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nykied

nykied
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Member since: 22.09.2009

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      07.01.2013 14:49
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      A gadget that's wormed its way into my heart

      This is a review of the Kindle Keyboard, as Amazon now calls it. There are more recent iterations of the Kindle on the market, but this version is still available.

      I was bought this e-reader about two years ago but only really started to use it in 2012. This was mainly because I was one of the many people who refused to move away from paper books, believing that e-readers were devices of the devil. I'm unsure what prompted me to get my Kindle out of its box but out of its box it came and it's not been back in since. I'm in the process of getting all my favourite books onto it and so far have been able to donate about 300 books to a charity shop (still about 100 to go). I've been converted!

      Maybe you're teetering on the edge of being converted or maybe you're still firmly in the paper book camp but I hope to convince you to change your mind.

      The Kindle as a whole is a fabulous thing. It's easy to hold and easy to read. It has buttons on both sides, for turning a page forward and also turning a page back, which is handy if you're left-handed. It does have the keyboard at the bottom but I've very rarely used it. The only buttons I use on mine are the 'on/off' button, which is on the bottom of the device, the 'select' button, which is next to the keyboard letters, and the page turning buttons, which are used for flicking between screens as well as turning pages. I've also used the font button, which enables you to change the font size, but I've literally used that once.

      The Kindle Keyboard has wireless internet and in some cases 3G. This allows books purchased from the Amazon Kindle store to be sent instantly through to the device, as long as the internet is switched on. It is practically instant. However, this leads me to battery life. Switching off the wireless internet greatly extends the battery life. I only need to charge up my Kindle about once a month.

      The Kindle website has a wide selection of books to order and there's also a '99p book of the day', which has some great books on. A lot of the classics are free on the website, but if you're expecting to get all your books cheaper than buying them in a store, you'll be mistaken. Some books are cheaper to buy as hard copies and part of this is that you pay tax on e-books and not on paper books. There are some bargains to be had though and you can hold over 3,000 books on the device. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can 'borrow' one book a month to read on your Kindle free and some libraries also lend out books on a Kindle.
      If you do need more space, any of the books you've bought from Amazon can be deleted from the device without deleting them totally - they stay in the cloud and you can re-download them any time you wish.


      When you have your books on the Kindle, you can order them in a few different ways. You can set it so that your most recent books are at the top or they can be alphabetically. Before you click into a book, you can see how far along you are with it you are by looking at the dots under the book title - the darker dots are what you've read and the lighter dots are what you've yet to read.

      Some people who are yet to be converted to e-readers say that there is a flicker when you're turning pages but this isn't actually noticeable when you get used to it. This particular Kindle however, doesn't have a light. This means that you can't read in the dark, although you can buy cases with inbuilt lights and I have a light that clips on. I've reviewed the light previously and whilst it's not designed specifically for the Kindle, it does clip onto the top.

      So yes, there are more modern versions of the Kindle out, but is it worth spending more money? I don't think so and I think I would miss the clicking of the buttons to turn the page. I received a Kindle Paperwhite (which is a touchscreen Kindle) for Christmas, so I will seE.

      The Kindle Keyboard is available for about £149.00

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        02.01.2013 18:30
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        Love them.

        I received these HD Brows tweezers in a recent beauty box and prior to that, I'd only ever used tweezers that came as part of a manicure set. When I received these tweezers, I looked at the price and was astounded - £20 for a set of tweezers? There's no way I would pay that much!

        However, after trying these out just once, I was blown away. I know - how can someone be blown away by tweezers? Well, these grip like a child to a lollypop. They grab the tiniest little hairs and just yank them straight out.

        They have pointed precision tips which meet perfectly, allowing you to catch each hair individually rather than whole clumps and they're a nice matt black colour. After years of using tweezers that have tips that don't meet perfectly, I am hooked and wouldn't hesitate on buying these again were I to lose them. Whilst I admit that nothing makes plucking eyebrows pleasurable, these HD Brows tweezers certainly make it a lot faster and less painful (probably due to the lack of clump-grabbing!).

        Girls - if you don't have these already, go out and buy them! As I mentioned, I got mine in a subscriber beauty box but looking at the internet, these are sold mainly to professionals but can be found for around the £20 mark from various auction sites.

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          12.09.2011 22:22
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          Fabulous. Simply fabulous.

          Having started making bread by hand in October last year, I started researching bread makers and two in particular stood out - the Kenwood BM450 and a Panasonic model. I decided on the Kenwood, simply because the silver facia goes with my other kitchen appliances. A fairly shallow reason for choosing a kitchen appliance I know, but the reviews were very good for the Kenwood.

          I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived within days. Included in the box is the actual bread maker, an instruction manual, a recipe book, a measuring spoon and a measuring cup.

          The machine is easy to set up. It's a simple plug-and-play machine and as long as you follow the recipes, you can't do much wrong. There are 15 settings, which range from making dough (for pizza bases or for bread that you want to shape yourself), through to bread, cakes and even jam. There is also the facility for 'fast bake', which makes a loaf in 58 minutes. There is the option for three different sizes of loaf (500g, 750g and 1kg) and three shades of crust (light, medium and dark). These are for use with most of the recipes although for things such as the ginger cake, it's set at 1kg and the default crust shade.

          There is a 12-hour delay timer, which means that you can set it to have bread ready for when you wake in the morning. It also keeps bread warm for an hour, in case you sleep in!

