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TheDuke

TheDuke

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Reviews written

since 30/11/-0001

187

Acer Aspire 6930G-583G25Mn 14/08/2009

What all laptops should aspire to.

Acer Aspire 6930G-583G25Mn My old (really, really old) Dell Inspiron 1100 was on its last legs. While it was still capable of running my required applications without too much trouble, the battery struggled to last ten minutes once disconnected from the mains. As a replacement battery was nearly £100, I decided just to buy a new laptop. I searched some of the forums that I frequent and found that the best value-for-money tends to be spending between £400 and £500, so with £500 as my upper limit, I went on the hunt. The Acer 6930G was the best specced laptop I could find at under £500. I sought out opinions from other Acer owners and the response was stacked well in their favour for being reliable, sturdy machines. With that in mind, I had no qualms about handing over £480 to Amazon. Initial set up can take some time, especially if, like me, you want to uninstall all the usual guff that manufacturers insist on supplying you with. If you have access to another PC, I'd recommend downloading all the software you require and burning it to a CD or DVD, ready to install once your laptop has been set up to your satisfaction. It'll save you a lot of time. You'll also want to download any updates to Windows Vista, too. One thing I wasn't too enamoured with, when uninstalling all the "free" software (trials of games, Microsoft Office etc.), is that the hard drive is partitioned into two segments, each of approximately 110 GB. I really don't see the point and will be removing this extra partition ...

LG Viewty KU990 10/12/2008

Viewty: aVoid

LG Viewty KU990 Alarm bells should have been ringing. When I last upgraded my phone from a Nokia to the Sony Ericsson K800i (which had been on the market around a year at this stage), I had to haggle to get the handset cost down to what I thought was a reasonable price from well over £100. This time, the operator was offering a new phone, only on the market for six months, for £30. As the Viewty was something I had been considering as an upgrade, I took the offer without too much thought. I wish I hadn't bothered... Rather worryingly, when launched, the Viewty was LG's flagship phone, promised lots and yet it failed to live up to my expectations right from the moment the battery charged and I was able to play around with it. On paper, the Viewty looks like a great phone, but somewhere along the way, this failed to translate from design to product. Where to start? It's a good sized phone which isn't too heavy, but still feels solid and comfortable enough in my hand. The back cover doesn't fit as snugly as it might, so when the phone vibrates, the back cover can rattle if it's sitting on a hard surface. The screen is big and all the fonts and icons are clear and readable in all lighting conditions. As a phone, it tends to be OK. It's possible to do the things you would normally do without too much hassle, although sometimes the operating system and touch screen can cause issues. For example, sometimes, after I've finished making a call, the phone software freezes meaning I don't ...

Baldur's Gate (PC) 25/06/2008

Baldur's Gate: not Balderdash!

Baldur's Gate (PC) Warning! This review uses words not often seen in the real world such as 'foe', 'flee', 'maiden' and the like. Apologies. Baldur's Gate has long been regarded as the best traditional RPG available on the PC. When I say traditional, I mean a game with the usual experience points system, magic weaponry, party of adventurers rather than something like Deus Ex, which was a hybrid of a few genres. Installation of the game is a breeze and before you know it, you're creating your character. Character creation is a staple of traditional RPGs and this one's no different. Most attributes can be altered, even the voice, and these are all fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Watch your "rollable" attributes though - constitution, dexterity, charisma and the like. It's these that determine how much of a pansy (or not) your character turns out to be. Strength, for example, help you bash enemies, high charisma helps you make friends, dexterity dictates how able your character is a using a bow and arrow (though real adventurers use a sword to pummel their foes). Once you're satisfied with your character, off you go into the world of Baldur's Gate. Various inhabitants of Candlekeep (your home town) give you pointless tasks to achieve to let you familiarise yourself with the in-game mechanics and this introduces you also to the experience point system where you're rewarded by experience points for completing tasks. You'll have to find missing books, talk to a guard who'll ...

LG L226WTQ-SF 05/08/2007

LG L226WTQ-SF: a five star widescreen monitor.

LG L226WTQ-SF There were a few reasons I was looking to change my monitor. The first was that, at just under five years old, my old (19" CRT) monitor was starting to show signs of strain and I wanted it replaced before the poor thing died on me. Secondly, I'm considering building myself a new PC (or buying one) at the end of the year and in order to spread the cost out a little, I wanted to buy a new monitor now. I had actually been looking for a new monitor for some months, having initially discounted CRT (the big television type monitors) for being far too bulky for the screen size I had in mind (over 20 inches), my choice was TFT (or LCD) monitors. I had a few criteria in mind. I was looking for something at least 22", preferably widescreen, a good contrast ratio and a quick refresh time (8ms or under) which was necessary for watching DVDs, using my TV card and playing the odd action game. Over the months, I had selected and discounted probably around half a dozen monitors for various reasons. Finally, I came across a range of LG widescreen TFT monitors on eBuyer that looked suitable. The L226WTQ-SF stood out due to its 3000:1 contrast ratio (the ratio of the brightest and darkest images a display can reproduce), but that wasn't the only good feature. The specs quoted a 2 ms response time (the amount of time the display takes to change from transparent to opaque), which was important to me, though unimportant if all you do is office work and surf the internet. Monitor Set up ...

