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Rolo "rolo211" (London, UK)
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Panasonic ALL3 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Panasonic ALL3 Wireless Speaker System (White)
Price: £228.52

3.0 out of 5 stars Good sound, clunky software and not great for Mac users., 21 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Panasonic ALL3 connects to your wifi via AllPlay, which is an alternative to Apple's Airplay using DNLA. Mac users be warned - although DNLA is standard on PCs, it is not included on Macs. There are, however, a number of free options for Mac users to run their Mac as a DNLA server - Plex, TVMobili and Universal Media Server are all worth trying but DNLA software, generally, seems to be a little flaky. My first attempts to run the DNLA software would work then mysteriously not work and I had problems reverting to AirPlay afterwards. Also, AirPlay users should be aware that although AllPlay can access your iTunes library, it doesn't connect directly to it as Apple Remote does so you can't stream iTunes through AirPlay and AllPlay simultaneously.

It is pretty simple adding the ALL3 to your wifi network and you are guided to the Panasonic Music Streaming app (iOs or Android) which enables you to make the connection between your source - which can be your computer as a DNLA server, your phone itself or additional apps that provide radio and Spotify - and the speaker (you can connect to multiple ALL3 speakers). This may mean you end up having four or five apps on your phone to play the music you want. You can also connect a music source directly to the ALL3 via a minijack input.

So what does it sound like? Very good. A unit of this size is never going to be hi-fi, but the overall sound is well balanced with a very solid bass and plenty of detail. You can also turn it up to part levels without distortion.

As others have said, this is good unit let down by flaky and clunky software. Mac and other Airplay users might be better off with a unit like the B&W Z2, which is cheaper and probably has better sound (although I haven't made a direct comparison) or a simpler BlueTooth system. It is a solid, well made unit with excellent sound, but the software is rather too unrefined.


Rhinowares Hand Coffee Grinder
Rhinowares Hand Coffee Grinder
Price: £34.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Good for travelling but not for espresso, 18 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you are a coffee lover, you know beans need to be freshly ground (coffee begins to lose its flavour 15 minutes after grinding). If you are serious about coffee you will also know you need a burr grinder rather than a blade grinder as blades smash the beans into pieces whereas burr grinders create similar size particles and, with espresso coffee, the size of those particles is critical as it determines how quickly the water passes through the coffee. Good burr coffee grinders do not come cheap, but a manual grinder like this one is an economical solution, particularly if you are travelling.

First impressions - the Rhinowares grinder is solidly made out of stainless steel with ceramic burrs. There are no instructions with it - which seems amazingly stingy, given how cheap printing is these days - but refers you to Rhinoware's website. The first instruction on the website is 'take the grinder out of the box' (did we really need that?) and then goes on to explain how the grinder works. It is, however, very straightforward. Pull the top off to put the beans in (not as easy as some grinders as the diameter is small), clip the handle on, hold it by the rubber grip and turn and turn the handle until you feel no resistance. Ground coffee is released into the lower container. The handle is not fixed to the grinder and, unfortunately, the grinder will not stand up with the handle attached. The coarseness of the grind is adjusted by tightening the ceramic burrs which are revealed when the bottom container is pulled off. A travel bag is included to hold the grinder and handle.

How does it perform? Pretty well and, crucially, the coffee that comes out of it tastes good. Although it claims it will grind fine enough for espresso I really can't recommend it for espresso machines as it is not really practical to get the grind precise enough and I haven't been able to grind fine enough for my combination of beans and machine. And it does take time - on a fine grind, 15g of beans took around 75 seconds to grind. Some may not have the patience required.

If you have something like an Aeropress and want to travel with it, this grinder is ideal. For home use and for espresso machines, save up and get a good electric burr grinder (the Iberital MC2 is probably the cheapest you can get for serious espresso).


Mr. Turner
Mr. Turner
Dvd
Price: £0.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tosh, 9 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mr. Turner (Blu-ray)
Mr. Turner is not a great film. In fact it is an exceedingly mediocre film. Lacking any dramatic tension or narrative drive, it offers no insights in to Turner the man or Turner the painter. Timothy Spall does his best grunting his way through scene after scene but there is little here to make us care about him. Direction of the some of the peripheral characters is on the verge of ludicrous - take the housekeeper, who pouts and mugs at the edge of frame like some retarded repertory reject (note I'm blaming the director here, not the actors). Nor is there any visual tension; visually, it is chocolate-box pretty, an easy achievement for a great cinematographer like Dick Pope, but why? Is it an attempt to make the film look like his paintings? If so, it failed dismally, but if that was the intent, why? So much better if the world of Turner looked drab and mundane yet offered some clues as to how he formed his very particular vision. But the biggest crime of all - this film is simply dull.

