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Mr. P. HAIGH (London, UK)

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Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories
Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories
by John Taylor
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £12.26

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging stories read by a well-chosen Benedict Cumberbatch, 10 Jan 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sherlock Holmes fans will either love or hate this audio CD, containing as it does four new short stories about the famous amateur detective written by John Taylor. Having recently read a number of the originals by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I found myself in the 'love' category.

The four 30 minute stories have captured the character of the original writing almost to perfection while the plot of each moves at just the right pace. The stories are engaging and certainly captured the interest of all four people in the car with ages ranging from 12 to erm, mid-40's.

Using Benedict Cumberbatch as the reader of these stories might be viewed as opportunistic, given his recent modern-day portrayal of Sherlock [DVD] on the BBC. What it should be viewed as however is genius. Cumberbatch has the perfect voice for audio books - a touch more energy to the delivery than Stephen Fry and none of the underlying smugness.

AmazonBasics Hard Black Carrying Case for My Passport Essential
AmazonBasics Hard Black Carrying Case for My Passport Essential
Price: £8.48

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-made but could be slightly bigger, 29 Dec 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Western Digital My Passport Essential is a super-slim USB hard drive only slightly larger than a bare 2.5 inch laptop hard drive. Worth stating up front because anything bigger simply won't fit in this case. The case itself is rugged and well made, and on undoing the zip you'll find that the two halves have restraints fitted. On one side is a net in which to slide the drive, while on the other is a wide elasticated band to put a cable under.

But you'd better check your dimensions before you order for anything other than the real thing - which is a shame because just another 20mm would make this case applicable to so many more 2.5 inch hard drives (and earn a five star rating). Of course the case has lots of other uses and if I don't find a portable drive I already own that fits, it'll simply be used for something else.

Update: having found myself in a tight spot and needing a backup of my laptop I ended up buying the drive this case was intended for. It's a snug fit but everything fits - drive and all the cables (I use both firewire and USB).

Lego Technic  Motorized Excavator
Lego Technic Motorized Excavator

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Technics kits to date, 26 Dec 2010
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My son is a big fan of Lego and was thrilled to have the opportunity to build this kit. As he already owns the JCB kit, and an older Star Wars Droid Developer kit, he is well-versed in technics construction and was up and running very quickly.

As with all lego kits the instructions are 99% pictorial and on the whole very clear. There are loads of pieces in the kit and over 200 steps (in three booklets) to build to build the main model, which he all but completed on Christmas day (with a little help on the more complicated bits). The JCB kit uses a pneumatic system to drive the front and rear buckets and works OK, but for this kit Lego have moved on to use linear actuators which look like a regular piston but are in fact motorised, providing solid control and none of the slop or sag you get in an air-driven system.

The actuators, and the caterpillar tracks, are all controlled by an infra-red system (that's RC for remote control, not radio control) so you will need to purchase batteries for this - 6xAA for the model and 6xAAA for the controller. Although Alkaline batteries will last longer, my preference is to use rechargeable batteries instead, as these pay for themselves inside a few charge cycles. With fully charged batteries control is positive at any range inside an average sized house.

This is a fully functional model but do not be tempted to take it outside; technics kits are not designed for use in dirty/sandy conditions, the gears will clog and jam very quickly.

Technics kits usually come with a set of instructions for an alternative model and with this kit it is a bulldozer - except that the instructions are only available on the internet - downloaded in five parts from the Lego web site they make a total of 145 pages, not something I'll be encouraging my son to print out! All in all this is a typical Lego Technics kit: extremely well thought out, the quality of the parts is the best, it goes together well and provides hours of building and entertainment.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 29, 2010 6:14 PM GMT

Norton Antivirus 2011, 3 Computers, 1 Year Subscription (PC)
Norton Antivirus 2011, 3 Computers, 1 Year Subscription (PC)

4.0 out of 5 stars Usual Norton quality, but AV by itself?, 22 Dec 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Like Marmite people are frequently split into distinct "like" and "don't like" camps over Norton products. All I can say is that we've used them for ten years with no cause for complaint. The last couple of versions have got even better with faster and more automated installation, and Norton 2011 is no different. Installation is slick and was trouble-free and once it was installed on my copy of Windows XP it sat unobtrusively in the background.

