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Peter (United Kingdom)

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Inateck 2.5 Inch USB 3.0 Hard Drive Disk HDD External Enclosure Case with usb 3.0 Cable for 9.5mm 7mm 2.5" SATA HDD and SSD, Tool-free HDD Installation, Compatible With Windows 2000/ XP /Vista/ 7/ 8, Mac OS 9.1/10.8.4
Inateck 2.5 Inch USB 3.0 Hard Drive Disk HDD External Enclosure Case with usb 3.0 Cable for 9.5mm 7mm 2.5" SATA HDD and SSD, Tool-free HDD Installation, Compatible With Windows 2000/ XP /Vista/ 7/ 8, Mac OS 9.1/10.8.4
Offered by Inateck
Price: £21.99

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A straightforward matt black 2.5" USB 3 drive caddy, 28 Sep 2013
Length:: 3:10 Mins

Because one of my laptops died in a non-repairable way, I had a spare 2.5" E-Sata HDD. As luck would have it, Inateck offered me a review copy of the "sleek design/new release" version of their USB 3.0 Disk Caddy (in exchange for this review), so I had something to fit my spare drive into. The caddy is a very unfussy design in matt black. It's easy to install the disk and it works just fine and at USB 3.0 speeds. It's not the prettiest disk caddy available, but it does the job, and it protects the drive well.

I've been using USB 3.0 for a while now, and I still can't get used to external disks being very nearly as fast as internal ones (assuming you have a spare USB 3.0 port on your computer, of course. It will work with USB 2.0, as long as the HDD you fit doesn't draw more power then your computer's USB port can supply, normally 500mA.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
by Holly Black
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Blood, romance and sharp pointy canines, 13 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Holly Black says that The Coldest Girl is her love letter to all the vampire books she read when growing up. It's a much sharper, narrative-driven imagining than books like the Twilight series, with lots of blood everywhere: spurting blood, spattering blood, pumping blood, canulas, IVs and shunts. There's also more peril than seems reasonable for any character to have to bear, and some difficult choices for the heroine Tana to face.

And yet. It still manages to include a romantic I'm-in-love-with-the-dangerous-one-with-ruby-eyes-and-pointy-teeth element to the plot, and there is a frisson to be had from the playing-with-fire nature of Tana's descent into Coldtown, the "quarantine" area for vampires, the Cold (who have been bitten and may turn in to vampires if their craving for human blood is satisfied) and trapped humans.

All of the familiar vampire tropes (including stakes, crucifixes, herbal vampire-repellents and a noticeable reluctance to sunbathe) are there, but it's not a lighthearted novel by any means. There's a lot of gore and nastiness, a fair amount of controlled distopia, wild vampire parties with humans desperate to join in with them "like quivering pork chops" and the teenage-vampire fantasy all rolled into one narrative, with all traditional and modern vampire bases covered.

I found myself living this book minute-by-minute along with Tana, shuddering, feeling faint (there are times when you can forgive her for feeling slightly anemic), hoping desperately she'll make it through, and feeling slightly paranoid about all those other strange people in Coldtown. There's a lot that's nightmarish about the way the plot develops, but it's also dreamlike. It's a powerful, disturbing, sexy book that will have you reading it compulsively.

The Coldest Girl breaks out of the samey vampire genre; it's a sharp, clever, original work of fiction, and it's a one-off. Now it's time for Holly Black to move on and do something completely different.

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent characterisations by Lindsay Duncan, 13 Sep 2013
This review is from: Pride and Prejudice (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In David Lodge's university novel Changing Places, the academics play a game called "Humiliation", where they admit to classics they have never read. Pride and Prejudice has been my "humiliation", a classic novel I must admit to never having read, partly through time constraints and partly because I find the early 19th Century language slightly laborious to read and understand.

