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Mr. R. J. Jepps "Richard Jepps" (Cambridge UK)
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Cat Mate Elite I.D. Disc Cat Flap with Timer Control - White
Cat Mate Elite I.D. Disc Cat Flap with Timer Control - White
Price: £64.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid cat flap - could be a great product with a bit more design and development, 19 Oct. 2013
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The build quality is high and noticeably more solid than our previous cat flap (the Staywell Petsafe Infra-Red, which is a reasonable choice if your cats need a wall tunnel.) From the inside it is good looking with a shiny white finish and has some nice features, such as the indicators that let you know whether your cat is in or out, and the flap is transparent enough to let the light through.

The operating instructions are clear, but the fitting instructions were pretty useless. Unless you can drill at perfect right angles all the way through an exterior door, so that the hole comes out within a millimetre or two of where you intended, then:
a. It really is necessary to cut the hole 3mm bigger all the way round, as it says in the instructions.
b. Drill the screw holes with a drill bit thick enough that you can push the screw through the hole.
c. Drill through the door from the inside out.

The reason is that the two long screws don't need to bite into the door, but they do need to tie the outside face plate to the two holes in the main body of the cat flap. I made the mistake of drilling pilot holes, and discovered the hard way that lining the holes up to make the outside face plate close to level needs an almost impossible degree of precision unless there is some play with at least one of the screws.

I was also puzzled by the gap left on the outside between the hole liner and the face plate, as "L A H" describes. At first I thought there should have been a middle plate to cover the wood around the hole, but this seems to be a consequence of the design. I also find that the face plate doesn't fit snugly against the door at the top and bottom and don't see why it doesn't come with corner holes to screw the face plate against the door.

I have just had to refit the cat flap for the third time. I was seeing the problem described by "Mrs B" where the flap sticks half open. I put this down to cutting the hole too close to the size of the hole liner without leaving the full 3mm gap. The flap started sticking after heavy rain and I think the pressure on the flap unit is the cause of the door sticking open.

The long screws are Philips (cross-head) type. The heads are now very battered from the many attempts it took to get the screw holes right. I have a good range of screwdrivers but unusually they seem to fall between two sizes and the metal isn't hard enough for the force I had to use to screw them through the hard wood of the door.

A few of the things that I initially thought were problems have turned out to be fine. The cats don't seem to mind bashing their heads on the flap to get their disk close enough to unlock flap. Having to press a button on the circuit board to set up a new disc key is a minor inconvenience, but the circuit board cover seems fairly robust and not as stiff as plastic battery covers often are. The disc keys are an improvement over the infra-red keys that we used to have. They don't need batteries and they don't contain delicate electronics. Even our smaller cat doesn't seem to mind the size and weight of the disc.


Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball - Graphite [UK Model]
Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball - Graphite [UK Model]
Price: £49.41

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This one goes to seven, 30 July 2011
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I've used a Logitech Cordless TrackMan Wheel at work for nearly three years. That is a fantastic product, beautifully engineered, built to the highest standards and has helped me a very great deal with severe shoulder pain acquired using a mouse with slow software under stress for extended periods. It's an incredible relief to see a new trackball from Logitech on the market, when it looked like the existing model had been discontinued, as my trusty Trackman can't last forever.

I bought this one to use with a MacBook Pro. I took it out of the easy-to-open cardboard box, took out the contact breaker for the battery, plugged in the USB receiver - and it worked straight away! There is some software to download to enable the extra buttons, but that has to be one of the smoothest experiences I've ever had with a new piece of hardware. The USB receiver is an amazing piece of design. It sticks out about one centimetre from the USB port, so it can be left in while transporting the laptop. It's barely big enough to put "Logitech" on the end in a legible font. Apparently it can receive signals from additional devices, but it's impressive enough that it works with just one. One further elegant touch is that the receiver can be stored inside the unit, next to the battery, when not in use.

One more major advance in design: there is a hole under the wheel, and it is now possible to push the ball out of its normal position in order to clean the contacts without having to use a screwdriver. My Trackman requires the removal of four Philips screws and incredible care not to dislodge either of the two complicated spring assemblies in order to clean the contacts. The new model just lets you push out the ball and you can clean the contacts without exposing the internal workings of the device. This is a big advance on the previous model, as even a straightforward clean was a delicate and deliberate process. If one or both of the springs pinged out (as happened once to me) it was an intricate business putting the thing back together. It should now take a few seconds to perform the essential periodic maintenance instead of a good half hour (or a bad morning.)

The new model doesn't seem as solid as the old. The components feel lighter (not necessarily a bad thing) and the old ball with its ladybird dots for the laser to read is replaced by a much lighter, metallic blue ball. The contacts also look a little shorter, so cleaning might need to be more frequent. I need more time to get used to the new model, however I use this range because of its ergonomic benefits, not because I like how it feels. The old Trackman was an effortless example of a five star product. The new one deserves six, and if they'd kept the perfect weighting of the old Trackman it would have been worth every last point of a seven out of five on the hyperbolic scale!

