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This pressure-sensitive graphics tablet is now over 8 years old, and in that time Intuos have gone through several upgrades. However, the tablet is still available and if you can pick one up at a bargain price, then it's well worth the investment.
The Intuos2 A5 is one of the smaller versions of this tablet - they are available up to A3 in size - but for medium use, the size is quiet comfortable and doesn't take up too much precious desk space. In fat the size means I can just shove the keyboard back on the desk, but keep it within easy enough reach to use both the keyboard and the tablet as necessary.
The Tablet is not wireless, but connects via a very long (2.5 meters) USB cable. There is a small LED light on the top of the tablet to indicate when it is plugged in (it glows orange) and the light changes to green when either clicking with the pen or activating one of the buttons on the tablet.
The primary feature of the tablet is that it makes pressure sensitive drawing possible, something that cannot be achieved with a mouse. This means that it can be used with graphics programmes that accept pressure sensitive signals, such as Photoshop, to mimic the feel of traditional artists tools, such as pencils and brushes. It is also far more accurate and natural to use than a mouse. It adds that extra dimension to your graphic work and soon becomes one of those "how did I ever do things without it" tools.
The Grip Pen, which is included, is very comfortable and well balanced. The grip has just enough give to mean using it for prolonged periods of time is no problem. On the grip is a programmable two-way button, which does take some getting used to, but is worth it in the end. The pen also has an "eraser" button on the other end, though rotating the pen whilst using it can be a bit awkward. Tips, grip and buttons are all easily replaceable on the pen.
The tablet has an A5 drawing area, with a few inches of shelf on either side on which you can rest your hands whilst drawing. The pen glides nicely across the surface, with just a very little bit of resistance so it feels more natural. Across the top of the drawing area is a set of 13 programmable buttons. Using the software these can be customized to your needs, or turned off completely. There is also a handy button for switching the pen between "pen" and "mouse" mode. In "Pen" mode the pen tracks more slowly, whilst in "mouse" mode much faster.
Speed, sensitivity and pressure of the pen are all highly customizable with the software so after a little playing around, you can get the setting working correctly for you.
The software also allows you to change aspect ratios of the tablet with the screen, you can even change it from portrait to landscape, or somewhat bizarrely, mirrored!
Set up (on a Mac) is very simple. It just requires small application to be installed in the System Preferences, and from here all the multitude of options are available.
The tablet also comes with a "cordless" mouse. When this was released, this was in the time when cordless mice were a rarity. At the time this may have been a big deal, but the mouse is both unattractive and uncomfortable to use. The benefit is that you can easily use the mouse on the tablet, so have no need for an additional mouse, however with the cordless mice that are available today, this mouse is redundant.
In conclusion: The tablet is well built and I have never had any problems in the 8 years of its life. Although new models have better features, such as increased resolution, for the occasional to medium user this tablet still does the job and the A5 size caters for this type of use. Heavy users should look at the larger sizes available. It makes an incredibly positive difference in the way you will work and opens up many new avenues within graphic programs.
Having managed to somehow lose my Intuos2 Grip Pen I found it necessary to buy a replacement for use with my Intuos2 Tablet. I have to say that I was quite shocked at the price of the replacement pen, much higher than I expected and made me wonder how much of a mark-up there is on it. However, without the pen, the tablet is next to useless, so having a pen is a must.
The pen itself has the same dimensions as a chunky biro pen. It has a cushion grip with just the right amount of give making it exceptionally comfortable to hold and use, and ensures the pen doesn't slide or move between your fingers. The pen is slightly heavier than an ordinary pen. This extra weight is actually advantageous when using it, and it is also well balanced, allowing for a greater degree of control.
At the "drawing" end there is a replaceable plastic tip. Changing out a worn tip is simply a case of unscrewing the end cover, sliding out the tip and replacing it with one of the 5 spare tips that come with pen. It is very easy and quick to do.
On the grip there is a two-way programmable button. The buttons can be programmed by the software to reproduce, for example, the left and right mouse button, or a particular keystroke or menu action from whichever application you are using. The pen comes with an alternative "closed" grip, which covers the two-way button if you prefer not to use them. Also included is a spare programmable button.
On the end of the pen is a rounded tip, which acts as an eraser, but again this is programmable.
Using the pen is very comfortable but can take a little bit of time to get used to if you've never used one before. Slightly awkward at first is the two-way button on the grip. At first I found myself inadvertently clicking the buttons whilst using the pen. The simple solution was to de-program the buttons whilst I go accustomed to using the pen, and the once I became more familiar, I then re-programmed the buttons, which I know use all the time.
I rarely use the eraser tip, more as I find it quicker to switch tools from the keyboard rather spin the pen around in my hand, although on occasion I have accidentally picked the pen up the wrong way around and started to erase my work!
In conclusion, the pen is very comfortable for long-term use, nicely balanced and accurate to use. The buttons can take some getting used to, but are an advantageous once you get the hang of them.
