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The house phone - fast becoming something which is less and less needed. These days, almost everyone has a mobile phone, often a SMARTphone. This means that house phones tend to be things that are used more for assurance of signal and in case of absence.
The market, however, still seems pretty strong. A quick walk through most decent sized supermarkets will reveal a fair number of options for house phones, and telecomms giant BT still seems to have the bulk of the market.
The 2000 DECT model is a dual unit phone set. This means that one handset can be plugged in and connected to the phone line, while the other does not require the phone line although some form of power is still required. The two sets connect wirelessly, something which is standard these days and doesn't carry with it the same hike in price that it might have done 10 years ago or so.
Setting it up is easy enough - it walks you through it when you first activate the battery by pulling away the piece of film to complete the circuit. The features of the phone itself are quite diverse, and you can even divert the calls to your mobile to make sure you don't miss any while you're out. There's call waiting, a phone book of up to 50 numbers (although we tend not to bother with this and inputting it is a bit of a pain) and you can see the last 20 numbers that called you.
Nothing special throughout the phone's features, but we found that the headsets hold their charge pretty well, which is a good thing as we're constantly leaving them lying around as opposed to putting them back on their cradles. We don't have this phone any more, as we were given a more sophisticated one as a replacement, but there was nothing actually wrong with this when we replaced it.
BT produce quality phones, and you effectively get what you pay for. This usually retails for around the £50 mark, but amazon currently have it on offer for around £30. I'd say it's worth having a look around, but that's a pretty good deal and the phone is worth getting. The buttons are easy to use and there's nothing excessively complicated with the whole set up. Recommended.
Many people buy sound enhancers and speakers for their cars based on how much volume they'll get from them, especially those who are only interested in 'pimping their rides' to make them shinier and boomier. But the level of bass is not the only important thing when considering an enhancement for your car.
Any product you buy should be looked at in terms of value rather than basic cost. Is it worth it? In terms of the quality of output here, the sound is certainly of good quality. I've turned the volume up quite a bit (without overdoing it and appearing like one of the above mentioned ride pimpers) and the crisp sounds remain for a good length of time. Some speakers start off with sound quality for the first few seconds but end up with distortions at high volume. Not these...
As a relative ignoramus to subwoofers of any sort, I needed something that would be very easy to use, and these certainly ticked the box, as if they were designed for someone who didn't have a clue. The instructions are very clear and if in doubt you can pop into a local garage (Halford's are good for this sort of thing!) and get someone to help you fit them in.
Kenwood have a solid reputation when it comes to most products, and although this won't make you any food, the culinary quality transfers to the audio equipment just as fine - there really is nothing to complain about if you're after something basic and easy to use. The high-roll urethane sound is what steps the quality up, and at an affordable price of £24.99 at the moment, you surely can't go wrong.
It's easy to spend a lot of money on something like this without really knowing what you're doing. If you have a friend who's into sound systems for cars, definitely ask them what their recommendation is, but if you don't then this is a great place to start to get the quality bass without distortion and with an easy to use product.
Although not a top brand name, Technika is well recognised and usually associated with quality. However, its slightly lower prices than brand names can sometimes mean that you get an inferior quality, and depending on what you want headphones for, this could sway your decision as to whether you buy these or not.
As with most earphones, these have an L and R to indicate which ear to put them in, but other than that there's nothing else. The cable doesn't tangle too much although it's not the best, but it's in using them that you will be able to make your decision. If you just want a standard pair of earphones to listen as you're sitting or walking slowly, then these might do; if you're after something that doesn't require distinct bass and high quality, then these are fine. However, if you're after phones to wear when running, or to listen in detail to the intricacies of a piece of music, then it might be an idea to look elsewhere.
These ear buds are basic - there's no control to adjust the volume when wearing them, so you'd need to operate them from the device itself, which can be a pain when running for example.Turning the volume up causes a few issues as the bass isn't well balanced with the rest of the audio when this happens. I'm not sure why, but you lose it a bit and the higher the volume the tinnier the sound tends to be.
The other issue when running is that these do fall out. There are some expertly ergonomically designed earphones that stay in no matter how hard you train, but if you're looking for something to get for fitness purposes I'd look elsewhere if I were you.
