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Content by Aaron C Reskew
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Reviews Written by
Aaron C Reskew (England)

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Alpen Light Chocolate and Orange Cereal Bars 19 g (Pack of 5)
Alpen Light Chocolate and Orange Cereal Bars 19 g (Pack of 5)

4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant chocolate citrus taste, 31 Dec. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Reviewing an edible product is inevitably a subjective thing because whether the taste is good or bad is a matter of, well, taste.

I like these bars. They taste good, I found they have a pleasing natural orange taste with a slightly less dominant chocolate taste. Sometimes with "light" products I find they have a nasty aftertaste but these did not - the aftertaste and "mouth feel" were all pleasant. They were nice enough to look at the main product page with a view to buying more.

And then I saw the reason I gave three stars rather than 5. Amazon's price is just over £8 for a pack of 5 bars, compared to a retail price of £9.95. These are nice enough but there's no way in this world I'd even consider paying £1.60 per bar. Truth be told even at half that price I'd be thinking the price was a little on the heavy side.

So to summarise, they taste nice enough but are way overpriced for what they are. If you're really into the low-calorie thing and don't mind paying through the nose they're worth a look but if you're even remotely price sensitive you probably won't go near them.

Edit (11 Jan) - it's been pointed out to me that the price is for 5 boxes of 5 bars (so 25 bars, rather than the 5 it first appeared). On that basis the "overpriced" comments can be ignored and the rating is raised from 3 to 4 stars on the basis of the taste.

Simple Audio Go Premium Compact Portable Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
Simple Audio Go Premium Compact Portable Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker
Offered by ADMI Limited UK
Price: £74.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly effective, 31 Dec. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When the box arrived I opened it up, realised the product was in a much smaller box, and concluded it was unlikely to be very good because of its small size. Most of the music I listen to has a reasonable amount of bass and it was hard to see how such a small and light unit would deliver any bass worthy of the name. But I needn't have worried.

Charging is easy, just plug it into a USB charger (or the PC will do fine) and wait for the blue light to stop "breathing". Mine was done within an hour, I don't know the exact time it took because I don't sit and watch things charge.

Then it was time to pair it with my phone (which was about as easy as it's possible to be) and start playing music to see how it coped. I have to say I was impressed with everything I threw at it.

Playing classical music it coped admirably well with the full range of tones. Playing rock/metal it coped with the deeper bass very well, and playing 80s electronica still didn't phase it. OK, you're not going to feel the bass slamming into your chest with something that will fit into a coat pocket but the sound quality was far better than I expected. When I had some friends around I tucked it in a corner, set up a playlist on my phone, and it provided the music for a good couple of hours before I turned it off. The battery was still going, but music that everybody liked was tricky to figure out so turning it off was the easiest option. So as far as playing music goes it far exceeded my expectations.

I haven't tried using it as a bluetooth "headset" for my phone because doing that just doesn't fit into the way I use things. What I have found useful is that because it acts as an external speaker and plays all sounds from the phone, when I'm using my phone as a GPS in the car it's useful to give the sound a bit of extra boost. It's very frustrating to be approaching a junction next to something with a loud engine and struggling to hear the phone whispering which road I should be taking, and having a speaker like this solves that problem as well.

If you're a hi-fi afficianado you're probably going to want something more than this, but then you're probably not going to be looking at this price range either. If you want something to listen to music and share your music with others I'd recommend this. Certainly if I'd paid full price for it I wouldn't feel even remotely short changed.

Sultans Plain Chocolate Covered Stem Ginger 1 kilo bag
Sultans Plain Chocolate Covered Stem Ginger 1 kilo bag
Offered by Chocolate Buttons
Price: £18.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tasty ginger, 31 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I do like chocolate ginger but often despair at the silly prices people want for small boxes. So finding this seemed like something of a god-send. The price was sufficiently low that I decided to take a punt and see what it turned out to be.

It arrived in a box - the ginger was in a zip-loc bag inside the box. No problem there, it was cheap and the text clearly said I'd be getting a bag, but it was still a bit of a surprise to see the packaging quite so basic. I'd planned to split it - keep some for me and give some as a Christmas present - so I knew I'd need a more suitable container.

