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J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)
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Roseanna (Martin Beck Police Mysteries)
Roseanna (Martin Beck Police Mysteries)
by Maj Sjöwall
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.14

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good writing, but unusually a very poor BBC production, 26 Jan 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was very disappointed with this BBC Radio 4 audio CD. Whilst the storyline is absolutely fine, and the slow pace perfectly ok, the production is poor and even a little strange. For a story set in Sweden, with supposedly Swedish characters, using actors who spoke in what could easily have been a south London accent with not the slightest hint of Swedish accent, meant that there was a complete disconnect between what the listener hears and what the listener is supposed to be thinking. It was annoying and distracting from the very beginning, and that didn't lessen as the story went on. Unfortunately, that destroyed any atmosphere and any feeling in the production. This was then made worse by occasional narrated interludes (as if an actor on stage turned to the audience to tell them what was going on).

The story itself had the potential to be told as a really atmospheric tale, but the good writing was let down badly by the BBC production - most unusual.

I'd recommend reading this yourself, rather than buying this audio production.


Hyundai MS01S Pocket Scan Silber Scanner
Hyundai MS01S Pocket Scan Silber Scanner
Offered by triple_a
Price: £89.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Works well, but struggle to find a use for it, 29 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm surprisingly impressed by this scanner. However, I am struggling to identify when I would use it.

It's long enough to scan an A4 page if you run it top to bottom in portrait orientation. That means it's too long to fit in your pocket, but short enough to go into a briefcase, laptop bag etc. It weighs next to nothing and comes with a pouch to keep it in. It also comes with a couple of batteries, but annoying it does NOT come with a microSD card, which is essential for its use. I bought the Sandisk Ultra 16GB Class 10 Micro SD Card with SD Adapter (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007JTKKOG/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i00) for this purpose, which may be slight overkill, but I plan to use that for other things too.

Getting the thing up and running is easy, once you have a microSD card. Note that you will need a pin too - a naff piece of design means that you need a pin to set the time and format the microSD card. Once that is done, you are ready to start scanning (you're supposed to calibrate the scanner first, but the small manual included didn't mention this so I didn't bother - it still works fine).

Scanning is trivial - press a button to specify JPG or PDF, press a button to specify resolution (high, middle or low), press the scan button, slowly move the scanner over whatever it is you want to scan, then press the scan button again. It's important to remember that the scanning occurs near one edge of the scanner, so do not stop scanning until that bit has passed over the image you want. The trick to getting a good scan is to ensure that whatever you are scanning is flat and does not move - sometimes easier said than done.

The scanned images are stored on the microSD card. Once you're ready to move them onto your computer, use the supplied USB cable to attach the scanner to your computer. It will install a driver if not already there, and then download the images. As easy as that.

Viewing the images on the computer, I really was not expecting the quality to be that great. However, it turns out to be surprisingly good. There's a piece of paper included for calibration, and a cleaning cloth to keep the scanner clean. Both should help keep the scan quality high.

The final bit included is Abbyy FineReader software, which is something I have used previously and uninstalled from my machine. It's OCR software for converting text in image form into actual text. As OCR software goes, it's not bad. I'm not a big fan of it though, as when I used it previously I ended up having to do lots of re-working of converted text. As I type quickly and accurately, it's quicker for me to re-type text than to use OCR software and re-work it afterwards.

So, this piece of kit does work, and it works well. But when am I going to use it? I have a flatbed scanner at home, I have serious scanners at work, and when out and about I use a digital camera or a smartphone for capturing images. Even at work, people often use their smartphones to capture images, with those images not being constrained to the size of an A4 piece of paper (often smartphones are used for capturing what is on whiteboards). So, when would I use this? I have no idea. I talked to a teacher friend about this - she could imagine having one tucked away in a drawer in her classroom, so that she could scan images without having to leave pupils unattended in her classroom. But for me, I struggle to find a use.

Recommended for those who have a use for it. Otherwise, it's a clever piece of kit that may not get much use - I suspect mine will join the small collection of other gadgets that are interesting but not used often.


WD My Book Live Duo Personal Cloud Storage 4TB NAS Drive with RAID Mirroring
WD My Book Live Duo Personal Cloud Storage 4TB NAS Drive with RAID Mirroring

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, after initial setup problems, 26 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This "My Book Live Duo" network drive very nearly got one star from me. Whilst connecting up the hardware was trivial, the setup program failed every time I ran it, with a runtime error. I was just about to give up on the whole thing, when Google found me this link -[...]

After downloading the files referenced on that web page, I managed to complete the setup successfully. Really not a good start from Western Digital, who I have always had good experience of in the past (over many years). Having to restart my PC as part of the install did not give me a good feeling either - having developed many installers myself, I am always dubious when somebody else's installer requires a restart, as it's the minority of cases where it is truly required.

