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The Happy Space Invader

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Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.34

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
Price: £13.30

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.

Tech21 T21-1238 Impact Gel Case with D3O for iPhone 4 - Black
Tech21 T21-1238 Impact Gel Case with D3O for iPhone 4 - Black

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Where's the D3O? You will be surprised..., 31 Jan. 2012
As the major selling point of this case is the D3O, you might have expected Tech21 to make it a bit more obvious which bits of the case are made of this futuristic material. It's certainly not the whole case, as this is made of fairly ordinary rubber. On the inside of the case however are two orange arrows - one running the whole side of the phone, and the other running up the other side as far as the volume controls. I believe these arrows are the only part of the case made of D3O (which is commonly an orange material).

And that's it - the D3O protection is only covering a fraction of the sides of your phone, so while this may mitigate a drop with the phone held vertically, there are a multitude of other ways you could drop your phone where the minimal amount of D3O material simply isn't going to help. But here's the genius bit: you're never going to know, are you? Because the only way to find out if this product does what it claims is to drop your 3 £500 phones onto a concrete surface... one wearing the Tech21 case, one in a cheaper non-D3O case, and finally one without any case whatsoever. And then compare the difference in damage.

So I'm crying "Snake Oil" on this one, as the case itself is of a rather poor quality, given the price. It's that awkward kind of rubber that can make the iPhone turn your pockets inside out when you least expect, it attracts dust and marks, and it doesn't even fit the phone very well. That last point is the biggest disappointment (after the whole D3O con); the loose fit makes the edges of the case ripple, making the phone look misshapen... hardly a fitting tribute to the smart design of the phone it's supposed to protect.

Overall, I'd say this is a complete waste of money - there are better, cheaper cases around that would arguably provide just as much protection for the average user.

Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
Price: £5.25

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but not without some flaws., 9 Nov. 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
On paper, this game seems to have enhanced upon everything from the wonderful first game; however, on playing it, there are some disappointing aspects.

Voicework: Good in parts, hideously embarassing in others. Penguin's "Dick Van Dyke"-style Cockney accent (voiced by Nolan North, no less) makes me cringe every time I hear it. A game with this budget could surely have found a British voice actor to do a better job? Also, some of the conversations you eavesdrop in on as you're leaping around the city... they're just plain weird (and frequently embarassing), and add nothing to the game or story.

Cut scenes: if you're going to make something film-like, you need to pay attention to the sort of details film makers do... like continuity. For example, in one very early sequence, an enemy pointing a gun at you has his foot caught in a noose and is hauled upside down by the attached rope... but immediately as it cuts to him upside down, we see that not only does he no longer have the gun, but his hands are mysteriously bound behind his back. There are many scenes like this, that are so obvious, you see the glaring error on the first pass. It's not massively detrimental to the game, but it does take you out of the moment and realise that what you're watching is a long way off film quality.

Open world navigation: sometimes you're right on the spot according to your map, but you still can't find the object you're supposed to be getting to. The problem here is the massive up/down range you've now got. It gives a massive amount of freedom, but can make navigation tricky.

However (and it's a big however), despite the above, I still think the game is fantastic. The storyline may be contrived (to include as many well-known Batman characters as possible) but it's engaging. The combat is only repetitive if you button mash - if you spend a bit of effort learning the special moves, it becomes deeper and more rewarding. The graphics... well, forget Tech 5 (which massively underwhelmed me), the attention to detail in this game is astonishing. There are areas you can look at that serve no purpose in the game whatsoever that contain little gems of amusement or wonder. You may well play the game primarily in detective mode, but I have found myself deliberately slowing down my pace (especially once I've cleared an area of enemies) to marvel at the graphics in regular vision mode.

I haven't even touched on the extras you get, particularly the combat challenges. It all adds up to a massive amount of gameplay and re-play, and I couldn't recommend it more highly. Still knocked one star off though, as I'd like to see the next game tidy up the voice work and cut sequences.

Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £9.17

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tech 5 - is that it?, 9 Nov. 2011
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: RAGE (PS3) (Video Game)
I agree with most of the 2/3 star reviews here; this is a rental rather than a purchase.

I particularly take issue with the manufacturer's description... "RAGE is a groundbreaking first-person shooter set in the not-too-distant future...". I'm afraid, "groundbreaking" this is not. It's a fairly standard FPS, and reminded me strongly of Quake 4. It does have some RPG-like elements, but nothing approaching Borderlands or Fallout. They actually feel like something that was added at a very late stage in the development of the game. Most of the gameplay consists of fetch quests, shootout set-pieces and the most disappointing driving physics I've seen in a long while.

