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the antiquary (England)

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ABBYY Lingvo x3 Multilingual Set (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian) (PC DVD)
ABBYY Lingvo x3 Multilingual Set (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian) (PC DVD)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, merveilleux, wunderbar, meraviglioso, maravilloso, albeit with some unnecessary disappointments, 19 April 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you've ever gone through your kitchen cupboards labelling everything with its French (German, Spanish or Italian) word you'll love this program.

Lingvo effortlessly encourages your language learning through everyday PC interaction, and you can easily regulate the amount of intrusion from the well-designed and pleasant small pop-up that appears when your mouse lingers over a word on the web or word processor. Even small icons for looking up words at Wikipedia and Google are also included. The program itself at its core is two well-sized windows acting as a normal translation dictionary. Further windows pop up if required and are designed as unobtrusively as possible.

It does raise expectations or disappoint unnecessarily. On installation you see a helpful hint `Use phrasebooks when learning a language and when to an abroad trip.' Uh-oh, you think, is this the standard of language we are to expect? Well, fortunately far from it, the actual disappointment is that `phrasebooks' is not a feature of Lingvo and are not included - the hint wasn't about this program but a blatantly unnecessary hint for life in general.

Fortunately we are not being taught by the Russian programmers, but by Oxford dictionaries themselves - so good sample phrases are included after all within the definitions. Even standard English and American English dictionaries are included in case you forget your own language.

It is a small let-down that only the Concise version of each dictionary has been used - but there is one feature that makes up for this wonderfully. The Full-Text Search is a revolution. Type or select `hear', click Full-Text Search and you are presented with every (148 En-Fr) occurrence of the word in the dictionary in every meaning and every phrase. And so you also effectively have a thesaurus as well as a dictionary.

History brings up a window letting you usefully flick back to words you've looked-up, banishing the practice of jamming your fingers into a dictionary at awkward angles.

And OMG! - there's a one-button click away to complete inflection heaven with every individual word.

Audio pronunciation is good and bad. After the trumpeting of `40,000 key words' firstly you are disappointed that so few entries have audio, sometimes of quite well-trodden verbs - but then you let off Lingvo (Oxford) a little by the fact that at least the voices are of real people and not electronic. Then you find that the easily pronounced `Égypte' is recorded but not the geographically and politically closer (and more importantly, puzzling to the beginner) `Éire'.

Furthermore the French and German voices are annoying, if you're going to choose male voices then don't choose soft feminine male voices. And how far can you trust the pronunciation if `ja' is so badly spoken and recorded that you hear `chzar' - I really am almost Germanic in my outrage - if the main purpose of the program was to teach pronunciation then I'd slap it down with 2*. The English male voice and the Spanish female voice are solid and pleasant to listen to. There is no recorded voice for the Italian dictionary (but it is the easiest language to speak).

Other features which are bad or good-disguised-as-bad:
- Other than the text pop-up Lingvo is not working with MS Word (you'll just have to copy and paste to the program window itself).
- The 5 different options for the translation function invites you to think that it will try to do this Babelfish-style, when in fact it (fortunately) always provides a word-by-word translation.
- Too often the help, update and new dictionary pages are in Russian.
- The Lingvo Tutor is a great file-card style exercise feature - but why are only a limited number of English-German and English-Russian(?!) exercises provided? Changing subject dictionaries is initially confusing too. Fortunately you can create your own exercises; it is time-consuming, but this in itself should help you learn.

I was almost tempted to knock a star off, but having these dictionaries on your PC with this level of functionality still makes Lingvo a 5* winner.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2009 4:08 PM BST

Tune Up Utilities 2009
Tune Up Utilities 2009

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a utility you can rely on - even 64 bit users, 19 April 2009
This review is from: Tune Up Utilities 2009 (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
No matter how good your PC, or how spartan your habits, eventually it will slow down (or immediately if it's a cheap laptop). But we're in luck, this excellent piece of software does everything it promises. It does speed up your pc (it even, slightly, improved my internet connection), it declutters, it corrects hidden settings, it fixes little problems and may even prevent larger ones.

If you have Vista 64 like me you've probably come across software companies who are too inept to either support 64 or who try but fail to provide bug-free software. TuneUp Utilities proves their expertise by converting their program to 64-bit use with no hiccups at all.

The interface is clean and friendly. TuneUp doesn't take too long to complete its actions. It defrags better than Windows. Finds and removes unnecessary start-ups better than anything I've ever seen. You can even permanently delete files or change your boot screen and the look and feel of Windows... and it's just so refreshing not to find any kind of downside whilst using TuneUp.

Now why on earth hasn't Microsoft bought them out and included this as standard in every copy of Windows?

EDIT - one extremely annoying accidental feature of this program is to mess up your folder view - Tuneup can somehow disable 'Remember each folder's view settings' even when it is selected in folder options - which means you get Vista constantly changing folder views to how it thinks it should be... Please fix this.

