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Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom)

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The Great British Dream Factory: The Strange History of Our National Imagination
The Great British Dream Factory: The Strange History of Our National Imagination
by Dominic Sandbrook
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a disappointment, 3 Feb. 2016
I've loved Dominic Sandbrook's books about the 1960s and 70s, and while the political content in those volumes has often been a bit dry for me I've been fascinated by the sections devoted to popular culture and how we used to live back then. The thought of a Sandbrook book entirely focused on music and entertainment was an absolute delight for me, and I could barely wait to read this.

Unlike the other books which have each focused on a particular era, this is a much more blurred read, leaping from decade to decade and from topic to topic, some more interesting than others. It's a patchy read, and whilst I found some sections absolutely enthralling, others seemed deathly dull, especially when they dealt with a particular artiste or genre in which I had no interest. It's not a book which attempts to draw conclusions either, so it just... ends.

In the acknowledgements Sandbrook says that he originally wrote the TV series (which I didn't watch for some reason), and then instead of turning the scripts into a book he wrote the book as a standalone entity. Maybe the TV series was more successful, but unfortunately for me the book was a little disappointing.

Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story of Darts
Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story of Darts
Price: £4.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as I'd hoped, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm a newcomer to the world of darts. As a child it was always on TV on a Saturday afternoon, the likes of Eric Bristow and John Lowe filling the screens, but I never saw the appeal. Not so long ago however we stumbled across a tournament on ITV one weekend and we were hooked!

Sid Waddell was a naturally funny man, gifted with a wonderful turn of phrase coupled with his irrepressible Geordie personality and accent to match. When I've heard his commentaries he's reduced me to fits of giggles on a regular basis, and I hoped that this book would have the same effect on me.

It's a bit of a disappointment all in all. Yes there are funny bits, but it falls between two stools, seemingly unsure as to whether it wants to be the autobiography of Sid Waddell or the story of darts, and as a result it doesn't really succeed at being either. It's more the story of Sid's life in darts, and there are lots of stories about going out for a curry and numerous pints with the players, alongside other chapters that feel almost like essays about some of the players Waddell has previously written about, such as Jocky Wilson or Phil Taylor. It's an entertaining enough read, but considering it was written by such a funny man it's strangely flat, not that amusing, and actually just a little bit dull.

It's OK, but it could have been a lot better unfortunately.

Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate and Activity Wristband  - Black, Large
Fitbit Charge HR Heart Rate and Activity Wristband - Black, Large
Price: £99.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it!, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
About a year ago I bought a Fitbit Flex and loved the thing. I'm not a fitness junkie but wanted to know just how much I moved around during the day, and how well I slept at night, and the Flex fit the bill perfectly. The only niggle was the strap. When the Flex needed charging you had to pop the "chip" out of the rubbery strap, which put strain on the sides of the opening, and as a result it split easily. I went through three straps in a year! So I decided to upgrade to a Fitbit Charge HR.

Out of the box it looks great. The strap has a criss-cross design and is rubbery to the touch, but doesn't stretch. It's very light too. The strap is secured by a buckle, which is nice and secure, and a loop secures the trailing end of the strap. The display isn't permanently on, so most of the time the band is featureless. Press the button on the left of the display and the clock is displayed, with repeated presses allowing you to look at your step count, distance, calories burned, heart rate, and floors climbed. By default the Charge has a "quick look" feature enabled, which means that if you turn the display to face you it comes to life, allowing you to twist your wrist and see the time without pressing anything. You can also tap the band to activate the screen if you wish. These features can be disabled (more on why you may wish to do that later), and the clock can be customised to a certain degree.

Setup is simple. The box contains the band, a USB widget that allows you to sync the band to a computer or laptop rather than a mobile device, and the charger which is a USB plug at one end and a B-shaped connector at the other which clicks into the back of the band. Unlike the Flex you don't have to remove anything from the band to charge it, but understandably you have to take it off to charge it. Charging takes an hour or two, depending on the battery level. More on battery life later! That's all that is in the box really, apart from a small card telling you to install the app on your smartphone or tablet, and once this is installed it talks you through the process, which is easy. You can monitor your activity via the band, the app, or via the Fitbit website if you wish.

