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P. Millar "dazzle" (UK)

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Acer C7 11.6-inch Chromebook (2GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
Acer C7 11.6-inch Chromebook (2GB RAM, 320GB HDD)

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something I never knew I wanted ..., 8 Jan. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Basically a Chromebook is Google's Chrome web browser installed on a netbook. You cannot install applications on to it like you would with Windows, Linux or MacOS. You can install apps from the Chrome Web Store, but most of these are just glorified bookmarks to websites.

The point of the Chromebook is to do everything in the Chrome web browser using Google products and web sites (gMail, Google Drive, YouTube, Google+ etc) - so if you live your life on the web then a Chromebook is, probably, more useful to you than a regular PC.

I have found myself using the Chromebook more than I would have thought. It is handy as a quick way to get onto the web without having to sit down in a separate room on the desktop PC, it also has a movie player so I can watch ripped DVD's or stuff recorded from my MythTV box. Essentially I will be using this as a companion to my regular desktop PC and whilst on the move. The only thing missing is Silverlight so I can't stream movies from my Lovefilm account - a Lovefilm app which let you stream movies would be useful for a Chromebook.

Overall a handy and useful cut-price netbook which does what it claims to do (but I do think they could have included an HDMI cable with it).

Logitech T400 Zone Touch Mouse - Blue
Logitech T400 Zone Touch Mouse - Blue
Offered by Wiziwoo Limited
Price: £16.46

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea but ..., 7 Jan. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I haven't used a mouse on my main desktop PC for a long time, I prefer to use either a touchpad or trackball, but, having upgraded to Windows 8 I decided to give this mouse from Logitech a test run.

It is comfortable in the hand and feels good under the touch. It was a smooth install with the unifying receiver (allowing you to connect up to 6 compatible Logitech devices from the same receiver), and after it was installed it prompted you to download the Logitech SetPoint software. Once the installation was complete I configured the mouse how I like it and tried it out.

The first time I moved the cursor it was like madness, the arrow flipped all over the place and I could hardly get it to stop on the item I wanted to click. Slowing the mouse down was worse as then it just crept along as though through treacle. The scrolling was no better, either shooting through the whole page or stuttering and jerking all the way. About the only thing I quite liked was the single click on the top of the surface strip to flip you between the Start screen and the desktop.

I also tested this out on Ubuntu Linux 12.04 and it worked 'out of the box' and was a much more pleasant experience, with it being more responsiveness and precise.

Overall good design and feel with some clever ideas (touch surface strip and unifying receiver) but woeful at performance (under Windows).

A Young Doctor's Notebook [DVD]
A Young Doctor's Notebook [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Radcliffe
Price: £7.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark and surreal Russian medical comedy ..., 31 Dec. 2012
This has to be one of the best UK television productions I've seen in a long time. In equal measures serious, dark, humorous, chaotic and surreal. The story begins with a doctor reading through a notebook he wrote when, as a young doctor, he was sent from Moscow to run a hospital just to the left of the middle of nowhere. The two doctor's interact with each other in the earlier time - the older one trying to advise his younger self, and avoid the mistakes he has already made.

The source material for this is 'A Country Doctor's Notebook' by Mikhail Bulgakov, so if you enjoy Russian literature or just love a well made and acted TV show then this is a must see, especially if you enjoyed the 'Chekhov: Comedy Shorts' release a couple of years ago.

Your Sister's Sister [DVD]
Your Sister's Sister [DVD]
Dvd ~ Emily Blunt
Price: £7.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Like a Mazzy Star song on celluloid ..., 18 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Your Sister's Sister [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Another lo-fi indie film directed by Lynne Shelton ('Humpday') about the relationship between two sister's and the younger sister's best friend.

A year after Jack's brother has died his best friend, Iris, suggests he travels to her father's cabin to 'get himself together', but, once there he finds that Iris's sister, Hannah, has decided to the same thing. The next day Iris herself turns up and the emotional fall out starts from the events of the night before.

This is a low-key, naturalistic film (very much in keeping with the 'mumblecore' aesthetic) dealing with people who are in their thirties / forties but have still not quite left the school / college type of lifestyle behind. They talk how they did when they were in their teens and twenties and still behave like children in adult bodies, you get the feeling they are playing as adults. They don't really have any major causes or beliefs and already act world weary as though this is all life has to offer.

This film will probably have been marketed as a rom-com but it isn't really - it is a gentle human drama about what happens when you have to stop navel gazing and realise there is a world beyond your own thoughts. It also has one of the most realistic sex scenes seen on film.

Overall if you are a fan of US indie then you will probably love this film, if you are expecting a traditional rom-com then you will be disappointed.

The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language
The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language
by Mark Forsyth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A compendium of lesser words by the hours in the day ..., 11 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of those books destined to a life of being a Christmas present for the person (probably male) you are never quite sure what to buy. It will join books like QI:The Book of General Ignorance and the many Schotts' books on the bookshelf and will be, occasionally, dipped into to provide a wry moment of amusement.

The book is a list of forgotten words from the English language arranged as a book of hours, whatever time of day you can open the book, find the relevant page and find a word to suit what you might be doing at that time. Generally I get the feeling the book was probably more fun for the author who is someone who, I feel, relishes in research and poring over lists of words from tomes in libraries. For the casual etymologist it is the equivalent of light banter at a dinner party, where the etymologist might enjoy dropping in some of these words.

