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Logitech Wireless Illuminated Keyboard K800
Logitech Wireless Illuminated Keyboard K800
Offered by Prompt Electronics
Price: £70.00

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor ergonomics, poor quality, 9 Mar 2012
It's sad, this keyboard has almost everything to please, just to be ruined by a few bad decisions.

The thin and silent keys are a pleasure to use, really. The illuminated keys, though not at all the primary reason why I acquired this keyboard, is a nice touch - and it's also good to be able to control it from the keyboard itself. Finally, the overall look is a success, a very modern look with a good position and correct dimensions.

The robustness seems very good too, coming from a Microsoft Comfort Curve keyboard which is all the opposite (very good ergonomics but poor quality) it's a world of difference, though only a long-term use will tell.

But apparently Logitech stopped being sensible at some point and removed the context menu in favour of an awkward programmable FN key, which is redundant with the launch menu on Windows 7 (or the numerous applications out there that already offer similar quick launch ability). Now the context menu becomes an outcast with an awkward combination of this FN key and another one on the right of the top row... too bad for those who, like me, use it regularly because it is much quicker than accessing the same functionality with the mouse.

Gone also is the right Windows key. Instead of this Windows key, the space bar is now one key longer on the right side than on the left side, when compared to a normal keyboard or simply in regard with the central position of the hands. This means you will hit it quite a few times instead of the context... sorry, instead of the FN key because of this asymmetry. But I wager this is just a matter of getting used to it (and anyway, the context menu key is gone, better get used to it). Fortunately they didn't go as far as removing the left Windows key, hopefully that's the one most users are used to press. Maybe in the next version?

Also, the top row containing the function key has a ridiculously small height, one might wonder why they would make it less convenient. It also contains the Insert key that is usually above the arrow keys, I'm still puzzled as to why it had to move there, was Logitech afraid people could miss the Delete key and press Insert instead? That's a mystery. Still, this is better than the previous ill trend by Logitech to re-arrange the Home/End/PgUp/PgDn/Ins/Del keys. At least the other keys are safely back to their normal places on this keyboard!

To make it worse, they swapped the labels of the function keys F1 - F12 with the orange symbols of the default FN combinations that are now erroneously on the top of the keys. This is confusing when you look for a particular function key, though with a bit of practice you can access those keys without looking, like the rest of the keyboard.

Also to notice the Num lock, Caps lock, Scroll lock status indicators that have been put at the bottom right of the keyboard, where they are barely visible to the user: you move your right hand to enter a number, then ask yourself "is Num lock on?" Bad luck, it's now hidden under your paw! Another anti-ergonomic decision.

TIP: I don't recommend installing the Setpoint software (6.32 at the time of writing), as it will display an invasive pop-up every time you press Caps lock, Num lock, volume and similar keys. Apparently this is not configurable, love it or hate it (which seems to be the MO of Logitech these days). If you are fine with the default FN + <function key> combinations, they are already available without this piece of software, and their reprogramming ability is quite limited anyway.

So in conclusion, as with their mouse equipped with badly working wheels, Logitech keep mixing up very good and very bad design principles in their products, yet it would be so simple.

Consider carefully whether this would suit your habits before buying.

** UPDATE **

After a few days I realized the pressure / contact curves were inconsistent across the keyboard, the left SHIFT and CTRL keys weren't always registered if not pressed very hard.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 19, 2014 6:27 PM BST

Assassin's Creed Revelations - Collector’s Edition (PC DVD)
Assassin's Creed Revelations - Collector’s Edition (PC DVD)

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Old soundtrack?, 14 Dec 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Heads up:

Don't buy the collector edition for the soundtrack, it's actually only 12 old tracks from the previous games. The claim that this is the game original soundtrack is a plain lie, which earns this edition a one-star. I find Ubisoft's marketing of this last release dubious to say the least (animus edition artificially limited to some countries, late and better version of the encyclopedia sold separately - not too expensive but with a surprisingly high shipping cost, now the dummy soundtrack issue...).

