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Profile for Dr. Paul Ell > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK)

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Hornby R1167 Flying Scotsman 00 Gauge Electric Train Set
Hornby R1167 Flying Scotsman 00 Gauge Electric Train Set
Offered by jadlamracingmodels
Price: £119.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value famous loco train set from Hornby, 25 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an excellent mid to high level starter kit from Hornby. The voice of locomotive - the Flying Scotsman here in LNER leverage - should appeal so someone with only limited interest in model railways. Included with the locomotive and tender are four wagons, a track mart, a basic analogue controller, a loop of track with a few straight pieces and a point and a buffer. All in all everything that's needed to get started with model trains!

The carriages are not overly detailed and to be honest I'm not terribly keen on the LNER teak livery. The engine is of higher quality although it's a Railroad version meaning that it's not as detailed, or as fragile, as higher end locos. The loco is 'digital ready' which means that it can be adapted to work with Hornby's recent digital control system which allows for multiple trains to be running on the same track. I've reviewed that elsewhere on Amazon and found some problems with the system. There is no doubt though that it is the future of model railways and it would not be sensible to buy any locomotives which could not at least be adapted to the new system. In essence there has to be sufficient space in the model to fit a microchip.

Hornby suggest that there trainsets are suitable for children aged three and above. I think that's optimistic or, at the very least, a child will require close supervision. Hornby sell smaller sets that are more robust that I think would serve better. In particular the track takes up a fair bit of space but is also quite difficult to assemble. Ideally it will go onto a baseboard permanently. For a small child I think all this is a bit much. More positively by buying track packs and building packs it's quite easy to get a good small model railway set up.

Check out my reviews of the Hornby R1138 GWR Passenger Freight Train Set and the Hornby The Majestic With E-Link DCC Train Set to get an idea of strengths of other sets plus the overall excellent quality of Hornby.

Overall all the fun of a train set, and the Flying Scotsman as well - for a fair price. Five stars.

Note: Other reviewers have reported on issues with the connector between the engine and tender. The design is curious but I have not experienced a problem with it. If I do I'll update the review.

Finish All-in-One Max Dishwasher Tablets - Lemon, Pack of 1 (Total 74 Tablets)
Finish All-in-One Max Dishwasher Tablets - Lemon, Pack of 1 (Total 74 Tablets)
Price: £9.65

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finish's best, 25 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A large pack of Finish dishwasher tablets which at time of supply from Amazon were very competitively priced. Finish tablets are my dishwasher tablets of choice and I particularly like this version because of the lemon smell and the fact that they are supposed to damage glassware to a lesser extent than others. That's a difficult claim to test as I've only used these tablets for a few washes but I'll try to report back on this. Being lazy I have the habit of putting leaded crystal glasses in the dishwasher and they definitely cloud over time. I will be able to say whether these tablets do better.

In addition to these features the tablets are also wrapper-free. Simply pick one out of the sealed pack with dry hands and place it in the tablet container. Even better for lazy people!

Overall, if available at a good price, these are the tablets I'll buy. Five stars.

Finish Quantum Original 2 x Pack of 30 (60 Dishwasher Tablets)
Finish Quantum Original 2 x Pack of 30 (60 Dishwasher Tablets)
Price: £12.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine, if costly, 24 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A large pack of Finish dishwasher tablets so there's some saving for buying in bulk but they are still rather costly. I think it might be best to keep an eye out for occasional discounts in supermarkets.

Overall I tend to buy Finish dishwasher tablets despite the premium price. I think I normally buy one of the other iterations of the Quantum brand - the fact that these are described as 'Original' is indicative of how many product variants there are. A distinct advantage of the tablets is that they are not wrapped and so simply need to be placed in the tablet dispenser in the dishwasher. Though as a result of this the tablets need to be sealed in storage and you shouldn't handle them with wet hands.

