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5.0 out of 5 stars Colour me shocked, 17 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
First a confession - this is the first time targeted marketing's worked on me. Although it seemed more like sage advice from a cocktail veteran than a marketing ploy thankfully :)

A rep from Drinkstuff obviously had too much time on his hands and saw my review of the medicore manhattan shaker here: Manhattan Cocktail Shaker by bar@drinkstuff (28 oz / 750ml - 26cm Tall) Stainless Steel 3 Piece Cocktail Shaker with Strainer which I purchased and posted 3 years ago, in which I explained that continued dribbles were a flaw of the design since there wasn't a decent spout. After that, I got a free manhattan shaker with a bottle of Tanqueray which, although not as nice-looking, was much more functional and that became my shaker du jour. Then along comes Mr. Barman dropping a casual link to this shaker, I think it must be a fairly new arrival. Given than I was tired of getting freezer burns on my hand, I was itching to give a proper double-walled shaker a go.

In short, this is so far the best manhattan shaker I've used. To run through the good points of the design:
* Shaker body is double-walled (acrylic outer with a metal inner); your hands don't get cold when you shake, your freezing hands don't warm up the drink, there's very little condensation forming on the outside in humid weather. In the recent warm weather, after mixing a round of drinks it's not unusual to return to the shaker 3 hours later and find half of your ice still there. Not that you should re-use it of course, but just goes to show that this is well insulated. I've not observed any condensation on the inside of the walls.
* Shaker body also has a padded base. This doesn't effect usability much, but means it doesn't make an ugly clunk when plonked down on a table and it's not liable to slide around on a wet surface.
* There's a plastic seal between the body and the main lid; a very snug fit. No liquid has seeped out of this so far.
* Contrary to the picture, there's no silly little chain connecting the cap with the lid; the cap is merely a tight-fitting bit of metal. I would have considered the chain an annoyance, especially where cleaning is concerned. Those of you dreading taking off the cap after a good shake - rest easy. The fit is tight enough that very little liquid will remain in the cap and you won't have rivulets running down the side.
* The lid conceals a short but perfectly usable pourer with a nice sharp edge - no dribbles and a nice clean pour.
* Inbuilt strainer lets the booze run freely but holes are small enough that any chips of ice won't get through. Also easy to wipe clean.

Packaging says this is dishwasher-safe, but I don't like putting soft acrylic in the dishwasher. Thankfully the construction of this is such that it's a doddle to clean with a cloth and a bit of soap and it will easily drain dry without water pooling up in the seals or suchlike.

Downsides that I can see... well, they're small really. I think a metal outer would have looked more elegant (and probably more dishwasher friendly as well), and the shaker is probably big enough that most will have difficulty shaking with one hand - I have big hands and I can only just about get my hand around the neck and a finger over the cap with enough grip to shake comfortably. And I'm still getting used to the balance which is markedly different from my non-double-walled shakers. Other than that, it's been the perfect shaker for vieux carrés and the perfect stirrer/swiller for martinis. Yes, it's expensive, but streets ahead of most shakers in the same price range, many of which are form over function.

Heartily recommended, and very happy to have been tipped the nod by Drinkstuff.


ASRock E3C226D2I Server/Workstation Board (Socket 1150, Intel C226, DDR3, S-ATA 600, M-ITX)
ASRock E3C226D2I Server/Workstation Board (Socket 1150, Intel C226, DDR3, S-ATA 600, M-ITX)
Price: £164.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good low-end server board, 6 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Writing a little capsule review mostly in response to DSS's lacklustre review since I've had a much better experience with this motherboard.

In short, I wanted a mITX board to build a small but powerful home server; I initially bought an Intel S2100KPR since it was one of the only mITX boards that supported ECC memory. Then Haswell and these ASRock units came out and I thought "what the hell" and bought one of these. The only other competition in town is be from SuperMicro, although all the boards I saw at the time required SODIMMs rather than DIMMS, which are much harder to find and more expensive if you want ECC.

