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Duronic WPS20 Adjustable Height Floor Projector/Laptop Stand with Wheels
Duronic WPS20 Adjustable Height Floor Projector/Laptop Stand with Wheels

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as a laptop standing desk., 19 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this for use as a laptop standing desk and it doesn't disappoint. Strictly speaking I don't think it is meant for laptops - despite what the product detail page says - because there is no mention whatsoever of laptops on the product box or instructions, but I'm happy to let that one go because it really is fit for purpose as a laptop stand.

It is incredibly solid and sturdy with very little movement of the top even when extended to full height and when typing. Obviously there is some but nothing that makes me think it could damage my laptop.

I'm also impressed by how strong it is in that I think it would take quite a lot of pressure/weight to make it go down so there's no danger of the platform dropping while you're using your laptop or leaning on it.

The last thing is I think the castors (with brakes) are very good quality so the thing moves around like a dream and equally stays put like a dream when the brakes are on.

So all in all a wonderful piece of kit and to be honest I can't think of anything wrong with it at all.

FREEVIEW RECEIVER & RECORDER SET TOP BOX Digital TV Tuner, Media Player, Records onto SD CARD or USB MEMORY, digi box by Digi-fun®
FREEVIEW RECEIVER & RECORDER SET TOP BOX Digital TV Tuner, Media Player, Records onto SD CARD or USB MEMORY, digi box by Digi-fun®

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 19 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This little machine has some very good points and some very bad points. That's the best way I can put it.

On the positive side:

Physical Design:
- It is the smallest, most solid, and nicest looking Freeview box I've owned.
- The SD card, when in, sticks out plenty so it's very easy to take it out and put it in in a hurry.
- It's power light is only on when it's on and not when it's in standby, so that's one less constantly on red LED to worry about.

- It finds more channels than any other Freeview box I've owned. Being in a low signal area that's a godsend because it means I can get some channels from neighbouring regions further afield than usually.

Recording Quality:
- It records, in mpg format, at a single fixed rate of about 1gb per hour and the quality is fantastic. It's nice not having to faff around with LP, SP, and XP - as per other, more expensive, Freeview recorders I've owned - and instead just have one mode that is the perfect compromise between low file size and recording quality.

On the negative side:

User Interface
- The user interface is pretty awful. It is logical but not intuitive. As a programmer I can understand the rationale behind it and even feel at home in it, but it still does require going the long way round for pretty much everything. For instance the timer is buried deep within a configuration menu and labelled as "Wakeup Timer". It is named like that so that the 'wakeup' part of it can be used for other things besides recording, such as changing to a certain channel. More intuitive would be to separate the frequently used timer function from the less frequently used other 'wakeup' options and have a separate easy access to it, but the software here is not designed like that. Basically it lacks the intuitive little shortcuts of say a Sky+ box.
- The EPG is done by channel rather than for all channels. This means you can't easily use it find something to watch as you could with a Sky+ box. It's made worse by the fact that it takes donkey's years to load each channel's program list and it doesn't load the items in any particular order so it's telling you what's going to be on much later in the day before it's telling you what's on now (some, not all, of the time). It doesn't seem to load the other channel's lists in the background either so you have to go to a channel before it will start loading its list. Basically the EPG is practically useless and you should make sure you have a TV mag on hand.
- Naming files is a nightmare. Like a mobile phone keypad where 1=abc, 2=def etc but where you can't press the right arrow to advance the position of the cursor and instead have to wait a few seconds for it to advance automatically. Seriously it is a few seconds and that is way too long a delay. It means that writing even an eight letter filename could take a minute or so. The only way around this I've found is to press insert several times to insert a long line of blanks and then you can use the left and right arrows to navigate that. But it's still a nightmare because then you've essentially got to write each letter of the filename before it auto-advances and that's not easy when you have to keep looking up what number to press and how many times. Silly.
- The timer is unreliable. It failed on me today, hence the long overdue review, and recorded 5 seconds of what it was supposed to record before changing to another channel and recording a file of large file size but unstated duration (probably just recorded until it filled the SD card).

