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S. P. Long "Simon Long" (Cambridge)
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Live Blood
Live Blood
Price: 11.63

19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How to fleece the fans..., 1 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Live Blood (Audio CD)
Last year, Peter Gabriel released an album of orchestral versions of his songs, "New Blood". This came in several versions, but there was a lot of exploitation of the fans by including unique tracks on different versions, meaning that if you wanted all the songs, you had to buy it several times over. The most expensive version was a 4-disc deluxe edition, with the album itself, the live concert on DVD and BD, and a single disc CD of highlights from the concert. I bought this, and was then rather dismayed to find that a few months later, "Live Blood" gets a release - i.e. the full concert on CD, not just the highlights, but meaning that anyone who bought the deluxe version already had half the songs on here.

Still, I bought this to get the remaining songs, and it's fine - the sound quality is perfectly acceptable, and the arrangements are at least interesting. Ane Brun's female vocals are as irritating as they were on the studio album, particularly on "Don't Give Up", but there is enough on here that is worth a listen. However, there is a nasty surprise when you get to the end of the disc...

On the DVD and BD, once the concert is finished, an instrumental remix (not a New Blood version) of "The Tower That Ate People" is played over the credits; clearly nothing to do with the concert itself. Fair enough on the BD and DVD - after all, you need something to play over the credits. But the same music is included at the end of the last track of this CD, where it makes no sense at all. It is clear that this is just a straight copy of the BD and DVD audio, and PG (or whoever he delegated this to) couldn't even be bothered to edit out the now irrelevant music. How much contempt is it possible to show for your audience?

I'm afraid I've lost all respect for Mr Gabriel now - the whole New Blood project looks like an attempt to see how many times he can persuade his fans to buy the same old stuff in different formats. I'd expected better from one of the most creative and innovative artists of the last thirty years than this rather sharp practice...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2012 7:14 PM BST


Rebit Version 5, 1 User (PC)
Rebit Version 5, 1 User (PC)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea - flawed implementation, 3 April 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I use both Mac and PC at home, and one of the advantages of Mac OS X is the built-in backup system, Time Machine, that sits in the background and monitors changes to files, and keeps a complete version history of every file on the machine on an external drive. I've been looking for something similar for Windows 7 - there are a few programs that do the same for documents or music files, but Rebit is the first I have found that will protect the entire system.

Installation was fine, but the fact that very few options are offered meant that it initially told me that my 500GB network share wasn't large enough to back up my 300GB system disk - by default, Rebit tries to back up all the drives on your PC, and I had to quit the setup and find the relevant option to exclude drives from the backup. Probably not a huge problem for most people, but I think the installer perhaps goes a little bit too far in terms of not asking the user to make any decisions. Once installed, the initial backup began. This was slow - it took over a day and a half to back up 180GB of data to a network share. To be fair, I suspect that the slowness was deliberate, so as not to slow the PC down significantly while the backup was in progress. Once that was done, Rebit was ready to go.

The Rebit process sits in the background, and every minute or so it checks for changed files, and copies the new versions to the backup. Old versions can be recovered by right-clicking and bringing up the Rebit menu for a file, or the entire backup can be browsed from the Rebit application (to enable deleted files to be recovered.) It's all quite slick and intuitive, and I haven't noticed any significant performance slow-down from having the app installed.

However, it's not perfect. The major issue is that it locks a file while it is backing it up - if you are making a lot of edits to a file and saving it regularly (such as when editing MP3 tags, for example), you can hit the situation where Rebit is backing up a file you have just changed at the same time as you want to save it again with a new change, and the save operation will then not be allowed due to the lock Rebit has on the file. Among other things, this results in a major clash between Rebit and the Thunderbird mail client - as mail clients make a lot of changes to files on a regular basis, Rebit only backs up Outlook data files on first boot. However, this is the only mail client that it understands, so it sits in the background locking Thunderbird files while you are trying to delete or move messages, and this can corrupt the Thunderbird database. There is an option in Rebit to pause the backup process, and you should do this before trying to use Thunderbird - to be fair to Rebit, they acknowledge the issue on their website and are working on a fix.

