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Every review I have read bangs on about how people love books, and I would guess that this is Amazons target Market, after all this is a Ereader , so no surprise there then. I had thought about a kindle for a long time , I travel , I have small children , I have a small house which is rammed with books, and is to small for more (both children and books)
But I had always had several worries about Kindles and there ultimate destruction of both libraries ( The Tory Scum do appear to be beating them in this one mind) and book shops. Book shops are loverly, they are also starting to close at a alarming rate. I also desperately want my children to inherit a love for the written word, and staring at a screen will hardly do that ? And then what about second hand books, loaning books , finding books in coffee shops ? All GONE . And then there's battery anxiety , Kindle claim that it's lasts for months , Apple claim that the IPad lasts 10 hours on a charge ...Apple bend the truth a little , will Kindle ?
But , and this is going to seem like a right U turn even after you have purchased Kindle you can still buy books , you can still buy secondhand books and you can still go to coffee shops and even lend ( Kindle allows you to lend books to friends from your kindle list )
So the conversion ( and it's not complete ) started when I downloaded the Kindle App to my IPhone, IPad and Mac . This lovely software meant that even when away from home, or at the office , I could read my current book . They all synced , I never lost my place, and I never left my book at home as it did not matter the book was always with me . It's also meant I could read a book flat on a table, which means that you can read easily whilst having lunch, a coffee or crucially for me whilst feeding a baby. But the IPad is to loverly ,and just to big to be a perfect Ereader, the iPhone is to small to read large amounts of text, and the battery will die if you read all day.
And I would have left it at that, but decided that my wife would also see the benefits, but alas she did not see the point. I tried to explain the advantages to her , but she went all "evangelical" so gave me the gift back.
And thus my love affair was cemented, from the betrayal of a gift rebutted came a love affair which has lasted more than just the summer.
Before we get the actual device I must comment on whisper sync, which is the software Kindle/Amazon use to sync both books you have purchased, archived or bookmarked.It's flawless, and it still amazes me that when I grab my iPad and go to the kindle App , it's knows where I am next time I pick up the Kindle.
The Kindle itself just works , the battery has lasted well over one month.The screen is as near to paper as ...well paper . Its light , easy to hold , easy to read flat on a desk , fits in a coat pocket , has excellent contrast and is like a loverly light book. It also withstands baby sick , throw porridge and being chucked across the room, it's also impossible to eat or tare.
My only tiny critique is the keyboard ...it's crap. But then a touch screen would double the price, and like my iPad would be constantly covered in grubby finger marks , and you rarely have to use the keyboard apart to purchase books .You could of course use your computer,iPhone,iPad or Android to purchase , thus loosing the keyboard completely ( which is what they should do on the next version , bigger screen , no keyboard.
I love the fact that you can use buttons on either side to scroll forward, I wish you could however lock them off as sometimes as you do tap them accidentally when you pick up the unit.
Something which may also be of use is the fact that you email PDF's to the kindle, which is excellent if you have long boring work related documents to read through , it's less tiring that using your iPad or laptop , and safer on the train ( a nicked iPad or laptop is worth a lot more than a locked kindle) .
So the technical specs are easily available so won't bore you with them ( I can't believe you got this far)
In summary. I still buy books ( second hand ) but actually prefer to read on my Kindle. So presently I am semi analogue in a digital world , and i raise a pint of bitter , read a CD sleeve note , and read George Orwell on my Kindle...long live Albion.
The problem with writing a review on any GPS devices at the moment is that features and prices seem to increase and decrease at a daily rate, not wishing to sound like my Granddad but when I first purchased a GPS for hill walking (obviously I use my legs for the majority of the assent and descent) it was very basic and gave coordinates and a breadcrumb trial on a little screen. It also used a set of batteries every time I went out, so was costly, not as costly as say scrambling a Sea king out from RAF Lossimouth to collect you in your sandals as you attempt to scale Ben Nevis and then realise that the words "highest Mountain in the UK" are a reality and not a clever marketing ploy by the Brave Heart obsessed Scottish tourism board. For the last time William Wallis could not have had a blue dye on his face...