In summary:
Good hardware but terrible software. If you're prepared to accept the software as a complete writeoff and use this machine only for direct watching and direct recording then it is worth a look. For those purposes it is perfect because the recording quality is excellent, it receives more channels than other Freeview boxes (for me at least), and it is easy to quickly 'interchange' the SD card between it and a computer for editing and archiving recordings (by virtue of the card sticking out rather than needing some fiddly spring mechanism and long fingernails).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2014 4:10 PM GMT

Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present
Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present
Price: £1.99

1.0 out of 5 stars No contents page!, 9 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This (Kindle) book doesn't even have a basic contents page grouped by letter let alone one grouped by subject. This is unacceptable for an encyclopedia. I'm sure the content is fine but unfortunately on the Kindle it will be very hard to reach. Total waste of money :-(

Scribblenauts (Nintendo DS)
Scribblenauts (Nintendo DS)
Offered by APE-GAMES
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars A unique and beautifully designed puzzle game, suitable for young and old alike., 20 Feb. 2012
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Scribblenauts is a very original puzzle game. In it you use the stylus only to move your character - Maxwell - and any objects you conjure into existence (by writing their name in a notepad) around numerous platform-based levels, combining them with each other as necessary to solve the puzzle. You move Maxwell indirectly in the sense that he runs, jumps, swims, climbs etc towards where you've pointed with the stylus (there's no D-Pad control at all) so it's not like a normal platform game in that regard. You move objects more directly by placing them exactly where you want them in the level - e.g. placing a bridge over a gap ready for Maxwell to cross. It is here that the physical skill of the game comes in... if it were a 'point and click' adventure game like Monkey Island you'd just click "use bridge with gap" and that would be that but in this you have to precisely, and often precariously, place the bridge over the gap and just as accurately manipulate Maxwell to cross it - sounds easy but if the bridge and the gap are roughly the same size and you move Maxwell too fast there's a very real danger of knocking it in.

There's a great deal of depth and variety in this game both in the number of levels and the types of the puzzles. There are two modes of play, "Puzzle" and "Action", each with 110 levels spread across 10 themed worlds, and then, on top of that, is "Advanced Mode" in which you replay any completed level three times in a row and must use different objects each time. All modes are puzzling and challenging but in different ways. Puzzle mode is the most imaginative and requires the most 'contextual knowledge' - i.e. knowing what goes with what... for instance one puzzle is to turn four people into a rock band by giving them instruments: easy enough the first time but if you want to beat the level in advanced mode it means thinking of 12 additional instuments appropriate to a rock band. That is one of the more static examples of puzzle mode but there are many others that involve movement and skill as well. Action mode on the other hand is about a different type of problem solving and is less reliant on a vivid imagination: here it is about planning and skilfully navigating a route to the starite (the starite is the star you have to collect to win a level... in puzzle mode it appears when you solve the task that was set - i.e. equipping that rock band - but in action mode it's visible from the start) often through a maze of tight spaces, past enemy sentries, through colour-coded doors (with colour-coded switches to open them), and avoiding all manner of devious contraptions designed to stop you. For example, in one level you have Maxwell on a long platform and the starite below him on another, shorter, platform. Every time you move to the right a moving wall moves to the right below you pushing the starite along. Your task is to devise a way of getting to the starite before it is pushed off the end of the shorter platform into the lava pit below... ingenious level design in my opinion. In this mode you tend to use your favourite tried-and-tested vehicles, tools, and weapons (rather than continually thinking of new ones as you might in puzzle mode) because it's more about skilful manoeuvring and timing and you have the best chance of succeeding if you use familiar and well-practiced objects. One final 'mode' - if you can call it that - is Playground mode. This occurs on the title screen before you start a game (and before you've chosen one of the two named profiles available to store your game progress) and just consists of an invincible Maxwell standing in an empty level. Here you can experiment with objects to your heart's content. There are several 'backgrounds' available for this which you have to unlock by writing certain objects. But it's important to remember that they're not just backgrounds - they're foregrounds too so unless you unlock one with water in it for instance, you'll never be able to test water-based objects. So in its way, this mode is a game in itself and one worth pursuing because it allows you to experiment with the objects and enemies of difficult levels away from the pressures of those levels, and of course to search for the perfect objects and practice using them.

