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Reviews Written by
Louise G "loolabub" (UK)

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Philips GC2045/26 Easyspeed Steam Iron with 120 g Steam Boost and Ceramic Soleplate, 270 ml, 2300 Watt, Blue
Philips GC2045/26 Easyspeed Steam Iron with 120 g Steam Boost and Ceramic Soleplate, 270 ml, 2300 Watt, Blue
Price: £25.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to use and lots of steam., 16 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Nice item. Good weight and comfortable to use. I don't do a lot of ironing if I can help it and have made do with the same old £10 iron for the last 20 years so due an upgrade. This is heaps better! It is pretty easy and intuitive to set up. Tank fills with water easily and mess free. Has all the usual settings for delicates, synthetic, cotton, linen, steam and spray. I tested it ironing a 100% cotton crumpled bed sheet, and used both my old and new iron on max steam setting. This new one produced lots of nice steam as opposed to my old one that leaked and dripped a lot. The spray was also nice and even. The ironing plate glides smoothly. In terms of getting rid of the crumples it does a decent job. It was a tough challenge and the sheet was well flattened but a few creases remain, so it doesn't get 5 stars. The steam also got used up very quickly. One tank was just enough to finish one sheet. Anyhow being much more effective than my old thing, now relegated to the bin, I might iron more often!

The box works really well. It is just a sturdy cardboard box about the size of a shoebox, but it takes the hot iron immediately after use and you can just stack it away. Looks sweet.


The Lie Tree
The Lie Tree
by Frances Hardinge
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Victorian adventure with a strong young heroine, 16 May 2015
This review is from: The Lie Tree (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Really enjoyed this book. Marketed for young adults it has an interesting and complex plot and ideas that should appeal to older readers also, as for example Philip Pullman's books do. Set in Victorian times in the world of science and archaeology. Creationism was under threat from Darwin's Theory of Evolution, gentlemen scientists were vying for new discoveries, and an intelligent female was either invisible or deemed a freak of nature. Faith, the teenage central character, has a fierce intelligence and longs for the confidence of her father the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly. When he dies in suspicious circumstances while the family are in exile on the island of Vane, Faith seeks to solve the mystery of both his death, his recent exposure as a fraud and a cheat, and his secret and prized specimen the Lie Tree. The truths are slowly revealed and the book reaches a thrilling and violent climax with some great twists in the tale. I really enjoyed the style of writing, which was true to the era while challenging the prejudices of the day, and found Faith to be a brilliant character and role model. A wonderfully complex, original and intelligent mystery and adventure story that I would recommend anyone to read.


Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (Black)
Panasonic ALL8 Wireless Speaker System (Black)
Price: £292.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Sound, love AllPlay Radio, but not as convenient as Bluetooth speakers., 29 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set up required a bit of doing, including a firmware update and a factory reset but relatively straightforward if you follow all the instructions carefully including the extra note tucked in the box! It looks good and is quite big and solid - 22cm high by 37cm wide so you need decent shelf space for it. Also while wireless it does need a power source so you need it near a plug! The sides are sloped so you cannot position it any way other than horizontally as shown.

You need the Panasonic Music Stream app installed on a smartphone or tablet to connect the speaker to your wifi network (I used my iPod Touch. Once that is done you can connect supported services to the App to enable play through the speaker. Supported services seem to be Napster, Spotify, AUPEO! Personal Radio and AllPlay Radio. Unfortunately I use Google Play and that doesn't seem to be supported. I can connect music devices on my wi-fi Network, so I play music via my iPod, and use the AllPlay Radio service which is free and totally brilliant. An endless variety of stations and podcasts to choose from. Sometimes it is a faff connecting - maybe it needs a firmware upgrade, I have to reset it, or it simply doesn't appear on the Network for a while and then magically appears after I think all is lost! It simply is not as convenient as other bluetooth speakers I have, particularly I have a couple of portable ones with decent sound that I can take anywhere round the house with me. This speaker is for use in a permanent location with reliable wi-fi.

The sound is excellent - deep and rich and room filling with strong bass tones. Absolutely no complaints there. It also has a wired network connection to use if that is convenient, and an Aux in so you can also connect non-network sources that way (or for use where there is no wi-fi).

In conclusion it is a great sounding, solid product but the software needs some improvement and not as convenient / simple as Bluetooth connected speakers.


