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Member since: 12.02.2007

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    • More +
      16.04.2007 12:59
      Very helpful



      A bargain for the undemanding computer user.

      I don’t know what your personal relationship with your desktop is, but mine is definitely ambiguous. Mine can move through being Master, Mistress and downright enemy. I am, to begin with, speaking from the standpoint of, not exactly a clueless technophobe, but certainly a consumer of limited but informed IT proficiency. Therefore this review is simply written as a consumer and not as an expert. I will describe my experience of the use of this computer and will not, as if I could anyway, be a diatribe involving vast lists of numbers and specs, although a certain amount of that insanity is unavoidable.

      Just for the record, I see my relationship with my computer as that of a ‘coy mistress’ with due respect to Andrew Marvell. It serves me well, but god don’t I suffer for my pleasure!

      We are talking about the Dell Dimension 5150c Desktop Computer. And there’s the rub! Anyone who has bought a Dell computer will know that they are essentially custom ordered and bought. There is not a standard Dimension 5150c. You phone the nice man/woman in Mumbai and the battle commences. They try and sell you the top spec version and you try and resist. That said, the Dimension 5150c is really only the basic tower design and all specs, monitors, mice, peripherals and software after that are what you pay for. I went in the end for the multi-media edition which seemed to be the jack of all trades.

      My experience of the basic 5150c tower:

      Physically my mistress is a babe. She is dressed in silver and much smaller and leaner than your average tower. Sexily petite. She’s 2 foot tall and just wide enough to accept a disk drive. Suspiciously so, given the memory involved. However I personally think that buxom towers were a selling point of the past. Although I’m open to offers! She runs cool. Much cooler than the simple 5150 I had before. That is; none of that annoying cooling fan noise when you’re trying to listen to Woman’s Hour.

      Her working brain comes in two main components; the processor and the RAM. We have a dual core 2.80GHz Pentium D, which I’m told isn’t so fast but is made up for by a 1Gb of RAM. The RAM can be upgraded to a frightening 4Gb. It has, apparently connections inside to do this. Please will someone tell me how! I’ve seen the components and they look horribly fragile, not to mention expensive. My experience as a consumer is good here. Applications can run offline and online 5 or 6 at a time without too much noticeable lag in any of them.

      I can enter my mistress in many different ways. There are 7 USB ports in all; 5 at the back and 2 at the front. There are also 3 of the old fashioned variety; sockets for headphones and microphone at the front and an extra microphone at the back. A wanton computer I’m sure you’ll agree.

      Will she remember me! She bloody should do! She’s got 250Gb of hard drive. That’s probably more than I have. I get embarrassed about this degree of memory. I have had this computer for about 6 months now and I am only using around 15Gb. What can I do. I feel inadequate. What can I find to satisfy her?

      Introducing her to outside influence apart from her ports is easily done by use of a 16x DVD/CD-RW drive. The computer comes with ready installed software for all uses of this drive and I have had no problems thus far. I just touched wood. It does also come with built in Wi-Fi adaptor.

      As I’ve already mentioned all software and peripherals are up to your initial negotiation with Dell apart from a few standards:

      Mine came with Windows XP home edition. I have enquired, and all future orders will come with Vista, of course.

      It comes with the usual Dell 15 month MacAfee virus zapping software.

      It comes with CD/DVD burning software.

      I bought a TFT 19” flat screen monitor but there is a 24” version available. That’s a big face.

      I like this computer and find our relationship gets stronger as time goes by. I have had no problems that have not been caused by my own ineptitude. I like Dell because you can buy quite a powerful computer and by whittling away at the extras get it at a much better price than anything made by the more sexy brands.

      I use mine for some massive RTS games and a lot of memory demanding mathematical programmes. I remain satisfied but spent! I have noticed recently that dell are offering the E520 for the same approximate price at the moment but which is roughly twice as powerful.


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      • Motorola V975 / Mobile Phone / 45 Readings / 43 Ratings
        More +
        13.04.2007 17:06
        Very helpful



        A good trekkie flip top which is rapidly becoming obsolete.

        This is more of an obituary than a review really since it is finally time to replace my good old Motorola V975. Even though I’ve only had the phone for 9 months it is already something of an antique. Nowadays many people change mobiles as often as they change their socks and a mobile that was quite swish a few months ago is now almost obsolete. That’s not why I am changing mine; I would rather sit on a sharp stick than do anything for reasons of trend or fashion! As much as I love this phone it has aspects to it than I cannot tolerate any longer. Sounds a bit like a bad marriage doesn’t it?

