Tag Archives: review
April 23, 2012

Online Reviews And Shopping

Overdosing on online shopping reviews

Shopping online can become a bit of a nightmare if you get too involved in the online reviews:

Overdosing on online shopping reviews

Sums it up pretty well!

Thanks XKCD

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August 7, 2011

Roberts Stream 83i – Quick Review

I am a fan of gadgets. I guess it comes with the territory.

For the last few years I've been using a pretty awful alarm clock radio. Sure it works - most of the time, but the audio quality is pretty dire and it lacked a few features that I wanted - like the ability to have alarms only on working days. If you forget to turn off your alarm on a Friday night being rudely awakened on a Saturday morning is more than a little annoying.

A couple of months ago I decided it was time to get a better alarm clock radio, but I ended up opting for a completely over-speced solution instead - a Roberts Stream 83i.
As a bit of a geek the Roberts' radio is probably just what the doctor ordered!

The device looks pretty slick:roberts-stream83i-radio.jpg

In terms of features it's got so many that it's hard to even begin to list them, but here we go.. with the official specification:
  • USB socket
  • Intuitive menu system
  • Listen to over 10,000 radio stations from around the world
  • Listen to previous broadcast material using Listen Again
  • Listen to Podcasts
  • Stream your music collection from your PC
  • Wired or wireless connection
  • 10 station presets
  • Clock with 2 multi function alarms
  • Audio formats: MP3/WMA/Real/FLAC/AAC playback
  • Auxiliary input socket for iPod or MP3 play playback
  • USB socket for audio playback
  • Headphone socket
  •  AC Adaptor (included)
  •  Remote control (included)
  •  Size (mm) 248w x 210h x 135d
  •  Weight 1.8Kg
Hooking it up to my home network over wifi was incredibly easy, as it the Fritzbox was able to "pair" itself with it using WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), which means you don't have to try typing in long passwords into a device that doesn't have an actual keyboard.
Unfortunately I can't access any DAB channels where I live.. though I assume that they'll become available eventually ..
The feature that I really love is the integration with my last.fm account, as it means I can listen to the kind of music I like in any room of the house, ie. without having to use a computer.
I had problems getting the media streaming working initially, but the latest version of EyeConnect works very well, so I can now listen to music stored on my home office desktop machine in my bedroom if I want. The user interface for browsing it isn't exactly amazing, but it is quite functional :)
I have to admit that I haven't used a lot of the features, such as the iPod connection etc., as I haven't had any need to.
All in all it's a lovely device and I'm happy to have made the investment.

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August 6, 2011

Idiot Proof IPv6

IPv6 configuration options on the Fritz!Box. You can read my longer review of the Fritz!Box 7390 on my main blog

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November 14, 2009

Tweetdeck On iPhone Update Rocks

Image representing TweetDeck as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

I've been trying out a number of different Twitter clients on the iPhone over the last few months.

I currently have three or four clients installed, but I keep coming back to Tweetdeck.
In many respects it's because I like uniformity. I like being able to use the same software on my various desktops, laptops and mobile devices. That might seem a bit boring, but it helps me maintain some semblance of sanity!

The latest update to the Tweetdeck iPhone client introduces several new features and improves some existing ones. One of the ones that I really really like is the new "update in background" option. If you're on a flaky mobile internet connection, like I am this weekend, waiting for your device to send an update can take several seconds, during which time your device is unresponsive. Pushing the update into the background means you don't lose access to your device while the update is being sent.

Other features include access to "recent people", "recent hashtags" and a bunch of other handy tweaks that they've somehow managed to squeeze into a handheld UI.

All in all the latest tweaks have made the user experience that little bit better and I honestly doubt if I'll bother using any of the other Twitter apps on the iPhone in the future

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April 16, 2009

Logitech Harmony One – Quick And Dirty Review

My home cinema setup has grown over the last year. First of all I had a TV and DVD, then I added more bits and pieces and upgraded various elements. While the experience of watching a bluray is definitely enjoyable, the number of remote controls I'd ended up with was proving to be painful!

The solution was to invest in a universal remote control and since Amazon are now shipping electronics to Ireland ...

First off let's have a quick look at the home cinema gear I'm using:

The tv is a 42" LG, there's also a Sky+ box. Of course you have to have an AV receiver, so I'm using an Onkyo TX-SR875, which has a healthy number of inputs and outputs.