Why has it received so many accolades? That to me is a mystery. Very few of my friends (including those who are actually painters) have been able to watch it all the way through (I did, but regretted it). Perhaps the accumulation of famous names and celebrated artist create the impression that this film itself is art - let me assure you it isn't, it is tosh.


Quicksand
Quicksand
by Steve Toltz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.59

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishing, 1 April 2015
This review is from: Quicksand (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's years since I've got so much pleasure out of a contemporary novel. I can't recommend it too highly.

Quicksand is about Liam, a failed novelist and Sydney policeman, who begins narrating this story about Aldo, his long-term best friend. Aldo is a catastrophically failing serial entrepreneur and amateur philosopher, a man so cursed with bad luck that even his suicide attempts are thwarted by apparent immortality. It is Aldo's constant stream of gnomic insights into the absurdity of life and his equally absurd attempts to start businesses that is one of the great pleasures of this book - brilliant simile follows hilarious observation as Liam attempts to make some sort of sense out of Aldo's obsessions.

The writing is razor sharp and just astonishing - it reminded a little of the best of early Martin Amis, but without the pomposity. There are wonderfully caustic meditations on the nature of art and artists and, at the heart of it all, a very serious examination of mortality, our unremitting and hopeless desire to make sense out of life and the human capacity for cruelty. Although extremely funny throughout, some of the later passages are genuinely terrifying.

If I wrote just one page of this book, I would be proud of myself for the rest of my life. Quicksand has 430 pages.


Sennheiser RS195 Personal Hearing Wireless Headphone
Sennheiser RS195 Personal Hearing Wireless Headphone
Price: £349.99

4.0 out of 5 stars great performers, 11 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I work in film and TV where Sennheiser one of the most established brands - their microphones, wireless mikes and headphones are industry standards. Their consumer products too, which tend to be manufactured in China rather than Germany, are very well respected, so expectations are high.

The RS195 are closed around-ear headphones - they fit over your ears and cut out most of the outside sounds - and are supplied on a stand which acts as a stand, transmitter and charging cradle. The base unit has balance and ‘listening’ mode controls while the headphones themselves have an on/off button and volume control. The base unit accepts either a minijack analogue input (which connects to any standard headphone output) or an optical (Toslink) digital input and is switchable between the two. The connection between the headphones and the base unit is, of course, wireless.

A previous reviewer was highly critical of the look and feel of these headphones - I can see what he means, they are hardly elegant, and although the design could be considered a bit clunky and plasticy, for me it’s not a deal breaker - I’m more interested in how they sound.

Setting them up is very straightforward and the wireless transmission faultless - on every room on all three floors of my (small) terraced house reception is perfect, no drop-out or interference at all and they are very comfortable to wear. Using the digital input to connect to my Mac (not everybody realises that the audio out minijack on all recent Mac computers is also a digital out - you just need a small adapter which costs about a pound to connect to the supplied optical cable) the sound was fantastic. The analogue input is also very clean and hiss-free.

There are presets on the base station for different ‘listening modes’ and ‘hearing presets’. I by-passed them all as I prefer to hear audio as neutrally as possible. There is also a balance control which I can only see of being of use if you have an inbalance between your left and right ears.

I then compared them, on analogue input, to my Sennheiser HD25 headphones - these are industry standard, wired, headphones popular with both sound recordists and DJ’s. Professional gear aims for accuracy and neutrality whereas consumer hi-fi gear aims to sound as good as possible - not necessarily the same thing. How do the RS195 match up? Extremely well. The RS195 sound more dramatic and detailed with a solid bass and a great ‘sound stage’. In comparison, the HD25 sounded slightly flatter and warmer. My only criticism of the RS195 is that, at the top end, vocals could sound a little rough and the bass on some tracks (surprisingly, on some orchestral tracks rather than rock or electronic music) a little over-extended. All in all, the RS195 sound great.

So not much to criticise in the performance of the RS195. So why 4 stars rather than 5? Well, at £349, they are not cheap. And, as previously mentioned, although the performance is great, the look and feel of them could be better. But if you want wireless headphones and your budget will stretch to this, they are highly recommended.


Aussie Shower Gel Body Wash Shower Smoothie 250 ml
Aussie Shower Gel Body Wash Shower Smoothie 250 ml
Offered by cassalilly
Price: £15.40

3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok, 9 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With a bottle loaded with jolly Aussie phrases ("You're going to go nuts for this variant, with macadamia nut oil - nuts, geddit!") that's actually embossed with small images of kangaroos, it may be a surprise to find this Aussie Shower Gel is made in France by an American multinational (Procter and Gamble). I'm also not really sure what the advantages are of macadamia nuts in a body wash product and, looking at the ingredients printed on the label, the nut oil element is out flanked by over 20 chemicals anyway.