Sony Ericsson K800i Cyber-shot 03/06/2007

Heavyweight phone. Glass jaw.

Sony Ericsson K800i Cyber-shot Having used Nokia phones since I first joined the mobile phone world, I found that with each subsequent phone, I was becoming less and less impressed with Nokias. Yes, they were robust, but I found the software was just getting sluggish and I was under-whelmed by the battery life of my last phone, the Nokia 6230i. As someone who spends quite a few weekends per year travelling around the UK to visit friends and family and with a three year old nephew who visits regularly, I take an awful lot of snaps. I'm not a serious photographer, but I'm a serious snapper. I had decided that my next phone would have a decent digital camera on it and that would mean I wouldn't have to carry my separate camera on journeys. Weighing up the pros and cons of the other phones on the market and taking into consideration my own preferences (e.g. monoblock phones rather than slide phones or clam shell phones), I eventually plumped for Sony Ericsson's K800i. When I first opened the box, I was immediately impressed. Sony Ericsson had bundled a USB cable with the phone, enabling connection to my PC. This was something I had never encountered before and I'd always had to buy one for use with my Nokia. Once the phone had charged (which only took a few hours), I set about connecting to the PC. The installation was extremely easy and the software was soon installed. My initial favourable impression of the phone package diminished a little here. I've always found that Sony's PC software is ...

Helium.com 22/03/2007

Squeaky voiced fun or a load of old gas?

Helium.com I joined Helium when I was temporarily banned from a consumer review writing site for reasons unknown and was bored. A lot had been made about this site on one of the satellite sites, so I joined up in interest to kill a few hours. After all, a new site must have something worth offering a consumer reviewer with six years experience, should it? My initial impressions were very favourable. The site is easy to look at, avoiding garish colours, and well presented. As a non-member, I immediately saw a lot of topics that I was interested in and the site seemed to focus on quality of your work rather than your reputation. It's slightly different to other review writing sites out there in terms of layout and navigation, but while not perfect, is still fairly easy to use. Signing up is quick and painless and you can be active within minutes after Helium emails you a confirmation link. Helium aims to be slightly different to the more common consumer review writing sites. Instead of, well, consumer reviews, Helium concentrates on advice, discussion and "how to…" articles, although it is possible to post consumer reviews and, unfortunately, creative writing. This has advantages and disadvantages. In theory you can suggest almost any topic and each one is vetted by a Helium staff member before being made active, but it's been my experience that a lot of topics have a very limited shelf life. Brad and Jennifer's divorce, anyone? The variety in topic quality can vary hugely from the ...

threadless.com 20/03/2007

Your original t-shirt designs at Threadless.com

threadless.com Threadless.com is a clothing website with an interesting difference. Instead of offering you plenty of designs you can find elsewhere from big name designers, Threadless offers designs by people like you. Yes, that's right, you too can design your own t-shirt! Not content with the kudos that your very own designs could soon be sold across the world? Well, Threadless will also reward you for your designs. If selected, Threadless will give you US$2000 as reward for your hard work and design skills. This is split between US$1500 in cash, a US$300 Threadless voucher and membership of their club, worth US$200. Of course, it's not as easy as that, but it's the general principle. If you're a bit of a dab hand with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Flash, you can download the t-shirt templates and design away. The design you submit is the design that they will use if it proves popular enough on the site. If, like me, you have the artistic skills of a two year old child with no hands, Threadless do not tidy up any rough ideas. I think Threadless could possibly lose out here. I reckon I've got a few good ideas in me for t-shirts, but lack the ability to express these in digital form. Ideally I'd like to be able to submit my rough ideas and let Threadless tidy them up for presentation. If, like me, you have absolutely no drawing or Photoshop skills you can still take part by entering slogans that might yet make it onto a t-shirt and by rating these slogans. In the past, there have been ...

Everything that starts with K ... 23/02/2007

K Qs TD. K wins!

