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S. P. Long (Cambridge)

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Learning Computer Architecture with Raspberry Pi (Us)
Learning Computer Architecture with Raspberry Pi (Us)
by Eben Upton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.82

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd read this 25 years ago..., 24 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been working in software development for nearly 25 years, having studied engineering at University. My background as an engineer has always left me at a slight disadvantage when talking with colleagues who studied computing, as they seem to have an understanding of all sorts of areas of how a computer actually works that I've never been taught. (I've mostly managed to get by without knowing about them, but I've always felt a bit of a bluffer as a result!)

This book, therefore, is an utter godsend to someone like me. It explains, in clear layman's terms, all about the details of how a computer actually works - how the processor works, how memory is accessed, how caching works etc. Even peripheral details - networking, storage media, 3D graphics - all are covered in enough detail to enable a layman (or even an engineer) to gain a good understanding of them. In simple terms, if you read this book, you will know how a computer works.

The style is very good - clear and readable, with plenty of diagrams. The only small caution I would give is that the cover and title are slightly misleading - this is not a book about the Raspberry Pi; indeed the Pi is really only relevant to a couple of chapters, but the Pi is a hot topic in computing now, and the inventor of the Pi is one of the authors, so I think that can be forgiven!

In terms of audience, this is a serious textbook - I'd say it is aimed at A-level to first-year undergraduate students rather than younger children - but it is nonetheless very approachably written.

As the title says, I wish I'd read this at the start of my career rather than half-way through it, but I'm making up for it now. If you have any interest in working in software or computing, this book is a must; I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Time Stand Still [Blu-ray] [2016]
Time Stand Still [Blu-ray] [2016]
Dvd ~ Rush
Price: £19.99

57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A strange film that's not really sure what it is - a documentary, an apology or a farewell, 20 Nov. 2016
I've been a huge Rush fan since I first heard "Hold Your Fire" back in 1988; I own pretty much everything they've released, and have seen them live several times. When Neil Peart, the drummer, decided to retire from touring, they embarked on a final tour of the USA in 2015. The concerts themselves have already been recorded for posterity on the "R40 Live" BD / DVD / CD releases, but this is something different.

It's hard to categorise. It's a documentary, but not really about the R40 tour itself, or indeed about the history of Rush. It actually comes across as an extended setting out of the reasons why Rush won't be touring any more, by the band members themselves and their management. To lighten that rather sombre topic, there are interviews with a few fans on the R40 tour, a few short segments of live footage, and some reminiscences from the band on their early touring days.

It's a bit of an odd thing to watch, as a result. It almost feels like a goodbye to the fans, but even then, it's not a united message - it's very clear that while Peart wants no more to do with touring, the other members don't share his views. Alex Lifeson, the guitarist, is suffering from arthritis which makes it painful for him to play, but he wants to carry on anyway, and Geddy Lee, the bassist, wants to carry on full stop - this is what he loves to do, and his bitterness at not being able to because of Peart comes across in places. Is this an apology, an explanation, or even a bit of emotional blackmail directed at Peart - it's hard to say.

The film probably doesn't repay repeated watches, but there is an unannounced bonus feature - an hour of pro-shot video footage of a concert on the Presto tour in 1990 - it is attributed as "Live from the rabbit hole", but is actually the concert at Auburn Hills, Michigan. This is well worth watching - it's almost as if, in apology for not touring any more, a gem from the archives has been pulled out as a consolation.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2017 6:40 PM BST

Nerf N-Strike Elite Retaliator Blaster
Nerf N-Strike Elite Retaliator Blaster
Price: £27.49

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant toy for boys aged 8 to 80..., 19 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Full disclosure - I'm a professional software engineer, in my late forties. I am probably not, it is fair to say, the target audience for this product! That said, it arrived at my office on Friday, and I unpacked it and put it together - this drew a crowd of my colleagues. After I'd fired a couple of experimental shots, *everyone* wanted a go. Several of them immediately suggested either buying one themselves, or trying to persuade our company to buy a set of them for the office...

It is immediately apparent that Nerf guns appeal to the ten-year-old child inside most men, and this one is great. It comes in several parts - in addition to the main mechanism, which can be used on its own as a pistol, there is an extended barrel, a shoulder stock and a foregrip. They all slot together with a satisfyingly chunky feel - you then load the 12 supplied darts into the magazine, which you obviously have to slap in just like in the films. Joy of joys, there is then a pump-action slide on the top to cock it - it's all incredibly tactile and makes you feel you are about to appear in your own war film.

