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Louis Vallance "fs geek" (Sheffield, SY UK)

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Hong Kong Kai Tak X - Add-On for FS 2004/FSX (PC CD)
Hong Kong Kai Tak X - Add-On for FS 2004/FSX (PC CD)
Price: £24.36

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world's most difficult approach is brought to life, 11 Aug 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Aerosoft's Kai Tak X was probably one of the most anticipated scenery add-ons for Flight Simulator X to date. Kai Tak has been showcased countless times on YouTube by flight simulator fans, showing off their landing skills by executing the notoriously difficult approach into the now defunct Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong.

Since the airport its self is very small, Kai Tak X pays much attention to the surrounding scenery which covers every aspect of the approach. There isn't a great deal to say other than that the level of detail is very high indeed. There are numerous additions such as the checkerboard at the top of the mountain and the guide beacons to aid your turn into the runway.

Overall this is a very good add-on for flight simulator, although it is not as frame rate friendly as some of the other scenery packages available. Five stars nevertheless!


Scenery Madeira (PC CD)
Scenery Madeira (PC CD)
Offered by Satsumo
Price: £24.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best scenery add-ons available for Flight Simulator X, 11 Aug 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Scenery Madeira (PC CD) (CD-ROM)
Scenery Madeira X is one of the most important add-on scenery packages for Flight Simulator X yet. With its unnatural setting as a man-made extension off the precipice surrounding Funchal, Madeira airport is in essence an over-water, 180 stilted concrete platform, elevated approximately 192 feet above sea level. The original 5,249 foot runway was extended by 200 metres in 1977 after TAP Air Flight 425 crashed and has since been completely rebuilt into a single 9,110 foot runway. Until now the unusual layout of the airport has resulted in a highly inadequate representation in FSX, with the sea waters climbing up an unrealistic 80 degree slope to the runway surface.

Madeira X completely transforms the entire island in to a highly accurate counterpart, using satellite imaging to faithfully reproduce the runway and the hollow region underneath, as well as the terminal building and the entire surrounding scenery. The graphics are sharper than the standard textures, giving you the sense that you're really there! Much like Mega Airport London Heathrow, the level of detail is second-to-none. Madeira Airport is commonly labeled as the Kai Tak of Europe for its awkward approach to runway 05, whereby the pilot has to execute a sharp last-minute turn to line up for final, moments before he would have otherwise struck the mountains alongside, making the approach to Madeira one of the world's most challenging. This is one of the reasons Madeira is the best place for a complete scenery-overhaul. Included also is Porto Santo Airport, with its dangerous yet beautiful approach alongside the rocky mountains.

Overall a definite recommendation; Scenery Madeira X offers stunningly detailed textures and faithfully reproduces the award-winning support pillar design. As a bonus there are 5 aeroplane types for AI traffic and it's easy on the frame rates if your PC isn't brilliant. Five stars from FSGeek!


Sony Alpha A380L Digital SLR Camera With 18-55 mm Lens
Sony Alpha A380L Digital SLR Camera With 18-55 mm Lens

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A more expensive A350?, 5 Aug 2009
To all first time DSLR buyers and even the lower end enthusiasts, Sony was given the chance to answer your prayers. Building on the strengths of the a350, which I will be comparing this camera to, the a380 tries to make its mark as the new kid on the block. Other than the obvious physical changes, it seems that Sony have revamped many of the core features of the old series (dare I say it), with a complete overhaul of the user interface to boost its appeal to the photography novice, while attempting to keep the more advanced features up to scratch with its Nikon/Canon/Olympus competitors.

Out of the box the a380 is almost 100 grams lighter than the a350, resembling the light-weight build quality you would find on the Nikon D90 for example. However it is important to mention now that practically none of the selling points of the camera are a drastic shift from the a350. In the reviews I had read prior to pre-ordering, I saw the quick AF in live view mode, a tilting screen and the same 14.2MP CCD. In some ways it was like reading the same reviews again. What makes the a380 250 pounds more expensive then? As previously mentioned, the layout is much better on the outside; the function and trash buttons have been shifted inwards and the ISO and drive mode buttons have been condensed into the thumb pad. This touching up makes the camera a lot neater and definitely more stylish, but do photographers really spend their money on looks over functionality?

When inserting the memory card for the first time I immediately noticed a slight difference. Instead of having to use a CF/SD adapter as with the a350, the a380 features both slots with a handy toggle selector depending on which one you want to use. The menu is fantastic. New interactive graphics make changing settings much easier; even with DSLRs it's sometimes hard to tell whether you've got the right settings until you've taken the picture. However the new display helps you get it perfect first time.

