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The Happy Space Invader

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iStand Small Rubber Desk Stand for iPod and iPhone - DARK BLUE [Electronics]
iStand Small Rubber Desk Stand for iPod and iPhone - DARK BLUE [Electronics]
Offered by CPR Distribution
Price: £1.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fine for as long as it works, which isn't long, 4 Jan. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A great idea and a neat device with one small flaw, depending on how you want to use it.

The flaw is that no matter what you do, the sucker comes free from the iPhone 4, iPod Touch after about 30 minutes and from the iPhone 5 after about 5 minutes.

I'm not sure what the problem is - I have other things around the house successfully stuck to shiny surfaces with a rubber sucker (a shower unit hanging basket with loads of stuff in it, a bathroom radio, a thermometer on the kitchen window) and they stay there for months/years.

With the iPhone 5, the problem is obviously that the back is not glass. I tried with a clear plastic case and got marginally better results, but still only around the 30 minute mark.

My very unscientific guess is that the rubber this thing is made from is either too elastic or does not have enough friction, thus the force of the sucker contracting to its original state overcomes the friction between the rubber and the glass it is attached to.

Such a shame, because the design is otherwise brilliant.

Melanie's Marvelous Measles
Melanie's Marvelous Measles
by Stephanie Messenger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.82

68 of 74 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Irresponsible, 4 Jan. 2013
First, Measles is a very serious disease which, in around a third of all cases can cause the development of serious complications in children under 5 years of age. The chance of encephalitus (serious brain inflammation) is 1/1000 and the death rate is 2/1000. Sound like low odds? Imagine a two revolvers - one with 500 chambers and the other with 1,000,000 chambers: someone puts a single bullet in one chamber of each gun, spins both barrels and then asks you which one you want to fire at your child's head. Which gun do you choose? The one with a 1 in 500 chance of killing your child or the one with a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of killing your child?

The 500 chamber gun is Measles and the 1,000,000 chamber gun is the MMR vaccine. By not choosing the latter, you are explicitly choosing the former. Except that in fact the 1/1,000,000 with MMR is that of a serious allergic reaction, not death... and the odds are actually less than one in a million.

If still not conviced, you can find out all you need to know about this book from the following improbably dumb statement by the author, demonstrating her complete ignorance as to how vaccination/immunisation works, or how diseases are spread.

"Having raised three children vaccine-free and childhood disease-free, I have experienced many times when my children's vaccinated peers succumb to the childhood diseases they were vaccinated against. Surprisingly, there were times when my unvaccinated children were blamed for their peers' sickness. Something which is just not possible when they didn't have the diseases at all."

So you have an author who believes the following:

1. that a sample of 3 children from the same parents is an adequate sample group for research
2. that "many" (she doesn't say exactly how many) instances of vaccinated children having contracted the disease they were vaccinated against somehow undermines the overwhelming evidence that vaccination has massively lowered (and in some areas completely eradicated) the incidence of Measles around the world.
3. that it's impossible for someone to carry a disease without displaying any of the symptoms.
4. (and this is the kicker) that her children are completely in the clear and will never get Measles for the rest of their lives.

She also completely ignores the current and massive Measles epdiemic we now face in the UK, attributable almost entirely to ex-Doctor Andrew Wakefield who, funded by the solicitors of parents who wanted to sue the NHS for their childrens' autism, conducted hugely irresponsible unethical and, ultimately conclusive, research into a link between Autism and MMR. This included such creepy practices as paying £5 to children for their blood sampls at a birthday party. Of course "ex-Doctor" because he was struck off (and the Lancet publically withdrew his 1998 research findings), but not before enough seeds of doubt were sown in the minds of the public.

And you only need to search for the word "Measles" on the BBC News website to see where we're at now.

This is irresponsible writing of the first order.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2013 6:44 PM GMT

Far Cry 3 (PS3)
Far Cry 3 (PS3)
Offered by Base
Price: £10.78

15 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Technical issues and artificial busy work, 23 Dec. 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Far Cry 3 (PS3) (Video Game)
The time has finally come when the games developers want to make just won't run on the current crop of video game consoles. The graphics here look truly lovely... until you start to move, or look left-right, at which point the screen shreds in two. This game has the largest and most distracting amount of screen-tearing I've seen in any game for a long time (I've played the Xbox 360 version, and it is equally afflicted). During busy firefights later on in the game, the frame rate can also dip severely. Bottom line: this is going to be a lot better on the next PlayStation/Xbox console. There are also some odd graphical glitches when fast travelling, and the menu screen can hang if it has problems connecting to the multiplayer servers... even if you're just playing the single-player campaign.

