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Bobby Elliott (Erskine, UK)

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Critical Reasoning: A Practical Introduction
Critical Reasoning: A Practical Introduction
by Anne Thomson
Edition: Paperback

23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reaaly a textbook, 14 Sept. 2005
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I rarely fail to finish a book. But I didn't manage to complete this one. I was surprised to discover that this book is written like a college textbook. It has lots of examples and exercises - which might make for good pedagogy but also makes for bad reading. I'm not a student and I was looking for a book with engaging narrative - and this isn't it. I guess the title gives away the type of book this is: "... a practical introduction". So I should have known better. This book is fine for undergrads but I can't recommend it if your a casual reader who just wants to find out more about reasoning.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2017 1:54 PM BST


Creative Zen Micro 5GB - White
Creative Zen Micro 5GB - White

3.0 out of 5 stars Some great features but what an interface!, 8 July 2005
First the good points, It's well made, it can use a wide range of media formats (including WMA), sound quality is good, it has an excellent maximum volume (louder than the iPod), the supplied headphones are OK (contrary to most reviewers, I don't think that you have to replace them), the radio is a bonus (I listen to it at the football and it's fine outdoors), it's fast (for transferring music and data) and it works well as a flash-drive (I use it to transfer files from my office to my home). The replaceable battery is a bonus since most competing products have fixed batteries that are very expensive to replace (and will have to be replaced eventually).
The bad points? The battery lasts nothing like 12 hours. More like 3-6 (and closer to three than six) in real-life use. The radio is poor and can only pick-up very strong signals. And it looks nowhere near as nice as an iPod. My wife has a green iPod and this baby looks like its fat, stunted, ugly sister.
But none of this matters compared to its biggest weakness -- the controls. They're awful. In fact, they so bad they're funny. They're so sensitive (even at the lowest setting) that it's impossible to control the damn thing while you're moving. It's complete anarchy. Instead of playing your favourite song, you're more likely to be faced with "Reformat the hard disk now?" as you try to navigate the player's interface. So I've learnt to stand still, put everything down and, using my full concentration, select a song (even then, the back button will be your best friend). It's not so bad that you can't use the player but, really, who designed this thing? And what executive said: "Yes, this interface is fine. Let's roll!"? This important weakness does not spoil this player. But be warned.
You have to weigh-up the pros and cons before deciding. My co-worker has used both a Zen Micro and an iPod (she's currently using an iPod) and she prefers the Zen.


Digimate L1916 19" TFT LCD Monitor - Black and Silver
Digimate L1916 19" TFT LCD Monitor - Black and Silver

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic value for money, 10 Mar. 2005
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I've been looking for a TFT display to replace my old CRT monitor but I wanted one with a DVI input to make the most of my graphics card (an ATI 9600 Pro) - and these displays were expensive. So when I saw this 19" DVI display at a low price I was immediately interested.
What a great display! It's big (really big), bright and clear. It comes with everything that you need to set it up (including standard and DVI cables - some monitors twice this price don't supply a free DVI cable - and they're not cheap to buy).
I've tested it with DVDs (perfect) and games. Don't worry about games with this display - Half Life 2 ran perfectly - in fact, it looked better on this screen than my old 19" CRT (the DVI definitely helps in this regard). So this monitor is fast enough to drive the most demanding game.
My eyes aren't great so I was a little worried about running this display in its native resolution (1280x1024) since I can't see this properly on a CRT - but it's fine on this display. You can lower the resolution but it's designed for XGA (1280x1024) and doesn't look as good at any other resolution. My solution was to run it at 1280x1024 but increase the font and icon sizes (to "large"). It looks great (don't forget to enable ClearType in Control Panel).
It's hard to criticise this display -- but I'll try! The degree of adjustment is tiny (two degrees back or forward) so it's pretty fixed. And the speakers are the usual tinny jobs - they're fine for basic sounds but you will need to invest in decent speakers/woofer for music or games. Don't worry - you''ll save lots of deskspace upgrading from a CRT to this TFT display (even with separate speakers).
So, a great buy. I can't remember when I last gave a product five stars. But this thing deserves it.


