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S. P. Long "Simon Long" (Cambridge)
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BT N300 Wi-Fi Extender - White
BT N300 Wi-Fi Extender - White
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The first wireless extender I have tried which actually works..., 27 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've tried several wireless range extenders from various makes (Linksys, Netgear, unknown Far Eastern brands) and, without exception, using them has been an exercise in frustration. In spite of working in IT for the last 25 years, and having a lot of experience of setting up and troubleshooting wired and wireless networks, I don't think I've tried a single one which actually worked as advertised and connected with less than 15 minutes of fiddling about, and in some cases, I never actually managed to get them to work.

So this came as a surprise - the clear instructions tell you to plug it in, turn it on, wait for the lights to stop flashing and then hit the WPS button on your router (a Home Hub 5 in my case) and the WPS button on the extender. I did all the above, and 30 seconds later it was connected and working; I unplugged it, moved it to the furthest room in the house from the Home Hub, plugged it back in again, and that was it - set up and working. By far the easiest such experience I have ever had - well done, BT!

The extender seems to work well; it appears as a new network with the same name as your existing WiFi, but with "EXT-" on the front, and it uses the same password. As I moved away from the Hub and into range of the extender, and switched network, the signal strength bars on my iPhone showed an immediate improvement. If you are using Ethernet devices, the extender also has an Ethernet port on the top, so can also be used to connect wired devices to your network in a remote location.

As the title says, this is the first one of these devices that I have tried that does what it is supposed to, so an easy 5 star score from me!


Philips M2BTBK Fidelio Wireless Bluetooth Headphone - Black
Philips M2BTBK Fidelio Wireless Bluetooth Headphone - Black
Offered by Richer Sounds
Price: £199.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Sound quality rather disappointing for the money, 18 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are a rather expensive set of Bluetooth headphones; Philips aim them at the top end of the market as a supposed audiophile product. I've used several sets of Bluetooth headphones, and I currently use a set of Bose's over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones on a daily basis, which are pretty much the same price as these - so how do they compare?

First impressions when you take them out of the box are good - they are well-constructed from leather, metal and quality plastics, and they feel as if they will last. A drawstring carry bag is supplied, along with a USB cable for charging (a charge is supposed to last 10 hours) and a 3.5mm jack plug to allow the headphones to be connected to an audio device without using Bluetooth.

They clamp your head quite firmly, but the ear cushions are heavily padded, so they are actually quite comfortable, and they are light enough to not be hugely noticeable. They are quite big for on-ear phones, but they do sit on your ears, not around them - they actually provide a decent amount of isolation from outside noise, which is quite surprising for on-ear phones. Pairing with my iPhone 5 was trivial - hold down the button on the phones until the lights flash blue and white, and they appear in the iPhone's Bluetooth menu. So far, so good - so what do they sound like?

Here's where the news is not so good. The first thing I noticed was a low-level background whine on Bluetooth, audible between tracks; not a huge issue when music is playing, but not something I've noticed on any other Bluetooth phones I've ever used, so not a good sign. But the major issue with the phones is the sound balance - they are very heavy on the upper bass, and this overshadows everything else. While too much treble can be very tiring to listen to, these phones go too far the other way; the treble is recessed - there is no "sparkle" at all to upper registers. If all you want to listen to is bass guitar, these will be right up your street, but forget it if you like vocals. There's also not much real tone to the bass itself; it's more of a general thudding noise than anything that you can follow. The sound is very closed-in as well - there's no real sense of soundstaging, of anything happening outside the headphones. I have to admit to being surprised at the number of reviews praising the sound quality of these headphones, as to me they sound far from good - references to "crystal clear treble" elsewhere make me wonder if my set is faulty, but it doesn't seem so.

I also had a few Bluetooth glitches - the occasional dropout in the first few seconds while a track is playing.

My Bose Bluetooth phones are a considerably better listen; there's no way I'd swap them for a pair of these. For the price, they need to be a lot better than they are - very disappointing. You can do a lot better for the money - as a result, I can't recommend these.


Igenix Pikapak HL9456 GU10 Mains Halogen Lamp 35 W - Pack of 5, Clear
Igenix Pikapak HL9456 GU10 Mains Halogen Lamp 35 W - Pack of 5, Clear
Price: £7.14

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty average, really, 15 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These are standard GU10 halogen spotlight bulbs; the sort with two pins at the bottom that twist into the socket.

They are fine - they work ok and produce a decent enough beam of light, but only time will tell how well they last; I find myself replacing these bulbs in our kitchen with monotonous regularity.