Ultimately, it depends what you're after. If you want something basic, this'll do the trick. If however you need something for more action based activity, look elsewhere.
Headphones are not always just headphones. Some are dire, some are great. Skullcandy prides itself on quality design and sound, and that's exactly what you get with these.
The ear buds fit nicely into your ear - they've clearly been designed with comfort and practicality in mind and this is what is evident from the moment you put them in. The cable seems no fuss and maintains its shape, even when you've scrunched it all up, which will inevitably happen.
There's a little control pad and a microphone in these as well, which means they're ideal not just for listening to music, but also for taking calls. The buttons on the discreet control pad are well placed and make it easy to use. The cable itself is long enough to feed through clothing to sit with your device in your pocket, and this makes it ideal for exercise as well.
One thing that's interesting is the tangling - with most earphone sets, you get tangling where tangling seems improbably, but with these there seems to be less tangling. Don't get me wrong, it still happens, but the quality design of the cable seems to ensure that things stay where they're supposed to more often than not.
The sound quality is also top notch - what you get coming through these with clarity is the bass, and this is often where many audio amplifiers or speakers or earphones or headphones come a cropper. The bass and highs are equally well presented, which allows not just for clarity of sound with music but for calls as well. The general feel with these is that turning the volume up is less necessary to get the full force of the music, but if you wanted to then the quality would not be instantly be compromised.
A thumbs up then - you're looking at £15 or thereabouts, although I've seen them for less and I've seen them for more. Quality product from a quality brand.
Walking with your toddler can be a bit of a nightmare, especially on busy roads. We've used multiple reins with both our kids, and although both are now beyond the stage where we need reins, we were certainly glad of them at the time. This set will cost you less than £10 from Mothercare and is pretty much as you'd expect - it does the job.
We probably have about 6 or 7 different sets of reins, and these were certainly given their usage. Neither of our kids particularly liked wearing them, but this did not differ from brand to brand. What you need to question is whether you want to spend nearly £10 on something like this when you could get a set for a couple of quid from a few different places.
We find that Mothercare products carry a brand of quality with them, and this is not exception. The reins are easy to fit, although the cord material can chafe if not used properly. We've put short sleeved t-shirts with these and you just have to watch the sleeve doesn't ride up and the reins rub against bare skin. However, this is no different to most products.
The length of the cord going back to your hand allows for a certain amount of loose handling if your kids want to have a bit of freedom and constantly complain that they feel like they're being dragged. By walking closer to them and allowing the cord to slacken, they feel like they're walking independently and are less likely to nag, while you still have ultimate control should they wander too close to a road or are about to bump into something.
Decent quality product, this has proven to be durable, although things like this are likely to only be needed for a short space of time. Worth getting, although there are cheaper options that are also decent enough.
Essentially, this is a pillow and a couple of strap covers. Whether or not this is useful to you depends on your requirements and the age of your little one. The pillow appears to give particular comfort to the younger baby, while the straps I think are a great idea - little ones are less fragile than we think, but they still need better protection than a lot of products give them.
The pillow is well cushioned, with two ample sized gaps for the straps of the buggy to fit through. Attaching it is not a faff at all. The same goes for the shoulder strap covers - they slide on easily enough and provide a decent amount of comfort.
What you need to consider is how much padding you want. Obviously, this is designed for a specific model, but a lot of models mirror each other and you could easily get a cheaper generic version that could cost a bit less but still do just as good a job. With our second child we didn't take any risks and went with brands, but in hindsight we could easily have saved a few pounds by getting lesser branded items, across the board really.
In terms of age range, I think this would be useful from birth to about a year old, but after that you need to look at whether it's going to be worth it. Comfort kits are often considered a waste of time and the general consensus on these is that you could use a fleece or the parts that the buggy comes with as opposed to getting this. If you're likely to be using the buggy a lot then it might be worth it as there might be a lot of motion, but if it's more for the times when you are out and about rather than expecting to be out and about all the time, then perhaps reconsider whether this is an essential or a precautionary purchase.
