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Generation Kill is a true telling of the Iraq war by an embedded reported, Evan Wright (who has previously written for Rolling Stone magazine), who travelled with the Unites States First Recon Marines as they spearheaded the invasion in the lands of Saddam Hussein.
I chose to read this book after watching the superb HBO mini series made from this book. I felt that this book could tell a real story that would hopefully be less biased than those written by the soldiers themselves. I wasn't disappointed, Evan Wright is able to give insights of everyone from the platoon from top down. As a reporter he was able to talk with this people in isolation and get their points of view and reactions whilst remaining at the sharp end and reporting first hand the dangers of invading a country in a lightly armoured Humvee.
So at the beginning of the war, First Recon marines, plus a reporter, travel as the foremost penetration force. The marines themselves don't know that their mission is to be a 'blitzkrieg', covering as much ground as possible as they head to Baghdad. This plan is intended to confuse the enemy and force them to react to this fast force just as the heavier armoured divisions roll in behind to, put bluntly, wipe them out and secure the land. This method is revolutionary and quite different to the Recons modus operandi of using stealth and simply observing as a reconnaissance team should.
What is good about this book is that it works almost like a diary as a day to day telling of the men's reaction to war. If I hadn't have read it here, I still would not believe that all soldiers go through these emotions and reactions. They are sometimes happy to kill and other times their actions its causes the men to have sleepless nights and to question the morality of their mission.
Another interesting insight is the difference between these Recon Marines skill compared to the reserves, the regular people who are part time soldiers. Wright records the cowardice and unprofessionalism of these men who treat war as a fun time to get some kills but are otherwise unprepared for realities of combat.
I book gave me a fantastic insight into these elite and reminded me that they too are human. I can't promise you will like it, but if want to learn more, the book is there (or the mini series if you prefer watching over reading).
The Netgear GS105 is a small network switch that is used to connect multiple computers together. A major bonus of this model is that it supports gigabit transfer speeds allowing faster communications between the computers, more on this later.
It comes in a rather large cardboard box for the size of the switch and is supplied with a power connection and a cd with instructions which are not needed as I will also explain. Take the switch out of the plastic protective bag and you can feel it's cool-to-the-touch metal casing, this feels like quality metal, not some thin sheet metal and is coloured a dark blue. The metal casing is supposed to help combat interference from other electromagnetic signals nearby, such as your wifi and power cables to other equipment, whether this is true or not I don't know how to check. The metal casing does help with heat dissipation as it does run warm, but never hot, with a few small vents on either side of the case helping to keep it like that.
I haven't mentioned the size yet this I would describe as two decks of cards side by side. That isn't entirely true but close enough I would say. The metal casing gives this a decent weighted feel and won't flop about when plugged up fully with cables and makes it an easily concealable device that won't shift and move if cables are tugged on accidentally. What doesn't lend itself too well for the home is that the power connector is on the back of the switch and the ports for the network cables are on the front. To overcome this, I simply turn it round 90 degrees so front and back are now the left side and right side. This does mean you don't see the the LED lights on the 'front' anymore but then that has the benefit of not lighting up whichever room with green blinking lights you place the switch in.
Why did I buy this switch? Originally all my computers are connected through my wireless router, this is fine, but with my external network hard drive, it was starting to take too long to transfer large files from computer to computer, and from the external hard drive to computer. As an example, I have a lot of files mostly photos and videos I have taken over the years and this came to 3TB or so, I tried to back it all up to the external hard drive and Windows was quoting a transfer time of over seven continuous days. No way was I waiting for that to happen. With my non-wireless computers plugged in along with the hard drive, the transfer time has dropped to just over seven hours. Smashing.
For around £25 this is not the cheapest all metal 5 port gigabit switch, TP-Link do a similar one for under £20, but I had previously used the older non gigabit version of the switch reliable for years so I was willing to pay that little extra for the peace of mind. This switch will be my first choice for recommendations to others and I am happy customer. Five stars all the way.
Logitech S-120 speakers is a pair of budget speakers know as 2.0, where there are two satellite speakers and zero subwoofers and are rated as 2.3 watts, this doesn't mean much to me but I will go on to explain my sound and volume experience. These can be bought for around £12 or cheaper if you shop wiser.
