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Member since: 19.06.2009

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    • Advent 5411 / Laptop / 11 Readings / 11 Ratings
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      03.07.2009 13:19
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      Gamers wil want more but will suit most average users.

      For the price of the Advent 5411 you will not find better specifications 4 gb memory, dual core intel centrino processors, 2 megapixel built in webcam. That said you do get what you pay for. While it looks like a stylish machine, the build quality is not the best (my left mouse key is slightly sunken now).

      There are better overall components available, quicker processors, better graphics cards, more powerful mother boards etc, but for the price you will not find them all together in one package, I guess if you are not a huge gamer or graphic designer then this laptop will be perfect, with the power to run most applications without slowing. I am a keen photographer and use Photoshop CS4 with no issues, and that is a memory hugging piece of software.

      Battery life is not great, but there are options to reduce power consumption when running off the battery, a useful function.

      Sound quality is awful, but then it is only onboard speakers, so you shouldn't expect much, and is perfectly adequate for using the built in webcam, or watching clips on youtube etc.

      So far the only issue I have had is that one of the two (myself and Girlfriend have one each) power chargers has blown, but replacements are available. I have heard of people struggling with the machine slowing the more they use it, but (and please no offence meant) that is usually down to user inadequacies not the machine itself.

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    • The World's Fastest Indian (DVD) / DVD / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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      03.07.2009 12:31
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      Well worth a watch.

      I watched this film on the BBC the other day, and am now going to buy the DVD, I loved it!!

      This is based on a true story of New Zealander Burt Munro [1899 - 1978], and his dream of breaking the world land speed record on his 1920s motor bike.

      Written and directed by Roger Donaldson (2005), he has managed to create one of the best feel good films of all time (in my opinion). Every step of Burt Munro's [Anthony Hopkins] 1960's journey to Bonneville Salt Flats (USA) sees him charming local folks with his direct but friendly attitude and acceptance. But is he going to be allowed to race when he gets there, after all the bike is 40 years old!

      Anthony Hopkins is a dream to watch in this film, portraying Munro as an almost naive, eccentric yet intelligent man, hailing from a small New Zealand town, and all along the way you find your love and admiration for this man growing, and by the end are hoping he achieves his dream.

      In summary I didn't think I'd like this film, but now I would recommend this movie to anyone who fancies a real heart warming, feel good film.

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      • moonpig.com / Online Shop / 19 Readings / 17 Ratings
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        25.06.2009 12:48
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        Very good, especially if like me you forget dates easily.

        I'm sure I don't need to explain what moonpig.com is but just in case there is someone out there who hasn't seen the annoying advert, they sell greetings cards, all sorts for any occasions from birthdays to anniversaries.

        I have to admit I use moonpig for pretty much all my birthday card needs, firstly as I am rubbish at remembering dates, and moonpig has a facility to add dates for occasions and they will email you 5 days in advance, thus never missing another birthday again!

        The second reason I use moonpig is that, as a photographer, I like to make personalized cards with my own images and this feature is available so I exploit it to the full. preparing exactly what I want tailored to the person precisely.

        As far as prices go, I think they are comparable to buying and posting at a local card shop, and you can pay in advance so you always have the money waiting for you.

        So far (fingers crossed it stays this way) I have only had one delivery issue where the card turned up after the birthday, and it seemed everyone else sending through moonpig had the same delay.

        Overall I would recommend moonpig as a simple way to meet all your greeting card needs.

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          24.06.2009 23:14
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          For the price it is top amongst its rivals.

          I used to own canons 100-400 f/4.5 - 5.6 IS L lens (canons most popular zoom) and I loved it, ok it was affectionately known as the dust pump, but I started to notice that friends were achieving much sharper images straight from camera than I was, the reason they had primes (fixed focal) i had a zoom.

          Well as you can imagine I couldn't have that so I looked into what prime I could get, surprisingly at a little under £1000 the brilliant canon 400mm f/5.6 lens was in my price range! Now this isn't the fastest of canons L series lenses, but as most of those can cost more than a small family car!! But sped aside it is a very sharp lens, and as long as the light is good, or I can up the ISO levels it is great.

          Right the technical bits, at weighing 1250 grams it's quite light for a lens of its size, 90mm x 256.5mm with a filter size of 77mm, it is a good weight and length for hand holding. Made with 7 elements in 6 groups.

          Right that done onto my thoughts, the lens is sharp, very sharp, even at f/5.6 it is still sharp, stepped up it gets better! Ideal for wildlife it is light enough to be carried around all day without totally killing your shoulder and can even be hand held while still achieving great shots (so long as you have a good panning technique).

          There are better lenses out there but not for the price, and the best things about canons L glass is it holds its value, with second hand lenses (if you can find them)selling for not much less than new.