Webroot Spy Sweeper (PC DVD)
Webroot Spy Sweeper (PC DVD)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Another vaunted program of old bites the dust, 22 Mar. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Vista 64 4GB RAM Quad6600

One word, SLOW. Not wait 10 seconds slow, but go away and leave your computer alone for 10 minutes slow. A full scan took over 5 hours and I had to leave that overnight as doing anything else was impossible at the same time.

Even being 'quiet' in the background Webroot stopped Windows Mail and slowed Internet Explorer to a crawl. I always had over 50% of RAM available and spare processing power - this is bad code - this program just hasn't been designed to deal with multiple processors.

I shouldn't neglect the crashes either. It is the first program for Vista that has actually stopped me from opening task manager, bringing me up short with an error message. I've had to force reboot every time I did not close down Webroot.

Essentially, good firewalls and anti-virus programs (Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2009, 3-Desktop, 1 year Subscription (PC) for one) already do a fine job of stopping spyware, and Webroot only ferreted out unwanted cookies anyway.

If only I had checked online forums first I would have seen general agreement about these problems beforehand.

Transsiberian [DVD]
Transsiberian [DVD]
Dvd ~ Woody Harrelson
Price: £5.13

3.0 out of 5 stars What would happen if ITV had an all-star budget for a Wednesday night, 12 Feb. 2009
This review is from: Transsiberian [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Now here's the great thing about this film: no matter how unusual the setting or circumstances, the action is utterly realistic. The ticket-collector won't suddenly turn into an assassin, there's no stupid or clever twist, only a decent and not wholly expected narrative. Even better there's lovely Emily Mortimer whom easily carries off the best performance amongst a strong cast.

That said, how many times do we have to be subjected to the same stories? This latest incarnation of a well-trod subject moves along as slowly as the Trans-Siberian train upon which it is set. Yes, it may be a thriller, but parts of it have frozen and have necrotised. Too many times you are left alone to wonder things like, 'Is this going to turn into Poirot?', instead the director should have been advancing plot or deepening character.

Hitchcockians do not take any notice of the comparisons, even in his mid-70s the master never tripped himself up with lousy pace.

I Claudius - Complete BBC Series (5 Disc Box Set) [1976] [DVD]
I Claudius - Complete BBC Series (5 Disc Box Set) [1976] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Derek Jacobi
Price: £11.50

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply buy it, 28 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Absolutely bloody gripping. Like a soap opera on steroids, except without the bad aftertaste (of soap operas I mean - don't know if steroids have an aftertaste, honest).

Be surprised at how blessed well Brian Blessed could act - puzzle over why Sian Phillips is not a fully fledged dame, as she gives an old-school masterclass in acting as Livia, inspiring to hate and later move to tears - find out why John Hurt and Derek Jacobi are allowed to spend a comfortable but still-respected old-age in bad movies - gasp at the dodgy make-up which upstages all the actors and later I think is allowed speaking parts on the Young Ones - gawp at Patrick Stewart with hair (wig) - thrill to the naughty bits, safe in the knowledge that you are indulging only in fine art.

This is grand theatre - the sets never make you miss on location filming - although the sound tape of the crowds might. A clear inspiration for Blackadder only this is diabolical history played straight and you will find your laughs to be evil cackles at the ingenious deviousness of it all. But better than any history lesson, watching this you will effortlessly be able to list the next 5 Caesars after Julius (in effect you will be aware of the entire Julio-Claudian dynasty)

Nevermind it was made in the 70s, it won 3 Emmys, 4 Baftas and puts anything new out there to shame.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 16, 2011 6:30 PM BST

The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
The French Lieutenant's Woman (Vintage Classics)
by John Fowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Get out of the way John, I'm trying to read, 26 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I don't usually comment on endings, but here the author himself doesn't seem to have attached narrative importance to it (and I don't give it away in any case)...

It does all go so well until the ending, previously having toyed intelligently with the reader Fowles declares he cannot make up his mind and uses literary pretensions as a cop-out - turning the motives implausible to air his own political points. It came over more as moral cowardice to me, given his preferred ending is obvious, but spoils the story (and I'm not referring to happy or sad endings).

If you don't mind politics and sociology lectures (bearing in mind the incarnation of both have a limited shelf-life and this was published 1969) hijacking your novel reading then it may feel a refreshing change for you. If you do mind being invited to a sumptuous dinner to be bored by the host afterwards then you may be put out.

Either way I'd urge you to read this book. It contains the best modern depiction of the Victorian age from an author who truly understood it.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2009 8:58 AM GMT

The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages
The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages
by Brian Bates
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately a wasted idea, 26 Jan. 2009
An excellent idea for a book - and the frequently conversational style is as clear as a bell. Unfortunately one thing that spoils it for me is that when this style dominates the author too often is just belabouring the obvious. For example, I can do without being told in a whole paragraph simply that today we take clean water for granted. And the author's presentation of the Dark Age world-view feels very alien, with comments that betray little instinctual understanding and others that are just plain wrong. Nevermind the academic standards, this is no accurate recreation of the feeling of the real middle earth.

Still, fairly informative once you get past the padding, it can lead you into areas for which you must find another guide.