So GPS has come a long way in a short time, the majority of handheld ones come with lovely overlaid maps at the least, and some are now colour, and can be used in the car. Comparing them to the Foretrex 201 is therefore very unfair as the wrist mounted GPS has a very basic list of capabilities, and relies more on its long battery life and features which are aimed out your outdoor rugged types, you know the sort all jutting square chins and Berghaus, the same square jawed guy will also be wearing the newer versions called the forerunner 205 or 305. The fortrex is also available as a basic version with batteries (called the fortrex 101) and also versions called Forerunner 101 and 201 which have some very nifty training software (PC only mind so I avoided that as I am a confirmed Mac guy) The operation and style is the same on all these models.
So down the overview: The unit is water proof, not diving but certainly in the sea or river for a couple of minutes. The design is rugged and all the buttons are covered in a button covers, thus adding to the military/mission impossible feel of the unit. The Oversize of the unit does preclude its use as a normal watch (unless you want to look like a bit of a tool that is) but it is much smaller than the run of the mill standard hand held units, and does fit securely on the wrist without loosing satellite coverage, its about twice the size of a G Shock. Because this unit is rechargeable there are no battery covers to worry about, and in power saving mode the unit will run for a good 4 days of hill walking use.
So how about the actual usage: It takes about 1 minute to lock on to enough satellites to give you a fix, which is as good as the one in my car. Once you have a lock you are confronted with a very clear backlit display, firstly giving accuracy and signal strength and then scrolling through, firstly to a bread crumble trail which in a time honoured tradition (how many fairy tales would have ended to quickly if Hansel and Grettle had a Garmin on then) tells you where you have been and how to get back to were you started, then a configurable screen which can show either 4 measurements or one large measurements, these are:
Trip Odom meter
Elevation (strangely on beaches thus measurement reads minus 2-4 meters, and you don't get much more sea level than a beach}
Other screens include waypoints (for those special places], Routes (for getting to those special places]
The Memory also seems more than large enough and I have routes saved from at least 5 months ago. The Units comes with a charger, wrist strap and large instruction book (although if you have used a Garmin before it will all seem familiar enough)
So why do I have one, and who else would want one. Well I use it for Kite Buggying as a really good way of finding out my top speeds and distances covered on a session, as well as using it as a Map compliment when I go hill walking. I also sometimes wear it around the garden, as I do get confused. I suppose any outdoor activity such as cycling, horse riding walking, running where the likelihood of water or impact damage is high would benefit from this rather than a pocket or pouch mounted GPS.
Thus far the unit has been in the sea on numerous occasions and has several severe impacts (fell off bike and fractured elbow, and came out of kite buggy at 40 mph) and is unscathed. If you are going to get one ignore all the stuff that people tell you about not being able to use GPS bought in the USA in Europe, its rubbish, and ignoring this advice saved me £80.00 as I got one off an US company for £75.00 including postage.
The technical bit is scabbed from the website:
. GPS accuracy: 15 meters or less in normal GPS mode, 3 meters or less when WAAS-enabled
0. Racing timers: Configurable start sequence, alert tones and large-number digital readout
0. Trip computer: Trip distance, trip timer, plus essential navigation data
0. Waterproof: IEC 60529 IPX-7 standards (submersible in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes)
0. Waypoints and routes: 500 waypoints with graphic identification; 20 reversible routes
0. Track log: 10,000 track points, TracBack technology and 10 saved tracks
0. Display: 100x60-pixel monochrome display with backlighting (display size: 36mmx23mm)
0. Battery life: 15 hours (typical use), rechargeable lithium battery
0. Lightweight design: 2.75 oz.
Richard Herring is exactly the same age as me, and like me he struggles with his weight, and we have both done filthy things to Julia Swahla , admittedly only one of has down this outside our imagination.That's really were our simiiaraties end. This book charts his early days in Cheddar ( they don't actually make cheese there you know ) The book deals with Richard stumbling towards 40, and then beyond, and realising that he has yet to grow up. This is done in a non linear way by using such things as marking various events in his life such as fights , masterbation and Emma Kennedy.