Sennheiser RS185 Uncompressed Sound Wireless Headphones
Sennheiser RS185 Uncompressed Sound Wireless Headphones

5.0 out of 5 stars Well constructed and designed with some thoughtful features, 23 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I will add here the disclaimer that this is a Vine Voice review of free product. There was a mix up in the delivery meaning that these went missing at Royal Mail, then reappeared, so they are no longer on my official review list. Being a high end product, I asked a sound engineer friend (Graham - thank you!) to give me his expert opinion:

Sennheiser RS185 Wireless Headphones

These headphones speak of well thought out construction and presentation from the moment that they arrive in a large box which contains the cans, base unit and accessories.

The first thing that emerges from the box is a sub box containing a power supply, (which comes usefully equipped with euro, US and UK mains plug adaptors). The power supply for the transmitter is a relatively slimline wallwart which shoudn’t take up an unnecessary amount of plug board space.

A set on decently long RCA to RCA phono cables are included, as is a fairly sturdy optical cable. The transmitter features both analog and digital optical in., which was an intriguing feature for someone who has never used wireless headphones before.

Next to emerge from the packaging are the cans and the transmitter unit (removal from the box is facilitated by handily thought out tabs marked ‘pull’).

A brief multi language paper set up guide is included along with a comprehensive manual on CD. The set up guide does what it says on the tin and allows you to get up and running as first as you can plug the transmitter into a convenient audio output.

I couldn’t get the optical in to work from the TOSLINK output of my MOTU 828 soundcard, but the pro audio world is not the market that sennheiser are targeting with these headphones. I am confident that thee will work happily with the optical out from modern TV’s.

The analogue input worked fine – selection between the two input sources is via a switch on the back of the transmitter.

The cans promise uncompressed audio wireless audio – and are clearly aimed at the discerning consumer market.

With the above target audience in mind my first impression is that Sennheiser have very much fulfilled the design remit.

The transmitter is a little lightweight and perhaps a touch ‘plasticy’ at this price point, but is very stable and unlikely to get easily damaged in normal usage.

The cans are reassuringly well constructed. The headphones comfy and don’t feel heavy or constricting, but have some solidity to them. A good range of adjustment was available in the headband. The steel adjustment band gives reassuringly well constructed clicks in operation. The cans are well padded – with nice additional pads inside the band (presumably to keep the top of ones head from getting fatigued).

Set up is quite intuitive – the only delay I found (I don’t like reading manuals..) was actually locating the on/off switch, which turns out to be on the headphones themselves in the form of a fairly well concealed button.

The transmitter features two modes for adjusting input gain. ALC controls the input level automatically, whilst MLC allows the user to manually adjust the gain via a knob on the transmitter. The manual suggests that MLC might be the way forward in getting the best from these cans and it does indeed offer a lot of gain – with handy metering on the front of the transmitter which lights red when input distortion is detected. I can’t imagine having a problem with quiet input sources here.

In truth the ALC function works very well. I was able to squeeze a little bit more input level using manual control but in most circumstances the results would be negligible.

Output level controls are sited on the headphones themselves via + and - buttons. I didn’t find these particularly ergonomic whilst wearing the cans, but it would of course be self defeating to include this control on the transmitter unit because hey, the point here is wireless right ?

The headphone mounted controls additionally allow you to access the MLC and ALC function and also pan the signal from left to right. The cans bleep when you have panned the signal to either extreme left or right – I’m not quite sure where I would use this feature (perhaps to listen a loved one in one ear with TV in the other ?) pressing both buttons together flips the headphones back into stereo centre.

It should also be pointed out that the headphones fade nicely in and out when a different input function is selected or reception is lost – this is far preferable to a sharp noise burst (and it could be sharp, as these cans will put out a good deal of level).

In Use

As a musician I primarily use headphones for the late night jotting down of ideas unfortunately this exposes the issue with wireless headphones in that a slight latency emerges. Presumably this is a result of processing time in the transmitter (the audible delay matched against speakers from the same sources was approx. 20-25ms). This is in no way an issue when listening passively to music (though I would imagine a little disconcerting watching the TV unless you can similarly delay the visual signal) but when playing music this latency makes the task impossible – so these cans are not recommended (or indeed designed for muso activities).