The speaker set is all black plastic with a metal grill over the speaker part itself, through which you can just make out the single speaker in each. On the right facing speaker, there is a simple round knob which acts as a volume control by rotating it and a power switch by turning it down completely. Just below that is a 3.5mm jack if you want to plug in a set of headphones, and on the front below the grill is a ludicrously bright amber power light. The speakers are light but remain stable standing on the desk, partly thanks to three rubber feet on the bottom of each of the speakers.
These speakers connect to your TV, music player, computer, whatever using a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, colour coded green, they also need a power source because they are powered with a mains plug rather than USB.
I think by using the mains power, Logitech have been able to make these speakers more powerful than a USB powered equivalent. These are used in a small office environment and can be heard clearly at around a quarter volume. Continue cranking up the sound and these are easily loud enough to be annoying to others, unless of course you are player great music. From a cheap set of speakers, at the loudest volumes to start causing a reverberating sound from the casing but this is all to be expected.
Also to be expected from something so simple, is a lack of warm sound, these speakers won't give you the deep bass and immersive sound to accompany hollywood blockbusters, but then at this price, they should be used as a budget set for your desktop, the necessity for a nearby plug socket makes it less suitable for laptops though.
So this is a cheap set of speakers with volume loud enough to annoy others around you but otherwise shows unbeatable value. I definitely would buy these again.
Take a look on your PC and see how many photos, home videos and other recordings you have. Many of these I imagine are the only copies you have. Now, although rare, the hard drive these files are stored on can fail and eventually will. You have now lost all of these memories. This loss can be mitigated by having a backup copy of your files on a separate hard drive. This reduces the chances of a total loss because for both hard drives to fail at the same time is doubly rare.
Synology has the Disk Station DS212J suitable to the task of have a separate store of files. It comes in a simple white plastic housing and small slither of dark grey accenting the front where the LED lights and power switch are. The side panels have the Synology logo cut into the side to provide air flow to the hard drives inside and round the back is a small fan that draws air through these vents and exhaust through the back.
Installing the hard drives is a simple process, you will need to supply your own and Synology have a list of recommended drives on their website for maximum compatibility. The plastic case splits vertically and slides apart after removing two holding screws on the back, the hard drives will then easily slot into the rack are are secured in place with four screws each. With that complete, slide the other half of the casing back on and secure with the two screws. Connect the power supply and then connect the DS212J to your router. Download and install, also on the included CD, the software which makes connection to your box a breeze and you are close to completion.
The DS212J, like all Synology products is managed with its own web browser based software which is incredibly easy to navigate. I only use it to backup my files, so I set the box up to have the two hard drives mirror each other, this means the box will contain two hard drives each with a copy all the files in case one of them lets go. There are other options such as having to hard drives merge together as one larger drive. These options are all called RAID versions and Synology also have their own hybrid version and all is explained in the setup and help portion of the software.
This only scratches the surface of what this can offer. Delve a little into the applications built in and available to download and you will find ways to stream your music, videos, itunes across your network onto any connected device, maybe use it to share photos to your TV. You can also set up your home security cameras and your own 'cloud' so that you can access your files from anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection. Or simply as I do have it backup certain files and folders.
So the Synology Disk Station DS212J certainly is a capable device. How does it stand physically? This sits on the desk next to the main computer in the house on its little rubber feet. Whenever a connected device accesses the network, the DS212J will wake from sleep mode to a quite noticeable hum as the disks and fan spin up to speed. You will notice this, I think the sound is amplified by the table though, so maybe place it on a more solid base, like a phone book. When waking up, it will take 10 seconds for the drives to be active and the files accessible but this isn't a problem as I would rather the drive sleeps when not in use to save on the electricity bills.
The DS212J is not really what I would call cheap and you will also have to your own hard drives, but having a backup of precious files makes up for it in peace of mind. The added features will should also sweeten the deal as you find you can now share and stream files without having to leave a PC on. Five stars all day long.
Locked on continues the long standing Tom Clancy series of Jack Ryan, following on chronologically from his previous novel, Dead or Alive. It is still possible to read this book as is because characters and situations are all given brief introductions as and when they make their appearances but I would recommend reading this as part of the series. That way you have deep background information on the recurring characters and situations and so get better involved with the story instead of trying to remember individuals.