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          24.06.2009 22:37
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          Well worth the money, you would be hard pressed to find better at a higher cost.

          When I first bought my digital SLR, it came with a free lens, and I was happy to use this for the snapshots I was taking, I had a decent zoom (100-400 f4.5-5.6 L) which I used most of the time so wasn't too bothered about much else. But as I started to take different styles of photos I realised my kit lens was really limited, couldn't get the close ups I wanted, and the sharpness was lacking. So I took the plunge and bought a really good prime lens (as opposed to a zoom) the canon 100 mm f/2.8 USM macro lens, and I am so glad I did.

          First the technical stuff, weighing in at 21.1 ounces you get a nice sturdy feel that is still handholdable (real word?) with ease. 3.1 inches in diameter, and 4.7 inches long (without the hood) with a 58mm filter thread. The lens is made of 12 elements in 8 groups and has a close focusing distance one foot. The Ultra-sonic monitor (USM) provides great, fast auto focus without the lens being noisy. With a minimum aperture of f/2.8 and a max of f/32.

          The macro facility lets me get 1:1 (lifesize) ratios with ease, with the ideal distance for this being 15cm, and the low f-stop of 2.4 means you can be very selective of what is in focus and what is not, this also makes it a quick lens in low light. But it is not just a great macro lens. I use this lens most often for portraits where I get pin sharp head and shoulder shots with ease, again the low f-stop means you can have a very shallow depth of field without losing sharpness, but stopped up to f.4 and above you really hit the sweet spot where focusing is tack sharp.

          With a 58mm filter thread there are plenty of filter options out there that are not too expensive and the (optional) lens hood can really help to avoid glare. It is possible to buy a tripod mount for this lens but canons own is quite pricey.

          The lens is NOT cheap though, retailing at over £400 there are cheaper alternatives but as they say, you get what you pay for, and this lens is as close to an L (canons top class lenses) as you can get, but at a far lower price.

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            23.06.2009 23:00
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            An excellent buy but a bit pricey.

            The Epsom P-3000 photo viewer is a wonderful little machine that is a must for any serious photographer, this piece of kit lets you download images onto its 40gb internal hard drive when you are away from your computer. Simple and easy to use, once you own one you'll struggle to see how you coped before!

            As a very keen amateur photographer, I am often filling my memory cards, while not being near my computer (specifically when on holiday or track side at a motor sports event), before I was bought this photo viewer that often meant stopping or deleting photos. Well now that is not an issue, I simply plug my flash cards into the top and download my images onto the portable drive and I can clear down my memory cards and carry on shooting.

            On top of this great feature (as if that wasn't enough) the viewing screen (4 inches of crystal clear LCD) allows you to study the photos you have taken in more detail than you would manage on any cameras monitor, and even has a zoom feature so you can get even closer!

            Supporting jpegs and RAW files, as well as video files such as mpeg and DivX, as well as MP3 and ACC so you can put videos and music on there!! As a birdwatcher I have used the MP3 tool to place recordings of birds to use as a guide at future times.

            The lithium battery allows up to 3 hours of continuous playback so you are unlikely to run out of juice simply downloading you photos.

            Accepts compact flash and SD memory cards.

            There is even a direct printing system but I have yet to use this so would not like to comment on its success.

            The only drawback would be the price; at an RRP of £342 it's not cheap,
            although with a bit of searching you can get it at a lower price.

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          • Bag Hide / Photo Accessory / 8 Readings / 8 Ratings
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            23.06.2009 22:33
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            For any wildlife photographer or just people that want to get closer to wildlife.

            Lightweight hardwoods green pattern bag hide, from wildlifewatchingsupplies.co.uk. price £50.59

            Upon receiving this lightweight (450g) bag hide, I couldn't wait to try it out so decided to pop out to my local lake and see how it worked. Now I have never tried taking photographs from a portable hide, let alone a bag hide, so I was surprised just how easy it was. Simply throw hide over you, the camera and tripod and point the lens out through the adjustable hole.

            There is then a hood for your head that has a fetching scrim net to cover your face (this can be stuck out of the way with the use of the Velcro pads attached), sit back and wait for the action to come to you.

            On my first trip I was dubious how well the hide would work, but to test it well I sat in quite a prominent place where my silhouette wasn't particularly well hidden (not something I would normally have done) but after a few minutes the local great crested grebes were happy to come and feed within a few feet not something I have ever managed in the past even with my stealthiest attempts. But this could have been the grebes' familiarity with local fishing bivvys so I had to find a stiffer test to put the hide through its paces.

            Test two came on a snowy day so the hides' superb real life camouflage was less effective but the ability to hide my human shape was called into use. The test today was to try and photograph some locally wintering short-eared owls, not the easiest of feats normally, but after a few minutes of sitting waiting I had one of these stunning creatures flying within a few metres even landing in the long grass (which unfortunately blocked any photo opportunity). The bird continued to hunt around me for a couple of hours without showing any nerves.