The Sun: A Biography
The Sun: A Biography
by David Whitehouse
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really a biography - but interesting none-the-less, 17 Feb. 2005
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This review is from: The Sun: A Biography (Hardcover)
I liked the idea of a biography of the Sun. A sort of "blog" of the Sun's development. But the author appears to have taken cold feet (possibly fearing an unevenly paced book). This book is not chronological - in fact, I had difficulty trying to identify any unifying theme. So the title is a puzzle.
Neither is this book "The Sun for Dummies". It's quite dense in parts and the general reader (as I am) will struggle in places (partly through ignorance and partly through boredom). I found it a bit of a struggle to finish the book.
But there's lots of interesting stuff too. I learned a great deal from it. Parts of it are engaging and fascinating.
The result is an odd book. A little heavy for the casual reader and too light for the amateur or professional astronomer. I'm not sure who it was pitched at - and maybe the author wasn't sure either.
Because the book isn't very engaging, I scan read some parts and finished up with only a hazy understanding of some key concepts.
In conclusion: a short, interesting (in parts) book that could and should have been more interesting that it was.


Mind the Gap: Class in Britain Now
Mind the Gap: Class in Britain Now
by Ferdinand Mount
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Right wing analysis of working class culture, 23 Jan. 2005
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Ferdinand Mount has written an interesting and challenging book about working class culture. He argues persuasivly that class still counts and that "uppers" and "downers" still exist.
As his argument unfolded, it slowly dawned on me that I was reading a right-wing polemic on contemporary politics. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised given his background (he currently writes for The Times and has previously worked for a Conservative government).
I had a problem with his misty-eyed view of working class culture. He attacks left- and right-wing thinkers for patronising the working class but turns a blind-eye to the worst aspects of this culture. The book is also contradictory in parts. For example, he attacks Marx's view that there is no middle class (they will join one or other of the working or upper classes when the time comes) but he himself only describes two classes (downers and uppers).
Still, it was an interesting read and one that I can recommend.


Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity
Getting Things Done: How to Achieve Stress-free Productivity
by David Allen
Edition: Paperback

49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unrealistic but contains some great ideas, 9 Nov. 2004
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Let me begin by recommending this book. You're sure to find something that will change your work habits. The author has lots of ideas about how to manage your time more effectively. And that's the problem...
The book is over-the-top. It's time management gone mad. If you followed all of the advice you would spend half of your life creating lists and the other half completing them. There are lists for everything. Even lists about lists.
My other problem with this book was the clunky English. I found myself constantly having to re-read sentences to get their meaning. And like most management books, it could have imparted the same advice in half the words.
But there are enough nuggets of wisdom to easily justify the price. I have adopted several of his ideas. Just don't do everything this books suggests or you'll have lots of time to manage since you'll have no family or friends.


