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Reviews Written by
R. F. Stevens "richard23491" (Ickenham UK)

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NOCO G3500UK Genius Smart Battery Charger
NOCO G3500UK Genius Smart Battery Charger
Price: £35.51

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, both for car batteries and small gel batteries, 30 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a well designed charger that will not cook a battery, but yet bring it to full charge - if at all possible. It is designed for Lead-Acid types such as car batteries or Gel-Cells.

Being switch-mode it is much lighter than a comparable linear supply, and also does not get as hot even at the full charge rate. The sealed plastic case is IP65 and looks to be beer and splash resistant, but the instructions are insistent that it is for indoors use only.

There are two methods to connect to the battery, either by an adaptor lead ending in the usual clamps or by one with bolt-on eyelets. Each of these alternatives plugs into the captive lead from the charger, and each has a 10Amp fuse in the positive line.

The eight stage charging sequence is well thought out, and the charger monitors the battery voltage in between pulses of current to decide how far it has progressed through the sequence.

One of the best ways of destroying any rechargeable battery is to overcharge it, and several mechanisms can kick in all of which are irreversible. This charger backs off as the battery approaches the correct state of charge, and will not allow the battery to overheat or overcharge.

It has two output voltages (6V and 12V), with the options of small battery (1.2Ah to 14Ah) or large battery (14Ah to 120Ah), as well as the choice of environments (warm or cold ie below freezing point) for each, giving eight permutations in all.

In use, first time with a battery.
1. Connect the charger to the battery first.
2. Connect the mains, and the charger sits there, either in Standby (Green LED) or indicating its remembered last recently used mode, and waiting for instructions.
3. Press the Mode button to step through the eight available choices to the one most relevant for this battery, and a couple of seconds after the last press it believes the new Mode instruction and begins to supply current. It is possible to step round all through the sequence through Standby and begin again if a mistake was made.
4. As it works through the sequence the progress LEDs will light (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%), and when all are lit then the battery is full.
5. Disconnect the mains
6. Disconnect the battery.
7. If there is a problem with the battery the charger gives up immediately and flashes the Orange Error LED, and all the other LEDs too.

In use again, with the battery it charged most recently.
1. Connect the charger to the battery first.
2. Connect the mains, and the charger sits there indicating its remembered most recently used mode, and waits a few seconds for a change to the mode.
3. If there is no change to the mode, after the wait times out it will automatically begin to charge the battery in the indicated mode.
4. As it works through the sequence the progress LEDs will light (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%), and when all are lit then the battery is full.
5. Disconnect the mains
6. Disconnect the battery.

Charging time is a function of how big the battery is and how deeply discharged it is. The instructions offer a table indicating how long to expect it might take for the different combinations to reach full charge.

The instruction leaflet is comprehensive, but tiny with 5.5 point print (Why? Is paper that expensive?), and tells us all we need to know, as well as offering lots of cautionary Safety advice. It is also available on-line.

I happened to have a couple of old sacrificial Dry-Fit Lead-acid 12V gel-packs and tried them out with the charger to see if it could rescue them, as suggested might be possible.
One had been float charged for years and had developed bulgy cells, and the charger correctly rejected this immediately as being faulty.
The other battery had sat in its original packing and never been used, but had simply deteriorated through age, and here the charger made a surprisingly good attempt to resuscitate it, with the battery having some useful charge after only a couple of hours of being processed.

While testing I monitored the terminals with an oscilloscope on to see how high the voltage went, and on my sample it kept low enough to be safe if directly connected to an in-situ car battery.

This neat little charger is a good 'un. Thank you Vine.

Pampers Fresh Clean Wipes - 12 x Packs of 64 (768 Wipes)
Pampers Fresh Clean Wipes - 12 x Packs of 64 (768 Wipes)
Price: £17.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong but gentle; effective moisturising wipes, 30 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
These wipes work on grown-up just as well as on babies.

The effect is one of cleaner skin, initially a bit tacky as with most moisturisers, but soon dry and smooth. They are nice to use on face and hands and the perfume is not too strong.

The fabric is strong enough not to fall apart while in use, and is much better to the touch than most normal tissues. Unlike the tissues it does not seem to shed fibres on rougher surfaces.