          The machine looks beautiful. The main body is silver with a glass lid that lifts up. It has quite a large footprint though, and the lid covers a lot of the top, a consideration you'd need to make if space is at a premium in your kitchen. The buttons are touch-sensitive and are easy to control. One thing that does let the display down is the LCD panel. It can often be difficult to see, especially in sunlight. I find that I have to look at the display panel almost horizontally to see it clearly. It does have a viewing window, with an internal light so that you can check on your bread as the machine is doing its stuff.

          The cable is also something to consider, as it's not very long, so the bread machine needs to be near an electrical socket. It's heavy, so it's not something you'd want to move each time you used it.
          The instruction manual doesn't amount to much. It's a paper leaflet with a few instructions and some basic recipes in, but as the bread machine is so simple to use, that doesn't really matter. The actual recipe book is a different matter altogether. It's glossy and has photographs of each recipe alongside the instructions, which is a real help when choosing what to make next.

          The measuring spoon and cup are brilliant. The spoon is one of those that has a bit inside that you push along until it's at one tablespoon or one teaspoon and it covers all the different measurements that you're going to find in the recipe books. The measuring cup is good, once you've figured out whether the measurement line is above or below the number!

          The machine has an automatic dispenser (which I haven't actually used yet as I'm not a big fan of seeds) which holds 125g and automatically opens when the seeds are ready to be added. If you're adding ingredients such as chocolate (which melts in the dispenser) or cherries (that stick to it), there's also a series of beeps which tells you when to add them manually.

          But enough about the machine, how's the bread? The bread is fantastic! It tastes so much nicer than shop-bought, you know exactly what goes into it and you can make it whenever you want. Perhaps not so good if you're on a diet though! It's very easy to make and takes only minutes to put the ingredients into the bread pan and into the machine, once you become familiar with it.

          The cakes are also very easy to make, although some of them do use a lot of different ingredients. I can particularly recommend the ginger cake. If ginger cake isn't your thing, there are lots of other cake recipes to tempt you in the glossy recipe book, along with some jams, although it hasn't been the jam season whilst I've had the Kenwood BM450, so I can't comment on how good they are. It has to be easier than making jam in a pan though!

          So, would I recommend this machine? Yes, without a doubt. It does have its little niggles but I wouldn't be without it now. My favourite kitchen accessory.

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            15.12.2010 21:37
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            A fun read!

            Lara is in her late twenties and has recently broken up with her boyfriend. She's also recently started up a headhunting business with her best friend. Sounds simple enough, but her friend has since gone on holiday to Goa and stayed there, whilst her ex has changed his mobile number and told Lara's parents that she's been stalking him. Nothing's ever simple in Lara's life.

            Naturally, Lara's parents are concerned for her and, when the whole family is at the funeral of Lara's Great-Aunt Sadie and Lara starts acting very strange, they become more than concerned, especially when she calls off the funeral claiming that Sadie was murdered. What makes it stranger is that Great-Aunt Sadie was 105!

            Lara, meanwhile, is a little concerned about herself, as she seems to be able to see someone that nobody else can see. Namely Great-Aunt Sadie, although she's in her twenties in her ghost form, rather than 105. Sadie doesn't want to be buried until she's found a butterfly necklace that means a lot to her and she drags Lara into the search.

            Being a big Sophie Kinsella fan, it was a given that I would read this book and I wasn't disappointed. This book is an absolute gem and gallops along with great pace. The plot as I have described it does sound a little dry but that is far from the case. There are so many tangents that to write them down would not only spoil the book for someone who hasn't read it, it would also make me slightly dizzy!

            It's very easy to read, as are all of Kinsella's books and the characters jump off the page and drag the reader into the story. Each main character in the book is well-rounded and you feel a real affinity with them, even with Lara, who at first appears to be a clueless bimbo.

            There's a lot of description in this book, mostly around Sadie's dresses, who, when she was in her twenties was also in the 1920s. The description of the clothes she wears lets the reader picture them so vividly that you can almost hear the beads rattling. I found this to be one of the best things about this book, simply because it evoked an era that has mostly been forgotten.

            If you're already a Sophie Kinsella fan, then you'll love this book. If you're not, then this is a good place to start as, unlike some of Kinsella's books, it stands alone rather than as part of a series. A brilliant chick lit read.

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              20.11.2010 14:53
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              Despite the two drawbacks, I'd buy this mouse again

              As I had been using my boyfriend's wireless mouse for the last six months after mine broke, he finally cracked and demanded it back. Thus began my search for a new wireless mouse that met my exacting standards. My boyfriend's mouse is the Microsoft 4000, which is a great mouse, apart from one thing: the dongle that slots into the USB port. It's too big, almost the length of the mouse, and when it's accidentally knocked, it takes about 10 seconds for it to go back to normal, which when you have an attention span the length of mine, that does become a problem!

              I'd seen some mice that had a tiny dongle that can be left in the USB port and, whilst in Tesco, I came across the Logitech M305 mouse. After researching the mouse on review sites and looking at prices on various websites, I finally bought one.

              The Logitech M305 is available in a multitude of colours such as silver, grey, blue and green. I went for one in a girly pink colour. It's sold in a blister pack, with a Duracell AA battery, which is what it takes (strangely!). The blister pack is easy enough to open with a pair of scissors and the mouse is practically ready to use. All that involves is inserting the battery, slotting the dongle into a spare USB port and your computer should do the rest.