They are going so far in exploiting their franchise that they forget the end users. But then, it's not new from Ubisoft Montreal.

For those interested, you can find the 80 tracks of the game, including the theme, on iTunes (or elsewhere...).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 10, 2012 12:13 AM BST

Hewlett Packard HP50G Graphing Calculator
Hewlett Packard HP50G Graphing Calculator
Offered by Apple Gear
Price: £59.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still not up to original HP standard, 9 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
There is admittedly an effort since the terrible HP-48gII, HP-49 and similar low-quality calculators made by HP.

Despite the small Enter key, a cheap overall aspect with a pervasive synthetic smell, the HP-50g seems to be a good product: the keyboard is fine and looks reliable so far, it is quite bug-free and powerful, features an extensive library, and even offers an algebraic alternative to people who are afraid of the RPN mode.

It is possible to search the Internet to configure the calculator so it behaves more like the HP-48S/G series, however you will find inconsistencies with some menus that persist to show as a pop-up instead of a soft menu. Also, help exists for a subset of the functions, but not all of them which is strange.

The calculator is accompanied with an USB cable, which is nice when you remember the HP-48 wasn't provided with an RS-232 cable and you had to buy it at an expensive price back then (or build it yourself). But on the other hand, this is not quite USB but a hack to pass RS-232 signals over USB that needs a specific software from HP on the PC side (and the appropriate settings on the HP-50g otherwise the communication will fail). There is also an SD card reader, I couldn't really test it yet since it doesn't like my 8 GB card and I haven't bought a smaller one for the occasion (note that the HP-50g will only use up to 1 GB even if your card is larger). So little improvements on that side, but not quite there yet.

The biggest complain I have with this product is the absolute lack of documentation. This high-end calculator is sold in a cheap plastic packaging (careful not to hurt yourself trying to remove it from its package!), and no documentation save a ridiculous quick start guide. The documentation is partly on the CD-ROM, though if you want the User Manual you will have to look for it on HP's website. So if you don't happen to have a computer with you, you can't access the documentation. And if you do happen to have a computer, well, you have to read it on a screen - not the most comfortable situation.

I am a long-time user of HP calculators: HP-41CX, HP-11C, HP-15C, HP-48SX... and they all were wonderful products, provided with extensive manuals and a quick reference, plus a nice case or pouch to protect the device. All that packaged in a box, in which you could store everything safely. All this quality experience is now gone and you have the overall impression of buying a low-cost product, that smells of low-quality plastic (literally!).

Come on, HP, everybody is telling you the same, don't you listen? Do you really want to climb down into the same low-end park as other TI, Sharp, ... compagnies?

That being said, this is still a very powerful tool, and I'm sure it will fulfill any student's or professional's requirements in that regard.

Sennheiser PX 200-II Foldable Closed Mini On-Ear Headphone - Black
Sennheiser PX 200-II Foldable Closed Mini On-Ear Headphone - Black
Offered by electricshop UK
Price: £59.99

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Low quality product, 5 Dec 2011
Uncomfortable to the ears and head.

The bandwidth is of low quality, it audibly dampens the low and high frequencies (10 Hz - 21000 Hz in the specs, which is already not very good to start with).

Despite its claim to block the external noises, this headset is uncomfortably warm but doesn't isolate much from the outside noise.

To avoid if you're looking for a high-fidelity product.

No Title Available

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Precise but very annoying mouse wheel, 2 Jun 2011
This Logitech mouse could have been good, if not for the scroll wheel.

It has two modes you can toggle with the button below the wheel. In the first one, the wheel produces worrying clanging noises when one scrolls with it, and offers too much resistance to be comfortable.

In the other, "free" mode, there is absolutely no restraint and, while it's easier to scroll fast through a huge page, it induces parasitic scrolling on its own with the mouse movements which can be very awkward so you have to keep a finger on it and try to keep it steady... too bad as the idea was actually a good one.