Since I like watching bluray without having to worry about region issues I have a US import Panasonic DMP-BD30 as well as a Sony BDP-S350. I've also got a Toshiba HD-E1 for HD DVD. And since I also like music I grabbed a CD "jukebox" on ebay which can take 6 cds (Onkyo DX-C390).

Basically you end up with one remote control per device and switching from one audio source to another, one HDMI to another etc,. means interacting with 4 or 5 of them when you simply want to move from watching the TV to watching a DVD boxset.. Painful isn't the word!

Enter the Logitech Harmony...

It's an elegant device which comes with a docking station and USB cable, as well as instructions and software cd. The device is roughly the same size as a normal remote control, but that's where the parallels stop.

The docking station doubles as a charger, so you don't have to worry about batteries "dying" (last time that happened to me the volume control kept randomly adjusting itself from whisper to deafening!).

Setup is quite easy, though it does take a good half hour to an hour to get it right.

In order to preserve your sanity I'd recommend using a laptop for the setup process, as you will need to do quite a bit of backwards and forwards between various devices and the computer in order to get the remote programmed correctly in my experience.

Loading the software onto my Mac was easy and it automatically updated itself to the latest version as soon as it was installed. Once the software was installed on my laptop it was a simple matter of adding the various devices and their model numbers and telling the system how you wanted things to interact. You can choose, for example, to have any device that is not in active use power off, thus saving on electricity.

The first time you plugin the remote via USB it will do a firmware upgrade and then transfer your presets across - or what it hopes are the correct presets. I'm sure some people are lucky enough to get it right on the first attempt, but I had a couple of minor issues sorting out the switch over to the various video inputs etc., Fortunately the remote is "intelligent" and you can "teach it" using your old remote via infrared (it has an infrared input in its base).

After the initial setup and a bit of testing and tweaking I now have a single remote that "knows" how to seamlessly switch from watching TV, to a DVD or bluray with a single touch. It automatically powers on the various devices you need, rejigs the inputs / outputs / sources etc, and powers down any device you're no longer using.

If, as seems to happen the odd time, it can't switch the TV over to the correct input you can easily fix it directly on the remote which has a very simple and intuitive troubleshooter.

Is this device for everyone?

Probably not, as it would be complete overkill unless you had multiple devices hooked up.

However the setup is easy. You need a bit of patience to get it right, but the Logitech software is easy to use and incredibly flexible and intuitive. The fact that you can pretty much "teach" the device using your existing remotes over infrared means that even if you don't know what model device you are using it can probably "learn" to replicate its actions.

Am I impressed? Yes!

The only question I'm asking is why on earth I didn't get myself one of these when I had 4 remotes!

Pricing from Amazon UK would appear to be pretty competitive

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December 27, 2008

Andy McNab’s Brute Force

I'd read a couple of Andy McNab's earlier books and found them to be reasonable reads, so when Brute Force appeared on a list I grabbed a copy.

I'm not convinced that it was a wise move.

The story follows one of McNab's characters - Nick Stone. Stone used to be in the UK special forces, but is now in retirement when he comes under attack. The rest of the book is Stone trying to find out who wants him dead.

While the basic plot is okay, the book's pace is really really annoying. McNab seems to relish boring the reader to tears with overly detailed prose. Do we really need to experience each and every sensation of the character? I don't think so.
The other problem is that the chapters are incredibly short. Whoever edited the manuscript must have had the attention span of a goldfish, as the chapters in many cases run to a mere two or three pages, so they serve very little purpose.

Worth reading?
If you can't find anything else - yes, but don't get a new copy. Borrow it from a friend or grab a secondhand copy.

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December 14, 2008

Nokia e71 Initial Impressions

As I mentioned the other day, Three have given me a nice new Nokia E71 to replace the N96.

I've only had the phone for a few days, but so far I am very very impressed.

First off there is the build quality.

The N96 felt like it was cheap and nasty, while the E71 feels like it was built to last. Take a look at the back of it:
e71 back viewThe back is metal, while the N96's was weak plastic. This may seem like a silly thing to focus on, but if the back of your phone falls off it can cause issues!

You'll also notice that the E71 sports a 3.2 megapixel camera. Compared to the camera that comes with the N96 or N95, the E71's camera is quite underpowered and performs very badly in low lighting conditions even with its builtin Flash.