As to their cleaning quality, well they work fine. I seem to recall though that they did not perform as some other brands in a Which? survey. Worth a try though if you haven't used them before.

McAfee Internet Security 2015 - 1 PC (PC) [Frustration-Free Packaging]-access code
McAfee Internet Security 2015 - 1 PC (PC) [Frustration-Free Packaging]-access code

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars McAfee for 2015, 30 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's that time of year again - to update your anti-virus software. The disc installed with no problem - although with the growing number of DVD-less PCs it would have been good to have an option to upload and register the software via download. All the standard features plus with this Internet security version there are additional features such as the ability to restrict by time internet access, cookie controls and remote firewall monitoring.

I regard this sort of software as essential and annual renewal a necessary evil. However I wish I could just buy the software on a perpetual licence rather than having to buy again every year so one star dropped for that.

iShoot PL-MIC02 Professional DSLR DV External Stereo Microphone
iShoot PL-MIC02 Professional DSLR DV External Stereo Microphone
Price: £28.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good external microphone for video work, 30 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An inexpensive external microphone designed for digital SLR cameras. I've a Sony DSLR and while the built in microphone is pretty good for use indoors I've found a real problem with wind noise. I'd hoped that this microphone would, as it claims, help to mitigate this issue. Having tried it over Christmas in a range of outdoor environments, some quite windy, it performs very well limiting, and in calmer weather, eliminating the background wind roar.

The microphone is fairly light-weight but seems to have a strong construction. It comes with a bracket to attach to the camera via a flash mount. It's directional and improves the sound from the direction you're directing the camera. Also at this price point it's very good value for money. Note that you'll need a standard 3.5mm microphone input to use the microphone.

Why not five stars instead of four, well a AA battery it needed. It's a shame this isn't included

Polti Vaporella 505 Steam Generator Iron
Polti Vaporella 505 Steam Generator Iron
Offered by 118store-com
Price: £64.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Low cost steam generator, 15 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a sturdy well-built steam generator that I have a feeling will last for years in use. It's also inexpensive - a fair bit cheaper than most of the competition. However, I think it falls short in several areas. As the Amazon image shows, the iron has a rather dated design. The manufacturer talks of an 'authentic' cork handle so perhaps I'm being to critical and I should be suggesting that it has an authentic design! Of course irons don't have to compete in terms of how good they look.

But there are more substantive issues. First, the generator is difficult to fill with water. OK, because the reservoir is big it doesn't need filling too frequently. But because it's big it takes forever. A slightly larger filling hole would have resolved the problem. Second, it also takes a long time to get the screw cap off. This cap isn't going to come loose in use but six turns to unscrew it is too much. Third, the iron takes a fair amount of time to produce stream - longer than with other steam generators I've used. This may be an indication of cost cutting. I have a feeling that the iron is boiling all of the water it contains rather than drawing a small portion off to heat and create steam from. Fourth, it's good that the iron last a long steam cable connecting the iron to the generator but this creates a problem with storage as there's no inbuilt storage for the long cable, or even clips to hold it in place. Also in use the long cable tends to get in the way a bit. Equally there's no storage for the power cable either. Finally, and perhaps a plus depending on your point of view, the iron is surprisingly heavy. This helps get rid of creases but means that long ironing stints can be taxing!

In use the iron certainly develops more steam than a standard iron but rather less than other steam generators. Further, I don't think the steam pressure is as high as on other irons I've tried.

Overall, it works but I think the low price is reflected in the design so two, and almost three, stars

Philips InSight M120E/10 Wireless HD Home Security Monitor with Wide Angle and Night Vision for Smartphones and Tablets
Philips InSight M120E/10 Wireless HD Home Security Monitor with Wide Angle and Night Vision for Smartphones and Tablets
Offered by Akasya Handels GmbH
Price: £89.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy set-up home monitor camera but with subscription limitations, 6 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I already have another Philips Home Video monitor, the Philips M100E/12 Netcam, Wireless Interface, and this camera has a number of improved features. First, it's a HD camera (720p) so the quality of the image is much better. Second, this camera has a significantly wider lens which means that you can see far more. Third, the camera has night vision fitted which works brilliantly even in a completely dark room. As you might imagine the image has a green hue but the picture is very clear. Fourth, you can send sound to the camera - so talking to a pet when you're away from home. The system doesn't really support a conversation though. You press a virtual button within the app and once complete the recording is sent.

