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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)

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Barratts Refreshers Fruity Flavour Fizzy Sweets 34.2 g (Pack of 48)
Barratts Refreshers Fruity Flavour Fizzy Sweets 34.2 g (Pack of 48)
Price: 16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great tasting fizzy sweets, 31 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Barratts Refreshers are a great nostalgia sweet; they have a nice sort of fruit flavours and a great fizzing sensation that are popular with old and young visiting family. There are 48 individual packs that come in a single larger box; which makes the price of a single pack very good value.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
Price: 1,198.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super Sharp; super wide angle, 31 Dec 2013
The Canon EF16-35mm F2.8 USM ii lens is chunky; distorts considerably at the widest angles and apertures and vignettes like it has an instagram filter inside it but takes some of the most amazing landscape pictures I have achieved. On my camera the zoom ring and manual focus rings are both smooth; and allow for clean focus pulling if you are shooting video. Even on my Canon 6d the (full time overridable) autofocus is pretty quick from shortest to infinity focus and the autofocus results in sharp images. The body is plastic with a metal body mount; if you add a (UV) filter - its an 82mm thread - the lens offers weather sealing (the zoom does move the lens in and out of the body of the lens so there is also a high likelihood of ingesting dust in its use so the filter should help reduce that too. Finally in the box you also get a lens hood; I found even without it I was able to take images in pretty much all circumstances without getting any flaring but its there if you need it (and the lens hood for the 24-105 fits inside it if you want to save some space)

I have dragged it around Bangkok and Singapore going in and out of air conditioning and tropical rain and the weather proofing kept it going; its super wide angle lets you take some amazing shots of the city Day and Night hand held getting everything in the frame without having to resort to stitching. With the aperture closed all the way down to F22 you get amazing sparkles on all the lights ( i have uploaded a full frame and cropped image showing the effect) ; and at F2.8 you can get images in lower light that you wouldn't be able to achieve with the 17-40mm F4 without extending the ISO / Shutter speed to difficult levels.

If you have a cropped sensor camera you should look at the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM Lens although note it has a higher min aperture and its variable which isn't so good if you want to shoot video, its considerably cheaper - on a cropped body the 10-22 takes great shots over the same wide angles as the 16-35mm offers on the full frame. Despite the distorting issues that you should expect with a zoom-wide angle lens with a tool like Adobe Lightroom you can easily remove or reduce the distortion of the lens and are left with simply fantastic sharp images day and night.

Case Logic Action Bag for Camera - Black
Case Logic Action Bag for Camera - Black
Price: 15.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Degrees of separation, 31 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Case logic Action Bag is made for transporting cameras like the Go Pro series.

These cameras are pretty tiny; but they tend to come with a variety of connectors and clips to allow you to mount them to a variety of surfaces as you travel. Some of these parts are pretty tiny some of them not so tiny. The case logic action bag is first off pretty big so it can hold a lot of parts; what it lacks are enough dividers to make it useable. I can throw things into it; and put a few items behind mesh pockets but there aren't containers for the different extensions or mounts that I find I carry along with the camera. I have just dragged it around on a 22,000 mile journey around asia and back and it kept everything in one place; I had a gopro3, a number of sticky mounts, tripod mount, a sizeable number of extension brackets, use cable, tube mount, window suction cup and egg timer (for time-lapse) in the bag and it was plenty big enough.

What I found though was whenever I was trying to build the right mount to get the images I was after more often than not i had to empty it to find what i was looking for which makes it an awkward bag for field use. That makes the flat divider camera packs you can find generally more user friendly. It is however exceptionally cheap and an easy way to move things around if you can live with the lack of dividers.

Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Dual Action Twin Pack (2 x 250ml)
Finish Dishwasher Cleaner Dual Action Twin Pack (2 x 250ml)
Offered by Selectric London Limited
Price: 15.05

3.0 out of 5 stars A washer for your dishwasher or the emperors new clothes, 19 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The finish dual action dishwasher cleaner is a bit of strange one to test. You are supposed to use this once a month; so I did a run through with my finish power ball tablets; emptied my dishwasher and then immediately I ran it through my dishwasher with the cleaner.

After that first run through there was a feeling of this being the emperors new clothes - visually I couldn't see any difference.

As a single frequent traveller my dishwasher is used maybe once a fortnight and is only a year old. As part of the extensive list of benefits the stand out one for me is Finish say the dishwasher cleaner it removes limescale; I have had two dishwashers fail in the past 10 years through limescale build up.

Its not especially expensive; a couple of pounds a month and if it does make my dishwasher last longer its likely a price worth paying.

Bose  QuietComfort  20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Price: 259.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Travel Light, 19 Dec 2013
I fly regularly and have had bose noise cancelling headphones in my bag for almost a decade; they are great for listening to music in peace or just for peace and quiet when travelling (planes trains and subways.) When my original sets headphones perished after years of use I switched to QC15s which were a notable step up from the original. Both sets of over the ear headphones came in a big hard case that took up an enormous amount of space in my carry on bag. The sound from them was alright; far better than included ear buds but miles away from my Bowers & Wilkins P5s. Over those 10 years my laptop has shrunk from something you carry only when necessary to a 1kilogram sliver of aluminium and silicon; but my headphones stayed enormous.

