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Mr. T. Anderson "onlyconnect"

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The Beauty of the End
The Beauty of the End
by Debbie Howells
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling but bleak story which is more psychological drama than crime writing, 11 July 2016
This review is from: The Beauty of the End (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I read this cover to cover on a transatlantic flight and it certainly helped pass the time; the writing is easy to read with some nice descriptive touches. It's a crime story but more a psychological drama as the main narrator investigates not only a recent murder but also his own past, since he has been intimately involved with the people he is investigating. The subject matter is bleak though and the story somewhat claustrophobic; it cannot be described as a fun read.

On the other hand, it is compelling and while you quickly guess at some of what has been going on, unlike the rather naÔve narrator, there are some surprising twists right to the end.

It's not the most fast-paced of books though and the chapters jump about in time which I found just a little annoying.

Nevertheless a though-provoking story which I am glad to have read.

House of Marley LIBERATE XLBT Headphone - Saddle
House of Marley LIBERATE XLBT Headphone - Saddle
Price: £125.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality Bluetooth headset with distinctive styling, but not that special for sound or comfort, 6 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First impressions of the Liberate XLBT are rather good. This Bluetooth headset comes in a stout box with earthen colouring reflecting the planet-friendly ethos of the brand. Inside the packaging you get the over-ear headset, a fabric draw-string bag, a tangle-free cord for optional wired connection, and a USB charging cable.

The headphones themselves are distinctively styled with a metal headband, real wood backs to the ear cups (a nice touch), and brown padded plastic for the lining and ear cup padding. The ear cups fold in for storage, and it is reasonably compact for an over-ear set.

I doubt you will have any problem with setup considering that it is all fairly standard, but will note that the little manual is confusing. It says that the USB charging port is on the right ear cup, when in fact it is on the left, though the charging LED is on the right and not by the port as stated. I wonder if House of Marley has slightly revised the product but not updated the manual.

There is also a section on “Responsible Listening” which states how many decibels are safe for me to hear. Completely useless, since there is no way for most of us to measure how many decibels we are hearing.

I digress. How is the sound? I compared the headphones with several others, of varying quality, and with wired and wireless connections.
My first observation is that these headphones sound better over Bluetooth than wired. This isn’t a complete surprise. Although the potential quality of a wired connection is better, in wireless mode the headset uses its own internal amplifier which can be optimised for the drivers, and I think this is the reason for a more dynamic, fuller sound when used wirelessly.

Second, the sound conforms to a pattern I’ve noticed in several headphones I’ve heard recently, with slightly emphasised bass and recessed treble. This is not to my taste though it does mean that the sound is never harsh. I imagine though that the vendors have done their research and found that a lot of people like this kind of balance. It is not too bad and I found music enjoyable through these headphones.

Compared to the best (and more expensive) headphones I noticed a tendency to blur the bass and lose some of the sweetness and sense of space. That is to be expected though and I feel the sound quality is reasonable for the price.

Comfort could be better. The ear cups are slightly small for an over-ear design, or maybe I just have large ears, but I would prefer a more generous size. I have some favourite Sennheisers which I can wear for hours; not so with these though they may become for comfortable as they wear.

On the plus side, this is a Bluetooth headset with microphone that you can use for phone calls as well as listening to music. The Bluetooth connectivity worked perfectly for me both on Android and Apple devices. The wired option has an inline controller and microphone for play, pause etc, though this is designed primarily for Apple devices (I am not sure why since there are more Android smartphones out there). That said, you are more likely to use Bluetooth anyway.

In summary: I like the appearance, the high quality materials, and the smooth operation. The sound is OK especially if you like the tone tilted slightly towards the bass. Comfort not great for me but this is a personal thing. It is a crowded market though so I suggest careful research before purchase.

Salter Curve Glass Aquatronic Electronic Digital Kitchen Scale, Black
Salter Curve Glass Aquatronic Electronic Digital Kitchen Scale, Black
Offered by Jarrolds Department Store
Price: £15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple and effective scales, excellent, 6 July 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We have been using an old-fashioned balance with weights so for us this is a big jump in technology!

