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My Book Essential WDBAAF0020HBK - Hard drive - 2 TB - external - Hi-Speed USB
My Book Essential WDBAAF0020HBK - Hard drive - 2 TB - external - Hi-Speed USB
Offered by AOT (VAT registered)
Price: 138.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Speedy and quiet solution for WD media player owners, 11 May 2011
This drive is by far the fastest offboard WD HDD I have owned (and I have 4 others). It runs quietly and very cool, barely warming at all despite 1.2TB of continuous data transfer. In fact, it made me realise how noisy, clunky and alarmingly hot my older 750GB My Book was. The drive is midway between me and my PC and yet the HDDs in the desktop are all louder than the WD.

It's also a good 25% slimmer than that older generation of My Books, taking up less tabletop space but being a little more prone to tipping over. At least the two rubber feet make it less likely to slide off a smooth table top if the cables are jolted and they seem to contribute to the general quiet operation. Amazon had to replace my first order for this product since it arrived with one rubber foot missing, but they managed to get a delivery to me within 48 hours. Impressive.

This drive was bought to serve media files into a Western Digital WDTV, so I was nervous when I plugged it into my PC and discovered it created 2 drive letters. Previous experience told me that a WDTV media player can't see partitioned HDDs. One of these drive letters turned out to be a Virtual CD partition holding the so-called Smartware. This utility suite has drive diagnostics and encryption options and a quick registration system, plus a sleep timer and 'eraser' (that formats and wipes the whole disc). It also has backup software which has a slick interface but lacks advanced features (but has file versioning), though it is probably a great boon for those new to backup. The Virtual CD can be disabled from within Smartware if you need to free up a drive letter. It only consumes around 400MB of space on the drive. However, the clever bit is that the partition is in UDF format and doesn't trouble the WDTV media player at all.

Updating the Smartware opened a browser window and prompted for a firmware update for the drive itself. The foreboding instructions to disable anti-virus software and other programs which might write to disk during the update seem more appropriate for a boot drive rather than an offboard one. The update also required power-cycling the drive AND a PC restart, so its a relief that this is a job you only need to do once.

The only negative I can think of is that the four white LED lights that act as a capacity gauge as your drive begins to fill up are far too bright (though they only appear when the WD is connected to a PC or laptop). It would be nice to have an option to disable them (other than some black electrical tape!) in case you want to watch media on your PC in dim lighting. There's a ridiculous amount of light leakage from the rear slots on the back of the casing because the LEDs are in the base of the case and send their output up some sort of plastic light-pipe that is unshielded. When connected to the WD TV media player, a tiny white LED throbs to tell you that the drive is accessing, and this too can be distracting (I hid the drive behind a DVD case). Other than that, an excellent product.


The Steel Remains (Gollancz)
The Steel Remains (Gollancz)
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An anarchic assault on a genre, 28 April 2011
This review says nothing about the plot or most of the characters - it's just an enthusiastic response to a (funny) book I enjoyed in a genre that I don't.

I picked this up as a Xmas gift for a friend who reads the kind of epic fantasy series that require the hewing of entire forests to print. See what I did there? I used an archaism - 'hewing'... which is one of the conceits in fantasy that turns me off. And 'Never read a book in which a sword has a name' is a principle that has served me well. But I read the first page just to be sure it was the right gift. And then I read the second and the third and...

Morgan has set out here to drag sword and sorcery writing into the age of '24'. His prose slashes and skewers more piercingly than an eldritch blade forged by the steel-masters of ... wow, now he's got me fant-speaking! See how good this guy is?

Why does it work? First, Morgan doesn't take off on a 60-page digression to give you the back story for the pageboy who just brought the king his pheasant burger. He doesn't try to bamboozle you into thinking he's a subtle political analyst by basing his story on the War of the Roses as cribbed from a book of Pass Notes. Women seldom simper or wait to be rescued and the females who can handle themselves in a sword fight never do end up swapping a corselet for a corset. Plus, the hero fancies blokes, especially eldritch ones. Ooh, cognitive dissonance! Yes, that's right: the meanest, leanest, sword-wieldingest protagonist isn't going to marry the princess.

