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Reviews Written by
Big Ben "fly_mo" (Bedford, UK)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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BIPRA USB 2.0 External Caddy/Enclosure For 2.5" Laptop SATA Hard Drive. USB Bus Powered - Black
BIPRA USB 2.0 External Caddy/Enclosure For 2.5" Laptop SATA Hard Drive. USB Bus Powered - Black
Offered by Bipra Limited Number 1 Hard Drive Specialist
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great caddy, but...., 19 Sept. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
...the secondary USB power lead is problematical.
This worked fine when assembled with a used HDD and plugged back into the original laptop (now with new SSD).
But when the secondary power lead was tried (USB to power tip) it stopped working, which was puzzling.
Didn't try the 'One Touch Backup' feature, since it only works with Windows.
Good drive caddy, but duff power lead cost it one star. That could matter with a thirsty drive that needs it.
Recommended, with that proviso.

Microsoft Windows 8 Standard 64 bit OEM, WN7-00403, English Version
Microsoft Windows 8 Standard 64 bit OEM, WN7-00403, English Version
Offered by Tech-Select UK
Price: £28.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Weird interface, obese, pricey and still needs aftermarket protection online, 2 Sept. 2013
Even after all the bad news about Win8, it was still a disappointment meeting it in practice.
I had to help out a friend (again) and ended up explaining that whilst I could install XP for him he really needed to be aware that XP is no longer truly fit for surfing online. Updates are all very well, but the architecture is ancient and not prepared for today's online malware. And MS are keen to can it.
But he hated Win8, and I can't say I blame him. It's a weird idea, and so porky that it won't run properly in 1GB of RAM - OK, the PC had 2GB, but that's not the point.
It was wasting half of the RAM with MS bloat, and would fill right up (and slow to a crawl) when you had the (essential) after-market anti-virus and such installed and running alongside IE and a few tabs open.
Slow, or what! For how much money? Not one of life's bargains.
W8 may be a bit faster than Vista, but that's not saying much. Certainly -seems- a little bit more bloated than Win7.
W7 was indeed better than Vista. But much depends on the boot config - small performance differences are hard to differentiate, and that's what we're talking about with W7 vs W8.
Do hope that the smart people who did the legendary Tiny XP do a sorted-out version of Win7 one day.
Maybe Microsoft could hire them?
Be nice to have that, but we didn't.
So we ended up wiping Win8 and then setting up dual-booting - either into Tiny XP or Linux Mint.
Mint is (like most mainstream Linux offerings) so very solid online, paired with XP for MS software compatibility when offline.
It's not ideal, but both ran about 40% faster than W8 task-for-task. Mint only used about 240MB of the 2GB when freshly booted, so you could have -far- more tabs open in Firefox than in W8 which snarfed 4 times as much of the RAM.
It was disappointing to find a supposedly new release that is so much slower than a variant of the elderly XP or a free off-the-shelf Linux distribution.
I can't recommend W8 as an 'upgrade', unless you really like the interface (we don't) and have something that has Vista on it - since Vista is the only thing that's significantly slower than W8.
Even then, I'd look at that price and at least try one or two of the myriad of free Linux alternatives first off - with a 'live CD' or USB stick you can have a play without doing any installation, then make up your mind.
Some of them are very similar to W8 in some regards, others are entirely different. It's certainly worth a look.

Set of 6 Kilner 2L Round Cliptop Jars
Set of 6 Kilner 2L Round Cliptop Jars
Offered by Bin Babe
Price: £28.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great jars, as always., 1 Sept. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We get through a fair few of these jars nowadays. One of our family is a dab hand at making flavoured Schnapps in the Danish tradition, and I was inspired to imitate this after tasting some of their work. You can google for Danish Schnapps Recipes and there are several sites.
I started out with Damson Gin - just a load of damsons from our tree, some sugar, and filled it up with Waitrose Gin.
Used about half the sugar suggested in the Damson Gin recipe, since one can always add more. It worked well, and after a year it was really pretty good. But I was warned that it would improve with time, so we held back from scoffing it for another year, and set about making some more.
That was 2012, and the damson crop failed locally, so I used blackberries instead, and made two jars.
They are coming along OK, but not quite as good as the Damson, so I've started jars of all sorts of stuff, since it disappears quickly if it's any good. And mostly this stuff comes good in a year or so. I'm not really doing things in proper Danish style, it's more based on the Damson Gin approach. But I do use a lot of Jars....
And they do get opened and tasted occasionally, and topped up, and adjusted, and re-sealed again. So the jars need to have good quality seals.
We've found these jars to be good, do just what they claim to do.
And the contents is delicious!

