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Dave Matthews "Dave Matthews" (Lancashire, England)

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FloordirektECO PP Office Chair Mat - 75x120cm - Carpet Protection
FloordirektECO PP Office Chair Mat - 75x120cm - Carpet Protection
Offered by Home and Office
Price: 29.90

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed/floored by thick-pile carpets and heavy chairs!, 25 Dec 2011
It's interesting to see all the positive reviews here as my experience of the mat has been poor.

Prima facie it looks like a good design, being heavy-duty, stiff and with floor spikes to secure it. Surprisingly, then, it slides around quite a bit - even on thick-pile, high-quality carpets with a heavy "Executive" chair plonked on it - not to mention my less-than-dainty 12-stone self! I suspect the answer is simply that the spikes need to be longer.

After a couple of weeks' use, the front edge of the mat curled upwards, causing tangling with the chair's castors. I had to bodily lift the chair clear of the mat in order to reposition it. Ironically I suspect the stiffness of the mat is the problem here - it needs to be softer and more flexible so that it can maintain its flatness.

With some small design improvements this could be a great product but, at the moment, it doesn't work at all well with thick-pile carpets and heavy, castored chairs.


Stick'N'Stand Universal In-Car Dashboard Mount for Samsung/ BlackBerry/ Nokia/ HTC/ Motorola
Stick'N'Stand Universal In-Car Dashboard Mount for Samsung/ BlackBerry/ Nokia/ HTC/ Motorola
Offered by Modern-Tech
Price: 5.95

2.0 out of 5 stars For flat surfaces it works well - otherwise it's junk, 29 Oct 2011
Interesting divergence of views on this one but I decided to risk it!

I followed the advice regarding ensuring the surfaces were clean and dry but to no avail. The problems I experienced are two-fold. Firstly, while the base rubber mat adhered admirably to the old-fashioned flat-topped dashboard of my classic Jaguar, it just wouldn't stick to the curved dash in my modern Volvo for any longer than five minutes.

Secondly the mounting plate for the phone itself simply didn't work with my Samsung Galaxy - too many times the phone simply toppled into the footwell after a few moments. The backplate on the Galaxy has a fine-grained dimpled effect and I suspect this is the root cause of lack of adhesion.

Overall, then, the unit probably works well against a flat dashboard and flat phone backplate. Otherwise look elsewhere.


Entrance
Entrance
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 17.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An album of polar opposites, 13 April 2008
This review is from: Entrance (Audio CD)
Four tracks of around eighteen minutes each and fantastic recording quality. For me this is the last decent album Klaus Schulze produced.

The opening, title, track kicks off with a melee of effects (like a modern, digital version of Klaus' 1979 offering 'Dune', for those familiar with that work). After four minutes these fade away as a jaunty, up-tempo sequence starts up. However this tends to dominate the piece and mask any development the track might have. There ARE things going on below the surface but frankly they are not interesting enough to make me want to listen. Consequently the piece just goes on for too long. And, in fact, this is the big flaw for the first half of the album: the pieces start well enough and sound like they are going to get quite interesting but just when you think "something is bound to happen now"... it doesn't!!!

'alpha-Numerique' starts with a deep bass 'choir voice' accompanied by short, chopping synth chords. A sharp blast heralds a lightweight, playful sequence. This time things do change a bit - but rather than the gradual evolvement we are used to from most of Schulze's work, we get sudden changes. But it's all a bit too 'plinky-plonky' for my liking and lacks real conviction, so I can't really take it seriously. Part way through Klaus briefly adds some percussive stabs that add meat to the track but it's far too late. However I do love the way he kills the track with a wonderful crescendo of drums!

'Fm Delight' is far superior!! Close your eyes and listen to the wonderful, dreamy, angelic introductory theme - paradise! A lovely, bouncy sequence starts up and then in come what sound like synthesiser versions of tom-toms to add to the effervescent mix. An electric piano stabs away happily to enhance the piece further. Out of the four tracks on the album, this one shows some form of evolvement. The one track worthy of its eighteen minutes play time and easily the best piece on the disc.