I've now mostly built my server, but have had the board up and running as a test bed for the last couple of months. It's been built with linux and so I have the following to report:
* Initially, the box would keep rebooting. The event log viewable in the BMC would tell me this was due to it detecting uncorrectable memory errors. I checked my memory configuration and eventually deduced this was due to one of the memory modules not being seated correctly - as a space-saving measure the slots only have a retention clip at one end. Once this was firmly pushed in, I was able to run through memtest for 24 hours without a problem or even a correctable memory error.

* After that, I found the box wouldn't reboot cleanly; instead of rebooting, the box would hang on shutdown. After some digging I traced this to the linux kernel modules for the intel management agent; I blacklisted the mei and mei_me modules and the box has behaved perfectly ever since. As far as I can tell this is only a minor bug and will probably soon be fixed.

* Some people have expressed concern that the fans often turn off. Whilst this issue has been fixed in the v1.80 BIOS (or the v1.60 BIOS if you're running the E3C224D2I), it wasn't really an issue - fans turned on whenever the CPU or system temperature got to 50 degrees. As of the 1.80 BIOS, the fans just run at minimum rpm constantly, temperature permitting.

To address DSS's points, the server is slow to POST because of the BMC. This takes about 40s to boot before the server will start to POST. Personally this isn't a problem for me since this is a server designed for 24/7 low-power, low noise operation. The BMC has already proved a godsend for being able to remotely reboot the server and the remote console has an inbuilt recording option which proved invaluable when I was diagnosing the hang-on-reboot issue. It requires running a slightly clunky java widget so YMMV there. Outside of that though, it'll give you a full rundown of what the hardware is doing and will also allow you to access this on the command line in linux using ipmitool. lm_sensors also works perfectly via the nct6775 module.

Performance-wise I can't fault the board; running with an E3-1230v3 and 16GB of Crucial ECC DDR3 it's been dung off a spade, and I'm able to shunt over 200MB/s over CIFS using samba and link aggregation (yay Intel NICs) and it works perfectly with my IBM M1015. Virtualisation via KVM works although I haven't tried using VT-d.

All in all a highly capable server platform for considerably less than you'd expect. There seems to be a great number of people who've been using this board for the same purposes as me and so far I've seen no-one complain about it - seems utterly solid so far but I'll report back if I have any issues. Failing anything major, I'll be first in the queue for its successor as long as it comes with 10Gb/s ethernet :)


Delock 42508 Multi-Port External Drive Enclosure for mSATA HDDs / eSATAp / 4-Port / USB 3.0
Delock 42508 Multi-Port External Drive Enclosure for mSATA HDDs / eSATAp / 4-Port / USB 3.0
Price: £18.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, dinky, speedy enclosure, 6 Nov. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Well, unlike the other reviewer, this product has been working perfectly fine since it arrived. I've outfitted mine with a 64GB mSATA SSD from Crucial and it's used as a portable applications, bootable doohickeys and an ISO repository for diagnostic purposes, and it flies along as you'd expect from an SSD. Installation requires a screwdriver but can be completed in under a minute.

My only criticism is that the device could have been made smaller in all three dimensions (the circuitry and space taken up by the ports is the biggest offender in this regard however), but the enclosure itself is an attractive and fairly sturdy brushed aluminium and of course the kit comes with all the cables you could possibly need to plug this into anything.

Glad to see someone's making nice niche products like this.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2014 9:43 AM GMT


Delock 2.5 Enclosure for External SATA HDD with Multiport USB 3.0 and eSATAp
Delock 2.5 Enclosure for External SATA HDD with Multiport USB 3.0 and eSATAp
Price: £32.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear... first review of less than fve stars!, 17 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Firstly, I'll have to echo everyone else's view that this is an excellent, and extremely flexible, enclosure. It comes with all the cables you'll need which plug into a clever combo-connector at the back of the drive (plus a power port):
USB3 data cable (USB A male to USB A male)
eSATAp cable
USB -> power cable (for when you're using vanilla eSATA)

Power/activity light is at the back too.

