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Clive Jones
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German Topre Realforce 105UB 45g Light Gold on Black Keyboard
German Topre Realforce 105UB 45g Light Gold on Black Keyboard
Offered by The Keyboard Company
Price: £192.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, if pricey, 16 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For years, I've been using Keytronic Ergoforce keyboards. Alas, they've stopped making them in 105-key layouts now because of the WEEE regulations. So I couldn't buy another.

After a lot of research, I decided to try a Topre Realforce - the only other high-end keyboard with variable force.

It's very nice indeed: well weighted, accurate, consistent, responsive. It's not quiet, but the sound isn't clicky or obtrusive. I type faster on it than on a Keytronic Ergoforce, though this does have the slight drawback that I have to be a little more careful of RSI.

The more major drawback is the price: five times as high! Ouch! On the other hand, good luck finding anything better for less money these days. In that sense, I guess it's good value.

A note to British customers: assuming you can touch-type, I strongly recommend buying this rather than the UK-layout one that lacks a numeric keypad. You won't notice peculiar key caps nearly as much as the missing numeric keypad!

That I'm still sore about the price a month after purchase is the only reason I've given this four stars rather than five.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 29, 2013 10:36 PM BST


UK Topre Realforce 88UB 45g Key Black on Black Mini Keyboard
UK Topre Realforce 88UB 45g Key Black on Black Mini Keyboard
Offered by The Keyboard Company
Price: £192.00

6 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't underestimate how important the numeric keypad is!, 16 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this, but after trying it briefly I returned it and got one with a numeric keypad instead.

The keyboard itself is lovely, as might be expected. I recommend it wholeheartedly. But I rapidly discovered three things:

1) My hand motions scale to the size of the keyboard. When I was headed for the cursor keys, I instinctively went a few inches in from the keyboard's right-hand side, with hilarious consequences (as they say) if there was no numeric keypad.

2) I often hit the numeric keypad's enter key with my thumb while mousing.

3) I enter numbers using the numeric keypad an order of magnitude more frequently than I thought I did.

I chose this model because of the UK keyboard layout. As a touch-typist I'm finding German keycaps a lot less of an issue than the lack of the numeric keypad. Definitely buy a Topre Realforce, but think twice before picking this one.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 26, 2015 10:31 AM GMT


Firewire Cable IEEE 1394 6 Pin to 6 Pin 1.8M
Firewire Cable IEEE 1394 6 Pin to 6 Pin 1.8M
Offered by ETechland
Price: £1.90

1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't work, 16 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Plain and simple, this didn't work. I tried it between a StarTech Firewire card and two different peripherals. In neither case did the computer recognise that the peripheral was even attached, nor did the peripheral that has a connection status light recognise it was attached to the PC.

Then I tried again with a lead borrowed from a friend, which worked perfectly. So this lead was definitely the problem.

Comparing the this lead to the working one, it's conspicuously a lot thinner. It also lacks an RF choke. So there is skimping in the lead's design as well as manufacture.

And yet I see reviews here from people who say it worked for them. Although it looks like the lead is designed to fail, as it were, maybe I just got unlucky?


The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day: 4
The Science of Discworld IV: Judgement Day: 4
by Ian Stewart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.14

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An acceptable Ian Stewart book, 28 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I like Ian Stewart as a writer; I've read and enjoyed many of his books on maths and science.

This is another workmanlike effort - not his best, but still a good read.

Except... it's supposed to be a book by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. And sadly, their voices were almost completely absent.

The first two Science of Discworld books were elegant blends of fact and fiction - alternating chapters of approximately equal length. In this one, the Discworld chapters are incredibly brief. And even then they read like Ian Stewart fiction (compare with Flatterland) with a few Discworld character names and back stories pasted on. Vetinari bothering to get involved in an inconsequential wrangle between wizards and clerics? Hardly! Ridcully coherently explaining vast tracts of hard science? I don't think so!

If you want to buy this Ian Stewart book on science, go right ahead. But don't buy this Terry Pratchett novel.

Another thing that irritates me in a more controversial sense is that I found the book very preachy about atheism. It's almost as though the authors had an axe to grind this time round, where before they contented themselves with the nobler pursuits of entertainment and education. And their views on agnosticism (a subject dear to my heart) are... eccentric.

Assuming, as I've said, that you're in the market for an Ian Stewart book. Assuming, furthermore, that you can overlook the bouts of didacticism (or at least read some Karen Armstrong for balance) this is still an interesting and up-to-date work, full of discussion of the origins of the universe, the history of science, world religion and more besides. Despite my reservations, I'm glad I bought it.


Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion . . . So Far
Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion . . . So Far
by Stephen Briggs
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

55 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as well prepared as the earlier editions, 30 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you're somehow a Pratchett fan who has no previous editions of the Discworld Companion, you'll find this book an invaluable reference, full of information about all the characters, places, etc.

But I suspect most potential purchasers already own older versions. I certainly do. On that basis, I was somewhat disappointed: the new material simply isn't as compendious, entertaining or well edited as the old stuff.

For example, Granny Aching doesn't get an entry, and the entry on Leshp hasn't been updated to reflect the events of Jingo, even though it was published a decade and a half ago. C.M.O.T. Dibbler's part in The Truth isn't mentioned, nor Harry King's in Making Money. The formerly commendable cross-referencing is also becoming increasingly ragged: several entries aren't under the name referenced and some are absent entirely.