'Velvet System' runs a very close second. Commencing in a similar style to the previous track, this actually builds a lot quicker, this time things get more frenetic and 'louder'. Sharp synth blasts provide doors to new turns in the track (again we get sudden changes rather than slow evolvements). Unfortunately the track suffers arrested development during its second half for a few minutes, but this is a small blemish on the piece as a whole when, at fourteen minutes, the track suddenly becomes alive again with thundering synth voices.

Overall, then, two pieces that really needed proper development along with two absolute classics. The latter tracks are historically significant as they represent Schulze's swansong in terms of the genuine artistic inventiveness and credibility that he had possessed as far back as the mid 1960s (but that's another story).

Overall I am awarding the album four stars as the latter tracks more than make up for the inferior ones.


Star Maidens - A Classic Cult Sci-Fi Series [DVD] [2005]
Star Maidens - A Classic Cult Sci-Fi Series [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Judy Geeson

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Genius gem or fool's gold?, 24 Nov 2007
Unlike some reviewers here, I somehow managed to miss this show's UK screenings (perhaps it was never fully networked across ITV?), so my opinions are based entirely on my perception of it in 2007 rather than the potential of being imbued with 30-year-old rose-tinted spectacles...

During the first half of the 1970s Gerry Anderson blazed a trail for British-made high-quality live-action sci-fi drama with two major series: "UFO" and "Space: 1999". It was only natural others should try to latch onto this wave of this success. What we have with "Star Maidens" is a production aspiring to the high art of Anderson's creations but saddled with a rather confused germ of an idea and a patently low budget.

The title theme is gloriously "of its time" - and by no means is that a negative. Definitely a high point for the show, albeit perhaps partly because modern producers have forgotten the importance of catchy, memorable opening music.

Despite being filmed over half a decade after "UFO", a year after the first season of "Space: 1999" and borrowing many of those shows' staff, props and electronic sounds, "Star Maidens" succeeds in looking startlingly dated in comparison. Low-budget SFX aside, I put this down to the more strident use of "day-glo" colours on the Medusa sets.

The skimpily-dressed women somehow manage to be devoid of any attractiveness. I can't believe I'm writing this about Judy Geeson(!), let alone Dawn Addams, whose memorably fabulous black hair is completely covered in a spangly headscarf throughout her episodes.

The series takes a while to get into its stride - partly because it can't seem to decide what it is supposed to be: straightforward sci-fi actioner or a sly dig at the idea of female superiority (all writers on the show were male). One episode halfway through the season has two of the aliens settling in to middle-class suburban life with the female as the breadwinner. The problem is that with the inclusion of the alien weaponry and the rather slapstick denouement, it can't be viewed as a serious attempt at drama. On the other hand if it is supposed to be a skit, that doesn't work either because it has a complete lack of humour...

Overall the Medusa-based episodes work the best because, despite the paper-thin cod sci-fi plots, the viewer can at least enjoy the set design and music. The Earth stories tend to rely on standard runaround fare.

In later episodes the continual put-downs of the male characters by Medusa's women simply become irritatingly predictable and demonstrate a lack of imagination in the dialogue department.

The top-notch cast try hard to make the show work but it's difficult to decide whether to admire their determination or laugh at the futility of their efforts.

On the presentation side, there has been no remastering or restoration. As such picture and sound quality vary from surprisingly good to acceptable.

Apparently "Star Maidens" was last screened in the UK in 1978 and its obscurity is hardly surprising. It's difficult to find any clear reasons to recommend it. And yet if, like me, you have a slightly perverse curiosity in the "also rans" from the golden age of television, then "Star Maidens" is certainly worth picking up before it disappears into the vaults forever.

I have awarded this DVD set three stars - two for the show itself and the presentation quality therein plus another for Delta's generous inclusion of the interview with Gareth Thomas.


Navman S90i Satellite Navigation Unit With European Mapping
Navman S90i Satellite Navigation Unit With European Mapping

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Are we nearly there yet?" - No, not quite., 17 Nov 2007
This is the first SatNav system I have bought since my lovely old Navigon Mobile Navigator 4 ("MN4") back in 2004, so I am writing this partly as a comparison between the two but mainly to see how far GPS Navigation software has come in three years...