The band is easy to wear, and unless it's too tight you can forget you've got it on. It vibrates to indicate if you've hit your target (the display lights up and gives you a bit of a fireworks display too) but it's unobtrusive. The back of the band has a flashing green light which is used to track your pulse, but this doesn't hurt or get hot, and my wrist doesn't get irritated by it at all. Fitbit clearly state that the band isn't waterproof, so don't wear it in the shower or if you're swimming, but it is fine in the rain or if it gets splashed. I take mine off whenever I go for a shower, or if I'm doing anything messy like washing the car, just to be on the safe side.

As I said at the start, I'm not a fitness enthusiast, but you can use the Fitbit to log exercise, and also to keep track of what you eat and drink if you so desire. It doesn't automatically track exercise though, so if you plan on going for a jog you tell it via the app that you jogged for so long between these times, and so on. Seems easy enough really, if you're into that sort of thing.

Sleep tracking is great fun. You don't have to tell the band that you're sleeping (unlike my Flex, at least prior to its most recent firmware update, which introduced automatic sleep tracking) - it just detects that you're not moving and that your heart has slowed down. I've not had any occasions when it's thought I've been asleep but I've been sitting watching TV, or that I've been asleep but it's been charging. For me it's worked perfectly. Incidentally, during charging times it simply stops measuring your heartbeat, so if you look at the graph later you'll see a gap, rather than a heartbeat of 0bpm. Makes sense really.

So what about battery life? Fitbit claim it's about five days, and for me that seems about right. It's a little frustrating that the app only reports the battery level as being full, medium or low, and it does drop from "full" to "medium" very quickly! My belief is that if the battery scale goes from 0 to 10, it reports 10 as Full, maybe about 0-4 as Low, and everything else as Medium, hence the rapid drop-off from Full to Medium! Even when it hits Low it will last for a few days, and you do get a notification via the app and by email if it hits low. Mine has just emailed me actually to say the battery is low and needs charging, but I know it will last the day and be fine until well after I get home tonight. I do wish the device and / or the app had a bit more of a "scale" to the battery level, say a percentage, or even a battery indicator like on a phone to show how things are, but sadly this only appears on the app and just gives the three levels mentioned above.

What can you do to preserve the battery? Pretty simple really. First of all, you can disable "all day sync" in the app, which doesn't stop the band syncing to your mobile device but instead it means it will sync less frequently - mainly whenever you open the app or if you force it to sync. Personally I think this is fine as syncing takes about a minute or two, and I'm happy to wait - I don't need to see my latest stats *NOW*! In addition to this, you can disable the "quick look" feature where twisting your wrist activates the display. Okay, it's nice to have the Fitbit display the time if you look at the display without having to press anything, but the more you use the display the more the battery life is affected, and I'm still "old school" and I still wear a watch :-) The "quick tap" feature can also be disabled, where tapping the band makes the display come to life and show you a statistic of your choice, and again I've done this on mine as any knocks make the display light up, as does for example clapping your hands at a concert! If you want to take things to ridiculous levels you can also modify the heart rate monitoring. By default it uses a setting called "auto", where it detects your heart rate if the band is being worn, but if you take it off it stops (it uses proximity sensors). If you wish you can set it to "on", which means it constantly records your heart rate even if you take the band off (0bpm in the heart rate graph then), which will have a detrimental effect on the battery life again. Finally, you can set it to "Off", which means it won't detect your heart rate at all, which means more battery life but no heart stats, and if you're going down that route you may as well buy a cheaper Fitbit Charge rather than a Charge HR. I've left mine on "Auto".

All in all it's a great little thing. I'm addicted to mine. Better then than my Flex, and infinitely better than the dreadful Jawbone Up 3 I also used for a while last year. Love my Charge HR!

Raspberry Pi Case for Raspberry Pi 2
Raspberry Pi Case for Raspberry Pi 2
Offered by New IT limited
Price: £6.76

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect!, 3 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recently bought a Raspberry Pi 2 to use as a retro games machine and wanted a case to keep it clean and safe. This is the official model and looked good on the page here, so I took a punt.