The story is a direct follow on to Dead or Alive and centers on Jack Ryan Jr and his work with The Campus, an off the books agency working to thwart non-American terrorism with no oversight from the Government. The Government here is headed by President Ed Kealty, who is portrayed as incompetent and mentions his drive to reduce the ability of the CIA and tackle terrorism instead with drones, killing first and then asking questions later.
The Jack Ryan Jr story arc follows him and his colleagues at The Campus as they try to figure out and stop a rogue Pakistani General Riaz Rehan as he allies himself with Dagestani terrorists in stealing nuclear bombs with plans to set them off with plans to destabilise the India-Pakistan political situation and revenge against Russian respectively.
At the same time, Jack Ryan Sr has decided to challenge Ed Kealty for the next presidency as he can no longer stand by and watch Kealty ruin the foreign policy Ryan Sr had previously implemented. One of Kealty's financial backers, billionaire Paul Laska wants to discredit Ryan Sr's campaign by linking him to John Clark, an ex-CIA agent now working with The Campus, and a murder committed in the past. This forces Clark to go alone around the world to find who is setting him up and deal with them, all the while trying to protect the secrecy of The Campus and distancing himself from Jack Ryan Sr.
The story threads don't stop there, we are also introduced to Melanie Kraft, a former CIA analyst now working for a different arm of the Government, who begins dating Jack Ryan Jr. We later find out there are other motives for her relationship with Ryan Jr, as she makes calls to elements in Kealty's administration with details of her investigation into The Campus.
Tom Clancy is able to keep all the stories flowing without causing any confusion between them. He keeps to his ability of keeping detailed insights into methods of investigation and intricate details of fieldwork action. As always, the action builds in crescendo and the bulk of this takes place in the final fifth of the book with some nice surprises along the way for those who have read the rest of the Ryan Universe. I was not too impressed with the seemingly rushed endings though, these appeared abrupt, concluding story arcs in one or two paragraphs after giving so much detail in the rest of the book before finally leaving a tasty cliffhanger to entice you into the next novel. With that, this is a good offering from Tom Clancy and is much better than his previous book Dead or Alive, I would happily read this again and again.
When you buy a large DSLR type camera you can expect it to come with a neck strap in the box from which to hang your camera. This strap is often obviously branded and made of a thin nylon weave similar to straps on a holdall and the construction means it will slowly cut into your neck causing discomfort and can also mark you out as an obvious target for theft or muggings. Granted, the latter is usually less of an issue but maybe you don't like the somewhat gaudy colouring or logos.
With my camera, I found that the free strap to be uncomfortable when it was worn around the neck, as mentioned already, the thin cross section made of coarse nylon would slowly cut into the back of my neck and the thin rubberised coating would build sweat and cause further discomfort.
The Black Rapid RS-4 Classic strap has a similar nylon strap material to the free straps, but it also has a large padded shoulder strap which is fixed onto the strapping so it won't move position from the shoulder or neck. More on that later. The padded part is initially very stiff, work to make it more pliable and you notice the outer part is made of military style rip stop fabric and the bottom is a soft woven nylon mesh which is both soft and breathable preventing sweat build up when worn. The large size also helps to distribute the weight of the camera over a larger area for better comfort.
The strap connects to your camera on the tripod socket using a metal anchor which screws into the tripod mount, to this you clip in the metal locking carabiner which is attached to the strap. When worn over the head and shoulder, the camera will rest on your hip within easy reach of your hand.
The strap also has two small clips which you position around the carabiner so that when you let go of your camera, the clips pull the strap back round the body so that the shoulder pad rests back to where you originally set it. This means the strap will always be in the correct position and you will always have the soft pad against your neck.
Another small benefit is the small zippered pocket on the pad, it is small but can fit a memory card or similar sized accessory for easy access. I have in it a small microfibre cloth for cleaning duties.
Having your camera hang from just the tripod mount is initially very unsettling, you will constantly be worried that if that loosens, your (expensive) camera will meet the floor fast. You can always put some Loctite on the screw thread to secure it but that would mean you wouldn't be able to use a tripod. What I periodically do is reach down and give a tightening twist to ensure it is locked on securely. Having said that it has never been anything but screwed on tight.
