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R Young (UK)

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Learn Spanish with Paul Noble
Learn Spanish with Paul Noble
by Paul Noble
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £33.27

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steady, slow and often pedestrian, but it works, 22 Mar. 2014
For me and many others the big problem with so many courses, many of them extremely expensive, is there is not nearly enough emphasis on the flexible CONSTRUCTION of practical sentences. One is often drowned by an ocean of grammar, syntax and vocabulary, but to no coherent purpose.

What this course does right from the beginning is to help you construct a practical whole sentence that is simple, but complete, and more to the point useful. Of course it is tourism based, but there is nothing wrong with that. It keeps everything entirely focused on an embryonic and steady growth from simple sentences to longer and more complex ones. There is little ambition as far as tenses go, but there is plenty here to help you effectively communicate, and that is the whole purpose of learning a living language.

Missing is a wider grammar or depth beyond largely tourist phrasing, but at least those phrases launch you into the potential to investigate further by yourself. KEY to this course is a quite innovative understanding of how closely English words are connected to Spanish words through subtle changes in word endings, and once you get the hang of these endings, you become much more confident having a shot at more challenging sentences where the word constructions are predictable rather than learnt parrot fashion.

There is also a very logical and careful progression which gifted linguists might find pedestrian, but I would rather it was this way round than an avalanche of ever confusing syntax that can make you feel lost and defeated. While the course is almost entirely audio-based, except for the small but useful booklet accompanying it, nevertheless in concert with other material such as grammar and vocabulary in written form, this course represents a very good starting block.

I cannot emphasise enough that for those of us without a great aptitude for foreign languages, the focus on sentence construction, step by step, really does develop a surprising confidence, albeit slow at first, to then construct ones own sentences, which is something that many very expensive courses fail to achieve. This course also recognises how we all started out with our own language from the cradle, which is to listen and repeat, sometimes ad nauseam. But it does work!

Basic Classical Guitar Method, Bk 1: From the Best-Selling Author of Pumping Nylon (DVD)
Basic Classical Guitar Method, Bk 1: From the Best-Selling Author of Pumping Nylon (DVD)
Dvd ~ Scott Tennant
Price: £20.19

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair but there are better, similar books, 19 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is reasonably ok for a beginner. The DVD is rather disappointing, as are the limited number of pieces within it. This book seems to be a rather threadbare primer to encourage you to buy further books in the series. I got through the DVD and the pieces very quickly but didn't feel particularly enlightened. Much better is Jerry Willard's 50 classical pieces.

50 Easy Classical Guitar Pieces [With CD]
50 Easy Classical Guitar Pieces [With CD]
by Jerry Willard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.70

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect book for the beginner, 19 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is full of attractive pieces, carefully graded step by step from the first to the last. The suggested fingerings are usually pretty good. My only gripe is that for classical guitar beginners there could have been a little more help when needing higher positions, which were not always made clear. But that's a small criticism. The success of these pieces is that they are perfectly paced from absolute beginner to early intermediate standard and represent an excellent path to relatively painless improvement.

The accompanying CD is well recorded and Jerry Willard's playing of each piece is both very useful as a goal to aim for and also extremely sensitively and musically played.

I think this is one of the best classical guitar primers published and it is far superior to similar books published by many official schools of music, or early grade exam books that generally have a poor choice of pieces, but which are much more expensive.

Chord Chemistry
Chord Chemistry
by Ted Greene
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.03

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well-intended chord book with major flaws, 19 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Chord Chemistry (Paperback)
This book was, when it was first produced, considered almost a bible for particularly rock and jazz guitarists. But it suffers from two major flaws which do not redeem it: Firstly it is poorly printed and the hundreds of chords are very poorly drawn.

The second problem is that while the author, with good intentions, writes quite a lot about the need to understand not just the chord charts but the relationship between them, in practice this book presents literally hundreds of chords while not practicing what the author preaches about these relationships.

Lacking is any coherent attempt to produce sequences of chords that are in fact the cornerstone of guitar chord playing technique. Instead there are pages and pages of chords, and so many that they would be quite impossible to ever remember. Instead, the author should have started with, for example, some basic chords then presented RELATED chords or related fingerings for other related chords, then presented each suite of chords in a co-ordinated and musically relevant way.