There are plenty of laughs and of course Mr Herrings self absorbed character makes a appearance, as well as the bitterness that he is not on the TV ( unlike His erstwhile partner Stewart Lee who is on actual Tv ) . I found the insight in to Richards apparent sadness touching and very similar to my own decent in to fun filled alcohol excess.
On the whole I enjoyed this book throughly, it was of course funny , but also strangely touching , and a excellent read , I guess that you would need to at least like Mr Herring , but maybe not. If you want to get inside the head of the messed up 40 something, then this maybe your way in ....or you could drop me a email ( I am sadly no longer Available Julia )
So before I begin what will almost certain be quite a long rant I had better let you know that I worship in the church of VW. Admittedly I do not accept the ones with engines in the front, and there is quite a gap in the VW museum from 1938 until 1945, but all that aside, VW were one of the greatest innovators in the car industry. I say were in the past tense as the VW Audi Seat Skoda soup which makes up the modern VW group seems to make similar cars which have varying versions of adequacy.
And if you are one of those that think that Clarkson is relevant , and that 0-60 really matters , then maybe you had better just take yourself and your Daily Mail off to your sky plus enabled TV and watch reruns of Top Gear until snow is a memory and the last Polar Bear drowns. Or maybe you are interested in the torque settings on the overdrive polarity interface , again probably not the review for you , why not try www.vw/boringdatathatstrangeuncleslike.com. This is really about owning VW Passat , its rather like getting your partners ex-boyfriends to sit you down and tell you all about the things she will not do , and the fact that she has 3 nipples ( one of them hairy ) and that when she says she had a few brushes with the Police , she actually means 3 counts of GBH , 2 intent to supply and a serious firearms offence.
So lets get the good things out the way first ; nothing has actually snapped of yet, no bend pedals,no jammed cd's and no squeaks or rattles(apart from the engine) and the cup holders. Those of you who have read my review on the Audi A4 will know that I like cup holders, and particularly more than one , and of a quality which will hold your Soya Lata with a sprinkle of nutmeg and 1.5 sugars . So the Passat has one really strong on in the dash , 2 in the massive centre console , 2 in the back and in the doors 2 holders for 2 litre water bottles. So whilst we are on a theme lets get the inside of the car done over first.
The room inside is excellent, so in the front and for rear seat passengers. The seats are comfortable, they seem to be adjustable in just about every direction , they do exactly what seats do, which is provide a excellent alternative to standing. So on first view the Passat estate is a really large drinks holder.
So lets start with the looks ....its boring, and its an estate . Vw try with a bit of mock chrome at the front , but it really is a very tired and boring looking shape. If you ever buy one you need to get some stickers in it quick , if you don't then you could be wandering around Sainsburies along with all the sales people, part time funeral directors and geography teachers looking for your Passat , it does not just look like other modern passats , it looks like passats from the last 20 years, and worse still like the Skoda's, Audis and BMW's and every other manufactures that knock out these identikit CAD designed boxes . So it's boring to look at, but that's a subjective opinion and some people like the anonymity of the design
So on to the interior , i have already mentioned the excellent cup holder to person ratio ( there is also one in the back but that snapped off when our 3 year jammed a Teddy in the cup hole) . The boot is "trip to Ikea huge" it's big enough for a fat lad to sleep in when there tent leaks on a I'll advised camping trip to Wales ( it was in-between camper vans, so after the air-cooled and before the t25. 1.6 tdi, i told you I loved them ). There is a really poor boot cover venetian, and quite often when you pull it over your ikea furniture, or valuable it opens when you are driving, and makes quite a clunk. I have given using it as i rarely ever go up North, so the chances of the car being robbed are quite low. There is also a kind of second boot over the spare wheel , which is really useful for dirty walking boots , dirty clothes or flat bread storage. The boot also has a 12v supply which is handy for popping a freezer box in or if you were ever abducted , then forced in to the boot and needed charge your mobile or maybe play your gameboy. I have gone on about the boot for a while, and thats because its a really good feature, and its not hard to shine in such a pile of magnolia , the boot really is the highpoint of the car. So onwards to the rear of the car , where agin you find seats which again offer a good alternative to standing, but not quite as comfortably. Rear leg room is excellent ,and is again a useful 12v supply and vents for the rear seat passengers, a large arm rest site in the middle, and apart from holding Coffee or bear fur it's pretty rubbish.It opens up to revel a a compartment which is only really good for holding very small books, and the not many of them.
