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since 21/12/2005


The Woman In Black (DVD) 04/03/2012

The Woman in Black, New ground for Harry Potter

The Woman In Black (DVD) The Woman in Black At last we are treated to a horror film that recognises true meaning of the genre and gets back to real horror that can scare without gore and excites a real sense of anticipation. In recent years the term “Horror” has come to mean a dull and rather boring medium that relies on blood splatter, graphic torture and canned screaming to create the effects and usually lacks in real mastery of those techniques that used to make our hair stand up by evoking images that one’s own mind creates, which are usually far more scary than the ones dreamed up by a special effects department. This new interpretation by screen play writer Jane Goldman, the fiery wife of TV personality Jonathan Ross, of the novel by Susan Hill goes a little further than the 1989 film. There are more noises off, the location is wonderfully creepy and the ghosts flit past when you are least expecting them. Daniel Radcliffe hangs up his wand and Hogwarts robes and shows that he is not a one trick pony, although it is odd to see him and hear the voice of Harry Potter cast now as a widower and father. There is a fuller explanation of the reasons behind the hauntings and great cast of hostile villagers to raise the tension. Those of you of more advanced years will remember the horror offerings of the Hammer studio and think of them with affection. They were known for their somewhat cheesy low budget horror but they kept me entertained during the halcyon days of my youth and I remember them with ...

HTC Desire 04/09/2011

HTC Desire is fairly desirable

HTC Desire At last I got around to calling Virgin Mobile for an upgrade to my now a bit shabby Samsung. I wanted a Smartphone but had plenty of experience of various mainstream devices, thus the iPhone was not going to be a contender, both on grounds of price and usability. I recently had my work phone upgraded to an HTC but that one is running Windows Mobile and research led me to choose an Android system. The upgrade arrived, I plugged it on to charge and put in my SIM. The first thing I noticed was that I could get a signal in places where my old phone wouldn't. The touch screen takes a bit of getting used to, it is no good being too tentative, a positive touch seems to work better. The WiFi connection is very positive, it found my home AP in a matter of seconds and repeated the trick in the public bar of the Red Lion, just around the corner. This lead to a session at the Android Market. The trouble with most smart phone reviews is that they often fail to reference the primary function of a phone, namely the phone itself. there is a lot written about the camera, the MP3 player, the FM Radio and all the other stuff but nobody ever mentions the phone. My friend Hazel called my when I was setting the phone up and, in a place where the phone signal is notoriously bad, namely Dorchester Town Centre, I was able to hear and be heard with wonderful clarity. 10/10 for the phone bit. When I installed the PC software and connected the phone to my laptop it synchronised all my Facebook ...

DeLonghi Rotating Basket Fryer 08/05/2011

good fryer let down by dodgy basket and filters

DeLonghi Rotating Basket Fryer Being a bit of a purist I don't like oven chips, they taste dry and chemically to me. I also worry about using a conventional chip pan on the gas ring as there is always the risk of fire and accidents. Hence we have had electric fryers in out kitchen. We had a conventional deep fat fryer that was the simple type and decided, when it got too sticky and smelly, that we would try one of the ones that filtered the fumes and used less oil. Our local store had this Delonghi fryer and we bought it. The basket rotates and slopes, so that the food does not simply sit in the oil, the idea being that some of the cooking takes place out of the oil, the heat stays in the oil and you use half the amount of oil. We've had it for a while so how has it worked out? Firstly, the close fitting lid, that has a filter in it to keep the chippy smells in, close tight and helps to retain heat, thus saving electricity. It works well to keep the heat in but the steam and the chippy smells still get out so I would class this as a partial success. The basket is designed to lower into the oil and rotate. when it is lowered the centre spindle in the base of the machine locates in the slot in the bottom of the basket and makes it turn. The locking lever on the outside is also the handle of the basket. When it is raised to the horizontal position it latches and a pin locates in the side of the basket's rim, so that the food can be tipped out. I found this to be a bit of a pain. When I take the ...