I was looking for a new car in November 2008 and had a shortlist of about 6 cars in this size range, none of which were the Civic. By sheer chance, I happened to pass a Honda concessionary, so thought I may as well have a look and see what it was like. Thank god I did!
From the moment I sat in the car I knew that it was the one I wanted, and this feeling was 100% confirmed when I took it for a test drive. Having owned it for over a year and a half I have absolutely no regrets.
Everything has been carefully thought out and clearly designed with loving care and incredible attention to detail, not your standard run of the mill plasticky badly though out and positioned buttons you find in most cars. It made the interiors of the rival I looked at all seem incredibly dated.
The dashboard, switches, buttons etc are in perfect ergonomic positions, very easy to use, very easy to understand. The display is a pleasure to look at, the digital numerical speed indicator is raised higher then the body of the dashboard, making it easy to see without looking away from the road. The rev meter looks lovely with a blue glow around it and is very easy to read, as are the temperature and petrol gauges.
The best looking button is the START ENGINE button, a beautifully designed red orb set in silver. It just asks to be pressed and makes the simple process of turning on the car feel just a little bit special. It's quite strange but when I happen to drive other cars with the standard turn-the-key-to-start system, I really find myself missing the START button.
Before purchasing the car I read a few reviews of people complaining that at night the dashboard reflected in the windscreen. Certainly this is true if you have the dashboard lighting set to FULL, but you can dim the dashboard lighting level through a series of gradual steps and I for one can no longer see any reflection in the windscreen. The dashboard illumination also dims automatically if the headlights are on.
If I have one criticism of the dashboard, is that the sweeping surface over the dials can sometimes reflect the sun if it is in a particular position, and you have to be very careful when cleaning the surface you can cause small micro-scratches quite easily.
The Auto windscreen wiper setting functions very well, so they start automatically when it starts raining. You can adjust the speed of wipers in auto mode, but the adjustment can be a bit variable as it depends on the speed of the car and how much it is raining. The ambient light sensor, which automatically turns the headlights on when it gets darker, or you enter a tunnel, works perfectly. I don't think I've ever had to manually turn the lights on myself.
The leather clad steering wheel is very comfortable to hold for prolonged periods of time with excellently positioned buttons for the stereo and cruise control.
The radio/CD is totally integrated into the dashboard, and it's been done very well indeed. All buttons (again well designed and placed) are easy to use without taking eyes of the road, and the display is set higher up on the dashboard, again improving safety. The CD player will play MP3 discs, with is good because there is no easy way to attach any sort of auxiliary input into the radio unless you take the dashboard apart. If you want to physically connect your iPod (rather than use one of those iPod radio transmitters), you will need to purchase a special iPod kit addition, which costs far more than the iPod does! This was a little disappointing to me as iPod connection are becoming more of a standard, though I believe that the revised model of the Civic does now USB connection port. The sound from the stereo/speakers has very good clarity, but for me lacks good bass response.
The seats are fully adjustable and shaped to give good support when cornering. And finally I have found a car whose headrest seems to be in the perfect position, not too far back so your head never reaches it, or too far forward so you head is permanently bent over.
There are multiple storage units for both passenger and drive, nice and spacious and the glove box in font of the passenger is extremely spacious. You can also pipe in the air conditioning into the glove box to keep drinks chilled.
On drawback of the CD storage unit under the radio is that it is only large enough to store CDs without their cases. SO unless you want scratched CDs, it's better to store them in the centre compartment between the driver and passenger.
The rear passenger area is comfortable and spacious. The seats are very cleverly designed and can fold up, meaning you can stand a bike upright in the passenger area, as well as folding down flat. Folding the seats takes only a few seconds. The boot is like some sort of tardis. It's huge, far larger than any of it's competitors, plus it has a wide opening and the rear meaning it's much easier to get large bulky objects in and out.
There is also a "hidden compartment" in the boot where you can put a spare tyre, or use to store other items. The car doesn't come with a spare tyre, but instead with a special tyre sealing kit which you connect to a flat tyre and it pumps it up again whilst sealing the leak. This is only meant as a temporary measure until you can replace the tyre. As I haven't used it I can't comment on how effective it is.
In this respect the Civic is a bit like marmite! People either love it or hate it. It has to be remembered that this design was first launched in 2006, and was quite a breakthrough for Honda and way ahead of its rivals. I think that now those rivals are starting to catch up, but even though the design is still 4 years old, it still looks very fresh and a little bit special.
The door handles are anything but ordinary, like something off a 1950's rocket ship design from flash Gordon. The read door handles are recessed into the window frames, and many friends haven't even realised that it is actually a four door car as a result!
The best aspect is the side profile. It looks very sporty, very chic. The head on view is OK, but the TYPE S and TYPE R fronts look better. The rear of the car is a little disappointing in comparison, but I'll excuse that for the great boot access and boot space. I do however like the triangular twin exhaust pipe exits. Exhausts are generally pretty ugly things to look at, and tend to look like they're just been slung onto the car at the end with little thought, but here it is obvious that time has been spent to come up with something that looks good and an actual feature of the car.