So now to the driver and passenger area , ,which continues in the same dull style , more black plastic with crappy silver edging , it all works , and its all Ok , but nothing sparkles as being a great bit of design. The driving position is ok, the comfort is adequate, and the various cubby holes are ok. The stereo is fine, but again no longwave so unless you want to spend £700 on the dab version there will be no test match special, and as ever on this version there is no Ipod connector ( later versions have a jack plug, but it's not very good as it's in the central box thing that sits in-between you on the front seat passenger , and reminds you the days when this was there as a way of hiding the transmission tunnel. )
All the controls feel positive, the cruise control is excellent,and all the knobs and things to push are positive and feel like they will last a while. All the human control interfaces are just dandy, but all of this adequacy is ruined by one massive horrible feature which will stop me ever wanting one again....
The electronic hand break.
When humans find the perfect design it may change shape of the generations, and sometimes we find a new way of doing something fundamental, a good example of this would be the Mousetrap, the can opener and of course the hand break . You stop your car, and you pull on the hand break, it's been this way for years , its works , it's safe , it's reliable , it's a bit of throwback and yes its and mechanical.So VW decide that they will put a switch in the dash , next the vents , and then have a complex system of having to push various pedals before you can pull away. This is then made worse by the fact that if you are on a incline, then you can pull away without actually pressing the button. Its confusing, and then the switch start sot malfunction (mine and a colleagues) and it does not come on when you press the button. Its such a great system that NO other VW's that i borrow have them in. Its the single biggest reason i want rid of this(and missing test match special on LW) boring example of adequacy.
So as well as the hand break button failure what else has gone wrong 80 000 in 2.5 years. Well the engine fell out ! All the mountings snapped and the engine twisted in the engine bay causing some 2.5 k's worth of damage .It was of course covered under warranty, but in my head the engine and gearbox repairs have make the car that little bit noisier. Then at 95K the clutch failed, this led to a gearbox fault at 100K . The repair went badly and at 114k the gearbox failed again. I am counting the days until the heap gets dragged away to be a unreliale taxi in Birmingham.
MPG is a good 45-50 , acceleration is fine as is the general ride and handling of Aslam ( we call it that as it's like a wardroom on wheels ) .
So on reflection this car is adequate, in a age when for 22k you expect a lot more than adequacy. Would i buy one myself NO , would i recommend you buy one NO , not unless you want to do funerals at the weekend , and if that engine had fallen out whilst on the motorway it may be your own.
ust as a added the note , out of my colleagues mine has been the most reliable, with Turbos and wheel bearings being the biggest failure on the list thus far.
Audi A Bore
Being a company car driver often slants the way you review a car, the assumption is always that its free and so why should you complain about getting to drive what in many peoples eyes is a "flash motor". But you could also look on it as a extreme ageing test, 40000 miles on one year certainly starts to show the Skoda credentials hidden below the Audi Badge, and this accelerated ageing process also finds the cracks that the BoTox of self ownership hides. If you spent £24000 on your own car you would practise a process called positive reinforcement, it's the marketing equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting LalA LA I cant hear you, after all if it was your money you would try and find the good things about the Audi . I on the other hand have been spared these shackles of self-delusion, and that's why this review is so horrible to Audi.