The designers of the game clearly have a sense of humour (though how good it is I'll leave you to decide) and there are plenty of jokes, red herrings, and devious twists thrown into the levels. For instance each level has a hint at the beginning and one such hint is simply "good luck with that". Then there's a perfect recreation of the clocktower scene in "Back To The Future" for you to solve. And as a hint from me I'd suggest that if you're hard up on game money (which you win by completing levels and use to unlock worlds and buy various other novelty extras) you should pay close attention to the very last action level.

In summary, this is a brilliant and challenging game suitable for both adults and children - it's kind of like 'The Simpsons' in that respect - equally suitable for both but in different ways. It has great music, amazing cartoony graphics/animation, and very realistic physics. The thousands of objects at your disposal are very intricate in their design with many moving parts that work in tandem with the physics of the game - right down to multi-jointed ropes that swing in the wind or break into sections that fall down and crumple on the floor (ready to get in the way later!). There are so many different types of puzzle that it never gets repetitive and there are enough puzzles - including advanced mode - to keep you going for, seriously, a lifetime... you'd have to be a video game genius to beat advanced mode for every level. One word of caution though: it can be incredibly frustrating at times (but in my opinion the best puzzle games are) not least because Maxwell is the most clumsy and hyperactive game hero I've ever seen: not only is it hard to make him do precise movements but with one slip of the stylus he will come charging along and literally jump kick down your carefully positioned rig of ropes, bridges and weights! But this is not a fault - it's how he's designed and with practice he becomes much easier to move. I mention it only because this will be enough to put off some older/less dexterous players - like my Dad - who otherwise enjoyed the puzzle elements of the game. All I can say to those people is that it's such a rich and diverse game that it's worth sticking with it because it really does get easier with time even if you're not usually fond of (or good at) action/platform games - as was the case with me when I first got it. Finally, you can share levels you've created with the level editor with other users (who must have their own copy of the game) but I haven't tried this so I can't really comment.

Prism: Light the Way (Nintendo DS)
Prism: Light the Way (Nintendo DS)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like logic problems you'll love this game., 30 Nov. 2011
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This is a very original game that is deceptively simple and childish in appearance and style (cartoony graphics and cutesy music) but is actually an extremely hard game of logic that is, I would think, aimed at an adult audience. And don't be misled - as I was - by the scientific language used to describe the game (terms like "refraction" etc) - it is neither a scientific nor `edutainment' game and doesn't require any technical knowledge of light to play... just logic.

Broadly speaking, each puzzle is a roughly square grid/map in which the aim is to get beams of light of the right colour to the different coloured "Glowbos" lining the edges. Each puzzle has a certain selection of available tools (i.e. mirrors, prisms, and torches - "Bulboids") that you move around with the stylus until it is solved.

The main mode of the game is called 'Puzzle' and consists of 120 "Increasingly tough levels to complete at your leisure." There are no time limits or lives to lose so you play at your own pace. I didn't want to write my review until I had completed this mode so I could give an overall view. It took me two months of pretty much daily play and all I can say is that it is incredibly difficult and at times seemingly impossible. The puzzles feel like MENSA-type logic problems where you are given very little information about how to start let alone finish. Completing it requires logical thinking (to work out possible solutions), lateral thinking (to know when to give up on a particular idea or assumption and try something radically different), and most of all perseverance (to keep on trying even when it feels hopeless and like you have either exhausted all possibilities or don't know where to start because there are too many possibilities.)