Anyway, what is it like to use? Well, it is ok, but nothing special. I found the smell actually cheap and detergenty and a little unpleasant, and, in terms of function, although it does feel pleasantly smooth, overall this product is no better or worse than other shower gels.


Oster Blender Delighter, 1.75 Litre, 450 W, White
Oster Blender Delighter, 1.75 Litre, 450 W, White
Price: £59.34

2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the job, 1 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although not so well-known here, the Oster brand has a proud heritage in the USA - the 'Osterizer' was the first mainstream blender and, like KItchen Aid, is one of the American kitchen classics. This blender however, made in Mexico, bears little similarity to the iconic 'beehive' Osterizer.

First impressions of the Oster Delighter Blender were not good - the base, which is a rather cheap-looking shiny plastic moulding (turn it upside down and it looks more like a children's toy than a kitchen appliance) would not sit flat on my worktop. Worse still, the machine itself refused to work. Thankfully Amazon quickly supplied a replacement.

The machine proudly declares its 'all metal drive' but not much else appears to be metal. The tough-looking glass jug is oval rather than round in cross section to enable it to sit in a fridge door - rather like a Brita water jug, but, unlike the Brita jug, it is slightly too fat to fit in my fridge door (a regular Beko built-in fridge/freezer). The bottom of the jug, which looks on first sight like chrome, is actually plastic.

I usually use a stick blender (a Kenwood triblade) in my kitchen but thought a jug blender might offer some advantages. To be blunt, it doesn't.
My first task, grinding up some soften lentils just distributed the lentils to the edges of the jug. My second task, grinding chickpeas to make hummus, had a similar results. Both jobs were finished quickly and successfully with the stick blender (and with less resulting washing up). The Oster blender also has a tendency to switch off when the load becomes too much for it, meaning you have to switch on and off again.
This blender maybe OK for smoothies but I don't make those, nor have I tried it out for ice. However for day-to-day blending I really can not recommend this device.

(As a point of comparison, the Kenwood HDP406 hand blender with a full set of accessories is £20 cheaper and has a 800 watt as opposed to 450 watt motor).


Thunderbolt to eSATA + USB 3.0 Adapter
Thunderbolt to eSATA + USB 3.0 Adapter
Offered by Comcen Ltd *VAT registered*
Price: £75.55

2.0 out of 5 stars Needs Mac OS 10.8.4 or above, 18 Feb. 2015
Be warned - this needs Mac OS 10.8.4 or above if you want the USB port to work. This is not made clear in the ad. I have an iMac running Lion, eSATA works fine but USB does not (and, for various reasons, I don't want to upgrade to 10.8). Otherwise it seems like a very useful bit of kit (apart from the Thunderbolt cable being ridiculously short).


10m Flat Network Cable - Premium Grade Lead - 30AWG - Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSOH) - Moulded - RJ45 - Ethernet - LAN - Patch - Ideal for under floor & carpet
10m Flat Network Cable - Premium Grade Lead - 30AWG - Low Smoke Zero Halogen (LSOH) - Moulded - RJ45 - Ethernet - LAN - Patch - Ideal for under floor & carpet
Offered by World of Data Ltd
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cure to wi-fi problems, 16 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Used this to connect my girlfriend's iMac to her wireless router after continuing wi-fi problems (possibly due to wi-fi interference) - makes life a whole lot easier and this thin, flat cable easily slips under the carpet.


Cole & Mason 140 mm Stainless Steel and Glass Kingsley Herb and Spice Mill, Silver
Cole & Mason 140 mm Stainless Steel and Glass Kingsley Herb and Spice Mill, Silver
Offered by Red House Direct
Price: £9.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 10 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Cole & Mason grinder stands about five and half inches high. A glass jar occupies the bottom three inches that screws on to the grinder section above it; the grinder is inverted to grind on to your food (unlike many salt and pepper grinders which release their grinds from their base it doesn't leave particles on the table). A lid push-fits onto the top of the grinder (the lid doesn't fit that well but sort of works). Although described as 'stainless steel and glass' most of the top half is made of plastic covered with a thin layer of stainless steel (the grinder burrs themselves I believe are steel). The coarseness of the grind can be adjusted by turning a knod in the top of the grinder. All in all, it is reasonably well made and attractive and it works.
So what do you actually used if for? Well, it was supplied with a selection of mixed spices (including coriander, pepper chilli and fennel) which was actually quite tasty. There is no obvious use for it in traditional British cuisine but it would be good for grinding, say, garam masala. You could also use it just for pepper (it is not recommended for salt as this could corrode the metal grinding burrs).
Overall quality is OK rather than great at this price point, but it does the job.
Incidentally, although Cole & Mason presents itself as a classic British brand the grinder (unsurprisingly) is made in China and Cole and Mason themselves are part of a German group .


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