        However, in case anyone finds one of these on eBay or is offered one for a tenner as a promotion (which is likely) it merits a review.

        It is of course a flip-top, which always appeals to the trekkie in me. I also like flip-tops because they have more of a phone feel in the hand when open.

        This one comes in a two tone grey with a middle strip of metallic grey.

        It has an exterior colour screen which shows a small version of your chosen wallpaper and the time. There is also a top strip showing the usual phone information; signal strength, battery metre and assorted alerts for SMS, voicemail etc.

        On the left side of the phone are three exterior buttons which allow you to adjust tones and volume as well as backlight for the exterior screen.

        On the right side is another exterior button which turns on the camera and capture images and video. Why anybody should need this, I don’t know, it’s relatively useless because to save a picture you have to open the phone anyway.

        There is an interior camera as well as an exterior.

        On opening is the classic Motorola keyboard and a very large screen which is the saving grace of this phone for me. I like large screens because of my age related myopia.

        Menu navigation is operated by a directional pad and two choice keys at the top end of the keypad. There is also a specific menu key and a key which takes you straight into WAP, which can be a little dangerous and expensive if you press it by accident and don’t stop the process in time.

        The camera isn’t bad for the age of the phone and it has a bout 1 gig of memory to store photos. The pictures have good clarity and resolution. There is a front light but no actual flash. The problem here is that the lenses are naked and tend to get dirty quite quickly and affect clarity. They are also difficult to clean.

        The video facility is not so good but includes sound.
        There is an MP3 player which works well but uses battery like you wouldn’t believe.

        The phone comes with a software installation disc for your PC and the necessary USB lead so that photos, videos and MP3s can be swapped back and forth. I actually find the PC interface a bit cumbersome.

        It is WAP/GPRS enabled, but lets be honest, who in the hell uses it.

        SMS and MMS are quite easy to use and SMS comes with Motorola’s unique version of predictive text, which a lot of people find annoying. As you type a list of possibilities are given at the bottom which you can choose or not. You do get used to it but it isn’t as easy to use as Nokia’s for example.

        Simple voice calls are excellent and there is a conference facility and loudspeakers, smart keys and voice recognition are included but I have never used them and don’t know anybody who does these days.

        It is a solid dependable type of phone and I used to be quite in love with it despite its overcomplicated menus and weight, not to mention the antennae poking my vitals.

        The main reason for our imminent divorce is the battery. It uses battery very quickly and you cannot rely on it lasting from morning till home time, quite the opposite in fact. It also takes an age to recharge and the connection is sometimes faulty. This is a general Motorola design fault though.

        I am also coming to the realisation that I don’t need all these functions. I only really need voice and SMS. A camera is a bonus but that’s it. I’m thinking very seriously about buying the cheapest phone in the shop, maybe not even a colour screen!

        So it’s out with sophistication and I’m going to take up with a much simpler girl!


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        • Lexmark Z735 / Inkjet Printer / 53 Readings / 49 Ratings
          More +
          26.03.2007 18:41
          Very helpful



          Functional workaday printer

          Whether or not you buy one of these printers very much depends on what type of user you are. For a particular type of user this is a perfect choice, cheap to buy, meets its needs and cheap to maintain. However other types of users will find it much too simple, limited and, actually, quite expensive to maintain. When I talk about maintain I am, of course talking essentially about ink cartridges.

          Appearance wise, it has a simple look about it and comes in a neutral grey. It’s compact and fits nicely into any of those designed-for-purpose desktop computer desks.

          It is increasingly coming at an attractive price as the standard of home printers is rising in relation to price. I bought mine for 30 quid at a high street retailer. Although there is a bit of a hidden bite in that it doesn’t come with a USB lead, which could put another tenner on it unless you’ve got a spare hanging around. Having said that, it does come with an ink cartridge, which could cancel that out. It also has, of course, an installation CD which is easy to use, and the resulting installed software is user friendly apart from an irritating American voice that gives you a printing commentary. You can turn that off. There is also an ink gauge which informs you of lack of colour ink. However, I have found that you can still print black and white for up to 30-40 pages after that has hit bottom.

          Print speed and quality for documents are excellent for the home user, photo and heavily coloured printing is not so fast and not so high in quality. This is why it’s good for some and not for others. There are three speeds depending on the quality of printing wanted. An average page of heavily typed A4 with colour components will take around 5-10 seconds at medium quality, and as far as text documents are concerned there is no discernable difference in quality between high and medium. Draft quality is noticeably lower and has that purple tinge to it. Photos take anywhere up to 5 minutes and tend to be on the dark side.

