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j088659

j088659

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Reviews written

since 30/11/-0001

21

Railroad Tycoon III (PC) 17/07/2007

Trusty Tycoon

Railroad Tycoon III (PC) Railroad Tycoon 3 This game was released on PC-CD format in 2003 by Mastertronic and carries on with the railway antics everyone loved in its predecessor, Railroad Tycoon II. Being in 3D though, gives this game a lot more depth and fun and with new trains, cargo, levels and economics this game is a worthwhile upgrade. The game comes with two discs and the PC Gamer/Sold Out version I purchased had no paper manual, but did have the .pdf version on disc. RT3 has over 40 locomotives – the usual golden oldies – Flying Scotsman, Rocket, Mallard etc through to your modern Bullet trains and TGV’s etc. There are 28 campaigns to keep you busy – some you’ll sail through while others are infuriatingly hard. Also thrown in to increase playability is a map editor and multiplayer (via LAN) mode. There is a fairly useful tutorial mode to help you get the hang of it. Personally I find the multiplayer part rather pointless and having someone else competing for your railroad resources doesn’t really make it much more fun. You simply play alongside them on the same level without much interaction. The single-player is the selling point for this game. The levels can be played in easy/medium/difficult and there is a ’sandbox’ mode to just mess about with. The game works surprisingly flawlessly and smoothly without a top-spec PC. It doesn’t crash with my XP of Vista ever and I would not be surprised if Mastertronic had a number 4 is in the making. There are a few improvements that could ...

Western Digital Raptor WD740GB-00FLA0 74 GB 17/07/2007

Raptor Or Craptor?

Western Digital Raptor WD740GB-00FLA0 74 GB Western Digital Raptor 74GB This 74 GB hard drive may be a little too small now for a lot of people. For the same price you can get your hands on a (non raptor) two hundred gigabyte+ drive. On the other hand, it’s plenty of room if you are only planning to install your operating system and useful programs. These hard drives aren’t really meant for storing all your mp3’s/videos or imaging stuff on them (even though they would do that just fine) but are more for upgrading and speeding up your PC. Apart from the RAM, processor and operating system you’ve got, the speed that your hard drive spins at also influences how smooth and speedy things run. These raptor hard drives don’t come in 500/750GB versions as with your everyday Seagate’s/Maxtors in the shops, but tend to be a couple years behind with capacity – 75GB seems almost small now! Installation: Easy to install – the same as any SATA drive – screw it in position then just plug in the power and data cable. Its 3.5” so fits in the usual hard drive bay or with extenders, goes in the 5.25” bay too. Installing a raptor drive is no extra hassle than any other HD. I found no need to go into the bios or anything like that. Noise: I’ve read in reviews for WD Raptor drives that they were a little noisy. Well this is true. It makes a lot more noise than my older Seagate HD. Fair enough it’s faster and more high-tec, but it sounds likes its grunting and struggling sometimes. Don’t worry though, that’s only when ...

Lush Coalface 21/05/2007

Cosmetic Coal

Lush Coalface I acquired a big lump (200g) of Lush’s Coalface soap with the intention of eliminating my blocked pores and keeping any spots at bay. I have been really impressed with 99% of Lush products and thought I’d give this a try after finding Ocean Salt good, but a little harsh. Previously I have tried Aqua Marina, Herbalism, Sweet Japenese Girl, Fresh Farmacy, and a couple others which have all had their pros and cons, but none completely cleared out my pores. This review is based on my experience after using Coalface for at least two months. As others have said in their reviews, these things take a couple of weeks of consistent use before you start to notice the benefits (or not). I used Coalface supported by the odd wash with Ocean Salt, and as advised by my Lush addict girlfriend – a toner after washing and some moisturiser before bed. Tea Tree Water and Afterlife in my case. This face soap is pitch black and has a coarse side and a smooth side – I asked for mine to be like this, but you could get any lump from the big block in the shop. I got a nice oblong shaped block and cut it into two. The second block which I kept in a draw shrank a little over the last couple of months, so remember to keep it in a plastic bag if you don’t intend on using it for a while. Lush give you the soap wrapped in paper which I presume absorbs up any moisture in the soap after a while. Considering it’s Lush, and Lush is well known for its smells, this product doesn’t have a strong smell of ...