The darts don't perhaps fly quite as far as the optimistic claims of 27 metres on the box - they went about 15 metres in my testing, but were surprisingly accurate. You can't fire that quickly, as you have to pump the slide after each shot, but that's as much fun as shooting this gun anyway, so really not a problem.

I should be far too old for things like this. I shouldn't have loved it as much as I did, but given every other engineer in the office also loved it, I can't imagine anyone in possession of a Y chromosome and an imagination not being delighted with it. Buy one for the small child in your life - even if he should be old enough to know better!

Sony NWZA-15 A Series High-Res Walkman, 16 GB - Black
Sony NWZA-15 A Series High-Res Walkman, 16 GB - Black
Offered by fusion9online

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievably, in 2016, Sony are selling a music player which is not gapless, 18 Nov. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this as a replacement for my beloved iPod Classic, which is running out of space and doesn't have Bluetooth. The Sony looked to be a good replacement when combined with a large SD card.

First impressions were good - nice small metal case, feels solid. I dragged my Pink Floyd collection to an SD card and inserted it, and gave it a listen. The album art didn't work for some reason, but the sound was lovely... Right up to the end of the first track, which is supposed to segue seamlessly into the second - only on the Sony, it didn't. There was about 0.5 seconds of gap, which renders albums like Dark Side Of The Moon unlistenable.

My music collection is ripped as high bitrate AAC files. It turns out that the Sony does do gapless with AAC, but only if you rip direct from CD using Sony's own software. Given my collection is around 1,600 discs, this is not something I am about to do.

I am utterly staggered that Sony, an AV company, think it is acceptable to sell a non-gapless music player in this day and age - Apple solved gapless playback 10 or more years ago. Mine is going straight back for a refund. If you listen to live albums, or classical, or anything with joined tracks, and you don't feel inclined to rip all your CDs again, avoid this like the plague.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 22, 2016 7:09 PM GMT

SANNCE 1080P 2MP Wireless WiFi IP Security Camera with Two-Way Audio, Real Time App Push Notifications, Smooth Pan& Tilt, Easy Remote Access
SANNCE 1080P 2MP Wireless WiFi IP Security Camera with Two-Way Audio, Real Time App Push Notifications, Smooth Pan& Tilt, Easy Remote Access
Price: £101.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent camera but rendered mostly useless by poor software, 15 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a wi-fi enabled 1080p surveillance camera, which is controlled via an iPhone or Android application. (I tested with the iPhone version.)

First impressions are good - the camera is supplied with a mounting bracket, power adapter and Ethernet cable. The supplied instructions are fairly clear (although they show the reset switch in completely the wrong place!), but do suffer somewhat from clearly having been badly translated, presumably from Chinese.

You first install the iPhone app (available free from the App Store) and it then walks you through setting up the camera. This is fairly straightforward, although at the end the camera isn't shown in the list of available devices until you try to connect it for a second time, at which point it all works. I was pleased to see, given the recent news about botnets, that you are prompted to change the default password as part of the setup.

Once that is done, you can see the picture from the camera on your phone, and the quality is pretty good - there is a slight fish-eye effect on the lens, but the 1080p image is clear and sharp. One problem, however, is use at night - the camera has an IR illuminator, but it isn't waterproof, so you can't install it outside. Using it through a window at night fails badly as the reflection of the illuminator off the glass renders the image unusable. It'll work fine for interior shots at night, or outside in the day time, but it's no use for night time surveillance of your driveway or garage. You can pan or tilt the camera by dragging on the screen of your phone, but the zoom of the camera is fixed.

So far so good, but it then all starts to go wrong. The iPhone app offers a selection of options, most of which are poorly explained and non-obvious - I have no idea at all what an "I/O alarm" is, for instance. You can set the camera for motion detection, to capture and store still frames when someone walks past it - this worked for an hour or so and then stopped working completely for me. It then started to show me photos I had already deleted as new photos, and photos even changed once you had clicked on them to view them. It's all very well having a decent camera, but if the backend which stores and manages the images it takes is as bad as this, the camera itself becomes next to useless.

