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Freecom 31973 1TB Hard Drive XS USB 2.0 3.5 Inch External Hard Drive Black
Freecom 31973 1TB Hard Drive XS USB 2.0 3.5 Inch External Hard Drive Black

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silent, fast, great value for money, 24 Dec. 2010
I bought the Freecom 31973 Hard Drive XS 1TB USB-2 three months ago after my 4 year old Western Digital external drive died. After learning that external hard drives released in the past couple of years - across all manufacturers, even the best - have a notoriously high failure rate I did a lot of research and identified Freecom as the manufacturer which seemed to attract the fewest complaints. I phoned Freecom before buying the product to enquire about the reason for the comparatively short warranty on this particular model, and to ask about the unusual design. I spoke to an engineer who told me that the warranty decision was taken purely to keep the price down, and that the cooling system is identical on this drive and on other Freecom drives with longer warranties. He also explained that the design is fanless and reassured me that these drives do dissipate heat effectively through the rubber cases. He also pointed out that the sealed case means that the drive cannot be damaged by dust. I found him so clear and informative that, together with Freecom's excellent no-nonsense website, the phonecall contributed to my decision to buy the drive. I must also admit that I found the competitive price and Freecom's strapline of "innovative German quality" rather appealing.

The drive comes preformatted as FAT32 but immediately after installing it, I reformatted it to NTFS. I'm happy with it to date and I'm certainly glad that I bought it. It is almost silent, and it runs faster than the WD drive I owned before. While being used very heavily the case becomes warm to the touch, which shows that heat dissipation is taking place, but most of the time it feels quite cool. However I have to say that I'm not so thrilled with its appearance. A soft black rubber case which readily attracts dust is not ideal for me. Still, that's merely a cosmetic consideration. A worse annoyance is that the cable supplied is very short indeed - 23 inches - so that I have no choice about where to position the drive. Freecom really should supply a cable twice as long. Also, there is a slight problem with the USB connector. It feels slightly loose, so it's crucial to place the drive where there's no danger whatsover that the cable will be accidentally dislodged.

I use my Freecom drive exclusively for backup, and I use my own backup software, so I can't comment on the software supplied by the manufacturer. I'd like to put in a strong alternative recommendation for Karen's Replicator. It's 100% freeware, fully featured, highly configurable, long established, well-supported, has a small footprint, plays nicely with network drives, and is solidly reliable and very fast indeed. Once you've set up your schedule, you can forget about it and relax. It's brilliant. I've been using it for years and it's saved the day for me on quite a few occasions.

In summary, although there are a couple of niggles about the physical design, this is a good product, offering great value for money. I intend to buy Freecom again in future.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2012 4:15 AM GMT


At the Chime of a City Clock
At the Chime of a City Clock
by D.J. Taylor
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Light on crime and mystery, heavy on 1930s popular culture, 22 Dec. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Named as it is after one of my favourite songs by Nick Drake, I was predisposed to enjoy this novel. I thought the cover was very appealing, but it all went downhill from there. The novel is set in London in the 1930s, and is billed as a kind of pastiche period thriller. However all the expected elements of a crime novel - suspense, excitement, mystery - are noticeably lacking, and instead the book leans strongly towards being an account of social and literary history. The author has a tendency to namedrop people and brand names of the period, very heavily, and 1930s slang is generously ladled on for good measure. This is all very well if you're absolutely fascinated by 1930s popular culture, but if like me you were hoping for a well constructed thriller, then you'll probably be disappointed. Not too bad, and not badly written, but not exciting either.


Two Serious Ladies
Two Serious Ladies
by Jane Bowles
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Original, unpredictable, rather dreamlike novel, 21 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The story of Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield, who meet at a New York party, both looking for social escape, and self determination. Each descends into debauchery, one abandoning her husband for a Panamanian prostitute and the world of bars and brothels, the other one becoming a call girl herself, engaging in sexual submission to strange men. From the perspective of the modern reader, needless to say, the path these characters have chosen to seek their independence from men is more than a little difficult to understand. Still, this novel has a certain fascination and wit, and an engaging unpredictability. Jane Bowles' highly original writing style could be described as dreamlike or even hallucinatory. Not a light or easy read, but for the open minded reader, perhaps a rewarding one.


Bestseller
Bestseller
by Alessandro Gallenzi
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Darkly comic, very caustic, rather grotesque, 21 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Bestseller (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I imagine that this darkly comic and sardonic tale might be enjoyed by anyone working in the publishing industry. I don't, and I found it very hard to engage with. The characters are rather heartless, the dialogue is somewhat bilious, the writing is decidedly grotesque. The novel is set in London and London placenames appear on almost every page, but as a Londoner, I did not recognise the city in these pages. I did not even recognise my fellow human beings. There is a great deal of grimacing and clever manoevering, very little atmosphere, and not much in the way of humanity. A streak of misanthropy, a mile wide. Not recommended.