It's early days yet, but I like the idea of Rebit, and in most respects it does look like a nice "fit and forget" backup option. I just hope that they are proactive with regards fixing the teething problems that currently prevent it being an unqualified recommendation.

Edit - OK, I've now been using Rebit on my machine for a month now, and I'm afraid I've just uninstalled it. It's too flaky - the lock-ups described above, and the problem with Thunderbird are still happening on a very regular basis, and I find myself having to pause the Rebit backups whenever I want to use the PC for anything more demanding than web browsing. I experienced occasional crashes of Explorer, which never occurred before I installed Rebit, and there were a lot of unexplained pauses in operation of the PC, particularly immediately after startup. The irritations just added up, and in the end Rebit had to go.

It's a shame; it's a very good idea (albeit one borrowed from Apple), but the implementation of a backup scheme needs to be rock-solid, and this one simply isn't.


Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection v15 (PC)
Pinnacle Studio HD Ultimate Collection v15 (PC)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hasn't got better with time..., 27 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Pinnacle Studio was the first PC video editing package I ever used - it came with an analogue video capture card I bought nearly ten years ago, and it was a dog. It forced you into its own way of working (which was far from intuitive), it was glacially slow - you spent most of your time looking at progress bars, its format support was very limited and it was riddled with bugs. I managed to use it to author a single DVD and then gave up with it, and investigated much better solutions. 10 years down the line, we have version 15, and I assumed it would have to have got much, much better in that time, right?

Wrong.

The user interface will be completely familiar to anyone who used that original version - three tabs for import, edit and author. Where do I begin? The import tab can't see the C drive on your PC - you can import from D, E, F or any other devices, but not actually the drive where you might actually have stored content. The import process is ridiculously slow, as it attempts to detect "scenes" in the files as they come in - this takes a couple of minutes on an hour-long MPEG-2 file, and it will do it on every file in the imported directory, whether you like it or not. The scene detection isn't any good anyway - it seems to insert arbitrary markers in the middle of pieces of completely identical video. Not a good start.

Dragging an imported video onto the timeline to begin editing takes another minute or so - most decent editors will do this in a matter of seconds. Actually editing uses a confusing system of splitting and deleting clips at the cursor position, rather than allowing you to set in and out flags and cutting to either side. Admittedly, this is a matter of taste, but speaking as one who has used various video editors for the last ten years, I couldn't work out how you actually edited video in this window without looking at the manual. (And speaking of a manual, in spite of the large box, you don't actually get one - online help is your lot.)

At that point, I gave up. Ten years ago, Pinnacle was just about acceptable because video editing on PC was in its infancy. Compared to any number of competitors nowadays, it is unintuitive, slow and awkward to use. I can't see why anyone would use it compared to the numerous alternatives.


Flowertown
Flowertown
by S.G. Redling
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.64

46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, truly original thriller, 26 Mar 2012
This review is from: Flowertown (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sheila Redling's debut novel is one of the most original and yet credible thrillers I have read for years. The setting is the site of a chemical spill, where the people exposed to the chemical have been walled in in the Flowertown of the title to prevent them contaminating the rest of the country. It's an interesting proposition on its own, but the plot just carries on developing into one of the best conspiracy theory novels I can remember reading.

It grips from very early on - I read it cover to cover in two sittings. The characters and dialogue are believable and well-sketched. One word of caution is that a few scenes are rather gruesome to read, but they are entirely consistent with the plot and in no way gratuitous. The blurb makes comparisons to Michael Crichton and Dennis Lehane, and both are valid, but the author this most reminded me of was the little-known Christopher Hyde, whose techno-thrillers are based around similar left-field ideas.

In an age where so many thrillers are me-too copies of other successful books, this title deserves to do well for daring to come up with an original idea. I shall be awaiting Ms Redling's next novel with eagerness!


More it Sticks Out Half a Mile (Classic BBC Comedy)
More it Sticks Out Half a Mile (Classic BBC Comedy)
by Harold Snoad
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 8.98

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten for a reason, 21 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As a huge fan of "Dad's Army", one of the BBC's best-loved sitcoms, I was quite surprised that I'd never heard of this spin-off radio series. Made in the 80's, it features Ian Lavender (Pike), John Le Mesurier (Wilson) and Bill Pertwee (Hodges, the ARP warden) reprising their roles in a completely unrelated post-war story about trying to renovate a run-down seaside pier.