However the E71 is not designed for snapping photos. It's a business smartphone.

And this is where it gets interesting.

The phone has a full QWERTY keyboard, so you can use it for email and sms very easily. It takes a bit of getting used to, but even after a couple of short days playing around with it you soon discover the joys of having access to your email on the phone.

The Mail for Exchange application that Nokia provides is quite easy to setup and allows you to poll your office Exchange server as often as you like, while also offering you "peak" and "off peak" profiles ie. more often during working hours and less frequently in the evening and at weekends.

There are, however, two minor issues with the software:

  1. It only shows you what is in your inbox folder, so you can't see any of your filtered emails. A lot of my more important emails get filtered off into subfolders so that I can find them easily. Unfortunately I can't see them on my phone
  2. While the software allows you to set a signature on your outgoing emails the length is very limited. A possible solution would be to setup the "common" part of the signature on the server itself, but I haven't got round to that as yet

You also need to be very careful with your connection options. I have a wireless network both at home and in the office, so it makes sense to use them when I'm there and not use the data from my provider (Three).

By default all the "net" applications that come preinstalled on the phone will use the Three connection, but you can easily set them to "ask" before connecting, which could save you on your phone bill if your plan doesn't include a huge amount of data.

The phone's interface is, for lack of a better word, lovely.

Having a number of buttons on the phone to access common applications makes things just that little bit easier. You can still browse through the installed software like you would on other Nokia phones, but you can associate actions and applications with the nice little buttons that are on the front of the phone:
e71 front viewThe battery life on the E71 is also a bonus.

If you've been using phones like the N95 for a while you get used to having a charger with you at all times, whereas with the E71 that should be a thing of the past - it still need charging, but simply not as often. According to Nokia the E71 has a standby time of up to 20 days!

I might find issues and problems with the E71 as I use it more over time, but so far I am very happy with it.

It's slim and fits into pockets easily

I've also ordered a larger memory stick for it, so that I can abuse it as a storage device as well!

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November 6, 2008

Godin Gets To The Point

I've been a fan of Seth Godin's writings for quite some time, so I was delighted when my copy of The Big Red Fez arrived a couple of days ago.

In common with some of Godin's other books, The Big Red Fez is not a hefty volume with tiny print. It's just over 100 pages long, but every second page is a screenshot of a website or email, so it's actually a mere 50 pages in total. But a book shouldn't be valued based on its length, especially not in the case of Godin.

While some authors suffer from something akin to verbal diarrhoea, Godin excels in getting his point across clearly and succintly (the screenshots help illustrate what he's talking about).

So what is it all about?

It's about taking your website to the next level. Making it more useful and thus more profitable. No matter how good you may think your website is you can probably tweak it and improve it (I know this to be very true of any I operate!)
Most of what Godin talks about is simple and easy to put into operation - making the call to action more obvious for example, or rejigging error messages etc.,

Word of advice - if you run a website get a copy of this book!

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July 27, 2008

Andalus – Moors and Contemporary Spain

Muslim architecture in Medina Azahara: Salón Rico.

Image via Wikipedia

If you've spent any length of time in Spain you cannot escape the Moorish influence. While the more obvious traces can be found in Andalucia, with Granada's Alhambra, the influences on both culture and language run a lot deeper.

Jason Webster's book Andalus attempts to explore the legacy of the Moorish conquest of Spain and its legacy hundreds of years later when the relations between East and West are strained once again.

It makes for an interesting read, as the author explores not just Andalucia, but many of the other Spanish regions in search of answers to questions about Spain's past, present and possible future.

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October 24, 2007

Sublime Wines – Alaia 2004

It's better to be fashionably late, than to simply not turn up!

Some time back Damien mentioned that Sublime Wines were interested in getting people to review their wines. In return for a bottle all you had to do was write a review.

So what happened?

Well I got the wine, but then I got sidetracked with stuff and things and never got round to writing the review.

As for the wine... Well, I've always liked a drop of wine.

A nice fruity wine might be sold as a perfect companion for a meal, however there's nothing wrong with settling into a bottle while relaxing and watching a DVD in the comfort of your home. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it!

The wine on offer was a 2004 Alaia

I don't think I'd ever tried Alaia previously, as I tend to stick with much stronger wines, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure if I'd go out of my way to grab a bottle again. However that is no reflection on the wine itself, but more a reflection of my taste buds!

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