This audiobook edition has addressed both of my issues, and I can now say I understand the rather complicated course of true love, tempered with an astute eye for a ten-thousand-pounds-a-year income and the expansive and beautiful Pemberley Estate, and about the Bennett sisters' other suitors, and, indeed about the terrible scandal in Book 3. Lindsay Duncan - whom I still associate with her character in Bleasdale's GBH - makes the (to my mind) rather stilted circumlocutions of pre-Victorian society intelligible by her lively delivery. She characterises Mrs Bennett's silliness, Mr Bennett's drollery and Lydia's schoolgirl antics very well indeed. It makes for a lively and enjoyable listen, even over the 10 CDs and 12 hours it occupies. I'm quite fortunate that I had a week of travelling just far enough to listen to a CD each way, so the whole listening experience neatly fitted into that week.

I know audiobooks aren't for everyone, but if you want to pack something interesting into your daily commute, and if you find the language of old books like this difficult to easily comprehend when read, this is an excellent option. However, there's always a downside: I won't any longer be able to use Pride and Prejudice as my trump card if ever I get challenged to a game of Humiliation.

Compact Oxford German Dictionary
Compact Oxford German Dictionary
by Oxford Dictionaries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Compact, not concise, with online access, 29 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got this dictionary to supplement Oxford's Take Off in German, which is a good, if somewhat scary, introduction to the language including spoken German. It has limited vocabulary, which sometimes left me struggling to understand - it's useful that German speakers often know quite a bit of English, but I feel it's rude to assume that they will.

The dictionary is compact in the sense that it packs a lot on, not that it's physically small. It actually is fairly small, at rather less than the size of a house brick, but it's pretty heavy. Because of the nature of a bilingual dictionary, there's a need to fit in two lists of words (German and English), together with a brief summary of German grammar. In the middle of the book, there are some notes on German culture and on how to write letters and text (SMS) in German and English. This last section for example tells German speakers that "3sum" is an English text abbreviation for "threesome", which seems slightly ambiguous territory for a dictionary to tread.

You probably wouldn't want to carry a dictionary like this with you everywhere, but it's useful to have on your desk or in your suitcase. If nothing else, you can go back over the new words you've learned each day and make sure you understand the sense correctly.

There is a code hidden inside the book (and it's not obvious where until you visit the website) that gives you a year of online access to the dictionary and associated language services, which in many circumstances might be more convenient than having the book with you.

VANGUARD Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminium Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head
VANGUARD Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminium Tripod with SBH-100 Ball Head
Price: £149.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good compromise between stability and lightness, 27 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This tripod has tubular aluminium legs. They're reasonably stable and very light, but they son't offer the total stability you'd get from chunkier tripods (such as this one). But the portability coupled with a usable 2m high mounting point makes this a good option for many purposes.

Key to its flexibility is that the camera mount is on a ball joint. The tripod comes with two quick-release shoes, so you can swap between two cameras quickly (or in my case between a camera and a video camera). There's a spirit level at the top of the tripod to make sure you've got the base level, and then two more (yaw and pitch) spirit levels on the camera mount itself. If you get the level right, it's easy to smoothly pan in video mode (there are two rotational joints, both damped). The shoes aren't designed for video cameras, by the way, in that they don't have the locating pin, but the rubbery padding on the shoe holds the camera firmly, so it's not needed.

At its full height the tripod is tall enough to see across the heads of a crowd. You can also open the tripod legs wider (you can unclip them to open further) for added stability at a lower height. There's a hook underneath so you can fix a weight if you want added stability. Finally, if you move the central piller to the very top (you need to press a release button) you can unclip a hinge that lets you lie the pillar horizontally, so your camera is lavel with the top of the tripod but offset about 18" to the side. This gives you the option to "poke the camera round the corner" or get an advanced vantage point, but it also (for video use) allows more natural drawing back and swinging round, for example when filming a train passing.

I'm pretty pleased with this tripod. It comes with it's own shoulder bag, so it's fairly easy to take it with you on a photographic field trip. It's still fairly long when packed, but anything shorter - or thinner - would become unusably shaky in use. Anything heavier or bulkier, and I'd be tempted not to take it.

One thing to watch out for: in full sun, the black aluminium can get a bit hot to touch!