          For the type of user I am, it’s nigh on perfect. My printing output for documents is fairly moderate, since I tend to file on disc unless it’s absolutely necessary. I rarely print photos, preferring to make CD slideshows. These days I find I hardly, if ever, need hard copy photos as long as I’m obsessional about back-up. I’m also pleased that I only need one ink cartridge (Lexmark No. 1). The cartridges last a long time if you mainly print text documents with some occasional colour and images. However if you print a lot of colour they would probably last much less. If you like to print all your photos, avoid this printer like the plague!

          So, if you only need a printer because you occasionally need to print documents with occasional graphics, this model is a good buy not least because of the price and the one cartridge deal. I researched a lot of printers (and there are a lot of them!) and the cartridge aspect eventually swayed me. One cartridge for this printer costs £15. Compare that with some printers that need two at £20 a piece!

          However if you’re the type of user who gets through a couple of trees worth of paper a week and prints every photo you take, this is the worst printer you could buy. This is also a very simple model and doesn’t have any snazzy LCD displays and certainly won’t make the tea in the morning! But, if that’s the type of printer you’re looking for, you’re probably willing to pay over £100, if not more, and probably won’t give this shelf a glance.


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          • Heinz Sandwich Spread / Spread / 55 Readings / 52 Ratings
            More +
            23.03.2007 16:29
            Very helpful



            Old fashioned salad cream and pickle filler.

            It’s difficult to know whether to give this stuff a good or bad review. It’s quite obviously totally bad for you and to some palates repellent, but for some of us it is also insidiously more-ish. There was a story years ago that the BBC kept a stock of this product in the drama effects department in order to represent a certain effluent produced by the stomach. I was very surprised to find that it still exists on a visit to my local Tescos. I have been out of the country for a long time. I remember my mum buying it when I was a teenager, which makes it at least 35 years old. I’ve tried to find out exactly when it first hit our supermarket shelves but it seems to be classified. I was surprised at its continuing existence because to me it is a symbol of the 70’s, the sandwich filler equivalent of stack heel boots and crushed velvet flares. Oh the pain!

            It is basically good old Heinz Salad Cream poured into a jar of finely chopped difficult to recognise vegetables. They are difficult to recognise but obviously slightly pickled. Although the presence of salad cream is unmistakeable there is an overall vinegary pickled taste to the mix. It has roughly the same tongue curling effect as the beloved Piccalilli. In fact if you added mustard powder, it may taste a little like Piccalilli put through a blender. Although it is sharp to the tongue it does contain enough sugar, fat and salt to make it supremely edible in a thoroughly unhealthy way. It is also superbly crunchy in a small way. I don’t want to give away too many of my bad habits, but under an attack of terminal munchies I can quite easily spoon down a whole jar in 10 minutes, no need for a sandwich!

            The vegetables used in the spread are celery, cabbage, carrot, gherkin (dill pickles), onion and red pepper.

            So just how healthy is this sandwich filler?

            Per 30ml it provides 120 calories. That makes a whole jar around 1200 calories since the jars now on sale contain 270ml. If you’re on a diet, that would be your lot. It’s also enough to keep an average size person going for a day as long as they are not digging ditches.

            It is 15% fat, 8% of which is saturated. We are definitely in junk food territory here.

            The whole jar contains 135mg of cholesterol which should satisfy most potential coronaries.

            The jar contains 12% salt which should also have Cardiac Consultants booking an extra holiday in the Caribbean.

            According to the Heinz website details, it contains absolutely no vitamins at all. I found this rather strange and have double checked. How can this be possible, given the veg? Does Heinz have a secret process that extracts vitamins? I find myself; Yours Puzzled of Mid-Glamorgan. The same Heinz supplied details claim that it has no fibre. Surely they mean no added fibre. Last one to the cemetery shuts the gates!

            Would I recommend this personally rediscovered product? Why not. It is very tasty and crunchy and if you can’t indulge in a bit of fat, salt and sugar from time to time you may as well drive down to Bristol and do a swallow dive off the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I never use it in sandwiches however. I either spoon it down or use it as a relish for cold meats and strong cheeses. I find that on its own in a sandwich it’s rather insipid.


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            • Walk the Line (DVD) / DVD / 45 Readings / 42 Ratings
              More +
              22.03.2007 18:01
              Very helpful



              The great Johnny cash warts and all.