Offered by LightingandMobileAccessoriesUK
Price: £8.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed results, but it's hard to tell if it was the product or just a tricky nest, 31 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We're in the country, in an old (some say decrepit) house, which fits with my own increasingly decrepit state.....
We share the property with all sorts of wildlife, from badgers to beetles.
Wasps and other insects are always about.
We live and let live as much as possible - but draw the line at wasps nests in the building! We get them every so often, and have some experience in dealing with them since the local Council neutered their Pest Control service.
This wasp nest was in an inaccessible roof space, and wasps were getting in and out under the eaves - and occasionally appearing in the kitchen via a clearance hole around a water pipe that went into the blind roof space.
Wasps in the Kitchen! No fun.
So I ordered these cans of spray foam, and did my usual thing...
Carefully read the instructions (which strictly apply to a wasp nest in a garden) then add an extender nozzle to the spray can.
At dawn the next day (when wasps are inactive) I dress up in Wasp Combat Gear, insert the nozzle into the nest orifice and hold the button down as long as I dare - hosing down the outside of the nest entrance (the method described in the instructions) as I withdraw (down a ladder) and beat a retreat from the cloud of angry wasps that materialises.
I had blocked their escape route into the kitchen with plumber's foam before starting this - which was just as well.
Normally this spray foam technique is pretty good, and it uses about a half-can of foam.
Normally, this does deal with the wasps, and I apply the rest of the can (as a safety measure) a day or so later.
This time, wasps were still very much active.
Worse, they gradually worked their way through the plumbers foam and seized control of the kitchen. Wasps everywhere!
You can imagine how pleased my wife was.
They had also found a way through the light fitting into the kitchen ,just to add insult to injustice.
So I did it all again the next day, using the remaining half can of foam.
No luck. No improvement at all.
And again the next day. Ditto. It's clearly not working.
I'm down to the last half can of foam, and the kitchen is littered with dead wasps and busily occupied by active ones during the daytime.
I am fed up with vacuuming them up and cleaning down everything - the spray foam is toxic (of course) and may have entered with the wasps. They are dying, but they still keep coming.
It isn't working, so I try a different approach...
This is riskier, since it means getting up a ladder in the kitchen and spraying the foam into the roof cavity through an awkwardly placed hole in the corner of the ceiling, then decontaminating the whole kitchen.
But I did it at dawn, and was rewarded with a deep thrumming hum from the nest, which was a good sign, if a bit scary.
Three hours later, no sign of wasps. We're keeping our fingers crossed!
So although this did not work exactly as described (spraying the outside & entrance to the nest) it seems to have done the job when delivered into the heart of the nest with a modified nozzle.
I would stress that I get dressed up in multiple layers of protective gear for this, with ski goggles over my glasses, balaclava, hat, Netting veil, hoodie, you name it.
Looks ridiculous, but it keeps angry wasps off me, and can just be chucked in the washing machine to remove any foam splashes.
Recommended if you are willing to get dressed up and get in close enough to deliver the spray to the middle of the nest.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2015 7:54 AM BST

Montezuma's Organic Dark Drinking Chocolate 300 g (Pack of 2)
Montezuma's Organic Dark Drinking Chocolate 300 g (Pack of 2)
Price: £12.58