Perhaps the significance of this book is ultimately that - Morgan dares to take the homerotic foundations of the genre (you knew that's what the oiled muscles, men-in-leather with big weapons thing was really about, right?) and make it explicit (boy, does he ever!) and an essential quality in his protagonist's character that defines his actions and the attitudes of those around him. His hero is therefore doubly outcast: a feckless scoundrel, and also someone who inclines the macho types around him to think twice if he says "I've got your back!" in a tight corner.

This is also the funniest book in this genre I've ever read - I mean laugh out loud moments and one-liners. The action scenes sizzle. The book builds to a crescendo that will dazzle anyone who appreciates a fine melee and a rousing battle speech, which then caps a satisfyingly believable arc of character development with the best gag in the book.

So if you're looking for some writing with good pace, humour and, in case there's any doubt, genuine respect for the genre he is nevertheless trying to shake to its roots, then get this book. I will certainly get the sequel. And I only deducted a star because the darn sword has a name.


Dollhouse - Season 1 [DVD]
Dollhouse - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eliza Dushku
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: 8.53

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Close your eyes and count to seven, 4 Oct 2009
This review is from: Dollhouse - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
No box set which serves up six consecutive episodes of such worthless, thumb-twiddling rubbish should expect the viewer to stick with it to the last two discs - but then you'd miss out on one of the year's more intriguing premises for a TV series.

There is a philosophical question posed by this series concept: can an audience be induced to care about a 'character' who is brain-wiped at the end of each episode and then re-programmed with an entirely new personality? By episode 2 you know the answer: no. Resoundingly, no. At least, not with lead actor Eliza Dushku falling back on School of Wonderbra technique and not when each 'new' persona is a variant on a rich man's plaything.

Then something happens mid-season. The writers are allowed to stop creating dumbed down stand alone pilot after pilot and create a story arc across episodes. Dushku's pampered sexbot begins to subvert her programming and displays purpose and character, at last. She goes from eye-candy victimhood to intriguing heroine and yes, you start to care what happens to 'her'.

You also start to care about the plot. Starting out as vacuous as the 'dolls' who serve the Dollhouse, the show suddenly remembers it's OK to have character development and intelligent ideas and plot complexities and tension and multiple storylines. All those things which Fox executives think, presumably, are a turn-off for its viewers.

Joss Whedon, or perhaps his producer, Dushku herself, tread a fine line here between playing the corporate TV game and making good programs. That they got their second series was a huge relief to me, a converted fan by episode 8, but without the constant prodding of reviews assuring me it was worth the pain of the first two discs I'd never have got that far. Dushku the actor even rises to the better material, prompting ironists to wonder if this story of a photogenic female suppressing her own dignity to serve evil corporate interests wasn't some clever parody all along.

So buy this set because this is television worth seeing and supporting. But just lower your expectations during the first six episodes, grit your teeth and stick with it. Alternatively, just hand the first two DVDs to a couple of lagered up, leery college lads who think Eliza is babelicious, at whom the first episodes are clearly targeted, then start in the middle where the grown-up fun begins and everyone involved regains their self-respect.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2009 12:18 AM BST


Kaspersky Internet Security 2010 (3 PC, 1 Year subscriptions) (PC)
Kaspersky Internet Security 2010 (3 PC, 1 Year subscriptions) (PC)
Offered by iSolutions
Price: 12.99

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feels a little buggy in version 9.0.0.463, 5 Aug 2009
I have used KIS2009 on 3 PCs for a year and found it effective if a little rough around the edges.

The first thing the 2010 installer did was insist I remove McAfee Siteadvisor. This made my browsing less safe I think, which isn't a great start. Kaspersky said my old 2009 product key would work. It didn't, so I had to buy the upgrade a month early.

I then had 2 blue screens of death (on XP SP3) perhaps related to registry entries from the 2009 version. Maybe uninstall that first before putting in 2010? A reinstall fixed this.

Then the trouble. Overaggressive protection (on the 'recommended' setting) was hindering webpages I could normally access freely in Firefox 3.5. It was poor at scanning downloading files too. Instead of prompting for action with a pop up message the AV (avp) module would just churn the hard disk, preventing even closing the browser except after a long wait for Task Manager to open. I had to manually add web addresses to a white list, which was pretty hard to find. The Help system is poor. Several times got messages about components not being able to start asking me to shut down and restart.