To allow access into it, each pouch of 64 wipes has a pull-back adhesive cover flap which can be stuck back in place. However it is not such a good seal once opened and soon the traces from the oils prevent air-tight resealing. But long before the contents have dried out the wipes will have all been used up and it will be time to open a new pack.

The main 'cleansing' ingredients are water (aqua), with some citric acid (lemon juice) and a mild moisturiser. The moisturiser is mainly castor oil. The other ingredients are mostly preservatives.

One thing that could puzzle some is that while the product description claims that it is 'Alcohol free', listed in the ingredients are both Benzyl Alcohol and Phenoxyethanol. Which some critics might interpret as being wrong; but neither chemical is raw alcohol, instead they work more in the way of preservative and disinfectant. See the Wiki for more useful info on these two. Specifically, note the warning for infants not to ingest them, as might be possible from thumbs etc. However, the concentration in this product should be low enough not to be significant, even from a frequently 'cleaned' and well-sucked thumb.

Nice product.

Android Programming: Pushing the Limits
Android Programming: Pushing the Limits
by Erik Hellman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful aid for experienced Android programmers, but not for the faint hearted, 25 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Amazon blurb is accurate. This book is aimed at competent programmers who already know their way around designing Android apps, and need to catch up on the latest wrinkles. It is definitely not for beginners.

It offers an insight into a variety of useful techniques which have only recently become available, and among those that caught my eye were several for shortening testing and development times - always a problem with new and complex software rapidly approaching its delivery deadline.

If you are a beginner hoping to learn about Android, then look elsewhere, because this book this is already at the 'A' level stage. The author himself admits that the book will be soon out of date because of the rapid progress being made in this environment, even so I think it does provide a reasonable overview into how best to streamline modern Android programming.

The only real weakness is the way the screen-shots are presented, I think they should have been much clearer. But then the majority are only examples, and there are lots of links to find the most useful bits in a more accessible format.

There is a lot in here, but fortunately the table of contents and index are both excellent and the general layout is clear, helpful and intuitive with very readable text. It is ideal for someone seeking deeper knowledge to dive in and find a specific topic and the relevant support material. On the other hand I don't think anybody will be able to simply sit down and just read it!

Bosch 1600A00159 Sanding Roller Brass Coated Brush BM10 for Bosch PRR 250 Removing Roller
Bosch 1600A00159 Sanding Roller Brass Coated Brush BM10 for Bosch PRR 250 Removing Roller
Price: £3.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective light duty wire brush, 15 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This wire brush is brass coated to reduce rusting of the steel(?) wires. It is ideal for working on long thin sections of metal, and most of the time the wires do not tend to become trapped in crevices. However the wires are thin and wear down very quickly on an abrasive rusty surface. It is not stiff enough to remove chunkier rust.

Fitting it to the power tool is quick and easy and the roller feels secure in use.

I used this as the second stage when cleaning off the rust and old paint from my ancient wrought-iron gate, because while it did not even begin to move the chunkier bits it was good at cleaning out the many little bits left by the coarse cup brush I began with. I tried to finish off with a abrasive roller but that was rapidly shredded when caught in the crevices.

Remember to wear proper Eye Protection!

Bosch 1600A00154 Sanding Roller Flexible Roll SW15 K80 for Bosch PRR 250 Removing Roller
Bosch 1600A00154 Sanding Roller Flexible Roll SW15 K80 for Bosch PRR 250 Removing Roller
Offered by Tooled-Up
Price: £6.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for long thin awkward metal shapes, but very fragile, 15 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is best suited to polishing down long hard thin and simple shapes such as iron and steel mouldings, rods and strips. It is not so good on soft flat surfaces like wood where it tends to leave grooves along the grain or rips it ragged across the grain, and here one should choose a suitable grade of flap roller instead.

Fitting it to the power tool is quick and easy and the roller feels secure in use.

Alas, it is also fragile and prone to losing the petals if they become trapped by being wedged in crevices; with the speed of the power tool this happens so fast it is all over before one is aware of it. I destroyed this roller in only a few seconds this way, by drifting too close to the scroll-work when polishing off the final vestiges of rust and paint from my wrought-iron gate. The tougher rust etc had previously been removed with a heavy duty cup brush, then the thinner stuff with a wire brush roller.

It was quite good as far as it went, with a nice finish on the metal to key the fresh paint, but it worked out at about a pound for each minute of use, and I'll not make that mistake again.