Image wise, I am very concerned. An improvement to the ISO performance as well as image sharpness was expected however not delivered. I have only owned the camera for a day but I have taken a lot of pictures and fiddled with the settings extensively and I honestly feel that no improvement has been made whatsoever after uploading.

The 100 gram slim down does no favours for the new alpha. I enjoyed the bulky, albeit creaky build of the a350, and the shed in weight has resulted in a shed of build quality. On paper, it looks more stylish with its pillowed exterior, however in the flesh it feels tackier; I utterly dislike the lackluster top plate. Moreover, the new hand grip is inadequate and fiddly to use.

Overall I question the worth of buying this camera over the a350. For the price, I don't feel I have gained anything new. Trading in my a350 in the name of photography may have been a mistake and I regret not waiting for the price to drop as it is essentially the same camera with a bit of cheap makeup thrown all over it. I'm sure the price will drop significantly over time but if you are looking for a great DSLR now, save yourself the £250 and go for the a350 instead.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 21, 2013 8:45 AM BST


Sony Alpha A380Y Digital SLR Camera Twin Lens Kit (18-55mm & 55-200mm)
Sony Alpha A380Y Digital SLR Camera Twin Lens Kit (18-55mm & 55-200mm)

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A more expensive a350?, 3 Aug 2009
To all first time DSLR buyers and even the lower end enthusiasts, Sony was given the chance to answer your prayers. Building on the strengths of the a350, which I will be comparing this camera to, the a380 tries to make its mark as the new kid on the block. Other than the obvious physical changes, it seems that Sony have revamped many of the core features of the old series (dare I say it), with a complete overhaul of the user interface to boost its appeal to the photography novice, while attempting to keep the more advanced features up to scratch with its Nikon/Canon/Olympus competitors.

Out of the box the a380 is almost 100 grams lighter than the a350, resembling the light-weight build quality you would find on the Nikon D90 for example. However it is important to mention now that practically none of the selling points of the camera are a drastic shift from the a350. In the reviews I had read prior to pre-ordering, I saw the quick AF in live view mode, a tilting screen and the same 14.2MP CCD. In some ways it was like reading the same reviews again. What makes the a380 250 pounds more expensive then? As previously mentioned, the layout is much better on the outside; the function and trash buttons have been shifted inwards and the ISO and drive mode buttons have been condensed into the thumb pad. This touching up makes the camera a lot neater and definitely more stylish, but do photographers really spend their money on looks over functionality?

When inserting the memory card for the first time I immediately noticed a slight difference. Instead of having to use a CF/SD adapter as with the a350, the a380 features both slots with a handy toggle selector depending on which one you want to use. The menu is fantastic. New interactive graphics make changing settings much easier; even with DSLRs it's sometimes hard to tell whether you've got the right settings until you've taken the picture. However the new display helps you get it perfect first time.

Image wise, I am very concerned. An improvement to the ISO performance as well as image sharpness was expected however not delivered. I have only owned the camera for a day but I have taken a lot of pictures and fiddled with the settings extensively and I honestly feel that no improvement has been made whatsoever after uploading.

The 100 gram slim down does no favours for the new alpha. I enjoyed the bulky, albeit creaky build of the a350, and the shed in weight has resulted in a shed of build quality. On paper, it looks more stylish with its pillowed exterior, however in the flesh it feels tackier; I utterly dislike the lackluster top plate. Moreover, the new hand grip is inadequate and fiddly to use.

Overall I question the worth of buying this camera over the a350. For the price, I don't feel I have gained anything new. Trading in my a350 in the name of photography may have been a mistake and I regret not waiting for the price to drop as it is essentially the same camera with a bit of cheap makeup thrown all over it. I'm sure the price will drop significantly over time but if you are looking for a great DSLR now, save yourself the £250 and go for the a350 instead.


Sony DSLRA350K Camera (14.2 MP) inc 18-70mm lens (discontinued by manufacturer)
Sony DSLRA350K Camera (14.2 MP) inc 18-70mm lens (discontinued by manufacturer)

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best entry level DSLR on the market?, 7 Jun 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
DSLRs cost a lot of money. This was the first thought that crossed my mind when I decided to exchange my hard-earned cash for a 'proper' camera. I could have been forgiven for choosing Nikon or Canon without giving further consideration. However the D40 seemed too basic and the D90 well out of my price range, so the D60 seemed like the appropriate choice. However, praise had been given to Sony's new range of alpha cameras, stating that they had the lead in the entry-level market.