Given that this was installed right behind the earlier Kaspersky product, I was unimpressed that it offered less usability. When you find yourself thinking about excluding files and applications from your security suite's attentions, you have to wonder what it's for in the first place!

In the end, I feel like this is a release candidate and the next small version upgrade can't come soon enough. Anyone thinking of buying should check the Kaspersky forums or try a trial version for 30 days.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 16, 2009 9:41 PM BST


Incandescence
Incandescence
by Greg Egan
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not nearly exotic enough, 15 July 2008
This review is from: Incandescence (Paperback)
Greg Egan is the Martin Gardner of science fiction storytelling, weaving mathematical and physical puzzles into entertaining howdunnits about encounters with novel forms of sentience, usually at vastly smaller scales than ours. Many of his stories, like Incandescence, are set in a post-human galaxy-spanning culture, the Amalgam, based on the idea of consciousness as an algorithm that can run on different hardware as it suits - so interstellar travel, for instance, is a simple matter of flinging your mental template (or a copy of your mind) as data to a far off receiving station where you can be re-embodied or just incorporated into any computational substrate that will let your unique OS run.

At his best (e.g. Schild's Ladder) the reader is often gripped by a plot involving a race against time to comprehend new forms of intelligent life that might be threatening the old through some inadvertent side-effect of their expansionism into the Amalgam's reality-space. At the same time, Egan has an amazing gift for explaining, Flatland fashion, the physics of extreme environments; working through the consequences of Planck scale realities or multi-dimensional spaces to render them almost as intuitively as we accept the everyday physics of our world.

In Incandescence, the story alternates between two investigators from the Amalgam trying to comprehend the possibly tragic fate of just such a new form of sentience and the struggle of that life form to comprehend its environment before the volatile conditions which exist in the star-packed inner core of our galaxy makes them extinct.

Although entertaining - I found myself rooting for the little sextupeds turning themselves on to the joys of physics - perhaps the maths that Egan describes here -- of huge gravitational forces and plasma dynamics -- aren't quite as exotic as in his other books. One half of the chapters are really just an exercise in the re-invention of Newton's Laws, Keplerian orbits, the differential calculus, special and general relativity and so on, familiar I suspect to any reader with a New Scientist-level physics education. Something is missing from the story as pure sci-fi because the reader isn't so much being stimulated by new physical concepts as being forced to try to remember the way, say, physicists solved the problem of orbits or the curvature of spacetime, etc.

It was tempting to see this tale as an allegory of a civilization at threat of extinction from vast environmental change (i.e. global warming) but even that is spoiled by a deus ex machina -- Egan's six-footed Einstein's are universally prone to collaboration and consensus! The only threat they face is lack of time, not their own foibles as a species.

Still, Incandescence is a wonderful antidote to space opera and many of Egan's descriptions of physics experiments inside extreme gravity wells are ingenious and elegant. Buy this book if you enjoy mental exercise and mathematical puzzles, but only if your scientific education is pre-college. Otherwise it might just feel like a history lesson.


Seagate FREEAGENT PRO 750GB Hard Drive UK-VER 3,5"7200RPM16MB ESATA/USB2.0 - ST307504FPC1E2-RK
Seagate FREEAGENT PRO 750GB Hard Drive UK-VER 3,5"7200RPM16MB ESATA/USB2.0 - ST307504FPC1E2-RK

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty and pretty quiet, 12 Jan 2008
Stable and quiet, buy not as quick as WD My Book. It also runs fairly hot at full tilt. The 5 yr warantee is reassuring. The supplied USB cable is a mini-connector but no e-SATA was included.

The best reason to buy this PRO version of the drive is, however, the supplied Memeo AutoBackup software. With modern offboard hard drives being so cheap and so high in capacity, there's little point running compressed backup/archiving software any more.

Think of it as Microsoft SyncToy designed by Porsche. The Memeo software runs in the background and can synchronise a drive or folders to the Seagate (or any other HD) in real time. This means you don't need to stick to a backup schedule ever again.