Many people complain about the rear spoiler, which splits the rear window. It is true that is does cut out some visibility of the road and makes parking more difficult. However it does have the advantage of semi-covering up the lights of cars behind you at night, making night driving more comfortable on the eyes. Despite the claims that no rear wiper is needed, rain water does only clear at higher speeds, and if the rear window is dusty you'll need to wipe it clean manually.
The difficulty with parking is somewhat overcome with good sized wing mirrors, which look great and give very good visibility to the rear.
This car is pretty quick for its size. The clever people at Honda have fitted a 1.8 litre engine, which gives out about 140bhp. According to them , its got the performance of a 2 litre engine, with the economy of a 1.6 litre. I for one can't fault them on this statement. The car is lively, with its main torque region around the 3500-4000 rev mark. Go up through the gears at this range and the car absolutely flies. It still has more than adequate performance at the lower rev ranges, so changing gear around 2000-2500 (better driving practice and more economic) is comfortable and controlled.
With the aid of the on-board fuel consumption computer (the display of which sits in the middle of the rev counter), this car can be very fuel efficient indeed for its engine size. There is also a second reminder of how economically you're driving with a series of lights next to the speedometer. I have certainly changed my driving style (for the better) as a result of using these. They should be on every car made.
Fuel efficiency is also helped y the fact its got six gears rather than the standard five. This means better acceleration at low speeds and improved fuel efficiency at high speeds. I now always find myself searching for sixth gear in hire cars and always disappointed that its not there. The gear lever is very comfortable and very smooth when changing, its actually a pleasure to change gear in this car.
Another thing I soon noticed is that this is a very comfortable and easy car to drive. On longer journeys I did not find myself getting as tired as I used to in my previous car (though this doesn't mean you shouldn't stop for regular breaks!) and the driving position meant I wasn't getting a stiff back anymore. Maybe this is also due the fact that this is a fun car to drive, it doesn't seem like an effort, more of a pleasure.
The ride can be slightly stiff on bumpy roads, but that is the trade-off for better performance and comfort when on a-roads and motorways.
The only bugbears I have with the civic in terms of driving is that it is very difficult to judge where the front is when parking and the turning circle of the car. I was used to a car with a much longer bonnet, which I could see the end of. The front of the Civic is deceptively short, thanks to the incredible engineering of the Honda people in fitting the engine in, so I often end up parking a fair bit short of where I should be. The cars wheelbase also appears to be deceptively larger, so for me, its turning circle is a wider than I would expect, though this may also be due to the fact that as I'm not sure where the bonnet ends, so I'm being over cautious.
Love it. Love it so much I hate having to drive hire cars now, they just seem so dated, so badly thought out in comparison. The Civic is a sporty little number, packs a lot of punch, has the best designed interior I've come across and you can see that attention to detail has been paid to every aspect of the car. There are of course a few little gripes, but these are easily forgotten by the joy obtained from driving this car. Plus, it's a Honda, so it's extremely well-built and exceptionally reliable. The slightly higher cost will soon be repaid because it's much less likely to need repairs than it major competitors. And don't forget it's got a shiny red START button. Driving is fun again.
The inMotion iM7 packs a LOT of punch. It has impressive sound and a heavy bass for its size. It also looks fantastic.
I decided to purchase the iM7 as I wanted a portable speaker system for my ipod, and this certainly does the job. So what is it like?
This is a synch to setup. There is a press touch door at the front which smoothly opens for you to insert your iPod in the intergrated ipod dock. There are various sized adaptors to fit the type of ipod you have. The power supply cable plugs in at the back of the machine. Time to set up and start playing was about 3 minutes.
It is styled as a tube, with white plastic and aluminium metal grills. In my opinion it looks very good indeed. However, if you're going to be carrying around you've got to be careful not to dent the metal grills. The layout at the back for power supply, auxiliary in etc is very well done, with a little shelf securely storing the remote control. The control buttons are placed unobtrusively on the top of the machine.
Excellent sound. Even in a large room, the system still managed to fill it with rich, clear sounds, and the bass is extremely strong. It can also play at very loud volumes with little or no distortion. Too many portable ipod systems have very weak bass, mainly due to their size and "flat" designs, but this is truly an exception and provides probably the best bass out of all the ones I tested before purchasing. The magnificent bass is courtesy of a 4-inch side-firing subwoofer and a 4-inch bass resonator. The clever tube design also helps maximise the bass response.
This unit is designed to be portable if you stock it up with 8 (yes 8!!!) D Size batteries (For those unsure which D-Size are, they're the largest of the standard cylindrical batteries). That is expensive and you only get about 6 hours of playing time out of them. It also adds significantly to the weight (almost 5 kg). Without the batteries it's much lighter and still portable in the sense that you can take it to your mates house and plug it into the mains.
