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J. S. Hardman "Consultant software developer (contractor)" (Near London, UK)
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Breville VTP105 Black 4.5 L Slow Cooker
Breville VTP105 Black 4.5 L Slow Cooker
Price: £26.99

4 of 5 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)
Offered by Big Ben Deals
Price: £169.99

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
Offered by figswigs
Price: £3.75

2 of 2 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 ckc_ltd
Price: £1.89

13 of 15 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: £21.79

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


Timex Expedition Men's Quartz Watch with Beige Dial Analogue Display and Black Fabric and Canvas Strap T49833
Timex Expedition Men's Quartz Watch with Beige Dial Analogue Display and Black Fabric and Canvas Strap T49833

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Presuming mine was faulty, but unimpressed with what I did see, 1 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For use whilst doing heavy, muddy, forestry work, I had been using a watch that I bought for less than ten dollars whilst in the USA a while ago. Unfortunately, although the watch is still working, the strap is falling apart and my local shops want to charge a ridiculous amount of money to change the strap. I therefore thought, whilst it was on a cheap offer, that I would try this Timex Expedition watch instead, as it was (momentarily) cheaper than a new strap.

When the watch arrived, I wasn't overly impressed by its appearance and decided I was very glad that I hadn't paid the RRP. As I unpacked it, I was standing in poor light - not dark, but not well-lit either. The watch face was near impossible to read in that light. As the plan was to use this watch in forests, which are often fairly gloomy, this didn't bode well.

I unpacked the watch and read the instructions (printed on crumpled paper that looked better suited to use for lighting a fire). I then set about setting the time (easy) and date (impossible) before starting the watch. When I say that setting the date was impossible, I mean it - I even managed to cut myself on the watch trying to move the bit out that you have to move to set the date. Really not impressed by the build quality.

I'm assuming that I have been unlucky and that the watch I received was faulty as this watch does get some good reviews (although the equivalent with a black face gets very mixed reviews). Needless to say, I've printed out the return label and it will be dispatched back to Amazon tomorrow. I won't be getting a direct replacement though - even at the very discounted price I paid, I am unimpressed. Maybe I'll just get pay for a new strap on my cheap American watch, even if the strap does cost significantly more than the watch...

I've had some good Timex watches in the past, but this is not one of them.

Not recommended.


AS Level Chemistry: The Complete Course for AQA
AS Level Chemistry: The Complete Course for AQA
by CGP Books
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.33

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, but very effective, study guide for AQA AS Level Chemistry, 26 Nov. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I studied sciences and maths to A and S level many years ago. The maths I still use regularly, but the sciences less so. When I do use the scientific knowledge that I learnt all those years ago, it tends to be fairly superficial, so I find myself getting a bit rusty on some of the detail (to be honest, I could possibly have paid a bit more attention in organic chemistry back then as well...). To refresh my knowledge of things I don't want to completely forget, I occasionally work through modern revision guides. For the mathematical subjects, that's a breeze - it's not just that I do use my maths, I really do believe that maths A levels are easier now than they were nearly 30 years ago. However, I'm not sure that is true of chemistry. I had thought that I would breeze through this AS-Level Chemistry book, but it actually contains quite a lot of stuff that I did not study. It looks like the syllabus has changed over those years, so instead of whizzing through this book, I did end up working through it in detail. Clearly, some of it I knew already, but there was also stuff that I did not know.

What I liked about this book, is the quantum leap forward in presentation from most of the books that I worked with at school. Back then, most of us would use things like the "Key Facts Passbook" study/revision guides (which I still have) for cramming before exams, rather than use the books supplied by the school. This AS-Level Chemistry book reminds me of those Key Facts books, but with more modern presentation - lots of diagrams and photographs, lots of use of colour, examples, practice questions (and answers), tips for general learning and for the exam, etc. The language used is easily accessible too - none of the dry text we used to endure. I'm not planning on doing any more A or S level exams (I'm not sure if S level exams still exist - Wikipedia seems to suggest otherwise - [...] ), but for those who are going to be doing AS-Level Chemistry with AQA I imagine this book would be a great study aid. Whether it tells you everything you need to know, I cannot say.