There is a companion book by the same author which does to some degree answer the above flaws, but still not convincingly. The guitar is unique in that it allows a huge variety of chords within one key with different inversions, voicings and fret variations. This can lead to much confusion. A decent book about guitar chords should always also contain chord sequences. For example, on simple Barre chord based on E major and A major open string fingering has endless subtle finger variations that can easily convert that chord into its minor, 7th, sub dominant and dominant, with various inversions, all by using very similar basic fingering and not having to move up and down frets.

This book does not demonstrate the above very fundamental relationship between similar fingerings, and while it appears at first to promise enlightenment regarding chord relationships, its worst flaw is that it tends to be only key based (for example there are hundreds of variations on the A major chord and there 7ths, 9th etc. This habit of explaining chords only by their key is in the end a waste of time.

Decent and musically intelligent Guitar chords, apart from the basic beginner chords, should always be presented not really as an A,B,C,D,E,F,G chord but as a moveable root key chord that relates to its sub dominant, dominant and other related harmony, since all these chords can be played anywhere on the fretboard. It is pointless to present 100 A chords, then add another 100 A# chords with identical fingerings but one fret up.

To be fair this is a common fault with nearly all chord books. They concentrate too much on the isolated chord rather than the body of related chords within one fret position or key.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2015 11:32 AM BST

Everything I know about teaching
Everything I know about teaching
by Mr Michael Gove
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will be the first in a series of many, 12 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This succinct work gets to the heart of Gove's path-finding and inspired philosophy on teaching with a remarkably terse summary of his omniscience on this subject. All in the teaching profession will find this to be a carry-everywhere book for instant recall of intelligent quotes that pepper this carefully crafted work.

This surely should be just the first in a series of "Everything I know" offerings from other brilliant contributors whose outstanding lives have made Britain a better place, for example:

"Everything I know about peace" by Tony Blair
"Everything I know about the economy" - a joint work by Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown
"Everything I know about sensible banking" by Fred Goodwin
"Everything I know about privacy" by the Director of GCHQ
"Everything I know about honesty" by Chris Huhne
"Everything I know about modesty" by Jonathan Ross
"Everything I know about avoiding greed" also by Tony Blair
"Everything I know about customer service" by Michael O'Leary
"Everything I know about keeping costs down" by a consortium of UK corporate lawyers
"Everything I know about journalism" by a selection of UK editors
"Everything I know about openness", a primer by various chairmen of select committees (1984 onwards)

Anno 1404 Gold Edition
Anno 1404 Gold Edition
Offered by 4GamersUK
Price: £5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best empire building game, 1 Dec. 2013
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Anno 1404 Gold Edition (DVD-ROM)
What this game needed was a decent manual, or actually ANY manual, given its deep and satisfying game play which is impossible to learn without endless trial and error. Luckily there are walkthroughs and dedicated websites with a ton of tips and gameplay descriptions.

The crux of this game is to build at least two cities, one northern occidental civilisation and one southern oriental, from which you can opt to expand further through trade, wars or alliances in order to gain gold, dominance or enough resources to send envoys everywhere around the virtual world. These goals are very flexible and customisable. You do not have to be online to play Anno 1404, unlike Anno 2070 which though more impressive in some ways, is a rather austere and cold alternative.

Considering this game is several years old now, it is breathtakingly beautiful, tasteful and still holds up against current similar titles like its contemporary counterparts: Tropico 4, Simcity V etc. What Anno has that the others do not is an extremely attractive, co-ordinated interface and look which is both charming and pleasing to the eye. It's not for those who want a quick build however. It takes several hours to get the point where you are promoted to being able to build the grander buildings like monuments, cathedrals, mosques and forts, naval headquarters and troops. Most players will never get to that point because doing so requires many hours of gradually building up trading links, food, resources like gold and iron, and other needed goals before you can even approach fortifications or battle play.

Armies and sea dominance are really an addendum to the building part of Anno 1404, yet if you ever get as far as battles, the sea skirmishes are rather cartoon-like but the army movements are quite convincing.