If you want a comfortable strap for your DSLR which will allow easy access to your camera, I can heartily recommend the Black rapid RS-4 Classic strap. It will take a little getting used to having a camera hanging from its tripod mount but it is indeed secure and eventually you will trust the connection and love the natural ergonomics of this strap.
So you do a lot of daily printing, maybe you need a printer to be shared in a small or home office or maybe you need to move to a network printer where it can be shared by everyone connected to the same network. A regular desktop inkjet printer would no longer be a capable solution. You need to step up into the league of laser printers which are designed to print large volumes of documents quickly, easy to share on a network and simple to maintain.
The HP Laserjet P2055dn is one such device. For a laser printer it is of a compact size, quoted around 37x37x27cm and comes in a smart light grey, deep bluey/grey hybrid with paper tray which holds 250 sheets of paper at a time. On the top of the printer is a very useful but small LCD screen which is used to configure the setup, troubleshoot any problems or getting status details such as usage and current settings.
This little printer goes from rest to first page printed in around five seconds so there is practically no wait, and when printing multiple pages it is fast in action, 33 pages a minute so expect a page every two seconds. This printer is also capable of printing double sided pages for those that need it.
Moving onto ink, for these laser printers, what you buy instead is a toner cartridge. These like regular cartridges are not cheap, but a toner will give you more printed pages at a lower cost per page. On average I would expect 2500 pages before the toner needs to be replaced.
The printer does make a small racket when printing sounding like a whirl of multiple fans than a mechanical chug of an inkjet printer. Setup is simple, one cable for power and the other to your network hub or switch. I have used this solely with Windows 7 computers and the add a printer wizard always finds the printer and will automatically download and install any drivers needed. Lastly, this printer is meant to be left on even though it has a power switch. To save power, it will enter a sleep mode to save energy consumption and as mentioned will wake up quickly when called upon.
Even considering to buy this lens will mean that you want to take your photography to levels comparable to professionals and would also mean this review will help to you over the edge in choosing to buy the Canon 70-200 2.8 IS II.
The lens is from Canon's range of professional 'L' series and as such comes in a creamy white colour for the body with a thin red ring near the front of the lens. The lens has two large black rubber rings used to control the zoom and focus and four small switches on the side to control the image stabilisation, the type of image stabilisation you want a manual focus switch and one to control the distance you want to focus. Also a part of the lens is a tripod collar, this is a rotatable, removable ring with a screw mount you can attach to a tripod and is there for a better balance when mounted.
Two things will strike you when you get hands on with this lens, the first is that this large.It is a cylinder about 20 cm long and 8 cm wide made larger when you attach the tripod collar on and screw on the included lens hood. The second is then the weight of the thing, it comes in around 1.5 KG and boy do you feel it when you start using it. I consider myself fit and healthy but could feel my arms starting to shake after 10 minutes of using this lens on my camera. Both of these you will have to learn to live with and eventually you should get used to them and adapt yourself to handle this lens so you neither look stupid or have bodybuilder arms.
Onto the picture quality, this lens has large aperture throughout the zooms range and is one of the reasons for the high cost. When taking photos at this setting, there is obvious darkening in the corners of the images and this will have to be corrected when you load the photos on your computer. At smaller apertures, this no longer becomes a problem. When photos taken with this lens are inspected at 100%, you can see they will be pin sharp, everything you want to be in focus will be clearly defined and although I have not printed any photos taken with this lens yet, I feel that A3 prints should be no problem and the prints will be spectacular at that size.
As mentioned, this lens is very heavy but thankfully, it has image stabilisation. I would say that this is a no brainer and you will require the stabilisation when taking pictures for long periods of time or taking photos at the longer end of the zoom. This stabilisation also has an effect on your camera and will reduce your battery life at a much quicker rate. You can feel a the slight internal movements as it works to make your photos stable.
I have used this lens for taking photos of sport inside gyms where a fast motion in dim light let the capabilities of the lens shine, portrait photos where the large aperture and longer range give buttery smooth background blur to isolate your subject and for taking photos of the night sky where the range and quality means I can see Saturn and some of it's moons.
There is a reason this lens is in every professional photographer's camera bag, it mixes great photo quality, usability, build quality and weather proofing but will come at a cost. This lens is a clear step up if you want to become more serious in your photography, if you can stomach the cost and then get over the usual buyer's remorse you will love what this lens can do and end up taking more photos and unleashing a more creative side.
