler
Offered by Guilty Gadgets
Price: £5.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Works fine with Freeview HD, 24 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's not much I can say about this except that's it's a good length, comes with a male-female adapter (which I didn't need but you could use to connect to another cable as an extension) and works fine with my HDTV and Freeview HD. Looks of decent quality with moulded on connectors.

Robot Russian Matryoshka Dolls
Robot Russian Matryoshka Dolls
Offered by Urban Gifts
Price: £12.95

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disappointing, 24 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These were a bit bigger and less attractive than I expected from the photo. They look like metal, but are actually plastic and feel like it. The size difference between each one is too big, so they rattle about inside each other. The smallest robot also comes apart but has nothing in it. If they were smaller and made more nicely, of metal, I would probably recommend them, but on the whole I was disappointed.

Binatone Shield 6015 Call Blocker Twin Home Telephone
Binatone Shield 6015 Call Blocker Twin Home Telephone
Offered by Tribal UK
Price: £39.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable phones with potentially useful call blocking functions, 24 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Considering how many nuisance calls we get these days, this pair of phones with their call blocker functions ought to be useful, and since call blocking is the Binatone's USP, I'll tackle that first.

It has its limitations, but is quite clever. You must have caller display, for a start. You can enter numbers you don't want to get calls from, or enter numbers you only want calls from and block all other calls. And you can block withheld calls, international calls, and calls from payphones. You can also decide to only block calls for a certain length of time too, which might be useful if you didn't want to be disturbed for one evening, let's say. If a blocked number phones, the phone doesn't ring, but the number does appear on the display. Disappointingly, if the answerphone is on, a blocked caller can still leave a message, and I would have liked to have been able to stop blocked callers leaving messages without turning the answer function off or to 'answer only'.

So it's not perfect, but not bad, and although I doubt I would use it, you never know. If somebody was bothering you, it could be a killer function.

The rest of the phone is fairly standard stuff for a phone in this price range.

I think the design is quite attractive, and they are very slim and lightweight so you can put them in your pocket. They're neatly made but the design and feel reflects the price. The bases are really tiny and unobtrusive, even the larger base station. The power plugs are very small too, and for once the wires sprout from the side so you can use them in adapters close to the wall. I wish more were like this.

You'll need to read the instructions properly because there are loads of functions and settings, but once I'd done that I found the phones easy to set up and use. The 'C' button acts like a back button and makes navigating menus less painful than on some phones. You can set the phone to do everything you'd expect, like assign different ring tones to different callers, use a standard outgoing message (in multiple languages if you fancy it) or record your own, and operate the answerphone remotely.

As usual with these multi-pack phones, you can transfer calls between the two phones, or 'page' from the base station (that's the base station's only function), and of course whatever change you make on one phone (like adding a number) happens automatically on the other.

Call quality was okay, but not the best. Voices sounded a bit tinny to me, and callers said I sounded a bit less clear than they were used to. But they're adequate in this sense. Messages recorded by the answerphone sound clear enough too, as long as you set the 'compression' to 'medium' or, better still, 'low'. Set to 'high' it's far too garbled. The trouble is, you only get 15 minutes total record time even on the garbled 'high' compression setting, while on 'medium' it's 10 minutes and 'low' a mere 7 minutes. Seems a bit mean to me.

There are some other downsides. The display is the worst offender. It uses segments rather than dots and is pretty hard to read, even with the backlight on, especially at an angle. When the backlight's off, like when it's on the charger stand, you really can't read it at all without peering closely, so the time display is a bit useless.

Unlike many phones, the keys are not backlit, so in a dark room you can't see them. Even when it's light, the stylised numbers and letters are remarkably hard to make out.

And when you have a new message, the only indication of that is a tiny symbol on the display that flashes on and off. You can't see it from even a metre away. I wish they'd added an LED or just made the display flash to let you know you had a new message waiting. This is poor.

Also, the volume of ring tones and messages and the speakerphone is a bit too low even at the maximum settings.

The bottom line is that this is a decent but (call blocking aside) unremarkable pair of phones. There are a few downsides but you could probably live with them if you were keen on the call blocking functions.

Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:1.8 Lens - Black
Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 17mm 1:1.8 Lens - Black
Price: £323.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, if not quite as good as the 25 and 45, 18 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this to use with my Olympus E-M10 camera. I already have the Olympus 25mm and 45mm f/1.8 lenses for it, and together they make a very nice trio.

I did consider getting the Panasonic 20mm or the Leica 15mm, but the Panasonic has rather slow focusing apparently (a criticism you can't level at the Olympus) and the Leica is expensive and a bit too wide angle for me for this type of lens.

Compared to my other two Olympus primes, I'd say the 17mm is probably 'not quite' as good as they are, even though it's more expensive. It isn't just as sharp in all situations (like at the edges when you use a wide aperture), and doesn't have 'quite' the same ability to make you look like a pro with every shot you take.

