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Richard Hammond (Oxford, UK)

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Cook Smart Nice & Spicy (Weight Watchers)
Cook Smart Nice & Spicy (Weight Watchers)
Price: £11.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Loads to like here, 25 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Easy to use, filling, and lots of recipes with maximum taste. Even my partner, who is skinny and eats like a horse (yeah, I know!) enjoys them. All the recipes are very straightforward, and there is rarely an ingredient involved that will have you stumped at Tesco. It's become good fun to cook from this book - we've had great curries, tasty kebabs and all sorts. Essential buy for anyone using WW principles in their eating.

A Night to Remember
A Night to Remember
by Walter Lord
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot on, 23 May 2012
This review is from: A Night to Remember (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Absolutely brilliant reading of this meticulously researched account of the most famous sinking in history. Martin Jarvis pitches the production just right and gets the reading spot on (it's also his own production company that recorded the reading, they're obviously well-versed in bringing out the best in his mellifluous voice).

'Meticulous' is the key word here - Lord's research is all about pulling out every minute detail, it's a level of detail that brings to life the people aboard Titanic in a way that makes the story all the more engaging: this isn't cold history, its the story of a group of real people. The night plays out in human scale and through real people in extreme circumstances.

As a companion to a long drive, it was incredibly powerful - the motorway, blurring past while our thoughts were lost in mid-Atlantic. Really rather affecting.

How to be Great at the Stuff You Hate: The Straight-Talking Guide to Networking, Persuading and Selling
How to be Great at the Stuff You Hate: The Straight-Talking Guide to Networking, Persuading and Selling
by Nick Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hits the nail right on the head., 22 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an absolute cracker: other reviewers who suggest Nick Davies himself is a bit of a Marmite character have it right but the advice is so good, so sharp, so motivating that you won't care if he irritates you or not. That's an astonishing trick when you think about it: lots of 4/5 star reviews that include lines about how annoying they found the author? In itself it proves that his no-nonsense approach is effective.

I run a retail consultancy, my livelihood depends to a significant extent on networking and making clear, relevant small pitches. It's that 'talking with a purpose' that I hate - nobody wants to appear slick and salesy and yet, if you believe in what you do, then it's absolutely vital that you help as many people as possible to buy from you. This book has had a hugely positive impact on my ability to network and actively sell, without the shiny suit-feeling. It treats you like a normal person, accepts your worries and helps you find ways to get past them without patronising or talking down.

As for Davies' character? He does blather on about being tall and Mancunian a bit but I reckon he'd be great company on a night out. He certainly was for the duration of this book.

Collins Livemocha Active German (Collins Active/Livemocha)
Collins Livemocha Active German (Collins Active/Livemocha)

4.0 out of 5 stars novel and helpful, 17 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My daughter is studying German at University and has spent the last eight months living there - I wanted to find a language course that would at least make it possible for me to attempt some basic conversations when visiting her. Like being able to thank the German family she lives with, to do some of the ordering in restaurants - that sort of thing. The Livemocha approach has made that possible in a way that is novel and fun.

You work with online resources, have access to native German speakers and get to practice and test in ways that keep it interesting. I'm not a fan of the fee-based components but have to concede that what you get is worth it.

Like any language course, you do have to work at it, be patient and practice but this package makes those things relatively easy and tedium-free.

It's the People!: What Really Drives Great Management and Leadership
It's the People!: What Really Drives Great Management and Leadership
by John Dembitz
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A rite-of-passage book, 10 May 2012
This is a rite-of-passage book, it's for anyone who expects to be involved in building and leading teams at some point in their career. I really do wish I'd read it at 19 when I had to recruit my first team-member - it would have made me a better interviewer, a better manager and a more focused leader.

And, of course, the best managers never stop learning, which means that experienced, senior managers will also find that an investment of their limited time in reading 'It's The People' will pay off. It's full of timely reminders of the value of youth, fresh ideas and practical leadership - I've been managing people for 24 years and I've definitely benefited from this refreshment of my views on management.

What's remarkable is that the power of the book isn't really taken from new ideas, though experienced managers will find lots of good ideas they weren't aware of, it's from an incredibly practical, useful and accessible telling of the fundamental stories of management.

Dembitz mentions that he was a pupil of Charles Handy at the LSE and it shows in his championing of the value of young people, his cutting through the jargon and double speak, and in his 'apply this now' practical application.