So lets get the good things out the way first , this model Is fast and it holds the road rather well, it's a high end go-kart , before I drove the Audi Diesel I always assumed that only 3 people drove diesel, Gypsies , Farmers and all of France . They were dirty, Slow and clattery and so were the cars they drove . But this thing is quite and fast , and no longer do simple village children run up to you and try to buy a Ice cream off you when you stop at the lights. It also looks good for an estate , or should I say Avant, its poised to drive rather than carry a coffin. Its also a easy car to drive, the controls are all logical ( that's because there are not many ) the gear change is positive and all the pedals are well positioned, it's a car designed to be driven, but not very comfortably. The MPG is astonishing, and I can get what equates to 50 Mpg if you drive it like a Vicar , the problem is the A4 likes to be driven hard and fast rather like Vicars wives, but even when you are thrashing around like MK2 Escort on a bleak northern estate with your techno hard house banging out from your tinted windows and grounding out on every speed bump , you still get 40 mpg + . Another positive feature, and one which probably reflects on my own sad existence is the doors also make a lovely clonk sound, the noise which other countries vehicles don't seem to make , and the internal build quality is pretty good. It all feels solid and most importantly reliable . Its your Uncle Craig, he plays cricket , he is kind and he has a square jaw , the problem is Uncle Craig drinks a lot and one Christmas he peed himself , and that's what the Audi A4 Avant has done to me its let me down and now all its minor points are building up , uncle Craig is going to get punched.
So lets start with the practicality of the car....Audi call it an Avant because frankly if they called it an estate they would be sued , the boot is tiny . When you look at the actual width of the car its all wheel arches and lowness , hence the internal room feels like a much smaller car , more of a Golf than a large estate , sorry Avant. This cramped layout extents through the whole car, there are no clever pockets or under seat storage, no deep side pockets and laughably only ONE cup holder. How on earth are you supposed to have a nice Latte with your passenger , one of you will have to risk inner thigh burns, and that is not good. The Low door and roof line also pose a problem, as every time you get in you smack your head on the top of the door opening, and once seated you are lower than a X factor winners credibility , which if I was 19 would be a good thing, but for somebody who has come to realise that driving like a arse just gets you killed , and sitting over hard suspension 4 inches off the road is just not comfortable it is just a bore. And that's the main problem with this car , its been designed by a kid off an estate or should I say Avant who's criteria seems to be " lets have wide wheels, low hard suspension and then let me sit really close to the ground , and make it like a reverse tardis , really big on the outside but tiny like a Nissan Micra on the inside " . As with many German cars everything is Extra, this model is fitted with the S Line kit , which basically means it's a bit quicker and has even more uncomfortable seats , which in turn mean you hit your head even more often on the way in and out. It comes with a good CD/Tuner , but no Ipod interface, no multi disc , no wma/MP3 capacity and shockingly NO DAB radio , do the Germans still think luxury means a bit of pretend carbon fibre and a leather steering wheel ? I hired a Toyota Avago in Holland, which featured all of the above as standard on a car, which felt and looked like it had been made from recycled Chinese takeaway tubs and cost the same as a set of tyres on the Audi A4 ( well almost ).
Sorry to harp on about the internal room, but it's a major bug bear , this is on the surface a large car, but its tiny inside , the boot space is taken u by a massive spare wheel ( no space savers here ) and side pockets which house nothing , along with various chrome hooks all of which rob you of much needed load space . This coupled which the steep angle of the rear hatch means that its barley big enough for a weekly family shop , as for a camping weekend , well near impossible. Since first writing the review we have had a baby , and it is actually not possible to get a standard Quinny 3 wheeled buggy in the boot as well as all the other things babies seem to need.
There seem to be airbags every where, I am not to sure how many as I have yet to crash it, the majority of injuries seem to be getting in and out of the dam thing , maybe there should be on the roof contour to stop you hurting yourself. Some of the other safety features do work well the traction control stops you over egging the pudding , the ABS is wipe your face off the screen good , and the car feels safe , even through you are hugging the ground. The car also has a nice speed warning indicator, which beeps when you hit a preconfigured speed , this would be excellent apart form the fact that you have to actually put your arm through the steering wheel to use it, and you have to set it whilst the car is moving , dumb design. Another safety feature is the CD replacement stopper , I am not sure this is deliberate, but Audi have out NO storage for CDs making it impossible to carry more than one , and thus impossible to try to change it whilst driving.
As well as the subjective anti Audi stance the following have been replaced/repaired under warranty in the first 30 000 miles ( 13 months ) Rear wheel bearing and hub, front wheel bearing , glove box ( jammed ) and CD player malfunctioning. This has now happend agan , at 65000 miles , the rear bearings are getting louder than my constant moans about the Car. The CD player has also now decied to Jam again, and the 3rd glove box has also stopped functioning. And as i count the days down on the lease the waterpump failed, and the cupholder ( overstressed as there is only one ) snapped spilling the contents of the cup all over my leg . I am literally desperate to see the back of this overpriced status symbol of the 80's, shoulder pads died, i only wish the brands and designs of the 80's would also disappear .