              The mouse itself is very easy to use. It has an indicator light that usually lights up green but lights up red when the battery is dying. I expected this to be on permanently but it just flashes on when you switch the mouse on. As mentioned, the USB dongle can be left slotted into the laptop or computer and as it only protrudes about half a centimetre and fits very solidly into the port, it really can be left in the computer, even if it's being put into a laptop bag and carried around. Unlike the Microsoft 4000 mouse, it doesn't get knocked causing it to lose connection: it's too small and too sturdy. The mouse has a switch on its underside, enabling you to switch it off so it saves on battery power.

              If, however, you decide that you don't want to leave the dongle plugged into the computer, there is a little section inside the mouse, next to the battery, where you can safely store it. That section and the battery are easily accessible by simply flicking a switch, again on the underside of the mouse. The flap then lifts up.

              The mouse measures 9cm long by 5cm wide and it's about 3.5cm high. It has two buttons which run almost to the centre of the mouse and a wheel. The wheel has a nice satisfying clicking noise as it turns, a feature that I particularly like. The mouse itself is symmetrical, so it can easily be changed from right-handed to left-handed with no loss to how it works and it feels equally comfortable either way. There is a band of rubbery material going all the way around the mouse which helps with grip but, depending on which colour you choose, the majority of the mouse can either be a little bit rubbery or fairly shiny. As I've mentioned, I went for the pink colour, which is rubbery, as I thought that the shiny version might be a little too slippery for my fingers. On the flip side, the rubbery version could pick up dirt quite easily.

              It does seem to eat through batteries though, so I've started using rechargable ones and always carrying one in my laptop bag, because when it starts to flash red to tell you that it's low on bettery, it's not long until it runs out completely.

              My other slight criticism of this mouse is that the underneath is too smooth. It does have four little raised pads on its base, but that doesn't stop the mouse sliding off the mouse mat when it's on the arm of my chair. So it slides off too easily. Not much of a criticism and don't let that put you off, as this is a great little mouse and I fully recommend it.

              I bought mine from Tesco for £29.95 and the price seems to be similar everywhere, although you can buy refurbished Logitech M305s with a (shiny) tribal pattern on from ebay for slightly cheaper.

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              11.11.2010 14:42
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              It's the hotel I'll be staying at next time I'm in the Lakes

              When myself and Mr. Nykied went up to the Lake District, we didn't need a hotel. We were camping. Everything was packed and ready, but when it rained hard all of the day before we were due to travel, Mr. Nykied decided to look at other options. He looked at a last minute hotel booking site and decided on the Ravenstone Lodge Hotel. He booked it, we unpacked the camping equipment and off we went.

              The hotel itself isn't hard to find as such. It's more that it's difficult to spot. The driveway is almost parallel to the road, so you almost have to turn back on yourself to enter the car park. The car park is spacious, with more than enough room even if all the rooms are booked.

              The hotel is based in Bassenthwaite, about ten minutes away from Keswick. It's perfectly situated if you want to climb Skiddaw, one of the greatest walks in the Lakes. The actual hotel building is a stone's throw from Bassenthwaite itself and in a very rural location.

              Walking into the hotel, we were greeted by Adam, who's both the manager and the head chef. He was very friendly and showed us round the ground floor of the hotel (which comprises of a conservatory with seating, a dining room and a small bar) and then showed us up to our room. He explained about the evening meal and even directed us on a walk down to Bassenthwaite and back up through some woodland. In addition to this, if you're a walker, there are numerous books in the conservatory that you can flick through.

              The room we were in was nice. It wasn't a huge room but it served its purpose and was nicely appointed. There was an en-suite bathroom with a walk-in shower rather than a bath. The only downside to the room was that the TV was parallel to the bed, so that you couldn't lean against the headboard to watch TV and it was difficult for both parties to watch, as one had to watch over the other one. There was also free wireless internet in the hotel, but (as you would expect out in the wilderness of the Lake District) it was sporadic, to say the least.

              The view from the room was fantastic, looking down towards the lake. I've read another review that said their room was spoiled by the noise and the light coming in from the conservatory at all hours. This wasn't a problem for us, as our room was at the back. My suggestion would therefore be to request a room at the back.

              Breakfast is included in your stay and you have the option of three fried breakfasts, various fruits, cereal or porridge, along with toast. The atmosphere in the dining room was pleasant and it was a good start to a day out walking.

              We stayed in the hotel for the evening meal once during our three day stay in the hotel and it was delicious. There was an option of four starters, five main courses and four or five desserts. You could choose as many or as few courses as you liked. I had, as a main course, chicken in a gorgeous mustard-y sauce with potatoes and vegetables and for dessert I had lime cheesecake with cream. The meals are by no means cheap (£16 and upwards for the main course alone) but they were worth it. The chicken was sublime and I'd go back to the hotel just for the food! One thing I did notice was that the choices didn't change throughout the three days we were at the hotel, although the menus were quite wide-ranging so you could easily choose something else, although I'd be happy to eat that chicken every day for a month. Adam (the manager and head chef) was even nice enough to email me the recipe for the sauce after we'd left the hotel, so I could try to recreate it at home. It's never hit the heights of the initial meal in the hotel restaurant yet though.

              The hotel cost us £110 per night for the room, although that was through a third party website. If you go direct through the hotel, it costs you £100 and you can get a discount on the meals if you book in advance.

              This is the nicest hotel I've stayed in in the Lakes (and I've stayed in a fair few!) and I'd recommend it without hesitation.