Which one then? The A200, A300 or A350? Their prices range from £270 to £400 so which one deserved my purchase? I took the plunge and went for the higher-end A350. In terms of functionality, the A350 is essentially the same as the A300, only with 14.2 mega pixels as opposed to the A300's 10.2 mega pixels. A major selling point of the alpha series is that their Super Steady Shot system is built in to the body, meaning you get SSS on whichever lens you are using. This is great, although having just the one lens didn't make a huge difference for me.

Out of the box, the A350 felt justifiably heavy; the build quality is very good indeed. Other than sliding on the lens, I was able to literally turn the camera on, point it and shoot. It was really that simple. The display is clear with no distracting graphics you get with the D40, just plain and simple information laid out as if it were on a piece of paper. Taking pictures with this camera was what I imagined it would feel like to drive a Rolls Royce: Simply superb. With the camera in auto, it was instantly able to optimise the aperture and shutter values to create the ideal shot, however turning the dial to manual opened up the opportunity to customise the shot to my exact specifications. The auto focus has an impressive 9 areas and Sony brought down the high-torque focus motor from the A700 making it 1.7x faster than the A200. The Eye Start system is quite brilliant; as soon as you bring the camera up to your eye the image is put in sharp focus. The only draw back with this feature is that when resting against your body it thinks it's up against your eye, and the front of the lens jitters back and forth accordingly.

Uploading is very straight forward and the supplied image data converter allows for a selection of tweaks to be applied before saving the final version (this is only possible if the images are taken in raw mode). The battery is stunning and just keeps on going, almost defeating the object of carrying a spare.

The only problems I had with the camera were mainly physical: The flash is so flimsy it could have come from a camera £300 cheaper. Only the slightest accidental force applied will pull it from its housing. The eye start feature can be slightly irritating but is easily turned off. The live view feature on this camera is great since the AF system retains the same speed, however as a result its burst fire speed is brought down from 3 frames per second to a less favorable 2.5 FPS. Despite praise for its good performance in low lighting I still find that images are too noisy at settings ISO400 or above. Other than these relatively minor issues I really can't fault this camera at all, it's simply excellent. Since the sensor on both the A300 and the A350 are the same dimensions, you won't really see much of an improvement in image quality on the A350 unless you purchase a better lens, otherwise I'd stick to getting the A300.

Overall The A350 ticks all my boxes. For the first time I feel that my money has been well spent. I give it 5 stars and ask that you give the A300/350 serious consideration if you are looking for the best entry level DSLR, for which they are both mighty fine contenders!


Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm VR Lens Kit (12.3MP) 2.7 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)
Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm VR Lens Kit (12.3MP) 2.7 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)

117 of 123 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The middle child has a few tricks up its sleeve..., 3 Jun 2009
The Nikon D5000 seems to be everything I wanted. Although having the same size 12.3MP sensor as in the D90 and D300, the APS-C CMOS upgrade with 1.5x focal magnification seems an ample improvement over its predecessors. As with all the Nikons I have used, the D5000 presents to the user a robust, compact and light-weight feel, whilst still offering some features you would expect to find in professional level cameras.

The D5000 has many great features with its high ISO range (100 to 6400), 11 area auto focus system and good tonal range. The anti dust system offers three stages of protection: CCD shake, 'airflow' (which pushes air out of the mirror box) and anti dust software for post editing. The camera also has live view as well as a tilting screen, however I question the practical applications of the screen as I have taken some 500 images with the camera so far and have yet to use the tilt function (admittedly I prefer the optical view finder over alternative means). All said and done, the crown jewel of the D5000 is without a doubt the HD movie capture feature, allowing not only for 24fps capturing but interval shooting which produces stop-motion action. However the AF system is disabled during filming, resulting in the need to use the focus wheel manually which the clumsy-handed like myself find quite tricky!

One of the things I have always loved about Nikons is their ability to perform excellently in low light conditions. Although not a criticism, my Sony Alpha A350 has always given me a fair bit of grief when taking evening shots at ISO 400 or above, resulting in the need for an extra pass of colour noise reduction after uploading. The dynamic range optimiser as ever is very effective in bringing out detail in the lower tones.

I feel that the D5000 is in a tight spot being that it is the 'middle child', making it harder to favour over similar models. Moreover it is difficult to say where it excels and falls short compared to the D90 and the D300. I should say however that, overall, the camera comes trumps in all areas except the price, which is slightly higher than I would have bargained for. Ultimately though I am very fond of this camera and would give it my highest of recommendations. Well worth buying!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2010 8:51 PM GMT


Olympus E-620 Digital SLR Camera (14-42mm & 40-150mm Lens Kit) (discontinued by manufacturer)
Olympus E-620 Digital SLR Camera (14-42mm & 40-150mm Lens Kit) (discontinued by manufacturer)

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compact meets versatile, 5 May 2009
Olympus have unraveled a new gem in the fleet of 'four thirds' DSLRs. Many of the features on the older E400 models have been brought up and revamped for the E620. It features a 12.3 mega pixel live MOS system which is essentially a step up in technology from the standard charge-coupled device, which is gradually being phased out from most digital SLRs.

