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S. P. Long "Simon Long" (Cambridge)
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617: Going to War with Today's Dambusters
617: Going to War with Today's Dambusters
Price: 3.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly dull, 22 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The conflict in Afghanistan has produced some brilliant writing - Ed Macy's "Apache" is probably the standout; not only one of the best-written stories of aerial combat in the country, but probably one of the most gripping and involving books I have ever read. Going back 15 or 20 years, John Peters and John Nichol wrote two superb books ("Tornado Down" and "Team Tornado") about their experiences flying the Tornado in the Gulf and elsewhere. So I had very high hopes about a book describing the deployment of the famous "Dambusters" squadron to Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the most exciting thing about this book is the picture on the cover... The trouble is that it slowly becomes apparent that 617 Squadron saw very little actual combat while in-country - they dropped no bombs, fired no guns - occasionally they used a 150,000 missile to kill a single enemy soldier (which seems, to say the least, somewhat wasteful) and every now and then they had to fly low over a village to scare the natives. But that's it - fundamentally, this is a book in which nothing really happens. Even the most exciting bits of flying in it are described in less detail (and are shorter) than the bits describing the squadron engineers going to breakfast. As Peters and Nichol demonstrated in "Team Tornado", descriptions of day-to-day life on a Tornado squadron, even in peace-time, can be thoroughly involving - so there's no excuse for a book like this which seems to spend most of its time discussing people having meetings.

This is not to denigrate the men and women of 617 squadron, who were clearly doing a demanding job under difficult and dangerous conditions - but this description of it does them no justice at all, I fear.

If you want to read about aerial combat in Afghanistan, read "Apache" - if you want to read about Tornados in action, read "Tornado Down" or "Team Tornado". On the other hand, if you really want to know what RAF engineers have for breakfast, this is the book for you...


Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - Triple Play (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Ben Stiller
Offered by nagiry
Price: 9.27

2.0 out of 5 stars Why 3D is a bad thing for cinema..., 18 May 2013
I really enjoyed the first two Madagascar films - not quite up there with the best of Dreamworks' main competitor, Pixar, but pretty close. They were both a good copy of the Pixar notion of an animated movie - decent characterisation, a plot with drama, sadness and a lot of laughs, and humour that works for both children and adults.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Madagascar 3. As I watched this film (in 2D, I might add - I don't watch films that require me to wear silly glasses...) it was blindingly obvious that the main driving factor behind the animation was not a coherent plot, but instead the desire to cram in bits that would look impressive in 3D. Every scene is filled with things leaping out of the frame at you - which would be fine on top of a plot, but not instead of one. This is more like a 90 minute long music video with the Madagascar characters rather than a film, and it is by far the weakest of the three films as a result. There is no coherent storyline; there's no real emotion or depth to it, and large chunks are just plain silly (and not in the good way that the best cartoons are, either).

Following on from the first two films, I'm afraid this was a real disappointment. The only saving grace was that the penguins and King Julien were as good as ever in their supporting roles...


AmazonBasics AAA NiMH Precharged Rechargeable Batteries 12 Pack 800 mAh
AmazonBasics AAA NiMH Precharged Rechargeable Batteries 12 Pack 800 mAh
Price: 14.99

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than Eneloops, but hard to judge the quality., 18 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A few years ago, Sanyo introduced the Eneloop battery, a NiMH rechargeable which had a much lower self-discharge rate (how fast a charged battery loses charge in storage) than previous rechargeables. Typically, a rechargeable battery loses around 10% of its charge in a week, so after 10 weeks in storage, they are flat; the Eneloop cells lose less than 1% a week, so could be stored for up to 2 years.

I've been using Eneloops in every device I have that takes AA and AAA batteries for several years now, and they are superb. Their only drawback is that they are quite expensive - so Amazon have now launched their own range of long-life rechargeables. These provide a useful cost saving - they are around 75% of the price of Eneloops. That said, the real Eneloops are all made in Japan; the Amazon batteries are Chinese-made, so clearly they aren't just rebranded Eneloops. They are supposed to be good for 1000 recharges, but it is difficult to assess how well they will manage this at this stage!

It's a shame that Amazon don't offer a matching charger, or even provide any advice as to what sort of charger should be used - the leaflet in the box only says "charge with approved charger", but gives no idea as to whose approval is required. This is a bit of a worry when incorrectly charging a battery will, at best, shorten its useful life, and at worst cause a fire or explosion - Amazon really need to provide a lot more information here.