Although I'm coming up for renewal on my 24 month contract, it seems like yesterday that I upgraded my Motorola for an Apple device, going with the same brand my family all have. Having damaged my previous phone, I figured that a screen protector was a sensible option for my nice, new iPhone and set to getting a top quality one.
Zagg is a reputable company, and specialise in protective equipment for a range of devices. What makes them strong with the competition is the touch screen reliability that remains after attaching one of their protective screens, and so having bought one for a nominal amount (I think it was about £10 or something like that) I attached it to my phone.
It's a thin but durable piece of what seems like plastic, to be honest, and doesn't actually seem to do much on first look. I have dropped my phone a number of times since applying this, but what I noticed was that very rarely did I ever drop it onto something that was edged. My cover for my phone (as in the protective cover around the whole of my phone) actually gives me a couple of millimetres of protection all the way round, which means that a screen protector doesn't actually do much other than provide a slightly less sensitive touch screen experience.
So I took it off.
I did notice the difference in touch screen quality almost immediately, although it's really not that bad. You still get the functionality you'd expect, you just have to be a bit more certain amount where you touch the screen and the consistency with depression on the screen. It's a snug fit around the edge when it's on though, and when I'm out and about, I do sometimes put it on in case I drop it on some coarse gravel or stones or something where there's an edge. As this is rare, I usually keep it off, especially at work, but for that piece of mind then it's certainly worth having it. My wife and son have both experienced smashed screens and it's an annoying amount of money to get that fixed, whereas you could just fork out a small amount and have that element of peace of mind.
So, it does the job it needs to, although it might be worth removing it when you're in a safe environment in order to improve the touch screen element. Recommended.
Whether you're going to fork out and get a proper cover or case for your iPad depends on just how much you're likely to use the device itself and in what circumstances. I would hasten to add at the outset that although there are many cases which allow for usage while it's in it, such as snug fit and access to the buttons, this really is more about a protective carry case that it can slot in and out of.
The majority of the case features a soft protective foam zippable soft fabric cover. Visually, it is ribbed, and the stitching is very professional and of a high standard. This has durability and as a transporting case for your ipad it is something I would highly recommend. One side is covered with the rib design, whereas the other has two leather pads, one on the top and one on the bottom. This adds to the design and makes the product look rather professional.
What we're essentially looking at here though is something more akin to a laptop bag rather than a protective case from which you can still operate the device, which is what most people will be looking for. You can still use it when it's in the case, as the zip allows for nearly full access in this respect, although it's cumbersome and restrictive.
Retailing at around the £20 but often available at a hefty discount, the important thing is to consider what you're actually getting this for. If you're looking for something that allows you to still use the iPad whilst giving it protection, then look elsewhere. If you're looking for a case that allows for safe transportation, then the padded effect of this should give you comfort - it might take up a bit more room, but it's of quality design that rings true to form for Port Design. Recommended, but be careful what you need to use it for.
Similar to Apple's own bumper case for the iPhone4 but notably cheaper, whether or not the Scosche bandEDGE is useful to you depends very much on how you treat your phone and ultimately what your lifestyle is like.
The silicon outer rim is soft to the touch but the interior is hard plastic and this provides the effective protection with a clear effect to make it look minimalistic and to not weigh a lot or hide the device, with 4mm or so being added.
It's slightly flexible, but durable. When you fit it, you do need to stretch it a little, and I do wonder about the actual fit. There's potentially a little bit too much give between the bandEDGE and phone, and this is a genuine concern.
There's a comfortable grip and the controls are easy to access at first glance. However, the case does cover the side buttons and these aren't the easiest to depress when you need to. You do get used to having to press them a little bit harder than you might with other cases, but it's not ideal.
In terms of protection, there are screen protectors that come with it, but these are more for protecting against scratches rather than dropping, so don't expect this to provide a full protective all round cover for your phone.
You have to look at this from a value point and how much you actually use the phone. If it tends to stay in your pocket, then this may end up just being the peace of mind you're after, but as this is only actually a little bit less than a genuine Apple cover, then you may be better off paying a small amount extra and getting the full quality you're after.
