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David Swallow "David of York" (North Yorkshire, UK)
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Epson Stylus SX130 Compact All-in-One Printer (Print, Copy and Scan)
Epson Stylus SX130 Compact All-in-One Printer (Print, Copy and Scan)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can't go wrong for less than 30, 1 Feb 2012
In the month or so that I have owned this printer, I have literally only used it two or three times. Therefore I am probably not the best person to provide a comprehensive review! However, I will say that the few times I have used the printer, it has printed black and white and colour perfectly, without a blemish. It wasn't as noisy as people have made out either - about what you'd expect from a cheap printer. Be careful when purchasing a USB cable to go with the printer. It must be an A (Flat) to B (Square) USB cable, not an A to A as I assumed. Other than that, this seems to be a perfectly decent budget printer. At less than 30, even if it did go wrong or new cartridges become too expensive, you won't have wasted a lot of money!


Confessions of a Conjuror
Confessions of a Conjuror
by Derren Brown
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars From mind-bending to mind-numbing, 9 Sep 2011
What a curious oddity this book is.

One imagines the publishers at Channel 4 anticipating huge interest in another book from mentalist Derren Brown and urging him to push out another tome. "It doesn't matter what it's about, just write something, anything - whatever comes to mind" one imagines them saying. And judging by this book, that is exactly what our favourite mind bender has done.

`Confessions of a Conjuror' is a rambling, chaotic collection of (often tedious) anecdotes brought to you by an author who wants you to be aware of such riveting topics as: his procedure for cutting his fingernails, his thoughts on the use of a handkerchief to wipe one's nose, and, as the blurb on the back cover so proudly boasts, his speculations on the manufacturing of Monster Munch. The majority of Brown's observations and revelations are so mundane and inconsequential that one can't quite decide whether he wants you to know everything about him or nothing at all.

The glue that binds this riveting trivia together is a detailed account of a magic trick performed by the author in his younger days to both intrigued and indifferent diners of a busy restaurant. Somehow Brown skilfully manages to describe the trick in great detail without giving too much away. These fascinating sections allow Brown the opportunity to demonstrate and describe his unique blend of psychology, magic, misdirection, and showmanship. They are also where his literary skills become most apparent and lead one to wonder whether a novel would have been a more appropriate outlet for Brown's talents.

Sadly, although these lucid, erudite interludes save the book from being a complete washout, they seem lost amongst the parade of Proustian moments that pepper its pages. `Confessions of a Conjurer' fails to live up to its claim of being "a refreshing alternative to autobiography that will charm and delight you" and instead leaves you wondering what its purpose actually is. Mind-numbing analyses (such as the 11-page footnote examination of elevator behaviour) are mingled with mildly amusing comedic observations and dusted with a light sprinkling of awkward autobiographical reflection. It's as if Brown wanted to shake off his mysterious mentalist persona in the most embarrassing way possible.

I was hoping that the disjointed weirdness of this book was actually building to a mind-blowing climax worthy of one of Derren's stage shows. Sadly this was not the case. Derren Brown has once again succeeded in baffling his audience but, this time, not for the right reasons.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2012 10:48 PM BST


Confessions of a Public Speaker
Confessions of a Public Speaker
by Scott Berkun
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Motivationally speaking, 21 Feb 2010
Most people hate public speaking but it would appear that Scott Berkun loves it. So much so in fact, that he left his regular job at Microsoft in order to make a full-time living out of it. Such a career move would be anathema to many of the glossophobic people at whom this book is targeted. However, Berkun imbues this short tome with enough insight, passion, and enthusiasm to inspire just about anyone to take the podium.

If you're looking for a clinical self-help guide on overcoming a fear of public speaking, this book probably isn't for you. Berkun does offer a wealth of hints, tips and suggestions on how to improve your presentations. However, the tone of the book is more reflective than prescriptive, drawing upon not only the author's own experiences, but also the collected wisdom of many other public speakers.

Similarly, don't expect a rose-tinted perspective on the joys of public speaking. Berkun highlights many notable benefits of performing for a living ($5,000 for an hour's work being one of them). However, he contrasts these with plenty of horror stories and excruciating tales of when things have gone wrong. Rather than being off-putting however, these accounts provide a perverse sense of reassurance. Learning that most people - even seasoned orators - experience an 'attack of the butterflies' somehow helps to make public speaking much less daunting and, dare I say it, enjoyable!

My only criticism of the book is that it often seems very American, due to the examples that are cited and Berkun's relentlessly upbeat 'can-do' attitude. It feels rather churlish to point this out however, as a lot of care and attention has clearly gone into creating it (even down to a wacky colophon). Scott Berkun is clearly a very talented author, and has succeeded in distilling a wealth of experience into an honest, humorous and confessional account of public speaking. Highly recommended.