When We Collide
When We Collide
Price: £0.99

63 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X Factor frustration - don't let it cloud your opinion of Matt Cardle, 13 Dec. 2010
This review is from: When We Collide (MP3 Download)
This is a soft focus, X-Factor-filterised version of a great song by Biffy Clyro, whose own version of the song should have triumphed in the charts and didn't. Actually it's one of Biffy Clyro's less amazing songs, so let me take this opportunity to recommend that you listen to their other music. I've seen them play live, and they blew me away.

Getting back to Matt Cardle. For the first time, the X Factor has produced a winner who was, before signing up to the Cowell sausage machine, an independent singer-songwriter with his own unsigned band, Seven Summers, and an album by the same name. Seventeen years of struggling in the wilderness led Matt to sign up for a shot at X Factor glory and despite all the odds he made it to the final and won the thing. Who would have thought it! A guy with not the slightest interest in projecting a mainstream pop image, or in singing cheesy pop songs. Every single song that he's sung in the contest was a great original that deserved promotion and rediscovery.

So what do you do when a talented singer-songwriter who's spent many years being ignored tries to use a channel like the X Factor just to get some attention and success for both themselves and the music they love. Well you can either turn your back on them, and sneer like a true elitist, or you can cheer them on. Personally I'm taking the latter option. It's not the fault of musicians like Matt that the X Factor has such a toxic hold on popular taste. Matt himself has done nothing whatsoever to promote bad music during his X Factor run. He's stayed true to himself and has produced some lovely work, which looked very out of place on the show. In my opinion, Matt is the beginning of an answer to the X Factor problem. He can write songs, he can play a guitar, and he has a remarkable voice.

This is probably the worst track that Matt has ever been involved with, thanks to the horrible X factor production, but he is still a talented singer and he deserves a listen. If you want X Factor to lose in the Christmas singles race, fair enough, but go and have a listen to Seven Summers' album Seven Summers. That's the one that I bought, and I love it.

Well done Matt. Hope you escape from the Syco machine quickly.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 28, 2010 2:10 PM GMT


Lip Service - Series 1 [DVD]
Lip Service - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laura Fraser
Price: £7.00

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and watchable. Not the British L Word, more like the lesbian This Life., 17 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Lip Service - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
Before you've seen Lip Service for yourself, keep an open mind. I was told that it is closely modelled on the L Word, and having now watched the first series, I don't agree. Yes, there are similarities. The main characters are a group of friends including three lesbian and bisexual women. There's a striking, androgynous central character, Frankie, who is highly promiscuous and emotionally damaged - obviously some bells will ring there, recalling the L Word's Shane. There's also a lot of sex scenes, and wry humour. And the actors are, without exception, gorgeous. However, that's as far as the comparison goes. There is a big difference between the streets of Glasgow, where Lip Service is set, and the L Word film sets in Vancouver, masquerading as West Hollywood. Lip Service is made by Kudos, who also make Spooks for the BBC, which should give you a feeling for its production values. It has a great sound track of well chosen indie music. Lip Service doesn't engage with sensationalist topics and themes like the L Word - it focuses mainly on relationships and personal demons, and it is grittier and darker than the L Word. Frankie is far more damaged and self destructive than Shane; throughout much of this series she's right on the edge. The gloss and glamour is restrained, and the social milieu is different. Two of the main characters are straight men, wrestling with their own life problems. In fact, if I was going to draw a parallel between Lip Service and another drama series, the one that most strongly comes to mind is This Life. Yes, I really do think Lip Service is that good. There's room for improvement, but I like this programme a lot. I don't know whether a second series has been commissioned, but I hope so. I cared about these characters increasingly as the series progressed, and I want to see them again. So this is a strong recommendation. If you enjoy well made, edgy, modern urban relationship dramas, with excellent acting and engaging characters, then buy this DVD.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2010 5:44 PM GMT


Career Reboot: 24 Tips for Tough Times
Career Reboot: 24 Tips for Tough Times
by John Lees
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise, practical and positive, 18 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book contains clear, concise, practical advice on how to approach the job market. The best and most comprehensive aspects of the book are focussed on writing an effective CV, staying positive and maintaining a proactive approach to the job search. I think the chapters on interviews and seeking the right role are too brief and cursory, but for the most part, it's good encouraging stuff, and difficult to fault.

I particularly like the sensible emphasis throughout on staying in touch with other people, seeking out face-to-face conversations, making new contacts, and not being frightened to ask for help. In the hazardous world of unemployment, that way lies sanity.

If you're facing a search for a new job, you really could do a great deal worse than starting here. This book will certainly point you in the right direction, and has the added value of being very concise. If you have the discipline and energy to follow John Lees' advice closely, I would be optimistic about your chances of finding a new and better job.