There is a carrying handle on the back of the unit, but this is really only useful for moving it around a short distance as it is not the most ergonomically balanced place to have the handle. If you're going to carry it around a lot, invest in one of the specialised carrying cases. It fits snugly around the unit, looks great, has pockets at either end for power supply etc, and protects the metal grills.
Although the front door ensures your ipod doesn't fall out of the unit, it is a little bit awkward to take out and insert your ipod, especially if you're using one of the smaller nano versions. Also, sometimes the door doesn't click shut properly when closed. A small gripe but the door is probably the weakest point of the unit and I can foresee this being something which could break/wear out over time.
The buttons on the top are easy to use, but there is no display to indicate volume, bass or treble levels. Having this display would make it much easier to use, rather than just guessing if you've turned the bass all the way down (or up!).
The remote is easy to use, but the buttons could be a bit more responsive. It's also a line of site remote, so the remote has to be pointed at the unit to work. The remote has the tone controls on it - there are none on the unit itself. The remote also has skip forward/back buttons, but the remote cannot be used to navigate to different playlists. To do this you must use the scroll wheel on the ipod itself.
As it is integrated, the ipod is charged when in the dock.
If you don't have an ipod, there is also an auxiliary in connection at the back of the machine.
Fantastic sound, with one of the best bass responses on the market, fuller than the more expensive Bose SoundDock. There are number of small gripes and things which could be improved, but these to not really detract from the overall experience.
The HP LaserJet 4000N is a workhorse of a printer. I've now owned this version for over 10 years and it is still churning out pages as well as it did on its first day of operation.
This printer was heavily used at my place of work, as due to its reliability was the overriding factor for deciding to purchase one myself.
The standard model comes with serial and parallel ports, which could cause some problems for certain modern computers which tend to only come with USB. The 'N' model however comes with Ethernet network capabilities, so if you've got an Ethernet network (or router) set up at home (or office) then its pretty simple to set up.
The printer itself is slightly heavy by modern standards, but is a testament to its build quality. It's startup is very quick, and the printer is warmed up and ready to print after just 10 seconds.
The slide out tray is capable of holding 500 pages an there is also a n auto feeding tray which is very useful for envelopes, labels and odd size pieces of paper. It is also possible to attach additional paper trays or a duplex unit.
Changing a toner cartridge is very simple and quick - the top lid just opens and the cartridge slides out. Over many years of use, I have noticed a gradual build up of toner though in the toner bay, although this is easily removed with either compressed air, specialised computer vacuum cleaner, or a damp cloth (with great care).
As the toner cartridges contain the roller that actually applies the toner, there is no long term problem of worn or marked rollers as can sometimes be seen on other laser printers. Branded toner cartridges for this machine are not cheap, but you get a lot of prints for your money, and there are many non-brand and recycled cartridges available on the web. Be aware with recycled cartridges however that the rollers can sometimes be worn or marked so print quality can be affected.
The top panel and display are easy to operate and fairly self-intuitive, with clear messages about any problems, plus flashing lights to get your attention.
The printer comes with a standard 4Mb of memory, which is fine for most jobs, but if you are going to be putting large images or complex files through the printer, it is highly recommended to upgrade to 8Mb. The speed of printing is significantly increased for complex documents this way.
I have rarely had any serious paper jams in this printer, and only one during these past 10 years has caused me any real headache. If a paper jam does occur it is very important to be as delicate as possible when removing the paper as if a small piece tears off, it can then become a bit tricky to remove the offending pieces of paper. That said, I was able to semi dismantle the printer very easily to remove one particularly stubborn piece, and then putting it back together was just as simple. Well-designed electrical goods tend to be ones which can be taken apart and put together with the minimal amount of trouble.
Print quality is excellent for most office jobs and you get more professional looking results than an inkjet printer for letters etc. If you're primarily printing images though then you'll want to go for an inkjet.
Although this printer is no longer available, if you can pick up a good quality second hand one cheaply it is well worth the investment. HP do have newer versions of this model available, with all the benefits of more modern technology, but this older model still delivers time and time again and one would never realise that its over 10 years old.
In conclusion: tough reliable workhorse than can churn out pages, year after year.
I purchased this drive in an emergency. Whilst spending time away from my home/office after it became apparent that the hard drive in my Mac was about to die. Without my usual backup drives available, I needed to purchase something immediately.
Normally I buy LaCie drives, but this Western Digital drive was the only one in the shop which had Firewire capabilities. Fortunately, despite my reluctance about Western Digital external drives, it actually performed very well indeed.
The drive was well packed and came with both Firewire and USB cables. The power supply also came with both a European and UK converters, very useful for me at the time as I was abroad!
The drive is Plug'n'Play and was formatted to work on a Mac out of the box, so it was a just a case of connecting up the drive to get it working. This it did with no hitches at all. It backed up my data no problem, and I was able to transfer all the information back once my Mac's hard drive had been replaced.