Sapphire 9250 Graphics card 256 MB DDR SDRAM 20/05/2007

Lets Just Say It's OK.

Sapphire 9250 Graphics card 256 MB DDR SDRAM I bought my Sapphire Radeon 9250 from Maplin in September 2006. I had just upgraded from a GeFORCE4 MX-440 128mb card that was annoyingly incompatible with a lot of software. I decided to get the 256mb version as it didn’t cost too much more than the 128. This was in the days before PCI-Express and the new range of graphics card to hit the market. This card has since been WAY surpassed by newer models, but I’ll write this review keeping in mind it was once the latest release from ATI. Once installed in my AGP slot, this card needed the driver CD in Windows XP (some do, some don’t) and a quick reboot. The card has a connector for your normal 15-pin VGA monitor, an S-Video connector and a DVI connector too. As with any PC component, it only works at its best if everything else can keep up. Well I don’t consider my PC to be that state-of-the-art anymore but it more than ‘keeps up’ and the graphics card in particular seems to be holding everything back. If you have used Windows Vista and explored the control panel you will have seen the ‘System Performance’ section where Windows rates your hardware… well while all my components were up around the 5 or 6 mark, the graphics were down at 1.0. My computer only uses an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ (which is about 2003 standard) and I think it would get a lot better performance out of it with a better or more powerful card than this one. Again, it depends on the rest of your system but here is my experience... Windows Vista runs OK, but a ...

Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse 2000 - mouse 19/05/2007

My Pet Mouse

Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse 2000 - mouse This optical mouse takes two AA batteries and as it says on the box, it is totally wireless. I found that upgrading to a wireless desktop made my cluttered desk space slightly more bearable and although it still gets messy, at least I can move things around without yanking the mouse (or keyboard) out of its socket. The mouse has a matt finish, and this seems to help when you are at your computer eating crisps or popcorn etc. The grease that is usually a pain when it gets on your mouse or keyboard doesn’t cause too many problems here. I’m often a culprit for using the Playstation or computer with greasy hands, but with this mouse it’s more forgivable. My mouse is actually a different colour scheme than the one pictured – all black but it’s the same model and I’ve only had it a few weeks now. It definitly has a feel of quality, and I expect the AA Energizer batteries provided to last at least a few months. The reciever has a long enough cable (1m) to reach from your USB port to your desktop and as with most mice or keyboards, it doesn’t need any drivers. The response is perfect. I use the mouse for a range of activities – games, image editing etc and it performs as good as a corded (is that the right word?) optical mouse. I find the mouse a good size – it is just a standard shape and size but it does feel smooth and comfortable. The buttons are kind of hard to describe, but they make a firm, audible snap when pressed. The wheel is average – not too tight or loose, but ...

Zalman CNPS Processor cooler (CNPS9500LED) 17/05/2007

Zalman Is Cool

Zalman CNPS Processor cooler (CNPS9500LED) I bought this heat sink & fan the other day from PC World – not the best shop nor the best prices I know, but being ignorant of internet shops and too impatient for delivery times, I thought £39.99 wasn’t bad, but obviously you can get it cheaper. This strange looking contraption is designed to cool down your processor effectively and quietly. It’s an alternative to the usual design of heat sink that’ll come with your Dell or IBM and provides performance along with flashy looks and a speed control. Reasons for buying this would be to replace a noisy fan (like me), to ‘mod’ your computer or to provide cooler temperatures for your CPU. Highly compatible and very effective at cooling, this heatsink and fan is made by Zalman, known for specialising in making systems quiet. Looks: Well, if you care about the looks of your computers internal organs, then this thing will catch the eye. It reminds me of a jet engine or wind turbine. First of all, it is HUGE. In the centre of the copper fins are a fan and a blue LED. The heatsink has 3 copper heat pipes transferring heat away in a figure of 8 to the fins. Compatibility: This model has the best compatibility of any heatsink and fan I’ve ever seen. It fits ALL dual core Pentium CPU’s, ALL Pentium 4 CPU’s. ALL dual core AMD CPU’s, ALL AMD Semprons, ALL AMD 64’s and ALL AMD 64x2 CPU’s. Being so widely compatible means it comes with a box full of clips/connectors/screws etc so that you can connect this thing to any CPU. I ...