Sennheiser HD 201 29/04/2011

Sennheiser HD201 Great bins for a great price.

Sennheiser HD 201 I wanted a new set of headphones but as usual didn't have a lot of cash so I searched around for some decent but reasonably priced ones. Absolute Music in Poole had these on offer for £14 and I thought I'd give them a go. To be honest I wasn't fussy, I wanted them for the laptop to listen to Youtube videos and for my Virtual Guitar amp, They come with the usual adapter for 1/4 inch sockets so they are great for MP3 players, the headphone jack on my guitar amp and the Virtual Amp, all I needed. When I got them home and plugged them in I was blown away by the sound quality, they really do have a great range and any device I have played through them sounds great. I have even used them on my Bass amplifier with the Yamaha YB130 four string bass guitar. I half expected them to buzz and rattle at the lower range but they reproduced Low E faithfully without any signs of unwanted noise. At the other extreme, solos played above the 12th fret of the Gibson Les Paul sound clean and they faithfully reproduce the sound of the amp or whatever device you are using to drive them. They are simple in design, there are no controls to get crackly, no curly leads to get bitter and twisted. They are light, extremely comfortable and very well made. They are lightweight and that could be their only slight fault, if you have the volume up loud sound does leak slightly and possibly be a slight annoyance to others in the room. As I mostly use them for my guitar which has string noise even when ...

Mothercare Socket Covers 22/04/2011

Socket Covers bypass safety features - Avoid at all costs

Mothercare Socket Covers For many years the manufacturers of these socket covers have been scaring gullible parents and even professional carers into buying what is basically a worthless and even potentially dangerous product. You see them in church halls, play groups, homes, anywhere that children might be and people are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that they are doing their best for their child's safety. It may come as a shock to many that they are defeating the safety features of one of the World's best designed power sockets. If you aren't sure, try to get your fingers into a live power socket and touch the live terminal. Try as hard as you like, get your kids to try as well, they won't do it, I promise you. Now take one of these covers and put it in upside down. You will now find it much easier to touch the live terminals and toddlers will be able to fry themselves to their heart's content. When you look at a UK 13 AMP plug you will notice that the earth pin is longer than the live and neutral pins. This means that the appliance is earthed before the power pins make contact when plugging in. Safety feature number 1. The Earth pin also causes the safety shutter to lift, allowing the pins to make contact. With no plug in the socket there is a physical shield blocking access to the live terminals. These socket covers are easy to break, they are often damaged when struck by vacuum cleaners. Snap off a piece of the cover them plug it in, you will see the safety shutter lift, ...

Stagg M50E Electro-Acoustic Bluegrass Mandolin 05/02/2011

Stagg M50E Mandolin Sweet sounds from Jeff''s study

Stagg M50E Electro-Acoustic Bluegrass Mandolin I've turned out the cupboard in the back of my sitting room and rediscovered some more instruments in my collections. One of my favourites is the Stagg Electro-Acoustic Mandolin. The Mandolin is a delightful instrument with a lovely bright, optimistic tone. It has eight strings, arranged in four matching pairs that are tuned, from high to low: E A D G. From the top: the head of the instrument is a slim tapering wedge with four tuners on each side. These are smaller than on a guitar but basically the same design. The next thing of note is the nut, which is the block over which the strings run. the fingerboard is a lot narrower than a guitar and the frets are closer together. The fret markers indicate the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 12th, 15th and 17th frets. As on a guitar, the 12 fret is the halfway point on the string. Just after the neck ends there is the electric pickup, with a black scratch plate, the adjustable bridge, the volume and tone controls and the tailpiece. The jack socket is on the lower edge of the instrument. There are two F holes, through which you can see the maker's label showing the model and serial numbers. The built quality is nice, there is a quality binding around the body and along the neck. The body is a brown sunburst, the face of the tuning head is a piano finish black. It is also a good finish, four years on and mine does not have any scratches or dings on it. A dust off and a rub with a microfibre cloth brings the finish up beautifully. As with ...