Blake's 7: Project Avalon (Classic Novels)
Blake's 7: Project Avalon (Classic Novels)
by Trevor Hoyle
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £16.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Better without the shaky sets, but still a bit stilted, 27 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm conflicted. I watched every episode of Blake's 7 when it was shown on television, and I loved it: shaky sets, corny dialogue and all. Taking a handful of disparate characters and putting them in a spaceship fighting for freedom from tyranny for the galaxy: what could be better?

And there was a germ of potential in Blakes 7. There was a darkness, a cynicism that managed to make even the more threadbare plotlines (they seem to have run out of ideas quite early on) seem interesting. With a bit more polishing, a few more plot ideas and a bit of money to spend on special effects, the TV series could have been truly great.

The six CDs in this set are read from the novel of the TV series by two of the actors from the series: Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan) and Paul Darrow (Avon). The book was written in 1979, but the audiobook version is new. If the actors sound old, it's because they are: they must be in their 70s by now. The stories come from several episodes in the first series, but they don't include the first couple of episodes that established the format. It's quite fun to listen to, although the action sequences need to be spelled out somewhat. Technological advances in the last 30 years have made some passages slightly archaic to listen to: for example, data is stored on tape. Pearce reads the stories on the first couple of disks; Darrow reads the rest. The opportunity to have Pearce read the female dialogue and Darrow the male dialogue is missed.

Blakes 7 is trashy space opera with the potential to be something much better. Perhaps one day it will be remade and upgraded in the same way that Dr Who was reinvented and became better than the original. It could be wonderful. In the mean time, these stories offer an opportunity for nostalgia.

The Last Little Blue Envelope
The Last Little Blue Envelope
by Maureen Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting. Romantic. Nerdfighter-friendly, 27 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
OK, first things first. If you haven't read 13 Little Blue Envelopes yet, then read it now. It's perfectly possible to read these books in reverse order, which is what I did, but it makes more sense if you read it in story order.

If you *have* already read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you'll probably want to read this one without any recommendation from me, because it wraps up a missing plot-line from the first story, and you really need to know the proper end to the story.

So. I can't say too much about this story in case you haven't already read the first book. Hmm.

Well, they're both about Ginny Blackstone, who has come to Europe from America on a sort of treasure hunt laid by her dying aunt, who was a rather wild artist, and who is trying to teach Ginny a few things about the world. Along the way there are some wild adventures, exotic locations and possibly some romance. It's a really easy good read with a feel-good outcome that's not too sweet or simple.

Maureen Johnson is an American writer, but she loves Britain and Europe. She writes passionately, in that I-want-to-know-what-happens-next way. And she comes recommended by John and Hank Green, which should be enough for any Nerdfighter.

TaoTronics® Elune TT-DL01 (Black) Versatile Natural Light LED Desk Lamp (4 Lighting Modes & 5-level dimmer for each mode, Touch Sensitive Control Panel, 1-Hour Auto Timer, 5V/1A USB Charging Port)
TaoTronics® Elune TT-DL01 (Black) Versatile Natural Light LED Desk Lamp (4 Lighting Modes & 5-level dimmer for each mode, Touch Sensitive Control Panel, 1-Hour Auto Timer, 5V/1A USB Charging Port)
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £99.99

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great option for a student bedroom, 27 Aug 2013
TaoTronics has released a variety of lamps for the UK market. I've tried two, the TaoTronics® Elune TT-DL01 (Black) Versatile Natural Light LED Desk Lamp) and the TaoTronics® TT-DL04 Cool White Ultra-thin Eye-Protection Gooseneck LED Work Desk Lamp / Detachable Emergency Outdoor Light (with a bundled carabiner). The basic functionality is similar, but they offer different features.

**** At time of writing the reviews for the two different lamps are appearing on both product pages, so please be careful which of the two products you're looking at! ****

They are both essentially desk lamps or bedside lamps (or both if you're in student accommodation). They both have a posable LED light bar with variable brightness settings. They are both very efficient, low-power devices. They are both controlled by touch-sensitive buttons, and they both have a USB charging point so you can charge your phone without needing to use up another power socket (this is a particularly nice touch).

