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Chappers "chappers" (UK)

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Polti Forzaspira SR 25.9_Plus 2-in-1 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Polti Forzaspira SR 25.9_Plus 2-in-1 Cordless Vacuum Cleaner
Price: £199.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, slimline, decent battery life - some design niggles though., 14 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Compact size
Moderate suction
Useful detachable handheld vacuum
Decent battery life

What’s not so good:
‘Wobbly’ construction
Floor head drags on skirting boards
Small suction vent on handheld vacuum
Quite expensive

Whilst I am no stranger to the Polti brand having been a user of their excellent range of steam cleaners for many years, this is my first encounter with a slimline cordless vacuum from any brand. I have a Vax Cordless Air Lift upright which is good and aims to be a replacement for a traditional upright vacuum although suffers from some limitations. This Polti cleaner however is aimed a different type of user to my Vax in that it is slimline and lightweight, has no hose extensions or wands, and has a detachable handheld cleaner.

Instructions and assembly are the usual Polti affair - being a little erratic in nature and resorting to a few vague descriptions and images in places. I had initially not realised that the handle actually required a screw to be inserted to prevent it from detaching - I can’t remember the last time a home appliance required screwing together? No matter, it was a minor inconvenience.

One of the supposed highlights of this particular model is a pivoting main handle that you can trigger by pressing a button a thumb-stretch from top. It allows the handle to reverse-pivot down and letting the main part of the device to lower down and help it get under certain furniture which might allow that sort of cleaning, without the need for you to bend down so much. In reality I found few opportunities to utilise this feature except for under Dining Room chairs. The overwhelming side-effect of this feature however is it renders the rigidity of the device itself rather compromised and you are always left feeling that there is a bit too much flex and wobble when maneuvering it about, which would not be the case if that feature were not there.

The foot articulates to help it steer but not as much as I was expecting. Suction levels are fairly middling but quite acceptable given the nature of beast. You do have a slider control on the handle to go from ‘off’ to low suction to a third setting which includes a powered brush bar. There is a separate thumb-operated button to toggle a high suction mode. On the high setting it’s quite adequate for my needs. Our house doesn’t get a chance to get very dirty, but for those with deep-pile carpets, shedding pets, or those that are expecting carpets to get a beating, this device probably won’t cut it. For us however, it’s not bad.

There is a light on the front of the foot section that helps illuminate any dark places ahead of it, which is quite handy.

One further thing I have discovered that irks me about this device is that the foot section appears to be surrounded by a narrow strip of rubber which in itself might not sound like a problem, but when you are vacuuming up against skirting boards, the slightest touch of the side and the vacuum snags on it stopping you in your tracks and you have to back up and re-position. It might not sound like anything significant, but I find it a regular annoyance. Other vacuums I’ve used have never behaved like that so you can just run them down the side of a skirting board with no trouble.

The handheld vacuum pops out easily enough and performs as expected, although the suction aperture is not large nor wide so this part of the device is best served to impromptu small-scale very localised clean-ups.

The battery life seems to be pretty reasonable at around the 45-50 minute mark. The charger is a simple wall-wart with a plug that inserts into the side of the device, as opposed to any kind of dock, and you only have the one battery although the manual suggests that additional batteries may be available to order.

From doing a bit or research, I believe slimline cordless vacuums tend to fall into one of two camps based on their voltage - either 16-18V low power cheaper models priced £70-£130, and more powerful premium models, with higher voltage batteries that are priced up to a ceiling of around £250-£280. Considering the price of this model of £199 (at time of review) and the higher voltage battery, it is clearly gunning for the latter category, but it is up against stiff competition where I suspect some of it’s build quality and design niggles might show it up.

ScotchBlue Painter's Tape Advanced Delicate Surface, 25.4mm x 54.8m (2080EL-24E) - 1 roll
ScotchBlue Painter's Tape Advanced Delicate Surface, 25.4mm x 54.8m (2080EL-24E) - 1 roll
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality premium making tape, 11 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
High quality tape
No obvious paint bleed

What’s not so good:
There are cheaper alternatives

A well-timed arrival as we embark on the detail painting of our stair balustrade and handrails, the nature of which means we require a reliable and assured masking tape that won't let any paint bleed under the tape - which as any diy painter will tell you is quite common with the very basic tape.