In music listening mode however these headphones are very, very good – they claim to offer ‘uncompressed sound’ via wireless. Indeed I could hear none of the companding / compression artifacts that I would associate with wireless audio.

Being new to wireless cans I decided to go for a wander whilst listening. The headphones claim a 100m line of sight range and I have no reason to doubt this. I managed to get consistent coverage throughout my house across 3 floors with no drop in level or sound quality. Some occasional drop out occurred when in stone built cellar two floors below the transmitter, but again this to my mind exceeds what can be reasonably expected of any wireless system. Drop outs where well handled – fading in and out rather than nasty noise bursts. Good work on this sennheiser !

Sound

Again these cans are aimed at the consumer market so I wasn’t expecting any real revelations. My (subjective) opinion based on listening to a range of music through them and a/b ing against other cans and speakers was that they are quite ‘warm’ and flattering around the low mids (I’m guessing that they will work really well with TV and movie dialogue for this reason). Low frequencies were a little hyped but very solid. HF perhaps lacking a touch of detail in comparison – I found myself wanting to wind some 10kHZ in on dense rock mixes.

What I was really impressed with was the very detailed stereo image – nice sense of space without being artificially wide.

A wee bit of noise floor was in evidence when the output was cranked up – but again under normal circumstances this would be no problem at all, and I did have to check to make sure that I wasn’t imagining this a couple of times. I can only assume that this is processing / transmission noise.

Overall – a not at all tiring listening experience, and probably flattering for most material, even after a couple of hours which I guess is the intention in the design.

Conclusion

Pros
Well constructed and designed with some thoughtful features
Nice stereo image
Very comfy both sonically and physically
Excellent reception range

Cons

Latency (research suggests that this is common to all wireless headphones)
Bit ‘warm’ and hyped – so maybe not as transparent as hi-fi buffs would want for some styles of music.
Touch pricy..


Practise & Learn: French (Ages 9-11) - with vocab CD-ROM
Practise & Learn: French (Ages 9-11) - with vocab CD-ROM
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Well thought out and useful practice, 1 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have purchased a number of these books for practice in various subjects. They don't look immediately appealing from the cover but much better inside.

The activities are varied, interesting and follow on well from each other. This one covers words and common phrases, giving a double page to each topic so nice bite sized chunks: "Hello" (greetings), "What is your name?", "Numbers", "Colours", "Months", "My family", "Animals", "Clothes", etc. Each page will typically introduce some vocabulary or phrases and then give a number of activities to apply them, for example find in a wordsearch, link words to meaning, create a sentence, write a sentence in French, etc. The topics and activities work well together as they build on learning throughout the book. There is a separate answers section that is easily removed from the centre pages.

It is aimed for age 9-11, so it is focusing on quaestions and answers in the present tense mainly. Grammar is not covered, other than the very basics like masculine/feminine words. There is no pronounciation guide in the book, however there is an accompanying CD-Rom for the computer which covers this. An app instead would have been good I think.

This is well thought out and not "gimmicky". A good book to give extra practice to complement school learning.


ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
ByteStor Pro 16GB 45Mbps Class 10 High Speed SDHC Card
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Working great in my digital camera, 26 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Working great in my digital camera. Good price for plenty of memory. I would tend to compare the memory size and "Mbps" (megabits per second- higher the better) and compare makes on price. I have bought lots of cards over the years of different makes and never had a duff one. I'm not an expert and just need storage for back up, transferring files and in my camera. This suits just fine but a quick comparison of other brands shows you could get the same spec a wee bit cheaper at the moment. The memory size is more than enough for most snappers and the transfer speed from card to pc. If you want to take lots of video get a bigger card. If you just want tonnes of snaps even high res this is plenty. This is a full size SD card, as used by most cameras as opposed to a micro SD that you tend to need with phones. It is great that you can get all this memory so cheaply these days!


Tsunami Kids: Our journey from survival to success
Tsunami Kids: Our journey from survival to success
by Paul Forkan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 20 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An incredible true story of an unconventional childhood, the tragedy of the tsunami that changes everything forever, and the creation of a successful global business. This is not great writing or storytelling - there is a lot of repetition and I didn't really feel I got to know or understand the family in any depth. The book is authored by ""the Gandy Brothers" - Rob and Paul Forkan, but it is actually only Rob's narrative throughout. It would have been good to have more than one perspective. This is real life though not fiction, so regardless it is a story worth telling. Inspiring stuff.