So how are they different?

The Elune has adjustable colour temperature. There are two sets of LEDs in the head, white and warm yellow. By selecting different presets you get a stark white (that's "Study" mode), a warm yellow (that's "Relax") or somewhere in the middle ("Reading"). There's also a "Sleep" setting that turns the white LEDs off altogether, leaving a gentle yellow nightlight effect. You can adjust the brightness up and down using +/- buttons. There's also a 60 minute timer, so if you like going to sleep with the light on but don't want the light burning all night, you're well catered for. The Elune is the bigger of the two lamps, with a largish (about 18cm square) base and a 45-ish cm high column. The column can be rotated or bent forward to about 40 degrees. The lamp head hinge at the top of the column goes back about 45 degrees, and folds forward so it closes on to the column, thus tidying the lamp away when you're not using it, so despite its size it takes up very little space. The power cord, which consists of a transformer-cum-mains-plug and a 12V cable, is quite short (about 4 feet?). The one disadvantage with this lamp is the lamp head doesn't tilt sideways, so you need to rotate the column at the base to get the light just where you want it.

The TT-DL04 Cool White Ultra-thin Eye-Protection Gooseneck LED Work Desk Lamp, which is the one with the free carabiner, is shorter, with about 20cm of fixed column and then 20cm or gooseneck which is completely poseable, and the lamp head can also be twisted sideways so you have very good control over the illuminated area. The base is narrower, only 10cm wide by 16cm deep (and the power cable needs to fit in the back, so you need another 15mm for that). The USB charging point is also in the back, which is a little fiddly. As the name implies, the "cool white" TT-DL04 only offers a single colour temperature, and the whiteness takes a little getting used to if you have only used incandescent bulbs before. There's jut a single control button on the lamp head, which lets you turn the light on and off (long press) or change the brightness (short press). The power cable (which is about a foot longer than the Elune's) is thin "figure of eight" wire, with a transformer built into the power plug. The review sample I was sent came with a US plug and a UK socket adapter (check before you buy). A really useful feature of this lamp is you can take your light with you. The lamp head has a rechargeable battery in it and it detaches from the gooseneck. This is useful: the batteries in most of the torches I have in the house are dead, but because you're using this device as a lamp it means you are de facto keeping it charged for when you need it. So if I need to go into the back garden to make sure the chickens are in the coop, I can take this lamp with me. And if there's a power-cut, the lamp keeps working, so you're not plunged straight into darkness. I'm not so sure about the carabiner. There's a loop at the end of the lamp head you can attach the carabiner to, but I have my doubts about how easily this might break. I don't think I'm going to take the risk.

So, which would I choose? The larger Elune) is more stylish in a shiny angular obelisk sort of way, and it has the choice of different shades of white light. The lack of a sideways tilt to the lam head is its only major drawback, and it does make a very good reading lamp if you draw it down low. The smaller lamp takes up less space and has more versatile head-positioning, and the very useful ability to stay lit through power cuts and work as an emergency torch. On balance I think I prefer the smaller one, but either would be great for a study bedroom.

Please note:
- I have compared two different TaoTronics lamps. I hope I've made it clear which features belong to each lamp so you can choose the right one. As I mention at the top, the reviews for the two different lamps are appearing on each others' product pages, which is a little confusing. I've put several links in the review between the two different product pages so you can check them both out.
- I was sent these two lamps by the distributor to let me review them. I hope my reviews are "speak as I find", and I have done my best to highlight any problems with both products as well as providing a comparison.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2013 3:19 PM GMT

Stylfile Nipper Clipper Baby Nail Clipper
Stylfile Nipper Clipper Baby Nail Clipper
Price: £8.54

4.0 out of 5 stars Innovation or clever marketing?, 26 Aug 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's been so much hype around the Stylfile range it's become hard to tell whether it offers something genuinely innovative. The good news is that while the two products in this box are really no more than refining the details of existing products, they do genuinely offer a better product than what came before.