Remember to wear proper Eye Protection!

Tacwise Duo 35 Electric Staple/Nail Gun
Tacwise Duo 35 Electric Staple/Nail Gun
Offered by Big Red Toolbox
Price: £96.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent mains powered gun for light gauge nails and staples, 13 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Excellent mains powered gun for light gauge nails and even thinner staples. It is heavy in the hand, but this is a positive advantage because the inertia of all that mass means it will not kick back when driving the nail/staple into the wood. One handed operation is possible, but not really the safest way to use it.

The 18 Gauge nails it uses are close to being same size as the bigger panel pins. But they seem to drive in very well with almost no effort from me other than careful alignment of the gun nose to the work. None of them bent out of line on the small pieces I first used it on.

The staples are a bit narrow and I prefer a wider type for upholstery or Tyvek because more of the fabric is gripped, but on a factory bench for tagging labels onto swathes of timber or doors passing through they are ideal.

There is no adjustment of the impulse to cater for different depth of penetration or different hardness of material, which could mean that longer pins might not be fully driven home. Care needs to be taken to test for compatibility of the appropriate pins and wood and how hard to lean the other hand on top of the gun.

Loading the consumables into the gun is easy, as is removing the surplus at the end of the job (an essential final step for belt and braces Safety.)

The mains lead is a bit short at only 1.75m, and in most applications an extension lead will probably be required.

The bit of bent tin that serves as a release lever to clear the nose assembly if there is a jam requires considerable force to move it, and I ended up using a flat bladed screwdriver to gently ease it off so as not to bend the lever out of shape or damage a finger.

The plastic clamshell box it is supplied in is sturdy and has a slot for a packet of consumables, and even enough space for a longer mains lead - if it had been fitted.

A couple of years ago I replaced all the doors, architraves and skirtings in my house and borrowed an expensive Makita cordless nail gun which was fantastic, because it was not hampered by a mains lead, and always had couple of spare batteries warming up in the charger. It allowed rapid fixing without bruising the delicate mouldings, and I only needed a final tap with a pin punch to drive the heads below the surface to make them invisible. This Tacwise would have done exactly the same job, but with the minor inconvenience of the mains lead.

Bosch PRR 250 ES Removing Roller
Bosch PRR 250 ES Removing Roller
Offered by Tooled-Up
Price: £117.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Effective sander, but with overpriced consumables, 13 Mar 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Bosch roller sander has several optional methods in various grades of abrasiveness for 'removing' surface material, be it wood, paint, rusty metal, skin, etc. And at first sight it is an ideal tool for the lazy DIYer.

It came with a full width lamella (flap) roller, a narrow lamella (flap) roller, and a rubber core and sleeve roller.

It allows one to remove material very quickly, and in doing so the consumables also wear down very quickly. It definitely has its uses, but it is not suitable for delicate work or finishing, nor for removing a lot of material where a power plane or router will produce a better result, nor in awkward places, nor on fiddly shapes such as a wrought-iron gate where a stiff wire brush would be more appropriate.

At first sight the variable speed is useful, but most of the time for cleaning down to metal it seems to work best on the higher speeds. Even on the lower speeds the finish on wood is not good enough with any of the five abrasive tools I have tried; it cannot match using different grades of paper dressed on a suitably shaped block when applied by hand.

The gate soon destroyed the sanding roller I bought to key the surface for painting, the petals caught in the crevices and ripped out. Alas, so far I've yet to find a suitable SDS steel wire brush; this one was only suitable for finishing, being just too weedy to remove thicker rust and paint and I ended up using a cup brush like this in a drill for the heavy work.

It also suffers the disadvantage of needing a mains lead, and in some instances when working outside an isolating transformer might be needed to be properly safe. It is quite noisy, and as usual with my power tools I used my ear-player and its CX300 ear-buds to block out the worst of it.

The guard is not adjustable and its vacuum take-off nozzle is way too small and not even the same size as my two other Bosch power tools, which is just silly. I had to make up an adaptor sleeve (40mm O/D and 30mm I/D) from some plumbing scraps. Even with full suck on the vacuum less than half the sanding waste was collected, which is an incentive to risk using it outside. This poor implementation definitely loses it a star.

