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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (Mac/PC)
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 (Mac/PC)
Price: £97.78

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shown Aperture the Door, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have been a staunch user of Apple Aperture since its first release; only Aperture 3 has gotten increasingly long in the tooth - and as a camera collector I am getting fed up of Apple's lag in supporting Raw formats. Aperture 3 is iPhoto + - its a great easy to use Library for OS/X. With Lightroom 5 Adobe should have made it easier to switch from Aperture.

I wasn't immediately sure how my library would look in the final process - I really like the album structure in Aperture. Lightroom doesn't have this; I found an option on the import to Organise by day which groups photos into a stack saved my bacon and allowed me to almost mimic the old structure. I then had to import my photos; i'm Not a professional photographer but do have over 10 years of digital images and to transfer from Aperture to Lightroom I had to export my images and import them back in - a process that took 4 days on my Mac Pro. There really ought to be a better way...

Once my images were in Lightroom; the interface shock subsided over a few days and over the weeks i'm slowing drilling down into some of the keyboard shortcuts. Its clear that lightroom is massively superior for editing images. Having the Photoshop healing brush and radial gradients often allows for a quick adjustment to an image without opening it in another editor. The flickr publishing interface is far better (though when I tried to push a video up it never finished encoding at the Flickr end - manually uploading the same video worked fine.)

One of the key benefits for me over Aperture is the ability to merge catalogs from a laptop into your main catalog; this handy feature lets you easily move images around - and saves on the transfer issues I had moving over from aperture.

Lightroom 5 is a learning curve from Aperture; the library is quicker; the editing functions are better, the sharing functions are better, working away from the office is easier and it isn't onerously expensive; 5*'s

Give Up: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition
Give Up: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition
Price: £11.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Let me help you remember, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
10 Years of Giving Up and its bleeps and bloops have stood up to the test of time and passed with flying colours. Now reissued and remastered (but im not sure where if anything has changed); with two new tracks and some remixes - it also includes the absolutely sublime Iron and Wine version of Such Great Heights. If you aren't sure listen to the preview of Nothing Better on the MP3 store a him versus her love song 10 years before Gotye's; with trully biting lines "I've prepared a lecture on why i have to leave." It is the absolute standout on the album.

Getting the physical copy gives you the autorip MP3 version so you can have the CD quality at home and good amazon MP3 on the move which is the best of both worlds acoustically.

Lavolta Monitor Mount for LCD LED TV Screen Display with Fully Adjustable Arms - Dual
Lavolta Monitor Mount for LCD LED TV Screen Display with Fully Adjustable Arms - Dual
Offered by Smart Parts UK, Digital Lifestyle Retailer

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to setup steady as a rock, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Lavolta monitor mount comes with well laid out instructions and the plastic wrapped parts are cleanly segmented; something ikea would be wise to learn from. The only tool you need to bring to put it together is a philips screwdriver for when you attach the monitors to your screen(s). As soon as you pick up the box you know its made from metal; all the parts have some heft. The Desk Clamp attaches to your desk with two large eye bolts; I would have preferred were half as long as they are (or if the mount came with a shorter option. I put a wooden shim under the clap on the topside of my desk to get around the issue and its tightly bolted up. In the box are two sets of bolts for attaching to your screen short ones for flat backed screens; and longer ones (with grommets) to attached to curved screens. I attached two VESA mount equipped LG IPS234V-PN.AEK PS 23 inch LG screens to the stand; and attaching them to the Vesa mounts is really the job of two people.

When it arrived some of the bolts were very loose; but the supplied allen bolt allowed me to tighten them so the screens are more or less floating now - i can move them without sagging unless i want it - took quite a bit of dialling in to get there. The bolts require too much torque to tighten them; and the last bolt on the monitor arm is adjusted by almost torquing the monitor (if its attached) which isn't great. Once your screens are on there are cable loops on the arms and on the main stand that make it easy to thread the wires through in a tidy fashion.

THe Lavolta is a very adjustable stand for height and tilt and angle in the plain; the only thing I would wish for in addition is the ability to rotate the screens so I could flip from landscape to portrait. 4*'s.