This tape has so far done the trick well, being quite strong yet easy to apply and most importantly it works as expected. At 35mm wide this isn't the widest tape on the market but there are plenty of variants available so choose the one you need.

Scotch is a well-known and established brand so I have no trouble recommending it, however my initial instinct for a detail masking tape would be the brand ‘Frogtape’ which reveals a range of similar or slightly cheaper varieties (depending what's on offer at the time). I haven't personally used Frogtape yet but I would suggest looking at both options and seeing what offers best value at the time.

RHS How to Plant a Garden: Design tricks, ideas and planting schemes for year-round interest
RHS How to Plant a Garden: Design tricks, ideas and planting schemes for year-round interest
by Matt James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sturdy, comprehensive and reliable - with some practical limitations, 9 Mar. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Covers a broad range of planting styles and garden types
Informs about some gardening basics
Provides inspiration
Well presented and easy to read

What’s not so good:
Not so helpful if your garden type is restricted
Difficult to interpret individual plants from some of the pages

Having prepared a blank canvas for ourselves in our south-facing rear courtyard garden, we were looking for inspiration on what plants to put in and how to structure our planting. It’s easy enough to look up plants in an encyclopaedia or online plant retailer’s website, but sometimes you need to see them in situ amongst other plants to see how things could pan out.

This book is a very good tool for providing that inspiration as well as some basics that you should get to grips with. It covers things like aspect and soil condition, plant suitability and practical uses, together with overall looks and styles. The typeface used is clear and the language is easy to read without being pretentious.

I particularly like the use of scenery images and illustrations that help provide some impression of how the bigger picture can come together with particular types of ground cover and plant species.

I suppose where I struggled a little however was in two areas: firstly, the area of garden I have at my disposal is very specific - it is a south-facing courtyard with sandy/clay/rocky ground and it gets very hot in summer (ridiculously hot as it is flanked by stone walls on 3 sides) - so in many ways, the vast majority of this book is not relevant to my needs. Some people might have different areas of garden that they can tailor to different styles of planting, but for others like me, it might be a more efficient exercise to concentrate on a book that covers just the style of garden that you know you’re going for.

The second area I struggled with was once I’d actually found the one/two areas of the book that were relevant to the styles of planting that suited my garden environment, it is not that easy to decipher what plants were what in the pictures. It makes a point of zooming in on a couple of them and pointing them out, but in other areas there is simply a long list of plant names with their latin and common names. There is no key or legend to indicate what they look like in the picture and illustration - resulting in me going back to a plant retailer website and doing a search on them. A top-down coloured drawing on the page after the photo serves a limited purpose other than to take up quite a lot of space as it comes across as simply a lot of circles representing the different plants - I think it might have been more helpful to have covered the photo and the diagram on the same page and done in smaller groups to help you visually relate one thing to another.

Those two points aside, if you consider this purely as an inspirational book that covers some of the whys and why-for’s, and you aren’t too restricted on the style or type of garden that you might be looking to create then this certainly ticks that box. If you’re wanting a book that will go into details on the particular plants that might suit your particular planting situation then this is probably not the singular tome to rely upon.

Revlon Travel Chic Manicure Set
Revlon Travel Chic Manicure Set
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor value and questionable build quality, 31 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Whats good?
Basic and does the job (limited)
Useful travel pouch
Numerous attachments

What's not so good?
Cheap build quality
Bespoke charger
Attachments don't stay on securely
Too-bright LEDs
Questionable value for money

What first struck me about this portable manicure was how cheap it felt. Considering the £29.99 price tag (at time of review) I was really expecting a lot better. Made entitled of shiny hard plastic and coloured in a garish black and dark pink/red scheme, it doesn't exactly shout ‘sophisticated’.