"... jaw-dropping graphics powered by id's revolutionary id Tech 5 technology ...". Now here's the rub. I was really excited about Tech 5 and its "megatextures". Unfortunately, the only real benefit I can see is the framerate, which *is*, I have to admit, silky smooth. However, this all comes at a cost, which is as follows:

1. Invisible walls... everywhere. Not just the sort you encounter when you stray clearly from the intended path - you hit invisible walls the second you leave the very narrow corridors the designers wanted you to walk down. The world looks expansive, but you can't actually explore it at all so, regardless of what Tech 5 could deliver, it might as well have been a pre-rendered "sky box".

2. Texture pop-in... and not just distant objects. You turn a corner and objects the equivalent of a couple of feet away from you can take one or two seconds to go from no texture, through some blurry textures, to the final texture. In fact, in an early mission where I had to fix a radio mast, there was an outdoor section where I only had to turn around on the spot to see textures re-load in slowly, and this went on for as long as I turned around.

3. Generally low-res textures and polygons. To be honest, even once they've finally loaded, some of the textures are very ropey, and a lot of the "set dressing" has a low polygon count. This is particularly true of objects that are meant to have curves (e.g. tyres), which is odd as this was a problem id went a long way towards solving in some of their earlier graphics engines (Quake III, for example). This might be nerdy nitpicking, but when a game is hyped on the strength of some new technology, nerdy nitpicking is to be expected. The game has a very cartoonish look and is far from realistic.

4. Disappearing bodies. Some people may not be bothered by this - it happens to be a bugbear of mine... particularly when you go into an area where you've slaughtered a whole bunch of enemies, and you go bad a short while later to find the place spotless.

5. Poor character animation. The animation of non-playable characters is very stiff and robot-like. This applies to both body movement and facial animation. It's not shockingly bad, but it feels old.

Additionally, and I'm not sure if this is also related to Tech 5, the game seems very old-fashioned in the following ways:

1. You have no legs! Or body for that matter. In fact, this game follows the now rather ancient "floating chest cam" effect, that many other games have discarded in favour of being able to see your own legs when you look down. Again, maybe this is nitpicking, but it is something you may notice if you've played other games that have decided to raise the bar in this respect (e.g. Oblivion, Fallout, Crysis, Crysis 2).

2. Bad fire effects - for some reason, there are barrels on fire every few hundred yards, yet the fire is a very strange sort that causes a disproportionate heatwave effect around it. It's the least convinced fire effect I've seen in a video game for some time.

3. Remember to save - there's an auto-save when you enter a new level/room; but otherwise, you have to perform manual saves frequently, or risk the video game walk of shame back to the point where you were killed.

4. The vehicle handling is about as primitive as you can get - the suspension is rigid, yet you're glued to the road when cornering and, if you crash... well, it did make me laugh the first time but soon becomes ludicrous. Basically, the vehicle stops dead, and you fly off in a pre-defined 3rd-person animation, with a comedy scream as the screen fades to black. Next frame, you're back in 1st-person view, standing next to your pristine vehicle.

On the plus side however, for a post-apocalyptic wasteland, there's a nice use of colour (I found Fallout 3 a bit too drab at times), and the weaponry feels powerful (if not exactly inspiring). The shooting parts are quite exciting, and the enemy attack/cover patterns are reasonably convincing in their variation. Nevertheless, I got bored after the first hour, and it was a real chore to see the short single-player game through to completion.

I bought this from Amazon, but I wish I had waited to get it through LoveFilm instead - so I'm recommending others take that latter option.

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [Blu-ray] [1977] [Region Free]
Star Wars: The Original Trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) [Blu-ray] [1977] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Mark Hamill
Offered by Bonkers4Bargains!
Price: £56.79

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More tinkering, 25 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I actually don't mind the changes made to Episodes V & IV. My beef is with Episode IV, which has become almost unrecognisable from the film I saw back in 1977. In particular, the ridiculous Mos Eisley scene, which Lucas has "enhanced" by having creatures and robots walking into shot between the camera and the subject... something that in any normal non-CGI film would have had the director yelling "CUT!!".

One of my favourite scenes - where Ben Kenobi is convincing the Stormtroopers they don't need to see any identification - is ruined by a ton of distracting crap flooding the screen. The biggest problem with these types of changes is that they've already dated... more so than many of the original special effects. And they haven't been well blended with the original footage, and therefore look horribly out of place... almost as off someone inserted some clips from another film into the proceedings.