            As you can tell the hide works. But what of it's make up, well, as mentioned earlier it is very light weight, and easily rolls up to fit in a rucksack (or strapped to the side), it kept me warm in the snow taking the edge off the cold wind, but has proven breathable in the sun. The aperture for the lens is a slit that has Velcro on either side to adjust around the largest lens. One of the great advantages is that it can be worn like a poncho so you don't need to keep setting up and down each time you move (very useful when stalking your targets) and is big enough to house a person, camera, tripod and stool when settled. The actual camouflage material used is of a real tree type design and merges well with most backgrounds.

            In conclusion well worthit for wildlife lovers of all kinds.

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            • ephotozine.com / Internet Site / 5 Readings / 5 Ratings
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              22.06.2009 13:27
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              Well worth stopping by if photography interests you.

              ephotozine.com has something for everyone, whether you want to chat in the formums, post photos for critiquing or for general comments, read well written product reviews, get advice on all things photo or even sell your old equipment then you really should pop by.

              THe website is an online photgraphy magazine, and has two levels of members, you can either choose to be a free member (like I am) or an E2 member which costs £29 a year ( I am not a paid member so cannot review this side of the site).

              As a free member you can post one picture a day to your portfolio which can either be for critiquing, or not, you choose, but photos set for critiquing can have modifications added by other members, so you can see their suggestions. You can post as much as you like on the forums, which cover all aspects of photography. You are also able to read all reviews, product , news articles and techniques, as well as enter the regular competitions on the site.

              As a member you can be as active as you like, but everyone on the site has been friendly to me, but i only pop in and out, and am not the most regular poster. I have still not visited all areas of the site as it is very large.

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                21.06.2009 22:45
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                People either love them or hate them.

                Being a junk food king and having two small children, boxes of ice creams go pretty fast in my house but not Toffee crumble! Wow that sounds like the opening to a bad review but it's not, I love toffee crumbles, my kids and girlfriend don't so when I buy a big box of 10 (£3 from Iceland, but available in other supermarkets) I get to eat the lot :o)

                The ice lollies themselves have a toffee flavoured ice cream centre with a vanilla covering, which is then coated in a thin layer of milk chocolate and sprinkled with biscuit crumbs all held up by a wooden stick. Ok so it is not the best quality ice cream or chocolate, but that is part of the appeal to me, it's cheap and charming.

                From what I can tell you either love these lollies or hate them, there appears to be no in between ground. Me, I love them.

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                  21.06.2009 20:35
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                  Good when starting out, but as you improve maybe a different mag will suit you more.

                  When I took up photography it was mainly fuelled by wildlife magazines as that was my main passion, till one day I bought Digital camera magazine, and I was hooked. Aimed at the keen amateur amongst us there are hints and tips, projects to try at home, competitions, reviews and much more.
                  When feeling stuck for inspiration I often pick up a copy and see what the experts have done, or what the talented amateurs have sent in, and with their critique section you often see work that while at first glance is good could be improved, and experts' advice on how this could be done.

                  Each month focuses on a new topic and they will have advice on how to achieve certain shots, while showing examples of work that fits, but this is where my gripe with the magazine comes, all to often after twelve months they seem to repeat themselves, now I know there are only so many subjects you can look at but the coverage is not wide enough.

                  Available in most newsagents or supermarkets, at a cover price of £3.99 it is a compareable price to most monthly camer magazines. Subscriptions can be had at much cheaper rates and they come with a clean cover (no prices or barcodes etc).

                  In conclusion, the magazine is great if you are starting out, with decent explanations on terminology and ideas on what to try, but for people who are more experienced then this may not be the mag for you.

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                  • Heinz Salad Cream / Sauces / Soups / 14 Readings / 12 Ratings
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                    21.06.2009 20:00
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                    Buy some it tastes great.

                    When Heinz decide a few years ago to remove salad cream from its range, I almost cried, It was the only condiment for years that I would eat, thankfully they rescinded this foolish threat so I didn't need to stock up on the stuff, but I realised that without it my life would be somehow empty!

                    I'm sure others would claim not but no other salad cream tastes quite like Heinz salad cream, most I find have a very sharp, bitter after taste, Heinze does not. The vinegary taste to salad cream, is not too strong, in heinze version, while creating a sharp, crisp tasting dressing.

                    Although I guess this would be aimed as a dressing for a crispy salad of some kind, I have two favourite uses. Firstly with Cheese in a sandwich, secondly as a dipping sauce for just about anything.