Haus WQP12-9250G 10/01/2011

There's a Haus in my House, It washes the dishes.

Haus WQP12-9250G This week has been a week of arrivals and departures. Our faithful Hotpoint Dishwasher groaned it's way through it's last load of soiled crockery and our cat Jack died after a mystery illness. Whilst we can't replace Jack the dishwasher was a simpler proposition. We went on line and searched for a cheap dishwasher and found that Homebase and Argos both had this washer for £161 and £8.95 delivery. Given that I could get Nectar points through Homebase we opted for that one. It was delivered on time and when I got home I set about installing it. As it was a replacement it was not difficult to do, put the waste pipe into the standpipe, plug the electric cable in and screw the water feed hose onto the tap, remembering, of course, to turn off the tap first! Once this was done it was time to push it back into its space and sort the working part out. It takes 1 kilo of salt, in a fairly easy to reach filler in the bottom of the machine, The rinse aid dispenser is in the door. I have owned several dishwashers and have tried most brands of detergents, my conclusion is that the cheapest tablets are just as good as the dear ones, my current preference is for the ones that are sold in Lidls, which work out about a third of the price of the big name brands. The salt is specific to dishwashers as it contains just salt and no added agents such as are found in table salt. As an aside I had to laugh at a lady in Waitrose in Dorchester, I picked up their value brand which was £1 a bag, ...

Peugeot Partner Tepee 1.6 HDi 18/12/2010

Peugeot Partner 1.6 HDI Tepee in two words:Practical, Practical

Peugeot Partner Tepee 1.6 HDi Finally, my new car has arrived. The brief for choosing it was that it must be roomy, comfortable and suitable for extended journeys. Looks are immaterial, practicality outweighs style and with the Peugeot Partner that is exactly what you get. Starting at the outside what you get is a box on wheels. It has front wheel drive so will travel on snowy roads when the BMWs, Volvos and Jaguars slither into the ditch. It has the ubiquitous 1.6 litre French diesel engine so fuel economy is a healthy 50+ mpg. The high roof benefits from four roof lights so that the interior is well lit. There are also two stowage nets and a roof mounted console for stowage and which also has controls for heating and ventilation. Because of the high roof there is loads of room for stowage. There is an airline style overhead locker over the boot that takes my paperwork and laptop with ease. Above the driver and front passenger sun visors there is a stowage space that takes the folder containing my work paperwork and behind the driver console is a locker that takes the pens, pencils, bits of string and other detritus that is a necessary part of my working day. To the left of the driver between the seats is another large storage locker. It has a sliding shutter top and would take a large box of cereal, a generous sized lunch box or a well behaved cat. In the back are three seats in a 60/40 folding arrangement. They fold to offer a huge flat loading area. The front windows are electric opening, the ...

Dunlop Crybaby Classic GCB95 F 04/09/2010

Crybaby Classic since forever

Dunlop Crybaby Classic GCB95 F Here's another of my musical equipment reviews. Back in the mists of time I played the electric guitar and bought a Crybaby Wah pedal. That pedal cost me, if I recall correctly, £35 and it stayed with me through thick and thin until a few weeks ago when it's ageing circuitry finally gave up the ghost. I looked on eBay and found a new one which I bid for and won for a silly price. The Crybaby has always been regarded as the gold standard for Wah-wah pedals and I can see why. These days Wah pedals are a lot more sophisticated but few of them produce the distinctive sound associated with the all time greats like Hendrix, Clapton and their ilk. Dunlop's own publicity states : "When you think Wah Pedals you think Crybaby" So what does a Wah pedal do? It's a kind of foot operated tone control that takes a signal from an instrument and bends it, with the pedal raised the lower frequencies are emphasised and with it lowered it emphasises the higher frequencies. Thus, if you play a note and rock the pedal it will produce a WAH WAH sound. Think of the Theme from Shaft, where the guitar is played palm-muted as the pedal is rocked. This is probably the best built wah pedal on the market, the casing is heavy cast steel and the quality of the components in it are superb. The fact that my original lasted for over 35 years of regular use bears this out. The weight means that it doesn't slide around on the floor in use. The point of failure is the potentiometer, a rotary ...

Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDi Hatchback 04/09/2010

Skoda Fabia isn't Fab but ok for low mileage

Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDi Hatchback In my the long line of hire cars I have had to endure for work the latest was a diesel Skoda Fabia hatchback. It has the 1.4 TDi engine that has become almost ubiquitous in small diesels so it pulls away fairly well and the road holding is pretty good. The biggest failings are the disturbing levels of engine noise inside the car and the incredibly basic level of equipment. You won't believe it but he one I had did not have air con or remote central locking. For the first time in many years I actually had to put the key in the door! I am quite demanding with cars, in the course of my work I regularly drive 1000-1200 miles each week so any flaws and discomforts soon become apparent. The first journey I undertook in it was from the hire base in Southampton to a customer in Taunton. When I arrived my head was ringing with the blare of the engine. Skoda need to greatly improve the level of sound insulation in the cabin. Considering the price range of these cars I was surprised that there is no Air Conditioning and no electric windows. Remote central locking is an important feature for me as I usually approach the car with armfuls of equipment and tools and it can be tedious to put everything down to put the key in. The dashboard and fascia were made from that dull grey plastic that was used in Citroen cars in the 1970s and managed to look cheap and basic. The Radio CD player was of average quality with four speakers, you would probably want to change this. There is no ...

Behringer V-Amp3 03/04/2010

Behringer V-Amp 3 - a compact modelling amp for all uses

Behringer V-Amp3 I had a few spare pounds and I had been looking at these for a while. Finally I took the plunge, went to my local music shop (Absolute Music in Poole) and laid out my £87. Firstly, I think I might need to describe what a modelling amp is. Over the years some great Amplifiers have been made and used, each of which has a distinctive sound. Think of Jimmy Hendrix and his Marshall Amp head with the two massive speaker cabinets each containing 4 twelve inch speakers. Think of the unique sound of Queen's Brian May and his multiple Vox AC30s. imagine having all those sounds available from a simple (OK maybe not that simple) box that synthesizes all those sounds and thousands of other combinations. Also imagine that you can connect that unit to your PC to mix and record sounds, play through your guitar amp for live performances or just plug in headphones and enjoy the full stadium rock sound whilst your nearest and dearest enjoy their fix of Corrie and East Enders. The main console is a lovely red metallic plastic in the shape of a guitar body. It has an AC adaptor and when you plug it in there is a delightful display of flashing lights as the unit boots up. There is also a USB interface included in the pack which plugs into the headphone jack and into the computer. Also included in the pack is a CD ROM with a lite version Energy XT 2.5 which is a mixing and recording package which allows multi track recording and even has some extra effects. There are audio Left and Right ...

Samsung ML 2580N 16/03/2010

Good basic laser printer at a sensible price

Samsung ML 2580N My old laser printer died of old age and printing out drafts of my novel and I decided that a new one was in order. I won't have another ink jet as they are far too expensive to run. For text you can't beat a laser printer and this one is almost a direct replacement for my ML1620. Ten years ago laser printers were simply too expensive for a home user but now they can be had for less than £100 and a toner cartridge, whilst expensive to replace, will outlast any number of ink cartridge. I bought this one on line for £75 and as usual did not come with a USB cable. I don't know why people still complain about this, ever since desk top printers have been available they haven't come with cables, this might be a problem if you don't have a spare cable already or if you decide to go to PC World where they will charge a ludicrous price for one. I needed one for work recently and went in there, they wanted £15 for it, I drove on a little further and got one in the 99p shop instead. As with any printer the set-up is very simple, unwrap the toner cartridge, get it the right way up and place it into the printer, plug it in, put the set-up CD into the computer and follow the instructions, plugging the USB cable in when prompted. It prints quickly, the warm up time isn't too long and the print quality is excellent. It makes less noise than my old printer and the paper tray holds about 100 sheets comfortably, 150 if you pack it tight. It is simple to operate and can be shared on my ...