Wrigley Extra Ice White with Microgranules Sugarfree Chewing Gum 14 g (Pack of 30)
Wrigley Extra Ice White with Microgranules Sugarfree Chewing Gum 14 g (Pack of 30)
Price: £13.44

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LIght mint but contains Sorbitol, 18 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I buy a pack of 30 gum each month from Amazon to keep me ticking over at work. I have been trying my way around the Wrigley's range and made it Wrigley's Extra Ice white gum. My first choice before I started my odyssey was Spearmint (the green packs) which has a nice punch and a long flavour. Extra Ice White has a nice mellow mint flavour that lasts a fair amount of time; the micro-granules don't have a chalky texture and aren't really noticeable as you chew. No idea if they are having any impact on whitening my teeth; or if i really care about the whiteness of my molars) but the gum works.

So why only 4*s well Ice White is a good news bad news though; they use sorbitol as a sweetener which kills bacteria and so its great for your teeth the bad news though is quite bad - sorbitol is a mild laxative; so i'm alternating packs of icewhite with spearmint.

BT Broadband Extender Flex 500 Kit, Passthrough Powerline Adapters - Twin pack
BT Broadband Extender Flex 500 Kit, Passthrough Powerline Adapters - Twin pack
Price: £39.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rock Solid Network; and keep your power socket, 13 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The most limited resource in my very newly built apartment are power sockets - there just aren't enough of them and fitting more is disruptive and expensive. The newly bit isn't bragging but a warning that the wiring in my house is near brand new and may be in better condition as a result.

I started using Powerline adaptors as I have a number of devices whose manufacturers didn't feel wireless network access was a good value proposition; and left them with an ethernet socket only. I have been with great success WD Livewire Powerline AV Network Kit to fill the gaps with my devices where they don't have wireless adaptors (and it was far cheaper to do it that way than buy all the manufacturers own brand wireless adaptors.) The WD is rated up to 200mb/s and it was more than fast enough for super hd Netflix streaming; it was also noticeably quicker than the Wireless N network I have around the remains of the house. The other nice benefit of the WD adaptors is the 4 port switch at either end of the circuit.

The biggest downside to most Powerline adaptors though is when connected you lose access to that valuable power socket; you cant plug them into extension sockets. The BT Broadband Extender Flex 50 plugs into a power socket; and in return gives you back the power socket along with network transmission.

It also like my existing WD adaptors conforms to the Homeplug and so when I connected up the BT adaptors they were able to interoperate. The speed rating of the BT Adaptors is definitely a best case; copying some video files from my living room to bedroom systems resulted in about 10Gb of data being transmitted in around 180Mb/s rather than the rated 500mb/s.

Setting up the Homeplug network is best done by setting up the devices side by side rather than running around the house pressing buttons inside the two minute window (or have a friend help.)

The BT Extender flex delivered rock solid network connectivity and uses very little power in operation - the manual says 2.7W! The plug itself is huge as a result of the oversized UK plug; it rises up from the plug so if you sockets are close to a desk or the floor it should be ok; but if your sockets are close to something above them it will be a problem. My distributed home network is predominately used for media sharing, online gaming and web surfing and for all those tasks the BT Flex is more than up to the job (and in the case of online gaming its superior to the experience using wifi.) My only real complaint is that BT didn't include an onboard switch.

Netgear ReadyNAS 104 4 Bay Network Attached Storage (No Disk)
Netgear ReadyNAS 104 4 Bay Network Attached Storage (No Disk)
Price: £144.98

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent DIY home and cloud storage system, 6 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The most important thing to know about the Netgear ReadyNas104 is that the software that controls it is very easy to use; and has been polished. The unit itself seems very robust, and in my experience netgear is a brand you can trust. The Readynas also has both gigabit ethernet and USB2 and 3 connections so you can use it as a plug in disk on your computer now and move up to using it as a network storage array later.

In the diskless version I had to test the box contains the impotant network cable making it easy to get going; all I had to do was plug it into my houses Router. Given the overall size of the device it came as a surprise that Netgear are using a separate DC converter rather than building it into the device; so whilst the device looks OK there is a large DC adaptor hanging around in your cable area which is unfortunate (and makes it harder to move if you hide your cables as I do. The main unit has 4 drive slots; you pull a tab on the caddy and they slide out. The trays can take 2.5 or 3.5" disks so any spares you have lying around will work. 3.5" disks don't need any screws - the caddys have a nifty (albeit a bit fiddly) tray to hold the disks. For 2.5" disks Netgear provide some screws and the on CD manual shows how to use them with the caddy (there are 4 clear holes on the plate though.