The camera was relatively easy to set up. You simply need to take the camera out of the box, select from a UK or European plug attached to a USB charger and plug the camera in. It's then necessary to download the iOS or Android app to a suitable phone or tablet. The software is free and you're looking for the in.sight+ app. It's worth typing this in in full as there are a couple of Philips camera apps and it's not immediately clear which is the correct one. While you're doing this camera should now be ready to link to the app. The app guides you through this process but it involves showing a bar code displayed on the phone/tablet to the camera to complete the set up. If this worked - marked by a solid green LED - the camera is fine and you'll be able to view video footage either while connected to your home network or out and about over 3/4G or public wifi.

Having said that I could not get the camera to set up correctly using the Android app. I got to the stage of the app knowing there was a camera to connect to but the camera failed to processed the bar code correctly. Using an iPad set up worked first time and once set up I managed to get the Android app to work. I've a couple of Android devices and both failed to persuade the camera to set up correctly so I suspect the Android software is a little buggy.

Once set up both the Android and iOS apps work well and have similar features.

Others have noted the various subscription packages which come with the camera. For everyday home use I'd be surprised if anyone paid £8 a month to store recorded footage and without paying all you get is an alert when the camera detects sound or motion and the ability to view footage in real time at any point.

Downsides, apart from the possible set up issues, well the camera is a little larger than I expected and the limitations of not using a subscription are a little irritating. However, it can be quite a technical challenge setting up a home camera avoiding firewall issues etc. I know as I've (successfully) done it. For iOS this camera just works out of the box. Finally, although HD even if you happen to be watching the footage when you're burgled, or you're subscribing to one of the Philips packages, the images are not really clear enough to recognise an individual, at least if they are moving and not immobile facing the camera. So unless there's a compliant burglar this camera if probably more for piece of mind or pet watching rather than for use on Crimewatch.

Update: The camera continues to work well, and the system the camera has to notify you if it's detected sound or movement is also good. The inability, sans subscription, to see what motion has been detected is a major irritation however, and none of the subscription options are realistically costed. Also the app reminds you far too frequently that subscription packages are available - once or twice a day at least - which is even more irritating. So downgraded to three stars as the subscription issue is a concern. Without the ability to record footage without a subscription the camera is rather limited. And the price of the subscriptions is a little insane!

Essentials pH Meter
Essentials pH Meter
Price: £43.25

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly accurate pH meter., 5 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is primarily designed for use in horticulture for testing the pH of water used to water plants. Obviously in this instance it's for use for delicate seedlings and plants which are either acid or alkaline intolerant. I'm not using it for that purpose but as a pH meter for an aquarium. Whilst you can buy pH dipsticks for this purpose the pH meter offers an alternative. A significant advantage is that the meter gives a precise reading - with dipsticks you need to compare the colour on the dipstick with a printed card to give an estimate of pH.

The meter is made in black plastic with a reasonably sized lcd display which shows the pH. It's necessary to calibrate the meter before use and a small sachet of pH neutral water is included for this purpose. You'll need your only supply of pH 7.0 water though as the manufacturer suggests that frequent calibration is required. The meter comes with four button batteries which will probably last for the whole life of the meter. The manufacturer suggests it can be used for around 360 readings. I'm not sure why it can't do more though.

Overall if you're keeping highly pH sensitive fish or are or growing delicate plants this device will meet your needs. Why only fours stars, well it's not cheap compared to dipsticks and it has a limited life. And finally, the multilingual instructions are printed in a very small typeface - you almost need a magnifying glass to read them!