I was pleasantly surprised by the design of the drive, the brushed silver case complemented my iMac and didn't look out of place. The case is far lighter than the usual LaCie drives I purchase, but didn't feel cheap and has plenty of ventilation. The drive also runs very quiet, which was appreciated.
My criticisms of this drive are relatively minor. For starters, although atheistically pleasing, I very much dislike power buttons on the back of drives, which means you have to grope around amongst the cables to find it. And on the subject of the power button, I'm not sure if mine actually worked. Having read the instructions, it's not very clear what state the light on the front of the drive should be when the drive is switched off by using he button.
Secondly the light at the front. It's a vertical moving and pulsating white bar, reminiscent of KIT in Knightrider. Although quite cool at first, in the end I found it extremely annoying. It moves and pulsates while the drive is being accessed and is meant to indicate how much space is available on the drive, but again this wasn't at all obvious. I also found that, even after putting my Mac to sleep, the light remained on, and it is quite bright, enough to light a dark room. Pressing the power button didn't turn it off so the only option I found was to physically disconnect the drive.
My final criticism is that this drive has to be used standing, it can't be placed on it's side. Whilst this makes sense it terms of saving space, I prefer to have my drives in a position where the cats can't accidently knock it over. It is fairly stable, but is no match for a determined feline.
In conclusion I was neither disappointed nor overjoyed with this drive. It did what I needed it to do. No more, no less. I still use it as a secondary backup drive, so it gets an outing once a week and I haven't had any problems with it now if over a years use. The niggling features though mean I am unlikely to purchase a Western Digital drive in the future.
I had the good fortune of using this printer in my workplace before purchasing one myself. The Epson Stylus Pro 4880 is a professional grade inkjet print that churns out fantastic quality prints.
For a heavy-duty printer, the Epson has looks remarkably good. It feels very study indeed. The downside is that this printer has a large footprint and is extremely heavy, certainly not an item that you should attempt to try and lift on your own. If you need to move it about I would highly recommend purchasing a stand with wheels, though these can be quite expensive, from £300+.
The printer is very well packaged in its enormous box and to unpack it you will need help if you don't want to do yourself an injury. Setting up is straightforward with clear instructions on where to remove pieces of packing tape and polystyrene, and which bits go where to put it together. This only took about 10 minutes to do.
An upgrade from the Epson Stylus Pro 4800, the printer uses 8 ink cartridges, the usual CMYK and then Light Black, Light Light Black, Light Vivid Magenta and Light Cyan. This may seem like a lot of cartridges but the colour output reflects this, with rich and vibrant prints. There is an option for swapping out the Photo Black cartridge for a Mate Black cartridge for producing matte bw prints, though unfortunately the swapping/cleaning process can use almost 25 per cent of the ink in the cartridge, so this is a very expensive procedure.
There is a clear and easy to use display on the from printer panel, which also shows the ink levels left in the cartridges (but only if you are using Epson brand cartridges). All the features of the printer can be accessed and set from this front panel if necessary - from network settings, paper settings, nozzle checks, cleaning etc. It's been well thought and is not too complicated, even for a novice user.
The printer can take roll or sheet fed paper, and offers borderless printing when using roll paper. It also has a cutter when using roll paper. Loading either paper is very simple, and roll paper means that prints can be churned out continuously. At my workplace, this printer used to be printing constantly all day for weeks on end and I had no problems with it at all.
The consumables are not cheap. Ink cartridges come in 110 ml and 220 ml sizes, and officially are priced at close to £80 per 220 ml cartridge. This may seem expensive, but actually per ml it is far cheaper than a standard home inkjet printer, and deals can always be found on the web if you're willing to shop around.
The cartridges are simplicity itself to replace and can be changed mid-job. One complaint is that there is often 20% ink left in the cartridge when the printer says it needs to be replaced. Epson say this is necessary to protect the printer from a cartridge from running completely dry.
The ink is Epson's Ultrachrome K3 ink, which is splashproof and has a no-fade life expectancy of 75 years. There are some suppliers who sell compatible ink/cartridges and also Continuous Ink System Upgrades, although these are not recommended by Espon (surprise!) and will void the warranty if used. And the printer does warn you (and remember) if you try and use a non-Epson ink cartridge.
Other consumables include the ink waste cartridge, which collects the waste ink. These do not have to be replaced as often as ink cartridges, and come in around £40, though a quick search of the web will find you some ingenious examples of how to recycle the waste cartridge using babies nappies!
On print quality, print speed, ease of setup and ease of use the Epson 4880 is a fantastic machine, one that I would buy again immediately.
On to the small niggles!
If you are going to be printing across a network, rather than by direct USB connection, the setup can be a bit hit-or-miss. It took me a good hour of trying various arrangements before I could get it properly connected. If printing by USB, then this isn't an issue at all though.
If you're using roll paper over 200 gsm, then when not printing remember to release the paper level. The paper lever holds the paper in place, but if left overnight can cause a faint crease in the paper that is visible when printed on.
