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M. Wilcox "elvendil" (UK)

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Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 7-Port Hub with 36W Power Adapter and 3ft USB 3.0 Cable [VIA VL812 Chipset]
Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 7-Port Hub with 36W Power Adapter and 3ft USB 3.0 Cable [VIA VL812 Chipset]
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 out of 7 ports did not work, Anker resolved promptly!, 27 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Please read the UPDATE marked below after reading the initial review:

I could just have had a rare faulty hub; but given the way it's broken I suspect more people have a broken hub than they might realise.

Mine appeared to work fine, lights blinking on the port with a device plugged in, and obvious action on the plugged in USB3 hard-disk (disk light blinking, mechanical spin-ups). But when attached to ports 1, 2, 3, or 4 my computer would not recognise the drive despite this, and it caused my Raspberry Pi media centre to hang on boot every time. The same USB drive worked flawlessly in ports 5, 6, and 7 on my computers and the Pi.

A USB3 drive is a demanding device and needs the correct amount of power delivered. Ports 1-4 were not seeming to deliver enough power to properly power the drive.

Immediately sent back for a refund (I'd have happily tried an exchange to see if this was just a case of being unlucky, but Amazon offer nothing other than a refund for faulty goods; which this is).

Be sure to test each port with a demanding device if you get one of these, and avoid surprises later.


Not more than a few hours after leaving this review, Anker got in touch with me to apologise for the bad experience, and offered a free replacement "to resolve the issue" asking "can you please give us another chance". They shipped the hub next day, and it arrived the day after. Not only is that amazingly good customer service, I'm pleased to report that the replacement hub works flawlessly (and is much nicer than the equally priced but much inferior 4-port Maplin hub I bought in the mean-time). You couldn't ask for better customer service, and frankly I'm really impressed. I shall certainly be looking at other Anker products in the future given the experience I've had with them. Well done Anker, and thank you for the free hub.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2013 6:32 AM BST

Cokin H250A ND Grad Kit
Cokin H250A ND Grad Kit
Offered by Carmarthen Cameras
Price: £42.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap. And they look it., 25 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was disappointed with these. As individual filters the colour cast isn't too bad (but is noticeable on some shots, and being grads not completely simple to fix in post-process). But stack them up to get higher densities and they are horribly purple, there's nothing neutral about them.

Do yourself a favour; invest a little more money on some other higher quality filters.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 25, 2013 5:57 PM BST

Russian Kettlebell made of Cast Iron 12kg In Black
Russian Kettlebell made of Cast Iron 12kg In Black

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Kettle-Bell, 25 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There's not much to say about what is essentially a lump of iron with a handle. That said, here's the good news: this is a good kettle-bell.

It's iron, which makes it much nicer to use than the cheaper vinyl ones that are filled with sand - those are physically larger than their iron equivalent and thus the iron ones are more suitable for some exercises involving gripping by the ball rather than the handle. The finish on this is aesthetically pleasing, a mid way between my girlfriends shiny black KB and my very matt 16Kg KB. This is smooth but good to grip.

If you're after a kattle bell, this one's good.

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel
The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but not a great Mistborn book., 24 Nov 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a sequel of sorts to the fantastic Mistborn trilogy and is set about 300 years after the events those books descibe.

With Alloy of Law, Sanderson has started to write the type of story I've wanted to read (and failed to write) for years - a fantasy epic that spans large chunks of time and throws off a lot of 'fantasy' tropes. His original plan had been to write a trilogy of sequels set considerably further in the future, with technology levels at or greater than our own. I am aching to read those stories as they mirror ideas I've had for a long time. But, that's not what Alloy of Law is. This book is a middle ground between the historical points that pair of trilogies were intended to mark. In Alloy of Law we have railway networks, the beginnings of electricity in general use, and the start of the motor vehicles era: it's roughly equivalent to late 19th or early 20th century Earth. There are guns as well as magic. I adore the setting, it works spectacularly. I don't doubt it will also upset a few "purists", and that's a good sign as far as I'm concerned.