The mains charger is a bespoke affair charging at 500MAh and using a 3.5mm plug that goes into the bottom of the unit. Should this fail then the device will become redundant. I think more manufacturers should use the more commonplace micro-USB charge point as they are in wide circulation.

Thanks next thing that struck me is the impractically bright white LED lights on the front that show you the charging status or the speed level of the motor. They really are dazzling and not fit for being on any consumer-facing device - this is a design oversight that could have been remedied with frosted light colours or just more suitable LEDs.

In operation, the device serves a simple enough purpose in that it is just a motor with filing and buffing attachments.those attachments range in shape and finish. They go on with a simple press-on motion which is simple enough, but I do find that some of the attachments have a tendency to pop off when in use depending on the angle and pressure applied.

If you are gentle and cautious with how you approach your nails then you can achieve the basics. Unless you are an expert at dealing with nails you will only do so much with this set.

You are provided with a padded pouch to store it all in which is a good thing.

I notoced a few lower priced alternatives on Amazon that look to do the same thing for half the outlay but if you like the look of this one and put some value on the Revlon brand name then this might be worth a punt but be prepared to be underwhelmed by the quality.

Mojo Hair Beard Oil to Nourish and Condition Facial Hair 30 ml
Mojo Hair Beard Oil to Nourish and Condition Facial Hair 30 ml
Price: £16.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Softens and nourishes beards with a pleasing and subtle fragrance, 9 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Definite softening and nourishing effects (in my case)
Pleasing yet subtle scent
Easy to apply

What’s not so good:
Quite expensive
Residue might come off on clothing until it’s dry
Everyone is different so effects may vary from person-to-person

I have previously trialled a L’Oreal facial hair softening product which was technically aimed more at rough stubble than beards, but I did have some limited success with it softening my short beard (approximately 12-15mm length currently with dark brown and grey colouring). It had a sort of liquid-gel texture and a scent not dissimilar to other hair-care products.

This Mojo Hear Beard Oil is a different kettle of fish. It is marketed directly at full-on beards as opposed to rough or long stubble and it is an out-an-out oil in a simple bottle which has a sort of lemon-juice-style top to allow you shake out one drop at a time. The screw lid on mine didn’t come off properly but that is a very minor point.

The scent is quite subtle but has a kind of almond and citrus tinge to it. Not at all unpleasant and certainly less like the hair-style-esque smell of the L’Oreal product I have used previously.

In use, you are to apply by massaging a couple of drops into clean but still wet facial hair. As per my previous review of this sort of product, I have been applying it to one side of my face as an experiment and after a week I have noticed a difference.

I would of course recommend applying a tester spot of oil on your skin and leaving it for a day to make sure you don’t react to it before applying it more thoroughly.

Price-wise at £16 for 30ml (at time of review) it does seem quite expensive, especially when compared to the L’Oreal product I was using before which can be had for around £7-8 for 50ml, but the two products seem to be aimed at different audiences and also produce different results. Where the L’Oreal is more for stubble and very short beards and produces a more subtle softening effect, this oil is designed for proper beards and seems to have a more noticeable result. Everyone’s facial hair is different so it is difficult to say whether this will be suitable in all cases, and whether my relatively short beard is long enough to take full advantage of a beard oil such as this is not clear, but I’m so far pleased with the results and my skin is also appreciating the added attention.

AmazonBasics 2-Slice Toaster, Black
AmazonBasics 2-Slice Toaster, Black
Price: £17.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basic and functional, 9 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Does what it says on the tin
Doesn’t look too naff either
Simple controls
amazonbasics packaging

What’s not so good:
Controls lack a positive feel
amazonbasics branding on the device itself

This is a simple and not entirely un-fashionable looking 2-slice toaster that keeps things simple and does what it says on the tin.

You are greeted by the AmazonBasics cardboard packaging to reduce wastage, which is always a plus. The toaster itself is styled with a shiny plastic upper section, and matte-finish plastic lower half, with a silver plastic strip separating the two. There are three buttons along the front, including an eject/stop button (which lights up red when the toaster is in use), a defrost button, and a re-heat button. The controls on either side include the pop-up rack that would support a bagel or such-like to sit on top for warming, and on the other side is the usual slide-down control as well as a fairly standard rotary dial for browning control.