The only negative I have about this book, is that to squeeze everything into approximately 250 pages, there is not much white space, with the text being closely printed (on some, not all, pages). Whether that would have annoyed me at age 17 or 18, I do not know, but these days I appreciate some white space.

Recommended.


Lite Sports Rocky Hooded Top - X Large
Lite Sports Rocky Hooded Top - X Large

5.0 out of 5 stars Very comfortable, but you may want one size larger than you normally buy, 26 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I already own other items from the Lite Sports "Rocky" range and get a lot of use out of them. Because they are so good, I thought I'd also try both the full zip and the non-zip equivalent hooded top.

Since I bought the earlier items, it unfortunately feels like the quality has gone down very slightly - with the zipped top, I put it on and found my hand caught up in a loop of thread in the sleeve, which immediately pulled. With the non-zip top, I heard a thread snap as I put it on. Normally, I would not be thrilled by that. However, given the ridiculously cheap price that these currently sell for (70% off RRP), I'm not going to worry too much. In fact, I think these are so practical and such good value that I've ordered more.

In use, this hooded top is great. It's not as snug as the zipped version, despite being a squeeze to get through the neck, but it is comfortable and warm. Whilst I use the zipped one when heading home from swimming or after using the gym, I find I potter about the house in the non-zipped one, it's that comfortable. The only negative (other than the very slight quality concern) is that the non-zipped one rides up a bit - it could do with being slightly longer. Because of both the neck size and the length, I would recommend going up one size from your normal sizing when purchasing the non-hooded version.

So, although the quality on my last two purchases isn't quite what I would have expected based on previous purchases, these are still great items and at the current price I have just ordered a spare of both the zipped and non-zipped versions (with the non-zipped one in the next size...).

Recommended.


Ultrasport Men's Running Shoe - Black/Silver/Blue, Size 8
Ultrasport Men's Running Shoe - Black/Silver/Blue, Size 8
Price: £79.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit narrow for me. Otherwise, ok but not great, 26 Nov. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These shoes are unfortunately a bit narrow for me. If you have wide feet, you could try going up a size, but then you risk them being too long. As a result, they're not going to be my most comfortable running shoes, and therefore won't be used for that purpose. They're going to become shoes for slipping on quickly when I need to pop out to the garage or to the compost bin - short distances, where the narrowness won't annoy my feet too much.

So, apart from the size issue, how are they? Well, they don't ooze comfort and quality. They do not compete with my ASICS. I'm not actually that keen on the appearance either - the blue is not appealling, and the general appearance is, well, not great. As I won't be running in them, I cannot comment on how well they last when used for that purpose - sorry.

In terms of price, Amazon current shows a range from £29.25 (twenty nine pounds twenty five pence) to £79 (seventy nine pounds). At the bottom end of that scale, they're ok as long as they fit you. If I had paid the top end of that scale I would not be happy.


Lite Sports Rocky Full Zip Hooded Top
Lite Sports Rocky Full Zip Hooded Top

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very practical and very comfortable, 14 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I already own other items from the Lite Sports "Rocky" range and get a lot of use out of them. Because they are so good, I thought I'd try both this full zip and the non-zip equivalent hooded top.

Since I bought the earlier items, it unfortunately feels like the quality has gone down slightly - with the zipped top, I put it on and found my hand caught up in a loop of thread in the sleeve, which immediately pulled. With the non-zip top, I heard a thread snap as I put it on. Normally, I would not be thrilled by that. However, given the ridiculously cheap price that these currently sell for (70% off RRP), I'm not going to worry too much.

In use, this zipped top is great. It is very snug and very warm. It's fairly flattering too. I use it at various times, most commonly on the way to/from swimming, and when relaxing after using the gym. It keeps the muscles warm and keeps draughts off (heading home from swimming on a dark autumn/winter evening is much nicer when you're warm and draught free).

When I say this is very snug, it really is. If you think you are at the upper end of a size range, you are likely to want the next size up (for the non-zipped version, you will almost certainly want the next size up).

So, although the quality on my last two purchases isn't quite what I would have expected based on previous purchases, these are still great items and at the current price I have just ordered a spare of both the zipped and non-zipped versions (with the non-zipped one in the next size...).

Recommended.


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