Having said that, the differences really aren't huge and I have taken some great shots with this lens. It gives photos a nice 'look'. And it's a versatile focal length for a range of situations, wide enough but not too wide. I use it for things like classic car shows, and it's the perfect focal length for that. Mostly shots come out as sharp as you could want and the last shoot I did could have been published in a magazine (though I say so myself!). Fantastic colour and very good contrast are traits this lens shares with the other Olympus primes. Just make sure that if you're taking advantage of the widest apertures (one of this lens's key selling points) that you nail the focus on the right part of your image and don't expect edge-to-edge sharpness at f/1.8, though it's entirely usable at its widest aperture, which makes it a superb low-light lens.

At f/2.8 and especially f/4 everything looks pin sharp however, and day-to-day, you're more likely to be using these kind of apertures.

You can get nice differential focus with this lens even though it's a wide angle lens. You just need to be close to your subject. Out of focus backgrounds, when you get them, look fantastic.

This lens is perfect for stills or video, with fast, silent focusing (it's an 'MSC' lens - that's Movie and Stills Compatible).

It's a surprisingly small and light lens, but rather beautifully and solidly made from metal - perhaps why it's more expensive than the plastic-bodied 25mm and 45mm. The focus ring doesn't turn as beautifully smoothly as on my 25mm lens however. Perhaps this is because of the clever manual focus ring that you pull back to activate. When you do this it reveals a depth of field scale, which could be useful if you're a bit old school. You can set your Olympus camera (maybe Panasonic too but I wouldn't know) to automatically magnify the centre of the image for easier manual focusing when you pull the ring back.

There's a lot to like and not much to complain about with this lens. I would have liked a lens hood like you get with the 25mm though since wider angle lenses are more prone to flare. There's no case or pouch for the lens either, but I suppose you can pick up both these items very cheaply.

Note that this came in a plain, simple box because it's split from a kit. There is a disclaimer that tells you this. It doesn't matter unless the full retail box with glossy colours is important to you, which actually it might be if you ever decide to sell it. Something to think about.

George VI (Penguin Monarchs): The Dutiful King
George VI (Penguin Monarchs): The Dutiful King
by Philip Ziegler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.69

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very handsome and readable little book, 15 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm interested in history but would never think to read about it normally since history books seem to me to be too long and dull.

This delightful little book is neither long nor dull. In fewer than 90 pages (which includes a few pages of photographs) eminent historian Philip Ziegler tells the tale of King George VI succinctly and with charm and balance. The style is light, yet serious and not at all dumbed down. Of course Ziegler had to leave out more than he put in, but there's nothing like having to write such a short book to make an author stick to the subject at hand and avoid the waffle. He does this admirably. So I learned just as much as I wanted to know, and understood a few things I was hazy about before. That's exactly what I hoped for.

The book as a physical object is very handsome indeed. It's small but serious looking, with a black and gold embossed hard cover in white and a three-quarter dust jacket that reveals just the title. Peel it off though and you'll see the King's signature embossed into the cover in gold. Very elegant. Part of reading the text was taking pleasure in the physical aspects of this book - I don't think e-books can compete with this sort of thing yet. It's even printed in England.

I'm tempted now to seek out others in the series since they would make a nice collection. They would make a lovely gift too, for anyone interested in the monarchy or history in general. There are several others in the series.

Philips 5W (50W) GU10 Master LED Value Spot Light, 2700K Warm White, Dimmable
Philips 5W (50W) GU10 Master LED Value Spot Light, 2700K Warm White, Dimmable
Price: £13.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly a great bulb but didn't work fully with my old dimmer switches, 14 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a nice looking bulb. It's very bright and produces a light very similar in tone to the standard GU10s I have in the same light fitting. The difference is that they go yellow when dimmed but this stays white.

So yes, it's a 'dimmable' bulb, BUT in the two light fittings I tried it in, it didn't dim properly. It dims, but not to zero and was too bright at the lowest setting (MUCH brighter than the standard GU10s alongside it). I don't think this is the bulb's fault though: it doesn't claim to be compatible with all dimmer switches and clearly isn't fully compatible with my rather old switches. So I think if you wanted them to dim properly, you would have to use a dimmer control designed for LED bulbs. This isn't clear in the description though.

However, I like that the end of the bulb is properly finished. Some have what look like exposed electronics, but this has seven bright dots under a cover and looks very neat in situ.

The claimed life is 25,000 hours, which is a bit less than some, but clearly pretty good, especially if the light fitting you put them in is hard to get to.

So, it's a good bulb and I recommend it, but if you want to use it with a dimmer, make sure your switch is compatible with LEDs.

The Evolutionist; The Strange Tale of Alfred Russel Wallace
The Evolutionist; The Strange Tale of Alfred Russel Wallace
by Avi J. Sirlin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading for the overseas adventures, 12 Dec 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been aware for a while that Alfred Russel Wallace formulated the idea of natural selection at about the same time Darwin more famously came to the same conclusions about evolution. But apart from that simple fact, I didn't know much about Wallace before reading this novelisation of his story, and this was probably a good thing.

