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Transcend 4GB SD Card
Transcend 4GB SD Card

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works in Canon IXUS camera, 15 May 2008
Good price, arrived safely packed within 2 days and worked first time in both a Canon IXUS 850 IS digital camera and Dell Inspiron 531 SD card reader.

Navman N40i Portable Car Navigation System With UK Mapping
Navman N40i Portable Car Navigation System With UK Mapping

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Older Product so lower your expectations, 14 May 2008
The Good News:
Reasonable price, preloaded UK and Ireland maps, one touch buttons for parking and fuel, wall charger included, speed camera alerts AND European maps on CDROM.

The Bad News:
Navman's support desk confirmed via email that the N40i is an "older device".

Included software to load CDROM European maps is SmartST 2006 SE which is not Windows Vista compatible (or Apple Mac for that matter) and there is no upgrade path.

The maps themselves are getting old, being dated as 2006 editions which likely means they are mostly based on even older mapping data.

You cannot purchase a map for North America.

The unit gets confused at low speed in city driving - seems not to know exactly what side of the road you are on so any instruction to turn sends you in the wrong direction. The 'back on track' is sluggish in this situation so you can expect a little to-ing and fro-ing before it locks onto the correct route.

It has occasionally taken a few minutes to find the GPS signal.

The speed camera alert picks up not only installations on the other side of the road - ie, facing away from you - but sometimes on nearby roads!!

The in-built camera is a gimmick.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for SOHO, not so for photo, 11 May 2008
If you regularly print work stuff at home, want to set up a home office, or are involved in a sports club or your kids school and need a work horse printer, fax and scanner this is a great unit. In particular, it will print duplex - both sides of the paper - which not only saves you money, but looks very professional.

It will scan multiple pages via a document feeder on the top, which is great if you need to quickly copy a pile of pages. And there is some included software which scans direct to your PC (and can create a PDF of the images which is a useful feature) though my copy was a hassle to install onto Windows Vista (no problem with XP). Got there eventually, but more messy than it should have been (and Canon's web site as of a couple of months ago when I did this indicated Vista was not a supported O/S for the extra apps at all).

The printer spits out pages fast enough in draft or normal quality mode, but is slow in the highest quality mode. I generally only use normal quality and it's OK for handouts and the like. Strangely, with some paper combinations such as glossy brochure paper you can't then use the highest quality mode. A puzzling omission but it's common to Canon inkjets as I've had the same issue with two other units in the recent past.

It uses 5 seperate ink cartridges which means you only buy what you use when you use it and they seem to last a reasonable while when doing normal "home" printing. Ink cartidges are about 12 in a High Street retailer, a little cheaper online. But beware - Canon embeds a chip in the ink cartridges and 'compatible' ink requires that you dislodge the original ink chip and embed it on the compatible ink cartridge. Easier said than done and sadly not worth the angst - or damage - for the saved.

The fax machine is fast and simple to use. I've done local and overseas faxes with no problem. One niggle is that it does not retain details like fax number and current date when the power goes off. Another niggle is that it insists on printing a 'failed transmission' report which takes up a sheet of A4 and I cannot find how to disable this feature.

The real downside is if you want to print digital photos, it is less than ideal as the colour reproduction is hard to get right (and that means trial and error and that means expense). I've tried paper from all the leading manufacturers and it's just not a good printer for photos. (It seems to be a problem with either the Canon software or their print hardware as this is the third in this family that I've owned that really fails the grade printing photos.)

But my biggest gripe was the lack of included USB cable. It's not like it will work as a PC printer/scanner/fax without don't expect one in the box (though there are telephone cables for pretty much every country under the sun and a few you've never heard of) because Canon don't think it worthwhile including.

Summary is that it's a great unit for lower volume professional use, but don't buy it if you are planning to print off heaps of digital photos.

Apple iPod classic 80GB silver
Apple iPod classic 80GB silver

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars iPod Great, iTunes a shambles, 30 April 2008
Unfortunately, given Apple's twinning of iPod with iTunes, it's virtually impossible to review an iPod without being dragged into reviewing iTunes. That's a shame, because the 80Gb iPod Classic is great. There were only a few disappointments with it:

1) the disk drive makes it much heavier than I expected;
2) the screen is too glary;
3) the price does not include a cover or charger.

Still, it's got scads of space, the battery life is good (don't get stung buying a power adaptor in an Apple store though...I needed one last minute so could not use Amazon. A hefty 19 later, I'm feeling both well equipped to travel, but slightly ripped off for paying retail) and it feels robust. Not sure how the gloss finish will hold up though.

That's the good news...