Salter is a long-established brand and it shows in the simple but effective design of this unit. What you get is a simple and lightweight measuring platform with a transparent centre, about the size of a dessert plate. All the buttons are touch controls, so unaffected by spillages and wipe clean. Turn on, pop the thing to weigh on the scales, read the weight. Tap the unit button to switch between grams, pounds and ounces, fluid ounces or millilitres. Your unit choice is remembered next time you switch on. Auto switch-off after a few minutes.

If you need to use a bowl, you have to put the bowl on empty, then press zero. Now fill your bowl to weigh the ingredients. Press zero again and you can weigh what you add to the bowl, for multiple ingredients.

How accurate is it? Well, I weighed some of our old-fashioned weights and it seemed very good, within a few percent though it might be our weights that are fractionally off! Maximum weight is 5Kg or 11 lb. Liquid measures are designed for "water based liquids" such as water, milk or cream.

It is not so good for micro-measurement. It only shows whole numbers. I have some business cards that weigh just under 1g. I put 2 cards on the scale and it still shows 0. With 3 cards it hovers between 1 and 2g. By the time I get up to 10 cards it is pretty good. My conclusion is that weighing a small quantity of under 3 or 4g is tricky. Not a problem for most cookery but worth noting. You can get a "precision scale" like this Salter Heston Blumenthal Dual Platform Precision Scale for a more money if you need it.

Note also that the platform is not that large, so if you have very large bowls or saucepans to weigh you should look for a bigger one.

In every other way this is great. 15 year warranty suggests that the manufacturers have confidence in the product. Runs off two standard CR2032 batteries, should last a long time and easily replaced.

Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Logitech G910 Orion Spectrum RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Price: £159.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent gaming keyboard, strong programmability, just a couple of minor annoyances, 15 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The G910 is top of Logitech's range of gaming keyboards. It uses Logitech's Romer-G switch, introduced in late 2014. The design of these is interesting, featuring a short travel for rapid actuation and a lens underneath each key to spread the LED lighting evenly. The company claims a lifetime of 70 million presses.

I can confirm that the keys are very responsive even though the keyboard has a softer feel than some mechanical keyboards - though it is still reassuringly (or annoyingly) clacky compared to a typical rubber dome keyboard.

Programmability is good, with 9 "G keys", five on the left and five on the top row of the keyboard, and three modifier keys. You can think of the 9 keys as a set of programmable functions, and the modifier keys select which set you want to be active, giving 27 functions overall. This set is then assigned to a profile, so you can have different function sets for each game or application you use.

You can program a G key for one or more keystroke combinations, or for typing a block of text, or for a mouse function, or to start an application or go to a website, or to control audio, or even to morph your voice. You can also record macros.

Another special feature is the lighting. This is hugely customizable. You can set all the keys to be the same colour, or each key to have an individual colour, or group the keyboard into zones each with their own colour. There are also special effects like Color Wave which continuously varies the colours - I could not live with it for more than a few minutes! I like the minimalist Key Press which just lights each key you press for a moment, so you can glance down and see what you typed. If you want conventional back lighting, just select a single colour or even white.

There is no single setting for brightness. You can vary the intensity of each colour, but not control the overall brightness of the keyboard, which seems a strange limitation.

Everything is controlled through the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS), which I found reasonably intuitive to use, though the documentation is slightly confusing as it also applies to controlling other hardware such as a gaming mouse.

Another feature is the ability to dock your smartphone to the keyboard. Integration is via a Logitech app called Arx Control which connects to LGS over wifi. You can do things like change the current keyboard profile, or show PC stats such as temperature and CPU usage (see screenshot attached).

It's a neat idea but I didn't find it that useful and of course it eats your smartphone battery. It's a shame Logitech don't include a USB port on the keyboard so you could recharge easily.