One of the reasons to have an array like this is to use lots of drives to provide some resilience for when the eventually die. This is done by a system called RAID; raid can be complex to setup and manage - sometimes you get tied into the disks you started with and they all need to be the same size. The ReadyNas104 like my existing Drobo storage the Netgear has a Raid system that will create redundant storage out of whatever disks you have lying around; so I used a Spare 1Tb and 2Tb drive that had been demoted out of my Drobo for being too small. Once they were in I powered the device up; on the front is a blue screen that tells you the IP address and you connect to it via your web browser.

As I lead in the software is simply excellent and is easy to understand what you are doing. By default things are turned off and you need to turn them on; so you get the choice on what data is shared or which services are activated. For example if you want to use the AppleTimemachine compatible backup function you turn it on and the options it wants for you .You can easily create user accounts for different members of the house or office as well as folder structures with individual permissions for user. When its all setup the device can email with status updates; so if the virus-scanner is updated you get an email letting you know; or if a disk fails (or is added) these status messages are a nice touch that make it easier to manage a device; ultimately you are going to turn on and leave to do its thing.

For people wanting to use the device in a home two notable services are an iTunes music server and DLNA server that allow you to easily share music and video to devices that support either of them. On my Panasonic TV the readynas appears as a device on the media options and streaming full HD video from it to the TV resulted in an excellent picture.

The best features are those you get when you want to leave the Home; the ready connect features allow you to remotely connect to your household disk from computers or your android / ios phone as though it was in the room with you. This includes a function like Dropbox or google drive that lets you synchronise folders between your computers and the storage system - so the file is on your computer and when you ahve internet access it syncs files back up to your home. This makes it fantastic for editing files in another place; or reading up on them from your Phone. You have to register your device onto Netgears Readycloud service (whcih is free at the moment. Readycloud lets you access your disk remotely and if you want the ultimate peace of mind you can replicate your storage array on the netgear servers.

Finally the device uses 37 - 88 watts of power meaning leaving it on all the time isn't going to run up a massive bill; if you are using it as a media server it does use less than most all computers you might have on your network to do the same task. Its also very quiet (even in the high temperatures of my apartment as I write the review.

The readynas is easy to setup and once its setup lets you know of any status issues by email. The software lets it become part of your home media system; and when you are away from home lets you access and synchronise your files as though you were at home. 5*s
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 6, 2013 6:23 PM BST

Olympus Stylus SH-50 Digital Super Zoom Camera - Black (16MP, 24x Wide Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)
Olympus Stylus SH-50 Digital Super Zoom Camera - Black (16MP, 24x Wide Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD (discontinued by manufacturer)

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SuperZoom; but laggy software and noisy images, 6 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had high hopes waiting for the SH-50 to arrive; I am a big fan of the Canon PowerShot SX280 which is a similar superzoom format camera. The reasons for my high hopes are that the lens is fractionally quicker and the zoom is 20% longer. On receiving the Olympus is quite noticeably larger and marginally heavier than the Canon; it still fits in a pocket but its definitely bigger; and the longer lends causes a bigger lens bulge on the front.

My heart lifted on seeing it charged via a USB cable - more and more hotels and planes have USB sockets for charging devices (as well as my laptop having one) so it would be one less thing to carry around as I travel. Sadly the USB cable uses a proprietary connector on the camera end; the socket end is a standard USB socket. I left it to charge overnight and plugged in my Eye-Fi 8Gb SD WiFi Card; and all my high hopes took a serious dent when I powered the camera on; and found I had to wait about 5 seconds to take a photo (by way of comparison the Canon does it just under 3 seconds.) That delay makes it harder to capture the unexpected.

Once you have the camera powered on the screen is bright; and pretty clear even outdoors. In bright light the fully automatic mode takes fairly bright and noise free images; as the light reduces the amount of noise in photos increases far too quickly for my liking. There are two kinds of scene modes; labeled SCN and Magic on the nice function dial on the top of the camera. After automatic comes Program mode which allows you to configure some of the camera settings; including a very impressive high speed shooting mode at 11 frames per second.