Creative Zen Touch 20GB MP3 Player
Creative Zen Touch 20GB MP3 Player

93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, 17 Oct. 2004
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The Zen Touch is a real mixed bag. On the plus side is the build quality (excellent), form factor (not much bigger than an iPod), battery life (I've charged it once in the last week) and cost (£40 cheaper than an iPod). While it doesn't look as nice as an iPod, it looks OK. It also has a good (high) volume so you can hear it in any environment. The long battery life is more important than it sounds since batteries have a limited number of charges before they need to be replaced - so the Touch should last a lot longer than the iPod. You also get a free carry-case - it's not very pretty but it will protect the device in your bag.
Musically it's so-so. In spite of changing the headphones and adjusting the equaliser, I feel the music is a bit lifeless. In fact, it sounds much the same as my 128Mb Muvo player. Don't get me wrong, it's OK, I just expected better (although by all accounts, it's better than the iPod).
Although it works with Windows Media Player (I'm using version 10), it only provides manual sychronisation - not full automatic synchronisation. This is just weird since previous Creative devices provide full syncronisation (my Muvo does).
The only real negative is that it's not recognised as a drive letter when you connect it. You must install the supplied software for it to be recognised at all. So forget about using it to transfer files between PCs. This is pretty amazing from a "PC company" - especially when the APPLE iPod provides driver letter support (on a PC). And contrary to rumour, Creative "has no plans" to provide driver letter support. One other negative - Creative recommends that you do not use it while jogging (again, the iPod scores in this regard since it has a 25 minute buffer).
So the Touch is a mixed bag. Some great features and one terrible de-feature (the lack of drive letter support). The clunky PC compatibility is just strange.
But don't get me wrong. This player has transormed my music listening (this would be true of any mass storage player). I now carry around my full music collection and I have re-discovered many long-forgotten songs(how could I have forgotten about the magic of Radiohead?).


Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea
Free Prize Inside: The Next Big Marketing Idea
by Seth Godin
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting ideas which reflect our sad times, 29 Aug. 2004
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I have an interest in innovation and this little book (183 pages) sounded interesting. I wasn't disappointed. Seth Godin always has something interesting to say.
The "free prize" in the title refers to simple ideas which can differentiate a product from the competition. Note the "simple" - he advises against trying to come up with big ideas which are expensive and usually fail. He continues his attacks on traditional marketing and makes a persuasive argument against it. Instead of spending lots of money on mass marketing, he advocates that you concentrate on creating "remarkable" products. Not remarkable in the sense of being brilliant - simply worth talking about. He prefers "soft" innovation (simple, inexpensive) to "hard" innovation (driven by R&D) and argues that anyone can create soft innovations.
The sad bit is that most of the examples he provides are silly. Not silly in the sense that they won't work - they probably would - but silly in the sense that they don't actually add anything useful to the product/service - they simply make it stand-out from the crowd - which is probably what sells. Sad but true.
A good read and one I learnt from.


Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking
Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking
by Jamie Whyte
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

43 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable little book, 8 Aug. 2004
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This book is a short, easy, entertaining read. It's about errors in logic and irrationale arguments. And the writer sounds like he's been in more than his fair share of arguments. You can almost feel his anguish!
I really enjoyed his attack on the "I have the right to my opinion" brigade. You don't according to Mr Whyte - unless you have researched your opinion. Brilliant! The book is instructional. You will definitely learn something from it - even if you only learn about the flaws in your own beliefs. Highly recommended.


Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse Explorer Black Leather
Microsoft Wireless Intellimouse Explorer Black Leather

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad points, 26 July 2004
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I already owned a (wired) Intellimouse Explorer before I purchased this wireless version. I purchased this model to give me more freedom on my desk.
The wireless side of things works perfectly. Easy to install, fast and works flawlessly. No interference with my wireless network. The wireless receiver attachs to a USB port and you can locate the device on a nearby desk thanks to a generous cable. The receiver is black with a single (green) light and actually looks quite good.
The nouse itself is fine - once I got over the shock of its weight and difficult scrolling. The wireless version is *much* heavier than the wired mouse (thanks to batteries and additional electronics). This additional weight makes more difference than you might think. But the biggest problem was the mouse wheel - it's much harder to scroll (in all directions) than the wired mouse. I've no idea why. Maybe my wired version had an exceptionally good mouse wheel (it was incredibidly sensitive and light to use); this one is much "heavier". It was so bad that my first reaction was to return the mouse to Amazon. But I persevered and I've got used to it.
Unlike the other reviewers, I like the leather effect and I love sideways scrolling. Once you've used it for a while you really miss it when you use a mouse without it. Superb for spreadsheets and browsing.
So, it's a mixed bag. Great wireless operation but heavy with a poor mouse wheel (compared with the wired version). But it feels like a quality product and MS claim that the battery life is 6 months - three times longer than any other mouse. Time will tell.


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