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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)

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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
Olympus Stylus SH-50 Digital Super Zoom Camera - Black (16MP, 24x Wide Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD
Offered by BigWhiteRabbit
Price: £189.95

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
Offered by Woodhaven Marketing
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 Crazy Bee
Price: £122.50

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

Delonghi Esam5500.B 1.7 Litre 1350 Watt 15 Bar Perfecta Bean to Cup Machine with Patented Automatic Cappuccino System, Black and Silver
Delonghi Esam5500.B 1.7 Litre 1350 Watt 15 Bar Perfecta Bean to Cup Machine with Patented Automatic Cappuccino System, Black and Silver

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Looks, Great Coffee, 29 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Delonghi Perfecta arrived in the largest amazon box I have yet seen; inside was a russian doll puzzle consisting of two more boxes, some styrofoam and plastic protection wrapper.

The good news for fellow caffeine addicts is that getting it out of the boxes was the hardest part of the setup. The chord is quite long and once its setup on the kitchen counter; you need to fill the large water tank and power it up (There is a master power switch hiding on the back besides the power button on the counter.) The Perfecta is HUGE I have put side by side photos on the page with a Delonghi Magnifica bean to cup machine; which also show that the magnifica looks much classier than its older brother. There are less buttons; those that there are have clearer labels. The silver dial in the middle is like the jog dial on the old iPod letting you choose coffee strength and size. This is useful when you want a weaker or stronger coffee for a guest.

Once the water is charged; you need to put beans into the large bean reservoir; its best not to leave coffee beans lying around in the open though so you might want to resist the urge to fill it. In the interest of experimentation I put 125gm's of beans into the hopper and it just about filled it (again there is a picture.) Beans resolved you need to clean out the milk jug (if you want a latte or cappuccino) and put in some cold (skimmed) milk. The jug itself is also on the portly side - so much so it wouldn't fit into the side bins of my fridge door; and required me to rejig my fridge to create a shelf high enough for it.

Before you make a coffee you are going to drink I would run an espresso through just to check all is well; if the crema is poor you can adjust the grind of the beans inside the bean well (but only whilst the machine is grinding.) The default setting works fine for my beans and my espresso had a strong crema on top.

Once thats done press the bleary morning friendly Cappuccino button : its the biggest on the machine and be impressed how quiet this latest generation machine is; the Magnifica let you know it was making coffee with loud noises signifying its every move. The Perfecta is much more reserved; it lets the results speak for it. If on the first run it under or overfills your glass there are instructions on how to set the machine to your cups (hold the cappuccino button down till it says measuring milk on the clear display; when you are happy with milk press it again and it runs with coffee - one more press and its set for your cups. Leave some room as milk frothing can be variable. Milk frothing is a major improvement in the Perfecta; the older machines were binary hot latte milk or cappuccino foam - and had issues making foam at times; the Perfecta has a linear gauge where you can control it. The older machines made a good foamed milk; the Perfecta's is fabulous - that little bit more control gets you considerably closer to barista grade micro foam.

Maintenance and cleaning isn't too onerous. When you power the machine up; each and every time it rinses itself out (i put a jug under the coffee nozzles to save filling the waste water reservoir.) The machine comes with a descaling fluid and will let you know when to use it (i have medium hardness water and it asks me to do it every 4 -5 months. Every few days you need to empty the waste grinds bin and top up the water. The milk jug and tray will go in the dishwasher to clean them if you don't want to wash them by hand. The coffee brewing unit doesnt go in the dishwasher and needs to be cleaned under a tap one a month (depending on how much you use the machine.) After that it needs a cloth wipe down and if its like the magnifica some ground coffee tends to escape but can be caught with a hoover.

I bought into my original Magnifica as I was fed up of making a mess even when using a Nespresso machine frothing milk or with the capsules; the Perfecta has the same lack of waste and mess. On the kitchen counter it looks considerably more impressive than its predecessors. It makes a better coffee; and although not a cheap machine is significantly better value than going to Costa every day.
Comment Comment | Permalink

Braun CoolTec CT2s Electric Shaver with Active Cooling Technology
Braun CoolTec CT2s Electric Shaver with Active Cooling Technology
Price: £94.36

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cooltec works; CT2s doesn't tick all my boxes, 11 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Braun Cooltec CT2s is a great electric razor; far better than the series 5 I have been using on and off for a year now. In that year I have tried the new Wilkinson Sword Hydro Power; and two other review razors in the Philips Sensotouch 2 and 3d's. I have now been using it on and off for a few months and have a chance to consider it after a longer use.