Onto Alloy of Law itself then; The story itself is decent, witty, well paced, engaging, and well worth reading. The characters are likewise engaging, likeable, and well written. But none of it is up to the standards set by the Mistborn Trilogy. This book was written to clear the authors head between other projects, and it shows in the lack of depth and lack of length (this is a short book). What depth it does have come from the borrowings of the Mistborn lore and its setting within that universe. If this story remained largely the same but wasn't explicitly Mistborn it would be a very pleasant throw-away novel, forgotten soon after reading. With that said, the ending pages (literally the last few) made my eyes pop and got me very excited. Those pages made it surprisingly clear that no matter how I'd enjoyed the book, it never got as good as the original trilogy. Those final pages also opened a heck of a lot of things up and left me with a feeling that Allow of Law is merely the first chapter in a much larger and more interesting story. Whether it is or not, I don't know, but they made the entire book feel like a minor side-arc while something truly momentous was going on elsewhere. I like that, weirdly. But I want to know so much more, and the book doesn't deliver on that.

The book as an object:

I ordered the paper-back because I happen to have the Mistborn Trilogy in paperback, and I wanted this sequel to fit comfortably next to those books on my shelf. The (beautiful and minimalist) art style on the cover is the same too, which is great. It's a shame then that the publishers have had a "strategy meeting" and messed up the book itself. Rather than stick with the same format/dimensions as the existing trilogy they've produced a far larger book that has the following drawbacks:

* It's out of place with the existing trilogy and doesn't fit on the bookshelf
* It's too big to comfortably hold one-handed as a soft-back, it'd be fine as a hard-back
* The book feels like some low-brow or teen-orientated affair due to the larger font and huge gap between lines of text

Now, I am pretty sure why they've done this, and the reasons are two-fold:

Firstly the story is much shorter than previous Mistborn books, maybe about half the word count by rough guestimate. Making the text bigger and increasing the gap between the lines is the same trick you likely used as a school-kid to pad out your homework and make it look more substantial than it was. Not that any publisher will admit to that, they will pretend that 'the new format is easier to read and better for the consumer'. Because we all struggle so much with regular books. Putting this next to Tolkein's LOTR paperback is a hilarious example of the discrepancy in information density between the physically larger book and the actually larger book. And I don't think 'small print' stopped LOTR, or the previous Mistborn trilogy, from becoming a success.

Secondly, I think they're trying to get the fantastic artwork that is on internal pages displayed at a scale that works (and I suspect they feel having pictures in the book helps it sell to a younger audience too). Sadly, this fails regardless of the over-sized paperback format due to the decision to print that artwork at full-bleed, edge-to-edge. Which looks great, don't get me wrong because I actually like that look, but it means you can't read anything on that artwork that gets close to the spine. It felt like I was missing a treat that was right in front of me - like the proverbial monkey unable to get the cookie out of the jar as his fist is too big.

If I'd known before ordering that the paper-back book was like this, I'd have ordered the hardback version.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer
by Jonathan L. Howard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 6 Jun 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I really liked the concept of the book, and was looking forward to a quirky, humorous, and off-centre tale. It starts well with a visit to Hell, and frankly never manages to hit that level again. The ingredients are there for a great book, but the characters and writing just isn't up to it.

Johannes gave his soul to Satan before the events in the book, and now want's it back. A challenge is set to collect 100 souls in exchange for his own. There's supposed to be a reveal at the end of the book as to why our protagonist is doing the things he does - relating to why he gave away his soul in the first place - but by the time we got to it I just didn't care. Johannes himself is at best a curious character - but it's impossible to engage with him emotionally because of the way he's written and the task he's doing. He's damning 100 other souls despite so obviously valuing his own - and yet doesn't seem to care, doesn't think about redemption of others, even at the very end I still didn't like him. He comes off as cold, and not even in an interesting way, he's selfish for far too long and even with the reveal I was left thinking these were the actions of a deluded little man who can't see past his own immediate problems.

Because it's impossible to care one way or the other about the main character (he's not likeable, but he's not a character to hate either) the entire of the book falls apart. The only character who was engaging in any empathetic was is Johannes' brother.

As for humour - I didn't read any. Whimsy, yes. Quirky descriptions, yes. Humour, not so much.