Affectionately known as the nifty two fifty, this is Canon's entry level telephoto zoom lens for Canon's crop sensor camera bodies providing the possibility of reaching further into the distance when you are unable to walk closer yourself.
The plain black plastic build is highlighted with silver accents with about half the length taken up by the rubberised zoom ring. This has a smooth rotation and its large size makes it easy to reach for and control the zoom you require. A great addition to this lens is the larger zoom ring which makes manual control extremely easy but make sure that you set the switch on the barrel to manual focus otherwise you may damage the focusing motor.
This is a lightweight and relatively compact lens and is easy to fit into small camera bags and does not cause fatigue or neck strain when carried on your neck with your camera. But whilst it is compact at the shortest, when fully zoomed out and focused, the lens almost doubles in length as the centre section rotates out of the main body. This shouldn't be an issue and won't affect either performance or the handling of the lens. However, when the nifty two fifty is attached on your camera and hung round your neck on a strap, the shape will cause the lens to point downwards and will slowly creep down, extending as you walk along. As a cheaper lens, it does not have a switch to prevent this, so be prepared for the lens to extend when carried on a strap.
A fantastic feature on this lens is the image stabilisation which is always useful for the longer end of the zoom range. This has an on off switch and will help when taking photos without a tripod, stopping blurred images caused by an unsteady hand. The motor for this can be heard quite clearly and as with the autofocus motor, it sounds like something grinding inside.
Picture wise, you simply cannot go wrong with this lens, there is a 4.5 times zoom so you can expect there to be slight image compromise to meet the cost of manufacture. These shortcomings only come to light when you compare the results with expensive lenses or when you start looking at individual pixels. Even then, this is a major step up from what compact or bridge cameras can achieve and you will see the difference when compared to those. The reasonably wide aperture sizes lets you use the lens in slightly dim conditions but it is best used at sunny outdoor settings. The aperture available also lets you better isolate your subjects against the smoothly blurred background.
This is an obvious choice when you want to buy your first telephoto zoom lens, the budget nature of this only makes it better value without depreciating the quality. If you think you want this from the beginning, look for it as a kit with your Canon camera.
If you choose to buy an affordable Canon DSLR, more likely than not, the camera body will come with this kit lens, the not very succinct Canon EF-S 18-55mm f 3.5-5.6 IS. This lens can often be found in camera shops unused but sold at used prices because some buyers already have a set a lenses and do not need this one and so trade it in brand new.
This lens is only usable on Canon's crop sensor cameras due to the lens fitment, these are cameras that have APS-C sensors. The lens is a short, black coloured plastic build with silver detailing . Most of the lens barrel is taken up by the zoom ring, the rubbery texture makes it easy to grip and is sufficiently smooth in in action. At the very front of the lens is a small ridged ring for focussing, but the placement and thin width make it difficult to manually focus your photos. The compact lens has two two small switches, these activate the auto focus and the image stabilization. The latter is a very useful feature to have on a lens, as it says, it allows you to take sharp photos if you have wobbly arms and is not always a feature present on lenses.
With this lens attached to your camera, you can expect to get great images in comparison to a compact camera. The larger apertures lets you create smooth blurred backgrounds whilst keeping the subject in sharp focus. The zoom covers a useful range of distance as a do-it-all lens, you should be happily able to use this for landscapes to good portraits.
This lens does not come with a lens hood so if you want to protect the front part, you will need to buy a protective filter of 58mm, this smaller size will does mean a cheaper filter though. I mentioned it was a plastic constructed lens, this only feels cheap compared to professional lenses. In isolation, it feels secure and durable and will easily survive everyday knocks and bumps.
In conclusion, the Canon 18-55 is a great starter lens and when buying a beginner Canon DSLR, you should definitely get this lens as part of your kit. You should find it allows more creative freedom for you to express your photos and will last until you want to step up to professional setups.
What happens when you get Muslim terrorists and add them to Mexican drug cartels? According to Tom Clancy, the result is Against All Enemies. Obviously you will also need some good guys to defeat the bad guys, so enter a new character, Max Moore. An ex-SEAL, CIA field officer.