The first thing to note is the Cooltec really does work; shaving on dry skin with the Cooltec (draining the battery away) I get almost no razor burn on my neck that I do get when i use the Philips razors on dry skin. I have two shaving patterns; workdays I clean-shave and weekends I might miss a day. I also travel a Lot and find myself getting off long flights having not shaved since Mumbai or Bangkok. Like all electric razors the Braun needs me to shave everyday to neck stop hairs which grow along my skin rather than standing proud as they do on my face. Missing a day results in slightly longer hairs that none of electric shavers can do a great job with; and once they get too long the only way to remove without irritation is to wetshave.

In use the design lawnmower striping shaving style of the Braun shavers doesn't work as well as the Philips shavers; the rotary motion of the Philips results in a closer shave. All of them look clean shaven; but none of them give a clean feeling that lasts as as long as using a Fusion or Hydro wet shave does. They do give you a clean look and feel smooth for a few hours but soon I can feel stubble when i touch my face. That said neither of the braun shavers gives me razor burn; the Philips ones always do if i dont use a gel with them; so the rotary motion comes at the expense of your skin.

I found Cooltec CT2s a mixed bag; its as good at shaving as the 5 series but the Cooltec functions really works to protect your skin. I do think that Cooltec is a a bit like the American Space Pen; using gel already worked and it doesnt reduce the battery life. For me its the Sensotouch 3d that makes it into my bag; along with a pack of gel.

Cabin Pressure The Complete Series 4
Cabin Pressure The Complete Series 4
by John Finnemore
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £12.66

5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect British Sitcom, 1 Jun 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Cabin Pressure is one of the Jewel's in Radio 4's schedules. Making that all the more impressive is that Radio 4 bills itself as the home of British Comedy; many a great TV show was first introduced by a stiff continuity announcer on Radio 4.

Cabin Pressure has all the elements of great comedy; well thought out characters with strong personalities and over the last 3 seasons a lot of back story for the writer to reuse. A mixture of intelligence among the crew and the british class system woven in for good measure means that who you root for is then very much a product of where you are listening from.

The situation of the comedy is MJN Air a charter airline with but a single plane (an Air Dot.) MJN and GERTI its plane are living on borrowed time taking any work they can find. With the excellent premise; and a Hollywood movie grade lead of Benedick Cumberbatch (as the young and reaching Captain) and Roger Allam (as the know it all First Officer.) The main cast is rounded out with the writer John Finnimore as the useless not exactly a cabin attendant. Finally there is Stephanie Cole as the owner of the plane and Chief steward : who lives by the motto the customer is always a moron.

With the scenarios they find themselves in getting crazier with each passing season the fourth series is far and away my favourite. Battling a Dragon with a Liechtenstein-ian Princess and making snowmen in China being the highlights for me. Each episode in series 4 has an arc to the finale. With a cast this good making each episode causes timing problems; but hopefully season 5 is not to far away.

The Cabin Pressure Series 4 cd's bring you 6 episodes spread over 3 discs and a sheet of paper about the cast for the episodes. The sound quality is outstanding; though it does come with the laughter track which is a bit of a shame. It is the jewel in the radio 4 schedule and well worth getting on disk for home.

Am-Tech Pro Hole Saw Set (9 Pieces)
Am-Tech Pro Hole Saw Set (9 Pieces)
Price: £9.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Fiddly, 27 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The Am-tech pro hole saw comes with sturdy strong hole cutters and the drill piece you need to use to get the hole started. The yellow drill bits are held in place with a bolt on the drill shafts and that bolt doesn't like to stay on; even tightened using spanners they would come undone and thats where the star went. The blades themselves went straight through Ikea units - though on the wider support sections they weren't deep enough and I had to flip them and cut from both end. They were sharp enough to survive a bolt where i missed my mark slightly.

The Am-tech pro are great at cutting holes; they just need a bit of help staying tight through the cut 4*s

Spear & Jackson Predator Triplefast Saw
Spear & Jackson Predator Triplefast Saw
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a knife through butter, 27 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My first wood saw since school and I found the right tool for the job. I needed a woodsaw to help with a small ikea hacking project and the Predator Tripplefast cut through 45mm plane squared timber with ease and in seconds. One draw back to get a notch and after than it the link in and it went through the wood in seconds.

Its not the cheapest saw but it feel's built to last and out of the sleeve its a delight to use. 5*s

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