The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive Book One
The Way of Kings: The Stormlight Archive Book One
by Brandon Sanderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.18

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The start of something great, but it has problems., 4 Feb 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a tough book to review, as reading it was something of a polar experience. I finished it within a week because the thing is so hard to put down; on more than a couple of occasions I decided to call it a night only to find it was 3am, not 11pm like I'd thought. The Way of Kings is engrossing, and it is long. And yet the book was, for a considerable time, disappointing.

As mentioned in other reviews, this is Sanderson's first attempt at a truly large scale fantasy story (we can't really count his continuation and completion of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, as the scope had already been set for him). The Stormlight Archives has been in the authors head for a decade or two, and he has now re-visited and re-written the story, which starts with this volume. Over that time it has clearly acquired a great deal of complexity and detail, which has to be dealt with. Sanderson seems to struggle with that complexity in this first part of what is set to be a many-volume set. The author has on a number of occasions commented on his writing style in earlier works, pointing to his pacing as a point of concern, and explaining that he feels it often becomes rapid and may cause his readers problems. I've never thought that, if anything his pacing in other books (notably the Mistborn trilogy) is the perfect balance of detail, action, and intrigue. Here, it is simply too slow. There are too many disperate parts that individually are not compelling enough. It is only much later, when the reader can start to piece things together, that the earlier parts become truly interesting. Additionally, the magic system here is not as compelling as that of his other series - perhaps because it is not explained in any real fashion, unlike his other earlier books.

It was with some disappointment while turning the last page that I realised I cared about only two arcs with any passion. Kaladin's, and Delinar's. Not coincidentally these arcs are written in the same style and with the same skill as in his earlier (and shorter) books. Kaladin and Delinar engage as people, their stories engage, and the pacing of their parts is just right. You care, you want to know more. But, the rest of the cast I had little interest in, though a number will undoubtedly become very interesting in later volumes. The character introduced at the start, for example, is practically forgotten for the majority of the book, and when he reappears I realised that I'd not really missed him. Despite his apparent significance. For this book, not enough was invested in him, not enough was given away to make his actions intriguing. Instead, I just accepted that he had a strange rationale and stopped wondering why. He became two dimensional because the author didn't let us see enough of his world to form a deeper relationship.

The whole book is somewhat aimless, and only seems to obtain any focus right at the end. By design, or perhaps necessity given the scale of the story he's set to tell. Either way, this book is not like a Mistborn book - which are almost impossible to put down, where you care about each character, where each character has a clear motive, a sense of depth, and a powerful personality. Here, everything feels a bit washy and low key for too long.

There is scope here for an amazing story, and this book establishes the setting and possibilities very well. It is no doubt the start of a series I will throughly enjoy - but as an individual book, it struggles, and left me in two minds.

I think I'll love this series. But right now, it's not a patch on his Mistborn trilogy.

PocketWizard Mini TT1  E-TTL Radio Transmitter for Canon
PocketWizard Mini TT1 E-TTL Radio Transmitter for Canon
Offered by Carmarthen Cameras
Price: £139.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beware problem with Canon 7D, 11 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pocket Wizard have a reputation for being absolutely reliable, and no doubt it is a well earned reputation. It's one I trusted when I bought these. Well, it's one that isn't applicable.

I have had such reliability issues with the MiniTT and Flex, and it seem's I'm not alone. I own a 7D and an 18-55 IS USM. On this equipment about one in five shots the flashes mis-fire, resulting in an exposure where there isn't a flash in it. The pre-flash fires, but not the exposure flash. After much waiting the PW support staff eventually got back to me and they know these units have issues with that lens. Nowhere is that mentioned before you buy. Nowhere on the PW site, or the Amazon site, is it mentioned that the 7D itself isn't "officially" supported - you just notice the gap where that model would be in the supplied "supported cameras" list in the manual.

They don't have a solution, and the units work just as badly with my 50mm prime. I am still talking with PW, though they haven't offered any hope of a fix. I want a refund, I can't use these on jobs because I can't rely on them, I've already suffered at their expense on a wedding shoot. It has taken a month to get even this far with PW support, so I'm not sure I could get a refund from Amazon, and I'm not hopeful that PW will step up to the job.