The gameplay itself is a bit frustrating - it forces you through a very tedious tutorial (how patronising) at the beginning, in which you're given buttons to press at the very last minute... otherwise it's instant death and back to an auto save point way back. The difficulty curve is also very uneven. The tutorial, I think, is hard until you've memorised what you have to do, after which you get a couple of foolproof missions before the game suddenly expects you to trek a very long way across into an unrevealed part of the map, dodging the numerous enemy patrols that are now covering the island without any recommendations on the best way to do that safely. If you go on foot, you'll find it extremely challenging... but if you steal a vehicle and just drive really fast, it's no problem at all. At that point.

The game objectives also seem to be very closed within this supposedly open world, and not very like previous Far Cry games (nor Crysis). In fact, when on a mission, if you stray out of the mission area the game starts warning you explicitly that the mission will fail. Another gameplay problem for me is the way you have to craft bags out of hide in order to carry more than one weapon at a time, more ammo, more loot etc. Fair enough, but the way it works is completely illogical - the type of leather goods you can create are determined by the species of animal you slaughter, rather than the quantity of hides you collect so, for example, you can only craft a 2-gun holster out of goat skin, but a 3-gun holster requires shark skin. Really? I don't really care what the premise is, this part of the gameplay just doesn't fit, and is no fun at all compared to similar activities in Skyrim, which were at least accompanied by an animation of you carrying out the task (and all skins could be made into leather and make any leather goods).

The main character is also a whiny 20-something "dude". I expect that's the sort of person the game is marketed at, but as a 40 something, I found his personality too immature to identify with and it doesn't sit well with the fact that (if you're any good at FPS games) he seems somehow to be a crack shot despite claiming never to have fired a weapon before. The main villain is quite well acted, but also something of a caricature, and a little hard to believe. Other NPCs are forgettable, but that doesn't bother me particularly. All of the enemies in the game are rather generic, with rather fake-sounding "African" accents. They also repeatedly talk to themselves in a completely phony way, selecting from a very small pool of sampled dialogue with such gems as complaining in graphic detail about the STD they suspect they may have contracted from recent sexual congress. Sometimes, they just complain about the hot weather. It just feels so artificial - dozens of identikit, clichéd, stereotypical black men spouting unpleasant stuff, perhaps so you don't feel so bad about sneaking up and sticking a knife through their chests... well, I'm not going to say what I think is *really* going on here as I can't be bothered with another tedious comments war: you'll either get where I'm coming from, or you won't... simple as.

So, sadly, I wasn't impressed. To be honest, if this were the only unfinished game I had in my collection right now, I probably would have persisted a bit further and completed it, but there's just lots of other far better games available right now (Dishonoured being my current favourite) and, if there weren't, I'd probably rather replay Crysis, Crysis 2 or Far Cry 2 than persist with this.

There are some very very good parts to this game - the overall story is original for a FPS, the graphics are amazing, the level design is convincing (the distribution of cover is usually quite subtle), I loved the bow and arrow as a stealth weapon, and most of the missions are reasonably fun. But for me, the technical limitations, busy work and lazy stereotypes spoiled it and 20 missions in, I abandoned it and have not yet felt the need to come back.

A really disappointing release from one of my favourite franchises.

EDIT: I read an article on Eurogamer about how, apparently according to Far Cry 3's writer, all of the video game clichés in Far Cry 3 are in fact intended, and therefore ironic. Yeah, apparently, it's all very very clever, and we're all stupid for criticising it. Apparently.

EDIT 2: After some comments on my review, I did decide to give the game another fair chance. It took some putting aside of my initial impression, and some persistence with the uneven difficulty curve and other annoyances, but I have to be honest and say that I am enjoying playing the game more now than I did. Specifically, I now find the "busy work" I spoke of above less irritating, and the same of the main character you play. I still stand by my comments above, as I think I have simply desensitised myself to the annoyances, but in the name of fairness, I have adjusted the overall rating from 2 to 3 and the fun rating from 3 to 4 to reflect how I now feel about the game (most importantly, that I was able to come back to it and derive some enjoyment).
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2013 5:52 PM GMT

Concerto For Orchestra : The Miraculous Mandarin Suite, Dance Suite (Solti Edition)
Concerto For Orchestra : The Miraculous Mandarin Suite, Dance Suite (Solti Edition)
Price: £37.39

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Interpretation, 18 Dec. 2012
If you want to hear every note, every rhythm, every expression, precisely executed as intended by the composer, then this is the version to get. Sir Georg Solti (who studied under Bartok) delivers this masterpiece in a sharp and uncompromising way that grabs your attention and never lets go. It is, quite literally, what you see in the score. In some respects, that does make it all the more stark and cold, possibly even slightly mechanical, but this, I feel, is how it was meant to sound.