The keyboard is plastic but weighty and seems well-made, though the finish is lacking in a few areas. Sliding out the dock is a bit fiddly and wobbly, for example.

What about for non-gaming use? Generally the keyboard is fine for typing, though just a little on the cramped side. I am a touch typist and like the responsive keys. It has all the normal keys and includes Windows and Menu keys but not Calculator; hardly a worry with all those G keys to play with.

The keyboard is compatible with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.x and Windows 10. It also looks like it works with Mac OS X 10.8 and higher - at least, you can download the LGS software and the keyboard is listed - but I did not try it on a Mac.

The programmability is impressive, and there are only a couple of minor annoyances. Overall I like it and for serious gaming a keyboard of this quality is worth it.
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The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped [4 x BD + 1 CD] [Blu-ray]
The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped [4 x BD + 1 CD] [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ The Rolling Stones
Price: £34.99

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three excellent full-length Stones concerts plus some nice extras, 9 Jun. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The original Stripped was a 1995 retrospective album where the Stones, then in the middle of a mega tour to promote Voodoo Lounge, made some back-to-roots recordings in the studio and at small venues in London, Paris and Amsterdam. The 1995 Stripped CD had 14 tracks, of which 8 were “live in the studio” and 6 taken from those small concerts.

This new Totally Stripped release features three of those gigs in their entirety – The Paradiso Amsterdam on 26 May 1995, L’Olympia Paris on 3 July and Brixton Academy on 19 July. There is also a 14-track CD of selected live tracks (not the same as the original CD), and a documentary on a separate disk.

I like the fact that even this big box does not render the original completely obsolete. I like even better than we get three excellent concerts – I think Brixton is my favourite, but that maybe partly because I know the venue – with the Stones in great tour-honed shape and performing some of the songs I most want to hear, with albums like Let it Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street well represented.

Is it really “stripped”? Performing in small venues does enhance the atmosphere of the concerts but it is not all that stripped-down, with guest musicians including Darryl Jones on bass, Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Bobby Keys and Andy Snitzer on sax, Kent Smith on trumpet, Michael Davis on trombone, and two backing vocalists. I think the “stripped” concept was as much about getting away from stadiums and capturing some of the magic of Exile, rather than a truly stripped-down performance.

How much repetition is there? The concerts are not clones. I did a little bit of analysis. Only 5 songs are included in all three concerts:

Shine a Light
Like a Rolling Stone
Slipping Away
Rip this Joint

In addition, Paradiso has 6 unique songs, Olympia 2 and Brixton 4.

If you are a Stones fan (and if you are not, why are you reading this?) then I think you will enjoy having all three concerts.

The package comes in a hardback book with the disks clipped into the inside covers. There are a few pages of sleeve notes by Richard Havers, and the rest is mostly in-concert photos combined with a few press cuttings and memorabilia. A decent presentation, but nothing too exciting.

Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 29, 2016 1:18 AM BST

Sonic Chic Urban Toothbrush, Blue Maze
Sonic Chic Urban Toothbrush, Blue Maze
Price: £19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Compact travel toothbrush but not as good as it could be, 20 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'll be brief. This is a compact battery-powered electric toothbrush designed for travel. The cylindrical case is just 160mm long. It takes one AAA battery - I would have preferred an AA battery which would last longer - and one is supplied in the box. The toothbrush head is easy to replace, secured by a simple twist fastener, and a spare head is supplied. The head is meant to be replaced every 10-12 weeks, but if you only use the brush for travel that is not too bad.

In use the action is soft, especially as the brush is also relatively soft. However this is a "sonic" toothbrush which means very rapid vibration, 22,000 strokes per minute according to the spec. This activates the fluids in your mouth to clean areas of the teeth that cannot be reached by normal brushing. Certainly my mouth felt nice and clean after a brush, though note that the best sonic toothbrushes have an even faster vibration. I don't think you should expect a travel toothbrush to be quite as good as full-size one.

