Profile for Old Student > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Old Student
Top Reviewer Ranking: 318,611
Helpful Votes: 100

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Old Student (England)

Page: 1
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Mortality, 30 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Sirens (MP3 Download)
I was hooked on Sirens from the first listening. It's powerful, melodic and lyrically amazing. It seems that with every new album, Pearl Jam are constantly pushing their artistry and redefining the expectations of the audience (I immediately thought of The Flood by Take That when I listened to this).

To me, Sirens is a continuation of Pearl Jam's increasing focus on mortality. The lyrics echo the sentiments of Parachutes, The End, and Come Back: life is short, fragile and our destiny is beyond our control. There's a vulnerability in Sirens that I am sure lots of people will relate to. I certainly did.

I've followed Pearl Jam since the release of Ten when I was in my teens. I love that I am able to enjoy their continuing evolution. If Sirens is anything to go by, Lighting Bolt is going to be another exceptional album.

GoPro Suction Cup Mount
GoPro Suction Cup Mount

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glue the Acorn Nuts!, 20 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: GoPro Suction Cup Mount (Camera)
With a large suction cup and a simple but sturdy attach/release mechanism, the GoPro suction mount is reassuringly stable once mounted. Built from plastic, the unit seems strong and I wouldn't have any problems using it in moderate airflows if mounting externally on a moving vehicle.

However, the unit is not that well designed - adjusting the axis once mounted is awkward. Most irritatingly of all, the acorn nuts have not been glued in the same way that all my other GoPro mounts have, which means that I'd lost one within about 10 minutes of opening the packet, rendering the 29.99 item useless. In the end, I scavanged an arm from one of my other mounts, but I'll be writing to GoPro and asking for a replacement acorn nut very soon.

So, fit for purpose, but only providing that you epoxy both nuts into place as soon as you open the packet.

One star deducted for poor design; one for failing to glue the nuts.

Splat Snowball Christmas Novelty (one supplied)
Splat Snowball Christmas Novelty (one supplied)
Offered by Life Unearthed
Price: 4.40

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Good Value for Money, 4 Jan 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:1.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Agree with previous reviewer that the listing on Amazon makes it *look* like you are buying a small box, although admittedly the text does say '(one supplied)'.

The toy is great fun, durable and safe for reasonably young kids.

However, at 6.98 inc. postage, the price is an absolute rip-off.

An American Spy (Milo Weaver 3)
An American Spy (Milo Weaver 3)
by Olen Steinhauer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.85

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good as The Other Two, 12 May 2012
The first thing that you need to know - but Amazon does not make clear - is that this is the third book in "Milo Weaver" trilogy.

So, before you read this one, read these two:

1: The Tourist
2: The Nearest Exit

I have to say that these two books were amongst the most entertaining works of fiction that I have read in a long time. I like reading Custler (when he writes his own books), Clancy (ditto), Grisham, King and the other usual suspects, and I think that Steinhauer has the imagination, research skills and literary skills to hold his own among these greats.

However, I found An American Spy to be quite disappointing. The quality of the dialogue and narrative are as exceptional as they were in the other two novels, but I felt like Steinhauer had simply run out of steam with this one.

The book progresses quite slowly, and when the action finally starts the author uses a series of vignettes to tell what is admittedly a complex plot from the perspective of the main characters. For me, the problem with this is that you end up having to read quite a bit that you already know (because you've just read it from someone else's perspective), while the critical bits of information you need in order to piece things together are actually few and far between. I just didn't like it - it felt like padding, although I don't think for a minute that this is what it was intended to be. It's totally subjective - you may really enjoy it. I did not.

I won't give away the plot line, but suffice to say the story picks up where it left off in the previous book. I didn't therefore have many problems following the diverse range of characters. If you read the first two books, neither will you. If you don't, then your work may be cut out for you.

The good news (I think), is that Stenihauer has left the door open for another Milo Weaver novel. I do hope, however, that when the time comes he can replicate his excellent performance from the first two novels.