Above all, the Hungarian folk music influence behind the majority of the themes is so much more obvious in this version than in any other I have heard, which have tended to downplay that aspect. The sound quality is also quite surprisingly good for such an old recording; the CD I have is the 24-bit/96kHz edition which particularly shines - if you see that version available, snap it up.

If you happen to be a music student (as I was when I first bought this CD), then I think this version an essential version purely because of the link between Solti and Bartok. Whether or not this ends up being your preferred version is of course down to personal taste.

Optoma PK-320 LED Pico Projector (WVGA)
Optoma PK-320 LED Pico Projector (WVGA)

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could, but design could be improved, 14 Dec. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It is a fantastic little project; however, there are two annoying features relating to the HDMI input.

The HDMI input is for "mini" HDMI, so you will need to buy a special cable to connect this to 95% of the HDMI equipment you're likely to have. When you consider that the £22 Raspberry Pi (which is the same size) has a normal Type A HDMI socket, I don't think there's much excuse here.

The second problem is the proximity of the HRMI input to the power input. All of the HDMI Type C-> Type A leads and convertors I have tried do not plug in while the power is plugged in. I've also had problems with a mini HDMI lead (with a Type C->A convertor on the end), where even the mini plug interfered with the power jack. This means the only way I can use the device is on battery power, which is unacceptable.

Night Of The Living Dead [1968] [DVD]
Night Of The Living Dead [1968] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Judith O'Dea
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £9.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the original, 1 Dec. 2012
I bought the Oracle version - it has no new footage (thank goodness), but still has the new score... which sounds horribly out of place for a 1968 movie. In fact, it's so distracting, it completely destroys any tension the film previously had.

Avoid this release at all costs.

No Title Available

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Takes 16 hours to charge, no charging indicator, 14 Nov. 2012
My main complaint with is product is that there is nothing to indicate whether the charging station is on or working, nor is there anything to indicate whether or not the toothbrush is charging, whether the battery is flat, and so on. The manufacturer advises that you don't leave it on charge all the time, as this shortens the life of the battery.

Seriously, how much extra would it have cost to put a simple led on this thing? You're left using the toothbrush until it suddenly grinds to a complete halt... at which point you must put it on the charging station for 16 hours, crossing your fingers that after this time the toothbrush will be usable again (remember, there's nothing to indicate whether it's charging).

Now ask yourself this... if it goes flat, on which day of the week can you spare 16 hours for a complete charge? If your child gets up at 7 in the morning and the toothbrush is flat, they won't be able to use it again until 11pm that night. Similarly, if your child goes to bed at 7pm and the toothbrush runs flat, they won't be able to brush their teeth again until 11am the next morning.

The brush heads are very expensive too... a pack of 2 brush heads is 25% the cost of the brush itself.

That aside, the brush action is very good, and it's robust enough to be used by a young child. However, as the instructions state, it should be used under supervision, and absolutely *must* be cleaned properly after *every* use (although, really, you should do that for all toothbrushes).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2013 3:43 PM GMT

Price: £15.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ministry Marmite, 16 July 2012
This review is from: Relapse (Audio CD)
Ok, for several reasons, this album is going to divide people. I'm not entirely sure what it is the Ministry faithful don't like about this album; perhaps the fact that it sounds a bit too much like Rob Zombie? You've got melodies in there, guitar solos, choruses, conventional-sounding, double-tracked thrash metal riffs. If you've never heard Ministry before, but are already into any metal bands from mid 90's onwards, you'll lap this up. Or, frankly, if you're just into riff-heavy thrash metal (like me), you're probably going to enjoy it - when I mention what I think to be the stand-out songs, maybe you'll get a better picture of where I'm coming from.

I have to point out that I'm not the worlds biggest Ministry fan. I've had more of a love/hate relationship with Ministry that caused me to give up on them at Psalm 69. I like pretty much everything off "The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste", but "Land of Rape and Honey" and "Psalm 69" have way too much of what I would call tedious filler material around the more memorable moments.

Stand out songs for me are: Ghouldiggers (Pantera-like riffs in there), Double Tap, Kleptocracy (opening sounds like Megadeth), 99 Percenters and Bloodlust (despite sounding like Linkin Park in places). For something very off-the-wall, the Glitch Techno remix of Bloodlust is worth a listen if you have an open mind.

Prometheus - Collector's Edition (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Prometheus - Collector's Edition (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Noomi Rapace
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £9.09

12 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brainless sci-fi hokum, 15 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
"A chillingly classy epic" *****--Mail On Sunday
"A classic in its own right" 10/10--Daily Star
"It doesn't get much better than this" *****--The Sun

Call me a snob, but these quotes say it all for me. If you're a tabloid reader, Prometheus will probably give you everything you would want in a Science Fiction film: flashy graphical effects, violence (verging on torture porn), some nakedness, and a story that will challenge your current beliefs as to the origins of mankind.