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                09.11.2010 20:41
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                A great book if you love your takeaways!!

                The Takeaway Secret is a book that I found through a thread on moneysavingexpert.com - there's a whole thread on this and practically everyone recommends it.

                The author, Kenny McGovern, was diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, followed by mild depression and agoraphobia, which meant that he was unable to go out and get his favourite sandwich from Subway. He decided to try to create the same sandwich at home but it never quite tasted the same. It took him a few weeks, but finally, after asking the advice of everyone he knew, he finally got his sandwich to taste the same as if he'd gone to Subway and bought it. Then he turned to recreating other takeaway food and so the book came about. It took him about five years to create all the recipes that are in the book.

                So I tootled off to Amazon to buy it at the amazing price of £3.75 and when it arrived, I had a quick look through to see what recipes there are in there. It's split up into sections: burgers, kebabs, the chip shop, Indian main meals, Chinese main meals, pizza and pasta, sides salads and sauces, breakfast and lunch, and drinks and desserts.
                Within each section, there are numerous recipes. As an example, in the Indian meals chapter, there's an initial recipe for the base curry sauce, which can they be frozen in portions and used as the base ingredient for the other meals in that section. Doing it this way means that each meal, once the base sauce is prepared, only takes ten minutes to make.

                The recipes are written in plain English and are very easy to follow, although some recipes call for parts to be chilled in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, so it pays to read ahead before blindly starting a recipe. Following the recipe exactly usually works, although there are some little tweaks to be made, to adapt the meals to your specific taste.

                The dishes that I have made from the book have turned out, on the whole, to be fantastic (although I made the mistake of not reading ahead and therefore didn't chill the rice for my egg fried rice, which turned it into a disaster!). The dishes I would recommend are the crispy chilli chicken, the bacon and egg McMuffins, the sausage and egg McMuffins (taste just like the real thing) and the cookies.

                One recipe that everyone on MSE absolutely raves about is the lamb donner kebab. The book gives details of how to make the kebab, the sauces and even the pitta bread. People have bought this book just for this recipe and everyone does say that the lamb donner kebab is just the same as it is in the takeaway. As I don't like lamb, I'm unable to comment on the recipe, but if you like donner kebabs, apparently you'll love this.

                The main thing about this book is that it tells you how to make meals that you would usually get from the takeaway. The difference here is that they're cheaper, more healthy and made at home.

                I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to cook but finds themselves getting takeaway food more often than they'd like. And for £3.75, it's not expensive, although the price on Amazon does fluctuate, so if it's more expensive, wait until it's on at the lower price.

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                • Marley & Me (DVD) / DVD / 76 Readings / 73 Ratings
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                  15.07.2010 14:54
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                  Read the book rather than the film!

                  I have wanted to watch 'Marley and Me' since it came out, having read the book at least three times and loved it, despite the fact that I cried each and every time I read it. The main reason I bought the book in the first place was because I used to have a Golden Retriever and Marley looked similar. I fully expected to have the same affection for the film and it was a long-awaited moment when I finally sat down to watch it.

                  The film stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson as Jenny and John Grogan, a recently-married couple. Their life is mapped out according to the 'steps' of Jenny. The first step is meeting and the second step is marrying, which leads John to believe that the next obvious step is for them to have children. As he's not ready for that, he buys them a Labrador puppy, which he names Marley. He hopes that having a puppy in the house will delay the move to the next step, plus he thinks that having a puppy will be easier.

                  How wrong can one man be? Marley is, according to John, 'the worst dog in the world', with his chewing, gnawing, slobbering, generally destructive habits. He's very resistant to training and this film shows his journey through life with the Grogan family.

                  The acting in 'Marley and Me' is good. I believed in the characters, including the dog. I identified with them and wanted the best for them. I couldn't really fault the acting, to be honest. The story is engaging, although as the film is spread over a period of about fifteen years, there wasn't really the opportunity to elaborate on any one plotline.

                  The dogs that played Marley himself did so perfectly. There was no obvious change in dog from when Marley was a puppy and when he was an adult. The dogs were very well trained throughout the film and I empathised with them.

                  So why am I not being more enthusiastic about it then? I've already said that I loved the book, yet I blatantly didn't love the film. Why? Well, for me, the film focused more on Jenny and John Grogan and their trip through life, rather than the life of Marley. There was more 'Me' than 'Marley' and I felt hard done to by this. I cared more about Marley and his goings on than about how John's career in journalism was progressing.

                  There was also too many bits missed out of the film, in my opinion. One of the funniest bits in the book is when Marley eats the whole back of a car seat, yet in the film, it's down to a throwaway line about how Marley shouldn't be hungry as he's eaten half a seat belt. There were too many bits missed out for the film to be anywhere near as good as the book.

                  In the film, it's claimed by the Grogans that Marley is 'the worst dog in the world', yet the film didn't really show why, which was a real shame, as that was what made the book so good. Every dog owner could relate to Marley's life, both the ups and the downs. Missing those bits out missed the whole point of the film, for me at least.

                  In summary, I will read the book again, but I won't be watching the film again.

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                    12.07.2010 13:57
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                    Fantastic - I wish I'd found this years ago!

                    Do you spend all of the summer months sniffing, sneezing and being snotty, along with all the usual itchy red eyes and the antisocial behaviour trait of staying indoors all summer? Yes, I'm talking about hay fever. For those who suffer from it, it can be a nightmare and something that non-sufferers don't and can't understand.