Bottom line, the scroll wheel is useless as implemented now. To avoid.

Mad Men - Seasons 1-4 [DVD]
Mad Men - Seasons 1-4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Hamm
Price: £53.24

10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great show, noisy DVD, 28 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mad Men - Seasons 1-4 [DVD] (DVD)
The show is absolutely great, with realistic characters and a very well rendered atmosphere. It's very interesting to see how the characters evolve in the 60's, especially the balance of power between them, the changing role of women and how hard it is for them to break through the glass ceiling.

The package includes several worthy documentaries and bonuses too.

Sadly enough, the DVD supports themselves are of a bad quality, most of them haven't been balanced properly and vibrate excessively in the player, which makes it almost necessary to rip them if you want to get rid of the noise. Two stars removed because of that.

Spooks - BBC Series 8 (New Packaging) [DVD]
Spooks - BBC Series 8 (New Packaging) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Firth
Price: £7.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shaken, 22 Mar 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Another season of one of the greatest series, in which quite a few dramatic developments occur during the 8 episodes. The main plot, first veiled with a few random episodes linking the last season to this one and dealing with the past of some of the main characters, comes to the foreground in a crescendo and reaches its climax in the last episode.

Great as always, even if four of the eight episodes are almost completely ruined by one of the worst camera works I have ever seen, thanks to Alrick Riley's (mis)directing - I hope never to see that name again! And indeed, it was a relief to hear they learned from their mistake and steered clear of Riley's botched technique in season 9.

Sadly it only deserves two stars because of that, but still, it's worth watching - just skip the shaky scenes when you feel on the edge of giving in to nausea.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2011 4:48 PM GMT

Nokia 2720 Fold Sim Free Mobile Phone
Nokia 2720 Fold Sim Free Mobile Phone
Offered by e-Ranger
Price: £45.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 30 Oct 2010
Practically, this model has a few drawbacks in its daily use:
- the numeric keyboard is sensitive, which is quite annoying, real keyboards give a much better response
- the navigation pad is one of the worst I have seen, it's so easy to click on the main central button instead of the directional pad (or the other way round)
- the numbers and letters on the numeric pad are barely visible except at a very specific angle depending on lighting conditions
- menus are not always very accessible for the most commonly used functions, though this is not a big issues
- no shortcuts for the menus, though they exist in other models (?)

The sound is not quite good either, the internal speaker, as the "external" one, give much room for guessing instead of actually understanding what is said.

The worst of all is probably the way items are displayed. Not only is the display not very good in quality, but there is no way to change the settings when it comes to how fast the display is shut off (both main display and cover, the latter only shows for a couple of seconds...). Some messages like the lock warning, is only flashed for a few tens of a second.

Overall, this makes the Nokia 2720 a cheap and not-so-easy-to-use device. It is as if Nokia put a badly designed interface on purpose only to justify a lower price, disappointing and not recommended.

Need For Speed: Shift (PC DVD)
Need For Speed: Shift (PC DVD)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £13.12

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Trade-offs, 30 Aug 2009
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
NFS Shift is fun, yet it suffers from several trade-offs that ultimately left me with mixed feelings about the game. It is a good runner up candidate to GRID, but is not quite there yet.

The graphics, music and sound effects are very good, on the same level as GRID, with perhaps more details in the track design. Special care has been taken to make the player feel more immersed in the car environment: the scene will blur with speed, shocks will make the pilot moan with pain, his breathing getting heavier and the vision troubled for a few seconds.

As mentioned many times, this instalment of the NFS franchise claims its spot somewhere between simulation and arcade. It really is arcade with a more accurate driving model, but it is very forgiving: even with the damage settings on "full", your car will be able to sustain deadly crashes with at worst an annoying steering offset. GRID does a far better job of persuading the player they should take care of their car, even if it doesn't charge for the repairs either.