Everything that starts with K ... Prologue: Recently, koshkha asked me to prove a list of questions so that she could post a special (and worthwhile) 100th review. I gladly obliged (ten Ciao-related and ten personal), but guess what? The cheeky scamp had some questions of her own that she wanted me to answer! How rude! I wasn't going to bother, but honestly, the amount of abuse that I was PMed was unreal. I didn't realise how much damage could be inflicted by a tub of ice cream, an elastic band and an egg whisk. Understandably, I've bowed under the pressure, so here are my answers to K's questions: ------------ Ciao Questions ------------ 1. If you could be one other Ciao member for a day, who would you choose and why? What would you do during that day? What a doozy to start off with. You know, I'm not really sure. To be honest, my time on Ciao is severely limited these days what with the bugs and Ciao's attempts to drive me off the site, so I'm not as familiar with the general membership as I used to be. Plus, I'm nearly sure there used to be a lot more 'personalities' around Ciao. They don't seem to exist any more. All we have now are people who will rates all their mates as VH and leave nice comments, rising through the dot colours quickly because of that, rather than writing skill or honest personality. Where are the interesting people? I can still think of a few people I'd like to be for a day though, but in compliance with the Community way of thinking, I cannot tell you who ...

Apple iPod MA003FB/A 60 GB 16/02/2007

The APPLE experience

Apple iPod MA003FB/A 60 GB PREVIOUSLY ON THE APPLE EXPERIENCE… I eventually decided to buy another iPod after having two 4th generation models fail on me within the space of 18 months. It wasn't a decision taken lightly, but as I had used my iPod on a daily basis, I felt that I needed some kind of replacement. Doing my research on the internet, I came across a few messageboards where it was indicated that the 4th generation models were fairly unreliable compared to others. This seemed to be backed up by the many gripes posted on these boards, most of which were related to 4th generation models. My main reason for purchasing an Apple again was that, at the time (August 2006), the 60GB iPod was the only solution that made sense. I was already running around with approximately 25GB of music and most of the mp3 players current on the market were 30GB at best, which didn't leave me much room for expansion. Disappointingly, when I first opened the (small) box of my 5th Gen model, I noticed the lack of some accessories, namely the charger, the dock connector and the Firewire cable. For anyone who hasn't owned an iPod before, these aren't going to be great losses, but for those of you that bought a top of the range iPod a few years ago, you might be disappointed that these are no longer included as standard in what was, at the time, the top-of-the-line package. I know I was! Luckily, the dock station from my 4th generation model also fitted my new iPod. It wasn't long before the lack of Firewire ...

Pandora's Star - Peter F. Hamilton 11/01/2007

What's inside?

Pandora's Star - Peter F. Hamilton In the late twenty-first century on an Earth where the western hemisphere (America) has concentrated on space exploration and the eastern hemisphere (Europe) has concentrated on life-enhancing genetics, NASA is just about to land its first manned mission on Mars. Unfortunately for the mission pilot, Wilson Kime, his moment of glory has been usurped by two college students, Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Fernandez Isaacs, who have invented wormhole technology and are waiting for the NASA craft on the Mars surface. Fast forward a couple of hundred years and the double sciences of the life-enhancing genetics and the wormhole technology mean that the human race has expanded and spread across hundreds of star systems. The Intersolar Commonwealth is a vast system of planets and wormholes, connecting the human race across thousands of light years. It's a stable society, with many different kinds of planets. There are major industrial planets, rural planets, genetic engineering planets as well as hundreds of multi-purpose planets. This Commonwealth, while supporting a public political structure of presidents and the like, is actually run by the Dynasties. These dynasties are people and families that happened to have the good fortune to be around when wormhole technology was taking off, making lots of money and elevating themselves to positions of power. Unsurprisingly, with life extension now a part of everyday life, people like Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs are at the forefront of ...

lifehacker.com 08/01/2007

Streamline your life today!

lifehacker.com Computers are there to make your life simpler and more productive. At least, that's the theory and when I was moving from primary school to grammar school, that's exactly how I persuaded my parents to buy me a Commodore 64. Of course, it was all complete tosh and I was upstairs playing Manic Miner before you could say "Hey, where's the word processor?" Today, it's a different story. With the power of personal computers and the advent of the internet, why can't computers make our lives easier? That's the aim of lifehacker.com and, in its own words, "Lifehacker recommends the software downloads and web sites that actually save time. Don't live to geek; geek to live." But what does that actually mean? Well, to start with, lifehacker is nothing more than a glorified blog, albeit one that's quite pretty looking. The focus of the site is to bring you hints and tips that will make your life easier and the whole mantra for the site is "getting things done" and you'll probably see the GTD acronym pop up all over the place. For the most part, that translates into recommendations regarding handy web sites, computer programs, templates and other useful items but the site also offers links to other sites where you can find non-computer tips for use in the real world to make your life easier. Even though I only discovered the web site recently, I've already made use of some of the software recommendations and there are at least another half dozen that I know I'll be using ...