In summary, if you want to get into a good trilogy with an excellently developed main character, the Milo Weaver series is for you. Just make sure you savour every page of the first two books - they'll more than makeup for any dissapointment you may experience in An American Spy.

Found in Translation: An extremely guide to speaking correctly English
Found in Translation: An extremely guide to speaking correctly English
by Tomas Santos
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Reading, 1 Mar 2011
This is a fantastic little book crammed full of prose that exploits and gently ribs the stereotypical mistakes made by non-native speakers of English, while relentlessly mocking institutions that the British themselves hold dear/ridicule (delete as appropriate).

Of course, the aim of the book is not to denigrate learners of the language, but to use a sub-par grasp of it to create humour and amusement. This comes courtesy of two things: firstly, a discussion of discourse rules and advice in various social situations (talking to old people, visiting a hospital etc.), from which the learner of English can benefit; and secondly, from letters sent to famous people or well known institutions asking for advice or information (my favourites were those sent to Richard Whitely, the RNID, and the Vicar of a hospital chapel).

Very much geared to an audience of native speakers, or those non-native speakers who have spent enough time in Britain to appreciate the linguistic exploitation that 'Santos' revels in, this is a light hearted book that is easy to read and will have you laughing out loud.

I dropped one star because the same author (using a different pseudonym) has written a different series of other books that I thought were even funnier - sadly, I cannot remember the name of that series, nor the pseudonym he used, but they went along similar lines: a collection of ostensibly serious letters to various people and institutions from which genuinely serious responses were received. Regardless, I'd give these other books five stars if I could remember what they are called, and since I thought they were slightly more inventive and definitely more convincing to the respondents, I can only give this one a four.

Still, I say "Bravo, Mr. Santos!"

Churchill's War Lab: Code Breakers, Boffins and Innovators: The Mavericks Churchill Led to Victory
Churchill's War Lab: Code Breakers, Boffins and Innovators: The Mavericks Churchill Led to Victory
by Taylor Downing
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What You See is Not Always What You Get, 24 Feb 2011
This is a bit of a tricky review to write.

As a biography of the then-Prime Minister, Churchill's Warlab is a resounding success. As a book about the technologies and scientists who collectively and individually influenced the outcome of the Britain's involvement in the war, it is an utter disappointment.

I bought this book as an impulse buy at an airport, and was excited to think that finally someone had written an holistic analysis of not only those technologies that made such a difference to Britain during the war, but also the influence that Churchill had on making those things happen. I don't think that was an unreasonable assumption about the content of the book, since that's what the title and back cover blurb lead you to believe. Regrettably, that's not really what this book is about. Instead, it amounts to a fascinating and well-researched history of the activities of Churchill, but one where the 'boffins' of his 'war lab' seem almost incidental, and where discussions of the technology itself are irritatingly shallow.

Much of the nitty-gritty detail concerned with the science of war will fail to interest a great many people, but it is exactly the kind of thing that does interest people who buy a book that promises to talk about science and technology. And for me, that's really why this book immediately loses two stars, much as it pains me to denigrate what is actually a good book. Is it an interesting and enjoyable read? Yes. Do I feel a little duped into buying it? Yes. Would I have bought it if it was titled more accurately? Probably not. Publisher/Downing 1 - Me 0.

Finally, i knocked off another star because, while Downing writes eloquently and richly for the most part, the tempo and pacing of the book seems to have gone by the wayside. By way of illustration, I just picked it up and opened it at random: the section I opened it on has no natural break/pause for 28 pages. So, if you're having a read before going to bed, while on the bus/train, or even while going about your daily ablutions, the flow of the text is so dense that it's frankly a pain to have to stop reading mid-topic.

In conclusion, I enjoyed this book greatly, but it was not the book I thought I was buying. Had the publisher and Downing decided on a less disingenuous title, and had I read it under this more accurate title, I'd now be giving it four stars. As it stands, I don't want anyone else to buy a book that clearly has a misleading title.