Unlike the original series, which was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, this new series was written by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles, whose only connection to the original was to write the radio adaptations of the original TV episodes. Crucially, this is not a job that would have involved coming up with either plot or dialogue, and both are sadly lacking in this series. The original series was played pretty much straight - the humour came from the situations and the responses of the characters to them; in this, the characters themselves seem to be comedy caricatures of their original "Dad's Army" roles. Pike even speaks in a deliberately silly voice, which wasn't a feature of the original series. There's no subtlety to the humour - it's all very obvious. The dialogue is weak compared to the original series - there's a lot more double-entendre, which fails to raise much of a smile - and there's nothing to compare with classics like "Don't tell him, Pike!" Finally, one of the great strengths of "Dad's Army" was the ensemble casting - every character was interesting and added something different to the whole. The absence of Mainwaring, Jones, Godfrey, Frazer and Walker is very keenly felt.

The BBC do seem to be scraping the barrel with some of their audio releases - this was one that apparently had been lost and was recovered from recordings made by a listener. On the strength of this disc, it's hard to see why they bothered. If you're a "Dad's Army" completeist, it might be worth a quick listen, but it certainly won't achieve the classic status of its illustrious forebear.


The Flatey Enigma
The Flatey Enigma
by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.64

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting ending, but very slow getting there, 6 Mar 2012
This review is from: The Flatey Enigma (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It seems that with the success of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo, fiction from the north of Europe is viewed as a good bet by UK publishers, so once you've exhausted Scandinavia, Iceland is a good choice! "The Flatey Enigma" has been translated from the original Icelandic; unfortunately it is set in rural Iceland of 50 years ago, and common cultural reference points are few and far between.

The story is about an investigator sent from the city to investigate a body found on a remote island, and the death turns out to be tied into a puzzle based around a mediaeval manuscript stored on a neighbouring island. The last 50 pages or so are actually quite a good read - the way multiple plot strands are all tied together is very neat and satisfying. Unfortunately, the preceding 250 pages are really rather dull - very little happens, and I did have to force myself to keep reading, as there was very little in the way of suspense to keep you interested.

It's by no means a bad book, but it certainly isn't comparable with "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" in terms of drawing you into the plot.


The Voyages of the Princess Matilda
The Voyages of the Princess Matilda
by Shane Spall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.73

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not brilliantly written, but deeply moving nonetheless, 2 Mar 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While pretty much everyone is aware of Tim Spall for his roles in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and the Harry Potter films, not many people will have heard of Shane Spall, his wife, who is the author of this book. Some people may have seen the documentaries on BBC4 of their voyage around the coast of the UK in a barge; this book is part of the story of that trip.

Fifteen years ago, Tim Spall was diagnosed with leukaemia, and he and his wife promised themselves that if he recovered, they would get a boat and travel together in it. This book combines two stories; that of their travels, with that of Tim's illness, and in particular Shane's response to it, told as flashbacks and diary entries.

It's an odd combination - the travelogue is a semi-slapstick tale of two very unlikely (and frankly, not very good) sailors, involving collisions, storms, getting drenched and all the usual nautical shenanigans, and this is then interrupted every few pages with the harrowing account of how Shane felt watching her husband close to death.

Being brutally honest, Shane is not a brilliant writer - the text is very stream-of-consciousness, the punctuation and grammar could be better, and it lacks any real focus - the experience is very much that of being talked at by an incredibly chatty person, with random thoughts and reminiscences colliding into each other. That said, the scenes dealing with Tim's illness are powerful and moved me to tears on more than one occasion, so if the real purpose of writing is to communicate, then technique be damned; this manages it.

The one thing that comes across most strongly is the deep love the two share - they do seem to lurch from one disaster to another, and there seems to be more than their fair share of harsh words exchanged, but you get the distinct impression of a couple who are bonded for life, and who couldn't be without each other.