I was not impressed by the Quick Install Guide either - any device that encourages the user to store all his/her data on it should make it abundantly clear how to set up security sensibly. It's not difficult to do, but I would expect the printed install guide to explain that.

Once setup, the initial backup process is very slow. That's not altogether surprising, although quite how slow it was did surprise me. The analysis of the nature of your files is slow and of dubious value - I'm not convinced that it's necessary before the backup starts - more something that should be done on the fly whilst the user is doing other things.

In later use, the backup and streaming processes are pretty good. I have the device set up to backup the entire household's data in encrypted form onto secure shares, with a public share for things that do not need to be secured, including any music, and public photos or video for streaming to our Smart TV or to our smartphones (using the WD Photos and WD 2go applications). Again, it's worth thinking about security when choosing what can be streamed, particularly by remote devices. It's also worth remembering the value of an off-site backup, in case you have a fire or flood. I use external hard-drives that I store at another location for that purpose.

When streaming to our Smart TV, there can be an initial delay, but after that performance is good.

All in all, after the initial setup problems, I'm very pleased with this device. It's a bit of an experiment for me, seeing how much value we get from linking together the various bits of technology we have. So far, it's been a novelty, but also reasonably useful. If this "My Book Live Duo" network drive were to fail, would we replace it? I'm not sure yet. Will have to see how much active use it gets...

Recommended, but with caveats - I had installation problems, and a number of other reviewers report hitting other issues.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2013 4:07 PM GMT


ThermaCare Lower Back Heat Wrap
ThermaCare Lower Back Heat Wrap
Price: £6.00

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Single-use only, but otherwise great, 23 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Slipping on some ice recently, I jarred my back quite badly, doing some soft tissue damage in my lower back. To relax the area to make it more comfortable and to help speed up the recovery, I thought I'd try these ThermaCare HeatWraps.

I'm not keen on something containing so much material being single-use, but otherwise these are great. The amount of warmth generated is just right to relax the muscles and increase the circulation in the area, but without making it too hot. The wrap works perfectly, going around the body and staying in place without being at all constraining. And the warmth stays steady for hours - put one on just after lunch and it stays warm into the evening. The instructions do say not to use them for more than 8 hours in any 24 hour period though, so keep that in mind. There are also restrictions as to who they are safe for - the packet says to consult your doctor before use if you have diabetes, poor circulation, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or are pregnant. That rules out a few people to whom I would otherwise have recommended these. The packet also says to stop use and ask a doctor if after 7 days your pain gets worse or remained unchanged.

Price-wise, these are ok - 8 hours of relief/comfort for between £2 and £3. Amazon do a discount if you subscribe to having these delivered regularly, but note the bit about consulting your doctor if pain has not gotten better in 7 days.

Recommended, but with caveats about who can use them, and for how long. For me, for help recovering from a minor injury, they are great.


Anabox Weekly Pill Organiser - White
Anabox Weekly Pill Organiser - White
Price: £16.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty near perfect for those who need to organise multiple tablets per day, 19 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Anabox 7 Days pill dispenser is an immensely practical device for keeping track of pills for those people who have multiple pills that need to be taken at different times of day. It's useful for yourself, but it's particularly useful if you need to prepare tablets for somebody else, particularly if they are liable to forget whether or not they have taken tablets.

With this dispenser, you can prepare an entire week's worth of tablets, organising them not just by day, but by time of day (marked on the dispenser as morning, noon, evening, night, and "as required"). If the person the tablets are for is ever in any doubt as to whether they have taken their tablets, it is easy to spot just by looking at the compartments for the day. There is even storage space where details of the tablets can be written down.

For practicality, each day`s worth of tablets is in a separate, removable tray. That way, a day can be removed and left somewhere convenient/visible, whilst the tablets for the rest of the week are kept elsewhere. The tray for a day is partitioned up, with a sliding cover so that tablets will not be dropped. It's not impossible to drop tablets (particularly if going for the "as required" section), but it's unlikely under normal circumstances.

In terms of dropping things, the most likely thing to happen is that the entire dispenser is picked up and a few of the trays drop out the front. That's something most of us will only do once, but even if it does happen, the tablets remain in the trays.

I find that the night section is a little small, but otherwise this is pretty near perfect. After the first week, you develop a routine for filling it quickly. I had tried another dispenser before this one, that had one compartment per day, rather than multiple compartments per day. Of the two, this Anabox 7 Days dispenser is much more practical if you have tablets to take at different times of day, particularly if different tablets look alike.

Recommended.