The pieces are all about the same size. They taste nice but I'd prefer them to have a bit more ginger. That said I had planned to restock, having given the majority of it away as a Christmas present because the only suitable container I found to repackage it took up more of the bag than I had expected.

So I came back to Amazon to buy some more, only to find the price went from £8.85 to £15.90 for the same quantity, within the space of a fortnight. At £9 I'd have dived on some more, at £16 I'll hold back.

Rapesco Spinna Full Strip Heavy Duty Stapler with 50 Sheet Capacity and Uses Stapler 26 and 24/6-8 mm - Black
Rapesco Spinna Full Strip Heavy Duty Stapler with 50 Sheet Capacity and Uses Stapler 26 and 24/6-8 mm - Black
Price: £6.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Stapler, 19 Dec. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's hard to write a review of a stapler given it's very much a single function item. This one feels sturdy, it has the usual option of the reversible plate so the ends of the staple can point inwards or outwards, and comes full of staples (that's always a plus, I hate ordering something like this only to realise I needed to order staples as well)

It has an adjustable "margin adjuster" which is handy, as it means if you want to put two or three staples along the same edge of a block of paper they will all be the same distance from the edge. I've never used a stapler with that feature before, and often found it fiddly to judge just where the next staple is going to land. Usually it's not a big deal if the line of staples isn't straight but it doesn't have to weave very much before folding the pages back becomes awkward and results in torn pages. This simple attachment makes that problem go away.

I like this stapler, it seems to do everything I want from it and it's much nicer than the rather elderly stapler it replaces. Sometimes it's hard to meaningfully figure how many stars to give based on a review like this - it could arguably be anything from three to five stars, but I'm going with five because to date it's done everything I've asked of it, it feels very sturdy, and I suspect I'll be using it for a long time to come.

Dad's Old Fashioned Root Beer Can 355 ml (Pack of 12)
Dad's Old Fashioned Root Beer Can 355 ml (Pack of 12)
Offered by Tastebox
Price: £18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not as strong tasting as I'd hoped, 19 Dec. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Reviewing something consumable is inevitably something of a subjective process as concepts like the taste of it become crucial parts of the review. With a speaker I might comment on the quality of the bass and the treble but there's less scope for disagreement simply because of personal preference. That said, the review for Dad's root beer.

I was very pleased to see this on Amazon. I do enjoy root beer but find in the UK it's either impossible to find, or hideously expensive. I really struggle with being asked to pay £1.30 for a single 12oz can, to the point where my root beer consumption in the UK is typically 1-2 cans per year. Seeing this product on the Vine (and at a marginally more sensible price if I wanted to restock afterwards) was encouraging, so I clicked the link and a box turned up.

I was surprised at the size of the box used to ship it. It seemed putting a 12-back of root beer in a box over twice the size and sticking some folded up paper in the box is not only wasteful of resources but also means the box is less likely to fit into a cubbyhole or other spot for parcels to be left if the recipient is out.

The root beer itself comes in a box of 12 - 2 cans by 6 cans, and with a handy dispenser so you can just pull out cans as you need and the rest of them roll into place. That's handy, as you can put stuff on top of the box and not be endlessly shifting things to get a can of root beer.

The contents of the can are pleasant enough, it has the distinctive taste of root beer, but it isn't as strong as other root beers I've enjoyed in the past. In the US I usually go for either MUG or A&W root beer, both of which have a similar taste but in my opinion have a stronger flavour - stronger in a "more is better" sense. This is a product where I'll certainly finish the case (I've drunk four of the 12 cans so far) but the weaker flavour leaves me thinking that for an extra 30p per can or so I'll probably stick with the brands I know. If it were cheaper I'd consider it, but at this price point it's close enough to the brands I prefer that I'd rather pay a little more and get a product that in my opinion is better.

Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation
Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation
by Chris Nodder
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very true, powerful, and frighteningly effective, 27 Sept. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I ordered this book on the basis it looked like it could be an interesting read, offering an insight into human nature. What I found was far more than I expected, a look into the darker aspects of our nature and how it can be (and often is) used against us by companies who will gladly take advantage of our every weakness in order to part us from our hard-earned money, our free time, whatever they can get to turn a profit.