My main reasons for selecting the S90i were the Text-to-Speech capability for voicing road names and the fact that it is just about the only unit on the market to have the Traffic Message Channel receiver built-in, hence rendering it truly "All-in-One".

Boot-up time was around 30 seconds but is now half that as I have removed all but the UK map.

The screen is clear and easy to read - even at the lowest brightness setting.

There are eleven settings for the audio volume level (was the developer a "Spinal Tap" fan?). The first one actually seems to act as a mute, while setting 2 or 3 is easily loud enough. Setting 11 will wake up the driver of the car in front of you.

On start-up, the GPS generally takes less than 20 seconds to fix your position.

The text-to-speech feature for road names did not function initially and only did so after I happened to plug the unit into my PC. (Yes, folks, this is another electrical product that assumes the user has a PC). Perhaps some sort of patch was automatically downloaded to activate it? There is no mention of this requirement in the User Guide but, as others have said, it's not the world's most comprehensive journal. Either way the Text-to-Speech is highly effective and is easily the strongest feature of the product.

Overall the voice instructions are clear and timely.

The stability of the unit has been absolutely fine - I haven't had any crashes. (Build version is 5.00.0104, build date/time: 2007-09-10, 23:40:41).

Postcode mapping seems comprehensive, though despite specifying a "QWERTY" keyboard arrangement for input, it gives you an "ABCDE" one instead. A simple bug to fix, I guess. Defining a destination via the other options is fairly intuitive (and, thankfully, the QWERTY representation is provided, as expected).

I've not had chance to fully test the Traffic Message Channel (TMC) functionality as I've not yet been on a route affected by a traffic problem - the joy of living in North Lancashire! However when I've set the unit to pick up alerts from around my region, it does a fine job in returning a nicely detailed list. The only downside is that NavMan use the Classic FM/iTIS system, of which radio reception is extremely patchy around the UK, even with a car antenna splitter cable (reckon on another GBP30 for that).

Most SatNav software offers you the ability to mark selected roads to be "avoided". NavMan goes one better: you can define rectangular areas (eg a city centre). However although you can draw the "area to avoid" with your finger, for accuracy you really need to use a stylus, something which the unit neither comes with nor has a storage receptacle for.

Initial route calculation seems commendably fast in comparison to other SatNav systems I have seen. Plotting a 250 mile route involving motorways, A-roads, town centres and country lanes takes approximately 10 seconds.

The windscreen cradle is a beautifully simple and completely effective design - no wobble at all except over very rough terrain.

I won't comment on the NavPix/camera aspects as I have no use for them. (Indeed I would have settled for the non-camera S70 model had it come with text-to-speech and TMC).

Sound pretty good so far? Well unfortunately there are plenty of problems, too...

Most people reading this will be aware that there are two main companies that supply the actual map data: NavTeq (as used by Navigon and others) and TeleAtlas. NavMan have plumped for the latter with the S90i. Unfortunately there are some serious gaffes in the mapping data within just a three-mile radius of my house. For example in plotting a route to the next village, NavMan helpfully proposes a nice short cut... across a FOOTBRIDGE(!!) and then private land. The route to my nearest motorway junction is three miles... but NavMan/TeleAtlas thinks the shortest route is actually nine because the map data is missing a particular road bridge (which was built in 1932). Of course this isn't the fault of NavMan but deficiencies in TeleAtlas data have been known about for a long time. TeleAtlas claim they have been making strides to improve the accuracy of their maps but they have clearly got some way to go. (Intriguingly NavMan's S60 unit uses NavTeq data instead).

On a similar theme, the Points Of Interest ("POI") database provided with the unit has some strange omissions. For example there is no POI for the mainline railway station in my local town, yet they are present for all the small branchline stations! When I ask it to display nearby restaurants, it shows fast-food establishments like McDonalds, KFC, Little Chef, etc but not, ahem, "real" restaurants. More seriously there are no entries for Police Stations, dentists and doctors' surgeries, despite there actually being a myriad of these in my area. On the other hand categories such as cash dispensers, petrol stations, Post Offices and hotels are well represented. In short, though, if you want food or have an emergency while driving through an area you are not familiar with, you cannot depend on this unit as supplied...