Installation of a hard disc is extremely simple, just unscrew the plastic fascia at one end and the whole circuit board assembly slides out and pop in your SATA drive. Slide back in and screw the fascia back on. Bingo!

...and that's where I had to dock a star. The caddy is big enough to accept 9mm-thick 2.5" drives, but I chucked a Crucial M4 in there and I was unable to get the fascia plate back on, since it has a small plastic rim that's designed to get hold the drive in place. Since almost every 2.5" hard drive has a slightly bevelled edge this is fine, but since many SSDs don't have a bevelled edge it's possible you might have issues fitting them in. I fixed mine by filing down the plastic rim slightly. A small issue, but something of a design flaw.

Other than that, I've got no qualms with the product at all, transfers are fast (IIRC I get about 150-175MB/s over USB3 and native ~270MB/s over eSATA, YMMV) and the enclosure is of reasonable quality. But keeping my fingers crossed for a revision with a slightly less fallible mounting system.


Things To Come (Special Edition) [1936] [DVD]
Things To Come (Special Edition) [1936] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ann Todd
Price: £14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great picture, poor sound, 2 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Just here to echo RogerJoensson's review - the restored picture of this SF classic is superb given its age, but to my far-less-than-perfect-ears the audio frequently sounds like it's being relayed through a warbling frog that's simultaneously being gargled by a flatulent bulldog. There's a severe reverb effect going on, which frequently makes voices incredibly difficult to distinguish over the background hum (and there are no subtitles available either). This is present in the soundtrack itself (I watch these things through my computer and went to the bother of pulling the audio to bits to figure out what's wrong with it) and I've not found any post-processing that'll negate the frankly incompetent audio mix. Like him, I'm going to have to source an unprocessed soundtrack and combine it with this video to get a "cinematic" version of this little gem.

Make no mistake though, I won't be returning the DVD since the sound is at least serviceable and if you're on the fence I wouldn't suggest missing out on a great film solely because of it (judging from the comments a lot of people don't notice the poor sound anyway), but it's a shame that in doing such a great job on the image restoration that the sound has been messed up. As a brit SF fan I also found the commentary and extra features on the second disc very interesting, and it's a shame in these days of CGI-anything-you-want that there are few studios displaying the amount of ingenuity apparent here.

A great film for all fans of SF, marred by a dodgy audio job.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2012 3:37 PM BST


Crucial CT064M4SSD2 64GB M4 SATA III 6Gb/s MLC 2.5 Inch Internal SSD
Crucial CT064M4SSD2 64GB M4 SATA III 6Gb/s MLC 2.5 Inch Internal SSD

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little brother of my other M4 still great, 31 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After firmware 0009 sorted out the couple of remaining niggles (as well as providing a significant boost to performance) with my earlier 512GB M4, I decided it was time to give my media centre an upgrade with the small 64GB cousin.

The drives are now shipping with firmware 0009 included, so there's no need for users to go through the slightly tedious upgrade procedure (although as noted on my other review, the firmware upgrades can now be done easily through USB with a tool like unetbootin).

Performance isn't up to the standard of its bigger cousin, but you can still expect to do sequential reads/writes at 510/100MBps respectively on an Intel 6Gbps SATA port, although I'm actually running mine from a 3Gbps SATA port which will limit reads to about 270MB/s. My HTPC doesn't really tax the drive at all, but it's quicker to initialise than my old 30GB first-gen Vertex so time from bootloader to XBMC being loaded is now less than 5 seconds.

The problems with the Sandforce/Vertex 3 drives (random BSOD's which some of you may have read about) are meant to be sorted now, but I still prefer the much less spotted history of these Crucial drives and, for 98% of people, there's absolutely no appreciable difference in performance between them despite the sandforce drives being fast on paper. It also helps that, at the time of writing, the Crucial drives are also significantly cheaper! As long as you can live with the comparatively small size, it's an awesome drive.