WD Serial ATA With SecureConnect 08/05/2007

Safe & Secure

WD Serial ATA With SecureConnect I recently bought one of these cables to connect my hard drive (also WD – Western Digital) to my motherboard. I had never used SATA before and was only familiar with IDE cables – the annoying thick ones that are a pain to connect. Unlike IDE cables, SATA leads can only be plugged in one way at both ends. This cable holds the power connection stable too. This cable can only really be used on Western Digital hard drives, but they are a leading manufacture and highly recommended. Both WD Raptor and WD Caviar SE Serial ATA drives use this unique connection, but there are also other SecureConnect compatible hard drives out there. The main reason you would buy this rather than any old SATA cable is because of its SecureConnect design which holds it in place nice and tight. I have a WD raptor drive, and following the usual hard drive install procedures, connecting this lead was very simple. With the popular IDE cables you could easily forget which way round it should be plugged in and have problems booting up, but I just connected this between the HD and the Serial ATA plug on my motherboard and my computer recognised the device with no problems. The lead has a 7 pin Serial ATA connector coupled to a 15 pin Serial ATA power plug/slot on one end – this plugs into the HD, and the other end is a 7 pin Serial ATA to plug into your motherboard or backplane. Apparently the cable provides a 500% stronger, safer connection. Now I don’t know about you, but the cables in my ...

Royal Son of Ethiopia - Sizzla 08/05/2007

Some Fantastic, Some A Bit Drastic

Royal Son of Ethiopia - Sizzla Ok, my second Sizzla review, but each album is so different, it might as well be the first. Released in 1999 this album ‘Royal Son Of Ethiopia’ sits between ‘Freedom Cry’ released the previous year and ‘Be I Strong’ released a couple months after. If you are not familiar with Sizzla, he is one of the most prolific reggae artists and been caught up in his fair share of controversy. He’s released over 30 albums now and has both a good and bad track record. He’s released some of my favourite albums of all time, yet he’s also come out with a couple that don’t deserve a second listen. The reason why he produces the odd poor attempt at an album is probably down to it being rushed or simply experimenting with other genres and sounds. There is a general rule you can always follow though with Sizzla – his early albums in his career are usually good, his later albums are always unpredictable. This is one of his early albums, so it’s got a head start in my opinion. The first track ‘As In The Beginning’ at 4:13 is a mixture of light and heavy drum beats with a bouncy bass line. The track has a kind of electric feel to it, but mystified by Sizzla’s conscious voice chanting about repatriation, righteousness and Zion. Personally I think this is a great introduction to the album and a solid track by itself, some would argue it as the best. ‘As Emperor Selassie I was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Be glorious in your powers while I sing to his own divine majesty’ – the ...

Saitek P3000 Wireless Pad and Docking Station - game pad - wireless 04/05/2007

This Thing Reminds Me Of A Tacky Model Spaceship

Saitek P3000 Wireless Pad and Docking Station - game pad - wireless This is a wireless game controller from Saitek, for use with a PC or laptop. All you need is a USB port and some good games to use it with. This review is based on my experience with this controller and its use on a PC with games like Need For Speed Underground 2, Pro Evolution Soccer 6 and GTA San Andreas etc. The P3000 comes with a docking station and two batteries that charge quickly, so no forking out on expensive AAA’s. The battery powers the LCD screen that tells you how much juice is left in it and enables the controller to communicate with the docking station. The docking station is connected to the computer via a USB lead about 1.5m long. Once connected, the device should be recognised by Windows, and if you use XP, then you won’t need the driver CD. The docking station lets you charge your unused battery and has both a ready (green) LED and a charge (red) LED. The other battery fits into the top of the controller where it sticks out a little. The design: The controller is formed of hard black plastic and takes on a shape much like a Sony Playstation 2 controller with a few differences. There are rubber patches on each palm-grip that help you take hold of the controller. On the face is an LCD screen informing you of how much battery life is left and whether you are in digital or analogue mode. Each battery has some grip to help you remove and insert it. The buttons on the controller are silver and the analogue sticks are rubber. The layout: On ...