The SDS system works well for changing tools, and, once one finds the knack, even fitting the sleeve rollers on and off the rubber hub is quite easy.

The case it comes in is nice and durable, and has plenty of room to store more rollers and discs and other accessories.

However, there is one major problem which will prevent me from using it much; the consumables are ridiculously expensive. For example, for less than the cost of a single short-lived sanding roller you can buy bumper packs (typically twenty-five sheets bigger than A4) of assorted grades of sandpaper at a retail builders merchant. The excessive running costs lose it another star.

It is really just another tool in the box appropriate for a few specific jobs; for example, one has different screwdrivers, big, small, flat and cross head, and would never use a screwdriver when a chisel is required nor use a chisel as a screwdriver.

Remember to wear Eye Protection when using this tool!

Battery holder for 10x AA/Mignon/LR6 batteries
Battery holder for 10x AA/Mignon/LR6 batteries
Price: £4.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ten cell holder for a 12Volt NiMH back-up battery, 4 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This style of battery holder accommodates the ten NiMH rechargeable AA cells I needed for some 12V back-up circuits. When the holder is mounted on the inside of the equipment casing and in a relatively slim space, the ranked-in-line format allows for easy replacements if there is a problem with any of the cells. The connection to the rest of the world is via solder tags.

The holder is a resilient plastic and the contacts are simply riveted on. There is a wire along the back linking the cells together, which is fine for the 50-120mA I need, but it might be advisable to increase its gauge if you need more current (eg when using a "fast" charger).

Using ten 2900mAH cells gives me more capacity in a smaller space than with the previous systems which used Lead-Acid Dryfit batteries. Those particular cells are a very tight fit length-wise, but they do go in to the holder with a little persuasion.

This was supplied by Mexxtronics from Germany, and (as expected) took more than a week to arrive.

Ex-Pro® GoPro AHDBT-001, AHDBT-002, ABPAK-001 Battery (2 Pack) with Charger for GoPro Cameras [See Description for Models]
Ex-Pro® GoPro AHDBT-001, AHDBT-002, ABPAK-001 Battery (2 Pack) with Charger for GoPro Cameras [See Description for Models]
Offered by ExpressPro
Price: £19.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Basic but effective charger for Go-Pro batteries, 2 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A basic charger and two batteries make using my GoPro HD Hero2 much simpler, each of the supplied batteries gives me another couple of hours working time with the camera. They seem to work exactly the same as the original GoPro battery.

The Charger is a generic 4.2V base unit with a slide-on adaptor to suit the appropriate single cell Li-Ion battery, in this case the GoPro 2 series cells. The way it is manufactured means that there is a possibility of the pins in the figure-8 mains socket working loose and being pushed into the body of the charger, which happened on my sample far away from home up in Verbier. This major weakness looses it a couple of stars.

These batteries are very slightly different with their casing and are a slightly looser fit than the original from GoPro, but not loose enough to rattle about. The capacity tested out as about the same; giving the same working duration, and also functioning down to the same low temperatures on a recent ski trip.

The charger fills a flattened battery in about two to three hours, red light while busy and battery warm, green light when done and battery cooling again. It can use either the ac mains (via standard figure-8 detachable mains lead) or a 12V dc car lighter socket (3.5mm o/d co-axial mini-power-jack from 12V lighter-plug) as a power source. The charger does stay warm while plugged in, even when not charging, so it is advisable to remove it from the power source, mains or car, when not required.

The pack contains two generic 1100mAh Li-Ion 3.7V batteries compatible with the GoPro series of cameras as described in the product description, a generic charger with a standard figure-8 mains socket, a UK to figure-8 mains lead, and a 12V car lighter to mini-jack lead. I have kept the little plastic bags for the batteries to ensure the recessed contacts cannot collect dirt, nor inadvertently find a short and discharge somewhere dangerous. (I don't want a fire in my bag on the plane, nor in my pocket on the piste!)

I have added this charger set (plus a Continental-2-pin to figure-8 mains lead from my surplus stock) to my GoPro kit box.

Addendum. 28th March 2014
The charger eventually failed because of the pins being pushed into the body, but Express Pro sent me an RMA for a Freepost return, and after testing the faulty one replaced it immediately. Excellent service.