13" Wellington Boot Remover made in strong weather proof plastic
13" Wellington Boot Remover made in strong weather proof plastic
Offered by CaraselleDirect
Price: 6.14

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars NOT IN STOCK - DECEMBER 2010, 15 Dec 2010
Ordered this a week ago. Apparently in stock.

Received email today saying order is cancelled as item not in stock. Despite this, the listing above is still showing it as being in stock.

Stop wasting customers' time and sort it out!

The Circuit: An ex-SAS soldier's true account of one of the most powerful and secretive industries spawned by the War on Terror
The Circuit: An ex-SAS soldier's true account of one of the most powerful and secretive industries spawned by the War on Terror
by Bob Shepherd
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 23 Feb 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bob Shepherd is a former British special forces soldier and commercial security advisor whose experiences of the security circuits in Afghanistan and Iraq have left him with a bad taste in his mouth (in a manner of speaking).

The Circuit starts well, with the first third of the book working as an entertaining and revealing insight into a deadly serious business. Shepherd's ghost writer does a good job of coaxing detailed atmospheric and illustrative detail out of him, allowing the reader to visualise the places, people and the sights and sounds. He provides an intriguing view in for those of us on the outside, and I really did enjoy reading through these pages at pace. The middle third of the book continues along a similar vein, but you can't help but feel that Shepherd is using the book as an opportunity to drop names and give himself a good slap on the back for a job well done. Indeed, you'd be forgiven for thinking that without Mr. Shepherd, CNN wouldn't have got a single exclusive or scoop in Gaza or the Lebanon!

Casting this aside, my only real gripe with the middle third of the book was that his editorial team thought it a good idea to allow him to tell the tale of how he stole a prized possession from a democratically elected leader (Yasser Arafat). Stealing a presidential flag from a man who has entrusted you with an interview, having spent weeks holed up in a small building, is not something that I think is either big or clever. It certainly does not do the security advisor profession any favours, and I wonder what Shepherd's editor was thinking?

By the final third of the book, Shepherd's ultimate agenda - to chastise the private security companies that put profit before safety (shock horror!) - ruins any entertainment the reader might otherwise derive from the politically charged text. It's not that Shepherd should not criticise these companies; rather, it is that his ghost writer should not have allowed him to do so at the expense of keeping the reader interested. The problem is not that Shepherd has that "I know it all" attitude that is characteristic of many of the former SF soldier books out there, but that when you mix it with a supremely judgemental attitude (he criticises civilians who watch security contractor videos on the internet, exclaiming such behaviour is disgusting) and a dull topic (he relates, verbatim, the mind numbing content of some of his emails to security company management), it becomes very boring very quickly. As a result, the impact of the point he is trying to make is drastically reduced.

So tedious is the final half of the book that one can only assume that even Shepherd's ghost writer and editor had fallen asleep. There's an annoying repetition of the phrase "I'll call him *insert fake name*" when introducing characters whose anonymity he wishes to protect (a simple acknowledgement in the introduction that some names have been changed would have sufficed), and Shepherd seems intent on peddling the old "I've got a secret, but I'm not going to tell you it" line (which is fine, but don't mention it to begin with!). Additionally, there is a short chapter about the infamous Bravo Two Zero patrol from the 1991 Gulf War whose appearance in the book seems out of place. Ostensibly intended to introduce the concept of "bad management", this errant chapter appears to do little other than reinforce the fact that Shepherd is a demi-God who is always right.