That point about youth is important: John Dembitz is, I think he would admit, in the golden senior stage of his business career, and he isn't saying 'throw out the oldies and let the youngsters have a go', no he's saying something more subtle and important - new graduates and young workers have an intrinsic value in their freshness, world-view, lack of cynisism and lack of exposure to 'the way things are done'. Therefore, Dembitz, suggests, senior managers must attract, nurture and look after those people rather than exploit their youth and relative lack of experience through low-pay, long hours, unfair internships and hierarchical structures.

My eldest daughter is 21 and will graduate in just over a year - I hope she then goes on to work for somebody like John Dembitz. It will mean she is at a company that values people, that is successful and that is a fun, balanced, place to work. This book shows managers how to build just such a place and it should be on your shelf as a result.

Digihome LCD42913FHD3D 42-inch Widescreen Full HD LCD 3D TV
Digihome LCD42913FHD3D 42-inch Widescreen Full HD LCD 3D TV

57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars £350 is cheap but is it worth the saving?, 30 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This has been set-up at home for a week now and I would love to say lots of nice things about it and to praise it's price and performance. But that's a pretty tough thing to achieve in this case, while the price is low there might be better options because the performance here matches that low price point.

So low is the picture quality that I would strongly recommend either going for a smaller screen or doing without the 3D option and buying an alternative TV set. Or if both those are absolute essentials for you then, if at all possible, stretch the budget a bit towards one of the entry-level LG options. You won't regret that bit of extra saving up. Bear in mind too that this set is a band C for power consumption, most LED alternatives will be either B or even A. That can certainly add-up: compared, for example, with LG's 2011 42" 3D TVs the Digihome is about a tenner more expensive to run each year, over it's lifetime that could be significant.

So why the recommendation to look elsewhere? Performance, simple as that: while this is indeed a big 42" HD TV with lots of connectivity and built-in Freeview (SD version), the picture quality is poor. It's not unwatchable but it's not comfortable viewing either. The conventionally-lit LCD screen is obviously a low-grade component - it's colour-control is actually okay but contrast and detail are horrible. Ghosting from movement is appalling. We tested the set with standard definition Freeview, upscaled DVD, high-definition Blu-Ray and 3D Blu-Ray and got the following results (after adjusting settings to try for better quality), in order:
- Over-saturated, full of digital artefacts, loads of noise and awful contrast
- Better colour, but still with very poor contrast and very muddy overall and horrendous ghosting
- HD Blu-Ray was better and is certainly watchable, the poor contrast still renders some scenes indistinct (especially those darker, moody scenes in big movies) and the ghosting is ever-present but you'd sit and watch a movie happily for an evening
- 3D Blu-Ray is a total mess. Worse than useless - the panel simply cannot keep up and leaves you feeling confused and seasick. I'm a fan of 3D TV but this is unwatchable. Oh and the glasses are terrible - impossible to use over prescription glasses, for example.

In terms of other details: as I mentioned, there are loads of inputs available including USB for external media which works fine; sound is surprisingly okay, much better than the picture it accompanies; cabinet design is a bit chunky and basic but nowhere near as bad as OEM kit often is; and the remote control is quite attractive.

I said at the start of the review that I wanted to be able to say nice things about the TV - and that's true, I did. There's a lot to be said for pitching a model with upscale features at a truly affordable price-point. I was hoping therefore that the Digihome would deliver perhaps a basic but watchable result. It doesn't really.

If your only option is to spend £350, then you are much better off dropping the 3D and going down a screen-size such that the cheaper LGs and Samsung models edge into your price range. The screen might be smaller but you'll enjoy looking at it much, much more.

I want to make it clear that my expectation for this set was balanced for it's low price-point. Our current main TV was pricey and I demanded high performance for that spend. I've got plenty of kit in the house though that is cheap and effective. This TV is just cheap - customers can do better.