If the printer is used for a short period of time then the printer heads can become clogged, especially if the printer is situated in a very dry area (I'm fortunate that mine is in a relatively humid area so don't very often suffer from blocked nozzles). A nozzle check will more often than not clear the blockage. If not then a power cleaning can be run but this uses a lot of ink, Search the web and there are other solutions for clearing very blocked nozzles.
In summary, this is a great printer with professional quality results. Study enough to churn out large volumes of prints. It's also an excellent choice for photographers who want crystal clear large prints.
For many years Mac users have been plagued by poorly designed Apple mice, although with the introduction Apple's excellent MagicMouse things have finally changed.
Macally have for many years focussed on providing peripherals for Mac users, and the Macally IceMouse is certainly a very viable alternative for Apple's previous wired offerings.
Ergonomically it fits very nicely in the hand and remains comfortable to handle after prolonged use. It has 3 buttons - left, right and scroll wheel click. It also has a rubberised scroll wheel. The optical sensor makes for very smooth operation and is responsive to movement.
This mouse isn't cordless, though many people actually prefer a corded mouse rather than have to worry about batteries in a cordless mouse.
It comes with software to allow programming of the buttons, however I have found that Macally have been slow to update their drivers when Apple has upgraded is operating system, meaning that I have turned to a third party application which actually provides a greater range of customisation. This is a poor reflection on Macally.
I have chosen Macally mice over the standard Apple offering for the last decade. Over that time I have gone through 3 mice in total. One of these changes was down cable damage - the IceMouse has a very thin cable, which although makes using the mouse easier, does mean that it has a greater potential to break.
My current mouse has lasted now for 5 years, with 8 hours of use virtually every day and is still going strong. It can't really therefore be faulted on build quality.
One downside of the white colouring is that it can collect dirt in the channels running down each side, and also around the scroll wheel, but nothing a good clean can't clear away.
In summary, for a simple and effective corded mouse, the IceMouse is a good alternative to the older Apple mice. However, this model is now starting to look dated and Apple finally appear to have designed a mouse worthy of the Apple name.
Being a designer who often has to take work home with them, this little drive has proved to be more than up to the task. I've always favoured LaCie products as they tend to be well designed and built to last, and this drive is no exception.
The best feature of this drive is its triple interface, which makes in stand apart from the majority of portable hard drives which tend to only offer hi-speed USB. This drive has Firewire 800, Firewire 400 and hi-speed USB. The addition of Firewire makes this drive particularly suitable to anyone who owns a Mac, or to PC users who have added Firewire capabilities to their computers.
Firewire data transfer is far more efficient than hi-speed USB, even if the quoted m-bits per second is similar, so in real life usage, Firewire is very fast. The option of both Firewire 400 and 800 also means that the drive is compatible with both newer Mac systems, which only ship with Firewire 800, and older Macs with just Firewire 400.
The drive is bus-powered, meaning there is no need to an external power supply, and it is also Plug & Play, so you can plug it in to any machine and it will work straight away.
A nice added bonus is that the drive actually ships with all the cables for all the different interfaces, something that many cheaper alternatives do not.
The drive case is slightly larger than some of its competitors, with protective aluminium shell and brightly coloured, shock-resistant rubber sleeve. This design howver means that it does live up to its name of "Rugged All-Terrrain" and is MIL-Compliant up to 2.2 meters (MIL-Complaint means it meets the standards set by the United States Army's Development Test Command that test how well a specific device performs when placed under stress or extreme conditions). I can't imagine dropping any of the competitors drives from this height and not see them break into pieces.
The version I have has the faster 7200rpm drive, which speeds up data transfer and access over the standard 5400rpm drives found in most portable hard-drives.
I have carted this drive around and never had any problems with connection. It's perfect for quick backups or transporting data from one machine to another. For Mac users it has the added bonus of being Time Machine compatible.
The only drawback I have noticed so far is that the "scratch-protected" aluminium shell has, after a year, started to show some marking. In its defence though, the drive have been carted around in the bottom of a rucksack, day in day out and this is actually a testament to how rugged the little thing is.
In short, definitely worth the extra price for the triple interface and faster hard drive, and if you want a truly portable hard drive that won't fall to bits in the bottom of a bag, this is the drive for you. Also the orange rubber might not be to everyone's taste, but means it's not hard to spot on your desk!
I own both the wired (this one) and wireless version of this headset, and although exactly the same design similar, I actually find that I prefer this wired version. Surprisingly the wireless one actually has more cables (a USB receiver and a mains charger) and therefore more clutter.
The headset itself is sturdy and well designed. It is adjustable and comfortable to wear, with both the band at the top and the earpieces being padded. On the earpieces this helps cut out external sounds, although it can mean that if wearing the headset for a prolonged amount of time, that it can become noticeable.