I just can't feel comfortable with this around my phone, and when I switch it back to a genuine Apple product, I'm much more at ease and this says a lot for me. Not recommended as much as I thought I would.
The recent Judge Dredd film featured the 2000AD character fighting his way upwards through a large crime riddled apartment block to get to the crime boss at the top. I remember thinking at the time that it was a great idea, but left a little to be desired in the execution. What I hadn't realised is that this was no unique plot, but that this Indonesian action packed film was sitting there doing the same thing. Now with a sequel to boot, The Raid is just one of a long line of foreign language films that deserve to be watched and promoted, and was enjoyable throughout.
Billed as an action film, it delivered perfectly on its promise. There is a moment early on to try and tug at the heartstrings, as our hero SWAT officer Rama (Iko Uwais) leaves his pregnant wife at home to go and be part of the raiding party on this film's crime riddled apartment block. There's small effort to identify individuals at the beginning of the raid, but as nearly every character is in identical SWAT riot gear there is no real need to do this for a good few minutes.
It doesn't start off as well as planned, and the raiders' number is severely reduced, which gives us an underdog situation of good vs evil as the few raiders work out how to make their way to the top and escape. When the characters start being developed, we get a treat - it's done through the action and fight choreography, which is nothing short of brilliant.
Eastern action films tend to be focused on martial arts, but this has a combination of brutal fighting and martial arts mixed in with fast paced action and attack. The fact that it's all done in a dingy and dirty apartment block with a variety of camera angles, short and wide shots and a healthy dose of bloody and fatal violence means that the element of realism is very much present for the most part of the film. There are a generous dose of villains, and a slight twist in the tale which is somewhat evident from early on but still has a decent impact when it arrives.
The turns from Uwasi as well as villainous henchmen Yayan Ruhian and Donny Alamsyah are very strong, and the action makes this what it is. The enjoyability factor is very high, and it's one of the better modern action films I've seen. If you don't like action and violence, then you probably should steer clear of this film, as that's pretty much what it's about. As long as you like this genre, and you can stomach a few graphic scenes, then I'd be surprised if you didn't enjoy this - it's very well done and represents Indonesian cinema with pride. Recommended.
Donna Tartt was recommended to me by a colleague, and she suggested this was the best book to start with. Reading the blurb, I was really looking forward to it, a seemingly Dead Poets sort of campus feel, with endless terms harking back to a time when Greek and Latin were spoken by those who considered themselves in the upper echelons of modern English speaking society.
I found that the reality of reading Tartt is a different thing to that which I expected. Detail upon detail is given, whether you want it or not, but the elegant prose with which she scripts is so enchanting at times that you can't help but read every word for fear of leaving something important out.
At the outset of the novel, narrator Richard Papen reflects on his formative years at the elite Hampden college in Vermont, and in particular on the death of Bunny Corcoran, a friend of his. As the book progresses, the narrative is told through Richard's reflections on the events building up to Bunny's death. In doing so, Tartt introduces us to Richard's fellow classics students: the highly intellectual and magnetic Henry; the jittery Francis, whose parents' country home forms part of an escape for the group; twins Charles and Camilla, whom Tartt portrays as painfully beautiful; Richard the narrator, who presents himself as a reclusive and pensive character; and Bunny, a bouncy and lively character with more social than academic leanings and a penchant for getting his friends into trouble.
Aside from the occasional additional character, particularly towards the end of the novel, these six are the mainstay of the novel, and although there are long passages of the text when they do not appear, these do drag, and the reintroduction of one or more of them into the tale inevitably brings with it some more excitement. Tartt's characterisation is not in question as far as I am concerned, and it was only after I'd finished that the same colleague indicated that there were plenty of bits you could easily skip, and that she thought Tartt had been a bit indulgent and perhaps needed a stricter editor. I agreed, but could have done with the info a bit earlier!
Essentially, that's a pretty good way of summing the book up - there are plenty of occasions where she builds tension, but this is often over a period of 20 or 30 pages, and is occasionally laboured, in my opinion. Don't approach this with a view to having a quick read, for that's exactly what it is not. Stephen King is the master at dragging things out and giving you far more information than you'll ever need, but I find that there are snippets that are essential to the plot in his work, whereas with this really did feel like you could chop a whole load of the filler text out and it would still have the same impact. Recommended, but with its caveats.