Superman Returns (DVD) 27/12/2006

[Film Only] Superman Returns

Superman Returns (DVD) In the immediate aftermath of Superman 2, astronomers have discovered the remnants of a planet they believe is (or used to be) Krypton. Superman promptly disappears to investigate himself, with no explanation and the world needs to adjust to his absence. Five years later, a meteor hits the Kent farm once again. Martha Kent finds that her "adopted" son, Clark has returned. Clark has to re-enter the human world once more, alongside his alter ego, Superman. This is not as easy as it first appears, despite being given his job again at the Daily Planet by Perry White. The only other real piece of his personal life, namely Lois Lane, proves to be a lot more complicated. Lois has moved on, so much so that she's now a happily married woman with a child of her own to raise. It's not too long though before Lois and Superman meet again, after Lex Luthor inadvertently and indirectly causes the plane that Lois is on to lose power and plummet towards the ground. This causes Lois to question her feelings towards Superman, which are not as positive as before, clearly shown in her Pulitzer prize winning piece "Why the world does not need Superman?" Fortuitously, Superman's return also coincides with Lex Luthor's next big attempt at world domination. Luthor has been to Superman's Fortress of Isolation, stolen some of Superman's crystals and is using these for his own gain. Superman Returns is a worthy addition to the franchise and is set after the events of Superman 2. It appears ...

phpbb.com 29/11/2006

phpBB: Build and run your own messageboard

phpbb.com Sometimes it's nice to gather a group of people with similar interests into one place and get everyone to interact. It doesn't matter if this is down at the pub, at someone's house or even on the World Wide Web, a great deal of fun can be had discussing your mutual interests with others. On the Internet there are many ways to accomplish this. The more technically minded might fancy Newsgroups where practically anything can be discussed if you can find the correct Newsgroup. On the Web, there are loads of different websites, messageboards and tools that can be used such as YAHOO, Google and, more than likely, your favourite website on whatever your preferred topic or hobby is. Sometimes though, it's nice to have a little more control than these sites can offer. Perhaps the sites you frequent don't offer the focus (or flexibility) in topics that you prefer. It could be a simply case that you don't get along with the people that are present on these messageboards or you're not happy unless you're in charge. Whatever your reasons, there's a solution. Run your own message board! phpBB is a free message board system offered at www.phpbb.com. It's approximately a 700kB compressed download, so download time is only a few seconds. What it does is provide you with a basic system on which you can create your own message board. Everything you require to start a message board is included in the download apart from a hosting account. You choice of hosting account is another ...

Casino Royale (2006) 21/11/2006

[Film Only] James Bond has returned.

Casino Royale (2006) There's always a great deal of interest in the media and from fans and probably a little bit of apprehension as well, when Eon Productions is choosing a new actor to play Bond. After all, when a new actor dons the tuxedo and Walther PPK, it's not only an unfamiliar face we have to get accustomed to, but usually a change in tone and direction of the films. Connery's Bond was rough around the edges, more likely to use his fists than his wits. Moore's Bond was more reliant on his very English charm and Q's gadgets, plus his adversaries were on a larger scale. Dalton's Bond was more of a cross between Connery and Moore with plenty of English charm in there, though a little rough around the edges and never pulled out of a fight. Brosnan's Bond tended towards more wit, with a slight cold edge and definitely more intelligence, though still reliant on Q's gadgets. How Daniel Craig would adapt the role (and the role to him) and if Bond could still offer anything on his 21st outing were the main questions that Casino Royale would have to answer. Daniel Craig was always on a hiding to nothing with his casting, as following a popular Bond such as Pierce Brosnan was always going to mean that he was not really given a fair chance from the fans, if not the media. Right from the start, in the black and white pre-credits sequence where we learn how Bond attained his Double-O licence, the pace is fast and unrelenting. Both the 'traditional' Bond-down-the-barrel-of-a-gun pose and ...

Evil Genius (PC) 16/10/2006

The one where James Bond doesn't win.

Evil Genius (PC) A long time ago on a PC far, far away (well, just over there, in the corner), there was a rather excellent little game called "Dungeon Keeper". In Dungeon Keeper, you, as the titular character, created your own dungeon filled with traps and monsters and waited for the horrible do-gooders to arrive so that you could wreak havoc and chortle in a deep, throaty voice. It was filled with great little humorous touches and on the whole, didn't take itself too seriously. In "Evil Genius", you're a fledgling bad guy in the big bad world with a bit of cash at your disposal. Your ultimate aim is to become an (you've guessed it…) EVIL GENIUS! What you have to do is built your secret lair inside a mountain using basic construction minions and your cash and then send your minions out into the world to perform missions. These missions may bring loot, advanced technology or different types of people, from whom you can extract knowledge and produce specialist minions. For example, if you capture a maid and interrogate her, then your basic construction minion will be upgraded to a valet. He can then go out on missions for you that require valets or train up other valets from your pool of construction minions (provided you have provided your minions with the required training room and equipment, of course). It's vitally important to go out and complete missions because the advanced rooms and minions that can be gained from these are necessary for the later stages in the game. Additionally, ...
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