Trangia 25 Kettle 0.6 Litre 15/03/2010

The Trangia Kettle, compact and practical

Trangia 25 Kettle 0.6 Litre This kettle fits into the standard Trangia Stove set and is a useful accessory for producing hot water for tea and washing up. I tend to fill mine and put it on the stove once I have finished cooking, by the time I have eaten and burped there is enough hot water to do the washing up and a postprandial brew up. These kettles come in two sizes, .6 and .9 litre. I chose the bigger one as I sometimes have a second cup. The closed in design makes the water boil quicker than using one of the pans and it is also good for carrying water from the tap. Some camping kettles have a screw cap on the spout that makes it easier to carry water in. We should advise caution here as more than one person has set their kettle to boil without removing the cap but don't worry, after a few minutes of boiling the cap will remove itself and expel the excess boiling water giving you a much needed hot shower after a long day in the great outdoors. This is a well made kettle that fits the other items on the Trangia set although you can get many other types of camping kettle for less money. Many campers prefer to use their saucepans and this is a good strategy if space is at a premium but if you like to make hot drinks regularly it can be helpful to have the correct utensil. This item is included in some Trangia cook sets but can also be bought separately. I'm not sure that I would buy one over other makes but it certainly is a useful addition to the kit and makes obtaining a supply of hot water ...

Trevor Baylis Eco-Lantern 14/03/2010

A great camping light but a bit of a wind up truly an ECO lantern

Trevor Baylis Eco-Lantern I received this lantern as a Christmas present and it is now awaiting the return of the camping season. Being the meanest type of skinflint the thought of free energy has always appealed to me, even before renewable energy became trendy. So what's an ECO lantern Jeff? I'm glad you asked. This is a lantern that can be used around the home, camping or in the shed which doesn't need batteries or mains charging. It's another gadget from the stable of the splendid Trevor Baylis who makes things that are seemingly simple in concept but excellent in delivery and are usually self powered. His most famous invention was the wind up radio and this uses the same technology to provide light. This lantern has a handle that folds into its base that allows it to be hung upside down or it can stand on its own base. The winding handle also folds into the base. a few minutes winding produces enough power to read for 30 minutes. The LED bulbs are the key to this, they produce a lot of light for the amount of power they consume. What does it do Jeff? = Well, it's a light. it helps you to see. Best of all it doesn't need batteries or a mains supply There are five bright white LEDS on the main part of the lantern and three softer amber coloured ones around that can be used as a night light. The unit is very simple to operate; press the switch once and the five white LEDs light up. Press it again for the softer setting. To charge, turn it over and hinge out the handle, which extends once ...

Trangia 27-1 Cookset 14/03/2010

Trangia Cookset is everything you need in one package

Trangia 27-1 Cookset When you go camping there is a huge list of clobber that you need to collect together in order to be able to spend your time in the open air in a reasonable level of comfort. There is a vogue for 'roughing it' , known as ultra-light camping, where you fit everything you need in the hollowed out handle of a toothbrush but when I sleep under the stars I like something to sit on, a comfortable bed and I like to be able to cook a decent meal. There's nothing worse than sleeping on hard ground having eaten a cold meal out of a tin. I used to borrow a Trangia set from a friend but eventually got round to getting my own. It is a testament to the product that the one I borrowed had previously been owned by his father and was at least thirty years old yet still worked perfectly. The one thing that will damage them, other than placing in the path of a speeding motor vehicle, is using the burner's screw cap to put the flame out, this will damage the seal and cause it to leak. The set comes with two deep pans, lids that can be used as plates or frying pans, a kettle and a stand/ wind shield The Fuel is methylated spirit, which can be obtained in a huge variety of locations. This is environmentally sound as meths is a renewable resource, unlike the butane or propane used in gas powered camping stoves. The other advantage is that it is used by painters and decorators and DIYers so you will always have a choice of places to buy it from, hence the price will always be reasonable, ...
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