In short: if you have a 7D, at least hire some PWs to try before you buy. I couldn't recommend these to other 7D owners. A good google for 7D and Flex, or a look on the Flickr Pocket Wizard discussion board would be something I recommend you do.

York 14kg Vinyl Kettlebell
York 14kg Vinyl Kettlebell
Price: £26.00

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, but beware the size, 22 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: York Vinyl Kettlebell (Sports)
There's not a lot you can say about what is essentially a weight, but having used it for a few weeks here's a quick review:

It weighs 14kg, it has a handle that's comfortable and can accommodate both hands together, it's cheap for a kettlebell.

Less good:
For some exercises it's too big, in terms of size. I don't have small hands, but I find it impossible to do a couple of exercises with this kettle bell. One's that require you to grip the kettlebell by the body rather than the handle - it's too large and the vinyl too slippy to do so without being in danger of dropping it, which is why I have to grip the handle stems doing those types of exercise. I can't grip it well enough otherwise. I presume that it's so big because it's got that vinyl coating - but as I have no experience with other kettlebells I can't say for sure that's the case. Maybe you just need to have a crushing grip like a frustrated Superman for those exercises. Or claws. Or rubber hands.

If you've got big hands, it'll be fine for any kettlebell exercises. If you've got normal sized or small hands you're may struggle to do exercises where you grip the ball and not the handle. When it comes time to get a heavier kettlebell I will try to find a smaller one (if possible).

(I have normal/slightly-large hands for a 5'9" guy, for your reference)

Manfrotto Flash Shoe, 1/4" Male Attchment
Manfrotto Flash Shoe, 1/4" Male Attchment
Price: £12.24

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, just not very robust, 11 Oct 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It's a very simple bit of kit - the flash slides into the mount at the top, and the bottom is a male screw that threads into a female bolt on whatever stand or equipment you're attaching the flash head to.

It works well enough, but isn't very strong, which surprised me. The first time I've been out on location a gust of wind caught my umbrella and toppled the light stand over - it was at it's lowest height so it didn't have far to fall, and it landed on the umbrella, on soft grass - so the impact wasn't hard. The mount snapped and the flash hit the floor.

Had it been on concrete I'd have expected the flash to break, but as it was just muddy grass it got mud on it and not a lot else. The fact that the mount snapped doesn't fill me with confidence, and the sturdiness of this Manfrotto part is a far cry from the Manfrotto umbrella adapter it was attached to (which is built like a tank).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2012 10:11 AM GMT

Lastolite All in One Umbrella Kit 80cm ( 34")
Lastolite All in One Umbrella Kit 80cm ( 34")

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent stand & umbrella, shocking umbrella adapter, 29 April 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The good:

The carry case is good quality, the the overall weight is pretty low so it's easy to carry around with you, the stand is good quality with four risers that reach to a good height (way past my ceiling in an old-style victorian era building), and the umbrella is decent too. It features a second 'coat' so it acts as a shoot-through without, or a reflector with. Quality of components feel good.

The bad:

The whole thing is rendered almost useless by the included swivel bracket / umbrella adapter (same part, just two different names). A swivel bracket is the bit that attaches at one end to the stand, and the other to your flash. In the middle is a hole into which the umbrella shaft is inserted so that the flash fires into the umbrella.

The point of an umbrella kit is to have the flash fire into the centre of the umbrella, so that the whole umbrella is lit up and can provide even diffused light to a scene.

The included swivel bracket makes this impossible. The umbrella shaft on swivel brackets is supposed to be angled so that when mounted the flash fires into the centre of the umbrella - but on this one the shaft is perpendicular; 90 degrees straight out. The kit therefore fires the flash only into the top half of the umbrella, making for an uneven light source and rendering the whole set-up almost useless.

Sadly I've sent mine straight back to Amazon because of this, as far as I'm concerned this kit is not fit for purpose. If only they'd put in a decent swivel bracket, the story would be so different!
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2011 9:31 PM GMT

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