How unfortunate for the rest of us then, (especially those who like their Sci-Fi to have at least some grounding in basic science and logic) that Ridley Scott decided to pick a story that was started off by a complete amateur, and then finished off by the writer of, yes "Lost"... but also the recent "Cowboys and Aliens". When fans of the original Alien complain about this film, underlying the nitpicking of details is the simple fact that the plot and dialogue of Prometheus is utter tosh.

UPDATE: And despite all of that, I bought the 3D Blu-ray edition anyway, in the hope that the "extras" might shed some light on all of the unanswered plot threads.

To an extent, it did that. Unfortunately, however, I found that in the same way the film is "style over substance", the Blu-ray menus are very much "form over function". They're extremely tedious to navigate, with pop-up after pop-up window with several more choices... text highlighting almost non-existent: black when selected, dark blue when not selected, or is it the other way around? I've lost count of the number of times I was sure I elected not to have a commentary, but got one anyway.

The Blu-ray packaging is misleading, by the way - it states: "Includes extra disc with over 7 hours of bonus features..." but in fact most of the features goes on to list are not on the extra disc, they're on the main feature disc (e.g. the deleted/alternate scenes). And, to be honest, these deleted scenes just make me even more angry and disappointed at the movie I've now paid twice to see, for two reasons:

1) There are at least 4 scenes in there that solve the most major continuity/plausibility problems in the theatrical release. WHy were they cut, when there was plenty of less relevant scenes in the theatrical release that could have gone instead

2) It's clear Scott intends to release a Director's Cut at some point, forcing a "Double Dip" from loyal fans.

The 3D copy of the film is ok, but the effect is so subtle, it's not worth wearing silly glasses for. The 2D copy is superb, and the iTunes digital copy is commendable, as you get both SD and HD versions, plus an extras download.

Overall, it's ok, fans will probably like it, but still only 2 stars from me.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2012 10:43 AM BST

Drobo FS DRDS2A31 5-Bay NAS Enclosure
Drobo FS DRDS2A31 5-Bay NAS Enclosure

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow, noisy and not practical for Time Machine backups, 1 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First problem - setting up for Time Machine is a chore. You need to create one or more user accounts on the Drobo FS, then a fixed size partition for each of your Apple computers you want to back up. The maximum size of these fixed partitions is the total usable storage, so if you buy more disks, and/or swap out your current disks for higher capacity ones, you'll inevitably end up having to destroy and recreate those partitions with bigger fixed sizes.

And then you'll have to go through that painful "first Time Machine backup" which, for 1TB of data on my iMac, took 6 days over gigabit ethernet.

Finally, this device is rather noisier than I would like for a device that sits in my home. For reference, it's about as noisy as the original Xbox 360 on full fan speed (for those that remember that).

I also own a standard Drobo which, at it's noisiest, is around half the volume of the Drobo FS. This is borne out by the manufacturer's website, which lists the normal operating acoustics of the entry-level Drobo as 24.2dB, and the Drobo FS as 31.8dB (remember the decibels scale is logarithmic, and a raise of 10dB is perceived as a doubling of volume). It's a shame no effort was put into making the Drobo FS equally unobtrusive.

I emailed Drobo tech support, and was told that it is normal for the fans to be on full speed all the time. Frankly, I find this disappointing when there are competing similar products out there that operate at 20dB or lower.

If you're going to house your Drobo FS in a cupboard, or a server room, then you may not be particularly bothered by this last point, but if you're planning to house it in a quite office, or in a living room connected to a domestic router, then you may want to consider purchasing something else.

UPDATE: I have finally given up on the Drobo as a backup for Apple computers (via Time Machine). Despite everything in my house being connected with Cat6 cables and Gigabit ethernet ports, data transfer is slow, and the Drobo FS frequently drops out of view altogether. When you do connect to the Drobo over Finder, it takes around 30 seconds to finish authenticating, and then another 20 seconds or so for it to display the shared folders - this seems to indicate some problem with AFS. Time Machine backups have commonly failed halfway through, due to a dropped connection.

Just in case you're starting to think the problem must be with AFS/Time Machine, I rigged up a Mac Mini with Firewire attached storage that blew the Drobo away and had no problems (but storage is not large enough as a long-term solution). So, for a replacement NAS, I have bought the Synology DS413, which was recommended by a couple of colleagues. It boasts several more features than the Drobo FS, "native Time Machine compatibility" and much quieter operating speeds. I'll write another short update to this if I can actually recommend it above the Drobo FS.

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