The seven deadly sins are, by their very nature, a religious construct. If you don't believe in any gods the concept of sin may seem irrelevant. But look past your views on religion, whatever they may be. The seven deadly sins give a highlight into human nature. When we're growing up our parents tell us not to eat all the chocolate in one sitting but never tell us not to have another portion of broccoli or Brussels sprouts. The reason is pretty clear - most children would eat as much chocolate as they could but few would eat an entire plateful of broccoli. So it is with these seven deadly sins - they pretty much describe the way most of us are, albeit our own weaknesses will represent some combination of these sins.

Many of us would be reluctant to share our address books with web sites, and maybe that's for a good reason. Making it a required stage of the registration process would almost certainly result in lots of people mysteriously having very few friends. Making it an optional stage of registration and making the user's profile show, very publicly, that they have "completed 85% of their registration" (while letting them know that the remaining 15% is to "suggest other people who might enjoy the web site") results in the sense of pride (ding - one of the deadly sins) kicking in because people dislike leaving things unfinished and dislike others seeing they started but never finished.

Sloth gets us in all sorts of ways. How many people actually read the terms and conditions before signing up to a new membership? How many read the terms of business before buying online? Who knows what nasty clauses are in there? The answer is very few - most people just can't be bothered. Make the desired progression through the site clear and obvious, hide the terms and conditions behind a dull grey link, and most people won't make the effort to know what they are getting into.

What about envy? Look at the sites out there that award gold stars to people. Call the gold stars whatever takes your fancy - it might be a fancy title, it might be a bit of recognition, but it's nothing of any practical value. Now you can play on both pride and envy - pride at being top of the leaderboard, envy that someone else has more virtual stars than you have, and people spend their lives providing free content to commercial providers in the hope of getting that coveted top spot.

The book covers each of the seven deadly sins in turn, looking at ways they can be used against us. As it unravels human nature it provides an ever-deeper insight into just how easy it can be to manipulate people into doing what you want them to do, by appealing to the darker sides of their nature. Yet all the time the options are there, people are free to choose to read the endless terms and conditions, they are free to compare every single product with every single other product, they are free to log off and do something else, but the choices are presented in such a way that the "right" choice is the easiest one to make.

Heck, you can even look at Amazon and wonder just why that "top 500 reviewer" tag exists. What other reason would people spend reviewing so many products? I can even look back at this review I just wrote, ask what I stand to gain from it, and wonder whether my own sense of pride is at work.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive 32 GB
SanDisk Connect Wireless Flash Drive 32 GB
Offered by Kikatek
Price: £46.42

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but effective, 18 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I saw this show up on the Vine I was curious just what it would be. It clearly worked as a USB memory stick but also offers streaming over Wifi? So I ordered one to see what it was about.

In due course it arrived, I followed the instructions to plug it in and charge it, then connected it to my computer and copied a few music files on it (just a few to start out, to see how it would work) and then connected my phone via Wifi to it. The connection was very fast, and within a very short time I was playing music on my phone loaded from this device.

So then I got to wondering, what does this thing do that I couldn't do with just carrying a 32GB microSD card with me and putting it into whatever device I was using at the time? Aside from presumably being able to share files with many devices at once (I haven't tried this yet but imagine it would work) one obvious advantage is if your phone doesn't come with expandable memory.

The device has a sliding cap so you can protect the USB connector when not in use, so it will neatly sit in a pocket and stream wirelessly to your phone. It contains a microSD card so it seems reasonable to assume you could carry a few cards and swap them around as needed, so even if your phone doesn't have a slot for a memory card with one of these you can effectively have unlimited data available on your phone without destroying your data allowance by streaming it from online sources.

If nothing else I rather like the freedom to carry lots of music around with me without it clogging up the memory in my phone. So overall this thing seems to be very well thought out.

TP-LINK MA260 3G HSPA+ USB Adapter
TP-LINK MA260 3G HSPA+ USB Adapter
Price: £24.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Junk, 15 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had high hopes for this product. I've already got a Vodafone 3G mobile dongle but of course it's tied to the Vodafone network. It would have been good to be able to put either the Vodafone SIM or the SIM from my regular phone into a single dongle so I could use whichever network gave me the best coverage.