The bad news is iTunes. Think clunky user interface, unfamiliar - and not that obvious really - icons, lack of feedback on what it's doing (try importing an AVI file and just ignores error, no warning, no suggestion it's a bad idea or that it will give iTunes indigestion...just nothing), etc etc...

The worse news is the iTunes UK Store. Apple flog the iPod Classic on the back of video capability, but then let you down with their meagre selection of **EXPENSIVE** TV shows that you probably don't want to watch anyway. Where are the movies guys?? Why can't I buy from the US iTunes Store?? And did I mention that the content is so amazingly expensive??

Anyway, a better bet is to source your own content - perhaps from Graboid - and use a tool like the Jodix Free iPod Video Converter to make the MP4 files. Then you can actually use the iPod Classic to good effect...watching movies.

The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
by Peter F. Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Hamilton...but buy it and keep it in storage until the others are published, 18 Feb 2008
Having been caught out by 'The Reality Dysfunction', I was expecting a book that left everything hanging. And I was not disappointed. The good news is that there are two more books to come...and the also good news is that I'll read 'The Dreaming Void' again when I buy each of them because otherwise who can remember everything that's going on otherwise.

Now, is it any good? Yes, if you like your SciFi layered with gizmos, gadgets and high-tech humans. Plus you get a large cast, heaps of planets described in gory detail and a plot that looks like its going somewhere.

So, buy it but if you can't cope with a novel that literally just stops and leaves everything hanging until the next installment, then put it away and don't read on until you have collected all three!!

by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Full of details but perhaps not much plot, 18 Feb 2008
This review is from: Matter (Hardcover)
I have always enjoyed Banks' Culture novels. But maybe I suffer a short attention span because even with Banks' descriptive prowess I found it hard to fathom the emotions of aliens of awesome power who basically act like a bunch of teenagers playing silly pranks on each other.

Though could that be the point of the book - that we're all in the Universe together and Human, Alien or Sublimed, way down deep we feel the same needs and aspirations? Possibly...but sadly I was not sure what the point of the book was.

Because, for all that 'Matter' is nice and thick, it seemed stuffed full of details for the sake of it rather than because they really mattered to anything.

Don't get me wrong, Banks is good at details. But after a while I found myself skip reading to get back to what was actually going on, rather than fully taking in the minutiae of how the likes of the Cumuloform called Expanded Version Five; Zourd drifted into the lee of the two-kilometre-wide Vaw-yei Tower and started elongating itself...yada yada yada. Still, I dutifully read on, searching for any sign of the master who gave us the most richly engaging 'The Algebraist'.

And then the novel just...ended!! Seriously. That's my view of course and your reading experience my differ, but it felt like the final curtain dropped way too abruptly considering the detail stuffed into the preceeding 500-odd pages. So I turn the page expecting some closure - esp. as it was obvious it not the actual last page in the book - and hit a 17-page Appendix. After that there is a short Epilogue that kind of closes out the book, but only 'kind of' in my mind.

I'm not going to stop buying Banks because of one slightly less than masterful effort and I don't think anyone else should either. But I will keep my fingers crossed that his next book - whenever that may be - delivers what has been his trademark style...scads of detail **and** a plot worth writing home about.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2008 2:43 PM GMT

No Title Available

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unless you are dexterous, don't go with compatibles, 6 Feb 2008
It was totally my fault - I missed the part that said 'compatible' when I ordered some replacement inks for my Canon MP530. Big mistake!! The chips on the original Canon ink cartridges are clearly not meant to be taken off and reused. Or perhaps I just don't have sufficient circus blood in my veins because I ended up with a mess that luckily did not drip onto the carpet. And luckily enough washed off my fingers such that I passed muster at the customer for whom I was trying to print some pages for.

My advice is to spend the few extra on orginal inks because Canon have no interest in making your life easier - and cheaper - by supplying 'quick swap' chips.

Linksys by Cisco WRT54GC Compact Wireless-G Broadband Router
Linksys by Cisco WRT54GC Compact Wireless-G Broadband Router

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap, cheerful and very, very good, 2 Nov 2007
I have used Linksys' larger WRT54GS Wireless Router very happily for years so when I found myself needing WiFi in an apartment during a work assignment this compact - and cheap - router was an obvious choice.

And it worked a treat.

Physically I connected the Linksys to the ADSL modem's Ethernet port using the supplied cable. NOTE: the router does not have an inbuilt ADSL port so it's no good if you are expecting to just plug it directly into the telephone line.

The second supplied Ethernet cable connected to my laptop to do the initial configuration, which is easy enough assuming that you have some basic TCP/IP and WiFi knowledge. You don't get any printed manuals, they are all PDF but that's pretty much standard practice these days (and better on the environment obviously).