In use, I have found the toaster to be perfectly adequate in how even the toast is browned, and the amount of rise is also good meaning you don’t have to fish around trying to get hold of smaller slices. There isn’t an extra-high lift function, but considering the lift goes quite high anyway it may not be necessary with this toaster.

There is also the prerequisite crumb tray that slides out of the left hand side of the base for emptying.

It all works simply enough. I would say that the slide-down control for activating the device doesn’t have an entirely positive action so can be a little temperamental in engaging, but this is par for the course in a lot of budget toasters. The silvery plastic bits would have been nicer to have had a more solid or weighty feel, perhaps even metal - but then you’d be adding to the price. At least they aren’t chrome-plated plastic which would have actually made this toaster look cheaper in my opinion.

I’m not entirely sure about having the ‘amazonbasics’ logo emblazoned on the front of the toaster. If you’ve made a conscious decision to purchase a basic toaster then that’s one thing. Having it advertised on the front of the device for all to see is perhaps unnecessary. The ‘amazonbasics’ brand is hardly what one would consider a desirable brand but then it doesn’t claim to be. A bit more subtlety in this area would probably have been better.

Other than that, this is a decent and functional device. I received this item as a review sample for testing so and at the time of my review there was no price listed, but if I were to hazard a guess based on what I’ve seen for myself, I would estimate it’s retail price at around the £15-18 mark given the competition.

Golf Rules Illustrated: 2016-2017 (Royal & Ancient)
Golf Rules Illustrated: 2016-2017 (Royal & Ancient)
by R&A Championships Limited
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.94

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top marks for this well-structured and practical book, 7 Jan. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Clear and straightforward
Good use of diagrams and illustrations
Currently a good price (paperback)

What’s not so good:
Nothing at this price

This is a rarity - a sporting book that isn’t full of its own self-importance. If you are looking for a simple yet comprehensive guide to the game of golf with the various rules laid out in an easy to understand way, then this is your book. Heck, they even use a clear font style and practical use of page shading! Wonders never cease! All-too-often you find sporting books have some kind of strong celebrity endorsement or deep vein of pompousness about them, but not so with this one.

I have enjoyed thumbing this book and chuckled at some of the more obscure rules together with their photographic or diagrammatic illustrations.

Were the price higher I’d dock it a star, but at the current price of £7.49 for the paperback edition, I’d say it represents good value for money as well, so I’m happy to give this book the full five stars.

Elastoplast Aqua Protect Plasters Hand Strips - Pack of 10, Total 160
Elastoplast Aqua Protect Plasters Hand Strips - Pack of 10, Total 160
Price: £32.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality but quite expensive waterproof plasters, 26 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Water resistant
Butterfly style is good for fingertips
Fairly unobtrusive when worn

What’s not so good:
Cannot confirm how water resistant they really are
Quite pricey

I received one solitary pack as a review sample for which I base my review.

These are good quality breathable and water resistant plasters that stay put, unlike the supermarket own brand beginning with an ‘M’ that I purchased recently that claimed to be waterproof but gave up their adhesion at the slightest hint of moisture.

There are two standard lengths of regular strip-style plaster, plus a butterfly style that is good for fingertips. We have had the need to deploy two of the standard strip plasters already within 2x days of receiving this pack, such is the clumsiness of our household. The plasters generally stay on well provided you don’t over-move the affected areas too much. They have successfully withstood showering and washing-up the dishes. I can’t speak for whether or not they would sustain a trip to the swimming pool however, ironically because I am put off going to our local pool because of the number of used plasters on the floor of the changing rooms (amongst other things)...

For a price of £33.60 for a 10x pack bulk buy of 16 in each box (providing 160 plasters total) comes out at £0.21 per plaster or £3.36 per pack of 16 which is I think is fairly pricey for plasters, even so-called waterproof ones. The clear styling does make them look better than cheaper ones though, so if that is important to you these might be worth a punt.