The voice acting is exceptionally good, along with the genuinely amusing characters with whom you trade, including a cruella Deville-like baroness, the ghastly, pushy entrepreneur Helena Flores and the fundamentalist holier-than-thou moral blackmailer Marie d'Atois, along with an evil cardinal. The music is also good, and not intrusive. The peasants and village/town life is most charmingly portrayed with a very high level of beautifully done animations, all silky smooth in the graphics department. The colours are pastel and restrained to great effect. There is nothing here that is less than accomplished. There is no user-controlled AI interaction apart from naval and army troop movements, but it's fun to sweep over the city watching the very well done AI interaction of villagers and other characters.

Anno 1404 is extremely intelligently designed and makes few concessions to the shoot-em-up fan or quick gameplay enthusiasts. It's all very civilised and still a refreshing change from more sensational but essentially vacuous building-games. Overall this is a very well crafted game and well worth the now very cheap price for which (if you buy the gold edition) you also get the Venice addon - which is not really about Venice at all but nevertheless is an absorbing addition. Recommended.

36V 10ah lithium battery quality guarantee electric bike with charger by EROLLING
36V 10ah lithium battery quality guarantee electric bike with charger by EROLLING
Offered by WHOSAVE
Price: £199.00

70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong battery, scratched polarity markings and bad service, 12 Sept. 2013
I thought I was ordering this battery through Amazon, but in fact the supplier, after telephone discussions about the specifications, invoiced me outside of Amazon's transaction system without being clear that this was happening. The battery arrived reasonably on time but the polarity (positive and negative) markings on the battery base had been scratched out so it was not possible to see exactly which way round the polarity was. Polarity is very important because attaching it to the e-bike's controller the wrong way round would burn out the controller and motor. It transpired after further phone discussions that the battery was a bad fit for my e-bike so under my distance selling rights I rejected it for a full refund. The seller's courier, Parcel2Go, failed to pick the package up two days in succession despite having a tracking number and me waiting in all day for two days. I then elected to take the package to a "drop off" point specified by the seller and a receipt and tracking number was received.

Now, two weeks after attempting to return the package, it apparently has still not been received back by the seller, who has refused my refund despite several requests. I consider two weeks to be ample time for the seller's courier to deliver the return which only had to travel 50 miles. I have now had to contact my bank, and will contact Amazon, in order to recoup my payment. While this seller was polite on the phone, Erolling has failed me as has their courier, Parcel2Go, whose service is appalling. My advice to any buyers of Erolling products is to refuse a transaction that involves Parcel2Go or their associated companies. Erolling has also violated the Sale Of Goods Act and its obligations under distance selling regulations in failing to refund me in a timely manner. I am still waiting for my refund.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 9, 2014 6:07 PM GMT

Panasonic DMC-TZ25EB-R Compact Camera - Red (12.1MP, 16x Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD
Panasonic DMC-TZ25EB-R Compact Camera - Red (12.1MP, 16x Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD
Offered by electronics-dealsuk

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully designed with great images for the price, 14 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Unfortunately this camera had one flaw and was returned to Amazon for a refund: The battery door has a flimsy plastic tab which had snapped off. However to be fair this seems a rare occurance and I was just unlucky. I had enough time to take pictures and video before returning to confirm that this is a lovely little camera.

What this camera has over the similar and newer Lumix TZ30 is that its image quality is noticeably better, and in fact the TZ25 probably has the best image quality compared with all the recent TZ series. This is likely down to the slightly different sensor type and processing software, together with a smaller pixel count. The TZ30 tries to squeeze too many pixels onto its small sensor and it shows, and if you want to get just slightly better image quality the TZ25 is the choice between the two. While the display is not as good it is still perfectly useable and doesn't get washed out too much in bright sunlight.

Where this (and almost all of the TZ type cameras from Panasonic) shines is in its construction and handling. It is a quite beautiful object with a very handsome design. The mode dials and four way control are made of sturdy, attractive chromed metal which are far superior in quality than any other camera in this price range. Though the controls are necessarily small they are a pleasure to use. Compared with many other manufacturers' small point and shoot cameras which tend to be festooned with plastic, the TZ has a premium construction feel, battery door tab excepted.