              I’m the kind of guy who cut my teeth and, often parts of my head, to Led Zeppelin and the Rolling stones. So, as a youth, the idea of listening to the music of a blonde with big hair and spangled boots, or anyone wearing a Stetson was somewhat nauseating. In my nerdish hirsute naivety I had no idea of the debt that all types of modern music owed to Country and Western, and its influence on Rock and Roll in particular. I came to my senses , and about the time (funnily enough) that I developed a taste for whisky I realised that Country had its darker side. There was no Country singer darker than ‘The Man in Black’, Johnny Cash. In his day he could have given Keith Richards a run for his money and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he did in fact do that.

              This then is the DVD of the much publicised 2005 biopic of the big man himself starring Joaquim Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. First off, Phoenix doesn’t completely carry it off, he doesn’t seem to have the stature, physically or otherwise, of Cash. Having said that, he does a more than acceptable job and it’s hard to think of any current American actor who could have given a better portrayal. Dark, self-destructive charisma is a hard one to pull off. Reese Witherspoon on the other hand almost steals the whole film as June Carter, Cash’s wife. She doesn’t look much like her but she manages to convey the impression beautifully. The two leads carry the whole film really although Cash’s father, the source of his angst, is well played by Robert Patrick.

              The basic plot follows Cash’s life from childhood to pre-middle age, and from rags to riches as is the norm in these kinds of films. There is a lot of attention given to his drug addiction, as there should be it being an important side of his personality. His tours and close relationship with Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis are given attention, although the actor playing Presley is a little weak and there is no mention of the famous amphetamine fuelled jam sessions at Sun studios also involving Carl Perkins. They could be apocryphal however, so we’ll let that pass. The film starts and ends at the famous Fulsome Prison gig, which is a nice device since it was that gig that galvanised his reputation as the down and dirty side of Country and Western. His relationship with June Carter and her virtual saving of him is given fair space. However, I don’t think it is adequately conveyed just how odd a match they were at the time. The Carter singing family were a deeply religious whiter than white type of act and the pairing of June and Cash was akin to Axle Rose marrying one of the Osmonds.

              The extras included on this DVD are an audio commentary by the director, James Mangold, which is interesting but is really only for the dedicated Cash fan. There are also ten scenes which were not included in the final edit. After watching the film itself I found these less than interesting and I got the impression that this feature was only put on the DVD because consumers expect there to be special features these days. I could almost hear the conversation; “What have you got for the special feature Jim?” “Well I’ve got a cardboard box full of off-cuts somewhere!” but then I’m not an extras freak!

              If you’re the type of Country fan who likes a bouffant standing by her man, you probably won’t like this film. If you’re the type that likes crying into your Jack Daniels and falling off your barstool you will. It’s a good enough film though for fans and non-fans alike. There is something very reassuring about human frailty mixed with success.


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              • More +
                21.03.2007 12:24
                Very helpful



                Frozen meatballs made from liver and pork. Traditional to Wales and the West

                At a time when every celebrity chef and his dog is extolling the virtues of offal, I thought it was time that the humble faggot had another airing. There is none humbler than Mr. Brains Faggots as found in the freezer chests in most supermarkets. None more eaten, in my part of the world, either.

                My part of the world is not the South East of England where a ‘faggot’ is either a bundle of sticks for the fire, or an American derogatory term for a homosexual! In Wales it is a type of meatball made from pork liver, usually served with boiled dried peas and onion gravy. I’ve been eating this stuff since being weaned and the faggots in question were always either home-made or Brains. They weren’t called Mr. in those days. I think the title was added to assure faggot virgins that there wasn’t any grey stuff involved. My god, we’re not French after all!

                I will give a recipe for the home-made variety at the end, just as a matter of comparison. But this is what good old Mr. Brains are about:

                You buy them in packs of 2, 4, or 6. Two ,as in the case here, is just a tease and is not financially wise. The six pack is the best buy and can vary in price from £1.20 up to £2.00. Six is definitely enough for two people and I wouldn’t personally pay more than £1.50. They come frozen, of course, and can be cooked out of the foil container in a microwave or in it, in a conventional oven. I recommend the latter since it makes the tops crispy. They come in a rich gravy which is not enough and a little too tomatoey in my opinion. Most people would make a little extra onion gravy. In this part of the world they are served just with peas. The peas are boiled from dry and are served almost as a pea soup, not the mushy type of stuff displayed on the packet. On the table it looks like pea soup in a bowl with meatballs floating in their own gravy. That’s Wales however, and we’re a bit different.