You can manually take still images, but when you look at the resulting files, the degree of JPEG compression on them is appalling - it's a complete waste of a 1080p camera to then apply this degree of compression. There's a real risk that the resulting images will be too low quality to show information like facial features or license numbers, rendering them useless to the police.

I must also mention the documentation - or lack thereof. There is a simple quick-start guide in the box, but that's it - I've searched online on the Sannce website and elsewhere for a proper explanation of the camera's features, but there seems to be nothing at all. There are various sensitivity settings for the motion detection, for example, but try as I might, I cannot find any documentation which explains how to set them for best results, or indeed how to make motion detection work at all.

Until Sannce fix the software and provide decent documentation, I can't recommend this as anything other than a curiosity - it's useless for anything other than live viewing.

R40 [Blu-ray] [2014]
R40 [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Rush
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £45.03

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Value very much depends on how much of it you already own..., 13 Nov. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: R40 [Blu-ray] [2014] (Blu-ray)
This is a repackaging of five of Rush's recent concert videos with a bonus disc. At launch, the BluRay version cost over £100, at which price (given like most fans, I already owned most of the content) I really wasn't tempted, but a couple of years on, the unsold stock is being shifted at more reasonable prices, so I splashed out.

Of the five films included, "Clockwork Angels", "Time Machine" and "Snakes And Arrows" are all identical to their original BluRay releases. I believe this set was the first time "Rush In Rio" had been released on BD (although it is now available separately), and it suffers from large parts of it not having been recorded in HD anyway, and the rest being rather out of focus! It does include the original "The Boys In Brazil" documentary, but the three tracks that were in multi-angle on the DVD are only present in one angle here. "R30" is different from the original BD release, though. The original DVD release omitted several tracks from the concert, but included a selection of interviews and archive footage. The BD release restored the entire concert tracklisting, but removed the archive footage; this version includes both the entire concert and all the archive material from the DVD, albeit in standard definition.

The bonus DVD includes a selection of content, all in SD, which includes the missing track "Lock And Key" from the "A Show Of Hands" live concert - it was on the LaserDisc but not the VHS release. The quality is pretty ropey, though - I thought LaserDiscs looked better than this! There is 45 minutes or so from a concert on the "Test For Echo" tour, which is in decent enough quality, but lacking compared to the other releases; you can see why it stayed in the can. There is also some earlier archive material, of the sort of quality you'd expect...

The packaging is a hardback book, of which 80% is the discs inside cardboard sleeves, with about 30 pages of colour photos at the front, mostly taken from the concert films.

If you already own the 5 BDs in question, there's nothing here worth picking up. If you bought the DVDs, it's a cheapish and convenient way of upgrading it all to BD.

P7 Wireless Over Ear Headphone by Bowers & Wilkins
P7 Wireless Over Ear Headphone by Bowers & Wilkins
Price: £319.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sounding Bluetooth headphone you can buy, 10 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I bought B&W’s first headphone, the P5, when it was launched. In terms of both sound quality and construction, it was excellent, but it had a serious problem with comfort - it clamped my head too tightly and the pressure of the earpads became uncomfortable after a short time. When they launched the P7, which was very similar but had around-ear rather than on-ear cushions, I sold my P5 and bought one, and it has been my wired headphone of choice ever since, offering even better sound quality than the P5 with significantly improved comfort.

At work, I use Bluetooth headphones with my laptop, and have tried numerous pairs over the years, starting with cheap headsets from Creative and working my way up through Bose’s excellent AE2w to my current favourite, Bang and Olufsen’s H7. The H7 is the most “hi-fi” Bluetooth headphone I have found - not quite as good as my wired P7, but the closest I can find given the limitations of Bluetooth.

I was therefore very keen to hear how the combination of my favourite wired headphone - the P7 - with Bluetooth sounded, as it had the potential to be the best of both worlds. Is it? In a nutshell - pretty much.

The wireless version of the P7 is to all intents and purposes identical to the wired one, with the addition of a Bluetooth transceiver. There are subtle buttons hidden on the black plastic surround of the right-hand earpiece to control volume, play/pause, power and Bluetooth pairing, and a micro-USB charging socket at the base, but in all other respects the wired and wireless versions are the same - even in weight.