Thankfully the challenge doesn't end when you've completed Puzzle mode: there are three other modes plus multiplayer to master. Time mode has you competing against the clock (on different puzzles) to earn medals. That was relatively easy after completing Puzzle mode but not before (but you can still hone your skills and beat your times even if you have got all the gold medals - it does feel like 'brain training' to speed up your perception.) Infinite mode has you competing for the highest score through a series of randomly generated levels. In this you basically go on until you get stuck and give up. You can't save the level you get up to to retry later so the challenge is how many levels you can solve in one sitting. This is my favourite mode at the moment and the one that most closely resembles Puzzle mode. The final single player mode is 'Hyper' and that is more of a Tetris/Columns-type game of quick reactions and nimble fingers where you have to get the light to the Glowbos before they explode. This mode does get a bit boring and is not as fun or addictive as Tetris, but better there than not.

Then you have multiplayer mode for two people (using one card). Cooperative mode has the players at each end of larger map (that takes up both screens of the DS) and with access to only the icons on their touchscreen. You have to 'cooperate' by politely requesting (or yelling) to your teammate that they move such and such a piece to such and such a place (bearing in mind that their screen is upside down relative to yours so left becomes right and up becomes down). The other multiplayer mode is Versus. Here you compete against each other on the same puzzles against the clock with various time dilation benefits/penalties depending on who wins. The person who loses is the one whose clock runs out first. Both of these multiplayer modes are excellent and challenging and as with all the other modes of the game, your stats are recorded for posterity.

In summary this is a brilliant and challenging game with enough variety to keep you going long after you've completed it. It looks, sounds, and feels nice to play and is certainly my favourite DS game and the one I can foresee myself going back to most in the future.

Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists
Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists
by Mark A. Simon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.48

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing facial expressions, 22 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this book a long time ago and got rid of it soon after so this short review is only from memory. Since I'm now looking again for a similar type of book and this came up in the list, I thought I may as well review it.

The problem for me with this book was that the facial expressions shown were utterly unconvincing and emotionally barren - usually if you see a proper expression you instinctively 'mirror' it both physically and emotionally but that didn't happen at all in this book. The least they could do was get the models to think of something happy/sad/emotive before photographing them but instead it was clear that they'd just been told to pose a happy face, a sad face, or more often than not, a silly/stupid face. I seem to recall one particularly unpleasant photo of a supposedly sad face that was a puppy-dog face gone hideously wrong.

So overall this book was very disappointing and for me a waste of shelf space. I've given it one extra star though because due to the sheer number of expressions shown there is at least the possibility that some genuine emotions may have slipped in and if nothing else an artist could at least study the physical form of a face with this book.

Creative Zen Mozaic EZ100 8GB MP3 and Video Player
Creative Zen Mozaic EZ100 8GB MP3 and Video Player

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reliable if a bit quirky MP3 player., 30 Jun. 2010
This is a fine MP3 player (mine is 16GB not 8GB but the model number, appearance, and feature list is the same) that does have some 'niggles' (nothing insurmountable) but is ultimately reliable and pleasant to use.

First you have the music library software - 'Creative Centrale' - which is 'buggy' but PREDICTABLY buggy. For instance you can be ripping your albums and after a while it starts to say 'error' on a song and every subsequent song after that BUT all you have to do is close the program and open it again and it will pick up from where it left off in the album. So if you just factor that into the process and expect it, it ceases to become a problem and doesn't put you out too much. The other major software bug I've found is that sometimes it crashes on the sync but you can get round that too by not using the sync and just selecting the album folders in 'My Music', right-clicking, and choosing 'send to MyZen'. So bearing in mind that ripping and transfering music is not something you do that often, there's nothing hugely annoying about these software glitches.

Originally I wasn't particularly happy about the MP3 bit-rates on offer - 64, 128, 192, and 320 - because I checked on a website that said CD quality was roughly 256 so 320 seemed a bit of a waste. Now I put everything on in 192 and although it is clearly worse than CD quality, I have, like with everything else, got used to it and now it sounds fine.