You can add missing POIs through the use of data files made available from third-party vendors. However NavMan maintains a separation between its built-in POIs (which you cannot add to or amend) and custom ones. This means that you cannot select a built-in POI category (eg "Railway Stations") or icon for your custom POIs. Nor can you "merge" data between custom and built-in POIs. This meant that in order to correct the missing railway station problem, I ended up with two categories called "Railway Stations" and duplicated POIs for those stations that NavMan already had.

NavMan need to overhaul the approach they have adopted for POIs. Otherwise my advice would be to use the Options facilty to disable all built-in POIs and download custom ones as replacements.

While the deficiencies in mapping and POI data are just for my local area, there are so many problems, I would suggest it's reasonable to assume coverage is equally patchy across the UK and Europe.

There is no facility to specify the type of vehicle (eg standard car, car towing a caravan, motorcycle, pedal cycle, lorry, pedestrian, etc) as you have with MN4 and other SatNav systems. Nor can you specify the average speeds you anticipate travelling at on particular road types. For example in the UK the maximum permissible speed on motorways is 70mph and 60mph on A-roads. This is what the unit initially assumes you will achieve. But those possessing vintage vehicles or towing a caravan or driving an HGV will progress at significantly less than this. As such the ETA initially computed by the unit for a long-distance journey will be hopelessly inaccurate. Naturally the unit continually recalculates the ETA once you are on the move but clearly this of no use if you need an estimate before you set off (for example to arrange a rendezvous with somebody or to make a delivery).

The TMC antenna socket on the unit uses a variant on the 3.5mm audio: it has four isolated sections rather than the standard three (left, right and earth). I presume this is because it doubles up as the headphones output, which is a mystery as the User Guide does not boast of any mp3 player capability. For people wanting to use the aforementioned splitter, I can't say I've ever seen a plug adaptor with the four-section arrangement. The upshot of using a standard three-sectioner is that while TMC reception works, the unit is fooled into thinking it should be outputting all voice instructions to headphones, so it is, in effect, muted. Fortunately I found I could get round this with a standard plug by inserting it into the socket as normal but then pulling it back out again a millimetre or so. The unit does come with its own loop antenna with the weird four-section plug for picking up TMC signals but these are virtually useless across much of the UK due to the low transmission power used by Classic FM.

The unit possesses reasonable ergonomics but dented by a few rough edges. Many simple operations are needlessly cumbersome and it's all too easy to put the unit into camera mode by accidentally hitting the shutter button on the top of the unit.

Zooming into or out of the map display involves more keypresses than any sane person would opt for. You have to enter "Zoom Mode" via a keypress and then press another button to actually zoom in or out. To zoom further you have to repeatedly press the key, rather than, more usefully, simply hold it down. You can achieve all this in old Navigon MN4 via single a keypress. If you pause for more than four seconds, the unit annoyingly drops out of Zoom Mode.

One feature that other SatNav systems offer is to allow the user to draw a rectangle on a portion of the screen which the unit then automatically zooms in to. NavMan do not provide this.

Overall, then, the Zoom features leave a lot to be desired.

Moving around the map is a rather clunky operation, too: you "swipe" across the screen as you would expect but before the map "moves", the software insists on drawing crosshairs at the start and end points for some reason. There is a notable pause while this is done.

The map view has several modes: 3D, 2D, Turn-by-turn List, Traffic View (ie Traffic alerts) and Entire Route View. The latter two are so similar it would have made more sense to have simply combined them into a single view. Further to the above comment regarding excessive keypresses, you can't jump to a particular view directly - you have to trawl through them all sequentially until you find the one you want. By default the map operates in 3D view, so if you want the "Entire Route" view, you have four keypresses to make.