I first tried them in wired mode, and unsurprisingly, they sound very similar to the original wired P7 - there is (very) slightly more bass, but the rest of the frequency range is the same - a clear and open treble with no shrillness, nicely integrated midrange and solid bass which sounds natural and unprocessed. (See my review of the original P7 at https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/ROOWUAJ6IW8VK/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00F6PRSMW&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=560798&store=electronics for full details!) Everything I loved about the sound quality of the wired version is present and correct - it produces a natural, unfatiguing sound which you can listen to for hours, and which presents all the music as the producer intended.

Bluetooth never sounds as good as wired headphones - that’s the simple truth. Even the high-quality aptX codec is lossy and degrades sound (albeit less than the standard SBC Bluetooth codec). The P7 wireless supports aptX, so I paired them with a Sennheiser aptX dongle and listened to a selection of tracks from my MacBook.

My reference for Bluetooth headphones, as above, is the B&O H7 - it’s the most natural sounding Bluetooth headphone I have found. Compared back to back with the P7, the P7 shows up the weaknesses of the B&O - the P7 has a more even frequency response and sounds more natural as a result; the H7 sounds slightly processed by comparison. Both of them are proper hi-fi headphones, aiming for accuracy rather than artificial excitement, but the P7 does a slightly better job.

Compared to the sound via the wired connection, the main difference, to my ears, is that the bass is slightly lifted and the treble slightly recessed; bass guitar is emphasised and vocals are slightly muffled. It’s not unpleasant by any means, but it isn’t quite as even a presentation as the ‘phones manage in wired mode. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these are still (by a narrow margin) the best Bluetooth headphones I have heard.

One word of caution - like the P5 before them, the P7 (wired and wireless) both have pretty strong clamping force; if you have a large head, they can feel less than perfectly comfortable as a result. Stretching them out over the side of a sofa or similar overnight can help a bit here, but even after that, these do cling onto your head more tenaciously than some other phones; it’s worth trying them to make sure they are comfortable for you.

But that warning aside, these are really the best of both words - an excellent hi-fi headphone in wired mode, with the flexibility of Bluetooth operation marred only by a slight (and almost certainly unavoidable) compromise in ultimate sound quality.

Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature HiFi Over Ear Headphones, Wired, Italian Leather
Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature HiFi Over Ear Headphones, Wired, Italian Leather
Price: £699.00

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtakingly expensive. Worth every penny., 9 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I bought B&W’s first headphones, the P5, when they were released. They sounded very good, but I found them unbearably uncomfortable after even a short time; the clamping force was too high for the small earpads. Fortunately, they subsequently released the P7, which used around-ear rather than on-ear cushions, and I replaced my P5s with them. The P7 has been my favourite headphone ever since, but when the P9 was released, I did wonder just how it could be worth over twice the price of the P7.

Well, I’ve now had the chance to find out. The P7 is still a very good headphone, but if you are thinking of buying the P7, I would strongly recommend that you don’t listen to the P9 first, as you may find yourself spending more money than you had planned...

The first impressions are of a very high-quality product. The packaging displays Apple levels of sophistication, and in addition to the headphones themselves, you get a total of three cables - two short ones, one with an Apple remote control in the wire, and a long 5m cable for use at home. This latter addition is very welcome - I keep a 5m extension cable for use with my P7s, and this is now unnecessary with the P9s. A leather and Alcantara case is also included - I have to say that the Alcantara does look rather less high-end than the all-leather case included with the P7, but that’s nitpicking.

The headphones themselves feel superbly well-built, with a solid aluminium frame, high quality leather pads, and memory foam padding. Even the cable feels nice, with just the right balance between thickness and flexibility.

In terms of comfort, they are slightly better than the P7 - the clamping force is still a little high, but the earpads are soft and compliant, and being slightly larger than those on the P7, they spread the force over a wider area, which makes it feel less. In spite of their solidness, they don’t feel too heavy - you don’t forget you have them on, but they aren’t burdensome. The earcups are free to move within a flexible joint, so they move to exactly the right angle with your head - the first time I put them on, I didn’t take them off for over an hour, and had not a trace of discomfort.

But the crucial thing is how they sound. For initial testing, I just plugged them into the headphone jacks on my iPhone and MacBook, and listened to compressed AAC files - hardly the optimum environment for such a high-end product! But even so, it rapidly became clear that these are hands-down the best headphones I have ever listened to.