                    If, like me, you seem to have tried every hay fever remedy under the sun, you may not have heard of this one: HayMax. I first came across it advertised in a gardening magazine, in the form of an advertorial with testimonies from gardeners who could suddenly go outdoors without the fear of being attacked by pollen. I was ever so slightly dubious, to say the least. But when my hay fever symptoms worsened this summer (probably due to the fact that I have started growing vegetables this year and spent a lot of time in the garden), I decided that anything was worth a go.

                    HayMax is sold in places such as Superdrug and Boots for about £6 and it's packaged in a bright yellow box. Inside the box is a little white pot similar to a pot of lip balm, apart from having 'HayMax' across the top. The 5ml contents of the pot also look a lot like lip balm. It's organic and drug-free and is marketed as a 'pollen barrier', being made from sunflower oil and beeswax. You smear a little of the contents beneath each nostril and reapply every so often, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose.

                    So, does it work? I've been using HayMax for the last month or so and I've stopped taking my hay fever tablets. My symptoms are massively reduced, with only slightly itchy eyes remaining. I'd smear this balm onto my eyeballs if I thought it would work. And if I didn't think it would damage my eyes!

                    The balm is easy to apply, it's easy to get just a smear out of the tub and that makes it last for ages. My pot will easily last me all summer. There's no smell from the balm and it doesn't look greasy on my skin, unlike something such as Vaseline, which would essentially do the same job but make the underside of your nose greasy, shiny and possibly spot-prone. The only time I've been able to tell that I've got the balm on has been when I've reapplied it too often, causing a build-up of the product.

                    So, if you'd like to be able to enjoy the summer, if indeed we have one, then I would heartily recommend buying a pot of HayMax. I think your friends might appreciate it too, especially if you start sneezing all over the barbeque!

                    Note: This is a review of the HayMax Pure

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                      14.04.2010 14:45
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                      I love it!

                      When I started running, I used a standard sports watch, one which came free when I subscribed to Runner's World magazine actually, and it was only recently that I decided that I wanted to invest in a 'proper' device to aid my training. I had read lots of articles about Garmin, plus I knew that they were the 'forerunners' in GPS systems, so I shopped around, looking specifically for a Garmin Forerunner 405CX. My sister has also had a few Garmins, so I'd been able to try them.

                      It's smaller than some of the previous incarnations of the Forerunner, which suits me perfectly, as I only have fairly skinny wrists and some of the previous ones have rubbed my skin off, simply because the watch itself was too big. Remember David Beckham with the MASSIVE watch? Think that, but without the bling! This one is much better suited to smaller wrists and looks less obvious.

                      The unit is very quick to charge and it's fully charged and ready to go in only three hours. Once charged, it then lasts for about seven or eight hours, less if it's left for a long time in between uses. The next step is to set up the watch. The initial set up is fairly easy, as the instructions are all onscreen. It goes through how to set the watch up, how to set up your user profile and how to use the touch-sensitive bezel.

                      Understanding the 'how to use the touch-sensitive bezel' is simple enough, but actually using it is not easy, especially if you've not used a Garmin before, or if you struggle with some touch-sensitive electronic items. I, for example, struggled initially with my iPod Nano, so I was in for real trouble here! It can be very fiddly, with lots of menus for such a small screen and it can be extremely difficult to navigate. A few times I gave up on it completely and used my trusty free watch instead. As an example, pressing the two buttons on the right side of the watch locks it, a little like flicking the hold button on an iPod but a lot more tricky as the buttons are fairly small.

                      Once I'd mastered how to work the controls (which involved lots of shouting, lots of swearing and one scratch on the watch from when I'd thrown it down in pure frustration!), it turned out that it was just me and that it was actually really easy to work. Honestly, once you've got the hang of it, you'll wonder what you found so difficult about it!

                      Using the Forerunner 405 is really simple. Strap it to your wrist, turn it on and away you go. The wrist strap holds the watch safely on your wrist, so there's no worry about losing it mid-run. The watch is really fast to connect to the GPS satellites, even in an area like mine, which is in the middle of nowhere. The car satnav system, for example, never figures out where I am when I'm sat in the driveway. I have to drive about two miles before it will start planning my route. This was a slight concern of mine before I purchased the Garmin actually, as two miles in a car seems a lot different to two miles on foot. My worries turned out to be completely unfounded, as it has no issues whatsoever and consistently connects to the satellite within about fifteen seconds of my turning the unit on.

                      The main reason I bought this Forerunner 405CX was that I wanted the ability to track my runs on my laptops, so that I can see how much faster (or slower!) I'm getting. This Garmin does that, and very easily too. You need to download Garmin's software, called ANT Agent and connect the watch to your laptop or PC. You then pair your laptop with your watch, using the Bluetooth dongle that comes with it. It's easy enough to do if your laptop or PC has inbuilt Bluetooth, and once you've done it once, the Garmin then automatically connects to your PC and updates when it's nearby, if your Bluetooth is on. It also shows you your routes on Google maps.

                      There are also various inbuilt programs to follow, which again are easy to use. You can race against the Garmin, with what they call a 'Virtual Partner'. I have tried this, but it reminded me of playing chess against my Spectrum 48k - I never win! It's also possible to set up interval training sessions. I like the way it lets you load up your previous routes and lets you know how you're doing against your previous run on that route.