Beyond that there are numerous typographic errors, some extremely blatant such as an entry accidentally being dropped in the middle of the the previous entry's headword.

All in all, it feels rushed and slipshod.


Philip's Navigator Britain 2011: Spiral (Road Atlases)
Philip's Navigator Britain 2011: Spiral (Road Atlases)
by Philip's
Edition: Spiral-bound

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Go for the traditional paperback, 17 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Philip's Navigator has been my preferred UK road atlas for years: it's by far the best for clarity and scale.

The one downside is that it's physically large. While that lets you see a lot at once, my partner finds it cumbersome having the atlas open on their lap during a journey. In an attempt to solve that, I bought the spiral-bound version this time around.

As we hoped, being able to fold the atlas back on itself to show just one page rather than a two-page spread is really useful. Unfortunately, there are downsides. The first is that the spiral binding droops quite seriously when the atlas is stashed in a seat-back pocket. (And where else are you going to put something so huge? No glove box is large enough!) The second is that the spiral snags when you try to extract the atlas. The third and most major problem is that turning pages is very tricky: you have to arrange that the spiral is perfectly straight. This would be OK on a table, but is next to impossible with the atlas resting on a steering wheel.

I suggest getting the normal paperback instead. That's what I'll do next time around.


The Book of Bunny Suicides
The Book of Bunny Suicides
by Andy Riley
Edition: Hardcover

101 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yep, it's definitely bunnies committing suicide!, 26 Oct. 2003
This book was an impulse purchase from a pile at the counter in a bookstore. It sold itself within the first few pages, but then proceeds with morbid consistency.
Quite where the idea came from is anyone's guess. The book is exactly as described - a series of cartoons of rabbits aranging their deaths in various ways. More than that is hard to say without spoiling the jokes.
Half a dozen friends have read the book now, and they all agree it's hilarious. Peculiarly, the conceit that cute little bunnies would be able to come up with these suicide stratagems tends to lighten the otherwise dark nature of the book's humour.
Buy this book. Leave it in your lavatory. Wait for the howls of laughter from every visitor.


Temperament: The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle
Temperament: The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle
by Stuart M. Isacoff
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mediocre book on an interesting subject, 14 Feb. 2003
To me, at least, the tempering of musical instruments is a fascinating subject. The story of how tunings varied over the centuries is interesting from a technical, social and philosophical points of view.
Fundamentally, the problem is that 3/2 to the power of 12 is 129.74 ; twelve perfect fifths do not form the same interval as seven octaves. Stated so baldly, that would be the end of the story.
However, for centuries ideologues have insisted that music SHOULD be perfect, and that compromising by adopting an equally-tempered tuning was artistically wrong. Or even morally wrong. Or even impossible.
This book tells the story of the resulting controversy.
Unfortunately, although the book seems to be accurate and well-researched, I frequently found the style deeply infuriating. A lot of space was wasted on describing very simple aspects of music theory, and even the Renaissence - surely, topics already understood by any prospective reader. Instead, I would have welcomed much more detail of areas the book only mentions in passing, such as the various attempts to circumvent temperamental problems by making keyboard instruments with more than 12 keys per octave.
In places the language is stupidly florid. In places, Isacoff repeats himself. Perhaps the book could have done with slightly more thorough editing?
Nonetheless, if you want to know more about the history of musical temperament, you will probably learn something from this book, and despite its defects, it is readable.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2013 3:56 PM GMT


Vatican Bloodbath (Attack!)
Vatican Bloodbath (Attack!)
by Tommy Udo
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hilarious, original, twisted, irreverent, 14 Feb. 2003
If you are worried by blasphemy, obscenity, irreverence, scatology or violence, if in any sense what you're after is a "nice" book, then look elsewhere.
This may look like offensive depravity for its own sake, but is honestly much more than that. The offensive depravity is hysterically funny, and thoroughly inventive. Whoever wrote this book (and I have no doubt that Tommy Udo is a nom de plume), knows his history, politics and conspiracy theories - and isn't afraid to mock them all mercilessly.
The book is slim, but this isn't a problem when the action can often be measured in deaths per sentence.
.... this is a great book that deserves a wider audience. Then again, it's easy to see why the big-name publishers would be scared of a book this extreme. Enjoy.


Schott's Original Miscellany
Schott's Original Miscellany
by Ben Schott
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern masterpiece in a traditional mould, 14 Jan. 2003
I used to find this kind of book in my grandparents' house - cyclopaedias that gave one a little bit of information about everything. It was fascinating to read them, decades later, and marvel at how the world had changed.
Last week, I arrived at work to find a copy of this book on my desk. A colleague got it for Christmas and brought it in to show me. "It's the kind of thing you'd enjoy", he said.
He was right.
Here is a modern miscellany. I don't know who Ben Schott is, or how he came to write this book, but it is a masterpiece. At first I didn't realise the book was a recent publication, so timeless is the style; I only found out when I saw that the information was entirely up to date.
The book freely mixes trivia with important reference material. It mixes the frivolous with the profound. It touches on almost every subject imaginable. This book is so eclectic that less than a quarter of it duplicates information I already had in my considerable reference library.
True, there are a few errors, here and there - I spotted maybe half a dozen. No matter.
This book should fascinate almost anyone. Buy it now. Buy copies as presents. Buy a spare copy, and keep it in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag - I'm sure a pristine first edition would be very valuable to your grandchildren.


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