Then there's the MP3 player itself. It's perfectly reliable and the charge lasts for ages. You can do all the usual sorts and shuffles, create playlists on-the-fly (albeit in a round-about and not too obvious way), and even rate songs. It does hang occasionally when it's playing or moving between menus but it is after all a mini computer and all computers do that if you put too much load on them - i.e. changing between modes etc and doing anything 'on-the-fly' where it has to calculate rather than just refer to a playlist. But if it hangs - which it doesn't do much - all you have to do is turn it off and on again.

So overall it's a decent and feature-packed piece of kit that unfortunately has a few flaws to make it less than perfect. But all the flaws are predictable, easy to get around, and ultimately acceptable.

Flight of the Amazon Queen (PC)
Flight of the Amazon Queen (PC)
Offered by Satsumo
Price: £3.98

5.0 out of 5 stars An Amiga classic on PC!, 30 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I used to own and love this game on the Amiga and by offchance thought I'd look for it on PC. When I found it I wasn't expecting much because it's an old DOS game and they tend to crash on modern Windows PCs (because they don't use DOS and instead just 'emulate' it in the command prompt). But much to my surprise it seems to work fine and the whole program, graphics an' all, is in one small .exe file so installation is about as easy as it could be.

As for the game itself, it's intuitive enough to pick up instantly, even without an instruction manual and has a remarkably similar interface to modern(ish) RPGs like Monkey Island or Broken Sword. It's been about 15 years since I last played it so I was expecting it to be almost text-based but it's not... everything has clear and descriptive icons to click on, the F keys do what you expect - like saving etc, and you can ESC past the introductory animation.

I haven't played it right through yet so I don't know if it crashes at the waterfall like my Amiga one did (I don't know if that was the case for anyone else?) but that's one of the main reasons I wanted to get it on PC, and that in itself makes the whole experience of playing it just that little bit more hopeful and exciting. For anyone who did have that problem on the Amiga version, I'll let you know how it turns out!

Edited to add: Having now completed it, yes it does crash consistently in one place (not the same place as on the Amiga though - and couldn't even find that!) but all you have to do is turn off the sound options leaving it as subtitles only and then it works fine.

Overall definitely on a par if not better than Monkey Island and Broken Sword (though it doesn't have any mini-games like Monkey Island or the ability to die like Broken Sword). It takes place mainly in the Amazon rainforest (though the 'plot' that takes you there is embarrassingly ridiculous and cheesy) which is perfect for a game like this because of its rich and exotic possibilities... including a Mayan temple complete with traps and puzzles to get thoroughly lost in! It definitely feels, as a whole, much more maze-like than Monkey Island or Broken Sword, and that really adds to its appeal. Other than that it's humourous (good, bad, and sometimes rude) and a great challenge that will take several days to complete.

Hoyle Poker Series (PC CD)
Hoyle Poker Series (PC CD)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly fast, varied, and user-friendly Poker sim., 13 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an excellent piece of software that uses, to great effect, a surprisingly simple and intuitive approach to the gameplay and user interface: you basically have a running bank balance (per player name) and just choose which game to play on a deal by deal or tournament by tournament basis, with it auto-saving your balance, last selected game, and settings (bet limits etc) all the time ready to pick up where you left off.

You can choose from 13 different Poker variations to play plus `Dealer's Choice' (which just means random): Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hold'em, Omaha Hold'em Hi-Lo, Cincinnati, Criss Cross (Hi-Lo Declare), 7 Card Stud, 7 Card Stud Hi-Lo, 5 Card Stud, Baseball, High Chicago, 5 Card Draw, 5 Card Draw Lowball, 5 Card Draw Jacks or Better. All of those games can be played in `Friday Night' mode with a standard ante, seven of them in `Casino' mode with `structured betting' (i.e. big and small blinds), and nine of them as tournaments.