The two parts are the Stylfile curved nailfile and the nail clipper. The Stylfile is a glorified S-shaped emery board, but it's made of something much tougher than a traditional cardboard and sand effort. This one is black plastic with a fine abrasive on one side and a coarser abrasive on the other. The S-shape (which I felt to be a gimmick until I tried it) is actually much more natural for smoothing off rough edges on a curved fingernail, although you can only use half the length of the file before you come to the half that curves the wrong way.

The clippers have three innovations, one of which is slightly flawed. The first is the large orange plastic pad that lets the clippers rest firmly against your fingers without moving. The second is the hole in the top blade, which does give you a slightly better view of what you're doing, so you can position your baby's nail correctly. The third is that the blades are slightly angled, so they work like scissors. This means you don't get a sudden snap when the blades cut through the nail: they're gentler and silent. The problem is that with thick adult nails the scissor action pushes the clippers sideways, so you don't cut quite where you meant to. On baby nails, which are much thinner, this is less of a problem, but it's still something you need to watch out for. Note that these clippers are not intended for use on adult nails; this may be one reason why.

Taken as a pair they're functional and useful. They're hardly groundbreaking, but they do improve on the existing versions of both devices.

TaoTronics® TT-BH03 Foldable Headset Behind-the-Head Bluetooth A2DP Stereo Headphone with Built-in Microphone, Supporting Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free Calling
TaoTronics® TT-BH03 Foldable Headset Behind-the-Head Bluetooth A2DP Stereo Headphone with Built-in Microphone, Supporting Wireless Music Streaming and Hands-Free Calling
Offered by Sunvalleytek-UK
Price: £29.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good everyday Bluetooth headset, 25 Aug 2013
They may not be the most stylish, but these headphones work well, and they have a very healthy battery life. I took them with me on a train trip from Bristol to Edinburgh (about 6 hours), during which I listened to music continuously. When I arrived, I found I hadn't brought a mini-USB charging cable (that's one mildly annoying thing: most devices these days use a micro-USB cable, but these headphones use mini-USB). So I couldn't charge them. So I was rather pleased that the headphones lasted all the way back to Bristol on the same charge, and I was able to potter around in the garden listening to the whole of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show (the 2-hour stage show), and the batteries were still going strong.

What they're good at is letting you listen to your music wirelessly from your mobile phone when you're wandering around or on public transport. Because the headband goes round the back of your neck, you can't wear them when you're propped up in bed watching a film on your Kindle Fire HD: the pillow gets in the way of the headband. While I'm finding fault, the other thing to watch is that if you wear glasses or sunglasses the headband can get in the way of the legs of your glasses. Mind you, I wear glasses and manage well enough. This sort of headset looks a little strange at first too: because the headband goes behind (not over) my head, my wife thinks it looks like I'm wearing a couple of black yoghurt pots on my ears.

Pairing is easy: you just hold down the big button on the right earpiece until it flashes blue and red, then search for it from your device. Turning on and off just involves holding the same button down for a few seconds. There are also buttons to increase/secrease the volume and skip forwards/back. Press the big button briefly to pause and resume. It does take a bit of practice to press the correct volume and skip buttons without being able to see it, but the big button is easy enough to use. Sound quality is quite acceptable, and the headset is fairly comfortable. It doesn't completely eliminate ambient noise, which is useful if you're in a public place.

There's a microphone built in to the right earphone, so you can use these headphones to answer phonecalls too. Just wait for the ringtone (your phone rings and you hear a beeping in the headphones) press that big button briefly to answer. I'm told that outgoing voice quality is good.

I use these headphones to listen to brain-nourishing content when I'm going round supermarkets, which I otherwise find rather dull. I also use them in the garden to listen to the radio at times when it might disturb the neighbours to use a loudspeaker. I'm pretty pleased with their performance.

Note: The distributor sent me a pair of these headphones for me to review. The opinions in my review are entirely my own.

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