I would like to get straight to the auto focus system. The E620 offers seven AF areas, which is justifiably less than the E30's 11 areas. What was very pleasing bout the AF system however was that it responded very well whilst in live view mode and there is a range of bracketing and metering options.

The E620 prioritises on mid tones, meaning that there is no particular leniency towards shadows unlike my Sony a350 which seems to accentuate shadows more than anything else. As with all higher-end cameras these days, the E620 has a vari-angle screen which means you can tilt it out and rotate it to get a more comfortable shot in harder-to-reach areas. All the buttons are easy to reach and back-lit which I have found to be very useful during night shots. What I found quite interesting about this camera was that it has stuck with the 95% coverage viewfinder, albeit the magnification is now at 0.96x as opposed to the previous 0.92x on earlier models.

The Olympus E620 is definitely good value. Being that it is £300 less than the next model up (E30), the E620 seemed a better buy for me. As far as I am aware though, there are no major differences in image quality, which is what really counts.

Over all, I would definitely recommend the E620; it's packed with a bundle of excellent features and epitomises a DSLR with all the characteristics of a compact, versatile, quality camera.


Samsung UE40B7020W 40-inch Widescreen Ultra Slim Full HD 1080P Crystal LED TV with Media 2.0 and Freeview (discontinued by manufacturer)
Samsung UE40B7020W 40-inch Widescreen Ultra Slim Full HD 1080P Crystal LED TV with Media 2.0 and Freeview (discontinued by manufacturer)

127 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 30 April 2009
If I manage to make one thing clear in this review, it's that this TV is brilliant. The 1080p is so clear that it's practically like looking through an empty frame.

The picture quality is superlative; the blacks are deeper than ever and the colours are as vibrant as a bolt of lightning. Compared to previous LCD TV's I have owned in the past, the samsung led TV's are a cut above the rest. I'm not sure on the Sony 200Hz motionflow against this TV but the picture looks very smooth indeed. When I say flat screen, I really mean flat! There is literally no room wasted when hooking the thing to the wall and blends into its surroundings seamlessly.

Thoroughly recommended for anyone who seeks exceptional quality from their television!
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 13, 2010 9:15 PM GMT


The Sims 2 Mansions & Garden Stuff Pack for The Sims 2 (PC DVD)
The Sims 2 Mansions & Garden Stuff Pack for The Sims 2 (PC DVD)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not great, 17 April 2009
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I can't contest the fact that this is a good expansion pack given the price. However, I hoped to get a larger variety of items.

The installer told me that if I uninstall Mansion & Garden Stuff I will lose all of my game data from the Original game, which worried me slightly. The expansion gives the user interface a revamp with some new features such as 45 degree view, and ceilings! Moreover, you get a taste of what's to come in The Sims 3 as neighbouring lots are now visible from your current house. The only draw back to this is that you get a slight performance hit.

Overall, for the price, this is a good add-on. Don't ecpect tons of new items, but do expect a nice enhancement to overall gameplay.

fsgeek


Raising Boys: Why Boys are Different - and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men
Raising Boys: Why Boys are Different - and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men
by Steve Biddulph
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A useful guide for raising boys!, 16 April 2009
Steve Biddulph provides a valuable insight into the development of young boys and highlights all the potential tribulations they may face that do not necessarily present themselves in girls. Raising Boys confronts certain aspects of the parents thought process, linking their actions to specific outcomes later in the child's life.

It is clear from parts of the book that Biddulph has delved deep into the young male psyche, providing a concise yet precise guide documenting the crucial flash points of male development. One section that particularly interested us was the predicament surrounding the mother's need to return to work, specifically the point at which to enter the young child into daycare. Contrary to my own preconceptions, starting a boy at nursery before the age of three can lead to juvenile delinquency later in life.

It has to be said that some of the advice put forward in 'Raising Boys' is common sense. Other comments could be considered as the opinions of the author; to paraphrase, Biddulph suggests that a Woman should find it abnormal a notion to have an opposite-sex child growing inside them, though this is not necessarily the case in reality. However he also points out useful observations such as that the mother has a preconceived technique for raising girls, since they themselves were once girls.

'Raising Boys' has proved its self as a useful reference guide, as well as a relevant documentation covering all the major aspects of a young boy's early growth. Thoroughly recommended.


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