Tefal OptiGrill
Tefal OptiGrill
Price: £139.99

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent grill, ergonomic in use, 24 Feb 2014
This review is from: Tefal OptiGrill (Kitchen & Home)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Tefal OptiGrill is a sandwich of two heated grooved non-stick plates enclosing the food, opened by a big handle with all the controls on it. The temperature of the upper plate is controlled by a sensor, the thickness of the food being cooked is measured by the separation of the plates. The cooking temperature vs time profile follows the program that must be selected by the user at time of switch-on. It uses up to 2kW from the mains on a standard plug.

The system is very simple, and the enclosed instruction leaflets are very clear. The generous array of buttons on the handle allows us direct control. A ten minute cooking session might well follow this pattern:
1. Switch on. (All the lights flash! It is seeking attention.)
2. Select program, (from Burger, Poultry, Bacon, Sausage, Red meat, Fish, or Manual.)
3. Press OK. (The indicator on the right goes purple while it pre-heats, and eventually chirps when ready)
4. Add the food (centred on the tray) and close the lid again. (The indicator goes blue and then green showing it is happy as it cooks)
5. The indicator changes colour gradually to yellow, orange and red, with chirps at strategic moments when it thinks the food is rare (Yellow), medium (Orange) or well done (Red).
6. Take out the food when it has reached the required stage of cooking.
7. If the food is left in after the Well Done chirp the grill goes to the Keep Warm mode and continues to remind us every twenty seconds.
8. Switch off and unplug.

Some of the food can be taken out earlier for rare or medium while leaving the rest in for well done.

There are various safeguards built in to the system, the most important one of which is that it will not try to heat up if the cook does not select any program, either auto or manual. It will also switch itself to a keep warm mode at the standard time-out for a cooking session if the cook does not immediately remove the food.

Cleaning the cooled-down hot plates and drip tray later is easy; after removing them from the machine the hot tap and a soft brush removes all the loose stuff and the dishwasher finishes the job.

The lower plate is inclined towards the front, so that juices flow towards the cook and the drip tray. The non-stick surface also means that some foods can just slide off into the drip tray if carelessly placed. I am tempted to raise the front a few millimetres by packing the feet with some extra thickness.

I am glad I tested it for electrical safety and hot external surfaces before doing any cooking, because the pong from the pair of elements as they warmed up on pre-heat for the first time was dreadful and it could easily have got into the food. The windows were open wide for half an hour to clear the kitchen. And yes, it is electrically safe and none of the external surfaces one is likely to touch inadvertently get too hot, apart from, of course, the cooking plates.

So how does it cook?

Very well for most things, BUT there are some obvious differences to a normal oven-grill.
1. The preheat time required is about five minutes, which is quite long for the more impatient of those among us used to a normal grill in an oven taking maybe only a quarter of a minute to reach cooking temperature.
2. Being a contact grill the meat cooks much faster because of better conduction to both sides simultaneously, maybe less than half the time of a normal grill. Which makes up for the pre-heat wait.
3. The reduced cooking time might be a disadvantage! I have found that although the meat was perfectly cooked (still juicy at the well-done chirp), the fat on the edges of a pair of pork loin-chops was not cooked enough, and certainly not as much as if it had been under an ordinary radiant grill and needed to be turned over. I used a gas-torch for a few seconds to crackle the under-cooked fat on the edge of the pork chops, and again another day on a couple of steaks.
4. Some people might find that it does not get hot enough to properly sear the surface of the meat, especially with beef steaks where they still want the inside more bleu than pink. I'm wondering if the thermostat and software can be fiddled.

Is it worth five stars?

Yes, but only just, and if you don't need a crispy surface. The differences can be worked around, and will be common to any form of electric contact grill. The ease of using and cleaning it is a great improvement over a standard oven-grill, and this is what really helps to raise it up the rankings.

Addendum. 7th March 2014.
Wishful but impossible thought. If only there was an option to replace the grilling inserts with a pair of waffle plates...

Addendum 2. 13th March 2014.
Toasted sandwiches work very well indeed, despite the curved surfaces, and no need to butter the outside of the bread as with many other sandwich toasters.

Addendum 3. 24th March 2014.
A visitor wanted a crisper more 'charred' outer to her steak, and we confirmed that the cooking surface just does not get hot enough; the steak ended up very well done on Manual, but not 'charred' and I had to dig out the plumber's gas-torch again.

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