Update 2012-01-10: Time to eat my words! There's currently an issue with all M4 drives where they can cause a bluescreen/OS crash/disc dropout after ~5200 hours of use (that's about 215 days), so this is currently only affecting people who've mostly been running these things 24x7 since they bought them. Crucial have stated a new firmware with the fix bundled will be released within 1-2 weeks. I haven't run into this issue myself yet on this drive or my 512GB and I'm still recommending these SSD's over the Sandforce drives.


Samsung UE46D5520 46-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p 100Hz LED SMART Internet TV with Freeview HD - Charcoal Black
Samsung UE46D5520 46-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p 100Hz LED SMART Internet TV with Freeview HD - Charcoal Black

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful panel, wonderful TV, 4 Oct. 2011
After trawling actual physical stores to compare all these TV's side by side, I settled on this one. Simply put it's the most beautiful panel I've laid my eyes on for a comparatively bargain price. Side by side, it looks far superior to the Bravia's and Regza's and is on a par with the Panasonic screens.

I'm only using it as a hook-up to an Asrock Vision 3D HTPC running Debian/XBMC, hooked up via an Onkyo TX-NR509B. I'm not using any of the set's streaming features as format support is limited. My one bugbear with this setup was that the Samsung treats even HDMI inputs as TV-style inputs, and applies a default overscan of 4-5% - the net result of this is that when you plug in a computer via an HDMI slot, you'll see the image upscaled and the borders chopped off your screen... you then apply the "screen fit" option and your image is downscaled, giving a much poorer quality image.

Getting the TV to apply a 1:1 pixel mapping was a somewhat circuitous and (as far as my reading the manual has gone) undocumented process. So for those of you wondering why your PC/digital hookups look rubbish please do the following:
1) Plug the computer into the port labelled HDMI1/DVI
2) Bring up the input selector by pressing "Source" on the remote
3) Navigate to HDMI1/DVI
4) Press the "Tools" button on the remote
5) Navigate to "Change Name"
6) Select "PC"
7) Ensure your computers screen size is set to autodetect/1920x1080 and that any overscan options are turned off (I had no problems with the screen being autodetected wrongly even through the Onkyo receiver).

Voila! The TV should now treat HDMI1 with a 1:1 pixel mapping with no funky resizing or overscan going on, and the image should be crystal clear. This didn't appear to work for the other HDMI input I tried (HDMI2) so those if you with multiple digital inputs might want to investigate further; if and when I try it I'll update my review.

So what else about the TV? The OSD is nice and responsive and rather pleasant to look at, no quibbles with DVB reception or picture quality. Sound from the TV speakers is a little unimpressive, but as I'm using a receiver with decent speakers this isn't a problem for me - those of you looking for a "cinematic" experience will be disappointed with the TV speakers, which are rather anaemic, especially for bass, so I'd recommend hooking this up to a good sound system. For regular TV viewing the speakers are adequate.

Playback from USB works, as does the media streaming thingy (streamed straight from my QNAP), but as noted above format support is limited. For instance, it doesn't like AAC audio in MKV containers (but AAC audio in MP4 containers works), nor does it support alternate audio streams or subtitles. But hey, that's what an HTPC is for.

Default picture settings were a trifle too contrasty for me, with flesh tones seeming especially oversaturated. After dialling the settings down a notch I got a much more pleasing picture; buyers will probably want to spend a few minutes calibrating the picture. There is some backlight bleed evident on a black screen at the top right and left corners, but far less than you'll see from a CCFL - it's only because the blacks on this TV are so dense that the bleed is visible, it's not noticeable under normal usage.

All in all, I've been looking for a worthy upgrade to my good-for-its-time Hyundai Q321 and I'm happy to say this Samsung is it. Other than the convoluted process of hooking up a TV (seriously Samsung, you should make this far easier and more obvious!) it's as perfect an image as you can expect from an LCD.