                      It also comes with a wireless heart rate monitor, which monitors your heart rate, so that you know how hard you're working out at, as a percentage. I use it to compare how much my fitness differs when I repeat a run, by comparing how my heart rate differs. I also find it useful for keeping an eye on my heart rate, as training above a certain heart rate also improves your fitness. The Garmin uses your heart rate to give you a rough estimate of how many calories you've burnt. I've found this to be surprisingly accurate when compared to a treadmill's measure of calories burnt.

                      I paid £270 for my Garmin Forerunner 405CX but it's available now for just over the £250 mark. It might seem expensive, but it's the bee's knees of GPS running accessories.

                      In conclusion, I would say that for everyone that's serious about their running, this is a must, but there are plenty of people who are serious runners who don't want to track their every move. So instead, I'll say that, for everyone who's serious about their running and wants to keep careful tabs on it, this is a must.

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                      • Crown Paint / Household Product / 82 Readings / 81 Ratings
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                        08.04.2010 21:58
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                        Not bad if you don't mind the drips...

                        Having bought some Ikea stools on ebay, I was keen to paint them to match our decor, so a trip to the DIY centre was in order. Once there, I was faced with a massive array of tins of paint. Having narrowed it down to gloss paint, I then had to choose a colour and brand. Knowing nothing about any brands, I opted to choose my tin based on colour.

                        A beautiful yellow colour was chosen and the tin happened to be a tin made by Crown Paints. It was a non-drip gloss paint, suitable for painting on wood or metal and cost £10.49 for a 1litre tin. I thought this was a little bit on the expensive side, but if it was non-drip, then it was going to be worth it.

                        Arriving home, I sanded down the seat and back areas of the stools and decided also to paint some easel picture frame stands. Because these were bare wood, I applied a primer to them first, then opened the tin of Crown paint to begin painting.

                        The tin opened quite easily, with the aid of a screwdriver. There's no need to shake or stir this paint, but the tin does warn that there might be a liquid layer on top of the paint, which you need to pour off. Pour off where, I have no idea, but luckily my tin didn't have a liquid layer.

                        The paint itself is very thick, although when you are applying it to the item to be painted, it glides on quite easily and gives good coverage. I found that I needed a second coat, but I expected to have to apply another coat, as the surface I was painting on was bare wood. The tin said that the paint dries to touch dry in about two hours, but in order to apply a second coat, you need to wait for 16 hours. However, when I'd waited over 24 hours before I attempted to apply a second coat, my fingertips still made an imprint in the painted surface. I waited another 24 hours and it was fine.

                        Once the second coat was on, the coverage was complete and looked perfect. It's a very glossy gloss and the colour is really vibrant. The paint was easy to apply and it covered a large area. One tin should easily be enough for a door.

                        One niggle I had was that it's not non-drip, or it's not in my experience. Admittedly, I was painting items that had a lot of corners that could scrape paint off the brush, so that could have been my problem, as the paint itself didn't drip at all when it was on a flat surface with no corners, but to be fair, how often does one paint one side of a totally flat surface?

                        So in conclusion, if I wanted to paint something else, this is one of the brands I'd consider, but I'd look at other brands as well.

                        It's glossy, thick with good colour, but it takes a long time to dry and it does drip, despite the claims on the tin!

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                      • Planet 51 (DVD) / DVD / 83 Readings / 82 Ratings
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                        06.04.2010 22:12
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                        Good little family film

                        Planet 51 is an animated film, fitting in well with the recent 'alien' theme that seems to run through a lot of children's films. This one, though, has a twist. The film focuses round a world of people who are terrified of being invaded by aliens. Some people believe in aliens, others scoff at the mere thought of their existence. Then one day, an alien lands in their midst.

                        The difference between this scenario and others is that the ones who are terrified of an alien landing are actually living on a planet other than earth. They live exactly as we do and when an alien does land, it turns out to be a human astronaut, sent up by the US to explore space. They react as the human race probably would if an alien landed - they panic!

                        I loved this film - The animation is so good that it almost seems like a real film with real people. I liked the fact that the 'humans vs aliens' theme was flipped on its head and I thought that the story itself, although a little flimsy, felt as though things were actually happening for a reason rather than as padding and it didn't detract from the story at all.

                        The things that most made me laugh whilst watching this film were the parallels between our world and the aliens' world. Little things such as one family having a barbeque and flipping burgers that were hovering above the grill. Little things amuse little minds, I suppose.

                        Is it a good cartoon? Yes it is. Is it more suitable for children? I'm not sure, to be honest. There are bits that will appeal more to adults and there are bits that will appeal more to children. Each group can appreciate the film as a whole though, so it's a great film to go and watch as a family.

                        Would I watch Planet 51 again? Actually, yes I would. I think that there are bits that can be missed during the first watching and I do think that it will be as good the second time around. So I'm recommending it to both adults and children.

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                          24.03.2010 22:12
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                          Quality product!

                          I came across this Duronic Apex radio on Amazon when I was looking for a radio that didn't run off the mains power, so we could safely leave it playing when we were out of the house to keep the budgie amused. This radio looked fantastic and seemed to fit all my criteria and more. So I ordered one, with my Amazon vouchers from DooYoo.

                          It arrived quickly and it was well-packaged. Upon opening the box and taking out the radio, the first thing I was struck by, before even turning the radio on, was the feel of it. It felt well made and had a furry feel, sort of like rubbery nubuck. But I tend to like things for their texture and you may not be as impressed!