AmazonBasics AA NiMH Precharged Rechargeable Batteries 16 Pack 2,000 mAh
AmazonBasics AA NiMH Precharged Rechargeable Batteries 16 Pack 2,000 mAh
Price: 18.33

12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper than Eneloops, but hard to judge the quality., 18 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A few years ago, Sanyo introduced the Eneloop battery, a NiMH rechargeable which had a much lower self-discharge rate (how fast a charged battery loses charge in storage) than previous rechargeables. Typically, a rechargeable battery loses around 10% of its charge in a week, so after 10 weeks in storage, they are flat; the Eneloop cells lose less than 1% a week, so could be stored for up to 2 years.

I've been using Eneloops in every device I have that takes AA and AAA batteries for several years now, and they are superb. Their only drawback is that they are quite expensive - so Amazon have now launched their own range of long-life rechargeables. These provide a useful cost saving - they are around 75% of the price of Eneloops. That said, the real Eneloops are all made in Japan; the Amazon batteries are Chinese-made, so clearly they aren't just rebranded Eneloops. They are supposed to be good for 1000 recharges, but it is difficult to assess how well they will manage this at this stage!

It's a shame that Amazon don't offer a matching charger, or even provide any advice as to what sort of charger should be used - the leaflet in the box only says "charge with approved charger", but gives no idea as to whose approval is required. This is a bit of a worry when incorrectly charging a battery will, at best, shorten its useful life, and at worst cause a fire or explosion - Amazon really need to provide a lot more information here.

The only other thing I'd mention is that these have a capacity of 2000 mAh - the very latest Eneloops hold around 20% more charge, so if squeezing the maximum life out of your devices is a priority, it's probably worth buying real Eneloops.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2014 10:18 AM GMT


Pentax WG-3 Waterproof Digital Camera - Green (16MP, 4x Optical Zoom, GPS, Front Screen) 3 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)
Pentax WG-3 Waterproof Digital Camera - Green (16MP, 4x Optical Zoom, GPS, Front Screen) 3 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars You pay a lot for the ruggedness..., 23 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The WG-3 is a digital camera which majors on its robustness - waterproof to 14m, will withstand 100kg of weight, can be dropped from 2m, operates down to -10 degrees C. It incorporates a GPS, an electronic compass and a pressure sensor to detect altitude and depth. All very impressive, but it isn't cheap - so is it worth it?

First off, taken as a camera, it's fine - it produces decent enough images. The body includes a 4x zoom (so nothing protrudes from the front of the case as it zooms), and the maximum aperture is a fairly fast F2.0 at the wide end, but a less impressive F4.9 at the tele end. Assuming you use the best quality settings, the 16 Mpixel images are clear and sharp, without too much noise and with natural colour balance. That said, I own a 100 Canon point-and-shoot, and it produces images which are just as good, with a bigger zoom range and a lot more portability. Make no mistake, with the WG-3, you are paying (a lot) for the robustness.

And not just in money - the camera, frankly, looks hideous. Everyone I have shown it to has turned up their noses at the "Action Man" styling - it's all olive green and bright highlights; the strap has a chunky-looking carabiner on it, but is too short to be of any use in helping you not drop the camera while you are using it. There is a bizarre second display on the front which shows the time and current pressure - I can't imagine anyone who would actually find that useful. The camera does look like the sort of thing a 12-year old boy would love, but an adult getting this out at a dinner party or family gathering will attract some strange looks! Speaking of a 12-year old boy, he'd also like the user interface - the design of the displays on the LCD has a whiff of Nintendo about it, compared to the relatively sombre and clear style you'd find on something by Canon. This camera has a lot of functionality, but using it is far from easy, due to confusing screen layouts and a rather complex set of menus.

I should make specific mention of the GPS and compass features - these get a screen all of their own, but while the GPS was clearly working (as it was correctly embedding location information in photos), the location displays on this screen showed nothing but dashes. Even after a lengthy read of the manual, I could find nothing I was doing wrong - I'm currently waiting for advice from Pentax UK as to whether this is a fault, but it doesn't inspire confidence.

If you really need a camera for scuba diving, this one is probably a good bet. (Not being a diver, I was unable to test how well it worked at 14m down, but I'm assuming Pentax have tested it...) But if you don't really need the waterproofness, this really isn't worth the money, and you can get a camera which is much easier to use and with better photography features for a lot less.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2014 10:58 PM BST


JetFast TRM-8 LED rechargeable Torch with PowerPod
JetFast TRM-8 LED rechargeable Torch with PowerPod
Price: 62.96

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid performer with a few extras, 22 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Jetfast TRM-8 is a rechargeable LED torch. LED torches have become pretty much ubiquitous over the last ten years or so, and they can be had for a couple of pounds from most petrol stations. On the other hand, you can pay hundreds of pounds for some boutique models. The TRM-8 is certainly at the higher end of this price range - does it justify the price?