Config is all done via a very straightforward browser interface and you should be online within 10 minutes. It supports encryption on the WiFi link and I recommend that you use this. You can also lock down at the MAC address level, and I recommend that you do this as well. Plus, the DHCP server can be limited in how many clients it releases, and guess what, I recommend that you set that up as well. And it sounds obvious, but change the default internal IP address and Admin password - otherwise it's just too easy for a war chalker to slip in unwanted and undetected. But with these types of limits in place your WiFi should be nicely secured against snooping and there is no obvious impact on the routers performance.

In terms of speed, most WiFi routers are used to go to the Internet so you are limited by the ADSL/Cable speed, not the router. I found things no different...I had 802.11g to the router, then a more mundane 1.5 Mbps down the wire. At one point I had three laptops running WiFi at the same time and the Linksys handled them all with no obvious performance issue.

My fairly spacious apartment had the router in the main bedroom and easily provided full signal at the dining room table, which was two walls away (to be fair, those walls were plasterboard, not brick or concrete). Occasionally I would Skype video-call friends and walk around the apartment to show them my humble abode, and the signal was faultless no matter where I walked. In terms of the distance I'm talking, think line of sight of less than 50 feet.

However, at home with double brick, concrete rendered walls and two stories to contend with this router was not so punchy. Out of interest I put the router upstairs and the laptop downstairs, and unlike the twin antenna WRT54GS signal strength was nonexistant. Not that I'm really complaining about that - it's clearly not intended to drive WiFi furthest or fastest. So while I would not suggest this router if you have a large house and plan to roam around, if you live in a smaller apartment or your PC is close to the router you should not have any issues.

Indeed, I like this router so much so that I'm buying another one for my apartment in London.

Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium Edition (Upgrade) (PC)
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium Edition (Upgrade) (PC)
Offered by Convey Solutions
Price: 103.11

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Typical Microsoft - Version 1 is a shambles so wait for Version 2...or perhaps 3, 8 Oct 2007
Vista came preloaded with an Acer PC I purchased so I had no choice in my purchase...if I had, I'd have stuck with XP SP2.

Why? Because Vista is a shambles. I could forgive that somewhat, but it's also woefully SLOW. And that's a cardinal sin in this day and age.

The number of annoyances rank from just painful to bemused "why didn't they notice this" annoyances in no particular order:

* I created a user for my daughter as a standard login (ie, not an administrator user) thinking that the Parental Control would be useful. But turning on Parental Control clobbered a heap of underlying apps, include the CA Security Centre control panel (is the firewall still running, who can tell), my Internet modem and some of the Acer tools related to performance and security. So as it stands, Vista's Parental Control is a great idea that's useless.

* After downloading Adobe Reader 8 I double clicked to install it. Vista asked whether I wanted to execute the software, 'yes' I do...nothing happens. So I try again and get an error from Adobe telling me a copy of the installer is already running (and it creates a text file to that effect, not sure why). But running where? Look at Task Manager and sure enough, there is an instance of the installer as a process. Now Acrobat Reader 8 is **supposed** to work with Vista. And after some fussing around I found a way to run the .exe in Compatability mode with Windows XP SP 2. It then worked...but that was just luck and years of computing experience to even think of looking. It should have worked right off, not made me poke around trying things.

* My Vodafone GSM USB modem was hard to get working on XP (and that's worth another review in its own right) but once it was working on XP it survived reboots. I have had no end of trouble keeping the modem working between restarts. And if the modem is plugged in when I cold start then the PC just stops booting about half the time. (Which prompts a thought that it **could** be that it's trying to boot off the modem as it appears to be a CDROM drive...if so, that's a tough problem to fix.) Still, what should be a plug and play device is a beast to tame and still causing issues, especially if you log off and log in as another user. Very tedious indeed.

* As an administrator I can't see other users directories...and then I can. This is ultra strange as on one login session I could see my daughters user files, but not my wifes. A reboot later and it's the other way around. And one time I could see all my daughters files except her 'Documents' directory. No idea why this would be, but it was.

* Users who upgrade to Vista would have made a backup in XP and want to extract files from it. I have Vista Home Premium and it does not include a restore app that understands the XP format (and we're talking Microsoft's own software here, not some third party app). You **can** do a restore from XP files but you need to download -- from the Microsoft site no less -- a restore app **and** enable a service (can't recall it's exact name) to make it all hang together. Go figure...