It's a really nice case actually. It's made of plastic and comes apart, so if you need to get to the top pins on the Pi the top of the case comes off, and so do the white sides. Your Pi kind of clips inside the case, allowing access to all of the ports through perfectly positioned holes and recesses, and the memory card slot can also be accessed without dismantling the case. The top of the box has an embossed Raspberry Pi logo too.

A well-designed and well priced case. What's not to like?

Pure Move 2500 Rechargeable Personal Digital DAB/FM Radio - Black
Pure Move 2500 Rechargeable Personal Digital DAB/FM Radio - Black
Price: £64.94

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy pocket sized DAB radio which works in cars with aux connectors, 1 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I wanted to listen to my favourite DAB radio station in the car, but as my vehicle doesn't have a DAB radio this was a problem! It does however have an auxiliary port, so I decided to buy one of these and an aux cable, and go down that route.

The radio looks pretty good out of the box. It bears more than a passing resemblance to an iPod classic and is about the same size, small enough to slip into a pocket, but big enough not to lose. On the front there is a scroll wheel with a button in the centre, a backlit LCD display, and on the top there is a switch that locks the controls so you can't switch it on by accident. The back is removable to provide access to the swappable battery (mine came with the battery installed already) and is made of shiny silver metal. There isn't a speaker as the device is intended to be used with headphones, and the headphone cable is the antenna. A pair of earbud headphones is provided, but as I can't get on with earbuds I've not used them so cannot comment on their quality.

Inside the box there is a mains charger. Plug the cable into the Move and the other end into the wall socket (it is a mains charger, not USB) and the instructions say a full charge takes about three hours. Mine arrived partially charged, and after an hour or so the display said the battery was full.

Initial setup was a breeze. I plugged a pair of headphones in and told it to autotune, left it alone, and after a minute or so it had found the same DAB stations as my bedside radio. Easy! You can perform an autotune any time you like via the settings, which is easy to navigate using the scroll wheel. Sound quality is good, but if I must nit-pick the volume level is rather low. The scale goes from 0 to 50, and we found that 30 was OK on headphones, but sometimes had to go to 40, which doesn't leave much room for if you want to listen to something and your surroundings are noisy!

Does it work in the car? Yes! Bear in mind that the headphone cable acts as the antenna though. I bought Anker® 3.5mm Premium Auxiliary Audio Cable (4ft / 1.2m) AUX Cable for Beats Headphones, iPods, iPhones, iPads, Home / Car Stereos and More (Black) as it is about 4ft long, plugged one end into the aux connector in my car and the other into the Move, and it works great. Yes, you could use a shorter cable, but I felt a long one would be like having a bigger aerial.

All in all it's a nice little gadget. Build quality is good, although the back feels a little as if it isn't properly fitted, and the only real niggle is the low volume. Happy with the purchase.

Anker® 3.5mm Premium Auxiliary Audio Cable (4ft / 1.2m) AUX Cable for Beats Headphones, iPods, iPhones, iPads, Home / Car Stereos and More (Black)
Anker® 3.5mm Premium Auxiliary Audio Cable (4ft / 1.2m) AUX Cable for Beats Headphones, iPods, iPhones, iPads, Home / Car Stereos and More (Black)
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £13.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice cable, 1 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this so I could use a pocket DAB radio in the car, connecting the radio to the car's auxiliary port. The packaging is simple, the product arriving in a cardboard envelope which contains a small, square box, inside which the cable is looped and secured with an Anker branded strip of Velcro. It's a nice quality cable, the wire coated in a thick, rubbery material, and the plugs look good too. It works really well in the car, and the sound is good. I'm not an audiophile so I can't comment on quality etc. or the construction of the cable, but it looks good, works well, and I'm delighted with it.

The Killing Of Polly Carter (Death in Paradise 2)
The Killing Of Polly Carter (Death in Paradise 2)
by Robert Thorogood
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Hugely enjoyable, 12 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a fan of the TV series "Death in Paradise", and enjoyed the first spin-off book by Robert Thorogood (the creator of the show), so was looking forward to this. As with the first book, this novel has Richard Poole, played in the first two series of the show by Ben Miller, as the lead character.