First off, the brand is not one with which I am familiar, in spite of owning numerous high quality torches. That said, first impressions are of a quality product - the torch feels solid and well-built, and the black anodised finish looks smart. Both ends unscrew, and there are substantial rubber O-rings sealing the torch, which is claimed to be waterproof to 2 metres. A Cree LED is used - as any torch connoisseur will tell you, this is a prerequisite for quality. The torch is supplied in a belt pouch with room for the supplied accessories (of which more later), and this too feels like a quality product. The torch is operated by a rubber-covered switch on the back - this needs to be held down for 1 second to turn the torch on and off, and then quick taps toggle through the 5 modes - ultra bright, super bright, normal, strobe and SOS.

Ultra bright - well, they aren't exaggerating! My current favorite torch is a LED Lenser P7 professional, which is seriously bright, but the Jetfast has it beaten. There is no ability to change the focus or beam pattern, but the pattern is a sensible one - a bright spot in the centre, and a much broader area of slightly dimmer illumination. It looks useful both for close examination in dark corners, and for lighting a large area - a nice compromise. Battery life is quoted as ranging between 2.4 hours on ultra bright and 110 hours on normal, but even on normal, the beam is usefully bright. The only one of the modes I'd take issue with is the "SOS" mode, which (being pedantic) I have to say is actually flashing "SO" repeatedly, rather than "SOS"!

The torch is supplied with a USB charging cable - just remove the battery from the torch, clip the cable to the end and plug into a USB port - a full charge is quoted as taking less than three hours. A very nice feature is the ability to use the battery to power USB devices - a second adaptor is included which fits to the battery, and three supplied cables allow you to connect a microUSB device, an Apple device (old-style 30 pin connector) or any USB device via its own cable. A bit gimmicky, but a nice idea.

Overall, this feels like a quality product. It's expensive, but not more so than comparable products from more established brands. It's clearly built to last, and the USB charging is a nice additional feature. I'd say it's worth the money - recommended.


Dremel Wall & Floor Grout Removal Kit
Dremel Wall & Floor Grout Removal Kit
Price: 16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Not really worth it, 8 April 2013
I bought this to try and remove the grout around a few bathroom tiles - not heavy-duty work by any stretch of the imagination. It is supplied with a 1.6mm bit, with a 3.2mm bit available as an accessory. The 1.6mm bit is pretty thin - I don't think I've ever seen grouting that narrow! I tried both bits, and the 3.2mm was a much better match for the gap between my tiles, so I used that one.

I then discovered a major flaw - the bit cuts into grout, yes - but it also cuts through tiles with no more difficulty. The tool is very hard to control to keep in a straight line, which means that with a bit the same width as the gap between the tiles, it is very difficult to avoid cutting into the tiles themselves.

So I switched to the thinner 1.6mm bit, which at least gives slightly more of a margin of error when moving it through the gap. Yes, it does cut the grout, but it is still hard to control - try as I might, I couldn't get a straight line, and I was still cutting into tiles from time to time. And then, with less than three feet of grout cleared, the end of the bit snapped off. Replacement bits cost over a tenner each, so that was end of story as far as I was concerned, and I did the rest of the grout with a manual grout saw and a hammer and chisel.

In summary, this tool is too difficult to control to be able to use it without damaging tiles, and it's not really strong enough - I've read other reviewers who had to buy 7 or 8 replacement bits, and I can well believe it. I can't recommend it for anything other than tiny patches of grout - if you need to do any more than, say, the surround of a single small tile, try something else.


TP-Link TL-WDN3800 N600 Wireless Dual Band PCI Express Adapter
TP-Link TL-WDN3800 N600 Wireless Dual Band PCI Express Adapter
Price: 19.98

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent hardware - software not great, 3 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a wifi network adaptor for PCs with PCIe card slots (which is pretty much any PC made in the last 5 or 6 years). It supports the high speed 802.11n standard, so is fast enough for transferring large files, HD streaming etc - as long as your wifi router or hub also supports 802.11n.

Installing the hardware was easy - the card conforms to the PCIe x1 standard, so has a small connector and is very short as a result - the card doesn't actually extend any further over the motherboard than the connector itself. This was useful on my mobo, as I have one PCIe x1 slot which is right next to a heatsink, meaning long cards won't fit - this card fitted very nicely into the gap.