But the packaging for this multipack is hugely wasteful - an enormous cardboard box with five separate blister packs in it. They aren't particularly cheap, either - this pack of 5 is well over twice the price of a pack of 4 identical bulbs from Ikea. They are on a par with the price you'd pay in a supermarket, so they aren't particularly overpriced - but they aren't cheap either.

Me, I'd be inclined to pick up a box next time I'm in Ikea, but if you don't have one nearby, these are as good as the supermarket alternative.


Leatherman Juice Leather Belt Pouch
Leatherman Juice Leather Belt Pouch
Price: £6.50

1.0 out of 5 stars Insufficiently secure and badly made., 29 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've had two of these pouches to hold my everyday-carry Juice XE6 on my belt. The first failed after a few years by the belt clip becoming detached from the pouch itself, which nearly caused me to lose the tool - fortunately, I noticed it falling off my belt. And then yesterday, the second one *did* cause me to lose the tool. Either the clip failed again, or the pouch just fell off my belt - the clip open at the bottom rather than a closed belt loop has always worried me due to the possibility of this happening. So as a result of the poor design of this case, I've just had to spend £90 replacing my beloved Juice. I shan't be trusting this pouch again, and am looking at pouches from other manufacturers which offer more security for an expensive multi-tool.


Leatherman Granite Grey LJXE6/GY Pocket Tool
Leatherman Granite Grey LJXE6/GY Pocket Tool
Price: £89.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Shorter blades than the original render this new version less useful, 29 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For the last ten years or more I have been carrying a Leatherman Juice XE6 on my belt, and it's an exceptionally useful little gadget; it gets used several times a day. Tragically, the pouch with it in fell off my belt at some point yesterday, and the idea of not having a multitool with me was too unpleasant to contemplate, so I immediately replaced it with this, the new model.

It is mostly identical to the old XE6 (which would have had a solid 5 stars), but there are a few changes to this version, none really for the better. The most significant is the length of the blades. The tool is just over 3" long, and the main blades in the original were as long as the handles - around 2.5" without the shank. On this version, the two main blades are a good centimetre shorter than on the original - this is apparently because the TSA in the USA had considered making it legal to carry a knife with a 2" blade onto planes as hand baggage, but they then changed their mind. Unfortunately, Leatherman had already redesigned the Juice and decided not to change it back again, leaving main blades which are compromised in use for no benefit at all. Given that the TSA's decision is likely to be permanent, and that the original Juice had perfectly serviceable full-length blades that would have fitted the new version, this isn't hugely satisfactory.

The other change is the handles - the old version had flat coloured plates on both sides of the tool, neither textured. This version leaves one side completely bare in plain steel, and adds a textured finish to the other side. The texturing might provide slightly more grip, but the bare side just looks unfinished, and I'm not sure how resistant it will be to corrosion and damage in the long term as a result.

In all other respects, this is still built to Leatherman's usual high standards, and it's still the best compromise between number of tools, size and weight for an everyday-carry device. It's just a real shame that the blades have been shortened for no real reason.


Adventures in Python
Adventures in Python
by Craig Richardson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to Python, but not without the odd flaw, 21 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Adventures in Python (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a book in the "Adventures in..." series which is designed to introduce young people to "maker" type technologies such as Raspberry Pi. This book covers the Python scripting language, which is commonly used by both hobbyist programmers and professionals.

The book assumes no prior knowledge of either Python or programming in general, and walks the reader through setting up Python on various systems (Windows, Mac or Linux), and takes you from writing simple interactive text programs, through simple graphics and user interfaces, up to using PyGame to design simple games (which takes up most of the second half of the book), with the final result being a simple but playable game whereby two players have to collect coins to score points.

The style is good - great blocks of hard-to-digest text are avoided, the writing is clear and friendly, and the book is well-illustrated and laid out. If someone works through the whole book, they will get a decent grounding in the basics of Python and general programming principles. If I were to criticise the content, sometimes the explanations of what a line of code actually does are a little over-simplified, with a slight tendency to the implication that "this just works, so you don't need to understand it", but that is a slight nitpick from a professional software engineer!

More worrying is that some aspects of the book have been written so as to date quite quickly - the use of Python 2 rather than Python 3 is understandable to some extent, but the instructions for installing Python only mention Python 2.7.8, which has already been superseded by Python 2.7.9, and is likely to be further superseded in future. The very specific installation instructions may well date this section of the book very quickly, which is less than ideal.

As long as that is borne in mind, however, this is a decent enough introduction to Python and to programming, and is certainly a lot better written and more approachable than many programming books I've read in my career!