Breville VTP105 Black 4.5 L Slow Cooker
Breville VTP105 Black 4.5 L Slow Cooker
Price: £26.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for us, other than not dishwasher safe, 19 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
R. Beasley has already said pretty much everything that I wanted to say in the review at http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R77S57FC3YRVL/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B003WE9CGO&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

I'll therefore keep this short and sweet. We've also owned a number of slow cookers over the years, and still have another Breville one. We have been very pleased with that one, but needed a second, so thought we'd give this VTP105 model a try. It is "almost" as good as our old one.

For those who haven't used a slow cooker before, they are (for us, at least) the main course equivalent of a bread maker. You do some preparation work, put the result in the machine, and turn it on. We usually do that before going out for the day, or just occasionally just before going to bed. On returning or waking up, the house is full of wonderful cooking smells. There might be a little more work to do, or it might be ready for serving there and then. It is one of those devices that fits into our lifestyle well. Do some preparation, go do something else for several hours, come back and food is pretty much ready. Easy.

Like R. Beasley, my main negative is the fact that this item is not dishwasher safe. Washing up has always been one of my most hated chores, so almost everything we own can go in the dishwasher. Those odd items that can not are an annoyance. The temperature that the outside of the slow cooker reaches is also a bit of a concern, so we are careful where we use it and take care to ensure nothing is too close to it. The seal around the lid isn't that great either - this is the biggest difference between our existing slow cooker and this one. Also, the recipes that come with this one contain errors, but thankfully we already have a couple of cook books dedicated to slow cooker recipes so are not dependent on those supplied.

This may not be the most capable slow cooker on the market, but it suits our needs and is very good value. So, with the caveats about dishwasher safety, the case temperature and the lid, I still recommend this (although I would recommend our old one in preference if it were still made).


CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 (PC)
CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 (PC)
Price: £359.34

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big learning curve for new users, but powerful package, 19 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I spend my working life using a wide range of software, as well as designing/developing/testing new software products. One type of software that I don't make much use of though is graphical design software, usually leaving that side of things to specialists in that area. However, I occasionally have the need to use such software for home use, creating posters, Christmas cards, presentations etc. It's a tricky combination, as I know what I want to do, I expect the software to be able to do what I want, and I expect the software to be intuitive for somebody who (a) doesn't use graphical software often, but (b) isn't big on reading help screens.

So, given my expectations, how does CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 measure up?

Well, the first thing you notice is that the box it comes in contains a proper hard-back manual/guidebook. That's very unusual these days. Call me old-fashioned, but if software is complicated then I like a hard-copy manual rather than (or as well as) hundreds of pages of help screens. The "guidebook" that comes with CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 is excellent. You just need to put some time aside to read it and practice as you go along. The video tutorials that are provided are good too, making it easier to soak up information than just reading help text.

The software installs easily, if slowly (on my multi-processor, 32 bit Vista box at least), and seems reliable in use - it's not crashed on me once. This package is indeed a suite, so a number of applications are installed, for photo editing, vector graphics, website design, etc. Once installed, I don't find the user interface particularly intuitive, but that's true of most graphics packages I have used over the years. The more powerful they are, the less intuitive they become. That's fine if you have the time to spend learning how to use them, but if you are in a hurry to create something the first time you install CorelDRAW then you are likely to be frustrated.

After reading (most of) the guidebook, and some of the help, CorelDRAW does do most of the things I want it to do, although achieving what I want may require using more than one of the applications in the suite. It may be that it can do everything I want, but working out how to do some things takes some time.

CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X6 offers a good range of functionality. For business use, it's very good value. For occasional personal use, it's not obscenely priced, although not cheap either (students will want to look into student discounts, which make a big difference).

Recommended, with the caveat that learning how to use the suite well will take some time if you have not used earlier versions.


Ross Kemp - Back On the Front Line [DVD]
Ross Kemp - Back On the Front Line [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ross Kemp
Price: £4.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ross Kemp's reporting from Afghanistan just gets better and better, 14 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I reviewed the original "Ross Kemp in Afghanistan" back in 2009 - that review can be found at http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RVMLT6KRRGYDS/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0013U4RSM&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=

The original had some flaws, but those were addressed in the sequel "Ross Kemp: Return to Afghanistan" which I reviewed at http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R2O3IWPSZVGSNQ/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

Even with the flaws, the original got 5 stars from me, as it was so good in other ways. By addressing them, the sequel couldn't get anything other than 5 stars again.