VideoShield 30Gb 6th Gen
VideoShield 30Gb 6th Gen

2.0 out of 5 stars WARNING: VideoShield Offers Little Protection, 16 Jun 2009
I used to be a big fan of Agent 18 products.

Although I was originally loathed to sheath my iPod 5th Gen in a protective case, after much research I purchased the Agent 18 'VideoShield'. It was the most attractive case I could find and it impaired the design of my iPod the least. Sure, my iPod didn't look as sexy as it does out of the box, but the knowledge that my iPod would be fully protected overrode any concerns about its slightly sullied appearance.

That is until I accidentally dropped it.

Upon impact the VideoShield cracked and fell off, leaving my iPod fully exposed. This resulted in a now naked iPod hitting the hard concrete floor, leaving a dent in the metal backpiece and causing the ClickWheel to come away, exposing the iPod's circuity.

Needless to say, the iPod is now broken.

Needless to say, I am incredibly disappointed in the product.

What is the point of a protective case that shatters and comes away upon impact? Surely its sole purpose is to protect the device it encloses? Although I don't make a habit of dropping it, it wasn't an unusually hard fall, and one that I would expect a protective case to withstand. After all, I could put up with a few knocks and scuffs on the VideoShield, safe in the knowledge that it could be easily replaced. Now that my actual iPod is damaged, replacement will be a much more costly affair.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2009 4:28 PM BST


No Title Available

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh Griffin, what have you done to the iTrip Auto?, 27 April 2009
What on earth have Griffin done to the iTrip Auto?

I used to own an earlier version of the iTrip Auto, which worked perfectly until it was damaged in a car crash earlier this year. Seizing the opportunity to buy the latest version once my car had been replaced, I purchased an iTrip Auto SmartScan.

I am sad to say that I am woefully disappointed with this new product.

My first complaint is with the new SmartScan technology, which I abandoned after several attempts due to it seeming to home in on already occupied frequencies - the very opposite of what this enhancement is supposed to do!

Thankfully, I had noted down the frequencies which worked in my local area from my original iTrip Auto. Once I had manually programmed these into the new device however, the resulting signal was absolutely dreadful! I tried using the device in different positions, different locations, and even experimented with the JP / US frequency ranges, but to no avail.

After scouring the EU frequency range, I was finally able to find a frequency on which the output from my iPod was barely audible. This, however, was still accompanied by an irritating background hiss and constant crackling and static.

Having once been a very satisfied customer of the Griffin iTrip Auto, I am dismayed that Griffin have tinkered with the product to the extent that it is now unusable. Certainly, the appearance of device has been much improved - the new display is excellent and the charging light is very useful. Unfortunately, this appears to have been at the expense of the core functionality of the device.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2010 7:50 AM BST


Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth
Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth
by Andrew Smith
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Houston, we have a problem., 14 Jan 2008
Despite a stellar launch describing the agonising suspense of the first moon landing, Moondust soon plummets disappointingly back to earth. Awkwardly caught between biography and travelogue and between accurate description and personal reflection, Andrew Smith's first book suffers from the same lack of direction that has evidently plagued the space programme in recent decades.

Putting aside the occasionally sloppy writing style, tricky phrasings and an irritating "I would later discover..." narrative device, Moondust has the feel of a distended "Where are they now?" magazine article, which may be an inevitable consequence of Smith's journalistic background. Sadly, many of the interesting observations, reflections and revelations in this account are second-hand - borrowed honestly from third-party sources, the masses of existing literature on this well-trodden subject, and rarely from the nine surviving moonwalkers themselves.

Nevertheless, the informality of this book may appeal to those who cannot stomach a more factual analysis of the Apollo programme - Smith's hazy recollection of his childhood and an ongoing commentary on the political situation of America in the late 1960's certainly sets the scene for mankind's `giant leap' into the unknown. As this is forced to prop up an increasingly skimpy collection of anecdotes from each astronaut however - not to mention a disappointing no-show from the elusive Neil Armstrong - one cannot help wondering whether other accounts of the moon landings (many of which Smith teasingly references) would provide a more fulfilling exposition of this fascinating subject.


AVG Internet Security 7.5 (PC)
AVG Internet Security 7.5 (PC)

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Try Before You Buy!, 2 Dec 2007
For anyone considering purchasing AVG Internet Security, I strongly recommend first installing the trial version and giving it a through going over before handing over your money. Although I had been very impressed with the free versions of AVG Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and Anti-Rootkit, the addition of AVG Firewall and other 'improvements' in this all-in-one package inexplicably wreaked havoc on my well-specced Windows Vista machine.

Dreadful slow-downs, unresponsive applications, haphazard acceptance prompts and unrecoverable hard drive corruption caused by having to hard-reset the machine led to my swift removal of AVG Internet Security. My previous good experience of AVG applications prevents me from totally condemning this package - who knows, it may work with your particular setup - but I would certainly recommend fully backing up your system and thoroughly testing the 30-day trial version before comitting your entire system security to AVG.