How do they sound? First off, the treble. This manages the difficult trick of revealing the tiniest detail, but without sounding shrill. Many headphones get this wrong - they either sound recessed at the top end to avoid shrillness, and lose the detail, or they produce a harsh glaring tone. I have never heard a headphone - and I have tried many - produce such a clean and detailed treble, but with not a trace of fatiguing shrillness. Repeatedly, these ‘phones revealed details I had never noticed before in songs I have listened to for years - and yet at no point did it all become too much and require me to take them off and rest my ears. (And bear in mind this was compressed files from a computer headphone jack.)

The bass is similarly accurate - the “shape” of bass guitar notes is clear and distinct; the starts and ends are clearly defined. There’s no sign ot artificial boost to the bass - you just hear what you do from a decent set of loudspeakers. Drums have slam and impact, but it’s combined with detail that enables you to hear the exact noise made by the stick against the drumhead.

The bass and treble merge well together as well - there’s no gap in the middle; the ‘phones just represent the entire frequency range as it is on the recording.

Even more impressive is how well they cope with complex music. With challenging progressive rock tracks like Mike Oldfield’s “Amarok” or Kate Bush’s “Waking The Witch”, every individual instrument and part was laid bare - at no point did the complexity of the recording cause the sound to dissolve into an indistinct mush, as happens so often with lesser components. You can pick out faint background sound effects even behind loud foreground sounds; again, I have never heard a pair of headphones do this so well.

In terms of volume, these can be driven to very high volumes from a portable device or a computer output - and even then, there was no trace of distortion or distress. I’d imagine that a good headphone amplifier would produce even better results, but even without one, these sound utterly superb.

One of the signs of a really great hi-fi component is that it keeps you exploring track after track from your music collection to hear how *this* particular song sounds. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t sound great on them - from Nightwish’s symphonic metal to Clannad’s ambient Celtic musings; it all sounded better than I have heard it before. Even after a few hours of doing this today, I am nowhere near finished; I am very much looking forward to carrying on the exploration with some lossless tracks and a headphone amplifier later tonight!

Make no mistake, these are breathtakingly expensive headphones - the purchase price would buy a second-hand car! The build quality goes some way to justifying the price, but what makes them worth it is the sound quality. If you really love music, these are easily worth the asking price - they will have you sitting up all night exploring those tracks you haven’t listened for years. B&W’s cheaper headphones all sound very good, but the P9s are genuinely in another league.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker - Black
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker - Black
Price: £499.00

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good for a one-box system, but not comparable with separates at the same price, 8 Nov. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
B&W are a long-established British manufacturer of loudspeakers, who over the last ten years or so have been branching out into “lifestyle” products aimed at the iPod generation. I’ve got several of these - the MM-1 computer loudspeakers are superb; the Zeppelin Mini (now sadly unavailable) is the best portable iPod speaker I’ve heard, and the P7 headphones are a delight. So I was very keen to hear what the Zeppelin - the flagship “lifestyle” product - was like, and I had high expectations.

First impressions are good - this is an extremely weighty piece of kit, beautifully finished and packaged in the sort of fashion that Apple are so good at. It can be used with Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect or with an old-fashioned 3.5mm analogue minijack connector (although a 3.5mm cable is not included, which feels slightly mean on such an expensive product).

Setting it up is slightly less than intuitive - there is an iPhone app which walks you through the process for setting up the wifi connection required for AirPlay and Spotify, but you’ll need to consult the instructions for getting Bluetooth up and running. Nothing too difficult, but not completely intuitive. There is no remote control, unlike on Zeppelins of old, but the idea is that you control the volume with Spotify or your iOS app.

I first tried it with AAC tracks from my iPhone via Bluetooth, and was slightly underwhelmed. The Zeppelin supports the high-quality aptX Bluetooth codec, but Apple devices don’t, meaning two layers of compression when used in this fashion. Vocals sounded recessed, complex music was a mess and the whole experience was a bit disappointing.

I then tried it with AirPlay and the result was much improved. First impressions are that the treble is open but perhaps a little bit shrill - I would expect that to improve as the tweeters break in over time though. Bass is quite characteristic of a small-ish box, in that it tends to be in a comparatively narrow frequency range, but in that range, this is easily comparable with a good pair of bookshelf loudspeakers.