If you are thinking that this is a TV you'd like to buy, watch out for price fluctuations: Amazon appear to bounce it around between £280 and £350. At that £280 price-point it's a little harder to ignore but even so, there are now a flood of relatively cheap plasma TVs from Samsung and LG that aren't that far off. Best of luck.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2012 4:06 PM BST

Playstation Vita Officially Licensed Clean 'n' Protect Pouch - Blue (PlayStation Vita)
Playstation Vita Officially Licensed Clean 'n' Protect Pouch - Blue (PlayStation Vita)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fine, 23 April 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In as much as it's possible to really see the Vita as portable, then you're going to want to protect it's stunning-though-vulnerable screen and it's sticky-out analogue sticks. Most of the covers I've seen leave you with a package that is like carrying a tall man's shoe. Of all the options this is the one that appears to give the best combination of protection versus bulk. The inside material is supposed to help in removing finger-prints too, it sometimes works but it's no disappointment when it doesn't. The cover feels well-made and the PSVita logo lends a nice 'official' seal on the package.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2012 7:53 PM BST

Belkin Universal 4 Port HDTV Wireless Link
Belkin Universal 4 Port HDTV Wireless Link
Offered by BESTBUYIT
Price: £59.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy and works, 23 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Our use-case is a slightly odd one and so it's worth describing that before I move on to the review: we live in a four-story town house and our main router on the first-floor is only able to broadcast a fraction of the signal down to the ground-floor. It's an Apple Time Capsule and is pumping out around 25Mb to the upper floors but only around 1Mb to the floor below it. We've therefore hooked up an extender in a spot where it's able to pick up the TC's signal and pass on something acceptable, in this case 10Mb. We've found that laptops and smartphones on the ground-floor are happy with this but the Airport Express feeding our SmartTV plus our PS3 and Xbox 360's own wireless receivers struggle to pull in the 10Mb.

So, the hope was that the Belkin might make a difference. And it has. It's feeding the consoles and TV with a much greater bandwidth. Sky's on-demand and live services on the 360 have gone from a buffering mess to a much less frustrating experience. Video Unlimited on the PS3 is now happily suggesting it's comfortable with HD streaming. So that's a full set of wins in performance. I'm assuming that it's mostly down to the Belkin being four years younger than the Express and that it's simply a higher quality than the wireless components in the consoles?

The other big question with kit of this sort is set-up: could anybody do it or do you need a degree in computer science? I've found Belkin frustrating in the past so there were some nerves. All misplaced as it turned out - the set-up for this device, to get it operational on our protected wireless network, was incredibly easy. It copes with taking to the network via the extender perfectly well too.

A great bit of kit that has solved a frustrating set of issues for us. Why four stars and not five? Just price - at ninety quid this feels expensive.

BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Miracle (Black/Brown, Organic)
BABYBJÖRN Baby Carrier Miracle (Black/Brown, Organic)
Price: £76.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great BB option, 16 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We also have a Babybjorn Synergy which is so close to the Miracle that I've reproduced my earlier review for that version below. The main differences are in the finish and in the approach to waist and lower-back support. The Synergy is supposed to have the better solution for lower back support but I found the miracle even more comfortable because it's much easier to vary where you allow the carrier's pressure points to be located. I've got a bit of a belly on me, for reference!

This is taken from my review of the Synergy in Mesh finish, it is all applicable to the Miracle.
My eldest was born twenty years ago when carriers were the impossibly-expensive preserve of the well-healed middle-classes. As a result I developed a slightly unhealthy resentment of the whole idea. Our new baby arrived a month or so ago and I thought it was time to challenge my prejudice...

Agonised over choosing the right carrier but the BabyBjorn name came up again and again as well-fitted, adjustable, durable and safe. On their website they have an excellent tool that will help you to choose the right baby carrier for your needs which helped me then narrow-down the choice.

So glad I did, I adore carrying Arthur in it - he loves the close contact, it rarely fails to calm him down when he's agitated and you really do have two hands free. I genuinely feel it has offered me, as a Dad, a bit of closer contact with my baby and for that it's worth gold.

One bit of advice: the instructions are rubbish. It takes a lot to understand at first and the initial process of adjustment is agonisingly frustrating. Once you've gone through the fitting and learnt how to get your baby into the carrier, it's plain sailing - seriously, you can do it in the dark, one-handed and still be easy and safe.

Hugely impressed.

Western Digital Elements Play 1TB Multimedia Drive
Western Digital Elements Play 1TB Multimedia Drive

3.0 out of 5 stars Bit middling, 16 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hmm. Just as media servers and TV-boxes are getting smarter and smarter, this feels like a slightly dumb addition to ones options. It works well, though the remote is temperamental and the on-screen interface looks like it came from a first generation DVD player, but it's quite clunky and doesn't really do very much other than store a lot of files and put them on-screen. We're using it, essentially, as a dumb back-up device. It does okay in that capacity. Underwhelmed would be my key-word.

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