AVG Internet Security Home Edition (3 User Licence, 2 Years) (PC)
AVG Internet Security Home Edition (3 User Licence, 2 Years) (PC)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Try Before You Buy!, 2 Dec 2007
For anyone considering purchasing AVG Internet Security, I strongly recommend first installing the trial version and giving it a through going over before handing over your money. Although I had been very impressed with the free versions of AVG Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware and Anti-Rootkit, the addition of AVG Firewall and other 'improvements' in this all-in-one package inexplicably wreaked havoc on my well-specced Windows Vista machine.

Dreadful slow-downs, unresponsive applications, haphazard acceptance prompts and unrecoverable hard drive corruption caused by having to hard-reset the machine led to my swift removal of AVG Internet Security. My previous good experience of AVG applications prevents me from totally condemning this package - who knows, it may work with your particular setup - but I would certainly recommend fully backing up your system and thoroughly testing the 30-day trial version before comitting your entire system security to AVG.


CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions
CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions
by Andy Budd
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No Complaints, 27 May 2006
As the majority of web designers and developers will testify, when it comes to creating CSS-based websites that adhere to current web standards, the Internet is currently a somewhat precarious mine field, littered with numerous technological tripwires and unexploded browser bugs just waiting to blow your careful positioning to smithereens.

Fortunately, due to the sustained efforts of the global web community to identify and document the potential pitfalls of modern day web design, the majority of hazards have been safely overcome. Consequently, the bookmarks or del.icio.us repositories of the average web designer/developer are stuffed full of links to a plethora of CSS hacks, filters and innovative workarounds.

For those users wishing to de-clutter their list of Favourites however, they should look no further than CSS Mastery in which Andy Budd attempts to collect together all of the latest tips, tricks and techniques into one handy volume. From rounded corners to fluid layouts, via drop-shadows, image replacement and accessible forms, Budd covers all of those fiddly little techniques that you know you know but you can't always remember. Cross-browser inaccuracies are also extensively addressed along with numerous ways to circumvent them, and the book concludes with two (brief) case studies by Cameron Moll and Simon Collison, in which the majority of the techniques introduced in the book are brought to life.

The book is not without its own bugs and inconsistencies however, and those expecting a thorough dissection of Cascading Style Sheets may be disappointed by the book's strong emphasis upon current "tips tricks and techniques" and other presentational workarounds. Consequently CSS Mastery is recommended to those who already know what they are doing rather than any newcomers to the field. Earlier editions also suffered badly from a disappointing number of typographical errors and technical inaccuracies, which may bewilder any CSS novices. I am pleased to note however, that the vast majority of these have been corrected in later editions.

Whilst perhaps not an essential purchase for those already familiar with the tips and tricks it presents, and despite being a relative latecomer to a somewhat saturated market of CSS publications, CSS Mastery is a useful resource for anyone who is sick of scouring the Internet for the solution to a particular browser oddity or a fancy presentational enhancement.


Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity
Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity
by Jakob Nielsen
Edition: Paperback
Price: 30.59

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Designing Web Usability... In The 20th Century, 30 April 2006
Having read the wealth of positive reviews for this book, both on Amazon and on various industry websites, I assumed that 'Designing Web Usability' would be the ultimate purchase for those interested in usability and related practices.

Had I made this assumption about five or six years ago, I may have been correct.

Sadly, this book is let down by an extremely dated outlook, which belies the author's "future-proof" claim that the principles advocated in this book will remain important regardless of technological progression. Certainly, some of the broader doctrines it advocates will always retain their relevance (such as the importance of creating simple user-centric designs) but these are sadly obscured by some spurious predictions and a seemingly complete lack of foresight towards some of the major advancements in web technology (such as the massive uptake of broadband, and the use of CSS for anything other than styling fonts and table cells).

Such woeful inaccuracies could be overlooked by virtue of the fact that this book was first published in 1999 (not an incredibly long time in any other subject matter, but an entire lifetime in the field of web design). Nevertheless, if an author is willing to retain a book on the market (without any significant overhaul other than a pithy preface) then they must be prepared to face the criticism, comparison and scrutiny that will inevitably ensue. Thus, despite the bet-hedging get-out clauses with which the author laces his final chapter, statements as ludicrous as "we have to wait until approximately the year 2007 for books to go away and be fully replaced with online information", will always colour the reader's judgment towards the book's other less questionable claims.

In summary, you are likely to find free, up-to-date, and much more relevant information from various locations on the Internet (Jakob Nielsen's website - [...] - included); and more concise and less spurious information from books such as Steve Krug's "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach To Web Usability". For a snapshot of pre-21st Century web usability however, this may be the book for you!


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