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good Chocolate, probably good for your brain but...., 31 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It does need to be really good at this price!
And the instructions are more than a bit vague....or is this for a reason?
We heard that this year the medics say drinking chocolate is good for the thinking bits of the over-fifties, and decided to give it a go before they change their minds again.
I really like chocolate, and drink it regularly but my wife usually complains that it's too sweet and much prefers dark chocolate, so I hoped that something like this would be worth a go.
Tasting a half-teaspoon of it straight from the packet was encouraging - flavoursome, with a good aroma.
Mmmmm.... Chocolate!
The instructions say:
"...don't rush it. Add 3-4 teaspoons to your favourite hot milk and stir vigorously for several minutes to add air. Allow the chocolate time to fully dissolve."
OK. 3-4 teaspoons sounds economical, so I tried 4 in a standard 1/2-pint mug. Notice how they didn't say how much milk?
How many minutes is several?
I tried five, and there were still occasional undissolved grains, but it was starting to cool off, so I had a swig.
I forgot the sugar!
My wife is old school parsimonious, can spread butter one molecule thick, never takes sugar in anything.
I'm an old school tillerman, and prefer something closer to the WW2 Royal Navy method (learned when crewing for RNVR chaps) of making 'Proper Cocoa' (equal quantities of Milk, Cocoa and Sugar, by weight - the spoon should stand unsupported).
I don't take that much sugar these days, but still like to have a little.
So I added a few sugars. Still Yuk.
OK, try more chocolate, to taste...
I gave up with the teaspoon, and added two tablespoons of Montezuma's Chocolate to what was left in the mug after warming it a bit in the microwave. Then 4 minutes of whisking, during which I remembered chocolate being made this way in France, when I was a child. A bowl and a hand whisk were used, and I was (as now) impatient.
Maybe an electric whisk? Maybe. Try that next time.
Much better! Probably need to double the quantity of chocolate for the full Royal Navy experience, but very good indeed.
I'd say that 4 heaped tablespoons in a half pint mug would be about right for a starting point. For me, anyway. Certainly far better than the 'Warm Milk with a hint of something brown in it' that you get with 4 teaspoons. Perhaps 'teaspoon' is a misprint?
...then my wife joined me, and we made some in her 250 mL mug (slightly smaller, more elegant mug than mine).
She wanted it with no sugar and only 3 teaspoons (yes, teaspoons!) so that's what we did. Not a lot of point arguing with her. She wields a 14-pound sledgehammer in the style of Yosemite Sam and owns her own chainsaw.
I watched her face as delight spread across it.
"Very good!" said she..."Really very good." Smiles!
I tasted some....
Still yuk for me, but it really pleased her, and that was the whole object of the exercise.
So it _is_ possible to please all of the people - just mix it appropriately.
Very good chocolate indeed.
We have yet to notice many of the effects described on the packet that are attributed to the original Montezuma (don't have a harem, for a start. The chainsaw discourages that) But it is rather good chocolate, and if it pleases a pair as different in our tastes as us two, there's a good chance it'll please you!
Recommended if you like good dark chocolate. Nice one, Montezuma!
And maybe the vagueness in the instructions is intentional, perhaps?

WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine - Walnut Wood
WaterRower Classic Rowing Machine - Walnut Wood
Offered by Powerhouse Fitness
Price: £1,149.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great machine, seriously pricey, a few quibbles, 16 Aug. 2013
Top quality rower
This is a superb-looking machine, and it works very smoothly indeed. The water dynamometer behaves much like a very light boat, and that is good - but from my point of view there were a couple of snags.
Not sure I'd want it stood permanently in a living room, but it does look pretty smart for exercise equipment. So why only three stars?
I'd never have bought one at this price - it's a big heap of cash for a very simple machine. We already have a used Tunturi rower that works very well, but on a very different principle that resembles true rowing less than the WaterRower does. But the Tunturi allows several other exercise modes that the WaterRower cannot emulate and it can work at a much higher load than the WaterRower - more like the work-boats I learned to row as a boy.
This WaterRower is a dedicated light rowing machine, and a very good one, but that's all it does for us - perhaps you know differently?
For free?
When I was offered a free WaterRower Classic I was immediately keen to try it, and intrigued to find out why it had been rejected by an energetic person who works out regularly.
It's partly the Monitor, methinks.
The Monitor
This box seemingly functions fine, but the previous owner had never set it up - there was no distance history or previous program in its memory. It had never been used in a couple of years or more. They had given up on the Monitor (S4 v2.10) because it was reportedly less than easy to use. So I had a go.
Nowadays there's a fairly straightforward guide to it on YouTube, but it's true that the original documentation supplied with the WaterRower was pretty terse and lacks a logical 1-2-3 approach to getting started - a 'How-to' approach is needed.
So if you don't already know how these monitors usually work, it may take some figuring out to tease the necessary set-up procedure out of the documentation - recommended to watch the videos. Your mileage may vary, of course!
Once set up, it was easy to use.
I like to record my efforts and find the process motivating - so I can understand how someone else struggling with the monitor might lose interest in the WaterRower - that and the maximum load is remarkably light by my (elderly) standards.
A small gripe is the heel rest, which was less than comfortable until some fleece was wrapped around both parts and taped at the edges. It was probably comfy enough in outdoor shoes, but we don't wear those indoors.
Purification Tablets
A quick search found WaterRower water purification tablets advertised on sale for around £8 + postage for six tablets - these were Puritabs by Schering-Plough Ltd, but they are no longer made - the former makers allegedly assigned the rights to the brand Aquatabs.
The good news is that Milton baby-bottle sterilising tabs use the same active ingredient (Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate) as Puritabs, and they are available from Ocado & John Lewis for £1.25 (for 28 tablets). Bit better than nearly a couple of quid each....
It's a truly gorgeous wood construction that works well. The heel rest problem is easy to fix (and might not be a problem for all), and the Monitor probably only needs to be set up once, then it's pretty easy.
But why do WaterRower not do a default setup in the factory?
Some basic default programs in memory would be a good idea too. Help out those less used to this aspect - people learn best from examples. It's OK for an engineer, but not for all.
I find it very hard to recommend at this price, but if you can afford it, it's up to you. The other WaterRower models are allegedly equally effective as rowing trainers, but would save a good sum of money.
It's OK I suppose. Hence the three stars, which reflect the value seen at the asking price.
Why not second-hand?
Our two Puch-Tunturi machines (rower and cycle) were second-hand, and their total cost was less than £30 for both some 18 years ago and they are still going strong. So if you feel comfortable setting up the monitor and can live with padding your own heel rest, how about looking for a second-hand WaterRower? Could save a lot that way.
Hope you find something affordable that suits you!