The only minor irritation I have is the way the tournaments are handled in this game. They're not knockout affairs with ever increasing antes/blinds to force a winner, but are instead just played over a set number of deals. Moreover they use antes for all of the games so there's no Texas Hold'em tournament with big and small blinds (as I was familiar with and enjoyed elsewhere (the excellent mobile game "Texas Hold'Em Poker" by Gameloft)). But regardless of this they're still great to play - they just take a bit of getting used to if you're used to it the other way. It does offer one benefit this way in that you keep whatever you've won plus the prize if you come first so you don't lose everything on one single tournament.

The graphics when actually playing are in very simple 2D with very little animation and this is, in my opinion, a very good thing because it speeds up the game considerably. You can further speed up the game by setting the game speed to fast and turning off character speech. Doing that means it only takes a few seconds to resolve a hand in which you've folded early on.

Apart from character speech there are a few other novelties to add interest to the game. First, there are scoreboards for the tournaments. Second, there is a virtual ATM that you can `visit' between games to withdraw or deposit money. Deposit enough winnings and you can enter the `Hall Of Fame'. Conversely, if your funds get low you can approach loan sharks. Take out too many loans and you may end up in the `Hall Of Shame'. Third, you can play in tutorial mode and select one of the computer players (who all have different playing styles - tight vs. loose etc) to tutor you. Last, you can play in "Hoyle's exclusive online tournaments". Edited to add: Apparently, according to another reviewer, online tournaments are no longer supported by the manufacturers so this game is stand-alone only. That doesn't effect my review of it though as I have never used - or tried to use - the online features, so was reviewing it as a stand-alone game.

Finally, there are some excellent features about the product itself that make it stand out from the rest. Firstly it comes with a printed instruction manual, as well as an extensive and easy to access help file in-game. Secondly it doesn't require the CD in the drive to play so it's well suited to use on a laptop. And thirdly it has a small resolution so it fits perfectly on the small screen of a netbook, while still looking fine on a larger monitor.

In summary this is an excellent Poker simulation that's easy and intuitive to use, fast to play, has a good variety of games, and really maintains your interest.

Edited to add: I have found one bug though - the game Cincinnati doesn't show which random card is used for the 'suit split'. It does in tutorial mode and that seems the only way to play it properly but I don't yet know if it will allow you to win a tournament in tutorial mode. It's still an excellent program though and that's just one of 13 different games.

Brother Ql560vp Label Printer
Brother Ql560vp Label Printer

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor of the Avery Personal Label Printer., 1 Oct. 2008
I purchased the 'Brother QL-560' to replace an aging 'Avery Personal Label Printer', and have found it to be far superior in almost every way...

...the labels print MUCH faster, the labels are MUCH easier to fit (they just slot in and don't require any fiddly aligning), you don't lose any labels on power-up as it doesn't 'feed' them through when you switch it on (so you can actually turn it off... what a novel idea!), and it has an 'auto-cut' feature to cut the labels off automatically or on demand.

It does lack the 'auto-peel' feature of the Avery, but that wasn't much use anyway unless you were only printing one label at a time. Another drawback is that it can only use their own brand labels, but this is also the case with the Brother's main rival, the 'Dymo Labelwriter 400' - so if you are planning to upgrade from another brand, it's best to use up your labels first.

The printer's own specially designed software, called 'P-touch', is clearly comprehensive with a great many features, but so far and until I'm willing to read through its extensive help file, I only know the basic ones. But from what I've seen, it's very innovative... particularly in that you can import selected text from MS Word, Excel, and Outlook at the touch of a button, and that the addresses are stored in a manageable list so you can both use it as a full record of everything you've printed and a way to easily reprint old addresses. In terms of text editing/aligning, it has most of the usual features of word-processors but it does, unfortunately, appear to lack the 'Uppercase' and 'Title Case' features of Word - which are particularly useful for formatting addresses - but that only means you need to 'pre-format' it before you import it. Overall though, it's perfectly fine and user-friendly.

Despite its minor flaws, I'd still give this printer 5 out of 5, and heartily recommend it as a stylish, feature-packed, and efficient replacement for the Avery Personal Label Printer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2010 11:59 AM BST

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