The volume buttons are on outside bevel of the right ear pieces and are the easiest I have ever used, much simpler than sliders on the cable, and don't require any though at all to operate.
The inner bevel on the outside of the right ear piece acts as a mute button, making muting/un muting the microphone as easy as touching your ear. A nice little touch is that when the microphone is muted, a red light is lit up on the end of the microphone arm, so it's plain to see what state the microphone is in, and helps avoid any embarrassing situations!
The quality of the speakers, considering the price, is also every good. Apart from very clear voice calls, the headset has a music option switch, and does indeed provide rich clean sounds, although I would not recommend them as an alternative to a dedicated set of music listening headphones. For gaming they are great, especially when used with in-game communication, where again the easy to use controls prove to be very useful.
My experience of using these is on a Mac, with which they work flawlessly. The only small gripe I have is that on the Mac they don't have a dedicated menu for switching between the headphones or built in speakers - this has to be done via the system preferences panel. However, I have since discovered a freeware application called SoundSource, which enables you to switch speaker/microphone sources on the fly from the desktop. I only wish that Logitech could only bundle this or write their own version.
I already owned, and was very happy with, the wired version of this headset, but wanted a wireless version so I could walk around while using them. I generally use them for Skype, but also on occasion for gaming and listening to music when I don't want to disturb the rest of the household. They perform all these tasks very well indeed, though for music listening they are not as good as a pair of dedicated headphones.
The design is the same as the wired version, with a rather chunky, reassuring feel to them, with nicely padded ear cups. It's fortunate the ear cups are padded in this way as they can at first press quite firmly on the ears. Whilst this is great for helping cut-out external sounds, it does mean that the prolonged use can be slightly uncomfortable (if you have a large head, this may be more obvious), but with frequent even this has become less noticeable.
A very nice feature is the volume control on the outer bevel of one of the ear pieces. It makes it exceptionally easy to adjust the volume, much better than the small sliders found on the cable on some headphones.
Likewise, on the ear piece of microphone arm, there is a large button to very quickly mute or un-mute the microphone. Again, this is very well designed and makes rapid muting very simple. When the microphone is muted, a red light turns on at the end of the microphone arm, a very handy indication.
The wireless feature works very well and does provide excellent clear voice. I've been able to roam about most of my house with out any drop-outs or loss of quality.
The one downside of this wireless headset over it's sister wired version, is that you actually end up with more wires! The wireless receiver plugs into the USB port of your computer. It's small, but does add to desk clutter.
There is also a mains charger for the batteries in the headset. This is really where this product is let down, using up valuable mains-socket space and means another cable to be trailed somewhere.
Fortunately the battery charge appears to hold for quite a long time, but there is no indicator of how much battery charge there is, just a warning light when it is running low. I think it would have been a far better solution if the charger could have been combined with the USB receiver, it would certainly have cut down on extra clutter, which is part of the point of wireless solution.
It should also be pointed out that these are cross-platform, so work with both Mac and PC.
In summary, a great set of headphones, reasonably priced which do the job very well. Excellently designed volume/mute controls. The drawbacks? The extra cables, and in particular the poorly thought out charger.
Filemaker Pro 10 is a database application, aimed at small to large businesses, which works on both Mac and Windows operating systems. Filemaker is actually owned by Apple, so you get all the user-friendliness, ease of use and attention to detail that we have come to expect from the company that brought us iTunes and the iPod.
This ease-of-use and relatively shallow learning curve means that Filemaker Pro 10 beats its main rival Microsoft Access hands down; in fact after giving Filemaker a go, I can't imagine any previous Access user would ever want to switch back.
In this upgrade, the interface has had a major overhaul. The trademark toolbar (now customizable) has been moved to run at the top of the window rather than on the left hand side, and redesigned to look and feel like other Apple applications such as Mail, Safari, iWork and iTunes. The only downside of this move will be that some databases built in previous versions may need to have their layouts tweaked. The new toolbar has added features and makes designing and using databases simpler and at the same time will not have veteran users tearing their hair out wondering where things have gone.
The Filemaker "Start Solutions", templates for standard database solutions, have also have a facelift. These templates are perfect for the first time user, making the process of designing your first database straightforward, although their usefullness to veteran users is limited.
Filemaker Pro 10 also has a very in-depth Help section built into to the software, so that getting started and learning the applications capabilities is straightforward.
Other new features include the ability to send email's direct from the database, very useful if you have a contacts section in your database or want to automate sending of emails without requiring interaction with an email application.
Scripting has also had an overhaul with the addition of Script Triggers. Scripts allow for automating of various tasks, so, for example, you can define a search and place a button on your layout to perform this search automatically. With the addition of Script Triggers, scripts can be set to run when information is entered into a field. This enhancement is probably worth the money to upgrade on its own.
Filemaker 10 also has beefed up its connectivity with other database systems, such as with Oracle or SQL databases, and also improves the importing of data from Bento 2 and Excel.