The SCN options include HDR which tends toward the high saturation end of the HDR spectrum which lots of colour ; but doesn't seem to gain much detail out of the shadows compared to fully automatic mode. Other scene modes include options for softer images; or taking pictures of dogs and cats. The magic mode options do image processing and apply effects to your images such as sparkling on lights; and when you select magic mode the whole camera lags including the preview on the screen. Taking the picture results in a noticeable lag in writing a magic photo to the card.

The remaining features of note for the still mages are a sweep panorama mode similar to the feature Sony have had for some time; I haven't had a great deal of success with it so far; it doesnt allow you to zoom in; to take the maximum width of image. Even when using a panning head on my tripod to make it as smooth as possible there were visible missed joins in the image. The last is a handheld twilight mode that lets you take images in lower light conditions with a fair degree of success; though like the magic mode it takes some time to write the image to disk between shots.

The zoom itself is very good; Olympus have designed an excellent image stabilisation system; and even at full zoom (24x) you could get a stable image hand held in good light; after dark you would need a tripod.

Movie mode takes impressive full HD video and the image stabilisation makes things look even better. There are a couple of slow motion modes; but compared to other bodies it can't deliver super slow motion - the canon manages 240fps at full hd the Olympus only 124 - i dont know if this really matters to many people - if you want to take slow motion pictures of your kids dancing or doing sport maybe. The microphones are good; but the SH50 has automatic gain control so in quiet places you get to hear a lot of background noise if you are in a quiet place. One great thing is you can take still images whilst shooting video without it impacting the stream.

The SH50 doesn't have a built in GPS or WIFI rather you can use a Wireless Sd card to connect to an olympus app on your smart phone; I put my EyeFi card into the camera to test this through. I wasn't able to use this to connect to the olympus camera; though Olympus Support in the UK are looking at what the issue might be (I have also asked them about the lagging in the magic mode.) Hopefully both of these issues can be resolved with a software update. The EyeFi software itself connected without issue and downloaded all the images from the camera so the wireless was working. The app is supposed to let you tag where you took your photos using your Phones GPS which is a nice way to save putting a GPS into the camera body; and use someone else's battery life; i am keen to see them resolve this issue.

Battery life is hard to gauge; I have taken about 150 photos and 20 minutes of video but whilst I was testing it I charged it up twice; i haven't managed a full drain on the camera so far. Unless you take pictures of everything it should last a day of normal use; and finding a USB socket to charge shouldn't be much of a challenge.

Overall the SH50 is a fairly good camera; I don't think I would reach for the SH50 in preference to my SX280 - the zoom and stabilisation functions might not be as good as the Olympus. It is also a noticeably more responsive; its not all going canons way though. The olympus video has considerably better image stabilisation; and the ability to take full resolution images whilst shooting video is a significant bonus. In automatic mode in daylight the olympus takes good pictures and the resolution is higher than the Canon but as soon as the light dim's the Canon takes far better images with considerably less noise and more detail. Its hard to recommend the Olympus over the Canon; its a nice camera but the SX280 for me has the edge.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2013 10:29 PM BST

Logitech Harmony Smart Control for iPhone/Android Mobile Phone
Logitech Harmony Smart Control for iPhone/Android Mobile Phone
Price: £79.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Digital Remote for the analog age, 28 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had high hopes for the Logitech Harmony Smart Control; I have been using a Logitech's Harmony remotes for quite some time; my last purchase being the Logitech Harmony 1100 and they have stalled for the last few years. The configuration was via a clunky website and getting it just right took dozens of attempts of trial and error. The Harmony Smart control replaces the clunky website with configuration direct on your Windows or Android Smartphone.

Setting it up on my iPhone was a question of downloading the Harmony app from the app store; (iPhones only there isn't an iPad app which is a colossal shame) and then pressing a pairing button on the back of the smart hub. This pairs the devices by bluetooth and helps get your smart hub onto your wifi. In my case the first thing that happened after that was a slow upgrade to the smart up's software.