Vax C85-E2-Be Energise Vibe Cylinder Vacuum [Energy Class A]
Vax C85-E2-Be Energise Vibe Cylinder Vacuum [Energy Class A]
Price: £49.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Basic budget cylinder vacuum with plenty of shortcomings, 26 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Cheap and cheerful, basic bagless vacuum cleaner
Lightweight and quite powerful
Easy to use

What’s not so good:
Built to a budget
Nowhere to store (un-necessary) attachments
Short flexi-hose
Some parts are prone to fail in future due to all-plastic construction
Slightly over-enthusiastic marketing language

I wish manufacturers would be a little more clear with their description. Not every vacuum is going to offer the last word in suction performance, so at least be honest about it. This C85-E2-Be ‘Energise Vibe’ is a basic cleaner in the purest sense of the word, but all the marketing guff that goes with it could lead you to believe it was all you’d ever need.

One piece suggests “single cyclonic technology, which helps to create more powerful suction during use” but I was always under the impression that ‘multi-cyclonic’ power was the way to go to get more suction? Their own marketing of multi-cyclonic models further up the range say things like “Multi-cyclonic technology for constant powerful suction” so which is it to be?

Anyway, marketing annoyances aside...

Be careful lifting this out of the box. I made the assumption that the dust cannister part of the device was attached to the rest, turns out it wasn’t and I nearly dropped the whole thing on a ceramic tiled floor.

The power cord is 5 metres in length, which is average in this price range. Considering its compact size and internal cord storage then this length is to be expected.

The parts all fit together easily enough, but there is no onboard storage for all the bits. There is a clip-on section to allow you to take two of the three smaller attachments around with you, but the other part will need to stay in the cupboard, along with one of the two floor attachments.

The main want is metal and has telescopic adjustment. If you want to quickly whip the metal wand off so that you can clean at close quarters, you have to simply pull the metal bit out of the plastic hose ending. There isn’t a release button or fastener in any way, so it’s quite agricultural in this respect. That being said, the plastic hose end fits INSIDE the metal pipe, as opposed to the metal pipe fitting inside the plastic. Having it this way round will likely prolong the life of this plastic part as it will be under reduced stress, unlike that of an old Henry hoover I have which has it the other way round and the opening of the plastic hose end has split under the force of the metal tube being inserted in it.

I would have liked the flexi-pipe to have been longer as you’re never at any point unaware of the machine hanging on at the end of it, so your hoovering strokes are made quite short as a result. I actually find myself sometimes just carrying the hoover as it’s quite lightweight and I can do longer strokes of cleaning on the floors or reach higher cobwebs without pulling the machine itself off the floor.

The main floor head is a basic affair. It has a pop-out brush bar on the leading edge and a couple of wheels at the aft section but they are mostly for show.

The part of the plastic hose end that you hold on to is curved in a rudimentary attempt at being ergonomic. It’s not hugely successful but does the trick. There is a sliding thumb control vent to reduce suction if you should need it.

In use it’s not particularly loud, and the suction level is perfectly adequate for what I need. Considering it’s rated at a mere 800 Watts, I think it’s performance is pretty good. It’s not going to rip the fibres out of your carpet any time soon, but it does the job.

The canister removal is a simple process - you press the designated button to remove the canister, then once over a bin you prise open the release clip at the base of the canister to allow the bottom cover to flap out and unload your dirt. I should warn that the release clip is plastic and I can see this being one of the primary points of failure after time.

You can remove the top half of the canister using a twisting action. This provides access to the filter so that it can be cleaned.

I particularly like the nice chunky foot-operated power button and cord rewind.

Finally, there is the usual handy little notch in the back of the device and corresponding part on the main floor attachment to allow you to store the device in a relatively compact footprint. Granted, I think this too is likely to be a point of failure due to long-term brittleness of plastics.

Overall, this is a no-frills cylinder vacuum from a respected brand. There are plenty of corners that have been cut in order to get the price down, but the actual suction is totally fine. I’d have liked to have seen fewer random attachments and that money spent on a longer hose and more durable materials where you need them most.