Installing the software was less straighforward. The card doesn't work with the standard Win7 drivers, so you need to run the installer on the included CD. This all went fine, and the card then appeared in Device Manager, but the TP-Link utility which installs along with the driver is really very poor. My network has a hidden SSID, and it took me five minutes of fiddling to establish how to connect to a network which is not broadcasting SSID - it turns out to be on a tab labelled "Profiles", which is not at all obvious. Once I had entered the details of my network, I was confronted with a dialog box bearing the cryptic message "Active this profile", which could mean either "You need to activate this profile", or "This profile is now active". Turns out it is the latter, and everything then seemed to work ok, but TP-Link really need to do some work on their English translations. (Odd, given that the one-page instruction leaflet in the box is very clear.)

Once in use, the card seems reliable - speeds are as expected for 802.11n, and I had no problems with it.

In summary then, a decent piece of hardware let down by some below-average software. TP-Link are a Chinese vendor trying to move into the European market - in order to compete with the likes of Netgear and Belkin, they really need to focus on the user experience and software side; there doesn't seem much wrong with the hardware itself.


Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 Hi-Fi Stereo Computer Speakers
Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 Hi-Fi Stereo Computer Speakers
Price: 399.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hi-fi for your desktop, 5 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These speakers are almost ridiculously expensive! 400 for a pair of tiny boxes, 6" high and 3" deep, that sit on your desk? Surely they cannot possibly be worth that kind of money?

Well, I'm afraid they can. These are B&W's answer for people who want PC speakers that sound musical, rather than the usual shrill treble and artificially-enhanced thudding subwoofer bass. These are not for gaming, or for watching movies (although I'd imagine they'd be just as good for those activities) - they are for listening to music. If you are a hi-fi buff who despairs of the sound of typical PC speakers, these are for you.

They are active speakers in the hi-fi sense of the word - one amplifier for each bass and treble driver, with a DSP crossover. (This is expensive technology such as is found on serious hi-fi speakers.) They can be connected via USB to a PC or Mac, thus bypassing the soundcard in the PC, but I am using mine with the line out of a Sonos music streamer, playing lossless rips from my CDs. The highest praise I can give them is that I have just sat here for the evening playing album after album as I worked at my PC, and not once did I feel there was anything lacking in the sound. Every PC speaker I have heard has annoyed me - either there's too much hum and hiss, or the treble is too shrill, or the bass has only one note and doesn't integrate, or there is no stereo image and the sound is a mess. But with the MM-1s, I just sat and enjoyed the music.

They are designed as near-field monitors - don't expect them to fill a room with sound. They seem to perform best about 2 feet apart, with the listener sitting about the same distance away. They don't produce ear-splitting volume, but the sound is natural and effortless, with well-separated instruments and vocals, a smooth treble (after they have run in for an hour or two) and a firm, musical bass. The bass doesn't get as low as on full-size hi-fi speakers, but what there is integrates well with the rest of the music.

Don't think of these as an overpriced set of PC speakers - to do so does them a disservice. These are a hi-fi that you sit close to, and in that role, I've not heard anything to match them.


Rock Chronicles: Music - Every Legend, Every Line-Up, Every Look
Rock Chronicles: Music - Every Legend, Every Line-Up, Every Look
by David Roberts
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Less a reference than a good book to dip into, 4 Mar 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Rock Chronicles is a history of (supposedly) the 250 greatest rock acts.

The presentation is innovative - each artist gets one or two pages with a timeline showing which members were in the band at which times, cross-referenced with album years of release. There are thumbnail photos of everyone mentioned, a potted biography of each band, and a lot of bonus photos. As a format, it works well.

What this book is not is a comprehensive discography or an in-depth critical analysis - you get the highlights of each band's career and that's your lot. It sacrifices depth for breadth, and as a result is more of a book to dip into for a quick read than a comprehensive reference tome.

The selection of artists is a little idiosyncratic - you get all the expected big names (Beatles, Stones, Eagles, Pink Floyd, Sex Pistols etc) and a fair selection of less well-known acts. (I was delighted to see Marillion had 2 pages, and even more delighted to find them pretty much 100% accurate!) There are a few obscurities - anyone heard of B-2, "one of Russia's most important rock bands"? Thought not... The definition of "rock" is a little bit puzzling as well - you get Fairport Convention and Bob Dylan, but no Joni Mitchell, for example.

But as a book to dip into for the high-level summary of the more well-known rock bands, this'll do nicely. It'll make a very good gift for the music fan in your life!


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