Masterplug Ross Neo LNTA200-RO Full Motion Triple Arm Extendable Articulating Adjustable Swivel and Tilt Wall Mount Bracket for 23-37 inch LCD, LED, Monitor and TV Black
Masterplug Ross Neo LNTA200-RO Full Motion Triple Arm Extendable Articulating Adjustable Swivel and Tilt Wall Mount Bracket for 23-37 inch LCD, LED, Monitor and TV Black
Price: 15.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Robust and practical, but maybe not for large TVs, 21 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Before I start, one word of warning. This bracket is quoted as being able to support TVs from 23 to 37 inches. While I have no doubt that the bracket itself could indeed do so, I suspect that the fixings holding it to the wall might struggle with TVs at the upper end of that range! Most mounting brackets use a large plate to attach to the wall, but this uses a narrow vertical bar - this combined with the long arm on the bracket (over 12") and the wide range of adjustment might well prove too much for the wall plugs if a large TV was used.

That said, with a lighter TV, this looks like a fine, solid support. The TV can be angled by around 15 degrees from the vertical, either up or down, and the long arm will give a wide range of adjustment from side to side - it will also allow the TV to be easily pushed back flat against the wall when not in use. If you don't need all that adjustment, there are better brackets available for less money, but if you do, this one looks pretty good, and the construction inspires confidence - all the adjustment mechanism is solid and well-made, and should last for years.

The bracket is fitted by screwing the main bracket to the wall, fitting the plate to the back of the TV, and then just dropping the plate onto the end of the arm - easy and foolproof. There is a built-in spirit level to help you get the bracket straight, and a set of screws is supplied which will attach it securely to a wall stud, or into a solid wall using the wall plugs which are also included. There are three sizes of screw included to attach the plate to your TV, and the plate has protective plastic pads where it touches the TV to protect it - a nice touch, although I'm not too convinced by Ross' claim that this will improve sound quality!

As I said, I suspect your wall may struggle with a TV of 30" or more on this bracket, but for TVs smaller than that, this looks to be a good buy.


Hancock's Half Hour: Sid's Mystery Tour / The Poetry Society (Vintage Beeb)
Hancock's Half Hour: Sid's Mystery Tour / The Poetry Society (Vintage Beeb)
by Ray Galton
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 5.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Comedy genius, 18 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This disc is a rather odd concept - the BBC seem to be taking some of the original comedy albums they released on vinyl in the 70's and 80's and remastering them on CD packaged in the original vinyl artwork, on discs which are printed to look like vinyl LPs. This would be fine, but all of "Hancock's Half Hour" has already been released as complete series box sets by the BBC, so I really can't see the point in a single disc with two episodes.

That said, "Hancock's Half Hour" is one of the high spots of British comedy, and any chance to experience it again is a joy. The two episodes on here are not as well known as the classics like "The Blood Donor" and "The Radio Ham", but are nonetheless as funny and as well-written as ever. In the first, "The Poetry Society", Hancock joins a poetry appreciation group, who see genius in the nonsense penned by Sid and Bill, much to Hancock's disgust. In the second, "Sid's Mystery Tours", Hancock becomes a shareholder in a rather dodgy tourism venture set up by Sid. You may well recognise them when you hear them - I know I've heard them before - but whether this is the first time you've heard them or the hundredth, they are a treat.


The History of the NME: High Times and Low Lives at the World's Most Famous Music Magazine
The History of the NME: High Times and Low Lives at the World's Most Famous Music Magazine
by Pat Long
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You probably had to be there..., 17 Feb 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
On the surface, a book charting the history of the NME, Britain's longest-running music weekly, ought to be a good read for anyone interested in popular music - by telling the story of the magazine and its writers, you could tell the story of British pop music itself.

Unfortunately, Pat Long's account falls strangely flat. The trouble is that it simply isn't that interesting - I had to force myself to carry on reading, wading through page after page of rather dull anecdotes about people who, while they may have had huge significance in the rather insular world of the NME itself, were pretty much irrelevant outside it. Even as someone who read the NME on a regular basis for several years, I really couldn't find much in here that I wanted to know.

The cover may feature John Lydon, David Bowie and Morrissey, but if they are who you are interested in, buy a book about them, rather than about people writing about them. If you are interested in music journalism, you might find this book interesting, but it's a lot less compelling for someone purely interested in the music itself.


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