This book almost certainly has an audience - those who are working as security advisors in war zones, and those who have a similarly professional or academic interest in that field of work - but be warned in advance that I found it very easy to put down. In fact, this is the first book in a very long time that I did not bring back home with me from a trip abroad. Hopefully, the cleaning staff at the Vegas hotel I left it in will use it wisely... as a door stop, or bookend.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2012 7:03 PM GMT

Plantronics DSP400 PC Skype Headset
Plantronics DSP400 PC Skype Headset
Offered by DST (UK) LTD Established 1999
Price: 38.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great headset, excellent customer service, but not Mac OS X friendly, 15 Nov 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Long story, cut short:

I bought a pair of DSP400s and found them to be perfect for office use. Good sound quality, comfortable on my big head, and collapsible to help store them away. I did find them to be a little flimsy, but after 8 months of use they were showing no signs of wear. And then one of the earphones stopped working.

I called Plantronics on their free phone number, spoke to somebody in customer services who was polite and very helpful. She sent me an email to return my headset: I followed the internet link in the email to print out a returns label (they can post it to you, if need be). Slapped returns label - postage pre-paid - onto a box and sent them headphones off via the local Post Office. A week later, UPS delivered the replacement headset.

The replacement DSP400 was a revised version that was built from a different plastic was much less fragile in feel than the older version - it really did feel much more rigid and sturdy. However, this unit turned out to be slightly different: rather than direct to USB, it uses a USB adaptor that you plug ths small headphone and microphone cables into. This proved to be incompatible with Mac OS X for some reason, and the USB bus inside my Mac often lost the headset signal, causing the Mac to revert to using the internal speakers.

I called the free phone number again and another very nice lady told me that the 'new' DSP400 was known to have compatibility issues with OS X. The solution was to upgrade (downgrade in price, mind you) to the DSP500. Repeat returns process.

One week later and the DSP500 has been delivered today. I actually prefer it to the DSP400, although it doesn't have the stowability that the DSP400 has since it is not collapsible: fine for office use, but not for travelling. Since I am not doing much travelling, that's not a factor for me.

So, what are my conclusions?

1) Plantronics make excellent headsets, even though the earphone on my first DSP400 did fail after 8 months or so

2) Plantronics has a top-notch customer support system in place. That's becoming increasingly rare these days, and it fills me with confidence in them

3) Not all Plantronics headsets are Mac OS X compatible. Best call their free phone number and check before you buy if you are a Mac user

Navman N60i Portable Car Navigation System With European Mapping
Navman N60i Portable Car Navigation System With European Mapping

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good widescreen SatNav, but flawed by touchscreen! Review updated: Dec 2008, 4 Oct 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I purchased the N60i because it has European maps and features a generously proportioned wide screen touch sensitive display. I wanted a SatNav that would get me from A to B, and I was not interested in additional functionality like blue tooth connectivity, text to speech, or the ability to upload new voices. I went with the bigger N60i primarily because at the time (Sept 2007) there was little difference in price between it and the smaller N40

The N60i is easy to set-up and use straight out of the box provided that you use some sort of stylus (the rounded end of a pen, for example) to go through the set-up menu that automatically opens when you first turn on the device.

As a man with fingers not especially stubby and fingernails that are not long, I learned this the hard way when I went to select which language the device should use. While my finger pressed the screen area over menu option, 'English', the option that the Navman software selected was the one above my finger, 'Dutch'.

It took a few minutes of prodding the screen and going through Dutch menus before I located the language selection page and selected English. And here is where the N60i loses its first star - even having used the special calibration process to refine the accuracy of the touch screen, the N60i's interpretation of where I am gently dabbing the screen with my finger is sometimes considerably off the mark.

I have taken to using some sort of stylus to use the device, which is by no means a hardship but is often an inconvenience as I don't always have a suitable object to hand. Even then, I can tap the screen with a stylus and the screen software does not always select the correct option. Equally, my girlfriend's slender fingers and modest fingernails are no guarantee that it will work every time, either. All in all, this can be frustrating when time is of the essence, or when trying to 'drag' the map around with your finger to trace the route that the N60i has plotted. (Edit Dec 2008: having driven a great deal with this unit, I can honestly say that the touchscreen is so frustrating that I would not purchase this unit again because of it).