Bosch Rotak 42 LI Ergoflex 36 V Cordless Lithium-Ion Lawnmower (43 cm cutting width)
Bosch Rotak 42 LI Ergoflex 36 V Cordless Lithium-Ion Lawnmower (43 cm cutting width)
Offered by Scuff Pro
Price: £389.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not perfect, and breathtakingly expensive, 9 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the top of the range cordless mower from Bosch - people pay less for used cars! Given that, you would expect it to be superb...

First impressions are pretty good - it all fits together solidly enough, and there are some nice touches like levered cams to lock the handle in its extended position; no annoying butterfly screws to fiddle with. A single battery is included, which takes around 90 minutes to charge in the supplied charger, and which is supposed to power the mower for around half an hour. (This figure seems optimistic to me - I was getting more like 20 minutes use on fairly short grass.) The battery fits into a compartment at the front of the mower, and is easy to insert and remove. There is a safety switch / key on the top to isolate the motor while cleaning the mower, and the included grass box is large enough to only require emptying every 5-10 minutes.

The height of cut is adjustable, with seven settings, the lowest of which made our lawn look very tidy indeed. The mower does a very good job of picking up its cuttings - far better than my old Qualcast electric mower - and is supposed to also pick up leaves and the like, although our garden lacks any overhanging trees, so I couldn't test that! The vertical extensions on the handle make it very comfortable to push, and the safety interlock switch in the centre of the handle is matched with dual triggers on each side, so is easy to work for both left- and right-handed users. The mower isn't too heavy, and is easy to manoeuvre, but is quite long from front to back, so can be awkward to turn in a confined corner. (This length is also a bit of an issue when storing it - even with the handle folded, it is twice as long as my old Qualcast, and required a rearrangement of the garage to store.)

It cuts very well, with one rather irritating caveat - the motor does not have as much torque as a mains mower, and it is easy to stall it by going over long grass. If this happens, you need to back up, bang the mower on the ground a couple of times (or turn it over, having isolated the motor first!) to clear the accumulated grass clippings, and carry on. This is the one big drawback of the mower - you can avoid it by keeping your lawn well-trimmed in the first place, but ours only had 10 days or so of growth, and this was enough to stall the mower several times.

It is still much easier to use than an electric mower - the lack of a cord is a joy, and makes mowing much faster. If it wasn't for the motor stalling and the disappointing battery life, I'd say this was pretty much perfect - as it is, I'm going to be using it from now on in place of the old electric mower, but it would be nice if, for the money, the motor could have had a bit more grunt and it could actually mow for as long as it claims on a charge.


Braun Series 9 9040s Wet and Dry Electric Shaver
Braun Series 9 9040s Wet and Dry Electric Shaver
Price: £179.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent shave, but very expensive., 8 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the second model in Braun's top of the range Series 9 that I have tried. There are two wet+dry waterproof models, the 9095cc and this, the 9040s. The 9040s is slightly cheaper (but still rather expensive!) so I thought it would be useful to compare the two.

As far as I can tell, the actual shaver is exactly the same in the two packages; the 9040s is in a rather more tasteful black and pale blue than the 9095cc's silver, but the shavers themselves are otherwise identical. They use the same shaving head, and I assume the same motor and battery, and seem to perform identically well too.

I've always preferred Braun's horizontal cutters to the rotary version used by Philips, and I already own a Braun Series 7 shaver, which is pretty good, albeit still not quite as good as a wet shave. But a quick run of the 9040 across my face and I was staggered at the results - this is the first electric shaver I've used which I would say actually gives as close a shave as a blade. The head moves very smoothly with no pulling, tugging or irritation, and your skin feels great afterwards, and so smooth. This is the first electric shaver I have tried that I would seriously consider giving up wet shaving for.

So it works really, really well. But it's still an awful lot of money - so what do you get? The shaver itself includes a head which either pivots freely or can be locked in one of 5 positions - I found leaving it to move freely worked fine. There is a short sideburn trimmer on the back; it's only about an inch long and slightly curved, so actually less useful than the trimmer on my Series 7, which is straight and a centimetre or so longer. The shaver itself feels comfortable in the hand, but it's really quite big. The shaving head itself is about 2cm across, with 4 separate floating shaving elements - a foil on each side and two trimmers for longer hairs in the middle. The shaver is fully waterproof and can be used wet or dry, and can be cleaned by being run under the tap or brushed clean. A full charge with the supplied travel charger takes around an hour, and provides 50 minutes of shave time, with a useful charge indicator on the front of the razor.

This model does not include the 9095cc's clean and charge station (although it does have the relevant electrical contacts, so could probably be used in one), and instead of the 9095's real leather travel case, this includes a fabric one of the same design (which is probably actually more practical for use in a wet place like a bathroom). The display of remaining charge is a little less sophisticated on the 9040, lacking the 9095's 9 minute countdown to completely flat. You save around 25% on the cost of the 9095 for this.