Accept no substitutes.


Agile in a Flash: Speed-Learning Agile Software Development (Pragmatic Programmers)
Agile in a Flash: Speed-Learning Agile Software Development (Pragmatic Programmers)
by Jeff Langr
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quick introduction to Agile, 17 May 2011
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This deck of cards has most of what you really need to get started using Agile software development. The basics are on the front of each card, and the details are in the fine print on the back. Despite the industry that has grown up around agile methods, the concepts are straightforward. The main problem is that some of the existing culture has to be unlearned for the methods to work. You don't have to be a guru or have a certification to use agile methods effectively. Those things mainly help you with the first step: getting permission to try. To start to implement your agile process, read one of the slim volumes by Ken Schwaber or Mike Cohn. That will put you ahead of most. Then find a way of explaining the concepts to your agile team. These cards can help you create a cheap and fun way to achieve that. You'll probably find that you leave the cards behind very quickly. Like any entry-level tool, that will show that they worked.


Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)
Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship (Robert C. Martin)
by Robert C. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £30.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A five star book in a four star cover, 21 Jan. 2009
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This book has a great summary chapter - Chapter 17. I read this first and decided to read the rest of the book even though there wasn't much I hadn't come across before.

The book really is very readable and covers a lot of ground, generally at intermediate developer level. Advanced developers won't come across anything new, however there is a lot of good advice in one place. This is generally clearly explained with some examples that hint at the level of simplicity that can be achieved in production code with a bit of extra time and a lot of extra effort.

The Law of Demeter is explained with the usual lack of clarity, but there is enough supporting material that I finally understood what it is really about - everything within a scope should be at the same level of abstraction. It was a bit of a revelation when the implications started to sink in.

The Formatting chapter has some interesting insights into the rationale of some of the formatting techniques that I developed naturally over more than 20 years of writing code.

The sub-title reads "A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship". There is the odd nod in the Agile direction, but the text is much more about software craftsmanship than it is about agile, and none the worse for it.

I've already lent the book to one of my colleagues, and I hope to get it back before too long.

Unusually for a Prentice Hall publication the editing is not as good as it should be, and the cover is cheap - it had a distinctive curl after the first reading stint. This is a shame as it's a book that needs to be passed around.


Thermaltake W0093 PSU 500W TR2-500W
Thermaltake W0093 PSU 500W TR2-500W

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well built and nicely finished, 11 Nov. 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very nicely constructed power supply with a mirror black finish on the main body and black braiding around each set of wires. The optional four pins of the 20/24 pin connector are in a detachable block that unplugs to fit 20 pin connectors with nearby obstructions.

The box included four screws for fixing the PSU to the case and a kettle lead. The instructions are clear, identifying the different connectors by shape and wire colours. There are lots of different connectors, so you might want some cable ties to loop the spare connections out of the way, otherwise everything you need is in the box.

I had never changed a power supply before. It took about 45 minutes to do of which fitting this unit took about 10, and everything worked first time!

Although this is a mid-range unit there are no compromises on quality. Considering that it looks like a complicated unit to manufacture it offers remarkable value.

Next time I'm looking for a PSU, Thermaltake will definitely be on my short list!


Suse 10.1 (Linux)
Suse 10.1 (Linux)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reliable server OS, 16 Jan. 2007
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This review is from: Suse 10.1 (Linux) (CD-ROM)
I had a very solid installation of SUSE Linux Professional 9.3, so I waited until SUSE 10.1 came out, thinking that it would iron out the worst bugs in 10.0.

Installation was difficult. I made a mistake repartitioning the disks, and lost the lot. Fortunately I'd made a backup before I started. Installation was unreliable. Each time I set up my SoundBlaster card (an ongoing problem) I broke things so badly that a fresh install was the quickest option. Installation was painfully slow and started asking questions after 20 minutes (by which time I'd gone away). This doesn't matter the first time. It does matter the sixth time. After disabling the built-in AC97 chip in the BIOS setup, installation and setup number seven just worked. If the last sentence would still look like nonsense after several hours with a friendly search engine, installing Linux might not be for you!

Now that it's installed and set up with my favourite software SUSE 10.1 is a solid operating system, with a very smart (KDE) graphical user interface. You choose either Gnome or KDE or both during installation.

As a server operating system it has been totally reliable. Apache, Subversion, JBoss, Samba, CUPS and Oracle 10 XE all sit quietly in the background day after day after interminable day!