                Not convinced? Try it with a lot of black pepper and some crusty bread. You could be in Provence…..or Port Talbot.

                As far as ingredients are concerned, they’re quite acceptable for a mass produced ready meal. One E number (colouring) and something called ‘modified waxy maize’, which sounds a bit disgusting to me but then I haven’t got a clue what it is! Apart from these two everything looks just about natural.

                Faggots are of course a type of peasant or pauper food with their origins in a time when working people could only afford offal and tried to dress it up to make it more appealing. To that end Mr. Brains faggots, at a time when such dishes are trendy, are a good choice. You wouldn’t really know they were mostly liver. Unless you try the following recipe for home-made faggots:


                1 lb pigs liver
                1lb onions
                ¼ lb streaky bacon
                half a loaf of stale bread (maybe more)
                few sprigs of fresh sage

                Simple procedure:

                Mince the liver, onions and bacon together in a food processor.
                Add chopped sage with a little pepper. No need for salt because of the bacon.
                Mix in stale bread in the form of breadcrumbs.
                Add bread until the mixture is a dough consistency.
                Roll into fist sized balls.
                Throw it in a hot oven for about 40 minutes until outside is brown and crispy.
                Some people like to wrap a rasher of bacon around the faggots before cooking.
                Serve as with Brains above.


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                • More +
                  19.03.2007 16:36
                  Very helpful



                  A film soundtrack that stands as an album in its own right

                  There are not that many film soundtracks that are made into CD’s and are played and treasured as an album in their own right. People usually buy them because they liked the film, find that half the tracks are not so good without said film, and the CD inevitably gravitates towards the dusty, never played, soon-to-be-in-a-boot sale section of the CD rack.

                  There are a few exceptions to the rule. ‘Easy Rider’ comes to mind for those of you who are greying, balding or drooping. ‘Pulp Fiction’ is probably a better example for those who still have all their own teeth. Being a member of the former I can also cite this album, now digitally re-mastered, ‘The Harder They Come’. It is the soundtrack of the 1973 film of the same name made by Perry Henzel.

                  By the way, if you don’t like Reggae read no further.

                  The film was the story of a Kingston shantytown low-life gangster (played by Jimmy Cliff) and his Robin Hood style journey from disaster to tragedy in the Jamaican slums. It was, and is, a brilliantly engaging film to which the Brazilian film ‘City of God’ owes not a little of its style and atmosphere.

                  The soundtrack, as well as complimenting the atmosphere of the film, in its compilation nicely represents that form of pre-Marley reggae known as Rock-Steady. Together with Ska, Rock-Steady came directly from Calypso and retained some of its ‘jauntiness’ while still being able to be sometimes dark and mournful.

                  Half the tracks on the CD are performed by Jimmy Cliff himself, as is the first:

                  *1-You Can Get It If You Really Want*
                  Well known track that hit the mainstream charts. Up tempo reggae.

                  *2-Draw Your Brakes*
                  Sung by ‘Scotty’, a popular Jamaican DJ in the 60’s and 70’s. He’s a legend in Jamaica, who died in 2003. This is probably his most famous song and could make your granny dance.

                  *3-By The Rivers Of Babylon*
                  The original rastafarian anthem by the ‘Melodians’. Always makes me cry and I’m as white as tripe! Boney M, eat your hearts out!

                  *4-Many Rivers To Cross*
                  Jimmy Cliff again. Slow tear jerking lament about the weary trudge through life. Start looking for that half bottle of whisky!

                  *5-Sweet And Dandy*
                  Performed by ‘Toots and the Maytals’ who were one of the groups who bridged the gap between Rock-Steady and modern reggae. You can dry your eyes, I’ve never heard a Maytals’ track that hasn’t uplifted me. If you like this, check out a CD called ‘Funky Kingston’.

                  *6-Harder They Come*
                  Jimmy Cliff singing the title track. Basic bread and butter reggae.

                  *7-Johnny Too Bad*
                  Performed by the ‘Slickers’ another legendary combo in 70’s Jamaica. Calypso influenced Reggae song about a tragedy waiting to happen called Johnny. Good sing-along stuff.

                  *8-007 (Shanty Town)*
                  Sung by Desmond Dekker of ‘Israelites’ fame. Better in my humble opinion. What is this obsession the Jamaicans have got with 007?

