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will_de_beest (South Oxfordshire)

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Kensington Wall Ultra Thin Notebook Power Adapter (Fusion)
Kensington Wall Ultra Thin Notebook Power Adapter (Fusion)
Price: £67.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good buy for the laptop traveller, 12 Oct. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My household isn't short of HP laptop power units but I wanted one I could keep for travelling, to reduce the weight and bulk of my work kit. HP makes a `travel' unit but it still requires the hefty `Mickey Mouse' mains cable, which contributes a lot of the weight - especially with a UK plug and a continental adaptor attached.
That's where this unit scores: not only are the mains cables short - barely 140mm from mains plug to connector - but there's one with a two-pin continental plug. The combined weight of this and the power unit proper (including the 1.6m DC cable and the `I' tip for HP) is about 360g, or a useful 160g less than the original HP combination. And the shorter, thinner AC cable is far less bulky in the slim laptop bag I take to meetings when I'm away.

The USB outlet wasn't a crucial consideration for me, but it does give me the option of charging a small device during the night without being kept awake by lights from the laptop.
Finally, one benefit that did swing the decision towards Kensington: the figure-eight AC connector is not only more compact than HP's Mickey Mouse, but it will also fit a Canon or Panasonic camera battery charger, so that's another cable I don't have to carry.

Construction seems solid enough to stand up to travel. The connectors for the AC cable and the laptop tip are a snug fit, and take a firm push and some wiggling to engage properly, but this is probably no bad thing if it saves them from coming adrift in the bottom of a bag. Importantly, the AC input is auto-switching, so there's no danger of forgetting where you are and overloading the transformer. The DC output voltage does have to be selected manually, but assuming you use it for one laptop only, this shouldn't be a problem - each tip has a coloured flash to make it easy to select the right one - and the switch is too stiff to move by accident.

Negatives? Not many, but I have to mention the nasty packaging, which is the clear plastic sort that has to be opened with a knife. Even the tips are in sealed plastic bags, when surely a ziplock bag wouldn't have been too much to ask. This may be a product designed for travelers, but you shouldn't buy one at an airport.
Still, in a world where being `mobile' seems to involve weighing ourselves down with more and more kit, it's nice to find a product that lightens the load a little. Recommended.


Logitech M185 Wireless Mouse - Red
Logitech M185 Wireless Mouse - Red
Price: £9.99

34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but worth paying a little more, 27 Sept. 2012
My M185 was a distress purchase after my prediction concerning my grey M305 came true and I lost it. The M185 was the best an airport shop could offer as I set off on a business trip.

I like Logitech mice and would choose one every time, but by its maker's high standards this one is no more than adequate. The bright - if not very appealing - red shell ought to make it harder to leave behind, but it feels flimsy compared with the M305. More significantly, the click action is rather loud, which makes it harder to use discreetly in company as I sometimes need to do. And while the wheel has Logitech's familiar easy scroll, it doesn't move sideways to scroll across a big Excel sheet, although you can program it to act as a third button with a 'universal scroll' action, which I'd not tried before and rather like.

Fair value for money, then - especially since I'll still probably lose it - but for more frequent use, I'd recommend paying a little more for one of Logitech's grander options.

UPDATE Apr 2014: The M185 is now relegated to occasional home use, and I bought an M305 for work and travel - yellow this time, and so far I haven't lost it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 27, 2014 12:40 PM GMT


Breville Eco Control VIN245 Steam Iron with Filling Dock - 2,800 Watts
Breville Eco Control VIN245 Steam Iron with Filling Dock - 2,800 Watts

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot to pay for a plastic boat, 27 Sept. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although this looks superficially like a `steam generator' iron, it isn't one. The giant toy boat it sits on is an unpowered water reservoir, from which the iron slurps noisily when its on-board water tank is even slightly depleted. This allows the user - me - to make full use of its copious steam output without frequent runs to the tap, but does mean that I have to find space at the end of the ironing board for this hefty chunk of blue plastic, and somewhere in the cupboard to store it between uses.

Whether this feature is of any value to you - and especially whether it is worth a premium of about 40GBP on the price of a conventional high-spec iron - will depend on how much you depend on steam in your ironing routine. The only things I ever iron are shirts for work, the occasional pair of cotton trousers and the odd pillowcase, and I've always tended to use water from a spray bottle rather than the steam functions of my ten-year-old Rowenta iron.