There are five qualities which make this camera a very good buy:

1. For the size and small sensor type, it takes pleasing, rich and colourful images.
2. It has a very good zoom capability, slightly trumped by the TZ30 and also exceeded by the Sony HX20v, but not by much.
3. Video quality is excellent at this price.
4. Image stabilisation is very good, but yet again the HX20v is even better
5. It is cheaper than the TZ30.

So why choose this over the Sony equivalent, or the TZ30? Overall its image quality, though subject to a fair degree of processing in order to overcome the tiny sensor, is not as drastically processed as the often smeared images of the Sony HX20v and somewhat overdone processing of the TZ30, so images and colours are arguably more true, and it is almost impossible not to get a decent shot. It is also much nicer to handle than the HX20v and has an exquisite design that is not matched by any similar-sized camera apart from other TZs.

The zoom is very quiet and sensibly slowed down in video mode. Most zoom motors are too fast for tasteful video implementation, assuming you need to zoom at all while shooting video. The menu system is far better than the Sony HX20v and more intuitive. Panasonic/Lumix have always been good at this sort of thing. It very nearly matches the Sony's video quality though the Sony pulls ahead in low light. There is a lot of graining, as you would expect, with higher ISO settings but this can be overcome somewhat with a larger aperture, low ISO and slower shutter speed. The TZ25 also has excellent auto-combined images to overcome low light situations and this works well. Excellent macro photography is another plus.

Compared with the TZ30 the TZ25 is almost the same camera in other regards except for a slightly less powerful zoom, no GPS, and the display is not as good. But it's worth repeating yet again, for which I apologise, that the cheaper TZ25 pulls ahead on image quality, an aspect that is at the root of most users' requirements, though the differences are not that obvious at first sight.

No other camera in this category and at this price is easier to use, yet is possessed of a very impressive set of features if you want detailed control. You can literally point and shoot or you can customise nearly everything except video to get the results you wish for. Very few other cameras are such a pleasure to use, the Sony HX20v being probably a better camera overall but far less intuitive and having a rather prosaic design, and while the Sony's display is much higher resolution it completely washes out in bright sunlight.

The TZ25 is available in a range of colours and it is at the moment better value than either the TZ30 or many other cameras of its type. I'm told that the battery door issue is very rare and I could only find one other person online who had a similar problem, so it is unlikely to be a factor for the vast majority of users. Though I now use the Sony HX20v as my preferred point and shoot, there are aspects of the TZ25 I miss, the main one being that although not quite as good overall it is lot more pleasurable to hold and use. It's very light, very pocketable and just begs to be used at the slightest excuse. I think this will be regarded as a classic camera in years to come.

MoviePlus X6 (PC)
MoviePlus X6 (PC)
Price: £29.99

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy, deceptively powerful, flexible and almost flawless, 14 Mar. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: MoviePlus X6 (PC) (DVD-ROM)
Looking around to update a previous, somewhat intricate and bug ridden video editor that I'd got used to, I came across Serif MoviePlus X6 from various reviews. What kept coming up was that this editor was painless yet powerful. While not being at the top of the "cool" list of editors like Final Cut or Sony Vegas, Serif X6 offers almost all the sophistication of other much more expensive and well-known software, yet there was an implication that it was only for beginners or those upgrading from the rather restricted Microsoft Movie Maker. This is not so, because this little gem of an editor is actually very efficient, largely bug free, and includes more effects, tools and editing parameters than you would ever need for a very high quality finished project.

The key to this software is quickness, efficiency and straightforward design. You can use it on two levels, the first as a wizard-based editor which virtually edits your clips for you using templates and these are to be frank rather cheesy, or you can get far deeper into things by using much more involved editing with all the primary tools any professional-level editor would offer such as:

* Clip Stabilization for shaky footage
* Full set of exposure, lighting, colour and noise reduction parameters
* Chroma Key
* Titles
* Full Audio Editing and Dubbing
* Unlimited Tracks
* Optional ripple to automatically tidy up separated clips
* Plenty of effects, transitions and cropping

The above list is a short summary of the most important tools, but there are many more. What stands out about this software is that rather than importing only the raw clips, there is the option to create smaller, more efficient "proxy" clips which are far less taxing on your computer, thus even a medium powered laptop can edit with ease. The smaller proxy files/clips speed up the flow by at least a factor of two, and this is something missing from many other editors costing much more.