                    Made from Spirit vinegar, vegetable oil, water, sugar, mustard, salt, egg yolks, modified corn flour, stabilizers - Guar gum and Xanthan gum (colouring riboflavin). Heinz has a unique taste. I have a few favourite things i like with it, for example cheese and salad cream sandwiches are a must in my packed lunch, it goes great with salad (obviously) and mixed in with sweet corn is un beatable.

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                    21.06.2009 19:35
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                    For those growing up now, this is the man you will miss out on.

                    As a teenager who had his musical taste heavily influenced by (probably) the best radio DJ and champion of new music that the UK has produced, John Peel was a huge hero to me, and his death saddened me greatly. When his auto biography, Maygrave of the marshes, came out I rushed out to buy a copy so I could see what influenced this great man.

                    The first half of the book is a true auto biography written by the man himself and contains some funny stories and shocking revelations from his youth and early adult hood. Is superbly written and you can picture John himself speaking the words, unfortunately his untimely death came before he could finish the book so the second half is compiled by his family, but is equally enthralling and shows just how much he was loved by them.

                    I wouldn't be able to do justice, nor would I want to spoil anyones reading of the book, by revealing anything of the tales he tells, but they are emotional, funny and heartwarming all through, with us getting a good idea of his family (however complicated they were) and friends and what they meant to him.

                    An excellent read about an extraordinary man, responsible for bringing generations of music fans something new or different.

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                  • Magners Irish Cider / Beer / Cider / 8 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                    21.06.2009 19:15
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                    Nice to enjoy on a summers day.

                    A perfect, crisp (alcoholic) drink for those hot summers days. Fill your, oversized glass with Ice and Magners sit back and enjoy the summer.

                    I was always a Lager drinker, enjoying the cold, crisp taste of the beverage and thinking nothing could be better on a hot day, till I discovered Magners Irish cider, since then I have never looked back. Up until the summer of 2008 my experience of cider had been Strongbow, white lightening or diamond white, all (in my opinion) strong over powering ciders. Magners on the other hand is light, crisp and very refreshing, quite flowery in its taste (presumably due to the type of apple used??), and not too alcoholic, compared to some.

                    Anyway, I only drink the bottled version (not tried the canned or draught versions that are also available) and find that with ice you get more than a pint glass worth (unless you have some of the Bulmers oversized glasses, which I want). I have also found that (unlike most lager) the fizz stays right to the end, so no leaving a flat watery dreg at the bottom of your glass. On top of all this I personally don't feel the usual bloat after drinking too much that I used to feel with larger, probably not something to advocate but never the less true for me.

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                  • Wychwood Green Goblin / Beer / Cider / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
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                    21.06.2009 18:42
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                    Nice smoky taste unlike other ciders I have tried.

                    You know what it's like, it's a hot summers day, the sun is beating down and your friends are all heading off to the local beer garden for a refreshing pint, but you don't fancy your usual, so what do you have, well this happened to me and our friendly barman suggested we try Wychwood Green goblin. Having tried a few ciders over the years, I have found it to be the most refreshing of alcoholic drinks, so thought to myself why not. Well I wasn't disappointed, a crisp refreshing glass certainly hit the spot on that hot day and still does.

                    Oak aged in 100 year old oak vats, Green Goblin retains a smoky, flowery taste, and is different from most ciders on the market not too sweet or sickly like some, or as sharp as others it sits in its own market, you will notice it is quite a dark coloured cider. Personally I prefer Magners but this is my second favourite cider.

                    Made entirely from pressed English apples, in "deepest" sommerset, and coming in 500ml bottles, one bottle equates to 3 units.

                    One word of warning though at 6.0% alcohol volume it gives quite a kick.

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                    21.06.2009 17:49
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                    A great flash which does almost all you could want.

                    I have only just become a user of decent flash, preferring in the past to use natural light, or just not take the photo, firstly as I didn't own a decent flash unit and secondly because I preferred the light given off naturally. However as my skill as a photographer improved so did my need to use flash grew, finding more situations where although the light was good it wasn't right, or taking more formal portraits etc.

                    Not having money to burn on something I wouldn't be able to use, I plumped to start with Canons small pro-flash the Canon Speedlite 430 EX II, this would give me most of the control of the bigger 580 EX (without the ability to use it as a master) and should I eventually decide I want the bigger version I could still with use the 430 as a slave etc.

                    So far I have used the flash mainly off camera to take static portraits, and find that the ability to use manual settings invaluable, varying the power of the strobe in 1/3 stop increments or changing the angle of the flash, rotates 180 degrees and from straight up to a 90 degrees giving a good area coverable. When I have used the flash on camera the ETTL system seems to work perfectly, only occasionally blowing highlights if small areas of white are included.

                    My only gripe is that you cannot use this flash as a master unit to control other flashes you might have, it can however be used as a slave if you have the right master unit (580 EX)

                    Full technical specs can be found on canons website, so are not included here.

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