I plan on using this device in my garage, for which it is totally fine.

Philips Hue White Personal Wireless Lighting LED Starter Kit, 2 x 9.5 W E27 Hue White bulbs, 1 x Hue Bridge 2.0 [Apple Homekit Enabled]
Philips Hue White Personal Wireless Lighting LED Starter Kit, 2 x 9.5 W E27 Hue White bulbs, 1 x Hue Bridge 2.0 [Apple Homekit Enabled]
Price: £58.98

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheaper entry into the Hue ecosystem - lacking the fun of colours though, 16 Dec. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What’s good:
Reliable Hue system
Established and trusted brand
Good lumens output
Flexible settings
Uses its own mesh network instead of your wifi

What’s not so good:
Not the full ‘Hue’ experience without colours
Would benefit from system feedback about wireless range
Bulbs are REALLY expensive - relatively speaking
Some initial setting-up hiccups

I've been wanting a Philips Hue system for some time, having quite a ‘Smart’ home already in many respects. Now that the range has evolved with a more modern hub and a second generation of bulb technology, I am happy to have taken the plunge and this is a relatively low-cost entry product to get you started. The big downside to this pack (if it makes a difference to you) is that this set includes bulbs that only offer white light as opposed to the spectrum of colour that go with the ‘Hue’ name.

The pack includes the new v2 hub device which needs mains power and a wired network connection to your router, plus 2x of the new white bulbs - and in the case of this pack their have ES bulb fitments as opposed to the more common BC bulb fitments. Obviously you will likely pick the pack that contains the fitments type you require, but adapters can be bought cheaply enough provided they leave enough room in your lamp of choice. The bulbs are pre-paired to the hub, so you simply need to follow the instructions to get the hub up and running. My hub did have a few hiccups getting going, after the Hue app on my phone said it was updating the hub, only for it to fail on numerous occasions. Eventually it worked. A reset of my router and a bit of a network tidy up got things running tickety-boo.

Hub updating aside, there were two other issues I came across. Firstly, I had intended to use one of the bulbs in my kitchen light, but it could not be detected in that location. The location is about 10 metres from the hub, and the other bulb was installed in a desk lamp about half way between, but the kitchen bulb could still not be detected. There is a 1 metre thick wall in between which was probably the culprit, but I would really like to have some kind of range sensitive meter or readout on the all to give me an indication of whether range is going to be a problem. The Hue system is a mesh network so each extra bulb you add further expands the range of the system as all the bulbs talk directly to one another. My research tells me that other smart lighting systems may use different ways to connect.

The final problem I had was in getting the Hue to integrate with my Logitech Harmony remote system, which i could not for the life of me get resolved. Only when I stumbled on a message board that suggested I might be several updates behind on my harmony hub (in spite of the remote itself saying I wasn't). Only a check using my laptop revealed the true update status, and within 20 minutes I was fully up to date and my Hue was talking happily to my Logitech Harmony system.

In use, these lights make perfectly good standard replacements and give off excellent light levels similar to an incandescent 60W bulb with a pleasant slightly warm colour temperature. My two are presently installed in a brass desk lamp and a red and cream Tiffany table lamp. I have preset an ‘alarm’ so they both come on at a certain time, and then go off gradually at a later time. I have different light settings dependant on whether I choose to watch a film or normal TV and it can even do things differently if the time is after sunset. It's all very clever, and once you get your head around things, its actually quite intuitive.

You can add GU10 bulbs into the equation as well, although they are slightly taller than standard GU10 bulbs. You can also add flexible strips of LEDs and small ambient room lights to project light onto a wall. Philips are now concentrating on how you interact with the bulbs by making better switches to save you having to reach for your phone to simply turn on a light.

The hurdle to all of these things is cost, and all things in the Philips Hue range are rather expensive. If the cost of colour bulbs could come down by 50% I'd be all expanding my setup straight away. As it stands though, it will take time to create the complete smart home lighting setup I still crave.

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