Trust USB Data Link F12M 04/05/2007

USB 2 USB And Back Again.

Trust USB Data Link F12M Well this is one way of networking two computers or two laptops or one of each. All you need is this cable and the disc that comes with it (providing you have spare USB ports on both systems). The device does not need an external power supply. You can connect this cable without the need to restart or turn anything off as it is ‘hot plugable’ and ‘plug-and-play’ compatible. Once connected to each device (either end can go in either system – it doesn’t matter), then depending on the operating system, the device should be recognized and with Windows XP, you need to install the drivers from the CD. There is no paper manual to go with this product, but it’s easy enough to use and they put it on the driver CD in case you need it. The CD tells you how to install the software via Windows XP and older versions. I couldn’t tell you if this device works on Windows Vista, but it does work for Macs. So, once installed, this two meter cable allows you to transfer files between two systems via a full speed USB connection. In your start menu you will find ‘PC-Linq’, the retro looking simple program that allows you to reliably browse each system and copy/paste/move files as you need. The program has very few options, just the ability to allow the system to suspend and the customization of views. By default, the window will show the files on your computer along with their size, the date they were last modified and any attributes. If you can use windows explorer and the basic method ...

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park 04/05/2007

Croatia's Jewel

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Plitvice Lakes National Park Plitvice Lakes National Park is well worth a visit if you are traveling Croatia or this part of Europe. Said ‘Plit-vich’ as the Croatian language uses ‘c’ as ‘ch’ like Italian. Close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, this park can be found at the heart of this odd shaped country – it’s not in the north region near Zagreb, nor in the south near Dubrovnik, neither in the west near Pula or anywhere near the coast, but in the middle. There are buses here from the north and south on the Zagreb to Split route, but be warned, they are not the most reliable. We had to wave at a couple buses before one would actually stop for us. There are no trains near here but the roads are good. Why go there? The sheer color of the water is a reason to go here. All photos of this place show crystal clear Caribbean blue water, but then all pictures of holiday locations are like this… but seriously, this water really is delightfully blue and glass-like in its opacity. The water has a very high mineral content. I went here with my partner on a grey day, and it was still tropical blue. The color is owed to the limestone and chalk that the water has carved and shaped these lakes into. So, anyone with a slight interest in photography will be making the most of this location. The place has a long system of wooden walkways all around it and a comprehensive signage system with supporting maps showing you the different walks around the park, from as long as 10 km to just 1 or 2 km. ...

Sennheiser HD 212 PRO 01/05/2007

Quality That Lasts.

Sennheiser HD 212 PRO I thought I’d treat myself to some nice headphones when I had some Thai money left over at Bangkok airport and from their range of audio headphones these we my choice. I think they were the equivalent of about £40.00 out there. I use these mainly for listening to reggae and similar genres of music. The phones provide a good range of sounds and frequencies, from 12 to 19000 Hz. Sennheiser made these to be able to cope with bass well and give your rhythms a bit more kick to them. I think their handling of bass frequencies is excellent and they have a nice thin diaphragm so the treble gets through too. As you would expect, these are stereo headphones and the box claims they are ‘aural, dynamic hi-fi stereo headphones’ which sounds a bit better. These headphones have a Sound Pressure Level of 112 dB. I haven’t tried and tested many other makes of headphone, but I know Sennheiser have a good reputation and good standard of quality. These certainly sound better than any earphones but I think they benefit from being plugged into a hi-fi or equivalent as they tend to be a bit quiet on my Sony Walkman. The headphones come with a 3.5mm jack but as with all new headphones you buy nowadays they provide a 6.3mm converter to plug into older hardware and mixers etc. Both are gold plated and stereo. The lead is 3 meters long which is more than adequate, and over the last couple years it has survived the odd chewing session – an annoying habit of mine when bored. The design is ...