Most important, it needs to be a good iron. This one is pleasantly heavy, and the `ceramic' sole plate - which looks and feels quite metallic - is certainly smooth. Less convincing are the controls: rather than a simple temperature dial, it has an LCD display that is rather hard to see in the shadow of the handle, with clacky `+' and `-` buttons that may or may not define the service life of the appliance. The steam control is a rather stiff slider at the front of the handle, and to get any steam at all I have to squeeze the `Eco switch' on the underside of the grip, a bit like the fuel shut-off bar on the handle of a lawnmower. It would be better to put this on top, where the hand would naturally rest on it rather than requiring an uncomfortable curl of the fingers.

That brings me to this iron's biggest ergonomic annoyance: with my fingers gripping the `Eco switch', the natural place for my thumb to rest is right on the edge of the unnecessarily big cover of the iron's own water filler hole. The hole is large, supposedly for easier filling, but the flap doesn't lock shut, so a slight nudge from my thumb is enough to send water sloshing out of the flap and over whatever I'm ironing; this happens a lot. The flap may find itself permanently taped shut, but it's an avoidable irritation and a poor piece of design.

This, and the overdesigned controls, are a pity, because they spoil what is actually a rather good iron, with a good combination of weight, smoothness and plenty of steam when required. The self-filling facility is an expensive extra, but with winter approaching and less opportunity to dry shirts in the wind, I may yet be glad of the additional steam it offers to eliminate those extra wrinkles.

UPDATE: my example of this lasted three months before expiring in a cloud of evil-smelling smoke. The display just flashes uselessly, so this is now a bulky piece of junk and I'm back to using a basic Russell Hobbs steam iron from Argos.


Employee Of The Month
Employee Of The Month
Price: £11.35

5.0 out of 5 stars The Lizards' best set, 17 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Employee Of The Month (Audio CD)
I think I got my introduction to the Lizards from the same source as the first reviewer here, and this has been a favourite album ever since. Crucially, the band's sharp musicianship saves it from being a novelty comedy record that's played a couple of times and forgotten; there's some well-crafted, erudite, politically astute and, yes, FUNNY stuff here. I've even used it to test friends - those who don't fall about the first time they hear the opening line, "Mom and Dad got married...and dropped out of junior high" are evidently missing a vital gene and need help, not disapproval.

I've even seen the Lizards live. They made their first ever UK tour on the back of this album, and I saw them at Kenilworth Working Men's Club in June 1998. They even explained the four claps thing in Stupid Texas Song - although I've forgotten the explanation. And yes, tall Tom's voice really does go that low in Leonard Cohen's Day Job.

I've got other Lizards albums, which are a bit uneven and try a little too hard in places to be 'serious'. This one never makes that mistake and is all the better for it, and it gets a top drawer recommendation.


RETRACTABLE DATA SYNC AND CHARGE CABLE IN BLACK, COMPATIBLE WITH ALL APPLE IPODS & IPHONES: ALL IPHONE 2G 3G 3GS 4G, ALL IPOD TOUCH, ALL IPOD NANO, ALL IPOD CLASSIC, ALL IPOD MINI - GIZMO MILL
RETRACTABLE DATA SYNC AND CHARGE CABLE IN BLACK, COMPATIBLE WITH ALL APPLE IPODS & IPHONES: ALL IPHONE 2G 3G 3GS 4G, ALL IPOD TOUCH, ALL IPOD NANO, ALL IPOD CLASSIC, ALL IPOD MINI - GIZMO MILL

4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job and keeps my bag tidy, 17 Aug. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I use this on my desk at work where a white Apple cable would be too conspicuous and get in the way, and it works just fine, both for data sync and charging my old iPhone 3G. I can also carry it in my laptop bag without it tangling itself round everything else in there. All cables should be like this!

The one I got looks as if it had been around for while before it came to me; the red and green graphics on the reel housing are faded as if they've been in the sun, but this is a minor point that doesn't make it any less useful.


Nero 11 Multimedia Suite (PC)
Nero 11 Multimedia Suite (PC)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive but not as stable as I'd like, 17 Aug. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Video isn't really my thing, so I ordered this intending to use it mainly for audio editing. In that respect it's a bit mixed. My main activity is making digital files to play in the car, either from analogue LPs or from downloaded BBC radio programmes. And some of it works and some of it doesn't.