A few of travelling contacts have recently raved about the qc20's saying the noise cancellation was as good as the qc15's but they were 1/10 the size. So on my latest trip i cashed out my Heathrow rewards (sorry amazon) and got a set at the airport. As they charge via usb my first task was to plug them into my laptop to charge them up for a 13 hour flight. The box includes a USB charging cable but not a power charger; as hotels as they upgrade seem to be rolling out USB power sockets that might not be as bad as it sounds. More importantly missing from the box; an aircraft twin audio adaptor something that refuses to die -if you intend to use them with the planes entertainment system make sure you get an adaptor before you board. The battery on the QC20 lasted all of that 13 hour flight to Singapore and the NC was on pretty much the whole time

After an hour or so of charging i slipped them into my ears; finding them very comfortable on the medium tips that were fitted in the box; there are other sizes in there too. Flipping the power switch the noise cancellation is nothing short of astonishing; once activated there is almost no outside noise - it sounds almost unnaturally quiet with a faint hiss if you aren't playing any music or video through them. When you do connect them up to a sound source the sound is tonally flat; it may be because they are still new. I am not into heavy bass in my music but it feels lacking on and off the plane; the treble and mid tones are good. On the plane the small size of the phones made sleeping with them much more achievable though still not as compact as ear plugs they work better.

These are headphones for travellers; the sound quality is a vast improvement on included ear buds; but lacks depth. The noise cancellation function though is years ahead of anyones (better even than the QC15); when its on the sounds of air conditioning and engines just goes away. Further up the cable is a microphone / volume / select button switch - this has a button that temporarily removes the noise cancelling the idea being you can use it to speak to the cabin crew; I'm a bit old fashioned and thing its polite to remove them from your ears though.

Only 4*s because the musical ability is behind the times; but 4*s because the noise cancellation is way ahead of its peers and with this new design Bose have freed up an enormous amount of space (and a bit of weight) in my carry on bag

Finish Quantum Lemon Sparkle 2 x Pack of 40 (80 Dishwasher Tablets)
Finish Quantum Lemon Sparkle 2 x Pack of 40 (80 Dishwasher Tablets)
Price: 24.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big tablets give a good clean, 11 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The finish Quantum tabs are surprisingly big packing in a liquid, powder and red ball. The are so large that the first time I used one the Finish Quantum tab wasn't released into the machine and it remained in the tray a little soggy but otherwise intact. I found that the tabs are tapered and are wider at one end than the other - the lip at the wider end jammed into the tray on my machine and so i have to put the narrower end in first.

Once that little niggle was resolved my cutlery comes out shiny and my plates are all clean. The tablets packaging is convenient coming in a resealable plastic bag which keeps them dry under the sync. 80 Tablets for me is more than a years worth so they represent great value.

iRobot Floor Mopping Robot, Black
iRobot Floor Mopping Robot, Black
Price: 172.93

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Swiffing and Mopping Ideal for wooden floors, 10 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am a lazy lazy man and cleaning is my nemesis.

My apartment has wooden floors throughout; at the time I thought they would be much easier to maintain than carpet - if only i knew about dust. To combat that I bought a Roomba; which is a vacuuming robot. My roomba does a great job battling the dust that constantly gathers on the floor- but in truth its quite noisy. The biggest flaw in my Roomba plan is the roomba can't clean the floor - it doesn't lift stuck on debris. iRobot have two options for that; the Scooba which is a floor washing robot and the Braava which is a swiffing / mopping robot.

I chose the braava as I was a little concerned about spraying water onto my hardwood floors. Compared to the roomba the Braava is very quiet; its helped that it doesn't have a vacuum just the motors to push it around. This can be done in three ways; a dry micro fibre clean that lifts dust that was missed whilst vacuuming, it can also be used with swiffer cloths for a similar effect and finally a wet mopping action with a tougher micro fibre cloth. It won't do you any good if all you have is carpet.

In the box is everything you need to get going; the robot itself; a charging cable (unlike roomba it doesn't have a dock) a navstar cube with 2 d cell batteries, a spare liquid wick, a dry and wet micro fibre cloth and a liquid reservoir mop head. Again unlike the roomba the braava cleans your room in lanes; (will add a video so you can see it in action) it can do this thanks to the Navstar cube which acts as a navigation system for the robot in your room.