Speaking of routes, I am pleased so far with routings that the N60i has calculated for me, and I like the ability to create a multi-stop route. To help refine the unit's calculation of each route, a number of sliding bars and options in the menu help you select routing preferences (such as use of toll roads, preference for fastest journey or shortest distance, propensity to use motorways etc.).

On the downside, I believe that the logic in the software would benefit from reprogramming when it comes to routing through cities: I conducted a test in to get from one side of my home city of Cambridge to the other. The quickest route is via the A14 and M11 motorways, as the N60i correctly identified. To test the logic and speed of the 'back on track' feature that automatically recalculates your route if you miss a turn, i headed into the middle of town instead of taking the motorway around it. At the first roundabout I reached following the first missed turn the N60i told me to turn around. It recognised the missed turn with a couple of hundred meters and since it was a short journey was quick to recalculate the route. It repeated the process at the second missed turn, but at the third it took the very odd decision to re-route me through the middle of town.

This surprised me as there ample opportunities ahead to make a U-turn at any number of roundabouts. Had I followed the route suggested, the Navman would have routed me through a busy city center and the journey could have taken 3 times longer than necessary. Some may argue that missing two turns in a row is pretty stupid, but I would counter that in a busy city a timid driver, or someone not familiar with the area, could easily find themselves in such a position. The bottom line was that the test results didn't fill me with much confidence and I deducted half a star.

You can drag 'avoid zones' over any area on the map and the N60i will save these and avoid any roads that pass through them. Since the N60i does not allow you to specifically instruct it to avoid certain roads, and since the traffic module is a separate product, the avoid zone function is the only way of forcing the Navman avoid troublesome junctions or traffic jams that you have identified before starting off on your journey. (Edit Dec 2008: with more that a year of using the N60i, I have just discovered that if you happen to drive into one of these 'avoid zones', the Navman dumps the entire route and displays an error message. If you are on the move, you must then either pull over, or wrestle with the incredibly frustrating touch screen to reprogram the route. This is a real nuisance!).

However, the N60i doesn't save a list of these avoid zones, so if you later want to delete them you have to manually drag the map around to find them (not always easy depending on how big the zone is). For this I deducted another half a star.

I very much like the layout of the map and the intelligent manner in which the N60i zooms the map scale as your speed decreases, making it very easy to cruise down a road and find a specific address on the map. At the bottom of the display is the text equivalent a running commentary of where you are (road name and, where available, house number) which also helps you identify where abouts you are on the route.

The voice commands are clear and well-timed, and the graphic representation of the next turn (or roundabout exit) is also nice and clear. Certainly, I have had no problems navigating and following the directions issued by the unit. A couple of useful views can be selected, and by tapping on the screen and pulling up a menu you can choose to view the entire route if you so wish.

There are one or two very frustrating limitations about the N60i's planning software. By default the N60i plans all journeys with your current location as the starting point, however despite there being a menu option that allows you to select anywhere on the map and chose 'start journey from here', I have been unable to get this to work - the device forces me to plan all my routes from my current location. Thus, when my girlfriend asked how she would get from her work place to another location, and how long it would take, the N60i should have allowed me to tell her, but since the 'start journey from here' function did not work I could not. This is a minor gripe for me, but for some people who do a lot of traveling and want to plan ahead, this could be an issue.

Finally, the mounting unit is excellent, as is the remote control. These were two items that the Amazon and Navman websites were vague about when I ordered the device. In fact, neither website actually lists the contents of the box, and even though I downloaded the N60i user manual from the Navman website before I bought the device, it still did not make it clear. For the record, the N60i comes with these two items plus a car charger, mains charger and a leather case. Software is also supplied.

Edit Dec 2008: My revised final conclusion, with 15 months' experience using this SatNav, is that I would steer clear of this unit. I am unable to change my original star rating, but would award only two stars to this device if I could. If I was going to buy another GPS, I would spend a serious amount of time testing the touchscreen accuracy in a retail outlet before proceeding to purchase online.

Page: 1