What's good is that it's very easy to capture sound from analogue sources - I use a Griffin iMic and Windows 7 - and to make minor adjustments such as volume normalization. Slightly irksome is that the record level defaults to 100 every time, although 20 is nearer the mark to avoid clipping dynamic peaks.

Less good is when I want to convert the uncompressed capture file into MP3s to copy into iTunes. So far I've not made this work at all, with MP3 or any other compressed format - Wave Editor just crashes every time. I have to go back to my previous tool, Audacity, and create the files from that. I've downloaded the latest updates from the Nero site but still have the problem.

But Wave Editor does a good job of trimming the unwanted continuity tops and tails from programmes downloaded as MP3s from the BBC's Listen Again servers. It's much quicker if you keep the working copy on a local drive rather than a NAS, but that's more to do with network performance than Nero itself.

There's much more to this package than I've used, but I'll leave others to comment on that. For what I need, it does a fair job but doesn't quite managed to be the complete solution I was hoping for.


Open All Night
Open All Night
Price: £19.13

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes I know - but anyway..., 29 July 2012
This review is from: Open All Night (Audio CD)
I hesitated over buying this album. I'd splashed £5.49 of my student budget on the first Sats LP (I know because the price label is still on the sleeve) and, love it as I do, if that album has a fault it's that it's a bit short of variety. Then I heard a live performance they did for the BBC, was blown away by the sly humour (if not the poor French) of Mon Chéri, and bought Open All Night the next day.

Is it any more varied than their debut? To be honest, not really - we had to wait for the final and finest Sats album for that - but do I care? Not a bit - this has been a favourite album ever since and still gets regular play time 24 years on. The piano, guitar and cymbals opening of Don't Pass Me By has been an essential test piece for every item of hi-fi equipment I've bought; if it can't play that well, I don't want it.

I could go into detail about the individual songs but to be honest, what's the point? It rocks a little harder - Cool Inside, Down and Down - than the first album, has some extra tonal interest from Ian McLagan's 'pianner', ends with a weak attempt at a ballad but is otherwise such fun you won't care.

But, if you can, buy the LP. The recording is all-analogue and the CD transfer - I've bought both - isn't the best. Those sly, swinging, rocking rhythms come across better from a needle in a groove. It's all Old School in a good way and it's far better than it deserves to be.


Alpine EZI-DAB Add-On DAB to Any Stereo
Alpine EZI-DAB Add-On DAB to Any Stereo
Offered by CarAudioCentre
Price: £149.99

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lot in a small package, 31 May 2012
A change of car meant I was looking for a way to integrate an iPod with a factory-fit audio unit, a task made more awkward by the lack of an Aux input even in the back of the head unit, and by the presence of a CD changer that I want to go on using. After complicated exchanges with a number of installers, one of them happened to suggest this new product and it seemed to tick enough boxes to be worth a try. Here, only three days after it was installed, are my early impressions.

Convenience of operation is a mixed bag. Control of the iPod and of DAB tuning - in both cases using the Ezi-DAB's control knob and buttons - is pretty good, replicating much of the function of the `Pod's own clickwheel, but in a more tactile way that's safer to use while driving. Crucially, the buttons allow fast forward and rewind within tracks, which was missing from the Toyota factory interface in my previous car and makes long podcasts much easier to manage. The one thing I miss is the `accelerator' function of the clickwheel, which switches to jumping an initial letter at a time rather than track by track; without it, I've tended to stay too close to the beginning of the alphabet in my listening choices - more AC/DC than ZZ Top.
It would be useful if the power to the Ezi-DAB were more directly controlled by the master switch of the head unit. As it is, switching off the ignition at journey's end puts the Ezi-DAB first into its `forecourt pause' mode, which suspends playback, and then, after 15 minutes, into full shutdown. This is fine, but I'd like the same thing to happen if I turn off the main audio unit during a journey - say because I have a difficult passage of traffic to negotiate, or because I just want a bit of hush - and I'd like the 'Pod to resume in Pause state rather than to go on playing. I have no idea whether this is technically possible, either generally or specifically for my car, but it ought to be controllable in firmware.