Sony Mobile SCR24 Smart Style Case Cover for Xperia Z3 - Black
Sony Mobile SCR24 Smart Style Case Cover for Xperia Z3 - Black
Offered by total digital stores
Price: £12.95

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great slim case with clever app, 17 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was very nearly put off buying this case because of the number of one-star reviews here. I'm posting my own review to offer an alternate view. Whilst I guess it depends what you're looking for in a case, I'm very impressed with this product.

Yes, it's fairly expensive but all Sony phone and tablet cases are expensive. Also don't buy this if you want a case that offers a lot of protection for your phone.

I don't much like phone cases at all. They make phones more bulky and generally take away from the look of the phone. This Sony case does neither. It's extremely thin, adding almost no weight or bulk to the phone. it also looks good with the phone.

The really clever bit about the case is the way it works with the associated Sony App. The clear plastic window allows you, once you've downloaded the relevant software from Sony, access to key information without unlocking the phone. The App lets you choose a variety of content to display, and you can flick through a few screens of information. On my phone I've selected a Twitter window, an e-mail window, a weather window and a walkman window. Also opening and closing the case turns the phone on and off.

Problems with the case, well I see three. The case doesn't offer much protection. It should stop the screen and back of the phone from getting scratched but that's it. But I've only recently started using a case at all so much do I dislike the bulk and difficulty of accessing a phone that they result in. More of an issue for me is that there is no mechanism to keep the case closed - it flaps open. A magnet to keep the case closed would have been welcome. Less of a concern, and one of the reasons the case is slim, is that the case is stuck on to the back of the phone. I guess this sticky back might fail at some time. If it does I'll report back. So all this means the case drops a star for me. It is, however, the best case I've ever used, next to not using a case at all of course...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2015 5:53 PM GMT

Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 13 (PC/Mac)
Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 13 (PC/Mac)
Price: £89.99

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straightforward photo and video editing packages, 17 Nov. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As the title suggests, but to be clear, two Adobe products are packaged together in this product, Photoshop Elements for editing and enhancing photographs and Premier Elements for use with video material. The pack includes two DVDs - one for Windows systems and a second for Macs. There are also two small, but useful, booklets describing the main features of each software package with a limited introduction to using the software. I've installed the Mac software but from the booklets the software appears to be the same across Windows and Macs. This is the latest 2014 version of Photoshop and Premier, version 13.

Photoshop is pretty much the industry standard for editing photographs. The software here is a streamlined consumer focussed version of Photoshop as the 'Elements' name suggests. It has the most common, useful, and straightforward features of Photoshop. I haven't used Photoshop Elements before but if you've used any image enhancement software you'll be pretty familiar with what it does. This is helped by three levels of handholding provided by Adobe. 'Quick' is for beginners and offers a limited range of processing options that you simply click on. 'Guided' increases the range of processing options with a description of what you're doing. 'Expert' seems to offer pretty much the same choices but without the guidance - it's assumed that you know what the icons do.Each approach is embedded in the user interface.

It's quite fun to play around with the many options available. Throughout you're working on a copy of the original photo so there's no danger of destroying the original. The interface and expertise levels work very well and it's easy to use. I'd recommend this for most users.

I've less use for video editing software and have played around with Premier Elements less. Adobe use the same three expertise levels which again I think works well. The video timeline interface makes splicing and intermixing two videos straightforward. The software does what you'd expect - allows you to add your own narration to video footage, add titles to footage, enhance images to a limited extent, and develop neat transitions between scenes. I've been running the software on a fast Mac and Premier is by no means sluggish. However, it is clearly using a fair amount of processing power which might be worth bearing in mind if you've a basic computer. This isn't an issue for photoshop though.

So overall accessible software with good interfaces which share many common features. For the price I think it's hard to fault. Strongly recommended.

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