Escape from Corporate Hell: Unlock Your Potential and Love Your Work
Escape from Corporate Hell: Unlock Your Potential and Love Your Work
by Pamela Slim
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, practical and inspirational, 16 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is an excellent choice for anyone contemplating a move into self employment. It starts off with a cool, well-balanced look at life in the corporate world and offers astute observations on why "a good job" can be so difficult to leave, even when it has become frustrating or even soul destroying. It addresses the fears of leaving, and the aftermath, and then offers a solid, practical and helpful guide to approaching entrepreneurship or self employment for the first time, with useful sections on business planning and finance. It is well written and insightful, with a pleasingly light touch and a gentle sense of humour.

The review copy I have offers no information about the author on the blurb. So I'll point out that Pamela Slim is also responsible for Escape from Cubicle Nation, a highly regarded career blog, and was a former corporate manager in Silicon Valley. She has ten years' experience as an entrepreneur and independent consultant on business transformation and personal change, has lived and worked in Europe and South America as well as the USA, speaks four languages, and also teaches martial arts. The book is written for an international audience and is perfectly suitable for British readers.

The man who wrote the foreword to this book said, "Think of it as a good, hard reality check." That's true, but I would also describe it as quietly inspirational. I warmly recommend it.


Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead
Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead
by Nancy Ancowitz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Condescending, parochial and crass, 16 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Other recent reviewers have hit the nail on the head. This immensely annoying book is condescending, parochial in its US-centrism, relentlessly commercial in tone, and affects a grating sycophantic familiarity with the people name-dropped within. The core problem is this: it starts out with the undefended assumption that all introverts suffer from an acute lack of self esteem, and runs with it. And runs, and runs.

To give you just a small taste of the author's style, Chapter One is entitled "Your Negative Self Talk: Tuning Out U-Suck Radio". A typical sentence reads "At the Self-Promotion for Introverts® workshops I offer for adults at New York State University, most of my students - who include entrepreneurs, architects, psychotherapists, artists, computer programmers, investment bankers, Harvard-educated lawyers, marketing executives, corporate managers, and non-profit directors - anonymously share their negative self-talk messages on index cards." The title of the workshop as a registered trademark is a charming touch, don't you think.

Perhaps there is a well-meaning intention behind this book, and perhaps some non-American readers will manage to see past the barrage of commercial brashness and US-centricity, and derive some useful advice from it. I doubt it. Personally I found it obnoxious. One for the recycling bin.


PopCo
PopCo
by Scarlett Thomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, quirky and likeable - an interesting and clever novel, 9 April 2010
This review is from: PopCo (Paperback)
This was the first novel by Scarlett Thomas I've read, and I loved it. Her writing style is idiosyncratic, her voice is passionate, and she positively fizzes with ideas. While reading PopCo I found myself entertained, impressed, and occasionally provoked into self reflection.

PopCo is constructed around two interwoven timelines. In one, the main character, Alice Butler, is raised by her grandparents (wartime code breakers and mathematicians, with personal links to Alan Turing, no less) to become an expert in codes, ciphers and related mathematical topics. In the other, the grown-up Alice, now a toy designer at a global corporation called PopCo, attends a company event in a remote mansion on Dartmoor, and then finds herself assigned to a resident team tasked with secretly developing a new product for teenage girls.

The narrative weaves back and forth between Alice's relationship with her beloved grandparents, her strategies to survive the ruthless social environment at school, her struggles with her conscience, and her curious, mostly detached but sometimes passionate interactions with colleagues. Throughout the book, there are detailed discursions upon cryptology, complete with tables and diagrams. At one point, there is a story within a story concerning a seventeenth century orphan-turned-sailor-turned-pirate, and the mystery of some lost treasure. Somehow, all these disparate threads are woven together to sparkling effect. The notion that PopCo is a toy and games company is really the jewel in the crown. This ingenious device allows Alice's childhood, so deeply concerned with codes, secrecy and personal allegiances, and with striving for personal integrity in the face of social pressures to conform, to dovetail neatly with her adult life - game design, game playing, the codewords and uniforms of corporate culture, the marketing of brands as identities, and the minefield of personal relationships.

The book is by no means flawless. The author attributes an enthusiasm for homeopathy to Alice which sits oddly with a passion for mathematics and logic. Several of the characters are strident evangelists for veganism, all speaking with a single voice, much to the detriment of the book. The end story is based on a highly unlikely scenario. But despite these niggles, there's something engaging, quirky and likeable about this novel. It's worth reading just for the cleverly observed portrayal of PopCo, the corporation, with all of its complexity, game playing and social engineering. PopCo is an original, thought provoking and enjoyable book, and I warmly encourage every open minded person to read it.


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