The interface is exemplary and extremely well laid out. Guides and Help to the left. Preview window centre. Import clips on the right, and either timeline or story board at the bottom. Each section can be resized or hidden as required. It is this intelligent layout that gives the impression Serif X6 is a simple editor, but it isn't! The layout is very clever in that it looks almost threadbare of facilities, yet many sophisticated parameters are all there in a logically laid out menu system which has been very well thought through. A reasonably savvy person could start editing and produce decent footage even without the very good help guides, examples and templates. It's that easy.

Compared to many other editors, many of which have convoluted menus and difficult to find tools, this software is a brilliant example of sophisticated simplicity. Even more important, the latest patch/update, which took less than a few minutes to install, has ironed out what few bugs there were and so far I have not had a single crash or unexpected glitch. Everything works smoothly, quickly and fuss-free.

The import wizard can deal with almost any video format including MTS files, which can be worked on direct or if you prefer converted to smaller files. The importer even converts clips to any format you require in the background while you edit something else. It also outputs in any format you can think of and does so flawlessly. The rendering is reasonably fast depending on your computer, and the result is smooth with hardly a dropped frame to be found. Even trying hard to find faults it is difficult to do so. Nearly all video editors are subject to freezes, glitches and crashes but this software, though not perfect, is extremely reliable.

I would rarely give five stars for software but this deserves top marks. Don't be put off by the cheesy templates. Serif X6 is, from the look of the promotional videos and marketing, aimed perhaps at casual users or those who feel daunted by other more expensive video editing suites, but you can go much deeper than the wizards and templates suggest. This is an outstanding piece of video editing software at a price that represents extremely good value. Highly recommended!

Condor: Gliding Simulator (PC CD)
Condor: Gliding Simulator (PC CD)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Desperately needs updating, 12 Mar. 2013
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
When Condor was released it was a fair effort. But that was many years ago and since then the rest of the world has brought graphics, sounds, hardware controls and many aspects of simulation into the 21st century. While the fundamental flight characteristics of Condor are pretty good, the poor 3d graphics and stone-aged texture mapping, views, clouds and terrain are in desperate need of a major update which has not materialised. The developer has supported online racing and provided a couple of addon glider packs (for a price), but that's about it. There are nagging flaws with this simulator which don't seem to have been addressed. Here are the main ones:

1. Length of glider tow rope is ridiculously short.
2. Limited view options.
3. Forward interior field of view too narrow thereby exaggerating the yaw effect from pilot's perspective.
3a The above could be addressed by shifting the pilot head position back. Instead we have limited in and out zoom.
4. Turbulence is not convincing at all. Far too juddery and almost entirely yaw-based but with no visceral connection to what's really going on.
5. Extremely primitive graphics.
6. Sounds are ok but again very limited in scope and quality.
7. Airfields, trees and objects are over-standardised, primitive and poor with flat shaded, primary colour textures that are woefully outdated.
8. Terrain packs and data take up huge memory but to no good effect. Everywhere looks almost the same, with little geographical variation.

While there have been some 3rd party addon sceneries which somewhat improve the experience, Condor itself should have updated its scenery with much more convincing graphics. As it stands the graphics are on a par with a pre windows 98 computer and are about ten years behind FS9, FSX and X-plane. This is a pity because the core simulator in Condor is promising and a viable platform for a much better simulator. Weather, lift, sink and thermals are just about satisfactory but again not too convincing.

The best part of Condor is close airfield practice for circuits, take off and landing, but both winch launch and air-towing need improvements in feel and execution, the most glaring flaw being the tow rope which is absurdly short. While many experienced real world pilots have enjoyed and do enjoy what it offers, this is most likely because there is no competing simulator that properly simulates glider dynamics. FSX doesn't lend itself to gliding, although some have contributed quite high standard glider aircraft and thermal/weather addons which improve this.

Condor started well but is now well behind what it could be given advances in graphics and facilities now commonplace in other forms of simulation software.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2014 10:31 AM BST

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