Filemaker databases can be shared across a network and also published to the web. They also have the ability to generate custom and automated reports. Installation or upgrading is a very simple process, whether using Mac or Windows.
For a beefed up version of Filemaker Pro 10, there is Filemaker Pro 10 Advanced, which is aimed at experienced database developers. Also available Filemaker 10 Server for improved performance when many users need access to the database, Filemaker 10 Server Advanced, which has specific web publishing enhancements.
In summary, this upgrade to Filemaker 10 is worth it just for the new Script Triggers function. The updated interface is better looking and has better functionality - the only downside is the need to adjust some layout designs, which were created in previous versions. SMTP emailing from the database is also a great addition. In short, this upgrade means that Access is getting left even further behind. For ease of use, functionality and scalability, Filemaker 10 is worth its price, especially considering it is aimed at businesses.
For individual home users though, who don't need and won't use all of the features that the application offers, then Filemaker Pro's cheaper little sister Bento is worth looking at. A scaled down version of Filemaker, it is exceptionally user-friendly and aimed at people with little or no knowledge of how to set up and design databases.
QuarkXpress used to be the industry standard desktop publishing system. Having trumped Adlus Pagemaker some 15 years ago, Quark enjoyed almost monopolistic control over the industry, until Adobe introduced InDesign.
After losing market share to Adobe's new kid on the block, Quark was forced to up its game or perish the way of PageMaker in the 1990's.
Despite playing catch-up, with Version 8, Quark certainly is now on a par with InDesign. This latest version sees a quite radical overhaul of the venerable programme, both in it's appearance and the methods of working. Of all the releases since version 3, this is probably the most extensive and will have some seasoned users scratching their heads wondering what the new methods are for doing things that were previously second nature.
The new "modern" interface, with dark grey backgrounds as opposed to the previous light grey, has slimmed down toolbars, as well as fewer tools available. The reason for this is one of the most obvious changes to Version 8. Previously there was a text box and picture box tool. Now there is just a single box tool. Draw the box and then decide the content by either inputting text or placing an image in it.
The corner styles have also been removed from the toolbar, and are now part of the Modify menu.
Also gone are the rotation tool and resize tool. These functions are now achieved by "direct manipulation" of the box - in other words, by holding the cursor over the edge or corner of the box, you can rotate or scale as you wish, a small but highly welcome feature.
The same new ease of manipulation also applies to images within boxes, which can be scaled and rotated using the mouse without the need for multiple tool selections or key commands.
Whilst using the Picture Content Tool, another improvement is that that parts of an image which fall outside the box, ie cropped areas, are shown as a ghosted in the background, very useful for seeing how much image there is to play with. Quark now also displays the effective print resolution of images when they are selected, a feature that InDesign has had for some time.
Another welcome improvement is the simple ability to option/alt (depending if you're on Mac or Windows) Click'n'Drag objects to create a duplicate object. Drag'n'Drop of images and text from folders and other applications has also been built-in to Quark 8, significantly speeding up the workflow process.
Another new introduction is Item Styles. This are the object equivalent to Text Style sheets, meaning that a particular style can be applied to any number of boxes or lines, making global changes much quicker and easier.
One of the extremely annoying features of past version of Quark, namely baseline grids (lines which ensure text lines up horizontally across multiple boxes), have also been overhauled. Previously a document could only have a single baseline grid across all pages, but with the introduction of Design Grids, the baseline grid can be set accordingly by individual box.
Bezier tools have been improved to work in the same fashion as those found in Adobe Illustrator, making life a lot easier for someone used to using both programmes. Similarly, the keyboard shortcuts are now single key presses, so to get the Line Tool, just press L. For those not wanting to re-learn these new shortcuts, the old style ones are still available as well.
There are also a host of other improvements such as WYSIWG font display, page thumbnail popups, enhanced International spell checking, layered pdf output , xml import and enhanced hanging character control.
A lot of the changes seen in Version 8 have actually been available as Quark Extensions in previous versions, such as Drag'n'Drop and Item Styles, and so to some users will not seem like anything new, but it is good to see that they have now been fully incorporated into the software.
There have also been enhancements to the interactive part of QuarkXpress, namely the web and flash authoring tools. And this, unfortunately, is where my gripe with Quark lays. I would suspect that the majority of Quark users never use these tools, as there are better industry standard solutions available elsewhere. For any serious web or flash designer, Quark's offerings to not stand up.
For the occasional user, they may prove to be useful for the odd time that they need to venture into this realm, but I would rather see Quark drop it's hefty price tag by offering a "lite" version of Quark with just the DTP tools, and leave the interactive element as an addition, or as a "full" version.
In summary, Version 8 is a worthwhile upgrade. Whilst seasoned users may find themselves cursing for a short while as they come to terms with the new methods involved, this inconvenience is outweighed by the productivity benefits and improvements that Version 8 brings. For those new to Quark however, the price tag of the full version is, in my opinion, very high, and will turn many towards the cheaper option of Indesign.