This is a standalone book that begins introducing Moore on a mission to transfer a terrorist come informant between India and Pakistan. As is often the case to bring intrigue, the mission ultimately fails and we see some of Moore's skills come to light in trying to save his team. Moore is then drafted to work in Mexico as part of a multi agency group trying to bring down the largest drug cartels.
Unbeknownst to Moore and the other agents, Muslim terrorists have also been in contact with one of the Mexican drug cartels. The ultimate goal for the terrorists is not the drugs trade, they intend to use the cartel to get them into the United States by using their smuggling tunnels and once in there they want to destroy several airliners in flight to cause another massive attack.
I found that this book was difficult to get into, there is a lot of information on how drug cartels work and structured in the first half or so of the book, but I found this too much. I didn't really know what was going on and the characters were unclear and merging together causing confusion. There were quite a few characters that were being built up with background information and then killed off just as their story became interesting because they had no part to play in the grand scheme.
There were interesting glimpses into Moore's past, including his training to become a Navy SEAL, but it all seemed contrived, they didn't add to the story and the build up always seemed to fall flat. Lastly, the cartel and terrorist stories were not well interlinked. It was a clear divide with most of the story focussing on the cartel and then at the end, Clancy tacked on the terrorist story so that Moore could save the day and get redemption against America's current biggest enemy.
It is a shame that this book was this bad. There was good scope for an anti drug trafficking book, showing how US and Mexican forces deal with these drug cartels, alas it doesn't live up to what one would expect from Tom Clancy. Feel free to skip this book from his bibliography.
The Logitech Wave keyboard is a beast in size. I measure it to be about 48 cm wide and 26 centimetres tall. This large size is needed to incorporate the wave design and the palm rest. But stop here if you are tight on space or would prefer something compact to compliment your desk.
The large size of the keyboard facilitates no less than 16 additional hotkeys ranging from zoom to music to calculator shortcuts. To get these to work you need to install the Setpoint software, which can then use to customise the keys to open your favoured programs. Personally I only use two of these, one to open itunes and the calculator every so often.
The main keys on the keyboard is curved upwards like a smile which allows your hands to rest at a natural angle. This will take getting used to if you are moving from the regular keyboard. the curve meant I kept bashing the wrong buttons when typing at speed, you will too. Fact. As well as the curve, the keys are also raised at the central section, so the profile of the keys looks like a gentle wave. This will look odd, but as so as you rest your hands on the keyboard, they just seem to fit naturally, this is a weird sensation as all the keys are always in touching proximity. There is a slight concave wave on the keypad as well, while the keys between them are set vertically.
I would say the keys are on the firm side to type on and will work the finger strength initially, but this allows for a quieter keyboard with there is no plastic clattering or metallic clinks.
The built in palm rest is amazing. I never knew i needed one until this keyboard. The foam like material is only 5 mm or so thick before the hard plastic, but that is all you will need, it is hard to describe the perfectness it finds between comfort and support and the material with its little dimples will not cause sweaty palms.
The Logitech Wave uses two AA batteries which lasts me 2-3 months of use working day, rechargeable lithium ones should last longer and there is an indicator below the arrow keys to let you know their condition.
If you have bad wrist or RSI related problems with your keyboard, then the Wave is great choice for a more natural typing experience.
This digital single lens reflex camera was my first proper camera after moving up from compact ones. The 500D is from the beginner end of the spectrum, with a crop sized sensor capturing 15.1 million pixels as such it is quite compact in size.
The DSLR has an ergonomic grip including a small ridge for where your thumb would naturally rest, this helps you maintain a secure hold of the camera in one hand and the textured panel prevents slip caused by sweaty palms. As a smaller sized camera, there isn;t a top plate to show camera settings, but these can be accessed on the clear three inch screen. Adjusting the settings can be done without taking your eye from the viewfinder, all the buttons on the back are individually shaped and textured so you can glide from one to another with your right thumb and then there is a scroll wheel by your right index finger to go through the options. There may seem to be many buttons initially, but after some use, you will find that these provide quick access to when you want to change settings quickly without having to go through multiple presses on a menu screen.
The rotary dial on the top provides a good range of shooting options, for the real beginners, there are simple predefined modes, such as for portraiture, landscape or sports shots as well as a full auto and a full auto without flash. If you want to expand your creativity, then you can move onto the four main settings you will find on dslr's, full manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program mode.