Outnumbered - Series 3 [DVD]
Outnumbered - Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Hugh Dennis
Price: £6.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Great show, odd choice of subtitles..., 3 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Outnumbered - Series 3 [DVD] (DVD)
I rarely like to review the actual content of the DVD's I purchase; suffice to say that Outnumbered is one of those rare gems: a brilliantly written family comedy that certainly doesn't pull any punches, nor relies on hackneyed contrivances. The characters fit the script like a glove (or is the the other way around?) and even a childless cynic like myself finds it charmingly hilarious.

Review is here to state, for the benefits of weirdos like me, that the DVD of this and the Outnumbered - Christmas Special [DVD] only appear to have Dutch subtitles, and not the more conventional english ones that I've come to expect from BBC releases.


Hama Wireless LAN 300Mbps USB 2.0 WiFi Stick
Hama Wireless LAN 300Mbps USB 2.0 WiFi Stick
Price: £24.70

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, 3 Oct. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like everyone else it seems, I bought this for my samsung TV. Pop this into one of the USB slots, the "connect to wireless network" dialogue pops up on the screen, enter the encryption key and you're away. For giggles I plugged it into one of my old laptops where windows picked up the device straight away. Despite the fact this thing doesn't have much of an aerial, I had no problems with reception throughout the house. There's a USB extension cable supplied in the box is you need to be able to wiggle the thing around to get better reception though.

My highly nitpicky nature questions the quality of the plastic and the size of the box the thing arrives in (seriously, it's the size of a chunky novel whilst the stick itself is no bigger than my forefinger) which leads to the four star rating, but in all honesty this dongle behaves perfectly well and being half the price of the official samsung wireless adapter makes it one of them there "no brainers".


Crucial CT512M4SSD2 512GB M4 SATA III 6Gb/s MLC 2.5 Inch Internal SSD
Crucial CT512M4SSD2 512GB M4 SATA III 6Gb/s MLC 2.5 Inch Internal SSD

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy fast and reliable so far, 10 Aug. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've only had this drive for about a week but I've put it through its paces to see how it compares to my previous Crucial CTFDDAC256MAG-1G1 2.5-inch Solid State Drive (256GB,Real SSD,C300,SATA 6GB/S).

The answer is... pretty well. These drives are almost identical to the C300 series internally, just with a slightly tweaked and faster controller.

Like the other reviewer, northener, my drive came with firmware 0001. I did some brief initial testing with it and didn't run into any issues before I upgraded to 0002. It's still slightly annoying that Crucial only provide firmware updates as bootable ISO's though, at the very least they should make it easier for people to create bootable USB keys - it's possible to do this manually, but annoying and clunky. So most of you will need a CD-R and an optical drive handy for doing the update it seems.

Aside from that, absolutely no qualms about the drive so far. It's being used as a scratch drive for large video files, and excels at this purpose - the supposedly higher specs of the newer sandforce drives don't translate into real world performance where incompressible files like video are concerned.

Finally, performance. The drive is plugged into a 6Gbps Intel SATA port on a sandy bridge system. Synthetic benchmarks got me sequential reads at ~440MB/s, sequential writes at ~270MB/s, random 4k reads at 22MB/s and random 4k writes at 74MB/s, both higher than those of the C300 (and higher than the specs mentioned on this product page). I don't have any real-world tasks to do on this drive that'll do it complete justice, but I can mux a complete >30GB blu-ray M2TS (reading from and writing to the same drive) in a couple of minutes whilst the drive is still perfectly usable by other applications. No testing done on a Mac, but OSX users might want to check the Crucial forums as there are several people there with issues with these drives in their macbooks.

Four and a half stars for still having a clunky firmware upgrade process but being a brilliant SSD nonetheless.

Edit: Crucial published firmware 0009 for this drive recently, which I've just flashed to, to large performance increases. The drive now benches at ~514MB seq reads, 270MB/s seq writes, 23MB/s rand reads and 76MB/s rand writes, so a large jump in sequential reads especially. 0009 is also much faster initialising the drive on boot and there are numerous other relibaility fixes too. I've also found out that the firmware upgrade ISO loads perfectly fine with unetbootin, making installing it via USB stick much easier. As such I'm now bumping the review up to five stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 1, 2012 3:00 PM BST


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