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Gel, worth buying in bulk - fair value at £19 for 6x500ml including postage, 12 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We like this gel, it is as good as the others that we have had, and is fair value at this price. It is slightly more 'runny' than some of the high street gels, but none the worse for that. Visitors remark on it favourably, so it's not just us.
Recommended - hope it suits you too.

Super Talent 1.3 inch 32GB Mini PCIe MLC for Acer Aspire One Solid State Drive
Super Talent 1.3 inch 32GB Mini PCIe MLC for Acer Aspire One Solid State Drive

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worked wonderfully for a year, then degraded until dead..., 12 Aug. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These SSDs are a wonderful idea, and we bought one of these in 2010. It rescued our old Acer Netbook and upgraded it at the same time - the original SSD was a tiny one.
Adding a substantial 9-cell battery yielded a useful little machine that worked well and had over 11 hours battery life.
But it did not last, and disk errors became a daily event, so we backed it up and eventually put it aside as useless. <sigh>
Well, we weren't about to buy another SSD!
Since then we have had a couple of SATA SSDs on other machines with mixed results, one (by Crucial) has lasted well, t'other one died in a month and was returned for a refund.
So these things are still a bit iffy. You can get a bad one.
This one was a bad one for us - so not recommended unless you only need a short life.

Fiskars Paper Trimmer 30cm
Fiskars Paper Trimmer 30cm

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK cutter/trimmer, pity about the blades. Might suit occasional use., 27 July 2013
A year or so ago this was a welcome addition to my wife's arsenal of crafting tools, but unlike most Fiskars products it has not given us long-term satisfaction, which is a pity.
The problem is these fiddly little cutter blades - they are less than perfect when cutting craft paper, needing greater care than (say) a rolling cutter, but even then the edges tend to be ragged. They are expensive, and they wear out too quickly!
Yes, my wife likes to make -lots- of cards and gives them to friends frequently, but 8 blades inside 6 months?
Not what we expected.
If you are an occasional cutter user (like me) then this might suit you, but for the regular or heavy user we'd recommend the 'Rotatrim' Edgemaster EM300 - it is excellent, and is still going faultlessly after almost 4 years of heavy use on the original blades. It does come with 11 different shaped blades (wavy, curly, scallop, scoring, etc). None of them are showing signs of wear, yet.
After taking a quick look at their website to check the number of blades, the EM300 is sadly being discontinued, and is on a last-time-buy at around £60.
If you need a really good full-featured cutter, this is the one we would recommend.
The Fiskars is OK for £20, but the blades are far from cheap, and wear fast, so we'd only recommend it for light/occasional users.

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
by Chris Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great profile of the future, and a darn good read too., 27 Jun. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Whilst this book is not -quite- as detailed and precise as it could be in parts, that's always one of the difficulties with making sane predictions. Yes, the more distant predictions are vague, but I found it very good, and worth 5 stars.
Chris Anderson has been part of the (no longer so quiet) revolution in manufacturing that led to 'Open' projects like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and has a list of impressive names (people he has worked with) to drop when he needs to.
What he does do most successfully is introduce the reader to the technologies that exist today, draw parallels with (eg) the universal use of computers and desktop printers that were once unaffordable, and point to where we seem destined to end up when other technologies mature and become more affordable to the individual.
His main point is that we are already in the throes of an industrial revolution which is part methodological (open projects, crowd funding) and part technical. He's been involved in both, and I valued his insider insights.
Enjoyed reading it too!
Recommended if you take an interest in technology, manufacturing or the future.

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