It does the job then; but I didn't like the short length of the brush which makes it slightly harder to use and also means your hand gets more splashing. The instructions say to keep the power button dry, but given its position just below where the head attaches, I'd say this is pretty much impossible. The designers should have sited the power button at the base of the unit. I'd also suggest that a clever design would let you attach the case top to extend the handle; unfortunately this is not the case.

So it's OK, but not as good as it could be.

TP-LINK TL-WR810N Universal Wireless 300 Mbps Pocket Travel Router/Range Extender/AP/TV Adapter
TP-LINK TL-WR810N Universal Wireless 300 Mbps Pocket Travel Router/Range Extender/AP/TV Adapter
Price: £24.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Compact and flexible wireless router, repeater or access point, 14 May 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was intrigued by this unit which says on the box “Create a private wi-fi network wherever you travel” and “Stream from Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick”.

I travel a fair bit and thought this could be handy while on the road, for example in a hotel room. There is a snag though: while this wi-fi router will easily let you set up a private wi-fi network, getting on the internet with it requires a wired Ethernet connection which you will not find in all hotel rooms. Chromecast is tricky to get working without internet access, even if you want to stream a video you have already downloaded (a Miracast device would be better for this).

The unit also requires mains power, unlike some units which run off USB power or battery, so it is not quite perfect as a travel router.

Despite these observations, I am impressed by this TP-LINK which is flexible as well as being a handy small size. It is essentially a standard wi-fi router or access point with an integrated mains plug so there are mains cables or additional power adapters required. You do need a socket which is raised a bit from the floor to accommodate the device, which measures 85 x 75 x 28mm and has the plug at the top.

There are four modes of operation:

Wireless router: connect the WAN port to the internet, typically an Ethernet port on your broadband modem or in a hotel room, and then connect all your devices to the TP-LINK wi-fi network.

Wireless access point: connect the WAN port to an existing Ethernet network so that other devices can connect to that network wirelessly. In this scenario the TP-LINK does no routing and your wi-fi connected devices will be on the same subnet as other wired devices. This is handy if your broadband router does not have wi-fi capability, or if you want to extend wi-fi range beyond your existing wi-fi router and can make a wired Ethernet connection from your existing network to the TP-LINK device.

Wireless Repeater: extend the range of your existing wi-fi router by placing the TP-LINK half-way between the furthest point you want to reach, and the existing wi-fi router. This is suitable if do you do not have the ability to connect to the TP-LINK with a wired connection, or if it is inconvenient. To do this, use a switch on the TP-LINK to set it to Repeater.

Wireless client: connect another device to your wi-fi network even if it only has a wired Ethernet connection (like the early Xbox 360, for example). To do this, use a switch on the TP-LINK to set it to Client. Then you plug in the TP-LINK, connect it to your existing wi-fi network, and use an Ethernet cable to connect your other device to the TP-LINK.

In addition, there is a USB port on the TP-LINK that you can use to attach a USB hard drive for shared storage or as a media server. I didn’t try either of these options, and the media server is barely documented even if you download the full 200 page manual from the vendor’s web site.

The leaflet supplied gives basic getting started instructions, but for the full range of features you need to connect to the TP-LINK with a web browser to access the usual TP-LINK networking and wireless configuration screens. If you are at all security minded you will want to do this anyway, to change the password from the default.

Spec-wise, note that this TP-LINK supports only 2.4GHz wi-fi and not the less congested 5GHz, though I had no connection or performance issues. Maximum performance with an 11n connection is 300 Mbps. It does not support 802.11ac, only 802.11 b, g or n.

A nice little unit then, though the only thing that makes this a “travel” device is the small size and integrated mains plug.