                          Moving on from the texture of this radio, which might not be important to some people, the main selling point of it is the lack of battery. It can be charged in one of three ways: via a USB cable plugged into your laptop, Wii or Xbox, by winding the handle on the back or by garnering solar power using the panel on the top.

                          It's recommended that the first charge is done via USB, but after that it can be charged using the method that's most convenient for you. If charging via the USB cable (which is supplied with the unit), it takes about 4 hours or so. The crank on the back, as far as I can tell, provides power for about five times as long as you wind it. Therefore, if you wind it for a minute, it will provide five minutes of power. The easiest way to charge this unit by far, and the reason I bought it in the first place, is to leave it on a sunny windowsill where it will charge itself during the daylight hours, so should theoretically never run out of power. In reality, it might not work so well during the winter months when there's not much sunshine but I have yet to test that. I've had absolutely no problems with it at all so far and I've only had to charge it up twice via USB.

                          It charges and plays at the same time, plus it has a little red LED light that tells you that it's charging. One thing it doesn't have is a light that indicates how much charge it's got left in it. It doesn't warn you that it's low on power; the volume just goes low and it goes off. It has about 8 or 9 hours use from when it's fully charged.

                          The radio has various different features. It has both an AM and FM band radio. The signal for both is very good, as you use a telescopic aerial that's attached to the top of the radio. This can be swivelled round to catch the best signal. You tune the radio using the knob on the right of the unit. It's very easy to turn and it would even be good for people with finger mobility issues such as arthritis, as it's fairly large and the grooves in it a quite deep and easy to grip. The corresponding knob on the opposite end is the same but for adjusting the volume.

                          Despite this Duronic Apex radio being a small unit (50cm x 7.5cm with a depth of 5.5cm), the speaker quality is very good and it doesn't sound at all tinny, as some smaller radios do. The volume does go up to quite a high level, sufficient for a living room or a tent, possibly not so good if you're in the middle of a school hall.

                          It has a torch on the side, which uses the power from the radio. It's not the best torch in the world but it would do if you need to go to the toilet block on a campsite. It does use the power up faster than having the radio on does ( about 5 hours from being fully charged if you're solely using the torch), which is something to bear in mind if you're in the middle of Scotland on a rainy day in November with no access to the sun or a USB port.

                          The radio has a clock and an alarm, which uses the radio as its alarm tone. The clock can be lit up with a blue LED display. This is activated by pressing a button on the unit. Unfortunately, this button is tiny and is very difficult to find in the dark. The buttons for the alarm are also tiny and I don't know about you, but when I've just been woken up and I'm trashing around trying to find the button that switches my alarm off, I like to have a larger target!

                          I'm really happy with this radio, although I'm not sure I would use it as an alarm clock but for leaving on all day whilst out in the garden or taking on a camping holiday, it's the bee's knees. I think this radio is fantastic and for £14.95 it's not going to break the bank, plus you can use your DooYoo miles to buy it!

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                          • Favourite Authors / Discussion / 68 Readings / 65 Ratings
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                            17.03.2010 21:51
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                            Give this review a go yourself - jump on my bandwagon!

                            I've seen a few of these reviews on here and thought I'd join in!


                            * What is your favourite genre?

                            Fiction. Any type of fiction other than science fiction, to be honest. I like crime, thriller, romance, anything that has pages, pretty much.


                            * Do you read the classics, i.e., the great authors of the 18th and 19th century?

                            No, not really. I did English at University and got enough of them then. I do still read books such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Little Women.


                            * Are you interested in thrillers?

                            I love them! The best thing about them is wanting to finish the book as quickly as possible so you can discover the mystery. It's at times like these that I wish I were one of those people who read the last page of the book before actually starting it, in case you never get to finish it!


                            * What about horror stories?

                            I read the occasional Stephen King or Dean Koontz book, but the genre as a whole isn't one that gets me rushing off to a bookstore when there's a new release.

                            * Do you read science fiction?

                            Oh no, not at all. Don't get me wrong, I have tried. I've tried many times but never really got into that sort of book. I've tried a few Terry Pratchett books and I've read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy twice and watched the film once. I haven't enjoyed it any of the three times. It's time to give up, methinks.


                            * How many Harry Potter books have you read?

                            All of them. More than once. I've got the boxed set in hardback and I love them. Yes, they're books for kids but it's still a good story. It didn't make me cry though.

                            * Have you ever read and enjoyed biographies or autobiographies?

                            After reading The Damned United, I read both of Brian Clough's, aIong with watching The Damned United, the book that the reporter wrote on his time with Clough and another one that I can't remember. They're all in my 'keep' pile. have read a few others, mostly ones that my sister's read and passed over, books 'written by' Jordan or Jodie Marsh. Slightly enjoyable but again, nothing I'd rush off to buy myself.

                            * Do you remember any of the books you read and loved as a child?

                            I used to read all the time when I was a child! I used to get 24 books out of the library each week and read them all. I loved the Heidi books, the Three Investigators books, anything by Enid Blyton, The Railway Children, the Hardy Boys books, the Nancy Drew books, the Jennings books, the Billy Bunter books, the Just William books. What didn't I love? ;o)


                            * Have you re-read these books as a grown-up?

                            Yes, the ones I still have. I read the three Heidi books only the other week. I still enjoy them too. Most of my books were thrown away by my Dad because they were 'cluttering up the attic'. I was absolutely furious!