The main issue for me was the integration between treble and bass, and this was very dependent on what you were listening to. After trying a variety of music, from Mike Oldfield to Kate Bush via Nightwish and Iron Maiden, I was left with the impression that the frequency response of the Zeppelin is a bit uneven - there is solid (very solid) mid and upper bass, and a very clear treble, but some midrange frequencies seem a bit recessed. The bass and treble don’t always gel perfectly together.

Don’t get me wrong - when the music suits the Zeppelin, it sounds fantastic. I’ve listened to Mike Oldfield’s “Foreign Affair” literally hundreds of times since the 80’s - and yet, through the Zeppelin, I heard one lyric clearly enough to decipher it for the first time ever. Complex material like Kate Bush’s “Waking The Witch” works surprisingly well - the overlaid voices at the start are distinct and clear, and there is even a decent amount of stereo separation for such a small box. The piano on Rickie Lee Jones’ “We Belong Together” sounds rich and lifelike, and her vocals come across clearly, but the drums lack some of the impact they have on a proper hi-fi system.

Other material is less successful - heavy metal and symphonic rock can sound muddled. Within Temptation’s live version of “Ice Queen” with orchestra just sounded confused and trapped in the box - but that may well be down to the quality of the recording. It’s also likely that the sound on the Zeppelin will improve slightly over time - this was being tested with only a few hours use.

In terms of volume, the Zeppelin will easily fill a large room with sound, and it suffers from no audible distortion when turned up pretty much to the maximum. In fact, it sounded better loud than it did when turned down; at low volumes, it loses impact and detail.

The acid test is whether or not, with the Zeppelin sitting between my hi-fi speakers (also made by B&W, as it happens), I could tell whether the sound was coming from the main hi-fi or the Zeppelin. On some material, it was very close indeed - the Zeppelin can convincingly replicate the sound of a “proper” hi-fi with undemanding tracks. But with more complex material, the Zeppelin’s shortcomings gave it away.

The big question if you are considering buying a Zeppelin is whether or not it is the best use of the purchase price, and if sound quality is your prime consideration, it probably isn’t - for the price of a Zeppelin, you can buy a decent set of bookshelf speakers and a stereo amplifier with streaming connectivity, and that will undoubtedly sound better than the Zeppelin - stereo separation alone will make a big difference. The Zeppelin is only really portable in the sense that you can unplug it and move it to another room; there’s no way this can be thrown in a suitcase to take on holiday, so the only real advantage it has over a conventional hi-fi is looks. If you do like the appearance and the economy of space, and don’t want cables draped everywhere - and many people will fall into that category - you aren’t going to find a better single-box solution than the Zeppelin. If ultimate sound quality is your priority, the Zeppelin may not be for you - but do give it a listen before dismissing it. It comes closer to real hi-fi than any other one-box solution I’ve heard.

Dirk Gently: The BBC Radio Collection: Two BBC Radio full-cast dramas (BBC Audio)
Dirk Gently: The BBC Radio Collection: Two BBC Radio full-cast dramas (BBC Audio)
by Douglas Adams
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £19.61

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than the later Hitchhikers radio adaptations, 4 Nov. 2016
I've recently taken to listening to audiobooks to relieve the monotony of my commute, and having finished the big box set of "Hitchhikers Guide", I decided to give this a try.

The radio versions are by Dirk Maggs, who was also responsible for the tertiary, quaternary and quintessential phases of HHGG. I have to say that I wasn't that impressed by the three final HHGG series - they suffered a lot from having been originally written as novels rather than for radio (unlike the original two series), and the radio adaptations involved a lot of exposition from characters describing scenes, almost coming out of character to do so. This spoiled the flow of the storylines for me, and I was concerned that the Dirk Gently series would be more of the same.

However, I am delighted to say that Dirk Maggs' work on this series is significantly better than that on the final HHGG series - there is far less exposition, and I get the impression I am listening to something that was conceived for radio rather than bodged into it. (Which is odd, given that Adams presumably never intended the Gently series to be in this format!) Harry Enfield plays the role of Dirk Gently superbly - he's perhaps not quite as born to the role as Stephen Mangan in the TV adaptation, but he's still very believable, and all of the supporting cast work well. The adaptations are very faithful to the novels, albeit subtly updated with references to the Internet and iPods, and with some nice little references back to the HHGG radio series, which are included almost as Easter Eggs for the fans.

I've thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Gently stories in this form - thoroughly recommended to anyone who liked the novels; they complement them nicely and even add to them in places.

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