A much better book, while it concentrates more on Tolkien's work, philology and mythological sources rather than straight history, is Tom Shippey's The Road to Middle-Earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 11, 2013 9:35 PM BST

Grailquest: Castle of Darkness Bk. 1 (Armada Original)
Grailquest: Castle of Darkness Bk. 1 (Armada Original)
by J.H. Brennan
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best-ever choose your own adventure, 26 Jan. 2009
I was lucky, being nine years old at exactly the right time to catch this one print run of choose-your-own-adventures. These were great fun, intelligent and witty, without forgetting their target age. The art didn't 'talk down' either, realistic dark fantasy stuff, with heads on spikes, skulls - real menace, all in a good old English setting (even if it was actually a confusion of old Britons, Saxons, Celts and Normans).

Where else were you recruited by Merlin? Where else were you given a talking, reluctant, cut-sized Excalibur rip-off? Where else did you have to write bad poetry rather than roll dice to deter the vampiric Poetic Fiend?

If more people had read these over the Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy then I might have found someone else willing to start a role-playing group later as a teenager and even now I'd probably be headbanging to Rammstein, wearing a lot of black t-shirts, embarrassingly tatooed, with perhaps a couple of rusty piercings - I've had a narrow escape.

Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
Excalibur Classic, Vol. 1: The Sword Is Drawn: Sword Is Drawn v. 1
by Chris Claremont
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief glimpse of how great a mainstream comic can be, 26 Jan. 2009
The original Chris Claremont and Alan Davies Excalibur comics were amongst the best that Marvel has ever issued. A spin-off from the X-Men, except with humour and contemporaneously better art and writing (it almost gave 'wacky' a good name), unfortunately Excalibur soon fell victim to the constant push for $ with the ridiculous demand for output and therefore frequent turnover of writers and artists at Marvel.

Kitty has never been so charming and geeky, Rachel was given a coherent and decent (if indecently clothed) storyline for the one and only time (not including Days of Future Past of course), Captain Britain was still Captain Britain and a wonderfully flawed hero, Megan endearing and the team member you were patiently waiting to grow and Nightcrawler at his swashbuckling best (the antithesis of the movie version). There's precious little to compare it to, but with its concern for character and personal lives it does have a similar feel to Buffy sometimes (apparently Kitty was the inspiration for Buffy, and with his British connections I'm sure Joss Whedon must have taken notice of these - in fact I'm wondering now if Captain Hammer was partially inspired by Captain Britain).

Every issue not featuring the Dan Dare inspired Alan Davies really was a case of criminal damage, no invective is bad enough to describe the abysmal substitute art. With no more CC and AD the comic very quickly lost its way with writers of little talent who had no idea what had made it great. The magic numbers are: Introductory Special Edition, 1-7, 9, 12-17, 23-24, 42-50, 54-56, 61-67.

Oh, and the new Dr Who shamelessly ripped-off at least the war wolves from here.

Nero 9 (PC CD)
Nero 9 (PC CD)

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once Upon A Time..., 18 Jan. 2009
This review is from: Nero 9 (PC CD) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Blur and Oasis mattered for some reason, the Unabomber was finally caught and Windows 95 roamed the land. And kick-starting Nero takes us back to that time with bafflingly primitive process boxes and an interminable installation time.

1. Close all windows.
2. Turn-off your anti-virus
3. For good measure disconnect from the internet and turn off your firewall.
4. Leave your PC alone for 30 minutes (if it's fast) - don't expect any helpful tips or instructions to pop up.

But this is no reason to bash the product with 1* reviews and I wanted to stick up for Nero, only I'm not really able to, much.

Every piece of free to try video capture software has been able to detect my graphics card - but not Nero - I have an Nvidia 8800GT.

I tried Nero Recode next - apparently the world's fastest video converter - thought I'd try to play around with a video file that needed compressing, well I added files, but Nero gave absolutely no options so I couldn't do a thing. So I tried importing a non-copy protected amateur DVD production - but near completion Nero said it couldn't read it.

The video author/editor is not great. Nero Vision's interface is like it's been translated from a foreign language - not intuitive, not even clearly labelled, few icons are immediately intelligible. Perhaps professionals call video files assets - but I can't imagine why they would use this piece of software so obviously for the amateur. I'll never fathom why you can't continue editing or even pause playback in full screen mode.

But finally a winner - sound file creation and manipulation. Got any music files that are incompatible with whatever media player you are using? Convert audio files can fix that and to save time you can do them in batches. It can even make Windows Media Player recognise an mp3 again - something which Roxio cannot.

Similarly the ability to record sound files in WaveEditor might need an initial adjustment, but is far superior in utilities and execution than Roxio.

Picture editing is good for a jack-of-all trades package like this, but not comprehensive.

Given haphazard performance I don't want to trust Nero with backing-up my data so I can't comment on this feature.

-Good for sound files, very poor for video.
-Video editing feels like a chore when ought to be fun.
-Slow, badly organised multiple menus - access is not simply a click away.
-The online tutorials are not a great help at clearing up confusion.
-Faster than Roxio's latest, but still slow.

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