Overall a book which is a mild diversion at best ...

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us
The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us
by David Thomson
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit too dry ..., 8 Nov. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I enjoy films and I presume David Thomson does as well, as he seems to have made a career from studying and criticising them. This is supposedly his 'love letter' to the art he loves, a history which also attempts to show what the 'silver screen' has done to us - how it has affected and altered our lives. The preface was interesting and from that I thought the book was going to take a slightly more philosophical / social analysis bent. Unfortunately it is a historical book, but written in such a flat, dry style that it was a struggle to get through it - it takes the form of 'someone made this film which made this amount, then someone else made a film which made this amount' ad infinitum.

It reminded me of one of those teachers at school who know the topic they are talking about inside out but can't get it across in an interesting fashion so other people can enjoy their enthusiasm. The tone of the book is of someone who, perhaps, has reached an age where what he found exciting when younger, i.e. film, no longer excites him as much as it used to (I remember the last film which I was truly excited about was 'Reservoir Dogs', which was released when I was about 22), and he is yearning not for the films of yesteryear but his own youth back (and enthusiasm).

Overall an interesting failure that could have been better if the writing style wasn't so flat.

The Yellow Birds
The Yellow Birds
by Kevin Powers
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poeteically disappointing ..., 3 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
At some point someone might write a good fictional war novel set during the second Iraq war, unfortunately I don't think this is it. Apart from the seemingly endless plaudits and comparisons rained down on this book (with lots of illustrious people telling us this is an 'important' book destined to become a 'classic') I have the same feeling I had when I watched 'Schindler's List' - that people are commenting on the real events rather than the piece of 'art' based on those events.

The novel follows Private Bartle through training and in the war itself, the prose soon becomes weighed down by its own poetry (the author is a poet) and doesn't convince as a style to use for a novel about war. This isn't a classic book and once the hyperbole settles down it will disappear into the publisher's remainder pile.

Overall a disappointing take on an ongoing war which deserves a better novel.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2013 1:17 PM BST

Miami Blues (Penguin Modern Classics)
Miami Blues (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Charles Willeford
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Miami Violence ..., 3 Nov. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A cool and blistering example of hard-boiled American crime fiction, reminiscent of Jim Thompson. A psychopath comes to Miami to begin a new life and weaves a web of violence and intrigue around the other characters, including the homicide detective Hoke Moseley.

Violent and unforgiving this is a top notch read if you enjoy your crime fast and loose.

Monsieur Lazhar [DVD] [2011]
Monsieur Lazhar [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Mohamed Fellag
Price: £9.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Grief in Canada ..., 3 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Monsieur Lazhar [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A quiet story of grief and loss which sees the eponymous character take over as teacher after a tragedy affects the students.

This is a French-Canadian film which is rather low key with a quiet intensity which works extremely well. The back stories are slowly revealed which keeps you watching and the acting is impeccable.

Overall a very good film which rewards the viewer with an expertly crafted story.

Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Edition - Upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 (PC)
Windows 8 Pro Upgrade Edition - Upgrade from Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 (PC)
Offered by uksoftwareseller
Price: £99.55

3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One system for all ..., 28 Oct. 2012
Ignore the naysayers who tend to complain about every new version of Windows that comes out but still end up buying it anyway. If you have used Windows 7 then the learning curve for new features is very gentle. The main difference is the new Metro start screen, which is really designed for touch screen devices but still works perfectly well with a traditional mouse and keyboard set-up. You can access either Metro apps or desktop software from here and it uses hot corners for bringing up additional options.

Ultimately this is a hybrid system which is catering for all types of PC users. If you just want to use simple software which works one way without many configuration options then use the Metro apps, if you want to use software with more options then use desktop programs, or you can use a mixture of the two. The only real surprise is a lack of an option to either start with the Metro screen or the desktop, but there are already a few applications to do this for you (search for either Start8 from Stardock or, my personal favourite, StartIsBack) if you want to start with the desktop and have the traditional windows menu on the taskbar - and you can still flip to the Metro screen to use apps.

It feels faster and more responsive than Windows 7 and for about the first time in ages I haven't upgraded my hardware (which is about 5 years old now) to go with a new version of Windows. I installed 8 by doing an in-place upgrade over 7 and after the install all my programs and files were still where I was expecting them to be and I just carried on as though nothing had changed.

So far I have only found a few niggles: The Internet Explorer Metro interface wouldn't load and appears to be a bug due to the upgrade, I couldn't delete a key from the registry editor to try and fix this and I am unable to delete a folder from my external drive either - a few minor points which I will be searching around for fixes in due course. The other one is that fonts on some websites in IE 10 are appearing very small, notably Amazon, and I seem to remember having a similar problem in Firefox as well, I have set IE to ignore font sizes which fixes this on Amazon but then other fonts on other sites appear too large.

Overall I think this has been a worthy upgrade and it will be interesting to see what Microsoft comes up with for version 9 of Windows.

Edit (29/10/2012): To fix small fonts on Amazon in IE10 then use the compatibility view - which is the small 'broken page' icon in the address bar.

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