House of Marley "Jammin-Ie-Chant-1Bm" Earphone - Rasta
House of Marley "Jammin-Ie-Chant-1Bm" Earphone - Rasta
Price: £22.32

4.0 out of 5 stars Good value and well made earbuds, tonally weighted towards the bass, but always fun to listen to, 19 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
House of Marley products have a distinctive style. The name was taken from that of Reggae superstar Bob Marley and the brand has a philosophy of being “Earth-friendly”. These modestly-priced “Chant” earbuds have a real-wood housing, bright green ear tips, and a colourful cable that is moderately tangle-resistant. A microphone is included, for hands-free phone calls. The button on the microphone also works as a pause control provided your smartphone supports it; it worked fine on my Android device.

The markings for Right and Left on the earbuds are very small, but you can easily identify the left one by the inline microphone. A second set of smaller ear tips is supplied, so hopefully you can get a good fit. I found them comfortable and secure.

The first track I tried was I Shot the Sheriff, though I rather disloyally chose the Eric Clapton version, and I was taken aback by how good it sounded, with rich bass and a smooth, engaging rhythm. I then compared to some more expensive earbuds that I rate highly, and initially they sounded bright and distant by comparison.

More extensive listening showed that the Chant does have a slightly bassy and dark tone, which is particularly well-suited to Reggae. The treble is a little shaved off in my opinion, and these might not suit you if you like an analytical sound. I find the flaws easy to forgive though, thanks to the smoothness of the sound and the way it conveys the rhythm, and I enjoyed all the music I tried.

These earbuds do seem well made and are a good choice if you like strong bass, not so good if you like a bright sound.

Robin: Lady of Legend (The Classic Adventures of the Girl Who Became Robin Hood)
Robin: Lady of Legend (The Classic Adventures of the Girl Who Became Robin Hood)
Price: £3.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and well-written retelling of the Robin Hood legend, 13 April 2016
I enjoyed this retelling of the Robin Hood legend and read it pretty much in one sitting - easily done thanks to the author's fluent and easy going style of writing. I loved the fact that Robin is a young woman (disguised as a man for most of the book) and the interesting tensions this brings out in the way she relates to others. The fact that she succeeds in a (very) male-dominated world is also a gentle statement against mistaken gender assumptions though not to the extent that you could call this a feminist book; it is in the end quite traditional.

The book is aimed at a young readership which may be why it plays a bit safe in terms of the plot and the extent to which it explores some of the deeper issues it touches on.

Aside from Robin's sex, the various adventures will be familiar to fans of Robin Hood so don't expect any other huge surprises. The plots are a bit thin and implausible at times, but best to suspend disbelief and just enjoy the read.

The writing is excellent though the vocabulary is challenging at times (immuring, eructation, chiaroscuro); not a bad thing to be stretched a little though.

A fun read and recommended.

AmazonBasics RFID Travel Money Belt, Black
AmazonBasics RFID Travel Money Belt, Black
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple but effective money belt; no complaints so far, 13 April 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I travel a fair amount and find a money belt reassuring, especially in cities where pickpockets are common. I prefer to wear it under rather that over clothing, as I can’t see the sense in wearing a visible pouch labelled, in effect, “here is my money”. This belt, which comes complete with a discreet “Amazon basics” logo, is made of black polyester and has an elasticated strap that goes round your waist, with a snap fastener at one end.

It offers two zipped pockets, a smaller one in front and a larger one behind, with the larger one having two internal compartments to help separate things like credit cards and tickets.

I don’t recommend stuffing too much into a money belt, but you can easily fit a UK passport along with some banknotes and cards. You could slip a small phone into it but it’s not suitable for anything more than that; it’s a belt not a bag. A belt pocket like this is quite flimsy because of the thin material. It can be awkward to use if it is under clothing; the zips on this run reasonably smoothly which is helpful

This belt claims RFID protection. I haven’t been able to test it, but the idea is to prevent detectors from reading the RFID tags on cards, avoiding the possibility of someone extracting a payment from a contactless card.

The back of the belt is soft, which is good if you wear it next to your skin.

I can’t comment on durability yet but will report back if there are any issues. Nothing special, but no complaints so far.

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