                            * Is there a book of which you can say it has influenced you?

                            Not that I can think of, no. I read so many that they don't really get chance to influence me before I'm on to the next one.


                            Q: Which are your favourite authors?

                            Oh, loads. At the moment, Tess Gerritsen, Karen Rose and Andy McDermott


                            * Which book would you take with you on a desert island?

                            Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Although I've read it about five times, it's a long book and would keep me occupied.


                            * What is your attitude towards translations?

                            I've never really given it a thought. In the past, two books that I've really enjoyed have been The Stranger by Albert Camus and All Quiet On The Western Front, about WW1.


                            * Do you buy your books/get them from the library/borrow them from friends/steal them?

                            I tend to get them from Tesco (two for £7) or from charity shops, or people lend them to me. I can't remember the last time I paid full price for a book. I read them too fast to pay that, although I do keep the ones I like enough to read again.


                            * When you buy books, do you prefer hardcover editions or pocket books?

                            Paperbacks. They're easier to read all round. Easier to fit under a plate or bowl, easier to read when I'm lying down, just easier in general


                            * Have you ever tried Audio Books?

                            Never. I read faster than someone reads to me. I also get a lot out of my interpretation of the words, which is lost a little when it's someone else's enunciation.

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                            • linkedin.com / Internet Site / 57 Readings / 57 Ratings
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                              16.03.2010 23:08
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                              Give it a go, especially if you're job hunting

                              LinkedIn is a site very much like Facebook but made for business. It's a social networking site but the friends (or contacts as they are on LinkedIn) don't tend to be the sort of people you'd tell about your drunken nights out and you certainly wouldn't post any pictures on there of you pushing a cow over at 3am on a Saturday night! If I haven't put you off so far, then read on to find out how to get involved.

                              To start with, you need to register. This is a very quick process and involves you putting your details in, including an email address. LinkedIn will then send you a confirmation email, you click on the link in there and you're now registered.

                              Once you are registered, you need to sort out your profile. Not getting a good profile is a mistake that a lot of people make and then they wonder why LinkedIn isn't working out for them. Imagine your LinkedIn profile as your CV. Instead of just listing where you've worked, you need to put some detail about what it is you've done at each company. You also need to put some sort of summary, which will appear just below your name on your profile and could go along the lines of, 'Bob is a prolific writer of reviews on both Ciao and DooYoo and he has earned many awards for his work'. Basically, sell yourself.

                              Finally, put a professional picture on your profile. A lot of people tend to omit this, or put their company logo on instead. If people want to do business with you online, they want a picture of you on there rather than a company logo. You wouldn't put a company logo on Facebook, would you? So why settle for a logo on LinkedIn?

                              The next step is finding connections (LinkedIn 'friends'). There are various different ways of doing this. Once you've got the companies that you've worked at on your profile, LinkedIn will automatically suggest people who have also worked there. Alternatively, you can search for people you might know. If you know a lot of people who work at Company XYZ, go to the top and type XYZ in the search box, making sure that you've got the 'People' tab on. Then scroll through, sending connection requests to the people you know. Another way is to join groups that state that they're 'Open Networking' groups. This means that they people in there will connect with ANYONE.

                              If you're job hunting, it's well worth joining some of the job groups, as well as getting your profile as complete and professional as possible. People do find you on there and one of those people could be your next employer.

                              Why, I hear you ask, would you want to be connected to a lot of people you don't know? Well, you might not be, but if you're going to be using LinkedIn as a tool for gaining more business, then the more people you're connected to, the more names you can see. If, for example, I was connected with everyone on here, if I did a search, I would be able to see the names of everyone on here and the names of everyone who's connected to the people who are on here. If you then become connected with one of those people, you can see everyone that they're connected with, if you do a search.

                              One thing about connections, specifically about asking people to connect with you. When you send the invitation, you need to select how you know you know that person, whether you've done business with them, you're in the same group as them or some other way. If you click the 'I don't know them' option, it won't send it. And on LinkedIn, someone that you've sent an invitation to has the option of clicking on the 'Do Not Know' button. Too many of these (I think it's three) and you get kicked off the site. You can then come back on by agreeing to the Terms of Business again, but too many times and you'll get banned permanently.

                              Once you're got some connections that you trust, it's time to get some recommendations. These appear on your profile for others to see so you do get the opportunity to accept them. If one isn't a recommendation that you wouldn't want others to see, don't accept it. The easiest way to get a recommendation from someone that you know and trust is to recommend them first. You'll find the button that enables you to do that on their profile.

                              Joining LinkedIn is free and to use most of it continues to be free, but if you're seriously using it for business, then I'd at least consider upgrading your membership. Benefits of upgrading include being able to see the full profiles of people who only want paying members to be able to see their profiles. When you do a search on people, you can only look at the first hundred if you're a free member. How many in the list you can see depends on what level of membership you've gone for. I would recommend using the free membership and seeing how you go first of all before shelling out on membership. It might not bring in any business, after all!

                              LinkedIn isn't all business, you can find some pockets of fun on there. As an example, I joined a group called Dude. It's mostly Americans but it's full of silly discussions and can brighten up my day, as the people on there are really friendly. Do have a look and join some silly groups, as well as joining some groups relating to what you do for business.

                              And that's it! You're practically done! There's a lot more to be found on LinkedIn but this gives you the basics. Get your profile 100% complete, get some connections and recommendations and join some groups. You're in!

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