And my absolute favourite scene in the entire series of films - the classic Han Solo vs Greedo standoff - mauled to the extent that it's now difficult to see what actually transpired. In this edition Lucas has removed a further 12 frames from the shooting part; remind me George, exactly what was wrong with the original scene?

If there was one scene crying out to be enhanced, it's the ridiculous-looking Rancour monster, which I remember looking rubbish back in 1983. Maybe the next release will advisual this.

Visual changes aside, I don't even think much of the sound mix. In the opening sequences of Episode IV, the battle effects are far too loud, drowning out the music, and there are other times when the dialogue is hard to hear. It's presented in a rather weird 6.1 format, and I'm not sure how many people have that setup - I would have thought 5.1 to be the most common, with true audiophiles opting for 7.1? Unfortunately, the menu doesn't let you choose 5.1, even though when analysing the disc on my computer, I found a DTS 5.1 track there alongside the DTS Master Audio track. In order to get the 5.1 track, I have to disable DTS Master Audio on my Blu-ray player... otherwise my surround system reports a sixth channel that has no speaker connected to it.

Overall, I can't really recommend it, even though I know there are many like me who will buy it anyway, and grit their teeth during the most cringeworthy moments.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2015 10:16 PM GMT

Hibernate Made Easy: Simplified Data Persistence with Hibernate and JPA (Java Persistence API) Annotations
Hibernate Made Easy: Simplified Data Persistence with Hibernate and JPA (Java Persistence API) Annotations
by Cameron Wallace McKenzie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £35.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction gets you up to speed with the basic concepts, 19 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I worked as a Java developer, I would lend this book to new recruits who hadn't touched Hibernate before and found they would be up to speed within about half a day. From there, the online reference documentation should make enough sense to most people.

My only criticism is that, given the author's preference for the Criteria API over HQL, he doesn't dedicate nearly enough space to this, which means that anyone new to the subject could form the incorrect assumption that the former is not a complete replacement for the latter. In fact, I would have advocated introducing HQL and then dispensing with it within the space of a page.

Otherwise, a great book and a great reference/refresher for those of us who've moved on to other things.

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England Brain Shot (Abridged)
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England Brain Shot (Abridged)
Price: £2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Brain Dead (Abridged) - only 24 pages long!, 19 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
"BRAIN SHOTS: Knowing that not everyone has the time to read all 400+ pages of each of their titles"

I'm sorry, what? You're making a rather patronising (if not downright insulting) assumption about your customers. If you're going to read a book about what it's like to live in Medieval England, chances are you have sufficient intellectual capacity to deal with the 292 page original. Yes, that's right - the original book is only 292 pages long - and that includes 16 pages of colour pictures.

What we have here is a single section taken from 8 chapters of the original 11 chapter book. Each chapter is the equivalent of 2 or 3 pages long, so what you're getting is a 24 page sample. No, seriously - there are only 24 pages in this edition - that's less than 10% of the original book.

Worse, if you chance upon this on your Kindle, the long title is truncated to omit the word Abridged, so you can quite easily buy it without realising what you've bought.

An utter rip-off, and I will be seeking a refund forthwith.

EDIT: And, to Amazon's credit, within 15 minutes of requesting such a refund, not only was it granted, but I received assurance that the problem with the title truncation would be looked into. So, although a disappointing purchase, my confidence in Amazon's Kindle service is thoroughly redeemed.

Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 (Family Pack)
Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 (Family Pack)
Offered by Convey Solutions
Price: £185.61

103 of 111 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Held to ransom, 19 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I generally agree with the other reviewers here (particularly the 3-star reviews) although I can't help feeling that we've all developed Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to Microsoft Office (and perhaps all Microsoft software). Are we honestly using MS Office because it's the best available, or because we love the end-user experience? Or are we really using it because it remains the de facto standard (particularly within large corporations)?

If you want to produce MS Office compatible documents, ensuring they will open in someone's MS Office installation on Windows while preserving the formatting you originally intended, there really is no substitute. If iWork or OpenOffice could do the same, I'd be ditching Microsoft Office in the blink of an eye

Office 2011 does have some minor visual and performance improvement above the previous version, but still an awful lot of bloat, many unnecessary and redundant features, some questionable UI design and the desperately old-fashioned and not very Mac-like update mechanism that requires quitting all MS Office Apps, and Safari (why?), and then downloading and installing a 600+ MB package.

This remains software that I use because I am forced to, rather than because I choose to.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2013 1:02 AM GMT

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