This camera also includes a video mode, accessed on the dial, it uses the live view mode on the screen and you can record 720p high definition video at 30 frames a second, or 1080p full high definition at a less useful 20 frames per second. When making movies, the autofocus method is rubbish, holding down the focus button causes the video focus to shuffle about until it finds the right accuracy, this is noisy and slow. It is better to pre focus the camera before recording or to switch to manual focus.
There is a useful built in flash that pops up if you want it to or in the auto modes when the camera thinks you do. This is good for taking snaps but it creates harsh shadows so use it sparingly, if you require a flash, you can buy a separate one for the hotshoe built on top.
Performance wise, the camera is faultless. If you have this camera and the photos look terrible, it is the users fault, simple as that. The photos can be saved as JPEG's for easy use and compatibility and as you gain experience, you should try using the RAW option. This is an unprocessed image and would allow you to make more editing on a computer to get the most out of your photos. Canon provides their terrific Digital Photo Professional software for editing, which has a simple user interface and because Canon make it, it has tailored settings for your camera to apply fixes. This software is free to update for life as well, so you won't need to fork out more cash until you decide you want Photoshop!
Digital item reviews should always talk about battery life. With the Canon 500D, it is execptional. I fully charged it for a holiday and one week later, still had 1 of the three bars remaining (there is a fourth no bars it is almost dead before the red, it will shut down real soon indicator). This is down to the great battery saving feature on the camera, so you do not have to flick the off switch, instead, you can adjust the idle time before the camera sleeps and when it sleeps it does with taking no juice from the battery.
The biggest events I used this camera for was at two graduations, using it to also take the 'graduation photos' to save on the cost of the in-house option. The 15.1 million pixels easily allow for A4 sized prints which adorn now my parents photo frames and you would not be able to tell they weren't shot by the pros at the ceremony.
As you get more confident with the camera, you can delve into the menu to start adjusting settings. Here you will find all the options more professional cameras would contain, being able to adjust how the camera responds to your inputs and you will be able to take photos as creative as you can imagine.
I happily used this camera for three years before moving upwards to a more professional model, I have since passed this onto my dad so he can rekindle his love of photography from his youth. The smaller size and reasonably simple layout has been well received but it is still requires him to do some learning of the digital world, so I he has Dummies Guide to book to go with it!
The Canon 500D is a superb guide into the dslr world and as it is compatible with all Canon lenses, flashguns and so one, you can easily upgrade and accessorise as your skill level increases. Five stars. Boom.
Blackberry's attempt at making breaking the tablet market was not very successful, it's tablet, the Playbook was originally priced at the high end to compete with Apple's iPad. This pricing strategy resulted in mostly derogatory reviews, where the Playbook's features couldn't justify the cost. Fast forward to today and we can see that the tablet is still on sale, but at a much cut down price. In fact it is easily called a budget tablet now.
Let's delve in. The Playbook is a 7 inch screen tablet, black in design with a soft touch rubbery backing the screen has quite large bezel round it which we will come to later. There are two speakers either side of the screen and on top, a power button, volume up, down and a play/pause button. On mine, the power button is not very prominent and is hard to press, I have to try and use a fingernail to poke it, this is a common complaint, but there is no real need to use it regularly. The small form makes it easy to handle and I can fit it into most large pockets of coats, and even the back pockets of some jeans.
The bottom of the Playbook has three connectors, a proprietary slot for Blackberry's fast charger and stand, a mini USB port for PC connectivity and regular charging and a mini HDMI slot to connect to your TV. With the latter, you can connect to a TV and stream HD videos up to 1080p.
The bright screen is highly polished, so expect a lot of reflections on screen, as usual with devices like this, if you turn up the screen brightness, you can counteract this issue. The glossy screen is also an easy magnate for greasy fingers and is quickly smothered with oil so have a wipe handy or wear a sweater to use the sleeves.