Setting up my simple living room with 3 devices took a few minutes. Logitech use a concept of Activities to setup how you will use the devices together - watch a film in my living room is BluRay + TV for example. Thankfully building the activities to use those devices was very simple and all done from the iPhone. Once the devices are setup you can fine tune (to a degree) the button layout in the familiar iPhone click till they jiggle then drag and drop around. During the setup the device warns you to turn off inter device connectivity

So far so much better; which leads us to my biggest issue with the device (and the 1100 to be fair) there is no system to build your own macro tasks only the ones Logitech permits. There is a built in logic are built to watch TV via any one of the 3 decoders on my set but that is the old way to consume media. I would like a button that powers on my tv; chooses smart functions and then Netflix; 13 years ago my Philips Pronto could have done it.

5 years ago when my devices were all simpler and only did one task this would have been a good remote - it has a pleasant and easy to configure interface and manages the interconnection between them itself with ease. The problem is each device is now interconnected; and comes with smart functions that are my main reasons for owning them. Worse still each of them have full iPhone / iPad apps that deliver the same functionality as the Harmony without the expense and (samsung aside) a far better suited interfaces to the device (such as using my phone as a remote keyboard on the TV's twitter function. Given the system update on first power up; I hold out hope that Logitech upgrade the iPhone app to allow the hub to work better with my smart devices; until then its not living up to its full potential. 3*s

Sony SRSBTX300 Portable Wireless Speaker - White
Sony SRSBTX300 Portable Wireless Speaker - White
Offered by Superbargainuk
Price: £110.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sounds Good, 14 July 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Sony SRSBTX300 is a mains or 8 hours of battery life sound dock that works with most all smartphones or apple iPod touch mp3 players or computers over bluetooth.

Connecting a device up it up is a question of pulling out the silly kickstand on the right hand side (some times it powers up when you do that some times it doesn't.) Once its on you can connect a COmputer/iPhone/iPad / iPod touch via the bluetooth settings menu it was the same on Windows phone 8. Android users can download an app that connects it by touching on an NFC icon on the top of the dock. (My Windows Phone has NFC but there isn't an app for it.) If you don't have bluetooth there is a stereo in jack on the back. There is also a USB power only socket to charge your device back up. Connected to my iPhone the dock also works as a speaker phone; on the top of the dock there is a phone icon pressing it once even starts Siri. The microphones don't have any noise cancelling though so it only really works in a quiet environment until you start speaking quite loudly.

Powered up and connected at sensible volumes the dock sounds pretty good; there is a reasonable stereo effect but the speakers are too close together for anything outstanding. As a source of music the SRSBTX300 sounds ok out of the box. If like the kids prefer your music muddied with too much bass Sony has brought its Mega Bass setting to the speakers and will ensure that you are happy. The sound effect has two modes - Mega Bass (Amber) and Mega Bass Surround (Green.) The surround mode just makes everything sound muddled even when fed tracks that were mixed for surround (And it forces you to use mega bass.)

The party piece is the dock is battery powered for about 8 hours - it doesn't have a battery indicator light though so charge it up before you go. To help you in your travels in the box is a pretty good neoprene case. the SRSBTX300 is about 30cm long, 10cm high and 6cm deep so its not especially large. At 1.6Kg You will notice you are carrying it but its not heavy.

4*s because its really easy to setup on most all devices, it sounds more than adequate. So why the lost star; well in my travels the white finish has been scuffed; and I really don't like the kickstand design. Sound wise its more than adequate; and 8 hours of battery life allows you to use it to watch a couple of films on my laptop on a work trip and enjoy much better sound than the in built speakers.

Silverline 127519 Aluminium Oxide Roll 10m 240 Grit
Silverline 127519 Aluminium Oxide Roll 10m 240 Grit
Price: £3.86

5.0 out of 5 stars I may never buy sand paper again, 29 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a very occasional DIYer The silverline sand paper 10m roll may last me a lifetime. Its as wide as a standard sandpaper and is a medium fine sandpaper. It fulfilled the ikea hacking job I bought it for and the remaining 9.5m is waiting for duty in my toolbox. Each section saw light duty on the sanding block and lasted a reasonable amount of time against the wood I was using it on.

Its not especially expensive; and you get a lot of it. 5*s

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