Multi-stop trips seem to have been an afterthought. To create a new one, you go via the "Favourites" facility for some reason - hardly intuitive! Once you've constructed a list of waypoints, if you want to amend their order, you have to call up the "More Detail" screen of each one, change their position from there and then return to the list screen. It's not much of a chore but, again, unintuitive and profligate on keypresses. Surely the sensible approach would have been to have the repositioning functionality on the waypoint list screen itself? Again, old MN4 did this so much better.

Furthermore the software will only give Distance-To-Go, Time-To-Go and ETA for the next waypoint - there is no way to view the figures for the entire journey. (MN4 gives you both sets of information).

The unit is frustratingly slow to realise when you have diverted off the planned route. On one occasion I had to skip a turning due to roadworks and then drove a further 20 seconds/250 metres before it started to recalculate. (And I wasn't driving in a built-up area where my GPS position was having to be approximated.) By way of comparison my old MN4 reacted to this situation almost instantly.

Battery longevity is only about three hours in my experience - even with very low screen brightness and audio volume settings.

The unit does not come with a mains charger - you have to purchase that separately (GBP15). You do get an in-car charger, however. You can use a USB port from your PC, too, but you cannot actually use the unit in this state.

So how does S90i compare to my old MN4? It's great to have Text-to-Speech, GPS & TMC reception finally all in one "box" - that "convenience factor" is where one of my three rating stars comes in. But these are the only areas where it scores above my old Navigon software. Much else is disappointing and a backward step... or MN4 remains years ahead of its time.

In summary:

+ True "all-in-one" solution
+ Start-up and GPS fix times reasonably quick
+ Screen clarity excellent
+ Good range of audio volume level
+ Text-to-Speech for road names excellent
+ Vocal instructions clear and timely
+ Software/hardware stability faultless
+ Traffic alert functionality implemented well
+ Area-to-avoid feature highly useful
+ Route calculation fast
+ Windscreen cradle excellent

- TeleAtlas mapping errors
- POI feature poorly implemented and the data itself is useless for emergency situations
- "Standard car" only vehicle option and no feature to specify speed preferences
- Some keypress operations cumbersome to perform and/or lack intuitiveness
- Zoom feature poorly implemented
- Multi-stop trips poorly implemented
- Very slow to recognise when driver has diverged from planned route
- Cost-cutting proprietary TMC/headphone socket arrangement
- Mains charger not included

The S90i is a reasonable bit of kit. But NavMan have a lot of work to do to make it a GREAT one that I could heartily recommend. It has a range of functions that should easily satisfy the vast majority of users but many of these are undermined by poor detail implementation. Were it not for it's "All-In-One" approach, it would barely scrape a rating of 2 out of 5. Fortunately most of these problems could be addressed via downloadable software upgrades. I noticed, however, that the retail cost dropped by GBP50 just six weeks after the unit's launch. I hope this isn't a sign that NavMan are about to abandon it. Either way, unless/until the above issues are addressed, I consider the S90i to be little more than a promising "prototype".


Invaders
Invaders
Dvd ~ Roy Thinnes
Price: 8.25

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, intelligent, classy sixties sci-fi.... or sci-fact....???, 3 Nov 2007
This review is from: Invaders (DVD)
Fans of classic TV had been pleading for this show to be issued for many years and now it's finally here, has it been worth the wait?

Quite simply, YES!

Let's get the most obvious negatives poinst out of the way first as, although they need to be discussed, they are not of any degree of significance to turn potential buyers away...

The packaging artwork is of a good standard but although the man in the foreground has the face of Roy Thinnes (if you look very closely!), he is inexplicably wearing a wig!?! The other imagery bears little relation to The Invaders. In all a strange design and rather too obviously "Photoshopped".

Given that Roy Thinnes still supports the series (he is actively promoting the French releases), it is disappointing and surprising that the set contains no interview or commentaries with him. Perhaps Universal might consider this when they come to do the second season?

OK, let's move on to the good news...

British people tend to deride American television as glossy but vacant - and this is arguably true of much that emerged from the US in the 1980s. But the 1960s and 70s was an era when television scripts were imbued with grit and intelligence. The Invaders was undeniably one of the shows that brought quality to the then-burgeoning genre of TV science-fiction.

