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J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)
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Ross Kemp - Battle for the Amazon [DVD]
Ross Kemp - Battle for the Amazon [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ross Kemp
Price: £6.25

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of the issues surrounding destruction of the Amazon, 26 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In my 20s and 30s I travelled around various parts of Central and South America, including spending time in the rain forests, including around the Amazon basin. The rain forests are (were?) one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. I still recall climbing up above the canopy and turning through 360 degrees and seeing rain forest from horizon to horizon in all directions. 25 years after my first visit, I still dream about going back and exploring further, but my heart dreads the thought of getting there and seeing the devastation wreaked by man on the forests in the intervening period. It was therefore with baited breath that I ordered Ross Kemp's "Battle for the Amazon".

Having watched Ross Kemp's various series about Afghanistan and the Israel/Gaza conflict, I had a pretty good idea of how he works - very balanced, trying to interview both moderate and radical elements on both sides of arguments, definitely putting himself in potential harm's way. In "Battle for the Amazon" he does the same again, but this time looking at the damage to the Amazon rain forests and the impact that damage has on the world, but also looking at the people who are doing the damage, and understanding their motivations. He talks to ranchers, native peoples, environmentalists etc, and looks at logging, mining, drugs, prostitution etc. He openly admits to not being an environmentalist, and that perhaps gives him the ability to look at things with such an open, balanced view. Like his other works, this is an interesting investigation - not hugely in depth, but giving a good overview of some of the issues. He doesn't come to any conclusion that IMHO is likely to come to fruition, but short of a pandemic wiping out a large part of the earth's human population I struggle to see an answer either.

"Battle for the Amazon" is a short, but interesting look at the issues, done in the usual Ross Kemp manner.

Recommended.


Ross Kemp: Middle East [DVD]
Ross Kemp: Middle East [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ross Kemp
Price: £5.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, balanced and interesting, with emotion and danger thrown in, 26 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Ross Kemp: Middle East [DVD] (DVD)
After watching all of Ross Kemp's DVDs about Afghanistan and being seriously impressed, I bought this "Ross Kemp Middle East" two-part special about Gaza and Israel.

Through the period that Ross Kemp visited Afghanistan he matured as a presenter/journalist, and the nature of his series changed, providing more in-depth coverage, but also providing balance by presenting information about different viewpoints. In this two-part special about Gaza and Israel he does the same thing - he not only shows what is happening in both locations but meets and interviews people, whether moderate or extreme, from both sides. Given the nature of the situation and some of the people involved, this takes some courage.

As well as providing balanced coverage, which we don't normally see about the Israel/Gaza issue in the west, Ross Kemp also showed aspects of life that we don't normally see, whether the impact on children in Gaza, or how the economy manages to keep going. I found the coverage of the scale of the smuggling required to keep life possible, and the workings of the economy inside Gaza particularly interesting. If it weren't for the smuggling and the gaze of the outside world, I wonder quite what would happen to the people inside Gaza with an economic blockade and incidents such as the recent use of white phosphorous against civilians. It was also refreshing to see some people on both sides saying that they want the division to end and that they want to live peacefully alongside each other.

Ross Kemp and Sky should be praised for showing material that we don't get to see on the (supposedly impartial) terrestrial channels. This two-part special was short, but informative and interesting, with a dose of danger thrown in. Compulsive viewing.

Highly recommended.


The Bone Bed
The Bone Bed
by Patricia Cornwell
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and annoying, 26 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Bone Bed (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am a big fan of audio books, of pretty much all genres. Occasionally, I get one that I have to force myself through, but thankfully those are usually fairly short. Unfortunately, this Patricia Cornwell audio book, "The Bone Bed", is both one that I had to force myself to finish and is quite long. Not a good combination.

Even on disc one, I found both the writing and the narration annoying. It wasn't just poor, it was actually annoying. The writing felt like it was trying to demonstrate the author's knowledge or research, rather than to be something that provides the listener with something to enjoy. This was then made worse by the author's pretentious choice of words - trying too hard to demonstrate her apparently superior knowledge of language, when all it does is to make listening unpleasant (I was about to say hard work, but that's not true - it's just unpleasant).

Whilst the writing did give an easy visualisation of the characters involved, particularly their temperaments, the narration exacerbated the irritating traits (I guess this means the narrator did a good job, or does it?). Unfortunately, if a character is written to be lacking in confidence and making up for it by being loud and obnoxious, then the narration exaggerates the effect of what has been written, every section about or being spoken by the character becomes unpleasant to listen to. Not good.

Sometimes when there is something annoying about the first disc of a multi-disc set, you find over the course of the first couple of discs that you become numbed to the pain and then cope with the rest of the set better. I didn't find that happened with this book.

So, despite Patricia Cornwell's previous successes, this particular audio book is a tedious, irritating listen. Any positive things I can find to say about it are unfortunately outweighed by the negatives. I therefore cannot recommend it. Sometimes when I find myself writing a negative review (on the whole I give more positive reviews than negative) I wonder if it is just me missing something, but given the number of other reviewers giving this 1 star, I am at least consoled by not being a lone voice on this one...


WD My Book Studio 1TB USB 3.0 External Desktop Hard Drive for Mac
WD My Book Studio 1TB USB 3.0 External Desktop Hard Drive for Mac

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Supplied with a 2-pin plug instead of a UK 3-pin plug., 26 Jan. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Being an electrical item being targeted at the UK market (based on being available on the Amazon UK area and not being explicitly described otherwise), I would expect this My Book Studio drive to come with a UK, 3-pin plug. In fact, I believe (I'm not entirely sure) that this may be a legal requirement (see [...]). However, the item as delivered has a European, 2-pin plug. I've sent off a query regarding this as I am not happy having devices that I use regularly only having 2 pins. I may be overly cautious, but then again I do know two people who have been electrocuted in the past...

Once I have a suitable 3-pin plug, I will review this item further. In the meantime, it is gathering dust, hence the 1 star rating. Given the usual quality of Western Digital devices, I expect to increase that star rating significantly once a suitable plug is provided.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2014 2:48 PM BST


The Art of Assertiveness
The Art of Assertiveness
by Joanna Crosse
Edition: Audio CD

2.0 out of 5 stars Limited content. Must be better elsewhere., 26 Jan. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I listened to "The Art of Assertiveness" whilst driving. Actually, I listened to it end-to-end about 5 times (it is only 45 minutes long), as each time I got to the end I wondered if I had lost concentration on the CD whilst concentrating on driving, as I felt that I had heard words but not much useful content.

After the final time of listening, I came to the conclusion that actually the content was lacking. I didn't learn anything from this CD (I didn't really expect to for my own use, although did vaguely hope that there might be an occasional, surprising titbit in there), and I didn't learn anything that I could use to help colleagues who need to improve their assertiveness (which was really why I got it). I think the only thing I got out of the whole CD was a reminder to accept compliments and praise with more grace.

I wasn't expecting much, but this was even less useful than I had expected. For people who have trouble asserting themselves in different situations, some practical actions for them to try in those situations would be useful. This CD gave a few such suggestions, but very few - it could have given far more. Unfortunately, even those few suggestions given were largely far too wishy-washy.

For those who are looking for useful material to improve assertiveness, I wish you luck in your search. However, I cannot recommend this CD.


Roseanna (Martin Beck Police Mysteries)
Roseanna (Martin Beck Police Mysteries)
by Maj Sjöwall
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

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
Price: £67.74

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: £5.32

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

2 of 2 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.


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