It's also pretty good at mundane client tasks. Thunderbird is a very competent mail client. The junk controls aren't quite as good as Outlook's yet, but they're learning all the time. On the other hand there are some great open source plug-ins. My favourite is ToCyrillic that lets you type cyrillic characters with a standard QWERTY keyboard.

For software development, Eclipse, Java and JBossIDE all install and run with no fuss.

SUSE 10.1 makes better use of my 3GB RAM than XP does by default (I know I could tweak XP, but not tweaking is so much easier). For any given process I'm not sure that any given Linux application would win a flat out race against its Windows version, but somehow everything seems to run much more smoothly without all the pauses and interruptions that Windows throws in to brighten up your working day.

As a desktop client it's very usable for day to day tasks. It doesn't give me quite the same confidence that I had with 9.3, as the automatic updates are very slow, and Firefox hangs or crashes from time to time, although I think this might be related to Skype. The Zen updater was broken for a long time, but the latest patches sort this out.

The last few days I've been trying to set up Skype, a Creative webcam and a microphone. This has been a world of RPM dependency mismatches, failed builds from source and general pain. I'm waiting for the one guy in the whole world who cares about Linux drivers for Creative webcams to build his RPMs against the latest kernel. At least there is one guy who cares ...

SUSE 10.1 just isn't as multi-media friendly as Windows XP out of the box. It plays CDs without any trouble, although neither Real Player nor Amarok seem quite at home somehow. I gave up trying to play DVDs. I just didn't have the patience when I knew I could boot into XP and have it playing in seconds. So far it's only multimedia stuff that causes me to reboot into XP. Mea culpa, but I'm a busy man.

SUSE 10.1 takes some technical knowledge and an awful lot of patience to set up. If you have the knowledge, the patience and a real job to do, then this is a great product to do it with. This is the third version of SUSE Linux that I've used. Each version has been noticably more capable than the one before, and with each new version my confidence has grown to push it harder than the one before.

Despite the installation, update and multi-media problems it's so good at what it does best that it has earned its 4 stars.

The next version, SUSE 10.2 is now available.


SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3
SUSE LINUX Professional 9.3

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new world of software to explore, 2 Aug. 2005
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I started using SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 at home about 6 months ago and recently upgraded to 9.3.
For a user, the experience out of the box is pretty much like Windows - only basic software installed, and as long as the installation goes smoothly, it's all pretty straightforward. Mine wasn't - but this can happen with Windows too!
The installatation at 9.3 went a bit more smoothly than at 9.2. This time it recognized my SATA drive on the default AHCI setting. This means that I can dual boot with Windows XP without changing the BIOS settings each time I want to switch. HOORAH! Or at least: hoorah! I find that I very rarely boot into XP, because Linux is much more interesting!
I still have two driver problems:
1. my sound card doesn't work - I think this is an IRQ clash that Windows can resolve but Linux can't. This is a standard hazard when you buy a machine that is built to run Windows (Dell Dimension 8400).
2. 3D acceleration is disabled for my ATI Radeon X800SE graphics card. ATI do not supply open source drivers. You can download a proprietary driver, but this isn't nearly as good as the Windows equivalent, and installation involves editing configuration files. A mistake here can cause hardware damage, so this isn't very consumer friendly.
3D acceleration is required for some games and advanced graphics applications. You don't really need it the rest of the time. The ATI driver is a mixed blessing - it is noticably inferior to its Windows equivalent. You end up with a slightly clunky user experience either way. If you are buying a machine to run Linux on, I couldn't recommend an ATI graphics card.
Apart from the above there was very little set up. YAST detected everything well enough to produce a working system without any driver tweaking.
As a user, the experience is fairly familiar, although the applications are different. All my home web-browsing is now done with Firefox. I really like it. It has good compatibility and has features that I miss when I revert to IE. You don't need a virus scanner, and I don't miss the pauses that I get from my various Windows boxes when McAffee decides to scan a massive zip file for the n-hundredth time.
So far so good. Desktop users can stop reading here!
As a power user/administrator Linux and Windows are from different planets. For a start, most Linux software is open source and free of charge. This gives a home user access to software that would cost a small fortune in micro dollars in the Windows world. Web servers, databases, office and graphics all for nothing - with source code and instant access to a lively (and often feisty) development community. There are few black and white guarantees for the corporate-minded - although you can buy these from Novell, IBM, and others at the usual prices.
Administration is the usual. Setting up a network is no fun, and worse when it's mixed Windows/Linux. But what's new!
The SUSE distribution comes with recent stable releases of a huge range of software, however I did find that these were often not the latest released versions - so the DVD isn't as useful as it could be. I usually get an rpm for the latest version from the internet and deal with the inevitable version conflicts. Inside the box, both DVD and CD disks are supplied, there are two high quality manuals and 90 days of installation support. The usual petty penny-pinching is completely absent, and you get the feeling that the product is there for your convenience, rather than a corporate cash-cow. The manuals tell you how to set up the most common servers (apache, squid, CVS, subversion, ...)
I have used UNIX at work, but not for about 10 years. Doing my own Linux administration was a bit of a shock at first, and there is a huge learning curve. I've started to use vi for editing config files, set up apache, eclipse, java and subversion, become hooked on KAsteroids, sworn at Samba, Dell and ATI, and generally had a whole load of geek-style fun. I can't tell you if SUSE Linux is the best distribution, but just at the moment I'm hooked, and my Windows XP laptop is feeling a bit lonely.