Texaco Star Leatherhead, Surrey 01/05/2007

Open All Hours

Texaco Star Leatherhead, Surrey By far the one important thing about this petrol station is that it’s open all night! What’s the big deal? Plenty of petrol stations are open all night aren’t they? This is something incredibly useful if you live in any of the surrounding villages – Bookham, Effingham, Fetcham, Box Hill, West Humble – all places that you can’t get food at 3 in the morning without Texaco. The next all night store is Tesco in Brooklands, Weybridge, but that could mean going on the M25! Disadvantages – well, you have to serve yourself petrol as like all corporate petrol stations they don’t do it for you any more, and if you want food (or anything non-petrol) at night then you have to ask for the guy to get it for you from the shop floor. If buying food/drink at night, have in mind what you want before you ask. They only have the usual petrol station junk – sweets, crisps, fizzy drinks and an instant coffee machine. If you are a normal customer and actually going there for petrol, then being in Britain, petrol is stupidly overpriced but you’ll know that already and it’s not Texaco’s fault. There is a car-wash, vacuum, water, air and toilets – standard petrol station stuff. The place sells your normal fuels but also LPG and AutoGas. Apart from snacks there are magazines, maps and ice creams. There is also an ATM there if you’re short on cash. Looking on the internet, I found that this Texaco in Givons Grove, Leatherhead has a hotspot for wi-fi users. Don’t know any details, but if ...

Soulseek Computers Software 30/04/2007

Soulseek To The Rescue

Soulseek Computers Software I have been using Soulseek on and off now for about 6 years. I have tried and tested other P2P software and have approved, but I always end up coming back to Soulseek for those hard to find tracks/albums. Soulseek is a basic application – you select your username and password after installation, and as soon as you’ve found some music to download, you choose your folders and settings etc. The program supports multiple file searches and searches simply by filename. This means it won’t search mp3 tags like Kazaa. Personally I think this is great – it avoids confusion and having to rename your files if the tags are incorrect. Soulseek is 95% music orientated. Unlike Kazaa or Morpheus, there seems to be a lack of video material available on Soulseek. There is the odd e-book but nothing that can’t be found on good old Internet Explorer. You can listen to partial tracks that are downloading and if you can’t find something in particular, you can use the wish list function (this just searches for something constantly and notifies you when it’s caught something). In terms of what is available, it would be hard to say. The amount of mp3’s online tends to go up and down, and you will often start a download and never complete it - just because the user has never returned. I have found there to be bucket loads of reggae, hip-hop and all things popular and rare. It doesn’t state the total users or files, but I suspect it’s almost in the millions. Part of the application is the ...

Dub, Reggae & Roots From The Melodica King - Augustus Pablo 29/04/2007

The Melodica King

Dub, Reggae & Roots From The Melodica King - Augustus Pablo This album has such a good first track - it starts with a short melody, and then ploughs straight into the relentless, unforgiving bass that is the backbone of all dub reggae. The start to this album is so heavy and mystical, you’ll be restarting it a few times- trust me. Augustus Pablo was born Horace Swaby in 1954 and was one of the biggest players in the dub game. His music reflects his unique talent. He was the first to use the melodica as a serious instrument but also played keyboard, organ, piano, strings, clavinet and produced his own music. The album, released in the year 2000 is a compilation of previous material taken from albums such as ‘East Of The River Nile’ and ‘Original Rockers’. Fans of the era will recognise riddims like Real Rock, Satta Massa Gana, Java and that Horace Andy hit ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. All tracks are taken from the 1970s and compiled under the ‘Ocho’ label. The album is over an hour and four minutes long. Cassava Piece is the first and arguably the best track. It is from the ‘Original Rockers’ album and is the best introduction for any listener wondering what is to come. The second track ‘Baby I Love You So’ carries on from the first with the same addictive rhythm but with the voice of Jacob Miller on top singing the song from his 1992 album ‘Who Say Jah No Dread’, a great album itself. The third track ‘555 Crown Street’ is as promised, weighed down with bass and followed by an alternate dub track by King Tubby who engineered the album. ...
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