Counter to the Adonis-like actors that normally head up modern American fantasy, Roy Thinnes was deliberately cast to be the "average man in the street"... the producers were saying "This could happen to anyone". Although each episode has its share of punch-ups - and he acquits himself well in the action stakes - there are no James T Kirk heroics here. Thinnes imbues the role with a refreshing realism that audiences can readily empathise with.

Although each episode is standalone, Vincent's plight develops logically as the season progresses.

There are flaws, however: the "crooked finger" syndrome is arguably a deus-ex-machina plot device and the aliens seem to work in independent, small groups without an overall "masterplan" or control. Although there is a laudable variety in the plotlines, they tend to be straightforward with no real twists. But the relentless tension, sharp dialogue, special effects and unnerving music keep the audience hooked.

Although regarded as a "cult" show, I have no doubt that were it to be remade today (let's try to forget the dismal "television by numbers" 1995 effort), it would garner the same healthy ratings it achieved during its original screenings.

Considering this series is now over forty years old, the picture quality on this set is admirable. The colour is a little faded as with most American products of the time but image resolution has a remarkable acuity. Although there are occasional tell-tale black specks, the episodes have clearly been recently re-struck from negatives that were plainly still in great condition. (If only more British shows would receive this treatment). Sound quality is equally high.

Admittedly the series probably won't appeal to younger audiences but those of us who remember the days when television was starting to understand the importance of quality will soak this up with joy!


Strangers - The Complete Series 1 [DVD] [1978]
Strangers - The Complete Series 1 [DVD] [1978]
Dvd ~ Don Henderson
Offered by CP UK And Global LTD
Price: 29.61

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The long-lost Strangers finally come home!, 9 April 2007
Although ostensibly a spin-off from Granada's successful 1976/77 crime thriller "The XYY Man" (which has also mysteriously lain locked away in the vaults until recently), "Strangers" was a belated attempt by northern broadcaster Granada to muscle in on the cop show genre...

Contemporary series such as "The Sweeney", "The New Avengers" and "The Professionals" found favour with viewers through their pacey direction and action. Yet this first season of "Strangers" is a surprisingly laid-back affair. It clearly lacked the budget, production values and directorial panache of these other shows. So what has it got going for it?...

Essentially these early stories are character-driven. The interaction - in turns pithy and light-hearted - between the leads is what propels the narrative. Of particular note is Det-Con Linda Doran, a woman ahead of her time, pressing on with her police career, unafraid to get stuck in, jousting with the villains and commanding respect from most of her male peers, particularly Det-Con Willis. Frances Tomelty shines in the role, somehow imbuing it with real flair and yet utter naturalness - she is a joy to behold... and, to be honest, the best reason to catch this set...

The other cast members don't disappoint, though. Derek Blanch and John Ronane are solid and likeable as Willis and Det-Sgt Singer respectively. David Hargreaves nicely underplays the ineffectual Det-Insp Rainbow. Lastly, of course, the much-missed Don Henderson as Det-Sgt Bulman, gruff but sympathetic and ever-so-slightly eccentric.... traits the actor would build upon as the series progressed through its five years.

The plots in these early episodes are pretty standard fare, with the team investigating jewel thieves, fraud in the horse-racing fraternity, the suspicious death of a local journalist and a town councillor suspected of accepting bribes. Each story demonstrates the logical methodology of good old-fashioned, competent police detective work.

Anyone expecting a rival to "The Sweeney" is going to be disappointed -you'll have to wait until the third season until the action, comedy and eccentricity really start to kick in! What we have for the moment is a series finding its feet and establishing its characters. In some ways the evolution of "Strangers" mirrors that of "The Avengers".

The presentation across the DVDs is acceptable. There has been no restoration work performed and some of the filmed sequences show their age. In the main this is not a problem but the opening Granada logo and title sequence look quite battered on a few of the episodes - I can only assume they have been sourced from transmission copies (indeed the episode "Briscoe" suspiciously runs to around four minutes shorter than the others - although Network's packaging claims all episodes are complete). Those scenes shot on videotape exhibit faint vertical colour banding but are otherwise mostly free of flaws. Sound quality is fine throughout.


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