Executable UML: How to Build Class Models
Executable UML: How to Build Class Models
by Leon Starr
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Practical but heavy reading, 20 Sept. 2003
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This book is targetted at intermediate UML modellers. It is too heavy and detailed for students and UML beginners (try UML Distilled instead). The content is heavily focussed on class diagrams. The other diagrams don't get more than a passing mention.
If you regularly model complicated systems to any level of detail then this book should have something for you. The idea behind the book is that your completed UML model will be run through a model compiler, and turned into executable code. To a degree this limits its usefulness because UML model compilers are still relatively rare even in mainstream software houses. If you don't have a compiler you will still build better models, but you won't be able to measure how much better they are.
Leon's models go beyond anything I've seen in the real world in terms of precision, completeness and detailed capture of business rules. I'm still sceptical whether they go far enough to be "executable". Leon describes the concept of "colouring" - a layer on top of the UML model that provides code generation hints to the model compiler. Unfortunately there are no substantial examples, so it is difficult to visualise how much needs to be added to the UML to be able to execute the model.
The rules for producing executable UML are in some respects obvious, but very tempting to "optimise" away when looking for a short cut in delivery time. Leon's case for following the rules is solid gold, as I remember every time that I don't!
This is another book that doesn't contain any amazing revelations, but does provide a lot of high quality information for the diligent practitioner.
I would quite happily keep it on my desk for reference but for one disappointing detail - the cover is very light weight and curled very badly before I had read more than a few chapters. It really could do with a cover that can stand some heavy use. At the price I have to say that the publisher has made a miserly cost saving.
Happy modelling!


Test Driven Development (The Addison-Wesley Signature Series)
Test Driven Development (The Addison-Wesley Signature Series)
by Kent Beck
Edition: Paperback
Price: £22.99

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Test driven development by example, 7 Sept. 2003
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This book starts as means to go on - first write a test! OK I'm exaggerating, the first test is on page 4. The point is that this is a very practical book, and it gives very clear insights into one man's method of development. This is the most interesting part of the book - otherwise you could stop once you'd read the title!
The concepts will be familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of extreme programming (XP), although it isn't necessary to use XP to use test-driven development. The concepts themselves are both simple and elegant, and therefore easy to understand. The catch is that to put the concepts into practice requires a great deal of conscious effort and self discipline. Believing in TDD is not enough, you really have to live it!
I'm at the believing stage myself. I have used it on occasions when stuck on difficult problems and it really does work, although I haven't yet cultivated the patience to use it all the time. Some of the problems that I've come across in practice are addressed here (e.g. use of mock objects instead of a database/remote server/flaky module).
The book is written in a very easy-to-read style, and a very even tempo. It's aimed at an intermediate level audience, the main problem that a beginner is likely to have is not in understanding how, but why.
There are a few little quibbles: most of the code is in Java, but in the middle of the book the author switches to Python, before mercifully switching back again to finish. I also noticed that one of the tasks that had been crossed off as done was deliberately broken to move forward, without being uncrossed. This looks accidental, but it gnawed at me as I read on. Minor flaws in a well written book.


Sharpe's Enemy [VHS] [1994]
Sharpe's Enemy [VHS] [1994]
VHS
Offered by pkeylock
Price: £3.97

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low budget, high quality historical drama., 23 May 2003
Sharpe's Enemy is the fourth of the films in the series, from the golden age before the screenwriters lost the plot.
The usual cast are on high form and many of the more interesting characters put in an appearance - a thoroughly vicious and evil Hakeswell, played to twitching perfection by Pete Postlethwaite, the supercilious and dastardly Major Ducos, Assumpta Serna as the damaged and ferocious Teresa, a very saucy performance by Liz Hurley, and a strong supporting cast including a rocket artillery lieutenant, a chef, and a repentant deserter.
The low budget is obvious enough to fans of the book, but although the big battle scenes are scaled right down, the film is true to the spirit of the original: fast, furious and with crisp interplay between the characters, and some touches of humour that adds a little geniality to one of the grimmer tales in the series.
The screenplays that most closely follow Bernard Cornwell's originals are markedly superior to those that have been heavily reworked for the small screen (e.g. the abysmal Sharpe's Gold). As one of the former, Sharpe's Enemy is highly recommended.


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