Unfortunately for me this device just doesn't do it. As a micro SD card reader its performance is admirable but then so is a regular SD adapter plugged into the front of my laptop and the adapter is significantly smaller.

I plugged my Vodafone SIM into this thing, plugged it into my computer, went through the process (which was about as easy as it gets) then launched the software. No profiles were available so I couldn't connect. The device LED was flashing green which the instructions tell me mean the SIM is registered to the network but try as I might I couldn't figure out how to get it to connect. The software gave me the option to enter endless technical details from the mobile phone network but unfortunately I don't have that kind of information readily to hand. Never mind I thought, maybe it's just the Vodafone SIM that it doesn't like. So I tried a T-Mobile SIM and got exactly the same results - flashing green LED told me the SIM was registered but it still wouldn't connect.

I even tried on another computer and it still wouldn't work. Maybe I've got a defective one but this thing is going in the trash as soon as Vine conditions permit me to get rid of it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2014 8:09 AM GMT

CafeTutto (Nespresso compatible) Capsules Taster Box 25's
CafeTutto (Nespresso compatible) Capsules Taster Box 25's
Offered by Fresh Coffee Shop Ltd
Price: £7.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Good selection of coffees, 27 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's often tricky to review something like this as coffee tastes are inevitably rather personal and what tastes great to one can taste pretty awful to another.

This box contains nespresso compatible pods. Normally I don't use this kind of coffee but am interested in trying new types of coffee. The variety in this pack seems reasonable enough, an espresso that delivers a nice caffeine kick as expected, a rich dark Italian blend that gives a slightly lesser kick and a couple of others. There's also a decaf in there but I've never found a decaf I liked so haven't bothered with that one as yet and probably won't bother.

In a pack like this my primary interest is in the espresso end - if I want a long coffee I prefer to blend and roast my own beans so although the Grand Cru and the Lungo tasted nice enough they inevitably fell a little way short of custom blends roasted exactly to my preference. In fairness most people aren't geeky enough about coffee to do that sort of thing, in which case you'll probably find at least one of them to your taste.

I was rather surprised to see the composition of the coffees - there was no robusta in the espresso (normally a good espresso blend is about 5-10% robusta for the extra caffeine and some extra crema), and yet there was Indian robusta in the Gran Cru, Italian and Lungo blends.

It would also have been nice to have had more detail than "Arabica from South America and Africa" for the Lungo blend - other blends detail which countries and there's a fair bit of variety between different Latin American coffees and different African coffees. A blend of the two isn't something I'd normally do but it worked out OK - gives me some ideas for future blending of my own.

The box is described as letterbox-friendly and unless you've got one of those truly microscopic letterboxes loathed by people who deliver your daily newspaper it's hard to see how the box won't fit through it. Which is good, as it means you don't have to wait in for the courier, or get home from work to find a note saying they'll deliver at the same time tomorrow without saying what time that might be or invite you to drive 50 miles to their depot or some such.

The taster box looks like a well thought-out box that gives a variety so you can try each coffee before deciding whether to buy boxes of one specific type or another taster box. So whatever your individual preferences regarding coffee there's probably something in here you'll like. If you're someone who only drinks decaf then give it a miss as 24 of the 25 pods won't be any use to you.

Shady Farms Pure Organic Maple Syrup Flexible Pouch 125 ml
Shady Farms Pure Organic Maple Syrup Flexible Pouch 125 ml
Price: £3.79

5.0 out of 5 stars It's maple syrup, 4 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It can be tricky to write a review for a food based product because so much depends on personal taste, which can overcome the merits or otherwise of the product itself.

I am rather fond of maple syrup so when I got the chance to try this product it seemed like a no-brainer. And the contents of the pouch are very fine indeed, although as a fan of maple syrup it's no surprise I'd say that. It's a fairly light syrup compared to some of the darker products available although that's what I'd expect based on the description of it. Truth be told the really dark products seem to be more specialist items anyway.

The other thing I like about this product is the packaging. It's quite common for a jar of maple syrup to last a while and of course the jar takes up the same space in the fridge whether it's full or down to the last inch or so of product. This, being a pouch, fits into the fridge more easily and can be squeezed to take up less space as it empties. Of course the downside of that is that you can't tell at a glance how much is left, but if that's a concern you can always buy another one to keep in reserve.

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