                  *9-Pressure Drop*
                  Toots and the Maytals again. Probably the song they’re best known for.

                  *10-Sitting in Limbo*
                  Jimmy Cliff singing the most commercial song on the CD. It’s ok but nothing to write home about. Every CD has to have one.

                  *11-You Can Get It If You Really Want*
                  *12-Harder They Come*
                  These are my main complaint with this album. They aren’t the same as the previous versions, but almost. The only difference is that they include protracted instrumentals.

                  As I said, this a soundtrack CD which is able to stand alone as an album. It could be a Reggae history-of CD as most of the tracks are classics in their own right. The re-mastering is inaudible to my ears but I’ll take their word for it. I heartily recommend it if you like Reggae and I defy you not to dance around the kitchen when you put it on!

                  Available at a variety of prices these days but shouldn’t be more than a fiver really. There is also a deluxe 2 CD set around., but that’s not the original soundtrack and is for another review.


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                  • More +
                    15.03.2007 13:05
                    Very helpful



                    Adventurous foray into RTS/RPG fusion well worth the discount rack price.

                    Call me a nerd if you want but after I’ve dried my eyes with my anorak sleeve I’ll tell you that I get a lot of pleasure out of these ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ style RPG games. I’ve played an embarrassingly large number of these games and ‘Spellforce Order of the Dawn’ is undoubtedly one of the best, with some reservations that I will go into later. It has recently become available on the discount racks.

                    I primarily search for games that will take me over and will last for at least a month of quite regular use. I also tend to wait till games hit the £5 discount racks. This game comes up trumps in both departments. It is vast in content, certainly the biggest RPG I’ve played outside of the Japanese style RPGs such as the Fantasy series. Actually it isn’t a strict RPG, rather a fusion of Real Time War Strategy (RTS) and an RPG (Role Playing Game for non-nerds) which is in fact becoming a bit of a trend.

                    Info For People With a Life
                    RTS- These are basically War Games in which the shooting and destruction can only be carried out once the player has constructed his army and weapons. To do this one usually has to gather raw materials, build factories and towns and navigate a given map. The skill and the gameplay are in the administration, placement and delegation of resources. In many ways it’s maths with pretty pictures.

                    RPG- These are games in which one chooses a character or characters with which one embarks on a quest through a succession of maps. The character will encounter various Tolkienesque creatures on the way and the way he/she interacts or, more usually, fights with them develops the character according to given traits such as Strength, Intelligence, Magic Ability etc. After each battle one is awarded points which you distribute among these traits so developing your own unique character. There are usually side quests and puzzles to confuse the issue along the way. They are mostly based on The Hobbit.

                    So this game is a mixture of these two genres. Basically your character travels through a succession of islands on a mythical world and has to conquer each one by developing towns and armies. There is a plotline to this, there always is, but anyone who is interested in it really should get out more. It is usually laughably weak and this game is no exception. It’s the gameplay itself which is the fun. One of the unique features of this game is that the hero can, eventually, call on six different races of creatures with which to create an army. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Trolls and Dark Elves. Each army has its own special requirements and abilities which makes the whole thing that little bit more interesting. In some scenarios one can choose between two races, and can call upon the advantages of both. The game interface is an excellent point and click menu driven affair and the graphics are really quite special. Camera view can be change from plan to 3rd person easily which is spectacular in battle scenes. Use of the initial tutorial level is strongly recommended.

                    It is an impressive piece of gaming software which the programmers put a lot of work into. However there are a few problems:

                    Installation; The verification code on the inside of the case for the discount version is a big problem. They used an ambiguous font in which the 0 and O, I and 1 are exactly the same. If you have more than one of these in the code you’ve got problems.

                    Starting the game and moving from one map to another takes ages indicating the complexity of the program. It’s best to have more RAM than is recommended. It is also apt to crash from time to time especially when there’s a lot of activity on the screen.

                    There are some bugs in the game. To get from one island to another one must open gates to portals. On some islands the gates don’t open even though you have fulfilled the game requirements. Gaming notice boards are full of comments on this.

                    It is not an easy game. The first two levels could quite easily destroy the enthusiasm of a RPG/RTS beginner. A point to remember is that you will always come back from death and any damage done to the enemy before that will remain done.

                    The voices of the characters are bloody ridiculous. From time to time there are unavoidable video segments. All the voices are American. The Elves all sound like LA bimbos and the Humans and Orcs Italians from the Bronx. It has had me in stitches on many occasions. I suppose a lot of wannabee actors were employed from Beverly Hills Starbucks and McDonalds.