As it isn't a vacuum its best to vacuum first; so I left my roomba at it whilst i went to work and came back and watched the Braava in action. As it silently went back and forwards around the room I wasn't sure how effective it was (the floor looked clean to start with.) When it had completed the room I looked at the micro fibre pad and was impressed by how much extra dust it had picked up over my Roomba. Once I had tried it in swiffing / dusting mode I put some tap water into the reservoir and let it go with mopping - the gentle action with a micro fibre cloth picked up some of the water marks on my wooden floor - it is mopping though so it does leave the floor with water on the surface. If you want a drier floor you might want a scooba as that comes with a squeegee to lift more of the water from the floor. My ground floor is roughly 35 square meters and my Braava 380 covers it before the battery runs out; i do have to move the navstar cube to cover the two rooms; you can buy more or just move the cube (its about the size of a can of coke only square)

If you have solid floors and dislike cleaning than iRobots are made for you The new Braava isn't expensive and does a methodical job without needing thanks. I have dinked a star for the two things my roomba has that a miss; it should come with a dock to charge it rather than a 12v adaptor and it would be much better if it had a timer. With a timer my Roomba could hoover in the morning and brava mop in the afternoon.

Even the Stars Are a Mess
Even the Stars Are a Mess
Price: 38.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet, 10 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I listen to music at work to keep my mind on a steady path; that often means the electronic music of Air or the Postal service; it also includes Simon and Garfunkel and for years now Whitley's the Submarine. Even the stars at a mess is the third album; and sadly only it runs to just over 30 minutes - and 9 songs.

I utterly adore the first Album The Submarine; like Simon and Garfunkel's music I feel energised and controlled listening to Whitleys voice over the sparse music. The lyrics give my brain something to think about besides the code on the monitor; and that really helps. There might be 9 songs but like Paul Simon they have been finessed into something special; "I am not a rock" aside they express mixed emotions in their rhythmic lyrics that combined with the music is sublime. You can find the video for My heart is not a machine on the internets. The song has a heartbeat musical background and with the lyrics you will find something truly special "my heart is not a machine, it beats alone in all the darkness of the night" its made all the more special for the 12 seconds of silence when the heart suddenly stops.

Even the stars are a mess is a great album; sadly I had to pay to import it from Australia; hopefully it will find a release in the UK and the price will come down a bit.

Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock
Price: 133.09

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could do more, 8 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Using the Belkin express dock is very handy for getting more and more modern connections from your computer. I have set it up on my desk at work and use it with my Macbook Air. Each morning connecting it to this dock (buy a cable as Belkin don't include one.)

The first and biggest step up for me was getting a gigabit network socket; I have been using one of my precious USB sockets to drive a network port which was considerably slower than the one on the dock.

Secondly the Docks 3x USB3 connectors are a big improvement on my Air's dual USB2 sockets. Belkin has compromised on them they arent as fast as the USB3 standard but still considerably faster than USB2 when using a USB3 device. Besides being speed limited the USB3 sockets are also power limited to 500mA which means you can't use it to fast charge your tablet but your phone is likely ok.

After the USB3 sockets you are left with a Firewire 800 socket that is becoming less useful thanks to USB3 being so much faster than USB2 and Thunderbolt replacing it at the high end. There are also headphone and microphone sockets and most importantly you still end up with a Thunderbolt socket as the express has two.

Connecting it to my computer was just a question of getting a cable and plugging the two together. Sadly the first thing you have to do is plug the dock into a power socket as Thunderbolt can't power the dock. Then get a Thunderbolt cable and plug it in; after that all the sockets just work. In use thunderbolt connectors get hot; which seems to be normal (there is a chip in there handling all the communication; but the express dock too got warm in use.

Its supremely practical and the build is excellent - it simplifies starting up in the morning to two connections; despite that for the price I wish Belkin had made a different more comprehensive product. I wish the dock were either wider and thinner so you can rest your laptop on it; or had a soft surface so you could rest charging phones on it as it stands its a handy dock for your computer but if you are going to use a power socket and take up that much desk space you really ought to do more.

Philips Foldie On Ear CitiScape Headband Headphones - Green/Brown
Philips Foldie On Ear CitiScape Headband Headphones - Green/Brown
Price: 55.68

4.0 out of 5 stars The barista in Costa said Nice headphones, 8 Dec 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Philips Citiscape headphones are the first headphones I have owned where someone has commented on how nice they look; and for that reason these may be the phones your are looking for. If looks do matter know that they sound way better than any phones that came with your music device; your music sounds wider and there is more detail. On the chord there is a answer / siri button and microphone.

If you are interested in more than the looks; it feels well made; albeit it the materials do feel a little cheap. The leather looking material may be bonded leather or pvc; it feels ok but the downside is they are unyielding and so the noise seals aren't so good and external sounds leak in.

Philips haven't scrimped on the sounds though; it is a marked step up from included ear buds; I dug mine out of the phone box to give them a spin; they are made from far worse plastic; sounded harsh and everything felt compressed. The Philips Cityscape do a much better job on your ears; they sound much wider and in that space they present a nice neutral sound. Sadly the same can't be said for the microphone in a quiet place its fine; but my phone (like lots of others) has a noise cancelling feature that doesn't work well when you don't use the internal microphone so callers didn't find it as good. Not having volume controls feels like model positioning and price control which is a shame.

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