There are only really two points to raise with Norton over this software. The first is that when the subscription expires, the protection turns itself off, completely. Older versions of the software would keep running but stop getting updates whereas now you are just left wide open with no protection. I know you get warnings that the service is expiring soon, but I'd like to see Norton change their approach to give a couple of weeks grace where the software continues to work, while displaying a prominent banner at login, just to spell it out. I'm sure quite a few people will have been caught out by the 'subscription expires' message not appreciating that everything turns off.

The second in this day and age is that I'm not sure who would AV on its own? Norton Internet Security 2011 provides far more comprehensive protection for the average consumer, wrapped up in one package. The computer I'm using is in a fairly controlled environment and not used for web browsing and the like - otherwise I'd be using that product instead.

Canon EOS 40D Digital SLR Camera (incl. EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens Kit) (discontinued by manufacturer)
Canon EOS 40D Digital SLR Camera (incl. EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens Kit) (discontinued by manufacturer)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a Canon - enough said, 25 Nov 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought an EOS 40D when the opportunity to get one relatively cheaply presented itself. I'd previously owned a Canon EOS 300D for a few years and found it to be a good DSLR but the sport mode was lacking, just 2.5 frames per second for six seconds. I used this function at airshows and motor racing events, and eventually became frustrated with this limitation.

The 40D has all of the convenience features of the 300D - full auto, sport mode, portrait... - but uses a superior (faster) processing engine and has a larger sensor - 10 megapixels instead of 6.3 megapixels. For me the killer feature is, unsurprisingly, sport mode, which can sustain 6.5 frames per second for 75 shots (11.5s) at maximum resolution.

As with the 300D the stock lens is superb - 17-85mm with excellent quality. I've been using my older Canon EF 75-300mm Lens with this camera body as well with no problems but have decided it is time to move up to a proper EF lens - most likely the Canon EF 100-400mm. I've also been using the Canon Speedlite 430EX II indoors with great results.

My one criticism of the 40D is that the viewfinder field of view is smaller than that seen by the CCD through the stock lens, so it is difficult to work out if, when trying to fit a big subject in, you have inadvertently cut bits off - until after the shot. Not a problem in a composed picture but definitely a problem when taking action photos.

Braun Oral-B Pulsonic Sonic Rechargeable Toothbrush
Braun Oral-B Pulsonic Sonic Rechargeable Toothbrush

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It isn't cheap but it is good (pity about the noise), 25 Nov 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is an expensive electric toothbrush so what makes it so special?

My wife is the electric toothbrush user in our household, having used one for several years. This one is sonic, meaning that the vibration is created by sound waves propagating through the brush head instead of using an electric motor to produce brush movement. She said it was easy to adjust to and cleaned her teeth much more effectively than either a normal toothbrush or her previous Oral-B motorised brush. The main adjustment (aside from the noise - see below) is that you must have the toothbrush in your mouth before turning it on as the default brushing mode is quite vigorous (translation: toothpaste on the walls if you don't!)

Being a sonic toothbrush it is relatively noisy compared to a motorised brush - something to bear in mind if you have a partner that gets up at a different time to you and have an en-suite bathroom as so many more modern houses do.

The toothbrush has three modes - daily clean (the default), sensitive and massage - and either of the first two will do the job admirably. Possibly the one thing to get used to is the relative lack of motion with a sonic brush, the temptation is to start moving the brush in the traditional way when in fact it isn't needed.

Replacement heads are available from Amazon at a cost of £8.49 for two - the cheapest I could find during a ten minute search using Google and various shopping sites.

All round this appears to be a good quality brush and a very effective one.

AmazonBasics Lens Cleaning Pen System
AmazonBasics Lens Cleaning Pen System

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great little lens cleaner when you're on the move, 22 Nov 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
OK I'm not a professional photographer although it is something I enjoy doing, and keeping my lenses free from dust, grease and fingermarks is essential. In the past I've made do with a computer screen cleaning kit with some degree of success, but only when I can sit down and spend at least a few minutes to first clean and then polish all the exposed glass. It takes a while to get it right. On the go I would have said it was impossible to do quickly, but this cleaning pen has just changed my mind.

On one end is a pad of what might be leather. In fact if you pull this it comes out to reveal a smaller pad on the other end. These two are really good for polishing out fingerprints and smudges. On the other end is a retractable brush, which allows me to flick any dust particles off the lens (or more usually, filter) quickly and easily. This thing works really well in the field - small enough to go in my pocket and easy and quick to use. My favourite photographic subjects are flying displays at airshows, and F1 cars at the winter tests in Spain, so being able polish a lens quickly between shots is invaluable. I will still use it with a cleaning cloth for the first pass, but the point is this thing is ultra-portable and works well.