Interestingly, the 9040 claims to be usable with a shave gel or foam, which the 9095 does not - I suspect, given the similarity of the two shavers, this is down to something to do with the clean and charge station becoming contaminated by shave product residue.

This is an excellent shaver; without a doubt the best electric shaver I have used and the only one which I would consider getting rid of my wet shaver for. But it's very expensive, even in this slightly cheaper version. Frankly, if I was spending this much on a shaver, I think I'd be inclined to find the extra for the 9095, as the clean and charge station is worth having. But if you can't quite stretch to that, this is definitely the next best option for a top of the line electric shaver.


Braun Series 9 9095CC Wet/Dry Electric Shaver with Clean and Renew Charger
Braun Series 9 9095CC Wet/Dry Electric Shaver with Clean and Renew Charger
Offered by Stationeryhut
Price: £216.80

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably close shave from an electric - but you pay a lot for it, 6 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the absolute top of Braun's range of electric shavers - their topmost range is the Series 9 models, and this is the most expensive Series 9 shaver. It's a lot of money - I normally use a Wilkinson Sword Hydro razor, and even given the ridiculous price of shaving heads for that, you could buy 5 years worth of shaving heads for it for the cost of this shaver - so is it worth it?

First off, I've always preferred Braun's horizontal cutters to the rotary version used by Philips, and I already own a Braun Series 7 shaver, which is pretty good, albeit still not quite as good as a wet shave. But a quick run of the 9095 across my face and I was staggered at the results - this is the first electric shaver I've used which I would say actually gives as close a shave as a blade. The head moves very smoothly with no pulling, tugging or irritation, and your skin feels great afterwards, and so smooth. This is the first electric shaver I have tried that I would seriously consider giving up wet shaving for.

So it works really, really well. But it's still an awful lot of money - so what do you get? The shaver itself includes a head which either pivots freely or can be locked in one of 5 positions - I found leaving it to move freely worked fine. There is a short sideburn trimmer on the back; it's only about an inch long and slightly curved, so actually less useful than the trimmer on my Series 7, which is straight and a centimetre or so longer. The shaver itself feels comfortable in the hand, but it's really quite big. The shaving head itself is about 2cm across, with 4 separate floating shaving elements - a foil on each side and two trimmers for longer hairs in the middle. The shaver is fully waterproof and can be used wet or dry, and can be cleaned by being run under the tap or brushed clean. A full charge with the supplied travel charger takes around an hour, and provides 50 minutes of shave time, with a useful charge indicator on the front of the razor. A high quality zipped real leather case is included.

The kit also includes Braun's "Clean and Charge Station", which circulates cleaning fluid through the razor and charges it up between shaves. This works really well at keeping the razor clean (and smelling great - the alcohol-based cleaning fluid is lemon-scented!) - you just stick the shaver in it when you're done, press the button, and an hour or so later, the razor is clean and dry and fully charged. The only problem with the cleaning station is the cost of the refill cartridges; a cartridge lasts around 3 weeks, and costs around a fiver - if you use these, you'll spend more on cleaning cartridges than you would on shaving heads for the most expensive system wet razors. Also, Braun recommend changing the shaving head itself every 18 months or so, which is another £40 a time.

Overall, if you prefer to use an electric shaver, this is without doubt the best you can get; no question. But it's hugely pricey, both upfront and in cleaning cartridges if you choose to use them; it starts to make expensive wet shave system razors look like a cheap option. If money's no object, though, I'd recommend it without hesitation.


AmazonBasics Padded Bed Bolster Bed, Medium
AmazonBasics Padded Bed Bolster Bed, Medium
Price: £14.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Medium"? More like "enormous"..., 1 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Amazon advertise this as a "medium" pet bed - just to be clear, I think this is referring to a medium-size cheetah or other big cat, as it's huge! It measures 3 feet by 2 feet, so would easily accommodate a large dog; our cat is dwarfed by it.

It's made of polyester and is washable; there is a fleecy finish in the bed and around the surrounding bolster, which is about 3 inches round - it's not the sort of thing a cat can sit and hide behind in order to feel secure; it's more just a finisher for the edge.

The quality is pretty reasonable, and as it is an Amazon Basics product, I assume it'll be pretty cheap. (This is a pre-launch sample, so I don't know what price they will set for it yet.) If you're looking for a reasonable quality pet bed for a low price, this one is as good as you'll find; it's unlikely to last for years, but it's probably cheap enough to throw away and replace when it gets too mucky.


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