I've never really worried too much about getting the right tyres for my car during the colder months, but this particular cold snap and the offer from my father in law has prompted me to go for the best tyres I can get for the sort of roads I'm likely to encounter. It being winter, and me living by the coast, the grip is essential as the coastal wind can really make the wet roads turn icy in the blink of an eye, and although previous years haven't really yielded a sudden variety to worry about, this year's extreme freezes in the south west really have made me think.
Enter Goodyear. Usually I just go with whatever is the cheapest, but this does not always mean the most efficient for my car. I find that the Goodyear tyres are of top quality, and this particular tyre fit my car perfectly. The biggest lure for me with these tyres was that they are designed to be better on wintry roads, and we've certainly had a few of those recently. I think that the extra grip these tyres have afforded me have been well worth the extra cost I've paid for them, and although you're never sure whether you're going to slide around on the roads or not, the better the tyre, the better the grip, in all honesty.
In terms of cost, these tyres are easily over the £50 mark per tyre, but I still reckon they're worth the extra money to ensure you're you're getting the best safety out of them. Having two kids also makes me think twice about what tyres to get and whether my car is safe enough on the road or not, and sometimes having the best tyres available is a reassurance that you've secured your and their safety.
Giving you the extra grip is most notable on the wet or wintry roads, but you can also notice this during general driving. On normal driving, the cornering with these tyres is much better, and you almost make sure you drive in a more controlled fashion because you respect what you've put on the bottom of your car to get you from A to B. Sure, the cost is a part of this, but it certainly feels like you have more quality taking you to your destination each time.
Cost wise, I'm looking at my local garage, and there's probably an extra £15 or so, maybe more, on each individual tyre, to what I usually buy for my car. You notice the grip, and if you;re going to replace all four tyres, you'd certainly expect that £60+ would help you notice a difference.
And it does - thankfully. I feel safe when driving with these tyres in a wintry climate. Once the weather warms up, I'll switch back to cheaper tyre, no doubt, but when winter comes around again, these will be my tyres of choice.
iPad cases are often a bit of a lottery - I've used plenty which have been designed for a specific model but haven't been useful, and some that have been right on the money. It's a fine line between efficiently protective and missing the mark. This Trust Smart Stand is a hardcover iPad case which I find to be one of the better models, although not perfect.
The case fits snugly around the corners of the iPad, and only adds a little amount of width to the iPads dimensions. The hard rubber is much better than most of the softer rubberised cases I've seen, and the benefits of this one are in the reassurance you can get from the protection it offers. There's no 'give' in the corners, but it's a bit more flexible around these and the edges than the flat surface of the back.
The front is divided into four segments which can fold. I've used cases with three sections before and it limits the usage for propping up, etc. Having four means that you hold up a triangle as a support at back to have your iPad leaning up against itself to present a near vertical device without having to hold it. It only works on the horizontal axis though, so having portrait shapes on your screen will be somewhat limited to the height of the horizontal screen.
It flips open and closed quite easily, and the connection between the four segments is solid - there are no gaps, which provides complete suction around the edges for the magnetised edges of the lid, which is somewhat more flexible than the backing. I think this is one of the best features of it, certainly as a new device.
If I had a criticism of this, it would be that after a lot of usage, the shape does seem to get slightly less robust, at least with the four segments on the top. Slight sliding from the lid means that the iPad could be 'open' without you realising it, draining battery and activating some features, as the magnetic element isn't the strongest and could easily lessen. I suppose something like this isn't necessarily designed for long long term use, although at £10 you'd hope it would be more durable for a longer time. I started noticing the lesser quality of closure after a few months, and although it remained solid for quite a while, it reduces its quality enough that you'd notice and perhaps think twice about getting this again as a replacement case.
The thing with this is that its options for support and initial quality are enough to warrant recommendation. I would recommend this and have used a few of these, mainly for work, where the iPads get plenty of use from a wide range of people. They last quite well and for £10 or thereabouts are worth the price tag.