The story - which isn't a novelization of an episode of the show as far as I remember - opens with a model called Polly carter being found dead by her home in Saint-Marie, apparently having fallen from a clifftop. But did she fall, or did she jump, or was she pushed? All of the usual cast of the first two series of the show are present, but also appearing this time is Richard Poole's mother, in an entertaining storyline of her own.

It's an entertaining read, and a page-turner too, and just like the show it's clean and inoffensive fun. The ending also came as a surprise, which is always good with a whodunnit. As a book I also enjoyed it more than the first book by Thorogood.

All in all I'd recommend this book to fans of the show, but also those who want to read a thoroughly enjoyable mystery novel. Good fun!

SanDisk SSD PLUS 240 GB Sata III 2.5 inch Internal SSD up to 520 MB/s
SanDisk SSD PLUS 240 GB Sata III 2.5 inch Internal SSD up to 520 MB/s
Price: £53.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great!, 30 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My desktop PC was running a bit slow, so I decided to upgrade to a SSD when they were on sale at a ridiculously low price. What an improvement!

The drive itself is tiny in size and works in desktop PCs and also laptops. I bought a mount so I could fit the drive into one of my drive bays but in the end I just stuck the SSD into a gap in my case where it wouldn't get in the way! The box itself contains just the SSD, and a small card telling you to download firmware etc. from the SanDisk website, and a dashboard app. I downloaded and installed this, and it checks the firmware for you, telling you if there is an update (there wasn't for me.)

I decided to rebuild my PC rather than attempting to copy my existing data onto the SSD, so I can't comment on any cloning software which may be available. My PC now boots to the Windows 10 lockscreen in about seven seconds, and applications load almost instantly since the upgrade. Absolutely delighted with the purchase, and as soon as I see them available for a similar price again I'll buy more, including one for my ageing laptop.

Toast on Toast: Cautionary tales and candid advice
Toast on Toast: Cautionary tales and candid advice
by Steven Toast
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing book with a great index, 30 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was such a disappointment for me. I'm a huge fan of the TV show, and this was the first item I put on my wishlist for Christmas this year, so when I read it and found it didn't so much as raise a smile it was a real let-down.

The book is the autobiography of Steven Toast, star of "Toast of London", focusing on his acting career, and at the end of each there is a page of "Toast's Tips", where he dispenses advice to the would-be actor. At the end of the book, after the index (more on that later) there is a short section of reviews, with Toast's thoughts on each, and then a gallery of sixteen posters for shows Toast has appeared in, some of which are mentioned in the book. None of the posters are particularly funny, but the names of the cast members are worth a look.

The main text of the book is very short (167 pages) but felt as though it took me a while to read. Maybe the audio book would be better, but the text here lacked the sparkle of the TV show, and as I said at the start I didn't even smile, let alone laugh, while I read it, whereas when I watch the TV show on catch-up I often have to pause it for a while as I'm laughing so much. Yes, the characters from the TV show are there (Jane Plough, Ray Purchase, Blair Toast etc. but if you're looking for Clem Fandango and Danny Bear they're only mentioned in passing without being named), and yes there are quirky touches such as the numerous mentions of flogging throughout the book, but for me it just didn't work.

Earlier on I mentioned the index. This will sound strange, but make sure you read it. The index bears little relation to the book, for example things are mentioned as appearing on pages that don't actually exist, but there are more jokes in the index than in the book itself, and whereas the main narrative left me cold the index made me laugh a lot.

So two stars for the index, strange as it may sound, but the book itself was a huge disappointment for me.

by Heather Couper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.24

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little book for astronomy enthusiasts, 21 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you're interested in astronomy and want a nice way to spark your interest this is a nice little book. It's thin, and handily sized, and it covers what you'll see in the sky (clouds permitting) each month in 2016. Each month has a 2-page diagram, annoyingly split by the spine of the book, and objects such as the planets, visible galaxies, meteor showers and so on are highlighted. There are some small pictures of what you may see, and a fair amount of text describing what is up there, so it's not just a picture book. If I could change anything about the book I'd have put the star charts on fold-out pages so you can see them without the spine of the book getting in the way, but as it stands it's a nice little book, and it's helped me to find out what I should be looking out for in the sky over the coming year.

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