                    So a game of two halves in many ways. Well worth the money for its playability and complexity. However, there are a few glitches.


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                    • More +
                      14.03.2007 14:11
                      Very helpful



                      Unique mixture of moody, jazzy, folky music.

                      Apart from anything with ‘lite’ written on it there is nothing that annoys me more than when a film or CD is labelled a ‘woman’s film’ or a ‘man’s band’ etc. Unfortunately it happens a lot, just like ‘lite’, and we just have to tolerate both bland presumptious phenomena. In that vein, a lot of people would tell you that Beth Orton makes moody female music. Well I must be in need of a serious operation because I love it.

                      Her style is a fusion of folk, electronic and urban jazz. She has a profoundly soulful voice and together with a clever use of electronics and keyboards produces a blue mood of a sound that can, at times, send shivers up your spine. Her lyrical content, apart from some good covers, are usually about the realism of modern relationships from a woman’s point of view. This is probably why the chicken breast eaters tend to give it the tag of ‘Girlie Music’. However, as I’ve said, as a fully paid up geezer I see no gender bias, but then I’m quite partial to Salmon Quiche, so I’m probably a bit on the effeminate side.

                      Beth Orton first came to the music scene in the nineties first collaborating with the Chemical Brothers and William Orbit, an avante guarde American musician. Like all decent artists of any discipline she doesn’t come from a normal background. Brought up first on a Norfolk pig farm, and in East London by a lefty artist mother who died when she was young, Beth went on to study drama, act in a few gloriously obscure plays and spend some time in a Thai Buddhist monastery. All good stuff for any aspiring artist, disaster for any aspiring estate agent. She also seems to enjoy a pint since her biography almost always states that she met all her major musical collaborators in a pub. She’s also a six-footer and remarkably attractive. Why aren’t we married!

                      Her glory days, it is probably true to say, were in the mid to late nineties when she was nominated annually for the Mercury Prize and numerous Brit Awards, usually for Best Newcomer or Best Female Solo Artist. This 2-CD set is a compilation of the best tracks from the albums, and singles, she made during that period:

                      Superpinkymandy 1993 (only released in Japan!!??)

                      Trailer Park 1996

                      Central Reservation 1999

                      Daybreaker 2002

                      Other Side of
                      Daybreak 2003

                      It also includes, on the second CD, some remixes and previously unreleased tracks as well as collaborations with the Chemical Brothers, Terry Callier and William Orbit. The set was first released in 2003 and includes 24 tracks; 14 on CD1 and 10 on CD2. The first CD is where you will find the songs she is best known for, and CD2 is an extra bunch of tracks distinctly included for the collector.

                      1.: She Cries Your Name
                      2.: Someone's Daughter (single version)
                      3.: Touch Me With Your Love (exclusive edit)
                      4.: Sugar Boy
                      5.: Galaxy Of Emptiness
                      6.: I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine
                      7.: Best Bit
                      8.: Same Day (previously unreleased)
                      9.: Stolen Car
                      10.: Sweetest Decline
                      11.: Pass In Time
                      12.: Central Reservation (single version)
                      13.: Concrete Sky
                      14.: Thinking About Tomorrow

                      Notable as my personal recommendations among these are:

                      Track 1: She Cries Your Name. A beautifully low register moody song that does the shiver thing.

                      Track 4: Sugar Boy. An unusually jaunty piece about a less than serious squeeze.

                      Track 5: Galaxy of Emptiness. Another mood piece that describes, as the title suggests, a bad night of depression and a yearning for a crazy fling.

                      Track 6: I wish I Never Saw the Sunshine. Cover of the Ronettes’ song done in a folksy style.

                      Track 11: Pass In Time. Sings with Terry Callier (ex-squeeze and ex-Massive Attack) about how things, well, pass with time, surprisingly.

                      Track 12: Central Reservation. One of my favourites. Running along the central reservation after a night on the tiles. One of my favourite lines of the album; “I can still smell you on my fingers, taste you on my breath”. We’ve all been there, boys and girls.

                      Track 14: Thinking About Tomorrow. A nice track to finish the side which puts a cap on it with another moody number.

                      I can play the first CD without skipping more than two or three. This, for me is the sign of a good buy, CD wise. I cannot say that for the second CD.