Blackberry Playbook has a very different user interface to Apple and Android offerings. For a start, it is a true multi-tasking able tablet. You can run videos in the background while searching the web and writing an email and switching between them is with a simple swipe across the screen. This brings me onto the brilliance of the software. The Playbook is all gesture controlled. What this means is that you should never need to use the physical buttons, you can simply swipe away on the screen. All the gestures start at the edge of the screen on the surrounding bezel, where it is sensitive to user input. Each action such as swiping up, down, or diagonally will each perform an action such as bringing up a menu or keyboard. This is truly a great system that is employed. It will take time to learn the actions, but once there, you begin swiping your other touchscreen devices before you remember they can't do the same.
I primarily use this to surf the web and watch videos on the move and as mentioned, it can play upto 1080p videos stick with 720p ones and you can fit more movies onto the Playbook, even with its large 64GB capacity. There is never any stuttering with the movies and sound through the speakers is decent in any room. With web browsing, another feature you won't see on other tablet's is actual support for Flash websites. This is a massive bonus as although Flash is slowly being superseded on the web, there are plenty of Flash websites out there and it is a nuisance not being able to access those.
If you know someone else with a Playbook, you can use the Video Chat feature. This is like other services but I have found it to be of far superior quality, it has much smoother video especially if there is motion than using Skype, which incidentally isn't available for the Playbook.
The tablet can last a day with average use, watching a movie I can get about four hours at which point it is close to 20% battery life left. Thankfully charging is quick, the micro USB charger supplied, just four hours will make the Playbook go from flat to full.
The downsides of the tablet are; there is a poor app store, so don't expect to be downloading many apps like you would be able to Apple and Android markets. The Playbook does feel sluggish now, it is probably all millisecond timings but in the face of today's competition it is slow and there is no way round it. The same goes for transferring files, copying music and movies onto the Playbook takes stupidly long, there must be a design fault here. These are the only down points, but they are major ones.
In conclusion, I find the Playbook a decent tablet, whether or not you buy one should depend on what you intend to use it for. Movies, music and a bit of web browsing and this may be the perfect budge device for you, especially with the large memory capacity. If you require more, such as games or large app store market then look else where. So for me and my requirements, this is a 4 star device.
The Invisible Shield by Zagg is a clear protection film designed and cut for specific products, in this case for the iPod Touch. This is available for purchase as a screen protector only or as complete protection which includes a piece for the iPod Touch's metallic back. I ordered the latter for full coverage.
Supplied in the box are the two pieces of film, a lint free piece of cloth, the a bottle of solution to apply the film and a small card to push out the bubbles.
The film itself is very unlike the usual hard plastic types you typically get. It feels almost rubber like in texture and is made to a much tougher standard. Zagg explains that this film was initially developed to protect helicopter blades from high speed damage, so surely up to the task of protecting an iPod Touch.
Lets get onto application of the film. Firstly clean the iPod Touch with the lint free cloth to remove oils and particles, a bit of water or alcohol will help the process. When it is clean, peel the protective film from the backing and spritz on a healthy amount of the application fluid all over the film, I used close to half the bottle here as I only had two pieces anyway. With a wet film, place it onto your device roughly where it should go, then the liquid means you will have a small grace period in which to slide the film about so that it is aligned perfectly with the device. You should then use the card to push out any air bubbles from the middle to the outer edges, again, the liquid will means you will have a small amount of time to achieve this easily. Once this is done, leave the device and film to dry and for the film to adhere correctly to the device. I left it overnight after I applied both front and rear pieces. Summarising this process, it is extremely easy and ends in professional results.
The quality of the Invisible Shield is unparalleled. Unlike the harder films, you can keep attempting to scratch the screen and it won't show these signs over time. Instead, I am happy to scratch my kets over the top repeatedly and the marks buff out due to the softer texture of the film. This film is tough and like I said, I have showed off with scratching it with keys, but I stopped short of trying with a knife.
Another benefit of the rubbery Invisible Shield is that it becomes a grippy device. Once on, you can place it on an almost vertical surfaces without it slipping. I call this a benefit, but it does mean you cannot feel the coolness of the metallic back and it does stop those times you want to slide your device.
Over time, two years of use, the film still looks near new, with no scratches on it or the device. It has gained a slight yellow tinge, which is evident on the corners of the film which have peeled slightly from the iPod.
If you can live with the change in texture, then the Invisible Shield is by far the best protection available, not just for the iPod Touch but for all devices. Installation is simple and it definatley lasts for years. An easy 5 stars.