Multiple file versions can be saved. There's an option to store the backups encrypted but if you leave that off the backups are actually just 1:1 clones of your files. This is truly excellent - it means you can avoid the Restore feature to get your files back and just search the drive in Explorer like any other hard disk. [Small metafiles are stored in the backed up directories for the Restore software to find but their footprint is small and they are easily removed after copying directories back to your main HD].

If you turn your drive off, the Memeo software continues to monitor changes to your files and then runs an updated backup the second you reconnect the drive, provided you tell it the Verify. This is just about idiot proof backup and even for an Acronis True Image devotee like me, it is a far more convenient method of safeguarding files.


Sarah Gillespie: The Slapton Ley Project
Sarah Gillespie: The Slapton Ley Project
by John Peacock
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen and the art of nature painting., 22 Nov 2007
This beautiful book is the first hardback publication showcasing the sensitive oil paintings and charcoal drawings of this Sorbonne-trained artist who lives and works in Devon. Her meticulous paintings and drawings manage to include a wealth of fine detail and yet seem to capture a simple essence. The end result is an almost Zen-like sense of calm and order.

From the jacket blurb: Sarah Gillespie presents a detailed visual exploration of the Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve in south Devon. A series of large-scale charcoal drawings and oil paintings capture the ever-changing atmosphere of the largest freshwater lake in southwest England. A haven for waterfowl and wildlife, the lagoon, the famous shingle bar of Slapton Sands, and the coastline of Start Bay are in a constant state of flux as the elements reshape the landscape from season to season.


Andrew Gifford
Andrew Gifford
by Elspeth Moncrieff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 35.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who knew Walsall was so pretty!, 22 Nov 2007
This review is from: Andrew Gifford (Hardcover)
Andrew Gifford (who is represented by the John Martin Gallery) puts a new spin on contemporary landscape painting, finding extraordinary beauty in the sunsets and street lights of industrial English towns and landscapes. Inspired by James Turrell, Gifford shares his knack for depicting light as an object in its own right. Don't be misled by the slightly atypical abstract cover image - check out his gallery. Walsall by night was never so lovely!

From the jacket blurb: Andrew Gifford was born in Sheffield in 1970. He is recognised as one of the most innovative young landscape painters working today. 'Andrew Gifford' shows the full range of the artist's work, from paintings of urban cityscapes as diverse as gritty northern English towns, Paris and Berlin to the airy spaces of the French landscape, where he now lives. An introductory text by Elspeth Moncrieff also explores Gifford's motivations and approach to painting, as well as his large-scale 'Light Works' installations.


Somerset:: the Paintings of John Caple
Somerset:: the Paintings of John Caple
by Nell Leyshon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A unique melding of art and folklore, 22 Nov 2007
A truly unique publication about Somerset artist John Caple, whose uncle Orien was a historian of folklore tradition. Designed entirely by the artist (formerly a book designer), this book explores the stories and traditions of this region through Caple's visionary paintings. The book includes an introduction by playwright and novelist Nell Leyshon.

From the jacket blurb: For generations John Caple's family have been farmers and land-workers in the Mendips. Much of Caple's art is concerned with the land, its inhabitants and the folklore of this area of Somerset. He began to paint about the collective folk memory of the Mendips: the festivals that still lingered on in certain villages, the healers and the cures, fortune-tellers, witches and `cunning men'. His neighbours still knew which house `Cunning Beacham' used to live in; a relative might remember the way to repel an adder bite and how to use a heart charm to bring love. You are still as likely to find a magic charm as a bus ticket in a Somerset pocket.


Fred Yates: C'est Votre Passion Monsieur!
Fred Yates: C'est Votre Passion Monsieur!
by John Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.17

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 84 years young and still passionate about painting..., 22 Nov 2007
A journal of Fred Yates' artistic sojourn in France between the years 1992 to the present day, using his own words from letters, journals and other correspondence.

FRED YATES: "C'est votre passion, Monsieur!" is the first publication in hardback about this hugely popular artist. It contains over 70 colour illustrations exploring this extraordinarily productive period in the artist's life, ranging from landscapes to self-portraits, bustling scenes of life in French villages to childhood recollections of northern England.

Vibrant images and a revealing text capture the energy and commitment of this remarkable octogenarian who is painting at the top of his game.


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