Sound quality through my `FM direct injection' connection seems very acceptable - to the point where the limiting factor is the quality of the source material, recorded or broadcast. Some installers had warned me against FM modulation on the grounds of interference but so far I've not noticed any, whether from other radio transmissions or from mobile phone chirping. Aux-in is the input to use if you have one, but FM is fine if you don't.
I use the iPod mostly for BBC podcasts and downloaded radio programmes, but some of these do contain music - such as Radio 3 Building a Library podcasts - and these are much easier to listen to than before, with a more comfortable volume balance between the spoken explanations and the musical inserts. I suspect this is nothing to do with actual levels and more about the quality of the speech, but I no longer feel the need to turn the volume up for the music and down for the speech as I did with my old Griffin FM transmitter.

The DAB side is, naturally, governed mainly by signal strength and bit rate, and these vary hugely with location and station. If it's any guide, it does seem to hang on to the DAB signal marginally better than the FM one at the bottom of the steep valley that contains my home town. Most of my radio listening is mainstream BBC - Radios 3 and 4 on FM - and that will probably continue, but having the option of stations like 6 Music and Planet Rock may broaden my horizons a little. What comes out of the speakers is generally much better than adequate; considering this wasn't a feature I was even looking for, it's a very satisfactory bonus.

Limitations? As mentioned above, power on-off convenience isn't all it could be, and the unit takes a few seconds longer than it might to respond to a change of mode or station. I also lose RDS traffic messages, but there's another input option that may bring those back. Some devices that use FM modulation borrow the head unit's RDS capability to display track information on the radio display. The Ezi-DAB doesn't do this - perhaps it's because FM modulation isn't its only output - which is a pity, although it does display `EZI-DAB' on the radio, which suggests something RDS-y is going on. If the hardware is capable, the capability could probably be retro-fitted with a firmware update.

Finally a note on installation. My installer managed to run the USB input cable into the armrest compartment, a much better place for it than the glovebox, which is on the wrong side of the car. The control unit removes the need to have direct access to the 'Pod, and here it is the work of a moment to clip it in place as I settle into the car. Installing was a two-hour job by an in-car specialist; as well as the visible control unit, there's the main interface box to fit out of sight and a lot of wires to hide, so you'd need to be more confident than me to try this at home.

Positioning of the control unit is more difficult. Alpine's decision to put two control buttons on top of the controller means that the unit has to be out in the open and can't be concealed behind a flap or fitted flush into a recess, and this is, frankly, daft. The supplied vari-angle stand is not really up to the standard of the rest of the unit and doesn't look right sticky-padded to the left of the gear selector, so I'm on the lookout for a neater solution.

In (preliminary) conclusion, after a few days with an Ezi-DAB I'm well pleased and feel I made a good choice. It's versatile, is (reasonably) easy to use and - vitally - sounds good. The ergonomics let it down a little - just like Pure's home radios (Pure supplied the DAB guts of this device) - but not enough to make me wish I'd paid more for a less versatile solution.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2016 1:57 PM GMT


Casio Men's Sports Watch
Casio Men's Sports Watch

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feature packed but a little fiddly, 21 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Casio Men's Sports Watch (Watch)
This was a present for my 11-year-old son. He is technically minded and loves the number of things this watch can do, especially the timer functions. Crucially, it is comfortable on his slim wrist but will also wrap around my rather bigger one - something Casio has been getting right for years - although I'd consider this a more suitable size for a child or teenager than for most adults.

But even slim fingers and sharp young eyes find parts of the display too tiny to read, and some of the functions - notably the countdown - are less than intuitive and require careful study of the well-written manual. But if you're looking at a Casio you probably don't need telling this - they always work well, but they do need a little effort.


AmazonBasics Dual-Port Swivel Cigarette Lighter Adaptor in Black
AmazonBasics Dual-Port Swivel Cigarette Lighter Adaptor in Black
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basic in a good way - but a little expensive, 21 May 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've had several Basics products now and they've all done the job in an unshowy way. This is no exception; I wanted it so we could connect a powered coolbox and an AA battery charger to the 12V boot socket of our estate car on long trips. The adjustable right-angle neck is a bonus. The only feature I'd add would be a second LED to show independently when each socket is drawing current. I'd also like to see something this simple - and this cheap to make - retailing at under five pounds, but it's still reasonable value as it is.

I thoroughly approve of Amazon's back-to-basics packaging, especially for small items like this that other vendors put in finger-shredding blister packs, so full credit there.


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