* Vista stops...takes a big, big breath for 30-40 seconds...then starts again. The mouse pointer still moves, but everything else is frozen. And I'm not kidding, it really is tens of seconds. It's done it half a dozen times now in just a few days for no obvious reason and with no obvious trigger and it drives me crazy!! The first couple of times I did a hard power off because I thought it had died. Now I wait it out and it comes back in its own sweet time. Perhaps it's a distributed process calculating the current interest payment on the Microsoft Corporate Account or something but I wish it didn't go bye bye like that.

* A real bugbear is that my Acer did not include any OEM CDROM or DVD with Vista on it so I can't even try a reinstall to tweak the system. I think that's a real con for all sorts of reasons but it's a trend apparently. Of course, Acer have helped out by giving me two DVDs labelled 'Blank recovery DVD'. I kid you not :-)

These are just a few of the quirks that have made coming to Vista really painful and I shudder to think how a new-to-Windows user would cope with it all, especially as it's being loaded on so many new PCs. But I also recall similar issues with XP when it was first released, so I guess it's just computing deja vu.

Now we could get into an esoteric discussion about the real flaw of Vista - it's user interface. I'll just state that I HATE the default theme. It's 100% lipstick on the pig IMHO and just sucks big time. Ugly, clunky, slow, unnecessary, fussy...put your own adjectives here.

In particular, Windows Explorer is rank!! I can't properly describe how it tries to show you the directory structure as a set of discrete names, but it's all so confusing because underneath it still has C:\ etc etc. Which it tries to hide, until you have to scratch a little and then it exposes it. God knows what a newbie will make of how directories work because I'm having trouble discerning why/when/how it decides a transitions from one to the other.

Microsoft et al will fix compatability issues; they will tweak the performance; they will bundle in a few more apps to keep us punters happy...but Microsoft aint Apple and their user design team just don't seem to get it.

Basically, it's really hard work and you fight a very confused and very cluttered screen real estate. If the main criteria for a new release is that it should be easier to use than the last one then Microsoft has completely failed. (I know, the main criteria is that Microsoft needs another O/S release to feed the retail cash cow but I did preface this with 'if...')

So, my summary - Vista is horrible. And did I mention it's slow?? But like death and taxes it's pretty much unavoidable given that every new PC from volume retailers has it preloaded. It is a real pity because Microsoft missed the chance to make something worthwhile.

Acer L100 Small Form Factor AMD Sempron 3500 160GB 1024MB DDR DVDRW Keyboard, Mouse MS Works Vista Home Premium Acer 19" Wide TFT Monitor
Acer L100 Small Form Factor AMD Sempron 3500 160GB 1024MB DDR DVDRW Keyboard, Mouse MS Works Vista Home Premium Acer 19" Wide TFT Monitor

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great value but let down by Vista, 5 Oct 2007
I'll do the highlights first...

Pro - Tiny PC, great styling, easy to get going, pretty much everything you need is included, fantastic value.

Con - Windows Vista, it's still noiser than your average hi-fi components, 19" 'widescreen' LCD needs Viagra to extend its vertical size.

So, on to the detail...

It is amazing what can be packed in a box - in this case I'm talking about the actual packaging that arrived at my door 4 days before Amazon's expected delivery date (and in the middle of **another** UK mail strike to boot). Acer has managed to pack the PC, LCD, keyboard, mouse, speakers, power pack and assorted CDs and manuals into a box about the size that your average VCR might arrive in. It's neat and clean and very professional looking.

Physically setting the unit up is a breeze for anyone who has seen the back of a PC before. And if you haven't but can figure things out with a bit of trial and error then the one-page install diagram should be sufficient. Basically, this is as no-brainer a PC installation as you can get.

The PC itself is like a wannbe laptop - think about the size of your typical leather-bound Bible and you get the idea. It really is as cute as Acer make out and won't embarrass you if you do decide to set it up in your family room.

However, it's obvious from the one-page install diagram that for some reason these L100's are not fully kitted out with all the interface options. Not that you aren't getting what you paid for, but I at least looked longingly at the S-Video and SPDIF icons and wondered why they are missing (OK, I know the most likely answer - PRICE).

However, one ommission that's harder to understand is WiFi. There **seems** to be a socket for an antenna on teh back immediately under the headphone socket. But the one-page install diagram had nothing connecting to it and I could not find any mention of WiFi in the Windows Devices table, so I'm guessing it's one of those 'too hard to remove at the factory' things that leaves you teased but unsatisfied. Perhap's it is there, but Amazon tend to trumpet such features in the PCs they sell and it's not mentioned so I'm thinking bye-bye integrated WiFi.

The rear of the unit has 4 USB ports packed pretty close to each other. I plugged in the mouse, keyboard, a Logitech headset and a Cruzer memory stick and it all fit. But I have some older memory sticks that are less slimline than the Cruzer and they won't fit in at all.