In hindsight I wish I had actually test-driven the Audi A4 for more than 20 minutes, and would heartily recommend that if you want one to try it on a long drive, sure its fun through the bends but were is your beach gear going to go, and how the hell are you going to get a pushchair in the boot. The AUDI looks to be designed in another age, an age when leather meant quality and the IPOd did not exist, I bet Audi are still wondering is the CD will take over from the tape as the mainstay of in car entertainment.
Audi A4 , more like AWdi ( that's me hitting my head ) A bore.
The problem with all Apple products (excluding the I pod and Ipads ) is that they are and still remain a cult. It's a club, a minority, and a religion. Like all religious types Apple users have that look in there eyes, you know the one, its that vacant look of the brain washed Christian who knocks on your door and tries to get you to follow a carpenter from Nazareth, or the sparkling eyes of a Buddhist Monk, the ones that look like Moby. Apple computer users have been on the road to Damascus and like St Paul have chosen the path to enlightenment, or no more Ctl Alt Del moments that so invade your time with a windows PC. But as well as the near perfect Imac and Mac Mini ,Apple also make things that actually fit more than Mac's, the Mighty Mouse and the Wireless Keyboard are 2 of them, and so now I have offended the Christian readers (come on it takes more than a Punk loving geek from Wiltshire to knock your faith) I will look at why you should consider the Apple Wireless keyboard for both Imacs and even Windows PC's and of course Ipads
Apple equipment is always expensive, I mean stupidly so. And this in a way makes it a bit exclusive, not in a naff designer label way, but in a high-end quality gear, weird fish kind of way. There is something good about being overcharged for something, which you know is the best quality it can be.
The first thing you notice when you get it home is the weight of it, its really heavy, like laptop heavy. I want you to try an experiment for me ....try moving your keyboard with your little finger, I bet it slid along your desk like Torville and Dean, the Mac keyboard stays put. I also bet that some of you find bits of rubber feet on your desk? They fell off your £10.00 keyboard, the Apple ones stay on better than baby sick clings to your clothes. This weight also means that you can type happily with the board on your knees, which is handy if you are in the habit of trying to use a laptop at the same time as your PC and then run out of room on your desk.
The keys feel solid, but the only fault is that they feel a little sharp on the edges, and the lack of wrist support is also a problem for long term users, the keyboard has no outer edges and is only as big as the actual keys, i.e. it feels smaller than a standard keyboard (but the spacing are the same I have checked). Another slight flaw is that there is no adjustable height on the keyboard, you have it as it comes, or frankly tough.
If you use this board with a windows PC you will notice a few extra keys which are of no use to you, such as the apple launch key, don't worry about them they mean you no harm, and they be can configured to act as anything you want, you could even programme them to run the ctrl alt del function you windows fools love to use so much.
But the best bit is the wireless functionality, you may believe that the keyboard cable did not get in the way, and you are wrong. It's the difference between been handcuffed to a radiator in the Middle East and being allowed to run around free in the Avebury. The cable on a keyboard really does get in the way, and once its gone you will not go back. The fact that this a Bluetooth keyboard also means that it set up very quickly (took 2 mins on the Mac and about 3 mins on the Windows laptop (its work, they make me use it ) . The range is fantastic; I am actually typing this from another room, which is 5 metres away, that's why you can't blame me for offending anybody. I have moved back in to the room now and there is no input delay regardless of distance.
The fact that its Bluetooth means of course that you need it built in (Imac do now) or get you a £10.00 dongle off Ebay, either way it works perfectly. It even works with my daughters netbook, Iphone and Ipad.
On balance The Apple keyboard blends form and function, as a piece of art it's a classic, as a keyboard its impressive, and that's the apple difference, why make things ugly when they can be beautiful and work well, and if a little functionality is lost due to the Art then so be it.