                      1.: Central Reservation (Ibadan remix)
                      2.: Where Do I Begin - Chemical Brothers & Beth Orton
                      3.: Stars All Seem To Weep - Chemical Brothers & Beth Orton
                      4.: Safety - Chemical Brothers & Beth Orton
                      5.: Pedestal - Chemical Brothers & Beth Orton
                      6.: Dolphins - Orton, Beth & Terry Callier
                      7.: It's Not The Spotlight
                      8.: Don't Wanna Know 'bout Evil
                      9.: Where Do You Go
                      10.: Water From A Vine Leaf - Orton, Beth & William Orbit

                      The second CD is very different in style, not so folksy not so moody. The tracks with the Chemical Brothers are close to being dance tracks in fact.

                      Notable for me is the cover of the John Martyn song ; Don’t Wanna Know About Evil (Only Wanna Know About Love). This is done as a duet with another ex-squeeze of hers, William Orbit and is an excellent version of the old hippy classic.
                      Most of these tracks are collaborations and personally I prefer the moody jazzy Beth on her own. However if you’re a fan I’m sure these extras will be welcome.

                      On the whole, given the number of tracks, the price (around £6.99) and the extra second CD this has got to be a good buy even for a fan who already has half of them on the original CDs. For someone who doesn’t know her work it’s worth a flutter. Trust me, I’m a Welsh cockney!!!


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                      • Dell E196FP / LCD Monitor / 45 Readings / 44 Ratings
                        More +
                        13.03.2007 12:13
                        Very helpful


                        • Reliability


                        Cheap, easy to install, simple functions, good for gaming.

                        I have to say from the start that I am not au fait with the jargon connected with computer hardware. So this review is essentially from the standpoint of a pig ignorant user and consumer. That is; Does it work? Does it do the job you need it to do? I am aware of the strings of numbers and letters that inevitably accompany these products. I am vaguely aware of what they signify, but that’s it!

                        I bought this monitor as part of a Dell complete package over the phone. The computer itself was and is a Dell Dimension 5150. The original deal which I had seen advertised in a magazine was £499.99 and that was with a CRT monitor. For my pig ignorant fellow travellers, that means the old fashioned variety that looks like a TV. The ever so friendly sales person, bless him, suggested, with lusty commission in his voice, that I might want to spend an extra 50 quid and get a 19” LCD Flat Screen monitor. Knowing that I was later going to refuse every extra that he would inevitably offer I said yes. It sounded sexier than the original and I wanted Barry to earn an extra fiver that day. So here it is in front of me surrounded by old Golden Virginia packets and unknown CD’s. I have had it for nigh on six months.

                        To buy on its own it goes at around the £150-£170 mark.

                        No bother at all. It comes with a pigeon toe upright stand and the monitor clips easily onto a square metal plate at the back. Two leads, as usual, one scart and one for the mains. Am I being an idiot by asking why the scart lead can’t do both jobs. It would cut down on the spaghetti. I suspect it’s to do with the amount of current a monitor needs. If any body knows, feel free to tell me! There are no other input or output sockets. Once perched on the desk, you can of course adjust the angle to a limited extent. About 15° from the perpendicular. It’s quite stable but does have a bit of a wobble.

                        RESOLUTION & CLARITY
                        Best: 1280 x 1024 60 khz

                        I have had few problems with resolution and clarity. I use my computer mostly for RTS games, DVDs and television streaming. DVD clarity is always good but not as good as a television. Some games seem to have a problem adjusting to my screen and seem to like to adjust the resolution in a downwards direction. It is TFT of course and can be seen from all angles.

                        It has, naturally, an on/off button and goes into blank screen standby after your programmed choice. It also has a menu button which brings up positioning, image settings, colour settings, OSD settings, and the menu languages can be: French, Spanish, German, English and Japanese. Menu navigation is easily carried out by plus and minus buttons to move up and down, and the menu button itself acts as an enter button. There is a factory reset option. I never use these functions and to be honest, I just had to look to find out for the first time after 6 months.

                        Above all it is a good looking functional monitor and gloriously large at 19”and I’m glad I upgraded. There is a lot of techno snobbery about Dell components and computers but that is exactly what it is. I would say that this monitor is as good as some you would have to pay 3 times as much for. It doesn’t have many knobs or extra functions but I don’t need any more knobs in my life!

                        It works perfectly for this idiot and the crowning affirmation of my purchase was when my daughter came to visit and said that my computer was cooler than hers. It did eventually cost me but you never stop paying for that night of passion!

                        I digress. This monitor does its job and works for this particular techno-moron!


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