The Ethernet port is on the back along with a DVI port, the VGA port and microphone/speaker jack. Oh yeah, and the power plug point as well. That's a barrel connector with the actual transformer as a seperate unit just like a laptop (and no kidding, the plug pack is **almost** as big as the PC itself).

The front has another two USB ports hidden behind a sleek cover. The cover also hides another microphone/speaker jack, SD card reader and what looks like a FireWire port. The DVD slot is nice in that it does not pop out a tray - it's more like ones in cars where you push the DVD in a bit and it's neatly sucked in the rest of the way. Very child friendly indeed.

Now I get to something of a let down - though I fully admit I am being very fussy with this expectation - being the included 19" widescreen LCD panel. I already have a 19" panel that is not widescreen and the Acer panel **is** wider, no doubt about that. But it is also about 2" smaller in the vertical screen size. So it looks a bit squeezed. Anyway, it performs well, is visually fantastic and for the price it's still a bargain, so don't be put off. Just don't expect to throw out your old TV and use the LCD unless you are planning on viewing things in a smallish room.

So, I managed to get the box unpacked, connected and turned on in under 30 minutes without any sparks or smoke. Then I encountered Vista. It's my first play with Microsoft's newest operating system and I have to say, it seems full of gratuitious frills when compared to XP. And either the Acer is slow...or Vista is slow. I **think** it's Vista because with that AMD chip and 1GB of RAM the Acer sure looks good on spec. Plus, in use Vista seems to lag way behind the mouse clicks. Example, I downloaded Skype and clicked the 'Run' button on the IE download dialogue box. Nothing seemed to happen - though I did notice a fancy green slider moving across the top of the dialogue box - so I clicked it again. Result...two instances of the Skype installer asking me to proceed. It's been a common enough occurance with all types of windows that I'm thinking maybe Vista harks back to the hippy culture of the 60's when you could take your time Man, 'cause like, what's the rush?? I don't want to diss on Vista but I find it visually clunky and way too clever for its own good. Oh yeah, expect to go have dinner while all the Windows updates are downloaded and installed the first time around (and that's not Vista's pulled down about 120 Mbytes of updates spread across 37 programs and they take a while to install).

Apart from that, there is some included software that's likely to annoy more experienced PC users than not (and Amazon is on the iffy side of disclosure in the product details on some of this). For example, you get a 90-day trial of Norton, even though Amazon clearly states "Additional Software: Norton AntiVirus 2006". No mention of trial versions. You also get a trial copy of Microsoft Office, though it looks like a student version. Neither of those is a killer (well maybe Norton's is), but it's nice to know in advance what you're going to have to bolt on and what really comes with the price. There was a trial version of eSobi which is a very fancy search engine. Being old school Google I removed it post haste.

I also removed the trial version of Norton and installed CAs Security Centre. I can't claim it's better or worse than Norton, but having used the CA product for years I am familiar enough with it to get a new PC secured in short order.

Apart from that I installed my Freecom TV tuner, the latest Windows Media Player, Mozilla Firefox, QuickTime, Shockwave and other sundry apps over a period of about four hours.

As an aside, the hard drive is set up as two logical drives; each of them are about 70 Gbytes each and one is labelled 'DATA' so there is no mistaking what you are supposed to load up on that baby. The drive itself is probably the noisiest single part of the system - sit close and you can hear it clicking and whirring away.

Indeed, in terms of a much vaunted feature - that 28 db noise figure - the L100 is still a PC and it has fans. Two of them in fact that I can see. And they are the kind that spin faster as the PC does more work, which I find a bit annoying to be honest. It is not going to bother you if you are using this just as a PC, as it really is much quieter than your average box (but not as quiet as most laptops). But it might bother you if you install this in the bedroom for watching DVDs and TV (with an additional USB tuner of course) unless your tastes run to James Bond and Jason Bourne-style flicks where it's wall to wall sound. And in that case, the supplied speakers won't float your boat. Full kudos to Acer for putting them in because they will get you going out-of-the-box and are perfect for straightforward PC work. But if you are planning on the L100 being the centrepeice of your audio-visual world you will be shelling out for a serious set of speakers (and if you are that way inclined, you clearly won't mind spending the extra pounds).

In summary, the L100 is a great PC at a very good price that sits comfortably on the coffee table or desktop. I recommend it as a great first PC because all the hardware comes in one box...though you'll still have to shell out extra pounds when the trial software comes to an end. I don't recommend it for anyone who wants to open the lid and pack more things inside. Basically, there just aint the room!

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