Throwing in an RPG-like experience and style (though simplistic it turns out to be) is fine, but the presentation is definitely arcade and flashy icons. Even the career, which is short and easy to undertake, gives a feeling that the whole game was designed with one priority in mind: the player should be given what they want here and now, no patience required, guaranteed zero frustration - or almost. Idiot-proof if you will.

The game interface is fine but not very flexible, once again GRID offers a better, more intuitive control in the menus, the game flow and the replay system. The loading times are rather long and much patience is needed in multi-track events - the cars themselves seem to take a lot of time to load when you select them in the showroom, 5 to 10 seconds on average.

When will we see a game like NFS Porsche Unleashed again? It was nine years ago, and was superior in those areas. Is the realism achieved by the current graphics card an excuse not to pay attention to the gameplay? Or is it the desire to hit a wider audience?

Yet, as said before NFS Shift does provide a lot of fun despite its shortcomings, there is no denying it. And it includes the old Nürburgring in the track list, which is not common and grants some kudos to the development team!

Then comes the issue of privacy, and since this is only mentioned in small characters on the last page of the manual - not in the license terms shown at the installation hence probably nowhere to see for those who buy the download version only - I think it deserves a fair warning. This title incorporates the dynamic advertisement feature by Massive (now owned by Microsoft), that sends data over Internet to Massive servers in order to send back optimally-targeted ads in the game. Besides the obvious security issues, I'm amazed this doesn't rise more concern from customers who pay the full price for an adware, or that it is even legal without an option to turn it off. But there you are, it is apparently the new trend to come.

This game would have deserved a 3-4 stars but for the last point. If you don't care about this kind of considerations and don't feel abused, that's the score you should see instead of 2.

Python Essential Reference (Developer's Library)
Python Essential Reference (Developer's Library)
by David M. Beazley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.75

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent reference to get the maximum out of Python, 13 Aug 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The author of Python Essential Reference is David Beazley, who among other occupations created the open-source SWIG tool and the WAD mixed-languages debugger. His background is pervading throughout the book, in which the reader gets a clear sense of what is happening behind the Python programming language and learns how to use it efficiently instead of considering it as a black box.

The first 20 pages give an overview of the language and although it is called a "tutorial introduction", it should be understood that its purpose is for a programmer to see what Python looks like, and not for a novice to get their first programming course.

The next 156 pages offer a thorough review of the language and its environment. This is a very interesting part and should not be skipped even by people who already know Python. I said "review" but an experienced programmer should be able to learn the language by reading those chapters and putting them into practice with extra exercises.

Instead of simply describing the language, the author also hands out tricks of the trade, showing how to acquire good coding habits while using an sensible approach regarding the performance, which is often essential in a dynamic language. The fourth edition is focusing on version 2.6 but offers some historical perspective by pointing out several elements that were recently improved, or which are about to change in upcoming versions.

The first part of the book concludes with useful recommendations on program debugging and profiling.

The second part contains 388 pages and goes through the Python library, presenting the essential modules together with examples, notes and advices. After all, this is a reference, so we shouldn't expect any less.

Last but not least, the third part comprises 30 pages of precious information on Python/C interface for extending the language or embedding it in larger applications.

An appendix introduces version 3 for those who are ready to make the leap.

For the sake of completeness, if I were to make any reproach or wish for improvement, it would probably be on the overall presentation (and would be a very minor one). The style in the code excerpts could be more consistent in the first part of the book, and the second part could do with more emphasis on the ... reference ... character of the text, perhaps by providing a more convenient way to navigate through the different modules and by using more obvious styles for the different parts. I sometimes had the impression of reading a long listing of modules and methods instead of looking through a reference book. While the contents is superior to other references like "Python in a Nutshell", I found it easier to retrieve what I needed with the latter - a bit on the brink of obsolescence today - than I do now with the former.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone desirous of improving their programming skills in Python, or having to write optimized code because performance is an issue.

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