As such I quite enjoyed the story, especially the parts that tackle Wallace's travels to the Amazon and to Borneo and Malay. The section set in Malay is very well done. There, Wallace studies orangutans by shooting them and cutting them up, funds his travels expenses by sending boatloads of precious tropical birds and other animals back to England for collectors to buy. He runs into some interesting characters, especially his young and remarkably loyal Malay assistant Ali, who proves particularly adept at tracking, shooting and skinning so many creatures that we would today consider endangered. Meanwhile, Wallace formulates his theories and communicates - very slowly by letter - with the likes of Charles Darwin back in England.

Wallace is portrayed as a decent enough man, but a rather unlucky one, though often his bad luck seems of his own making. He's portrayed as being lacking in social skills, 'dull looking and dull'. Yet, he's obviously plucky, courageous even, since travelling the world in the 19th century was a risky and uncertain undertaking to say the least. The man who hires canoes and local guides to travel for weeks through uncharted territory, suffering extreme deprivation and difficulty is at odds with his characterisation as a weak, slightly pompous and generally unsuccessful individual. The distinction between fact and fiction is tricky when the facts can never be known.

But I suppose that's the problem with a novelisation, even more that a movie, and movies often do this sort of thing successfully. Still, what you might accept in a movie is somehow harder to accept in a book. The author of this book freely admits in his note at the end that he ha changed the chronology and in some cases just made things up that may never have happened, like the meeting with Darwin at the end, an important section.

So do you read it as a piece of fiction, pure and simple? No, I couldn't do that. It's more a kind of hybrid. Most of the time I was happy to go along with it, but now and again I wasn't. I think I would have preferred less fiction and more sticking to the source material, such as it is. There are presumably diaries out there that the author drew on. I felt I didn't need to read quite so much about Wallace's 'nether regions' for one thing, and there is one attempt at a sex scene that would surely make the real Wallace wince with embarrassment, were he able to read it, and had a similar effect on me.

I think this is a book of two halves. One is the 'exciting' part, when Wallace is in the jungle, collecting samples, the other is when he's back home, dealing with his family life and upsetting his fellow scientists with talk of spiritualism. The first part works well, but the second less well. The last part of the book, when Wallace gets involved with a spiritualist and ends up in court, felt a bit tacked-on to me.

The author is Canadian and although this shouldn't matter, I did find myself noticing some things that I don't think a British writer would have written. Like Wallace only having a few 'blocks' to walk in London, or Darwin inviting Wallace to 'write him' (rather than TO him) when he had completed his theories. The author also says Wallace's out of town home has 'convenient rail access' to London, a term I couldn't see people using in the 1870s. Small points, but I did sometimes feel that the vaguely Dickensian style the book is written in was a bit ersatz and had to stop myself drifting into a Canadian accent while reading.

On the whole though it is well written, even if it sometimes felt like a novelisation of a screenplay and other times lacks inspiration. The bulk of it is reasonably engaging and believable too. And the subject matter is certainly interesting even if there's very little science in it. I suspect if I knew much more about Darwin and Wallace and the way things really happened, that I would have found this book much harder to take.

OTO 1001 Carpet & Upholstery Wipes (Pack 20)
OTO 1001 Carpet & Upholstery Wipes (Pack 20)
Offered by AP Motor Store
Price: £3.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Very handy for spills, 11 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have a pack of these at work in case I spill something on a chair or the carpet. They work pretty well and smell really nice. They're also handy for getting stains off clothes though you'd be wise to test a small area before you do that. Worked fine on my dry-clean only suit jacket though.

Cole & Mason refill BLK peppercorns
Cole & Mason refill BLK peppercorns
Price: £3.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aromatic, 10 Dec 2014
These seem particularly aromatic peppercorns, a sensation I've been missing lately from supermarket own brand varieties. It may be to do with getting a new (also Cole and Mason) electronic pepper grinder with a better grinder, but the difference is there. They come in a nice tube with a plastic stopper that should keep the unused pepper fresher. The amount isn't huge though – probably about two fill-ups worth.

Trente Arpents
Trente Arpents
Offered by langton_info_england
Price: £20.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Too nice?, 8 Dec 2014
This review is from: Trente Arpents (Audio CD)
I somehow feel I'm not supposed to like this album, but actually I do really like it. It has charm and humour, like any Vallières album since, and it's catchy and melodic, with a bit of mischief in it. I think there are some strong songs too, like Vent du Nord, Faut que tu fesses fort, and Quand je vais trop loin. Pretty serious, well constructed songs that I think are standing the test of time.

I also like some of the songs that make this album the odd one out in Vincent's oeuvre: songs like Salaud seem a bit corny in their arrangement perhaps, but are fun to listen to. And when you hear the soft, melodic accordion on the penultimate track, you expect a French crooner to sing, not VV. It's all a bit grown up, safe sometimes, doesn't entirely fit with what a very young guy interested in rock music should be doing on his first album. It seems to be aimed at an audience that doesn't really exist any more.

Part of it is that it's so very nicely done. Production is good, and musically it's faultless. Too faultless. It isn't cool.

Vincent sorted all that out on his brilliant second album (Bordel ambiant), which has a grungy, indie sound, gruff, disaffected vocals, plenty of attitude and proper rock guitars. The difference is stark.

Trente arpents stands as a nice listen. But it'd be fun to hear some of these songs done a different way.

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