Aside from seeing Kevin Bacon flaunt just how fast his internet runs with 4G from EE, he is also an extremely accomplished actor. Lending his talents to a TV show is something that I know many have waited for since I don't know when, and we finally get it with The Following.
It follows Bacon as Ryan Hardy, a retired FBI profiler who is also a recovering alcoholic with a heart problem - give the guy a break - whose nemesis in the form of Brit acting stalwart James Purefoy is taunting him from prison in anticipation of the release of his new autobiopgraphy.
It seems that Purefoy's psychotic mass murderer character, Joe Carroll, has attracted a large cult following, which is evident from the rather graphic beginning to the series when we see a woman inflict physical harm on herself because 'Joe wills it'. Thus ensues a game of cat and mouse as surprise after surprise arises with who has become one of Joe's followers. No one is safe, and anyone could be a follower, willing to spring him from prison, kill for him or even maim themselves.
The premise is very good, and the format builds up the tension episode after episode. We soon become familiar with characters on both sides, as the FBI bring Ryan out of retirement as a consultant and team him up with a select few who are capable of tackling the situation, and a core of followers are also focused on to give us the other side of the coin. The skill in the writing and acting is in the sympathy that we sometimes end up feeling for the followers, and in the annoyance we experience at the actions of some of the FBI and other 'good guys'.
In terms of style, it's extremely dark and doesn't really pull any punches - you sometimes see things dialled down in a TV series in order to appeal week upon week, but this is full on every episode and actually quite shocking in a memorable sense, especially in the first few weeks. I thought that things tailed off a little bit mid season and there were a couple of episodes where I was a bit disappointed, but it certainly picked up towards the end and finished with a bang! The clever thing from the writers' perspective was in finishing each episode on a cliffhanger of some sort, whether it be a couple of minutes of dark suspense followed by a jumpy moment, or a surprise unforeseen twist at the end that makes you want to watch the next episode right away, and not have to wait another week, as originally televised.
Luckily, with the boxset, you can go straight to the next episode, and I wouldn't be surprised if this dark and twisting psychological thriller of a TV series isn't gobbled up within a few days of starting it. Very dark and not for the faint of heart, but well worth a watch.
Many years ago, the Earth was invaded by the Formics. Heroes fought off the attackers, with ultimate warrior Mazer Rackham sacrificing himself in a suicide mission to destroy the enemy mothership and cease the fighting. It's now 2154, and fearing a new attack, soldiers are trained from a very young age to be recruited into those worthy of leading any prospective battles. One such is Ender Wiggin, the brightest tactical brain they've seen for a long time - and he's still a child.
Ender's Game focuses on Wiggin's journey through training, demonstrating the military tactical awareness that the forces are after. The film develops him as a character quite well, following a tried and tested formula of entering military training at the bottom and working his way up, making friends and enemies alike as he progresses through. I suppose most of the focus should be on the technology used for the film rather than the plot itself, at least in large part, as it is particularly futuristic and well delivered.
A lot of the film focuses on simulation of battles, and some of the futuristic elements used within these scenes are quite impressive. There has certainly been some clever visualisation of the original script gone into this production. When Ender enters a game specifically created for him, the design is quite impressive, and this follows through to the end of the film as well.
The acting is generally very good, with Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis perhaps the most recognisable names and faces, but with Asa Butterfield as Ender proving to be a solid lead role. The living quarters featured in the film remind me a little of Pacific Rim, a bit dark and dingy and claustrophobic, but this merely highlights the fact that we're dealing with children rather than adults being trained to lead the fight, and this somehow gives it more of a desperate edge, at the same time as making you feel a little nervous and slightly disbelieving due to the unlikely nature of children being the saviours of our future.
The film has a powerful ending, one that I didn't see coming, but it is well crafted and easy to predict if you're thinking about it. To be honest, the film largely flows very smoothly and is quite simple to follow, which is perhaps why I was concentrating as intensely as I might have been and therefore just watched it without thinking of what might happen. As a result, the end was impressive and as the credits rolled I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. There's nothing overly special about it, and I wouldn't rant and rave about it, but it's certainly worth a watch if you spot it.