Oral-B Pro CrossAction 600 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Oral-B Pro CrossAction 600 Power Rechargeable Electric Toothbrush - Pink
Price: £25.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent toothbrush - as recommended by the dentist, 16 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Was recommended this type of brush (spinning head) and Oral B in particular, by my dental hygienist at a recent visit for gum problems. Have been using it for a week and it has really impressed me. Using as directed by the hygienist - holding the brush against the tooth (not brushing) with the brush angled towards the gum line, it gives comfortable and efficient cleaning. The angled bristles really seem to get into the nooks and crannies. Charge holds well too. I have charged it once seven days ago (initial charge takes nearly 24 hours) and it is still operating fully after a week of brushing 2 x 2 mins per day.

I downloaded the app and was confused by the connectivity to start with. The app says to press the bluetooth button but there is none on this brush. It can connect to the app by sound, with the 2 minute timer on the app starting when it hears the brush going. On my phone it kept stopping and starting so is no use. Easier just to press start and stop on the app. The app is a bit of a gimmick but works well and because the timer is split into quarters you can concentrate on spending 30 seconds on each quadrant of the mouth, as recommended by the dentist. You get some cheesy "keep going" and "well done" encouragement, and it delivers your diary messages, news headlines and the weather while you brush, which is quite good. It records your stats and probably gives you badges and stuff like most of these things but i don't think i'll keep taking my phone to the bathroom!!

Overall this is an excellent brush that keeps your teeth really clean and your gums healthy. Everyone should have one - mush more effective than manual brushing. Also much better than the sonicare one that I had prior to this.


Igenix DF0006 2-Speed Portable Clip Fan 15 W - White
Igenix DF0006 2-Speed Portable Clip Fan 15 W - White
Price: £15.53

5.0 out of 5 stars Compact and cooling, 4 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Good size and effective fan. Not too noisy. Easy to assemble from the box - needed just one screw to attach the base clip to the fan. Says it is 6 inch but actually 8 inch if you are measuring the "cage" and then a bot more for the chunky base clip. It is all white so looks fairly smart. The clip is sturdy and strong but needs a decent edge to secure it to - a shelf or table for example. The fan can be rotated up/down/side-to-side to get the right direction. Doesn't swivel itself like a full size desk fan, but then it is a more compact, low cost version. I am sure it will get lots of use on those long hot summer nights (if we get any!!). Lovely and cooling.


Coding for Kids For Dummies
Coding for Kids For Dummies
by Camille McCue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Well written but a shame it requires additional purchase to take learning beyond 35 day trial, 4 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book teaches you how to use the coding language MicroWorlds EX. You get a free trial version to download lasting 35 days / 90 saves-allowed. There is a "deep discount" of 70% on the full version saving around $70, meaning that the full version would be around $30.
I had not heard of MicroWorlds EX. My daughter has heard of Scratch, which which it is compared and she seems to get on OK with that (which is free and pretty intuitive). My daughter is 8, i.e. a kid. This is called Coding for Kids and I think it is too tricky for her to read and learn from, at least by herself. Having not done any coding/programming myself since the days of visual basic and O'levels many years ago I thought I'd give it a go myself.
The book is set out in a series of projects over 5 weeks. 3 projects a week. Each would take around 2 hours if you really play around with them. Before the projects, the introduction / getting started section explains the basics - downloading and starting the software, what the main commands and spaces do. Most of the jargon gets explained although I was baffled by talk of turtles initially!

First project is creating an "Art Toy" programming in various command buttons to generate pretty and colourful spirograph patterns. I found the basic "primitive" commands easy to learn and recall and was soon putting them together in procedures. The end result was fun and pretty satisfying so I am encouraged to keep on with it. I like how it lets you make your own choices right from the start to encourage experimentation and creativity.

I always find the For Dummies books really well set out and this is no exception. Boxes provide, tips and explanations to help you really understand the subject, There is also, as usual, additional content on the Dummies website, including a cheat sheet and a bonus project. Once I understand it better myself I will work through it again with my daughter. It seems to be not as easy as Scratch (although I've only briefly played with that), which I think is good because you have to understand and remember more. It is just a real shame that the coding language used in the book is not free or included with the purchase of the book. I may well decide that it is not worth purchasing the full version meaning the book is wasted once the trial is expired.


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