I'm sure that professionals use something more elaborate that produces better results, but for me this really does the job with minimal equipment and maximum speed.

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality (just like the driver), 22 Nov 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I started buying F1 caps in the mid 1990's (think Damon Hill) and have bought or acquired at least one every season since. Being a fan of Mark Webber it was natural to end up buying a Red Bull cap this year because they looked so good - and I've been very impressed. The branding is all stitched with the exception of the number '6' on the peak and well finished - no loose threads at all. The size adjuster at the back is a good one - no tendency for it to open or for the fabric to slip. The best part for me though is that this is the first cap I've owned that has a good interior lining.

Wear a cap in the sun and you will sweat underneath it; in short order that sweat gets into the material and when it dries, leaves a salt stain. This is usually what does for a cap with me, by the end of the summer my cap looks rather unsightly. With this cap however most of the sweat ends up in the lining instead of the peak or the front part of the cap - so it looks better for longer. I wore my cap all through the spring and summer before spending 14 days in Florida - only at the end of this very hot holiday was there any sign of sweat showing on the outside of the cap.

It's a shame (at the price) that these things aren't washable - the peak is generally made from cardboard making this impractical - but I'll definitely look at another Webber cap next year (I'm a Button fan really but McLaren colours don't suit me at all...)

Diary of a Wimpy Vampire
Diary of a Wimpy Vampire
by Tim Collins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, diary-style story just waiting to grab you!, 22 Nov 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As with other books aimed primarily at girls I've received from Vine I handed this book over to my daughter, aged 11, to read and she used it to keep her occupied as we travelled to our summer holiday destination. The book is written in diary form so it looks a bit different to your average (and now all-too-common) teenage vampire story. This is what she told me about the book:

Diary of a wimpy vampire is a brilliantly written book. It is about a boy called Nigel, who is a vampire. Eternally 15, Nigel is extremely bored with his life, until he meets a girl called Chloe, who he sets his heart on, but who doesn't seem to know he exists. To make things worse, his annoying little sister and parents all have vampire speed and strength, whereas he does not. In trying to get Chloe to love him enough to let him drink a little of her blood, the pair get into many adventures. This book is extremely funny, and amidst his very bad poetry, his wimpy diary entries, there is a fantastic story line just waiting to grab you too!!!

So in summary, she definitely liked it and has since decided it is time to dive into the Twilight books. Black make-up for Christmas I think...

Philips GC7420/02 Steam Generator system iron
Philips GC7420/02 Steam Generator system iron

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good iron let down by noise and steam button position, 9 Nov 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The iron arrived in a big box and although there was little room inside it was well packaged in a two-part carton made from recycled cardboard. The instructions are brief - as they should be - this is just another iron, the only difference being the external reservoir.

The reservoir on this iron is huge although exactly how big it doesn't say. There is a reason for that large size, more later. Anyway the iron was quickly unboxed, plugged in, filled up (OK not quite) and on the ironing board ready to go. Phillips claim that the iron will be ready to use in two minutes. I didn't time it but it don't feel longer.

As an iron this really rocks. It is lightweight with the dial temperature control in the traditional place. It is easy to move around - a good non-stick sole - and the steam delivery is positive and effective. I'm sure I could get through my office shirts rather more quickly than with our regular iron.

There are a couple of negative points with this type of iron, however. First, the reservoir unit is very noisy - every time you turn the steam on or off there is a loud click. Second, because the steam is delivered at pressure (which to be fair makes it much more effective) it is much more 'hissy' with the steam running, and there is a pump which cuts in from time to time. No more ironing for me in front of the telly, at least not while the rest of the family are watching.

The biggest fault though is the positioning of the steam button. If you don't press the button, you don't get any steam. If you just want to turn the steam on and leave it on, there is no problem. But you won't want to do that. You'll need to switch the steam off each time you lift the iron up to adjust the clothes. You'll also find that for all but the heaviest linen shirts, you just don't need the steam running all the time. So you need to regularly press the steam button while moving the iron around. The steam button needs to be under your thumb - somewhere on the side of the handle where your thumb will naturally rest - but it isn't. Worse still I found it very easy to accidentally engage the steam lock (which is behind the steam button) as my thumb came off the steam button - far from ideal.

I found a way to hold the iron that made the position of the steam button less inconvenient but the end result was not so natural. Maybe I've just got big hands, but this seems such an obvious thing to miss. Otherwise an excellent heavy duty iron.

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