So, with this third DVD in the Afghanistan series, how has Ross Kemp done? Actually, he's really brought the whole series together. It's as if he has gone from being a soap actor stepping into reporting for the first time, to a fully-fledged Vietnam-style war journalist. He's still in there with the guys (and girls) on the ground, but he expands out from there to work with US troops and the Afghan National Army, interviews government representatives, and balances things out by interviewing a member of the Taliban, looking at what the long-term will hold, whether ISAF will meet their original objectives, and what that means for the troops, the injured, and the families of those killed. Having watched all three DVD sets in the series, it's fascinating to see how things have changed over time, particularly with the US surge, and the move towards intelligence-gathering, policing and training/supporting the Afghan forces. It's also fascinating to see the differences in how forces from different countries operate - some of the operational things shown being done by non-UK forces just make me shake my head in disbelief, a feeling that Ross Kemp clearly had too.

It's a gripping, interesting, fascinating piece of work. Ross Kemp earned my respect when he filmed the original "Ross Kemp in Afghanistan". Since then, he has got better and better.

I highly recommend all three DVDs, including this one - "Ross Kemp - Back on the Front Line". Another 5 stars, no caveats.


EXTRA LARGE 7 DAY WEEKLY PILL DISPENSER 7 GRIDS
EXTRA LARGE 7 DAY WEEKLY PILL DISPENSER 7 GRIDS
Offered by Motionperformance - Waxacar
Price: £2.59

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good and simple, but not for everybody, 14 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This 7 day tablet holder is really useful, but perhaps not for everybody.

It contains 7 compartments, each labelled with a large letter representing the day of the week (running Sunday to Saturday, rather than Monday to Sunday). The compartments click shut reasonably firmly. I have never had one open accidentally. Opening the compartments is fine for me, but I am fully mobile and do not have shaky hands etc. I can well imagine those with poor grip or co-ordination struggling, the result being that a day's worth of pills end up on the floor. The worst I have managed was launching a really tiny tablet out of the container when opening it - I did this a few times, as it's easily done.

My other main issue with this holder is that an entire day's worth of pills are in one container. That means that if you have pills where some are taken in the morning, some with lunch, some in the afternoon and some in the evening, you have to (a) remember which are which, (b) be able to distinguish them, and (c) be able to fish out just the ones that you want (I tip out the entire lot into my hand and then put the ones for later back in the container again). If you have a poor memory, lack of dexterity, poor eyesight, or simply tablets that cannot be held together, then this container may not be for you. I do not fall into any of those categories, but when I had multiple tablets to take per day for a short period recently, even I decided to get a different pill holder, where the pills are divided not just by day, but by time of day, and with a place to keep details of the pills.

So, if you want a simple seven-day pill holder, and have good dexterity, eyesight, memory etc, then this is a really good value holder that may suit you. For many people though, I can imagine a different holder that splits pills by time of day, and gives you somewhere to keep details of the pills, could work better.

Recommended, with caveats.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2014 1:00 PM BST


The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
by Masha Gessen
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: £19.38

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Author's contempt for Putin means cannot be sure of accuracy, 14 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Vladimir Putin is one of the current world leaders whose beliefs, principles and motivation are largely a mystery. I've listened to some other audio books about recent Russian history (and more distant history), but still didn't feel that I had any insight into his thinking. Based on other reviews, I thought I'd give "The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" a try, listening to it on audio CD.

My initial reaction when I started listening to it, was one of how unbalanced it feels. The author does not present an impartial view, but one that conveys the author's dislike and contempt for Putin. This is reflected in Justine Eyre's narration, which seems to ooze contempt for Putin - I don't know whether this is the narrator's own view of him, or simply because the narrator is doing a good job of reflecting the feeling in Masha Gessen's writing. In the UK, where television news coverage has to comply with regulations about balance, this is something we are not used to hearing - it feels more like a US-style attack advert than a balanced piece of reporting. The big problem with that is that it makes the listener wonder about the accuracy of what is being said - if the author allows her personal feelings into the report, does she present history accurately, or only present the bits that back up her own feelings? I don't know.

After the first CD, although I was still irritated by comments about Putin's sneer etc, I became de-sensitised to much of the bias. However, the irritation did not go away, and I found myself hoping that I finish the set of CDs quickly so that I can move on to something else.

The history presented, if accurate, does fill some gaps in my knowledge of Putin. If it is accurate, then we should be paying more attention to what is happening in Russia, what Russian influence on other countries may result in, and how much interest our police and security forces should have in Russian personnel in the UK. Certainly, the big picture events described do match my memory of the reporting of them on international news channels, so it may well be that Masha Gessen's writing is accurate, in which case the world should definitely be paying more attention.

However, there is still that nagging doubt about whether the bias has been allowed to impact the accuracy. That's a real pity. If the book felt objective, it would be more likely that people would believe the content. I'll be looking for another book about Putin - this one left me thinking that he may be what Masha Gessen describes, but because of the lack of objectivity in her writing, he may not be. Because her writing makes me worry about the accuracy, I found this an unsatisfying book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2013 6:23 PM GMT


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